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Two Friends Like Us

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Ian practically runs to the Milkovich house as soon as Mandy disappears from sight, trying to call Mickey the entire time.

He doesn’t pick up, each call goes directly to voicemail, and when Ian gets to the house, he hammers on the door, not giving a shit if Terry answers. But no one answers, and even the though the padlock is gone now, the house is dark and silent.

No one is home.

Ian sinks down on the front steps, rubbing his hands over his face in disbelief.

It had been close to four months, but it felt like a lifetime since he had last seen Mickey. He thought it would be years…three years, and now Mickey was back.

Just like that.

And Ian had given up, so easily, and so early on. He feels like a fucking asshole, and he’s terrified Mickey won’t forgive him. Won’t understand.

He’s not sure how long he sits there, too fucked up to move. But eventually he hears the loud growl of a motorbike coming down the street, and he watches as it slows front of the house, the rider revving the engine to get it up over the curb.

They are blasting loud music from their phone, adding to the noise.

Ian stares in disbelief as they kill the engine right in front of him. It’s the same fucking Enduro and rider he’d told to fuck off earlier today.

It couldn’t be though… Mickey didn’t have a motorcycle…

The driver hesitates as they lift their head upwards from the ground to look directly towards where he’s sitting, and Ian’s eyes flicker down from the black helmet, to the bare hands that are tightly gripping the brakes.

FUCK U-UP

“Oh my god” Ian whispers, standing up.

He must have dreamed about seeing Mickey again a hundred fucking times.

The tattooed hands reach up, and slowly pull off the helmet.

Ian’s eyes fill as he finally sees Mickey standing right in front of him, banishing all of the ghosts that had made him just a memory.

His beautiful jet-black hair, slightly matted down from the pressure of the helmet. His soft and familiar mouth, as he pants shallowly. His piercing and uncertain blue eyes, flickering back over Ian.

They both stare at each other for a long moment, until Mickey finally breaks the silence, yelling over the music.

“Mandy texted me, said I should go talk to you. You weren’t at the party, so I figured you’d be here”.

He kicks the stand on the bike and gets off, holding the helmet in his hands as he leans against it.

Ian nods, unable to find words at first. And then he looks around the open street, and considering Terry could come back any time, he yells back, “Can we go talk somewhere?”

Mickey turns off his music, and coughs lightly into the uneasy silence of the night, looking up at his house with an indiscernible expression.

Finally he answers with, “Yeah”.

Mickey kicks the stand away from the bike, climbing back onto it swiftly. He tosses the helmet back at Ian, who catches it uncertainly. He had assumed they would just walk somewhere.

“Get on”

Ian pulls the helmet down over his head, trying to get used to it’s unfamiliar tightness as he gets on the bike behind Mickey, wrapping his arms around his middle as Mickey starts the engine.

Mickey turns the radio app back on his phone and without looking back says somewhat seriously, “Hold on fuckin tight alright? If you need me to stop, do like… two quick squeezes”.

Ian nods into his shoulder, unable to answer with words.

It’s maybe a little cliché that this moment between them has a soundtrack, but as Ian listens to the Coldplay song that comes on right as Mickey pulls back onto the road, he wonders if Mickey chose this radio station on purpose.

For a second, I was in control
I had it once, I lost it though
And all along the fire below would rise

And I wish you could have let me know
What's really going on below
I've lost you now, you let me go.

But one last time

Tell me you love me, if you don't then lie, oh lie to me

Remember once upon a time, when I was yours and you were blind
The fire would sparkle in your eyes and mine

So tell me you love me, if you don't then lie

Of course, Mickey couldn’t have had control over the song playing on the radio. And Coldplay wasn’t really his type of music.

Ian doesn’t really believe in God... but he bites his lip and wonders if maybe he’s punishing him by making him feel even guiltier. This song just happened to come on the radio as drives away with his ex, getting ready to explain why he gave up on them?

Seems like a little more than chance.

But it doesn't fucking matter, he reminds himself, and his heart thuds in his chest as he thinks about what Mickey must be feeling like right now.

Mickey doesn’t seem to even notice the song though. He seems completely focused on the road. Regardless, Ian feels a little more comfortable when the song ends, the next indie hit being a little more upbeat. A little less possibly directed at him, and he is more able to focus on what he is experiencing once it's over. 

Ian had never been on a motorcycle before, and he feels breathless as Mickey revs the engine again and they speed through the dark streets, everything whipping past them. Lights and signs and houses and streets, become one ongoing film reel. Chicago becomes a blur, and Ian doesn’t know where he’s going.

But he doesn’t care where he’s going, because he’s going there with Mickey.

And more than that, his arms are around Mickey again. He sinks into the feeling, allowing himself to enjoy it even if he’s not sure he deserves it, his heart beating wildly in his chest the entire time.

But it’s not panic now. It’s like…blooming. Like watering a flower that you thought was dead, just to realize it’s still got some fight in it. Like watching a sunrise come up after a long and dark night.

It’s the first time in months that Ian’s felt a little hope.

Mickey finally drives up to the South Side docks, which Ian recognizes, and rolls the bike more slowly down a small hill towards the water, eventually coming to a full stop right in front of it.

He gets off the bike, and drops the stand before he heads over to one of the covered boats, taking out a pack of hidden cigarettes.

“Was here earlier” he explains, casually putting one in his mouth as he takes his phone out of his pocket and turns off the music.

Ian stares at him as he sparks his lighter, and gently puts the helmet back on the bike after he removes it.

He almost feels like a statue, unsure of what to do next. Consumed with both guilt, and relief from just seeing him, even though Mickey won’t look him in the eyes.

“Want one?” Mickey asks, holding out a cigarette in his general direction. Ian takes it, but instead of lighting it, continues to drink in the sight of him. Something he had missed, so unbelievably much.

Mickey finally looks up at him after a while, and as the moonlight illuminates his face Ian realizes there’s a few paler streaks on his face from dried tears, the rushing wind from the ride having pulled them downwards as soon as they had formed. Maybe he was listening to the song on the way here too.

Ian finally blurts out, his shoulders sinking slightly as he does, “I’m so fucking sorry. I was selfish as hell Mick, I’ve been fucked up. Really fucked up. I didn’t mean to hurt you”. 

Mickey scoffs, “You thought telling me that you didn’t even want to fucking talk to me while I was stuck in Memphis thinking I wasn’t gonna see you for the next three years, wouldn’t fucking hurt?”

“How much did Mandy tell you?” Ian asks hesitantly, wondering how to approach the subject of his decline. He had made a point not to tell Mickey before, not wanting to admit to this part of himself, not wanting to scare him away.

Mickey blows smoke out from the corner of his mouth. “Nothing. She just told me she saw you at a party and that you needed someone”.

Ian’s heart does a little flip. That was all it took for Mickey to come find him, maybe it wasn’t too late to fix things...

He has to dive right in to the truth, he owes Mickey that at least. He can’t leave Mickey thinking he doesn’t love him...whether the truth scares him away or not. 

Ian takes a deep breath, “They put me on medication after you left, and I have to take it every day. I was so… so lost, and sick. I didn’t know what to do, and I wasn’t myself. And I thought, well, you deserve better. Someone that’s not, like me”.

Mickey suddenly looks angry, and he starts ranting. “What the fuck are you talking about Ian? Medication for what? Are you okay? Why the fuck did nobody call me and tell me that you were sick?”

Ian shakes his head, trying to calm him down, “Not sick like physically sick, sometimes it makes me feel that way though... Sick like depression and anxiety, Mick. I’m okay…now”.

Mickey starts shaking his head too, now focused on a different part of the conversation as he raises a hand in confusion.

“What the fuck do you mean not like you?”

“Crazy” Ian spits out bitterly, tears welling in his eyes as they reach the part of the conversation he’d been dreading.

It was the fear always lingering in the back of his mind, ever since he’d been at that doctors office, being compared to Monica. Ever since he’d been given those pills. As close at they had gotten over the months, as much as he knew Mickey still loved him, why would he want to be with someone like that?

Why would anyone?

Mickey immediately drops his cigarette and walks over to him in two short strides, pulling him into the tightest hug Ian had in months, “C’mere”.

Jesus Christ ” Mickey whispers to him as they stand like that, almost one. “You’re not fucking crazy Ian. Shoulda seen me these past few months”.

“I didn’t know what to do without you” Ian chokes out, “And I fucking hate myself for letting you go like that, because I’m in love with you. I never stopped being in love with you”.

Mickey suddenly stiffens and awkwardly pulls away from the hug, and when Ian looks at his face he sees there’s a wall up again.

“What?” he asks softly, searching his darkened face uncertainly.

Mickey’s words sound civil enough, but there’s the slightest hint of bitterness in them. “You don’t need to get into this again, it’s probably not good for you. You’ve moved on, I get it. I want you to be happy”.

Ian looks at him in confusion, “What the fuck are you talking about? You make me happy”.

Now it’s Mickey’s turn to look confused. “Bradley?” he asks, looking at Ian like maybe he is crazy after all.

Ian laughs, a weak and shaky laugh, but it’s a laugh.

“We go to ROTC together. That’s it. I can’t fucking stand that kid... that’s why you drove away yesterday, isn’t it? You came up and saw me with him. And I didn’t even know it was you”.

Mickey rubs the back of his neck, now looking slightly embarrassed but also very obviously relieved. “I thought like, I’d surprise you or some shit that I was back. But then I saw you walking home with the only other fuckin gay kid I know and thought, well fuck, didn’t take that long for you to get over me. So I didn’t want to talk to you at first”.

Ian looks back at Mickey through solemn green eyes, “I don’t think I'll ever 'get over you'. I told you I’d wait, and I did... And I know I fucked up by letting you go, but can you… d’you think you could ever forgive me for-“

Mickey cuts him off with a wave of his hand, “Look, I forgave you the day it happened Ian. It was hard, and yeah I was fucking mad and upset, but I could also see how much you were hurting the entire visit. You think I didn’t notice that shit? I know you Ian. That’s why I agreed to fuck off so easily... I thought it would be best for you”.

Ian tries to comprehend what he’s saying, hesitant to get to the real question. “So… you don’t hate me”.

Mickey’s face finally splits into a grin, his response automatic at first, “I love…”

But he catches himself, and looks a little wary, before beating Ian to what he had really wanted to ask. 

“Well are we fucking getting back together?”

Ian nods his head quickly, “Yes! I mean, if you want to. Of course I want to, I just, you know, because I-“ Mickey cuts him off again, but this time his voice is soft, and loving.

“Jesus Gallagher, shut up and fucking kiss me”. 

Ian doesn’t need to be told twice, and him and Mickey both move forward at the same moment, past merging into present as Ian kisses him desperately, praying to God that this isn’t some sick dream he’ll wake up from in the morning.