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The Poetry in Blood and Damaged Hearts

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What broke your heart so bad
That you had to close every door
That you say you have a dark soul
And can't utter the word 'love' anymore?

― Sanhita Baruah

 

*

 

Time is a funny thing: it goes by so fast when you're having fun, but it never seems to pass when you're bored. Or when you're about to die.

Leonard feels like he's been here for hours, when in fact it cannot be longer than a couple of minutes. He still doesn't really understand what he's doing here or what motivated him in the first place: Raymond was supposed to die here. Not Mick, not Leonard. Raymond.

And yet here Leonard is, dying a stupid heroic death to save Time and his whole team.

There's a number of things he regrets not doing when he still could and they're all rising to haunt his mind, now that the clock it ticking. He inhales and closes his eyes. It shouldn't be long, now.

He hears a commotion of steps all around him. Time Masters guards, he guesses. He's thinking they're going to kill him before he can complete his suicidal mission, but when the shots are fired, nothing happens to him.

“Leonard!”

He winces. What is this annoying voice doing in here?

“Raymond.” Leonard opens his eyes to a pile of guards lying on the ground and Raymond floating a few feet from him. “I thought Mick knocked you out.”

Ray grins nervously through his suit. “Not hard enough.”

Leonard curses under his breath. There's no point in both of them kicking the bucket in this hole. Why did this moron come back?

“What are you doing here?” he asks angrily.

“Trying to save you.”

“Trying to get yourself killed with me, you mean?”

Ray walks up to Leonard and eyes the hand he's pressing over the fail-safe. “I'm here to save you,” he states resolutely. “And I'm okay with dying trying.”

Leonard grabs his neck and yanks him down to his face: “Listen to me, you useless jerk: nobody asked you to do anything! Go back to the others, save your stupid ass!”

“No!”

“My god, you are dense!”

“Shut up, I have an idea.” Ray shoves him aside and takes his place with the fail-safe.

Leonard gives him a sceptical glare: “You do, now.”

He doesn't expect Ray to point his armored arm at him, especially because something inside it is loading.

“Do you trust me?” Ray asks, and Leonard looks at him like he's crazy – and he probably is.

“Absolutely not!” he snaps.

Then everything goes white.

 

*

 

The landing is bad.

White sparks blind Leonard's sight as he hits the hard ground with his side. There's a bolt of pain in his leg, like a blade being planted into his thigh. The pain cuts the breath in his throat.

He screams, rolling down an uneven slope that smells like earth and wet moss and somehow he manages to stop the fall right before his head crashes into a rock.

He tries to breathe, but his whole body aches too much to even think to move. He groans, struggling to open his eyes: there's a purple sky above him and a dark pattern of branches and leaves criss crossing everywhere.

A faint groan echoes his own. It's close, though he's not really sure where it came from. His sense of space is a little off at the moment.

“Raymond?”

He hears a heavy panting, then Raymond's stupid face appears an inch over his nose. He's grinning.

“Who's a useless jerk, now?”

Still you, Leonard wants to answer, because Ray's face, despite his suit, is covered in cuts and dirt and looks exactly like a useless idiot, but when he tries to speak, he feels a stab in his sternum.

“What did you do?” he wheezes, and the pain springing everywhere makes him screw his eyes shut again.

“I turned us into particles small enough to flow through the time explosion. Thoretically.”

Leonard gives Ray an outraged glare: “You weren't even sure it would work?”

“Hey, we're alive, you don't get to complain.”

Leonard would roll his eyes, if he had the strength to. “Fair enough.”

Raymond is on his knees, now; he rapidly checks Leonard for broken bones and sighs in relief when he doesn't find any.

“Did you hit your head?” he inquires, his hand cupping Leonard's neck as he helps him sit up.

“No,” Leonard says with another grunt. The pain in his leg is excruciating; when he looks, he sees blood, an awful lot of it, gushing out of a wound hidden beneath his lacerated pants. “Fuck.”

Raymond leans closer. “Let me see.”

Leonard swats his hand away. “It's just a scratch.”

Ray backs off. He looks around, brows furrowed in concentration. Not that there's much to see: plants, rocks, grass, more plants.

“Where do you think we are?”

Leonard is still having trouble breathing. He scans uninterestedly the nature surrounding them and shurgs. “The question is when.”

Raymond looks worried. An Eagle Scout worried in the middle of the wilderness is never a good sign.

“We should find a shelter before it gets too dark.” He eyes Leonard eloquenty. “Can you-”

“Yes, I can walk.” Leonard holds out a hand and lets Ray get him to his feet with a sharp pull. He has to bite his tongue not to scream again.

“You alright?”

“Peachy. Let's go.”

It's completely dark by the time they find something vaguely worthy of being called a shelter. It's a cave, not very deep, but just enough to escape the chilly wind that is rising outside.

“It looks safe enough,” Ray comments after a quick perlustration.

“Until a bear comes back to claim it.”

“There's no sign of this place being inhabited. We're safe.”

Leonard leans into the slippery wall, trying his best to keep himself standing. “Okay, Boy Scout,” he hints at the perfectly bare soil before them. “Which bed do you want?”

Raymond looks at the ground, then at Leonard: “The temperature will be dropping quickly in the next few hours. We should-”

“Don't even think about it,” Leonard warns between his teeth. He knows what Ray means and there's no way he's cuddling up with him to keep warm.

With a grunt, he slumps down into the least uncomfortable-looking corner and lets his eyes to flutter closed.

He feels nauseous. His leg is killing him.

He would give anything, now, to trade this slow agony with the quick, painless death that he escaped at the Oculus.

 

*

 

Leonard wakes up shaking. He's soaked in sweat, but his whole body feels cold as ice. He realises, by his hazy mind and sight, that he must be running a fever – a nasty one, judging from how hard he's trembling.

There's an unfamiliar weight over him: it's the jacket Raymond wears under his suit. It's been draped around him like a blanket. He doubts it's making much difference, temperature-wise, but it feels warm, oddly enough.

As he slowly regains full conscience, he also notices the pain in his leg has slightly relented. He runs his fingers over the sore spot and meets a stripe of hard leather. A belt. And blood. An awful lot of blood soaking his pants and part of the ground beneath him.

Whatever Raymond did, it saved Leonard's life. Again.

That idiot is nowhere to be seen. Leonard guesses he must have gone off haunting berries and collecting sticks. The cave is almost completely flooded with light by the time Raymond's silly face reappears. All he's wearing above his waist is a wifebeater – very flattering for his body, but not very useful against the chilly air wafting in from the outside.

He does have his hands full of purple berries. It brings a light smile to Leonard's lips: it's comforting to know that Ray is that predictable.

“How are you feeling?” Ray inquires while dropping the berries into a giant leaf he has put on Leonard's lap.

“You should take this back,” Leonard tells his, bypassing his question completely.

Ray shurgs. “I'll live. How are you feeling?” he insists, and this time Leonard can't really ignore him.

“Not dead, impressively enough.” He nods at his leg, which has been rudimentally medicated. “Why did you do this?”

Ray rolls some berries over in the palm of his hand. “Your bleeding wasn't going to stop,” he says. “And you have a fever, likely caused by an infection.”

That much Leonard had guessed. He feels so cold he can barely keep his teeth from rattling. In the end, he shoves aside his pride and dignity and, with a sigh, he mutters: “I changed my mind about physical contact.”

“Are you cold?” Ray glances down at himself as if looking for something else to give up to him.

“Of course I'm cold! I spent a whole night on some goddamn frozen ground!”

He almost feels sorry for snapping. Poor Raymond is so used to his harshness he doesn't even blink; he just sits down next to Leonard and awkwardly tries to settle himself as close as possible without any actual contact.

“Okay, I'll just...” He gets all flustered when he seems to realise the only way he can effectively keep Leonard warm is by enveloping him with his own body. He raises his arm hesitantly: “May I...?”

“I'm not a blushing virgin, Ray. I've touched men before.”

“I- I just thought-”

With an impatient huff, Leonard grabs his wrist and drapes him all over himself. Ray stays tense and silent for a while, then he slowly starts relaxing.

“Better?”

Leonard can hardly believe it, but he does feel a little warmer. “Better.”

“I found a clearing not far from here,” Ray begins after a pause. “I wrote a message with some rocks. Wherever and whenever we are, the guys are going to find us soon.”

“Remind me to get you a golden star or whatever it is boy scouts get as recognition.”

“Eagle scout. And actually it's badges that-”

“I don't care,” Leonard spits, but then takes pity on Raymond. The idiot is freezing so that Leonard can stay warm under his jacket: he doesn't deserve so much hostility. “Can't you just... shrink down and tuck yourself into my pocket?”

It's such a smart idea Leonard is surprised Raymond didn't have it first.

“I- I can't,” Raymond babbles, shifting the position of his arm around Leonard's shoulders. “It's not working properly. It must have got damaged in the fall.”

“Pity,” Leonard sighs through chattering teeth.

There's a couple of seconds of hesitation before Raymond says: “Uh, yeah.”

A few minutes pass. Leonard is still shaking, but at the very least he doesn't feel like he has ice in his veins anymore.

“How's your leg?” Ray asks at some point.

Nestled under his arm, Leonard grunts. “I can barely feel it. There's just a light throbbing around the wound.”

“It's the clamp,” Ray informs him. “My belt, I mean. It's numbing it. Sorry about that, if I'd had something more to work with-”

Leonard snorts out a weak laugh: “Are you apologising to me for saving my ass?”

He can basically feel Ray blush.

“I... guess I am.”

“My sweet Raymond,” he drawls. “Your stupidity never ceases to amaze me.”

Ray's fingers clench for a moment around Leonard's arm. “You're welcome,” he murmurs, and maybe Leonard is wrong, maybe the fever is deceiving him, but he detects a hint of bitterness in his voice.

“How mean do I have to get to break that angelic facade of yours?”

“You see, there's a little catch,” Ray says pleasantly. “You can't break it if it's not a facade.”

His breath is hot over Leonard's sweaty forehead; the shiver it causes has nothing to do with cold and everything to do with a lifelong touch starvation.

“Clever boy. Point for you, hot stuff.”

“Is it really so hard to believe?”

“That you're a helpless puppy to the bone?”

“That someone may genuinely care about you.”

Leonard has no idea how such gentle words can be so painful in his ears. He burrows deeper under Raymond's jacket, but it's not the best idea, because the damn thing fills his nostrils with Ray's scent, and it's making him dizzy.

“If we're going to talk about feelings,” he drawls. “Have the decency to knock me out, first.”

“Does this embarrass you?” Ray's tone is light. Amused.

Is the bastard making fun of him?

“It mortifies me,” Leonard corrects, while taking a mental note to beat the crap out of this idiot as soon as he can stand on his own feet again.

“Well, I have feelings,” Ray retorts stubbornly. “And I won't pretend otherwise because it makes you uncomfortable.”

“It doesn't- Never mind.” Leonard curls against his chest, lets his eyes flutter closed. “Just shut the fuck up. I need to sleep.”

“You can't sleep!” Raymond's voice exclaims, far, far away. “Your pupils are dilated, and you might have a concussion, and- Leonard? Leonard!”

 

*

 

Sara's beautiful face is the first thing he sees when he comes to, and it's literally a sight for sore eyes.

She flashes him a soft smile. “Welcome back.”

“Hey,” he greets. His voice comes out horribly throaty. He feels like every singe muscle in his body has been jammed with needles. “Where's Raymond?”

“Getting microwaved.” Sara points her thumb behind her shoulder. Across the room is another bed encapsuled in glass; beneath the glass, Raymond's sleeping figure lies pale and motionless, surrounded by a yellow light. “He's got a pretty severe case of hypothermia.”

“Of course he does,” Leonard groans. The idiot took such great care of Leonard's wellbeing that he forgot to think of his own.

“He's gonna be okay,” Sara promises, and Leonard doesn't really know why. As far as he's concerned, they could have left the moron in that cave to die from his own stupidity. “Don't be too rough on him when he wakes up, okay?”

“Why would I be rough on him?”

“Because he saved your life, twice in a row,” Sara tilts her head to one side. “And I know how much you hate owing people. Especially Ray.”

Leonard glowers: “I don't owe him anything. It was all his choice. I told him to go and save himself.”

Sara shakes her head but says nothing. She caresses his face and drops a kiss on his forehead.

Fierce, lovable Sara. He doesn't know what he would do without her.

“You know, Len,“ she says before leaving. “You can't hold grudges against people for caring about you.”

Leonard elegantly ignores the fact that she basically just accused him of being mad at Raymond for being a decent person.

“Watch me.”

 

*

 

The thing is, it's hard to hold grudges against someone who risked their life to save yours.

This is exactly the main reason why Leonard never wanted anyone but Mick as a partner in crime: loyal, yes, but mentally sane enough to know when the times are dire enough to not look back and carry on solo.

Ray is draped in silver blankets under his glass case. Gideon is monitoring his vitals and there seems to be nothing to worry about. He won't be out of this capsule from another couple of days, so Leonard will have to wait to tell him in his face what a pathetic fool he is.

It is only a coincidence if Leonard is in the medbay when Ray finally regains conscience. Leonard hears him moan while Gideon is running a scan over his leg to check the healing process; he jumps off the recliner, and a stab of pain flashes from his crotch to his toes. He ignores it. He crosses the room in a few limping steps and meets Raymond's sleepy eyes through the glass.

Ray smiles at him.

“Hey. How are you?”

Leonard arches a brow. “You're lying in a glass coffin, Snow White. I should be the one asking that question.”

Ray blinks a few times. Only now he seems to realise where he is and what is above him. It's not just the glass: it's the electrodes on his chest, and the beeping sound of the screen monitoring his heartbeat.

“Yeah, about that...” Ray swallows nervously, eyes flickering all around himself. “Do you think you can lift this thing? It's making me a bit claustrophobic.”

“Gideon? Can we free our sleeping beauty from his pretty cage?”

“Affirmative, Mr Snart.” As soon as Gideon answers, the glass splits in two and slides down at the sides of Raymond's bunk. “Doctor Palmer's parameters are back to normal. Though I recommend a few days of rest for both of you.”

Leonard isn't even listening. He's watching Raymond try to slip out of the heavy medical equipment that he's been buried under. He looks a bit wobbly, like he hasn't full control of his limbs. It's amusing to watch and it would normally deserve some snarky comment, but Leonard has other concerns at the moment.

“You could have died.”

“I didn't.” Ray shoves the silver blanket aside and throws his legs over the edge of the bunk, moving his toes experimentally. His movements are slow, almost as if gravity weights more heavily upon him.

Leonard crosses his arms. “I don't like people risking their neck for me.”

Ray looks at him. “Sounds like guilt to me.” His pretty face, splotched in red hints of frostbite, is basically begging to be slapped.

“Sounds like I'm not fond of debts.”

“Well, I'm not fond of my friends dying when it can be helped,” Ray retorts. He sounds... pissed? “Just forget about everything, if it troubles you so much.”

If only it was that easy. Leonard can't even explain to himself why he's being so affected by this whole thing. Its like an itch he needs to scratch away, before it drives him insane. Too bad Raymond isn't being very helpful, here. Not that Leonard expected otherwise.

“Believe it or not,” he says. “Even criminals have their own twisted sense of honour.”

Ray's legs dangle a few feet from the floor. He tries to lift himsef up to jump down, but the movement makes his cry in pain.

Leonard doesn't like the way his chest seems to tighten at this sight.

“How about you help me out of this thing and we're even?” Ray proposes, his features still contracted in a grimace.

“You're hurting,” Leonard says. For some reason, it sounds like an accusation.

“No.” Ray raises a hand and shakes his head weakly. “No, it's fine. I just need-”

“Your neurological scan shows you're experiencing pain, Doctor Palmer,” Gideon interjects, and Ray sighs.

“Thanks, Gideon.”

Leonard still wants to beat the crap out of him, but he also kind of wants Raymond to stop looking like a martyr who's just stepped down from his cross.

“Alright, big boy,” he ropes an arm around Ray's naked waist and helps his ease down to the floor. The guy is heavy as marble, and just as taut. Leonard files this information away for another moment. “Let's get you to that chair.”

It's just a few feet, but it's a tough process. It wouldn't be half as tough if Raymond wasn't a six-foot-three two-hundred-pound drunken labrador. He quickly erases the six-foot-three two-hundred-pound part from his thoughts, because it's doing something to his stomach, and he really doesn't want to deal with it right now.

Once he's settled in the chair, Ray relaxes a little. His face isn't the only part of his body to be marked with frostbite: his arms and part of his chest are scattered with it, his neck and ears, too.

Leonard thinks back of himself wrapped up in his parka, hood pulled down to his forehead, shivering himself to sleep with Ray's reassuring weight pressing at his side.

He swallows.

So, there might be an infinitesimal chance he feels slightly guilty. Slightly.

“Where are the others?” Ray wonders.

“At work. You and I ending up in 1786 Patagonia wasn't the only issue the Oculus left behind, it seems.”

“Huh?”

“Long story short: Time is broken and now there's a bunch of aberrations scattered all over History.”

Ray grins. “Fascinating. Can't wait to be back on the field.”

“Well, for now we're stuck here,” Leonard informs him. “Captain's orders.”

Ray nods absently. He's staring at the ground pensievely, hands entwined between his spread knees.

“How's your leg?”

It's so unexpected Leonard almost flinches. His leg. Right.

“It's gonna hurt for a while,” he conveyes. “Due to some nerve damage. But apart from that it's as good as new. Thanks to you, apparently.” He smirks at Ray. “Gideon found your saliva in my wound – disgusting, but incredibly effective against infections, it appears.”

Ray utters a faint laugh that makes him wince and screw his eyes shut. “Tears would have also been a good alternative,” he chokes, trying visibly hard to breathe normally. “Because of this particular enzyme that-”

“You didn't cry for me, did you, Raymond?”

“Of course not! I was worried, but-”

“Spare me the details.” Leonard shoots him a piercing glare. “I don't wanna know.” He turns his back to Ray, leaving him gaping and half naked – gloriously half naked – as he walks out of the room.

“Where are you going?” Ray calls after him.

“To get some food,” says Leonard without turning back. “I'm starving.”

“Hey! I'm hungry, too!”

Leonard keeps walking. Limping, actually, because every time his right foot touches the ground, a jolt of pain makes his throat clench.

When he returns, ten minuntes later, with a bowl of soup and some white rice, Raymond nearly falls off his chair. Of course the dork didn't think he'd come back.

“Don't get used to this,” Leonard warns as he sets the tray with the food on Raymond's lap.

Ray smiles gratefully. “I'll try not to,” he promises.

Leonard doesn't ask if he needs anything else. Someone else will take care of him. He leaves Ray to Gideon's supervision and walks away in long, sharp strides. He doesn't care if it hurts so much his sight whites out. He just wants to get as far as possible from Ray's unnerving kindness.

He doesn't want to get used to this, either.

 

*

 

They spend a lot of time alone on the ship because of their forced leave of absence.

Ray isn't in great shape, yet: the hypothermia has left him weak and dealing with a light yet persistent fever that prevents him for gaining his energy back.

So Leonard is in charge to look after him while the others are away. Which is an awful lot of time.

He moves around with one crutch, now, because his wound is healing but still hurts like hell. He tries to avoid Raymond whenever he can, yet somehow the ship is smaller than he remembered and, one way or another, he always finds himself gravitating around wherever the man is.

Ray is a sorry sight: pale and worn, eyes glossy and red from the fever. Leonard can't wait for him to be back to his sunny, annoying self, so that he can start making fun of him again. He can't bring himself to be rude to Ray when he's in this state: he looks fragile and vulnerable, and though Leonard knows it's just a physical condition, he still holds himself back, acts nice, and keeps telling himself it's only out of pity.

He doesn't give a fuck about Raymond or his big, puppy eyes. They don't affect him. At all.

He reminds this to himself yet again when he finds Raymond abandoned on the parlour couch with a plaid around his shoulders and a cup of tea run cold in his hands. A sorry sight indeed.

Leonard makes to leave before he gets noticed, but hasn't even moved a step when Ray's voice stops him on the spot.

“Leonard?”

“That's my name,” he exhales, his tone dripping annoyance.

Ray is scrutinising him with that look of his – the look of someone willing to take the weight of the whole world upon his shoulders, if that helps someone else.

“Do you feel responsible for me?”

The question catches Leonard off guard. He doesn't know why Raymond would think so highly of him to believe thpat.

“I don't even feel responsible for myself,” he argues. He would fold his arms across his chest as he leans against the wall with one shoulder, if he didn't have this stupid crutch. This injury is ruining his persona.

Raymond nods with a small smile. “It's just...” He fumbles for words – an exceptional cirumstance, for him – but Leonard catches a glimpse of sadness in his face and his amusement vanishes. Ray looks into his eyes, and Leonard knows he didn't just imagine the sadness: “You always come to me and linger around, but you don't look like you actually want to be here.”

It's an impressively accurate depiction of Leonard's current emotional status.

“Perceptive,” he replies, though he's not entirely sure he actually meant to say this out loud.

He feels an instinctual urge to leave, to get away from here, yet his feet aren't moving. In fact, his feet would very much like to walk him into the room and sit him down next to Raymond, who is looking at him with those damn puppy eyes and an expression so soft Leonard can't even hold his gaze.

“You don't owe me, Len. And I'm not an invalid, you don't have to check up on me all the time.”

Leonard wants to tell Raymond he's ridiculing himself. He wants to tell him he's seeing things and that none of that is remotely true, but there is a limit to self-deception, and Leonard gusses he's just crossed it. Yet he somehow finds the nerve to lie.

“Bold of you to assume I'm here for you.”

“Oh.” He expects Raymond's face to fall disappointedly, but it doesn't. In fact, Ray's lips curl into a slow, sheepish grin. “You come for the booze, then,” he says, raising his cup of tea.

Despite himself, Leonard can't help a smirk. “You got me.”

Fuck, he doesn't entirely dislike this guy.

“I don't mind,” Ray says as Leonard makes to leave. “If you keep coming for the booze, I mean.”

Something warm and pleasant curls low in Leonard's stomach. His look drifts to the cup of tea and then sets on Raymond's uncertain face with a sly chuckle.

“Cheers.”

 

*

 

Ray recovers sooner than Leonard expected. With Gideon's meds and treatments, it takes him a little over a week to be back on his feet. He's still not exactly in shape, but he's good enough to get up and do stuff, now, and Leonard realises he has no more excuses to tell himself: Ray doesn't need him anymore, so now, if he wants to be near good, old Raymond, there's a few things he has to admit, and he really doesn't want to.

He threw the crutch away out of frustration. He did this the very moment Ray asked if he could be of any assistance. Incidentally.

Walking still hurts and he's frustratingly slow, but he can take it. His pride keeps his back straight and his limp to a minimum. His pride also keeps him away from Raymond, because now that Leonard is the least fortunate one, Ray wants to give back the support he received when he was ill, but Leonard doesn't want any of it. He was okay with being the one to offer help. He's done with debts of kindness.

He's shamalessly hiding in the cargo bay when Raymond finds him stretching his injured leg in clumsy movements. His stealth skills are going to need a little recalibration.

“Looking for something?” he pants, slumping down onto one of the boxes.

Ray's eyebrows are knit in a tourbled expression. “You.”

Leonard prepares himself for a mentally draining conversation. He thinks he knows what this is about. He's been running from this confrontation for a while, now.

“Here I am.”

“I couldn't help but notice you don't seem to be interested in booze anymore.”

Ray just stands there, eyes low, the picture of pity itself. It's something that would usually irritate Leoanrd, seeing a man in this miserable state, but not this time. This time he feels the all too familiar bite in his conscience, the tug in his heart that makes him want to do things he's never done before.

“I figured it'd be best for my liver if I took some distance,” he drawls, joining his hands behind his head as he props back into the wall. He looks away when he sees the effect his words have on Ray.

“Did I do something wrong?” the idiot asks quietly. Leonard wonders how such a thin whisper can be louder than a scream.

I got distracted, and you sneaked inside, Leonard muses, quite grudgingly. What are you doing under my skin, Raymond?

“I don't wanna hurt you, Ray.”

“Then don't?”

“It's not you,” he clarifies. “It's me.”

“Huh?”

Leonard sighs. “I seem to have developed an unhealthy attachment to booze, lately.” He gazes at Raymond meaningfully. “I'm trying to go sober.”

Apparently, Ray gets the message. Gets it like a dart in his guts.

“Oh. Okay.” Dejected Raymond makes Leornad look away again. Pathetic. “I'll leave you alone, then.”

He watches Ray drag himself towards the exit, shoulders slouched forward. He shouldn't care about this. He shouldn't, but he does.

Why does he care about this?

“Ray? “ he calls, groaning inwardly for his own weakness.

Ray turns hesitantly.

“It's not you, I promise.”

Ray sketches a blue smile. “Yeah, well... it doesn't make me feel any better.”

 

*

 

It's not even two days later that Leonard finds himself with his back against a wall and Sara's scolding finger pointed at him.

“What's wrong with you and Ray?”

Leonard's eyes narrow. “As opposed to what?”

“Len.”

“You tell me,” he counters impatiently. Sara evidently knows something he doesn't, he sees no point in stalling.

“You've been acting weird since we picked you up from Patagonia,” she says. “Do you feel guilty for what happened to him?”

“Why would I?”

“Oh, I don't know...” Sara rolls her eyes. “He risked his life to get you out of the Oculus in one piece, and then almost freezed himself to death to keep you warm.”

“I told him he should shrink and get into my pocket,” he grunts. How many time does he have to stress this? “But his stupid suit was broken-”

Sara scowls. “What are you talking about? Ray's suit is perfectly functional.”

“No, it's not.”

“It's got a few scratches,” Sara insists. “But other than that it's in perfect condition. We had Gideon check it.”

Leonard bites down a curse between his teeth.

That motherfucker.

 

*

 

“You're an idiot.”

Ray looks up from the comm he's working on. He has a ridiculous pair of goggles on his nose that engorge his eyes to twice their size. Leonard rips them off his face and tosses them across the room.

It's all there: the need to see him, to feel him, the blood boiling in his veins spreading fire and hunger to every darkest corner of his being.

“Wha-”

Leonard's kiss is harsh and unapologetic. He doesn't ask Raymond if he wants this, nor he cares if he doesn't. He's not even sure why he's doing this, but it's relieving the tension that has been building up within him for a while, and it's good. It's damn good.

Also, Raymond is kissing back.

Leonard presses himself against him, deepens the kiss until he hears Raymond gasp into his mouth, so he pushes him into the table, spreads his legs with one knee and wraps his arms around his neck to pull him close, hands gripping his hair, digging in his scalp. He grins smugly when Ray's tongue swipes across his lips; he responds with a nip at Ray's bottom lip and takes advantage of the moment of surprise to tangle his own tongue with Raymond's, breath hard and frantic.

When they break apart, Ray is deliciously dishevelled, lips wet and plush, red from the prolonged friction. Leonard has never seen anything more arousing in his entire life. This is him. This is the moron who pretended to have a broken supersuit, jeopardising his own health and life, to keep Leonard warm.

“What was that for?” Ray pants. His hands are on Leonard's hips; their touch burns through the fabric of the shirt.

“You're an idiot,” Leonard says again, in a tone even angrier than the first time. Then he meets Raymond's dismayed eyes, and he feels a warm flutter in his chest. “And I hate being sober.”

He kisses Ray again – gently, this time – and savours the thrill than runs down his spine when Raymond's hands rise to cup his face.

“This doesn't mean anything, are we clear?” he breathes shakily, resting his forehead against Ray's. “Doesn't mean I like you. Doesn't mean I feel something for you.”

Ray's nose skims Leonard's when he nods. “If you say so.”

“Yeah, I say so.”

Ray nods again. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Leonard echoes.

They kiss again.

And again.

And they end up kissing for a long while.

Leonard has to keep reminding himself this doesn't mean anything.

 

*

 

“You like him.”

Leonard would love to wipe that infuriating little smirk from Sara's lips, but unfortunately he's well aware that, if he tried, he would be the one to get his ass kicked.

“You're delusional, my friend.”

Sara purrs delightedly: “Aww, you do!”

“Your point,” he asks dryly, though his tone isn't even a questioning one.

Sara grabs his chin, stares lovingly into his eyes: “You should let Ray spill some sunshine in that gloomy heart of yours.”

“I like my heart dark and cold, thank you very much,” he replies suavely.

Sara kisses his cheek, then pokes a finger in his abs: “How do you know, if you never felt bright and warm?”

 

*

 

There's not even time for Leonard to consider the idea of considering bright and warm.

All he's feeling as of now is pissed and sour, because that son of a bitch that goes by the name of Raymond Palmer pulled another one of his noble stunts during the last mission: the idiot – the damn idiot – had the superb idea to use his own body to shield Stein from a fucking cannon ball, and Gideon is currently working to fix what can be fixed and replace what cannot be salvaged.

Regrowing a hand wasn't fun, so Leonard can only guess how bad it must be to regrow half of your internal organs. He hopes the pain haunts that asshole for life.

He feels weak and vulnerable, which is stupid, because he isn't the one that has been dragged back from 1789 Paris more dead than alive.

He also feels betrayed: he allowed himself to feel things, and Raymond paid him back by going out there putting himself in danger just because. A part of him realises he shouldn't feel like this – he has no right to – because he's the one who told Ray there was nothing between them. Even though there kinda is.

Leonard doesn't know what to do with the turmoil he has inside. He doesn't know how to handle feelings, and surely doesn't like to be left alone to deal with them.

 

*

 

It takes Raymond two whole weeks to recover.

Leonard spends each of the fifteen days in a progressively angrier mode that makes everyone steer away from him as long as possible. He paces outside the medbay, casting surreptitious glances inside, at the bed where Raymond lies in an induced coma, because the drugs wouldn't be enough to soothe the excruciating pain of his cells repairing themselves molecule by molecule.

The day he arrives and sees Raymond standing (if a bit unsteadily) in the middle of the room, back in his usual clothes, he exhales in pathetic relief.

His fury, however, is still there, still simmering in his chest, ringing in his ears.

He strides into he medbay, glad that his leg is finally good again for the sake of this dramatic entrance. Raymond is turning around when Leonard grabs him by his hoodie and slams him against the wall, baring his teeth like an angry animal. He doesn't understand why this guy makes him feel like he's not enough to himself anymore. Why he wants to see him and check up on him and why his blood boils when he thinks of him hurt and suffering.

“Are you okay?” he hisses. His fingers ache from how tightly he's clutching the hoodie.

Raymond blinks, bewildered by his aggressiveness. “Y-yeah,” he babbles in a throaty whisper. “Great.”

Leonard releases him. Raymond slowly relaxes against the wall.

“Gideon, do you confirm Doctor Palmer has fully recovered?”

“Affirmative, Mr Snart,” Gideon replies at once. “Doctor Palmer's health status has been successfully restored to its top potential.”

His relief is so deep it scares him. Why would he even bother to care? There is too much going on here that he doesn't understand, and he doesn't like not understanding things.

Leonard's lips curve into a sardonic smirk as he steps back. “Good.” His right hand curls into a fist. He knows only one way to deal with stuff he can't understand.

The hook turns Raymond's head from side to side. Leonard cuts his knuckles against Ray's teeth, but he's very pleased to notice his blow split Ray's lip.

Ray touches his bleeding lip, frowning.“Why would you do that?” he whines.

Leonard shakes his sore fist and reciprocates the frown: “That's for being an utter imbecile with no self-preservation instincts!”

“I did it to protect-”

“Yeah, I don't care.”

The second punch knocks Raymond out.

 

*

 

He chooses the library to lick his wounds because he figures nobody is going to come looking for him in here.

He is, of course, deplorably wrong.

He's alone for roughly ten minutes before Mick comes snooping, a bottle of beer in one hand and the other hand in his pocket. He looks very entertained by Leonard's chagrin.

“What the hell happened to your hand?”

Leonard shrugs. “Raymond and I had a little heart-to-heart.”

Mick raises his beer and winks. “'t was about time you made a move on Haircut.”

“I punched him, Mick.”

“Yeah, and that's your equivalent to courtship. Might has well have given him chocolates and roses.”

Leonard hangs his head, shakes it imperceptibly. “It's not like that.”

Mick gives no sign of having listened to a single word. He walks up to Leonard and jabs a finger into his chest: “Don't hurt him, Snart. You understand?” He glares sternly and jabs his finger again. “You hurt that nerd and I'm gonna stick your own dick up your ass.”

Leonard grins at Mick's back as he watches him saunter away. He looks down at his bleeding hand and his grin softens.

Maybe it's time for him to face his fear of the unknown.

 

*

 

“If you wanna give me another black eye you should at least wait for your hand to heal,” says Ray when Leonard shows up at his door. He doesn's sound particularly cold, which Leonard takes as a good sign.

“I come in peace,” he swears with a hand over his heart. The very same hand he used to cause the beautiful bruise swelling half of Raymond's face.

Ray glances at the improvised dressing, probably thinking of everything that is wrong with it. “Well, that is news.”

Leonard takes the provocation and lets it slip away. He can't blame him for this bitterness.

“I'm sorry, okay?” he soothes.

Ray blinks at him. “For the punches or for calling me an imbecile?”

Leonard huffs. He'd much rather skip this bullshit and get directly to the point, but he knows this is not how apologies work. Unfortunately. “Both,” he admits. “I was mad at you and couldn't think straight.”

His own words make him snicker inside, because, oh, the accidental irony is hilarious.

“Mad at me?” Ray is confused. “Why would you be mad at me?”

Leonard's forehead creases. This is worse than talking to a child.

“Do you think I enjoyed seeing you lying in there with all your ribs, your liver, your kidneys and a lung and a half crushed to a pulp?”

Ray's forehead creases, too: “I thought you didn't care about me.”

Definitely worse than talking to a child.

How dense are you?” Leonard grumbles, slamming a fist against the door frame. They're still lingering on the threshold of Ray's room and it's getting awkward really fast. “Of course I care, you dumbass! Why would I constantly put up with your endless rambling if I didn't care about you?”

“B-but you said-”

“Can't you read between the lines, Raymond?”

“Wh- I- I-”

He's adorable. Leonard will forever deny thinking it, even to himself, but Ray looks absolutely adorable like this, flushed and puzzled and shy. He has no weapons to defend himself from such a charming attack, and even if he did, he's not sou sure he would use them.

“What do I have to do with you?” he whispers, stroking the sides of Ray's neck. “I leave you for three minutes and you nearly get yourself killed. Again.”

“The Professor-” Ray tries to protest, but Leonard cuts him off.

“Yeah, I know.” He touches his forehead's to Ray's. “You're still an idiot.”

They stay like this for a moment, just breathing each other's breath. Raymond closes his eyes and Leonard allows himself to do the same. Ray's hands close around his wrists, squeeze them gently.

A sigh escapes Leonard's lips before he even knows. “Of course, of all the hot people on this ship, I had to fall for the stupid selfless saint.”

Ray jerks back. “What?”

Leonard shuts his eyes. “Fuck.”

“You just said-”

“No.”

“Yes, you-”

“No, I didn't.”

Ray takes a step back. After a brief silence, he licks his lips. “Are you- are you ashamed? Of feeling like that about me?”

“Never say that again,” Leonard spits.

“Then why-”

“Look at me, Ray,” Leonard blurts, a little too abrasively. “Crook, dirty hands, even dirtier soul, no education, a list of crimes longer than your legs upon my shoulders. Now look at you: a genius with a bunch of fancy degrees, smart, funny, brave and with a heart so big and pure it makes me sick.” He can't even look Raymond in the eye, now. “Which one of us should be ashamed of the other?”

Ray straightens his back proudly. “Not me.”

Leonard smiles at the challenging way Raymond is confronting at him. He doesn't know to what he owes such an unwavering devotion. It moves him: it makes him feel like he's worth something, after all.

“I have no idea what I've done to deserve being looked at the way you're looking at me right now,” he mutters huskily, pulling Ray to himself again. “But it must have been some impressive shit.”

Ray's eyes flicker across his face. “You have no idea.”

“Enlighten me.”

“Where to begin-”

“Not with words, Raymond,” scoffs Leonard, and barely leaves Ray the time to utter a faint 'Oh' before he pushes him into the room, sealing his mouth with a hungry kiss.

“No words,” Ray agrees breathlessly over Leonard's lips, while Leonard's hands sneak under his pyjama shirt. “I'm okay with no words.”

“Excellent.” Leonard smirks and closes the door behind them as he starts kissing Ray's neck.

He can't wait for Mick and Sara to tease about the hickeys.

Both Raymond's and his own.