Author's note: First time I post the first part of a multi-chaptered story in a while, so here's me hoping it goes well :o) I hope you like this one. Seriously. Ever since I realised the huge soft spot for the Rogues I had since Flash and Substance – and since I gave the pub they go to in the episode a barkeep and a name – I wanted to play with them a bit more. So this story more or less revolves around that pub, which gets a cameo in each chapter. The title is a nod to Casablanca – the original play the film is based upon is called Everybody Comes To Rick's, and there's a title drop in the beginning – with a little nod (different every time) to the film. But enough of that. I'm having a lot of fun writing this story, so I really hope you enjoy it :o)
Disclaimer: every character here is a part of the DCAU, and as such belongs to DC Comics – and possibly Warner Bros. Since Casablanca does, too, and I don't know whether the play is in the public domain, I'll just go with it and get on with the story.
Everybody Comes To Harry's
A MEETING OF ROGUES
They said the first impression was essential.
This made Mick Rory, who had just recently come up with the codename Heatwave, especially anxious to get it right. He wasn't afraid – well, no more than the healthy amount, because you didn't get into what he was about to get into without a minimum of self-preservation instinct – but he certainly was aware of the pressure he put on himself. For the moment, though, he was the only one to do so, because nobody else knew about Heatwave's existence.
Not that many people knew about Mick's, for that matter.
So he checked the fire system once more, adjusted his goggles on his eyes, and kicked open the double doors of the bank for effect.
"All right, everybody freeze –" Damn. He'd have to work on his choice of words. "– This is a robbery! So put your hands…"
His voice trailed off when he caught sight of the startled looks on people's faces, customers and employees alike. They were staring at him with an odd mixture of shock and fear that made him stop in his tracks and frown. Something wasn't right.
Then he saw the giant icicle.
It wasn't an icicle. It was a man – a middle-aged bank watchman – encased in a big block of ice and dripping slowly. He had a gun in his hand and his blue, frozen features were a picture of shock.
Mick turned around slowly.
"Who the hell are you?"
Behind him – pointing a weird-looking gun thing at another employee who stood very still with a bag in her arms – was a guy in a blue parka, staring at him with narrowed eyes behind a pair of goofy glasses.
Mick had heard about this guy. Read about him a few times in the paper. 'Captain Cold', he apparently called himself. Mostly the articles were about bank robberies, successful or failed, and often how the Flash had thwarted them.
Come to think of it, those brief articles probably had something to do with the fact that he was now using his own attraction/repulsion toward fire as a gimmick to get easy money.
Oh, crap. Just my luck.
Mick straightened up, his hand tensing on his fire gun. Just because it was his first bank job didn't mean he had to make it obvious.
"They call me Heatwave," he said, doing his best to sound menacing, self-assured and professional. This didn't appear to fool the 'Captain', if the way he quizzically raised an eyebrow was any way to judge.
"'They'? Who, 'they'? Never heard of you before."
"New guy in town," Mick retorted. "You will. Because I'm gonna walk out of there with my share of the money and –"
The guy took a few quick steps toward him and cut him off. "Hold it right there, pal. You are gonna walk out of here, but don't even think you can take something out of a bank I'm already robbin'. That sort of thing ain't done."
Okay. Time for some rep-building attitude.
Mick's finger brushed against the trigger of his flamethrower. Sparks flew. He welcomed like a friend the familiar warmth on the part of his face that the mask wasn't covering.
He should have thought of it – hell, that Cold guy should have thought of it, if he was so damn smart. He should have known that this wasn't some Old West movie where the stand-off can last for excruciating long minutes and time isn't really a problem. Or rather, if it was indeed a western, it wasn't the Sergio Leone kind, where the main characters were more or less bad guys.
Nope. John Wayne had to waltz in and save the day.
Of course, John Wayne was a tall, lean kid in flashy red pyjamas who came barging after when one of the employees had pressed the silent alarm button, and when he saw the stand-off in front of him went all round-eyed and said, grinning widely, "Wow, what do you know – hot and cold – what were the odds?"
…But the principle of the thing was the same.
Both Mick and Cold turned their guns on him at the same time, but the Flash was already gone this way and that, the big grin never leaving his face as he zipped around, thawing out the frozen watchman and easily dodging both fire and ice.
Mick whirled round, but too late. Something bright and gleaming shot his way, and he barely had time to register it had come from Cold's weapon as the Flash knocked it out of his hands.
"Hey, Cold, if I knew you'd bring a friend, I'd have brought a beer!"
Oddly enough, Mick's last conscious thought before blacking out was, Is that kid even old enough to know what beer tastes like?
Then the cold and the dark took over and the world ceased to exist.
A flame flickered in the darkness. Mick clung to it on his way to consciousness.
He slowly became aware that he was lying on his back on a cold, hard surface, under a thick woollen blanket, and his muscles ached like they never had before. His mask was gone, his face – and identity – laid bare. The sounds and smells that were breaking in were completely unfamiliar, and there was a chill in the air that made him shiver.
When he finally managed to open his eyes, he saw that the flickering yellowish light was not not actually a flame, but a light bulb hanging from a bare concrete ceiling. Big disappointment.
It wasn't a question so much as a statement. The voice was low, flat, and it made Mick wonder where he had heard it before.
The answer came when he blinked through the bright spots scattered across his view and caught a glimpse of blue. It also told him where he was, namely lying on one of two benches in a cell in the Central City Police Headquarters. Captain Cold was staring at the opposite wall from where he sat more or less comfortably on the other bench. Cops came and went across the room on the other side of the bars, completely ignoring them.
It was hard to decide which was worse.
Mick tried to sit up groggily, still blinking. "Wha' happened?"
With the hood of his parka down and without his glasses, Cold looked more like a regular Joe than the weird Eskimo on the few blurry photos on Picture News. The man sitting in front of him was maybe a couple of years older than Mick, with sharp features and a short stock of tousled brown hair. His brown eyes were as cold as anything when he glanced at Mick.
"What d'you think? The Flash showed up, kicked our asses and hauled the both of us in here."
The spots were almost gone now, and the blanket was warm enough, but Mick's muscles were still quivering from the aftershock.
"I mean, what the hell happened to me?"
Cold went back to staring at the wall, but he had the grace to sound gruffly apologetic.
"My cold gun misfired when he knocked it. You got in the way." He shot Mick another, less cold glance. "Sorry."
Mick had always had a weird relationship to fire, but there was nothing he straightforwardly hated more in the world than cold, ice and everything related. Funny what having been locked up in a walk-in freezer as a kid could do to you.
No wonder his hands were still shaking like mad.
The guy had apologised, though, and something told Mick that it wasn't the kind of thing that happened often.
He sat up and brought his knees to his chest, wrapping the blanket around himself and curling into the tightest ball he could to regain a bit of warmth.
"So…" he finally ventured when his voice was steady enough, "you didn't kill that guy, back there?"
Cold shrugged. "'Course not. I'm not some kinda serial killer, and I'm not dumb either. You kill someone, you get a whole lot of heat. And I'm not too fond of that."
"But the dude was in a giant icicle! You're gonna tell me that he wasn't hurt?"
"Not much more than you." A smirk made its way across his face. "Suspended animation – that's how the cold gun works. It doesn't ice people if I don't set it to. Once they've thawed out, all they need is a bit of warming-up and they're fine."
"Fine – yeah, right," muttered Mick, fully aware that the room temperature wasn't that low but still hugging his knees and shivering. "You're nuts."
The smirk became a grin. "Because setting stuff or people on fire is so much healthier."
The point sank in, and Mick glared at his cell mate.
"I don't get off on it! I'm not some pyromaniac nutjob." That wasn't a hundred per cent true, but Mick drew the line at hurting innocent people, so he had decided that Heatwave wouldn't do that, either.
Captain Cold threw him a pointed look. "Me neither. It's a job. Okay, so I like my job, but the gun's just a work tool."
Mick nodded. It wasn't often that he came across somebody who understood this frame of mind and didn't run off to call the men in white. At least the Flash had handed the two of them to the cops. If he had pulled this stunt in Gotham, Batman would have dragged both their asses to Arkham Asylum… and he'd heard about the people in there. The loonies and the serial killers and the ones who tortured people and did things to little kids for kicks – not to mention the guys who actually chose to work there. Just thinking about it gave him the creeps.
The shivering was gradually dying down. About time. That blanket was thick and warm, but it was also scratchy and smelled a bit funny.
As Mick swung his legs down the bench and loosened the blanket around him, Cold turned sharply and faced him directly, the shadow of a grin playing across his features.
"Well, can't say this wasn't fun, but I'm off. You know – things to do, people to see. Do you wanna come?"
Mick blinked, but this time it wasn't to clear his vision.
"Oh, yeah," he ended up saying sarcastically, "why don't we just take a hostage, get the keys, our weapons and the hell outta here?"
The guy grinned. His left eye-tooth had a dent in it.
"Funny you should say that."
He took out his left glove – Mick noted with no small amount of surprise the narrow band on his ring finger – and rummaged a bit before finally picking up a small contraption that looked like a miniature gun.
"You live the life, you play by the rules. And one of the rules is… always have something up your sleeve."
"Does it mean I have to take it literally? That suit's kinda tight around the arms."
The smug grin slipped a bit, and Cold shot him a deadpan look. "Not necessarily." He pocketed his weapon and leaned against the wall, his eyes on the few cops behind the bars, especially the one who slouched on his chair behind a desk nearby. "And now… We attract their attention. Shouldn't be too difficult."
Mick inwardly sprang to attention. The guy sure looked like he loved to hear himself talk, but there was something about him, like a sharp, gruff sort of competence that made you want to listen.
"So you think you can just walk into a bank job of mine and screw up something I've been working on for days? Well, think again, you little –"
Wha – oh. That kind of attention. Mick tensed and held the glare.
"Yeah, because you were doing so fine before I came in. I mean, one bag of cash? How lame is that?"
"Ha! That's exactly the kind of mistake every wet-behind-the-ears wannabe robber makes. Never take more than you can carry with one arm!"
"Christ, do you even hear yourself speak? Hate to break it to you, pal, but you're a criminal! You don't need rules – you break 'em! And you and your rules can go to hell!"
At some point during this little exchange, both Mick and Cold had stood up and were now glaring fiercely at each other. From the corner of his eye, Mick saw the desk cop scramble to his feet and make his way to the cell.
Then Cold dropped his voice to a whisper.
"Then you won't last… five minutes… in this town."
Mick punched him in the face.
Something cracked, blood spurt. Cold hit the bars hard and went down.
The next second pain exploded in his knuckles and spread in his hand, wrist and arm like fire, and Mick grit his teeth against the groan that almost escaped his lips, cursing himself. He hadn't meant to hit the guy as hard as that. On the other hand, though, maybe he could get that little cold gun and…
The cop fumbled with the keys, his billy club steady in his right hand, and opened the door with a little difficulty – Cold's unmoving body was in the way. Mick repressed the small spark of guilt that flared up in his mind in order to focus on the situation. That cop was between him and the cold gun, and between him and the way out as well. Things didn't look so good.
"What's wrong with you?" snapped the cop. "Getting restless? Don't wanna share? You want a nice cosy cell just for you, is that it?"
"Well," Mick drawled, trying not to sneak a glance at the blue parka on the floor, "now that you mention it, yeah, that'd be nice. The guy was a jerk and your blanket stinks as bad as the room service does."
The cop's face contorted with anger and he took a couple of steps toward Mick. Before he could take a third, however, Captain Cold was on his feet, pressing his weapon against his neck.
"Before you ask, yes, this is a cold gun, yes, you're a bunch of idiots for not thinking I would have something like that, and yes, I can and I will freeze your throat until you can't breathe anymore if you or your pals try anything funny. Now, you're gonna go with us get our weapons back. Agreed?"
His voice came out all nasal and funny and blood was pouring from his nose, but judging by his sudden, absolute stillness, the cop understood that he was Not Kidding.
"Y–yeah," he stammered.
It never should have worked. Never. In a million years.
But – and Mick had to stop himself from thinking about it every single step of the way, because it was like aerial walking in the sense that the slightest rational thought could break off the charm and make you fall down and hit the ground, hard – it did.
They got out through a back door. There was always a back door.
This made Mick wonder whether Arkham had a back door.
And they ran.
When they were far enough, they stopped in a dark alley of the old city to get their breath back. Mick's legs wobbled, his chest burned, and his fire suit had never felt this heavy before.
"Well," he panted, "for a first job that… that w–was certainly… interesting."
Cold turned to him, taking off his glasses – they'd both swiped back their masks along with their respective weapons – to wipe the sweat off his face.
"Thought you were a… a newbie. Didn't f–figure y… you for a first-timer. Ow." He winced, fished a handkerchief from a pocket in his belt and gingerly wiped off most of the remaining blood. "The punch was a nice touch, by the way, they really bought into it." Oddly enough, he gave a slight grin, the kind that looked more like a smirk and which Mick was beginning to think it was particular to him. "Kinda think you broke my nose, though."
Mick gave a crooked smile of his own and extended his hand. "Guess that makes us even, then. I'm Mick Rory."
Cold took the offered hand and shook it. "Len Snart."
Mick tilted his head slightly to the side. "That's short for Leonard, right?"
Len Snart's glare could have frozen at least a few acres of Hell. "Call me Len."
It sounded much more like an order than a friendly invitation, but Mick was willing to let that slide. Failing a bank robbery, getting turned into an icicle and escaping from Police HQ – yeah, that had been good fun (and Mick's relative lack of sarcasm surprised him – some of it had genuinely been fun) but now that the adrenaline was wearing off, all he needed was a warm place to crash and a good beer. Too bad his fridge was empty.
"So, 'Heatwave'… What do you say we grab a beer?"
Mick turned to Len in genuine surprise.
Len shrugged. "We're near Harry's. He keeps good stuff and he doesn't mind who's buying it as long as nobody starts any nasty business in his bar."
Mick sneaked a glance in the nearby larger street and turned back to Len, narrowing his eyes. "Look, I know this neighbourhood. Never heard of a place called Harry's."
"Then it was high time you did. Come on."
Len put his glasses back on, and Mick tugged on his cowl to smooth the creases, still slightly wary but curious.
When they were both standing near the entrance, he understood why he had never heard of the bar. It wasn't the sort you found, especially without meaning to. That kind of place found you.
The beer was good. The atmosphere was quiet, but welcoming in its own peculiar way, and Mick found himself leaning comfortably against the back of the seat as he took small gulps from his pint to make it last longer.
The waitress had provided Len with an ice pack that was now gingerly balancing on his nose.
"You don't have it as good in Keystone," Mick reflected, more to himself than to the guy across the table. "If I'd known when I was still working for Kowalski and his bunch of thugs, I'd have gone rogue sooner."
One brown eye peered at him from under the ice pack.
"We don't do things Kowalski's way around here."
"Got that. You know, Len, I think this is the beginning –"
The crooked smirk returned.
"Gonna be able to finish that sentence with a straight face?"
"– Of a beautiful friendship. See? I may not be 'Captain Cold', but that doesn't mean I don't get to be cool." Mick took another gulp and grinned. "'Sides, I knew you'd get it. You look old school enough to."
"Yeah. Old school."
"Best school there is."
Silence settled for a little while, and it was surprisingly companionable. When Mick had finished his beer, he leaned forward and saw in a low voice, "You know that little bank near the airport? Sanders'?"
A gleam lit up in Len's eyes as he put the ice pack away and looked at Mick.
"You got my attention."
And Mick explained his idea.
There was something there, Mick mused as he and Len filled in the blanks of the plan. He had no idea what it was. It wasn't friendship, it wasn't even trust, per se – just a shaky kind of partnership – but he'd be damned if it wasn't the start of something interesting.
Definitely something to look forward to, anyway.
We do get to see Heatwave – he's part of Grodd's Legion of Doom, and is one of the twelve who survive Alive! and take part of the final battle in Destroyer. (By the way, in the comics they spell his moniker in two words, but in one word in the DCAU wiki, so I went with them since this is the DCAU.) Since we don't know that much about the Flash's early days (and his foes') I figured it would be fun to fill the blanks by partnering the polar opposites as the premise for the Rogues :o)
Now, I haven't finished writing the second chapter (but I have written the third and fourth!), so contrary to the snapshots, I don't know when I'll be posting it. I'll do my best to finish it soon :o]
Till then … hope you liked this one :D
Next up: It had to be simpler in Gotham, Captain Cold mused. No villain there would ever think of bluntly asking the resident "hero" what was wrong when something clearly was. But the Flash was no Batman. Thankfully.