1. Community Gardens
There are no supermarkets in a twenty block radius of Len and Mick’s newest safehouse apartment in Keystone City.
“What the everloving fuck?” Mick demands of Len, two days after they finished setting up. He’s frowning at a Google maps search. “I just want fresh fucking vegetables!”
Len, who has never been a fan of fresh vegetables and would happily eat mac and cheese for every meal with peanut M&Ms as his major protein source, shrugs.
“So, if I can’t get fresh fucking vegetables then how can anyone else in this suburb?”
Len squints at Mick, and fills two mugs with the coffee that’s just finished brewing.
“They – don’t?” he offers, already knowing where this conversation is going.
“Which makes this a fucking food desert.” says Mick. He’s got his arms folded across his chest, which means that he’s in stubborn mode. Sometimes Len regrets shacking up with a man from a country whose primary export is fucking sheep – it means Mick’s stubborn streak is about as long as a grumpy bellwether’s, especially when you get him on something like fresh vegetables and food deserts, which Mick has always hated.
“Look, Mick, there’s not really anything we can do.” says Len.
And then bites his tongue, because why the fuck did he say that, that is the literal worst thing he could have said.
“Fuck that.” says Mick, and then takes the iPad he’d done the map search on and stomps off to their tiny back balcony with his cup of coffee.
Len takes advantage of his sudden solitude to bang his head on the their very nice recycled farm wood countertops, and then picks up his phone
→ Lis I fucked up please don’t pick up if Mick calls you
Oh god bro what did you do? ←
→ Mick is currently researching council permits for community gardens
→ DO NOT LET HIM DRAG YOU INTO THIS
There are four vacant lots available that could be repurposed, and Mick applies for permits for all four, in his own name, because fuck the police.
(Well, he and Len have in the literal sense, and David Singh and his husband Rob were a very enjoyable lay – far more kinky than Mick would have originally anticipated. They come over for barbeque every so often, and Mick and Len occasionally show up at their place with beer and a desire to be temporarily arrested.)
It takes two days, a frantic back-and-forth email exchange with some poor intern at the council office who thought he was applying with a fake name, three phone calls, one two hour text exchange with David and an argument with the Flash (who had obviously found out about them and David, if his inability to look either David or Mick in the eye was any indication), but the permits are approved. Friday is spent at Home Depot, with Mick weighing up plants and soil and seeds and edging for the beds and Len leaning on things in a way that could only be described as villainously sexy (which only Len could pull off in a fucking Home Depot) and generally making people whisper and point phones at them. The most memorable moment of the day was probably the group of teenage girls who seemed to be there to buy a fuckload of succulents and literally shrieked when they spotted them. Len made eye contact with them while Mick argued with a staffer about mulches and winked, and all three of them rain off blushing. Mick loads up the back of their hotwired pickup and Len uses the kind of patience and restraint usually only seen in saints to avoid jumping him until their back in their apartment, because sweaty and doing manual labor has always been one of Len’s favorite looks on Mick. Naturally, no more work gets done that day, barring that of getting Len thoroughly fucked, which Len would like prioritized more anyway.
On Saturday morning, Mick drags Len out of bed and convinces him to make bagels. Lots of bagels. A suspiciously large amount of bagels. Mick watches him while he drinks his first mug of coffee, and then shuffles off to the shower.
Which is when Len’s phone chimes with a text.
Okay boss, why the fuck does Rory want us at your safehouse in clothes we don’t mind getting dirty at 10 am on a Saturday morning and why aren’t you in the group message he used ←
Len bangs his head a few more times on the countertop, and then texts Mark back.
→ He’s building community gardens. You can come or not as you wish.
Len doesn’t bother putting his phone down. He just waits. As a result, he picks up Mark’s call before the first ring ends.
“Community fucking gardens?” says Mark. The indignation in his tone would probably be more emphatic if he didn’t have to pause between the ‘fucking’ and the ‘gardens’ to yawn.
“Mick grew up on an orchard. He has strong opinions about access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“Didn’t he grow up in Keystone?”
“After he grew up in Otago.” says Len.
“Fucking where?” asks Mark.
“South Island of New Zealand.” says Len. He puts the call on speaker and pulls the first couple of bagels out to cool.
“Huh. The more you know. Alright, see you in a bit.”
Len chokes on the sip of coffee he’d just taken.
“It’s going to be hilarious, I’m not missing this for the world.” says Mark, and Len can hear his shit-eating grin. There’s a moment of silence, during which the shower turns off, before Mark speaks again.
“Alright, apparently everyone’s coming. Mick just text to say you’re making bagels and the confirmation texts are pouring in. Apparently, that literally none of us are willing to miss.”
“Mick will probably be wearing very short denim shorts and gumboots.” says Len, vindictively. Hartley’s voice floats through the line, loud enough that Len actually flinches.
“What the fuck, we need to leave immediately.”
Mark hangs up, leaving Len to ponder the fact that Mark and Hartley are apparently fucking now.
Lisa is the first to arrive, at 9:45, with a half-finished iced coffee in their hand and wearing a pair of cut-off overalls that Len thinks might have been his in the 80s over a Le Tigre t-shirt.
“You ignored my advice.” says Len, when he opens the door.
“Mick will be wearing those fucking shorts again.” says Lisa. “And you’re making bagels. That’s incentive enough for me.”
“Stop objectifying my husband.” says Len, but he steps aside and lets them in.
“Is there Lox in the fridge?” Lisa calls over their shoulder.
“Why don’t you use your legs and your eyes and find out!” Len calls back.
Len doesn’t even get to close the door before Mark and Hartley appear on their landing, Axel following behind.
“Morning!” Hartley sings out. Mark still looks half-asleep, but he’s pulling off the disheveled look, and Axel’s jeans are paint-splattered.
“Apparently Mick will be wearing short shorts?”
The guys part, revealing Shawna and Frankie, who are both carrying plastic bags.
“He will!” Lisa calls from inside. “Do you guys have the stuff?”
“We’ve got the stuff!” Frankie calls back. She’s wearing marker-decorated Converse and a Panic! t-shirt, and there’s still sunscreen visible on her face that hasn’t been entirely rubbed in.
“Good.” comes Mick’s voice, and there’s a moment of silence while everyone on the landing contemplates Mick in The Shorts.
“They’re called Stubbies.” says Len, in a stage whisper.
“Fuck literally all of you.” says Mick.
“Yes please.” says Hartley, in something approaching a moan, unable to tear his eyes away from the ta moko now visible on Mick’s thighs.
Mick sighs and ushers everyone inside, taking the bags from Shawna and Frankie as he does.
They spend about half an hour eating bagels in the kitchen, the vegemite and strawberry cream cheese that Frankie and Shawna had bought supplementing the spreads already in Mick and Len’s fridge. Rosa and Sam arrive at some point in the middle of that, strolling out of the bathroom that contains the only mirror in the house with still-warm cinnamon rolls.
“Nicely done.” Rosa says out of the side of her mouth, to Len. “Does he wear those often?”
“Not as often as I’d like.” says Len, and then Mick is ushering them all out the door and down to the first empty lot, which is on Mick and Len’s block.
It takes three hours for people to start collecting to watch them.
“Is this community service or something?” asks the boldest of the young people at the fenceline, at about midday. Mick – who is now shirtless (and hadn’t Hartley started drooling when the shirt came off – not that Len hadn’t been drooling as well) – straightens up and pulls his shirt from the back of his shorts to wipe the sweat from his face.
“No. There’s nowhere to get vegetables and fruit around here, so I got permits to turn the vacant lots into community gardens.”
“Out of the goodness of your heart.” says a woman, easily in her seventies, voice full of skepticism.
“Out of my righteous orchard-farm-boy indignation.” says Mick. Len tries to muffle a snort.
“Shut the fuck up, Lenny.” says Mick.
“No, no, don’t mind me.” says Lenny. “I can’t hear you over the sound of your atua laughing at you for your inability to escape your eternal destiny as a farm boy.”
Mick flips him off with two fingers, and the entire collected Rogues cackle in response.
“You can come help, if you’d like.” says Mick. “We’ve got the beds laid – we’re about to start planting.”
It takes a while, and they come in waves, but they end up with a surplus of help for the planting. Mick spends a lot of time talking with the adults about which plants will be ready to harvest when, and Mark and Frankie and Shawna spend a lot of time helping the kids plant seeds. Len and Lisa sit on the stoop of their building and hand out lemonade while Hartley sets up an instagram and a twitter and a tumblr for Mick on Mick’s phone, which he’d lifted from Mick’s pocket twenty-five minutes ago.
They pack up when the sun sets, garden painted and planted, and Len calls for Chinese and gets Mick to fuck him on the kitchen table while they wait.
The first harvest out of the gardens gets documented on Mick’s shiny new social media, and he becomes a very different kind of celebrity overnight.
2. After School Anti-Drug Programs
“What the fuck is this fucking bullshit?” demands Mick. The guy currently dangling from Mick’s fist by the back of his black hoodie’s collar makes a terrified noise that does nothing to actually answer that question. Len, still comfortably slouched on the front stoop of his and Mick’s apartment building, settles in to enjoy the show, and wonders if there’s any of that nice gormet popcorn left in their kitchen.
“I asked you a question, asshole.” says Mick. The guy makes a noise Len thought only mice were capable of, and then his eyes roll back in his head before he goes limp. There’s a small cheer from the crowd of high-schoolers that had collected at the end of the block, right where the first access gate to the grounds let out. Len can count about four of them with their phones out and pointed and Mick, which means it will have gone viral within the next two hours that Heatwave will beat up anyone found dealing near the schools in their neighborhood.
Mick drops the guy, and pulls his phone out of his back pocket so he can text the tip hotline about an asshole drug dealer ready for collection. Len grins and waves at the collected kids – he and Mick are popular faces since the apple trees and blackberry bushes started yielding, with most of the kids leaving baked goods they’ve made with the fruit, or social media posts that tag them and are basically digital thank you notes. Len can’t go to the local Starbucks without one of the teenage baristas greeting him enthusiastically as “Mister S”. The kids all wave back. Someone yells a hello.
“Are there more like this asshole?” demands Mick, of the assembled crowd.
“Yeah, Mister R.” says one of the kids. “There’s one at basically every school.”
Mick flushes in a way that Len learnt long ago means violence and/or arson.
Mick’s little crusade gets well-documented – he goes from school to school across the span of a week, tracking the dealers down so he can beat the shit out of them. Everywhere Mick goes, there’s a crowd of cheering teenagers with phone cameras, uploading the videos they take to Instagram and Snapchat and Tumblr and Facebook. Mick spends most of his evenings laughing at Iris West’s articles on his quest, his hands wrist deep in mixing bowls of ice.
“Dealers In Keystone Certainly Feeling The Heat.” Mick reads, on the evening of Day Three of his Reign of Righteous Terror. “That’s her best pun yet.”
Len grins. He really does love Iris’ headlines – they’ve always got a good quality pun in them.
“I love literally everything about this article.” says Mick, grinning like a loon. “She calls me a crusader for good and says I’m not knocking out competition because everyone knows the Rogues don’t deal in drugs and then says I’m a supervillain who can’t be trusted in the same paragraph.”
Which is naturally when both of their phones go off.
→ DADS TURN ON JOHN OLIVER IMMEDIATELY
“What the hell, Axel?” says Mick, but Len’s already flipped the TV on.
“-out of Central City. In what is possibly the greatest turn of events I have ever seen, one of the city’s most notorious supervillains is apparently taking a break from breaking laws for personal gain in order to break laws for the benefit of the community. There’s a collection of cellphone footage that shows the Rogue known as Heatwave beating the fuck out of any drug dealer pushing near schools. The sad thing is, this is probably a more effective anti-drug PSA than anything the US government has ever produced. So a very tentative thank you to the criminal arsonist for being more civic-minded than most of Congress.”
Len is incapable of doing anything for the next ten minutes because he’s laughing too hard to function. Mick, on the other hand, fishes one of his hands out of the ice, dries it off, and picks up his phone so he can open Twitter.
Mick Rory (@heatwave): Ta for the thanks, @johnoliver. Will fight any Congressperson you like.
At the end of the show, before the usual sign off, Mick warrants another mention.
“Before we go, I have been informed that apparently Mister Rory, our drug-dealer-punching supervillain from Central City, has apparently tweeted us to say thanks for the acknowledgment and that he’d happily fight any and all members of congress if given the opportunity. I – actually don’t know how to feel about this. Is it morally wrong of me to say that I’d happily set up several of those fights? Can I level the arsonist at the President? Maybe this should be a new segment – which politician are we pointing Mick Rory at this week? That is all we have time for, but I will spend the rest of this week pondering the moral implications of that offer. Thanks, Mister Rory – I think.”
3. Voter Registration
It’s some ridiculous hour of the morning, and the alarm is going off, playing some politically-minded song from Mick’s youth. Len groans, rolls over, and starts shoving at his shoulder.
“Mickey. Mickey. Mickey turn it off or I swear on my father’s well-deserved grave that I will put a bullet through it.”
Mick thumbs the alarm off, right as the singer grumbles something about there being no sheep on their farms, which Len knows is bullshit.
“There are too many fucking sheep.” he tells Mick, because his brain-to-mouth filter is for shit when he’s not fully awake.
“I know, baby, it’s satire.” says Mick, because he forgets his dumb muscle act while he’s waking up.
“Where are you going this early in the morning?” asks Len.
“The Orange Pakeha Motherfucker wants his people to monitor and question voter registrations. There are literally zero white people in our district, so they’re obviously going to come here. I’m going to go and be big and intimidating and white-passing and make sure our people can vote.”
Len pulls a pillow over his head, and then shoves it off.
“Give me a second to get ready.”
There’s already a long line when they arrive, and Mick whips his phone out to tweet about bringing a couple of forms of ID to the polls if you can, and then pushes through the crowd to the front. As expected, there’s a staunch-faced man in a red Trump ballcap at the front by the desk.
“Alright, fucker, get out of my district.” says Mick.
The guy looks up.
“I’m merely here as an impartial observer to ensure the election isn’t –“ he starts.
“No, you’re here to be a racist douchebag. That doesn’t fly on my land. Get off it.”
Mick’s doing that super-effective looming thing. Len loves this, so very much. The guy wilts a little, and then starts to step back.
“That’s right. Step off.” says Mick.
They stay until he’s gone, and then after, until everything is flowing smoothly. Mick passes the baton to Mark at 12, and heads out, “I voted” sticker on his chest and Len at his side. They stop at every business in the strip mall, making sure the workers get enough time to get to the polls, Mick accompanying some of them to the polls and back. He gets a photo of his and Len’s stickers in the bathroom mirror for Instagram, stops for photos with some of the kids who work his gardens who are voting for the first time, and tweets obnoxious things at the Flash twitter account he knows Cisco runs until he gets a photo of Barry in the suit with the sticker on the tip of his gloved finger. A hashtag starts up, reporting “impartial observers” who are causing trouble - #overhereheatwave, which Len finds hilarious and promises to make a shirt out of. Hartley starts navigating the two of them around the city to the polling places reporting trouble, cross-referencing to figure out which need priority and which are looking for a celebrity sighting.
Their night ends at Saints, where there is not only copious alcohol but copious people to either celebrate or commiserate with. As things start looking worse, Team Flash shows up, looking mildly horrified, one by one and culminating with Joe West walking in at almost midnight, slamming his hand down on the bar, and asking for the strongest alcohol they had. To be perfectly honest, that’s the last clear memory Mick has of the night, because he got absolutely hammered in order to forget about what was going on. He wakes up the next morning and makes every hangover food he has ingredients for and refuses to turn on the news. They end up having a semi-picnic brunch with everyone on the floor at Saints.
“How can you make all this?” asks a pleasantly surprised Hartley. Barry makes a ‘what he said’ gesture with his mouth full of pancakes.
“I’m a gay man. There are four things we do well – melodrama, parties, protests, and brunch.” Mick deadpans.
“THAT’S A POSTER!” Len calls from across the bar. Mick flips him off. Naturally, Baby West tweets the quote, attributes it to Mick, and gets a couple of thousand retweets. It’s a pretty calligraphy poster in a week, and Len buys twelve. It’s probably the only good thing to come out of election night, excepting maybe Baby West – Wally, Mick learns – who takes to both Len and Mick and Hartley with a near-alarming alacrity and basically moves into their spare room. Mick did always want kids, and now he’s got about fifteen.
4. Sports Not Gangs
The Daily Show does a small segment in its post-election coverage on the #overhereheatwave tag and what it means, which Axel downloads to his phone and plays at every chance he gets. Len makes his shirts and starts selling them and donating the money to after school programs.
And then the Keystone school kids start using it again – calling Mick for help when the gangbangers show up on the edges of the playgrounds. Mick is Mick, so he shows up and runs them off, and starts looking for ways to make sure the kids aren’t even tempted to think about it. He falls back on what he knows, because that’s what you do, according to David.
Which is how he’s ended up looking at twenty-odd sixteen-year-olds, on a flat grass field, because he’s offered to teach them rugby. Len is sitting in a fold-out chair on the sideline with a coffee, along with half the Rogues and Wally, and Mick is half-convinced it’s going to be A Trainwreck.
An hour later, when Mick’s shirtless and covered in sweat and has sent his kids home, he’s not feeling anywhere near as pessimistic.
“That went well!” he says, grinning.
“I told you it would.” says Len, and kisses him, perhaps a little more explicitly than should be done in public. Sweaty and shirtless is one of Mick’s best looks, so he supposes it’s to be expected.
Two months later, at the last practice before their first tournament, Mick gathers his kids up and tells them about the haka. He explains where it’s from, and why it’s done, and hitches up his shorts to show them the moko on his thighs some of them haven’t seen yet, tells some of the stories inked onto him, and tells them about his old high school.
He almost cries when he sees them all on the field for the first time in their shades of blue, chanting, his Keystone Kings.
They win (of course, Mick wasn’t first fifteen for nothing).
5. 2017 Is The Year Of Punching Nazis
“There is a compilation video of you punching Alt-Right assholes on YouTube set to “Another One Bites The Dust.” says Wally, when he walks in the door.
He and Mick watch it again, together, with Wally sitting on the kitchen counter and Mick pressed into him in a half-hug.
They have the one where he punched Richard Spencer, the one where he and the Rogues disrupted an alt-right protest outside City Hall, the one where Mick was defending the woman he was walking to her Planned Parenthood appointment from an overly-aggressive protester in an armband, the one time he decked a guy outside the JCC Lenny taught self-defense classes at, the time under the streetlight at a Black Lives Matter march, one of the “impartial observers” who had been reported in the #overhereheatwave tag – even the one at IKEA where Mick very calmly put his tray of meatballs down so he could deck the guy who’d called Lenny something unflattering that involved the n-word, which was impressive, because Mick was pretty sure no one had filmed that.
Mick watches it four times with Wally and loves every second of it.
6. One Time His Reputation Got Him Noticed
Mick Rory is an old angry queer, when it comes down to it. So of course he goes when they plan an Equality March in Washington D.C. He’s got a Presidential pardon, even if it is from the last guy. They all go, the Rogues and his community alike, joining the throngs filling the street. It’s already baking hot at 10 when they start marching, so Mick pulls his shirt off and tucks it into the back of his shorts as he walks, prompting a wolf-whistle from Hartley and a nice hard kiss from his husband.
To be perfectly honest, he doesn’t see the photographer who takes the photo, even if he does meet him later at the Pulitzer Luncheon (Peter’s a nice, nervous, slight bi boy, and Mick is sure he knows his scarred vet boyfriend Wade from somewhere). But the day after the protest, Mick wakes up to a room service breakfast that includes the New York Times, and there he is on the front page.
The picture is – fantastic. Mick’s silhouetted against the White House façade, burn scars clearer in the high definition of the image even under the rainbow flag painted on his pecs, with his sign stretched over his head, words clear and legible. ‘I tried burning in hell,’ his sign read. ‘It didn’t take’. Mick shoves Len until he wakes up, a ten minute process, and then shoves the paper at his face. It takes two seconds after that for someone to be pounding at the door and then Mick is swamped with Rogues and his kids and they all look so happy.
“Keystone City Activist Mick Rory in front of the White House during the Equality March yesterday.” Lisa reads.
“They didn’t even bring up the supervillain thing in the article!” says Mark. “And they have some more fantastic photos on the website.”
There are more fantastic photos on the website, including one of Barry running as the Flash with his impromptu bi pride flag cape, making a long trail of color behind him, Mark and Hartley kissing under the big rainbow flag at the end of the march, Lisa and Shawna’s clasped hands still covered in glitter from yesterday’s parade and last night’s parties. There’s one of Len eating a snowcone on the sidewalk, a grin on his face and his “I’m a supervillain and I think he’s a dick” sign propped against his knees, every word of his “steal everything your gay little hands can carry” tee still readable. There’s one of Slade and his kids, of Oliver as the Arrow getting between a couple of teenage boys and some counter-protesters, of Amaya with a look of wonder on her face, still caught up in the magic of there being a community of people like her.
There’s video of Mick’s rugby kids in all their beads and rainbows, doing the haka he taught them to drown out a preacher, another of the whole crew of them chanting the same protest slogans Mick’s always chanted at things like this, which slowly zooms in on a shocked and then deliriously happy Amaya’s face as she gets into it, until she’s belting “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” along with the rest of them. Someone posted a picture of Mick and Len kissing to Twitter and it’s got almost 10, 000 retweets overnight. There’s another picture doing the twitter rounds, and it’s David Singh and Joe West in full uniform, marching with Rob and Wally. Rob’s sign says “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this shit” and Joe’s got one that says “My Bi Kids Deserve Rights” and Wally’s wearing a Make America Gay Again shirt. Here’s a photo of Curtis and Rene and Rene’s daughter, her in between the two of them in an “I love my gay dads” shirt. There’s so many more that feature people Mick doesn’t know.
Mick’s honestly a little misty-eyed, looking at them all.
And then it doesn’t go away.
The photo keeps getting used. Mick keeps getting called an activist, and the only people pointing out he’s also a supervillain are on Fox News. He goes on the Daily Show, on Colbert, does an interview with Anderson Cooper that turns into two hours on unusable reminiscing about gay clubs in the late 80s and early 90s. Hartley transcribes his thoughts as he talks about things that affect his community, and they edit them together to send in to CCPN as Op-Eds, effectively circumventing Mick’s dyslexia. His gardens give off a better second harvest. There are no drug dealers in the neighborhood. Mick ends up a consultant on a congressman’s campaign.
He’s drinking coffee at the table in the kitchen one morning, looking over school funding numbers while Len shoves his glasses further up his nose and continues to argue on the phone with Laurel Lance about the legality of a Metahuman Registration Act, as put forward by the President, when he realizes that they haven’t pulled a heist in six months, and he’s happy anyway.
“Fuck.” he says.
“Fuck them!” says Len, to Laurel, and then hangs up. “What is it?”
“It’s been six months since we pulled a job.” Mick tells him. “And I’m happy.”
Len grins, and takes a sip of his coffee.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Mick says, leaning forward over the table. Len leans forward too.
“We are pulling a job, Mickey.” he says. “I’m stealing you a city and the faith of a people.”
Mick can’t help but kiss him for that.