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Two Minutes, Thirty-Seven Seconds

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Ray was half thinking about Jax's wobbly timedrive woes, and half about sandwiches for lunch, when the sight of Mick lounging at the table drew him up short. Next time I see him in private, he'd told himself, I'll ask him.

"Hey, Mick." Ray slid onto the other seat.

"Haircut." Neutral tone. Good sign.

"So I've been wondering. I like you a lot, and we make a pretty good team, and you're very attractive; would you like, sometime, if you're interested, to hook up? Casually, I mean."

Mick bit into his doughnut. "You mean screw?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess."

"No."


Ray was standing in the corridor outside the kitchen. Mick's brush off must have really shaken him. He didn't even remember how he'd replied or how he'd gotten here.

He looked in at Mick, who was contemplating a doughnut and not even looking at him. Something about his pose struck Ray as off, but honestly he was still reeling from the shut down.

Well, what had he expected, really? Ray didn't even know if Mick dated guys, had never heard of him in a relationship, for that matter. Maybe he didn't like sex.

Discouraged, Ray headed back to his room.


Suddenly was standing back where he'd started. He looked into the kitchen, and Mick was staring at the same doughnut, Ray was sure of it. He was also sure that Mick had eaten it the first time they'd talked. He leaned through the doorway.

"Hey, Mick?"

"Yeah?"

"When was the last time you saw me?" he asked, sure Mick would reply, When you hit on me, then crashed and burned, idiot.

"Couple hours ago." This was said around another mouthful of doughnut. "Why?"

"I think I'm in a time loop," Ray explained, "And you're not."

"Good. I hate those things."


This loop seemed more disorientating for having only moved him about six inches. Ray checked his watch: 11:06:04.

"Gideon?" he asked the air, "are we in a time loop?"

No answer.

"Gideon? Are you there?"

Still no answer.

"That's not good." Ray tapped his earpiece. "Jax, can you hear me?"

"Yeah, I hear you," Jax snapped, "and yes we're in a time loop, and no you can't do anything to help. 'Cept stop Gray from calling every two minutes to ask why I'm pissed off."

"Okay then," Ray said, but Jax had already cut the connection.

His watch read: 11:08:47.


Ray sat the next loop out. Rather, he spent it leaning against the wall of the corridor, thinking hard.

Jax had said Ray couldn't help, so presumably he was working on it and was confident he could fix it. Not everyone was aware of the loop, but Ray was, presumably because he'd just been in the engine room.

Therefore, whatever Ray said to Mick, Ray would remember but Mick would not. Therefore, Ray had infinite chances for Mick to shoot him down. Until Jax fixed the timedrive, at least, at which time Ray was stuck with whatever he'd last said.


"Hey, Mick?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"I'm talking to you, ain't I?"

"Great. I was just wondering if you were gay."

"You lose a bet, or make one?"

"No, no. No bets. I was just wondering."

"Huh."

"Well?"

"None of your business, Haircut."

"Oh, okay, well that's fair, I guess. Sorry to bother you."

"Mmmm."

"But you do like sex, right?"

"If I tell you, will you leave me alone?"

"I promise not to be here in fewer than thirty seconds."

"Fine. I like sex. I ain't gay. I don't mind screwing guys. Now piss off."

"Thanks, Mick."


So Ray had learned a new obscene hand gesture, but, on the plus side, he'd also learned that the problem wasn't that Mick was, strictly speaking, straight. The problem seemed to be that he wasn't interested in Ray. More optimistically, Mick wasn't interested in what Ray had offered the first time.

Maybe Ray had sounded too serious. It could just be that Mick wanted to have anonymous sex in the Waverider's hold, or even off ship entirely, and didn't want Ray to drag feelings or commitments into something casual. Which, given Ray's previous shipboard romance, was not an unfair assumption.


Ray walked in casually and stole one of Mick's doughnuts. They were pretty good. He should do this more loops. Mick glared, but Ray pretended to ignore him. "Man, I sure could stand to let off some steam. Ship gets pretty small, you know?"

"Looks like."

"Sometimes a guy just wants to scratch an itch, but then the other person wants romance, and feelings, and it's all so much—"

He stopped when Mick dropped his head into hands and covered his eyes.

"Look," Mick growled, with just five seconds left on the loop, "You want a fuck buddy, try Blondie."


Ray waited out the next few loops.

He'd tried walking to his quarters, but he barely had time to get there and sit on the bunk before he started right back at the door to the kitchen. The same went for going down to the engine room, except that he got there in time for Jax to swear at him just as the loop reset them both. Apparently asking if they were there yet didn't help at all.

So he sat on the floor of the corridor, leaned his forehead on his knees, and waited for the loop to end.


Then he did it again. And again. Eventually he got lonely and bored enough to wander back into the mess.

Mick was where he always was, and didn't comment when Ray sat across from him and slumped forward to rest his head on his arms. Ray wondered what would happen if he asked for a hug, because he could use one, but he was honestly starting to feel bad about pestering Mick, even if he didn't remember.

"You okay?" Mick's voice was surprisingly gentle, as was the hand on his shoulder.

"Not really," was all Ray had time to say.


Ray was eating his dozenth doughnut of the morning, when he decided to say it. "I just don't know what you want!" Mick glanced up, startled. "Like sugar, beer, and fire, I get that, and the perfect score, whatever that is, but I don't know what I could possibly do that would make you happy."

Mick sighed, and looked at Ray more seriously than he had all morning. "I told you in, D.C.," he said, "just be Ray Palmer."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

"Because it seems like it should be more complicated than that."

"Not everything has to be, Haircut."


"Hey, Mick." Ray had lost track of how many times he'd said that.

"Haircut."

Ray took a breath, leaned forward so that both his hands were braced on the table, and said, "I just wanted you to know that I think you're a really great guy. I mean, sure you're a criminal, and you set things on fire, but you're also strong and loyal and handsome, and you're just you and don't care what anyone thinks. I know you're probably not interested, but if you wanted to go out some time, like on a date, I would really like that."

"And that, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Mick," said Jax over the intercom, "is two minutes and forty seconds. Hallelujah and praise the Lord."

"What the hell are you talking about?" That was Sara, and general confusion followed.

Ray thought he felt the deck jar, and was glad he was braced on the table, but Mick's doughnuts hadn't moved, and it turned out it was just his stomach tying itself in a knot. "Oh, God," he said.

Mick grunted. "You in a time loop?"

"Not any more, apparently," Ray said, sighing. "Though if you want to pretend that the last three minutes didn't happen..."

"Did you spend the whole thing trying to ask me out?" Mick was pressing his lips tightly together, and Ray thought he was trying not to laugh. Great.

"Most of it?"

"Huh. You get me to say yes?"

Ray sighed again. He supposed being made fun of was the price he had to pay for all this, and he should be glad it wasn't worse. "Not so far."

"Ha. Well, that one wasn't bad."

"Really?"

"Sure. Next time we're in a decent bar, you're buying." Then he did laugh at Ray, but Ray decided that he didn't really mind.