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Title: Something Wonderful in You 3
Fandom: DC TV
Rating: PG
Word Count: 8289
Characters: Mick, Shawna, Mark, Hartley, Len, Lisa, Lewis
Summary: Bedknobs and Broomsticks inspired AU. Mick Rory was planning on going on a manhunt for a missing spell. Then he got saddled with three children evacuated from London.



It took the first half of the day for Mick to find the right spells- ones that would provide the most distraction while being easy to enchant multiple times. He wrote up a list of items he’d need before calling Len- and the kids who would be taking that part of the plan -in to go over his idea. Then he sent Len out to gather the items while Mick very carefully went over what the kids were supposed to do, making sure to impart that they were to go nowhere near any of the men that would be there, no matter what. They agreed, some more grudgingly than others, and, when Len returned with the items, were fostered back onto the conman. While Mick enchanted his first piece, the kids interrogated Len’s intentions for Mick. That mostly resulted in Len deflecting or giving half truths. Given his intentions toward Mick- romantically speaking -were pretty much ‘nice to look at, even better to sleep with’, Len didn’t exactly have much to give them.

As the night went on, Len realized Mick was too focused on whatever he was doing and someone had to deal with dinner. Being as recognizable as he was, if Len went to a restaurant and suddenly ordered enough food to feed a small army, people would notice and talk. Besides, it wasn’t as if Len had never cooked before. He was just… very bad at it. Which the kids were more than happy to tell him, criticizing from the door. He eventually had to rope them into service to get them to shut up and between the four of them, they managed a passable dinner.

Mick had been pleasantly surprised by the meal and was even more surprised that it wasn’t half bad. The way the kids beamed at that made an odd feeling curl in the pit of Len’s stomach. It wasn’t so much jealousy that Mick was a better father figure than Lewis had been, it was more... something. Something Len couldn’t label as the kids all talked over each other, eager to tell Mick what part of dinner they’d done- that he’d apparently taught them -and Mick acting like he was actually interested in it.

The next morning Mick was back to making breakfast and sitting on the table was a small candle, the kind of short, stout sort that filled the palm of someone’s hand. “Try to make it work,” he told the group at large and refused to give them any more information asides from not needing to light the wick. He didn’t tell them what it did or how to activate it so Mark and Shawna- and eventually Hartley and even Len as the minutes stretched on -passed it around.

By the time it got to Mark for the fifth time, he took a deep breath and gradually eased his energy into the candle, much like he did when trying to get his wand to spark. He felt something, the indescribable feeling he got whenever the wand activated, almost like a click in the back of his brain. Someone gasped- a couple someones -and Mark opened his eyes to find something like smoke curling out of the candle and gathering above their heads.

Mick, breakfast in hand, came in and looked up at the thick cloud above them. “Figured you’d get it, Wizard. Good job.”

“That,” Len pointed up, looking as flustered as he sounded, “that’s a cloud, right?”

“Yeah. Just a regular one. I could make them rain or snow, too, though that’s some extra steps. Figured we could seed the halls with these things- Boo can teleport Wizard around, freak the guards a bit.”

Len’s expression evened out, feeling more surefooted with something to plan. “That’s a good idea. Lewis hires cheaply, he cares more about if they’ll follow directions than if they’ll do the job well. And, in my experience, the guys on the bottom rung tend to be more superstitious or at least jumpier.”

That’s how it seemed to Mick, too. “Unfortunately candles that size don’t hold clouds all that big but anything larger will either be easier to spot or harder to carry.”

“We could carry bags,” Shawna volunteered.

“Think you’ll have to. Snart, you think you can figure out how many we’ll need?”

“Sure,” Len said, still looking up at the cloud and visibly calculating.

They fell into a natural routine early in the preparation period. In the mornings Mick would keep the kids occupied either with practicing for their part of the job, taking them shopping for groceries, having them help out with the simpler steps to prep enchanting or just taking them out to the park to burn some energy. Len, meanwhile, would be out gathering information, some harder-to-come-by items for Mick and sneaking photos of his father’s place for Shawna. They’d all meet up for lunch at Len’s house and after Len would take the kids while Mick worked. Len kept them up on their education- or at least the parts he thought was important -encouraged them to read from the library or, on rare occasions if they got too restless, took them to see performers at the local clubs. He also, after getting Mick’s okay, went with them to see Clyde. After hours, Len said, when it was less likely they’d be walked in on by the staff or other visitors.

Clyde was being hospitalized for pneumonia, Len told Mick after their first visit. It developed while he had the flu and was still in the process of recovering. While the kids were catching up, Len had snuck out to take a look at Clyde’s chart and while it seemed his symptoms were mostly gone, the doctors wanted to be sure he wouldn’t have a relapse while in a coastal environment with little medical support. But once Clyde saw what the other kids have been up to, he was determined to get better so he could try some magic for himself.

After one such visit, after dinner and before the kids got ready for bed, Mick put a rock on the table. Everyone stared at it in confusion until Mick said, “Think I figured out a way for Piper to help since he won’t stop complaining about having nothing to do.”

The child in question looked torn between insulted and excited. Len just lifted an eyebrow at the rock. “You’re going to have him stay behind to rocksit?” Hartley glared at Len, definitely insulted.

“No.” Mick pulled out a thin piece of wood- a reed for some sort of instrument -with strange symbols etched into it and handed it to Hartley. “I was thinking he could be an added distraction. If you make noise on this, it should come out of the rock.” Hartley put the reed to his lips and gave a little hum. The rock buzzed like it was vibrating but nothing else. Mick frowned. “Try louder,” he said. Hartley did. The rock vibrated louder but nothing very attention grabbing.

“Do you need to adjust the antenna?” Len asked dryly.

“It ain’t a radio,” Mick snapped back, distracted and annoyed and lacking bite, “there’s no antenna to adjust.” Nevertheless he turned the rock a hair and ignored Len’s smug look.

Again and again Hartley tried and no matter how Mick adjusted the rock or checked the inscriptions, nothing worked. Shawna and Mark tried to make their friend feel better by giving it a shot- and failing -but Hartley just sniffled quietly, depressed at not being able to be useful. Mick turned the rock over in his hand, scowling and muttering to himself until Len plucked it away. “Hey!”

“I know that look- you’re about to start working on figuring this out and you’ll ignore everything else until you do. I’d rather not waste anymore time than necessary.” Though his tone was clipped and firm, Len’s expression seemed understanding. “You keep working on the candles. I’ll look through your notes, see if I can figure something out.”

“You think you’ll be able to understand it?” Mick asked more bitter than accusatory.

“Maybe, maybe not. The important thing is if I have it, it won’t be distracting you.”

The next day Len figured out- the inscriptions had to be on the same material and, using a jeweler's kit Len picked up somewhere, they managed to screw a piece of wood to the bottom of the rock. When Hartley tried it, sound rang out loud and clear. It also sounded like a frenzied, choking beast.

“Is it supposed to sound like that?” Len asked, eyebrows raised.

“No,” Mick said, somewhere between off put and impressed.

“That sounds horrifying!” Mark and Shawna were grabbing at Hartley’s arms, faces split in huge grins. “Make it say something!”

Hartley played with it all day, making the rock wail and cry and scream until Len had him stop, worried someone outside the house might hear. Then Mick gave Hartley another rock and reed to practice switching between targets and Len gave up on any sort of quiet.

After that the preparations went generally smoothly and Mick finished all the rocks and candles quicker than expected. There was an incident where, when packing one of the bags, Mark accidentally activated one candle and it caused a chain reaction where all the other candles in the bag went off and caused everyone to have to avoid that part of the hall until the storm died down- Len hadn’t cared about the rain or snow growing mold, he wasn’t planning on staying in the house much longer anyway. By that point, Mick had so much practice making the candles he’d restocked the bag in a day. And as precautionary measures, they wrapped all the candles in butcher paper and had both Mark and Shawna wear gloves, just in case.

During the night before the heist, Mick was finishing up the last of the rocks, checking over the reed to ensure there were no outstanding flaws. He set it down on the table in front of him and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Len hold out a knife edge scriber for Mick. Mick didn’t know what it was about that moment that made him freeze, he just realized, very suddenly, that Len had been handing him things all night. With his nose and attention buried in his plans, Len just seemed to instinctively know what tool Mick needed without Mick having to actually say anything.

Eventually the paused registered to Len, looking up to see why Mick hadn’t taken the tool yet. “Is something wrong?”

“No.” Mick took the scriber and set it aside without looking at it. Len sat up, uncertain what was going on but not moving away. Mick opened his mouth once, twice, not really know what he was trying to say before settling on, “I ever tell you you’re gorgeous?”

“Once or twice,” the memory of Mick’s gruff voice and large hands under his shirt had Len’s lips twitching. “Am I getting a repeat performance?”

“Did say it’d be my turn next time.” Mick said, leaning in. On a whim, he laced his fingers through Len’s and watched as Len’s breath seemed to catch, eyes growing dark at the action. “What do you say? Call it an early night?”

Len’s only response was to pull Mick towards his mattress.

~*~*~*~

This is your old man’s place? How did he afford a damn palace?”

“It’s even bigger than Hartley’s parents’ house!” Mark said.

Len huffed though his amusement was edged with bitterness. “How does any two-bit crook get a place like this? Forgery, bribes, blackmail and murder. Or, if you’re too inept, have your son do it for you.”

Technically they were no longer in London but close enough that homeowners claimed they were. It was a big house with a huge, empty lawn all around it. Anyone that tried to sneak across the grounds would be seen instantly. Briefly Mick wondered how Len was able to get such clear photos of the hallways but then chalked it up to Lewis’s manner of employing cheaply- the guards wouldn’t care what Len did so long as he paid them enough and didn’t get them in trouble. The five of them were currently on the roof of a neighbor, three sets of binoculars between them. It was just before dusk and the blitzkrieg actually proved to be helpful, causing the flood lights they could see on Lewis's roof to remain off. Len pointed out the part of the roof he wanted Shawna to teleport them to while they waited for the sun to set. The house was set up like a horseshoe and setting up at one end of the roof would give them the best view of the windows with very little chance of getting spotted. They’d set up a blanket with food like some kind of picnic while they waited. Just before it got too dark for Shawna to see, they teleported over.

The operation began slowly- Shawna dropping a rock into an empty room and Hartley making it wail, drawing guards from their patrols. Then Shawna and Mark popped into the now empty hall and seeded a couple candles in it, causing clouds to fill up the ceiling, one of them faintly rumbling. Once those were noticed, more guards were drawn from their posts, allowing the two children to set even more candles and a couple more rocks. Soon people were running around everywhere and they could hear shouting even on the roof.

Len watched the chaos unfolding, keeping an eye out for who ran where- and noting how many were running from the house altogether. He hadn’t been able to find Lewis’s office- or wherever he spent his time -only knew that it was one of the interior rooms where they wouldn’t be able to get eyes on him. That was fine, though. Len had been able to find the door that would lead him to his sister, that was far more important.

Mark and Shawna reappeared on the roof, their bags finally empty. Mick put a hand on Shawna’s shoulder, “How’re you feeling, Boo?”

“Good!” She bounced slightly, still energized. “I could do this for hours!”

“Save some of that enthusiasm for the getaway,” Len said, softening the rebuke with a smirk. “We’re going in. Hartley, you remember your job?”

Hartley, surrounded by different reeds and photos of each hallway they corresponded with, chirped automatically, “Keep the guards away from you and Mick!”

“And you two?”

“Keep an eye out, don’t engage, get to safety if anyone sees us,” Mark and Shawna recited boredly, Len having forced them go over it multiple times during the days leading up to this.

“Alright,” Len put his hand on Shawna’s other shoulder, “let’s go.”

~*~*~*~

It was easy to slip out of the hallway Shawna dropped them off at and head towards the interior rooms. There were still a number of guards running about but most were convinced the place was beset by ghosts or vengeful spirits. Len picked the lock on the door he knew would lead him to Lisa with barely a thought, easing the door open. He didn’t know what lay beyond it but he hadn’t expected a room barely larger than a walk-in pantry, empty save for a wooden door set into the floor. Before Len could try the handle, Mick blocked him with a hand.

“It’s magically locked,” he said, “I can feel it.” Mick knelt before the door and pulled some items out of his bag. They were all ordinary things that Len picked up from the market but through whatever weird combination of usage or treatment he’d done to them beforehand, Mick dispelled the lock, the magic flaring briefly before fading away. It never failed to impress Len how Mick was able to turn mundane things into something amazing, be it magic or cooking.

The passage they went into was little more than a cellar, roughly constructed and poorly lit by lightbulbs in dire need of changing. Pipes ran along the ceiling built but a few inches above their heads and Len could hear water rushing through them. About ten feet in was a metal door with locks and strange symbols marked on it. Mick swore softly, “Old man got someone to do heavy duty wards on this.” While Mick got to work, Len hung back by the ladder, listening for anyone coming their way. As he waited, Len noticed a knob on one of the pipes next to him. It was scuffed, as if it had seen a decent amount of use and, just to see what would happen, he turned it. He heard the water stop flowing further down the bunker and Len had to clench his jaw to keep from seeing red. There was a water shutoff valve in the place his little sister was being held captive. His father could threatened denying Lisa something as basic as water.

Len turned away from the valve and forced himself to remain patient until Mick finally got the door open with a proud ‘a-hah!’. Then, as Mick stepped through, he started swearing again. About ten feet down was another metal door, this one covered in another set of symbols.

“Well,” Len snapped, “are you going to get to it or not?”

Mick huffed out a breath, running a hand over his smooth head. “You know how many more of these doors there are?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yeah, it matters! How long did it take me to get through that one?” He waved at the open door.

“Just over five minutes.”

“It’s probably going to take me five minutes for that one and any that might be after it.” Mick’s eyes were hard. “I’m not risking something happening to my kids while I spend an hour getting through these wards.”

Len’s jaw clenched and he turned his body, blocking as much of the passage as he could. “Are you reneging on our deal?”

Mick’s expression softened. “No, I’m not. I’m saying we need to do this the smart way. You said Lewis can’t do magic, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So how’s he get through these wards?”

Len’s mind turned the question over for a moment. “He must have some sort of key.” Though Mick was smirking proudly, Len was less convinced about the possibility. “How do you plan on getting it away from him?”

“I don’t. But if he thinks the place is going to come down, I’m betting he’ll come down to drag his money maker some place safer.” Len opened his mouth to protest but Mick said quickly, “I’m not actually bringing the house down, just need to make him think it.”

~*~*~*~

With some judicious application of fire hands and accelerants- Mick was going to have to thank Mark for the lessons in activating his powers gradually rather than all at once since it allowed Mick to do this without blowing his face off -they finally flushed Lewis and Lisa out. Nothing too important was on fire- yet -but there were enough controlled explosions everyone that hadn’t fled before the ‘spirits’ was evacuating now. From their hiding place in the hall outside the underground passage, they watched as a furious, balding man dragged a struggling girl behind him. She was willowy in a way that had nothing to do with grace and everything to do with malnutrition, skin so pale it was almost translucent and long hair greasy and knotted. Mick clamped a hand on Len’s arm before the man could move. “Don’t go flying off the handle,” he said, Len’s hand gripped his tightly. “At least not until she’s safe.”

Len flashed him a tight smile before putting on his icy, controlled mask once more. He stepped out into the hall, drawling out, “I’ll take her from here.”

The two spun, Lisa calling out, “Lenny!” while Lewis pulled a gun on his son and scowled darkly. “Knew it was you. I knew your sorry ass would be back some day.”

“Then you know all I want is Lisa.” Len held out his hand. “Give her to me and I’ll let you go on with your pitiful existence.”

“First, you tell me how you did this.” Lewis waved his gun at the remains of a cloud clogging up a corner.

I did it.” Mick said, stepping into view. “Now, I ain’t as patient as my partner here. So hand over the girl or things are gonna get messy.” His hands ignited at his sides.

Lewis took one look at Mick’s flaming fists, tightened his grip on Lisa and ran down the hall, dragging her with him. Len and Mick cursed, chasing after. “Careful,” Len said as their feet pounded over the runner, “that room’s a dead end- he must be planning something!”

They came to a stop just outside the door. Lewis was already up against the back wall, an arm looped around Lisa’s neck, half choking her. Now that he could see her face, Mick could tell the girl was exhausted and staring at Len with a wild desperation. Lewis’s gun was pointed towards the two men, “Don’t come any closer!”

“Why?” Mick growled, stepping into the room. “Not looking forward to getting your ass beat?” The flames over Mick’s hands spluttered and died. He looked down at his hands and tried to reach for the familiar energy that had always been with him. It was there, he could feel it but it was like something was keeping him from tapping into it, his wellspring still and inert within him. “What the hell?”

That’s why, genius.” Lewis sneered. “I knew if there were more magic users around, my boy might try to use one against me so I found one powerful enough to create an anti-magic room.”

“Mick,” Len asked out of the corner of his mouth, “does that mean your magic is gone or just sealed while we’re in the room?”

“Just the room.”

Len hummed thoughtfully. Then, in a smooth motion, he pulled a gun out from his coat. Lewis’s smug expression fell. “Not that it matters. I’m not going to rely solely on other people, magic ability or not.”

Mick cackled, pulling his own gun out. “My sentiments exactly.” From the corner of his eye he saw Len smirk. “Here’s the deal: you let the kid go, you get to keep your brain in your skull.”

“No. Here’s the deal.” Lewis turned the gun on Lisa. She whimpered as it pressed against the side of her head. “I’ll be leaving and I’ll be taking my little girl with me. And if I think either of you are going to try anything funny, her brains will be all over the floor. Just ask my boy if you think I’m bluffing.”

There was a long pause. Then Len lowered his weapon. “What are you doing?” Mick asked.

Len put the gun back in its holster under his jacket. “He’s not lying. He’ll kill her in a heartbeat.”

“He knows if he does, we’ll kill him, right?”

“He doesn’t care. If he thinks he won’t get out of this alive, he’ll do it.”

Why?”

Len held Mick’s eyes steadily. “Because that’s how much he hates me.”

Lewis snorted. “Overstating your importance, but that’s the gist of it. Now I want you boys to get moving. Slowly.”

Mick growled but lowered his own weapon and followed Len’s slow, measured steps around the room, the distance between them and Lewis remaining unchanged as they circled around. Once Lewis was at the door, he smirked nastily. “Very obedient.” He backed out into the hall, Lisa nearly tripping over her feet and the two men followed slowly after, matching Lewis step for step. When they’d just gotten out of the room, Mick saw something flash in the darkness outside the window and he thought briefly, "The kids", before the hallways erupted into noise and light.

The window behind Lewis shattered inward with a crack of blinding light and the sharp scent of ozone followed by a crash of thunder so powerful it sent all four reeling. Mick’s ears rang so loudly he nearly missed a voice ringing with power he hadn’t heard in years, “Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee!”

Mick blinked the light from his eyes. Next to him Len was shaking his head to clear it. For a moment nothing more happened. Then, like a heart learning how to beat, the hallway runner began to twitch, little ripples of movement that radiated out from where Lisa’s hands were pressed against it. It shuddered, hard enough everyone scrambled off the rug and onto the wooden floor. The runner reared up like a raging serpent, twisting around to glare at the one that did its master wrong. Lewis yelped and tripped over the runner where it bunched up behind him, scuttling back on all fours. The runner fell on him like a tidal wave, drowning Lewis in its folds while the man fought and snarled and cursed. Len and Mick pressed themselves against the wall, as if movement might draw its attention to them.

“Lenny!” Lisa crashed into her brother’s waist- the carpet didn’t seem to care at all -and broke Len out of his stupor. He gripped Lisa to him tightly, hands on her shoulders and Mick could plainly see the amazement and dismay at how much she’d grown in their time apart. “I knew you’d come! Dad kept saying you never would, that you forgot all about me, but I knew you’d come back!”

“I’ll always come back for you,” Len said softly. Mick turned away, feeling like he was imposing on a private moment.

Which was when, of course, Lisa addressed him. “Who’s this, Lenny?”

“Lisa, this is Mick. He agreed to help me get you in exchange for one of the books your mom left you. The one that got ripped when I left.” Len suddenly sounded uncertain. “Do you still have it?”

“She’s got it,” Mick said. “You taught yourself to use the substitutiary locomotion spell.”

She made a face at him, unafraid of the big man with her brother. “Not like I had a lot going on. I wasn’t allowed out of my room that often.”

“Still a hell of an advanced spell to teach yourself when your brother said you never learned to do anything else but turn stuff to gold.”

Lisa stiffened, her grip on Len tightening. “If you think you can force me to make gold-”

“Nah, don’t need it.” Mick looked over to where Lewis had stopped struggling with the runner, completely encased in it. “I got more than enough expensive shit to pawn off when I need to.” Ignoring the muffled sounds, Mick went over to the window and signed. A moment later, Shawna was standing in front of him.

“Hi, Mick! Are we all done? Hartley’s about to fall asleep and Mark is afraid you’re gonna be mad at him for shooting that lightning bolt.” Without waiting for an answer, Shawna turned to Lisa, holding her hand out. “Hi, I’m Shawna! Are you hungry? I think there’s still an apple left. It’s not much but at least it’s something.”

Lisa looked at the outstretched hand before slowly taking it at Len’s encouraging, “It’s alright, Lise.”

“Hi. I’m Lisa. I guess I could eat an apple.”

“Yeah, it’s passed all of your bedtimes,” Mick scoffed. Shawna always got a little hyper when she was about to hit her teleportation limit. “Boo, take the Snarts and the other two back to the house. I got something to take care of, first.”

“Mick,” Len started pulling away from the girls. It seemed he figured out what Mick was alluding to. “I can-”

A hand on his chest stopped him. “You telling me, after all that, you’re gonna let your sister out of your sight like it’s nothing?” Len bristled and Mick smirked. “I got this. You make sure she’s alright.”

Shawna looked between the two men, confused. Eventually she gave up trying to figure them out and grabbed Mick’s sleeve instead. “But, Mick- what about you?”

“Come get me in ten minutes.” When she still hesitated, Mick gently untangled her hand from his sleeve. “Promise, Boo. Nothing’s gonna happen to me before then. Ten minutes, you come right to me, okay?”

“Okay.” She reluctantly backed up, took Len and Lisa by the hand and disappeared.

The runner stopped twitched- Mick wondered if there was a range to the spell or if teleporting cut it from the source of its power. He went over to the cocoon and crouched next to it, patting the bulge. “Don’t know if you can hear me,” he said conversationally, “but your kids are gone and they’re going to some place you’ll never, ever be able to get to them. And I’ll be making sure of that.” His hand ignited, the flames gradually catching on the runner. After a moment, the bulge began to move frantically. “Rot in hell, asshole.”

~*~*~*~

By the time Shawna brought Mick back to Len’s house, she was so worn out by the day that she curled up next to Mark and Hartley- both already asleep -and conked right out. During those ten minutes Mick had gotten anything that looked worthwhile from Lisa's room and burned down Lewis’s house, Lisa had washed up, ate a bit more and changed into some clean clothes- Len’s shirt and one of Shawna’s skirts and stockings. Between Mick and Len, they packed up what little was worth taking into the car along with the kids and made their way out of London and back towards Pepperinge Eye. Lisa fell asleep within the first twenty minutes.

It wasn’t until they were out of the city and into open country that Mick said, “After three years you’d think you’d have something to say to each other.”

Len scoffed. “Oh yes, I’ll talk to her all about my criminal exploits. Brilliant.”

“What’s going to happen to that name, anyway? Whatever Browne.”

“Someone will take it over eventually.” Len cupped his chin in his hand and leaned against the window. “When they realize I’ve gone missing.”

“What do you plan to do?”

“Dunno. It’s up to Lisa, really.” He twisted around to look back at her, the kids a jumbled pile of limbs in the backseat. “I just want her to be happy. Safe and happy. Though with the war going on, the safe part is a little more complicated.”

Mick flickered his eyes over to Len briefly. “What about you?”

“What do you mean?”

“New start, right? Shouldn’t you be thinking about yourself, too?”

Len looked at him, long and quiet, before turning away. “That might be a little complicated, too.”

They stayed silent for the rest of the drive. It was well passed midnight when they got to Mick’s cottage, bringing the kids in, careful not to wake them. Mick help Len get the downstairs sofa set up for Lisa and brought out all the extra blankets so Len could make a nest for himself on the floor near her. Then Mick trudged his way upstairs and fell into his bed, not even bothering to take his boots off.

In the morning he was woken up by laughter and the default screaming volume of children enjoying themselves. Mick clomped his way downstairs, still wearing the same clothes from the previous day, and stood blinking on his stoop. The kids were playing some kind of game that required a lot of running around and being noisy. Lisa was wearing another one of Len’s shirts, this one belted at the waist like a loose-fitting dress, hair plaited in a neat braid, ducking behind a tree as Hartley tried to catch her.

“About time you woke up,” Len said, leaning against the wall nearby. “Just in time to make brunch.”

“You know you could make something for them to eat, too, right?” Mick’s voice was still gruff and low from sleep. He didn’t miss the way Len parted and licked his lips at the sound of it.

“I’m sure you remember my last attempt at cooking.” He pushed away from the wall, turning to stand just a little too close to Mick. “I picked up some groceries in town, by the way.”

Mick frowned at that. “How’d you explain you being here?”

“You were out picking some things up from a nearby town for the kids, found me and my sister with our car overturned in a ditch and gave us a lift since it was starting to get dark.” Len smirked. “I was surprised how many people were quick to tell me that you’re not nearly as scary as you look.”

Mick was taken aback. “What?”

“I guess your secret mushy center is pretty well known. The grocer gave me some extra vegetables since you’ve got so many mouths to feed, now. And a lady that overheard how we lost almost all our luggage offered to make Lisa some new clothes for a very reasonable price. Which is fortunate, given Lisa's outgrown most of her old clothes.”

He was still reeling from Len’s previous statement. As far as he could tell, no one in town really cared for him. Sure, he’d help out if anyone asked him but Mick had never been anyone’s go-to guy. “Huh. Okay. You gonna help me with brunch then? Improve your shoddy skills.”

“You should ask Lisa.” Len said, looking back over the lawn where the kids were now all sprawled on their backs, laughing between panting. “Doubt she’s had many opportunities to cook. Good skill for her to learn.”

Mick stared hard at his profile. “Lemme guess, you’re going to find somewhere else to be so you won’t have to talk to her.”

“I told that very generous woman I’d give her Lisa’s measurements later and there’s really no better time than the present.” Len gave him a cheeky smirk like he wasn’t running away from the accusation. “I’ll be back in time for brunch.”

Mick watched him strut off with a scowl before going over to the kids with large, quick strides. “Lisa,” he called out, “you’re helping me cook so get cleaned up.” She sat up and frowned, looking over to where Len was walking off without a care in the world. She frowned harder. “Don’t worry about him, he’ll be back in a few. But if you want to eat, wash your hands and meet me in the kitchen.”

When she hesitated, Shawna was quick to say, "Mick's a really good cook, it's a lot of fun helping him out!"

"I know how to light a pilot light!" Hartley added before dutifully reciting, "But only if Mick is there to make sure I do it right."

Lisa cast another, longing look look at her brother and Mick's voice gentled. "He'll be back, I promise." Lisa finally ducked her head and hurried inside. Once she was in the house, Mick pulled the others into a huddle. “I want you three to go with Len. Remind him that even though he saved her, if he doesn't start talking to Lisa, that makes him a bad brother. Okay?”

They all nodded, faces set in the kind of comical determination only kids could do.

Shawna grabbed Hartley's hand and starting reaching for Mark's, but Mick grabbed his shoulder instead. "I want a quick word with Wizard, first." The kids sent each other confused looks but Shawna teleported the two of them to Len. Mark looked like he was about to be grounded for life. “You still think I’m gonna be mad at you for shooting off lighting?”

“You and Len said not to engage. Lots of times.” He scuffed his toe in the dirt. “But when I saw him with the gun and that you couldn’t do anything…”

Mick ruffled his hair, a soft touch that momentarily threw the boy. “Mark, I ain’t mad. I can’t tell you to always do what I say because sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, even if someone tells you not to. The tough part is being able to tell when to do what you need to. You did good.”

Mark beamed, puffing out his chest so much Mick thought he might strain something. “Thanks, Mick!”

“Now go out there and pester the shit outta Len.”

“Right!”

Even if it was almost noon, Mick decided on a simple breakfast- both to get it ready quickly and to make it easy on Lisa. So while she mixed the pancake batter, Mick cut up some fruit to mix together. It took her two tries to figure out how to crack eggs- once was too hard, splattering it all over the place, the other she timidly tapped it against the edge of the counter, causing bits of shell to fall into the yolk when she finally cracked it open.

After he instructed her to beat the batter and got the griddle ready, Lisa asked like she was talking about nothing of consequence, “You burned down my dad’s house, didn’t you?”

Mick was about to ask how she knew but stopped to look down at himself. Still yesterday’s clothes, still with some soot and ash on it. “Yeah.”

“Did you kill him?”

“Yeah. Does that bother you?”

“No.” She scowled at the batter she was mixing. “Wish he suffered more.”

“I burned him alive,” Mick said helpfully.

“Could’ve suffered more.”

Well, that was certainly true. He watched her continue to scowl, mixing like the batter had offended her. “You pissed at your brother?”

Lisa froze. “No. Why would I be?”

“Cause he’s being a dick and avoiding you.”

She all but slammed the bowl on the counter. “So I’m not imagining it! Why would he avoid me?”

“He thinks you’re gonna hate him because of the things he’s done. And probably ‘cause he doesn’t know how to be anything but a crook.”

“That’s ridiculous! I lived with dad all these years, and he was a crook, too!”

Mick gave her a sideways look. “I think that’s part of the problem.”

Lisa stood, looking at him blankly before the implication sorted itself out in her head. “That’s even more ridiculous! Lenny isn’t like dad! The fact he thinks he might be… ugh! He’s an idiot!”

“Yup.” Mick popped the ‘p’. “You should force him to talk to you. Get it sorted out so I don’t have to keep dealing with it. And that batter’s already dead, you can put it down now before you beat out the bottom of the bowl.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Throughout breakfast, all the kids kept giving Len venomous looks while Len kept giving Mick darkly unamused looks. Mick ignored them all- he did his part in all this bullshit, he didn’t need to do anything more. After, Len sent the kids to play outside. “But not too far,” he added before any of them could protest, “in case I need to call one of you.”

Four pairs of eyes slid over to Mick. “Go on out,” he told them. “Try teaching Lisa some of that sign language.”

They still huffed and dragged their feet but obediently went out. When the door closed, Len brought the last of the dishes to the sink where Mick was washing up. “Did you tell your kids to guilt me into talking to Lisa?”

“Yup. Did it work?”

Yes, damn you.” Len growled, getting into Mick’s space and forcing Mick to turn toward him. “You’re going to pay for this, you know.”

Mick just gave a low rumble of approval. “I hope so.” Mick loved the way those striking blue eyes went dark right before Len kissed him. Just as he moved in to do so, however, Mick put a hand to Len's chest, making him back up a step. “After you talk to Lisa.”

Len scowled though his eyes were dancing playfully. “Fuck you, Rory.”

After.”

~*~*~*~

It still took a while for Len and Lisa to stop being awkward around each other but the closer the siblings reconnected, the sunnier Lisa became until she'd charmed every single person in the entire town. And it made Len smile after her with such fondness that Mick couldn't help but just stare at him sometimes. He hadn't meant for anyone to notice- hell, Mick didn't even notice he was doing it, himself -but then Hartley came up to him one day with a mischievous grin.

"What do you want, Piper?"

"Do you have a crush on Len?"

He shoved- gently -Hartley out the door. "Get outta here and go do kid stuff." Not an hour later, as he took a break from his garden, he found Hartley, Shawna and Mark with big, shit-eating grins signing, 'Mickey and Lenny, sitting in a tree' until Mick signed back at them, 'I'll dig a well and throw you down it'.

Then, because of course that wasn't the end of it, while Len was washing the dishes after dinner, Lisa leaned in close to Mick and said, "It'd be okay if it's you. In fact, I think it'd be pretty great."

Mick glanced at Len's back, the man's humming just barely audible over the running water, and cursed to himself for getting caught up in the way the low light fell over Len's profile every time he turned. "Fucking kids," he muttered, not missing the devilish grin on Lisa'd face as he got up to hide in his workshop.

A week passed with Mick barely even noticing, too busy setting up makeshift walls so Lisa could have her own room- which Shawna quickly moved into, the two girls becoming fast friends -and fixing the parts of his garden that suffered during his absence, cooking, teaching Lisa what he could about magic- which the other children also listened in on, still hoping they could use it without Mick’s enchantments -from his and Lisa's books, and preparing a place for Clyde to stay when he was finally given the okay to move out to Pepperinge Eye. Mick wondered if he should just fence some stuff from his stash and make an add-on to the cottage. When Len saw what he had, his eyes brightened and he swore to Mick he knew people that would beg to pay a small fortune for certain pieces. Which was good because Mick wasn't certain how he'd be able to get to his usual fence with kids running around and those guys were the type Mick absolutely didn't want his kids near. Thank God for Len who was as clever and useful as he was absolutely maddening, whether it be from the way he grinned to how he looked when absorbed in a book or taking care of the children or sometimes just being in the same room as Mick.

He was happy. Mick was, for the first time in years, genuinely happy. Which meant that it wasn’t going to last because it never did. Something was going to go wrong. He was going to do something wrong and the kids would hate him or think he wasn’t worth their time anymore. They’d leave him. Len would leave him- he and his sister had a brand new start, they could go anywhere, why would they waste it in a tiny little town like this? Mick found himself going back to that area out back with the burnt trees, lighting up his hands to stare at the flames. Something he hadn’t done since before his kids came.

He knew the others noticed. They tried talking to him, tried getting him involved in what they were doing but it made Mick feel pathetic. One day they’d notice how desperate and lonely he really was and leave, disgusted with him. God, he wanted them all to stay so much sometimes he had trouble letting them out of his sight. Some days, when Len gave him sidelong looks like he was trying to work out how to get Mick to talk, Mick wanted to tell him to leave. Just take the kids and go some place where Mick wouldn’t be able to ruin everything for them.

Len finally cornered him one afternoon in the kitchen, arms crossed and back straight yet looking oddly vulnerable. "You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.”

Mick, who’d been expecting a heart-to-heart, mentally braced himself. “About what?”

“My dad. You didn't have to kill him."

Of all the conversation starters, that wasn’t one he’d been expecting. “What do you mean, did you want him to live?”

"No, I’m just saying I could've done it. Wouldn't have been the first person I've killed." Len snorted, looking away. "God knows how many I've killed because of him."

"Maybe that's why I didn't want you to do it." Mick leaned against the counter, defensive in reaction to Len's vulnerability. "You and your sister dirtied your hands enough for the man, no sense getting his blood on 'em, too."

Len's eyes were sharp and piercing and Mick turned away, unable to stand up to them. "Why do you care?"

"I know what it's like, the weight you carry after. You said yourself, he hated you enough he would’ve killed Lisa just to hurt you. If you kill your old man, it would've been one more scar he left on you. But he's no one to me. In a couple months, I'll probably forget all about it, but if you did it, you'd have that memory in your head forever. This way, he doesn't get to win over you one last time."

"Mick." A hand was suddenly on Mick's shoulder and another on his cheek, turning him around so lips could claim his own. It was a searing kiss, full of all sorts of emotions that whirled around Mick dizzingly until Len pulled away, peppering quick little kisses over his cheeks and lips and jaw. "How are you real? Like everything I ever wanted in a gorgeous package."

That was the most terrifying and uplifting thing anyone had ever told him and Mick had to grab Len's jacket to keep upright. "Will you," Mick licked his lips, "are you staying?"

"Lisa and I don't exactly have anywhere else to go at the moment." But his expression softened as he searched Mick's face, seeing something trembling, something afraid of hoping. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I didn't... people don't really want to be around me. Even Miss Price sometimes didn't." He was pretty sure, anyway. She only took him in to help him control his magic and over the years they may have developed a rapport but she tended to be distant and wasn't always patient and even towards the end, on his worst days, for all that she let him have free reign over the cottage, Mick still wasn't certain if she liked him. Then again she also once told him he could get so stuck in his own head he couldn't see what was going on around him. Maybe this was one of those times- he did misread his standing among the other townsfolk, after all. "Just kinda figured I didn't... I dunno. Deserve to be happy." Not after he killed his family.

Len's eyes were dark and intense while his hand remained a gentle pressure on Mick's cheek. "You deserve it," he said so earnestly that Mick almost believed him. "And I'll say it every day if I have to. You deserve to be happy and you deserve everything in the world and I will do whatever it takes to give it to you whatever you want."

For a moment Mick's breath was knocked out of him. His trembling hands tightened on Len's jacket, drawing him in ever closer and his voice was tentative as he tried to joke, "Say things like that, Lenny, and I'll think you've fallen in love with me."

Len hummed, nuzzling Mick's cheek lightly. "Pretty sure I wouldn't mind if I did."

"Pretty sure I wouldn't, either."

"If I fell in love with you or if you fell in love with me?"

Mick huffed, resting their foreheads together and smiling at the thought. "Both."

"Good." Gently, Len pried Mick's hands off, using them to draw the man towards the stairs. "I think the kids can deal with lunch themselves, why don't we continue this discussion upstairs?"

"Whatever you say, Lenny."
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