Leonard Snart pulls his leather jacket tighter around him, fighting the wind to stay upright as he crosses Ivy Town city park.
(He could do with his parka, right about now.)
Central City may have tried to stab Len in the back on a near-daily basis, but at least the weather was predictable. Clear skies and a light breeze, every day from March to November. Maybe the mediocre weather is the reason Len has always drifted back there, no matter where else his life - and job - has taken him. Some kind of tie always dragged him back. He’d be on a sweltering beach in Jamaica, in the middle of a very rewarding long con, and he’d start thinking the about the Motorcar, and the crappy little library at the docks where he used to do his research for jobs before he could afford his own computer, and the iced lattes at CC Jitters. He’d even start pining for that one shitty safe house where the roof leaked so bad, he used to let Mick light barrel fires in the middle of the warehouse floor. Lisa would follow the score all the way to Gotham and stay there, but Len just kept coming back. When she asked him why, he’d just shrug. “Central City is a shithole,” he’d tell her, “but it’s home.”
(He can’t remember where his parka is.)
Leaving Central City was Len’s biggest mistake in a long, long time. He doesn’t know what he was thinking, running off on a ridiculous mission to save a shitty world. Oh sure, a younger version of himself would have adored it, with his Star Wars novels and little lego models of the Enterprise. But it wasn’t fun, like it should have been. In one universe-shaking crisis after the next, Len drifted further and further from where he was meant to be, all the way to his own pointless death.
And just to piss him off, nearly a decade later, dimensions collided, and something dragged Len back onto the bridge of the Waverider, ignoring his screams as he fought to stay fucking dead. Seems the damn universe wanted Leonard Snart in it, and it never even bothered telling him why.
(Why can’t he remember where he left it?)
Of course, almost as soon as Len’s atoms had reformed, that old tie to Central Shitty started pulling at him. Once his mind was mostly his own again, all he wanted to see was that unremarkable skyline, littered with identical barely-skyscraper office buildings, their pattern only broken by the scarred shadow of STAR Labs. That diner, that library, that wreck of a safe house… and all the other little memory boxes that could unlock Len’s life again. So, like a man finally coming to his senses and escaping the longest con of his life, he stole a time courier and programmed it for Central City Library. Seemed as good a place to start as any.
It took him longer to find the docks than he would ever admit, but finally he spotted a familiar single-story shack. But not familiar enough. It was an abandoned shell, DO NOT ENTER warning tape plastered all over it. There had been some kind of leak, a passing dock worker told Len. “Blew the whole side of the building off. Lucky it was at night, huh?”
Len walked to the Motorcar. From the outside, it looked the same as ever. He didn’t recognize any of the staff through the window, but that was only to be expected, after the decade he was refusing to think about. He paused to scan the menu pasted in the glass door. Had the fuckers seriously themed it? Burgers with ridiculous ’50s names. No giant club sandwich. No Motorcar Special double cheeseburgers. None of the milkshakes he remembered sharing with his grandfather - even if Len would be hard pressed to name a single one, now. “Tourists,” Len muttered, glaring at the well-dressed people beyond the glass, wondering what the hell there was to tour in Central City. Had these assholes come here hoping for an evil meta attack to spice up their day? The old Len would have gone inside anyway, lifted a few wallets, but he wasn’t in the mood. He moved on.
When he asked for a Captain Cold at Jitters, the waitress behind the counter tilted her head and asked if he meant a Killer Frost.
“No, I do not.” Len didn’t mean to snap at a probably beleaguered service employee, but by now his patience had more holes in it than his memory. “I mean a Captain Cold. Original nemesis of the Flash, immortalized in a strong, bitter dark roast. Served ice cold.” Len scanned the list above the counter once more, failing to spot his drink among the interminable list of superhero names - exactly how big was Team Flash these days? - paired with coffees that sounded terrible.
“Oh!” The girl’s eyes lit up, and Len let himself breathe a sigh. “Yeah, I remember now. We stopped serving that - oh, six years ago, I guess. People stopped asking for it. I could make you a Vibe? That’s a strong one.”
Coffee-less, Len headed for the other side of town. He passed right by CCPD, where he’d pulled many a happy escape before anyone could get him near Iron Heights. But the memory only spawned a thousand images of timelines he’d never lived. No one even sprinted out of the building to arrest him. Len moved on.
He walked along the section of street where - he was almost sure - he and Mick had crossed the streams fighting the Flash. A dark, singed spot on the sidewalk sparked nothing but the vaguest of recollections, and a mess of timelines branching out, showing him all the other ways that fight might have gone. He moved on.
He didn’t linger near STAR Labs. Even if anyone there still remembered him, they’d hardly be happy to see him. He kept walking, all the way to the Danville slums, where the row of warehouses was right where he expected it to be.
And they were the wrong warehouses.
These weren’t abandoned factories gone to ground, fallen into criminal hands. While Len stared, people and trucks moved in and out of busy office parking lots. The building where he and Mick had lived for decades was a fucking Amazon delivery center.
Len turned, heading out towards the bridge to Keystone. He didn’t know what city this was, but it sure wasn’t home anymore.
A couple of months of wandering have led Len here, to Ivy Town. He might as well have closed his eyes and plopped a finger on the map, but it’s somewhere to be, while he figures out what the hell he’s going to do with the life he thought was over.
Today Len’s rambling feet have taken him all the way to the city park. He somehow ends up here every Saturday - not that he’d call it a routine after just a few weeks in town. He wanders through the big, pointlessly sprawling green space, past the children’s playground - ah, that unmistakable noise, just as irritating no matter what city it’s in. He pauses at a bandstand where a mediocre college marching band is entertaining a few damp onlookers, but the music isn’t worth sticking around for. Passing the ice cream stand, Len considers stopping to get one, for old times’ sake, but the line puts him off. “Students,” he mutters, to an elderly man sitting on a bench. “More of a plague on this city than metahumans in Central…” The old man ignores him. Probably just as well.
Len is thinking about heading out to find something real to eat, when a sign pointing towards the far corner of the park catches his eye. Petting Zoo. He can’t resist the first smile he’s allowed himself in weeks.
Lenny, can we go see the goats?
Petting zoo again, Lisa? That’s really how you wanna spend your Saturday? Hey, we could go to the museum, see some big dino skele—
Len finds the dollar entrance fee in the lining of his jacket, while he tries not to let himself wonder if it got lost in there before he died. One squeaky turnstile later, he’s staring at three mournful sheep, huddled together in the corner of an enclosure. He taps the fence, but the little flock just stay where they are. “You don’t like the rain either, huh? I can respect that.”
Figuring he’s getting no entertainment out of the sheep, Len drifts on to a tiny pond. “At least someone’s having fun in this weather,” he quips at the ducks. The ducks ignore him.
Len leans back against the fence, glancing around. It’s pretty much just him and the farm animals. Figures, in this rain. The only other people here are a dad - presumably - with a little girl, dressed in matching red raincoats, petting some goats. They’re turned away from Len, but he finds himself listening to the dad’s patient, gentle patter. Is that a familiar voice? With the holes in his memory, Len is not sure. The little girl doesn’t seem like a big talker, but her father is doing enough chattering for the both of them.
“Here, feel his head, Ru. It’s all soft and fuzzy. That’s it. Yeah, you like him?”
“Goat,” the little girl finally says. The word is flat, but she’s bouncing from foot to foot, clearly very fond of her baby goat.
The dad makes an enthusiastic sound. “That’s right! What do goats say? ...No? I know you know baa. Well, technically I guess that’s for sheep. What do goats say? Huh, that’s a stumper. Hey, do you want to go see the sheep, Ruvé? We can baa at them all day, and no one will accuse us of being inaccurate in our onomatopeic conventions.”
“Goat,” the little girl insists again.
Len chuckles. He’s placed the voice, at last. The only conundrum left is whether to announce himself to the owner of said voice. Definite pros and cons to that one.
Like it always does these days, the universe makes the decision for him.
“Leonard?” The dad has turned around, staring back at Len like he’s seeing a ghost. From his perspective, he kind of is.
“Raymond Palmer.” Len can’t keep the smile off his face, as hard as he tries. He’s at the goat pen before he can rethink the wisdom of this. He hesitates, just for a moment, and then he holds out his hand to Ray.
Ray grasps it, shaking far too hard. “Leonard! Sara said something about you being back, but I almost didn’t believe her. Scratch that, I didn’t believe her at all. Who comes back from the dead? That’s a little far out, even for the Legends. I mean, I guess Sara did the resurrection thing a few times, but that’s just Sara. How are you? Also, how are you here?” Before Len can get a word in edgewise, Ray slaps his forehead. “Where are my manners? Meet my daughter. Ruvé, this is Leonard Snart.”
It suddenly feels a lot less awkward to talk to the little girl than to answer Raymond’s ramble. Len drops down into a crouch. The little girl scowls at him, which Len can respect. “Hi. I’m Len. It’s nice to meet you, Ruvé.” He nods towards the goats. “You like cows, hmm?”
Ruvé breaks a smile. “Goat,” she corrects him, and giggles.
Len grins. He glances up towards the cafe. There’s one thing that could make talking to Raymond a bit less challenging. No lines - maybe the students don’t bother coming out as far as the petting zoo. “Do you and your dad like ice cream, Ruvé? I’ve been waiting all day for one.” Len cocks his head at Ray, not quite apologizing for leaving him stuck with the consequences of a sugar rush for the rest of the morning.
Ruvé looks up at her dad with big, begging eyes, and Raymond visibly melts. It’s kind of cute. “Ice cream sounds great, doesn’t it, Ru?”
Clearly delighted, Ruvé starts skipping towards the cafe. “Ice cream!” she calls back over her shoulder.
“Stay close, Ru!” her dad cautions, and the skipping slows down. Ray makes a huh noise at Len. “That was only the second word she’s said all day. She must like you.”
“You sound surprised, Raymond,” Len drawls. He sweeps his hand around at the uninterested farm creatures. “Captain Cold, beloved by children and animals the world over.”
Ray scoffs. “I doubt that.” When Len grins back, Ray mirrors him. “It’s good to see you, Leonard.”
Len tilts his head. “I’d say it’s nice to be seen, but whether I believe that really depends on the day.”
Ray’s ever-happy expression falters. At once, Len regrets being the cause of that. “And today?”
Before he can keep it in, a strangely positive sound escapes Len. “Is improving.”
The smile Raymond gives him makes it worth the admission.
“It’s good to get out of the rain,” Ray says, as they sit down at one of the three tables in the tiny cafe.
Len is inclined to agree. “I’ve been damp for a week. The weather in this town is more bleak than the Oculus.” Len chuckles at Ruvé, who’s beaming at soft serve ice cream in a cup that’s almost bigger than her. He gets a shy smile, before the kid turns her entire focus on her treat. Ray is nibbling on trail mix, because of course he said he didn’t need the sugar. Which left Len having to step up and get the ice cream he’s been craving all day - mint choc chip - so Ruvé wouldn’t feel like she was indulging alone. Well, that probably doesn’t bother three-year-olds, but it’s the principle of the thing. As Len tells Ray. Who laughs.
Hearing that laugh again makes Len’s stomach do a weird somersault. If he’s honest, Len hasn’t thought about Raymond since he’s been back. But if he had, Len would have wondered if the years had broken Ray’s indomitable spirit. And here he is, the same old, cheerful Raymond, but more himself - confident, free of some of his old self-doubt, maybe even happy. It’s… an unexpected gift.
Len nods in the kid’s direction. “You seem happy, Raymond.” He adds, “It’s nice to see,” and finds he honestly means it.
Ray’s smile is so genuine, it’s painful. “I am,” he agrees softly. He slaps the table, not noticing how it makes Len jump a bit. “I should give you some backstory! I married Nora - former witch, current fairy godmother, she joined the Legends after your time. Then I got offered a job at Ivy Town U, so…” Ray indicates their general surroundings. “Here I am.”
Len mouths fairy godmother, but clearly Ray isn’t going to explain that. Len forces a smile. “Would have put bets on you ending up a family man.” He’s pleased for Raymond. Really. No need to let him know how the idea of a married Ray Palmer hurts like startling disappointment. Len is definitely not going to mention how he had already started to hope Ray was a single father - divorced, maybe, or a widower.
(Leonard Snart - a fine specimen of a human being. No wonder the universe saw fit to ruin a life he didn’t want back, with a ten-year time skip and powers that shatter his mind a few times a day.)
Ray’s soft smile is more compassionate than Len can handle. “You’ll like her,” he promises. “Nora, I mean.”
Len doesn’t answer.
“So. What about you?” Raymond changes the subject so skilfully, he must have noticed Len’s discomfort. Awkward. “What brings you to Ivy Town, right after your legendary return from the dead?”
A snort escapes Len, entirely without his permission. “Bad pun, Raymond.”
Ray’s cheeky grin is as dazzling as ever.
Len makes himself focus on Ray’s question. “No real reason. Central City was getting me down. Been wandering.” He glances up at the limestone buildings visible past the window, just beyond the park. “I was in Ivy Town for a while, years ago. I remembered it being a sleepy, thoughtful kinda place. Thought I might as well see if I could still tolerate it.”
“Oh yeah?” Across the table, Ray smiles at him. “What were you doing here? Studying?”
That one makes Len laugh out loud. (How long has it been since he’s really laughed?) “Hardly. Mick and I were here to steal a Monet that was on loan to the university. They barely bothered with security - easy pickings.” He grins at Ray’s fallen expression. “If it makes up for it, I did pose as a student. Claimed to be studying philosophy.” At least, Len thinks it was philosophy. He knows he conned a professor into thinking Len was taking her class - he just can’t remember the details. If there’s one constant in his life, these days, it’s his crapshoot of a memory.
Ray chuckles. “Well, that does all fit your MO.” He swings back in his seat, studying Len like one of his science experiments. For no reason that he can explain, Len lets himself be studied. “What’s with the wandering, Leonard? You always said you loved Central City. And here you are, with a second chance at life, and you haven’t gone back there? What about your sister, and Mick…?”
Len blows out a sigh. Raymond wants him to get real. Well, it’s not like Len’s got anything else to do. “Mick’s changed.” He draws idle patterns on the table with his finger. “You must have seen that happening, up close.” He glances up in time to see Ray’s nod and little smile. “He was happy I was back, but he’s got his daughter, and his alien girlfriend taking him to see the stars… a whole life. I could never have fit in it again.”
“And Lisa?” Ray asks, far too gently.
Only Ray Palmer would have remembered Len’s sister’s name, years after he died. “She’s taken over the Rogues - my old crew. She’s good at it, too. They wanted out of Central, what with the Families still running the show there. They’re on the move now, going where the big scores are. I’m happy for ‘em.” Ray raises an eyebrow. Len sighs, wondering how Raymond is getting all of this out of him. “I am - really. It’s just been a long ten years, and I’ve missed it all. People change.” He taps his chest. “Except the ones who don’t.”
Len must look tragic, because a hand slides across the table to still his own. Raymond and feelings. Of course he’d zero in on all the ways Len is vulnerable right now. But somehow, it doesn’t feel dangerous. It feels… comforting. “Give yourself time,” Ray says quietly. “You died, Leonard. And you only just got back. To you, those ten years never even happened. It’s okay to take some time to figure out who you are now.”
Len stares up at Ray, before the eye contact gets too much and he has to glance away. He can’t deny there was an attraction between the two of them, back on the Waverider. It was buried under mutual irritation at their very different personalities, but it was there. Those few months were a hurricane of disasters, and there wouldn’t have been time to do anything about that attraction, even if Len had wanted to. He’d thought about it… but it hadn’t been in the plan.
A horribly familiar whirring starts up in his brain. Timelines start branching out. In a few universes, Len told Raymond how he felt about him, in the midst of the chaos, and there was only time for a couple of nights together before Len died. He sees other timelines, where he didn’t die, and a real relationship bloomed. Others, where Ray wasn’t interested, where he stayed with Kendra, where he left the ship, where he—
Ray interrupts Len’s drop down, down, down into swirling quicksand. “Leonard.” A hand in the dark. Len clings on.
He takes a slow breath, counting up in prime numbers, till all he can see is the quiet cafe. Ruvé has found a book from somewhere and has her head buried in it. At the counter, the waitress is humming along with the radio. Ray’s hand is warm in Len’s. “Thanks,” Len murmurs. “Sorry.” Raymond is watching him with a curious look. “The Oculus,” Len explains, no longer bothering to wonder why he’s telling Ray any this. “It has a weird effect on me, sometimes. I see other timelines. Shit that didn’t happen. Makes it hard to remember what did, sometimes.”
Ray’s expression softens with compassion that Len doesn’t know if he wants. But it looks like he’s got it. “Why are you alone with this, Leonard?”
Len scoffs. “Who’d wanna be burdened with this shit?”
“You’d be surprised.” Before Len can react to that, Ray bangs both his hands down on the table again. Len winces again. Ray fails to notice, again. “That settles it. You’re not spending another lonely night eating takeout in a motel room - at least, I assume that’s what you’ve been doing for the past few weeks. You’re coming home for dinner with me, Nora and Ruvé. ”
Len doesn’t know what it feels like to get a deer-in-headlights look, but he thinks he might be having one now. “I don’t want to impose—”
“Nonsense. I insist. In fact, I’m texting Nora right now.”
Len could make the phone on the table disappear before Ray could lay a hand on it, but stealing that blatantly from an old friend seems a little rude. And it’s too late, anyway. Len is left cursing his newfound conscience while Raymond tap-taps enthusiastically.
A little hand pulls on Len’s sleeve. He looks down to see Ruvé grinning an identical grin to her father’s. “Dinner!” she agrees.
Len rolls his eyes. “Thought you were on my side,” he whispers. Ruvé giggles, and her head disappears into her book again.
“Well, that decides it.” Ray puts his phone down, a little too triumphantly for Len’s liking. “Nora says she’s super excited to meet you, and she happened to get an extra large chicken to roast tonight anyway, so there’s plenty of food.”
Leonard Snart, who has conned his way out of more tricky situations than he can count, can’t think of a single excuse to get him out of this dinner invitation.
I don’t want to get out of it, whispers a long-buried, honest part of him. All he wants is more time with Raymond. No matter what strings are attached.
“Dinner sounds good,” he sighs.
From behind her book, Ruvé cheers.
Nora is not what Len was expecting.
He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this fiery woman in blue cargo pants and a matching blue t-shirt, muttering at a laptop on the kitchen counter, while she checks if the chicken is done, while she kisses Ruvé’s head and tells her to go wash up, while she bashes out what looks to be a very irate reply to an email.
Ray just stands back and beams at her. “She’s magical,” he says, in a hopelessly smitten voice. He blinks, seemingly having forgotten Len was there for a second. “Oh, I mean literally - the fairy godmother magic. I’ve seen her do six things at once. It’s very impressive.”
“Ever offer to take some of those things off her hands?” Len deadpans, enjoying the very familiar roll of Raymond’s eyes. “Good to meet you, Nora. Can I help, at all?”
Nora accepts the bottle of wine he stopped to get on the way here. “You must be Leonard. I’m so glad you could make it. Hey, Ray! Leonard brought Merlot. Why aren’t all your friends this classy?”
She really does seem to be glad Len is there - another surprise. While Nora shoos Ray off to check that Ruvé is actually washing up, Len tries again to offer help, and is again turned down. He leans back against the kitchen counter, realizing he’s going to have to attempt some kind of conversation. “Kind of you to invite me.”
Nora chuckles, while she stabs at a pan of broccoli with a fork. “As if I was going to turn down the chance to meet the famous Leonard Snart. Ray’s been talking about you every day since I met him.”
Len tries hard not to blink at her. “He has?”
She smiles up at him, even as the stabbing intensifies. “Oh, yeah. You made quite the impression, in the few months you two were on the ship together.”
Best to side-step that issue, Len decides. “Has that broccoli offended you?”
Nora tilts her head at the pan in defeat. “I’m not the greatest cook. I hope you’ve got really good teeth - this is never gonna be soft enough to eat.”
Len splutters a laugh. “Cooking, I am not offering to help with. If you’re not the greatest, I’m the actual worst.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” Nora gestures around the comfortable house. “I’m still not really used to any of this.” Len raises an enquiring eyebrow. “Domesticity. My life was pretty much the exact opposite of this, till I met Ray.”
Every time she says Raymond’s name, the most adoring little smile softens her face. It’s the kind of sickly-sweet thing that would usually inspire Len to make vomit noises. Weirdly, on Nora, it’s kind of enchanting.
“Ahh.” Len leans on his elbow against the counter, contemplating Nora, who is now trying to pull the fork out of the broccoli. She looks ordinary enough - apart from the whole magic thing, which Len is very determined not to ask about. But he knows that even the most normal-looking people can have complicated backstories. “I get it. Spent years living in safe houses. Most of ‘em didn’t even have stoves.”
Nora makes a huh noise. Then she glances over her shoulder. “Ray,” she calls out, “did you and Ru walk to a well for water to wash up in? Remind me to tell you how the pipes work!” She turns back to Len. “Safe houses like, criminal safe houses?”
“Mm-hmm.” Len watches for reactions, but there’s no sign Nora is about to toss Len out of her house - yet. “Bit of a wasted youth. Followed by a squandered 20s and 30s, and a worthless middle age…” He appreciates Nora’s grin, since that was barely a joke.
“And here I thought spending most of my life in a demon cult was interesting. I can’t wait to hear your stories.”
If Len thought she was kidding, the look on Nora’s face convinces him otherwise. Len’s assessment of Ray’s sweet wife goes up a few notches. His curious mind starts wondering how she made it out. “Still. I can’t even be trusted to put eggs in a microwave, and here you are roasting a chicken? You’re clearly ahead in the cooking department.”
“Do not put eggs in the microwave!” Ray yells, as if Len is threatening to do that right now. He sprints in beside Nora, wrapping an arm around her. “I think Ru’s a bit peopled out. I said she could eat in her room and join us for dessert if she feels up to it. That’s okay, right?”
By rights, Len shouldn’t be feeling up to a very social dinner himself. He doesn’t know why he wants to spend time with Raymond - and with the fascinating Nora. He just does.
Nora’s glance deeper into the house betrays that instinctive mix of concern and love that only a good mother can balance. “Of course it’s okay. Should I go check on her?”
Ray kisses Nora’s head. “Nope. She’s fine. Hey, we’re having broccoli? Can I finish cooking?”
Len has never seen someone pull off an apron so fast.
For at least the first half of the meal, Len listens more than he talks. He’s sociable enough - answers Nora and Ray’s questions, and he might even be entertaining with it. But he’s also busy taking the measure of the two of them.
Of course they’re perfect together. The kind of perfect they make shitty Hallmark movies about, but these two are so much more real. Against his better judgement, Len can’t help being a little bit captivated by them. That’s… not ideal.
Nora makes an odd kind of sense to him. She’s all smiles - most even seem to be authentic - until she’s not. There’s an elastic band inside her. Len would wager it’s not pulled quite as taut as it used to be, but it still snaps occasionally. Like when Ray, through a mouthful of potatoes, says, “Hey, hon, tell Leonard about that disastrous spell on the Waverider, when we tried to raise a demon and ended up burning everything to ash, pretty much. Mick said he couldn’t have done a better job with his own heat gun.” Ray laughs, wistful memories crinkling his face.
Nora is not laughing. “I don’t think Leonard needs to hear silly stories about all the times I messed up in the magic arena, Ray,” she not-quite-snaps at her chicken.
“Oh, come on - we both messed up that—” Ray’s face falls as he catches sight of Nora’s. This is an old dance for her, and Ray is still learning the steps. If Len knows his own version of this waltz by heart, that’s not the point.
Demon cult, Len remembers.
As plates are scraped empty, Ray’s worried glances become more frequent. “I should check on Ru,” he finally says.
Nora lays a gentle hand on his arm. “Give her another five minutes. I’ll go and make noises about pie after that. She’ll come running.”
Ray taps Nora’s hand on his arm. “You’re right.” He meets Len’s eyes. “Ruvé is autistic. We try to give her lots of space to be herself.”
Len inclines his head in Ray’s direction. “I wasn’t going to ask, but— She’s your daughter. Makes sense.”
The proud smile that splits Ray’s face is, irritatingly, kind of adorable. “She’s like me, for sure.” He narrows his eyes at Len. “So you noticed she's… different?”
Len cocks his head left, then right. “I’m told I only said one or two words a day till I was about four, too.”
Ray makes a huh sound. “You’re autistic?”
“You sound surprised, Raymond,” Len deadpans. “I assume you are aware that autistic folks can be all kinds - master thieves, tech geniuses, very smart smaller people who prefer goats to all other farm animals - hmm?”
He’s rewarded with a spluttering Ray. “Of course! I just meant… I just didn’t know you…”
A laughing Nora rescues him, squeezing his arm. “I’m pretty sure Leonard is kidding, hon.”
Len allows himself one grin at Ray. The matching smile he gets back is worth it.
Nora settles back in her chair. “So, Leonard.” She makes a face at the empty plates. “Can I stall on the cleaning up, with a question that might get a bit personal?”
Usually, the idea of personal questions would raise Len’s hackles. With Nora, it just makes him curious. “You may. But I insist on doing the clean-up after that, to thank you for dinner. You can sit here and direct.”
“Oh please,” Ray protests. “You’re the guest. We wouldn’t leave the work to you.”
Nora is already asking her question, which keeps Len from insisting. “I’ve heard all kinds of tall tales about Leonard Snart from my husband, but I never thought he’d be sitting at my dinner table. And now here I am in the presence of a famous master thief—”
“—Not a master thief, the master thief.” Ray is looking at Len with the strangest expression. It’s not so far from the way he looks at Nora, of all things. Len has no idea what to do with that, so he stops thinking about it.
Nora pats Ray’s arm. “Yes, sweetie, so you’ve said.” She turns back to Len. “Here I am with the man himself, and I haven’t heard a single story about your life as a thief.”
Her eyes are twinkling. She really means it, and Len finds he doesn’t mind. He hasn’t taken a trip down memory lane since he was resurrected. Not except for Oculus visions, which don’t count. He swings back in his chair. “My mind isn’t as sharp as it was,” he warns Nora. “Coming back from the dead kinda dented it. You might not get the most accurate version.” The soft smile he gets from Nora is still interested. “Well, let’s see what I can drag up. Raymond ever tell you the one about the Kahndaq Dynasty Diamond?”
Half an hour later, no plates have been cleared, and some very entertaining stories have been shared. Len doesn’t even need to embellish to leave these two laughing in delight. Ray is doing enough exaggerating for the both of them, anyway. “And then Leonard swept Dr Vostock off her feet, swiped her wallet, and the secrets of Soviet Firestorm were ours for the taking.”
“Not quite how I remember it, Raymond, but you keep telling yourself that.”
Nora chuckles. “You do have a very creative memory,” she tells her husband, who just smiles fondly at her. “The Waverider came at the height of your career, then, Leonard?”
Len takes a sip from his almost-empty wine glass. “You could say that.” He meets her curious eyes. “Been doing this a long time.”
“Is that so?” she shoots right back.
She sounds so much like him, Len doesn’t know whether to laugh or freeze. He runs a finger around his wine glass. “I was raised to it.” Just to poke back, he adds, “Like you were raised to what you do, hmm?”
Ray chooses that moment to make himself scarce. Well, it settles the argument about who’s cleaning up.
Len forces himself to lift his gaze. There’s fire in Nora’s eyes. For a moment, Len thinks he’s about to have some of her magic turned on him. If she’s as formidable as he suspects, it’s going to hurt.
And then she slumps back in her seat with a sigh. “You’re as cute and enchanting as Ray tells it, but you’re as much of a bastard as he said you were, too.”
Len can’t help a laugh. He doesn’t want her to think he’s mocking, but— “Guilty. And you’re about as direct as I’d expect a witch to be.”
Nora snorts. “Back when I was a witch, you’d have been right.” She chews her lip. Len gets the distinct sense that she’s measuring him up. “Raised to thieving, how, exactly?”
It’s not the fault of his kind host that Len is Len. Answering her questions is the least he can do to make up for it. He keeps his eyes on her reflection in his wine glass. “If you think I’m a bastard, my father made me look like a damn saint. He had some pretty brutal ways of making sure I turned out the way he wanted. Raised me to be a better thief than he was.” He turns the glass. Nora’s image shatters, over and over. “Not exactly difficult, but I far surpassed every expectation he had. Made it my business to be the best of the best.”
There’s something hard in Nora’s eyes, but Len doesn’t think that’s about him. “Been there.”
“Yeah?” Len asks her reflection. He suspects he won’t have to have to push any harder than that.
Nora nods. “It’s a complicated story - you know what time travel is like - but my father had me raised by a demon cult so I could bring him from the dead.” Her voice is distant. Quiet. “I existed for one purpose. That’s what my magic meant.”
Len exhales slowly. “Yeah. Knowing you were created to be nothing by a tool to make up for your parents’ fucked-up inadequacy… It sucks. I chose to own it, and make my talents about me.” Finally, he lifts his eyes to meet hers. “You went your own way. That’s good too.”
Nora smiles back at him. “Yeah. It is.”
He lets his smile turn a little bit wicked. “Ray really said I was cute and enchanting?”
“Oh, yeah.” Nora casts a sly look over her shoulder. Behind her, Ray is loudly clattering in the kitchen. That might be the only reason Nora tilts her head at Len, and adds, “You know he’s been in love with you for a long time, right?”
Len barely manages not to spit out a mouthful of Merlot. “What? That’s ridiculous.”
“Is it?” Nora asks, in a far-too-playful voice.
Ray, in the cage in Vandal Savage’s house, looking at Len like he’s worth something.
Ray, taking all Len’s teasing just a little too hard.
Ray, so clearly jealous of Valentina Vostok, and Len brushing it off as a silly bit of hero worship.
Ray, inviting Len for a nightcap when they get back to the Waverider that night. Len, turning him down.
He shakes it off. Nora’s just teasing. It’s a weird kind of joke, but that’s what it is. How many wives would be this pleased to meet a man their husband was really in love with?
But if she’s not kidding…
Len arches an eyebrow. “And you’re fine with that, are you?”
Nora chuckles. “I’m delighted.” Her face pulls tight in a sudden frown. “Ray and I are polyamorous. He did mention that, didn’t he?”
Len puts his glass down. “No,” he says, clipped. “He did not.”
Nora jerks her head over her shoulder. “Ray, get back in here!”
For a second, the urge to run overwhelms Len. He’s getting the feeling this is all a hell of a lot less complicated than he imagined. Complicated is good. Complicated keeps things from getting personal. A nice dinner, a little pining, and Len thought he’d be done with cute, annoying Raymond - who Len never knew he’d missed this much - and his spiky, captivating wife.
And now it’s all starting to look very simple indeed.
Ray comes running in, wiping his hands on a dish towel. “Hi!” He plops himself back into his seat. “What are we talking about?”
“What a good question,” Len mutters to the tabletop.
Nora folds her arms. Her eyes are still twinkling. It’s nearly as annoying as Raymond’s hapless smile. “Ray, when you ran into Leonard at the park, it was a random coincidence, wasn’t it?”
And Ray looks back at her like a cat that’s been caught stealing cream out of the fridge.
If Len was capable of processing any of this, he’d be muttering, No way in hell. Ray Palmer is no underhanded schemer.
“Ray,” Nora says, in a tone that threatens something if Ray doesn’t answer.
“It wasn’t a coincidence!” Ray squeaks. Len gets it - he’d be squeaking a quick reply to that tone too, in Raymond’s place. Ray turns a guilty look on Len. “I… kinda might have seen you hanging around Ivy Town for the past few weeks. Everyone knows Leonard Snart is predictable. You like your routine. Saturdays, you go to the park.”
“I am not predictable!” Len snaps. When did Ray get this observant? And more to the point: “When did you start watching me?”
Ray fidgets in his chair. “Uh, a couple of weeks ago. So I kinda might have gone to the park ahead of you today. You weren’t at the ice cream stand, so I took the chance to take Ru to the petting zoo. While kinda hoping you might end up there too. If you hadn’t, I would have wandered back to the ice cream stand.” Now very red in the face, Ray doesn’t seem to be able to stop talking. “That’s where you spend most of your time in the park. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time watching you, or anything. Nope.”
Len doesn’t get a chance to react to any of that verbal vomit. Nora shoots back with a follow-up question, which seems less relevant than the list of objections Len is making in his head. “Ray, did you have a motive behind inviting Len for dinner, beyond wanting to reconnect with an old friend?”
This time, it seems to be the look on Nora’s face that leaves Ray stammering. “I... might have...”
“No way in hell,” Len mutters. Out loud, this time. No one pays him much attention. That’s annoying, too.
Nora taps a couple of fingers on the table. Idly, Len wonders if they’re her spell-casting fingers - assuming that’s how fairy godmothers do magic. Then she turns the full force of her intimidating expression on Len. “He really didn’t tell you he’s in love with you?”
In sync, Len and Ray shake their heads.
A sly smile creeps across Nora’s face. “And you didn’t tell him you’re in love with him.”
Ray spits out a mouthful of Merlot. “He’s what?”
Len inclines his head in a slow, resigned nod. “Thanks for catching up to where I’ve been for the past fifteen minutes, Raymond. I was getting lonely.”
While Nora pats his back, Ray just splutters for a minute. At last, actual words make their way out. “I didn’t tell you we’re poly, either, did I?”
Len gives him the best Captain Cold smirk he can manage. “No, but your lovely wife obliged.”
In the midst of this chaos, Ruvé slips quietly into a seat at the table, with a knowing smirk that could rival Len’s.
Len sighs at the kid. “I really was the last to know, wasn’t I?”
Len pours out another glass of wine.
While he drinks it, there’s more talking.
“Ray, you’re perfectly capable of communication. You could talk for America at the Olympics. Now you just need to work on the direct part.”
And some more.
“I wouldn’t say I conspired, exactly! I just didn’t know what else to do...”
“Except follow Leonard around, pining after him?”
And a bit more.
“Do I actually have to clock you both over the heads with this empty wine bottle before you kiss, or would you like to try it without?”
Len tilts his head at Ruvé, who is still smirking at him.
Rolling her eyes, Nora gets up and takes Ruvé hand. “Pie time?”
Ray waits till they’re gone, in the direction of the kitchen. Then he shuffles across into the seat by Len. “Ru’s seen me kiss plenty of people,” he offers, apparently as some kind of defense.
Len snorts. “I’m still not doing this for the first time in front of an audience. Not your daughter or your wife.” Ray’s hand is flat on the table. Len covers it with his own, weaving his fingers into Ray’s. He can no longer hear the voice in his head that’s been wondering, all night, what the hell Len is thinking. “Raymond, exactly how long have you...”
“—Been in love with you?”
Maybe Len doesn’t want an answer. Part of him doesn’t want things getting any simpler than they already are. He nods anyway.
“Uh, let’s see. When was the cage in Vandal Savage’s house?”
It’s not a great time to dissolve into helpless laughter, but Len’s sense of timing has been a little off since the Oculus. It helps when Ray joins in.
Then the laughter stops.
And then they’re kissing.
Len, standing outside his quarters in his tux. Ray, watching him with a thoughtful, hopeful smile. “I don’t suppose you’d like to come back to my cabin for a nightcap, would you, Leonard?”
Ray’s lips are as warm and soft as Len imagined, all night, after he turned Ray down. Len sighs against him. “I should have said yes.”
Ray’s decade-older face creases in a frown. “Huh?”
“Ten years ago,” Len whispers. “When you invited me into your quarters.”
Ray’s wistful smile is beautiful. “Hah. Well, we could make up for lost—”
Len interrupts with a groan. “Probably not advisable to say ‘time,’ Raymond. I might disappear in a burst of blue light.”
Giving Ray his most enigmatic smile, Len kisses him again.
“What if I say ‘And now we have all the T-word in the world’?” Ray suggests, when, reluctantly, they take a moment to breathe.
Len raises his eyebrows meaningfully at the empty wine bottle.
Kissing has the excellent side effect of shutting Raymond up. Len resolves to remember this.
Ruvé insists on staying up as late as Nora and Ray will let her. She sits grinning between Ray and Len - and sometimes at Nora.
“I see you plotting,” Len whispers, while Nora and Ray are distracted. “Again.”
The kid raises one eyebrow at Len. From a small child, this is terrifying. “Goat,” she says.
“That’s pie.” Len nods at her second helping.
“Goat,” Ruvé insists, again.
Len leans on his elbow on the table. “Gonna figure you out, kid,” he tells her.
It’s only after she’s fallen asleep at the table, and been carried to bed by Ray, that Len wonders just how much of a co-conspirator Ruvé was, at the petting zoo today. And how much the goats figured into her dastardly plan.
“She has Rogue-in-training potential,” he tells Raymond, with absolutely no context, just to see Ray’s face.
Another bottle of wine later…
...after Len kisses Ray a few more times...
...and Nora and Ray kiss once or twice, just to join in…
...and, unsure but intrigued, Len accepts a kiss from Nora…
...the three of them stumble upstairs, tangled together in kisses all the way.
Later, Len lies in a stack of limbs. Somehow, he’s ended up the middle spoon between two sleeping people, at the centre of what he is trying very hard not to call a cuddle pile.
Nora is dozing fitfully behind him, the picture of a mother who needs to stay on the edge of consciousness in case her little girl needs her. She’s smiling in her sleep, sweet and radiant, with an edge. There are possibilities in that smile.
On Len’s other side, Raymond is snoring, because of course he is. Len reaches out to stroke Ray’s cheek as gently as he can, careful not to wake him - that would only make him even more annoying. Half of Ray’s face is lit up in pale orange, where the faint light of a dying street lamp is struggling in through a gap in the curtains. It’s not exactly the romance of moonlight, but it still makes Raymond look oddly beautiful.
Len laughs to himself. “Another shitty town.”
“Mmm?” Nora opens one eye. “What’d you say?”
Sighing, Len stares up at the shadow-dappled ceiling. “I’ve been looking for a place that’s… gone,” he muses, mostly to himself. “A time that’s gone.” He turns to smirk - or maybe he’s smiling - at a sleepy Nora. “Might be about time to move forward.”
“You just said the T-word,” Ray murmurs. “Twice.”
Len knows his smile is ridiculously fond. Ray has his eyes closed, so it’s fine. “You’re still annoying, Raymond.”
“And you’re still an asshole, Leonard.” Ray leans up on his arm, grinning. “Are you sure you only want to go forward?”
Nora hums. “A dash of the past, a splash of the future? Sounds almost like a recipe for happiness to me.” And she winks at him.
Len chuckles. “No cooking metaphors.” He pulls Nora in for another soft, long kiss.
About a minute later, Ray coughs. “Nora? Don’t hog the goods, hon.”
Rolling his eyes, Len straddles Ray, puts both hands either side of his adorable, annoying face, and kisses him till he’s clutching at the sheets and gasping for air.
If he’d only known that kissing Ray is the one thing that shuts him up, Len would have done this a long time ago.