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I Only Came For The Free Beer

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Lip is in the business of saving people because he’s got an acute sense of justice.

He’s always wanted to be a superhero, to right the wrongs of the world and wear a mask and cape.

Being a superhero vigilante gave him a legitimate reason to blow people’s nuts off with a gun he made himself, fashioned from junkyard scrap and the occasional odd trinket found under the kitchen sink.

Ian’s reasons for being in the business? A little more nebulous.

Truthfully, he’s only in it until something better comes along, like an ROTC scholarship, or a zombie apocalypse, roped into the whole affair mostly out of a sense of fealty and, like any true Gallagher born and bred, eddied by a fascination for unbridled violence.

Fiona thinks they’re running a meth lab in the basement when in fact they were using it to store all sorts of weapons and hi-tech machinery necessary to fight crime. At times though, Ian wishes the basement were a methlab instead because that, at least, was less embarrassing to explain.

It was just something you did as a Gallagher to generate money, no flimsy excuses required, no judgment, either. A profitable enterprise: easier operate in secret, and easier, too, when the time came, to shut down in case the cops started to snoop around.

But they were superhero vigilantes, not drug dealers: Chicago’s very own Batman & Robin, princes of the night. Dedicated to upholding the peace and keeping crime rates to a minimum.

Honestly? Ian’s thought about quitting a few times.

--

Ian and Lip sleep in shifts, waiting for something to come up on the Radar, a blip alerting them to trouble in the city.

It’s Midterm Week so Lip is hopped up on caffeine, drumming his pen across the table until it skitters out of his hand and rolls to the floor.

Ian rolls his eyes and picks it up for him. Lip’s mouth twitches as he accepts the pen and he sips what is probably his ninth cup of coffee in the last two hours. He’s been staring at the same page all night, fidgety and on edge and unable to concentrate.

As a result, Ian is unable to summon sleep even with a pair of earplugs on. He keeps a bleary eye glued to the radar, waiting for the familiar red dot in the grid.

Lip designed the system himself, though Ian’s still not too clear on how it actually works.

All Ian really knows is that red dot equals trouble. Blue dot means there’s an earthquake and yellow dot means a family member is in danger. But there are no dots tonight, just the radar screen blinking a steady hypnotic green.

Finally, Ian sighs and does the both of them a favor. “Wanna go out and patrol the city?”

It’s that or leave Lip alone to jerk off and cry over Karen, which Lip has been doing a lot lately when he thinks he’s alone, mostly in tandem.

Lip stares at Ian for a long unflinching second, like he’s weighing out his options: jerk off or go out patrolling. Then he slams his textbook shut and swivels his seat around to the table where the console is hidden beneath the movable plasterboard.

Lip flips a switch and the bookcase slides open with a pneumatic hiss.

Ian grins at the familiar sound, relieved Lip chose the lesser of two evils. “Can I drive tonight?”

Lip raises an eyebrow.

Ian says, “Nevermind,” and waves a hand.

--

Patrolling is Lip’s favourite part because it appeals to his vanity.

Chicks dig the costume -- leather boots and some sort of impenetrable fire-retardant material for the suit -- and grandmothers lean out of second-story windows to coo and thank them for keeping the neighborhood safe.

Tonight, a couple of wannabe street thugs scamper in the opposite direction at the sight of them, and a drunk man on a bike gives them a patriotic salute.

It’s relatively peaceful out, the moon bright in the sky and the breeze blowing cool, which is the kind of night Ian likes best when he’s out patrolling and looking for trouble.

Because there’s nothing remotely life-threatening going on, Ian and Lip end up smoking joints on the rooftop, watching cars drive by and listening to the crackle and hiss of Lip’s CB radio.

It’s very zen; Ian hopes this won’t be the last time they get to do this, just him and Lip, hanging out without the complications of broken bones healing incorrectly and blood dripping out of their mouths.

“It’s nice,” he says, closing his eyes and grinning.

“Yeah,” Lip agrees, keeping his eyes fixed to an invisible point in the night sky. He takes this job seriously because it’s all he has ever since Karen split with that porn star guy she met at Sex Addicts Anonymous.

They wait for someone to shine the Bat Signal into the sky but no one ever does even though it’s a Tuesday and Tuesdays are a famously good day for violence.

They smoke until morning before calling it a day and then wander back to where the Bat Mobile, a souped up Bugatti with red fenders, painted to a matte finish, is parked in a deserted alley.

Life is good, Ian thinks, putting his seatbelt on as the engine whirs to life.

And life continues to be good, that is, until Mickey Milkovich happens.

--

Ian’s known Mickey since boy scouts but he’s one of those guys you don’t really think about until you run into him at the ATM pointing a gun at an old lady.

He’s the sort of guy you don’t want following you into an empty alley or an empty bathroom, or anywhere empty, really, even if you were flanked by friends who’re as huge as tree trunks.

Chances are they’ll get their asses kicked too.

Mikey’s got a talent for turning anything into a weapon. He whittles bowknives out of wood and probably eats little kids for breakfast. There are stories of him going around concerning a duck, a lead pipe, and a junior banker, and these stories are not exactly for the faint of heart.

But life is funny sometimes. You anticipate one thing and it gives you something else entirely. What Ian doesn’t expect is for Mrs. Korman to suddenly point a gun at Mickey and fire a shot.

“You bitch!” Mickey screams, clutching his bleeding thigh. He staggers to the ground, writhing in pain.

Ian hauls Mrs. Korman off Mickey before more damage is inflicted. The woman looks absolutely game to tear Mickey’s limbs off. “Are you all right Mrs. Korman?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Mickey spits. “Are you fucking kidding me? That crazy bitch just shot me in the thigh and you’re asking her if she’s all right? Fuck you wonderboy.”

Mrs. Korman throws a hand over her heart. “Oh my goodness, the mouth on him.”

Ian feels a kind of secondhand embarrassment hang over him as he pats her shoulder consolingly.

When Ian bends down to inspect the wound, Mickey swats Ian’s hand from his thigh.

“Call an ambulance,” Ian tells Mrs. Korman who quickly roots around her purse for a phone.

Mickey’s eyes fly open, wild and panicked, and the hand he has on Ian’s bicep tightens considerably almost to the point of pain. “No, no ambulance. Get away from me you fucking prick!.”

“I’m trying to help you,” says Ian as patiently as possible. That’s the thing with these petty criminal types; they’d rather die than face law enforcement. Ian wrestles out of Mickey’s grip on his arm and shoots Mrs. Korman a pleading look. “What about that ambulance Mrs. Korman?”

“I’m working on it, goddamn you!”

“No fucking ambulance,” Mickey repeats, then points a finger at Mrs. Korman like he’s cocking a gun. “I’m gonna get you for this, you bitch. I’ll kill you in your sleep!”

Mickey then crawls out of Ian’s reach and hobbles to the next street, clutching his leg. Ian hopes the ambulance gets there fast enough before Mickey has made it three blocks or falls into a manhole.

The guy’s pretty fast for an injured person; Ian is suitably impressed.

“You’re not going to go after him?” asks Mrs. Korman, lowering her phone to her shoulder.

Ian flashes her his most reassuring smile which, judging from her expression, probably isn’t his best attempt. “He won’t get that far,” he promises, then because she raises an eyebrow, proceeds to jog in the general direction Mickey has disappeared to.

Ian finds him sprawled in an apartment building’s stoop, sweaty and pale and on the verge of passing out.

“You shouldn’t be moving around too much; you’ll only aggravate the wound.”

Mickey ignores him and swallows a lungful of air, breathing out of his mouth, his chest rising and falling erratically. “Yeah well, what do you know? You’re just some guy in a leather suit. You’re not a doctor.”

Ian shrugs. “True, but I’ve seen my fair share of idiots like you who try to tempt fate and ignore their bleeding appendages. And you wanna know what happens to them?”

Mickey turns his face away and snorts, doesn’t answer.

“Anyway, it’s your own damn fault for pulling a gun on Mrs. Korman,” Ian continues, watching Mickey’s face harden from the corner of his eye. “She’s tough as balls. Why do you think she outlived her husband?”

Ian sighs. “You wanna know your best bet? Mrs. Horowitz. She’ll practically invite you into her home.”

When he hears the wail of an ambulance in the distance, Ian gets up and puts both hands on his hips, wishing, not for the first time, that the stupid outfit was outfitted with pockets.

Lip at least had a utility belt.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Mickey,” Ian says as a parting gift.

“Fuck you,” is Mickey’s grateful response.

--

The next time Ian runs into Mickey is outside a grocery store at three in the morning when Ian’s out on a cigarette run and counting his change by the entrance door because he’s sure he gave the cashier a hundred dollar bill and not fifty bucks like the receipt says.

Mickey’s in the parking lot, walking between cars like he’s perusing which one to smash, crowbar dangling from one hand and cigarette clutched in the other. He’s wearing a beat up leather jacket that overwhelm his entire shoulders.

Ian shoots Mickey a brief look when Mickey turns his face to him, nothing too lingering, just a passing glance, before going back to his examining his receipt. Ian realizes soon enough what a colossal mistake it is to make eye contact with the one guy in empty parking lot with a fucking crowbar in his right hand.

“What’re you lookin’ at?”

Ian blinks, taken aback. “Nothing,” he stutters. “I was just.” He doesn’t know who you are, Ian remembers. No suit.

Ian starts walking the opposite direction when Mickey approaches; sweat beading his brow, grocery bag banging painfully against his leg.

When he hears Mickey’s footsteps following close behind, Ian breaks into a run, appearances be damned. There’s a reason he wears the suit; it functions as a protective armor so his ass doesn’t get handed to him eighty percent of the time.

He loses Mickey after a few blocks and only then does his breathing settle. When his phone vibrates in his pocket, Ian nearly jumps out of his skin.

“What,” he hisses.

It’s Lip.

“You got my Mountain Dew and cigarettes?”

Ian hangs up.

--

Ian knows when Mickey is released from juvie because he’s been keeping tabs on him for awhile now.

Guys like Mickey, who are repeat offenders, are a threat to neighborhood safety and it’s best if Ian keeps an eye on him before he tries any more funny stuff.

The date is penciled on Ian’s calendar.

As soon as the alarm on his phone goes off, Ian springs out of bed and jumps into a pair of jeans. 10:35 AM. It’s a fifteen minute walk to the detention center. He can still make it if he hurries.

“It’s kind of creepy, this fascination of yours, you know?” Lip teases him at breakfast, watching him scavenge the basement for his mask and boots.

Ian surfaces from underneath the pile of clean Robin suits, the prototypes without the ill-conceived rubber nipples. “I just want to make sure he doesn’t hurt Mrs. Korman. She’s eighty-two years old.”

Lip taps the end of his cigarette into his lukewarm coffee. “She’s eighty-two years old and owns a handgun she’s not afraid to use. I’m sure she can take care of herself, Ian.”

Ian throws him a scathing look. They laugh at the same time.

“Just be safe, all right?” Lip tells him, tossing a burnt piece of toast his way which Ian catches with both hands. “And don’t give me that look; you know what I mean.”

Ian nods and, toast between teeth, zips up his bag.

“And before you ask,” Lip says, not taking his eyes off his latest drafts for a collapsible sword that could fit into his utility belt, not a fannypack, despite what anyone says, thank you. “You can’t take the car.”

--

Ian spots Mandy Milkovich, Mickey’s sister, with Mickey in tow halfway down the block.

Ian hides behind a garbage disposal and waits for them to walk past before tailing them from the acceptable distance of twenty feet. He pulls his hoodie over his face and hunches his shoulders, stuffs his hands inside his pockets and tries to look as inconspicuous as possible with a huge fucking backpack.

Standing in a superhero costume in broad daylight will get him shot in this neighborhood so Ian’s decided to ditch the suit and come in regular clothes. He glances at Mickey every now and then just to keep an eye on him and Mickey glances back a few times like he knows Ian’s been staring even though he can never quite catch him in the act.

Mickey and Mandy don’t do anything suspicious, thankfully, although at some point, Mandy stops to pick up a stray cat and carry it around for a few blocks.

They hang out outside a convenient store to chainsmoke, then hit the arcade where Mickey meets up with his other friends, equally scary looking guys who look a little too old to still be in high school and are tattooed all over.

When Ian’s sure Mickey won’t try anything funny, like make good on his promise to kill Mrs. Korman in her sleep, or smash cars, he calls it a day and takes the bus home, feeling a strange wave of disappointment wash over him.

Ian throws his backpack at the table and Lip ducks and swats at him, using his empty mug of coffee as paperweight. “Jesus,” Lip says, hunched around his drafts; it looks like he hasn’t left the table all day. “You okay?”

Ian nods and flings himself onto the lumpy couch. “Yep.” He folds his arms behind his head. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?”

“No red blips,” Lip informs him, shrugging. “How was recon?”

“Fuck you,” Ian says halfheartedly.

Lip smiles. “That uneventful, huh?”

Ian sighs. Lip walks past the couch to make fresh coffee. He pours Ian a cup which Ian accepts gratefully as he sits upright.

“It’s been quiet lately hasn’t it?” Lip says, pausing a moment to gauge Ian’s reaction. “A little too quiet, if you know what I mean.”

Ian looks up; they share a look. “What are you saying?”

Lip takes a stuttery drag of his cigarette. “Nothing. Just that we shouldn’t get too complacent, you know?” He smiles with just one side of his mouth. “Anyway, it’s probably just paranoia.”

“Probably,” Ian agrees but Lip continues nonetheless, ignoring the comment. “But we’ll keep the patrols to a minimum, just in case, and stick to monitoring the Radar.”

Ian blinks. “Sounds serious. Anything you’re not telling me?”

Lip shrugs and makes that inscrutable face again, the one that he probably believes makes chicks think he’s all deep and mysterious though Ian could just be confusing it for the real thing.

Sometimes with Lip, it’s hard to tell.

One minute he’s talking about hanging the Batman cape for good to pursue an education and get some direction, then the next he’s vowing to avenge Frank even though Frank was kind of an asshole of a father and neither of them saw much of him growing up.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Lip says vaguely, face still unchanged. “You’ll know when it’s time. For now, feel free to speculate.”

Lip grins this infuriating shit-eating grin then claps Ian on the shoulder twice. “By the way, there’s this fundraiser in two nights that Steve is inviting us to. Pencil that into your itinerary.”

“Do we have to go?”

Lip shrugs. “We do what we must.” He sips his coffee. “It’s mostly for PR anyway. Plus, you know how much it means to Fiona that we show up for things. She organized the event.”

“What’s she raising money for this time?”

“Some hard to pronounce disease that only affects children.”

Ian laughs.

“Hey,” Lip warns with feigned seriousness. “This is no laughing matter. People are dying.”

--

Every important person in the city is at Fiona’s fundraiser from the mayor to the superintendent.

Ian slinks over to the refreshments table, tugging at one end of his bow tie, never really one to socialize at these kinds of events. He always feels out of place.

Lip, who always seems to know what to say to people and when to say it, is busy charming the pants off some billionaire playboy philanthropist, something he’s gotten particularly good at over the years.

Ian overhears Lip when he walks past: “... and that’s why this is a good investment.”

Ian scans the room and steals a flute of champagne from a passing waiter.

Fiona and Steve are clinking glasses, Carl is suspiciously eyeing the ice sculpture, and Debbie is by the piano, looking for kids her age.

Ian checks his phone for messages one last time before wandering off to explore the rest of the building. He finds an empty hallway and after double-checking for company, starts rolling a joint. He’s halfway through it when he hears a steady thumping coming from the end of the hall.

The beat is steady like a bass drum.

Music, Ian thinks. He lights his joint and walks curiously towards the noise.

When a door to his left opens, Ian whips around so fast he gives himself a headache. Then he sees it’s only Mickey wearing a grey jumpsuit. Mickey. In a jumpsuit. It’s kind of funny except Mickey’s giving him the eyebrow raise and that’s enough to make a grown man’s blood curdle.

“What’re you doing here?” Ian asks, smoothing his hair back self-consciously.

Mickey doesn’t even blink; Ian wonders how he does that.

“I work here,” Mickey replies smoothly, then eyes Ian’s joint with interest. “You that guy right? With the groceries?”

Ian shrugs with one shoulder, not too pleased with his identifier. “Uh, sorta,” he says, then passes his joint to Mickey just to be polite.

Mickey takes it and bobs it between his lips for a second before taking a long and deep drag and exhaling through his nose.

He doesn’t hand it back to Ian and Ian doesn’t press the issue.

“So what do you do here?” Ian asks once he’s intuited it’s safe to speak.

Mickey points to his breastpocket. “Janitorial services.” He doesn’t sound too thrilled about the idea.

Ian nods. “Cool.”

“I work for fucking slave wages,” Mickey points out.

Ian shrugs. “Well at least you get to wear a really nice jumpsuit.”

That comment earns him a tiny flicker of a smile. It’s almost not there, and Ian has to squint really hard to see it but he knows he’s not imagining it.

“So,” Ian begins but then his communicator goes off in his pocket. Fucking Lip. What now?

“I have to go,” Ian apologizes even though Mickey doesn’t seem all that disappointed by the news of his imminent departure; in fact, he seems relieved. “It’s my brother. There’s an emergency--” he cuts himself off when his phone starts ringing too.

“Shit.” Ian throws Mickey one last glance over his shoulder before running back to the reception hall.

“Bads news boy wonder,” Lip says in a breathy whisper, “Looks like this whole building is rigged with explosives.”

“How would you know?”

“A little birdy told me.”

“Lip, seriously.”

Lip lets out a pained sigh. “A couple of the Joker’s underlings are here. They just gatecrashed the party and took the mayor as hostage. The Joker wants Batman, Ian, and I don’t have my suit with me.”

“Where are you?”

“Third floor bathroom, last cubicle. You have your suit?”

“Yeah, but I left it in the car. Did you call Kev?”

“Says he’s gonna take awhile. Held up in traffic.”

Ian hears a gun shot over his shoulder and ducks behind a potted plant.

“What was that?” Lip hisses into his ear.

Ian doesn’t dare to look, heart hammering in his throat. “I think someone just fired a shot.”

“You think Ian?”

“How many guys are out there?” Ian asks, peeking over the wall. There’s a guy about six feet tall wearing a hockey mask and carrying a rifle, standing at the end of the hall and kicking doors open.

“About a dozen.”

“You said a couple!” Ian hisses. “You think we can take them?”

“I don’t have a gun on me.”

Ian sizes Rifle Guy up; he seems, like any standard issue crony, happy to shoot anything that moves.

Rifle Guy disappears into one of the rooms and Ian darts in quietly after him, sneaking up behind him and knocking him unconscious with the nearest fixture: a marble statuette of Madame de Pompadour sitting on the dresser.

Ian picks up the discarded rifle from the ground and presses his phone back into his ear. “Yeah, I got a gun on me,” he says.

--

By some odd miracle, Lip procures a gun too. They disarm a couple of other Rifle Guys prowling the second floor before Kevin shows up, wild-eyed and panting, carrying their suits with him.

“I’m getting too old for this shit, man,” he says, zipping Lip up into his Batsuit.

Ian frowns, patting his rubber pecs. “You brought the one with the nipples?”

“Couldn’t find your regular suit. Geez, I’m sorry.”

It’s standard procedure from thereon out.

No one is shot except for the Joker’s underlings, and Batman saves the day again after a lengthy smackdown with the Joker’s righthand man, Paul. Ian can almost picture tomorrow’s headlines: Batman does it again!

“Fucking savages in this town,” Lip mutters, checking the mayor’s pulse, voice low now that he’s taken the Bat persona. He takes this stuff seriously. Either that or smokes too much.

“How’s miss secretary over there?”

Ian presses two fingers to her neck. “Still alive, fortunately.”

“Where were you? I paged you like six times.”

Ian stills for a moment. Mickey.

“Help me get these people out of here,” Lip says but Ian’s already running up a flight of stairs. “Hey!”

Ian waves a hand. “I gotta do something first!”

“There are still explosives in the building. They might be remote-controlled!”

Ian breaks into a run.

--

He finds Mickey in the janitor’s closet, safe, unharmed, chewing on a piece of beef jerky, his feet up on the table, immense headphones plugged over his ears.

Mickey doesn’t even glance at him when he shows up, his eyes trained on the magazine on his lap, his lips curled in amusement.

Ian yanks his headphones off and Mickey whirls around, face hard, ready to mouth off.

“What the fuck do you think --”

“It’s not safe here,” Ian cuts him off. He’d lower his voice like Lip if he could to act the part of superhero vigilante but right now coming off uncool is the least of his worries.

Ian clamps a hand on Mickey’s shoulder. “This place is set to explode any second. You have to come with me.”

Mickey opens his mouth to protest then seems to think better of it and shuts it with a clink. He tucks his magazine under one arm and, grudgingly, follows Ian out the door, scratching his hip.

Once they’re outside, Ian loses Mickey in the swathe of people: reporters, cops, pedestrians, busybodies gathered out on the street.

A mic is forcibly shoved under his chin just when he thinks he’s spotted the back of Mickey’s head in the receding crowd. “Robin, boy wonder, what can you say about tonight’s bomb scare--”

The fifth floor of the building explodes, sending glass and debris flying everywhere.

--

Sometimes, because the job called for it, Ian and Lip have to do stupid stuff like look for stolen jewelry and help cats down trees.

Nobody thought about calling the cops these days because they thought Batman and Robin were more reliable. Ian and Lip had good press, and looked better running down the street chasing bad guys so it’s not like anyone could blame them.

Plus they had a higher success rate.

Ian wishes the job were more profitable though. He gets fanmail every now and then forwarded to the mayor’s office though Lip’s pile is considerably bigger because everybody loves Batman, but no actual money comes in from the endeavor. They put themselves in the line of fire and all for what? Sheila’s blueberry pies?

They’ve just stopped their third bank robbery this month when Ian runs into Mickey again, crossing the street and jogging in his general direction to beat the green light.

It’s a nice change of pace that Ian’s mood brightens significantly.

“Hey,” Ian says, putting on his best civic-duty smile.

Mickey hunches his shoulders and gives Ian a brief once over before turning away again. He walks down the block, slipping a cigarette into his mouth, and Ian has to pick up his pace a little to keep up.

“I said hey,” Ian repeats, in case Mickey didn’t hear him the first time. Then he remembers he’s in his Robin suit and petty criminals don’t react well to that. Either they run the opposite direction, or charge towards him with a cleaver. Luckily, Mickey does neither, though he’s not, at least in Ian’s book, a petty criminal.

Mickey rubs a hand across his jaw to scratch his late afternoon stubble. He looks tired, eyes red-rimmed like he hasn’t slept awhile. He blows smoke into Ian’s eyes. “You gonna arrest me for walking now, Wonderboy?”

“It’s Robin,” Ian tells him. Boy wonder, wonder boy. He always gets tagged with stupid these nicknames. “And I don’t arrest people. That’s a cop’s job. Me, I’m only here to help.”

Mickey snorts, flicking the ash off his cigarette at Ian’s boot. “Yeah, well,” he says after a moment. “You can help me by fucking off.

Then he walks off.

“You okay?” Lip asks, startling Ian when he appears without warning at Ian’s side. Ian jumps. Jesus. He wishes Lip would quit that.

Lip crosses his arms. “Mickey Milkovich?”

Ian just shrugs and sighs. “He’s so hostile.”

“Don’t take it personally. It’s the suit. People get intimidated.”

“I have rubber nipples and fake pecs,” Ian informs him.

Lip slaps an arm over his shoulder. “Well-defined rubber nipples and fake pecs,” he says.

--

The next time Ian bumps into Mickey, Mickey’s shoplifting a snickers bar at Kash & Grab where Lip has sent Ian to buy beer.

It’s well past midnight, and Ian’s dressed as Robin, the car (Bat Mobile) parked at a safe distance to avoid unwanted attention.

Before Ian can say anything about the snickers bar, a man with a gun enters the store and cocks a gun at Kash.

“We need to stop meeting like this,” Ian sighs before walking up to the counter where he proceeds to smash the man’s face into the register. He twists the gunman’s arm behind his back and takes his gun from him, handing it to Kash who looks both smug and grateful, like he’d be willing to suck Ian’s cock.

“I give up! I give up! Please don’t hurt me!” screeches the gunman.

Ian turns when he hears the little bell over the door tinkle. Mickey’s just left the store.

“Would you excuse me a sec?”

Kash’s forehead crinkles. “Okay,” he frowns.

Ian handcuffs the gunman to the door handle before chasing after Mickey. He hasn’t gotten very far, just half a street down, and he looks like he’s got an armful of junk food.

“Wait up!”

Mickey doesn’t.

Ian tails him until the next street. He follows Mickey to his front porch where a puddle of muddy water has frozen the welcome mat to the floor.

Mickey’s house is just like any other dilapidated house in the street, separated from the others by a chainlink fence. The roof sags like the spine of an aging horse and the tiny front lawn is cluttered with used car parts. Ian has barely gotten a foot through the door when Mickey crowds into him to block his way.

“Whoah, whoah, where do you think you’re going?”

“You stole a bunch of food,” Ian says lamely.

“Yeah, so what, superboy? You gonna arrest me now, huh?”

“It’s Robin,” mutters Ian.

“Your name is Robin?”

Ian shrugs, then slouches a little when Mickey raises an eyebrow at him.

“Robin’s like, my codename,” he explains, wondering if Lip ever had to do this spiel. “Superboy’s a different guy altogether. He lives in Minneapolis and he’s kind of an asshole.”

“Right,” Mickey says, gaze unwavering. Ian takes it as his cue to back away from the door.

“Well,” Ian says, wishing Lip had the good sense to outfit the Robin suit with pockets. It’s fucking awkward not knowing where to put his hands. “As long as you pay for the stuff you stole, then I don’t have to report you.”

Mickey sniffs, unimpressed, licking the front of his teeth, before slamming the door on Ian’s face.

Ian is left standing there for like, a complete minute, looking like the world’s biggest tool. One of Mickey’s neighbors waves at him from the yard over and Ian waves back reluctantly.

Suddenly, right before Ian turns to leave, the front door creaks open.

“Change your mind?” Ian asks, voice bleeding with so much hope even he finds it pretty pathetic.

Mickey grunts something incomprehensible and disappears inside the house, leaving the door open behind him, poised like a question.

Ian blinks.

“You comin’ or what?” Mickey calls.

Ian doesn’t even work to disguise his glee.

As soon as he steps inside, Mickey throws him against the door, and suddenly they’re kissing and it’s very very good. Mickey’s mouth is hot and Ian thinks he tastes chocolate. He slides his hands up Mickey’s biceps and moans when he feels Mickey’s hard dick against his thigh.

“Does this thing have a zipper or something?” Mickey asks, clawing at Ian’s suit.

Ian points to his back, embarrassed, and Mickey helps him step out of the suit after a few well-placed curses. Then he dives between Ian’s legs and Ian watches his head bob and his mouth work his cock, and Ian’s head hits the wall several times in the process and he might’ve even gurgled a little or gone cross-eyed at some point during the blowjob.

Later, when Mickey surfaces, Ian knees finally give out. He slumps on the floor, attempting to catch his breath, one hand on his chest to steady the crazy beating of his heart. Jesus, he thinks, mind still reeling. Did that just happen? He looks up to find Mickey popping open a beer can and chugging it down like he didn’t just have Ian’s dick in his mouth five seconds ago.

His stomach gives a funny little lurch at the sight of Mickey’s tongue swiping over his teeth and smacking his lips together noisily.

Mickey hunkers down to his eye-level and takes a huge sip of his beer, and his mouth is suddenly all Ian can think about. Very wet and very warm and very very close.

“Um,” Ian says, stills staring. “Thanks for the blowjob. It was great.”

Mickey doesn’t smile but he does say, “You bet your fucking ass it was great,” which Ian takes as a step in the right direction. Then Mickey, in a startling act of goodwill, cuffs Ian halfheartedly on the side of the head, like he can read half the stuff running through Ian’s mind.

Most of them involve getting Mickey out of his clothes.

Ian eyes his Robin suit in a corner and for the first time realizes his own nakedness. He’s glad he left the mask on to protect his identity.

Mickey watches him unroll his suit.

“I guess I better go,” Ian says, feeling bad for wanting to bail all of a sudden. But he can’t help it. Mickey’s living room is just depressing. There’s a bag of unfinished Doritos under the coffee table and there are beer stains on the couch. The entire house smells dank.

Mickey puts the TV on and doesn’t say anything, his feet up on a stack of outdated magazines.

Ian’s communicator goes off crazily. He presses a button before the noise annoys the fuck out of Mickey.

Where’s my beer Ia--.

Ian turns the thing off.

“That Batman?” Mickey asks, not taking his eyes off the infomercial.

Ian shrugs and makes a last minute decision. “Can I use your shower?”

Mickey’s head swivels slowly in his direction.

Ian swallows and remembers he’s still naked.

--

Inevitably, Ian ends up fucking Mickey in the shower.

Mickey likes it rough, it turns out, rough and dirty and loud enough to wake the neighbors, but he’s a huge control freak about Ian touching his dick. He fucks himself on Ian’s cock, arms braced against the wall, back flushed with exertion and smooth with water.

“Give it to me, c’mon,” he pants, and Ian kind of wants to kiss him even though he knows he’s not allowed to.

Mickey’s so fucking hot for it that Ian doesn’t last very long and pulls out to come all over Mickey’s back.

Afterwards, Ian flings the condom into the trashcan and filches Mickey’s last clean pair of pants. It has holes in them but at least there aren’t food stains.

Mickey’s already asleep by the time Ian steps out of the bathroom, curled up on one side and snoring open-mouthed. So much for pillow talk.

Ian sits on the edge of the bed and watches Mickey’s chest rise and fall before touching the fuzzy tuft of hair growing at the back of his neck. It’s surprisingly soft.

Ian lies next to him for about half an hour, dozing off a couple times and then jerking violently awake when Mickey turns in his sleep. Mickey’s still snoring soundly when Ian picks up his suit from the foot of the bed and goes looking for Lip.

--

“This,” Lip says, tapping his finger against the broadsheet. “This is exactly what I warned you about.”

Ian peers over his cereal bowl at the front page. Below a grainy picture of him standing on Mickey’s front porch are the words Boy Wonder’s Late Night Proclivities.

Ian frowns, turning the page to the Sports section. “I wish they’d stop calling me that. I’m almost eighteen.”

Lip throws a raisin at him, rolling his eyes. “Is this the Milkovich kid again? Because you turned your communicator off last night and you got home around what, two, three in the morning?”

“We hung out,” mumbles Ian, not meeting his eyes.

Lip chucks another raisin at him because he’s always been a bad liar. It’s his face, Ian knows. People often tell him his nostrils flare when he tells a lie.

When Ian perseveres in his silence, Lip turns on the TV, sighing. “...local boy Mickey Milkovich.”

Ian’s head snaps up. “Turn it up.”

“Ooh, it’s your boyfriend,” Lip coos, tossing Ian the remote before disappearing out the door.

Ian dives for it on the couch only to watch Mandy Milkovich making smoky eyes at the camera.

A bunch of other TV reporters are staked out in the Milkoviches’ yard including, unsurprisingly, Ron Burgundy. Ian loves that guy.

“Mandy, last night your brother had a most unexpected visitor...”

Mandy’s face lights up like a kid’s on Christmas day. “That’s right Sarah. My brother Mickey,” she giggles and tugs at the end of her hair, lowering her face to the microphone, “that’s his name, is dating Robin. You know, from Batman and Robin?”

Ian thumps his head against the carpet repeatedly, drowning out the rest of the interview. “Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck.”

--

“I’d hate to say I told you so,” Lip says, pressing the boot of his heel to a coke smuggler’s throat.

Ian sighs, prying open a crate with a crowbar. “I can’t believe Mandy Milkovich just fucking outed me. On national television.” He scrubs a hand through his hair, digging the heel of his hand into his forehead. Turns to face Lip again who’s crouched next to the coke smuggler now unconscious.

“Well, what’s done is done,” Lip tells him, frisking the guy for an ID. “Unless you wanna hold a press conference and deny the alleged dalliance?”

Ian shrugs. “We hung out.”

“Okay,” Lip says, still sounding unconvinced. No ID.

Ian throws his arms up in frustration. “I mean, how did she even know? She wasn’t there last night! You weren’t there last night. Whether or not something happened is something only the two of us could either confirm or deny.”

Lip cracks a tiny smile but says nothing.

“He probably hates me now,” Ian continues, wrinkling his forehead.

“I think whether or not he liked you in the first place is up for debate,” quips Lip.

Ian glares at him over crate #2.

“Bring him pizza and beer,” Lip laughs. “Nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like pizza and beer, unless, of course, the pizza in question is loaded with pot.”

Ian snorts. “Pizza? Really?”

Lip shrugs, flipping on his communicator. “I don’t think he’s the flowers kind of guy, do you?”

--

Ian smooths his hair back and rings the doorbell. Mickey answers it but leaves the latch on, eyeing him contemptuously through the crack before slamming the door.

“Fuck off!” Ian hears him swear from the other side of the door. Ian rings the doorbell in rapid succession before knocking five times.

“Mickey, open up. I need to see you.”

No answer.

“Mickey.”

Ian waits a beat before knocking again. Still no answer. He sits on the porch for ten minutes but the door never opens. Dejected, he lowers the pizza and beer onto the welcome mat, sticking a note underneath the beer that he hopes communicates just how sorry he is for this morning’s ruckus.

It’s the one thing Ian hates about being a superhero vigilante, besides the rubber nipples: celebrity.

As if on cue, Ian’s communicator goes off. “I’ll be back later,” he promises, patting the door gently.
--

Later turns out to be the next day at six in the morning. Suddenly, all of Chicago’s jewelry stores are getting robbed and as if that’s not enough, the mayor is nearly assassinated again. In his own house. But all’s well that ends well and Lip and Ian make it back home in time to catch Sunday morning cartoons.

Then Ian remembers Mickey and his promise and scrambles out of the bath like a bullet and back into his Robin suit. He only has to ring the doorbell once for Mickey to throw the door open.

“What the fuck do you want, I told you no more inter--” Mickey’s eyes widen then turn hard. “What are you doing here?”

“Did you get the beer?” asks Ian stupidly.

Mickey nods. “And the pizza?”

He nods again. Ian sighs in relief, grinning his face off. He should’ve brought something with him as another peace offering, but then Mickey doesn’t look as murderous as before so maybe showing up empty handed with nothing more than good intentions isn’t such a bad thing.

Mickey’s got a bruise over his eyebrow though, Ian notices for the first time, a cut on his lip that hadn’t been there the last time they saw each other, the last time Ian licked it.

“What happened to your face?”

Mickey’s jaw tightens as he evades Ian’s hand. He avoids the question smoothly, too. “Why are you here?”

Ian shrugs. “Wanted to apologize for the reporters. Shouldn’t have followed you home like that.”

“Shouldn’t be out here on my fucking front porch, either,” Mickey says.

“Well,” says Ian slowly, crowding him at the threshold. “You can invite me in if that’s what’s you’re worried about.”

Mickey doesn’t blink but something flickers, changes, in his expression though Ian can’t say exactly what. Ian holds his stare until, it seems, Mickey backs down or declares it a draw.

“Lock the door behind you,” he tells Ian, never glancing over his shoulder as he turns away. “I don’t want any more of those fucking reporters planting bugs in my kitchen.”

--

The problem with showing up with no game plan is showing up with no game plan.

Ian spends a solid hour watching Mickey from the corner of his eye flip through channels and then back again, make a sandwich, disappear into his bedroom, then settle in next to him on the couch to watch a made-for-tv movie.

But it’s nice, Ian finds, sharing the silence and the odd damp warmth of the couch. Comforting.

Halfway into the movie, Mickey puts his bare feet up on the coffee table and throws an arm over the back of the couch, tipping his head to the side.

“Are we gonna fuck or what?”

Ian bolts out of his seat and makes for Mickey’s belt buckle so fast he almost falls over.

--

Mickey’s breath stutters out of him when Ian slides inside in one smooth push. His knees nearly buckle but he takes it like a champ, never one to back down even if it hurts, both hands clenched into the sheets as Ian hauls him in closer.

He seems less hostile than last time, pushing his hips back evenly, even allowing Ian to kiss his shoulder, his bicep, and press his nose to the side of Mickey’s neck, breathe in deep. Cigarettes and shampoo.

Mickey’s body isn’t soft, he works out, that much is obvious, his body taut and hard with muscles, but the way he sighs and moans while Ian fucks him makes Ian’s stomach flip in a stupid way and think of slowing down.

The other side of the bed is still warm from Mickey’s body heat when Ian wakes up half an hour later. He sits up and almost immediately realizes that something is different. His face feels naked.

Ian’s eyes fly to the bedside table. His mask.

“Fuck.”

He looks up when the door opens and Mickey walks in with no shirt on, just drawstring pants, holding a can of beer in one hand, his hair standing up.

“Ian Gallagher,” Mickey says with a light, unamused little laugh. “Should’ve known from the freckles on your ass. You’re that kid I pushed into a lake during boyscouts.”

“Glad to know your memory’s still pristine as ever,” Ian says, feeling his face burn up in embarrassment. He grabs his mask, then figures there’s no point and puts it back down again.

Ian picks up his suit, shaking out the dust. God, Mickey’s room needs cleaning. “You’re not gonna tell anyone are you?”

“That you run around in a mask and cape dispensing your own brand of justice?”

Ian blushes even harder. When Mickey puts it like that...

“Look,” Ian holds up a hand. “This has to stay between the two of us.”

“What does?” Mickey asks, just to piss him off, and Ian’s never wanted to kiss him more in his entire life, there with his pants riding perilously low on his hips and his mouth moist with beer, smirking.

Ian gets up and puts his suit back on, sliding his mask into place before walking up to Mickey at the door.

“You have to promise you won’t tell anyone,” he says gravely. Somehow it loses all sentiment now that he’s got the cape back on. It’s hard to look serious with rubber pecs.

Mickey leers. “And what if I don’t?”

--

Lip’s arms are crossed. “So you knocked him out and brought him here?”

“I panicked! What was I supposed to do, leave him on the floor?”

“Stupidity is a handicap, Ian. What did I tell you about keeping the BASE OF OPERATIONS secret? Even Kevin is not allowed down here and for good reason. No one, and I mean no one, including your boyfriend, can ever lay eyes on the equipment.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Ian mumbles.

“What?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” says Ian, a little louder.

“Oh, Ian,” Lip groans, rubbing the side of his face and clenching his teeth. “Just. Fix this, will you?” He gestures at the unconscious Mickey handcuffed to the desk.

“I’m going out. When I get back, he better not be here.”

Ian watches him go.

--

When Mickey comes to, he’s not too happy either. “Where the fuck am I?”

Ian looks up from the Radar and swivels his seat. “The Bat Cave.”

“Doesn’t look like a cave to me.”

Ian shrugs. “It’s more of a nickname, really. How’s your head?”

Ugh.” Mickey digs the heel of one hand into his eye, groans. “What did you do to me?”

“Stuff.” Ian decides not to elaborate. Thankfully, he doesn’t need to because Mickey rattles the chain of his handcuffs and glares at him.

Ian fishes the key from his pocket, bending down to prod at the lock.

“So you’re Robin, huh?” Mickey says once Ian’s freed him, running his thumb along his wrist absently.

Ian shrugs again, averting his eyes. He puts the handcuffs back on the shelf next to the tube of sleeping gas. “Does it freak you out?”

--

“You like that, huh? You like that?”

Ian thinks his head is about to crack open because it keeps hitting the foot of the table. Yes, he thinks foggily. Yes of fucking course he likes it.

He doesn’t complain about the headache, not when Mickey’s riding his cock and rocking his hips back and forth, his shirt still on, his hand curled around his cock and working it.

It’s the hottest thing Ian’s ever seen in his life, counting the dirtiest of porn, Mickey fucking himself like he can’t get enough, rolling his hips before slamming them down, spearing himself open on Ian’s dick.

Mickey controls the pace entirely, keeping Ian’s shoulders pinned to the ground. Ian just lies there and enjoys the ride till he comes with a hysterical shout, his hips jerking up, his insides unspooling.

Mickey rolls off him, panting, still hard, and Ian blinks at him before reaching out to touch his dick only to get slapped on the hand.

“No,” Mickey says through gritted teeth, like now is the time for modesty, but Ian stubbornly refuses to back down and lies on his side, facing him, slipping a hand down Mickey’s hip and running his knuckles up his thigh, as if he were soothing a wild animal.

“Let me,” Ian says. “I know what to do. I’m not an idiot.”

Mickey looks dubiously up at him until Ian’s hand closes around his dick, then his shoulders slump and his eyes flutter shut, hips bucking into Ian’s fist.

“Yeah, yeah fuck. That’s good,” Mickey murmurs. Ian scoots closer, pressing himself to Mickey’s side, pushing two fingers behind Mickey’s balls and sucking in a noisy breath when Mickey raises his knees almost immediately, whining low in his throat for Ian to hurry the fuck up.

Ian rolls his fingers around experimentally, Mickey still wet and loose inside, muscles clenching when Ian crooks a finger.

Mickey shudders violently through his orgasm, coming all over his stomach and Ian’s hand, panting hard and rough, his hand tight on Ian’s bicep, his breath hot against Ian’s cheek.

Mickey flings an arm over his face once he’s recuperated enough, letting out a long and drawn-out yawn. Then, cracking one eye open, he cuffs Ian on the shoulder who grins sheepishly and pushes their legs together, wiping his fingers against the side of Mickey’s shirt before squeezing his waist.

--

“You didn’t,” Lip says when he returns that afternoon, carrying a bag of donuts and a tray of coffee. “I really really hate you. I swear, man. I really really do.”

Ian smiles and slouches low in his seat so that his eyes are level with the desk.

--

“Debs will be in a play this Saturday,” Lip says, vaulting over the couch and fishing the remote out of the ashtray.

Ian opens the cupboard and brings out the blue plastic cup. “Oh? What’s it of?”

“Her class is doing The Wizard of Oz. Debs is playing Glinda the Good Witch.” He tosses the invitation at the coffee table after perusing it.

Ian pours the juice and hands it to Lip who makes an appreciative noise and gives him a thumbs up. “You can bring your friend if you like,” Lip says oh so casually. Too casually.

Ian doesn’t look up from the sink. “What friend?”

“You know,” Lip shrugs. “The only guy besides Kevin who knows who Batman and Robin are.” His tone has a hard edge to it though Ian knows the venom isn’t intentional.

“He’s probably busy,” Ian says, thinking about what a picture that’d make: He and Mickey wedged in the backseat of Lip’s Ford pickup in crisp dress pants. Nah. Mickey’d probably laugh in his face if he asked him to come.

“Doing what exactly?”

It’s Ian turn to shrug. He folds himself against the other end of the couch and scoops a handful of nuts from the bowl on the coffee table. “I don’t know. Stuff. Mickey stuff.”

Lip makes a face and sips his juice, looking contemplative, but doesn’t press the issue.

Ian spends all of Wednesday night mulling the idea over though, and by Thursday morning he’s convinced he’s effectively lost his mind.

When on Friday night he and Lip finish patrolling early, he changes out of his Robin suit and heads straight for Mickey’s place.

“Hi,” Ian says, beaming when the door opens. Mandy isn’t home, which is a good sign. He isn’t ready to see her yet, not after last week, still mortified at getting caught with his dick up her brother’s ass.

Someone needs to fix the lock on the bathroom door before something like that happens again, Ian thinks.

“I was wondering,” Ian continues before Mickey could get a word in, “Are you free tomorrow night?”

It takes Mickey a full second to respond. “Why?”

Ian digs the toe of his shoe into the floor, curling in his shoulders shyly. “My sister is playing Glinda the Good Witch in a school production tomorrow night, and I was wondering if you’d like to come. Actually, Lip gave me the idea but we don’t have to sit through the whole thing, you know? We can leave whenever you feel like it, I don’t really mind. Not a big fan of plays, but it’s my sister, so.”

Mickey looks duly unimpressed.

Ian chews the inside of his cheek and starts babbling. “A date if you want to call it that, but I thought you might not want to call it that.”

Mickey gives him a brief once over before leaning against the door with his arms folded. “A date. With your whole family?”

“It’s just.” Ian’s face heats up. “I wanna do things with you outside the bedroom.”

“Kinky,” cuts in Mickey; Ian rolls his eyes.

“Please? Just this once? I’ll go down on my knees if I have to. I really will.”

Mickey mutters under his breath something that sounds a lot like Jesus, you’re pathetic but gives in eventually when Ian makes pleading eyes at him.

Fine, fuck it. What time does this thing start?”

--

“Well don’t you look... nice,” Fiona says when she meets Mickey outside the auditorium. Her voice is clipped. “And you are?”

Ian takes the liberty of introducing them. “Mickey Milkovich.” He elbows Mickey in the stomach so that Mickey would take the hint. Grudgingly, Mickey shakes Fiona’s hand. She eyes the tattoos on his knuckles but doesn’t comment.

“Fiona!”

Dispelling the awkwardness, thankfully, is Debbie who bounds towards them in her fluffy pink dress, silver crown askew on her head. She gives them a little twirl and taps Ian on the shoulder with her long plastic wand, like when a queen selects someone for knighthood. Then she sees Mickey and her grin fades instantly.

Debbie’s eyes narrow speculatively. “Who’s your friend?”

“Debs, this is Mickey Milk--”

“Isn’t he Robin’s new boyfriend?”

“What?” Mickey says.

“What?” Ian says.

“I saw it on the news. Mickey Milkovich: Robin’s alleged boyfriend. It’s all over the internet.” She steps up to Mickey, gaze sliding down to his brand new pair of loafers. Lip had lent him his old clothes that evening: a brown button down shirt and a pair of jeans that fit him nice and tight. Ian’s been walking a few paces behind him just to get good look at his ass.

“I thought you’d be taller,” Deb tells Mickey.

Ian laughs nervously. “Debs,” he scolds her, patting her teased up hair. She shoots Mickey one last look over her shoulder before wandering off to join the rest of her class backstage.

“Kids, huh,” Ian says. He drops the smile when Fiona excuses herself to go find Veronica.

--

It’s not that the play is boring, it’s just that it’s not Ian’s thing. All the singing is making him sleepy.

When Mickey leaves after the first act, Ian sends Lip a text before following him out the door. Mickey’s standing outside the entrance, smoking, when Ian catches up to him,

“Hey,” Ian says, watching Mickey hollow out his cheeks and then exhale. “Bored?”

Mickey shrugs. They’re good at the whole not-talking thing. Someday, they’re gonna have to work on that, Ian thinks. He hopes they get to that point.

Mickey passes him the cigarette. “Thanks,” Ian smiles, feeling shy all of a sudden as he takes a tiny puff. He hands it back to him and lets their fingers touch, just to see what Mickey would do.

No one’s around to see them so Mickey doesn’t yell or glare or shuffle away like he always does; instead he does nothing.

“You look nice tonight,” Ian tells him. It’s true, of course. He’s not just saying that. Mickey’s not the best looking guy in the room half the time but Ian likes him. A lot. He likes what they have, whatever it is.

“Thanks,” Mickey laughs, picking at the hem of his borrowed shirt. He grinds his cigarette with the heel of his shoe and then glances sideways at Ian balling his fists inside the pockets of his jacket just so he has something to do.

“You look good too, you know,” Mickey says charitably.

Ian looks up in surprise. “Yeah?” he grins.

Mickey shrugs. “Not too shabby.”

Ian nods. Bolstered by this sudden change in atmosphere, this burst of kindness, he steps closer until they’re standing chest-to-chest.

Ian leans in, cupping Mickey’s shoulder gently to whisper in his ear. “Wanna get out of here?” he says, hoping he sounds as casual as he’s trying to be and not all that hopeful.

Ian feels Mickey draw in a sharp breath, shiver.

If Ian were the type to talk dirty he’d tell Mickey all sorts of things right now, like how he’s always wanted to come in Mickey’s face if Mickey’d only let him, or fuck Mickey with a vibrator and leave it inside him for hours until he’s a shaking babbling mess, rutting against Ian’s thigh.

Crazy shit like that that Ian’s never even dreamed of doing to anyone until Mickey came along.

But Ian’s not the type, which is why people often think of him as the Good Kid, the Nice Kid, the kid least likely to become a superhero vigilante, so instead he settles for putting on his most earnest smile and skipping back a step.

“C’mon,” he says, holding out a hand, knowing Mickey won’t take it but hoping for the best anyway; he’s optimistic like that which often leaves him susceptible to disappointment.

“I’ll even buy you dinner afterwards,” Ian promises, raising both eyebrows. “You must be hungry, right?”

Mickey snorts, rolls back his shoulders and sniffs, sign language for: Jesus, what am I gonna do with you?

“Food and a blowjob?” He slaps Ian’s hand away but doesn’t shrug him off the second time when Ian wraps an arm around his bicep. “What a fucking gentleman.”

--

Ian rubs his hands together when their food arrives piping hot.

Mickey reaches over the table to steal a french fry from his plate and Ian doesn’t even complain because he’s in such a good mood. Sex does that to him, makes him feels loose limbed and content. Makes him feel desirable.

Eleven City Diner is packed tonight so the two of them have to talk over the din of multiple conversations going on around them.

Mickey pinches the crust off his Spring sandwich. Half corned beef, half pastrami double decker sandwich on rye with swiss cheese.

Ian, chewing idly on a greasy fry, watches Mickey eat.

You can learn a lot about a person by watching them eat, Fiona used to say to him. That’s how you knew whether or not they were the type to stay the night or leave the light on in the bathroom or give you spare change when you needed it the most.

Ian’s not sure how eating habits equated to any of those but that’s Fiona for you. She’s very perceptive, a trait that bypassed Ian completely.

Mickey’s cheeks bulge out as he chews and he licks the pads of his fingers clean before sipping on his chocolate milkshake.

Ian would make fun of him for his choice of beverage but he doesn’t want to risk getting kicked under the table. Besides, he doesn’t want to ruin a good evening, something Ian hasn’t had in very long awhile.

“Enjoying your food?”

Mickey snatches another fry from him.

They hit the street again, afterwards, flagging down a cab after a few unsuccessful tries. Ian can think of a few things to top what is already the best night of his life but manages to reign in his enthusiasm even when Mickey opens the cab door for him.

Ian hands Mickey the bag of takeout which Mickey accepts without comment.

Ian feels like he’s the fucking man.

--

Mickey asks to be dropped off a few blocks from his street, something the cab driver is more than grateful to comply with considering the neighborhood’s crime rate.

“Here,” Ian says, handing him a crisp hundred dollar bill. “Keep the change.”

He joins Mickey in the street, falling into step with him, hands inside his pockets. It’s a cold night tonight, the sky wide with no stars, the air sharp in his lungs.

Ian bumps playfully into Mickey’s side. Mickey doesn’t bump back but he smiles a tiny smile that makes Ian’s heart climb up his throat.

“Hey,” Ian says, and because it’d be a shame not to, stops and leans over to kiss him.

For once, probably because he’s caught off guard or tired or full or just fucking comfortable in his skin, Mickey doesn’t evade him, gliding his hands up Ian’s hips, his back, coming up to rest them on Ian’s shoulders.

Ian feels the rasp of Mickey’s stubble against his cheek when they pull away simultaneously, breathing the same air, pressed chest-to-chest.

Ian slips a hand inside Mickey’s shirt. His stomach is warm. His ribs are warm. Ian runs his thumb along the outer edges of a newly healed scar on Mickey’s side. That’s warm too.

Then someone wolfwhistles at them from across the street and Mickey turns away abruptly, zipping up his borrowed jacket over his borrowed shirt. And no more touching, no more anything.

The moment broken, Ian has to sprint to keep up with him.

“I’m not letting you walk me home,” Mickey tells him, shaking a cigarette free from the pack.

“Okay,” Ian says, trying to figure out what to say so he doesn’t piss Mickey off or get punched. Or both, if he’s lucky.

“Are you still following me?” Mickey asks once they round the corner. “I thought I told you not to.”

“I’m not,” Ian says a little too quickly for Mickey not to be able to spot the lie. “We just happen to be going the same direction.”

Mickey rolls his eyes at the joke. “Right. Get lost. You’ve done enough tonight.”

Enough? Ian thinks, feeling furious all of a sudden. Not nearly enough, never nearly enough.

He throws his arms out in exasperation. “Jesus, Mickey. Would you calm the fuck down? I just want to be with you, all right? Why do you have to always make it so hard?”

Mickey glares at him but without any real heat. “Fuck off, Gallagher.”

“Mickey!”

“I said fuck off,” Mickey hisses. He shoves Ian aside and lumbers down the street.

Ian walks a few paces behind him, hands dug inside the pockets of his jeans, trying his level best to seem casual and cool, and not, in spite of the bile rising in his stomach, desperate and sad. The only thing worse than looking needy is if he started the water works.

Mickey,” Ian sighs, hoping Mickey would turn around and look at him. But Mickey doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t.

Mickey tosses the bag of takeout over his shoulder and it lands with a splat on the sidewalk, a mess of noodles and meatballs, red like a massacre. The door slams before Ian can run up to it and he stands there on the porch for a few minutes before resting his hand on the door, wishing he could will it to open.

Frowning, Ian turns and pulls the collar of his jacket over his mouth. His breath moistens it, and by the time he gets home, the moisture has turned to ice.

--

Ian stumbles into bed face-first. The second his eyes close, however, Lip is at his side, prodding him gently with the toe of his boot. He’s dressed. As Batman.

Ian groans and waves him off. “Lip, I’m not in the mood for your games. Mickey and I just had a fight.”

Lip prods him again, harder this time. Ian yelps. “Jesus. What do you want?”

Lip throws his suit at him, then his mask, which ricochets off the wall and clatters to the floor. “Get dressed. Mayor’s taken hostage again.”

“That’s the sixth time that’s happened in the last month,” snaps Ian, unbuttoning his shirt.

Lip lights a cigarette and it bobs as he speaks. “Yeah, well. Man’s got a lot of enemies. Hurry up.

--

Ian gives Mickey as much space as he needs.

Grand gestures won’t work on him, and neither will begging, or bribery, so Ian leaves him alone for a week and stews in his misery.

In the meantime, he smokes a lot of pot and helps old ladies with their plumbing when he’s out on patrol, stopping by Kash & Grab when he’s in the neighborhood for free Orange Hostess cupcakes and Bud Lights.

Sometimes, Ian gets the feeling Kash is interested in nailing him, but he’s probably only imagining it because he’s gone awhile without sex.

Ian’s not sure what he misses more: waking up at three in the morning and being able to hold someone while they slept or watching the rhythmic bob of Mickey’s head as he sucked Ian off.

Because even though Mickey kicked in his sleep and hogged all the blankets and laughed open-mouthed spewing food everywhere, he let Ian hug him sometimes, after sex, before sex, whenever he was feeling nice, and shared his cigarettes, and his beer, and his shirts, and once, even made Ian breakfast then let Ian do him on the kitchen table.

Ian can’t figure Mickey out half the time, because he’s not like Fiona who can tell on sight what a person’s intentions are, their goals, whether they plan to stick around for the long haul and put up with your shit. It’s why she insists on going out with Steve (or Jimmy or whatever he calls himself these days) because even though he lies and steals and bribes officers of the law, at the end of day, he’s a good guy and he loves her.

Ian can’t say the same for Mickey; they hardly talk at all.

Ian spends the afternoon at the basement (The Bat Cave), watching the Radar for changes, trying not to nod off and feel sorry for himself. He’s not even eighteen yet, he tells himself. He’ll get over it.

Lip pushes himself from underneath the Bugatti (The Bat Mobile) throwing an oil-soaked towel aside before making himself some coffee.

“So are you guys, you know?” Lip asks, making an indeterminate motion with his hands.

Ian props his chin on his fist, blinking out of his thoughts. “Broken up?”

On hiatus.

Ian ponders the question. “I don’t know,” he says after a moment. “We haven’t spoken in awhile. Think I must’ve pissed him off.”

“Yeah? What’d you do? Serenade him?”

That almost makes Ian laugh. “No, not even close,” he says, pressing his cheek to the edge of the table, imagining it now, smiling. Mickey would throw a beer bottle at him, probably.

“I kind of kissed him. In the street. Someone saw. Then he went crazy. As usual.”

Yikes.” Lip pours him coffee out of sympathy and hunkers down next to him at the console.

“So what happens now?” asks Lip, stretching his tired muscles.

Ian shrugs and wishes he knew.

--

It takes Ian another two days to cave.

He shows up at Mickey’s porch one night, bringing beer with him and food, because Lip says you can never go wrong with either one. People may let you down, he said. But never underestimate the power of a full stomach.

Ian sniffs at an armpit to check if he’s remembered to put deodorant on then smoothes back his hair and rings the doorbell.

Nothing.

He tries again.

The light is in the living room is on but he can’t detect movement. Ian checks the door. It creaks open easily when he turns the knob. Cautiously stepping inside, he puts the food down on the coffee table and does a quick perimeter check.

“Mickey?” he calls out. No answer. A bowl of Cheerios sits congealing at the kitchen table.

Ian feels his heart jitter frantically out of his chest as his mind runs through a million and one scenarios. Before he can properly freak out, he calls Lip for help, carding a shaky hand through his hair and grinding his teeth.

“Lip?” He lets out a relieved sigh when the line connects. “I’m at Mickey’s and--”

That’s about the last thing Ian remembers saying before he’s knocked unconscious.

--

Ian wakes tied to a chair.

This is nothing new; it’s has happened before, like a couple of times when he pissed the Riddler off by giving him lame answers to his riddles.

Ian is sure he can find a way out of this. Except. This time it may not be so easy.

The chair he’s tethered to is facing a glass window overlooking the city. Right now he’s just a civilian, not Robin the Wonderboy, Batman’s loyal sidekick, which may complicate things.

Ian gives up the struggle when the rope starts chafing his skin.

It’s too dark to make out if there’s anyone behind him but he squints anyway, deciding to push his luck.

Flanked by her underlings, the person he least expects walks out of the shadows.

Ian recognizes that feline gait.

“Hello, dearest,” she smiles, sliding her hands down his shoulder.

“Catwoman.”

Ian feels all the blood drain from his face.

--

“So, Ian Gallagher, son of Frank Gallagher, is Batman’s trusted sidekick.”

Catwoman crosses her legs, drumming impatient fingers against her knee. Her lips curl in disdain.

Ian checks the left side of the room for exits. None. “You don’t know that,” he says, stalling. No exits to the right, either. Where the fuck is he?

Catwoman rises to her feet, laughs, high and harsh. Her lipstick is bright red in the murky dark. A leather gloved hand rises to meet the side of Ian’s face and Ian yelps, flinching when it rises again, threatening to strike.

“Don’t lie to me boy,” Catwoman says through gritted teeth. Her fingernails hurt Ian’s scalp when she rakes them up his hairline. “I bugged your boyfriend’s house. I know it’s you.”

She gestures to one of her underlings. Out of the dark stumbles Mickey, face bruised and lip bleeding, hands tied behind his back. Underling #1 has a tight grip on his arm which Mickey tries to dislodge unsuccessfully.

“Mickey,” breathes Ian, swallowing thickly in his throat. “You’re alive.

Mickey shoots him a blank look, then turns away.

“Not for long,” says Catwoman, pulling out a pistol which she points straight at Mickey’s head. “You will tell me who Batman is or he dies.” She looks like she’s not fucking kidding about it, too.

And then the lights start flickering, before shutting off completely, plunging the room into inky darkness.

All hell breaks loose.

--

Catwoman screams.

A shot is fired.

Ian hears the heavy thump of a body hitting the floor and his thoughts turn immediately wild and panicky. Mickey.

Ian tips the chair over, grunting at the bloom of pain when his jaw hits the floor.

Ian crawls over to where he estimates the body has fallen but then the lights turn back on again and Lip is standing there, over him, over the dead body of underling #1, looking very very pissed.

Lip cuts off the ropes. They look up simultaneously when they hear the click of a gun. “Not so fast, Batman.”

Shit. “He’s got Mickey.”

Ian raises both his hands in surrender. Lip’s voice doesn’t break when he says, “Now there’s a good kitty. Put the gun down.”

Underling #2 is standing right behind Lip, pointing a gun at the back of his head and still Lip’s face is impassive.

It’s always been like this though, Ian thinks; Lip is Batman after all, take-charge kind of guy that he is, the show runner.

Ian is the reluctant sidekick who gets thrown around a lot and kidnapped-for-ransom and occasionally, propositioned by criminals-in-the-making. The weaker link. Batman’s Achilles heel.

Ian can throw a mean punch but that’s about the extent of his abilities. Lip, though. Lip can take care of anything. That’s why he’s Batman. That’s why he’s the Dark Knight. He’s tough and smart and strong and he’ll do the right thing even if it means putting his life on the line. That’s why Ian can’t let him die.

Ian meets Mickey’s gaze levelly. I’m doing this for you, he thinks, evening out his breathing, bracing himself for what may be the dumbest thing he’ll ever have to do in his life.

Ian grabs Lip’s gun from his holster, uses it on underling #2 before whirling back quickly to face Catwoman, gun still in the air.

“Bull’s eye,” she says when their eyes meet. She tips her head back, laughing, and it’s only then that Ian realizes that his chest is bleeding.

Ian crumples to the ground, clutching his middle.

--

Everything is a blur after that, like Ian’s head is being held underwater and he’s watching everything in slow motion.

Lip chases Catwoman to the rooftop but not before screaming at Mickey to call a fucking ambulance.

Ian doesn’t realize Mickey is talking to him until he’s yanked into Mickey’s lap and Mickey’s cradling his face and pushing Ian’s sweaty hair out of his eyes.

“Hey,” Ian says gently, wondering where all the time had gone.

There’s a hitch in Mickey’s breathing. “Don’t you fucking die on me Gallagher,” he warns. “Don’t you fucking dare or I will kill you.”

Ian laughs, even though the pain makes him delirious; he feels disconnected from reality, like the only thing attaching him to this world is the pain. The pain and Mickey.

“So you care about me after all, huh?” he says, trying to lighten the mood. Ian doesn’t dare look down, too scared to accept the fact he may actually be dying.

“Don’t be a prick,” Mickey says to him, and Ian must’ve been imagining things because Mickey squeezes his eyes a few times before pawing roughly at his face. He’s not crying. Milkoviches do not cry. Besides, Ian’s not too sure Mickey even had tear ducts.

“Help is coming,” Mickey assures Ian, rubbing Ian’s cheek with a thumb, the tenderness in the gesture startling Ian to look into his face. Ian resents what he sees there and is suddenly even more afraid to die.

His head rolls to the side. “I’ll try not to bleed out,” Ian says, stroking Mickey’s forearm but Mickey doesn’t laugh, and just presses a dry kiss to his forehead.

Mickey squeezes his shoulder hard enough to hurt.

When the edges of his vision turn white, Ian grabs blindly for Mickey’s hand and hopes for the best.

--

The next time Ian opens his eyes, he’s in a hospital bed, his chest swathed in bandages.

He reaches up to swipe at the gunk he feels has crusted on his face and raises an eyebrow when he realizes what it is. Make-up.

Debbie leans over the bed, waving at him. “Sorry. I was bored. Did you sleep well? You were out for four days.”

Ian attempts to sit up.

“Fiona and Steve went to get some breakfast. Lip is outside with your boyfriend.” Deb starts putting her make-up kit away. She hands Ian a juicebox with a bendable straw. “Thirsty?”

Ian nods, slurping gratefully, before violently backtracking. “My boyfriend?”

Debbie shrugs. “Fiona says that’s who he is although personally,” she whispers, “I think you could do better.”

Ian laughs. Debbie leaves the room to go fetch Mickey. When the door opens, Ian’s heart does a little somersault.

“I thought you had died,” Mickey says by way of greeting.

“Well,” Ian says, setting the juicebox aside. “I didn’t. Here I am. Alive and well.”

A ghost of a smile flickers across Mickey’s face but disappears just as quickly as it came.

Mickey’s wearing the same shirt he always wears, the threadbare grey t-shirt that was once, at some point or another, probably somebody else’s, the print faded beyond recognition.

Ian beckons him over but just before Mickey could take another step, the door bursts open and in spills Fiona and the others.

Even Veronica and Kevin are there, armed with pastries and coffee and balloons, all of them talking on top of each other and rushing to his side.

Ian watches helplessly over Fiona’s shoulder as Mickey quietly leaves, ribs hurting when she squeezes too hard.

--

Mickey comes back in sometime in the afternoon, after Lip’s big speech about family and never wearing the cape again. Ian dozes off a few times watching the news but he hears Mickey come in almost instantly and jerks awake, recognizing the steady rhythm of his footsteps anywhere.

“You look like shit,” Mickey tells him, flinging himself over to the chair next to the bed.

Ian feels sheepish, remembering the make-up on his face, and wonders what he must look like to Mickey. He can’t think of a proper response so he shrugs his shoulders, and turns the TV off.

Mickey’s back faces the windows so that it looks like the light seeping in through the blinds is making his head glow.

“I’m sorry you were dragged into this,” Ian says before Mickey can think about leaving. “I’m an idiot.”

“Yeah, you kind of are, Gallagher,” Mickey agrees.

Despite his best efforts, Ian breaks into a yawn.

“Tired already Sleeping Beauty?” Mickey asks him, voice low and raspy like he’s tired too. Lip said something about him dropping in a couple of times and staying the night though Ian wonders if that was just something Lip said to make him feel better because that doesn’t sound like something Mickey’d do.

Ian scratches at where the IV drip is embedded into his arm then drops his head back against the pillows.

“Maybe,” he says, trying his best to fight the wave of sleepiness descending over him. “Will you still be here when I wake up, though?”

Mickey’s face doesn’t change when he picks up a magazine from the rack and makes himself comfortable in his seat. He moves the chair closer and puts both his feet up on the bed, one on top of Ian’s shin as he unfurls his magazine.

Ian cups his knee and closes his eyes.

“Sleep wonderboy,” he hears Mickey say.

It’s the first time ever that the nickname’s made Ian smile.