Nothing Says 'I Like You' Like (Almost) Starting A Mutiny
by Sandrine Shaw (Sandrine)
Mick is in his quarters cleaning his gun when Ray finds him.
It's only the second place he looked, half-expecting Mick to be holed up in the kitchen, emptying a few bottles of beer and grumbling about missing the feast at Camelot. Instead, it was just Nate and Amaya, sharing what looked like a plate of fries and sitting uncomfortably close, prompting Ray to quickly make his excuses because he felt like he was intruding on a moment.
Mick's quarters are messy. Clothes and gun parts cluttering the floor. The bed unmade, a bunch of blankets bundled up carelessly, the pillow a shapeless lump. A smokey smell in the air. In a cage on the desk, the rat Ray gave him for Christmas is gnawing on a slice of pizza.
Ray awkwardly lingers in the doorway waiting for some kind of acknowledgement or invitation that doesn't come. Mick's eyes remain fixed on the gun, and the way his fingers move along the barrel is reverent, careful, almost tender. In a weird kind of way, watching him go about it feels more intimate than seeing Amaya steal a fry from between Nate's fingers.
Uneasily rubbing the back of his neck, Ray forces himself to barrel through. "Hey, Mick. So..."
His voice trails off. Eloquent, Palmer! Mick once slapped the back of his head for using too many big words, but that's hardly an excuse to become inarticulate.
Mick merely grunts in response, his gaze briefly flickering up to Ray before settling back on the task at hand, but Ray figures he might as well take it as an invitation to continue. If he wasn't welcome, Mick wouldn't hesitate to tell him so in no uncertain terms.
And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't have Mick's undivided attention, because he doesn't really know how to say this anyway, doesn't know where to start, tongue-tied and awkward. If Mick was actually looking at him, waiting for him to speak, it might be a million times worse. He clears his throat.
"Martin told me what you did. I just wanted to—"
Unexpectedly, Mick's face lights up and he raises his eyes, setting the gun down. "Must be bugging the hell out of the professor. That my brain totally saved the day and his just wasn't up to scratch."
His chuckle is warm and rich and a bit rough, like expensive booze. Ray suddenly feels thirsty.
"What? Oh, that." He swallows and shakes his head because, yeah, he heard about Mick breaking Rip's mind-control over the army by drowning it out with the chaos and noise in his head. Impressive as it is, it's not why he came to talk to Mick. "No, I mean the... other thing."
"What other thing?"
"When I decided to stick around and fight for Camelot, and Sara was going to take off and, you know, you. Um." He shrugs. "Told them you weren't leaving without me and made them come back for me."
"Ah. That." Mick actually sounds disappointed. He offers a careless one-shouldered shrug. "'s no big deal. I don't like leaving people behind, is all. Doesn't mean I like you."
There is no rancor in Mick's tone. If anything, his intonation implies an indifference leaning towards boredom, but it still feels to Ray as if Mick had sucker-punched him. It makes sense that Mick would feel that way, that it's nothing he wouldn't do for anyone he allies himself with, honor among thieves and all, but Ray still thought— It doesn't matter what he thought. He tries to put some cheer into his voice.
"Oh, okay. Well. Still. Thank you."
The smile he offers looks probably more like a grimace. He turns to go, but Mick's exasperated huff stops him.
"Doesn't mean I don't like you, either."
It's ridiculous how much he perks up at the words, gruff and unenthusiastic as they may be. How his stomach does that little lurch of excitement where he doesn't know if he's gonna be sick. How his heart clenches in the happy-yet-painful way he wishes he didn't recognize.
'Do you, then? Like me, I mean,' Ray almost asks. He bites his tongue before the words can come out because it's an intrusive question, clingy and weird, and it reminds him uncomfortably of that time in fourth grade when he slipped Christina Donnelly a note asking her the same thing (except with handy little checkboxes) and she showed it to all her friends during lunch break and laughed in his face.
He says the next thing that comes to mind, though, which is, "No one ever almost started a mutiny for me," and that's not particularly smart either, because it's Mick. He doesn't really need all that much incentive to consider a mutiny. It's not like he has a lot of respect for authority on his best days; that doesn't make Ray special. Also, he probably shouldn't be encouraging Mick's disregard for rules. He clears his throat. "Not that I'm advocating mutinying on principle. Or that I like that you were put in that position in the first place. I'm just... grateful that you were willing to make a stand for me. Though I'm also glad that it all worked out without an actual mutiny happening."
"You're making less sense than usual, haircut," he grumbles, which Ray is already painfully aware of, thank you very much. This conversation isn't going to make his top ten of embarrassing moments – hell, it's probably not even in the top fifty – but the way Mick has him reduced to a babbling mess without even doing anything is pretty damn mortifying.
He's just about to excuse himself and retreat to his own quarters to die of humiliation when Mick says, "Just don't do it again."
"Don't be stupid and go off again, trying to get yourself killed on some fool's mission. I already lost a partner. Don't want to lose a second one just because he can't leave shit well enough alone and has to play hero."
There's the usual disdain in his intonation of 'hero', spitting it out like it's some kind of terrible insult, but he also sounds genuinely irritated, like Ray dying would actually have bothered him. And that's just the thing about Ray: he can't leave shit well enough alone and he is no good at resisting rushing head-first into danger. Which is why he hears himself saying, "Wait, does that mean you do like me?"
The expression on Mick's face turns stormy.
He pushes himself up from his seat and advances, making Ray wonder if he's going to get his ass kicked. He does his best to stand his ground, but Mick's an imposing guy, especially so when he gets all glowering and intense, and in no time Ray finds himself backed up against the door with Mick's glare staring him down from less than an arm-length away.
"I thought you were supposed to be some kind of genius, haircut. Stop asking dumb questions."
He's standing close enough that the gravelly rumble of his voice resonates in the pit of Ray's stomach.
"Sorry. I just—" Ray begins. He doesn't get any further because Mick's mouth is on his, swallowing the rest of his apology. It's exactly like he'd have imagined Mick would kiss, if he had indeed ever considered such a thing (which he definitely never did, or at least he will never admit to it): all heat and intensity, kind of overwhelming in the best possible way. It takes him a few moments too long to get with the program, and when he does, he lets his mouth fall open under Mick's and pushes against the bulk of his body, seeking friction. The kiss turns dirty fast, going from zero to sixty quicker than those expensive cars Mick likes (likes to steal, more specifically), and when Mick steps back, Ray's mind feels fuzzy and like it's been wrapped into cotton wool. His cheeks still tingle from the rasp of stubble.
Mick's smile is lazy and satisfied. "Huh. Shoulda figured that's the best way to shut you up."
Ray would feel insulted, except Mick's hand is still curved around his hip, large and warm, his thumb slipping underneath his shirt and stroking the skin below until Ray is familiar with each callus there without ever laying eyes on them.
"Feel free to shut me up at any time you feel like it," Ray says with a smile, because it might be cheesy as hell but it's still better than the, 'Just so you know, I like you too. In case it wasn't obvious' that's sitting right there on the tip of his tongue, and he's not actually a twelve-year-old girl.
Mick hums under his breath. And maybe Martin was right, and Mick's mind has depths neither of them fully understands, because he seems to hear what Ray isn't saying – or perhaps Ray's just telegraphing his insecurities plain for everyone to see – because Mick says, "'s not like I hate it when you're yapping away, haircut. Just don't care for the dumb shit you say when you should know better. Or the stupid heroics."
It's as close to a verbal confirmation of Ray's earlier question than Mick will probably get, considering his aversion to talking about feelings. His forehead is furrowed and he looks somewhat pained, like this entire conversation is a new, inventive kind of torture he's only withstanding by sheer willpower, and the fact that he even tried to ease Ray's self-doubts makes Ray's heart clench tightly.
He smiles and pushes past Mick, sitting down on the bed after pushing the scrunched-up blanket aside. "In that case, why don't I tell you about Camelot? Man, you wouldn't believe the feast you missed while you were holed up here playing Professor X with Martin. You'd have loved it, just imagine..." He keeps talking while Mick sits back down, returning to cleaning his gun, occasionally making the appropriate noises in response to Ray's story.
Ray figures he can do no wrong, either way. Mick will enjoy what he has to say, or he'll proceed to shut him up. It's a win-win situation. And if he secretly hopes that at some point, Mick will get tired of hearing him recount the tales of Camelot – well, no one will have to know.