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Always Beside You

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"What the [flip] just happened to us?" Mick growled from where he had fallen to the floor.

Jax laughed. "Dude, what happened to your voice? You been sucking on helium?" Then he looked over. "Oh no."

Mick scrambled upright, standing in front of Jax at his full height – which now only reached Jax's shoulder.

"What happened to me?" he growled.

"It seems, Mr Rory, that your age has somehow been regressed," Stein commented from his seat beside Jax. "Is that correct, Gideon?"

"That is correct, Dr Stein," Gideon's tranquil voice came from above. "Mr Rory and Mr Snart have been regressed to their adolescent years."

"Snart?" Jax asked, while Mick's gaze jerked to the ceiling, then around the room.

Mick caught sight of something on the other side of the room. "Lenny!"

He rushed over there, and the others' gazes followed him, watching as he fell to his knees besides another teenage boy, this one much smaller and curled into himself.

"Lenny?" Mick repeated. His hand hovered over the boy's shoulder, but did not touch. "C'mon, Lenny, show me something."

Len uncurled slightly, one hand lifting up to flip Mick off.

Mick chuckled. "That's it, Len. Up you get, Snowflake, no more lazin'." His hand finally made contact with Len, landing on his shoulder as he uncurled.

"Mick?" Len finally spoke, voice rough yet higher than any of them but Mick had heard before. "What happened? Where are we?"

Mick looked up at the rest of the team, glaring at them back, then back to Len. "We're on the ship. Do you remember that?"

Len considered for a minute, then slowly shook his head. "I remember we were on a job. Job went bad, we went home to lay low..." He looked up at Mick fearfully. "I was with my dad. So was Lisa. Where is she?"

"Lisa's safe." Some of the tension went out of Len's shoulders. Mick continued, "Do you remember where we are now?"

Len scanned the room, eyeing the rest of the team, who were still staring at him and Mick. "This is the Waverider. We're trying to stop Savage. You and I are here because we're thieves and super villains, and if this lot don't stop staring at me, I'll see if being fifteen again has changed my accuracy." His lips curled up in a nasty smile. "Even if it has, I'm sure I'll get there again with some practice."

"You were a natural from the start," Mick said fondly. He reached out a hand, and Len took it, rising to his feet before wincing and leaning against Mick. "Drove me [fudgin'] mad, watching you shoot." He frowned. "No, not fudging, [flaking]. No – What the [funk] is this? Gideon!"

"The child-safe policy has been engaged," Gideon said pleasantly. "No swearing will be permitted while minors are onboard."

"Yeah? What if the [frickin'] minors are the ones who want to be swearing?" Mick growled belligerently.

"No swearing will be permitted while minors are onboard," Gideon repeated. "Swearing from minors is included."

"You've got to be [sprouting] me," Mick grumbled.

Len snickered. "You'll survive, Mick. I'm rooting for you."

Kendra giggled, then quickly clamped her hands over her mouth.

"Lenny..." Mick groaned.

Len gave him a look of wide eyed innocence. "I just think it's nice you have a chance to use some flowery language."

Another giggle escaped Kendra, and this time Jax and Ray joined her.

Len smirked widely, very aware of his audience. Mick just buried his head in his hand, still holding up Len with the other. "I will drop you," he threatened.

"And break up a budding friendship?"

Kendra finally lost it, bending over in a fit of laughter. Jax and Ray were still giggling, and even Stein had cracked a smile.

Rip clapped his hands together, bringing everyone's attention to him. "As thrilling as this is," he said sarcastically over the sound of Kendra trying to get her laughter under control, "we need to get Mr Snart and Mr Rory to sickbay so Gideon can check them over and find a solution. Children will not be able to help us defeat Savage."

"Hey, maybe she can also help with those bruises!" Ray said helpfully.

"Bruises? What bruises?" Kendra asked, the mention enough to shock her into sobriety. She turned to look again at Mick and Len, soon followed by Jax, Rip and Stein.

Both boys were bruised, but while Mick only had some dark-but-lightening bruises on his jaw, and some yellowing splotches on his arms, Len had a thick row of dark fingerprint-shaped bruises around his neck that were visible now that his shoulders were no longer hunched defensively, and was holding his side like it pained him. He was wearing long sleeves, so his arms weren't visible, but nobody doubted that he would have more bruises there. The minute he saw them looking, though, he straightened up, away from Mick, and glared at them. "We don't need sickbay. Gideon can scan us from here."

Surprisingly enough, Mick was the one to disagree. "I remember that job, Len. Those ribs are cracked, and you put any more pressure on them, they're gonna break."

"You had those kind of injuries at fifteen?" Kendra exclaimed, all thoughts of laughter now forgotten. "What– how?"

Len's eyes narrowed. "Daddy dear wasn't too pleased to hear I had gone on a job without him," he drawled. "He didn't like Mick much either."

An awkward silence fell.

Jax tried to break the tension. "I've had cracked ribs a few times from football. Mick's right, man. You should get those looked at."

"Kid's right." Mick looked at Len, still standing stubbornly upright and without help, then rolled his eyes, grabbing Len's arm and slinging it over his shoulder. "You're being an idiot. Let me help."

Len begrudgingly leant into Mick, almost immediately looking more at ease.

"You busted your ankle as well?" Mick asked, voice low enough that the rest of the crew had to strain to hear. "How come you never told me?"

"Wasn't that bad," Len said, equally low. "It'll heal in a few days."

"Not this time. Gideon's going to heal you now." Mick's voice rose to normal speaking volume again. "And one of you sneaky [figs] can go find some better clothes for us." He hiked up his waistband in emphasis, drawing attention to the fabric pooling at his feet. "Anything stupid, I'm settin' it on fire." He looked over at Len for a minute. "And Len's with long sleeves."

Ray opened his mouth to ask, but Sara quickly shook her head at him. She'd noticed his bruising from the start, and had a pretty good idea of where it came from, and what else Len's long sleeves might be hiding. Len would be feeling vulnerable enough right now, suddenly being a teenager again, even if he and Mick were handling it well. He shouldn't have to be reminded of the nastier aspects of his past any more than he already was.

Mick and Len limped off towards the medbay, arms still tightly wound around each other. The rest of the team trailed after them – the sole exception being Rip, who returned to his study to continue scanning for more evidence of Savage.

In the medbay, Gideon quickly scanned and healed Mick and Len's injuries – beyond the ones they had already seen, Mick had some bruises on his back, revealed when he took off his shirt for the examination, that he explained only with a gruff, "Foster dad." Len had a sprained ankle, which he offered no explanation for, bruises around his neck, cracked ribs, and refused to remove his shirt. No one was surprised. The whole time, Len and Mick were never more than two feet away from each other, their closeness as adults even more pronounced as teenagers.

"Mr Snart and Mr Rory are once again in full health and able to resume their usual activities," Gideon pronounced.

Mick snorted. "Ain't quite full health when we're still teenagers. You got a cure for this yet?"

"Or at least a diagnosis, perhaps?" Stein suggested. "If we know what has happened to them, we may be able to find a cure ourselves."

"Certainly, Dr Stein. Mr Snart and Mr Rory have been deaged."

A hubbub of conversation erupted as the team all asked Gideon for explanations. Any answer she made was lost in the general cacophony, with the group shouting first at her, then at each other, each trying to figure out what had happened and what could be done.

Mick jumped on top of one of the beds, roaring, "Everyone, shut the [fund] up!"

They quieted immediately.

"Much obliged, Mick." Len's voice cut through the sudden silence. He straightened up from his position leaning against Mick's leg and strode over to the rest of the crew – even smaller than all of them, he still carried a distinct air of menace. "I'd say, since this happened to me and Mick, we should be the ones asking the questions." He directed his next question up towards the ceiling. "Gideon! Explain what happened to us. What does deaging mean?"

"Deaging is a rare but not unheard of result of unsecured time travel," Gideon helpfully informed them. "This case was most likely caused when Captain Hunter returned to the time stream before Mr Snart or Mr Rory could strap into their seats."

"Then how come it didn't happen to me?" Kendra asked. "I wasn't in a seat, but I haven't been," she wrinkled her nose, "de-aged."

"Maybe it's because of your whole reincarnation thing?" Sara suggested. "Keeps you immune?"

"That is correct, Miss Lance," Gideon said smoothly.

"Enough about Bird Girl. Can you fix it?" Mick interrupted, jumping down from the bed to move and stand next to Len.

"The deaging process will reverse itself in three to five days," Gideon told him. Before anyone could process that well enough to be relieved, she added, "Common symptoms include loss of memory, confusion, paranoia, nausea, migraines and exhaustion, and will worsen before recovery."

"Define 'loss of memory,'" Len drawled, voice hard.

"In this case, loss of memory means you and Mr Rory may experience an inability to remember events past your current bodily age, or to experience confusion surrounding such events," Gideon informed him. "This condition is only temporary, and all memory loss will be restored upon recovery."

"Somehow, I don't find that very reassuring." Seemingly unconsciously, Mick and Len moved closer together, as though preparing to ward off a threat.

"Don't worry," Ray beamed. "We'll look after you. What's the worst that could happen?"

***

Despite that ominous sign, for the rest of the day, nothing major did happen. Mick and Len were taking fullest advantage of their restored youthfulness, sneaking around the ship and scurrying through places their adult bodies were too big to fit. At night, while the rest of the crew drifted in and out of the kitchen, fixing their own meals, they caught moments of Mick and Len in there, trading terrible puns back and forth and eating like the teenagers they currently were.

It wasn’t until the second day that the symptoms really started to show.

Mick woke up, blinking, and feeling strangely light. Beneath his cheek he could feel something hard, like last night he’d just fallen asleep wherever he was standing. Had he and Len celebrated too hard the night before? But no, he didn’t have the headache that normally came with being hungover. In fact, for the first time in years, nothing really ached at all.

Suddenly panicked, Mick threw off the blanket and grabbed for his shoulders, straining to feel the familiar touch of burns. He had earned those burns, lost so much, nearly lost Len, for him not to carry that token of his truest love on him for all to see.

His shoulders had no burns, but were also too small, and in a flash Mick remembered what had happened yesterday. He and Lenny were teens again, and as a teenager he hadn’t had those burns. The flame hadn’t evolved him yet.

His questing fingers reached further, past his shoulders and to the metal wall behind. He really must have slept where he fell last night. Now that he remembered what had happened, he could remember that he and Len had been exploring the Waverider, discovering all the hideaways and smuggler’s holds they’d been too big to find before. Fifteen year old Len was a little twig of a thing, though, with a knack for finding hiding places, and the curiosity to explore all of them. Mick had tagged along to keep an eye on him and get him out of any trouble he couldn’t escape on his own.

Except at some point, Mick must have fallen asleep, and now he had no idea where Len was.

"Len!" he called. He coughed, voice croaky with sleep, then winced as the action caused pain to shoot through his head. "Len!" he called again, more softly this time. "Where are you?"

Still no answer.

That didn't feel right. Len was a light sleeper, especially when not in a safe place. There was no way he would sleep deeply enough to miss Mick calling him, so either he was choosing not to answer, or he was no longer in hearing range. Mick really hoped it was the first one. He didn't want to go racing across the ship to try and find Len, not until he'd had some decent breakfast.

"Len!" he called, one final time. If Len didn’t come this time he’d leave the brat to find later. "Get the [flick] out here or I'm getting food without you."

A squeak, quickly muffled, came from the vent beside him. Mick crouched down, peering into it. Wide frightened eyes peered back.

“Len?” Mick asked hesitantly. He’d know those eyes anywhere, and it had been a very long time since he’d seen them this vulnerable. “Lenny, it’s just me.”

No response. Just those terrified eyes silently peering back at him.

“Did something happen last night?” It wasn't a big ship, surely nothing that bad could have happened, nothing that would scare Len badly enough to make him revert back to this. Unless it wasn't something, but someone –

“Mick?” Len’s voice distracted him from his quickly forming anger. “What happened?”

“You tell me, boss.” His anger had disappeared as quickly as it had formed, and worry had taken its place. However it happened, for those few moments there, Len hadn’t remembered him. Len had been caught up in a memory or something, something he hadn’t seen since Len had finally put Lewis down for good, and had forgotten Mick, been scared of him. “Woke up, and you were hiding in here. Didn’t recognise me when I talked to you.”

Len climbed out of the vent, Mick standing aside to let him pass. He was careful enough to give Len his space, no matter how much he’d prefer to stay close. If whatever had just happened happened again, he didn’t want Lenny freaking out because there’s a stranger standing inside his considerable personal bubble. Better to stand further back, and give Len the space to move.

“Gideon said there’d be symptoms,” Len said slowly, brow furrowing. “Just ‘cause we haven’t had them yet doesn’t mean we ain’t gonna get them at all.”

“When I woke up, forgot where I was for a few minutes,” Mick confirmed. “But Gideon said we’d forget being adults, not that we’re kids right now.” His voice lowered. “That what happened with you?”

Len’s shoulders tensed. Mick knew what that meant. He changed the subject. “So what’s the plan, boss?”

“We hide it,” Len answered. “If Hunter thinks something’s up, that we might be a liability, he’ll kick us off, or worse. Kids find trouble so easily. Right now he thinks we’re too young to be useful or dangerous, and we want to keep it that way.”

Mick nodded. “Stay away from the others, specially Hunter and Canary–”

“–but not so much it’s suspicious,” Len completed. “If we have to stick with someone–“

A noise echoed down the hall, footsteps clanking against metal. Len and Mick immediately silenced.

Jax walked into the room, then froze. “Sorry, didn’t know you were in here. I’ll, I can go.” He turned to leave.

Mick caught Len’s look and nodded. If they could get someone on their side, someone to argue for them if plans came to worst, that would be one less vote for English to throw them overboard. It was exactly the kind of backup plan Lenny would want, and another reassurance that whatever had happened earlier, Len was over it.

“Kid. You wanna see something cool?”

Even as Mick shook his head at the pun, he could see it working. Jax stopped, turning back into the room. “If this is you asking me to steal the jump ship so you two can go back in time again, then no, [fry] that [spit]. I am not helping you erase yourselves from existence.”

“This is something different,” Mick said. “You’re a mechanic. You’ll like this.” If anyone was going to appreciate a timeship flight simulator, it was definitely going to be a mechanic barely out of his teen years. Maybe next they could even convince him he should try out his newly acquired skills on the real thing.

***

"That was awesome, man!" Jax cheered. He slapped Len on the back, flushed with pride and excitement.

Len flinched.

Mick hadn't seen that reaction in years. Len had worked hard to overcome it, and although he still had his days where even a breeze would set him on edge, he hadn't flinched at sudden movements since they were in their twenties. Which was still a good five years away for this Len, Mick realised, heart sinking.

Jax hadn't noticed, Len covering it almost immediately. Mick covered it even further, gradually moving until he was walking between them, his body shielding Lenny from further touches. Len sent him a look, but Mick ignored it. Obviously this deaging thing was having more of an effect than they'd thought, if this morning wasn’t enough proof, and he wasn't going to let Len suffer just to keep up an act.

"We're getting some food," Mick grunted. "You comin', kid?"

"Kid?" Jax looked momentarily irritated, before a smile of delight crawled over his face. "I'm not the kid anymore, Mick!"

Mick slowly nodded. "Good point. Then I guess you can make the food."

Jax's smile dropped off. "Uh, I can make some fried rice? And toast? Or Gideon could make something, she can do that, right?"

Len wrinkled his nose. Mick'd forgotten he used to do that. "If we wanted to eat computer generated cardboard, we would have just said so.”

“Fried rice sounds good, though,” Mick grinned. “You can make that.”

“Alright.” Some of Jax’s uncertainty gave way, replaced with determination. He strode towards the kitchen, letting the other two follow after, exchanging amused (and slightly fond) grins.

Jax got to the kitchen, circled around for a moment, looking for a pantry, then pulled it open with a triumphant “Aha!”

Empty.

Mick snickered loudly at Jax’s comical look of distress. “Never any fresh food here, kid. You gotta stock it yourself if you don’t want to be eating all the processed stuff.”

“Is that what you two do?” Jax asked. “But I saw you guys eating last night, you had real food!”

Mick jerked his head at Len. “This one would eat processed food all day if I let him. Thinks a packet of M’n’Ms count as a meal.”

“It’s food!” Len protested half heartedly. “Anything’s a meal if you eat enough of it.”

Or if you’re desperate, they both knew, but neither of them were going to tell the kid that. If he didn’t already know the kind of desperation that meant eating anything you could get your hands on, chewing nails off your fingers, bark off the trees, just so there was something in your stomach – if he didn’t know that already, he never needed to.

“We’re gonna eat real food. Feel around in the back of that cupboard,” Mick directed, changing the conversation. “There’s a hidden latch at the top, right at the join. You feel it?”

Jax felt around carefully, face set in concentration. “Yeah, almost.” A small click was heard. Jax ducked his head down to look and whistled loudly. “You sure managed to fit a lot in here!” He pulled out a bag of rice, two carrots, an ear of corn, a bundle of bok choy, a small bag of potatoes, and finally a bottle of soy sauce, before looking over at Mick in amazement. “How did you even fit all this in here?”

“Mick has a way with food,” Len answered for him, smirking. Mick didn’t mind. Getting in good with the kid was still their best play, and if Len wanted to use food to do it, he’d follow Len’s lead. Not like he minded doing a bit of extra cooking. He still wouldn’t be sharing their main food stash, though. That one was just for him and Len. No one else needed to know what exactly they’d managed to sneak on board, and Lisa would kill them if he and Len didn’t bring back some goodies for her.

“That rice is going to take a while to cook,” Jax said. “You sure this is the right way to go? I mean, if you got some bread, we could just have sandwiches or something.”

“Finished off the bread last night,” Mick said. “Here, kid. Watch.” He took over, throwing rice into a steamer for Gideon to cook, then preparing the vegetables. “Would be better with some sausage,” he continued, smoothly chopping up a carrot, “but this’ll do.” He frowned at the carrot pieces. They weren’t as even as he would like; he hadn’t had as much practice chopping veggies when he was this age. He shrugged, throwing them in with the rice, then adding a dash of soy sauce. “Gideon’ll keep an eye on it. Should be done in a few minutes.”

“She can do that?” Jax asked in amazement.

“Oh, there’s a lot of things Hunter never thought to mention about what this ship can do,” Len said darkly. “Word of advice, Jackson. Always research your own jobs. Never let someone else tell you about it.”

“Don’t you eat, kid?” Mick interrupted. As much fun as it was watching Jax’s surprise at everything, it didn’t make a lot of sense. With how long they’d been in this ship, he must have some way of getting food. Besides, if he didn’t distract Lenny now, Len’d get caught in his head for the rest of the day, and if he hated that on his normal Len, it was ten times worse on teen Len.

Jax shrugged. “I found the main storage cupboard the first day. There’s milk and cereal and noodles in there, then later there were some big dishes of food, like spaghetti and meatballs or that one really good curry, so I ate those too. I just figured Gideon must be supplying it.”

Mick grunted. “All Metalmouth’s food tastes like [furling] cardboard.”

Len smirked, bad humour thankfully diverted. “As I said. Mick’s got a way with food.”

“That was you? You made those?” Jax looked at Mick, shocked. “Man, my mom would kill for that curry recipe. Curry is her favourite.”

“She’s got good taste.” Much better than Len. Len had never liked his curry, always claiming it was too spicy. What good was a curry if it didn’t make your mouth tingle and burn with the heat? “Remind me later. I’ll write it down for you.” If he did it before he and Len turned back into adults, maybe he could pretend it was all teenage enthusiasm, and that he didn’t care a bit for the kid.

“Mr Rory, your rice is ready,” Gideon’s pleasant voice rang out.

He pulled the rice out of the steamer and dished it into three bowls, leaving the rest behind. They’d probably end up eating that later. “Dig in.” Not waiting for them, he grabbed his own bowl, shovelling the food into his mouth. It had been a long morning. Even if it wasn’t morning anymore, and he wasn’t going to be bothered asking Gideon to check, it was still a long morning. He was going to eat his food, make sure Lenny had eaten his, and then they could figure out what to do next.

He stopped suddenly, putting a hand to his stomach. Something didn’t feel right.

Len noticed, because of course he did. “You alright, Mick?”

Jax frowned concernedly at him. “You’re looking a little green, man. Something wrong with the food?”

“Somethin’s up.” He’d made this meal himself, chosen his own ingredients; no way there was something wrong with his food. Must be something else.

Len watched him critically. “One of the symptoms was nausea. Or someone–“

Mick cut Len off, throwing himself against the sink and vomiting noisily into it. After several long minutes, during which it felt like his stomach was trying to exit his body through his mouth, he finally stopped, panting.

“Sure it was just a symptom, Mick?” At some point Len must have come closer, and was now leaning beside him, close enough for him to feel the heat from Len’s body but not quite close enough to touch. Len’s gaze was carefully directed away from the sink, which made Mick feel absurdly grateful. Being sick felt like weakness, and he never liked feeling weak. “Came on pretty sudden.”

Mick shrugged. He didn’t see what Len was getting at. “It’s a [furzing] time disease. Who knows what’s sudden for that.”

Len hummed, but didn’t say anymore.

Mick wiped his mouth and stood straight again. He considered grabbing his bowl and continuing to eat, but he didn’t really feel like rice anymore now that there were bits of it floating in a puddle of vomit in the sink. Instead, he turned on the tap, washing the puddle away, and dumped his rice back in the steamer. Maybe it’d seem better later.

“You still feeling sick?” Len asked.

Mick scratched idly at his cheek. “Nah, ‘m alright now. You should finish that,” he added, gesturing to Len’s bowl, still sitting in the counter. “You didn’t eat breakfast.”

“Neither did you,” Len pointed out, but he still grabbed his bowl off the counter and started to eat.

“I’m not the one who looks like a string bean,” Mick retorted. He’d grab something from one of their stashes later and be fine for it. Len was the one who could go a whole week without eating a decent meal, and it showed. If Lisa was there, he’d at least make sandwiches or something, but left to himself he’d survive on M’n’M’s and potato chips unless Mick made him eat something better.

“You eat too,” he added to Jax. “Len ‘nd I will be out of this in a few days. You’re still a kid.”

“No complaints here, man.” Jax held up his bowl, showing the few scraps of rice that still remained. “Your food is the only one I’ve tasted that comes close to my mom’s. D’you mind if I have seconds?”

Mick blinked. He knew Len and Lisa had always liked his food, and the Rogues had never complained either, but none of them had grown up with a family and a parent who could put some decent food on the table. Mick had been pretty happy with that, knowing that even if his food wasn’t the best, it was still homemade, from Mama Rory’s old Irish recipes, those that hadn’t burnt. But Jax? Jax had a mom, knew what homemade food was supposed to taste like. Knew about food made with love, in a way most of the Rogues had never known and Mick barely remembered and never even hoped he could replicate. That Jax liked his food that much, even comparing it with his mom’s, that was something special.

Len laid a hand on his arm, knowing what he was thinking in that way he always seemed to. “Eat all you want, kid. Mick won’t mind.”

Now he definitely had to get the kid that curry recipe later.

***

“Len? Len, buddy, come back to me. Think about it. Where are you right now?”

After there hadn’t been any more memory incidents yesterday, Mick had really thought they were over this, that things were finally starting to improve. Of course, that’s when Len decided to wake up and completely freak out.

“Len, you need to calm the [fuse] down. Close your eyes and [fiefing] think.”

It felt like it had been hours now and Len was still panicking. Right now he was curled up on top of the bed, back wedged into the wall, nails digging into his palms; he didn’t know where he was, barely recognised Mick - every time he had demanded to know where Lisa was it felt like someone had shoved a carving knife down Mick’s throat.

“Lenny, if you don’t - oh, for [fig’s] sake.”

Mick couldn’t handle this anymore. He grabbed Len’s hands and squeezed them tightly, forcing Len to look at him. “You know who I am, Len. I know you do. Can you just trust me that it’s safe here? It’s safe, I promise. I’ll keep you safe.”

Len gulped, throat bobbing, but nodded. His breathing started to slow.

“Alright. Alright. So, just, calm down, okay? I’ll look after you.” Mick took a chance, and let go of one of Len’s hands. Len didn’t move.

What could he do now? Len was calm, no longer freaking out, but he still couldn’t remember. What was he supposed to do? Len was the one who made the plans, but Len currently couldn’t even remember how old he was. Was Mick supposed to take over? What if they couldn’t fix this?

He forced himself to take a long breath. He couldn’t get worked up right now, not with Len in this state. Lenny needed him to keep it together and find a solution.

He looked back over at Len, and jolted in surprise. “Len? You back with me?”

“I’m back, Mick.” Len sounded tired, but that familiar hard glint had returned to his eye. “We’re on the Waverider, and I forgot again. It’s getting worse.”

“Took longer for you to remember this time,” Mick confirmed. “Even after you remembered me, didn’t know where you were until –“ He cut himself off, turning towards the ceiling. “Gideon, how long did it take for Len to remember he was on the Waverider?”

“From when Mr Snart woke it took him twenty three minutes and fifty seconds to remember your name, Mr Rory, and a further forty one minutes and six seconds to remember he was in the Waverider,” Gideon told them. “Does that answer your query?”

“Yeah, that covers it,” Len said, scowling slightly at nothing.

Mick could take a guess at why. Len hated being weak or missing information, and right now, he was both. This was the second morning Len’d woken up not remembering where he was or how old he was supposed to be, and Mick was pretty sure there had been a few other moments throughout the day as well.

He hadn’t exactly escaped unscathed either. Even if he didn’t have the confusion and memory problems Len was having, he definitely hadn’t forgotten that moment of being spectacularly sick in the kitchen yesterday, or the migraines that had been plaguing him for the rest of the day. He considered mentioning that, then dismissed it. Unless Len was much worse off than either of them had thought, he already knew. Mentioning it would just make him worry.

“It’s only a few more days,” he said instead. “Metalmouth said three to five days, and this is the third.”

Len slowly nodded. “Two more days. We’ll stick with the same plan, stay out of everyone’s way–“

“And don’t tell anyone what’s going on,” Mick finished. No way were they going to risk anyone thinking they were vulnerable like this, or worse, a liability.

He winced as his headache from yesterday made a painful resurgence. “Wasn’t missing you,” he muttered.

Len’s eyes narrowed. “Come here.”

He hesitated, wary of getting too close to Len so soon after his freak out, but Len squeezed his wrists, dragging him closer. “Not gonna break, Mick. You know me. Ice doesn’t shatter so easily.”

“But it can melt.” Still, he let Len drag him up onto the bed and his head down onto Len’s lap.

“Some things are worth melting for.”

Mick froze, stunned, then burst out laughing. “Did you just quote [forking] Frozen at me?” He managed through his laughter. “Really, Len?”

Len smiled smugly down at him, utterly unrepentant. “You recognised it.”

“Because Lisa watched that [shirt] every day for three weeks solid,” Mick replied, laughter renewing again at the memory. Not only had she watched it, but she got Len into it too – somewhere, he had a video of the two of them singing along to ‘For the First Time in Forever’. “Was bugging me about sandwiches for weeks.”

“Mick,” Len said faux-solemnly. “I think you need to let it go.”

Mick’s laughter burst forth again, but it was quickly tempered by a flash of pain running through his head. “[Ship] [shin] [shucks] [shire] [shine],” he groaned, bringing one hand up to cradle his head. “Could this [freezing] headache get any [farming] worse?”

Len might have made a reply, but Mick didn’t hear it, overcome with a sudden overwhelming urge to vomit. Of course. He’d watched enough of Len’s dumb movies to know that you should never challenge fate, but of course, like an idiot, he forgot and went and did it anyway.

Staggering over to the other side of the room, he pounded his fist against the wall, hoping Gideon would get the message. He’d seen the way she could conjure up bins for kitchen scraps – he could very well get the same now, or he’d spew all over the floor and see if there was a cleaning system installed too.

Fortunately, a bin did appear, and he leant over it, vomiting. Even when his fingers started to ache from how tightly he was holding it, the vomit still didn’t let up. Part of him was aware of Len moving around behind him, doing something in the room, but it didn’t really register. All that he could feel was the burning sensation in his throat, and the pain in his fingers where the metal edges of the bin dug into them.

A wet cloth appeared at his forehead, and he shrank away from the sensation, before relaxing into it. The coolness of the water felt good against his head, abating some of the pain of his headache. Unfortunately, it had no effect on his vomiting.

Finally, it stopped. Mick let his fingers unclench from the bin, examining the red marks left behind. Now that he wasn’t throwing up, other sensations were coming back, including the burning feeling in his fingers and the throbbing pain of his migraine. Even the cool cloth wasn’t really helping anymore, just providing another sensation to his overloaded brain.

He collapsed back onto the bed, clutching his head. That vomiting had done his migraine no favours, but at least it seemed to be over for now. He squeezed his eyes shut, watching the flashes of light that formed behind his eyelids. If he squeezed his eyes tight enough, and stared at them long enough, the flashes almost looked like flames. Flames, dancing in the dark, flickering then growing stronger, swirling into patterns. So many colours, so many sparks; he could watch them for hours. He barely even felt the pain in his head anymore, too distracted by the sparking lights.

Some unknown amount of time later, Mick was drawn out of his entrancement by the sound of rustling fabric, a sound that he slowly identified as Len standing up. He winced. However long he’d been lost in the flame, his migraine hadn’t abated. If anything, it was worse, every sound causing a new wave of pain.

“Mick?” Len’s voice came, softer than usual but still far too loud. “I’m getting us food. I’ll be back soon.”

“Don’ need food,” Mick slurred. Just the thought of eating was enough to make his stomach feel queasy again. But even if he didn’t want to eat, Len still needed to. “Jus’ go.” Len could eat something, and Mick could get a few moments of true quiet without boring Lenny to pieces. Really, as much as he normally wanted Len’s company, right now he couldn’t think of anything better than some alone time, just him, his headache, and a chance for some sleep.

He faintly registered the door closing, and relaxed. Lenny would be fine, he told the nagging voice in his head, and watched the flickering flames behind his eyelids until even those couldn’t keep him awake any longer.

***

The very moment he woke, Mick knew something was wrong. To start with, Len wasn’t there. While he may not have the internal clock that Len did, always ticking away, he had enough of a sense of time to know that several hours had passed, definitely long enough for Len to have come back with food.

But even more than that, his sixth sense for trouble, or “Snart-radar”, as Lisa liked to call it, was pinging, telling him that wherever Len was, something had happened. Len was the one who did the planning, Mick worked off instinct, and right now all his instincts were telling him he needed to get to Len, and fast.

He staggered to his feet, grateful to find that the headache that had plagued him before had finally receded, now just a dim presence in the back of his mind.

Where to look first? Len had originally left to get food, so the kitchen would be the most sensible place to start. Even if Len wasn’t still there, which Mick had to admit seemed a bit unlikely at this point, confirming that he had been there at all would make a good place to start.

Mick headed out the door and towards the kitchen, cursing his short legs that made everywhere seem so much further apart. Really, he wasn’t that much shorter, only a few inches, but those few inches were enough to make everything so much more inconvenient. It wasn’t just the height he was missing either, but the muscle. Nobody wanted to argue with the guy who looked like he could bench press you. Mick had kept up that look for exactly that reason.

Now he was younger, a teen, and even though his farm background meant he had more muscle than most teens, it was still nothing on him as an adult. Not enough to keep Lenny safe from trouble. Hopefully Len was fine – getting food from the kitchen was not a complex task, especially as he didn’t even have to make it – but Mick’s nagging feeling said otherwise.

Mick had nearly made it to the kitchen when he was distracted by voices on the bridge. Someone was speaking in a low, purposely even voice, like the one police used to calm hostage takers. He made a quick turn. Even if Len wasn’t directly involved, he would still want to know about it.

Of course, once he stepped on to the bridge, he figured out that Len was most definitely involved. Involved meaning that he was backed into a corner, knife held out in front of him, hissing and spitting like a kitten in the rain. Mick would have almost thought it cute, except for the look of mixed confusion and terror on his face.

“What the [fungus] is happening here?!” Mick thundered quietly. He only hoped all the rage and disbelief he was feeling was coming out as strongly as he wanted. Len had only left to get food, and now he was panicking and losing himself again! Whatever they had done, he needed an explanation. Now.

“We thought he was fine, man!”Jax protested. “He came with us to get some food, then when we came in here he pulled the knife on us!”

“It’s a knife from the kitchen,” Sara said. “He must have pocketed it when we were in there.”

Mick could already feel his headache starting to return. “Why the [figleaf] didn’t one of you [freighters] come get me earlier?” he hissed.

“You were so sick you could barely stand upright,” Sara snapped back. “We weren’t going to make you come out here if we didn’t need you. Len said he’d be fine.”

“He always says that,” Mick growled. “Don’t make it true.” Ignoring Sara, he made his way over to Len, careful to move slowly with no sudden gestures. “Lenny? You remember me?”

Instead of answering, Len reached out, grabbing Mick with surprising strength and pulling him behind him. “Did they hurt you?” he demanded, not taking his gaze off the others for an instance.

“What?” Mick was honestly baffled. “Len, no, they’re our friends.”

If anything, Len just looked more terrified. “You can’t believe them, Mick! They’re trying to kill us!”

Instinctively Mick’s gaze snapped back to the others, scanning them as potential threats before he even realised he was doing it. He shook it off, wincing as the action made his headache worse. "They won't hurt us, Len. Don't you remember them?"

"They're holding us captive, they're trying to hurt you!" Len didn't seem to be listening. He finally turned to look at Mick, but his eyes only widened further. "They're hurting you now! I'm not letting them get you!"

"Len!" Mick tried to protest, but his thoughts were getting fuzzy. He knew Len shouldn't be fighting the team, but he couldn't quite remember why. Did they need them for a job? But they'd only just gotten out of juvie, too soon to be pulling jobs yet. No, they weren't in juvie. He had a gun that spat flame, that wasn't from juvie. That was from when he and Len were grown. Then why did Lenny look so small now?

"Mick?" Len's voice sounded like it was coming from somewhere far away. "Mick!"

Mick felt his knees buckle as he collapsed to the ground, blood streaming from his nose, only vaguely aware of Len crouching beside him, trembling with rage and terror, before he blacked out entirely.

(It was at that point the others realised this might not be as simple as they thought.)

***

Mick woke up. His head felt fuzzy and thick, somewhere between a hangover and medication, and for some reason he was lying on a cold steel floor.

"Mick?"

"Lenny?" he slurred. No matter how sore he was, he'd always recognise Len's voice. Lenny would be able to explain this. He was always the smart one of the two of them.

"Mick! Can you tell your crazy partner we aren't trying to kill you?"

That wasn't Len.

Mick inched his eyes open, blinking away the blurriness. An angry blonde was staring at him from some distance away. Wait, he knew her, didn't he? "Sara?" Then her words penetrated through his cloudy thoughts. "Wh'ts up wi' Lenny?"

"He thinks we poisoned you! That's ridiculous, right?" That was Palmer. Haircut. He remembered that now. His thoughts were slowly clearing, memories returning to where they belonged.

He slowly lifted his head off the ground, wincing as his cheek left the steel and he could feel how cold it really was. Cold was always Len's thing, not his. "Where's Lenny?"

"Mick?"

He looked up, and saw Len standing over him, facing off against the team, ready with what looked like a kitchen knife to cut them if they came too close. Every few seconds, his eyes darted down to look at Mick, before returning to glaring at the team. "How do I know it's you?"

Mick thought back, scrambling to find a memory that this fifteen year old Len would remember. He and Len had made a lot of memories over the years, good, bad, and in between, but most of those were from when they were a bit older. The few that he could remember from this era, he didn't think his grown up Len would want the team to know about.

Finally, one came to him. "Just after juvie, when you were fourteen, Lisa was with your grandad and you wanted to get out of the house for a while," because of your father, went unsaid but not unheard, "so we went out to a restaurant, real fancy place, and ordered every dessert they had on the menu. Chocolate cake, that weird Spanish one, a cheese platter, everything. Even the one on fire." He still remembered the way the flames had flickered, just like he remembered Len's smirk, and the way he'd drawled, "I heard this was the hottest dessert around," like he'd never even thought Mick's love of fire might be dangerous.

"Then what happened?" Haircut asked, ripping Mick from his thoughts. He'd forgotten the rest of the team were there, too busy remembering what it was like to be a teenager with Len.

"We stole all their candles and skipped out on the bill," Len said, eyes warm as he looked down at Mick. He still looked cautious, but he held his hand out, and Mick took it, getting to his feet.

Almost immediately he swayed, migraine striking with sudden ferocity.

"Mick?" Len sounded panicked.

"'M alright," he mumbled, forcing his eyes back open. He hadn't realised he'd closed them. "But trust me, Len, these guys don't want us dead. And even if they tried, I wouldn't let the [fruiters] anywhere close. Now c’mon.” He slung his arm over Len’s shoulders, moving slowly enough that Len could move away if he chose. Len didn’t, letting his arm settle and sinking into it. “We’ve got a room on this ship, so we’re gonna use it. And if any of you know what’s smart,” he turned his gaze threateningly on the rest of the team, “you won’t follow us.”

The rest of the team obligingly stepped back, clearing the space between them and the passage to the rest of the ship. Mick could feel Len relax under his arm the further away they got, tension seeping out of his shoulders. Len felt so small standing beside him, barely reaching his shoulder. How had he even managed to keep the kid alive first time around?

“So when you said we’re going to use the room...” Len drawled, smirk audible in his voice.

Mick thought about that for a minute, then recoiled, his arm dropping from Len’s shoulders. “To sleep! That’s all!” Please let Lenny have remembered that conversation. It had been awkward enough the first time, he wasn’t having it a second.

Len laughed, shoulder shoving up against Mick’s. “I know. It was a very memorable speech.”

“Good.” Hopefully that meant Len would stop it there.

Len, of course, did not stop there. “‘I don’t care what you got under your pants,’” he quoted, “‘I don’t want any of it.’ Very classy.”

“Knock it off,” Mick growled. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d blushed, but it had probably been because of Len then too.

The atmosphere changed, feeling suddenly heavy. Mick looked over at Len and saw him frown, looking unsure in a way he rarely did anymore. “You know I don’t care about that, right? It doesn’t stop us from being partners.”

Mick huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, Lenny, I know. And yes,” he answered the unvoiced question, “we’re still partners. Even here.”

Len didn’t reply, but when Mick held his arm out again, Len stepped right under it.

“They have a word for it now, you know,” Mick quietly confided. Maybe it was stupid, especially since in just a few days this Len would be back to being his Len, who had been the one to find it in the first place, but he didn’t care. Len would want to know, because Len liked knowing things, and Mick had never been good at denying Lenny what he wanted. "They call it asexual."

Len gave a pleased little hum, and Mick pulled him closer. "They got lots of words, here in the future. More of those Star Wars movies you like as well." He hesitated, then continued, saying the words he wanted to say, even if he didn't know if Len would believe them. "You're happy here. We've got a good life here, better than we ever talked about in juvie."

"What about Lisa?" Len asked softly. "Is she happy?"

Mick grinned. "Very happy, buddy. She's got a gun that shoots gold now." He left out the part where she was maybe-dating the guy who made it. This Len didn't need to worry about it. Honestly, his Len didn't need to either, but at least his Len had met the kid, and liked him too. Much easier to convince than a fifteen year old Len whose baby sister couldn't even tie her own shoes yet.

They got to the door to their room, and Mick swiped it open, relishing in the gasp of awe from beside him.

"It's just like Star Trek," Len breathed.

"Yep," Mick said proudly. He'd known Lenny would like that bit. Mick had never really gotten into Star Wars, with all the space wizards and lightsabers and dramatic moments (no wonder Len was such a drama queen), but he had plenty of memories of watching Star Trek with his mother on the old black and white TV they had out on the farm. Wasn't 'til juvie he'd figured out why they call them redshirts, and by then his mother wasn't around to share it with.

Mick made his way over to the bed, collapsing onto it and letting his eyes fall closed. He felt Lenny curl up between him and the wall, right in the space he had instinctually left, and let the comfort of that carry him off to sleep.

***

Mick tried to resist the urge to roll his eyes. After being called out of his warm, comfortable bed in the middle of the night, leaving an asleep but still unstable Lenny all alone, the last thing he wanted to do was listen to Hunter blathering on about something to do with him and Len being kids again. They all knew what had happened. Unless he had a way of fixing it quicker, there was no point going on about it.

The only thing that kept him from just leaving and going back to bed was Len’s earlier insistence that they not make waves, don’t do anything which seemed weak or unstable. Len would definitely think storming out of the room while Rip was speaking as a sign of childishness, so Mick couldn’t do it. At least, not without a decent excuse. The second he got one, he would be out of here, and anything Hunter had to say about it could wait until a decent hour.

“...would be best if he did not remain on the ship.”

Mick tuned back into the conversation just in time to catch Hunter’s final words, followed by an expectant expression. He mentally rewound the conversation, trying to match the scraps of conversation he remembered hearing with what he knew of Hunter and his possible motives. Hunter wanted someone off the ship, and for some reason Hunter was coming to him about it. Couldn’t be for him; he doubted Hunter would give him the courtesy of a discussion, especially not one he was included in, so it must be for someone else.

The pieces clicked. “Lenny?”

Hunter looked curious, and Mick quickly corrected himself. He’d forgotten that Hunter had been locked in his study the last couple of days, too busy to notice when his and Len’s old habits started to come back. He’d never been quite comfortable calling Len by his last name, mostly because of the man who gave it to him, but it looked like he’d have to get back in the habit now. “Snart’s not a danger.”

Of course, Len probably was a danger, and definitely would be if he thought he needed to, but Hunter didn’t need to know that. Besides, they were on the fourth day by now. Couldn’t be too much longer before they were back to normal and it could all be forgotten.

“This would be equally for the safety of Mr Snart,” Hunter assured him, leaning across the table as if to give his words more strength. “He is obviously experiencing the effects of this disease very severely, and even though this is the first outbreak, it’s unlikely to be the last.”

“Snart’s safer with me,” Mick grunted. No way he was letting Hunter take Lenny away. It was Mick’s job to protect Len and keep him safe, and he’d do it even if it killed him. He’d rather die than let Hunter take Len to some unfamiliar time and place and leave him there. Death would be kinder than the guilt.

“Mr Rory,” Hunter was starting to sound frustrated. “Can’t you see that staying on this ship could do more harm than good for Mr Snart? This ship is not a safe place for a child. He could start pushing buttons in a panic and jettison us all into space!”

Mick was intrigued by the possibilities of that last statement, but ignored it, focusing on the more important part. “Snart’s not a child, he’s a teen. And as long as I’m with him, nothing will happen.”

“And what about if you can’t be with him?”

Mick smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. “If that ever happens, guess we’ll find out.”

Their stalemate was broken by Gideon’s voice chiming from above. “Mr Rory, Miss Lance requests your presence at your bedroom.”

“Oh yeah?” Mick didn’t take his eyes off Hunter. “And what’s Blondie doing there?”

“Currently she is attempting to persuade Mr Snart to take the knife away from his neck.”

Mick froze.

***

“– time, where. Is. Mick.”

Mick only caught the tail end of whatever Len was saying as he came racing up the hall, but even that was enough for him to hear the sheer panicked terror and desperation in Len’s voice, only barely held in check by Len’s iron will.

“Len! Lenny, I’m here!” He came abruptly to a stop right in front of Len, ignoring the others standing there in the hallway. None of them mattered right now. All that mattered was getting that knife away from Len’s neck.

"Lenny! Lenny, relax, alright?" Mick reached out, curling his hand around Leonard's and gripping it tight. "I’m safe, I’m right here."

Len didn’t move, hand still poised, ready to strike.

“Len,” Mick said warningly. He squeezed Len’s hand tighter, but still not hard enough to make him let go. As much as he hated it, this had to be Len’s choice. Right now Len was paranoid enough that if he tried to get Len to stop, Len might just think he was the enemy too. “You don’t want me to have to tell Lisa her big brother got hurt, do you?” he coaxed.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Len croaked. His voice was weak and barely audible, but it still made Mick breathe a sigh of relief. Len talking again was a good sign; a Len who didn’t speak was always a sign he was in a bad place.

“I know, buddy. But Lisa deserves better.” There was no point saying Len did too. Len refused to accept it, and Mick already knew.

As always, Lisa was the magic word. Len let his arm drop, the knife no longer at his neck but pointed loosely at the ground.

Mick took it from him, stowing it in his pocket.

“Don’t you think you should put that somewhere safer, Mr Rory?”

Mick started. He’d completely forgotten there was anyone else present. He quickly took stock of the situation: Len in front of him, up against the bedroom door; Stein and Sara standing behind, and Rip coming up the hall. He turned, facing the others. None of them would be able to get to Len through him.

“Mr Snart is a noted pickpocket, after all, and clearly cannot be trusted with a knife.”

“Kleptomania,” Mick grunted. “Can’t help it. And if you’d just told him where I was, we wouldn’t’ve had a problem.”

“Stop taking Mick away from me,” Len muttered, glaring at Stein. “You can’t have him. Mick is mine.”

Mick took a moment to process that. That kind of possessiveness seemed like it should’ve been alarming, but really, he just found it touching. No one else had ever wanted him that much before. “You’re mine too, Len,” he finally said, unsure how else to respond. “I won’t let them have you either.”

Len nodded, apparently finding that perfectly acceptable. “You’ll have to share with Lisa,” he warned. “I was hers first.”

“This is real sweet, guys,” Sara interrupted, “But we still have a problem. Snart needs help.”

Mick moved protectively in front of Len. “We don’t need help. We’re fine.”

“Not you, Rory,” Sara brushed him off. “But can your partner even remember our names right now?”

“Mr Snart is currently very dangerous,” Stein agreed. “It would be safer to have him off the ship until this... illness, has passed its course.”

Mick considered replying to tell them that Len was always very dangerous, but figured it probably wouldn’t help his case. Besides, he didn’t want to drag this out even longer. His head was starting to hurt again, he just wanted to go to bed, and hopefully they would wake up cured.

“I’m not leaving Mick,” Len snarled, saving Mick from having to reply. “Who knows what you’ll do to him if I’m not there?” His fingers clasped around Mick’s elbow, trembling slightly but still with a grip like iron.

“He’s probably safer with us than he is with you!”

Stein’s shout, combined with Sara’s sudden move forward, were enough to startle Mick, making him take a step back. He was thrown even more off balance when Len took advantage of the opportunity to drag him backwards, through the door and into their room. “Computer!” Len shouted. “Lock that door!”

“Len, what...?” Mick started to protest, but the initial adrenaline surge that had come from Len being in danger had started to wear off now that the two of them were safe. Against his will, his eyes were starting to close.

“It is not safe to leave you two in there, not when we don’t know what state Mr Snart is in!” Stein shouted through the door.

“In other words, let us in or we’re breaking in!” Sara joined in.

“I’ll be dead before I let you take Mick away!” Len yelled.

Mick gripped tighter onto Len’s shirt, trying to calm him down, but his eyes stubbornly kept fluttering shut. Staggering backwards, he fell onto the bed, Len falling down after him with a thud.

“Gideon,” he vaguely heard from outside, “we need this door open now. Rory’s safety may be–“

“What’s going on here?” Jax’s voice interrupted. “What happe–“

“Mick? Mick!” That voice was a lot closer. He turned. Looked at Len.

Len was shouting something, but the roaring in his ears was too loud now. He couldn’t hear it.

The smell of burnt rubber, and an elastic feeling, like being stretched on a taffy pull, were the last sensations Mick registered before the darkness overtook him.

***

Mick felt heavy.

It was the first thing that rose to his awareness. His limbs felt like they had been encased in iron, weighing him down and pinning him to whatever he was lying on. It was soft, so probably a bed. Really, that wasn’t so strange – he’d woken up feeling heavy like this last time he was sick, and he slept in a bed nearly every night – but there was one significant difference this time: Len was missing.

Len never left him alone while he was sick. Len was weird like that, worried that if he was left alone while sick he’d wander off or die or something like that. Between the two of them Mick was not the one who, while sick, had planned and carried out a job, threw up over the loot, and was barely back at the safehouse before passing out. He also wasn’t the one who had deliriously tried to throw himself out a window. No, the worst Mick had ever done while sick was lie around, watch terrible television, and maybe accidentally caught the house on fire.

Of course, when he wasn’t sick, Len wasn’t always with him when he woke up. Len had an annoying habit of staying up far too late, working on some new heist idea, and would only go to bed if Mick picked him up and carried him there. Then he’d get up early the next morning and be back at it again – at least, until the heist was done, at which point he wouldn’t get out of bed before noon.

But right now, Mick had the strong feeling that Len should be with him, right beside him, and Len wasn’t.

“Len?” he called, voice gravelly. Surely it wasn’t that deep yesterday. “Where’d you go? You planning somethin’ again?”

He opened his eyes, and with one look at the dull steel of the ceiling, everything came flooding back.

“Len!” He shot upright, frantically pawing at the sheets. Surely he would have noticed if someone had taken Len away? He had been out of it, definitely, but never could he be so out of it that he wouldn’t notice someone stealing Len from right beside him. “Lenny!”

“Mick!”

A hand grasped his, and he instinctively fought it, before recognising that grip more familiar to him than his own. He relaxed, pulling a full-sized Len down to him in a hug.

Len only tolerated it for a few minutes before squirming free. “We’re alright, Mick. Think the magic turning back knocked us both out.”

Mick let him go, watching him as he straightened out his clothes. After nearly four days of fifteen-year-old Len, it was a little strange having him as an adult again, but Mick was happier for it. It had been some of the worst moments of his life, dealing with a paranoid teenaged Len who only sometimes remembered who he really was, and he definitely wouldn’t miss the headaches. Still, there were some things he would miss.

“Think I liked it better when you were smaller,” he said, heaving himself up from the bed. It’d take a little while to get used to being big again.

Len looked at him suspiciously. “Yeah? And why’s that?”

“Made it easier to do this.” He reached over and tried to ruffle Len’s hair – not that he really could, now that it was short again.

Len ducked out of the way, but, to Mick’s relief, didn’t flinch. “Don’t remember liking it before either.” He scowled. “Lot of things I don’t remember liking about before.”

They were quiet.

“Think everyone’s still out there?” Mick finally asked.

“Gideon!” Len called to the ceiling. “Where’s everyone else?”

“The crew are assembled on the bridge,” Gideon readily informed them. “I have informed them of your recovery.”

“Thanks, Metalmouth,” Mick grunted. He turned to Len, something settling back into place at his ability to once again do so. “What now, boss?”

Something changed around the corner of Len’s eyes, like he too was happy to get back to normal. “Now we deal with the fallout.”

He stepped up to the doorway. Mick stepped up beside him. In a moment of clarity, remembrance, sentimentality, whatever you wanted to call it, he flung his arm around Lenny’s shoulders, pulling him close; just like when they were kids. “They ain’t gonna break us, Len. Remember, you’re mine.”

Len smirked at him. He’d missed that smirk. “What, we getting all sappy now? Need an “I love you”, Mick?”

Mick smirked back, fiercely proud of that kid he’d met in juvie, and who they had become together. “Nah. Nice to hear you admit it, though.”

With one last squeeze, he let go of Len, and they stepped out through the door.