She tells Ray that the life after her first death was one of sand and stone.
It stretched for eons, in every direction. It browned her skin; tiny, crystalline particles of quartz and halite, smectite and calcite. They shielded her from the constant barrage of the sun, and when that got to be too much, she hid behind what little shade the animal hides provided.
She was always moving. Never stopping. Trying to find water and land. Subject to the derision of peoples who were not like her own.
The kinder ones let her and her family stop for the night.
The less kind ones threw stones.
When she saw Khufu’s face – although that is not what he was called – it felt like a word she’d heard but never known.
It felt like coming home.
“What are you looking at?” Leonard drawls, his mouth curled in the perfect picture of disdain. He’s got his feet kicked up on the cockpit’s console, a dirty, girly mag Mick stole from 1943 propped in his lap, and not a single care in the entire damn world.
Ray hates guys like him.
To be fair, Ray doesn’t actually know any guys like Leonard Snart, not outside of bad TV shows with wily caricatures of villains. But he imagines, if he’d known any in real life, he’d hate them.
And he does, now. He knows Leonard.
Who he hates.
“Your face,” Ray says, because that is in fact what he is looking at.
To his credit, Leonard doesn’t flinch, or preen, or move at all. He waits, expectantly, for whatever follow up Ray’s got.
Ray hasn’t got anything. He leans against the doorframe and keeps on staring.
Leonard snorts, paging through the magazine. They’re at an impasse.
It’s not as uncomfortable as it probably should be.
Rip Hunter never planned on getting married. Ray knows that because he’s nosy, and the ship’s logs are under his fingertips at any given moment.
Plus, he gets bored. Geniuses don’t handle boredom well.
Look at Dr. Stein. He’s tried to upgrade Gideon on four different occasions. He only succeeded once, but that’s because Rip is shrewd. He’s got a sixth sense for when someone’s messing with his tech.
It’s probably the dad in him.
Still, Rip won’t ever be able to put enough firewalls on the system to keep Ray out, bless his shrewd little heart. That’s why Ray knows that Rip trained for most of his life to become a time master.
He knows that Rip did it because what could possibly be cooler than that? Mastering time. Telling it to sit, roll over, play dead.
Of course, as Rip learned the subtleties of the craft, he learned what a laugh that was. Time has no masters. Time has no friends. It rarely listens and never stops. And it has a way of seducing a person into thinking they’ll get exactly what they want, and then giving them something totally different.
Rip Hunter never wanted to get married.
Then he met Miranda. The rest is history.
But history, like time, isn’t interested in staying still. It’s a living thing. It drives people, motivates them.
Ray knows that better than most. He knows the size and the shape of the hole that Anna left in his heart, and he can understand how much larger it must be for Rip, who was under Miranda’s spell for so much longer. Ray understands how hard it is to keep on moving, to pretend that you’re okay; that you haven’t had your lungs ripped summarily from your chest.
He also understands, then, why Rip might seek comfort in weird places.
Ray gets it, but he also doesn’t, when he sees Leonard Snart sneaking out of Rip’s room, shrugging his parka back over his shoulders.
The footage is grainy at best, but that’s definitely Leonard. Unhurried, because yeah, rushing isn’t his style. He doesn’t care how uncomfortable his…dalliances…might make other people feel. That would require manners and, and, empathy, or something resembling it.
The man doesn’t even look ashamed, and why should he be? He’s a fully grown, consenting adult. He doesn’t know that Ray is watching.
It’s weird, then, that he looks directly at the cameras as he passes by, but.
That doesn’t mean anything.
It can’t mean anything.
Ray presses a hand over his heart and wonders why he can’t catch his breath.
Kendra was a princess, sometimes, in some of the lives. Peasants scraped and bowed at her feet.
She was kind and generous, Ray assumes, because Kendra is never anything other than gracious. She’s the sweetest person on the ship. But all the kindness and generosity in the world never kept Vandal Savage away.
Ray thinks about how hard that must be; knowing that your future is always dictated by a monster.
He’s never loved feeling helpless.
Kendra’s probably not a fan either.
“I’m a genius. I’m like the inventor of bottomless mimosas, but more attractive,” Ray announces.
Jax stifles a laugh.
Dr. Stein merely glares. The man’s mind is a marvel, but his sense of humor leaves something to be desired. “What are you on about, Raymond?”
The way he says Ray’s name makes Ray feel like he’s twenty years old and in college again. The nostalgia is uncomfortable, a second skin that Ray has long since grown out of. He shakes it off and says, “I figured out how to fix the capacitors.”
“I figured that out half an hour ago. Keep up, Dr. Palmer.”
“Stop messing with my ship!” Rip calls across the cockpit. “There’s nothing wrong with the capacitors.”
“There won’t be! After we fix them!” Ray returns cheerfully. He ducks a flying object that vaguely resembles a shoe.
Sara’s shoe, and ooh, she won’t be happy about that. Ray suppresses a cackle and wiggles his fingers tauntingly at Rip, like, you missed.
“Raymond, I know you find mechanical failures pleasing to behold, but for the rest of us, they’re stagnating our mission.” Dr. Stein delivers the reprimand as primly as he does everything, words quavering with irritation and that stick still tightly wedged up his ass.
“What mechanical failures?” Rip yells askance, calling up Gideon to figure out what they’ve done now.
Ignoring all that, Jax cuts his eyes towards Ray, like maybe Dr. Stein’s insult landed a real hit. “Gray, maybe you should tone down the harsh.”
“Don’t worry.” Ray slings an arm around Jax’s shoulders and confides, “The harsh is how he tells us he loves us.”
Dr. Stein snorts derisively, but he keeps doing calculations on his work station, so that is totally a win.
“What bloody mechanical failures?” Rip yells again, and they all have to duck Sara’s other shoe.
“Raymond,” Leonard drawls, because the man has no idea how to do anything sans melodrama.
“How can I be of service?” Ray asks brightly, spinning on his heel to give Leonard his full, most obnoxious attention.
There’s something about driving people crazy that gives him the warm fuzzies inside, it’s a bad habit.
Leonard’s lips twist in the barest grimace before he covers. “Are you always this upbeat, or do you save it all for me?”
“You brighten my day, honey bear,” Ray shoots back. He settles his hands on his hips, because crossing them defensively over his chest would be like letting Snart know he’s won, and that’s only going to happen this side of never. “I repeat, what can I do you for?”
Leonard mutters something about needing help. Every word is punctuated with profanities, and all of it is said so quickly and resentfully that it flies right over Ray’s head.
“One more time, with way less feeling?” Ray pleads, cupping a hand to his ear like the crotchety octogenarian he plans on being, far, far in the future.
Snart raises his eyebrows. “Something you don’t follow, Palmer?”
Yes, life, Ray doesn’t say. “Plenty of things. Russian isn’t my forte, and I’m terrible at boiling eggs.” He waits, and when Leonard doesn’t bother repeating himself, he prompts, “Well?”
“If you’d take a look at my gun…” Leonard pauses, eyes fluttering closed. He looks like he’s got prayers perched on those plush lips of his, or maybe a thousand curses, for having to do this. “I’d be…much…obliged.”
“Asking for help isn’t weakness, you know.” Ray can’t help himself. It’s a disease, honestly, giving out unwanted advice. “You shouldn’t act so ashamed. I’ll happily look at your gun. Although have you ever thought about using something more effective than a gun? Cisco’s design is ingenious, don’t get me wrong-“
“You’re not hard to look at, Raymond, but maybe you’d like to try zipping it, every once in a while?”
“Aw, you think I’m pretty,” Ray quips back, beaming. His heart does this odd flipping thing, but that’s probably the ship’s freeze-dried chili. “My mom always told me I’d grow into my ears.”
Snart gives him the crossest look and asks, “Did she tell you the boys don’t like a chatty Cathy?”
“No, but she did say not to let them get too handsy on prom night. No one wants to buy the cow if you give out the milk for free.”
Leonard evaluates Ray for long seconds on end. Ray grins, bouncing from foot to foot like the overgrown Labrador retriever he aspires to be. Then Snart throws up his hands and says, “Never mind. I don’t need any help. I’ll fix it myself.”
“I said I’d do it!” Ray protests.
Leonard is already walking away.
“Hey, come on, don’t be like that! That’s cold,” Ray tells his retreating back. Then, because he’s a nerd, he adds, “That’s Captain Cold. Ha, nailed it.”
In one life, she is a village girl.
She wakes up. She tends the field. She sups with her mother and father, kissing them each on the cheek before she retires to bed. It’s a quiet life, and a good one.
Until Carter arrives, trailing death behind him.
“You’re looking at Rip like he just told you your parents don’t love you anymore. Jesus, do you guys need mediation?”
Sara glares. She’s very good at it. Practiced. Ray expects it’s the first thing they teach in top-secret assassin training.
“Why are you here?”
“I live here.”
“Not on the ship.” Sara glances pointedly around the training room, which, granted, isn’t a place Ray normally visits. He likes working out as much as the next guy, which is to say not as much as Oliver Queen or Sara Lance, but he’s been busy, what with all the time travel. And stuff.
“I thought I’d come see you. Check in. How’s that bloodlust thing working out for you?”
In the corner of the room, Rip continues running through basic hand-to-hand techniques with Kendra, who is sweating prettily, but not at all a murdering hawk goddess at the moment, which is great. Ray prefers it when she’s keeping the homicide all wrapped up inside her instead of taking it out on her teammates. It’s the best.
She doesn’t say anything, though, so Ray takes that as his cue to barrel on, “I mean, it must not be working out great, since you’re basically impaling Rip with your eyes. What did he do?”
“He didn’t do anything.”
“I’m brilliant,” Ray points out. When Sara shrugs like she doesn’t get it, he adds, “I’m so brilliant that I’m actually insulted that you think I’d buy that.”
She sighs. “Things with Rip are weird.”
“Because he’s a wannabe timelord?”
Sara clearly does not get that reference.
Ray needs to sit her in front of Netflix one of these days. Maybe when she’s not wielding a really, really big stick. He tries again, “Why are things weird with Rip?”
Off to the side, Kendra lets out a battle cry. They both instinctively check to see if she’s gone all red-eyed and wingy, but she’s still normal, human, barista-shaped Kendra. Sara sags with visible relief.
Carefully, she says, “Rip is different.”
Ray does not ask if it’s because he has two hearts, but it’s a close thing. He waits, patiently, for Sara to finish her thoughts.
She tacks on, “Different than anyone I knew, back home.”
“I mean, he’s definitely not an assassin.” If he was, Vandal Savage would be dead and Ray would be sitting in Felicity and Oliver’s love nest, eating pizza and screwing with their DVR.
“That’s not it.” Sara’s lips purse, eyes searching the air until they land on Rip and Kendra. “He’s got a cause, and he doesn’t back down from that. I admire it, is all.”
“Oh,” Ray says. Then, “Oh. You like him.”
“I do not.”
“You do, you like him!” Ray exclaims.
Sara brandishes her big stick threateningly. “Stop saying that. It’s not…it’s not what you’re making it out to be.”
She looks very young and very innocent when she bites her lip. Ray remembers that even though Sara is a super-killer and everything, she would basically be figuring out what to do with her postgrad life if she’d stayed away from the Queen’s Gambit, and her sister’s boyfriend.
On top of that, as far as he knows, she’s only ever dated Oliver and that scary murderess from Nanda Parbat, so. Maybe he shouldn’t push.
He pushes. “Why isn’t it?
“Rip isn’t looking for anything. I’m not looking for anything.”
“Rip’s looking for something,” Ray says, the video of Snart emerging from his room a vague ghost in his memory. He tastes something bitter and metallic on his tongue. “He’s not a monk.”
“What do you know?”
“Too many things.” Ray taps his head and smiles, kindly. He gestures to her bo and asks, “How do you feel about kicking my ass? I could use the exercise.”
Sara laughs, her shoulders unknotting, just a smidge. Ray’s work here is done. It’s totally going to be worth the bruises.
It’s totally not worth the bruises. Ray slumps back in his chair, tapping out a rhythm on his tablet because he gave up on equations minutes ago.
Across the way, Rip is sitting in the pilot’s chair, where Kendra and Sara deposited him after Kendra got a little claw-and-fangy with their sparring session. Ray’s not sure if he’s just really, really sore, of if he’s communicating telepathically with Gideon, because. Well.
He’s just. Sitting there. Doing nothing.
It’s getting awkward. Ray had wanted to concentrate on the thing he’s trying to, uh, upgrade, but it’s really hard to do with Rip staring pensively off into space. He doesn’t like extended silences; they drive him bonkers. And yet, he and Rip have been sitting across from each other in the cockpit for half an hour, not talking. This is not going to work out.
So Ray announces, “So this is probably an invasion of privacy, but I know you’re sleeping with Snart.”
It’s possible he should have kept his mouth shut.
Rip raises a single eyebrow. It’s an impressive life skill, and one that Ray unfortunately never learned. He’s always felt that the eyebrow raise is very manly and intimidating. It’s definitely a plus on any resume. “What of it?”
“I mean, I’m not judging,” Ray says in the exact tone of voice that will let Rip know he’s judging so hard, “But don’t you think that’s maybe not great for. Uh. Team building?”
“Doctor,” Ray corrects, because he worked his ass off for that title, damnit, and also because it makes Rip’s cheeks pink with annoyance. He’s not an unattractive man.
“Dr. Palmer,” Rip concedes. “Is everything you say nonsense, or do you mostly save it for me?”
“We have a special bond, you and I.” Ray grips the arms of his chair and continues, “I’m just saying, I think it’s a bad idea. What if you guys break it off? How will we ever complete trust falls then?”
Rip mouths trust falls like he has no idea what the term means. He probably doesn’t. Future London is likely full of characters skulking around in trench coats, doing untrustworthy, lone wolf-type things. Ray thinks about explaining, but if Rip really wants to know, he can ask Gideon.
(Who is possibly Rip’s only friend, and isn’t that sad?)
“Dr. Palmer,” Rip says. “My personal affairs are, frankly, none of your business.”
That’s a true thing. Ray flails around for a response, and, finding none, he’s at a loss. He blinks at Rip. Rip blinks back.
“What are you playing with, anyway?” He asks, looking like he desperately wants to make a play for Ray’s tablet.
Ray clutches it a bit more tightly, just in case. He squints down at his work. “I think it’s an engine part? No, no. Wait. It’s the dishwasher.”
“What’s wrong with the dishwasher?” Rip asks, voice taking on that hysterical edge it seems to acquire every time someone touches his stuff. The man is four years old, honestly.
“Nothing. Now.” The schematics for the futuristic gadget gleam sleekly up at Ray, his modifications demarcated in red.
Rip makes a face. “None of you use the dratted thing anyway. Sara’s a slob, and Mick breaks all the dishes.”
Ray shrugs, shifting the tablet on his lap over onto the arm rest. He splays his legs, resting one ankle against his knee. “They make good target practice.”
Rip stands, stretching from the chair and wandering into Ray’s space. Heat in his eyes, he places a hand on either side of Ray’s chair and counters, “Do I look like your maid?”
“Maybe if we put you in something with ruffles,” Ray responds easily. Rip huffs, crossing his arms, and Ray can’t help but ask, “What do you even see in Snart, anyway? He’s so…so…Snart.”
“Are you jealous?”
“Of what?” Ray scoffs, glowering up at him.
Rip’s face warms, just a smidge. “I’m not…unamenable to the idea of your company.”
He’s back in Ray’s space now, his hands planted firmly on the armrests, boxing Ray in, again. It’s…a lot, is what it is. “I’m sorry, did you just try to seduce me by telling me you’re not picky?”
Rip lifts his shoulders, a casual acknowledgement. “The truth hurts.”
“I wouldn’t say it hurts. More like marginally repulses.”
“Marginally?” Rip does the eyebrow thing again, and it’s sexy enough that Ray falters.
There hasn’t been anyone since Felicity, and that was quite some time ago. Carefully, he says, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“And who would you be choosing, if not for me?” Rip’s left palm settles lower, curling around Ray’s hip. Ray can taste his breath, a tingle on his lips, and in that moment, he thinks about Snart; the icy tundra of his eyes and the hot blaze of his body, something he can tangibly feel every time they pass in the hall.
He says, “You’ll do for now.”
“Charming,” Rip comments, but he crushes their mouths together all the same.
Kendra’s a pirate.
She’s a pilgrim.
Oft-times, she’s a peasant.
She is a girl, a woman, a sister, a mother, a lover.
She is always a warrior.
And in the end, it is always the same.
“Begone, feral witch,” Leonard says blithely.
Sara rolls her eyes and demands of the room, “Are we every going to try to civilize him?”
Mick flashes his teeth. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Sara grins back, because she’s got a little bit of hell spawn in her soul, and she’s fonder of trouble than any hero Ray has ever met.
He watches the three of them bicker back and forth and he wonders if he’ll ever share that easy camaraderie, with anyone. He’s trying so hard to fit into this team, but they’re barely a functioning unit. There’s every chance that on this mission, or the next, or the one after that, they’ll break into a million pieces.
Ray supposes that’s a risk with any friendship, though.
“I’m bored,” Sara declares, the faintest trace of a smirk on her lips. “It’s up to you boys to entertain me.”
Mick hefts his gun like a promise, and she pats his shoulder. “Rip barely got the scorch marks out, last time.”
“Even more reason to do it,” Mick says back.
Leonard drawls, “She’s right about the guns. Hunter gets his panties in a twist every time we try to play.” He sighs. “Stealing something would be so cathartic right now.”
“Palmer’s got a wallet.”
“Aim higher, Mick. Aim higher.”
Ray frowns in Leonard’s direction. He wants his attention, and he doesn’t, and he does.
It’s hard coming to terms with the fact that he’s actually, almost, kind of, possibly interested in Leonard Snart, resident bad guy.
It’s worse that Snart doesn’t even glance his way.
This is an ongoing problem, really. Ray’s never been great with, um, people. He always figured that once he made his first million, everyone would be frothing at the bit to get into his pants.
He never stopped to consider the caliber of the people, or that the ones who weren’t gold diggers would remain completely unimpressed with his exploits.
Snart, though. Leonard Snart should be a total gold digger. He should look at Ray like he’s the most fascinating creature on this damn ship.
Instead, he keeps watching Ray guardedly, like he’s some kind of prep school snob about to kick Leonard’s ass in the schoolyard.
Never mind that Ray’s probably the least lethal person in this room.
“Hey. I’ve got pretty great things in my wallet.” Ray pulls it out of his back pocket, flashing it around. “I’ve got…a crisp dollar bill and a stick of gum.”
And about eight useless credit cards, because hey, Ray Palmer is still legally dead. Fun. Ray tucks his wallet away and tries not to feel defeated.
Leonard shakes his head. “Don’t be clingy, Raymond. We’ll find a use for you yet.”
“How about that shiny suit of his, eh?” Mick asks, nudging Leonard with the butt of his gun.
“Bad idea,” Leonard retorts, almost a snarl.
When Mick blinks askance, Sara explains, “Aw, Rory. Ray backs us all up in the field. Dismantling the suit puts him off his game.”
“Plus, you know, it’s mine,” Ray says protectively. Isn’t there supposed to be honor among thieves, and all that?
“Don’t look so worried.” Leonard grins at Ray, not all kind. “We’ll keep you safe. Rah, rah, team.”
“Yeah,” Sara says, and this time it’s Ray’s shoulder she’s patting. “We’ve got your back.”
Leonard produces Ray’s wallet, plucked neatly from his pocket – how? “And sometimes, your front.”
Without meaning to, Ray lets a little bit of lewdness creep into his voice. He leans in close to Leonard, brushing their fingertips together while he seizes his stuff, and asks, “Promise?”
For the briefest of moments, Snart’s mouth gapes open, his icy eyes pooled dark with something that Ray does not recognize.
Then Ray adds, “My safe words are candid armadillo,” and he thinks he almost sees Leonard laugh.
“I’m having. A bad. Day.”
“Sounds like you need to talk about feelings.” Sara wrinkles her nose and heaves to her feet. “I’m out.”
“I’ll tap in,” Kendra offers, but Ray knows there is an implicit caveat in talking to Kendra Saunders about love, and he has a lot of trouble keeping up with Kendra’s past lives.
“You don’t have to,” Ray says, tentative.
“Hey, you’re my friend. I’m happy to help.” Kendra smiles ever-so-sweetly. “What’s up?”
Ray settles himself beside her, tucking his knees up to his chest like a small child. He says, “I had sex with Captain Hunter.”
She blinks, surprise forcing her mouth into an ‘o’ before she can recover. “Well, that’s. Um. Unexpected. How was it?”
Girls, Ray thinks, appreciatively. “Pretty fantastic.”
“He looks like he’d be good. At that.” Kendra’s cheeks begin to darken. “Not that I’ve thought about it.”
In a measured tone, Ray responds, “You’ve thought about it.”
“Frequently,” Kendra admits in a rush. “I thought he was all…”
“Broken?” Ray asks. “Yeah. Apparently that makes the sex hotter? I don’t even know.” He shoves a hand through his hair. “There’s this other thing.”
Kendra reaches out and squeezes his hand. “You can tell me.”
“I think.” Ray stops there, the declaration hanging in the air. He tries again, “I think.”
“Take your time.”
“I think that I’ve got a crush on Captain Cold.”
His words tumble out on top of each other, like IthinkI’vegotacrushonCaptainCold. Kendra struggles to parse them out, but when she does, all she says is, “Oh.”
“Yep. Oh.” Ray buries his face in his arms. “That’s all I have to say about it too.”
“What do you like about him?”
“What do you like about him?” She asks again, all too sensibly.
Ray’s been trying so hard not to think about how not-terrible he finds Leonard that he’s never actually rooted out why that not-terribleness might exist. He turns the question over and over in his head, sounding it out different ways. Finally, he says, “I think he wants to be good.”
Kendra replies, “I agree.”
“I don’t know if he can be good, but I think that intent matters. Him wanting it matters.” Ray squeezes his arms more tightly around his knees, because yes, these are the things he likes; integrity, inherent goodness, and rebellion, all wrapped into one spitfire of a package. More confidently, he continues, “He’s easy on the eyes. He compliments you, when you least expect it. He thinks he’s smarter than anyone in the room-“
“-and I think I’m smarter than anyone in the room-“
“And Dr. Stein thinks he’s smarter than anyone in the room,” she pipes in.
“-so we match, somehow. When we’re not trying to outsmart each other.” Ray pauses. “And did I mention that he’s hot?”
Clearly biting back a smile, Kendra allows, “You might have.”
“I don’t know if it will go anywhere. I don’t know if it could go anywhere. But I do know that I wouldn’t mind trying.”
“So why don’t you try?” Kendra asks.
“What if I’m so desperate to just, connect with somebody, that I’m throwing myself at anyone that moves. I mean, I had sex with Rip Hunter,” he emphasizes, in case she’s not seeing how serious that is. He doesn’t even like Rip. Rip lied to get them on this ship, all so he could use them to fulfill his own goals.
Leonard Snart might be a thief, but he hasn’t misled Ray once. Not yet.
Kendra’s lips press together in a firm line, her eyes crossed in thought. She says, “Maybe you are desperate. Maybe you’re not. You’ll never know if you don’t try, Ray.”
It wasn't all death and pain. Kendra was a matchmaker, at one point.
Maybe that’s why she hands out such great advice.
“So I don’t think you and I are going to work out.”
“Shame,” Rip says, and he doesn’t actually look even a little sorrowful.
“Also, I don’t think you and Leonard are going to work out.”
“Now, wait a minute-“
Ray holds up a hand. “I’ll let him decide that. Fair’s fair.”
“Mr. Snart isn’t fond of the word fair.”
“Then maybe you two have a future.” Ray stands his ground. He’s not great at this intimidation thing. “But I’m not great at sharing.”
“Have you told Leonard of your intentions?” Rip asks, and wow that is some serious British-speak right there. Ray absently thinks that Felicity would make Rip her ringtone, if she was here, and not off saving Star City with the guy who stole her away.
“Ah.” Rip places his hands on Ray’s hips. “Perhaps one last time, for the road?”
It’s not the worst suggestion Ray has ever heard. He brushes his mouth against Rip’s, tasting the salt-wet of his tongue. Their bodies press together, hard in all the right places, and Rip bites Ray’s lower lip, nips and then kisses the hurt away. The man is pretty great at this kissing thing. Kissing, in general, is pretty great, Ray thinks.
That’s about when Jax’s voice breaks in, all righteous indignation and boyish terror. “Ugh. Agh. I didn’t ever need to see that,” he protests.
Ray laughs, his mouth widening in an inadvertent grin against Rip’s lips. “Maybe you should knock, then.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t make out in the middle of the hallway,” Jax retorts, one hand covering his eyes. “This ship makes me feel like I’m back in high school.”
Rip looks mildly offended.
Ray can’t stop laughing.
“Can we talk?”
“That’s precisely what we’re doing.” Leonard replies, drawing out the syllables lazily. “Right now.”
He’s sprawled in the sunlight streaming in through the windows of the observational deck. Outside, the wind rifles through a tranquil landscape of wheat and corn, but inside, Ray can’t even remember what year they’re in. His entire focus is completely, one hundred percent devoted to Leonard Snart, haloed by sunlight and insolent as ever.
Ray says, “Your keen observational powers are one of the many things I like about you.”
It’s as brazen as he’s ever been, and it takes Snart by surprise.
“Come again, now?” Leonard props himself up on his elbows, confused.
“Cat got your tongue, Leo?”
Eyes going shiny and hard, Leonard rises to his feet. And to the challenge. “I didn’t think you liked anything about me, Palmer.”
“Raymond,” Ray says assertively, getting up in Snart’s face. “I like it when you call me Raymond.”
Leonard’s mouth opens. Then it closes. He asks, “Are you toying with me?”
He doesn’t sound pleased by the prospect.
“I’m flirting with you, Snart.”
“Why on earth would you do that?” Leonard actually sounds insulted, and Ray’s heart stills in his chest. Maybe Kendra was wrong. Maybe trying is the worst thing he could have done.
He says, “We’ve got chemistry.”
“We work well together,” Ray barrels on, but he sounds shaky, even to himself. “I think.”
“You think?” Leonard sways into Ray’s airspace, and Ray can taste him, something chill and slightly evergreen. This, more than anything else, is what makes him think he likes Snart; the way his heart kicks out, frantic, in a way that Ray thought he’d never feel again. “You think we work well together?”
“I’d like to see you naked?” Ray winces, because that sounded entirely like a question.
Leonard watches him, expression closed. Whatever he’s feeling is racing past his features like heat lightning, barely there before they’re gone again, leaving Snart carefully blank.
Rays spies Leonard’s gun abandoned on the floor and wonders if he should run.
Then Leonard’s shoulders slump. He asks, “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
It’s still his patented drawl, but softer, now. Softer than Ray has ever heard it.
“I- wasn’t sure,” Ray says, as honestly as he can. “I’m not great at, uh. This kind of thing.” He wants to use his hands to talk, to explain, to gesticulate wildly, but if he does, then Leonard will move away. Ray does not want that at all.
Up close, his eyes are intensely blue, sarcasm, suspicion, and a query all intertwined. He says, “Maybe we should find out how well we work together,” and even though it’s a tease, it isn’t in any way mean.
Ray dips his head, as close to kissing Snart as he dares to get. If anyone could actually see the ship from the outside, they’d be so close together that they’d appear to be one person, and that makes him happy, somewhere under his breastbone. He dares to say, “Maybe we should.”
Leonard’s hand wraps around the back of Ray’s neck, and then there is nothing else; just sunlight, a spark of electricity, and the movement of their mouths against each other’s. It’s not a kiss to write home about. It’s not epic, or legendary. But, Ray thinks, resting his head against Leonard’s, and feeling the steady thrum of the other man’s heartbeat:
It’s a start.