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emergency box

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Objectively, Mick knows that dating an investigative reporter while currently involved in the mafia is a bad idea. A very, very bad idea.

But it’s Len.

Which has been an excuse that he’s made to himself far too often. Len always manages to be the exception to rules he’s set even for himself - Len had even given some hints about wanting to move in together some day, and Mick hadn’t dropped everything and ran. Mick hadn’t even panicked. This was a bad sign.

He’s risking himself, and the Family, and Len, if he’s being honest, because he went and got himself attached too quickly.

He doesn’t know how much longer he can keep feeding Len excuses, attributing his late nights to a bartending job and his unusually secure apartment on the crime rates in his neighborhood, and he doesn’t have a contingency plan for when Len inevitably pokes his nose where it doesn’t belong and ruins everything. He can only hope that Len doesn’t leave him when he does.

-

He almost thinks the jig is up when he comes home to Len waiting on the couch, looking like the cat who got the cream.

“How did you get in?” Mick asks, exasperated. He isn’t too alarmed, which is alarming in and of itself, for an entirely different reason. Len lifts up a key, probably the copy Mick keeps in his coat pocket, smirk threatening to turn into a smile.

“Sticky fingers,” he says, and Mick rolls his eyes. Len is unusually good at pickpocketing, claiming it was a ‘hidden talent’ and showing it off everywhere. Mick also suspects that it has a bit of a darker story to it, one to match the cigarette burn scars that litter Len’s forearms, but he hasn’t quite managed to get the full story. Len is almost as closed off as Mick, although probably not because he’s involved in the mafia.

“This isn’t the only thing I found, you know,” Len says, and Mick’s heart skips a beat. “I also found your little secret stash.”

Mick freezes. He glances at the kitchen cabinet to the bottom left of the sink, heart pounding in his ears. It’s closed, but that doesn’t mean Len hasn’t found his shoebox.

“Did you really think you could hide it from me?” Len asks, and Mick is panicking. Maybe he can pass the pistol off as extra protection, but the money is a little strange, not to mention the cherry bombs and M-80s--

“Which one is your favorite?”

What?

“‘Notting Hill’ is a classic,” Len says, tone teasing, and there’s the telltale sound of DVD cases sliding around on the coffee table. “Although, ‘The Notebook’ is always a good choice.”

Any relief Mick might have felt about Len not finding his emergency box is wiped away as he realizes, with no small amount of horror, what Len has actually found. He storms around to the front of the couch just in time to see Len unearth a glittery case from the large pile of DVDs in front of him.

“You have Mamma Mia? ” Len squawks, actually squawks, which is a sound that Mick had previously assumed to be beneath him.

Mick scowls and snatches it out of Len’s hands, which are loose from laughter. “Alright,” he snaps. “Not like you don’t like shit you aren’t proud of.”

“Mick,” Len says, laughter fading into a large smirk. “You have a secret stash of romcoms . I can’t possibly beat that.”

Mick growls, and when Len decides that they’re going to watch one of Mick’s movies, he gets a beer. It’s the only defense he has against the onslaught of Len’s gleeful teasing. Len kisses him when he comes back, smiling against his lips, and he feels a little better. Just a little.

They eventually end up watching none of the romcoms, instead settling for whatever happens to be playing on TV - White Christmas ends up playing softly as Mick only half watches it and Len falls asleep on his shoulder. It’s so… domestic. Mick feels like he can hardly breathe, unable to quite comprehend how they’d gotten from crashing at Len’s place - never Mick’s, not in the beginning - for sex and Mick leaving straight after, to sleeping over at each other’s apartments without any expectations for more than just sleeping in the same bed.

It’s new to him - the criminal underground doesn’t allow for much attachment, or at least in a domestic sense - and he gets the sense that it makes Len nervous as well, although not as much.

Len is a civilian, after all, unused to the criminal lifestyle despite all of his initial coldness and reservations, and has talked about at least one other long term relationship, with a woman he used to work with.

Mick is in a long term relationship. Huh.

He really, really doesn’t want this to go to shit.

-

Mick had, frankly, forgotten how cold Len was when they’d first met, all calculating stares and quips meant to hurt more than to amuse. He’s gotten used to easy smiles and teasing laughter, the initial distance between them feeling like it was one thousand years ago.

He gets a reminder a few weeks after their quiet night in front of the TV.

“Mick.”

Len materializes in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, and Mick looks up from his book, caught off guard by the tone of his voice.

Len’s face might as well be a mask, it’s so closed off. His eyes are icy, posture tense and distrusting, and he’s holding a worn shoebox so tightly that his knuckles are turning white. Mick’s stomach bottoms out at the sight of it.

“Lenny--”

Don’t,” Len snaps, and Mick stops. “What is this?”

Mick hardens his expression. He doesn’t know what to say. Should he lie? Again? Should he tell the truth?

They stare at each other for a while, and it isn’t until Len gives him a disappointed, disgusted look and turns to leave that Mick manages something.

“Protection. Things happen, ‘specially in this neighborhood. I--”

“Don’t feed me bullshit,” Len grits out, severely, although there’s now a tremor apparent in his hands and Mick realizes that he isn’t just upset that Mick owns a gun. “You have a gun, Mick, and you hid it from me. What is it for ?”

Mick doesn’t know what’s triggering Len, because there’s no denying that that’s what’s happening, and he’s at a loss. It might be selfish, but he doesn’t want to tell him the truth. He doesn’t want to find out that what he’s in - and he’s in, there’s no backing out - is what makes Len feel this unsafe, is what gives him panic attacks.

“I used to be involved with a crew,” Mick starts, and Len’s eyes feel like they’re burning into his skin. “We robbed, mostly. Manors and small stores were our usual gig, although we did heists sometimes. One of ‘em went wrong, and I tried to back out. They didn’t like it, so I ended up having to run away. That’s just in case they find me.”

Len’s fingers loosen from their tight grip on the box, but his expression doesn’t soften. “Are you telling the truth?”

And that, of all things, is what gives Mick away. It must be something about the phrasing. It isn’t a snapped “Is that the truth?” or an accusing “ Liar.” It’s an honest question, and despite all of Len’s efforts, Mick hears the hope in it. He wants him to say yes.

That “ yes” gets caught in his throat, suddenly unwilling to weave more lies and deceive Len further. They sit in silence for a long while, longer than Mick deserves, before Len throws the box on the couch in front of Mick, who flinches. Len doesn’t make eye contact as he yanks on his boots, hands still shaking.

“Call me,” Len says when he finishes, voice still cool. “When you can tell me the truth.”

And with that, he leaves.

Mick immediately goes for the whiskey.

-

Of all the ways Mick has pictured Len finding out, it’s never been because they showed up to the same negotiations meeting.

There’s one the day after Len leaves, and Mick is almost grateful for the distraction of a high stakes meeting with the Darbinyans, the threat of violence succeeding in keeping his mind off of Len.

He’s nursing a hangover when they arrive - he’s one of two who’ve been put on guard duty for the Boss’s son - from drowning his sorrows the night before, and isn’t really paying attention until he sees movement out of the corner of his eye.

He’s positioned in such a way that he’s the only person who can see where the movement came from, and he almost calls out a warning to the others before he recognizes the buzzed dark hair and skin tight black sweater.

Len has his back to him, crouching behind a pile of wooden crates that separate him from the Darbinyans, and the way his head is tilted says that he’s listening intently. A little recording device is in his hands.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Mick mutters, and the other guard looks at him curiously. He just shakes his head and very carefully does not look at his idiot of a partner (are they still…? He doesn’t want to think about it) risking his life to get the scoop. As long as he can manage to keep people from going behind the wall of crates, Len will be fine and he can debate the pros and cons of connecting himself to the case Len is on later.

Unfortunately, things are never that simple.

About halfway through negotiations, a fight breaks out, and when a fight breaks out, people start shooting. Mick doesn’t even have to think before he’s flying to where Len is, grabbing the back of his sweater, and hauling the both of them out of there.

He doesn’t stop dragging Len even when they hit the street, desperate to put as much distance between Len and the shoot out as possible, and they only screech to a halt when Len suddenly digs his heels in and forces Mick to quit running.

Mick turns around to look at Len, not bothering to let go of his shirt, and Len doesn’t shrug him off. Instead, he studies his face, looking more contemplative than anything.

“I’m in the mob,” Mick gasps out, still out of breath from hauling ass. “That’s why I have an emergency box.”

“I gathered,” Len drawls, and the only thing belying his cool tone is the twitch of the corners of his mouth.

“You’re not mad?”

“Oh, I’m mad,” Len assures him, and then the amusement on his face drops. “I’m pissed. You lied to me. Betrayed my trust. You kept a secret from me, a secret that put me at risk. Mobsters don’t take kindly to civilians getting too close. I could have been shot because of you.” His tone is hard, and Mick lets go of his sweater.

Len catches his hand as it falls, twining their fingers together. “But,” he says, lightly, eyebrows shooting up and eyes on their hands rather than Mick’s face. “I almost got myself shot, and you saved me. So, you have at least one thing going for you.”

Mick wants to admonish him, to make him promise to never put himself in a situation like that again, but he recognizes that this olive branch is fragile, that Len is giving him a second chance that he doesn’t usually give, so he waits to do it until they’re more stable again.

“I want to stay together,” he says instead, in a rare moment of vulnerability. “Whatever it takes.”

Len’s face softens, just slightly, but enough that Mick is reassured. “Well, let’s go fix it, then.”

Len pulls him in for a kiss, a closed mouth thing, and Mick knows that he will do anything to keep this man. Even if it means starting over.