Their apartment is small.
The walls are a dingy beige color and none of the lights work and Mickey’s pretty sure the people who lived here last broke the ‘no pets’ rule because, yeah, that is definitely a piss stain on the carpet. He mentions it to Ian who doubles over in laughter.
“Or maybe, like, a person did that,” he says through his giggles.
“Fucking hell,” Mickey groans.
Ian laughs again, loud and happy, and claps Mickey on the shoulder. “Holy shit, this place is terrible.” But he’s practically beaming as he leaves Mickey’s side to go open a window because it also kind of smells. And Mickey knows smell, okay: he lived in the Milkovich house for twenty-two years of his life.
Still, he thinks as he starts unpacking a box of he and Ian’s clothes, hanging their shirts up in the closet next to each other, things could be a lot worse. (Have been much, much worse, he corrects himself, but doesn’t dwell on the specifics.)
That night they fuck loud and hard and slow, because they live alone, because there’s no risk of getting caught, because if they leave the windows open Ian’s moans are drowned out by the noise of the city below them, because this is their life now and they can do whatever they want.
It’s the middle of May and hot as hell - with their luck, naturally all they have is one of those big white fans that only seem to succeed at circulating hot air, so they kick all the blankets to the floor and don’t even bother with clothes. It’s a failed effort to trick themselves into believing it’s cooler.
“Told ya it wouldn’t fuckin’ work,” Mickey grumbles against Ian’s ear.
“First time you’ve ever been right, congratulations,” Ian yawns, and gives him the most condescending kiss on the cheek ever. He is the Worst Person, Mickey’s sure of it.
“My ass is sweating.”
“Sexy,” Ian deadpans.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter because Ian is the clingiest fucking sleeper in America so this situation was doomed to begin with. He wraps himself around Mickey like a leech, snoring into his neck, drooling on his skin. Mickey’s sweating in places he didn’t even know could produce sweat, which should really be enough to stop him from slipping an arm around Ian’s back and keeping him close but his brain and that little place in his chest Ian insists is his soul might as well be on two totally different sides of the country these days, so he does it anyway.
He spent the whole day trying to remember if he's ever been this happy before and came up empty every time.
Mickey fixes a lot of shit, like the broken lights and the broken outlets and the broken doors, and Ian unpacks boxes and gets the rooms set up and they have a good, functioning system.
It only takes a couple of posters, the tiny TV that used to sit in Mickey’s bedroom back in Chicago, a few scattered ashtrays, and a little over a week for it to start feeling familiar.
They keep a gun in the drawer next to the bed. Even though their neighborhood isn’t all that dangerous, old habits die hard.
Their building is full of old ladies and babies, all of whom naturally succumb to the Ian Gallagher charm within seconds of meeting him. The kids want him to babysit them and the women want to set him up with their granddaughters and Mickey wants to vomit because he honestly does not know how this happened, seriously, he only left for a second to bring a box inside.
He walks back out into the hallway and at the center of a circle (literally a circle) of people is Ian, doing that oh-shucks-who-me smile he doesn’t even realize he does, like, all the time. Mickey needs a cigarette. Or seven.
“…and I’d love to introduce you to my niece—”
Mickey’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Oh my god, um,” Ian laughs embarrassedly, stupidly polite. “I’m sure she’s – great, but I’m actually seeing someone, sorry.” He notices Mickey standing there and pushes through the wall of women to yank him forward by the wrist. “This is my boyfriend, Mickey.”
“Because I can’t introduce myself,” Mickey mutters. He can never find the words to say that hearing Ian call him ‘boyfriend’ makes him feel like his heart’s in his throat without sounding like a total pussy.
“Be nice,” Ian says lightly, pressing a hand to his lower back.
The lady couldn’t have looked more disappointed if Ian had straight-up told her that he could never date her niece, or any female for that matter, because tits confuse him and he really, really, really likes sucking dick. Ian consoles her, accepts her offer to stop by for dinner sometime, and everything’s fixed thanks to Ian's whole 'Disney prince come to life' schtick. Their neighbor’s two young daughters inexplicably take to Mickey, asking him if he’s related to the fucking mouse, climbing all over his legs because kids are stupid and don’t know how to act around other human beings. He tries to push them away (Mickey Milkovich does not do children) but they only grin, like he's telling a fucking joke. This is his hell.
When they get back inside, Ian is laughing so hard he’s honest-to-god crying. Mickey shoves him into a wall.
Their hot water sucks. Because of course it does.
It only lasts for about ten minutes before it goes ice cold, which means they’ve started taking showers together for convenience. And, shit, moving in with your boyfriend makes you pretty gay, but showering with him and not even fucking probably makes you even gayer. Mickey says that out loud one morning as Ian meticulously shaves the beard that is so not growing in—
(“Just admit that’s not a thing you can do, Gallagher, fuck.”
“God, shut up.”)
—and he stops what he’s doing to glance at Mickey in the mirror. He doesn't speak but the bored look on his face says it all: Really?
Mickey rolls his eyes and doesn’t bring it up again.
They did this whole moving in together thing right, you know, they didn’t fuck around. New York had always been a very distant idea, something Ian would bring up every so often when they were done fucking, something Mickey tried not to think about because he didn’t want to imagine how much more miserable his life would be without Ian in it. Then things changed and Ian was leaving but he was telling Mickey to come with him, not taking no for an answer because he'd sort of always known Mickey better than he knew himself, because he knew that ‘fuck off’ meant ‘yes.’ Because he knew sometimes all Mickey needed was a push. And it wasn't like he deserved it or anything, but Ian gave it to him anyway.
(It helped that Mandy said she’d castrate him if he didn’t go which, like, okay, he could snap her in half over his knee Bane-style if he really wanted to, but bitch was still kind of scary when she tried to be.)
They spent months trying to find a place both within their price range and one that would take in someone with a criminal record, which proved to be way harder than expected, but they figured it out. Now there’s a lease with both of their names on it and no one can take that away from them. That shit, so Mickey hears, is legally binding.
“Like once a month I tell myself I’m going to start calling you Michael just to see what you’d do but I always forget,” Ian had said conversationally as Mickey carefully scrawled his full name on the dotted line.
“Go fuck yourself,” Mickey replied in the exact same tone.
Their super stared at them, entirely unimpressed.
Fiona calls every few days, just like she promised Ian she would, and Ian stays on the phone with her for at least half an hour, dutifully asks to speak to Debbie, Carl, and even Liam, listens and laughs genuinely as they tell him about school and home and what they’ve been up to. He always talks to Lip last and Mickey knows that’s his cue to fuck off for a few minutes so they can talk privately. Ian would never make him leave, but Mickey knows he appreciates it.
Mickey doesn’t talk to his dad or his brothers but he calls Mandy every week or so, checks up on things, makes sure no one’s been fucking with her, because, he swears, he will get on a goddamn plane just to rip whoever it is a new asshole. His sister is his favorite person in the world but it’s not like he’ll ever admit it so he always tosses the phone at Ian after his mini-interrogation so they can gossip or whatever it is people with too much estrogen do together. Ian always smiles at him knowingly after these conversations. Mickey's gotten good at pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on.
They can’t afford cable or, like, real channels, so Mickey finds a cheap DVD player and then drags Ian to a store on the corner that sells I Heart NY crap and has a five-dollar movie bin. They stand there for at least fifteen minutes, arguing loudly over what movies to buy, sufficiently pissing off the old Cuban guy who works behind the counter. Mickey makes a very convincing argument for porn; Ian completely tunes him out and tells him to choose between Men in Black and Die Hard. (Obviously he picks Die Hard; contrary to popular belief, he’s not a monster.) Mickey insists upon The Big Lebowski, Ian almost shits himself when he finds Pulp Fiction, and they actually manage to agree on Fight Club. Superbad is thrown in at the last minute when Ian tells him he’s never seen it, because no.
The walk home is spent trading Walter Sobchak impressions back and forth and Mickey lets his fingers thread between Ian’s. His hand is kind of sweaty but Ian doesn't even say anything.
They fight a lot, which is to be expected. Typically they’re just little spats, ones that neither of them so much as bat an eyelash at, but other times they’re big, ugly blow-ups. Those tend to get physical – neither of them can resist a good fistfight – and always end in at least one door slamming. They inevitably come crawling back to each other sheepishly later on, using beer or cigarettes as peace offerings, never apologizing with words, but they get it. They get it.
Mickey gets home one night and he’s furious for a bunch of stupid reasons – he’s mad at how fucking hard it is to find a fucking job in this fucking city, at the subsequent waste of an entire day, at the fact that, other than Ian, he doesn’t know anyone here, and even though it’s not Ian’s fault, there’s an argument rising in his chest like bile. That’s the way Mickey is, that’s the way he’s always been: he doesn’t keep his anger to himself, he takes it out on whoever’s closest. (One of the more charming traits he inherited from his dad.)
He swings their apartment door open after a too-long subway ride and is so prepared to start yelling, but whatever he was going to say is lost on him when he literally stops in his tracks. And he just has to stare, has to process this for a second, because Ian’s doing the dishes, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and one of Mickey’s tank tops, singing along in his low, off-key voice to some girly-ass pop song on the radio. He’s doing this stupid dance and his head nods along to the beat, like a demented bobblehead doll.
Mickey loves him so much it’s gross.
His anger fades away like it was never there at all.
“Hey,” he calls out, finding his voice. He’s getting used to this now, this whole announcing your presence thing that the Gallaghers are so fond of. That had never really been the Milkovich way – at Mickey’s house, you just walked in and maybe grunted at whoever was around - but he's learning.
“Hey,” Ian echoes, looking over his shoulder to throw a smile Mickey's way. He just looks so fucking happy to see him every day and Mickey’s trying to make himself understand that that’s a thing now, it's not going away. “So, idea: we start eating off paper plates and I never wash another dish ever again.”
“That’s some ghetto-ass shit, man,” Mickey replies, tossing his keys on the table and hopping up on the counter next to the sink.
“Yeah, well, if the shoe fits,” Ian laughs, holding out a towel and a wet cup, giving Mickey an expectant look.
Mickey pauses, furrowing his brow. “What?”
“Do something,” Ian says slowly, like he’s talking to a four-year-old who’s hard of hearing. “As in dry.”
“I didn’t sign up for fuckin' dry duty,” Mickey grumbles, snatching the towel and cup away from Ian, who’s smirking. The song on the radio changes - it's some lame band singing now, and Ian knows all the words. “This is so gay.”
Ian seems to think about that for a moment before looking up at him contemplatively. “Gayer than our gay showers?”
Mickey laughs, nodding. “Yeah, gayer than those.”
“I’ll allow it,” Ian says and shoves a dripping bowl at him. There are still some soap suds lingering on the rim. Ian can do ten thousand push-ups in like two seconds but the guy somehow can’t grasp the simple concept of dish washing.
“Yo, hold on, I'm not done with this one,” Mickey protests, swatting at Ian's wrist with his towel.
“Tough shit, take it. Also, go faster.”
“Suck my dick.”
“Ugh, later. I’m tired.”
It continues on like that, bantering back and forth about nothing in particular, washing and drying dishes like they’re regular people or something. And maybe they are regular people now, sort of. Maybe they can at least pretend to be.
It doesn't take much racking his brain to think of a time when just the idea of doing this with another dude, let alone Ian fucking Gallagher, would’ve given him hives. Mickey never thought he’d have this. No, no, that’s not exactly true – Mickey never thought he’d want this, is the thing.
They finish and Ian comes to stand between his knees, resting his damp hands on Mickey's thighs, swaying in time with the song. He looks like a fucking idiot in Mickey’s shirt that’s just a bit too tight on him, dancing lazily in their – their – shitty little kitchen. He’s smiling when Mickey kisses him, like there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
It’s dumb, it's so, so dumb, but Mickey thinks that it feels a whole hell of a lot like home.