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[personal profile] ajremix
Title from Kathy's Song by Apoptygma Berserk. Easter egg: fake names comes from the characters Wentworth Miller and Peyton List played on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as well as the name of Len and Lisa's father in the comics.

Title: You Know I'm Not a Saint
Fandom: DC TV
Rating: PG-13 for violence, mentions of child abuse and reliving trauma, implied reference to rape
Word Count: 4749
In Responds to: ColdWave Week 2016: Naughty or Nice
Characters: Mick, Len, some Lisa
Summary: When Len was 11, his father returned from prison a violent, hateful man. At 28 he's afraid to find out how eight years behind bars has changed his partner.




Len went through the checklist again, voice a steady calm and knuckles bone-white on the steering wheel. "You have a week's worth of clothes?"

Lisa rolled her eyes but her arms tightened on the duffel bag in her lap. "Yeah."

"School stuff?"

"Yeah."

"Directions on how to get to school and back?"

"Yes."

"My contact information, emergency contacts and emergency cash?"

"Yeah."

"Remember that money's for emergencies only and not because you have a hankering of pizza delivery."

"I know, Len."

"I'll call every day, or at least leave a message for you at the desk. Remember- don't go anywhere with anyone."

"I know."

"Not even Mick until I give the okay."

Lisa went quiet, biting at her lower lip and hunching over a bit. "I know," she said eventually.

His own warning left a sick ball of ice in the pit of his stomach. "If you need something and can't get a hold of me, leave a message at the desk."

They lapsed into silence after that until Len pulled into the hotel parking lot. He carried Lisa's suitcase, going up to the front desk with his best haggard and over-stressed office worker persona on, asking for a reservation under the name Nate Lawrence, an identity he'd created three years ago. He yammered about how unbelievable it was having to go on a business trip so close to the holidays and then finding out the day before leaving their apartment building needed to be fumigated?

"It's absolutely outrageous. When it rains, it pours, you know? I'm going to be a wreck this entire trip."

Lisa rolled her eyes. She didn't even have to act. "I'll be fine. You're going to give yourself an ulcer at this rate."

"Well, I'm so sorry my fretting is embarrassing you," he chided lightly. He didn't have to look to know Lisa stuck her tongue out at him behind his back, the badly concealed smile on the older woman behind the desk was enough of a give away. "Please take good care of Chloe for me," he gave the woman his most vulnerable puppy eyes. "I wouldn't go if I didn't think she could take care of herself for a few days but, well, big brothers worry."

She melted, touched by Len's not entirely faked concern. "Don't worry, sir. She'll be in good hands, I promise."

Len took her up to her room, the hotel a much nicer one than he'd spring for under most circumstances. It was a little further from Lisa's school than he'd like but the two of them had taken the public bus to her school and back a few times the week prior just to make sure she was familiar with the route. They ordered room service and ate together, watched some tv until it started getting late.

Lisa pulled her brother into a tight hug, pretending that she wasn't trembling. "Be careful," she said into his chest.

Len pressed a kiss to her hair. "You, too."

He went back to the car and drove to the other side of Central to the safehouse that straddled the line between suburb- where the houses were spaced just far enough apart neighbors couldn't hear each others' business -and slums- where folks rarely called the police. He laid in bed, trying not think about Mick's release tomorrow.

~*~*~*~

With so many open warrants out for him, Len wouldn't be able to pick Mick up from his release, just like he hadn't been able to visit during his eight year sentence. He wrote letters occasionally, under the guise of some desperate prison groupie. The return address was set for the corner store three blocks from the safehouse, Len knew that would be enough for Mick to figure out where to go.

It was just before noon when Mick made his way through the door, carelessly slamming it behind him. "Couldn't find a more out of the goddamn way safehouse?" He groused, tossing a bag of what little items he had in a corner and falling into the sofa. Len sat in the chair nearby, pretending his heart wasn't pounding and his spine wasn't brittle tense. "Welcome me back any harder and I might think you actually noticed I was gone."

"Unfortunately the parade canceled at the last minute." The instinctive banter felt thick and clumsy on Len's tongue From the corner of his eye he watched as Mick threw an arm over his eyes. Len noted he was thinner- his belt was notched tighter, cheeks more gaunt -and at the same time stronger, shirt stretching tighter across his chest and arms than Len remembered. He thought about Mick's hands and wondered if they were bigger and more powerful than his father's. Len took a deep breath, trying to swallow the cold shivers running down his skin. "You're a free man, now, Mick. Anything you feel like doing?" His hands reached out, deftly tugging loose the laces of Mick's boots and pulling them off.

"Eat." Mick stretched out long and luxuriously on their old, beaten couch, looking content to fall asleep right there. "I'm starving."

"Did you want me to make you something?"

Mick squinted open an eye, watching Len with a sort of reserved amusement. "You miss me that much you wanna wait on me hand and foot?"

Len held back a wince, realizing he'd slipped into the subdued subservience he had to adopt with his father. He forced nonchalance into his voice, perhaps pouring the drawl on a little too thick. "I'm hoping you remember how much I don't care for cooking and opt to eat out instead."

"Or maybe order in." Mick's voice dropped into a low growl. The kind that normally made Len's knees week but now caused the muscles in his neck to tighten. "Goddamn, just look at you. Even more gorgeous than I remember." Mick's hand flickered out, a silent order for Len to move into reach. He took a deep breath in through his nose and did so. Len held himself perfectly still as Mick's hand traced up his thigh and side. "Eight years felt like an eternity, not being able to get my hands on you."

Len didn't resist as Mick pulled him down but every part of him was tense and cold. At the time he hadn't known what Lisa's mother's crying had meant but he'd known it was bad, curled up in bed and wishing it would go away. Mick's lips moved against his and Len's eyes slammed shut. That strength Len had once found intoxicating in his partner suddenly made him feel very, very small. He opened his mouth to the swipe of Mick's tongue and wondered if he was going to vomit.

Abruptly Mick pulled back. "The hell's wrong with you?" Unable to think of anything to say, Len just stood and made his way to the kitchen. He made himself busy emptying the dish rack, trying not to listen to Mick swearing in the other room. A few minutes of silence passed and then, "Where's Lisa?"

"Skating camp," he lied easily.

"So it's just you and me." Mick didn't sound entirely happy about that. Len carefully stacked the dishes up, remembering how unpredictably Lewis responded to noise. "Great."

The rest of the day would have been tense and awkward had Mick not fallen asleep on the couch soon after eating almost two dozen buffalo chicken wings and an order of breadsticks on his own. Len gingerly threw away the four bottles of beer Mick had left on the coffee table. When he lay in bed alone that night, he couldn't help looking at all that empty space next to him, wondering if tomorrow he wouldn't be so lucky.

~*~*~*~

The next day Mick decided to revisit his old stomping grounds. Len hung back, letting Mick get swept up by his friends, drinking, telling them stories, getting caught up on the latest happenings. Len watched from the corner of his eye, keeping count of how many ounces Mick was putting away. Two hours in, Mick was beginning to get fidgety, words short and clipped, brow lowering as people came up and slapped his back. His hands kept fisting whenever someone shouted, the frequency of his leg bouncing against his stool increasing. Before Mick ordered another beer, Len smoothly slid off his seat and suggested to Mick it was time to leave.

Mick slammed back the half-inch left in his glass. "Don't wanna go home," he mumbled. The hardness in his eyes caused Len to tread carefully.

"Let's go somewhere else, then."

He took Mick to one of Len's preferred bars, where the lights and music were low and people didn't go to visit but just quietly co-exist with other people. There was a football game playing on one screen and a boxing match on another and Mick relaxed against the cushions of their booth. Violence almost always had as much a calming effect on Mick as fire did. Neither of those things had ever been a niggling worry in the back of Len's mind until now.

It wasn't incredibly late when Len had to drag Mick to a cab, but then Mick's alcohol tolerance was shit and his sleep schedule still on prison time. Back at the safehouse, Mick flopped onto the bed, tugging at his laces and kicking off his shoes. He didn't even bother taking off his jacket before turning into his pillow and falling asleep. Len stood in the doorway, wondering if it would be better to sleep on the bed- and risk Mick expecting something in the morning -or on the couch- and risk Mick's anger at waking up alone.

Slowly he pulled off his own boots as he weighed his options. He changed, coaxed Mick out of his jacket and under the blankets and still hadn't decided. Gingerly, as if there was a risk he'd wake Mick, Len slid into bed, curling against the very edge of it, as far from his partner as he could get. He slept fitfully, if at all.

He woke with a start at the feeling of a hand underneath his shirt and before Len could stop himself, he drove his elbow backward hard.

"Ow- shit, Len! What the hell?"

Len sprung out of bed, trying to get his trembling and heart to slow. "I spent the last eight years sleeping alone," he snapped, "you can't just grab me like that!"

It was a logical enough excuse that Mick deflated. "Right," he held up his hands. "Sorry. Didn't think of that."

They stared at each other in the quiet. Eventually Len dared to sit back on the bed. Mick rested his hands against his stomach, making sure Len knew Mick wasn't going to touch him. After a moment, Mick asked, "Wanna see if I still remember how to make breakfast?"

For the first time, Len smirked. "Always did live dangerously."

A little passed noon, Mick started fidgeting again. He kept wandering the house, stopping to stand at random places and floating into the kitchen or bathroom to wash his hands. It took longer than Len would care to admit to realize that Mick was standing next to the heating vents or warming his hands under scalding water. He cursed himself- eight years under constant surveillance. Mick needed to burn something.

There wasn't a lot of options on such short notice but there was an abandoned pier ten miles down the river that would do in a pinch. Len gathered up some of Mick's favorite burnables into a car and Mick drove them out. A large rusted dumpster was still out there, some unmelted snow and wet cardboard still inside. With great care, like a craftsman, Mick set the materials inside and lit it up. He joined Len- sitting on a couple layers of blankets and with a couple thermoses full of hot chili and warm cider -up on a platform to watch it.

Mick, as always when the ache for fire reached deep into his bones, was enthralled. Lips slightly parted, body slack, expression relaxed, so focused on the flames he didn't notice as Len studied him, drinking him in, just as hypnotized by Mick as Mick was by the fire. They sat there for hours and Len hadn't realized how much he'd missed Mick until that moment, that perfect, quiet moment that reminded him of all the things he loved about his partner. The feeling settled in his chest, coiling just below his ribs and ached so beautifully that when they finally got back home, Len took Mick to bed and didn't let him up for the rest of the night.

~*~*~*~

It only took two more days before Mick was irritable and fidgety again though the dangerous edge he'd get for being away from fire too long was still absent. He drank often, as if making up for lost time, and had taken to working out in the basement- normally something Len enjoyed spectating, watching Mick's muscles work and sweat building up on his skin. Now, though, the sounds of Mick's fists against the punching bag made him tense, the pit of his stomach going cold.

The sounds didn't go away when Mick stopped. They echoed in Len's ears and whenever Mick was next to him, touching him, he felt phantoms pains of fists on his body.

As days neared to a week, Mick became more agitated. He stayed out later, drank more, got into fights and the nights he came home he crashed out on the couch instead of making it to bed. The few times he touched Len now was almost exclusively barely brushing against him if they passed each other in the narrow halls.

Len hated that he felt relieved every time Mick left. He hated that he missed his partner while simultaneously dreading his return. He hated that whenever he heard the door slam his mind transported him back to childhood, curled under his blanket and obsessively trying to track where Lewis's stomping placed him in the house. He longed for the safety of Mick's arms while the thought of them around him made him nauseous.

One week crept into the beginning of a second and, for the first time in days, Mick slipped into bed next to Len. His hand was gentle as it scraped up Len's side but his breath stank of alcohol. "Lenny," he whispered, pressing a kiss to the back of Len's neck and Len clamped his jaw tight to ensure nothing escaped him.

That tender touch he'd been craving for years made his stomach churn, the enticing gravel of Mick's voice made blood pound in Len's ears. A hand slipped down, running along the band of Len's sweat pants, following the line of his hip down to tease and Len just felt cold cold cold all over. He screwed his eyes shut tight, trying to block out the sound of his father's voice screaming through the walls and over wailing, "Don't you ever say no to me!"

By the time Len realized nothing else was happening, the front door had shut behind Mick.

~*~*~*~

Mick didn't return for an entire day and Len, trying not to worry about that, decided to cave on his self-imposed separation and went to see Lisa. He entered the hotel through an employee entrance and made his way to her room where Lisa greeted him with a hug and bright smile that sloughed away Len's tension.

"So?" She asked and she dragged her brother in. "How's Mickey?"

The tension came back.

Lisa frowned. "Lenny?" He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. Her hand tightened on his arm. "Did he hurt you?"

"No."

"Did he yell?"

"No."

She frowned harder. "Then what's he like?"

Len thought the question over carefully before deciding on, "Angry."

Lisa pulled him over to the bed, shoving aside her school work and fast food wrappers. After forcing Len to sit against the headboard, long legs stretched out and settling against his side, Lisa said, "You should stay here with me."

It was tempting but Len couldn't stop thinking about Mick, not wanting to simply abandon him. He wondered if this was what Lisa's mother felt before she left. "Only for a little while," he said, kissing Lisa's hair.

~*~*~*~

Mick came back the next day and they tried to ignore the strain between them by going out. They barely talked, desperately trying to find something else to hold their attention and Len had never felt so out of sync before. They stayed out late, going to all their favorite places in order to find something to bring them back to an even keel but by the time midnight was nearing, Len had to admit nothing was working. He said lowly to Mick, "I'm going home," and half expected him not to follow.

But he did and they trudged along in silence toward the bus stop that would take them back to their neighborhood. Along the way a man came up to Len. He was drunk, swaying on his feet and mumbled something semi-coherently about change. But he came up suddenly and grabbed Len's arm and Len was already strung out from the last week and a half that he flinched and backpedaled against a building.

A thick hand clamped down on the man's shoulder, spinning him around so Mick could slam a fist against his nose. "Don't fucking touch him!" He roared, fists pounding against the man and Len could only shrink back, shivering.

It was late enough that the street was empty but lights were starting to turn on in the apartments around them. Len instinctively grabbed Mick's arm and pulled him away, the two zigzagging through blocks and alleyways until they were a good distance away from the unfortunate victim. They paused to catch their breath, cold air stinging their lungs and when Len looked at Mick, the lamppost at the mouth of the alley caught on the blood that speckled his clothes and face.

Len turned away and retched.

"Shit, Lenny!" A hand grabbed his arm, another running what was supposed to be soothing circles against his back. It just made Len vomit more until all that came up was bile.

"Stop," he eventually croaked out, trying to pull away from Mick despite already being up against a wall. "Don't touch me."

Abruptly the hands vanished and when he looked up, Mick was several feet away, looking at him in a way that broke Len's heart. "Okay, Lenny," he said, voice uncharacteristically small as he looked away, hands in his pockets. "Whatever you say." Shoulders hunched up around his ears, Mick walked away.

It was well after one in the morning when Len finally made it back to the house. The empty, quiet, dead house. He crawled into bed and ignored the feeling of everything coming apart.

~*~*~*~

It took another two days before Mick came back again. Two days with Len visiting Lisa, unable to talk about what had happened. Len had just returned from her hotel, feeling marginally better when he froze in the entryway at the sight of Mick, slumped on the couch, staring at the blank tv. Len's lips pressed together, uncertain what he should do. Mick said gruffly, "Lisa ain't at camp, is she."

It wasn't a question. Len asked, "What makes you think that?"

"Was with Avery today. He had to go pick up his kid," he turned his head just enough to give Len a tired, sidelong glare, "who goes to Lisa's school." Len's silence was just as telling as any answer. "Alright." Mick said, pushing himself to his feet. "If that's how it is." He picked up a bag that was sitting next to him that Len hadn't seen, slinging it over his shoulder. Mick brushed passed Len to the door. "Maybe I'll see you around, Snart."

Len just stood there, brain shutting down at the final slam of the door.

~*~*~*~

For days Mick didn't come back. At first Len stayed at the house, afraid if he left he'd miss his partner returning. Then he went out looking for him. By the fifth day of nothing, Len went to see Lisa, feeling like a shell of a person. She took one look at him, brought him to bed and sat on his lap, arms wrapped tight around him.

They sat like that for almost an hour until Len finally said, "I think Mick left me."

Lisa pulled back from where she was tucked under Len's chin. "What? Why?"

"I'm not sure, but I don't know where he is. None of the other safehouses have been used, he hasn't been around his usual haunts, he hasn't even talked to any of his buddies."

Lisa hummed thoughtfully. "You think something bad happened to him?"

He'd thought that but ignored the weight that dropped in his stomach. "Mick can take care of himself."

"So that means his disappearing bothers you because you miss him, right?"

Len's mouth pressed into a thin line. Sometimes he hated how sharp his sister's mind could be. "This just isn't like him."

That time Lisa's frown took a worried tinge of its own. "You don't think he left Central, do you?"

"Doubt it." All of Mick's stashes were untouched. Which didn't mean much, Mick was certainly capable enough to start from scratch.

"Then the only thing I can think of is he went somewhere he knows you don't like to go."

Len's first thought was a list of bars Lewis liked to frequent. One in particular jumped to mind- Rosebud. It used to be a high-end strip club but decades of bad economy turned it into a sleaze joint. Prostitutes of all sorts hung around across the street where an equally sleazy hotel charged by the day or by the hour.

Sleazy though it was, it excelled at discretion and wouldn't tell Len if anyone matching Mick's description had been by. So Len scoped out the area and decided the best place to see anyone coming in- and be seen -was out front. Which was where the prostitutes all hung out at.

Instead of waiting up against the building with the group, Len leaned against the light post in the hotel's driveway. He'd thought he was far enough away from the prostitutes no one would mistake him for one- he wasn't even dressed for the part, wearing heavy boots, thick pants, parka and a beanie -but he got a handful of people looking to buy his time all the same. As the hours and number of propositions grew, Len decided to hell with it and huddled with the other hookers for warmth.

He stayed out there for hours. The pros were sympathetic to him when he explained he was trying to get his partner back rather than steal anyone's business. One offered him a cigarette to help keep him warm. Len had to admit there was some good diversity in the group- a fairly even mix of women and men of various races and builds. When an apparent regular showed up, they'd call out the name of their preferred pro. For anyone else someone would say, "New john!" and everyone would take a moment to straighten themselves out, check each other over and then look provocative. It was actually kind of nice having all this going on around him and Len found himself relaxing despite the cold. Though, in hindsight, it was probably because a joint was being passed around the group.

The call went up, "New john!" and one of the women next to Len purred. "Now that's a man that can take you for a ride."

Despite the last two weeks, Len's breath caught with relief when he saw who it was. "Yes, he can and also that one's mine." He stepped out of the group as a chorus of groans went up. Mick stopped just short of the curb, glaring at Len with his arms crossed.

"What the hell're you doing here, Snart?"

Len licked his lips. "I needed to talk to you."

Mick's arms tightened. "Think your actions the last few weeks said enough. You don't want me around for some reason and since you didn't have to balls to actually say it, figured I'd save you the trouble."

"I don't want you gone, Mick."

"Coulda fooled me. Ever since I got outta jail you've acted like a skittish cat around me. I can't go anywhere near you without you flinching, I go out to let off steam and you look at me like I'm about to snap- you trust me so little you lied about your sister being in town!" Mick chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, his eyes the wrong kind of bright under the street light. "I can't be in the same city if you found someone else 'cause I'll burn 'em alive."

Len stepped closer. "Mick..." his words dried up in his throat, unable to figure out what he wanted to say.

"You were all I thought about for eight years, Lenny. But every time I touch you, you freeze up. You grow outta this while I was locked up?" His voice wasn't accusatory. It was sad and resigned like Mick had been expecting this. "What changed while I was gone?" Mick suddenly stiffened, his eyes hard and dark, voice a protective growl. "Did something happen? I'll burn anyone that touched you, Len, just tell me who."

Perhaps contradictorily, that made something warm tighten in Len's chest. "No, Mick. No one hurt me."

Just as contradictorily, Mick's shoulders fell. "Then it was something I did. "

"What? Mick, you didn't do anything wrong." It hit him like a punch. Mick didn't do anything wrong. Two weeks Len had been waiting, dreading for something- an out of character flare of temper, a fist being drawn back, a hateful gleam in his eyes and Len hadn't seen a hint of it. Mick hadn't become Lewis. Mick wasn't someone Len needed to be afraid of. He swallowed at his pride and unwillingness to admit weakness to say, "My father, he didn't start getting violent until he got out of jail. But you're not him, Mick."

Mick stepped back and if Len didn't know any better, he'd say the man was scared. "No. No, dammit Len- I can't do that to you!"

"What are you talking about?"

"If you burn, I ain't gonna be able to live with myself."

Len's eyes narrowed. "You're not gonna burn me, Mick. You're not Lewis. You're better than him in every way."

"I'm an arsonist, Lenny. I'm never gonna be more than that. I can't keep dragging you down. If I ever hurt you... I'd rather you leave me now than risk-" Len grabbed Mick by the jacket, dragging him in for a brutal kiss that barely met Mick's lips. The rest of Mick's words melted into a desperate sound, almost like a whine, hands tangling in Len's jacket so tight Len could feel the seams strain.

They pulled back, just enough that the tips of their noses brushed together, too close for the steam of their breath to get between them.

"You gotta let me go, Len." Mick said, even though Len could see every atom of his being didn't want to leave.

"No."

"I don't wanna hurt you."

"You won't."

"I'm violent and impulsive-"

"You're my partner. You're everything I ever wanted." Len tilted his head, just enough so their lips brushed together. "Come home."

Mick shivered and sighed, pressing his forehead against Len's. "...okay."

Abrupt applause and whistling made them jump apart. The hookers- and a couple johns -stood around them cheering. Mick buried his face in Len's shoulder. "Oh Jesus Christ."

"Yeah, boy! Get it!"

"That was the most beautiful thing I ever saw."

"Oh God, I'm crying. Is my make up running?"

"You let that man go, Imma snatch him right up!"

Len felt his face go bright red but he could feel Mick's absurd laughter vibrating through them both, making Len smile. Len ducked his head to Mick's ear. "Home?"

"Hell yeah."

Mick pulled back, hand slipping down to grab Len's and dragging his partner to his hotel room to gather up his things. And if they didn't actually make it back to the safehouse until the next morning, well... neither saw a point in wasting a room that was already paid through the night.
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