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nights like this

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The few hours after a heist were always the hardest. Once the adrenaline began to wear off, it was a steep decline into exhaustion and restlessness. It didn't matter what they'd stolen or how well it went—it always ended in the same feeling.

Once, in a rare moment of peace between them, Barry had recommended that Leonard find a post-job routine. Barry had been thinking of one of his heroic rescues, of course, but Lenny figured it wasn’t bad advice. Barry was probably also referring to meditation or a warm drink. Lenny preferred his coping mechanisms with soft brown eyes and broad shoulders.

Lenny pushed through the door of Carson's Diner, the only light emanating from a weak fluorescent bulb in the kitchen and the neon arches of the jukebox. The diner was small and almost always empty—maybe because Lenny only ever showed up in the earliest hours of the morning.

He slid into a table at the back and waited for someone to take his order. It was a girl he didn’t recognize—pity—but he ordered a coffee anyway. It came quickly, dark and hot and strong enough to cause serious damage to a lesser man.

Lenny took a long chug, feeling it burn his throat. There was a TV mounted in the corner playing footage of a bank robbery that had taken place earlier that night. Lenny watched it just long enough to see what they were saying—nothing remotely close to the truth, of course—and then turned back to his coffee, swallowing the rest of it in one fell swoop.

“You wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”

Lenny lowered his cup to see Ray leaning against the opposite booth, his apron thrown over his shoulder. The pencil he used for orders was still tucked behind his ear. His smile was wide and crooked, clearly proud of his joke. If only he knew.

“Why don’t you come a bit closer and ask me again?” Lenny replied. He slid closer to the wall and Ray crowded into the booth, the warm heat of his body pressing close. The space was barely big enough for the both of them—not that they minded.

“You’re always up so late,” Ray murmured, running his fingers along Lenny’s cheek. “I worry about you.”

“Don’t,” Lenny said. “Besides, you’re up late too. Isn’t that how this whole thing started?”

“You’ve got me there.”

“How about I have you here?” Lenny asked, slipping his hands onto Ray’s hips. Ray pushed even closer, hooking his foot around one of Lenny’s ankles.

“I’m working,” Ray whispered. “Are you trying to get me fired?”

“You know what I’m trying to do.”

The strange light cast shadows across Ray’s face, the reflection of his eyelashes shifting across his cheeks like tongues of fire. Lenny leaned in and kissed him, gently at first, then hard enough to bruise.

“Hey,” Ray said, pulling back. “Is everything okay?”

Lenny shook his head but didn’t say anything. There was a familiar feeling creeping up—not grief, or regret; never those—but something soft and vulnerable. He pushed it down, focusing on the ember of restlessness and dissatisfaction that burned deep in his gut on nights like this. A reminder that he took and he took and he took but it was never enough.

“Don’t answer,” Ray said, shaking his head. “Just—”

He paused, not finishing his sentence, before leaning in for another kiss. He refused to meet Lenny’s urgency, pulling back with every push Lenny made. It was soft and slow and infuriating.

“Kiss me,” Lenny growled, twining his fingers in Ray’s hair. Ray just laughed, soft and quiet.

“I am.”

Eventually Lenny stopped pushing. He held back, pulling away, letting Ray come to him. And he did. Ray pressed closer, draping his legs across Lenny’s knees and stroking a gentle thumb across his collarbone. Ray tasted like coffee and mint and the chemical tinge of lip balm, safe and real enough to get lost in.

“Palmer!”

Ray pulled back at the sound of his boss shouting. He was standing in the aisle, arms crossed, looking disapprovingly at their public display.

“Sorry,” Ray said, combing a hand through his hair. Lenny couldn’t help but smirk—there was no helping him. His lips were red and swollen, cheeks flushed, eyes glassy.

“Get back to work,” his boss said, heading back towards the kitchen.

“If he catches us one more time…” Ray said, grabbing his apron from where it had fallen on the floor and retying it. Lenny stood, pulling Ray in for one more kiss. He snuck his hands under the apron and around Ray’s back.

“Third time’s the charm?” Lenny whispered. Ray pulled back, shaking his head affectionately, his eyes twinkling with lust and mischief and not a hint of regret. Lenny offered him a rare smile and headed for the door, pulling on his jacket and raising his hood.

Snow was just beginning to fall in Central City, thick flakes that stuck to your hair and eyelashes. Lenny breathed in the cold air, feeling his lungs tighten with the shock. As he breathed out, the quiet hum of early morning traffic filling the air, he felt rarely, blessedly calm.