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Holding On

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Do you remember that recipe I gave you three years back? I lost my copy.

Mick checks his phone and grunts in amusement.

Making a phone capable of receiving messages from 2016 was easily the smartest thing he’d ever done as Kronos.

Yeah, he texts back. C4 from kitchen supplies, y?

That’s the one. Can’t remember which order the bleach goes in.

Mick snickers and types up a reply.

“Mick, that had better not be porn,” Sara says, walking by.

Seriously? Has Mick ever watched porn in public? He’s nuts, not a pervert. That shit’s just rude.

Thanks, man. Owe you one.

Np, Mick replies, feeling nostalgic. He hadn’t hear from Spencer in months, which wasn’t unusual for them. They had a very off-and-on relationship. Tell me how u made that chicken picante in San Francisco that one time & we’ll call it even.

Come by Portland and I’ll show you.

Can’t. Mick sighs.

Prison? Can come bust you out.

Mick feels his lips curve upwards. It’s good to have friends. He’d almost forgotten the feeling.

Time travelling spaceship.

So you're in Cardiff?

No, real.

WTF. And you didn’t invite me?

U were on ur honeymoon

It wasn’t a goddamn honeymoon

Sober Spencer says that, Mick types, mood lightening. Drunk Spencer talks about P’s hair & H’s eyes.

Fuck you.

Mick’s fingers still on the keypad. He knows his response to that – it’s a friendly argument they’ve had ever since they first met on that cooking forum and got into an argument about the best way to braise beef if the only thing you have to work with is dynamite – but, well.

Implying Len would kill Spencer for trying doesn’t really work anymore.

He pauses too long, though.

You guys split again?

Mick?

Shit. That bad?

Gone, Mick types in, the lurching feeling of emptiness coming back. His old friend, by now; as familiar as the flame. He’s never really without that feeling nowadays. Sometimes, rarely, he can forget for a little. He can lose himself in the flame or the fight or the mission and not think about how the best part of everything he is isn’t there anymore.

The team’s noticed, of course, but he plays dumb and brutish and uncaring and he thinks they may have started to buy it. It’s a small ship: it’s not hard to overhear Stein joking with Jax that Mick fixing the ship would lead to immediate disaster, or Sara’s pointed comments about his usefulness (or lack thereof), or even Rip’s endless lectures before he fucked off to wherever the hell he went. Ray said he wanted to be partners, then promptly wandered away to focus on growing himself as a person; he checks in once in a blue moon, which is at least more than anyone else. Though now he has Nate to focus on – they seem to be getting along pretty well.

What’re you going to do? flashes onto Mick’s phone.

Mick bites his lip. No one’s asked him that; everyone started off by assuming he was mourning and moved on to assuming he was too dumb to mourn. Sara’s made an image of him in her head that has nothing to do with the reality, and he guesses that she’s the leader now. He’s always made a point not to work for people who buy into the myth of who he puts himself out as, because those people always think of him as expendable.

As meat.

Whatever. Not like it matters.

Finish the last job, he replies. That’s all he’s doing, really; marking time till the end. He promised Snart he wouldn’t shoot himself, a promise made long ago, and anyway he can’t step on Snart’s sacrifice like that, but Snart picked the team over him, didn’t he? Snart liked them. So Mick will carry on, step by grudging step, until he finds an appropriately heroic way to follow Snart to whatever paths he walks now.

Even Snart couldn’t hold it against him if Mick dies to save them. That’d just be hypocritical of him.

You should come visit, Spencer writers. Portland. I’ll send you the address.

Can’t. I told u.

Shore leave?

They don’t believe in it.

Bad gig.

All I’ve got left.

You shouldn’t be in the field right now. Spencer would know. He’s had his dark times, lost people; he knows that emptiness like an old friend. That emptiness that Mick’s always known but that Snart could fill just by being himself.

Spencer was like Mick before he found his current team: one step away from just wanting it all to go up in flames. But then he found them, his P and his H, and even N and S who still visited sometimes, and he’s filled his empty space up with them.

It’s the job, Mick replies.

Damnit, Mick!

I’ve got nothing else of him left, Mick writes back.

Then stay, Spencer immediately replies. He’s practical-minded like that: he knows you can’t stop someone from wanting to not be anymore, but you can at least take away their gun.

Or knife, whatever. Spencer was always weird about guns.

I ever show u my new flamethrower? Mick asks, thinking about it.

Not in person, Spencer replies. But I saw the news from Central City. You have a very distinctive style of arson.

Yeah, and u have a very distinctive type of noticing distinctive things, Sherlock.

It’s a gift.

A gift to annoy the rest of us, sure.

Speaking of gifts, let me give you the picante recipe, Spencer writes. You can write back in tears once you’ve failed to make it.

Screw u. I won’t fail.

Wanna bet?

Bring it, knife boy.

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

H wants to make pumpkin beer b/c it’s ‘seasonal’.

LOL

It’s not funny.

It’s hilarious, I don’t know what u mean, Mick writes back. Did u get the dinosaur BBQ I sent u?

P thinks you’re an alien and/or angel, Spencer tells him. She was v happy. H wants me to tell you that your camera phone quality sucks and that he’s going to figure out how you photoshopped in the dinosaur.

I didn’t.

I know that, Spencer replies. You don’t lie. But H doesn’t believe in time travel.

Doesn’t he believe in aliens?

H is v complex person.

Your bf, man.

One word: supervillains.

Fair.

You still in the 1940s?

Yeah, we went back. Sara’s officially the leader now, Mick offers. Instead of unofficially. Stein tried to be leader for a while, no idea why. Also, did u know about Justice Society of America?

…that’s classified.

I got to roast Nazis.

I hate you.

They’re very distinctive when they burn, Mick writes with gleeful malice.

Hey!

Hahahahaha.

You suck sometimes. Now what do I do about the problem?

Tell H that pumpkin beer is a hipster thing.

He likes hipsters.

Mick thinks about that for a long moment.

I’m so sorry.

Yeah, yeah. Less sympathy, more suggestions.

Mick thinks about it for a moment. H is a nerd, Spencer has been clear about that much. Nerd, nerd, nerd. Snart would have known in a second what to do with him. They would’ve gotten along, if Mick and Spencer had ever moved beyond texting. Now they never would.

Hmm.

Tell him pumpkin beer is cliché, Mick replies. And that no one has successfully created butterbeer yet. Experiments will keep him too busy to do anything else.

That’s so dumb it might actually work.

No kidding, Mick replies. I ever tell you about Snart and the lembas bread fiasco?

Only about fifteen times. Nothing ‘felt’ right, huh?

I used six bags of flour making those batches, Mick types. Six whole bags. The crew ate nothing but for three weeks.

They didn’t try to kill you?

Too afraid of Snart, Mick replies, shaking his head. Anyway, need to go back to waitering now.

Waiter? You? God, why? I wouldn’t hire you, and I like you.

Screw u, I’m v good.

You hate people and you like to tell them why their food choices suck. Being a waiter gives you a chance to do that in person. Why would anyone do that?

Breaking into a Nazi nightclub.

Couldn’t you just burn it down from the outside? Spencer has well known feelings about Nazis.

I like the way you think. But no, orders are to infiltrate.

And you’re going as waiters?

No, just me. Others are guests.

That’s crap.

I guess I just give off lower class vibes, Mick writes, and flips his phone shut, sliding it back into his pocket.

He likes to think he can feel Spencer’s anger radiating from his hip the entire bar fight.

Mick does manage to sneak into a corner to get a video recording of Stein singing Edelweiss to a bunch of teary-eyed Nazis first.

Spencer makes the mistake of watching it on one of his jobs, and blows up Mick’s phone afterwards with multiple variations on You made me blow my cover laughing you dick; now P and H think I’m feverish!

Serves him right.

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

“Okay, hold on,” Mick says with a sigh, typing in the words. “No, no, hold on, damnit.”

The old man waits.

I can’t believe you’re in the Edo period, Spencer writes.

I haven’t seen any ninjas yet, Mick complains to him.

Screw ninjas; I want that recipe for soba!

I’m typing it in, goddamnit! Wait five seconds!

Unagi was also popular in that region at that time, Spencer reports. Charcoal broiled, apparently.

The guy is still explaining how I’m fucking up the rice-making process, Mick says. Ur going to have to wait.

Rice is important.

Ninjas are important. There, sent.

Send more.

You’re insatiable.

That’s why I have both a P and a H, Spencer points out. Hungry ones, too.

Who will never notice the difference if you make food authentically Edo-period or not, Mick points out.

I will owe you a favor for every recipe you send me.

You’re a slut for historical Japanese food, Mick replies. How did I not notice this before?

You didn’t have access to historical Japanese recipes before. I can’t believe it took you this long to visit Japan.

“Sorry,” Mick says to the old guy. “Could you go over the rice thing again? My friend is…” Mick tries to find the right word. “…hungry.”

The old guy laughs, as do his three buddies. All of whom have come over to explain to Mick the proper way of – anything.

“He said something about unagi?”

Four heads nod enthusiastically.

Mick listens for a few minutes.

Jesus.

So there’s apparently some debate on the proper preparation method, he tells Spencer.

!!! Send all of them.

I’m working on it! Hold ur horses. My typing speed isn’t the best.

Recording?

Yeah, good point. Gimme a minute.

“Okay,” Mick says, flipping on the video recorder. “Now start from the top, will you?”

He sends the video to Spencer a few minutes later.

U also want the recipe for tokoroten?

YES

U know that it’s just seaweed, right?

SEND NOW

LOL

“So,” Mick says to the men. “The team still thinks I’m asleep, so I’ve got a little longer. Talk to me about vegetables.”

“Mushrooms first,” one of the men declares.

“Man after my own heart,” Mick says sincerely. “Then we need to talk sake.”

“Sake is serious business,” another one of the men says wisely.

“I’m not leaving this era without getting to see one of your sills,” Mick says. “I’ll trade you fine-grain salt for it.”

They all nod approvingly.

Mick always did know how to make a deal.

Later on, Mick sends Spencer the pictures he took of the knocked-out ninjas and deletes the image off his phone. It’s not like he wouldn’t love to have the memento, but he knows himself well enough. He can’t afford to actually have any ninja memorabilia on him.

He keeps turning to his right, phone in hand, ready to tell Snart about it. If he keeps looking straight ahead, he can sometimes pretend Snart’s still there, just waiting, smirk on his face as Mick goes on and on about the ninjas.

Ninjas are cool.

But telling Snart about them – rubbing it into his face how cool they are, how totally real they are – would have been even better.

He can see Snart’s face now, eyes rolling but lips twitching, his habitual icy demeanor gone because it’s just the two of them and he’s got no reason to hide. Snart would suggest a movie marathon to celebrate: every crappy ninja movie in existence, the worse, the better.

Keep that safe for me, will you? he asks Spencer, despite knowing there’s no real point.

Snart’s gone. There’s no one left that Mick needs to tell.

He’s all alone, except for this stupid mission.

Will do, Spencer replies. Just hold on a bit longer.

A bit longer.

The rest of eternity stretches out before Mick, empty and vast and pointless. He’s going to have to walk a thousand miles just to get somewhere where maybe, at last, they’ll let him go to where he belongs. Right back at Snart’s side.

Sure.

He can do a bit longer.

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

Civil war zombies, he texts Spencer as he sits in the medlab, waiting for Ray and Stein to come in with the treatment Ray’s working on in the other room.

Tell me you’re kidding, Spencer replies. He must be working in his restaurant instead of on a job with his team; he’s been really good at answering Mick’s texts right away recently.

No. Also, I got bitten.

Shit.

Ray’s working on a vaccine.

Vaccine comes before infection; he’s working on a cure. How do you even end up in these situations?

Time travel. I really don’t want to be a zombie.

Obviously. You wouldn’t get to season your food first.

That’s not funny.

It is.

Okay, it is. But still.

A bit out of place. How are you doing?

Mick?

Mick, answer me.

Mick.

[1 missed call]

Mick Rory, text me back right now.

[3 missed calls]

Someone tell me what’s going on, damnit.

[5 missed calls]

No need to blow up my phone, Mick types in shakily. I’m okay.

Don’t leave me on a cliffhanger like that.

I was temporarily zombified.

…good excuse.

Ray’s vaccine worked.

Vaccine is before infection; cure is after. But still, I’m glad.

Me 2. U were right.

Right about what?

I didn’t want to season my food.

I hate you sometimes, you know that?

Yeah. Wouldn’t want to do that again any time soon, though.

I can imagine, Spencer replies. He doesn’t put any emoji to indicate he’s rolling his eyes, but Mick likes to think he can figure out anyway. Just wait until tomorrow; who knows what new and exciting traumas await you?

Tomorrow will be just as bad as today, Mick writes, his mood souring.

What’s next can’t be as bad as turning into a zombie. A pause. It does hurt less, you know. Eventually.

It doesn’t actually get better, Mick replies. He knows that lesson from his family. It just scars.

I know, Spencer says. But sometimes you find a new reason to stick around, and sometimes you make one up for yourself. So don’t do anything stupid.

Not going to throw away what Snart gave me, Mick says.

But he does, later that day. Not his life, no. But something else that Snart left him.

Ray is alone and hurting and vulnerable and Mick thinks – maybe. Maybe now that Ray’s not busy fixing his suit or helping run the ship. Maybe if Ray’s starting from scratch too, he’ll have room in his new life for Mick, too.

So he gives him the cold gun and he gives him a word that he hasn’t used for anyone but Snart, not in decades, not even when they were split up. Not during the fire, not during Kronos. No one but Snart has ever been his partner. But – well, Spencer’s right. Sometimes you find a reason to stick around.

Sometimes you make one for yourself.

God, Mick just hopes he doesn’t regret this.

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

He doesn’t go to the room he’s claimed as his own, stuffing it full like a warehouse. Hendrix’s guitar on the wall, pin-ups from the 40s down below, boxing shit lifted from Mohammed Ali’s extras – his little fuck you to the team, which never asked how he got any of it.

His You would have liked this to Snart’s ghost.

His I’m trying.

His this isn’t home without you.

No, he goes to the sub-basement, pops open a doorway that Len found ages ago, ducks through to the armory that nobody uses, though it’s clearly been accessed by someone else recently. Maybe someone else needed a dusty place to go when everything else seems to be too much.

Mick’s tongue is numb and his hands are shaking. The world keeps having black spots around the edges, and all the sounds of the ships – the thumping and grinding that normally reassures him that he’s surrounded by machine – sounds distant, almost like there’s a wall of glass between him and the sound.

He doesn’t know why.

He does know why.

He sits in the corner Snart used to curl up in when there were too many people in the cargo hold and he just needed some peace to make all the noise stop, when his senses were going haywire – when the world was too loud, too bright, too busy – and he just needed to focus.

His hands are shaking.

He needs to do something with them. The plastic ball Snart liked to use to increase flexibility, or that goop Snart found a recipe to mix up in the kitchen, shiny and pretty and went through his fingers like slime; feathers for a light touch or wool for something heavy and scratchy. That squeezing thing that went a different way each time.

He needs to feel something with his hands to get out of his head.

Mick pulls out his phone instead. Snart loaded some apps for him – something with colors, and one that’s a bubble wrap popping simulator that Mick usually finds incredibly relaxing – but he skips over them, goes to the messaging function.

I lost his gun, he writes, and clicks send before he can erase the written evidence of how thoroughly he’s failed as a friend. As a partner.

Take four deep breaths, Spencer writes immediately.

Four?

Okay. Four. Mick can count to four.

He’s having some trouble with getting his breath in deep enough, though; when did that happen?

That’s dumb. He’s not so stupid that he can’t breathe.

Okay, he writes back.

Six seconds in, six seconds out?

Yeah, yeah.

You somewhere quiet?

Yeah.

How many fingers do you have in your left hand?

What sort of dumb question is that?

Five.

Have you counted?

Mick holds up his hand and counts.

Five.

What about the right?

Still five.

How do you make a turkey sandwich?

Mick blinks.

U know how to do that.

Explain it to me anyway.

Okay. Maybe Spencer is having memory issues or something? Mick can sympathize. After Kronos –

No.

Not thinking about that.

Well, first u need a turkey, Mick writes.

What spices?

Depends on the type. Mick thinks about it. Garlic, rosemary, maple. That’s pretty standard. Roast at high heat, obviously.

Good. Keep going.

Mick’s almost all the way through describing the proper way to keep turkey meat moist and the bread – homemade, of course – from being soggy when he realizes that Eliot Spencer does not need lessons in how to make a turkey sandwich.

He erases what he was going to write and just writes Thanks instead.

Not many people can diagnose a panic attack via text message.

What happened?

I gambled and lost, Mick tells him. Except I used the second to last thing I have left of him to do it.

What happened? Spencer says again, because he knows Mick’s not that stupid or heartless.

We had to destroy Ray’s suit, Mick writes slowly. He was down about it. Didn’t know who he was.

Ray’s the one who offered to be your partner then ditched?

He just got busy, Mick writes. It wasn’t personal.

He offered to be your partner. Even if it wasn’t personal, I’m taking it personally.

I don’t.

I’m doing it on your behalf. So his suit got destroyed.

I didn’t really take too well to his offer of partners, Mick confesses.

Given his timing, I understand why, Spencer replies. You decided to take him up on it?

You were right. I needed to give living a real shot before I gave up on it. So I gave him the cold gun.

Why?

He was feeling useless. Like the group didn’t need him anymore.

Isn’t he a super genius or something?

Mick feels his lips curve up despite himself. Despite the emptiness trying to eat him from the inside out.

Yeah, he replies. He forgets that sometimes. I gave him the cold gun so he could have something that made him special again.

Mick pauses. Licks his lips.

He wanted to make it better. The gun, I mean.

Are you kidding me?

No.

Every time Ray had said it, Mick had felt a sliver of ice slide into his chest like a well-placed shiv. Snart being bricked over like he’d never even been – it was intolerable.

It was what Mick was doing.

Mick couldn’t think about what he was doing or else he’d never succeed in doing it. Snart sometimes talked about Mick getting another partner if Snart was unavailable for some period of time; Mick hadn’t ever bothered to take him up on it, of course, but he’d known Snart wouldn’t object to him trying. Hell, Snart would be the first one urging him to move on, because Snart never wanted Mick to die.

That’s why he said, “Forgive me, my old friend,” right before he –

No.

Spencer has been blowing up Mick’s phone while Mick was distracted.

What the hell is wrong with him?

Has he ever had a friend? Ever?

WTF, seriously.

You’ve got to come visit sometime. I want to have a word with him.

Mick chuckles instinctively at the thought of Spencer having a Word with someone; it was always a delight to watch.

The act of chuckling made his lip ache; he raises a hand to it and his fingers come away bloody.

He must have bitten his lip open sometime. He’s not sure when.

Why isn't he wearing his gloves?

Oh. He's still in the tux from earlier.

He’s not that bad, Mick writes.

Still want to talk with him. So he tried to fix the cold gun?

No, Mick writes, and closes his eyes in pain. I told him not to. Told him he had to try to be cool if he wanted to use it.

He would have been proud of you, Spencer writes. He doesn’t mean Ray.

Yeah. Mick had had the same thought, even as he said the words.

We had to do a stakeout.

What era?

80s DC.

Ugh, never mind. No recipes I want from then.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Anyway, he showed up in Snart’s old jacket.

WTF?! Where’d he even get it?

Mick blinks. He hadn’t thought of that. It was definitely Snart’s old jacket; it was unmistakable – not just the style, but the little tear at the wrist, the stain on the neck. Memories in each crease. When Snart had – no – after, they had given Mick Snart’s things, what little he had unpacked and how much he kept still in the lone bag he brought with him.

Mick had put them –

He must have gotten them from my room.

Spencer’s next few texts are entirely profanity.

No, it’s good, Mick protests. I’m trying to teach him to be a bit more wild side.

There’s wild side and then there’s respecting a friend’s property, and your Ray doesn’t know the difference.

He had to be talked into stealing jellybeans.

Oh god.

Yeah, I know. Then he crossed the streams.

Of the guns? Didn’t you tell him not to do that?

He decided to be a rebel.

Against his PARTNER?

He’s smart, but not that bright. Anyway. We got into a fight at the White House next.

Not the best place to fight. Weak foundations; too much glitz on the walls.

U would know, Mick writes, snorting. Of course Spencer had had to fight in the White House at one point. There was a bomb.

You disarmed it?

Ray did. Mick swallows. His throat’s weirdly dry. He had to destroy the cold gun to do it.

Shit.

Yeah. Now it’s gone.

What’d he say?

Mick frowns. What do you mean, what did he say?

Spencer takes a few seconds before responding.

What did he say to you after he destroyed the gun?

Nothing, Mick writes back, bemused. We went back to the ship. They’re trying to figure out what to do about the guy we’re trying to fight. Big brainstorm. I went away. Wasn't in the mood to talk.

He didn’t say anything? After destroying the cold gun? That you gave him? That was Snart's?

No. Should he have?

Hell yes he should have!

It wouldn’t have helped.

Doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have said something.

Maybe he’ll say something later.

You tell me if he does, Spencer writes. Mick checks to see if the phone is actually a few degrees hotter for having to convey the amount of Spencer’s anger in text format, but it isn’t. You tell me right away.

k, Mick says, then hesitates. Maybe he’s not being entirely fair. He did ask me before doing it. I told him to do it.

Wait, where were you when he was disarming the bomb?

Sitting next to Ray. He needed a pep talk about being himself and sciencing his way out of things.

You were sitting next to an unexploded – no, of course you were. Were you hoping it’d go off?

There are worse ways to die, Mick says. He’s very tired, all of a sudden.

He’s been tired for so long he barely remembers anything else.

I had a donut, he adds. Chocolate glazed.

It wouldn’t have been the worst way to go out. They’d saved the whole room full of people, after all, and the White House’s plans for nuclear peace.

Of course, Ray had been there, too. Maybe next time he should tell them that he knows how to disarm the bomb, get the rest of them out of there first. Then he could make his peace before the flames consumed him.

You deserve a better last meal than a chocolate glazed donut, Spencer writes. Besides, we still haven’t had that barbeque-off.

I sent u dinosaur. I win.

In terms of meat, sure. I still have a better sauce.

U r delusional. I once got a prison guard to agree to let me out of jail in exchange for my recipe.

Big talk, no proof.

Mick smiles, feeling his lip split and bleed again. The pain is good. It reminds him he’s still here.

He should go work out, get his muscles sore. Work the meat of his body, since that’s all they need him for, anyway.

He wonders abruptly if they will give his gun to Ray when he dies. He doesn’t have the cold gun now, to make him special. Ray won’t appreciate the beauty of the flames, but that’s the beauty of being dead – you don’t have to suffer the agonizing wounds of your legacy being deleted one slow and painful piece at a time.

Ray’ll probably dismantle the heat gun for something stupid, too, like smoke signaling. Something like that. But everyone will be happy, because what he did saved people or helped him survive, and no one will give Mick’s gun a second thought.

Firestorm can provide all the firepower they need, after all.

I know what ur trying to do, he tells Spencer. I’m not staying alive for barbeque. Not even the satisfaction of beating ur ass and making u admit my sauce is superior.

No, you’re staying alive until you find a sufficient heroic way to exit stage left, Spencer says grimly. If you come back to 2016, you tell me stat, okay? I will come to you.

Will do, Mick says.

He should go exercise. Or maybe find that ball Snart gave him, the sensory stim one.

He doesn’t do any of that.

Just sits back, in the dusty old armory, and closes his eyes.

Wishes he wasn’t here.

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

We’re back in the Wild West, Mick reports.

Land of culinary delights, Spencer replies. No, wait, I’m thinking of literally any other place and time in history.

People born and raised in Oklahoma don’t get to throw stones.

No comment. You know how rare it is to say “back” in the Wild West?

Not as rare as I would have thought before discovering time travel.

Keep me updated, will you?

The whiskey here sucks.

Not that type of update.

But it really does suck.

Is it even whiskey, that far out? I assume it’s bourbon instead.

What’s the difference?

There is a huge difference.

They’re both alcoholic. And made with some type of grain, right?

I will find a time ship, go back to the Wild West, find you and punch you.

Mick smirks. Spencer probably would, too.

You know I don’t buy that dumbass act, right? Spencer adds. You sent me a three-page essay on how sake was made in the Edo era.

You can’t serve Edo cuisine at your micropub without having properly made sake, Mick types back, affronted. That’s just wrong.

‘They’re both alcoholic’ my ass. H is having a love affair with the sake prep right now; I blame you.

Is it any good?

No.

LOL.

He’s getting better.

Yeah, I hear ‘terrible’ is considered better than ‘ungodly awful’ nowadays.

Hah. Hah. What are you doing?

Bar fight.

You’re texting me in the middle of a bar fight?

Bar fight hasn’t started yet.

Why are you starting a bar fight?

No clue. Sara didn’t say, just handed me money.

If you don’t know why you’re doing it, how will you know if you’re doing it right?

They don’t really tell me the ‘why’ anymore, Mick replies. Anyway, go to go – my babysitter just showed up.

Ray?

Amaya.

The one who tried to slit your throat?!

That was weeks ago.

Not okay. Have you forgiven her?

She never asked. She did get me a ninja star.

…weren’t you the one fighting the ninjas?

I was complaining about not having evidence.

But I thought you said the ninjas you were fighting didn’t have stars?

She gave me one of Sara’s extras. Probably thought I wouldn't notice. It’s OK. Thought that counts.

I wish you’d come back to 2016. That ship’s not healthy for you. Have you had a chance to see your shrink?

Not in nine months. And 70-something years of cryo, if you want to be specific about it.

You really should make some time.

They don’t listen to me anymore. Mick acknowledges that it’s partially his fault for pushing them away after – after Snart. He’d played his big-dumb-and-stupid to the hilt, and they no longer came to him with pity in their eyes. He prefers sneers of disdain any day. But one consequence is that it’s a lot harder to convince them to let him go off on his own. Anyway. Bar fight. Later.

Later.

Later, Mick pulls out his phone again. Almost made it, he writes bitterly.

What?

Shootout. I was going to lose, but Nate threw himself in front of me.

He okay?

He's fine, after a bit of surgery. He’s the one who turns into steel.

Right, the one that made H laugh for three hours coming up with superhero names. Don’t let him come back to 2016 – H will hack all the news networks in order to make sure his superhero name is Major Hard Steel. Or something even worse.

Mick thinks about this for a second, then smirks. He’s not going to mention that to Nate.

We got to blow up a mine, he tells Spencer.

Spencer is quiet for a long moment.

Mick sighs. Yes, I tried to stick around. Amaya was there, too, and she knocked all the guys out before I had a valid reason to stay.

I’m glad she’s there.

She came by just now. Said she could help me control the wild beast inside.

I’m not glad she’s there. What the hell?

My fault. I told her I was an animal that just wanted to watch the world burn.

Damnit, Mick. You need to not think of yourself that way.

It’s true.

It is not true. Snart wouldn’t talk about you that way.

He knew I wanted to see the world burn.

But he never called you an animal, Spencer points out. Not once.

Mick has to admit that that’s true. Snart never once thought of him as less than a full person, with all the rights and thoughts thereof. Sure, Snart sometimes played him the way he played everyone else, and Mick took that out on him in anger, but Snart never thought of Mick as less than him. As less than human.

Fine, he writes back grudgingly. Not an animal.

Isn’t Amaya the 20 year old?

Probably 23.

What the hell does she think she has to tell you about controlling yourself that Snart and I haven’t already passed along?

Mick is surprised into a laugh. He wasn’t expecting to laugh today.

Oh, so it’s your professional pride that’s injured, he writes back, smirking.

She’s 23! What type of mental health expertise does she have? I have several classes in PTSD under my belt, and Snart took enough psych classes to pass his bachelors if he’d only taken them legal. And he kidnapped an expert in pyromania that time.

I remember that, Mick replies, amused. The expert had been rather bemused to be kidnapped at gunpoint only to be quizzed on appropriate treatment strategies for worsening pyromania. Snart had dropped him back off at his hotel afterwards, with a real (if stolen) Rolex as thanks. He always did overreact.

You nearly died, Spencer shoots back. Snart was reacting entirely reasonably.

That was way before the warehouse fire incident.

So you nearly died multiple times. I’m not seeing your point. So what does this girl think she’s bringing to the table here?

She has a magic necklace that lets her channel animal spirits, Mick says.

And that’s supposed to help fix mental health issues…how?

No clue, Mick says. It’s probably just going to be more anger management training, before she realizes I know the playbook backwards and forwards and it still doesn’t help.

Yeah, except with a side of condescending dehumanization. Wait. Isn’t she from the 1940s? They didn’t even have mental health treatment back then!

She was from a small town in Africa before she was recruited by the Allies to fight in WWII, Mick offers. I don’t think she’ll jump straight to institutionalization and electroshock as first options.

Recruited by which Allies?

Not sure. Brits, judging by her accent, though she’s working with the Justice Society of America.

Wait, that Amaya? Vixen?

Yeah.

Oh hell no. They picked her up early enough to get the real indoctrination started. Doesn’t her village get wiped out by the British army when it’s putting down an anti-colonialization rally?

I have no idea, Mick replies. He considers this. Maybe he should tell Nate to look it up and tell Amaya that. She shouldn’t end up like Sara, being taken by surprise.

She worked closely with Winston Churchill before moving over to the JSA, Spencer tells him. Winston. Churchill.

Mick racks his brain to think about what Spencer’s getting at here. Churchill, Churchill, famous speeches, WWII, post-WWII…oh.

The deliberate famine in India because they were 'breeding too fast'?

That’s the guy. If he’s still her role model, I don’t trust her with your mental health.

I’m sure she’s not that bad, Mick protests. That was post WWII Churchill.

I don’t trust anyone from the 1940s with your mental health.

I don’t think she knows I’m actually sick and not angry, Mick confesses.

Damnit, Mick!

And I don’t think she knows about Snart, either.

DO NOT LET THIS PERSON NEAR YOU.

Oh, look, all caps. Spencer must really be steamed.

You’re usually the one tell me that I need to try moving on, Mick points out.

You need to find a reason to keep living, Spencer replies. I’m willing to accept something stupid like ‘has a goal of burnin down London in 1666’ as a reason -

That’s actually not that bad a reason, as they go. He wonders if he can convince Gideon to pretend there’s an anomaly there.

But I’m not willing to let someone who doesn’t know anything about mental health, who has never apologized for trying to kill you, and who you report as regular being extremely disdainful of your very presence try to put themselves in a situation where they control you.

The word she used was ‘tame’, actually.

NOT BETTER.

Mick snickers.

You’re not an animal, Mick, Spencer writes. You never will be one. Don’t let them see you as a victim, but don’t let them make you into a beast, either. I’ve been in the military. I know how they can break people down there. Don’t do it.

I’ll think about it, Mick replies. At this point, it might be worth taking up Amaya’s offer just to see how pissed off he can get Spencer.

“Hey, Mick,” Jax says, poking his head into Mick’s room.

He must have drawn the short straw this time around.

Sometimes he wonders exactly how dumb the rest of the team thinks he is. Do they honestly think he doesn’t hear them talking about him?

“What?” Mick grunts.

“Heads up, we’re gonna jump soon.”

“Where to?” Mick asks. He doesn’t actually care.

“2016. We got a message – they need our help.”

Mick’s still blinking when the door slides shut behind Jax.

Looks like your wish is going to come true, he writes.

Which one? Spencer replies suspiciously.

We’re going back to 2016.

A long moment of silence from the phone.

Good, Spencer finally says. I’ll see you there.

You don’t even know where we’re going to be, Mick protests.

I have H and P to back me up, Spencer types grimly. Don’t worry about finding me. I’ll find you.

Normally, when people say that to Mick, it’s a threat.

Right now, though, he finds himself feeling rather comforted.

He puts down his phone.

Just a little longer, he thinks to himself, and gets out of his chair to go beat up the punching bag a bit more.

Just a little longer.