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.
“Fuckin’ hell,” Mickey groans.
Ian nods in agreement, clapping 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.
Still, he thinks, as he starts unpacking a box of he and Ian’s clothes, hanging their shirts up next to each other in the closet, things could be worse, have been much, much worse.
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 their combined 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 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.
“My ass is sweating.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter because Ian is the clingiest fucking sleeper in America so this situation was doomed from the start. 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. You know. 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.
He's spent the whole day trying to remember if he's ever been this happy before and has come 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. Their new neighborhood isn’t all that dangerous, but 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 doesn't 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 small circle of people is Ian, doing that oh-shucks-who-me smile he doesn’t even realize he does pretty much all the time. Mickey needs a cigarette, or seven.
“…and I’d love to introduce you to my niece —”
Mickey’s eyebrows shoot up.
Ian cuts her off with a polite laugh. “Oh my god, um, 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.”
"'Cause 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 flat out told her that he could never date her niece, or any female for that matter, because tits confuse him and he really likes sucking dick. Ian consoles her, accepts her offer to stop by for dinner sometime, and everything’s fixed thanks to his whole Disney prince come to life schtick. Their neighbor’s two young daughters inexplicably take to Mickey, asking him if he knows the fucking mouse, climbing all over his legs, because kids are stupid. He tries to push them away but they just grin up at him like he's telling a fucking joke.
When they get back inside, Ian laughs so hard his eyes tear up. Mickey shoves him into the wall.
Their hot water sucks because of course it does.
It only lasts for about ten minutes before it basically turns to ice, which means they’ve started taking showers together for convenience. And, shit, moving in with your boyfriend is pretty gay, but showering with him and not even fucking is probably somehow gayer. Mickey says it 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 reply, but the unimpressed look on his face says it all.
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 miserable his life would be without Ian in it. Then things changed and Ian was leaving but he was asking 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.
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 it 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 as Mickey carefully scrawled his full name on the thin black line, right next to Ian’s own.
“Go fuck yourself,” Mickey said.
“Aw, Michael, no.”
Their super stared at them, entirely unimpressed.
Fiona calls often, just like she promised she would, and Ian usually 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 while. Ian would never ask him to leave, but Mickey knows he appreciates the privacy.
Mickey doesn’t talk to his dad or his brothers but he calls Mandy sometimes, 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 if she needs him to. She can defend herself, he knows, but his sister is his favorite person in the world and 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 that people with too much estrogen in their systems do together. Ian always smiles at him knowingly afterwards; Mickey’s gotten good at pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on.
They can’t afford cable or any sort of real channels, so Mickey finds them a cheap DVD player and 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 and 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 The Big Lebowski.
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 isn’t surprising. Usually nothing more than small arguments, ones that neither of them so much as bat an eye at, but other times they’re big, ugly blow-ups because they’ve always known the quickest and most effective ways to hurt each other. They inevitably come crawling back to each other later, using beer or cigarettes as peace offerings, never apologizing with words, but they get it. They get each other.
Mickey gets home one night and he’s furious for a bunch of pointless reasons — how fucking hard it is to find a fucking job in this fucking city, at the subsequent waste of a day, at the heat, 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 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 lame-ass pop song on the radio. He’s doing this stupid dance, nodding his head to the beat, like a demented bobblehead doll.
Mickey loves him so much it’s disgusting. His anger fades like it’d never been 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 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 drill into his head that that’s a thing now, it's not going away. “Idea: we start eating off paper plates and I never wash another dish ever again.”
“That’s some true poor shit, man,” Mickey says, tossing his keys on the table and hopping up on the counter next to the sink.
“Yeah, well, if the shoe fits,” Ian says, 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 a stupid band of the moment singing now, and Ian knows all the words. He pushes a dripping bowl into Mickey's hands. 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.”
“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.
They finish and put everything away and then Ian comes to stand between his knees, resting his damp hands on Mickey's thighs, swaying in time with the music. He looks ridiculous in Mickey’s shirt that’s just a bit too tight on him, dancing lazily in their – their – shitty little kitchen, and 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 it feels a whole hell of a lot like home.