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Flicker beat

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It was late, and Nate wasn't really sure what woke him, but he knew he was stiff and sore from sleeping on the floor all night, and that it was so god damned cold that he felt it in his bones and his breath came out in puffs of white condensation. 

Sara and Ava slept in a huddle, arms intertwined and bodies close for heat to his right. To his left, Behrad snored, his hair obscuring his face and drool pooling on the concrete under his face. Reluctantly, Nate forced himself into a sitting position and rubbed at his eyes. Everyone else was blissfully still sleeping soundly in their little patches of concrete, trying desperately to find a comfortable position on the cold, hard floor.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the flickering of the campfire, the only light in the endless darkness that was this chilly winter night. It took him a moment to realize that a hulking figure sat beside the flames, placing their hand into the fire before jerking it back out when the heat began to sting and blister. He recognized him immediately, and he rose to his feet with a strained grunt as his muscles protested.

Slowly, he picked his way around the sleeping bodies of his teammates, manoeuvering around Constantine who had taken up the middle of the room and was using his trenchcoat as a pillow, until he reached the place that Mick had secluded himself, alternating between staring blindly into the flames and glancing out the frosted-over window for any movement in the snow outside. 

There was no hint of madness in his eyes, not like there used to be back when Nate first joined, and he felt no fear as he lowered himself onto the concrete beside his friend, wrapping his arms around himself to ward off the chill. "Are you on watch?" He asked, trying to sound indifferent, but it was hard when he was so cold.

"No," Mick replied, not looking at him. "Couldn't sleep."

Humming, Nate watched him reach back into the fire and graciously allow the flames to lick at his palms before he pulled away, curling his hands and staring at the blisters that bloomed on his skin. "You good?" He didn't know why he asked. He knew the answer he was going to get.

"Fine," Mick grunted simply, ignoring the glances Nate send him. He wiggled his fingers, watched the flames curl around them before he pulled them out again.

"Doesn't that hurt?" Nate found himself asking without meaning to.

"Nah," Mick shrugged. "Don't really feel it. Nerves are damaged. Haven't felt anything for a long time."

It shouldn't have such a strange concept to him, considering he was the dude who could turn into solid steel and be impervious from pain, but Mick didn't have a metal exterior granted by a modified Nazi serum. He just had him, and the burns that covered his arms like a second skin, and the damage he had done to himself a very long time ago. But he nodded anyway. It wouldn't do any good to ask Mick to explain himself. 

Behind him, the rest of the team snored softly, soundly asleep. There was nothing Nate wanted more than to curl up on his little patch of concrete and hopefully sleep until the next morning and they could get the hell out of this storage shed and head for another adventure, but he probably couldn't sleep now even if he tried. 

Instead, he unwrapped his arms from around his torso and concentrated, watching as the familiar metal sheen enveloped him and his flesh became encased in glistening steel. He flexed his fingers, watching as the flames from the firepit made light dance across the surface. The glint from the metal caught Mick's eye, and he turned to see what he was doing with a scowl. "Go back to sleep, Pretty. I can keep watch by myself."

"Well, maybe I can't sleep either," Nate said, and Mick snorted as he returned his gaze to the flames. "You know, I've been thinking about Lita a lot, lately."

"You've what?" Mick demanded. Nate was thankful that they had been travelling together for a long time, otherwise, he would have been worried that Mick was going to take one of the wooden sticks from the fireplace and beat him with it. It took a few more steps to get to that point, these days.

"No, not like that," Nate laughed because he had to. "She's just... brilliant. It almost feels like she was the person this team has been waiting for. Like, the missing piece of a puzzle."

"I hate puzzles," Mick said. "Too much work for a picture when you could just look at it on the box."

"You know what I mean," Nate wiggled his fingers, and the metal grated together. "She's fantastic. An honorary Legend. You should be proud."

"Can't really be proud of someone you don't even know," Mick replied. He held out his hand just a little too long until even Nate started feeling a little anxious before he pulled it away and clenched his fists in his lap.

"Well, I don't know her that well either," Nate shrugged. "But I'm still glad that I got to meet her."

Mick didn't reply. He stared into the flames, the light flickering in his eyes like a dark mirror and his jaw fluttering as he clenched it. "You're afraid. Of me," he said simply. "Afraid that I'm going to burn this place down with the rest of you lot inside it."

"Nah," Nate let his face shift to cool, indifferent metal and let it slide down his arms, progressing, moving away and down his body like a wave of liquid steel. "I'm afraid that it's going to snow like this all day tomorrow as well. I don't know if I can cope with another full day of trudging through snow and freezing my butt off. I've got thin skin. I used to be a hemophiliac, you know."

Grunting, Mick's shoulders were stiff, and his neck was tense with veins. "I haven't wanted to in a while," he said. "Light fires. Burn things to the ground. I still have that urge, sometimes, but I've never done nothing about it. Not when any of you could get hurt."

"You know we trust you, right? We've trusted you with our lives many times over," Nate said. "I don't think any of us are worried about leaving you alone near a fire, dude. I don't think anyone has been worried about that for a very long time."

Thankfully, Mick was spared from answering by a voice from behind them, groggy and annoyed and rough with sleep. "Oi," Charlie hissed, pushing her hair out of her face with one hand as she scowled at them. "Bookclub. Some of us are actually trying to sleep over here. What the hell are you still doing up?"

"Keeping watch," Mick growled.

"Can't sleep," Nate supplied.

"Well, whatever you're doing, can you keep it down?" Charlie complained. "You're louder than a flock of hungry harpies. Go to sleep, you freaks. We won't be carrying you around on our shoulders tomorrow if you start to lag behind."

"Right," Nate said, clapping Mick on the back, ignoring his glower as he released the final bit of concentration he had on his metallic limbs. He was happy to see his skin back to its regular shade. "Mick and I were just heading back to bed. Weren't we, big guy?'

He stood as Mick muttered something noncommital to his back. Charlie laid back down as Nate manoeuvered around John and Behrad until he arrived, once again, to his small patch of concrete, now cold from his absence and just as comfortable as cold concrete could be. He wondered, just for a moment, if he could feel temperature or comfortability through his steel skin, but wasn't sure how long he could keep it up while he was sleeping.

A moment later, he heard heavy shuffling as Mick stood from his sentinel at the campfire and he stepped around sleeping bodies until he found his own section of hard ground to fall asleep on, and Nate couldn't help but smile into the darkness as the fire began to flicker and fade into nothing.