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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Chapter Text

If you had told Mickey Milkovich that video games were going to be his ticket out of the Southside, he would have said you were crazy in the most colorful language possible…or he might have robbed you, one or the other.

By nineteen years old, Mickey was in serious trouble. He was officially an adult, and had just wrapped up his first brief stint in an adult correctional facility. Juvie was no picnic, but being in the big house had shaken him enough to force him to actually listen to his parole officer for a change while she jawed at him.

“You can’t keep going like this, Mickey,” she flipped through his record and sighed at the slouching, bored teen before her, “your juvie record is as tall as you are and you seem bent on becoming institutionalized. You need to turn off this path before it’s too late for you.”

Mickey chewed on his nails and shrugged. He was fucked for life anyway, and her stating the obvious wasn’t going to make much of a difference, was it? She sighed again and tapped her fingers against her desk.

“What are you good at, Mick? I mean really good at? I feel I should clarify, your answer should be something that won’t land you in jail.”

Mickey’s head lolled back as he thought about it. The whole must-be-legal aspect of the question was really restricting his options. He clicked his tongue and admitted lamely, “video games?”

To his surprise, she neither sneered nor rolled her eyes at him. Instead, she kept tapping the desk and eyeing him seriously. “Like how good? Casual gamer good, or are you one of those hardcore ones?”

Mickey raised an eyebrow, “why?”

She hesitated briefly before rifling through her desk and pulling out a green folder. “You ever heard of ‘Southside Slaughter’?”

Mickey straightened in his seat, suddenly all ears. “Yeah, everybody knows it. Fucker that made it was from around here, right?”

Southside Slaughter had been the dark horse darling of the video gaming world the year prior. The Grand Theft Auto meets Sims style game had been an independent, underground release only to take the place by storm after the bougie kids finally got wind of it. It was even more remarkable because it was the brain child of some local kid whose brother scammed some college programmers into making it.

Mickey loved that game. It was basically his life, and the life of a large number of Southside kids. It was a dark, twisted hustle and survival game, only with more explosions and less consequences for killing cops and random citizens.

Deidre, the parole officer, nodded her head. “He’s forming his own gaming company, ‘Southside Enterprises.”


“Shut up,” she rolled her eyes and pulled a few forms from the folder, “it’s just starting out and it needs staff, video game testers included. They want to make sure they leave a few spots open for fellow down-on-their-luck Southsiders too.”

“Meaning they want a bunch of desperate losers to work for next to nothing in order to lessen their start-up costs,” Mickey only grinned when she glared at him, “hey, I’m not knocking it. It’s the hustle.”

“Whatever, it’ll satisfy the terms of your parole, you can stay home and out of trouble, and it will still give you an income, even if it is next to nothing,” she slid the forms across the table to him, “interested?”

Mickey took the forms and looked them over. Might as well, at least it was something.

Five years later, he was in New York City, sitting in his place within Southside Enterprises' Skid Row—the company’s core set of testers and programmers. The company had taken off in a way nobody could have predicted. Somehow, he had gotten in on the ground floor of a Fortune 1000 company and, not for nothing, he was great at his job. Mickey was relentless and detailed obsessed, which is just what you needed to be in a job that made you want to put a bullet through your skull half the time.

He yawned, gulped his coke and restarted his level for the twenty-eighth time. He readied himself to resume the grind just as his daily distraction walked in. Owner and creator, Ian Fucking Gallagher, was breezing in and Mickey automatically sank down in his chair to make his ogling a little less obvious. Mickey was almost sure ‘Fucking’ was his middle name, it just had to be. Jesus, Gallagher could wear the hell out of a t-shirt. The redhead gave everyone in the vicinity a broad smile and a greeting before heading into his office. He kept the blinds up, allowing everyone, including Mickey to see him settling in. Mickey loved and hated when he did that, because a continuous eyeful of Gallagher was a wonderful thing, but it seriously fucked up his concentration and productivity.

It didn’t help when about fifteen minutes later, Gallagher was out of his office and standing directly in front of Mickey’s station, towering over everything.

“Hey guys, what’s good?”

Mickey could never talk in any of these little impromptu sessions. He was too busy biting his lip and trying to find a safe place to look that didn’t seem like he was blatantly avoiding looking at his boss. Gallagher’s pecs were a no-no, his goddamned face was torture and Mickey was left staring at his computer screen like an imbecile, trying his best not to have a noticeable physical reaction to his boss’s presence.

Next to him, Carrie was chattering away about the progress she had made on her level of Southside Rumble, highlighting the major glitches she had come across. “And Mick had some similar issues on his level too, right Mick... Mick?”

“Huh?” he turned to Carrie who was looking at him expectantly. He was just doing an excellent job of not looking like a complete idiot in front of his boss.

“I was telling Ian about some of the issues we were running into on our levels.”

“Not too serious though, right? Nothing to change the release date over?” Ian’s question forced Mick to look up at him, only to get a faceful of intense, green gaze for his efforts. Mickey’s brain immediately scrambled.

“Yeah, no, it’s fine,” Mickey mumbled and immediately fastened his gaze on the safety of his screen.

The session mercifully ended, but Ian hesitated in his spot for a minute more before finally deciding to move, “yeah, okay,” and with that, he headed back to his office. This time though, the blinds came down, much to the relief of Mickey’s higher brain functions. Carrie grinned stupidly at her computer screen.

“What?” Mickey asked grumpily. She shook her head, still grinning broadly.

“Oh nothing, he’s just gorgeous, you know?”

Mickey sniffed derisively, “I’ll take your word for it.”

Carrie just rolled her eyes and went on smiling.

It was after eight and Mickey was still grinding his level, determined to finish his report on it before he went home. He was alone, the other programmers and testers having long since gone home, and Carrie, the traitor, had abandoned him over an hour ago.

“What are you still doing here?”

The voice came from the dark behind him and Mickey was out of his seat with the switchblade out of his pocket and in his hand before his brain could even catch up and remind him of his new surroundings.

“Jesus, dude, relax!” Ian took a cautious step back and Mickey blinked at him.

“For fuck's sake, did no one tell you never to sneak up on people?!”

“I wasn’t aware that I was sneaking. I thought I was just heading back to my office,” Ian replied wryly. He waited until Mickey sheepishly closed the blade, made a vaguely apologetic gesture and slid back into his seat. For his part, Mickey was wondering what the disciplinary protocol was for pulling a deadly weapon on your boss. Fortunately, Ian didn’t seem that put out about it.

“What are you still doing here?” Ian asked lightly, as if he hadn’t just been a breath away from being carved like a turkey, “you never stay this late.”

“I kinda fell behind on this level a little bit.” Was that even a thing you should admit to your boss? Mickey winced internally, but was immediately distracted by his Ian’s looming presence growing closer to him. Ian rested a hand on the backrest of Mickey’s chair and leaned forward to squint at Mickey’s computer screen. Way too close. Mickey swallowed convulsively and tried to ignore the heat radiating off Ian and the scent of his cologne.

“Do I need to get you guys bigger screens or something? This seems insanely compressed.”

Mickey laughed at that. “Nah man, they just look that way compared to the monster you keep in your office.”

Ian smiled before pushing away from Mickey, leaving the latter with the combination feeling of disappointed and relief that he was slowly getting used to in regards to Ian Fucking Gallagher.

“You’ve been here, what, two months now? I think this is the most I’ve ever heard you talk, Mickey.” Instead of leaving, Ian had simply moved to slip into Carrie’s chair and swiveled to face the other man. Still, way too close for Mickey’s health.

The tester shrugged, “not much to say.”

Ian hadn’t really stopped smiling since Mickey put the switchblade away, but the grin somehow managed to keep intensifying. Mickey could only manage quick, furtive glances in his boss’s direction and rubbed at his chin with his thumb, trying not to let his nerves get the better of him.

“You’re Southside, right? These games must seem more like Second Life to you.”

Mickey gave an amused snort, “yeah, I thought you ripped off my life the first time I played. Although, I never recovered that quickly when I got my ass handed to me.”

“Yeah, me neither,” Ian said softly. They sat in awkward silence for a moment before Ian offered, “Hey, can I show you something?”

Ian Fucking Gallagher could show him anything he wanted anytime, but Mickey thought the safer response would be just to nod. Not that Ian had actually waited for a response. His boss was already out of the seat and halfway to his office. Mickey hated to see him leave, but loved to watch him go. He admired the view for a bit before remembering he was supposed to be following. He shook himself and jogged after him.

Mickey had only been in Ian’s office once before, and it had been a couple months earlier when he had finally transferred in to the New York headquarters. The office was immense, more like a large studio apartment than an actual office, but for the perfunctory officious-looking desk and chair shoved in the corner near the windows.

The centerpiece of the office was the monster-sized wall-mounted television screen, the gaming systems stacked beneath and huge couch facing it. Mickey took everything in—despite the obvious expense of the furnishings, the décor could have easily been transplanted from his own bedroom, and the definite Southside feel coming from Ian and the office helped put him at ease a bit. Ian waved him over to the couch while he popped a disc into one of the consoles.

Ian threw himself down next to Mickey and tossed him a controller as the game’s title screen faded in. Mickey’s eyes widened in recognition.

“Oh shit, this is-”

“Southside Legend,” Ian finished for him, “I just got the alpha from development today. Planning an MMORPG is a bitch and a half. This is the single-player version though.”

After the selections, the game started as all the other Southside games began, a poor kid with an ignoble background preparing to hustle his or her way out of the Southside, whether legit or otherwise. Mickey dived in; the game wasn’t pretty and smooth yet, but alpha versions hardly ever were, or Mickey wouldn’t have a job.

Mickey played uninterrupted for some time, while Ian watched him as discreetly as he could. Since Ian seemed to have an aversion to long periods of silence, he eventually interrupted, “what do you think so far?”

“Fucking awesome,” Mickey breathed, not pausing his gameplay. “It’s off to a better start than ‘Survival,’ and that fucking ruled.”

Ian beamed and unconsciously shuffled closer to Mickey, “I dunno. I’ve been losing sleep over this shit; keep thinking it’s going to be crap.”

“You are out of your mind,” Mickey snorted, “after all the other games, why the hell would you even worry about that? Your brain is like a gaming wonderland.”

“Yeah, that’s just it though, ‘Survival’ was the first game I released since I’ve been on my meds, now I’m doing ‘Rumble’ and 'Legend’…I don’t know if I work as well when I’m even…”

Mickey let his stolen ice cream truck crash into a fire hydrant. He turned his full attention to a pensive Ian, “so that Bipolar shit is for real then?

“Yeah,” Ian admitted hesitantly, surprising himself that he was speaking so freely about his illness, “and everything up to Survival was done while I was manic, and it’s hard to explain, but it’s like you’re finally firing on all cylinders. ‘Legend’ is my first MMORPG and I really need it to be perfect. Kinda makes me think, you know?”

Mickey looked at him as if he was crazy. “No, I don’t know, but I’ve seen bipolar dudes in lock-up and that shit is on another level. You’d seriously consider going off your meds to make sure an already great game is actually good? You’re crazy; I mean, your story and world building have been getting better with each game, so it stands to reason that it’s not your illness then, right?”

Ian had never actually considered that. “You really think my games have been getting better each time?” He asked shyly, ridiculously pleased by the chiding praise.

“Jesus, yes really. Stay on your fucking meds, dude, and trust your talent.”

Ian nodded and went back to quietly watching Mickey work his way through the available gameplay. He hadn’t seriously been considering going off his meds. Well, maybe just a little bit, but he certainly wasn’t going to now.

“Oh shit, it’s 10:30?” Mickey let out after glimpsing his watch. The realization that he had just spent nearly two hours in his boss’s office, basically holding the man hostage, crashed down on him. He put away the controller and the old awkwardness quickly descended. Mickey couldn’t help but feel a bunch of lines had somehow been crossed here and he had no idea who had done it or how it had happened. He stood stiffly.

“I’m going,” he said abruptly, “I’ll see you tomorrow…” he reached for an appropriate title, he had never actually addressed Ian directly before, “Mr. Gallagher?”

Ian burst out laughing, “not even my dad was Mr. Gallagher. You should call me Ian, Mick. Everyone else does.”

Mickey turned it over in his head, couldn’t see it happening. “Can I just call you Gallagher?”

Only Mickey could find a way to make the more formal seem insanely intimate and Ian nodded eagerly. “I’m fine with that.”

Chapter Text

Ian knew Mickey didn't remember their first real meeting; mostly because Ian was completely unrecognizable at the time. He had just completed his eight mile run back into the lobby of his office building, only to see the elevator doors close before he was halfway to it. He watched the elevator numbers light up and figured he could beat it to the fourth floor. Taking that as his final exercise challenge, he shot up the stairs, taking them three at a time and actually managed to get to the fourth floor while the elevator was starting its journey from third.

Ian doubled over heaving, realizing he might have just pushed himself a little too far. He crouched down, struggling to fight air down into his lungs only for the elevator doors to open to reveal Mickey Milkovich leaning back indolently in the center of it. For Ian, the only thing that had been missing from the moment was the angelic choir singing. As if he wasn't having enough problems breathing.

He was still bent over, panting, while Mickey looked down on him, magnificently unimpressed. It was in the middle of February, and Ian was half-masked and geared up against the New York winter. He was flushed, out of breath and sweating like a pig beneath his thermals. So naturally, this would be the time to run into the hottest guy he’d seen in forever.

“You coming in, or you gonna paint my fucking portrait?”

Ian quickly straightened and flung himself into the right back corner of the elevator. Mickey shuffled to his left a bit and went about his business ignoring Ian. The redhead tried his best to take in as much as he could without coming across like a total creeper. He didn't think he’d ever seen eyes that blue before. He was distracted by Mickey’s hand coming up to tug uncomfortably at the collar of his black button down shirt, leaving Ian marveling at the “fuck” tattooed across the man’s fingers. This was, quite possibly, the greatest thing Ian had ever seen.

Mickey’s eyes suddenly shifted suspiciously towards him and Ian quickly made a show of looking at the illuminated elevator numbers. It was then he realized that there was only one other number lit, Southside Enterprises top floor. He quickly put two and two together. This had to be the guy coming in for the transfer interview. Ian hadn't intended on being there since it was merely a formality, but he’d be damned if he missed it now.

Ian’s stop had been the floor where their gym was located and he managed to shower and change in record time. By the time Carol, one of his human resource managers, was settling in to talk to Mickey in her office; Ian was already changed and strolling in. The woman made a small noise of surprise when she saw him, alerting Mickey that they had company. Mickey only nodded at him, no hint of recognition from their earlier encounter.

“Ian, I thought you weren't coming in until later,” Carol quickly made the introductions, “this is Michael Milkovich, he’s the one transferring out of Chicago. Michael, this is Ian Gallagher, I’m pretty sure you recognize the name.”

“Yeah, remembered the new guy was coming in and thought I’d help roll out the welcome mat,” Ian extended a hand to Mickey and the other man took it. Lightning immediately blazed up Ian’s arm and sent sparks shooting throughout the rest of his body. His brain sizzled. Oh, this did not bode well at all. He wasn't sure if Mickey felt anything on his end, although his employee didn't seem to be in a particular hurry to let go of his hand. Carol cleared her throat uncomfortably and the two men quickly separated. Mickey finally took his seat across from the manager and Ian used the opportunity to continue his assessment, taking in the accompanying “U-up” tattoos on the man’s left fingers. He had to suppress his smirk at the total image—typical Chicago Southside bad ass. To Ian, Mickey suddenly felt a lot like home.

For an interview that was really more of an orientation, Ian had never seen such an impending disaster. Carol had a tendency to be a little pompous and condescending, and Mickey was clearly getting bored and chafing under the weight of the proceedings. He was getting fidgety and scratched at his nose enough for the HR manager to finally take note of his distinctive tattoos. Her jaw actually dropped when she saw them, but she said nothing. Her tone grew increasingly chillier from that moment on, however, and Mickey, picking up on her mounting displeasure with him, grew increasingly abrupt and sarcastic with his responses.

“This is also a non-smoking building, Michael,” Carol sniped, frowning at Mickey like a disapproving Catholic school nun, “I hope you can respect that.”

“I’ll try, but I do think that’s just a fucking tragedy, Carol,” Mickey sniped right back. Ian had never wanted to suck someone’s dick so badly in his life.

Before Carol could start sputtering and Mickey could find himself with a third-class bus ticket back to Chicago, Ian quickly intervened.

“Okay, well I think Michael…Mike?” Ian looked at the other man inquiringly.


“I think Mickey has the gist of things, Carol,” Ian grabbed the employee packet off the reddening woman’s desk and hustled the man out of the office, “I’ll just go show him to his station.”

When they were safely out of earshot, Ian gave Mickey an apologetic smile. “Don’t mind Carol. She’s a bit on the conservative side, but she’s crazy good at her job. She always picks the best hires.”

Mickey grunted noncommittally before giving Ian the first of many of those looks that the redhead could never read, but still made his stomach do weird flips when he got them. “Ian Gallagher in the flesh, huh? I’m a huge fan,” and then he smiled the first one of those smiles and Ian nearly smacked into a wall.

Ian was careful to choose the work station that had the clearest view of his office, “this is you.”

Mickey looked down at the station quizzically, “isn't someone already sitting here?”

“What?” Ian looked down to find the desk scattered with a bunch of knick-knacks and personal effects. He quickly swept up everything and dumped them unceremoniously at an empty workstation at the far end of the Row. Carrie arrived just in time to see the impromptu relocation of Eric’s things and Mickey dumping his stuff at the now empty workstation next to hers.

Ian’s phone went off and he groaned at Lip’s message to meet him downtown asap. He looked up to see that Carrie was already introducing herself to the new guy.

“Looks like I’m going to have to leave you in Carrie’s capable hands then, Mickey,” he really didn't like the way she grinned at that. Before he left, he took Carrie aside briefly, “do me a favor and tell Eric that I had to change his workstation because of reasons.”

“What reasons are those?” Carrie asked innocently.

“Guy who signs his paycheck reasons,” Ian replied.

“Those are usually the best ones.”

Ian was a little surprised by how quickly Mickey made friends, particularly among the fellow members of Skid Row. Mickey was very rough around the edges, but he had charisma to spare. Ian didn't know if it was just their proximity or something else, but Mickey and Carrie, in particular, became close ridiculously quickly in Ian’s estimation. They joked, they flirted and roughhoused, and it made Ian jealous enough to consider opening a Siberian office just so he could blast Carrie there. Fortunately, good sense intervened, telling him to dial back the crazy and not get into a catfight with an innocent girl over a guy who would probably stab him if he knew the kinds of thoughts Ian was having.

Because, of course, the one time he really needed it to be on point, his gaydar would fail. He could spot a sixty year old queen from fifty yards, but he simply could not get a bead on Mickey. He wanted him to be gay, obviously, or at the very least somewhere on the Kinsey Scale that wouldn't completely preclude the idea of them fucking. Instead, Ian was left at sea, stealing glances at his employee and having no clue how to make any headway into getting to know him. If anything, Mick seemed annoyed with him most of the time, even ignoring him when he had his impromptu information exchange sessions.

So Mickey staying late the night before had been nothing short of a godsend and Ian couldn't believe how great a time he’d had. There was just something about Mickey, a certain je ne sais quoi that went past the electric physical attraction and veered deep into the psyche. Within those couple of hours, Mickey had, without much effort, steered him away from making a possibly disastrous decision and had made him feel good about himself and his abilities in a way that he wouldn't have thought possible. It had taken Ian a while to nail down the feelings he had experienced, and it wasn't until he was home alone that he realized what they were. In that short time with Mickey, he had felt safe and happy, which was kind of insane because up until that moment, Ian had thought he had been safe and happy all along. He sneaked another glance out at Mickey and this time he caught the other man looking back at him. Their gaze held for a moment before they both looked away, Mickey sinking out of view and Ian desperately trying to stop his face from flaming up.

He had no idea where he stood with Mickey Milkovich, but God help him; he was going to find out.

Chapter Text

Ian’s new-found mission to find out about his chances with Mickey (and/or make him his) was easier said than done. He actually stalled out for a bit wondering how exactly he was supposed to go about finding out whether or not Mickey was open to banging any dudes, let alone him. Plus the notion of getting intimate with Mickey’s literal switchblade was a little nerve-wracking. Ultimately, Ian decided that what he really wanted was a repeat of their office interlude, since it had been low stress and low pressure.  Still, he didn’t think Mickey would say yes to him just asking that they hang out, simply because being crushed out on someone can never be easy and straightforward. No, what Ian needed to do was to replicate the circumstances leading up to their last encounter as best as possible, which means he had to get Mickey to stay late again.

Since he couldn’t dump extra work on Mickey directly without seeming suspicious, Ian did the next best thing; he waited until Friday and dumped it on Carrie instead. The young woman had never seen the inside of Southside Enterprises at 5:05 p.m. on a Friday. She was normally long gone by then. Ian had a hunch on just how she would handle the unexpected assignment.

“Oh crap,” Carrie moaned after checking her inbox. She smacked Mickey on the shoulder in protest.


“The Devs just sent me a review packet to be sent back in today! I still have my level reports to do,” Carrie whimpered miserably.

“Sucks to be you,” Mickey said as he prepared to rerun a timed mission. He wasn’t even aware that Carrie was unleashing her puppy dog eyes at him.

“Mick...?” she tugged cutely at his sleeve.

“No,” Mickey replied tonelessly.

“Oh come on! I can’t be here late tonight! I have a shit ton of stuff to do today and Leslie has been on my ass to go to one of her poetry slams,” she tugged more urgently, “I can’t deal with another ‘who’s the more supportive partner’ talk, Mickey. If I have to go through that, I swear I’ll tape it and make you listen.”

If Mickey had been chewing gum, this would be the precise moment he would have popped it in her face. As such, he just plowed on with his timed run. Carrie continued, determined to get help from her friend.

“I’ll get Raj to suck your dick,” she bribed. Mickey automatically looked over at the man a couple stations down. Raj immediately got busy rubbing his nipples through his shirt and making exaggerated kissy faces at Mickey. Mickey bit back a grin.


“Boo, you whore,” Raj hissed in his heavy Indian accent while sweeping his hands dramatically over his body, “just so you know, you will never get another chance at all of this deliciousness!”

“Devastated,” Mickey said flatly. Raj flipped him off and turned his attention back to his screen.

“Ugh, alright fine. One favor, no job too big, no questions asked,” Carrie offered desperately, “even if you need help hiding a body. You know you’re gonna need help hiding a body one day, Mick.”

“True…” Mickey mulled it over, “three favors.”

“The fuck?! I’m asking you to do a review packet, not solve world hunger. Are you made of stone? You want my firstborn next, Rumpelstiltskin?”

“Three favors,” Mickey repeated, unmoved.

“Two favors!”

“Deal, you can send me the packet.”

Ian grinned as he watched Carrie glom onto Mickey. There was nothing more beautiful than a plan coming together.

“I’m approaching from the south,” Ian called out, causing Mickey to roll his eyes and flash a smile, “please don’t get startled and try to stab me.”

“Yeah alright, joker,” Mickey was just about to start gathering his things to head home. If he had known that Gallagher regularly worked this late, he might have made the effort to find excuses to hang around. Although he couldn’t imagine what reason he could offer to stay well after everyone else had cleared out, but Mickey was nothing if not creative.

“Still behind on your level?” Ian asked, shoving his hands into his pockets as he came to a stop before Mickey. Mickey tried to hide his smile by making a performance out of shrugging on his jacket.

“Nah man, I was just helping out a friend,” he tugged at his jacket cuffs and looked up at Gallagher from beneath his lashes. Ian was as close as propriety allowed and the redhead was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. That smirk was there; it seemed to be Ian’s default look whenever he was in a good mood. Mickey fell asleep most nights thinking about that smirk. His gaze lingered on Ian’s lips far too long and he unconsciously wetted his bottom lip pulling Ian’s gaze in turn.

“I, uh, was kinda hoping you’d give me your opinion on something in Legend,” Ian’s voice was low and husky, and Mickey was having the damndest time following anything he was saying. “I mean, you grew up around Canaryville too, right? Help me out?”

Mickey hesitated, or at least he thought he did. He really hadn’t; he was nodding before Ian had even finished the sentence. He would have liked to think he had hesitated, because hesitation meant that just maybe he was thinking with something else besides his dick. No such luck.

The smirk bloomed into a grin and Ian walked backwards for a bit towards his office, risking a broken neck, but not wanting to take his eyes of Mickey, as if the man would disappear into a puff of smoke if he did. He didn’t have to worry; Mickey followed, completely magnetized.

Mickey hung his jacket and bag on the coat rack in Ian’s office and took his place on the couch.

“You want a drink? Ian offered, opening his refrigerator to take stock.

“Uh, got any beer?”

“Yeah,” Ian squinted into his fridge and began rattling off the list, “I’ve got a couple stouts, some ales, I think I have one IPA left…” he trailed off when he felt Mickey staring at him askance.

“You got any beer?” Mickey repeated slowly, as if speaking to a small child or an absolute imbecile. Ian mentally smacked himself as he felt half his Southside street cred slide down the toilet. He grabbed a couple of Heinekens and called it a day.

Trying to avoid another faux pas, he quickly booted up Legend, switched to free play mode, piloted his character into the heart of pseudo-Canaryville and came to a stop before a very familiar sight.

“Hey, Kash & Grab!” Mickey’s little sing-song earned him an amused look from Ian. He was delighted when Ian’s character shoved the door open and entered the perfect replica of the convenience store.

“It’s the ‘Grab and Go’ in this though,” Ian supplied helpfully.

“Shit, man, your guys nailed it. Shit, I must have robbed this place a million times.”

Ian’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, “You didn’t.”

“Seriously, back when I was a teen menace.”

“I worked in the Kash & Grab every summer and every Christmas break! Never saw your ass there.” He would definitely have remembered.

“Nah, holidays I was usually either in juvie or on runs with my dad and brothers,” Mickey shook his head before looking over at Ian, “must have just kept missing your ass then. Good thing maybe or I’d still be robbing that motherfucker instead of being here.”

“Maybe…” Their eyes held for a minute and Mickey looked away first. Ian eventually looked away too and instead walked through the aisles of the virtual convenience store. He cringed a little as he walked through all the spots where he and Kash had been intimate and glanced over at Mickey briefly.

Jesus, what a fifteen year old Ian wouldn’t have done to see a sixteen year old Mickey charging into his store, all hellfire and brimstone, just bent on fucking shit up. He probably wouldn’t even have known what hit him. He’d have dumped Kash so fast, the store owner would have been left crumpled on the floor; all for the possibility of chasing Mickey around. Maybe it was for the best they hadn’t crossed paths back then, but the fifteen year old in him was mourning for what could have been even then. He exited the store and walked his avatar slowly around the town.   

“Hey, head down into that alley,” Mickey instructed and Ian obeyed, “where’s Rico?”

“Rico?” Ian echoed.

“Yeah, drug dealer. You never bought from Rico? Everybody bought from Rico. He was always in this alley between nine and one in the days, and eight to midnight, every day.”

“The fuck?”

“Yeah, he kept weird hours, but he had good weed. Not like the shit I have to put up with from the local dumb ass dealer here-” Mickey trailed off, obviously remembering that this was his boss he was talking to not some random friend.

Ian snorted, “video game company, Mick. You think we could give a shit about weed?” He nudged Mickey, curious as all get out, “what about your dealer?”

“He’s trying to pass off some weak shit as ‘primo’ because he’s allegedly ‘Jamaican,’” Mickey complained complete with finger air quotes, “everybody’s suddenly Jamaican when they start dealing weed, like I was born yesterday. Like I can’t see his pale ass under that Rasta wig. Jackass is from Minnesota, he can’t even tan right. I don’t even want to talk about this right now.”

Ian laughed out loud as Mickey fumed next to him. He tossed him the controller with instructions to keep exploring and went to get his own backpack. When he returned to the couch, he pulled out papers and what had to be about two ounces of weed.

“Holy shit,” Mickey murmured appreciatively.

Ian smirked and went about rolling a blunt, in no small hurry to regain the points he lost over the whole beer debacle. “Purple Haze…mine deals in medical grade and all types of fancy shit,” Ian lit up and took a drag off the blunt before holding it out to a still incredulous Mickey, “I could hook you up if you aren’t totally hung up on your fake Rastafarian.”

Mickey eyed Ian suspiciously and did a check behind him, scanning the empty office floor. “Am I allowed to do this? Shit, are you allowed to do this?”

“I won’t tell Carol if you don’t,” Ian wiggled the offering and Mickey grinned and took it, his fingers brushing against and over Ian’s. Ian wondered if there could ever be a day when Mickey’s touch didn’t electrify him, like maybe if they were together for decades and Ian finally managed to get used to it.

He watched spellbound as Mickey’s cheeks hollowed as he pulled on the blunt, took in the definition of his biceps as his arm flexed and the rise of his chest as he inhaled. Mickey lowered his arm and Ian drank in his profile until the dark head tilted back and blew out a short series of perfect rings. Ian’s jeans constricted painfully and the reality of what he was engineering finally dawned on him. He was smack in the middle of making a monumental mistake. He sat frozen until Mickey, seething smoke and sex, tried to pass back the blunt to him.

What the fuck was he doing? Why would he put himself in this situation? He stared dumbly at the blunt in Mickey's hand, suddenly scared shitless of the sparks at the end of those fingers, but craving them anyway. He was fucked. He needed to shut this down. Mickey probably wasn’t even anything close to gay. Ian was only going to end up doing something so stupid and irreversible, Mickey would be forced to stomp the shit out of him before disappearing, never to be seen again.

Mickey wiggled the blunt, eyebrows slightly raised at Ian’s sudden weirdness. Cornered by the blue stare, Ian snatched the weed avoiding as much of the tingling as possible and sucked desperately at the joint. He automatically handed it back, and Mickey’s hand slid over his, leaving raw heat in its wake. Fuck, there was no way Ian was shutting this down. He simply did not have the will power to send Mickey away. He was so, so fucked.

Maybe there was a chance of getting out of this with his dignity and health intact. They had managed to end their last interlude without incident or sexual assault. All Ian had to do was maintain; not look at Mickey directly for too long, block out the cadence of his voice and keep the hardest erection he’d ever had hidden.


Three beers each into it and with the help of some ridiculously strong marijuana, the two were swapping Southside tales, using the game to show each other various spots that held special memories to them both. It wouldn’t occur to Ian until much later that getting drunk and high as a kite might not have been conducive to his “just maintain” plan. Soon, the talking began to wane and the quiet, significant looks were getting longer and heavier.

Mickey had a way of looking at him that just about turned Ian inside out. The dark head would be dipped and slightly tilted and his eyes would just rake slowly over him. It just wasn’t fair.

“Blunt’s about to die,” Mickey’s voice was low and hypnotic, and Ian swallowed convulsively.

“Ugh,” words were hard, “just finish it,” Ian managed to choke out.

“Nah, we’ll shotgun.”

Ian nodded, his mind incapable of wrapping around that idea, while Mickey sucked in the last of the weed. The tester held the smoke and ground out the blunt in the ashtray. He then turned to Ian and put a warm hand at the back of Ian's neck and pulled him close until he was literally only a breath away. Ian’s jaw slackened just in time for Mickey to exhale a concentrated cloud of mind altering smoke into his mouth. Ian couldn’t blink if he tried and Mickey wasn’t looking away either. The moment ruptured when Ian, forgetting how to breathe when the object of his fevered affections was shotgunning Purple Haze into him, started coughing violently. Mickey backed off laughing.

Ian managed to get himself under control while Mickey fell against the back of the couch, head lolling lazily against the headrest.

“Amateur,” he teased, smile wide and that goddamned tongue of his peeking out before he chewed his lower lip and stared life back into Ian.

Ian gazed back, helplessly caught in the moment. There wasn’t a person alive more beautiful than Mickey Milkovich was at that moment. He was so fucked, he was probably going to get killed, but fuck it.

Ian Gallagher was going in.    

Chapter Text

“You want a drink?” had seemed like an easy enough question and Mickey thought his request for a beer was an easy enough answer. That is, until Ian started speaking in tongues before looking at him expectantly. Nothing could make a man feel like uncultured swine faster than being unable to recognize alcohol.

“You got any beer?” he had repeated lamely, and Gallagher had hidden his judgments and cut him a break by handing him a Heineken. Mickey needed to get a grip. He hadn’t a clue what he was hoping for here, but the more time he spent around Gallagher, the less likely it seemed whatever it was would happen. Ian had gotten out of the Southside and left that life far behind. With his tats and his aggression and his mile-long record, Mickey felt as if he was everything Ian would and should want to avoid.

He suppressed a sigh and sipped his beer while Ian booted the game. His eyes widened with growing recognition as Ian’s avatar came to a stop before a very familiar Canaryville haunt.

“Hey, Kash & Grab!” He sang out in the same way that would make Kash cringe every single time he heard it. Jesus, that dude had to have been the biggest pussy alive. Thank goodness for that though, because that store was a ready source of food without the hassle; especially when Terry was in the clink and he and his siblings were left high and dry. He grinned at the simulation happily, impressed with the precise details and accuracy of the depiction. He didn’t know if it was the nostalgia, the Heineken, or the effect of being around Ian Fucking Gallagher for too long, but he found himself sharing something he shouldn’t have.

“I must have robbed this place a million times,” he regretted it the instant it was out his mouth, but it was already too late. Why he seemed hell-bent on reminding Ian about just what kind of trash he was, was completely beyond him. He couldn’t seem to stop himself. To his surprise and relief, Gallagher didn’t recoil, just looked surprised and curious.

“You didn’t.”

“Seriously, back when I was a teen menace.”

“I worked in the Kash & Grab every summer and every Christmas break! Never saw your ass there.”

Now that threw Mickey for a loop. He knew he never came across Gallagher back then, he definitely would have remembered. Then again, holidays were never a great time for him and usually he was out of town or in lockup. He had never regretted his youthful indiscretions more than he did just then. What he wouldn’t have done for and to a teenage Ian Gallagher. Shit.

But maybe it was for the best, and Mickey actually said as much, because if Gallagher knew what he was like back then, the things he did, he probably wouldn’t have had a prayer of a chance anyway, let alone the opportunity to be sitting there now getting caught in the trap of red hair and green eyes.

The moment broke and before long, Mickey was regaling him with tales of Rico and his fake Rastafarian drug dealer. Ian was cool about everything; he was the coolest fucker alive. Mickey was charmed in spite of himself and he was making all the rookie mistakes when it came to feigning sexual disinterest. He was talking too much, staring too long; but if Ian noticed or was put off by it. He was doing a great job of hiding it.

Ian cemented his Southside origins by nonchalantly pulling out what had to be about two ounces of weed. Mickey’s jaw slackened. This fucker was crazy. This was easily possession with intent to sell and Gallagher was just sitting there rolling his ridiculous weed with its fancy name. When Ian offered him the blunt, tempting him like Eve with her apple, the whole thing was enough to make even Mickey Milkovich a little apprehensive.

Still, there was no denying Ian Fucking Gallagher, and before long he was accepting the blunt, feeling fire skate through him when his fingers casually brushed over Ian’s. It was the most amazing feeling and Ian wasn’t balking, so Mickey made sure to make the most of it, leaving lingering, tingling touches every time the blunt changed hands.

Maybe it was the weed or the beer Ian kept bringing, but it was getting quieter and quieter and the air was getting heavy and thick around them. He kept staring, unable to help himself. Gallagher had to be the most beautiful man alive and he was sitting next to him, getting high as fuck, unaware of the predator awakening in his trusted employee.

“Blunt’s about to die,” he had said softly, knowing just what he was about to do even though he knew he was playing with fire. Ian had shrugged it off, telling him to finish it, but that didn’t jive with what Mickey was itching to do. “Nah, we’ll shotgun.”

He was a little surprised when Ian nodded readily, but he wasn’t about to look a willing gift-horse in the mouth. He toked, killing the roach and grinding it out in the ashtray before reaching for Ian. Gallagher was warm and pliant and seemed to float towards him as he pulled him close. Ian wasn’t blinking which should have weirded him out, except he couldn’t bear to look away either. Gallagher would have no idea how close Mickey came to closing that last inch of distance between them and kissing him, because the redhead chose at that moment to try and hack up a lung.

Mickey fell back, laughing. Feeling a little of the tension unravel as Ian tried to regain control of his body. “Amateur,” he teased, head lolling against the back of the couch as he grinned at Ian. His boss looked back at him, a strange light in his green eyes as the tension returned and redoubled. Then the world came crashing down.

Ian didn’t know what possessed him at the moment; maybe it was the weed, maybe it was the beer, maybe it a much braver version of himself responding to the lazy challenge in the blue eyes of the man next to him. But before Ian could get a grip and remind himself of everything that could go wrong, he was moving, swooping down to cradle Mickey’s face and press his lips against the sweet heat of Mickey’s.

For a second, there was no response, just Mickey lying back allowing himself to be kissed, probably too shocked by the unexpected to move. Just when Ian was about to regain his sanity, Mickey’s lips parted and heaven welcomed Ian in. He didn’t hesitate, plunging his tongue against Mickey’s own and pressing his body even closer. Ian shivered when Mickey’s hand trailed from his waist, up his back, stopping only to grip the back of his neck and pull him closer.

They groaned together, the kiss getting deeper and more frantic as Ian pushed closer and closer, desperate to be on Mickey. He slipped a warm hand up Mickey’s sweater, making the man shiver and moan under his ministrations. Emboldened by the response, Ian dragged his hand lower, palming the hard bulge in Mickey’s jeans. But the reaction was not what Ian had been hoping for. His employee grunted and jerked away, clearly discomfited. He had gone too far and Ian backed away immediately, flushed and panting.

“I’m sorry,” he wheezed, “I didn’t mean to…” he trailed off, since Mickey was ignoring him. Instead, Mickey was reaching around his back, fishing for something. Suddenly, every fag-bash he had ever seen or endured came rushing back in an instant and Ian felt his stomach drop. Instead of a knife or worse, though, Ian could only watch dumbfounded as Mickey winced and dragged out a controller that Ian must have been shoving him against.

“How the fuck did that even get back there?” Mickey tossed the controller onto the table and rubbed the sore spot for a bit. He then looked back at the gobsmacked Ian and smiled at him, lazy and lecherous. “You through already, Firecrotch?”

He had managed to earn himself a whole new nickname. It felt like a promotion and Ian grinned at Mickey like an idiot before grabbing a fistful of the tester’s shirt and dragging him back into another kiss. Ian felt, even if just for the night, as if he had carte blanche to do as he pleased and he went for it. He broke the kiss to suck and bite along Mickey’s throat while he unzipped the dark jeans and freed Mickey from his constraints.

“Jesus,” Ian murmured appreciatively, stopping almost everything to stare glassy-eyed at Mickey’s erection. He stroked it slowly, almost experimentally, and dragged a moan out of Mickey that was nearly inhuman and the older man arched into his touch. Ian wasn’t sure he was going to make it out of his office alive. “Can I suck you off?”

Mickey’s eyes popped open to stare at the intense and very earnest Ian incredulously. He began to sputter, “Did you just ask if you could…does it look l wouldn’t let you…” Mickey stopped and pinched the bridge of his nose while the perfect idiot waited patiently. “No, you know what; let me do a pros and cons list so I can make an informed decision first.”

Ian sheepishly slid off the couch and went on his knees before Mickey. Honestly, he could have just said yes without the theatrics and sarcasm. Once again, to avoid further points’ loss, he got busy licking a long, slow stripe from base of Mickey’s cock to the leaking head. Mickey shuddered right through it.

“You’re such a polite fucker, Gallagher,” Mickey gasped raggedly as Ian slowly swallowed him, sinking his mouth down as far it could go. He managed to look down on him teasingly. “That get you much in the Southside?”

“You’d be surprised,” Ian smirked. Having found his limit, he used his hand to make up the shortfall and began gleefully and vigorously sucking and swallowing Mickey.

“Holy shit,” Mickey moaned, completely gone. He gripped Ian’s head as best be could, having found no hair long enough for him to twist his fingers into, “don’t stop.”

Only, Ian did stop, though just temporarily. Annoyed by Mickey’s jeans, he paused long enough to drag off the man’s shoes and socks, and yanked off his jeans and boxers and tossed them aside. He then went back to work, maintaining eye contact with Mickey while he licked the pre-cum slowly and deliberately off the head of Mickey’s cock before plunging down the hard shaft again, humming while he did so. Mickey arched and thrust into Ian’s mouth, one hand gripping Ian’s shoulder while the other clung to the arm of the couch for dear life.

“Fuck, Gallagher, I’m gonna come,” Mickey warned, feeling his orgasm building to breaking point.

Ian felt as if he had been close all goddamned night and quickly unzipped his own jeans to roughly jerk himself off while pushing Mickey off the edge. Mickey gave one last warning before erupting in Ian’s mouth, groaning and gasping loudly into the quiet of the office. Ian followed immediately after, spilling into his own hand and riding it out while he licked Mickey clean.

He finally pulled away, settling on the floor next to Mickey’s bare legs. They were both spent and struggling to regain their breath and composure. Unfortunately, after the men calmed down, the awkwardness fell again with a resounding thud.

Neither of them moved for what seemed like an eternity and neither of them dared to look at the other. Both just stared ahead at Ian’s avatar idling on the baseball field while the sprinklers went off around him. What the hell just happened? Mickey realized with growing mortification that he was sitting on his boss’ couch, naked from the waist down. He leaned forward slowly and spotted his clothes scattered on the floor a short distance away. He waited and waited, for what he wasn’t entirely sure, but Ian sat frozen like a statue and his exposed body parts were starting to get cold. Mickey sighed; let the walk of shame begin.

“Stop sitting like a goddamn lump and say something. Say something…anything! You’re making everything weird!” Ian’s personal pep talk was completely ineffective. He sat frozen; completely terrified to talk to the man he’d just been blowing two minutes earlier. Although, it wasn’t as if Mickey was chatting away either. He needed to say something; he needed to make sure that they were both on the same page and no one was getting the wrong impression. He needed this to keep happening, he needed this to escalate, he and Mickey needed to fuck some time between now and the day Ian’s heart would give out from stress, which would probably be sometime tomorrow. So Ian needed to say something before Mickey thought he was just sitting here, avoiding eye contact and stewing in laughable regret or some shit.

Before he could find his balls, however, he heard Mickey sigh and then watched him stretch his foot to try and drag his clothes back towards him. Ian immediately realized two things: Mickey had really nice legs and they were also short as fuck. There was no way they were getting anywhere near the clothes he had tossed to the side unless Mickey got up and went for them. Didn’t stop Mickey from trying though, even though he resolutely refused to move. Clearly the last thing he wanted was to walking around bare-assed in front of the still silent Ian. Mickey tried again, pointing his toes and wiggling his foot in the hopes of catching the edge of something, his boxers, a sock, anything. Ian was coming this close to losing it.

Wanting to avoid a potential murder because of inappropriate laughter at the worst possible time, Ian leaned over and dragged Mickey’s clothes and shoes within grabbing distance.

“Oh fuck you,” Mickey muttered darkly, yanking on his clothes in record time. He couldn’t believe he let this bastard strip him while Ian made sure to keep his own kit on.

Mickey was huffily tying his laces and Ian realized that he only had seconds to salvage this rollercoaster. He needed to say something romantic, or cool, or better yet, devastatingly sexy.

“So I guess this was kind of a booty call, huh?”

A swing and a miss.

Mickey rolled his eyes, “yeah whatever. See ya.” He stomped out, leaving Ian on the floor watching his idling avatar get increasingly pissed off with the inactivity, having stood in an empty baseball field for the better part of an hour.

“Dude, what the fuck?” his avatar asked, breaking the fourth wall.

Ian didn’t really have an answer for him. What the fuck indeed.

Chapter Text

It was an agony of a weekend.

Ian spent the next two days with Mickey’s name on the active screen of his phone, simply waiting for him to hit the call button. He chickened out at the last minute every single time. It wasn’t just for one reason either, there was a whole plethora ranging from Ian imagining Mickey’s eye-roll before he ignored the call, to Ian’s panic as to whether or not the Purple Haze had made Mickey temporarily gay receptive. He actually spent a full hour Googling if weed had ever made anyone gay and for how long. Google, being omniscient and all-powerful, basically told him to stop asking stupid questions, get the fuck off the internet and call his crush. Ian politely declined Google’s suggestions.

All he could think of was how Mickey would find him needy, clingy and annoying. Worse, he had no idea what to say. When it came to Mickey Milkovich, Ian Gallagher had no game. When he wasn’t standing like an idiot with his finger trembling hesitantly over the call button, he had been practising his opening lines. The coolest, sexiest opener he could come up with? “I really enjoyed eating your dick, Mickey. I want another helping.” Ugh, just kill him now.

So he wussed out. Whatever. It’s not like Mickey spent the weekend waiting around for his stupid phone call.

Mickey did not spend the weekend waiting for Ian’s phone call. He didn't…he really didn't. Yes, he checked his phone a bit more frequently than he normally did. Yes, he did perhaps glare at it when it remained stubbornly silent as he walked past it for the hundredth time. Okay, so there had been a bit of an embarrassing incident when his phone had gone off and he had tripped over his own feet getting to it. It had been a customer care agent from his phone company with a survey. He had asked for Mickey’s thoughts, and Mickey had given them to him, in no uncertain terms.

He had given the stunned man his views on the agent himself, the agent’s family, his intelligence and his social prospects. As it turned out, the subject of the agent’s mother and the circumstances of his birth were particularly sore topics, and that was where the conversation had come to an abrupt end. Eventually, when Mickey realized that his boss would not be contacting him for whatever reason, he had flipped off the phone with both hands and had gone in search of something to punch.

Why he thought Gallagher would call was beyond him. It wasn't as if he wanted him to, but still. Gallagher seemed to be that kind of guy; the one who would call and send candy and roses and be a total sap.  Then again, it was the same Gallagher that had called their encounter a booty call, which hadn't stung, really it hadn't. Mickey had just been pissed and upset about the whole being the only one half-naked thing. Although he had been the one getting blown, so it seemed like a fair trade-off in retrospect. So, all in all, he really shouldn't give a flying fuck if Ian Gallagher called him or not, and he really shouldn't care if Ian was done having his fun with him either. And he really didn't.


Ian was at the office at the ass-crack of dawn with the insane hope that Mickey would show up early as well. He didn’t, and Ian was left on his own until the first early bird worker turned up a little after eight.  Mickey did not clock in until his usual time, shortly before nine, and he came with Carrie and bunch of other Skid Row members in tow. Ian was going to have to wait to talk to him.

Carrie quickly dumped her bag and fished out a bunch of flyers. “Okay you guys. Keep Thursday night free, because Leslie and her crew are having a forum on the misappropriation of minority culture, and I can’t be the only minority there again. My beautiful Nubianess and epic dreadlocks can only legitimize so much of these meetings on their own.”

Mickey flagged Carrie down and tried handing back his flyer, “Who the fuck has meetings on a Thursday? Also, I’m not a minority, so I don’t see how me being there helps you meet your quota.”

“I know, papa, but you’re kind of my ride-or-die bitch, so you have to go,” Carrie immediately clung to Mickey when his I’m-going-to-be-an-uncooperative-bastard eyebrows went up, “please don’t let me go on my own, you guys! It can get so awkward. I’ll buy you all so much alcohol afterwards.”

She had said the magic words and everyone seemed to acquiesce, although Raj still tossed in his two cents as he settled into his seat, “yes, we should all go. What could be more fun than listening to scrawny, blonde WASP girls moan to us about social justice?”

“Get off my girlfriend’s dick, Raj. My baby can’t help than she’s blonde, beautiful and privileged. At least she’s using it for good and helping the struggle,” she jabbed a finger at him accusingly, “what have you done lately?”

Raj sniffed dismissively, “I recycle, drive a Prius, and voted for Obama. Anyone not satisfied with that can address their concerns to my dick,” he then waggled his eyebrows suggestively at Mickey, “especially you, Mickey. You can engage me lingually any day.”

“Don’t try to take on more than you can handle, Raj. My oral skills would put you in the hospital,” Mickey smirked as he shrugged out of his coat.

“Is that right?” Ian’s voice was soft enough to be for Mickey’s ears only. Ian slid against him, pressing his whole body against Mickey’s briefly and leaving his hand lingering on his employee’s lower back for a second. No one noticed the fleeting, charged contact, but Mickey damn near burnt out of his skin. To avoid a potentially embarrassing incident, Mickey quickly put away his things and took his seat. As usual, Ian took his spot directly in front of Mickey’s station and greeted his team.

“So what’s good?” Ian drummed his fingers slowly on the top of the station, pulling Mickey’s attention. Just as he had all weekend, Mickey quickly went over what those fingers could do—how hot they had felt under his shirt and around his dick. Mickey swallowed hard and looked away.

“We sent you a group email on Friday about an issue with the North Side section in ‘Rumble,’” Pete, another tester started off the meeting, “did you see it yet?”

“No, not yet,” Ian admitted, “this weekend has been a little distracting for me. What’s the issue?”

“It’s the colour story,” Carrie picked up the thread, “it goes to shit north of Anderson Avenue. Bleeding, clashing colours everywhere; it’s an eye strain too after a few minutes.”

“You tell Nate?”

There was a collective groan and eye-roll among most of the denizens of Skid Row at Ian’s mention of the head of graphic design.

“Of course we told Nate. He basically told us to go blow it out our collective asses.”

Mickey looked around curiously and elbowed Carrie. “Who’s Nate?”

“Sometimes I forget how new you are to this office, babe,” Carrie answered, “Nate’s one the OGs from ‘Slaughter’ days and a massive pain in the ass. You know Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons?”

“Carrie…” Ian warned tiredly and Mickey was beyond curious now.

“I’ll tell you when ‘the Man’ isn’t around,” Carrie stage-whispered and Ian raised his eyes heavenward.

“I’ve been sort of preoccupied with ‘Legend’ lately, but I’ll look into the report and check the scheme myself. After I confirm, I’ll deal with Nate if needs be.”

Satisfied with that, the testers and programmers brought up a few more issues before Ian went back into his office to wait. A couple hours passed and Mickey hadn’t so much as glanced over to the office or given Ian any openings, but sometimes, Ian was nothing if not patient. Eventually, Mickey got up and Ian could see him heading off towards the break room. Ian actually managed to make it to a count of five before he headed out after him. Admittedly, sometimes his patience only went so far.

Ian got to the break room just as the one other occupant besides Mickey was leaving. He checked to make sure the coast was clear before pulling the door closed and waited while Mickey got a coke out of the machine, all the while steadfastly ignoring him.

“So...?” Ian started off. When Mickey still didn’t acknowledge him, he plunged on regardless, pushing away from the door and edging closer to the other man, “I, um, really enjoyed our, ah, ‘talk’ Friday night.”

Mickey popped open his coke and sipped slowly, still not responding, but clearly listening.

“I was hoping maybe we could talk again?” Ian suggested with cautious hope, “maybe discuss stuff a little more…in depth?”

Mickey nearly did a spit-take. Since his back was still turned to Ian, he allowed himself a smile. Euphemisms and double talk were not Mickey’s favourite things usually, but it was blatantly obvious what Ian was on about. So clearly Ian hadn’t had his fill, and clearly they weren’t done. Mickey’s self-esteem, which had taken a pretty bad beating over the weekend, came roaring back. So much so that he didn’t bother hiding his smirk when he finally turned around to find Ian hovering behind him. The man had absolutely no concept of personal space.

“In depth talk, huh?” Mickey sipped his drink casually, using it as a much needed buffer between him and the burning intensity of Ian’s stare. Not that the way he knew he was looking back at Ian was much better. His eyes raked over Ian’s face before pinning him. “That your way of saying you wanna fuck me, Gallagher?”

Ian paused a beat, surprised by Mickey’s teasing candour and immediately turned on by it. He closed the distance between them, moving automatically, fully intending to kiss Mickey stupid and maybe fuck him against the counter full of pastries and snacks. His brain had been sputtering to a stall since Friday night, and right then he could care less about anything else but Mickey underneath him.

Unfortunately, Mickey had a different idea. Reading Ian’s intention immediately, Mickey quickly side-stepped him and placed a restraining hand against Ian’s chest when the redhead actually persisted in coming after him.

“The fuck?” Mickey hissed, glancing at the door while Ian stared at him, frustrated and confused, “there’s a time and place, Gallagher, Jesus.”

“When’s the time and where’s the place then?” Ian demanded. Mickey’s fingers against his chest were burning holes into him and he still hadn’t ruled out committing perverse acts against one of the vending machines.

Mickey gaped at Ian wordlessly, not really having a ready answer to his boss’s question. He couldn’t say tonight, because then he’d just look desperate, which he was, but Ian didn’t need to know that. He eliminated Tuesday for the same reason, and having sex on a day called ‘Hump day’ seemed so gauche it was ridiculous. He had Leslie’s shit on Thursday, which to him left only one option.

“Friday, in your office, after everyone’s gone.”

Ian stared at him incredulously, “Friday?! That’s four days from now!”

“And Saturday is five days from now, and last Friday was three days ago,” Mickey snipped, “you’re too old to get your mind blown by the days of the week, Gallagher.”

Ian sighed, “I just meant it seems like a long time to wait.”

“Four days? Really, what, like my ass isn’t worth waiting for?”

Mickey had him there; he couldn’t very well say otherwise. Ian backed down and smiled sheepishly at him, “fine then, it’s a date.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and was about to walk off when Ian grabbed his hand, stopping him in his tracks. “Fucker has the biggest, warmest hands alive,” Mickey thought to himself and looked at Ian expectantly as the redhead ran an idle thumb over his wrist.

“So just to clarify, when you say ‘ass worth waiting for,’ were you just referring to yourself in general, indicating how you like it, or…?”

May the good lord save him from idiot gingers. Mickey rolled his eyes, extricated himself and left Ian in the break room without an answer. He then cursed quietly and headed for the nearest restroom. If later someone should ever ask Mickey just when he knew he was downward spiral over Ian Fucking Gallagher, he would answer that it was the day he found himself in the men’s room at work, trying his best to stay silent as he jacked himself off. All because he had agreed to fuck his boss like the cheap whore he apparently was now.

Mickey sighed and stifled a moan as he pumped his shaft slowly. He had to be the biggest idiot alive. Why the fuck had he said Friday? He wasn’t going to last until then. If he was going to go the cheap whore route, he might as well get the immediate gratification out of it. He had been sort of hoping Ian would have just ignored the appointment setting and just fucked him right there in the break room anyway. That’s just how far gone he was.

“Polite motherfucking boy scout,” Mickey muttered to himself as he pumped himself a little faster. He wondered if Ian was going to be so polite and accommodating when they finally fucked. Ian could easily be one of those guys that were all tender feelings, worshipful kisses and slow, exploring touches. Fucking horrifying, but the fellatio had blown his mind and Ian was Southside, so maybe if Mickey teased him a little, he could bring the ghetto out in him. Mickey smiled at the idea of that and let his imagination stretch a little further—thinking of Ian gripping his hips so hard the large hands stayed imprinted for days; Ian sinking his teeth into his shoulder while slamming into him hard; Ian’s hands twisting into his hair and panting his name.

Mickey gasped and his head fell back as his orgasm slowly over took him. He was close until some Neanderthal barrelled into the cubicle a couple doors down from him and threw himself down heavily. Mickey’s jaw dropped incredulously as the idiot actually made a call, groaning the entire time.

“Dude, did you eat the carne asadas from the cafeteria yet? Dude, do NOT eat the carne asadas from the cafeteria!”

Mickey’s life was such bullshit sometimes. He sighed, closed his eyes and found Ian again, and tried to ignore the acts of bioterrorism happening close by. A groan of raw pain tore through the silence a minute later and Mickey contemplated stuffing toilet paper in his ears. He just needed to get off and get back to work. Ian Gallagher was seriously more trouble than he was worth.

Ian, for his part, at least had the convenience and luxury of a private bathroom to get his relief. He could not believe the bastard was going to leave him hanging until Friday. There was no way he was going to survive until then. He sighed as he started off slowly; using slow, smooth strokes as he played his favourite game of “guess what kind of sexual partner Mickey Milkovich would be.”

Ian was a top and usually pretty adamant about it, but if there was anyone he’d bend over and take it for, it would be Mickey. He had imagined that a few times, actually managing to get off on the idea; but how fucking perfect would it be if Mickey would let him top. Ian could only imagine the type of bottom the brunet would be—just fucking bossy and impatient with a tongue as sharp as hell. Ian smiled and shuddered, stroking himself harder and faster at the thought. Jesus, he would service the fuck out of him and he might just get to, if he could keep himself from spontaneously combusting before Friday.

They wouldn’t know it, but they came together, one in his private bathroom and the other, not so privately. Neither aware of what the other was doing, to managing to bring each other a measure of satisfaction anyway.

Kismet—it was a beautiful thing.

Chapter Text

Friday took forever to come, but somehow they both managed to survive the wait. Ian was a wreck, an excited wreck, but a wreck nonetheless. There was no way he was going to be able to focus on anything until the evening came and he and Mickey could finally have their long awaited “conversation.” He spent the day at his desk, sneaking as many surreptitious glances as he could at his employee, who really was a pro at ignoring him.

Time crawled towards five and finally people started to get their things together to leave. Ian’s pulse sped up as he watched the members of Skid Row laugh and chat as they unwound for the end of the day. He chewed his nails agitatedly as they began to leave. What he had not planned for was Mickey Milkovich packing up and leaving right along with them.

Ian sat stunned for a while, before getting up and heading out of his office. He stared at the elevator, willing Mickey to realize his mistake and come back in. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there waiting, but it had to have been a while and still no Mickey. Soon, Ian was alone on the floor and completely confused. He checked his phone to see if Mickey had messaged him—nothing. Soon six o’clock ticked by, then seven and Ian switched from confusion to being hurt and pissed.

He didn’t leave, because the audacity of hope was a very real thing. Instead, Ian put on Southside Slaughter and went about stomping out every pale, dark-haired male he could find. By nine o’clock, his in-game actions not only netted him serial killer status, but had managed to put him on the hit list of the game equivalent of the Mob, who showed their ire by sending an endless parade of pale, dark-haired men after him. Good times… he was about ready to grab an assault rifle and go on a rampage when Mickey dropped down onto the couch next to him.

Ian said nothing, only glared at Mickey who simply grinned back maddeningly at him. His distraction allowed a mob member, who really did look disturbingly like Mickey, to plug him twice in the chest before walking away whistling nonchalantly. The game faded with his avatar’s death.  Ian figured the universe was trying to tell him something.

Mickey had obviously gone home at some point and even showered and changed while Ian had been sitting there eating his heart out.  Ian could smell the soft scent of soap and cologne wafting from Mickey’s skin and it was already doing him in. He knew Mickey wasn’t going to apologise or offer any explanation; he wasn’t going say anything but sit there and wait for Ian to make a move.

Ian could see it for what it was, and if he were a stronger man, someone less ruled by his passions and the fucking heart pounding away on his sleeve, he would tell Mickey to take his little Machiavellian power plays and go fuck himself. As such, he just sat there staring, feeling the heat of his anger transform into another kind of heat, while Mickey licked his lips, softened his gaze a bit and raised an eyebrow in silent question.

“Fuck it,” Ian grunted and roughly tugged off his shirt before unbuckling his belt. Next to him, Mickey chuckled while he yanked his own clothes off, both already frantic and they hadn’t even touched each other yet.

Whether it was putting clothes on or taking them off, Mickey was always faster. One day, Ian would probably analyze that, but at the moment, he was still struggling with his pants and Mickey was already down to his boxers. Ian’s impatience and frustration got the best of him and he abandoned his disrobing efforts to simply tackle Mickey to the ground.

Mickey laughed out loud as they hit the floor in a tangle. He had taken a gamble making Gallagher wait like that, but it was clearly paying off. His boss was on him, one hand twisting into dark hair to yank Mickey’s head back while the other plunged into his boxers to palm him roughly. Mickey huffed out a laugh as Ian bit at his throat. This is what he understood; this is what he thrived on—the biting, bruising roughness that blurred the lines between fighting and fucking. When Ian pulled back to finish yanking Mickey’s boxers off, leaving him naked and exposed again, Mickey couldn’t even get mad about it.

Ian, however, was determined to slow things down a bit. He spread his employee’s legs apart and bit into the pale flesh of Mickey’s inner thigh. He moved slowly and steadily upwards, nibbling and sucking as he moved. He kept up the rough strokes of Mickey’s dick and could hear the other man’s breathing grow harsher and more uneven above him. He looked up and Ian would readily admit that it was a hell of a view from his vantage point between Mick’s legs. The tester was propped up on his elbows; tracking him with his blue eyes, taking in Ian’s every move.

Ian maintained the eye contact, taking his hand off Mickey’s rock hard cock as he edged closer with his lips and teeth. He could see Mickey’s abs clench and relax as he drew closer and the pink tongue darting out and moistening his lips in anticipation. Ian bit and sucked along Mickey’s pelvis, coming achingly close to his dick and leaving the man breathless, before bypassing it completely to climb up further and swipe his tongue over Mickey’s nipple.

“Ah, fucker,” Mickey deflated, laying flat on his back and huffing in frustration.

“What’s that?” Ian braced his hands on either side of Mickey’s head and stared him down.

“I said ‘fucker,’” Mickey responded to the challenge, “you’re a fucking tease.”

“You make me wait, I’ll make you wait,” Ian responded simply, “this is how I play the game.”

Mickey snorted and shoved Ian to the side, rolling with him until he was straddling the redhead. “Yeah, well let’s see who wins.” Mickey moved back and deftly finished undoing Ian’s jeans. Ian lifted his hips and let Mickey yank off his pants and underwear.

“Jesus,” Mickey murmured. He was finally getting to see Ian Fucking Gallagher naked and in his full glory. He tossed his boss’s clothing aside and leaned forward to slowly trail a warm hand from Ian’s throat, down his chest and over the defined abdominal muscles. Normally, Mickey would balk at doing shit like that, but if it’s one thing he could appreciate, it was a fine piece of art. Gallagher, skin burning and twitching under Mickey’s touch, certainly qualified. “Where the fuck did they assemble you?” Mickey breathed and wrapped his fist around Ian’s cock and gave it one long, agonizing stroke.

It was official, you hadn't lived until Mickey Milkovich was naked and between your legs, looking down on you like you were some kind of rare, magical type of cotton candy. Ian moaned, feeling his whole body start to quiver as Mickey’s hand pumped him slowly. His breath hitched when Mickey used the rough pad of his thumb to follow the thick vein on the underside of his engorged cock all the way up to the head. Ian sighed and thrust into the touch.

“What do you want me to do?” Mickey asked, smirking. “You’re the boss, right? This is your game. Tell me what you want.”

“Fucker,” Ian thought to himself. By now, he was going to be as articulate as a ham sandwich. “Please, just, please…”

Mickey grinned and made himself comfortable. “You’re lucky I’m not a fucking tease like some people I could mention,” he needled, before dipping his head and taking the top of Ian’s cock into his mouth. He sucked lightly, flicking his tongue across the leaking slit before relaxing to deep throat Ian as far as he could manage. He swallowed around the throbbing member and used his hand to make up the shortfall of his mouth. He splayed his free hand against Ian’s stomach while he sucked on him eagerly, humming and swallowing convulsively.

Ian’s eyes rolled back as he twisted his hands hard into Mickey’s hair. He arched into the wet heat as the dark head bobbed below him. Clearly Mickey had not been exaggerating to Raj with his boast about his skills. Ian was losing his mind, letting out groans that came from bone deep within him. They were both getting carried away—Mickey was going down on him so hungrily and Ian was completely forgetting that this was only supposed to be the appetizer and not the main course.

Ian gasped as his orgasm crept up on him and he realized almost too late. He tugged on the dark hair frantically. Mickey backed off, realizing what was about to happen. He quickly grabbed the base of Ian’s dick, applying pressure to his perineum and suppressing Ian’s ejaculation. He tugged gently on Ian's balls, pulling them back down. The delayed gratification nearly killed Ian and he let out a harsh grunt of frustration. Mickey only grinned at him and gave his own version of being soothing.

“It’s all good; I gotcha,” Mickey knew his shit-eating grin was driving Ian crazy, “can’t have you finishing before we even get started, can I?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian growled and Mickey only grinned harder.

“Are we good now, Firecrotch?” Mickey licked his lips and grinned devilishly at the glaring redhead, “can I release the kraken now, or do I need to keep the pressure on? Fair warning, I charge extra for surprise money shots-” He burst out laughing again when Ian surged up and slammed him backwards, finally shutting up when he jammed his tongue down his throat.

Before Ian, Mickey really wasn't a fan of making out or kissing in general. The intimacy it implied was too much and pushed him too far out of his comfort zone. He didn't know or understand why it felt so second nature with Ian, maybe because his boss was so fucking good at it. He let Ian kiss him soft and senseless while the ginger slid the hard length of his body against his. When Ian finally pulled back a little, Mickey was done playing around.

“Get me ready and get in me,” Mickey ordered breathlessly, “I've been playing your game too fucking long.”

“Jackpot,” Ian grinned dumbly at Mickey, happy beyond belief that Mickey was not just willing to bottom, he was demanding it.

“Where’s your shit?” Mickey inquired and Ian stared at him, momentarily nonplussed. Mickey rolled his eyes, “condoms, lube…your shit. I thought you were the one hosting this party.”

Ian’s smile turned a bit sheepish and he lamely told Mickey not to go anywhere. He had gotten so pissed off earlier, thinking Mickey had stood him up; he had forgotten to get the stuff from his bathroom. He was back in an instant, not wanting to chance Mickey cooling down or changing his mind and disappearing into the New York City night. He tossed the sleeve of condoms next to Mickey’s head while he kicked Mickey’s legs apart and knelt between them. He wasted no time in squeezing a generous amount of lube onto his fingers.

Mickey, for his part, was blinking owlishly at the Magnum condoms next to him. He picked them up and counted seven. “Um, I know I said party, but, uh, you expecting company?”

Ian lifted an eyebrow coolly at him, “what’s the matter? Afraid you won’t be able to handle me?”

Yeah, big talk from a guy that almost turned the whole damn office milky white a few minutes earlier. Guessing that Mickey was about to sass him, Ian slid a slicked finger slowly into Mickey and smiled with satisfaction when the dark head lolled back. He jerked Mickey off with his left hand, distracting him while he continued stretching him with his right.

“Shit, man, you planning on ramming a fucking Amtrak up there? I’m good,” Mickey used the heel of his foot to smack Ian’s ass, “get on me.”

Ian reached for the condoms, only for Mickey to snatch them back out of reach. “Want me to do it for you?” Mickey asked in a way that made it almost sound like a genuine request. He tore one of the packets off and got to his knees in front of the still kneeling Gallagher. Ian wasn't going to pass up the chance to make out and pulled Mickey flush against him as he sucked on his lips. One hand cradled Mickey’s head while the kiss deepened and the other groped the tester’s ass. While Ian ground against him and shifted to suck on his neck, Mickey ripped the condom packet open and pulled it out. He licked his thumb and grimaced. He had wanted to blow Ian’s mind and unroll the sheath down Ian’s cock using his mouth, but clearly he was going to have to keep that trick under wraps until they could find better tasting condoms.

He backed away as much as he could to give himself space to work, but Ian refused to relinquish sucking and nibbling on his neck and earlobe. Difficult fucker, but Mickey could roll with it. He unrolled the condom down Ian’s dick, keeping his grip tight until it was fully unfurled and then gave Ian a few strokes for good measure. Once done, he gently pushed Ian off and looked down at his handiwork. “I’m a fucking artist.” He grinned down at Ian’s cock and back up at its owner. “Now is that a good job, or is that a good job?”

Ian couldn't help but laugh at the ridiculous dork his crush was turning out to be. “Dude, shut the fuck up and assume the position.” To his surprise, Mickey didn't argue, only grinned wider and turned away from him before going down on all fours. Ian couldn't prolong it any further either. He ran his hands up the back of Mickey’s thighs until they rested on the pale ass. He massaged it firmly, before spreading Mickey open and aligning himself. He bit the inside of his cheek and finally began pushing into the welcoming heat.

Mickey’s mouth fell silently as Ian entered him. Ian didn't pause, just kept pushing in slowly but steadily until he was almost completely in. With about an inch to go, Ian rocked forward and both men almost fell apart.

“Jesus holy fucking god,” Mickey panted out as he fisted the soft fibers of the plush office carpet. Behind him, Ian was unmoving as they both needed a little time to adjust, though neither would ever admit to it.

“You’re choosing a weird time to find religion, Mick,” Ian panted, “don’t bother the big guy with this shit directly. There should be a patron saint of ass-fucking somewhere.”

“You got jokes huh, Chuckles?”

“Tons… let’s see how funny I can get,” Ian began to move, trying his best not to get too carried away again. He thrust forward, sighing blissfully and pulling guttural moans out of Mickey. He rested a hand on Mickey’s shoulder and gripped his hip with the other, trying to hold him steady as he pulled back and slammed against his crush.

Adrenaline was coursing through them; the heart pounding, blood burning kind of frenetic energy that left them stuck on stupid and behaving in ways that would mortify them normally. Mickey wasn't usually loud—you don’t get your closeted rocks off in the Southside by being a noisy fucker. But the hard, heavy fullness of Ian’s cock was wrenching the most embarrassing noises out of him. Ian’s body wasn't listening to him at all. He wanted to go slowly, to savor everything, to take his time stamping his mark on every square inch of Mickey’s body. He wasn't a fourteen year old kid anymore, barely in control of anything, let alone his dick. He had spent years working on his control and his precious technique and all that hard work been shot all to hell the second those elevator doors opened two months ago.

The measured, firm strokes he had started off with had dissipated and he pounded into Mickey frantically. His hand slipped off Mickey’s shoulder and he held both hips in an iron-grip, inching their bodies forward with the force of his thrusting. Mickey went down on his elbows, too wobbly to brace on his hands anymore, and inadvertently deepened Ian’s angle of entry.

“Oh fuck!” Ian wasn't sure if the exclamation came from him or Mickey, maybe it had been a chorus. He didn't know anything anymore. He slapped and kneaded Mickey’s ass as his inner Neanderthal emerged full force. Mickey rested his head on his arm as he unraveled from the onslaught. “‘Onslaught’ would be an awesome name for Ian’s next game.” The thought came unbidden and went. What the fuck was wrong with him? He was completely losing it. He was also making an absolute mess of Ian’s expensive carpet, he was leaking so badly. He felt Ian start shifting about in slight increments and he was so gone, he had no idea what the redhead was up to until Ian found what he was looking for. Mickey’s vision actually cut out.

“There?” Ian asked redundantly, as if Mickey hadn't just spontaneously combusted around his cock.

“Oh, I fucking hate you,” Mickey wheezed helplessly, “fuck you so very much, man.”

“Yup, right there then,” Ian deduced and focused all his precision and skill on dismantling his lover.

Mickey had never felt this stretched and full before. He stopped himself short of using the word complete; but when Ian pulled out and disengaged from him totally, he was ready to come up swinging. “What the fuck, Gallagher?!”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian ordered gruffly and flipped Mickey over onto his back like a rag doll.

Hell no, Mickey could not fuck Ian Fucking Gallagher face-to-face. He was barely hanging on to his last strands of sanity as it was. Still, he took one look at Ian, his skin flushed almost as red as his hair and green eyes glowing, making him look like the stealth demon he probably was when no one was looking, and Mickey couldn't muster a word of protest. Gallagher was inside him again before Mickey could discern left from right. Their eyes held, and Ian was looking at him as if he was both something beautiful and miraculous, but also as if Gallagher owned the fucking air he breathed. Shit, he probably did. Maybe Gallagher would say the word one day and Mickey would just keel over, unable to take a single fucking breath. He was so fucked up right now.

Ian started jerking him off while he shifted around again and rediscovered Mickey’s sweet spot. The tester managed one, two, three breaths before he was there. He didn't so much come as much as he shattered, splintering all over the goddamned office. The sound he made when it happened was loud and unintelligible, but Mickey was beyond caring because now he was riding his high and focused on Gallagher’s laugh. The fucker was actually laughing at him, and Mickey didn't give a shit, loved it even—Southside Ian was out to play.

“I’m going to fucking destroy you,” Ian promised, his pace not slackening in the least as he tried to stave off his own impending death. He braced a hand next to Mickey’s head and trailed the thumb of his free hand over Mickey’s lower lip, his eyes never releasing his employee even for a moment.

Fucking destroy him, huh? Mickey would have laughed at the cockiness of that statement if there weren't pieces of him everywhere already. Still, he was Mickey Milkovich and if he was going down, the fuck he was going down alone. He still had weapons in his arsenal, even for the invincible looking ginger fucking him into oblivion. As if turned out, he didn't even need to do all that much.

“Ian,” he moaned, stretching up a hand and running it over the back of Ian’s head and neck. The transformation it brought about was remarkable. Gallagher went from hell fire devil to wide-eyed angel in a blink of an eye.

“Say my name again,” Ian begged and Mickey pulled him down, legs wrapped tightly around his boss’s waist as he convulsed his muscles around the hot cock inside of him. Ian’s rhythm stuttered during the eating kiss. He broke it to bury his nose in Mickey’s neck and inhale deeply. He thrust desperately, knowing it would be over in a second.

“Ian…” Mickey whispered hot and wet into the other man’s ear and set off the explosion.

“Fuck… Fuck!” Ian came in a shower of sparks before slumping on top of Mickey. They both deflated in a dramatic tangle of sweat-soaked limbs and eventually passed out with Ian still plastered against a perfectly compliant Mickey.

Mutually assured destruction had never been so beautiful.  

Chapter Text

Mickey got dressed with his back firmly to Ian. He had to; his hands were shaking so badly he was having problems buttoning his jeans. He stopped, sighed and flexed his fingers, willing himself to calm down a little and get himself together. He was freaking out. He knew it and couldn't help it, but he did not sign on for this shit. Somewhere behind him was a silent Gallagher whose presence filled the office along with the scent of sweat and sex. It unnerved Mickey, added to his panic, and he tried once again to button his pants.

He had wanted sex. He wanted the guy he had been lusting over for two months to fuck him into semi-consciousness so he could get some satisfaction and regain his equilibrium. What he had not wanted was to be standing there feeling raw and dominated with his heart threatening to crack his chest open and fly out. He was still riding the high of his orgasms and the adrenaline still flowed, so rational thought was still beyond reach. He wasn't in control of himself or the situation, and where there was no control for Mickey Milkovich, there could only be fear and panic.

He wasn't supposed to feel like this afterwards. He was supposed to feel sated and buzzed, relieved that his burning curiosity about being with Gallagher had finally been quenched. Instead, he was being swarmed with a heady swirl of intense and unidentifiable emotions that was threatening to cripple him. He wiped his hands on his jeans and tried to get his pulse to slow.

“So…” Fuck this shit. Ian’s voice, low and husky, didn't just go straight to his dick. It hit him square in the chest and diffracted through him like light through a prism; hitting every vital organ and making Mickey tense up with need and anticipation. He needed to shut this down before it went any further.

Ian sat perched on his desk watching Mickey get dressed. He had only managed to haul on his boxers and tugged on his jeans, but left it unzipped and unbuttoned. He didn’t mind that Mickey was ignoring him at the moment, because he was trying to get a smoke and his hands were shaking so damn badly, he actually dropped the lighter a few times. The last thing he wanted was to look like some massive inexperienced dork in front of Mickey. He really needed this to end on a high point.

Ian hadn't signed on for this—didn't anticipate this kind of fall out. He thought after he and Mickey fucked some of the fire would go out. He thought the grasping, needy, obsessive feelings would abate even a little. He didn't expect to end up feeling as if he’d dumped gasoline on an inferno; didn’t think it would feel like he’d been pushed off the edge of the universe. Shit, he’d fucked up somewhere, sitting there feeling like a giddy teenage girl getting felt up for the first time.

With all he had on his plate, maybe the last thing he needed was Mickey Milkovich burrowing in and setting all his shit on fire. It might have been the last thing he needed, but now it was all he wanted. It was taking all his self control not to go over to Mickey now, push him up against a wall, and take his next hit. This was fucking him up right now, but he needed to prolong this, couldn't let it end just yet.

Ian took a steadying pull of his cigarette and went for it. “So,” he began and he saw Mickey tense, “it’s not that late, just after midnight. You wanna go out, get something to eat?”

“No,” Mickey said simply, abruptly, and went about looking for his shoes.

“Order something in then?”


Ian sighed and trailed his tongue over his teeth. He watched Mickey move silently around the room, just quietly getting ready to bolt. “So you’re just going to head home then?” Ian tried to keep his voice even and casual, not wanting his naked need to spook Mickey any more than he was already. “The MTA turns to shit after eleven. Want me to drop you home?”

Fuck no, “No,” there was an edge of exasperation to Mickey’s voice now as he finished lacing up his shoes.

“Mick, can we just-”

“No, just no, alright?” Mickey was on his feet and finally facing Ian. He was squirrelly and he rubbed his face in agitation. “I’m gonna head out, that okay with you? I’ll see you Monday; maybe I’ll let you carry my books home from school then.” With that, he grabbed his coat and was out the door before Ian could mount an offense and convince him to stay.

Mickey knew he was an idiot the moment he hit the cold night air outside the building. He huffed in frustration and took off towards the B-train. His stomach growled, because his body and the universe acted at the whim of Ian Gallagher apparently, and he had burnt more calories in that one night than he had all year. He got to the station just in time to see his train pulling away. Of course it was—he was going to be in for a little wait.

Still, it was New York and he was hardly alone. So much company in fact, he attracted the attention of a hooded mugger who had been casing him since he swiped his card. He edged towards Mickey and the game tester sighed, pulled out his switchblade and began playing with it. The fancy knife work sent the message and the guy made an abrupt U-turn. Mickey put it away and wondered how far the universe was going to go just to make its point.

By the time he got home, his system had calmed down and the strain, soreness and exhaustion were bearing down on him. So stupid; he regretted taking off like spooked, scandalized virgin. He should have accepted going out for food, he should have accepted the car ride home and pretended to protest when Gallagher inevitably tried to hustle his way in.

He was hungry, and not just for the missed meal. He’d gotten a taste of Gallagher and now he felt like he was starving for his touch, for information, for everything. Those offers were going to dry up soon enough, whether or not Mickey encouraged them, so maybe he should take advantage while they lasted. He went into his room, collapsed on his bed and stared at his ceiling for a while, feeling himself get more wired as his traitorous mind replayed the night in graphic detail. He was getting hard again and he automatically palmed himself through his jeans. Fucking Gallagher…he reached out and pulled his laptop towards him. Before long, he was on Google and all he had to do was type the “I” and the search engine filled in the rest. It was a search he’d performed numerous times before.

He clicked on “images” and suddenly his screen was flooded with Ian Fucking Gallagher in so many forms. For a while, when Southside Enterprises was breaking out, Ian had been hot shit and magazine cover gold. The CEO had been the young, hot, mercurial redhead who was taking the videogame world by storm. Usually, the general public couldn’t care less about the talent behind gaming, but Ian’s background and packaging had gotten around that. So for a while, Ian had been an obsession of the viewing public and as much, Mickey’s image search was endless scroll of spank bank material.

Mickey picked a Rolling Stone cover, where they had Ian looking for all intents and purposes like a modern, smirking James Dean. That was more than enough for Mickey since his mind kept supplying the fuel, reminding him of Gallagher’s heat and weight and the feel of his lips all over his body. He grunted Ian’s name as he came again. A little of the edge was off, but he wasn't satisfied, wouldn't be satisfied until Gallagher was on him again. Fuck.

In retrospect, turning down all of Ian’s offers was probably the smartest thing he has done since he started going around the bend over his boss. He knew he wasn’t going to stop fucking Ian, not until Gallagher got tired of his newest toy and moved on. Gallagher would get bored eventually and Mickey wasn’t so delusional as to think he wouldn’t be affected when he got dumped. He had to take measures to armor himself—minimize the eventual damage. Most people were all about the art and joy of living; if you were a Milkovich, it was all about the art of self-preservation.

If tonight had been any indication, Gallagher’s impact had the potential to go nuclear for Mickey, so he had to keep it clean, regulate, stick to the physical and stifle the rest. He could do that, Mickey always did that. Still, he closed his eyes and Ian’s face was seared into the back of his eyelids. He was hearing Ian’s laugh and feeling his hands ghosting over his skin and all that shit, all these feelings had never happened to Mickey before.

Didn’t matter though… He’d keep it clean, call the shots, make the rules, and protect himself at all costs. He wouldn’t make it out alive if he didn’t.

Another long weekend without contact, and it was worse than the one before. Ian still stared at Mickey’s name on his phone and played over all the permutations of a possible conversation. Still, this time he knew for certain that Mickey wouldn’t answer if he called. Didn’t stop him from wanting to; didn’t stop him from feeling as if he was going crazy.

Ian felt as if he had a full body itch that he somehow couldn’t reach. He wasn’t going to feel right again until he saw Mickey, spoke to him, fucked him, convinced the other man to stop bolting every time they connected.  He wondered if connecting with Mickey physically was diametrically opposed to connecting with him emotionally, because he seemed to be making headway in one aspect while crapping out on the other. He didn’t want one or the other, he wanted it all. He wanted Mickey’s mouth to suck him off and to also laugh at his dumb jokes. He wanted Mickey’s hands all over him, but he also wanted them on his second game controller so they could try beating each other at Mario Kart.

This was stupid, he was stupid. Here he was spending a gorgeous spring weekend, unable to sleep, unable to eat; just being bent and twisted over a guy who honestly didn’t even seem to like him that much. Ian groaned in frustration and rolled off his bed. He was going for a run. It was much too soon to jerk off again anyway.

On Monday morning, Ian came in to work early again. He had to at least pretend he was at the helm of his company and halfway effective at his job, and not in reality pining over skittish employees. The floor was empty, but for the occasional cleaner popping in, and Ian stood before the Monster and maneuvered his avatar through the layout of Southside Rumble. There was a knock on his door and he was so fully absorbed in viewing the game, he didn’t bother to turn around.

“Yeah?” It wasn’t until the fine hairs on the back of his neck stood up and his palms got sweaty for no reason, that Ian realized who had joined him in his office. He turned around and slammed soul first into a pair of bright blue eyes. His avatar was immediately hit by a Mack truck.


“You’re here early,” Ian paused the game and dropped the controller onto the couch. He crossed his arms and faced Mickey, striving for a cool nonchalance he did not feel. Mickey, on the other hand, was the epitome of chill, worse with his grey pea coat still on. He looked both devastating and edible. Mickey Milkovich was basically a sexy poison mushroom then. The dumb thought made Ian relax a little and smile like an idiot.

Mickey couldn’t stop himself from drinking Ian in. It had been a long weekend and the combination of Google images and a HD screen were still nothing on the real thing. His boss had that expression again, that said I like you but I could still kill you with a thought. Mickey hadn’t even said anything yet and already he felt at a distinct disadvantage. Fucker probably didn’t even think about him that much over the past few days.

Ian waited for Mickey to say something, and rocked on balls of his feet as the anxiety and anticipation made his skin prickle. Mickey then did that Mickey thing he always did to Ian, dipping his head and looking up at him from under his lashes. He ran his thumb along his bottom lip and made Ian squirm. To his everlasting surprise, Mickey flashed him a smile, a little bashful, uncertain and adorable as fuck. The butterflies that had been living in Ian’s gut since February went into frenzy. Mickey hadn’t said anything to him yet, but Ian already felt at a distinct disadvantage.

“Just wanted to talk to you,” Mickey said and quickly course-corrected at the suggestive look that crossed Ian’s face, “I mean actually talk to you, Jesus.” This is why Mickey hated euphemisms.

Ian did well to hide his crushing disappointment. “What’s up?”

Mickey fidgeted a little, looking from the space before the couch to Ian and back. Ian knew what Mickey was remembering and wanted nothing more than to encourage that line of thinking.

“You, um, liked the ‘in-depth conversation’ we had the other day?” Jesus, fucking euphemisms. He’d just started talking and he was already about to confuse himself. Fortunately, Ian and his one track mind had no problem following.


“You want to keep having those kinda conversations?” Mickey bit his lip and raised an eyebrow at Ian, who really was just trying his best to keep his clothes on.

“What do you think?” Ian’s gaze was actually hot enough to get Mickey to blink first. Mickey chuckled, looked over at the Monster to try and fight back his blush before taking on Gallagher again. Why the fuck was this so hard?

“Fine then—you tell me when you want to talk, I’ll tell you when I want to talk and if we’re both in the mood for conversation then…” Mickey shrugged and let the meaning hang.

“How about you just assume I always want to talk and if for some reason I can’t, then I’ll let you know.” Ian wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that he was down to fuck anytime, anywhere. If Mickey wanted to play hard to get, that was his prerogative. Ian did not have that much pride. His eagerness earned him another smile though, and Ian’s Monday was off to the best start.

“There are rules though.”


“Yeah, man,” Mickey tapped his hand against his thigh, hesitating for a bit. Then, he went for it. “First, it only happens here, at night, after everyone’s gone.”

Ian looked at Mickey incredulously. “Are you serious? Why? What, you can’t maintain your human form outside this office or something?”

Mickey rolled his eyes. “Only here, at night after everyone’s gone. Secondly, no random meet-ups: no meals, no grabbing coffee, no ‘wanna catch a movie?’ No shit like that.”

“Wow, am I allowed to talk to you during, or should I just look off to the side and not try to breathe too loudly?” Ian asked sarcastically.

Mickey clicked his tongue. “It is what it is, man. That’s the cost of the conversation.”

“Why don’t you just buy a fucking dildo and call it a day?”

“I’ve got a few; none of them grabs hair.”

Un-fucking-believable, Ian could only scoff, “fuck off.”

Mickey shrugged and started to head out, only for Ian to grab his arm and stop him. Mickey checked the office area to make sure no one had come in yet. Since they were still alone, he didn’t yank his hand away.

“Okay, just hang on a second. You have to admit that these rules seem both arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive,” Ian tried an appeal to reason and tempt Mickey with alternatives, “my condo overlooks Central Park, the view is fucking ridiculous. I have a bed the size of an Olympic swimming pool; slight exaggeration, but not by much.”

“Congratulations,” Mickey offered dryly.

“I’m just saying, there are options, you don’t have to resign yourself to daily rug burn in my office.”

“Who said anything about just your office? I was planning on the break room and on top of Carol’s desk for starters.” Mickey fished for a cigarette while Ian’s thoughts derailed completely. He didn’t know fucking on Carol’s desk was even a thing he wanted until now. Mickey’s voice broke into his thoughts. “Well?”

Ian kept hold of Mickey, but couldn’t answer. The last thing he wanted was a bunch of rules stripping away any hopes of bonding and intimacy. However, if he said no, Mickey would walk and fuck if Ian wasn’t willing to put up with some serious shit to avoid being cut off.

“It’s yes or no. Either one is fine. You don’t have to agree, Gallagher, if it’s such a problem,” Mickey’s anxiety levels were skyrocketing as Ian hesitated. He’d gone overboard with the rules it seemed, and fuck if he wasn’t willing to back down on them if Ian was seriously willing to walk away. Still, they were his only fail-safe, and he would be little more than a slow-moving target without them. Luckily, Ian blinked first.

“Fine,” Fuck. He had gone about this all wrong and now Ian found himself locked in as a sex buddy. He was going to have to find his way out of it somehow, but for now, he was simply stuck. “Anything else?”

Mickey seemed to think about it and looked Ian over. The elevator had just dinged and he had to pull away from his boss. “Don’t fall in love with me or any fruity shit like that.”

Ian snorted, “Fuck you; don’t worry about it. I don’t intend to.”

Mickey grinned and headed out to his desk, leaving his boss staring after him. Ian snorted and went back to his game. Honestly, the nerve of the bastard. He might have wanted a relationship, but Ian Gallagher had better shit to do than to seriously fall in love.

Chapter Text

Ian Gallagher was in love. He wasn't even allowed to be in denial over it, it was that bad and that deep. It was crazy too, because it was the only one of Mickey’s stupid rules he had actually intended to follow. Mickey’s eyes were closed, lips parted as he slowly exhaled and lowered himself onto Ian’s cock. It allowed Ian the small luxury of looking at him in the way he knew would spook the tester straight out of his office. He stared at Mickey’s flushed face, raked his eyes down the pale column of his throat and over his body. Mickey was still adjusting and couldn't pick up the pace yet, so Ian continued taking full advantage of it—pulling Mickey close and kissing and licking all the exposed flesh he could reach.

He kept sniffing deeply, getting high on Mickey’s scent as the tester slowly rode him on the couch of his office, and after a while, the blue eyes opened and looked down on him, clouded and heavy lidded. Ian was trapped, caught with that stupid moony look on his face that he thought would have Mickey reaching for his clothes and calling him stupid. Only Mickey didn't do any of that, just dipped his head and trailed his tongue along Ian’s lower lip. Ian shivered and hugged him closer, just caught in an endless loop of falling over and over again.

Ian couldn't pinpoint when he fell in love exactly. If he had to guess, it was probably when those elevator doors had opened for the first time and revealed the blunt, sarcastic bruiser behind it; he just hadn't known it yet. He couldn't say why he loved Mickey either; Ian wasn't that eloquent, wasn't that smart. He just knew he did. He had thought he had loved Kash and a couple of others since then, and maybe he really had loved them, but it was nothing like this—almost embarrassing to compare. It was crazy love, stupid love, all consuming, burning alive, but still drowning love; like being trapped under molten lava. It was contradictory, because it made no sense, but was perfectly logical all at once, because it was Mickey Milkovich and if you knew him, how could you not love him?

He loved everything about Mickey, the way he was constantly moving as if he was a shark that would sink and die if he stayed still for a minute. He loved how a real conversation with Mickey was all eyebrows and quick smiles and physical tics. He loved that if you tied Mickey’s hands behind him, he probably wouldn't be able to talk, because he needed his whole body to communicate. He loved that he could have a whole conversation with him without even saying a single word. He loved how safe he felt around him, how complete and content he was just having him close. He couldn’t breathe when Mickey was around, couldn't breathe when he wasn't. Even when Mickey was being grumpy or difficult, Ian couldn’t shake his stupid grin and the tightness in his chest or the butterflies in his stomach. He was in love, and it was hopeless in every way.

It had only been a couple of weeks since the official start of their arrangement. They met every night in Ian’s office after Mickey came back when the office cleared. Sometimes Ian would try to postpone the sex as long as possible, so they could maybe chat or something beforehand, because Mickey would be dressed and out the door almost immediately after they’d gotten off together. Yet another reason Ian was surprised at how easily he’d fallen, because admittedly, Mickey wasn’t giving him a whole lot to work with.

Mickey wasn’t going to give an inch unless Ian weaselled it out of him. Each weekend was more brutal than the one before it because of the lack of contact, and Ian needed to figure out how to get closer before he snapped completely. He acknowledged he had painted himself in this corner by chasing after the physical too quickly. Now Mickey had locked him in as a fuck buddy and Ian was at a loss how to climb out of it. He fully intended to though, one way or another. He was wasn't sure how yet. Naturally, he did the first thing he could think of, and asked for advice from his closest friend and confidante.

“So let me get this straight,” Lip sprawled on his couch and spoke around the cigarette in his mouth as he watched his brother rifle through his fridge for beer, “you’re getting the milk for free but you’re still looking to purchase the cow?”

“Jesus,” Ian muttered and kicked Lip’s fridge closed, “why am I even asking you about this?”

“I’m sorry but I agree with your guy. Stick to the physical, cut out all the emotional bullshit and keep it clean,” Lip took his beer from Ian and ignored his brother’s eye-rolling. “Love is a scam cooked up by greeting card companies and flower delivery services, man. Don’t buy into it. It’ll start off all cute and warm and fuzzy and just when you’re all sucked in, it’ll flip on you and suddenly everything’s going to shit and you don’t know what the fuck’s happening anymore.”

“Oh my god, Karen and Amanda worked you over good, huh?”

“I tell you only good things, my brother,” Lip puffed out a cloud of smoke and regarded Ian curiously, “where’d you meet this guy anyway?”

“You know… gym,” Ian mumbled quickly and took a swig of his beer. Lip, the brother, was quite laissez faire when it came to Ian’s romantic choices, but Lip, the corporate lawyer, would strangle him for wandering into the litigation minefield that was fucking an employee.

“Dude, seriously, just keep drinking the milk and screw buying the cow.”

“Suppose I want more than milk, okay? What if I need to make burgers or a steak?”

“Wouldn’t you have to kill the cow though?”

Lip and Ian fell silent as they mulled that over. “Okay, this analogy has gone completely off the rails. You are being the opposite of helpful right now, Lip.”

“Telling you man, you’d be so much happier in the long run if you keep it clean.”

Since Lip was a bust, Ian had to move down the list. He sighed when a familiar voice answered the phone.

“JimmyJackSteve, how are you?”

There was a tired sigh at the end of the line, “You know you guys can just choose one, seriously.”

“Can, but won’t. Fi there?”

Another audible sigh and Fiona was on the line in a couple of minutes. They caught up quickly and Ian was soon telling his big sister his tale of woe.

“Oh, you’re in love!” Fiona cooed and Ian slapped a hand over his face. Fiona was already far into gush mode and all Ian wanted was a little advice. His sister was getting all kinds of soft. He blamed JimmyJackSteve. “Just tell him how you feel,” came the most Mom/Big Sister/Soft Fiona response ever, “be honest and upfront, he’ll come around.”

“He won’t, that won’t work. He’ll think I’m a punk.”

“Then he might not be worth your time,” Fiona sniffed, automatically offended on behalf of her brother.

“Seriously, I need a better plan. I’m not even sure he likes me, if I’m honest.”

“Well, does he get that look in his eyes when he’s with you?”

Ian frowned at the phone, “what look?”

“You’ll know it when you see it.” Fiona said cryptically and pushed Ian a little closer to an aneurysm.

No, she really needed to get specific there. Mickey had a whole arsenal of looks that seemed specifically designed to turn Ian inside out. He was tortured and confused as it was without the added stress of trying to peer into Mickey’s face discerning what look meant what. His family was turning out to be most unhelpful.  

Calling Fiona had proved to be another bust since she only gave mom answers. He might have called Debbie or Carl, but one had an almost psychopathic approach to dating and Carl’s girlfriends just seemed to drop into his arms without that much effort, only to sail right back out again. Ian needed someone who was wise and empathetic, but would also understand the dynamic in a relationship that didn’t have just one, but two Southside guys in it. Logically, this could only leave one person.

“Ah, your problem is a knotty one indeed,” Kev stroked his goatee over the Skype call. “Chasing a guy from the Southside can be even harder than going after a girl from the Southside…on the account that we’re idiots.”

“Exactly,” Ian nodded, confident he had now found his relationship Sherpa.

“What you need to do is become a hunter.”


“Hunter,” Kev affirmed, “you cannot lay idle if you’re going to get out of the sex friendzone. What you need is calculated aggression: learn his habits, his weaknesses, exploit them!”

Ian nodded eagerly; Kevin Ball was a god.

“Or you know, you could just tell him how you feel and try to move on from there,” Vee flung out as she chased their twins around the house. She paused for a moment to fill the computer screen, blocking Kev, “does he get that look in his eyes when he’s with you?”

Kev cleared his throat importantly and herded her off screen. “Yeah, like that’s gonna work. That dude could be in love with you already and not know shit. Half the time Southside guys wouldn’t know a good thing if it was fucking us up the ass.”

“That is his problem exactly,” Ian agreed.

“But don’t go too overboard and go like Fatal Attraction on his ass or anything. Too much and he’ll spook,” Kev warned, “but yeah, don’t take his negative shit, don’t take no for an answer. Calculated aggression man; that’s what you need.”

Mickey Milkovich was fucked up. He couldn’t believe he was now one of the few people in the world hating weekends. Weekends meant no Gallagher, and no Gallagher meant two days of feeling as if he was going to crawl out of his skin with need and boredom. He had spent the last two hours devouring every article he could find on Ian, every random, obscure scrap of information. Before, all he had wanted was whatever image fit his masturbatory mood; now he was starved for Ian data in all its forms.

He wanted to know Ian’s favorite color, his favorite foods, whether he preferred Star Wars or Star Trek—all the stupid shit. He wanted everything, but he didn’t have the audacity to ask because he knew he wasn’t offering anything in return. His attempt to keep things clean and tidy was a joke at this point. They had fucked every day for the past two weeks, but for the weekends, and Mickey felt like a new drug addict getting strung out past the point of no return. Every night, he went back to the office a little earlier than the night before, and every time he let Gallagher inside him, it ended up feeling like he was the one leaving bits and pieces of himself behind. It was fucking crazy and he had no idea how to slow the spiral without shutting everything down completely.    

All Mickey could think of were green eyes and hot hands and that sexy, cocky smirk that did him in every single time. He was seriously rethinking just throwing out all his rules and calling Gallagher, though he imagined his boss was hardly spending his weekend alone, waiting for him to call. Mickey’s jealousy flared at the very idea of Gallagher screwing around with some random prick and found himself getting irrationally angry. He flopped onto his back in his bed and covered his face with his hands. He needed to slow down the crazy a little. It was noon on a Saturday and he really needed to get his shit together. Before he could lose it completely and call Gallagher to beg for dick, his doorbell rang. He sighed and went to answer the door. If it was Jehovah Witnesses, someone was getting killed.

He opened the door to see no one other than Ian Fucking Gallagher standing there holding a box of donuts as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Hey,” Ian greeted and marched in past a stunned Mickey, “busy?”

“The fuck are you doing here?!” Mickey locked the door and turned to see Gallagher depositing the donuts on his dining room table. Ian then casually strolled over to the sliding glass doors leading to his small balcony and peeked through the curtains to admire the view, like this was perfectly normal, like he fucking belonged there. “How the fuck do you even know where I live?”

Ian turned to face him and stood framed majestically by Mickey’s curtains like he was fucking Frida Kahlo or some shit.

“Your address is on your résumé, dude. I had some business here in Greenpoint, just thought I’d say hi,” Ian looked him over critically, “so you don’t morph into some kind of monster on the weekends, huh? I half thought you’d be like a centaur or something. Nice view,” Ian grinned cheekily, “not bad looking out your window either.”

Mickey sighed heavily at the corny line and Ian only grinned harder and looked around Mickey’s apartment. “This is a nice place, Mickey, lots of light and space. What is this, a one bedroom, like what fifteen hundred a month?”

Mickey would not be distracted, “I got it for twelve. Are you allowed to just lift my goddamn address like that?”

Ian shrugged and went to inspect the box of donuts, “I’m your boss, it could’ve been an emergency,” he offered lamely. He eyed the selection and selected a Bavarian cream donut.

“We have rules, Firecrotch,” Mickey crossed his arms and glared at the redhead standing in his kitchen, nonchalantly eating pastry.

“Rules?” Ian echoed with grating faux innocence.

“Time and place, Gallagher. The weekend isn’t the time and my apartment certainly isn’t the fucking place.”

“Hmm okay,” Ian agreed suspiciously easily and walked over to Mickey while he finished his food. He stopped barely an inch from the other man, since in Ian’s mind, personal space was only a vague, foreign concept that he couldn’t quite grasp. Mickey’s personal creed of never backing off or backing down had him standing unmoving until Ian was practically on top of him. He was forced to look up into Ian’s eyes, going a little cross-eyed as he did so. Tall ass fucker was going to be the death of him. Ian was so close; Mickey could detect his scent below the cologne and could feel Ian’s warm breath against his face. There was the smallest drop of cream on the corner of Ian’s mouth and Mickey’s tongue darted out unbidden in anticipation of licking it off.

“I really think you should reconsider some of these rules of yours, Mickey,” Ian said softly, still somehow managing to get even closer and make Mickey painfully hard. “But I’ll go if you want me to. Do you want me to go?”

Mickey’s eyes moved back and forth between Ian’s eyes and lips as his mind spun. His lips parted wordlessly and he hesitated briefly over his decision before closing the minuscule distance between them. Fuck it, he was out of his mind horny, and this was pretty much the exact scenario he had been fantasizing about all morning. They kissed hungrily and Ian’s hands fisted into the material of Mickey’s tank before roughly pulling it off him.

Mickey started walking backwards into his bedroom, pulling Ian along with him and keeping their lips locked as best as they could. When the back of his knees hit the edge of the bed, Mickey had the presence of mind to quickly turn and slam his incriminating laptop shut and chuck it into an armchair in the nearest corner of his room. He came back to Gallagher, who reached for him immediately. Ian’s hands slid down to Mickey’s ass and squeezed it possessively before actually lifting him and tossing him into bed.

“Shit,” Mickey whispered as he bounced backwards against the pillows. Ian had figured out quickly that the fastest way to get Mickey hot was to manhandle him a little and today was no exception. The tester looked up to see Ian hauling off his clothes and Mickey wasted no time yanking off his sweatpants and boxers. He had barely managed to toss them aside before Ian was there, lips and cock hot, hard and demanding against his own. Their harsh breathing mingled as they frotted and Ian slipped his hand between them to wrap around their dicks to squeeze and pump them a little closer to the edge.

Their eyes locked and they immediately reached an unspoken agreement. They broke apart so Mickey could get the lube off his nightstand while Ian retrieved his jeans from the floor to fish out some condoms. Mickey couldn’t help his amusement when Ian pulled out the short sleeve of condoms. Yeah, bullshit he was just in the neighbourhood for business.

Mickey certainly gained a new appreciation for his bed. When a six foot, one hundred and sixty pound redhead was slamming into him like it was his job, a firm mattress and soft pillows went a long way. There was also much to be said for the lack of rug burn. Gallagher was the first person he’d taken into his bed since he moved to New York. Well, he was the only person he’d been with since moving there, period. Mickey hadn’t been sure if he was ever going to take a guy home; now Ian Gallagher was here fucking him like an animal in broad daylight.

He wrapped his legs around Ian’s hips and clawed at his back while Ian pistoned into him and plunged his tongue down his throat. He grunted lowly into Ian’s mouth as he came against the hard abs. His boss broke the rough kiss and buried his face in Mickey’s neck, making Mickey smile. Gallagher always did that shit when he was about to come. He felt Ian explode and he clenched around him, milking him for all he was worth. Ian groaned his name and Mickey grinned in delight and satisfaction. Hands down, this was his best New York Saturday ever.

Mickey was still asleep when Ian propped himself up onto his elbows and properly took in his new surroundings. He looked over at the other man who was on his stomach, facing away from him, sleeping the sleep of the innocent. Ian smiled softly and fought the urge to kiss and snuggle him. He knew the minute Mickey woke up, he was getting thrown out and he wasn’t trying to hurry it along.

He looked around the room and had a sneaking suspicion that Mickey simply transplanted his old room as best he could into his new apartment. There were old posters and artwork and various accoutrements that gave the room a very Mickey-style lived-in feeling. Ian loved it; it felt so much like home and Mickey—two ideas that were becoming rapidly interchangeable to Ian. He looked above the headboard to see what was undoubtedly the work of a young, angry Milkovich; a piece of drawing paper with “Fuck Love” prominently featured in the center of it. First, he was going to get the story behind that, and then one day, he’s going to get Mickey to insert a huge comma in-between the two words. Mickey stirred and Ian’s heart stopped. The tester rolled over towards Ian and reached out, capturing Ian’s forearm in his grasp and leaving it there. Soon, Mickey’s breathing evened out again and he was asleep while holding on to Ian. The younger man felt like his heart was going to explode right then and there. He slowly eased back down into bed, nestled against his pillow and watched Mickey sleep.

He was going to get kicked out soon, but as far as Ian was concerned, today was the first victory of many to come. Mickey Milkovich was going to be his; it was only a matter of time.

Chapter Text

This was it; tonight was the night they were going to finally do it. Ian swayed on his feet just a little. He was tipsy and high out of his mind. He and Mickey had both needed a little liquid and herbal encouragement to even think about attempting what they were about to do. They stood side by side and stared anxiously at their goal. He elbowed Mickey and tried to nudge him forward.

“Aren’t you gonna go?” he whispered, giggling a little as Mickey flailed dramatically and swatted his hand away.

“Why the fuck do I have to go first?!” Mickey whispered back.

“Because this was your fucking idea…your fucking idea,” Ian began sputtering as he dissolved into giddy laughter, “your idea for fucking.”

“Dumbass,” Mickey muttered before cracking up too. He seriously needed to stop fucking with Gallagher and his insane mind-altering drugs. Gallagher’s weed was always some space-age bullshit that had Mickey screwed up. At one point he thought he was a Ninja Turtle. He tried to maintain as he stared in the pristine orderliness that was Carol Anderson’s office. He took a deep breath, stepped over the threshold and froze.

“What?” Ian asked softly when Mickey went stock-still.

“Nothing,” Mickey whispered back, “I thought she had this place lasered or something. Why the fuck are we even whispering?” His voice didn’t get any louder though, despite the absurdity and he signalled for Ian to come in. Ian toed the threshold and retreated immediately, shaking his head wildly.

“No, nope, uh-uh,” this put him in the mind of the time he tried to cut off that old lady’s toe, and he wasn’t even this scared then.

“Will you stop being such a little girl about this?” Mickey grabbed his hand and hauled him into the office, “you said you wanted to.”

“I didn’t even know I wanted to until your ass brought it up,” Ian bit out. “I feel like I’m in a fucking after-school special and I’m the good kid being led astray,” he moaned fretfully as Mickey rolled his eyes and circled Carol’s desk. “We’re so gonna get fired.”

“You’re the fucking owner, you stupid shit,” Mickey pointed out reasonably. “How the hell is she going to fire you? You’re the king here.”

“Yes, but what is a king to a god?!” Ian asked dramatically, hands clasped to his cheeks. Mickey immediately lost his shit laughing. He then threw himself down in Carol’s swivel chair and unzipped his pants.

“Will you shut up so we can get this show on the road?”

“You want me to suck your dick now?” As if the very idea would have them both bursting into flame.

“Like it’s got the antidote to what ails you,” Mickey waggled his eyebrows and grinned triumphantly when Ian huffed, but got to his knees.

“We’re so dead,” Ian moaned, giving quick, furtive licks to Mickey’s hardening cock, “your dick’s gonna send us straight to hell.”

“Man, if I had a nickel,” Mickey grunted before Ian’s ministrations had him moaning. He relaxed and leaned back in the chair, eyelids fluttering as he stroked Ian’s head. His head lolled to the side and he caught a glimpse of the HR manager’s desk.

“She has framed pictures of her pets on her desk; I’m telling you she’s a walking Cathy cartoon,” Mickey scanned the desk and took in her religious paraphernalia. “Hey…hey Gallagher, you think she still leaves room for Jesus when she lets her man do it in the ass?”

Ian choked and sputtered around Mickey’s dick before he fell to the floor laughing. Mickey toed the redhead in the ribs, “we need to hurry; we are way too fucked up right now.”

Ian got to his feet and watched as Mickey dropped his pants and started to bend over Carol’s desk. “No, other way, turn over.”

“What difference does it make?”

“You’re not coming all over the desk, man. Come on,” Ian gave a longsuffering sigh as he put on his condom, “her paperwork is my paperwork after all. Bad enough your ass cheeks will be all over everything.”

“I thought you wanted my ass all over everything.”

Ian simply ignored him. He then eyed the dark, empty floor one more time before propping Mickey’s legs on his shoulders and slipping his fingers into the tester to stretch him.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Ian sniggered as he thrust into Mickey, “if Carol finds out, we’re so dead.”

“Eh, how’s she going to find out? At most she comes in tomorrow wondering why her office smells like ass reaming and sad childhoods.”

That set Ian off again and he braced on the table, just cracking up. His orgasm snuck in and caught him completely off guard and he was left gasping before he collapsed on top of Mickey.

“Did you just laugh yourself into coming?” Mickey looked down incredulously into the red hair. “Dude, you fucking suck.”

Ian smiled apologetically and shifted downwards to finish Mickey off with his mouth. At least he could cross one more thing off his bucket list.

There was something niggling at the back of Mickey’s mind as he settled into his station the next morning. The niggling grew worse as Carol exited the elevator and hustled to her office. It wasn’t until he saw a member of the janitorial staff exiting the break room with a trash basket that the light bulb finally went off. He quickly unlocked his phone and dashed off a text to Ian, whose phone buzzed as he sat at his desk, preparing to read over some reports.

“What’d you do with your raincoat last night?”

Ian frowned at the text and hazarded a glance out to Mickey. “Tossed it…why?”

“Yeah, but tossed it where?”

Ian blinked and thought it over. Last night had been a blur of giggling and buzzed fucking. He vaguely remembered removing the condom in Carol’s office and tossing it in…oh shit. Suddenly, a screaming came across the sky; Carol’s screaming specifically. An hour later, Ian was standing behind her as she glowered down at the shocked, silent members of Skid Row and the other occupants of the floor.

“In all my years…this is…I have never,” Carol was physically incapable of finishing a thought and Ian was sweating bullets. He rubbed his nose and fidgeted as she ranted and railed. He could feel his balls retreating protectively into his body.

“Disgusting! In my office! This is just…I can’t…what kind of animal?!”

Mickey stared down at his computer and tried not to give off any guilty vibes. He was biting half his lower lip and avoiding any and all eye-contact which, if one knew him well enough, was one of his biggest tells. Still, Mickey was some sort of labial Olympic gymnast, so who could keep track of what lip contortion meant what.

“I want that person’s head on a platter!” she finally managed to get out.

“What makes you think it’s one person?” Raj asked pertinently. “Makes sense it would be a couple screwing around, right?” Every eye in the room turned to Raj, and he looked around in a panic. “Not that I know anything about it. I’m just being reasonable.”

Ian glanced over at Mickey, who was guiltily chewing away on his lip and had eyes as wide as dinner plates. Mickey must have felt him looking because he stared back, which was a mistake, because Mickey’s lips twitched and they were both about to lose it. Thank god for Carrie, because she lost it first. That set off a chain reaction that had everyone in the office doubling over. Carol was apoplectic. She swung furiously to Ian who immediately wiped the tears from his eyes to put his serious face on.

“Come on guys,” he chided and his employees’ laughter hiccupped to halt. “First off, Carol, I just want to say that I am so, so sorry this happened. Really, just so sorry,” Ian patted her shoulder awkwardly, but spoke sincerely which seemed to mollify her a great deal. Then again, she had no idea how sincere he really was, “I mean we’re all just so sorry, right guys?”

There was a smattering of insincere murmuring and Ian finally had to address his staff while trying to look a proper mix of horrified, disappointed and angry.  Mickey’s hand in the cookie jar expression was not helping matters.

“Okay, so we don’t know yet who did this, probably not anyone here,” Ian suggested eagerly, “maybe some deviant from another floor, but um, can we all just agree not to have sex in each other’s offices and workstations. Just respect each other’s boundaries and personal spaces?”

Eric raised his hands tentatively, “how about at our own workstations?”

“This is not a joke, Mr. Waterston!” Carol snapped behind Ian.

“I really wasn’t joki- okay,” Eric wilted and sank further into his seat.

“How about in the bathrooms?” came a random voice from the back and everyone looked to Ian expectantly.

It was then Ian realized that he had a bunch of sexually depraved stoners in his employ and made a note to tell the cleaners to stack up on Lysol. Personally, he was willing to okay the bathrooms, but judging from the shade of purple Carol was turning, he guessed that was a no-go as well.

“No, this is a place of business, what the hell is wrong with you people?” when there was no lightning strike of hypocrisy incinerating him, Ian trudged forward. “All sexual activity should be at home,” he looked to Carol for approval who waved him on, “um, with your partners, behind closed doors…preferably after marriage." After a second of synchronized eye-rolling from his staff, Ian once again addressed his manager. "Carol, I will personally investigate this and find the individual or individuals involved and take care of it myself.”

“Thank you, Ian, you are a good man,” Carol sniffed, sweeping the floor with one more acidic glare before stalking off. “Y’all need Jesus!”

It was almost six when Ian’s phone chirped. Mickey was gone, but there were still quite a few people milling about.

“Not feeling your office tonight. Waiting downstairs.  Gimme a ride home?”

Ian’s face lit up instantly and he had his bag packed and was out the door within minutes. He really shouldn’t get this over the moon about little things like this, but he couldn’t help it. He bounced excitedly before pulling himself together and calmly exiting the elevator on the floor of the basement parking lot. Mickey was waiting for him, leaning against a column and lighting up a cigarette; the king of nonchalant. Ian could only snort and walk past him wordlessly on the long trek to his parking space. Mickey caught up and fell in step with him, mischief all over his face.

“In all my years!” Mickey huffed with mock indignation, “I have never!”

“You shut up,” Ian ordered, but his lips were already twitching.

“I want that person’s head on a platter,” Mickey moved in front, spun around and jabbed a finger at him accusingly, “I want him beaten like a redheaded stepchild.”

“She did not say that, and I’m warning you!” Ian growled. Mickey was all punchy now, skipping around and grinning like a demon. Ian tried not to get sucked in. “I swear you are the absolute worst, Mickey Milkovich.”

Mickey just licked his thumb and eyed Ian lasciviously as the redhead advanced on him, “I mean, what kind of animal?!” he grabbed at Ian’s crotch, pulling a squawk out of his boss and took off running, the two of them were soon yelling and laughing as Ian chased the idiot all around the parking lot.

Sunday night and Mickey was home alone. It wasn’t as bad as before though; his weekend ban was being completely ignored by a certain ginger, and Mickey knew the only reason he wasn’t with him now was because of some cancer benefit. Gallagher’s latest mission was staying overnight, and so far, Mickey had held strong, kicking Ian out by the wee hours of the morning. He wondered how long he was going to hold out with this resolve, since his ability to say no to Ian was dubious at best.  He chuckled to himself and sipped his beer.  Lately it felt as if there were worst things in the world than giving in to Ian Gallagher. Mickey snapped out of his reverie when his phone buzzed—it was Mandy.

“At work so can’t talk yet. But heads up, Terry’s getting paroled again.”

Mickey stared at the text and felt his whole body go numb. Just like that, the illusion of safety seemed to shatter as he looked blearily around his small dark apartment. He tried to work through his sudden spike of anxiety with reason. He was in New York, miles away from Terry and anything like him. No one knew where he was but Mandy; no one knew where Mandy was but him. They were fine, they were safe. Terry wasn’t even out yet. A sudden hard knock on the door had Mickey springing to his feet and spinning to face it. The door seemed to loom up at him and he waited, fingers flexing, rooted to the spot as he licked his lips and ran a shaky hand over his face.

“Goodnight, yeah nice evening,” Ian’s muffled voice came through the door and Mickey nearly went boneless with relief. He took a deep breath and shook himself before going to let Gallagher in.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Mickey asked gruffly, taking in the vision that was Ian Gallagher in a tux, “It’s only nine. I thought you were at a benefit.”

“Was, bailed,” Ian strolled in past Mickey and seemed to fill the room instantly, “gave them the check, made sure there was photographic evidence I was present and then hightailed it out of there. Lip’s still there, he’ll do.” Ian untied his bowtie and gave Mickey the once over. “You okay?”

“Yeah, why?” Mickey gave himself another short shake and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Oh, nothing,” Ian decided to drop it and shed his jacket, shoes and socks and went to wait on the couch.

“And I’m telling you man,” Ian burped after taking a swig of his beer, “if you have money for a while, you will slowly turn into a republican. There was this guy pitching us his start-up idea, wanting us to invest. All Lip and I could think about was how we financed our first release with drug funds and stripper money. Pay your own damn way.”

“Stripper money?” Mickey looked at Ian askance, “what stripper money? Who was stripping?”

“Me,” Ian answered matter-of-factly, “you think we had Dita Von Teese on our payroll?”

“Bullshit you were a stripper!” Mickey burst out incredulously.

“Well, technically I guess it was more along the lines of erotic dancing, but I had to strip down on occasion,” Ian took another swig of beer and smirked at Mickey’s gobsmacked expression. “What don’t believe me?”

“Can’t see it.”

“Hmm," Ian nodded and shrugged, "alright, you’re kinda cute so I’ll give you the old rate. Twenty-five bucks gets you a dance.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up and Ian still kept a straight face. “Excuse me?”

Ian shrugged and leaned back, casual as all get out as he slipped into an old role.“Don’t want a dance, gotta move on.”

Mickey was beyond curious and there was no way he was backing out now. He retrieved his wallet and fished out the bills. “Twenty-five bucks for your ass, huh? Never had to pay for that shit before.”

Ian only smirked and got out his iPod. He found a song with the beat he wanted and shoved Mickey’s center table out of the way. Satisfied with the space, he pressed play and tossed the iPod next to the ogling brunet. Mickey ears perked up when the driving bass of the R&B/Hip Hop song kicked in.

“So you just walk around with stripper music, huh?”

“I have music that might be used in such instances,” Ian replied as he neatened the rolled-up sleeves of his white button down, “is that judgement I hear, Milkovich?”

“Fuck no, who’s judging? I just wanna know what I got on tap.”

Ian bit back a smile and started slowly swaying to the music. He held eye contact as he moved his hands up his body to the first button of shirt. As the beat grew heavier and more insistent, Ian rolled his hips in time to it and popped the first button open.

“Jesus Christ,” Mickey murmured and sat up a little straighter.

One by one the buttons opened, revealing the tight, white ribbed tank top underneath. Ian tossed the shirt and clasped his hands above his head, giving an uninterrupted view of his body as he writhed and undulated to the song. He slowly lifted the hem of the tank, giving a flash of the taut abs beneath it, before dropping it again. Mickey leaned forward in anticipation, no idea what to do with himself as a fantasy he didn’t even know he had came to life. Ian stared him down, smug enough to kill, and finally peeled off the tank. He thrust forward slowly, making his abs clench while he locked his hands behind his head made his biceps bulge.

“Shit,” Mickey was a believer now. No guy should be able to move like that. He bit his thumb and locked on Ian’s hands as they undid his belt. Ian slung the belt around neck and undid his pants, letting them slide down to reveal the black boxer-briefs beneath. He kicked the pants away and looked over at Mickey who decided it would be sexy to lick the along the edge of the money to entice his private dancer. If Ian was honest, it was kind of sexy, but that was probably because he was a simpleton when it came to Mickey Milkovich and found everything he did insanely sexy. He walked over to Mickey and straddled him. He slung his belt around the brunet’s neck and braced his hands on either side of Mickey’s head so he could grind against him, slowly sliding up and down the tester’s body. Mickey looked as if he was witnessing the ascension of Christ.

“How’s your day going so far?” Ian whispered in Mickey’s ear and earned himself a short laugh.

“How’s my fucking day going? I don’t know; as far as I’m concerned, it just started.”

Ian beamed, ridiculously pleased to bursting at the off the cuff statement. He quickly got back into character and flipped around. He slid further down Mickey’s body, rubbing his back against his crush’s chest like a cat. Mickey stroked Ian’s thigh before sliding his hand up to palm Ian’s package.

Ian gave a breathy laugh and thrust into Mickey’s hand. “You’re not supposed to touch the talent, man.

“Is the talent complaining?”

Ian rested his head back against Mickey’s and looked up at him, maintaining the eye contact while Mickey continued stroking him through his boxers. The song ended and Ian slid out of Mickey’s grasp, sliding a hand along the older man’s thigh as he stood.

“That was fun, find me if you want another one.”

“That’s it?” Mickey asked incredulously.

“What do you mean ‘that’s it?’ For twenty-five bucks? You live through the Depression or something, granddad? All you should have seen for that price are my abs…briefly.”

Mickey held up his hands at the suddenly testy and argumentative Gallagher. “You used to get that hard for all your clients?”

“Like I said, you’re kinda cute.” Ian stood just out of arm’s reach and let Mickey’s eyes roam over him and set him on fire. Mickey regarded him heatedly.

“So what’s a guy to do if he wants more than a private dance?”

Ian pretended to mull it over. “Well, if the guy’s not classy, he’ll try to get me to give him a hand job in the bathroom. I’d say no, he’d get annoying and then he’d get bounced.”

“Luckily, I’m a classy motherfucker.”

“Lucky indeed… A classy guy like you would invite me back to his place,” Ian said, nodding to Mickey’s bedroom, “tell me what he’s got, tell me how much fun I’ll have.”

“Mmm,” fuck if Ian didn’t love when Mickey made that sound. His dick throbbed and demanded they hurry this little bit of role play along. Mickey stood and peeled off his T-shirt and tossed it aside. “You know what I got. Let’s see how much fun we’ll have.”

Mickey woke up around one a.m. to find that he was alone in bed. He wondered if Gallagher had taken the initiative to throw himself out, but the thuds and swearing coming from his kitchen seemed to indicate otherwise. He slid out of bed, yanked on his sweatpants and shuffled out into his living room. He padded softly into the kitchen and surprised Gallagher who jumped when Mickey called out to him.

“You robbing me in the middle of the night, or just wrecking my place?” Mickey grumbled and rubbed his eyes sleepily. He frowned at Gallagher, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

“No, I was just…” Ian shifted and tried to use his body to block a part of the table. His furtive behaviour only pulled Mickey’s attention exactly where he didn’t want it and he caught sight of Ian’s pill dispenser. Mickey reached around him to pick it up before the redhead could even form a protest.

“My aunt had one of these,” Mickey turned it over in his hands and the pills rattled. “She put skull and crossbones stickers all over it to keep us out. I thought it looked so bad ass; made me want them even more.” He marvelled at the number of pills in each slot, unaware of Ian’s growing distress as he watched his two worlds collide. “You take this many in one go? I thought you only took lithium.”

Ian gave a bitter snort. “Lithium, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, lions and tigers and bears, oh my,” Ian grabbed the dispenser and nervously shoved it under his pants he had put on the dining room table. Mickey looked at him closely; saw the fine tremors of his body and took in Ian’s twitchiness.

“You usually take them this late?”

Ian glanced at Mickey and looked away. He decided he hated the way Mickey always got straight to the point and always knew exactly where the problem lay even without trying. Even if he had the chance to razzle-dazzle and throw out some distractions, Mickey wouldn’t fall for it. Ian didn’t want to have this conversation, not with Mickey, not anymore. He hadn’t minded the other man knowing about his condition, but he didn’t want him understanding it, getting an idea of the full scope. Shit like this was always a deal breaker, and Mickey was skittish enough even when he wasn’t being graphically reminded that the Ian he knew was only an illusion held together by fistfuls of pills and an unwavering routine.

It had been a while since Ian had fooled himself like this. The past couple months, he had been so high and caught up in Mickey that the much needed rigidity of his schedule had slipped.  He had been feeling so naturally good and getting distracted by work and love that he had been playing fast and loose with his pill schedule, feeling he could maintain easily enough throughout his lapses. But his body needed the routine and his mind was a fucking betrayal.

His body chemistry wasn’t going to change because he was falling in love. His brain wasn’t going to magically rewire itself because he was happy in a new relationship. Being with Mickey wasn’t going to fix what was already broken. It wasn’t until he was lying next to Mickey, unable to sleep, feeling his thoughts start to spiral and his leg bouncing that he remembered that his life didn’t work that way.

He had chanced leaving Mickey’s door unlocked for a few minutes so he could get the pills out of his car, take them and sneak back into bed. By the time he got his hands on them, he was so damned nervous and twitchy, he kept knocking shit over. He hated how quickly he decompensated when his schedule got messed up.

“Six a.m. and six p.m.,” Ian confessed, “that’s when I’m supposed to take them, but I’ve been a little distracted lately-”

“Fucking around with me?” Mickey asked quietly and Ian scratched his arm in agitation. “What, you were worried I’d freak out if you took a minute a take yours meds? You taking your meds won’t freak me out, Gallagher. You bouncing off my fucking walls, that would freak me out.” Mickey’s eyes narrowed when he noticed how badly Ian was trembling. He reached out instinctively, “Hey, you okay?”

Ian flinched away from the touch, “I get a little shaky after I take my meds. It goes away after a few minutes, I’m fine.” Ian could feel tears of frustration and embarrassment welling up. Between the encroaching mania and the pills kicking in, he was feeling fraught and emotional.

This wasn’t the Ian Gallagher he wanted Mickey to have—a twenty-three year old mental case that couldn’t go a few days without his brain going haywire. He wanted to give Mickey Ian Gallagher at sixteen, young and earnest, whole and healthy, before something reached inside him and flipped some stupid switch in his brain.

“Hey, I’m the same after a couple of Jägerbombs,” Mickey joked as he backed off. Ian let out a snort of laughter, still getting charmed in spite of everything. “Six a.m., six p.m., huh… I’ll remember from now on.” Mickey looked at him earnestly. “Ian, I’m not going to freak out because you need to stop for a minute and take care of yourself, man. Who would?”

“Kash did,” Ian answered automatically.

“Kash?” Mickey echoed, nonplussed until he put two and two together. “Kash and Grab? He fire you cause you were sick or something?” Ian looked up sheepishly and understanding dawned on Mickey. “You and towelhead? Oh, you’re fucking killing me here, Gallagher. What were you, fourteen/fifteen? Wasn’t that old ass fucker like forty?”

“Thirty-six when we started,” Ian mumbled.

“Fucking pedophile.”

Ian huffed in disbelief, “Not you too. What is it with you and Lip? Kash wasn’t a pedophile! Not really. We were equals, I just happened to be younger.”

“Bullshit,” Mickey sneered, “I’d argue about your perception of the amount of power you had in that relationship being somewhat skewed, but I don’t even want to think about the two of you doing it right now.”

“You can’t be retroactively jealous of my old boyfriends, Mick,” Ian took a chance and teased lightly.

“The fuck I can’t!” Mickey burst out, catching himself too late. He rolled his eyes at Ian’s grin. “So what’d he do?”

By seventeen, Ian still thought that maybe he loved Kash even though he was getting bored of him. Ian didn’t know when it happened exactly, but in the middle of Linda finding out about them, Frank’s liver giving out, Fiona temporarily losing her shit and Ian slowly testing the waters of being gay and out in the North Side of town, he just knew he was feeling better and better every day. One day he woke up and he was freaking fantastic. Ideas flowed, his energy was high and he felt like he was walking on clouds all the time. When he was on, he was on; the high was good and clean and he never understood everyone’s anxiety and frustration with him. The only problem was how quickly his ecstasy could turn to irritation, then rage. Admittedly, Kash became a ready target.

“I don’t even know what happened, I just snapped,” Ian shrugged forlornly, “it was over something stupid, like maybe how we kept losing inventory because he wouldn’t stand up to thieves,” Ian stared pointedly at Mickey, “but he said something dumb and wimpy and I just—boom—beat the shit out of him. He didn’t exactly appreciate the ass kicking.”

“Whatever, fucker had it coming,” Mickey muttered under his breath, “so he dumped you?”

“No, he got over that. It’s the depression that did us in,” Ian nodded and laughed ruefully. A part of him kept screaming to stop talking, to stop telling Mickey all this scary, crazy shit before he ran. The last thing he wanted to do was pull a bait-and-switch on Mickey though, and if Mickey needed to bail, Ian needed it to be now while he still might be able to survive when he let him go. “Yeah, the lying around, staring at walls just wanting shit to be over? That he couldn’t deal with. He’d try to comfort me, I’d only feel worse and guilty that it wasn’t working and, uh, he had enough on his plate to deal with.”

Mickey nodded slowly. “Yeah, dude was a fucking dick as well as a pussy then. He was with you that long? That practically makes you family; you don’t fucking bail on family,” Mickey went quiet and stared at the floor. The silence stretched before Mickey spoke again, not looking up from the floor. “Jesus, Gallagher, you got shit taste in men.”

Ian smiled softly at Mickey’s bowed head. “I don’t know, I think it’s been improving.”

Mickey snorted rudely, looked up and noticed that Gallagher seemed less agitated and was no longer shaking. “You good now? Because some of us need our beauty rest.” Ian nodded and Mickey readied to leave, but paused and rubbed his knuckles apprehensively. “I don’t think you should drive right now, you can crash here tonight if you want.”

Ian blinked in surprise and straightened. “Was I just invited to a sleepover?” Ian couldn’t help looking like a hopeful puppy, because that’s exactly how he felt.

“Fuck you is what you were invited to. The door’s right fucking there if you’re so antsy to bolt. I’m going to bed.” With that, Mickey stalked off to his room, eventually burying his small smile in his pillow when Ian sank into bed next to him.

Just for tonight, he would make an exception. He could always kick Gallagher out tomorrow.


Chapter Text

This wasn’t cuddling, this was phagocytosis. Mickey woke up to Gallagher draped over him like a human taco shell—one large hand covering his, a leg casually draped over him, and Ian’s breathing stirring the small hairs at the nape of his neck. Mickey thought it would feel too heavy and suffocating, but it wasn’t that way at all. He felt warm and anchored and, as much as he feared the word, safe. Safe, like maybe, just maybe, if Terry and the hounds of hell came bursting through his bedroom door, Mickey might not have to face them alone any more. Maybe Gallagher would stay, have his back; give Mickey a fighting chance against his father even once.

No, stop, stupid.

Mickey didn’t survive this long by being dumb and deluding himself into believing in some romantic fairytale. Gallagher started off rough the way he did, but that wasn’t Ian’s reality any more. Gallagher’s world was video games and cancer benefits, financial reports and staff meetings. Ian might be slumming it with Mickey for now, maybe craving a taste of the old life, but Mickey held no illusions that it was going to stay that way for long. The person Gallagher was now and the person Mickey would always be went together like oil and water. One could only keep shaking the mixture for so long before the two inevitably separated.

Besides, he didn’t want Gallagher to help him with Terry; didn’t want that part of his life clashing with the good thing he had going for him for now. He didn’t want Terry getting his hate and rage and filth all over Ian. He didn’t need Gallagher to feel that, to know all that much, to glimpse the hell he crawled out of and see the sum total of all his parts. He sighed, staring at the hand holding his and obscuring the “fuck” tattooed across his knuckles. He blinked as he felt himself go cold, despite the radiant heat source plastered to his back. No, Mickey Milkovich made his bed and woke up in reality, even if Ian didn’t. He shoved Gallagher away roughly and sat up in bed.     

“Time is it?” Ian asked thickly.

“Nearly six,” Mickey answered and automatically reached for a cigarette, “time to take your meds, man.” He left Ian rubbing his eyes and soon returned with Ian’s pill dispenser and a glass of water. Ian eyed Mickey’s outstretched hand and took his medication. He downed the pills and the water and looked up tiredly at Mickey who was hovering over him.

“Want to do a tongue check, warden?”

Mickey grunted and backed off. “Go home when you feel better,” he said as he tossed Ian’s clothes at him. “I might be in a little late today, I’ll try not to be, but I might.”

Ian nodded, getting the unsubtle hint that he was being tossed out. “Why?”

“I have some personal shit to take care of before work.”

“What kind of personal-”

“Personal shit that has fuck all to do with you, alright!” Mickey snapped irritably, “Just take your shit and don’t be here when I get out of the shower.”

Ian kept quiet as Mickey stormed off and started getting dressed when he heard the bathroom door slam. He didn’t know what had happened to Mickey’s mood between the time they fell asleep together and now, but he at least knew better than to test it. He was long gone by the time Mickey was done.

“So what can I do for you on this fine Monday morning, my friend?” Luis opened the back of his van to reveal the massive arsenal ensconced within it. Mickey took another cautious glance around the alleyway before taking in the selection.

“Is that a fucking rocket launcher?” Mickey asked incredulously.

“I cater to all types and all occasions,” the dealer responded drily, “assault rifles, grenades, got a special on that sawn off shotgun in the back there.”

Mickey snorted and shook his head. “Yeah, I’m not planning on fighting off the fucking zombie apocalypse. You got anything in the way of a simple nine millimetre, or is that too lowbrow for your usual clientele?”

“Hey, simple guns for simple men are my stock in trade,” Luis said as he unzipped a duffle bag and fished out a 9mm Glock. He placed the gun in Mickey’s gloved hand and waited expectantly.

Mickey couldn’t help up smile a little at the familiar, comforting weight of the gun in his hand. He turned it over slowly, before taking aim at the back of the van, squeezing one eye shut and planting his feet as he imagined blowing the head off a charging Terry.

“You can have it for four,” Luis sniffed as Mickey continued inspecting the gun. “So what, you gonna flirt with it all day or is this love?”

Mickey grunted and turned the gun over in his hand once more only for Ian’s stupid fucking face to appear and fill his head. Fuck… Mickey hesitated over making the deal. He had managed to keep his record clean for five years. He was supposed to have turned his life around and was doing the straight and narrow thing. Even if he got away claiming self defence for taking Terry out if he even showed up, he would still be a felon with gun. He was taking a massive risk with everything he had going well in his life on a gamble that Terry might come looking for him. Mickey sighed and weighed his options. The last place he wanted Ian to see him was in prison. When the hell did Ian Gallagher become a deciding factor in his life?

“Kid?” Luis prodded before his jaw slackened when Mickey handed back the gun. The young man looked over the van once more and nodded at the baseball bat hanging on the side.

“How much for that?” Mickey mumbled, not wanting to have completely wasted the dealer’s time.

Undercover detective Eric Delgado was stunned. He had figured this kid would be a sure thing. Sixty-eight degrees out, but the kid had made sure to come gloved like a pro, so Eric figured he’d definitely make a collar. In the time he’d been doing this, he can’t recall ever seeing someone have such an obvious conflict or crisis of conscience, let alone come out of it making the right decision.

“You want the baseball bat? Are you kidding me? You allergic to sporting good stores?”

“You’re gonna sell it to me or you wanna bust my balls all morning? I’ve got places to be.”

Eric didn’t really want to sell his bat; it was his lucky bat. Still, something had the kid rattled and he was at least trying to do the right thing. Maybe he just needed to pass on the luck as well as maintain his cover. He prayed his bat wouldn’t end up bludgeoning some poor fuck to death.

“Fifty,” Eric muttered.

“Fifty?! For that old piece of shit?!”

“There’s a Modell’s right down the fucking block!”

Mickey rolled his eyes and paid up. He exited the alleyway with his newest possession in hand, right past Eric’s backup who had already been told to stand down. If Terry showed up, all he needed to do was get the first proper hit in and there was absolutely nothing criminal about a man and his baseball bat.

He managed to get into work only half an hour late, but his tardiness and his bat were enough to earn him the side-eye from Carrie.

“Is it time to call in one of your favours already?” she asked as he deposited the potential weapon alongside his workstation.

“Not yet, but I’ll let you know,” he grinned at his friend and gave a quick look into Gallagher’s office. His boss was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s boss man?”

“Um, in there somewhere,” Carrie nodded, “tread lightly though, he seems a little moody today.”

Gallagher didn’t appear until Mickey went for his caffeine and sugar fix in the break room. He pressed his employee ID card against the sensor, retrieved the coke that tumbled down and turned to find Ian leaning next to the door, arms crossed, not looking happy indeed.

“Hey,” Mickey popped his soda open and took a sip as he watched Gallagher warily.

“Hey yourself,” Ian fidgeted, his lips a hard line, “so uh, did I force you out of the wrong side of bed this morning?”

Mickey let out a short laugh and flashed a sheepish smile, “nah man, I’m just not much of a morning person.”

Ian nodded, heart thudding from his nerves as he remained unconvinced. “Look Mickey, is this about last night? With my meds and everything? I know it’s a lot to deal with and you don’t have to pretend to be cool with it if you’re not.”

Mickey kicked himself mentally. His own Terry drama had overshadowed what had happened with him and Ian earlier. Of course Ian would think that Mickey’s darkening mood stemmed from that.

“Come on, Gallagher, I told you it’s fine. I had some shit to deal with; it has nothing to do with you.”

Ian only nodded again and stared at his shoes. Mickey clicked his tongue, frustrated that Ian didn’t simply believe him. He headed over to the door; made sure the coast was clear before locking it and reaching for Ian. He pushed his boss against the wall and covered his mouth with his. He didn’t understand how it is he knew they could both convey their sincerity with their bodies, but he wasn’t about to question it. He and Gallagher fed each other a lot of bullshit every day, so maybe it was a good thing that there was one way they couldn’t lie to each other; maybe it wasn’t.

It got heated between them quickly, so Mickey broke away before things got out of hand and they were discovered. He pushed Ian off and unlocked the door, but stayed while Ian finally smiled that happy, relieved grin that could make Mickey’s whole day.

“So we’re good then?” Ian asked, savouring the taste of Mickey and Coca-Cola on his lips.

“Yeah, we’re good.”

“So what was it then? You were pretty weird this morning, even for you.”

Mickey sighed as he looked at Ian, who was busy burning holes into him with his eyes. He contemplated lying and surprised himself by capitulating, defeated, “it’s my dad, okay? He’s getting paroled soon and I need to get a handle on it.”

Ian stared at Mickey’s discomfiture; the other man was toying with the coke can and barely maintaining eye-contact. Mickey never talked about his family, with the exception of the fond, but vague mentions of a sister and his brothers. “Oh, um, do you want some time off to go see him?”

Mickey laughed ruefully, “yeah, no, don’t worry about it. He’s not real keen to reconnect with his ‘pole-smoking queer’ of a son. That’s a direct quote by the way.” Mickey took a swig of his soda, desperately wishing it was beer and that he wasn’t seeing the gut-punching mix of understanding and pity unfold on Ian’s face. “We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms last time he was out, or I’m just making sure I’m prepared if he comes looking for me.”

Ian was horrified by the implications. “He knows where you are?”

“Don’t think so. Hopefully it stays that way, but better safe than sorry, you know?” Mickey’s movements were now quick jerks of agitation and Ian could feel his distress.

“He probably won’t even come looking though, right? Chicago’s a long way from New York,” Ian said in an attempt to reassure and soothe Mickey.

Mickey wanted to believe that, but you could never tell with Terry Milkovich. His dad might hate him, might have thrown him out of their house, but he had yet to tell Mickey that he was no longer his blood. If it’s one thing Mickey knew growing up, when you’re a Milkovich, you always come for blood. Still, Gallagher was trying to comfort him, so he nodded and gave him a small smile.

“I need to get to work before my boss gets on my ass,” Mickey smirked as he tossed the can and headed for the door. “He’s kind of a massive dick.”

Ian rolled his eyes and smiled at Mickey’s retreating form, “later then?” Mickey flipped him off and soon Ian was alone in the break room. A few minutes later, Ian was in the privacy of his office and on the phone with his brother.

“Lip, I need a favour.”


“Can you get me everything you can on a Terry Milkovich? He’s getting paroled soon out of Pontiac, I’m guessing.” Ian tapped his desk and watched Mickey joke with the co-workers, no signs of the anxiety he knew was plaguing him.

“I can see what I can do. What’s the deal?”

“Burning curiosity.”

“A week, huh?" Mickey rubbed his lower lip and adjusted his sister’s video feed on Skype so he could multitask while he spoke to her.

“Yup, fucker’s getting out. Uncle Ronnie will go get him as usual. Fingers crossed he gets T-boned on the highway.” Mandy sneered.

“Anyone home? I know Iggy’s crashing with his girl. Where’s the rest?” Mickey had been the glue that had held them together whenever Terry was in the clink. Without him running the family’s operations, things fell apart quickly. When he took off for New York, everyone made themselves scarce from a home with few good memories. Yet another thing Terry will want to flay him over.

“Tony and his girlfriend, maybe? The baby’s almost here and their trailer is a piece of shit, so…” Mandy shrugged, “maybe the random cousin or two?”

“Don’t fucking go over there when he comes home, Mandy,” He warned and his sister flipped him off, “I’m fucking serious.”

“I know, god, I’m not stupid. He’s gonna go ape shit when he sees everyone’s taken off.”

“You’re worried he might come looking?”

“He might want to, but he’s not smart enough to know how to even start going about it,” Mandy snorted derisively. “Auntie’s not going to roll on us. He can go get fucked.”

Mickey nodded, “what’s going on with that piece of shit boss you got then? You get all those articles and links I sent you?”

“Yeah. He’s still scum, but he’s backed off. The threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit seemed to do the trick where threatening to cut his balls off didn’t. Go figure.”

“Did you read any of that shit? I was researching that crap for days. You better have read them, and you tell your prick of a boss that when your brother threatens to cut off his balls, he means it. I will come up there and-”

“Oh will you chill out and keep your short-stack ass in New York?” Mandy huffed and rolled her eyes at her big brother, “speaking of which, how is the Big Apple? Any quality dick up there?”

Mickey had just brought up a picture of Gallagher as his sister asked the question and he couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Maybe.”

Mandy perked up immediately and she closed Candy Crush to bring up her brother’s video full screen. “There’s a guy?”

Mickey was blushing and Mandy was scooting closer and closer to the screen. “Spill!”

“I’m just fucking around with someone, alright? He’s more trouble than his dick is worth half the time.”

The bullshit was pungent and undeniable even across the internet. “So why don’t you dump his ass then.”

Mickey looked taken aback by the idea. “Fucker’s like sand, man. You try to shake him but he’s not going anywhere.”

Mandy sat up abruptly and lifted her laptop to her face. “Mickey, are you…did you just…did you just wax poetic about some dude you’re fucking? Mickey, do you like this guy?” Mandy squinted as her brother built up sputtering steam. “Holy shit, are you in love with this guy?!”

“No!” Mickey said the word so forcefully; he nearly levitated off his bed, “no, just no!”

“Oh my god!” Mandy squealed, “you so are! Any time you get flustered or caught out, you start doing that talking in threes shit!”

“I do not do that,” Mickey was waving his arms at his sister’s stupid face, “I don’t! I do not!”

“AAH!” Mandy rolled onto her back and kicked her legs in the air in excitement while her brother went to pieces. She flipped back over and thrust her flushed face up to the screen. “I knew your ‘Sex in the City’ watching ass would wait until New York to get yours!”

“Never watched that shit!”

“Yeah, you just sat beside me pretending to read ‘Guns & Ammo’ when I was watching,” Mandy chortled, “is he a Mr. Big or an Aiden? Jesus, don’t you tell me he’s a Burger!”

Mickey sighed heavily and wondered what had happened to his life. “Aiden,” he cringed when his sister screamed again. “He’s got Big’s money though.”

“Shut the front door! Why are you pulling the high quality ass all of a sudden? Where’d you meet this guy?”

“He’s my boss,” Mickey mumbled and Mandy thought her delight could not be any more complete.

“You big old corporate slut! You fuck your way right through that glass ceiling, my brother, I support you!”

“I fucking hate you,” Mickey ground out, “this conversation is so done; go die in a fire.”

Mandy giggled maniacally, but calmed down so she could dig up the rest of the dirt. “So, um, what’s his name?”

“Did you not hear me say this conversation’s done?”

“Stop being a little bitch and tell me the homo’s name, okay?”

Mickey glanced over at Ian’s smirking Google image and felt his smile fighting his way to the surface. “Ian.”

Mandy nodded slowly. “Ian, okay, that’s a great name. I’m cool, I’m level, I’m being mature about this,” her mouth trembled as he brother squinted suspiciously at her. She only lasted a minute more before she burst out singing at the top of her lungs, “Ian and Mickey sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-”

The screen went black as Mickey abruptly ended the video call. He rolled his eyes when his phone buzzed a second later.


Mickey deleted the message and prayed for a merciful God to take him now.

Ian sat at Lip’s dining table and stared in astonishment at the giant folder in front of him. Lip took the adjacent seat and slid a beer over to his shell-shocked brother.

“You said everything and anything I could find,” Lip offered by way of explanation, “his dedication to crime is certainly the stuff of legend.”

Ian made a small sound of horror and wonder as he took in the marvel that was Terry Milkovich’s rap sheet. It seemed less like a criminal profile and more like a roadmap of crime and punishment in the American justice system. He took a good look at the man himself, who looked sneering and angry in his mug shot. He knew it was Mickey’s dad, but he honestly couldn’t see Mickey anywhere in this large, angry, tattooed spectacle of a man glaring back at him. He flipped through the pages until he came to known associates, and the first page of that list was nothing but fellow Milkoviches, Mickey and his siblings being foremost among them. So Mickey had four brothers and a sister, all of whom had been through the courts and criminal detention at some point. All the kids lacked the truly scary quality their father had, and their resemblance to each other was more obvious. All six were sneering and smug in their mug shots, showing off their knuckle tattoos as best they could. Ian delved deeper into the rabbit hole, coming up on incident reports involving Terry and his family.

“Jesus,” Ian whispered, scanning the reports and the picture attachments of black eyes, swollen jaws and bruised bodies.

“CPS was up our asses all the time when they should have been burning that shit down,” Lip mumbled as he followed Ian’s horror. “Frank and Monica are worthless pieces of crap, but at least they weren’t slamming our heads into walls and pistol whipping us when we got out of line. Unsubstantiated, but it was alleged he got the girl pregnant at one point. Apparently, she looks a lot like their mom.”

Ian couldn’t even respond to that, having just come across a picture of Mickey when he must have been fourteen or so. In it, the boy had a black eye blooming and was smudged with dirt and God knows what else. Mickey at fourteen seemed so much older and more exhausted than the Mickey he knew now, and Ian ran his thumb over the picture, unconsciously trying to erase the smudges and bruises on Mickey’s face and neck; erase everything. Jesus, Mickey, what the fuck?

“He’s the one working for us?” Lip asked, jerking Ian out of his reverie.

“Yeah, he mentioned his dad was getting out. Seemed a little rattled by it, so I thought I’d check it out.”

“I figured the name was familiar. Can’t believe we still have one of our felon freebies on the payroll. You know this is a blatant violation of his privacy, right? This is problematic behaviour, Ian Gallagher,” Lip needled and Ian rolled his eyes at him.

“I’m not going to do anything with it; I was just concerned. He was acting so weird.” Ian got up from the table, needing to move to try and work out some of the emotions twisting around his spine. He needed to find Mickey, just to see him and make sure he was okay.

“You guys friends?”

Ian gave a noncommittal shrug, “Sort of, he’s been helping me with some of the map work and detailing. Good to have another person from the Southside consulting a little, you know?”

“Yeah…so uh, he okay?” Lip asked and when Ian looked at him quizzically, he tapped his head. “Ya know, in the old headspace?”

“Of course he is,” Ian couldn’t help getting defensive and angry. “Why the fuck would you even ask that?”

“Uh,” Lip spread his hands over the well-documented shitshow before him. “I’m just saying watch him, is all. We’re fucked in the head and we were living the fucking life of Riley compared to these guys. How do you walk away from that and not be screwed up?”

Ian remained silent and stepped out onto Lip’s balcony. How indeed?

Ian took another pull off his cigarette before handing it over to Mickey. They lay in Mickey’s bed, tangled up in sweaty sheets. Ian watched Mickey puff at the cigarette before leaning over to lick his nipples and trail kisses down to his abdomen. Mickey paused his channel surfing and rubbed Gallagher’s head.

“You’re fucking intense tonight, man,” Mickey murmured, “you’re already good to go again?”

“No, Jesus, I need a few more minutes,” Ian laughed, rolled over onto his back and rested his head on Mickey’s abdomen. The tester idly rubbed Ian’s chest and continued surfing for a movie.

“Fucking ‘Glee’ is still a thing? Christ,” Mickey muttered as he clicked past it. “Fuck Burt Hummel, man.”


“I could deal with the spontaneous, dumb ass singing and whatever, but Burt fucking Hummel, dude.  You have a fruity ass queer son who can shatter glass with his fucking voice and dresses like a fucking flamingo, but his grease monkey dad is just peachy keen with it. What the fuck ever.” Mickey snorted. Ian idly trailed his finger along the tattoos of the hand resting on his chest and hazarded a loaded question.

“How did your dad find out?”

For a while, Mickey didn’t answer and Ian was convinced he wasn’t going to, but a length, Mickey handed him the cigarette and clicked his tongue.

“Last stint in juvie; I’d just aged out and they were having a party for me—kind of a welcome home/coming of age thing. Big party too, Milkoviches know how to do it,” Mickey flashed a smile at Ian and tapped on his chest. “Anyway, there was booze, coke, the usual party favours and I was stupid, I got seriously fucked up. There was this guy, some roofer dude my brothers worked with sometimes.” Mickey shrugged as he told the story choppily, forcing Ian to fill in any blanks. “I don’t know, but we figured each other out. When the party was winding down, took him back to my room. My house had one working toilet and it’s in my fucking room, wouldn’t you know, and my dad had to take a piss just when the dude got balls deep in me.”

Mickey sighed and then gave a short bitter laugh as the memory unfolded, “My dad lost his shit. That dude was out of there so fast, sometimes I wonder if he was even there in the first place. There was no escaping my dad though, not for me.” Mickey shrugged, a feint at indifference, but Ian could see the blue eyes glistening and feel the fine tremor of Mickey’s hands. Mickey’s laugh was strained and shaky. “Man, he beat the living shit out of me; said he wasn’t going to have a son who’s some fucking AIDS monkey. I mean, what the fuck right?” Mickey inhaled sharply, “every time I thought it was over, he’d find a way to up the ante a little bit. By the time he got the luger, I fucking swore I was dead, but he just got some whore to fuck the fag outta me. Must have worked a little bit too, because you best believe I was straight right up until he got his ass thrown back in the can. Then the fag in me came roaring back and I actually fucked some random in my dad’s bed. Can’t fix stupid right?”

Ian’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. Instead, he looked down at Mickey’s hand on his chest and covered it with his own. What could he say? What was there to say? Frank had told him to find someone who’d fuck him for free, no matter the gender and that was it. His mother had taken him to his first gay club. Ian remembered being closeted and scared, but nothing like that. He looked back up at Mickey, who looked away from him quickly since tears were threatening to fall.

“You ready to go again or you still need some time, Firecrotch?” Mickey flipped over onto his stomach and killed the lights, plunging them both into welcoming darkness. Ian angrily wiped his eyes before stretching out alongside Mickey and reaching for him. It wouldn’t matter if Mickey hadn’t made it out unscathed. He’d take care of Mickey tonight, the way he intended to take care of him forever. 

Chapter Text

“Ian Fucking Gallagher…” Mickey mused as he lay in bed while dawn broke on another Sunday morning. That was all he thought about lately, and if Mickey was honest with himself, and he had to be, he no longer knew which end was up. He had no idea what he was supposed to be doing any more. He wasn’t sure if he should still pretend to want to keep Ian at bay, or if any of his rules were still in play. He was honestly beginning to wonder if he was Ian’s boyfriend or not, because admittedly, everything has gotten remarkably murky.

Gallagher was turning him inside out and every time Mickey caught sight of himself, he didn’t know whether to be happy or horrified by what he saw. His plan to keep everything simple and clean had gone laughably awry. Mickey felt as if he was trapped on a runaway train, where everything was beyond his control and all he could do was hold on for the wild ride and pray he survived.

Everything Gallagher wanted, he gave and he had been doing a piss-poor job of even trying to resist. Gallagher spent his nights in Mickey’s bed as he pleased and having accomplished that mission, had switched to a new task. Now, all Ian seemed focused on, besides burrowing under Mickey’s skin, was to have his employee gain an appreciation for slow fucking. Mickey hated it; at least he thought he did. He had certainly hated it before Ian cannoned into his life. Mickey was all about speed and power and domination, and hated the soft, slow, sensual bullshit of searching hands and exploring tongues. But of course, Gallagher was determined to change his mind.

He’d wake Mickey up in the middle of the night with those fucking hot hands of his burning their way up Mickey’s thighs and torso. He’d keep the pace deliberately slow, wouldn’t let Mickey take over and rev things up, just kept him pressed down into the bed while Ian's hands, tongue, lips and cock explored every square inch of Mickey’s body; finding places the tester didn’t even know he had. Mickey hated it, really, the way his whole body would tingle and burn and shake while Gallagher owned him over and over. He hated the way his eyes would sting and his whole being would strain against the need to confess things that would get him locked up in an entirely different sort of prison. Mostly, he hated the way he didn’t hate it at all; he liked it, craved it even, and had known he would have eventually.

Ian Gallagher was painting Mickey in his colours and it felt like Mickey couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it. Who would have thought that with his father only days away from freedom, that Terry Milkovich wouldn’t be the most terrifying figure in Mickey’s life anymore? Instead, it was a tall redhead with the smug smile and puppy eyes doing him in. It made sense in a way, because no matter how often Terry bruised him and broke his bones, nothing inside Mickey changed. He’d heal and he’d be exactly the same as before his father’s rampages. What Ian did was different; just methodically pulling him apart and breaking him down and rebuilding him the way he liked. Fuck if Mickey didn’t love it as much as he feared and hated it. If he was rebuilt in Ian’s image, what happens when Ian is gone?

Shit, maybe it would be fine if Terry came looking for him, because his dad would probably walk right by him on the street and not know his son. He barely recognised the smiling, happy, soft fuck he saw in the mirror lately. Ian Gallagher was making Mickey into his bitch and right then, Mickey didn’t only feel powerless about it, he was entirely unwilling to stop it. Fuck. Mickey rubbed his face tiredly and rolled out of bed.

He shuffled to his bathroom only to find Ian doing pull-ups in its doorway. He admired the view for a minute, the hard abs and defined muscles and the soft grunts Ian made. Gallagher eventually noticed him standing there.

“Hey,” Ian grinned and continued his work out. Clearly Ian was behind on the concept of lazy Sundays.

“Move,” Mickey grunted and Ian dropped to his feet, purposely sliding bodily against Mickey as moved past him.

Mickey stepped into the bathroom and hesitated briefly over the toothbrushes before choosing the right one. He was well into his routine before he realized that he shouldn’t have had to hesitate over the toothbrushes, because there should have been only one there. He looked down and confirmed that there was indeed another toothbrush that had no business being there. He slowed his brushing as he stared at it. Intrigued, he opened his medicine cabinet to find cologne and aftershave alongside his own and what appeared to be back up bottles of Ian’s prescriptions. It occurred to him that he also did not own a pull-up bar for Ian to show off on.

Mickey was now obsessed with following this thread. He finished in the bathroom and wandered back out to the living room where Gallagher was doing push-ups before his balcony doors. He headed into the kitchen where he noticed that there was a giant box of honey-nut Cheerios behind a slightly smaller box of Mickey’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The symbolism was not lost on Mickey. He opened his fridge to find that his usual half-gallon bottle of milk had been upgraded to a gallon one and there was a bunch of stuff in there that he certainly hadn’t bought. By the time he finished his inspection, Ian was sitting on the couch engrossed in his iPad.

“Gallagher?” Mickey began, standing behind the couch and looking down on a thoroughly unconcerned Ian.


“You remember telling me about that condo you have? The one overlooking Central Park and all that?”


“You still have it?”

Ian finally looked up at him dubiously, “I feel like this is all leading up to a question. What is it, Mick?”

“Why is all your shit here?”

“What shit?”

“Your shit!” Mickey waved his hands about as if Ian’s things would magically highlight themselves at his word. “Your pull-up bar, your toothbrush…your motherfucking cereal!”

“Oh... I need stuff to stay decent. You want me to use your toothbrush and eat your kiddie cereal?” Ian was irritatingly flippant about laying siege to Mickey’s life.

“Fine, you need stuff. Why isn’t this stuff at your own fucking house?”

“Jesus, Mickey,” Ian sighed and rolled his eyes heavenward before looking at Mickey once more, “do you want me to go?”

“No, I don’t fucking want you to go, I’m just asking why all your shit-” Fuck, he got tripped up again. The second he saw Ian’s giddy, satisfied smile, he knew he fucked up somewhere. He paused and tried another tack. “Look, I usually just stay in all day on a Sunday. You’re Madame Social Butterfly, you got important shit to do; is this really where you wanna spend your day off?”

“You’re here,” Ian responded simply, and how the fuck was Mickey supposed to respond to that? He only stared silently, feeling stupidly pleased and warm as Ian returned his attention to his device. “Ugh, battery is getting low,” the redhead muttered before getting up and heading for Mickey’s bedroom. “Your charger is in your nightstand, right?” Mickey didn’t even get a chance to answer as Ian began rooting through his shit. Well, at least he could appease his inner self-preservation urges by saying he at least tried to get rid of Gallagher.  

A little later, they had breakfast—Ian eating his Cheerios and buttered toast and drinking the fancy orange juice he had stocked Mickey’s fridge with. Mickey ate his own cereal silently, contemplating the odd turn of his life until almost choking on his milk when Ian reached out and rubbed his crotch with his foot. Mickey washed up the dishes after that, because there was nothing worse than dried, crusted on cereal to deal with later. Ian stood behind him the entire time, plastered to his back, arms wrapped around Mickey’s waist and teeth nipping at his shoulder; keeping Mickey distracted and hard until he finally finished.

They went back to bed and Ian at least had the decency to fuck him properly at first; good and hard and fast. Still the sun pouring in and bathing them in its light was fucking with them both and giving romantic notions, so they soon slowed down again. Mickey didn’t even have the luxury of deniability so he could blame it all on Gallagher either. He spent a good deal of the morning riding Ian at a slow, steady pace, doing the cringeworthy interlocking fingers shit, bending down every so often to taste and savour his boss. Mickey decided he would enjoy it now and kick himself about it later.

Morning filtered into afternoon and they were in and out of Mickey’s bed and bedroom the entire day on a steady cycle of eat-screw-rest. Mickey didn’t mind admitting that it really wasn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday. They had gone back to Mickey’s room and started phase two of the cycle all over again, only for Ian’s phone to ring.

“Don’t answer,” Mickey ordered as he sank his nails in Ian’s ass while the redhead surged into him.

“I have to, it’s Lip. He wouldn’t call now if it wasn’t something,” Ian sighed and answered his phone, “What?” If the depth and huskiness of his voice wasn’t a giveaway, the irritation in it was a pretty big clue.

“Ouch,” Lip murmured, “don’t have to ask if I’m interrupting anything.”

“What do you want?” Ian sighed, since Mickey was still pulsing around him and was leaning in to tug on his ear with his teeth.

“I need a few hours of your time,” Lip explained, “I’ve got a potential client, Harry Nissen—are you fucking kidding me?!” Lip snapped as the sounds of heavy breathing floated across to him. “You’re gonna fuck while I’m on the phone with you?!”

Ian pulled away from Mickey slightly and glared down at the smirking face before returning to his brother. “Don’t sound so scandalized. You’re the one who sat across from me at the table while your girlfriend was underneath it giving me a hummer.”

“What?” Mickey burst out incredulously.

“Long story,” Ian shrugged at him, “Lip wanted to see how gay I was, so he asked his girlfriend to blow me. Okay, it was a shorter story than I initially thought.”

“Did you like it?”

“No, I didn’t fucking like it!” Ian snapped irritably, “it was the very opposite of liking it. To this day I hate that loose bitch and her humid mouth.”

“Hey, whoa!” Lip groused over the phone.

“Seriously, are you still going to be offended on Karen’s behalf after she wiped her ass with you? You spent nine months thinking you were gonna be the father of her half-Chinese baby!”

Mickey had not expected to hear this much Jerry Springer drama from Gallagher, especially while his boss was technically still in the process of screwing him. Mickey groaned when Ian moved against a sensitive spot, effectively distracting Gallagher and alerting his brother to what was still happening. At least it quashed the escalating argument.

“Will you disengage your dick for five minutes so we can have a conversation like human beings?!”

Ian gave a heavy sigh of longsuffering and finally pulled away from Mickey. “Seriously, what?”

“I have a potential client, big one. Apparently, his daughter has been a fan since Slaughter days and thinks the sun shines out your ass. I need you to help me wine and dine them for a few hours.”


“Down at the club, forty-five minutes,” Lip paused before hanging up, “that your gym buddy? When am I going to get to say hi?”

Ian rudely hung up the phone on his brother. He was going to have to tell Lip the truth sooner or later, but he needed to be on surer footing with Mickey first.

“Gotta go?” Mickey asked when Ian sat up in bed. He rolled over and burrowed into his pillows when the redhead nodded. “Good, I can try and salvage some of my Sunday then.”

Ian only smiled at Mickey’s back before bending down and gently biting his yet to be defined significant other on the ass. “Want to shower with me? Twice the hands, half the time, right?”

“Man, get the hell out of my apartment.”

It started pouring while Ian was taking his shower, and Mickey half hoped that Lip would call and cancel whatever it was he had planned. Ian’s phone remained silent, however, so Mickey reluctantly got up and went in search of an umbrella. By the time he dug one out of his closet and headed into his living room, Ian was buttoning his jeans and hauling on one of Mickey’s T-shirts that he must have grabbed on the way out of the room. Mickey tried to ignore the weird, fluttery feeling that gave him. He leaned next to the door and watched while Ian finished getting ready.

“Not sure how long this will take,” Ian said, slipping a hand under Mickey’s tank and resting it on his waist while leaning in close. “So, don’t know if or when I’ll be back in tonight.”

“Whatever,” Mickey murmured, no heat or bite behind it, pretending that he wasn’t waiting on that knowing smirk, and for Ian to kiss him until he was soft and stupid. That’s exactly what happened; Ian cradling his face and squeezing his hip and kissing him like he was going off to war, rather than heading to mid-town Manhattan for an adult play date. Ian barely pulled back when he was done. He rested his forehead against Mickey’s and looked at him with that dumb, moony look on his face while Mickey stared back feeling softer and stupider than anyone had any right to be. Fuck. In an act of near desperation, he thrust the umbrella at Ian and shoved him off. The idiot only smirked a little harder, whispered “later” and headed out. Mickey closed the door and smacked his head against it a few times and willed the pounding in his chest to subside. If the other shoe was going to drop, he needed it to happen soon, because really, this was getting goddamned ridiculous.

The only other person in the elevator when it opened for Ian was a pretty, posh blonde with the most epic sex hair imaginable. She looked positively giddy and when Ian floated in next to her, they grinned at each other idiotically.

“Nice day, huh?” she breathed out happily.

“The best,” Ian sighed back.

It was not, in fact, a nice day; not anymore at least. It was pouring cats and dogs—a thing neither Ian nor the blonde realized until they stepped out into the lobby of the apartment building. They had been too preoccupied to look out a window before leaving. At least that explained the umbrella he was holding. Ian had thought that this was another case of Mickey being weird bordering on insane when it came to intimacy issues.

“Catching a cab? I can cover you until you flag one down,” Ian offered.

“That’s so nice! You’re going to ‘gimme shelter’ like the Rolling Stones,” she tittered, only stopping when she saw Ian looking at her like an escaped mental patient, “you know, the Rolling Stones had a song called ‘gimme shelter,’ and you’re offering to shelter me and… You know what, ignore me, I’m a little loopy right now.”

Ian could understand the feeling, and the two strangers huddled under Mickey’s umbrella, swapping lame jokes and observations until an empty cab at last came along.

The next day, Ian’s good mood was palpable when he came onto the floor. He greeted his team, chanced a fleeting look at Mickey which broadened his smile, and flounced off into his office.

“Uh, look at him,” Carrie shook her head in amazement as she watched Ian settle into his office. “Just happier than a motherfucker. That must be some grade-A punani.”

“Excuse me?” Mickey raised a brow at his neighbour.

“You wouldn’t know this, but usually this close to crunch time with a new release looming, Ian is an antsy, stressed-out time bomb. Now look at him! Smiling like a simpleton while he texts some piece of ass.”

Ian was doing just that and in plain view of his inquisitive staff. A second later, Mickey could feel his phone vibrating against his thigh and he cleared his throat loudly to cover the faint, humming sound.

“It is true, Mickey,” Raj propelled himself over to the duo in his swivel chair to help stir the gossip pot. “By now, we would be practising emergency manoeuvres in case he has a meltdown and tries to strangle Nate; but he was been quite happy and level.”

“Yeah, okay, but why would you think it’s because of pu… I can’t even say that shit.”

“Only that can truly tame the savage beast, my friend,” Raj mused and Carrie nodded in full agreement.

“I know that’s how it was in my case,” Carrie added and Mickey rolled his eyes, “especially when it belongs to a pretty blonde with a high, tight ass.”

“You are out of your mind,” he muttered and set about ignoring them.

“Are we though, Mickey? Are we? Well shove this in your vision holes!” Carrie said dramatically before turning her computer screen. “Boom!”

Mickey squinted at the news article “Mini-mall heiress canoodles with video game mogul in the rain.”

“What the fuck?!” Mickey stared at the picture in disbelief.

“I don’t know about you, but that’s the look of love, baby.” Carrie nodded at the picture of Ian and the mystery woman, both looking completely besotted and romantic under Mickey’s goddamned umbrella.

“Okay, firstly, you read the Daily Mail? Really?” Mickey withered and his friend puffed out her cheeks at him.

“This is supposed to be a judgement free zone, Mick! And yes, while I acknowledge their right-wing, redneck views are complete horse manure, their celebrity news and gossip always be on point, so shut the fuck up.”

“Secondly,” Mickey continued undaunted, “nothing in that article makes any sense. They’re talking and sharing an umbrella, big effing deal, they just want to spin news out of thin air.”

“Why must you rail against love, Michael?” Raj asked him sadly, “first you deny ours, why must you deny Ian’s?”

Mickey could not roll his eyes hard enough without hurting himself irreversibly.

It was Ian’s mystery lady who held the elevator door open for him in the lobby of Mickey’s building. “Hi,” she greeted as Ian settled next to her, “I’m so sorry about the news articles. They’ll blow over soon, I swear. I’m not even like half Kardashian level or anything.”

“It’s fine,” Ian shrugged a shoulder, “it’s been ages since I’ve been in the gossip columns anyway. I was starting to feel quite nostalgic about it.”

He got off on Mickey’s floor and told her to hold it for an elderly lady on her way in. Mickey heard him and opened the door only to glimpse Blondie holding the elevator. He raised a brow at her before pinning Ian with a glare.

“What?” Ian asked obliviously before surmising the problem, “oh come on, like you really believed that shit?”

“It’s okay!” Blondie yelled to Mickey as the old lady shuffled into the elevator, “I’ve got mine on the eighth floor!”

“Yeah?” Mickey responded dryly, “you go get it then,” and abruptly closed the door. He ignored Ian’s grin and shoved past him.

“You’re such an idiot, Mick.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Did you know I’m Irish Catholic?” Ian toyed with the last condom left of the pack as he watched Mickey move around the room tossing things into his laundry bag.

“Yeah, you’re telling me a pale ginger named ‘Gallagher’ is Irish Catholic?” Mickey responded with mock incredulity. “Tell me more wondrous things; is the Pope Catholic too?”

“Dick,” Ian mumbled and shifted in his place on the bed. “I’m just saying, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the tenets of the Church and how much I’ve been neglecting them, you know.”

“Please, it’s stuffy enough in here without you shovelling bullshit, Gallagher,” Mickey sniffed, “when’s the last time you stepped foot inside a church?”

“The christening of Fiona’s last baby, I think?” Ian answered easily, “Still,” Ian pressed on, “just because I’m not a good Catholic doesn’t mean I have to be a horrible one and disregard all the rules.”

Mickey sighed as he retrieved a shirt from underneath the bed. He didn’t know if it was his or Gallagher’s, but he supposed it hardly mattered now. “And what rule in particular has you losing sleep at night?”

Ian eyed the foil packet in his hands, flipped it into the air and caught it. “The Church does feel pretty strongly about the use of birth control…”

“The Church also feels pretty strongly about one dude fucking another one up the ass. Don’t hear you sobbing about that at night.”

“Actually, this new Pope seems cool about it,” Ian responded lightly, “I think he’s down with the rainbow.”

“Uh huh, well we aren’t using it for birth control, Gallagher; we’re using it for protection. So if that’s what’s troubling your pretty little head, worry no more.” Mickey got down on his knees to fish more socks and clothes from beneath his bed. How they got under there he’d never know.

“Well, okay, but protection from what though?” Ian crawled over to address Mickey’s ass, which was waving in the air as he tried to nab clothing just beyond his reach. “I’m spending the gross domestic product of a small country on condom purchases and it occurs to me that maybe we don’t really need them anymore. You don’t think so?”

Mickey came up abruptly, just narrowly avoiding a collision between his head and Ian’s. He got to his feet and stared down at the younger man. Ian’s expression was so uniquely his—that odd mix of puppy dog appeal, hope and a certain smugness that came from knowing he’d get his way eventually, but was only unsure about how and when.

“I really don’t want to use them anymore, Mick,” Ian said, spurred to fill the silence that stretched on. He picked nervously at his sweatpants. “They steal sensation, you know.”

“'Steal sensation’? You come like a fucking volcano every single time. You really need more sensation?”

“Well, imagine what it would be like without them?” he offered sheepishly.

Mickey knew this wasn’t really about less or more sensation, or any such bullshit. Ian might not like using condoms, which was fine, because Mickey didn’t either, but that was hardly the point. Mickey knew exactly what Ian was asking and hoping for. It wasn’t simply about ditching condoms; it was about trust and blood tests and exclusivity and belonging. It was about commitment and Mickey investing yet another chunk of himself while he kept waiting for the end. He hated how readily he bought into Gallagher’s romantic idealism.

It wasn’t as if Mickey didn’t want to take that step. He wanted to more than anything, given the significance behind it. Ian had only to suggest it and suddenly it became everything he’d ever wanted. Mickey felt as if he was following the Pied Piper to his doom, even knowing how the ending would go while he wished for another one. Ian was tricking them both into thinking this could be the real deal and that they had a shot at making it work. What he needed to know was how much longer they had: days, weeks, a year? The longer this went on, the more he lost and Mickey needed to keep something for himself before there was nothing left. Where was he supposed to draw the line?

“So what you’re saying is, you want me to stop fucking other people?”

Mickey had never seen the light and air go out of someone so spectacularly. Ian’s entire being seemed to go cold as he stared wordlessly at Mickey, who stared coolly back.

“You’re still fucking other people?” Ian asked quietly, his voice low and hollow. Mickey snorted impatiently and, without answering, dragged his laundry bag outside the room to pick up whatever was scattered out there. Ian was off the bed and on his heels within seconds. “You’re still fucking other people?!”

Mickey ignored the climbing volume and urgency of Ian’s voice and dumped the bag behind the couch. He idly scanned the room for any dirty laundry despite Ian literally breathing down his neck.

“Mickey!” fed up with being ignored, Ian grabbed his arm and spun him around. Mickey’s response was immediate and reflexive. You don’t put your hands on a Milkovich like that without him coming out swinging. He managed to stop short of flat-out decking Gallagher, but shoved him hard and sent him stumbling backwards. He thought Ian would back down from the aggressive response, but the man just bounced right back into personal space.

“The fuck, Mickey?”

“Jesus, what?!” Mickey glared back, “I ask a simple fucking question and you lose your shit? What the hell are you so pissed about?”

Ian’s eyes were glowing hot by then, his body giving off an entirely different form of light and heat. “You’ve been fucking someone else? Who? When?!” Suddenly, every lonely weekend and those missed hours at the office were recast in a lurid light and Ian felt as if he was losing his mind.

“What the fuck does that matter?” Mickey replied irritably, “this is supposed to be a physical arrangement, right? ‘Booty call;’ your words, Gallagher.”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

“What, you thought this was something else?” Mickey sneered, “I’ve been sticking to the script. If you went and changed the narrative in your head to some fucking fairytale... well, that is not my fucking problem!”

It was taking everything Ian had not to start strangling Mickey right then and there. That he could think nothing had changed with them was ludicrous. He couldn’t help but feel Mickey was also goading him into playing some sick mind game for whatever messed up purpose Mickey had in his own head. Fuck if it wasn’t working though. Jealousy and rage burned and coalesced into something alien and dangerous in his gut and it was seeping into his brain.


“Excuse me?” Mickey raised his brows, looking amused and challenging all at once.

“You were doing it? Fine, what’s done is done; but you stop now,” Ian gritted out as he tapped Mickey’s chest. “It stops now. You don’t fuck around on me.”

Mickey didn’t know how, but Ian got even more into his face. Lately, he figured it’s one of Ian’s superpowers—the ability to get closer even though it seems like he was already beyond the limit—despite having burrowed in too deeply already.

“Fuck you,” Mickey spat, “I let you put it in me a few times and you think I’m your boy now? I’m not your bitch, you don’t tell me what to do.”

“I swear to god, Mickey!” Ian exploded and slammed his fist into the wall next to Mickey’s head. He didn’t want to be this angry, hadn’t gotten this emotional over something in ages; but the hurt and rage of Mickey’s callousness and the shock of finding out they were nowhere near where he had hoped they were, were fuelling something inside him.

Mickey didn’t flinch when Ian lashed out and punched the wall. Growing up the way they did, it would take a heck of a lot more than some guy throwing a tantrum to make any Milkovich balk. There’s was a fleeting thought about whether or not Ian had hurt himself, but Ian didn’t seem to favour his hand when he pulled back. Instead of being afraid or anxious, Mickey was perversely turned on by the unfolding events and he was more than willing to keep poking the bear. He was not proof against Ian’s sweetness and tenderness—he had no defence against those. Gallagher’s anger and burgeoning aggression, however, were finally something familiar and on his level. This he understood; this he could deal with. Mickey grew up with anger as his playground and violence as his most practical toy. Ian Gallagher wanted to get crazy? Mickey Milkovich could get crazy.

“I swear to god, Mickey, if you don’t stop I’ll-”

“You’ll what, huh?” Mickey’s voice dripped with disdain as he took Ian on, “what would you do, tough guy? You’re just some soft shit who used to be real Southside. I could get some dick in here now and fuck him in front of you, you couldn’t do jack!” Mickey snorted and backed off, apparently about to resume his laundry duties, while Ian slowly turned the colour of his own hair.

Mickey turned his back on Ian, but he knew what was coming; knew it was coming long before even Ian did and was more than prepared for it. So when Ian came at him this time, bent on doing damage, side-stepping him was no problem. Later on, Mickey would tell Ian that if he wanted to keep hanging around with him, the redhead was going to have to learn to start planting his feet. Mickey avoided Ian’s lunge and caught him around his chest. He tossed him over the back of the couch easily, using Ian’s own momentum against him. Ian tumbled off the couch and banged painfully into the center table.

Adrenaline and fury got him back on his feet quickly. Mickey still stood behind the couch, watching and waiting for Ian to recover. He only raised his eyebrows and cocked his head as Ian glowered at him. “What’re you gonna do?” he mouthed and the goading had Ian coming after him with a bellow and a flying tackle over the couch. Unlike Ian, he knew to plant his feet and withstood the worst of the charge. He caught Ian again and twisted his body so Ian hit the floor first with Mickey landing heavily on top of him. Ian had speed and power, but it had to be a while since he’d been in a proper fight; especially a fight against someone who fought dirty and often, and was used to taking down guys twice his size.

Mickey quickly straddled his opponent, preparing to restrain him and finish this quickly, only for Ian to surge up and head-butt him hard. “Fuck!” they yelled in unison as they both clutched their foreheads in agony. Mickey fell backwards and Ian scrambled to take advantage. He was about to clamber over Mickey while he lay on his back, still clutching his face, only for Mickey to kick out and knock his leg out from under him. He crashed forwards and his face collided painfully with Mickey’s chest. The ex-con sent a hard knee into Ian’s abdomen and shoved him off. He quickly straddled him again, one knee trapping Ian’s left hand, while Mickey held on to the right. His fist was pulled back, ready to let fly and mess up that pretty face that had been messing Mickey up since day one.

He glared down at Ian, while Ian glared up at him. Finally, Mickey eased up, letting his fist drop and giving Ian back the use of his hands. Mickey’s erection was evident and hard to the point of being painful. He smirked suggestively when he saw Ian’s eyes flick from his eyes to his crotch and back again.

“Told you; soft like melted ice cream, man. You wouldn’t last a day back home,” he grinned as Ian’s glare sharpened, and he reached back behind him to grasp the turgid bulge in Ian’s pants he’d hoped he would find. “Except for that… Now that’s the one part of you that’s always hard.”

Ian reached up and twisted his hands into Mickey’s hair and yanked him sideways; mostly hip to the game now. Mickey hissed as he was dragged down onto his back, but helpfully lifted his hips when Gallagher roughly tugged down his track pants.

“You’re a fucking head case,” Ian spat on his hand, palmed Mickey’s dick and began jerking him off in quick harsh strokes. Mickey laughed as he did the same for Ian.

“Look who the fuck’s talking!” he panted as he rubbed his thumb over the slit of Ian’s cock. His boss gave a stuttered laugh in spite of himself.

“Fuck you, Mickey,” Ian growled as he bit along Mickey’s jaw line. “Just fuck you.”

Later, when Mickey floated somewhere between earth and clouds as Ian pressed his head into the pillows and slammed mercilessly into him, he toyed with the now empty condom packet and anticipated the moment they no longer require them. Above and behind him, Ian was grunting possessive, jealous swears that went straight to Mickey’s dick and made his eyes roll back. Ian Gallagher may always get what he wanted the way he wanted it, but at least this time, so did Mickey.

“Yo, sleepy face,” Mickey nudged the sleeping man in the ribs and only managed to get him to roll over with a groan. That was all he needed though and he slapped the bag of frozen peas over Ian’s face and jolted him awake.


“Keep that on your eye and avoid the shiner. I like you pretty.” Mickey ordered, smiling a little as he stood next to the bed. Ian groaned again and sat up. He could definitely feel the tenderness around his eye from banging into the table, so he put the peas back on. His ribs felt sore, but that seemed to be the extent of it. He looked up at Mickey, who sported a minor split lip and angry looking hickeys all over his neck. Ian knew beneath the tank top and the sweats, Mickey’s hips told a similar story. Ian was still processing what happened earlier.

“The fuck, Mickey?” he asked simply.

“I’m not fucking anyone else,” Mickey rolled his eyes heavenward, “where the fuck would I find the time even? You’re the only fucker I’ve been with since I moved here.”

Ian’s emotions had been ping-ponging all over the place all evening. He gaped at Mickey who stared back indolently. “You couldn’t just tell me that?! You had to make me go all crazy?! Why didn’t you just say so?!”

“I could have, but then how is that fun for me?” Mickey grinned at Ian’s gobsmacked expression. He fussed with the makeshift ice-pack, using the motion to cover the fact he was stroking Ian’s face. “Look, it’s not that scandalous right? Every so often, I’m gonna need you to try and toss me around a little. Once in a while, I like the taste of a little blood in my mouth—mine, yours, doesn’t matter.”

When Ian just kept staring, Mickey became a little self-conscious and defensive. “Seriously, choir boy? You never fought and fucked before?”

“No, can’t say that I have,” Ian said slowly, “I have seen a shit ton of porn like that though.”

The admission made Mickey relax immediately, “so what, you didn’t like it? Too much? You seemed to like it.” Mickey pointed out a little sheepishly.

That was the thing, Ian had liked it; not the emotional manipulation of the moment, but certainly the physical aspect. He also liked the fact that Mickey was smiling at him a little easier and was being more affectionate and demonstrative all of a sudden, as if Ian had unlocked some secret door. Mickey had clearly been a little worried about Ian judging what he liked. Ian thought this was crazy because if he was going to love Mickey, why would he only love parts of him? Still, it was a scary that someone could just reach inside him like that, flip him into monster-mode like flipping a switch. Ian couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt out-of-control when he wasn’t manic. He thought for him, those levels of emotional intensity had been locked away behind a curtain of medication and conditioning, and the realization that they weren’t was simultaneously a relief and terrifying.

“I liked it,” Ian admitted and Mickey glowed, “but don’t tell me shit like that again, Mickey, Jesus. If you want me to knock you around so bad, tell me something like Picard sucks against Kirk or whatever.” Mickey guessed that answers his Star Trek or Star Wars question. He nodded his agreement.  

“And I’m serious about the whole no fucking around thing,” Ian mumbled as swung his legs off the bed to stop the peas dripping onto the bed.

“I already told you I wasn’t.”

“Well yeah, but I mean, you know, officially,” Ian finally looked up at him; all puppy eyes, no underlying hint of smugness, whole fucking heart on his sleeve. Shit.

Fuck, Mickey just had zero defences against Gallagher’s shit. He grabbed his box of cigarettes off the night table and nervously pawed it for a cigarette, stalling for time. He fumbled as he lit it, green eyes boring into him the whole fucking time.

“Fine, whatever. You coming with me to do the laundry or you gonna be a fucking lump in my bed all night? I need those sheets too.” Ian’s face was too damn bright to be stared at directly and Mickey looked away, hot and embarrassed.   

Maybe Gallagher was fooling them both, and maybe the shoe was going to fall sooner rather than later, but fuck it, Mickey Milkovich was all in. 


Chapter Text

Mickey had the best timing. It was one of the gazillion things Ian loved about him. At the time Mickey sent him the message, Ian had been stressed and frazzled by his to-do list for Rumble’s release, and he just wanted another Friday to end. His phone chimed, alerting him that he had received a personal email from his new boyfriend, who never sent anything. He clicked the attachment suspiciously to see Mickey’s medical record pop up. Beneath the three pages of comprehensive test results was Mickey’s succinct message, “all clear, good to go.” Ian had never smiled so widely.

He had sent Mickey’s his results days earlier and hadn’t received a word of response. He should have known though, Mickey liked it when he made Ian sweat. He looked out his office window, grinning like a maniac, and caught Mickey smiling back at him. Mickey wiggled his eyebrows suggestively before disappearing behind his monitor before someone caught them.  Ian could not wait for the weekend to begin.

Mickey honestly could not remember the last time he went bareback with a guy. He had always been terrified of catching something. It had not even so much being afraid of the disease itself, but scared of whatever he might catch cluing in his family and friends. Now, he was about to embark on a relationship literally without a safety net. He stared down at the naked man beneath him and rocked his hips forward. Ian hissed and moaned at the rough sensation of Mickey’s jeans against his bare skin and reached up to grip his boyfriend’s hips to steady him.

“Come on; get naked already,” Ian whined, “your fucking jeans feel like sandpaper.”

Mickey bit his lip and quickly peeled off his shirt before shifting to get his pants off. He felt nervous and excited, as if he was about to get fucked for the first time. Ian was no better, just impatient and demanding and desperate as he helped Mickey yank off his jeans and boxers and toss them.

“It probably won’t feel all that different,” Mickey warned, trying to lower both his and Ian’s expectations. He shoved Ian back down onto his back and resumed his tortuous grind against the redhead. Ian didn’t respond, just reached for the lube off the nightstand and squirted a generous amount onto his fingers of his right hand. Mickey wet his lips and felt himself throb with anticipation. “God, I’m going to be washing sheets and towels everyday from now on, aren’t I?” Ian snorted and dragged Mickey down until their lips were pressed together. “Don’t worry; I’ll buy you a truckload.”

He massaged Mickey’s neck slowly as he kissed him, until Mickey was sighing into his mouth and relaxed and stretched out on top of him. The tester’s body tensed slightly when Ian’s warm slicked fingers ghosted over his entrance. Ian deepened the kiss and thrust up against Mickey, distracting him as his first finger sank into Mickey’s warmth. Mickey groaned deeply as Ian’s fingers worked inside him and twisted his fingers into the red hair as he matched Ian’s thrusts with his own. Mickey finally sat up, panting hard and shoved Ian’s hands down to his hips.

 He braced one hand against Ian’s chest and reached under to hold the Ian’s cock in the other so he could slowly lower himself down onto it. Ian watched mesmerized, taking in the taut muscles and planes of Mickey’s body as his boyfriend exhaled and sank down onto him.

“Fuck Mickey,” Ian moaned breathily. He waited until Mickey was fully seated before he sat up and wrapped his hands around his boyfriend’s waist.

“Oh God,” Mickey breathed as his eyes rolled back. It did feel good; ridiculously good. He didn’t know how it was remotely possible for anything to feel that good. He could have sworn they had already bottomed out before, but apparently not. He kept a hand entangled in Ian’s hair and the other wrapped around the broad shoulders, and slowly began to move.

“Ian…” Mickey sighed as he rocked his hips and tilted his head to give his boss more room to suck and bite along his neck. He had barely established a rhythm when he heard Ian let out a few muffled “fucks” while he buried his face in Mickey’s neck. “You didn’t…” Mickey deadpanned.

Ian hugged Mickey close as he convulsed and shuddered through his release. When his orgasm receded, he didn’t dare move, for after the intense pleasure came the equally intense shame.

“You fucking didn’t,” Mickey said incredulously.

“Sorry,” Ian mumbled in Mickey’s neck. It had all been a bit much. He had not expected it to feel that kind of insanely good either. Plus, he just really loved the way Mickey said his name. Mickey started to pull away and he quickly tightened his grip and kept him in place. “No, don’t move yet,” Ian beseeched, “you feel so good.”

“God-fucking-dammit, you lasted ten fucking seconds!” Mickey smacked the back of Ian’s head, but obediently stayed in place, “all that build up for what?!”

“It felt more like twelve,” when this earned him another smack to the head, he switched back to apologetic, “sorry.”

“I let Nurse Ratched take half my goddamn blood and ask me how many ways I take it up the ass just for you to last ten fucking seconds. Get the fuck off me, you fucking man-child,” Mickey finally shoved Ian off, getting far too hot and uncomfortable to allow for Ian’s brand of clinginess any longer. He flopped onto his back and glared up balefully up at his boyfriend, who smiled back sweetly and apologetically.

“I’m sorry, but give me a break, I can’t remember the last time I had sex without a raincoat. Probably Kash?” Ian mused.

“Yes, because now would be an excellent time to tell me about your sexual adventures with your paedophiliac, geriatric ex-boyfriends.”

Ian rolled his eyes and leaned down to lick Mickey’s nipples and plant kisses down his chest. “But I ain’t never had nothing like you, baby,” Ian drawled before blowing a raspberry into Mickey’s belly button and tickling his sides, sending Mickey off into paroxysms of laughter.

“Shut the fuck up and say it with suction,” Mickey ordered and shoved Ian’s head down.  He fell back against his pillows as Ian began slowly sucking him off. He quickly settled into the bliss of it until Ian popped up again.

“You know, I don’t know if it’s embarrassing or not to point this out, and I know it’s fucking up your sheets, but it looks really hot when it leaks back—mmph!” Mickey thought that sometimes Ian’s mouth was better served being occupied with things other than words, so he shoved his dick in it.

“Okay, I’m ready again,” Ian said after a while and sat up. Mickey was willing to make an exception for those words though, and the rock hard erection that came with them.

“Try not to move too much,” Ian warned as he sank into Mickey slowly for the second time that night. Mickey only grunted and slid his hands down Ian’s back to grope his ass. “And no touching yet!” Ian snapped, managing to get buried to the hilt without major incident.

Mickey yanked his hands away, startled. “How about breathing? Can I breathe, is that allowed?”

Ian went still and appeared to think it over. “Yes, but not excessively.”

Mickey burst out laughing, which in turn set Ian off laughing and very nearly resulted in a repeat of the Carol’s office incident. Ian pulled out in time and managed to stem the tide.

“You suck so much right now,” Mickey teased.

“Fuck you alright. I’m acclimatizing,” Ian sniffed defensively. “Are you going to take this seriously or what?”  

“How can I? I'm trying to get fucked, not take my SATs,” Mickey giggled and Ian swatted him. He lay back and beckoned to Ian to try again. “Okay let’s go. I’m light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

“Fucking hate you right now,” Ian thrust deeply into Mickey in one fast fluid motion, since a slow entry was clearly a bad idea. Ian went still, struggling for control before chancing movement again. Mickey was adjusting as well, but he could afford a bit of mischief. He cleared his throat.

“You know-”

“Shh!” Ian shushed.

“I’m just saying-”


“You’re not giving me a cha-”

“Mickey, I swear to God!”

“I’m just saying!” Mickey persevered, “I think I know how those Wild West guys felt when they were transporting all that nitro-glycerine. I mean one wrong move and boom!”

Ian gave the heaviest sigh of longsuffering.

“Hey, can you feel the vibrations of my voice in my ass? No? How about if I really lower my voice like thi—mmph!” Ian shoved his tongue down Mickey’s throat with the thought that sometimes Mickey’s mouth was better served being occupied with things other than words.

It turned out to be the best course of action, not only shutting Mickey up, but it served to calm Ian down enough to regain some of his control. He deepened the kiss and rolled his hips, and was rewarded by Mickey arching against him. Ian pulled back slightly so he could look into Mickey’s eyes properly.

“Good?” he whispered, quickening the pace a little. Mickey groaned and nodded before going back to his original intention of squeezing Ian’s ass. Encouraged, Ian went faster until both their breaths came in short gasps and Mickey was moaning his name again. He found Mickey’s sweet spot and kept aim, until he felt his boyfriend clenching around him.

“Fuck, Ian, I’m gonna come already,” Mickey panted.

“Oh thank fuck. I don’t have another minute left in me,” Ian admitted, and Mickey discovered that laughing while he came was really kind of awesome.

6:10 a.m.

Gallagher was calling him at six in the morning and Mickey wasn’t due to wake up for another hour and twenty minutes.  He groped for the phone and was nearly blinded by the glare off his cell. He finally managed to hit the answer button to hear Ian’s agitated voice.

“Can you come in now? I need to see you.”

“What, at work?” Mickey asked thickly, not all his synapses firing as quickly as they should.


A brief shower and an expensive cab ride into lower Manhattan later, Mickey was stumbling into his workplace two hours early. This had better not be about sex, or it had better be about sex; Mickey had no idea what he was supposed to want at the moment. Ian was in his office, pacing like a caged animal in front of the Monster, stopping to glare at the screen periodically.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted after dumping his bag at his workstation.

“Have you seen this shit?” Ian fumed, waving his hands at the giant screen. Ian’s avatar idled in a neighbourhood of gaudily coloured and decorated houses nestled amongst garish scenery.

“Where is this, Vegas?” Mickey asked as he climbed over to sit on the back of the couch and grab Ian’s controller.

“No, that is not Vegas. That piece of crap is supposed to be one of the smaller gated communities in the North side of Southside Rumble. There are two side-missions located there as well as a safe house. It’s also a pretty decent shortcut to a health restore point and a cop bribe. So, in summary, it will be a fairly high traffic area and Nate has seen fit to hijack it and make it look like it was designed by Willy fucking Wonka!”

“Oh, this is what Carrie and the guys were taking about,” Mickey deduced, “none of my levels have taken me in there yet. What the fuck though?”

“He’s done this for every game since Slaughter. Just takes over a small part of the game and fucks with it—calls it an Easter egg or his calling card or some fucking shit just to drive me insane. He knows I’m a little obsessive about things looking and behaving exactly the way I imagine them!”

“‘A little obsessive’ he says,” Mickey muttered under his breath, “highlarious.”

“So now, just like every other time, I’m going to have to be on his ass until the very end and wind up bribing him to fix this shit. How are you going to turn Chatsworth Estate into the freaking Red Light District?!”

Mickey piloted the avatar around the gated community and agreed this was definitely not the aesthetic of the opulent Chicago North side. It was a very minor area of the game map, but it was discordant with the surrounding communities and would be a bit of a jarring transition coming across it suddenly within the game.

“What is with this guy anyway?” Mickey asked as he continued his tour, “why is he always busting your balls with this stuff?”

“Ah, he thinks Lip and I screwed him over.”

“Did you?”

“Well, I guess, maybe. Everyone else got the hell over it though!” Ian shrugged when Mickey looked at him curiously over his shoulder. “Nate and the rest of the OG team all went to school where Lip did his engineering degree. When I pitched Lip the idea, he pitched it to them and they agreed to create the game for me. Lip drew up the contract we all signed—spent weeks researching contract laws and cases and all that shit. It was fucking brilliant. On the surface, the contract seemed like standard boilerplate share and share alike, but the fine print? That ensured that the OGs would get one flat fee, plus a small percentage of the profits from the sale of Slaughter and nothing else beyond that. He got them to sign away any and all claims to any game or character designs—any rights they believe they might have to any aspect of the game. The contract stated that Lip and I were the exclusive owners of everything, screw everyone else. You can’t fuck with Lip.”

“Jesus, I’ll keep that in mind.” Mickey said. He had to respect and admire that bit of hustle.

“Yeah, Lip loved it so much; he went straight into Corporate Law after he was done with engineering. We were all cool after a while and I offered all of the OGs jobs when we started Southside Enterprises. The only one who’s still being a little bitch about the whole thing is Nate, and I think it’s because he’s smarting from being bested by Lip. He fancies himself something of a Renaissance man.” Ian sighed and rested his chin on Mickey’s shoulder and watched his walk around the wretchedly rendered community. “So now he tries to give me a nervous breakdown every time we have a new release looming.”

Mickey reached back and rubbed Ian’s head affectionately. “Fire his ass.”

“I can’t!”

“Why the fuck not?” Mickey tossed down the controller and got off the back of the couch to stand in front of Ian. “He’s being a pain in the ass, he’s not doing his job properly and no one likes him from what I’m gathering. Dude sounds toxic.”

Ian sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “Yeah, but still, he’s an OG.”

“So? I admire the loyalty, I do, but not for nothing, he’s been getting paid for years just to piss you off. Give him the boot.” Mickey raised an eyebrow as Ian shook his head vehemently.

“You don’t understand, Mick. I mean, I was seventeen and manic all the time and no one took anything I did or said seriously. The whole time, the one thing I had was this awesome idea that I couldn’t shake. It was the one thing that didn’t leave me when I came down, but it drove me crazy because I could not figure out how to get it from in here,” Ian tapped his head, “to out here, you know. Nate and the other guys did that. You couldn’t imagine how I felt, Mick, seeing something that I thought would die in my head, just come to life in front of me,” Ian sighed, “he can leave—I’d love it if he would—but I won’t fire him.”

Mickey looked at Ian for a while, searching his face before finally nodding. “Okay, alright. I mean, I guess that’s kind of sweet, dumb, but sweet.” Mickey raised an eyebrow when Ian pouted and leaned forward to grip the back of the couch on either side of him, trapping Mickey between Ian and the back of the couch.

“So great, now I’m soft and sweet,” Ian complained as his rested his forehead against Mickey’s and felt a little of his stress melt away.

“I like sweet,” Mickey offered as way of comfort. He grinned charmingly, “So basically, you’re just like some of my favourite candy.”

“Corny,” Ian snorted, “is that why you have chocolate bars and Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews every-fucking-where in your freaking apartment?”

“Quit snooping all the damn time. Why are you always all up in my-”

Ian decided it was best to head off that potential argument by capturing Mickey’s lips with his. Mickey reached up and gripped the back of Ian’s neck to steady himself, only to feel the tension gripping his boss’s neck and shoulders.

“Shit, you’re tense,” Mickey pulled back and eyed Ian with concern. “You’re seriously wound up over this, aren’t you?”

“I’m always tense when I have a release date looming,” Ian shrugged. “I’m good now, really good; I’m usually way worse. Last year, Skid Row had an intervention. One time, I fired everyone for about three hours.”

Mickey looked up at him wide-eyed while unconsciously stroking Ian’s arm soothingly. “Fuck, okay.” Mickey straightened and pushed past Ian. “Come on then, let’s get the edge off.”

“Hmm?” Ian automatically followed Mickey into his bathroom, not immediately catching on to the newest development. So he was pleasantly surprised when Mickey shoved him up against the bathroom door and started unbuckling his pants for him.

“You are not going postal while I’m working ten fucking feet from your door. I didn’t survive this long to get killed by your ass over a video game,” Mickey shoved Ian’s pants and boxers down and gave him a warning look, “one blow job, nothing else. Do not touch my hair.” With that, Mickey sank to his feet.

It was only a minute in before Ian’s hands were inching towards Mickey’s bobbing head. A hard slap to his wrist quickly discouraged that.

“I have to go out in a bit; you’re not fucking up my hair, Gallagher.”

“What am I supposed to hold on to then?” Ian whined.

“Try Jesus. Figure it the fuck out,” Mickey hissed before swallowing Ian down again.

“I like your hair messy,” Ian opined haltingly, and only Mickey could raise an eyebrow that sarcastically while deep-throating dick. “Seriously, it’s sexy, you know, all messy and kinda curly. You should switch it up sometimes; give the styling gel a break.” Ian gasped and shuddered. There was another attempt at Mickey’s hair, followed by another painful wrist slap.

Even from Ian’s vantage point, Mickey’s eye-roll at his disobedience was epic. Determined to end things quickly before Ian got any bright ideas, the tester stopped for a moment to slick one finger.

“Your styling opinions have been duly noted,” Mickey said sarcastically as he slowly shoved the lubricated finger up Ian’s ass. He smirked at Ian’s gaping, electrified reaction. “Amateur.”

There were worst ways to start off a morning.

It was minutes after four when Mickey glanced over at the clock. He hadn’t let Ian come over yesterday, figuring he wasn’t going to be good company. His dad had gotten released the day before and he was on edge, waiting for word about something, anything. He hadn’t slept, partly because of the anxiety, partly because his bed felt cold and empty. He watched the clock—time just crawling along as he grew more and more wired from the wait. He rubbed the tired sting from his eyes with the balls of his hands and just kept on waiting.

It was an hour later when his phone rang, and he sat bolt upright in bed at the sound. He fished around in his sheets and finally grabbed it to see it was Mandy calling. His heart stopped then started off again, pounding so hard he thought his ribs might crack. He clicked the answer button and was so nervous and agitated, he forgot to speak.

“Mickey, you there?” Mandy’s voice sounded hollow and alien over the phone and Mickey didn’t know what to think.

“Yeah,” his voice was cracked, shaky, and he waited.

“Did I wake you? I figured you’d be awake, because you know…” Mandy explained apologetically. Her own voice was quivering now and Mickey palms were damp with fearing the worst. “I know you’d want to hear this as soon as possible. Are you sitting down?”

“Jesus, Mandy, what?”

Long before Ian burst on the scene with his own crippling brand of powers, it had been Terry Milkovich who had been superhuman in Mickey’s eyes, with his own superpowers. It was an idea that had yet to be totally debunked, because no matter what horrors Mickey’s mind could come up with, somehow Terry found away to make the reality so much worse. Mickey held his breath, but his anxiety soon gave way to confusion as the quaking in Mandy’s voice grew into full-on laughter.

“The fucker didn’t even make it home!” Mandy gasped out in between peals of laughter.

“What?” Mickey frowned at the phone. “What are you talking about?”

“Dad, Terry,” Mandy panted, “He’s back in the can. Didn’t even get to see the empty fucking house waiting for him. He was out for a grand total of four hours.”

“What, how?!”

Mandy finally pulled herself together and took a steadying breath. “From what I hear, Uncle Ronnie picked him up, no problem, and took him to some shit dive bar about halfway into the journey. Apparently, there were a couple of guys there engaging in, uh, let’s say behaviour Terry found unbecoming.”

“Gay guys,” Mickey responded flatly.

“Yeah…went after them like a bat out of hell; flipping tables, screaming and shit. Heard it was chaos. Didn’t help that one of them was black and he’s there with his dumb-ass white power tattoos, screaming like a meth-head. People freaked, but from what I hear, he actually got his ass handed to him.”

Mickey didn’t know what to say. He just sat in stunned silence while Mandy spun the tale. When she paused for breath, Mickey shook himself back to life. “So he’s back in prison?”

“Broke probation, didn’t he? Four hours in, the dumb piece of shit. Plus, the bar owner and the couple are pressing charges, so that should add one a nice little chunk of time, right?” Mandy started giggling again and enough of the shock had worn off Mickey allowing him to join in too. They laughed hysterically for a few minutes—catharsis from the fear and tension that had gripped them the past few weeks rushing through. Mandy broke first, the manic laughter cracking into a shaky sob.

“I was fucking scared, Mick,” she admitted in a low, hoarse whisper. “I know I said I wasn’t, but I was scared.”

Mickey nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. He inhaled sharply and wiped roughly at his eyes. “I know…me too.”

It was only minutes after six when Ian stood at his window, watching the sun rise over Central Park while he waited for the jitters to pass. His sound of his phone ringing surprised him and when he saw the name and picture on his screen, he smiled broadly.

“Carl, how the hell did you manage to get up this early?”

“Big bro,” Carl sounded happy and slightly tipsy, “who’s up? I haven’t even seen my bed yet.”

“I’m guessing it’s because you’ve been studying so hard,” Ian said wryly. The day Lip had taken Carl to college with him to crash for a few days had left a lasting impression, and no one had realized how determined their little brother had been to go. He had made it happen, on a wrestling scholarship no less. Now if only they could get him to read a book.

“Sure, let’s go with that. There were some Purdue honeys passing through last night. Those girls know how to do it, Ian.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Is ‘honeys’ still a thing? People still say that?” Sometimes his younger siblings managed to make him feel ancient when he hadn’t even hit his mid-twenties properly yet. It was insane.

“Did they ever stop?” Carl ask pointedly and Ian had no answer to that.

“Well, whatever. Did you take care of that thing for me?”

“Yeah,” Carl drawled, but Ian could hear the delight filtering through. “That was fun, man.”

“Fun? You were involved?! I told you to get a couple guys to do it, not get into it yourself, Carl!”

“It worked out didn’t it? Plus that old fuck didn’t stand a chance anyway.”

Ian sighed. “So not the point. If something had gone south and you got in trouble or worse, Fiona would have had both our asses.”

Carl only clicked his tongue dismissively in a way that reminded him so much of Mickey, it made him smile. “Nothing went wrong though; so you wanna hear the story or not?”

Ian grunted for him to continue, since clearly Carl was itching to spin the tale. “What happened?”

“We waited for him at the release site for like two hours before he showed up. At least his ride was there on time waiting for him. I was worried they were gonna head all the way back into the Southside, but we got lucky. They turned into some bar in Plainville. They were knocking them back in the middle of the day. I don’t know anyone who goes that hard at 1 p.m.”

Ian shrugged at that, “he’s been locked up a while. Guy wants a drink.”

“Yeah, well, I’d go find some pussy first.” Carl said pointedly, “yeah, so anyway, he was just there talking a bunch of crap about fag-bashing in prison and all of that. So me and Sam decided the best way to get his attention was to say we were celebrating our anniversary and make out a little.”

Ian burst out laughing. Carl never failed to surprise him. “You kissed a dude?”

“Well yeah, fastest way to get his attention, wasn’t it?”

“Was it safe?”

“Man, it was one of those hipster joints trying to masquerade as a dive bar. Old dude might not have realized in time, but trust me, we were fine. But fuck, he came after us like a freight train. You’d have thought we were bending his son over in front of him or some shit.”

Ian scratched his cheek and stayed mum on that one. “You fuck him up?”

“We fucked him up good, Ian,” Carl chortled. “You should have seen his fucking face when Sam body slammed him. Obviously didn’t think a couple homos would be able to fight. He wasn’t bad though, he was scrappy. His brother smashed a chair across my fucking back.”

“Shit!” Ian cringed.

“Pfft, handled that, no problem,” Carl was obviously so proud of himself, Ian couldn’t help but laugh. “Hardest part of the whole thing was playing the victim when the cops came. Shit though, neo-Nazi felon trying to beat on a gay, mixed couple? We didn’t have to say shit. Smashed up the bar real good too.”

“While I wish you hadn’t gotten involved directly, you did good. Thanks Carl,” Ian said sincerely.

“Any time. What did the old fuck do to you anyway?”

“Not me; but he’s been hurting someone really important to me.”

“Boyfriend?” Carl asked frankly.

“Yeah, but let’s keep this between us for now.”

“No problem, but damn, imagine having that freak show for a dad,” there was a brief silence before Carl made a cautious suggestion. “You know, it’s dangerous in prison. Guys get knifed in the yard all the time. Slip a lifer a few bucks and that’s all she wrote.”


“Just saying I hear it happens that’s all. Permanent solution and all that.”

“Yeah well, no. Not my call to make anyway, and please stop talking like your name is Vito Corleone, thank you.”

“Just saying.”

“Whatever, you’ve got money?”

“No,” Carl moaned plaintively and Ian rolled his eyes.

“Fine, I’ll send you some in a minute. Tell me how’s school’s going.”

It was a few minutes before eight when Mickey dumped his bag at his workstation and checked around for any other early birds. With the coast clear, he headed into Ian’s office, shutting the door behind him. Ian was standing in front of the Monster as was his wont to do lately, obsessively searching for any more of Nate’s surprises.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted, startling Ian a little since he hadn’t heard him come in.

“Hey,” Ian’s face lit up the way it always did. It embarrassed Mickey a little sometimes, but it wasn’t as if Ian could help it. It was just something his face did when Mickey was around. Most of his body parts had their own way of automatically responding when Mickey was around. He dropped the controller and came around to kiss his boyfriend good morning, not even bothering to check whether or not the door was open.

He was a little surprised by how eagerly Mickey kissed back. Normally he’d push his luck and find out just how much Mickey would let him get away with for that day, but today he figured Mickey might have some news for him, so he pulled back.

“I missed you last night.”

Mickey nodded, all bashful and conciliatory and charming Ian completely. “Yeah, I know, I’m sorry man. It’s just everything with my dad…I was just trying to get my head clear,” he rubbed his lip and looked up at Ian from beneath his lashes. “I should have let you come over though. Missed ya.”

The admission floored Ian and he gaped at Mickey dumbly.

“My dad’s back in the clink,” Mickey continued through Ian’s stupefaction, and that bit of information was enough to jolt Ian back to life.

“He’s back in?”

“Got thrown back in yesterday.”

“When did he get out?”

“Yesterday,” Mickey laughed at Ian’s perfectly confused and concerned expression, “he was out for four hours before he tried to fag bash. Broke parole and got tossed back in. Fucker has shit for brains, so now you know where I get it.”

“Don’t say shit like that,” Ian growled fiercely, “you’re nothing like him.”

“I’m kidding, Firecrotch,” Mickey said, placating his boyfriend, “it’s fine.”

Ian exhaled and tried to remember not to fly off the handle over Terry Milkovich too much. “So, are you okay? Are you happy? You look happy.”

Mickey did look happy, and relaxed and relieved. He hadn’t stopped smiling at Ian since he came in, and the smile was open, warm and genuine and made Ian realize, somewhat chillingly, that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to keep Mickey smiling like that and feeling this happy and safe.

“I’m good,” Mickey said simply, “look, I know I’ve been kind of a dick lately.”

“No,” Ian assured him quickly, “you’ve been fine. You’re perfect.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and laughed out loud. “Well okay then,” he smiled teasingly and scratched his forehead, “cause see, I was feeling kind of bad about not letting you come over and with the fight and pushing you away and everything. I been thinking all morning about how I would try to make it up to you,” Mickey shrugged nonchalantly as he turned and headed for the door, “but if I’m perfect and shit.”

Ian caught him around the waist and spun him around, backing Mickey up against the wall. “I might have misspoken.”


“The truth is you have been kind of a dick,” Ian informed Mickey sadly as his boyfriend smirked back knowingly at him. “It’s been hard.”

“I bet it’s been hard,” Mickey quipped, “you’ve just been suffering in silence this whole time, huh?”

“I’m the stoic type,” Ian nodded, “so how did you say you were going to make it up to me again?”

Mickey groaned lowly as Ian picked up the pace, ramming hard into him until the cool ceramic of Ian’s bathroom sink marked him across his thighs. He reached back, grabbing as much of the red hair as he could manage and hissed when Ian bit hard into his shoulder. He didn’t have a word of complaint when Ian yanked his head back by his hair to give himself greater access to Mickey’s neck.

Mickey pushed back; matching Ian’s quickening thrusts with his own. He moaned brokenly as Ian wrapped a hand around his dripping cock and pumped in quick, smooth strokes. He watched heavy-lidded as the bathroom mirror fogged from their harsh breathing and cleared again, revealing his flushed face, lips reddened and parted, and his fingers twisting into copper hair.

“Fuck, Ian,” he whimpered as his boyfriend found his prostate again and again, “I…fuck.”

Ian licked at a small rivulet of sweat that trailed down behind Mickey’s ear. “Tell me,” he whispered hotly in Mickey’s ear, knowing exactly what he wanted to say and desperate to hear it. He felt as if he’d been dragging Mickey kicking and screaming through every single milestone, so for this one thing, he’d wait.  He’d let him say it first, so he’d know it was because Mickey wanted to, because he was ready, and not saying it out of obligation or a need to respond to Ian’s own declaration. He wouldn’t force him, but he certainly could encourage. Maybe it was a finer line than Ian imagined.

“Say it to me,” Ian begged as Mickey clenched around him, both of them near climax.

“Oh God, Ian,” Mickey shuddered, “I lo-”

“Ian! Are you in there?”

Everything crashed to a halt as Carol’s voice floated in to them. For a fraught moment, they both thought it was the voice of God—her voice was so clear and authoritative— and they both stared dumbly at the ceiling before they realized it was only the human resource manager.

“Are you alright?” she asked again, her concern was now clear, “are you having difficulties? Do you need assistance?”

The thought of Carol barging in on them had them flying apart and hurriedly yanking up their pants. Ian hastened to reassure the woman before she kicked the door in. “Ah no, Carol, I’m fine!”

“Oh good, I’m sorry. You remember we had an early meeting scheduled, right?”

Ian checked his watch and swore. It was almost nine. He and Mickey had gotten carried away and had completely forgotten where they were.

“I’ll just be out here waiting,” Carol sang out and retreated from the door.

“Fuck,” Mickey muttered. Carol was parked out in Ian’s office, Carrie and most of Skid Row were probably outside and he was a rumpled, sweaty mess with unkempt Elvis hair. Ian was fine, his fairly short cut looked pretty much the same no matter what Mickey did to it. The unfairness of the situation was further compounded when Ian peeled off his T-shirt and retrieved a fresh one from a cabinet.

“Want one?” Ian asked when he caught Mickey’s disbelieving face. He grabbed one and tossed it at him.

Mickey wracked his brain trying to remember if he’d seen Ian in this shirt before and if it was one anyone else would readily identify. Screw it; it wasn’t as if he could out there reeking of sweat, sex and Ian’s stupidly expensive cologne. He pulled off his shirt, yanked on Ian’s and ignored his boyfriend’s dumb, possessive, satisfied smile.

“Hey, uh, you were gonna say something before?” Ian’s attempt at nonchalance was laughable. His heart sank a little at Mickey’s deer-in-the-headlights look and sighed when the tester shook his head and avoided his eyes. Ian was going to kill Carol. It had taken almost every star in the freaking universe to align to get Mickey that close to saying it and now he was going to have to wait and struggle with not saying it himself whenever they were intimate. He left Mickey trying to tame his hair and went out to meet Carol.

“Carol, I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting. I was, uh, I was…” Fuck! He’d forgotten to concoct a cover story with Mickey.

“Well, it seems to be working now,” Mickey said as he strolled out of the bathroom, startling the heck out of Carol. “I checked the switch and the light’s steady.”

“Right!” Ian said suddenly, finally getting it. “We were just in there screwing—in a light bulb,” Ian added jerkily when Mickey jabbed him hard in the back.

“It took two of us because we aren’t very smart,” Mickey joked and Carol actually laughed. Smooth as fucking butter, while Ian was just trying not to die. Lying to Carol was like lying to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“To be continued, Gallagher,” Mickey whispered and left Ian to deal with Carol and readied his lie for Carrie. His dad was in prison, he was wearing his boyfriend’s T-shirt and there was a pleasant ache in his ass. Hiccups aside, it really wasn’t a bad way to start the morning.

Chapter Text

Mickey was this close to falling.

He blinked awake to find that he was perched precariously on the edge of the bed, Ian plastered along his back. As was typical, Ian didn’t stop scooting closer until they were sharing a pillow and his boyfriend was left in imminent danger of tumbling off the bed. The only thing saving Mickey was Ian’s arm wrapped around his waist, hugging him tightly to Ian's body. This left Mickey to briefly ponder the irony that the source of his salvation was really also the source of his downfall. He sighed over that before elbowing Ian in the ribs.

“What?” Ian complained.

“You mind making a little use of the rest of the bed? I’m this close to kissing the floor.”

Ian peeked over Mickey’s shoulder and realized that he’d literally pushed Mickey to the very edge. He grunted apologetically and wriggled back to the center of the bed before reaching over to hook Mickey around the waist and drag him backwards until they were spooning as before.

Mickey huffed out a laugh as Ian snuggled against him. “You’re just a giant fucking puppy, aren’t you?”

“Whatever. Your bed’s too fucking small. It would take like half a day to get to the edge of mine.”

“Congratulations, you must be so proud. This is a queen-sized bed, so the problem here isn’t the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean, you get me?”

“You’re a queen-sized bed,” Ian grumbled before falling back to sleep. Mickey could only grin into his pillow.

The spring temperatures were climbing quickly, turning Ian into a six foot furnace. Mickey wriggled out of his hold and sprawled on his back away from his boyfriend in an attempt to cool down.

“Jesus, am I going to have to install an AC already? It’s fucking May.”

Ian popped one eye open. “Get a really good one; New York summers are even more brutal than the winters. I have central air at my place. I could build a snowman in August in my living room.” He hurriedly closed his eyes and flipped over before Mickey’s suspicious sidelong look could take full-effect.

Mickey rolled his eyes; subtlety was not exactly Ian’s strong point. He had been extolling the virtues of his condo for the last four days, which meant there was a plan afoot. Mickey wasn’t sure if Ian was simply missing the comforts of home or if he was after bigger game, but he knew it was only a matter of time before Ian would flat out ask him to go over there.

Mickey wasn’t dumb; he knew in a head to head battle, a high-rise luxury condo in central Manhattan was going to dominate the hell out of a one bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was sure his entire apartment could fit snugly in Ian’s kitchen, but that didn’t make Ian’s place any more attractive to him. Ian had no problems making himself at home anywhere. He fit inside Mickey’s world as if he had been the one who designed it and he made sense inside Mickey’s bed, and on his couch and around his kitchen table. Mickey didn’t even want to think about what a sore thumb he’d be inside Ian’s home. He knew Ian was out of his league, and the last thing he wanted was supporting evidence so big, it had to be stated in square footage.

Midmorning, Mickey was on his laptop trying to map the quickest, easiest route to Eric’s house in the Parkchester section of the Bronx so he could help him move. Ian, who was still next to him in his bed, should have been reviewing reports on his iPad, but was instead offering his boyfriend unsolicited advice on how to go about his business.

“I’m telling you, take the G to the L and then transfer to the 4 or 5 at Union Square, then take the 6 at 125th Street.”

“Fuck off,” Mickey said simply, “I’m gonna bust my ass on the L, when I can go a couple stops to Court Square and take the E to the 6 directly?”

“You take the 6 that early and you’ll be traveling local for-fucking-ever,” Ian warned.

“Because the L is just so speedy,” Mickey snarked and got off the bed to start getting ready.

“Plus it’s a Saturday. Half the trains are probably out of commission anyway. Should I just save you the aggravation and take you? Maybe lend you guys a hand?”

“Fuck off repeatedly,” Mickey answered as he poked through one of his drawers, “you’re the one who said you have a shit ton to catch up on at work. What time are you heading out?”

“I have to leave so you can lock up, so I’ll just head out with you.”

“You don’t have to rush,” Mickey mumbled and tossed a set of keys down on the bed next to Ian, “leave when you’re ready, just double check the top lock because it sticks a little sometimes.”

Ian stared down at the keys as if they were some type of alien life form. He then stared Mickey, then back at the keys then back to his boyfriend again. Mickey had his head lowered, rubbing at his nose shyly as he struggled through yet another unfamiliar and vulnerable situation. What was worse, Ian’s eyes were starting to do that Disney thing, where they appeared to be twice their normal size and shone as all get out.

“Don’t turn this into a thing,” he warned Ian sharply and looked away when Ian’s face exploded into the biggest, warmest smile.

“Okay,” Ian said simply and swiftly snatched up the keys before Mickey could change his mind. “Thanks.”

Mickey only nodded dumbly, backed away and quickly retreated to the bathroom.

Ian was still in Mickey’s bed, power reading through his emails while Mickey finished getting dressed. After he double-checked that he had everything, he headed over to a distracted looking Ian to give him quick kiss goodbye. Ian had other plans. The moment Mickey bent down towards him, Ian grabbed him around the waist and tossed him onto the bed, moving quickly to straddle him.

“What the fuck are you-”

Ian shut him up by covering his mouth with his own, applying soft but persistent pressure until Mickey surrendered and let Ian kiss him slow and deep until he was breathless when Ian pulled back. The redhead smiled down at him contentedly.

“Had to thank you for the keys, didn’t I?”

Mickey sighed, “I told you not to make it into a thing.”

“Well, it’s a thing,” Ian said simply and got off Mickey, “and I’ll finish thanking you for it later.”

Mickey huffed but didn’t protest further. “Just lock up my place and don’t let me come home to find all my shit gone.” With that, he was out the door.

Ian grinned and fished out the keys to admire them a while. They clinked against each other a bit, and Ian realized that his entire body was vibrating the way it tended to when he was over-stimulated. More and more, he was finding out that there was a very thin line between love and the best manic episode. He focused on his breathing and willed his body to calm down. It was a set of keys after all, not the solution to world hunger. Still, Ian couldn’t help but regard them as the literal keys to the kingdom.

Satisfied that he was in fact the proud owner of a set of keys to his boyfriend’s apartment, he threw himself across the bed to get his own set out of his bag on the floor next to bed. The resulting shaking of the bed took Mickey’s laptop out of sleep mode and the screen flashed to life. Ian blinked in surprise as Mickey’s desktop, complete with “the Punisher” wallpaper stared silently back at him.

Ian had never seen that laptop on before. Mickey was always careful to keep it locked or turned off whenever he wasn’t using it. Mickey must have forgotten to shut it down after they finished bickering about his travel plans. Ian kept staring at it as he drummed his fingers on his thighs. He leaned over to glance at the locked front door and then back at another possible gateway to all things Mickey Milkovich.

He tried to think up a quick pros and cons list. The cons seemed to have a lot more in their column; mainly that it was kind of an invasion of privacy and he was pretty sure Mickey would throttle him if he found out he used his laptop without permission. Still, after arranging to send a man’s father back to prison, snooping around his computer didn’t feel like that big of a deal.

The screen dimmed as Ian continued his mental debate. He quickly used his foot to poke the touchpad and brought it back to full brightness. He wiped his hands on his pants and finally thought “screw it” and reached for the computer. He admired the wallpaper for a bit, figuring of course Mickey would have a thing for comic book anti-heroes. He clicked on the browser and the MTA’s website came up as Mickey’s last visited page. Mickey’s bookmarked sites were typical—work, email, music, gaming, porn, Deviantart for some reason. Ian was going to have to find out about that one later. He opened a new tab and went for Mickey’s internet history. It was mostly a hodgepodge of numerous visits to his bookmarked sites, but Ian was surprised to find his name quite a few times among the sites—a whole lot of times, actually. He raised an eyebrow and clicked one of the links with his name embedded and was directed to a Google image search.

It was a little shocking to see just how many images there were of him available. Every photo he’d ever taken seemed to be online and Mickey had been looking at them and frequently too. He smirked at the idea. If Mickey had even a fraction of this number of images available online, Ian might have spent so much time online with his hand down his pants, he might never have even gotten a chance to speak to Mickey in person. On a whim, Ian went to Google search and started typing in his name to see what Mickey actually looked up.

Ian Gallagher address, Ian Gallagher net worth, Ian Gallagher sexuality, Ian Gallagher girlfriend, Ian Gallagher…

The list culled from Mickey’s search history just went on and on, and in the back of his mind, a small alarm bell sounded. Ian tried to dismiss it; looking at these things out of context was beyond misleading, and Ian could only imagine how his would look to Mickey if his boyfriend saw it. Only, Mickey wasn’t him. Mickey never really seemed all that curious about him. Ian volunteered information and Mickey would listen and ask the necessary follow-up questions, but he never initiated any questioning.  

Some of the searches were so inane too. At one point, fairly recently, Mickey tried to find out Ian’s favorite color, which felt a little insane because Ian shared Mickey’s bed almost every single night. Why not just ask? Why even search for half the things he looked up? What did Ian’s net worth have to do with anything? Ian shook his head and tried to stave off his growing discomfort and paranoia. He was over thinking. Sometimes he got too much inside his own head and created problems that weren’t there. He shifted against the pillows and went back to Mickey’s internet history listing.

Scrolling back through time was trippy. The further back Ian went, the more often his name appeared in Mickey’s browser history. Interviews, articles, dumb gossip, it was all there. It was the searches just around the time they first spoke, though, that gave him pause.

What counts as sexual harassment? Boss coming onto worker… Sexual harassment lawsuits, Sexual harassment settlement... Is it hard to prove sexual harassment? Payouts for sexual harassment…

Ian sat confused and dumbstruck. The sexual harassment searches started just after that first night they had chatted and stopped soon after Mickey had outlined his list of rules for their casual sex encounters. The tiny, niggling alarm was now a full-on shriek. The Ian-centered searches continued all the way back to February, just after Mickey had transferred. This made no sense. There was no way Mickey had been uncomfortable with his come-ons; intimacy, yes, but certainly not the fucking and flirting.

Confused and more than a little panicked, Ian finally closed everything and shut off the computer, but it was too late—the poison was in. It was hard for Ian to think straight when he got agitated, and the more he tried to think of a reasonable, acceptable explanation, the more twisted up he got.

He’d been cased before; people trying to get close and get in because of who he was and what he had; trying to scam him. Not everyone wanted something from him though. He had to believe that or else he’d have gone the way of Howard Hughes already—a crazed recluse, unable to discern who to trust. Mickey couldn’t be casing him, he’d never asked Ian for anything. Still, the searches seemed even fucking weirder now, with or without context, and he just could not understand or explain away the nature and timing of the sexual harassment searches.

Ian got up and paced a little, trying to work things out on his own. He contemplated just calling Mickey and simply asking, only to chicken out at the thought of his boyfriend’s anger over the blatant invasion of his privacy. Ian rubbed his hands agitatedly over his face before deciding to get dressed and get out for a while. What he needed was air… and maybe a second opinion.

“911, what’s your emergency?” Lip joked as he slid into the booth seat across from Ian. He took one look at his brother—all hooded up and leg bouncing—and could see the shit storm brewing. “What’s up?”

“I have a hypothetical question,” Ian started off hesitantly.

“You texted ‘911’ and made me haul ass down here for a hypothetical question?” Lip caught the attention of the bartender and nodded at Ian’s beer, indicating he should bring a round over.

“What would my vulnerability be in the case of an employee alleging sexual harassment?” Ian asked slowly, eyes focused on his beer, but he could feel Lip’s eyes snap to him.

“Well that would depend. Does this hypothetical employee have proof, or just talking out his or her ass?”

Ian sighed and rubbed his forehead to fend off the headache pushing at his temples. “Let’s say there was a sexual relationship; a fully consensual sexual relationship.”

Lip gave a stiff nod as the waiter dropped off the drinks and turned back to burn holes into his brother with his eyes. “I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and wonder if this little foray into the hypothetical has anything to do with Mickey Milkovich.”

Ian’s sullen silence and refusal to make eye contact had Lip nodding. “You fucking him, Ian?” More silence and Lip could only manage to take a steadying swig of his beer. “Jesus fucking hell, I knew it, I just knew it. I saw the way you were looking at his fucking mug shot and I knew it. But I said, no, Ian would have said something to me, his brother, if he was fucking around with an employee. I also figured, no way he would do this, especially after I, his lawyer, specifically told him a million times not to shit where he fucking eats!”

Ian’s silence stretched on and Lip saw his diatribe was only bringing out the chin. He sighed and tried to move it forward. “Alright, what does he want?”

“He doesn’t want anything!” Ian snapped irritably, “I saw something, it’s probably nothing. I’m just over thinking shit. I shouldn’t have called you.”

“‘Probably nothing’ means it’s probably something and you did call me, so now we need to figure this out. What did you see?”

Ian huffed anxiously but at length, gave Lip a summary of what he saw on Mickey’s computer.

“So he’s been casing you?” Lip queried.

“He hasn’t been casing me!” Ian exclaimed, “They’re searches and there has to be a reasonable explanation. I should have just called him. There is no way Mickey would say I sexually harassed him. We’ve been doing this for like two months; everything we’ve done has been consensual.”

Lip itched for a cigarette. “Yeah, you sure about that? How did this whole thing start?”

Ian opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a while before shrugging. “He was working late one night and I invited him to preview ‘Legend’ with me.”



“You have a habit of doing this with your employees?”

“No, but nothing even happened that first night. We just talked.”

“And the next time?”

Ian hesitated and tried to find a non-damning way to phrase what happened. “I gave him beer, weed and a blowjob; in that order,” Ian sighed, defeated.

“Well aren’t you just the greatest boss ever?” Lip raised his bottle as in toast before draining it.

“It wasn’t as salacious as it sounds. It happened… organically,” Ian muttered and got a derisive snort in reply.

“As do all the high, drunken, employer-given blowjobs, Ian, all organic. So what I’m hearing is that you took a subordinate into your office and plied him with alcohol and psychoactive drugs before you took sexual advantage of him.”

“I did not take advantage of him!”

“Who initiated?”

Ian groaned and rested his head on the table, beyond exhausted and sorry he called Lip. His brother was going to do nothing but pour gasoline on the flames of his fear and paranoia, while making his relationship look sad and ugly along the way.

“What does it matter anyway? The sexual harassment searches were months ago. He gave me the key to his apartment today, Lip.”

“So he’ll get a key to yours,” Lip shot back, “I see this every day, Ian. He’s running a long con. He probably considered the sexual harassment angle when you first started sniffing around him, but decided he could score more going along with you instead. Trust me; the harassment stuff would have come back when the relationship finally headed south.”

Ian sat up and shook his head, looking directly at his brother. “It’s not a con. You don’t know him, you don’t know what we have.”

“Jesus, Ian, of course I know him. I’m the one who had to dig up all the shit you asked for. Mickey Milkovich and his family are career criminals. They see an opportunity, they’ll take it. You’re his hot boss worth millions; you think he was going to pass that shit up?”

“Fuck you, you don’t understand. He wants to be with me. What we have, you can’t fake that,” Ian growled at his brother, “and he doesn’t want shit from me. You wouldn’t know how hard I had to work just to leave some fucking cereal at his house.”

“Really? Yeah, he sounds so genuinely into you,” Lip said sarcastically and offhand, but it shut Ian down quickly and completely because it went straight to the heart of his worst fears about Mickey. Lip saw his brother wilt before his eyes and tried to soften his approach. “Look, Ian, I’m not trying to be a dick, alright? I realize you care about this guy, but I know Milkovich’s type and I’ve seen this play out so many times. They play their marks as long as they can, and when it’s done, it’s time for the lawsuit.
Any halfway decent lawyer can spin it that you put your employee in a severely compromising position where he felt powerless to spurn your advances. He’s a felon who caught a break he can’t afford to lose. So if his boss wants to suck his dick, he’s not exactly in the best position to say no, is he?”

“It’s not like that, and he’s not playing me,” Ian said quietly, but it sounded weak and unconvincing now even to his own ears. It would explain a lot though, wouldn’t it? The way Mickey agreed to and gave into things Ian figured he never would, probably just to keep him on the line. Why Mickey was so incredibly cool and understanding about his illness, because he couldn’t risk alienating Ian. Why, despite all that, Mickey hesitated over every single forward step they made.

Ian put his head back down on the table. He was stupid for calling Lip; he was even stupider for snooping around on Mickey’s computer. Had he not done any of that, he would have been back in Mickey’s bed again after nightfall, deliriously happy and in love. Instead he was sitting in a bar having his skin peeled back to reveal his worst fears for Lip to feed and water them.

“I need to talk to him.”

“He’ll tell you what you want to hear, and anything he says you’ll accept, because you want to believe him,” Lip pointed out reasonably, “Ian, you have to shut this down.”

“Why?” Ian sat up and regarded his brother tiredly, “he hasn’t done anything, he hasn’t asked me for anything. I’m in love with him, Lip.”

“It’s only been a few months, man. It’s probably indigestion more than anything else,” Lip sniffed and kicked at his brother’s feet. “You can do better, Ian, and whatever you’re feeling now, you’ll get over it. You should be with someone who wants to be with you, not your money. You really want to keep going with a guy who has a lawsuit in his back pocket just waiting to bust it out?”

Ian ran his hands through his hair in confusion and agitation.

“The last thing you need is some ex-con from the hood dragging your name through the mud and making you look like some kind of sexual predator. We already have One Million Moms and the rest of them on our asses about our video game content as it is without having to defend the reputation of the creator.”

Ian remained stubbornly silent and uncertain, at war with himself. Half of him thought he was stupid for even being here and doubting Mickey. The other half thought he was stupid for thinking the relationship was viable in the first place. He loved Mickey with everything he had, but he couldn’t deny that his boyfriend unsettled him a little—all the power he had, the ease with which he could drag the most alien, intense emotions out of Ian with the least bit of effort. Since that fight with Mickey, he’d wondered how long he could maintain that kind of intensity before flaming out.

Pursuing Mickey made Ian feel like a dog chasing the wheels of a car. Now that it had finally stopped, he realized that the object of his affections was more powerful and overwhelming than he could have thought. Even now he was imagining Mickey’s face grinning at him and he could feel himself giving over, getting physically pulled towards a person who wasn’t even in the room. Ian was in too deeply already. If there was even the slightest chance that Mickey’s feelings weren’t real and it came out later, Ian knew it would kill him.

He finally understood what his problem was: he was in love with Mickey Milkovich and he was fucking terrified of him.

“Let me talk to him,” Lip offered. Ian snapped out of his reverie and stared at his brother.


“Let me talk to him; work out what his deal is. You’re too close to the situation to handle it properly. I’ll talk to him, see if he’s on the level and then we can work out how to move on from there.”

Ian rolled the idea over in his head. All he needed was a little reassurance that this wasn’t some game or con on Mickey’s part. If his brother spoke to his boyfriend, Lip would see for himself that Mickey cared about him and it would in turn put Ian’s fears to rest.

“You’ll just talk? Find out he’s not running a con and then leave it alone?”

“Will you trust me already? Name one time I’ve ever let you down.”

Ian could think of a couple actually, all centered around Ian floundering alone and overwhelmed when his disorder descended on him in spectacular fashion. Still, that was an argument Ian really didn’t want to revisit.

“Give me a couple of days to get in contact with him,” Lip continued, “no talking to him or seeing him until I do.”

“Why the fuck not?! He’s my boyfriend!”

“No he’s your employee, who you suspect may be scamming you,” Lip shut down Ian’s attempts at protesting immediately, “You would not have called me if you were completely sure he wasn’t. You need to give me at least a couple days to figure out what we’re working with here, including from a legal standpoint. I can’t do that while I’m worried about you eloping to fucking Vegas. No contact, Ian.”

Mickey checked his phone repeatedly as his clock ticked closer to midnight. The last thing he wanted to be was the guy who freaked out when he lost track of his partner for two minutes, but Ian not even texting to say he wasn’t coming was weird. Besides, Ian had said he was going to stay over, so Mickey’s anxiety felt justified.

He fired off another text asking if he was okay and swore that would be the last one for the night. He was sure Ian was fine. The idiot probably burned out at work and was either passed out there or in his mega-sized bed he’d been missing so badly. He twitched anxiously before grabbing his phone again and sending off another text.

“Night, Gallagher.”

Mickey’s phone remained ominously silent.  

Chapter Text

Mickey was freaking out. All of Sunday had passed without a word from Gallagher, and he didn’t care if it made him that guy, he must have called Ian a hundred times. Only it had been to no avail and Mickey was this close to having a meltdown as his mind conjured increasingly horrific scenarios. What was worse, he really had no idea how to check up on Ian beyond calling his boyfriend’s phone. It had only been a day, so there was no calling the police. Mickey figured he could track down Ian’s brother if needs be, but Ian hadn’t seemed too keen on Lip getting to know him just yet. Mickey was forced to wait a little while longer.

Monday morning, the first thing he did as he went into work was to cast a furtive glance into Ian’s empty office.

“Hey, Gallagher in yet?” he asked Carrie, not even bothering with the usual greetings.

Carrie shook her head, “no, but I just got in like ten minutes ago, so maybe he’s around somewhere. What’s up?”

“I think he wanted to ask me about my old neighbourhood for Legend or something.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Lindsay, the floor manager, said breezily as she walked by, her eyes fixed on her phone. “Just spoke to him; he’s taking a couple personal days. I was just sending you guys the email now. He’s still checking his email, so you can still send him anything work related.”

“Wait, you spoke to him directly?” Mickey fell in step with her, his voice low, prompting her to look up from her phone.

“Yeah, a couple minutes ago.”

“Did he sound okay?”

Lindsay frowned slightly and replayed the short conversation in her mind. “Well yeah, a little distracted maybe, but nothing weird. Why?”

Mickey shook his head and huffed out a short, incredulous laugh. He was relieved that Ian was okay, but now he could hear the bells tolling. “Nothing, I heard that he tends to freak out around this time, so…”

Lindsay laughed and waved a hand dismissively, “It’s fine. Trust me, if he freaked out, we’d all know.”

Mickey nodded and headed back to his workstation. While he walked, he took out his phone and dashed off another quick text. “What the fuck, Gallagher?” It would be the last one he’d send Ian for a while and he didn’t expect an answer, which was just as well, for there was none forthcoming.

There is a process for when a death occurs under suspicious circumstances. There are the questions, the investigation, and the inevitable dissection of the body. A relationship ending abruptly was no different, and Mickey spent the rest of his work day distracted, mentally dissecting the last few days of his relationship with Ian. The other shoe was dropping, as he knew it would, but he had thought he’d have been able to see it coming. Forty-eight hours earlier, he had felt secure enough to give Ian the keys to his apartment, and for his part, Ian had seemed over the moon about it. So Mickey did not understand what was happening, unless this was some game on Ian’s part that was now over because Mickey had given in and was no longer a challenge. The whole thing was doing Mickey’s head in and the minute he could get away at the end of work, he found the nearest bar to be alone and try to take the sting away. He wasn’t alone for long.

“Mickey Milkovich?” Lip inquired and smiled at Mickey’s raised brow, “mind if I join you?”

Apparently it had been a rhetorical question, because Lip slid into the quiet booth across from Mickey even while he was asking, and pushed a beer towards the wary young man. Mickey was able to place Lip fairly quickly.

“Phillip Gallagher—you’re Ian’s brother.”

“A man who does his homework,” Lip inspected Mickey while he sipped his beer.

“Got to know who my bosses are, right?” Mickey settled in and tried to ready himself. “So it begins,”  because Mickey wasn’t dumb enough to think Ian’s radio silence and his big brother appearing with beer in hand were any sort of coincidence. He could already feel his heart sinking into his shoes. He had imagined all the ways this would have gone down, but never like this. Ian, he figured, would have at least had the decency to do it himself, but that was Gallagher—always surprising him and cutting him off at the knees.

“Well, technically I’m only forty percent your boss.”

Mickey snorted rudely, “Yeah, well I’ll try to give about forty percent of a shit about what you have to say.”

Lip gave a small smile before rubbing his hands together and tapping them on the table. “So Ian’s told me you guys have gotten to know each other pretty well lately.”

“That’s certainly one way to put it,” Mickey said drily as he leaned back and crossed his arms.

“What way would you put it?”

“We’ve fucked… a lot.”

“Ah, so it’s not making love then?” Lip asked smoothly, “because that’s what they usually call it when all the gooey feelings are involved.”

Mickey answered the question with a hard stare. “Is this conversation going anywhere?”

Lip nodded and said matter-of-factly, “you know it’s over, don’t you? Whatever you think you and Ian have going is done.”

Mickey swallowed convulsively while the finality of Lip’s words hit home. Just because you are standing on the train tracks, watching your doom bear down on you, doesn’t mean you’d ever be prepared for the impact. It must have been a solid minute before Mickey could get his thoughts. He focused on his beer bottle and rotated it slowly on the table while Lip waited for some kind of response.

“He sent you down here to tell me that?” Mickey managed at last, his eyes not leaving the bottle.

“I’m a lot better at explaining things than he is,” Lip shrugged, “and the way we see it, there are a few things to be decided and agreed upon and I’m the man for the job.”

“Things like what?”

“Look, Mickey, you’re a good worker. You’ve been with us from the beginning and I really don’t think anyone has to lose his job over this,” Lip began, “so what I propose is that you can stay; same job, same pay, same benefits. You sign a non-disclosure agreement and you head downstairs and join Nate’s crew—where you should have been initially, except you were reassigned on a whim, apparently.” Lip fished into his pocket, produced his business card and proceeded to jot down something on the back of it. “I’ll even sweeten the pot a little bit, for all the time and trouble you’ve already invested.”

Mickey flipped over the proffered card and snorted, “Sixty grand?”

“Ten grand for each Milkovich sibling if you choose to do the generous thing,” Lip pointed out. “I’m guessing ten thousand would go a pretty long way with any one of you.”

Mickey sighed tiredly and took another swig of his beer, trapped in a cliché of a moment because he didn’t have the good sense God gave a goose. He flicked the card back at Lip. “And what if I told you to fuck off instead?”

Lip spread his hands in mock helplessness. “Then I’m afraid your choices get decidedly less attractive. I’ll make sure you ride the rail right out of here. I’ll have you blackballed, and I’m guessing a felon with a mile long rap sheet and not even a GED to his name might have some difficulty getting back on his feet after a job loss. Have you even bothered to acquire any marketable skills since your last prison stint?” Lip asked.

Mickey stayed silent, teeth grinding as Lip leaned forward and went in for the kill.

“You don’t take my offer and you’re done here. If you even think about alleging any impropriety on Ian’s part or the part of Southside Enterprises, I will fucking destroy you, and I’m not being dramatic here. By the time I’m through, you’ll be right back in the shit side of Chicago in the loving embrace of Big Daddy Milkovich. Ian’s told me you’re his favourite, special little boy.”

Mickey was biting his lower lip so hard he could taste blood. He tried his best to keep his eyes from filling as the absolute worst of everything coalesced into human form before him. Lip slid out of the booth and pushed the card back at Mickey who kept staring blankly ahead.

“You have some kind of balls trying to run a con on my brother, but it ends today. You stay the fuck away from Ian. You have forty-eight hours to contact me with your decision or I’ll make the decision for you.” Lip turned away and began walking off.

Mickey stared up at Lip incredulously, a small part of what the lawyer said sinking in. “‘Con’? I’m not conning Ian, I love-”

Lip spun back so quickly, Mickey clapped his mouth shut. “Dude, don’t you fucking go there. The shit we have gone through because of people who claimed to love us. I know your type, man, and even if I didn’t think you were running a con, and I do, I still wouldn’t give a shit. You have any idea what Ian has gone through to drag himself out of the hell he was in? I’ll be fucked if I let some uneducated thug drag him back into it.” Lip snarled, “Who the fuck are you? What are you? What are you supposed to be bringing to the table here, huh? You’re nothing, nobody, and that’s not good enough for my brother.” Lip tapped his business card once more and straightened up. “Ian’s done, you need to accept that and move the fuck on to your next mark. Forty-eight hours, Milkovich, don’t dawdle.”

Mickey took a steadying breath as he surveyed his apartment from just inside the front door. He picked up the empty cardboard box at his feet and got started; after all, he wasn’t supposed to dawdle.

He first went for Ian’s pull-up bar and dumped it in, then grabbed Ian’s toothbrush, cologne, pills and anything he figured was his boss’s from the medicine cabinet. In the kitchen, he grabbed the cereal from off the top of the fridge before opening it to fish out Ian’s orange juice and stupid cleanses and all the other shit that had no business being in there. He had to unplug Ian’s chargers in the living room, drop in his boss’s extra iPod, socks and magazines. He had a bit of a meltdown as he tried to untangle the headphones. He sat on the couch; chest heaving as he roughly rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes.

He sniffled and told himself to keep it together. He had known it was an inevitability anyway, so it was stupid to fall apart over it now.  He raked his fingers over his thighs, psyched himself up and dragged the box to the bedroom. Now that was going to be fun.

It was almost ten when Mickey marched into the lobby of South Enterprise’s building, toting the big box of all things Ian. He was greeted by the security officer behind the receptionist’s desk.

“Hey, Mickey, they have you working late nights again?” The guard greeted cheerfully.

“Hell no, never doing that shit again. Just dropping off something for the boss,” Mickey yelled back as he headed for the elevators.

“You guys gonna release on time, because my kids have been on my ass,” the security guard jogged over and hit the up button for Mickey, peering inquisitively into the box with a jumble of items with everything from a baseball bat to cereal. “What the heck’s all this?”

“Charity junk,” Mickey said easily and the guard nodded in understanding. He grinned his thanks when the guard hit his floor and backed out the elevator.  The smile lasted only until the doors slid closed.

Ian laid his head on his desk and blinked slowly into the dark of his office. Those extra anti-anxiety meds may have been a mistake, because he was a little less anxious, sure, but he now felt like he was moving in slow motion under water. He wiggled his fingers in front of his face and gave a little goofy smile at the motions they made; most definitely a bad idea.

“Hey there he is!”

Ian was startled out of his trance by Mickey’s voice. He sat up in his seat and stared wide-eyed as Mickey plopped down the box of items in front of him and slapped the sides of the box.

“For a hot second there, I thought you were dead,” Mickey explained with suspicious cheerfulness, “brought you all your shit—figured you’d be wanting at least some of this stuff back,” Mickey said. Ian was running a few minutes behind this entire conversation and struggling to catch up. He peeked into the box and reached for the baseball bat out of curiosity, but Mickey grabbed it first. “That’s not yours actually, it’s mine. Why would I put that in there? Ah, wait, I remember now.”

With that Mickey took the bat and headed with purposeful intent over to the Monster and unleashed hell. The first crunch of the bat against the giant screen did absolute wonders in jolting Ian awake.

“Mickey, what the fuck?!” Ian shot out of his chair as Mickey released his hurt and rage on the massive screen until it was a fractured mess before turning his ire on the consoles beneath it. Ian could only watch, horrified.

“There, feel better now.” Mickey huffed and after putting his bat over his shoulder, headed past the gaping Ian and was on his way out the door. Ian tore his attention away from his ruined screen to go after him. He caught Mickey just before he could exit the office.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Any further queries were cut off when Mickey rounded on him suddenly and Ian found himself at the business end of Mickey’s baseball bat.

“You back the fuck up off me,” Mickey seethed, jabbing the bat in Ian’s face and forcing the redhead to back off. “You had your fun? You’re done? You don’t want to hang out with me anymore, that’s fine, but you come to me like a man and you fucking finish it yourself. You don’t unleash that fucking pit-bull you call a brother to do your dirty work for you.”

“Lip? He spoke to you already?”

Disgust ghosted over Mickey’s face. “I’m supposed to be scamming you? Is that the best you two geniuses could come up?”

“You had all that stuff on your computer!” Ian’s words tumbled out in an addled rush. “You’ve been casing me since the beginning!”

“My computer? What the fuck are you talking about?” Mickey frowned, suddenly completely at sea. “What the fuck were you doing on my computer?” He paused and stared at Ian, dumbfounded, “so wait, you really thought I was trying to scam you? I thought it was something your brother cooked up to lay grounds for firing me.” Mickey’s face was equal parts disbelief, hurt and disappointment and he ended up letting out a wry laugh, “Jesus fucking Christ, Ian.”

“You had those searches about me sexually harassing you,” Ian defended desperately, for Mickey was looking at him in the worst way possible, “right around when we first started.”

“That was for my fucking sister!” Mickey replied, exasperated as he lowered the bat. “Her boss had been making her life hell. We were trying to find ways to make him back off because she actually loves that job.”

That had Ian reeling a little, “you never said.”

“How is that any of your fucking business?!”

“You searched for so much stuff about me! You never showed any interest like that, you never asked me anything,” Ian’s voice broke a little and he cleared his throat and swiped the back of his hand across his face, “then I turn around and you’re doing all these weird searches.”

“I don’t know how to ask you those questions, Ian,” Mickey said quietly, “I don’t know how to do any of this shit. How the fuck am I supposed to look at you and ask about your favourite fucking colour? I just...” Mickey sucked on his lower lip in agitation, “I don’t know how to do this shit. This was my first time trying.”

Ian’s mouth opened and closed for a while as he wiped his hands on his jeans.  “I wasn’t even sure if you liked me sometimes, Mick.”

The admission brought out a surprising reaction from Mickey. There was a flash of white teeth and Mickey scratched his nose as he gave a short, dry laugh. He clicked his tongue and stared at his boss with faint amusement.

“You weren’t even sure if I liked you,” Mickey repeated. “You weren’t sure? You weren’t fucking sure?!” Mickey exploded and Ian stumbled backwards, shocked by the vehemence. “What the fuck did you want, Ian? What didn’t I give you?” Mickey demanded as he briefly advanced on Ian, “I let you do anything you wanted. I let you fuck me whenever and wherever you wanted. I let you into my home, I let you take over my life, I let you fuck up my shit! You know how many guys I let shove their tongues down my throat whenever they fucking wanted? One! One stupid shit who doesn’t get to do it anymore!”

Mickey broke off abruptly and backed off. He sighed heavily while Ian’s brain too slowly shifted through all this new information. It was Mickey who spoke again, “let me ask you something. That night, when you asked me about my dad, did you already know? Did you already know about my family, about what it was like?”

“I asked Lip to look into it,” Ian admitted, “you seemed so rattled, I just wanted to know what you were up against.”

“And you let your brother use that shit against me?” Mickey nodded and tried to tamp down the crumpling feeling spreading through him, threatening to show all over his face.

“No, I would never-” Ian began his defence, but Mickey wasn’t interested in hearing it.

“You know what, it doesn’t even matter,” Mickey shrugged before flashing another brittle smile. “I hope you appreciate the irony of this though. The whole time you thought I was casing you, you were actually casing me and you got what you wanted and now we’re done.”

Ian didn’t say anything in response. He was fighting just to stay upright as it was and just stared ahead blankly. Mickey gave a soft snort and slowly shook his head. He didn’t know what he was waiting for, didn’t know what he had been hoping would happen, but clearly he was not about to get it. He put his bat over his shoulder and backed away while nodding to the smashed television.

“You can take that out of my severance or whatever. You just do what you need to do, Gallagher; I don’t want to know you anymore.”


“No, fuck you, man,” Mickey needed to leave before he fell apart. “Just fuck you.” With that, he turned heel and headed out the office, leaving a shell-shocked Ian behind. As he waited for the elevator, Mickey could resist one last parting shot and yelled back as he tossed Lip’s crumpled business card. “And you tell that lemur-looking motherfucker you call a brother that he can just kiss my entire ass!”

Ian groaned awake when his phone went off at 6 a.m. He yawned and stumbled into his office bathroom, his body automatically performing its routine. He took his pills and stared tiredly into the mirror with red-rimmed eyes. When he was through with his morning constitutional, he shuffled back out into his office, where pale sunlight slowly illuminated everything within it. His jaw dropped at the carnage that was the Monster and the consoles beneath it, before his eyes fell on the large box on his desk.  He raised an eyebrow at it before checking it out.

He poked around it, nonplussed at the random assortment of stuff dumped into it. It wasn’t until he recognized that these were all the things he had left at Mickey’s apartment that the events of the night came rushing back to him in vivid, nauseating detail. Fuck.

He froze for a second, unsure of what the best course of action should be. Dawn had just broken and Mickey was bound to be asleep, and he doubted waking him up was going to help his case any. Still, Ian decided to risk it and grabbed for his phone off his desk, but the shakes weren’t ready to subside just yet and the phone tumbled out of his hands and landed somewhere under his desk. Fuck!

He crawled under the desk and grabbed it again, managing to keep hold of it, but having no luck swiping it awake. His agitation was making his trembling worse and he had never hated his body more for deciding to work against him. He stopped, breathed and tried to center himself, before firmly swiping a shaky finger across the screen of his cell and activating the voice command. “Call Mickey.”

The phone quickly connected and Ian sat on the floor, back against the wall and waited nervously for the Mickey to pick up. Several rings later, it went to voicemail. Ian hung up and tried again. He would try four more times before accepting that Mickey wasn’t about to pick up, so he’d have to plead his case via automated messaging.

*beep* “This is Mickey; keep it short and sweet.”

“Mickey, pick up the phone, okay, please. We need to talk. I fucked up, I know, but can we talk about this?!”

*beep* “This is Mickey; keep it short and sweet.”

“I freaked out. I got scared and freaked out. I should have talked to you first, but I was scared of doing that too. Look, if we could just-” Ian was cut off as the voicemail disconnected.

*beep* “This is Mickey; keep it short and sweet.”

“I can fix this, I swear I can. Please just give me a chance to fix this. You have to at least talk to me… Mickey!” Disconnected yet again; Ian hastily redialled.

“The owner of this device is either out of range, or has turned off the instrument. Please try your call again later.”

Ian let out a sharp grunt of frustration and smacked the back of his head against the wall. With the shakes gone, he immediately switched to texting as he quickly got to his feet.

Mickey woke up with his head feeling as if it was being torn in two. His mouth was sour and cottony, and the Jack Daniel’s running through his veins was slowly changing back to blood. He groaned as he sat up in bed, pain lancing through his head and bursting behind his eyes. He squinted at the clock; it was just minutes after seven, so he hadn’t slept too long past his usual alarm. He turned his phone back on, ignored the voicemails and texts from Gallagher and looked to see if he’d missed any calls from human resources. Nothing—he might as well go get fired in person and get the whole thing over with. He groggily got to his feet and went to get ready for his last day of work.

“You look like absolute shit,” Carrie greeted as Mickey sighed heavily and tried to maintain his equilibrium.

“Thanks, sunshine,” Mickey said, “anyone ask to see me yet? Carol or whoever?”

Carrie shook her head and frowned up at him. “Why’d they want to see you?”

Mickey was saved from answering by the sound of Carol’s military style marching footsteps approaching. Mickey tensed as she grew closer and braced for her to ask to see him privately or for the straight-up tongue lashing and pink slip.

“Good morning, denizens of Skid Row. Mr. Milkovich, you’re not looking your usually chipper self today,” Carol observed as she cocked her head to look at him with concern and a vague hint of suspicion. “Are you well?”

“Oh, um, bug or something,” Mickey replied, a little confused.

“Ah, you must take great care as we transition between the seasons. Can’t afford to be sick and get others sick during crunch time,” she slapped a hand to his forehead and Carrie nearly lost it at Mickey’s gobsmacked expression. “A little warm; go home if you’re infectious, Mr. Milkovich. We can’t stand for the whole Row coming down with something!” And with that, Carol marched off.

“You’ll never guessed what happened,” Carrie nudged as Mickey slid gingerly into his seat. “The Monster is dead.”

Mickey had temporarily forgotten that he’d completely lost his shit before going home and crawling into a bottle. “Yeah, how?”

“Wall mount gave out; crushed the consoles underneath it too. Ian’s lucky he wasn’t underneath it to get flattened like a pancake.”

“Yeah, lucky; well, no harm no foul right? He can always do better; just go out and get a new, improved one.”

Carrie smacked him on the shoulder. “Well, Ian is out getting a new one now, but still! Show some respect for a fallen comrade. How’s he going to do better than the fucking Monster? Is there a jumbotron store I don’t know about?”

Mickey had come in expecting to be fired and/or arrested on sight, but so far nothing had happened. He worked steadily for a hour, on pins and needles about seeing Gallagher again and about the fallout that was yet to happen. He paused from working and went to get a coke from the break room to help settle his nerves and stomach. He came back out the exact moment the elevator doors opened to let Ian step out onto their floor. Fuck.

Ian’s eyes went right to Mickey’s work station first. While Mickey wasn’t there at the moment, his things were which meant he came in to work. He looked towards the break room and immediately locked eyes with a stricken looking Mick. Ian’s lips parted and Mickey pretty much bolted for the bathroom. Ian stopped himself from yelling after him, and as quickly and casually as he could manage, took off after him.

Mickey coughed and heaved as his system flushed out another round of bitter mistakes. This was his life now, running scared before being forced to his knees and throwing up like a fourteen year old girl in the throes of a panic attack.


Ian’s voice unleashed an absolute maelstrom of discordant feelings that was enough to have him doubled over again until there was nothing left but painful dry, heaves.


Mickey wiped his mouth and flushed before getting to his feet. He rested his head against the door, knowing full well that Ian was on the other side of it and wholly unprepared to go out. He softly called himself a pussy before smacking his head against the door and shoving it open with such abrupt violence that Ian was forced to scramble back to avoid getting hit. Mickey ignored him and headed for the row of sinks.

“I tried calling you all morning,” Ian said desperately as he dogged Mickey’s heels. Mickey remained mum, focusing on rinsing his mouth of as much of the bad taste as he could manage. “Please talk to me, Mickey. I know I screwed up, but I can fix this.”

Mickey did a cursory glance around the bathroom to see if there were any eavesdroppers before turning back to the tap to wash his face.

“At least let me know if you’re okay,” Ian pleaded and watched helplessly as Mickey silently yanked a napkin from the dispenser and wiped his face. “Would you at least look at me?!” Mickey only balled up the napkin and tossed it in the trash, not sparing Ian a glance. He left the bathroom and a frantic redhead behind.

Mickey went straight for his desk and gathered up his things. Carrie looked up in surprise. “What’s going on?”

“Taking the day,” Mickey explained. If he wasn’t fired yet, then he could take a sick day. It wasn't running, he told himself, it was a strategic retreat. He was nowhere near ready to face Ian yet. “Think this bug’s getting worse, so I’m going to take Carol’s advice.”

“Okay… I’ll check on you later then?” Carrie’s concern was evident and this was yet another thing Mickey just could not deal with. He gave his friend a short nod and headed for the elevator. Ian came into view pausing as he headed for his office, eyes as big and wet as a fucking puppy’s, just as Mickey hit the button for the ground floor. Their eyes held for a moment and Mickey bit his lower lip as hard as he could to keep his chin from trembling. He pressed on the “close doors” button repeatedly, eyes fastened on the button panel until the man who turned his entire world upside down finally disappeared behind sliding doors.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Gallagher! How nice to see you again,” Lip’s secretary greeted as Ian headed towards his brother’s office. “Your brother’s on a conference call right now, but if you wait a few minutes…”

The look Ian gave the earnest young man would have killed a weaker soul, so it was more than enough to shut the man up as he watched Ian unceremoniously stomp into Lip’s office.

“What the fuck did you do?!” Ian snarled and Lip could only blink at him.

“Please excuse me for a moment, gentlemen. An opposing counsel’s client is here and I’m afraid he does not look happy. Forgive me,” Lip quickly disconnected the call and spread his hands in stunned confusion. “Dude, what the fuck? Oh shit!”

Lip dived to the side as Ian started charging around the desk; seriously bent on doing some grievous bodily harm. “I am going to fuck you up!”

The front door opened, pausing the potential bloodbath. “Sir, your brother is, uh, here to see you.”

Lip, crouched down behind the opposite end of his desk away from a murderous looking Ian, looked heavenwards before aiming a wan smile at his secretary, “thank you, Casper. I can see that. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Casper had a vague suspicion that Lip was being sarcastic, but he flushed to the roots of his hair anyway and backed out slowly. Lip hazarded peeking above the top of the desk only to have his head very well near taken off by his flying briefcase.

“What is your malfunction?!”

“You said you’d just talk to him. You said you’d find out if he was genuine or not. You threatened him with his fucking father?!” Ian sent a paperweight whizzing towards Lip’s approximate location, since his brother stayed on his knees and well out of sight.

The days when Lip could take Ian evenly in a fight were long gone—the long term effect of choosing carcinogens over endorphins, he wagered. Consequently, he was more than content with the “stay out of sight” strategy until his brother calmed down a little. “I take it you spoke with him then?”

“He dumped me, you piece of shit! I am going to send you flying out of that fucking window!”

The door opened again and Casper took in the sight of his boss crawling around the desk, while Ian stood at the opposite end, prepared to heave a ficus plant. He looked uncertainly at his boss. “Um, should I call security or…?”

“Get the fuck out!” Both brothers screamed at the young man and he hurriedly shut the door and retreated. He had served to alert Ian to Lip’s exact position though, and in the next minute Ian was on him. Lip quickly grabbed his briefcase and tried to use it as a shield. “Dude, not the face, I’ve got court later!”

“What the fuck did you do?! You fucked me over, you heartless shit stain!” Ian dented the briefcase with his fists as his brother cringed beneath it. “You didn’t care if it was real or not, you just wanted him gone!”

“He was trying to scam-” A hard knee to his crotch had Lip doubled over and wheezing. Ian got to his feet, red-faced and homicidal.

“He wasn’t scamming me! It was real, it is real!” Ian panted, “but you were just determined to ruin this for me.”

Lip got to his feet clumsily, still bent over as he massaged his crotch. “Who the fuck was trying to ruin anything? I was trying to protect you, you ungrateful asshole.”

“Ungrateful?! You threatened to send my boyfriend back to his abusive, daughter-raping, psycho of a father!”

“You don’t get to put this whole thing on me because you fuck guys you can’t read. You came to me shit-scared this dude was working you over and was putting you and business at risk. What the fuck did you think I was going to do?! You can’t light the fuse and blame the dynamite afterwards!” Lip sat painfully in his chair and grimaced at Ian.

“It was real, Lip. He loved me,” Ian said brokenly as the violence bled from him.

“Well whoopty fucking doo; you should have figured that out earlier before crying wolf!”

“Fuck you!” Ian sent a few files fluttering at brother’s head before he righted a chair and sat down, defeated.

Lip sighed, “look, I admit, I may have been…heavy-handed in my approach, but I thought he was hurting you, okay?”

Ian’s response was interrupted by Casper peeping in to see if anyone, though specifically his boss, was dead. “I was just…okay.” The secretary muttered and slowly closed the door again.

“You know he’s in love with you, right?” Ian pointed out to his brother as Casper disappeared.

“He does have a nice ass, but it’ll never work; he’s vegetarian.” Lip said as he looked about his ruined desk for his pack of cigarettes. He found it and lit up a cigarette before tossing the pack and the lighter to his brother.

“I don’t know. I’ll be willing to bet he knows his way around certain cuts of meat.” Both brothers snorted with mild amusement before smoking in sullen silence. “You fucked me over, Lip. He hates me now. He saw me today and threw up. He literally puked at the sight of me. How the fuck am I supposed to fix this?”

“If it’s of any consolation to you, I’ve had a number of girlfriends lose their lunch at the sight of me only for them to hook up with me later anyway,” Lip sighed again at his brother’s sad, anxious look, “okay, so maybe he’s genuine, but are you sure it’s a good idea to—Jesus fuck, okay!” Lip cried as he ducked for cover as a vase whizzed past his head.

“You so much as say his name wrong and I swear to God, Lip!” Ian warned and sat back in his chair. “What do I do now?” he asked himself as he stared at his hands.

“Only one thing you can do, as far I can see,” Lip shrugged lightly. “You want him back so bad, go get him back.”

A practical idea from a practical man and an idea which would be far easier said than done.

Chapter Text

Any comfort to be found for Mickey Milkovich that night was at the bottom of a whiskey bottle and in the company of his very sweet bartender, Tanya. He had left the office after his disastrous encounter with Gallagher and had used his phone to pilot him to the nearest recommended bar for blackout drinking. Yelp really had everything. Within a few hours, he was three sheets to the wind and his filter was beginning to deteriorate.

“I like fucking carrot tops,” Mickey admitted, much to Tanya’s surprise. He had been a silent, brooding drinker up until this point. “Like with the freckles and the pale skin…fucking alien looking?” He offered as if by way of explanation. The bartender smiled, brows raised as she refilled Mickey’s glass.

“Well you might be in luck,” she nodded suggestively to a striking redhead in a tight black dress, who was giving Mickey the eye from the other end of the bar. Mickey almost fell off his stool trying to turn his head to follow Tanya’s nod. He gave the woman a polite smile before turning back to the stocky, blonde barkeep.

“I like them a little taller and about fifty percent Y-chromosome,” Mickey drained his glass and held it out for another refill while Tanya’s mouth made an “o” of realization and understanding.

“Sorry, hon, seems like we’re fresh out,” she craned her neck, fruitlessly sweeping the bar for likely candidates. Mickey only shrugged and downed another stinging shot. She looked at him knowingly, “though from the way you’ve been going, I’m guessing you had a particular redhead in mind.”

Mickey sniffed, trying unsuccessfully to affect nonchalance. “Fuck him,” he muttered darkly, “fuck him and his fucking face. His face is stupid,” Mickey slurred. Ian’s face wasn’t just stupid; it was wretchedly persistent and absolutely refused to stay out of Mickey’s mind’s eye.

“Broke your heart, huh?” Bartenders were nothing if not intuitive to human suffering. She started pouring him another shot in sympathy, but hesitated briefly. “How’re you getting home, hon?”

“Is it possible for me to just lay here and die after I settle my tab?”

Tanya sighed and shook her head. “Would love to help you out, honey, but I’m pretty sure that’s a health and safety violation, and I kinda have to cut you off before you reach alcohol poisoning levels.”

“Ah, well in that case, I guess I’ll take a cab later.” Mickey waved his glass at Tanya beseechingly and his shot glass was promptly refilled.

“They do say it’s better to have loved and lost,” Tanya offered soothingly.

“‘They’ can blow it out their collective asses,” Mickey murmured as he turned his full attention to self-medicating.

It was nothing short of a miracle that Mickey managed to get from the cab to his apartment without passing out or face planting. He fumbled with the door for what felt like ages and stumbled into the dark of the apartment. He lurched towards his bedroom, cursing as he tripped over random crap since he couldn’t bother to switch the lights on. He kicked off his shoes, collapsed into bed and was immediately out for the count.

Mickey sighed as he snuggled against the warmth pressed alongside him. He focused on the softness and how good it smelt in the hopes of keeping a punisher of a hangover at bay. It took a minute or two for it to click that there was something wrong with the scene. He slowly and painfully opened his eyes to a squint and was immediately confronted with a pair of green, glassy eyes staring back.

“The fuck!” Mickey blurted as he threw himself backwards and away from the intruder. He tumbled painfully off the edge of the bed and cursed some more, but had the presence of mind to grab his baseball bat and shot to his feet preparing to brain whoever was in his bed. He held the bat aloft and stared down uncomprehendingly at a giant, red teddy bear in a green hoodie. The stuffed toy flopped over helplessly and Mickey was left looking shiftily around his bedroom, death grip still on his bat.

The bear was almost as big as Mickey and filled the bed quite a bit, but it seemed to be the only new addition to Mickey’s bedroom. Satisfied that his room was clear, Mickey slowly and cautiously tiptoed out to his living room.

“Oh, what the ever loving fuck?” Mickey breathed at the state of his home. There were balloons with “I’m sorry I was an asshole” emblazoned across them all over Mickey’s goddamned apartment; apology baskets stuffed with fruit, cookies and sweets, and boxes of chocolates piled high on Mickey’s kitchen table. He dropped the bat and dazedly wandered over to the chocolates. He ripped open a box and took it with him and he meandered around his apartment, eyes wide with wonder and mouth full of confectionery as he took in the regret explosion in his home.

There was a letter on his living room center table, addressed to him in Gallagher’s distinctive, barely legible scrawl. He picked it up, went back to the kitchen, dumped it in the trash can and wondered when in the name of all that was good and holy did Gallagher do this and how? Mickey guessed that it was either when everyone thought Gallagher was out getting a replacement Monster, or it was while Mickey was out getting completely faded. It was then the realization finally hit home—Ian still had his fucking keys.

“Argh!” Mickey smacked his head with the now empty chocolate box. He had hoped that after his rather violent emoting the couple nights before that he would have been able to avoid saying a word to Gallagher for the rest of his life. Now, after only two goddamned days, he was going to have to see him again to get his keys back. Ian Fucking Gallagher—any normal human being would have realized at the point where Mickey started destroying his expensive shit, that maybe he had lost key privileges; not Ian. Any halfway decent human being might have handed over said keys by the time Mickey got around to telling him to go fuck himself; again, not Ian. Instead, he let himself into Mickey’s apartment and officially launched his apology tour.

Mickey knew that his oversight would have been ripe for the picking for some Neo-Freudian. Maybe, deep down, he hadn’t wanted to take his keys back, that maybe he wanted Ian to have them and find his way back to Mickey’s place, that Mickey was still holding out hope for a miracle. Well fuck that; he had been drunk and overwrought and he had simply forgotten, no other reason. He sighed heavily, went back into the kitchen to open another box of chocolates and retrieved the letter from the trash—just to see if the keys were in there, no other reason.

By seven-thirty, Mickey, fighting back the effects of the world’s worst hangover, was stepping off the elevator and onto his floor of Southside Enterprises. If there was one thing to be said about fooling around with Gallagher, is that he was inadvertently pulling more overtime than should be legal. His pay checks looked like Christmas every fortnight.

He stalked into Gallagher’s office and shut the door behind him. Ian flew to his feet like he had had a spring underneath him. “Mick, I was just texting you.”

Mickey decided then and there that he hated the way Ian said “Mick”; said his name in any way really. He hated the way the words slipped past Ian’s lips as right and easy as breathing. He hated the way the feelings in his own gut still fluttered up and swarmed unsettled whenever he heard Ian say his name. He wondered if anyone would call it out as something weird if he made Ian start calling him by his surname, but even that felt too much; like Ian’s hands sliding under his shirt and rubbing against his skin.

“Keys,” Mickey ground out and Ian blinked back at him owlishly.

“Did you go home last night? I left you a bunch of stuff at your apartment,” Ian asked nervously.

“Yeah, my trash day is going to be absolutely epic. Keys,” Mickey repeated, ignoring the odd stab of guilt at Ian’s crestfallen face. Between the pounding in his head, the butterflies in his stomach and the chaos brewing under his skin, Mickey was in no mood to have Ian pulling him apart with his stupid, fucking face.

“Mick, can’t we just-”

“Give me my goddamned keys before I start fucking shit up in here again, you included!” Mickey snapped and it was enough to get Ian to sullenly retrieve his set and awkwardly try to separate Mickey’s. At length, he removed them and held out his hand to Mickey, the keys clasped loosely within his grasp. Mickey stared at Ian’s hand, suddenly all nerves and jitters. He couldn’t bring himself to take them out of his hands. He knew the heat and electricity that lay within those fingers and could easily see himself, even now, getting hold of them and being unable to let go—a Gallagher finger trap as it were. Mickey almost laughed at the absurdity of the thought.

“Jesus, I didn’t turn into a fucking leper,” Ian grumbled and slammed the keys down on the table. Mickey didn’t respond, just snatched the keys up as quickly as he could manage and headed for the safety of his workstation. “No, wait,” Ian said plaintively and made it to the door first, blocking Mickey’s path.

Mickey backed away immediately, his stress levels spiking exponentially. “Move.”

“No,” Ian replied adamantly, choosing now of all times to plant his fucking feet. “I’m sorry, okay? Let me find a way to fix this. Tell me how to fix this. You can’t,” Ian stumbled over his words, clearly as agitated as Mickey was. “You can’t just, I mean, I don’t…” Ian’s eyes darted around the office, as if looking for some writing on wall that would help him as Mickey gaped at him wordlessly, on pins and needles. “You can’t just burn everything we have to ground over one mistake!”

There was a pregnant pause before Mickey finally spoke. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do,” his tone was soft, quiet and dangerous, “you laid next to me every night, the whole time thinking I was a thief and a liar.”

“I didn’t-”

“Your brother told me I was nobody, threatened me, threatened my livelihood,” Mickey cracked his knuckles one after the other as the conversation with Lip replayed in his mind. “You gave me up, you let him know things about me, things I thought were just between us, things that can hurt me. You let this whole thing happen. No, that’s not right; I let this whole thing happen, so I can burn it to the ground if I want. The two of you have my rap sheet, so you should know I’ve burnt shit to the ground for a lot less.”

Mickey advanced on Ian, stepping into his personal space for once. He made his voice even quieter, “this conversation is not work-related, you’re barring my exit without just cause and you’re making me extremely uncomfortable, Mr. Gallagher. Your brother will tell you, you don’t want me complaining to Carol about this,” Mickey watched Ian’s Adam’s apple bob in his throat as he searched Mickey’s face for a trace of a bluff. “Just because it was for Mandy, doesn’t mean I don’t remember that shit. It would be in both our best interests if you just moved.”

Mickey could see the hint of fear and uncertainty in the green eyes, even while Ian remained unmoving, contemplating the odds. Mickey was scared too, because he was at a crossroads and he had no idea what he would do next. The cacophony in his head was at its worst, and if Ian refused to move, he didn’t know if he would start swinging until everything was a bloody, broken mess at his feet, or if he would just give in to Ian the way he always did, the way he wanted to do so badly. Maybe the panic and confusion over feelings he had never dealt with before would overcome him and he’d end up spewing chocolate and whiskey everywhere. Not knowing your own mind was the very worst.

Ian, fortunately or not, decided that for the time being, the odds were not in his favour. He stepped aside, eyes not leaving Mickey for a second as his employee shoved past him into the safety of Skid Row. For the moment, they both wished they were braver men.

“What can I get you tonight?”

Ian shot a quick, uncertain smile at his bartender. It had been a while since he’d gone out drinking on his own, since his prescriptions didn’t exactly lend itself to hard partying. He hardly cared about that now. The mixologist was looking at him expectantly.

“Surprise me,” Ian said finally.

“Surprise you?” Gary, the bartender, grinned down at Ian from his impressive height.

“Yeah, go for it. I’m up for whatever.”

“You got it.”

Ian watched with interest as the young man prepared his shaker and whipped out a bottle of Jack Daniels, followed by a bottle of orange juice, on his way to making a Citrus Jack.

“Jack Daniels and orange juice?” Ian mused as he watched the bartender in action.

“Yeah man, they mix better than you would imagine.”

Lip found his brother face down on the bar while Gary and Paul, Gary’s supervisor and Lip’s friend, watched his approach, already apologetic.

“Jesus, Ian,” Lip sighed as he tried to rouse his brother. “Why didn’t you cut him off?!”

“Gary’s new and it’s been a while since Ian’s been here,” Paul explained, “He wouldn’t have known when to stop him.”

“I’m sorry, man” Gary offered guiltily, “I made him a few cocktails and that was it. I didn’t realize he’d be such a lightweight. He went from okay to babbling like someone flipped a switch.”

“It’s his meds,” Lip managed to get Ian awake and on his feet. He draped his brother’s arm around his shoulders and supported as much of his weight as he could. “They don’t exactly allow him to tie one on as much as he’d like.”

“You need help with him?” the men offered.

“Nah, I got it,” He thanked the guys for watching Ian and calling him to pick up his drunken brother. He started the long, arduous task of getting Ian to his car.

“Hey, where are we going?” Ian slurred.

“Back to my place,” Lip grunted as he half-dragged Ian outside.

“No,” Ian moaned, “can’t…I kinda have a boyfriend.”

“First off, I’m a gentleman who prefers blondes,” Lip said dryly, “and secondly, I’m your brother, you douche.”

Ian squinted at his brother uncertainly. “Which brother: the black one, the college one, or the elitist asshole?”

“Nice one, you proud of yourself for that?” Lip heaved Ian against his car so he could open the car door and shove his inebriated brother into the backseat. Ian reached up and used a large hand to grasp the back of his brother’s head as he kept squinting at him, all the while swaying on his feet.

“You sound like the asshole,” Ian nodded while the alcohol fumes off his breath made Lip’s eyes water. “But I love you anyway. Turns out that I’m an asshole too,” Ian whispered conspiratorially, “assholes can still be loved, right?”

“Don’t see why not. You’ve been loving them since you were thirteen. Rumour has it they’re your favourite body part.”

It took a while for the joke to wind its way through the haze of Ian’s soused state, but once it did, Ian chortled and slapped his hands against Lip’s chest in amusement, almost sending his brother sprawling onto the sidewalk.

“Jesus,” Lip complained as he rubbed his stinging chest while shoving his brother into the backseat. This was going to be a super fun night.

It was a small miracle that Lip and Ian had made it from the car and up Lip’s elevator. They lurched out onto the floor and made the slow, shambling approach to Lip’s condo.

“Gotta stop,” Ian warned as his body bowed towards the floor.

“No, come on, my door is right there.” Lip begged, but he was helpless as gravity did its worst and dragged Ian down to meet the ground.

“No, nope, not gonna make it,” Ian moaned and promptly passed out. Lip exhaled heavily and got down to the business of hitching his hands under his brother’s arms and dragging him into his condo. It was gruelling work, because Ian was far heavier than he looked.

Once inside, Lip took a second to catch his breath before divesting his brother of his clothes and shoes until Ian was only clad in his boxers and undershirt. Lip had no hopes of tugging Ian into bed or even his couch, so he instead pushed and pulled Ian into the recovery position and got his brother a pillow and some sheets. He left his little brother snoring on the floor until the next morning.

Long after the jitters from his morning medication had passed, Ian Gallagher was still completely out of it. His head was threatening to split in two and his stomach roiled. He blinked blearily at the dry toast and coffee in front of him and gave a small grunt of surprise when his vision focused enough to reveal his brother eyeing him from across the breakfast table. Ian groaned in greeting and belched sourly.

“Jesus,” Lip said and took a sip of his coffee, “I’m guessing this is all part of your grand plan to win back your lost love. If you had told me it involved inducing liver failure, I’d have advised against it.”

“He hates me.”

“So you’ve said.”

“I can’t do anything right all of a sudden. Everything I say is stupid; everything I do is crazy,” Ian then went on to tell his brother about how he filled Mickey’s apartment with tokens of his contrition and Mickey’s subsequent rejection.

“A life-sized teddy bear? Are you fucking serious?” Lip couldn’t hide his amused grin.

“Life-sized for him, maybe,” Ian muttered under his breath and rubbed his face. He looked up at his brother. “You think it was too much?”

“Just a skosh,” Lip knew his brother was going to have to find the line between endearingly intense and intensely creepy soon enough. Ian sighed in defeat and slumped down in his chair. “Look, Ian, I can’t say I’ve dated the lady equivalent of a Mickey Milkovich, but I’ve been on both sides of the whole misunderstanding, hurt/rage equation. You have to give him a little time and space. It’s only been a few days, and he is nowhere near ready to consider forgiving you yet,” Lip regarded his brother earnestly, “right now, everything is too raw, confusing and fucked up; you don’t know if you want to fight or fuck or run from everything. It’s fucking mental; can’t be making decisions now.”

“So what do I do?” Ian frowned. Backing off was not a concept he was comfortable with.

“Stay visible, but give him a little time to process maybe?” Lip suggested, “You don’t want to do the whole out of sight, of mind thing, but he might be a little more amenable to reconciling if you let him calm down first. Also, maybe cool it with the apology Mardi Gras in his apartment.”

Ian nodded and finally took a sip of his coffee. Lip finished his breakfast and prepared to head out for work. He got up from the table, came around to his brother and rested a gentle hand in his brother’s red hair.

“Look, I know your tender heart’s in a blender right now, but you have to try and keep it together, Ian. You have a business to run, final approval on everything with the game release, and a whole bunch of people relying on you to keep the ship on course. It’s rough, but you can’t shut down completely until you get him back. You have to play through the pain.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ian responded quietly. Lip instinctively dropped a kiss on top of his brother’s head before ruffling his hair until Ian groaned in protest and swatted him away.

“Stay here and sleep it off for the day and detox. I have to get out of here,” Lip grabbed his tie and coat and headed for the door. “Make it work, brother!”

The fumes coming off Mickey were making Carrie’s eyes water. He looked like crap, and the dark circles around his eyes made him look like a raccoon that had fallen on hard times. Before he could dump his stuff and take his seat at his workstation, she was dragging him backwards towards the elevator.

“Hey, what the fuck, Carrie?” He grumbled and she only shot him a quelling glare and handed him her bottle of water. She made him follow her begrudgingly to the roof and once they were up there, she rounded on him.

“Alright, what the fuck’s wrong with you?”


“Do not play dumb, you ass. You have been tying one on and showing up to work completely out of it three days in a row!” She accused, “you smell like a distillery, I’m scared to let you near open flames and you are barely staying on your feet right now. So, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Mick grumped irritably and shifted away from his friend. She simply followed him.

“Look, Mickey, did something happen with…” she paused when he shot her a sharp, suspicious glare. “I mean, has something happened? You can’t keep coming to work like this. Carol will crawl so far up your ass, you’ll be tasting righteousness and justice for days. Are you trying to get fired?!”

Mickey wiped a hand across his face anxiously while Carrie hovered behind him. “I can’t fucking do this anymore.”

“Can’t do what?” she asked, surprised.

“This, all of this,” Mickey responded agitatedly. “I don’t know who I was kidding; this isn’t me—this nine to five, straight and narrow bullshit. Milkoviches aren’t built for that shit.”

“You’ve done it for five years!” Carrie exclaimed.

“Then I’ve been faking it for five years!”

“Everybody’s faking it, Mickey!” Carrie scoffed and rolled her eyes, “that is sum total of the human experience. We are all a bunch of clueless, scared little children, holding on for dear life on a ball of mud as it goes hurtling around the sun. Welcome to the jungle! What does that have to do with anything?”

Mickey rubbed his nose as Carrie raised her eyebrows and cocked her head at him, waiting for what she deemed a proper, or at least truthful, answer. “I just don’t think I can deal anymore, okay? He’s just…he’s…,” Ian was just always there, in his head, in his bed, in his office. Mickey didn’t know how he was supposed to handle coming to work every day and exist mere feet from him, knowing that they weren’t together. This was a whole new level of game play for which Mickey felt wholly unprepared.

“So this is about a boy?” Carrie prodded slowly, “a dumb boy who broke your heart. Isn’t that always the way though?”

Mickey gave a shuddering sigh as Carrie pulled him into a quick, tight hug, before he had a chance to protest or avoid it. She pulled back quickly, knowing he wouldn’t allow for anything much longer. When she pulled away, she gave him a look full of love and understanding before straight up slapping him across the face.

“Ow! What the fuck?!”

“Bitch, pull your emotional ass together and think this through. I don’t know what movie you think you’re in where you get to run home and get your groove back, but you got the wrong one,” Carrie informed a thunderstruck Mickey. “You do not try to get yourself fired from a great paying job with full benefits, while we’re going through the slowest recession recovery ever! This isn’t ‘Sweet home, Alabama;’ you’re not Reese Witherspoon. What the fuck do you have waiting for you back in Chicago, huh? Are you going back to your job as a producer for Oprah? No dick is worth destitution; I knew this from the womb!”

“I’m Southside. I know my way around. I make sense there!” Mickey said defiantly, “it’s better than being here, trying to hang on to things that aren’t mine! Trying to be something I’m not and failing.”

“Bull-fucking-shit! Please refer to my earlier statement about faking it,” Carrie shot back, “When you do something long enough, it becomes your reality. This is your reality now. You were Southside, Mickey; you’re not anymore, not in that way. You didn’t have a choice in the life you lead then, but you got a break, you took it and you turned that shit around. You have choices now. Things you couldn’t have before, you can have them now. Just because something used to be out of your reach doesn’t mean you don’t deserve them and should never ever have them! What the fuck are we even talking about? What things?”

Mickey remained stony and silent, so Carrie paused and gentled her approach a bit, “Look, you’re changing, things are different for you and it’s fucking terrifying, I know. I was scared when I told my parents to take their money and control issues and shove it up their asses.  Raj’s parents were scared when they chose to elope and get the fuck out of Dodge rather than marry people they didn’t love. Eric’s scared that his wife might be the next Octomom—have you seen how huge she is? You deal with the changes as they come, right? You let them stretch you and bend you, but you don’t break and you certainly don’t fucking run!”

“Did you really just pull all that from your ass?” Mickey said, impressed and a little affected despite himself.

“Boy, yes, emotionally charged monologues are hardwired into every black woman’s DNA. Haven’t you ever seen a Tyler Perry movie?”


“Good, don’t, they’re terrible cinematic pieces. The quick fire mood changes within scenes will give you whiplash,” Carrie grinned broadly and managed to coax a laugh out of Mickey. “Are you gonna stop being stupid then? ”

Mickey pinched the bridge of his nose, “I seriously can’t with you sometimes, Carrie, Jesus fucking Christ.”

Carrie reached up and pinched his cheeks playfully, “Dude, you deserve so much better than what the world has you believing. That’s the truth for a lot of us. Don’t run from a good thing. Even if you leave out the fact that it’s a cardinal sin to leave your ride or die bitch behind, running because people are starting to get past the armour is super lame. It’s supposed to be a good thing, letting people in, even if some of them end up breaking your heart a little.”

“Yeah? Certainly doesn’t feel like it.”

“You have to take the good and take the bad,” Carrie said slowly, “You have to take them both, basically.”

“That’s from ‘the Facts of Life.’”

Carrie sighed, “Look I used up all my original material earlier. I’m just trying to get you to stay put and keep it together. You have to regulate.”

“And that’s Warren G.”

“I’m walking away from you now.”

The next morning, Ian was back at work, early as he always was, and finally putting in an order to replace the Monster and his consoles so he could properly get back to work. He was distracted by the sight of Mickey walking in a few minutes before nine, and watched as his ex grinned at his friends and chatted with them. Ian tamped down the nearly overwhelming urge to go out there and pull him away, to make another effort to try and fix things immediately. When Mickey finally slid into his seat, their eyes caught and held before they both dipped their heads and looked away.

It killed him that Mickey didn’t look happy, but at least they were both sober and alert and that had to count for something at least. He just needed a little patience. Ian would figure it out; he’d find a way and make it work. Until then, the two of them just had to keep it together.

Chapter Text

“Weather’s clear; the roof is open for business, people!” Eric yelled out while the rest of his group finished paying for their lunch deliveries.

“Roof?” Mickey raised an eyebrow to Carrie as she poked around and sorted their Chinese food orders.

“Yep, as soon as the spring showers ease up, we start having our lunch breaks up there,” she explained.


“What do you mean ‘why’? Fresh air, for one, and excellent views of downtown Manhattan. Plus, if you’ve ever watched a halfway decent high school anime, you’ll know that’s the place major characters and cool kids ever choose to eat and have significant moments.”

Mickey just rolled his eyes and grabbed his food, dutifully following behind his friends as they headed for the elevator.

Mickey watched in amazement as Eric and Jimmy opened up a small storage shed and whipped about putting six chairs in a rough circle, while Carrie told him about the Great Roof War of 2012 and how their scrappy band prevailed. Sometimes Mickey felt as if he was surrounded by cartoon characters. They sat and ate while Eric opened the floor with a burning question.

“So, hypothetically speaking, if you’re a straight married man, is it cheating if you let some dude give you a blow job?” he asked earnestly, looking around. The group collectively rolled its eyes.

“Man, the baby’s due in like what, two weeks? Just keep your legs crossed for a while,” Jimmy, a programmer who unlike Mickey’s drug dealer was actually Jamaican, suggested as he bit into his burger.

"Yeah, try eight weeks," Eric moaned.

“'A while' could be longer than anyone thinks,” Annie, a petite southern belle with no real filter to speak of, chimed in. “She looks like she’s gestating an elephant. For months after that baby comes, it will be like throwing a hot dog down a hallway.” She blithely stole her boyfriend’s fries, slapping Jimmy’s hand away whenever he tried to recoup one. When she finally glimpsed Eric’s horrified face, she blinked innocently and said what she always did. “I mean no offense, but I’m just saying.”

While Eric continued to bemoan the lack of marital intimacy as the birth of his baby drew near, Carrie was keeping a watchful eye on Mickey. He was listlessly poking around his noodles, not really eating anything, and had been quiet all day. She might have convinced him to stick around and stop self-sabotaging, but he clearly hadn’t cheered up any.

“Then she keeps wanting me to prove I still find her attractive, but when I try, she gets scared I’m going to drill a hole in our baby’s head!”

“Oh for the love of God, Eric, no one cares about your pussy deprivation problems!” Carrie silenced Eric and officially took the floor, “we need to figure out which club we’re taking Mickey to tonight.”

Mickey blinked as five pairs of eyes immediately fastened on him. “Excuse me?”

“His heart is broken and we need to have an intervention asap before it turns into full blown summertime sadness,” Carrie continued undeterred while the others nodded, much to Mickey’s growing horror.

“I don’t do clubs,” Mickey began.

“That’s nice, baby. So where’s good?” Carrie was ready to accept suggestions from the group.

There was a flurry of names and the group quickly weighed the pros and cons of each while Mickey tried not to lose his shit. “I don’t do clubs!”

“Boy, no one is talking to you. Mind your business,” Carrie shushed.

“It’s okay, Mickey. We’re pros at this. We had to do the same thing for Eric a couple years ago,” Raj garbled through a mouthful of fries.

“Yeah and look at me now. I’ve been married for forty-six months and my wife has been pregnant for all of them.” Eric groused.

Mickey was having none of that. “Is that how it always ends up? Because I’ve already had an ex-wife and a baby scare. Really don’t want a repeat of either of them.”

Everyone was gobsmacked at that bit of revelation, and it was Raj who immediately addressed the sudden elephant on the roof. “You had a wife and a baby-scare? How the hell could you have had a wife and a baby-scare?! Good God man, you just have been so deep in the closet, you damn near entered Narnia!”

Mickey lobbed a soy sauce packet at him, but laughed anyway. “It was complicated,” Mickey said shortly and decidedly left it at that. 

“Are we really going out to a club on a Thursday night though?”  Eric asked.

“I’m sorry, do you have plans? Are you going to be busy not getting laid?” Carrie snarked, “Mickey is having an emotional crisis here!”

“Mickey is not having an emotional crisis and for the last time, I do not do clubs!”

“It’s cute that you think you have a choice in this,” Jimmy muttered.

“Well, I guess these are my last few free days before the baby drops,” Eric said, waving Annie down before she could remind him for the umpteenth time that albums drop, not babies. “I’m here for you, Mickey!”

“Ugh, how about a bar? I’m fine with bars!” Mickey was not used to pleading with people, but when in Rome.

“Nuh uh,” Carrie shook her head. “You need the three B’s: booze, buds and beats. Bars don’t have decent beats, and music is crucial to the healing process.”

Jimmy was quick to add in sing-song, “because if there’s one good thing about music: when it hits ya…”

“You feel no pain!” the rest of the group finished.

Mickey could only roll his eyes and pray for death to come quickly.

It was after ten that evening and Ian was outside Mickey’s door doing a very convincing impression of a crazy person. He was pacing back and forth, debating over whether he should knock or just leave. He was supposed to be giving Mickey space, but it felt tantamount to being told not to breathe, so here he was. He was still in the throes of his dilemma when Eliza Doolittle popped his head out of the neighbouring apartment.


The chirpy, English cockney grated Ian to his very core. “Hi Adam.”

Mickey’s neighbour leaned against his door jamb in his floral satin robe and regarded Ian’s state with undisguised glee. “I say, you’ve been out here a while. Are you two having a bit of a domestic?”

Ian sighed, “I guess you could say that.”

“Ah,” Adam scoffed, “sure it will blow over soon, guv’nor, you’ll be right as rain as soon as you can say Bob’s your unc-”

“Oh for fuck’s sake with the accent, Adam!” Ian wiped a hand over his face in annoyance; he was in no mood to suffer fools. “No actual British person talks like that unless it’s in Monty Python. Please just stop.”

“I don’t know what you’re on about; this is just how I talk!”

Ian looked at him in resignation, “You’re from Little Rock, Arkansas. We met your sister in the elevator a couple weeks ago. We know…” Ian hissed until Adam pulled himself up to his full height and sniffed indignantly.

“I’m starting to see why he kicked your bony ass to the curb,” the older man spat, though the accent was now gone. He turned dramatically and flounced back into his apartment, robe billowing behind him, and tossed a spiteful “bitch” over his shoulder as he closed the door.

Ian snorted and finally decided to knock on Mickey’s door, only for Adam to pop out again. “He isn’t there. I would have told you that earlier if you weren’t such a complete heel to me!” the cockney had now been replaced by a cultured British accent as he stood filing his nails. “I was in character; I’m a creature of the theatre and soon Broadway will see my name in lights and-”

“Where’d Mickey go?” Ian sighed.

“Ahem, his friends took him out to a nightclub if I’m not mistaken—and I’m not.”

Ian was taken aback. “A club? Mickey hates clubs…where did they take him?”

Adam blew on his nails and regarded them critically. “I might have heard a name, but these things start slipping away the older one gets. Dreadful and frightening really. I should keep up with my gingko regimen, but all these supplements are so expensive nowadays—thanks, Obama.” Adam rubbed his fingers together and looked at Ian significantly.

“You’re shaking me down? Seriously?” Ian sighed and dug in for his wallet. He fished out a hundred dollars while Adam ogled the cash.

“Um, I do think the name was a tad bit more complicated than that.”

Ian pulled out a few more bills and held the cash out, keeping grips on it as Adam tried unsuccessfully to grab them. “Name first.”

“It’s the ‘Tempest’ club in West Village. One of his friends said they would not rest tonight until she had nabbed Mickey some, and I quote, ‘quality dick’!” Adam quickly tugged the money out of Ian’s hand. “And I for one wish them Godspeed!” With that, he quickly closed the door before Ian could turn murderous.

Despite his fuming, Ian was pleasantly surprised to see his blonde heiress counterpart in the elevator when it opened. She did not look like a happy camper either.

“Everything okay?” Ian asked as he stepped in next to her.

“Oh,” the word was expelled in an agitated puff, “not so great at the moment; bit of a rough patch. But it’s fine, only temporary. So help me, we’ll work things out or die trying.”

“Damn straight,” Ian murmured and watched the elevator doors slowly close.

Mickey hated clubs. They were loud, chaotic and claustrophobia-inducing. He winced as he looked around the darkened space and wondered how a place with so many flashing lights could be so poorly lit. The atmosphere was nothing but throbbing, pounding, pulsating invasiveness, which would be great if he was describing a cock, but not so great when describing a place to unwind and forget about redheaded fools.

Carrie was running the outing like it was a military operation. She had been barking orders all night and now she stood at the center of the club craning her neck for an available booth. Given the crush of writhing, undulating bodies around them, he figured that was a fool’s errand. However, a second later, Mickey was being dragged forward violently as Carrie shoved her way through the crowd like a linebacker—all five foot four inches and one hundred and twenty pounds of her. She shoved him into a booth that had been so recently vacated, one could still smell the girls’ perfumes. As the rest of the group crowded into the booth, two of the previous occupants quickly made a u-turn, tottering on sky high heels.

“Hey! We’re sitting there!”

“Really? Because it looks like you’re standing over there,” Carrie pointed out. “Theoretically, only electrons can occupy two places at once.”

“We’re just going to the bathroom!”

Annie gave a cute toss of her head and batted her eyes at the furious girls. “Well, the election has run, honey, and you’ve lost your seat. Away now.”

The girls heaved angrily but eventually wobbled off and Mickey cracked his first smile since entering the club. Carrie winked at him and leaned forward to yell over the driving music to the rest of the crew. “Okay Jimmy, remember you’re taking one for the team tonight as our designated, so avoid temptation. Raj, you’re babysitting Eric, because you know he gets a little aggro when he’s drunk!”

“I do not get aggressive. I am a naturally ebullient and expressive individual,” Eric quickly defended himself.

“Yeah, well try to keep your ebullient bullshit chilled tonight! Also, first round’s on you; so go fetch. And get Jimmy something delicious and virgin! No offense, Annie!” Carrie grinned when Annie blew her a kiss then flipped her off. Eric obediently went off and was back within a few minutes. Everyone grabbed a drink and the night officially began.

It wasn’t long before Carrie and Mickey were alone at the table. Annie was on the dance floor letting Jimmy slap her ass the way only good little girl from the ATL would and Eric and Raj had disappeared into the crowd. With the exception of their designated, they were all pretty much hammered. The DJ entered the retro portion of the evening and when “ring the alarm” came on, it was as if the Holy Ghost had entered Carrie’s body.

“Baby, no, we need to report to the dance floor now,” she began to shove an unbudging Mickey from the side.

“No, no, I don’t dance.”

“Look, I’m not even playing with you right now. I want to be gentle and nurturing, I do, but this song is my motherfucking jam and I need to express that physically.”

And how that was his problem, Mickey would love to know. “So go dance then!”

“Okay, first, no man gets left behind. Second, you’re all focused on one particular dick now, so I know you haven’t noticed all these thirsty motherfuckers posted up all over the club. My hot ass goes out there alone and it’s Black Friday at Walmart 2013 all over again. I don’t want to have to play this card, Mickey, but my girl isn’t here and we members of the Rainbow Guild need to stick together in the jungle. So get out there with me, put your hands on my ass and cockblock like an ugly girlfriend.”

She shoved him so hard, he almost tumbled out of the booth. Clearly, being inebriated unlocked Carrie’s superpowers. Before Mickey could launch another protest, she had dragged him onto the dance floor, causing his mind to stall.

“I can’t dance!”

Carrie rolled her eyes—for this was shocking information—Mickey had most likely spent his whole life trying to look cool and hard, he probably never even tried. “Don’t even worry about. My body is an earthquake; it’ll move you whether you want to or not.” She clapped his hands on her ass and made her butt shake beneath his touch. Mickey let out a scandalized giggle like a child misbehaving in church.

“You dumb ass,” she beamed up at him. “Now just do the white boy rock,” she waved her hands to quiet him before he could cry ignorance of that too. “Just nod your head to the beat and sway a little, keep your hands on my body at all times and let mama do the rest!” She then did a body roll against him which was so hot, that it really shouldn’t have sent his brain scrambling to Ian’s private dances for him. He was either really that gay or that whipped. It was probably both.

Ian knocked back another shot of vodka and watched from his vantage point on the upper floor as Carrie violated his boyfriend in rhythmic and unspeakable ways. One of the others would pop by randomly, bringing them drinks, and the more Mickey drank, the more he loosened up. Soon he was laughing and moving with Carrie easily—feeding off her drunken happiness and energy.

If Ian had been someone else, he would have thought it was kind of hot. Mickey wasn’t a dancer, but he had amazing rhythm—a fact Ian could attest to—and Carrie was doing more than enough for the two of them. Ian didn’t think it was hot though, it felt more like a motive for murder. He chewed his lip and pinched his nose as the jealousy ate through his gut like caustic soda. He was a minute away from going down there when a commotion distracted everyone.

Mickey and Carrie were distracted by the sound of Eric’s voice yelling over the noise of the room and someone else screaming back.

“Oh shit,” Carrie whispered and she and Mickey giggled at the sound of Eric’s drunken ranting.

“I’m a grown ass man, you need to find you a boy to play with!” Eric yelled from somewhere in the club. Mickey burst out laughing again while Carrie whipped into military mode. Mickey could listen to Eric posture all day. The other man looked so much like the quintessential hippie, he could be mistaken for Jesus, but put some liquor in him and the most hilarious gangster came out.

Carrie looked around for Raj to chew him out for falling down on his duties, only to find him passed out in a booth. 

“Mickey, go get Eric,” she ordered and shoved him towards the commotion. She rallied Jimmy and Annie, telling them to get Raj and bring the van around, because judging from how Eric was going, they were going to need a quick getaway. Everyone ran off to their respective duties.

Mickey was able to nab Eric before things got physical with some very pissed off Russians. He dragged Eric away, while his friend continued hurling invectives over his shoulder and egging the men on. They tumbled out of the club, just as Jimmy screeched to a halt in front of them. They yanked a struggling Eric into the van as he unleashed a final insult that was enough to get the men to finally charge. Jimmy peeled away leaving the men chasing a vehicle with five pairs of middle fingers waving out of it.

In retrospect, getting completely shitfaced when there was still a day of work left in the week might not have been the best decision. Carrie recognised that now, especially since she had only just scolded Mickey about professionalism a few days ago. She had felt Mickey needed an immediate boost and had made an executive decision, but she hadn’t really intended for them to get so blitzed. Now there were five very hung over people within Skid Row that Friday morning. They sat gingerly, spoke softly and winced as colourful images danced across their computer screens. So when the flowers came, they were wholly unprepared.

“M. Milkovich?” the delivery guy asked Mickey from somewhere behind the biggest fucking vase of red roses Mickey had ever seen.

“Oh what the fuck is this?” Mickey was ill-equipped to deal with this nonsense this early in the morning. The delivery guy lowered the vase awkwardly onto the running ledge behind Mickey’s computer.

“Um, delivery for you?”

Before Mickey could respond, he noticed Carrie was partially out of her chair, her eyes scanning the vase like a stalking cat. He only just caught on to what she was looking for when her hand shot out and nabbed the white card that had been hidden among the flowers.

“Carrie!” he warned, but she was already poring over the card. At length, she sighed in disappointment.

“It only says ‘I’m sorry, can we talk?’ No name,” she handed him the card and sat down in a huff.

Ian walked into a tempest in a teacup. Everyone was staring at the most ridiculous vase of roses that were plopped down in front of Mickey. Ian came to the horrifying realization that they were from him; an impulse buy when he had been drunk and stoned out of his mind one night and had forgotten to cancel.

“Uh, what’s going on?” he asked innocently, coming up next to the delivery guy. If looks could kill, Mickey’s would have turned him into a bloody smear against the wall.

“Some clown sent me flowers, is what happened,” Mickey said bitingly. “Do I look like the kind of guy that likes getting flowers? What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?”

“I don’t know, Mickey,” Carrie piped up, “It’s kind of sweet and romantic… and crazy expensive.”

“Can you take it back?” Mickey asked the delivery guy, Chad, according to his name tag.

“Uh, no, I really can’t,” Chad responded apologetically.

“Fine, you like them so much, you have them,” Mickey said and plopped the flowers into Carrie’s lap. He exchanged a glare with Ian and the latter stormed off into his office. A few minutes later, Ian was back out and glaring at everyone as some still stood gawking at the flowers.

“I thought the flower situation was resolved,” Ian snapped, “did I sleep past the game release? What the fuck am I paying you people for? Get back to work!”

There was a stunned silence as Ian retreated into his office once more and slammed the door behind him.

“Oh shit, the beast is back,” someone said from somewhere in the back. “We’re at DEFCON 2 people, this is not a drill!”

Mickey blinked as everyone quickly scrambled to their workstations and got busy looking busy. Carrie put away the flowers and was grinding her levels within seconds. Mickey was left standing with Chad the flower guy gawking at him. “What the fuck are you looking at?” Mickey asked irritably.

“Nothing, um, could you sign?”

Carrie closed one eye as she stared at the vending machine in the break room, trying desperately to remember why she was even in there. She blamed Bacardi and Bob Marley for her current state of affairs. She had to try and maintain to get through the rest of the day because clearly it was time to tread softly around the office.


Shit. Just her luck that now would be the time Ian would engage her. She had to keep level somehow. She pirouetted slowly, overly bright smile in place as she faced her boss.

“Hi Ian,” she voice came out about an octave too high, “how are you doing?”

Ian gave her the once over, “are you alright? Some of Skid Row seems to be dragging a little today.”

“We’re fine,” now two octaves too high—anymore and only dogs would be able to understand her. “There might be a twenty-four hour bug going around or something.”

“Huh,” Ian nodded, unimpressed. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, clearly settling in for some kind of conversation. Carrie’s hung over little heart sank. “So, how are things?”

Carrie gave a nervous, little shake of her head and forced another grin, “good! Great, never better!”

Ian wasted little time getting to the point. Subtlety was never his strong suit. “So I, um, can’t help but notice you’ve been hanging out with Milkovich a lot lately.”

Oh Jesus. “Mickey? Yeah, we’ve become close, I guess.”

“How close?” Ian asked abruptly and Carrie was left sputtering.

“Um, you know, BFFs and all that, kind of,” she offered hesitantly and disjointedly. She was not sober enough for this shit right now.

“So you two aren’t…?” Ian made one of those vague hand gestures that meant everything and nothing. Carrie’s eyes widened and she waved her hands as if she were being attacked by a swarm of bees.

“NO! What?! I would never! With Mickey?! Oh my God, no!”

Ian straightened a little, eyes narrowing. “Why, what’s wrong with him?”

Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick. “Nothing! It’s just that I’m a lesbian! Out and proud since age fourteen!” she giggled nervously. “I have a girlfriend, Leslie, we met in college. She’s the free spirit type, you know; my special unicorn. She’s been talking about kids, but children terrify me. They’re like needy little monsters.”

“Um, oh-okay,” Ian awkwardly tried to stem the tide of Carrie’s panicky babbling.

“And I’m extremely sure Mickey only likes me as a friend! Super sure! A hundred percent!”

“Ah, right,” Ian felt as if he was losing the fucking plot; he needed to get his shit together. Lip would murder him if he ever knew that his brother was interrogating his employees about their love lives. “Not that it’s any of my business, of course,” Ian tried vainly to course-correct. “You can do whatever you like, I was just a little curious.”

“Of course, you just wanted to know where our heads are at, with the release coming up and all,” Carrie was more than willing to help herself and Ian out of this little human relations jam. “But nothing’s going on between us, honestly.”

“Good, you should keep it that way,” Ian smacked himself internally a moment later. “Not that I’m telling you what to do, just that I know how these office things can go and I’m respectfully suggesting.”

“Right!” Carrie nodded eagerly.

Ian sighed and rapped his knuckles together. “Well, I’ll leave you to it then. Good talk, Carrie; you’ve been doing a great job.”

“Thanks, Ian… you too,” she finished weakly and slumped tiredly against the vending machine as Ian finally left the break room.

Raj, who had been completely obscured from Ian by the giant refrigerator, had been trying desperately for the last ten minutes not to piss himself laughing. He erupted at Carrie’s bewildered, helpless look.

“Rwar!” he hissed and made kitty claws at her with his hands.

“This is not good, children. You should have seen the way he was looking at me!” Carrie flailed about as Raj kept laughing. “Goddamn it! It’s 2014, there’s a black man in office, DOMA has been repealed and my well-educated, gay ass is still gonna get killed because I fucked around with a white boy.”

“I swear to Shiva, I will give you half of my next pay check, half, if you go out there now and stick your tongue down Mickey’s throat.”

Carrie was not amused. “Half your pay check? Is that all my ass is worth to you, you cheap, shit-stirring motherfucker? Also, I know who Shiva is, and I know it’s the destroyer part you’re swearing to. How about I offer you the same?”

“Ugh, you should know this about shit-stirrers, Carrie, we’re rarely on the front lines,” Raj stuck his tongue out and grinned at his friend’s rude snort. “That was the funniest thing though. Loved the way you handled it; very smooth!”

Carrie stuck her tongue out at her friend’s teasing. “It’s silly season now. You know Ian gets crazy around this time. He and Mickey need to get their shit together before one of us innocent bystanders gets killed.”

“Mickey talk to you about any of this yet?” Raj asked and helped Carrie grabbed the cokes and snacks they had come for.

“Nah, we’re not there yet,” Carries sighed. “Dude’s a vault. My heart’s breaking for him, but he’s not ready to talk to me about any of crap. You’re going to need a bigger gun than me to get anything out of him.”

Ian spent the next few minutes with this head down on his desk as he mentally self-flagellated for his conversation with Carrie. He prayed she wouldn’t tell Mickey, because that would probably be the last nail in the coffin. He winced at the shrill sound of his office phone going off and reluctantly answered it.


A woman’s sweet, polished voice greeted him. “Hello, good afternoon, I’m on hold for Ian Gallagher?”

“You’ve got him.”

There was a pause and the voice that came next was neither sweet nor polished. “You soulless, ginger motherfucker! Who the fuck do you think you are?!”

Ian blinked in confusion and pulled the phone away to stare at it for a second. “Excuse me?”

“No, I don’t excuse you, you elitist piece of shit,” the woman snarled. “I don’t know where you and your bitch of a brother get off threatening Mickey, but you picked the wrong fucking family to mess with!”

The light bulb went off in Ian’s head. “Mandy? Is this Mandy?”

“I’m not only Mandy, fucker, I’m the fourth horseman of your goddamn apocalypse, and my brothers are the rest. You think because none of us is some fancy, Ivy League lawyer that we can’t do our homework? The Southside is a small ass place. I looked you up; you and your whole goddamned white trash family.”

This was shaping up to be a pleasant conversation. Ian could only stay quiet and listen.

“Frank Gallagher from Canaryville, right? That’s your dad? You have Frank fucking Gallagher for a dad and think any of you shitheads can look down on us? The bunch of you go around like your shit don’t stink when the truth of it is you’re all more slime than the rest of us!”

“I know…”

“I’ll be fucked if I let any one of Frank Gallagher’s hell spawn look down on my brother or any of us. None of you would be shit now if you hadn’t crazied yourself into one good idea!”

“I know that, I-”

“I thought you were a good thing, you shit stain! He liked you! And then you had to go fucking ruin everything and accuse him of scamming you! Get the fuck over yourself. Milkoviches don’t do scams!”

“You’re right; I’m sorry,”

“Stop fucking agreeing with me! What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Mandy snapped, frustrated with her target.

Ian finally took the opportunity from the brief pause as Mandy caught her breath. “I’m agreeing with you because you’re right, about me, about my family, about everything. You don’t know how sorry I am. If I could take it all back.”

This wasn’t exactly how Mandy had envisioned this conversation; she hadn’t planned to give him a word in edgewise. She stood in her kitchen awkwardly, her metal baton in hand, feeling the fire and brimstone bleed out of her a bit. She had never spoken to Ian before, but he sounded so sincere and broken, it actually made her pause. She shook herself and tried to get her full fury back. “You broke my brother’s heart, you douchebag!”

“I did, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to make it up if I have to,” Ian averred, “I’m in love with your brother, Mandy, I swear, and I would give anything for another chance.”

Aw, damn it, she could hear the waver in his voice and Mandy was at a loss. It didn’t help that she knew Mickey was still in love with the idiot either, but her brother was all messed up over it and she figured gingerbread deserved to pay. Ian must be some kind of wizard to turn her head around like this. Poor Mickey probably never stood a chance.

“Well, not everyone gets a second chance,” she held stubbornly—she had her sisterly duties to perform. “What they get is an ass-kicking and I will hitchhike up there to do it!”

“I’ll fly you in, you don’t have to hitchhike!” Ian offered impulsively, desperate to score some points somewhere, somehow.

“Are you trying to be cute right now? You think you’re funny? I don’t need charity from a Gallagh-”

“It’s not that, Jesus. You want to come kick my ass and I deserve it, right? It’s the least I can do,” Ian’s directness actually shut Mandy up briefly. “Plus, you visiting would make Mickey happy, right? I want to make him happy. You kicking my ass would probably make him ecstatic.”

It was a tempting proposal. She was due vacation time and she did want to see her brother. “You can’t fucking buy me, Gallagher.”

“With a plane ticket? I might be all kinds of dumb, but I would never be that cheap.”

Mandy snorted in amusement in spite of herself. This really isn’t how this conversation was supposed to have gone. She was going to have to kick his ass all the more if and when they finally met. She really wanted to see her brother, though, and a free trip to New York at this asswipe’s expense didn’t seem like a bad idea.

“You are nothing and I’d owe you nothing,” Mandy warned.

“Of course.”

She bit her lip and regarded her baton for a while, “I will kick your ass, though, no joke.”

“It’s only fair,” Ian agreed.

“First class?”

“Whatever you need.”

Mandy sniffed; was she crazy or could she hear the smug triumph sneaking into his voice? She was going smash that fucker’s teeth in the second she cleared security. It was weird, she hadn’t met him yet and he had hurt her brother, but a small traitorous part of her couldn’t help but like the guy.

“This really isn’t how I thought this would go. I was all revved up to give you a proper ass chewing,” Mandy sighed.

“I can give you my brother’s cell phone number,” Ian offered happily.


Chapter Text

Lip had a feeling that he wouldn’t be making mornings at the gun range a regular thing any time soon. He winced at the persistent gunfire and hesitated when he finally found who he was looking for. Mickey was focused solely on demolishing his paper target and, not for the first time, Lip contemplated if this was the best place for such a potentially heated discussion. Still, this was the only time he had free for weeks to come and he assumed and hoped that the guns here were all loaded with blanks. He took a deep breath, stepped up and tapped Mickey on the shoulder. Mickey lowered his weapon, removed his mufflers and turned to see Phillip Gallagher grinning dumbly at him. He couldn’t even summon up the energy to be mad.

“I would ask how the fuck you Gallaghers keep finding me, but I think I’ll sleep better not knowing,” Mickey said simply and was about to put his mufflers back on and resume shooting with renewed vigour.

“You’ll be surprised at what a background check throws up,” Lip rubbed his hands together uncertainly and watched Mickey reload his weapon. “Look, I wanted to apologise for what went down.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up and he turned back to face his visitor. Lip rubbed his nose before shoving his hands in his pockets and looking off to the side, clearly feeling the stress of making an apology.

“When Ian came to me, he was a little freaked out and uncertain, yeah, but I was the one that turned it into a whole thing. I threw fuel on the fire, you know. I mean, it wasn’t even a fire, I guess, more like a smoking ember?” Lip frowned deeply and tried to arrange his thoughts as diplomatically as possible. “Point is that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for me. Ian wanted to call you and talk it out at first; I told him not to. He wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, I kinda made him crazy. I thought you were running a scam and I was trying to shut you down as quickly as possible. But I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

Mickey nodded slowly and shrugged. “You’re not actually sorry and it’s fine. You were looking out for your brother. I bust heads for my family all the time; I just don’t talk so fucking much when I do it. It’s cool, man; got no beef with you.”

Lip blinked in surprise at how easily that had gone and quickly interrupted Mickey again before the other man could set about to blocking him out and resuming his target practice. “I have to say, that’s pretty magnanimous of you, Mickey,” Lip admitted readily, “so, uh, is this generosity of spirit being extended to my brother as well?”

Mickey gritted his teeth and counted to ten. “I thought we established that what happens between me and your brother is none of your fucking business.”

“My brother’s well being is always going to be my business,” Lip scratched his cheek and regarded Mickey thoughtfully, “I don’t get why you have such a problem moving on from this. I told you what happened was mostly my fault.”

“Yeah, I actually figured that out on my own without your dazzling input too, but thanks anyway.”

Lip was nonplussed, “so what, you’re holding out on him on principle or some shit? Ian is pretty broken up over this, he’s sorry. It’s one fucking mistake; you’re really going to be a bitch over one mistake?”

“Jesus, it’s like you’re begging me to do my own brand of dental work on you,” Mickey just really wanted to get back to his marksmanship practice and Lip was looking like an increasingly attractive target by the minute. “When I told you I had no beef with you, that was kind of your cue to get the fuck away from me.”

No dice because Lip was again irritated and frustrated on his brother’s behalf. “I just don’t fucking get what it is you want him to do here. Is this like the twelve tasks of Hercules or some shit? Does he have to get water from the moon? What’s the pound of flesh in a situation like this?”

Mickey rolled his eyes and wondered just how much damage blanks might do at close range. “Hey, how about you just throw some more money at me again, huh? You know how well that works with us criminal elements.”

Lip shook his head in disbelief. To him, Mickey was simply being unreasonable and stubborn about reconciling with his brother and he was at a loss to understand why. “You know, I would have thought the whole getting daddy thrown back in jail thing would have covered a host of sins, but I guess not. This is just being ungrateful, Milkovich.”

Mickey stared at the glowering Lip confused for a minute. “What do you mean ‘getting daddy thrown back in jail? Who are you talking about?”

Shit. Lip’s jaw slackened at the realization that Ian still hadn’t told Mickey about what he’d done. His mouth dried immediately as Mickey straightened up, looking deeply suspicious with a now very ominous looking gun still in hand.

“Are you talking about my dad?” Mickey asked, advancing on a whitening Lip. “Ian got my dad thrown back in jail? That was him?”

Lip blinked owlishly and worked his mouth wordlessly before ultimately answering: “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate those close to me.”

About a half hour later, Ian’s picked up a call from his brother. “Yeah?”

“I feel I might need to give you a heads up,” Lip said breathily.


“I, uh, I saw Mickey today,” Lip began hesitantly and Ian felt the blood freeze in his veins, “I, um, may have accidentally let him in on the whole Terry Milkovich re-imprisonment plan.”

Ian gave a harsh groan of frustration and suffering, “This is about your Tonka truck, isn’t it?”


“This is because I broke your Tonka truck when we were kids. That dumb red truck that Frank probably stole from some other kid when he realized he forgot your birthday. You never forgave me for breaking the off-loader and now you’re exacting revenge by trying to ruin my life!”

“Dude, come on! I was trying to move this shit forward a bit by explaining how this was mostly my fault and the whole thing took a weird turn,” Lip fired back rapidly, “I thought the whole Terry thing would have been a trump card!”

“Oh, of course, such an awesome trump card I chose not to tell him anything about it! I can’t believe I got that drunk I ended up telling you!”

“Who the hell doesn’t appreciate their piece of shit dad getting kicked back into the can?!” Lip cried.

“Oh you mean the way you appreciated it when JimmyJackSteve dropped our deadbeat dad off in Canada? Remind me who was the first one to lose his shit about it?”

Lip was momentarily forced into silence. “That is actually an excellent parallel. Admittedly, I did not think of it that way,” Lip confessed quietly, “in any event, he threatened to pistol whip me and I made an escape, so you might want to be the lookout.”

“I hate you so much sometimes, Lip, I swear to God.”

It had been a very confusing weekend and by the time Monday morning rolled around, Mickey Milkovich still had no idea what he was supposed to do when he finally came face to face with Ian Gallagher. He was supposed to be angry, right? He was supposed to be enraged to the point of burning on his father’s and family’s behalf about the entrapment and about Ian, once again, far overstepping his boundaries.

Except he wasn’t, or maybe he was, maybe that rage was somewhere inside the hopeless jumble in his gut. There seemed to be a gross amount of undefined, messy emotions swirling around in there and not one pure, uncomplicated one to guide his thoughts or actions. It was one of the things he hated most; being in that weird space where he had no idea what he might do or say or react until he wound up being just as surprised by his own actions as anyone else. When he got to work, he could see that Gallagher was in, stationed in front of Monster the second and decided immediately that he needed at least a few minutes more. Carrie sputtered at him as he hastily dumped his messenger bag and mumbled that he was heading up to the roof for a quick smoke before starting work. He didn’t even notice the look Carrie and Raj exchanged as he beat another strategic retreat.

It was only a few minutes later when Ian paused his game play and headed out for the break room. He stopped briefly when he saw Mickey’s things at his desk and quickly scanned the room. He had been on pins and needles all weekend waiting for Mickey to confront him, only for him to hear nothing but silence. He headed into the break room, hoping Mickey was there, but it was empty. He grabbed a drink and dawdled for a bit, thinking maybe Mickey was in the bathroom and might emerge soon, but after a while, it became clear that wasn’t the case. Frowning deeply, he headed back to his office only to be stopped by Carrie’s loud, oddly stilted voice.

“Wow, Mickey has been on the roof for a while!” Carrie did not have a future in the theatrical arts and Raj could barely suppress a groan at the weird inflection of her voice. “I sure hope he’s okay, Raj.”

Raj shot her a sour look that clearly said “don’t you drag me into this.” Ian, fortunately, was not in the proper state to notice Carrie’s ridiculousness and he simply made a right turn and headed for the elevators. When he was gone, Raj stared at Carrie pointedly and clapped sarcastically.

“Smoothly done, Meryl Streep. The fact that they have yet to cast you as the next James Bond is a stain against the entire franchise.”

“Oh shut up, at least I’m being proactive. I didn’t see your ass doing anything.”

“Yes, and when we see a man’s body plummeting outside our window in the next few minutes, my ass will rejoice in its laziness.”

It took Ian a second to find Mickey after he stepped out onto the roof. It wasn’t until he heard the clatter of a can being knocked over that he found his errant boyfriend behind one of the small storage closets.

“Hey,” Ian managed surprising ease as he leaned against the raised ledge and faced his employee. Mickey looked up at him briefly, eyes flicking from Ian to the kicked can and back. “I thought I’d hear from you over the weekend; figured you’d want to talk.”

Great, now Ian was here and Mickey still had no idea what he was supposed to do. He had little experience dealing with people who inspired complex and layered emotions in him. The closest he came to it was probably his father, who he managed to love and hate at the same time. That dichotomy of his feelings for Terry had been exhausting enough and everyone else more or less inspired simple black and white feelings and he was fine with that, until this joker came along.

“So it’s true? You’re the one that got my dad tossed back in prison?” Mickey figured there was no more use in stalling. Clearly he was going to have to get the ball rolling and see where this ended up. He tried to fire up the anger purely on principle, but could already feel himself falling short.

“Yeah, basically, I asked my brother to bait him a little and he went for it,” Ian took a deep breath and nodded.

“You and your fucking brothers, man,” Mickey gave a short laugh and shook his head, “you think you have a fucking right to do anything. You had no fucking right.”

“Are you kidding me right now?” Ian pushed off the wall to move directly in front of Mickey, “Mickey, your dad is an evil, psychotic prick. You thought I could let him just come back out and try to ruin your life?!”

“Oh get the fuck off it!” There was the anger, finally. The comforting relief of it almost made his knees weak. “Don’t act like you know a thing about my dad!”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously?!” Ian’s sudden anger matched his own and Mickey felt uncertainty beckon again in the beautiful face of it. “I don’t know a thing about your dad? The only thing you actually told me in the five fucking minutes we were together is how much he fucking scared you, how much he fucking brutalized you; and you thought I was going to let him-”

“Me being dumb enough to confide in you is no fucking permission to interfere in my life. You’re not my fucking family; he is!” Mickey panted with the exertion of it all while Ian flinched, the hurt clearly evident in his eyes. Mickey ignored the stab of guilt it evoked. “What happens in my family has fuck all to do with you!”

Whatever sting those words had in them seemed to burn away pretty quickly and Ian’s indignation came roaring back, redoubled and reinforced. He leaned into Mickey, glaring him down and giving the older man no quarter to avoid him.

“Say what you want, but I’m not apologising for it. You want me to eat shit for the rest of my life for everything else that went down between us? Fine, I’ll do it, but I’m not sorry for this,” Ian moved closer still and Mickey’s back was close to colliding with the storage closet. He shifted anxiously; looking everywhere but Gallagher as the words soaked into him and Ian wasn’t done. “Nothing you can say will convince me that I did a wrong thing here. When he went back in, you were happy and you felt safe. That’s why I did it, Mickey, because that’s all that matters to me anymore. I did it to keep you safe. I did it to keep you happy and you were. You can’t tell me otherwise. So do what you have to do, but I’m not sorry—not for this.”

There it went again surprising him, because Mickey could never tell just when one of those jumbled emotions was going to break away and take hold and fuck all his shit up. He stopped shifting for a second and finally looked up at Ian who was still far too close for anyone’s health and staring at him far too intently for him to breathe right and Mickey was reaching for him before his left hand knew what his right hand was doing.

He rocked up, planting his lips against Ian’s and hand splaying against the back of his neck. And this was why Ian was always destined for greatness, because he may be surprised on occasion, but he never hesitated; just always went for it. There was no stunned pause or need for adjustment and processing; he just kissed back, hot and hungry until Mickey was pressed against the nearest surface and Ian’s hand was sliding under Mickey’s shirt the way it always did.

There should have been no way kissing someone that way should feel like coming up for air, but it did. Mickey shivered as Ian’s hand burned against his skin so badly, he was sure it would leave a welt there. Ian groaned into his mouth and ground against him, starved for too long. When Ian began unbuttoning and unzipping Mickey’s jeans, Mickey arched into his touch—both of them powerless to put the brakes on whatever was happening.

The sound of the exit door crashing open threw cold water on them though and they separated hastily. Lindsay bounded out, laughing as she chatted on her phone, completely unaware of the two men on the roof. Ian ran his hands over his face and through his hair in exhaustion before turning to Mickey who was busy trying to erase any signs of his slip.

“Mickey…” Ian sighed as the other man took off. Mickey watched Lindsay carefully, making sure her back was still turned as he quickly and quietly slipped through the exit door and headed back to work. Ian remained obscured by the storage closet waiting for his erection to go down and trying not to burst out into hysterical laughter.

Mickey managed to avoid Ian for the rest of the work day only to end up across the street from his boss’s building on the Upper West Side as the sun slowly set after another long day. He didn’t know if it was just in his head, but Gallagher’s building was ridiculous in how expensive it looked. Mickey had been sitting on a bench across the street for the past hour wondering what the fuck he was doing there.

That kiss had been the biggest mistake. Hours later and he was still tasting and feeling Gallagher and he was jonesing in the worst way.  He sucked down a cigarette and tried to figure out which floor might belong to Gallagher and how ridiculous he would look standing amongst Ian’s insane, post-modernist furnishings. Sufficiently intimidated by the image, he managed to get up and started off at a brisk walk heading downtown. Gallagher probably wasn’t even there anyway.

Ian wasn’t at home, in fact. He was in Greenpoint, parked in his car a little bit down from Mickey’s building, trying his best to see if there were any signs of life in Mickey’s apartment. He drummed his fingers on his steering wheel and debated his next step. It seemed as if Mickey hadn’t come home yet and Ian was left wondering if he was somewhere being sexually violated on a dance floor again. He tried to push the image out of his mind. It was only seven, so way too early for that anyway. He could always try Adam again, but he doubted he would be of any help. He chewed his lip for a minute before giving up and heading back into Manhattan.

Mickey didn’t know just how long he had been walking, but at some point he must have cleared Times Square and was making his way through the Garment District. Fuck it, he was all stirred up and needed to burn off his “about to make a bad decision” energy. He lit up another cigarette and kept walking.

“Hey! Um, hi?” It took Mickey a while to realize whoever it was, was actually hailing him. He looked around to see that he was being trailed by a flower van, because this was his life now, making his way downtown, walking fast and homebound while a fucking flower truck followed behind him as if he was the queen bee.


The moron tailing him finally saw the prudence in parking and hopped out to talk to him. “I’m Chad; I delivered some flowers to you before?”

Mickey thought he looked familiar, though with that nightmare bouquet in front of him, he could have been forgiven for forgetting a face.

“Did, uh, things work out with the sender?” Chad asked hopefully, a ridiculous if somewhat endearing vision in his red-piped khaki shorts.

“Is customer care follow-up a big part of the flower delivery business?” Mickey asked dryly and raised an eyebrow at Chad’s bashful chuckle.

“No, I was just, um, curious. Saw you walking and wondered, you know?”

“Huh,” It had taken him a while, but Mickey ultimately saw it for what it was. “It didn’t work out actually. Your flowers are failures and your company should feel bad.”

Chad grinned broadly, apparently delighted by Mickey’s sarcasm. Mickey, for his part, took in the silliness that was Chad. Chad was not bad. Tall, but not stupid tall like some redheads who would not be named. He had brown eyes, which were not green, but hardly anyone was perfect. He had light brown hair with blond highlights—blond for Pete’s sake—but he had a killer smile and huge feet, so there was that. Chad was blushing under Mickey's rude and blatant assessment and Mickey smiled to himself. This boy was all puppy and no edge and Mickey would crack him open like a walnut.

“I get off work in a bit,” Chad coughed out hesitantly, “do you want to go get a drink somewhere?”

Like a hopeless fucking walnut.

“That is not a redhead,” Tanya pointed out disapprovingly as she watched Chad slide into a chair and look around her bar like a kid in Wonderland.

“Your powers of observation are truly astonishing,” Mickey grunted as he ordered a beer and an appletini. An appletini, Jesus, he was contemplating fucking a child. “What does it matter anyway? It’s all the same in the dark.”

Tanya sniffed at that as she handed over the drinks and took Mickey’s money. She had actually been hoping and praying that Mickey would show up because she finally had a redhead in stock. A tall, gorgeous and brooding one to boot; only for Mickey to show up with a boring Ken doll. She was about to tell him about the ginger anyway, when she took a look over at him in his dark corner and noticed that he had stopped frowning into his drink and was now laser focused on Mickey and his date. That’s when she heard it—the clarion call to potential drama.

Tanya loved her some drama. It was the reason she got up in the mornings. With the exception of major sporting events and breaking news, her television was nothing but Jerry Springer and Maury and their ilk. It’s not like people patronized her establishment for educational programming anyway. So she didn’t bother telling Mickey about the redhead, she just let him take his drinks back to Ken doll—thus quietly chumming the waters—and waited. She didn’t have to wait long. Red watched Mickey and his date chat for about ten minutes and then he was on his way like a bad storm.

Mickey would never want to return to the harsh, deeply closeted days of the Chicago Southside, but he would say one thing for back then, everyone got to the point a lot more quickly. Instead, he was sitting in a bar, listening to a blithering idiot blather on about the triumphs and pitfalls of flower delivery when all he wanted was a dick distraction. He took a swig of beer and contemplated cutting to the chase and asking Chad how big his stem was only to hear the voice of hot sex and heartbreak roll down onto him.

“What the fuck is this?”

Chad blinked, Mickey choked and Tanya had a mini dramagasm. The bartender knew she could be in for a good one. The series of expressions on Mickey’s face had been priceless. There had been shock, a brief flash of guilt and then the excited, awed look of a puppy whose master had finally come home. Ian didn’t notice any of that; he was busy staring down Mickey’s companion and he couldn’t help but feel he had seen this guy before.

“Who the fuck are you?” Ian demanded and Chad scrambled to remember his name.

“Um, Chad? I delivered some flowers to your office once?”

That’s who it was. Ian turned to Mickey disbelievingly. “The fucking flower guy? Really? The asshole who delivered my fucking flowers; that’s who this is?”

“Ah, what’s going on here?” Chad asked hesitantly.

Ian was surprised and enraged by his audacity. “Dude, get the fuck out of here!” The command was given with such righteous indignation, Chad was inclined to think he was definitely at fault somehow.

Mickey said nothing, much to Tanya’s wordless approval. He was perfectly willing to see how far this would play out without a need for his intervention. He was perversely turned on by Ian’s jealousy and anger and he wasn’t about to put the brakes on just yet. Unfortunately, and to Mickey and Tanya’s horror, Chad actually got up as if to leave. Mickey was having none of that.

“Where the fuck are you going? Sit your ass down; you don’t work for him!” Mickey snapped and Chad clapped himself back down.

“He doesn’t work for me, but you do,” Ian pointed out peevishly and Mickey was on his feet and in Ian’s face, adrenaline, arousal and confused torment fueling him forward. Tanya reached for her can of gourmet popcorn beneath the bar and settled in for the show.

“So? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Mickey bristled while Ian stared down coolly at him. “Check the time; I’m off the clock and off your cock, so you need to not be in my face right now.”

“He delivered my fucking flowers. What would Freud say about this shit?” Ian poked the bear, “if you’re going to go the sad rebound route, you could put a little effort in. This just feels lazy and uninspired.”

“Who’s rebounding? You think I need fucking help getting over your ass?” Mickey sneered.

“No, don’t go over him!” One of Tanya’s resident barflies piped up drunkenly. “He’s a tall fucker, go around. Less time and energy, you’ll thank me later.” That derailed everything for a minute and Tanya swatted him with her dishrag in irritation.

“It just so happens Todd here might be my soul mate,” Mickey continued and Ian seemed surprisingly unconvinced by this new claim.

“It’s Chad actually,” the delivery boy corrected gently.

“That’s what I fucking said!”

“Look, is there something going on here, because I don’t want to get in the middle of anything and-”

Ian was about to throw a fit. “Oh my God, Eric, are you still here?!”

“Oh come on, that’s not even close to my name!”

Mickey had to be joking about this guy. Ian looked down at his employee expectantly and Mickey refused to meet his eyes for the moment. Alright, yes, his date wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar, but dumb people needed love too.

“He probably couldn’t find his dick with both hands,” Ian needled Mickey while Chad sat gobsmacked at the unwarranted slander, “you really think he’s going to know how to use it?”

The fucking kiss had ruined everything, because Ian’s confidence was slowly bleeding back and a confident Gallagher was Gallagher at his most devastating. Mickey chewed on his lower lip while his eyes raked over Ian’s increasingly smug face. Neither man said anything for a while, just stood barely a breath away from each other, enjoying the proximity to each other and the growing tension.

“I’m on a date,” Mickey managed to choke out.

“Really? Because I think your date ended when your boy left.”

Mickey spun around to see nothing but an empty chair and a drained martini glass. “For fuck’s sake!”

Chad was not an idiot. One doesn’t work for over a year delivering flowers without seeing some serious shit go down. He wasn’t about to get in the middle of two guys who couldn’t get his name right and seemed unsure if they were a second away from fighting or fucking. He had made his exit while they were in the middle of the sexual aggression stare down.

Mickey groaned in frustration and headed for the door, leaving a devastated Tanya behind. He looked up and down the perpetually busy New York streets, but saw no signs of his escaped date. Then again, he could already barely remember what the guy looked like. He saw Ian exit the bar from the corner of his eye and Mickey took off, heading west, determined to put some space between them.

Manhattan was a small island, so he figured if he walked fast enough, he’d get to the water’s edge fairly quickly so he could drown himself. His whole body burned and he had never been this torn up about anything in his life. How people fell in and out of love and willingly started the whole cycle all over again was beyond him.  Mandy had had her heart broken dozens of times and she was always willing to try again. He was now convinced that she was either crazy or a superhero because this shit was impossible. He just wanted to not feel ripped up anymore. Instead, here he was, physically restraining himself from fucking his ex while strangling him because Mickey honestly had no idea how he was supposed to feel about anything, anymore.

“You know at some point you’re going to have to deal with me, Mickey,” Ian wasn’t far behind him—longer legs eating up the distance easily.  “You can’t just keep running instead of trying to resolve things.”

“I’m not run-” Mickey stopped for a minute so at least it wouldn’t look like the blatant lie it was, “I’m not running and there’s nothing to fucking to resolve. I’m done with you.”

“So what was that kiss before, huh?” Ian stood before Mickey and tried to keep him from bolting again. “It didn’t feel like we were done.”

“I was fucking horny and you’re a warm body. It’s a mistake I can avoid if I’m allowed to get some ass in peace.”

Ian snorted rudely, “Who, flower boy? You weren’t going to do him; you didn’t want to do him.”

Mickey tapped his forehead, “Oh that’s right, I forgot you’re the resident expert on all things Mickey Milkovich. Tell me more about how you know me.” Mickey rolled his eyes and sidestepped Ian to continue on his way.

“I do know you,” Ian resumed his chase and quickly cut Mickey off again, “you might not want me to, but I know you and we’re not done.”

“Yeah, you fucking know me. You and your ass clown of a brother can’t even interpret my fucking rap sheet right. You looked it over and saw, what, breaking and entering, armed robbery, aggravated assault? Well you should know this shit more than me at this point. You two geniuses looked at all that and saw someone who runs scams? Anyone with half a brain would see that I’m straight smash and grab. I don’t fucking con; I see what I want and I take it.”

“Do you still want me?”

The question caught Mickey off guard as well as the vulnerable look that went with it. He hesitated, feeling himself getting cracked wide open in the middle of the sidewalk as bodies surged around them. He really needed to find a way to put a stop to this madness.

He snorted softly, “yeah, once upon a time. That little fairytale’s over with now.” He turned to leave again and Ian grabbed his wrist and all the lightning and fire he’d been trying to forget went roaring through him, making him panic.


“What did I just say to you?! Done is done! You really still wanna try to be boyfriend and girlfriend here; you’d be nothing but a warm mouth to me!” Mickey yanked his hand away and chanced looking into Ian’s large, wet eyes. “The dick was good, Firecrotch, but it isn’t one of a kind,” he backed away slowly and spread his hands. “Out and proud in New York, man. Replacement cock won’t be hard to find.”

“You can have mine, baby,” A flame haired drag queen offered from a dark corner spot, where she and her girlfriends had been watching the spat with undisguised glee.

“See, didn’t even have to leave the fucking block,” Mickey said to Ian before smiling at the temptress. “Maybe next time, Peaches,” he said, referencing her tight bandage dress.

“I’ll be waiting with bells on,” she shot back.

Mickey looked back at Ian, his smile fading as they stared at each other. At length, Mickey turned around and walked away, and this time, Ian didn’t chase him.

Ian bounced in place as he watched disembarked passengers surge out into the waiting area. It was an early Saturday morning and all he wanted to do was get back home and crash for a while to get his energy up. It wasn’t long before he saw his guest. He could have known who she was even without the benefit of seeing her mug shot. She had the Milkovich sneer down, and the long black hair, slouchy shirt and shredded jeans made her stand out like a dark beacon.

“Mandy?” He called out as he moved to intercept her.

Mandy skidded to a halt in front of him and pointedly ignored his extended hand. As Ian pulled it back awkwardly, she eyed him up and down in exactly the same way her brother would. When she was done, she stunned him by gently slapping him across the cheek.

“That was for my dad,” she explained shortly, and as surprising as that action had been, the vicious head-butt to his nose literally floored him. “And that was for my brother…for starters.”

“Jesus fuck!” Ian moaned as he clutched his face.

“Now where’s your fucking car?!”

On the drive into Brooklyn, Mandy’s eyes were glued to the passing landscape while Ian favoured his sore, reddened nose. Luckily, she hadn’t managed to break it, but she had left it bloody anyway.

“So, um, did you enjoy your flight?!” He asked hesitantly.

“Yes, yes I did,” she answered airily. “I don’t know how I’ll ever fly coach again.”

“Uh, well you know if you’re ever coming out to visit your brother, you just have to let me know.”

Mandy stroked her hair and kept her gaze out the window. “Why thank you, that’s so nice.”

Ian cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “So you have any plans for while you’re out here?”

“Nope! Just wondering if you’re going to kiss my ass all the way to Brooklyn is all.”

Ian rubbed his nose and decided that no Milkovich was good for his health.

He handed Mandy her luggage when they were in the lobby of Mickey’s building and turned to go, surprising her a little.

“You’re leaving? You don’t want to try and score a few early points for flying little sister in?”

Ian let out a short laugh, “nah, I’m backing off for a while. How many times you gotta hear no, right? Enjoy your visit with your brother.”

“Okay, thanks…” Mandy mumbled and watched him go. Lord, how sad, beautiful boys wounded her poor, soft heart. She saw him pause outside and glance up, most likely looking at Mickey’s apartment or some sappy, moony shit like that before he got into his car and sped off. She could only smile and shake her head—what an absolute shit show.

It took Mickey a while to hear the insistent knocking because he had been buried under roughly three hundred pounds of stuffed bear. If the red fur and green eyes hadn’t been enough confirmation that the toy was some sort of Ian horcrux, its tendency to try and smother him in the middle of the night allayed all doubts.

“Jesus, Clay,” Mickey grumbled and shoved the stuffed animal off him. He rolled off the bed and quickly yanked on a pair of track pants and a tank top while the pounding at the door continued. “Hold your fucking horses, God!” He then looked at the bear as it lay sprawled in the center of his bed. “And what did I say to you about coming to life in the middle of the night and trying to fucking smother me? ‘Don’t’ is the agreement I believed we reached.”

The pounding resumed and Mickey wrenched the door open, “What the fuck?!” only to see his sister smiling back sweetly at him.

“Douchebag?” Mickey asked, stunned.

“Assface,” she confirmed and immediately pounced on him while screaming her head off. It felt like coming home again.

Chapter Text

Mickey grunted as he hauled his sister’s luggage into his apartment, a little surprised by the weight. She was running around, squealing like a little girl as she inspected his home in the Big Apple. She peeked through his curtains before plopping down on his couch, head turning this way and that, and Mickey couldn’t help but grin at her enthusiasm.

“Bitch, what is with this suitcase? Are you never planning on leaving?” Mickey asked as he dragged the wheeled bag to the couch and Mandy flipped around to look at him.

“Oh, that—you know I never wear clothes. There’s hardly anything but liquor in there,” she wiggled her eyebrows at him, “I have a couple bottles of Uncle Ronnie’s moonshine too.”

“No way, he’s still making that shit?” Mickey almost upended Mandy’s bag right then and there. “I’m surprised they even let you on a plane.”

“You know, officially, it’s an industrial solvent,” Mandy was up again to make her second round of the apartment, this time making a beeline for Mickey’s kitchen. “Oh my God, why is your fridge stuffed with candy and cookies?! Is this what you’ve been living on, you ass?!”

“They were gifts,” Mickey snapped defensively, “and I ate most of the fruit first!”

Mandy’s head popped out from around the fridge door to blink at him incredulously. “These are from the gift baskets Ian left you? Holy shit, it really was that much?!”

“I told you.”

“Where are the balloons then?”

“They deflated; it’s been weeks, idiot. There’s nothing more depressing than sagging, sad balloons. Well, you’ll find that out when you’re forty,” Mickey admitted that he had been forced to toss them out, “it’s taking a while to finish the food though.”

“Damn, he goes big or goes home, huh?” Mandy muttered. Satisfied with the kitchen, she skipped past her brother and headed for his bedroom while he lagged behind her. The second she hit the threshold, she stopped dead before screaming her head off.

“Oh my fucking God!” Mandy rushed into the room and snatched up Clay, staggering a little under the sheer size of the teddy bear. She looked over her shoulder at her brother who was devoting his full attention to finding a cigarette. “What is this? Mickey, what is this?!”

“It’s a fucking bear, what’s it fucking look like?” Mickey grumbled.

“And why, dear brother, are you in possession of the biggest fucking teddy bear in existence?”

Mickey shrugged lazily, “I dunno, he came with the other crap.”

Mandy made a series of mortifying, unintelligible noises while her brother steadfastly looked everywhere in the room but at her dumb face.

“What’s his name?” Mandy cajoled at length.

“What makes you think he has a fucking name?” Mickey grumbled, caught out. “You think I go around naming toys like a five year old?”

“Oh my God, Mickey, this week will go so more efficiently if you just cut the bullshit from now,” Mandy rolled her eyes at her brother, “help me to help you.” She stopped talking to take a deep sniff of the stuffed animal. “He smells so good though.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s weird.”

“No, seriously, why does he smell so good?” Mandy hugged the bear close and kept sniffing. “I know this smell,” she said firmly as she kept sniffing. After a while, she pulled back incredulously. “It’s Obsession!”


“Calvin Klein’s Obsession,” Mandy held up the bear triumphantly, “that’s what we’re smelling. One of my exes loved that shit. Why the fuck does he smell like Obsession?”

That sneaky son of a bitch. “It’s one of Gallagher’s colognes. He spiked my fucking bear!”

Mandy immediately lost it. “Oh my God, no, I can’t. This is some next level shit. Lay down your arms, Mickey, this is psychological and chemical warfare. You cannot win!”

“How the fuck is that even possible?!” Mickey marched over and sniffed at Clay just as his sister had done. “It’s been weeks!”

“Man, the rich really are different from us,” Mandy mused, “he probably had him stuffed with some slow release material. I didn’t even know this was a thing. Like, where do you go for teddy bear ‘scent-sitization.’ Are we in the Matrix?”

Mickey couldn’t believe he didn’t pinpoint before. The scent was slightly different coming off synthetic material than off Ian’s skin, but once Mickey got the clue, the smell was unmistakable. “Clay!” Mickey chastised the bear for his inadvertent betrayal.

“Don’t be mad at him!” Mandy snapped at her brother, “He’s just an unwitting pawn in this psychotic game you two are playing. Also, Clay?! His name is Clay?”

Mickey sighed and took a soothing drag of his cigarette before mumbling, “Yes.”

“Huh, interesting choice, you five year old. How did that come about?” she asked.

Mickey shrugged and stared at his bare toes, “you know red clay, red fur, I guess; you know how random my mind can be.”

Mandy turned her attention to the giant teddy bear and addressed it in aggravating baby talk. “You hear that, Clay bear? You sad product of a broken home. You were named after a soil type, and not, as I suspected, after your other daddy, IAN CLAYTON GALLAGHER! J’accuse, Mickey!”

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” Mickey muttered angrily, flustered and red faced.

“You’re such a fucking sap! You are the sappiest sap to have ever sapped anything! You’re pathetic; you should be ashamed of how far you’ve fallen!” She teased giddily.

“Why the fuck did you ask where the name came from if you knew already?!”

Mandy once again chose to address the stuffed bear, “Because Daddy Mickey is still trying to bullshit Aunt Mandy. Daddy thinks Auntie didn’t do her homework; like she was born yesterday. Daddy Mickey’s so silly. Yes he is!”

“Oh come on, cut that shit out,” Mickey huffed. He smoked quietly for a minute, watching his sister as she continued to coo over and admire the bear until he sheepishly asked, “So Gallagher brought you here?”

“Yep!” she offered no further information and Mickey already wanted to strangle her.

“So, uh, what’d he say?”

Mandy turned to blink innocently at him. “About what?”

“I don’t know,” Mickey said irritably. “Just in general. What’d he say?”

“Oh, nothing really,” Mandy shrugged, “a head butt to the face tends to quiet most people. Oh, but he did say he was going to be backing off from now on, if that interests you.”

“‘Backing off?’ Like how? Like he’s regrouping or like he’s done?” Mickey asked anxiously.

Another vague shrug and Mandy seemed more interested in fussing with Clay’s hoodie than with answering her brother’s burning questions. “I don’t know he seemed pretty resigned about the whole thing. Something about hearing ‘no’ too many times. But that’s what you want, right?” Mandy turned to look at her brother, “whether it’s permanent or not—what do you care?”

“Don’t,” Mickey lied pitifully before stomping out of the room. Mandy could only roll her eyes again.

“Daddy number two is such a Silly Billy grumpus,” Mandy said loudly enough for her brother to hear. She counted to three and by the last count, he came storming right back in.

“And why the fuck am I daddy number two?!” he lambasted his sister, “if anything, I am daddy number one! I’m the one with primary cust- Shut the fuck up, Mandy!” Mickey stormed off again. It was far too early in the morning for this shit.

Mandy simply grinned at her teddy bear nephew. It was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

After Mandy had unpacked her clothes and the obscene amount of illicit liquor she had smuggled into New York, her brother took her to brunch and then gave her a tour of his neighbourhood. Before they returned home, she forced him to purchase proper wine and proper glasses, since she was determined to perform the vivisection of her brother’s love life in the fanciest way possible. When they returned home, she changed into her uniform of nothing but a giant T-shirt and promptly went to sleep.

By the time she woke up, night had already fallen and her brother was next to her in bed, on his stomach, facing the wall. She slung herself over his back to check if he was sleeping—he wasn’t. He was simply staring blankly at the wall, already a couple of sheets to the wind, an open wine bottle on the floor within arm’s reach.

“You couldn’t wait for me, fucker?”

“Pizza’s in the kitchen.”

“Authentic New York pizza?”

“Domino’s, screw you.”

Mandy snorted rudely and clambered over her brother to go stuff her face. She scarfed down a few slices as quickly as she could manage and grabbed a fancy glass and a new bottle of wine. The moonshine would have to wait until Mickey didn’t have work the following day. Uncle Ronnie’s brew was powerful stuff.

“First things first,” Mandy was all business as she opened the wine and filled her glass in Mickey’s bedroom, “I gotta say, your boy is ridiculously good looking, like stupid hot.”

“I know,” Mickey moaned mournfully.

“I mean, I looked him up after you told me you were fucking your boss and both my jaw and panties dropped.”

“He has that effect on people,” Mickey confirmed, not moving a muscle, just continuing to stare dead-eyed at the wall.

“I started hating his face, he’s so pretty. It’s like, you just know he knows he’s hot, and he’s not in the least bit modest about it. He just uses it to his advantage.”

“He does,” Mickey continued drunkenly, “he does, he so does. He just puts his stupid face in your face and makes you love it.”

“Ugh! Seeing it in person was the worst. Don’t you just want to punch him repeatedly?”

“Every fucking day,” Mickey confirmed, “only something goes wrong and you end up making out with him instead. He’s so good at it—it’s kinda gross.”

“Disgusting,” Mandy agreed and gingerly held her wine as she got into bed and slumped over her brother’s back, resting her wine bottle next to his. “So what’s the dick like?”

“Jesus, I don’t even wanna talk about it,” Mickey moaned.

“That good, huh?” Mandy asked sympathetically and sipped her wine. “I’m not even going to lie; you’re my brother and I love you, but I’m probably going to try and fuck him before I leave.”

“Go for it. I wouldn’t even be mad. He’s like Mt. Everest, there to be climbed by anyone bold enough and skilled enough.”

Mandy promptly choked on her wine. She sputtered for a bit before regaining control. “So what do you want to do?”

“I wish I fucking knew,” Mickey answered honestly.

“Well, I can tell you this, you let a guy get away once with treating you like shit and he’ll never stop,” Mandy said with absolute conviction. “If you’re going to even consider reconciling, you better make sure he and his piece of shit brother know they can’t fuck with you like that. That was utter bullshit.”

Mickey didn’t think he had the emotional energy to dredge all that up right then. He took another swig from the bottle and said quietly. “Shit, Carrie and Aiden couldn’t make it work anyway.”

Mandy took a mouthful of wine and tapped her brother’s back. “Yeah, about that. I’ve been thinking it over. I think you got that one wrong, Mickey. No way is that asshole an Aiden. I’m willing to defend it; I think he’s fucking Big.”

“He’s fucking huge, but what does that have to do with anything?”

Mandy viciously pinched the back of brother’s thigh until he was begging for mercy. No one that corny deserved to get laid.

She was not one to dawdle. Mandy had a checklist of things to do, and by George, she was going to do it. If she hadn’t gotten lost in the labyrinth of the MTA and subsequently spent two hours wandering around Manhattan in a daze, she would have crossed Phillip Gallagher off her list well before lunch. As such, she was storming into his offices in the middle of the afternoon, slightly bedraggled and wilted by the heat. At least she was adequately pissed. She marched towards his office door while some Casper Milquetoast imitator made a feeble attempt to stop her.

“Um, excuse me, Miss, do you have an appointment? You can’t just walk in-”

She barked savagely at him and he was so taken aback, he ended up falling backwards over his chair. Mandy walked into Lip’s office without further issue. Her prey was busy typing up briefs or whatever the fuck lawyers do on their computers and Mandy was temporarily stymied by another ridiculously good looking Gallagher. What the hell was it with this bunch?

“Again with the fucking face, really?!”

Lip automatically felt his face for any glaring abnormalities. He gaped at the glowering woman and looked and listened for Casper to provide some kind of explanation, ignorant to the fact that his secretary was still cowering behind his desk. He couldn’t help but think the young woman looked chillingly familiar.

“My face?”

Mandy waved her hand dismissively, “never mind, you’re Phillip Gallagher, right?”

“Yes,” he began hesitantly and gawped when she pulled out a metal baton from out of the Hammerspace that was her bra. With a flick of her wrist, the baton was at its full, imposing length.

“So, do I fuck up your face, or do I fuck up your office? Your choice.”

Dear lord, she was a Milkovich. Lip could identify those speech patterns in his nightmares. Now he was in a peculiar spot, because he was almost completely certain that if he called security on this psycho, Ian was going to blame him for ruining everything… again… somehow.

“You’re Mandy Milkovich!”

“Well done, Inspector Clouseau; now office or face?”

“Surely you can’t be serious?” Lip let out a short, disbelieving laugh.

“I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. Look, if you don’t decide, I will, and I got to tell you, I’m leaning towards face.”

Lip sighed and wondered when his life had become a revolving door of homicidal Milkoviches and lovesick brothers. He silently recited the Serenity Prayer and waved a tired hand, indicating his choice of the office, and there went his imitation Ming vase. Jesus, he had just finished repairing all his shit from Ian’s rampage.

He would say this though, Miss Milkovich worked with a sort of ruthless, destructive efficiency that would have been impressive and oddly beautiful were she not destroying his place of business. By the time she was done, the only things left upright were his laptop, a small mercy for which Lip was quite grateful, and the chair in which Lip was sitting. Destruction complete, Mandy rested her baton on her shoulder and sighed a tired, but contented sigh.

“Cathartic?” Lip asked Mandy at length.

“Yep; feel better now. Of course, it goes without saying that if you ever screw with my brother again…”

“I consider myself fully warned,” Lip quickly interrupted.

“You have great day, pig fucker!” Mandy tossed over her shoulder as she swanned out of Lip’s ruined office.

“Yeah you too, crazy bitch,” Lip muttered under his breath.

When she was long gone, Casper finally gathered his courage and stuck his head into his boss’s office. He was dumbstruck at the damage as he looked around, hands clasped dramatically to his cheeks.

“Why does this keep happening?!”

Lip sighed and counted to ten. “Casper, why didn’t you call security?”

The young man blinked at him in confusion. “I thought she was family! You said never to call security on family… She certainly destroys your office like family.”

“Touché,” Lip thought to himself. He sighed heavily when his secretary asked if he should contact a cleaning service. “Oh Casper, I do treasure you.”

Mickey told his friends he would catch up with them in the lobby as they filed to the elevator. He took a minute to collect himself and make sure the coast was more or less clear, before tentatively knocking on Ian’s door. His boss was at his desk, glaring at his laptop and scribbling down copious notes on a writing pad. Ian glanced up at the knock and nodded, barely pausing from what he was doing as Mickey slowly entered his office.

“Hey,” Mickey started hesitantly.

“Hey, what’s up?” Ian finally put the notepad down but tapped it distractedly as his eyes shifted from Mickey, to his laptop and back to Mickey.

“I just wanted to say thanks for bringing my sister here. I was pretty psyched to see her. It was fucking awesome,” Mickey shifted his weight. “I know she probably twisted your arm or some shit…”

“Not at all—it wasn’t a problem. She seems nice.”

Mickey gave a short laugh. “Yeah, ‘nice’ is one way to describe Mandy, I guess. Uh, look, I was hoping it would be cool to take the day off tomorrow? I wanted to spend a day hanging out with her and-”

“It’s fine,” Ian said abruptly, “take the day, have fun with your sister.”

Mickey nodded, yet still lingered. “She’s got a whole list of stuff she wants to do. We probably won’t even end up going anywhere, just probably drink and catch up and shit.”

“Right…” Ian nodded and resumed his scribbling, leaving Mickey standing awkwardly in place. Finally, the latter simply sighed, nodded, mumbled another “thanks” and hurriedly made his exit. Ian stopped his near frantic writing after he heard the elevator ding. He had written nothing but gibberish since Mickey stepped into the office anyway, a sad means of distracting himself from saying or doing something stupid. He put away the pad and slumped forward, head resting on his desk as his motivation to work drained away. Apparently it only takes a few minutes to completely fuck up his night.

Mickey gently propelled his sister forwards to meet the eager group already seated in the combination restaurant and bar. She waved awkwardly as Mickey shoved her into a seat and quickly made the introductions. He made a quick go around the table, tapping each person on the head as he announced their names like some odd version of “Duck, duck, goose.”

“Mandy, this is Carrie and Raj; they’re testers like me. Then this is Eric, Annie and Jimmy; they’re programmers who feel the sun shines out their asses. Everybody, this is Mandy.”

“Hi, Mandy!” the group said in unison.

“Shit, a real life sister. We all kinda thought he hatched somewhere. You know, just emerged,” Jimmy teased and grinned when Mickey flipped him off and dropped into the seat between his sister and Carrie.

“We’re sorry we can’t go too hard tonight,” Carrie leaned around Mickey while slapping his chest, “only one of us got the day off work tomorrow.”

“Only one of us has a sister visiting and was smart enough to ask,” Mickey said.

The group settled into their routine quickly, all taking turns grilling Mandy about herself and Mickey as a baby and as a human being in general. She answered their questions as jovially and jokingly as she could, but she was mostly quiet and watchful, which was covered by the relaxed boisterousness of the group. She took in how easily her brother interacted with his friends, talking, laughing and swapping inside jokes while Carrie hung off him, Raj tossed food at him and Eric teased his gelled hair.

She sipped her drinks and grinned broadly at whatever conversation aimed her way, but her mind was just blown by watching Mickey so comfortable in such a group of polished, diverse people, while she felt a little keyed up being surrounded by those who weren’t family or the usual Southside scumbags. It was a little disorienting. After a while, she excused herself to head to the bathroom and could barely hide her surprise and fluster when Carrie and Annie stood too.

“Do you have to travel in packs everywhere?” Eric snorted.

“Says the man who doesn’t have to carry a rape whistle,” Annie withered as she and Carrie flanked Mandy like royal guards. “Keep our seats warm and don’t eat our food.”

Mickey was already pilfering as much of his sister’s fries as he could manage. “Don’t tell them anything, Mandy! Stay strong!”

She sat in the stall listening to Annie and Carrie chatter by the sinks while she willed her sphincter muscles to relax so she could pee. Nothing was happening and she could feel the mortification creeping up.

“You want us to run the water, babe?” Carrie yelled out and Mandy almost died.

“Uh, yeah, thanks,” fortunately, the sound of the rushing water did just the trick. She flushed and wandered out sheepishly to find Annie perched on the sink brushing a tangle out of her hair, while Carrie checked her makeup and eyed her locks.

They looked like a movie still or a pitch for a reality show that Mandy would eat up with a spoon: Annie, the gorgeous, delicate blond with the Southern charm; and Carrie, beautiful and stylish with the razor sharp tongue. Mandy stared at herself in the mirror while sneaking surreptitious glances at the other women. Her hard Chicago Southside edge suddenly felt harsh and garish next to the cool, urban chic of the girls next to her.

“You’re stunning, you know that?” Annie said suddenly, startling Mandy, “you ever heard about the Suicide Girls?”

“Jesus, Annie, she’ been here five minutes. Maybe wait a couple days before you try to turn her out,” Carrie swatted Annie and rolled her eyes at Mandy, who finally managed a smile, “so, you here to fix the shit show?”

“Shit show?” Mandy echoed, feigning ignorance.

“Come on, your brother and boss man,” Carrie elbowed her gently and when Mandy began sputtering, the game tester quickly added, “Mickey doesn’t know we know. Please don’t tell him, we don’t want to freak him out. He’ll tell us when he’s ready, we figure.”

Annie put away her brush and added, “Doesn’t mean we can’t still drill you for info though.”

“So…you guys are okay with it?” Mandy asked, confused.

“With what?” Both women asked and got the inference quickly from Mandy’s raised eyebrow. They both burst out laughing. Carrie snorted, “Girl, I’ve munched more rug than an untrained puppy. No judgement forthcoming here.”

“Imagine I said something politically correct instead, but nothing gets my motor running faster than two hot boys going at it. So of course, I approve.” Annie wiggled her eyebrows and Mandy couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, well, not everyone is so enlightened where Mickey and I come from. No way could he be out like this there.”

“Yeah, ignorant people are everywhere, but don’t worry about him, he’s in a safe place,” Carrie said soothingly, “we’re all ride or die for each other here and Mickey’s one of us. He’s family.”

“I can’t believe you actually have friends,” Mandy giggled as she kicked off her shoes in Mickey’s apartment. “Fancy friends; smell you.”

“Oh shut up, they’re ghetto as hell most of the time,” Mickey sniffed while he poured out a generous serving of moonshine and took a sip. It burned like fire going down. “I think I just glimpsed Jesus,” Mickey croaked and his sister nodded in understanding.

“Fucking Uncle Ronnie, keeps screwing with the recipe. It’s going to be pure jet fuel by this time next year. Now quit hogging.”

It was approaching midnight and in the adjacent apartment, Adam had his ear pressed against the shared wall; his face a picture of perfect puzzlement. The walls were pretty thick and it was hard to disturb your neighbour, but occasionally the music and shenanigans were loud enough to merit note. Adam’s concern was not the volume of the music, but rather the content of it. Unable to keep his curiosity in check any longer, he grabbed his robe and headed over to Mickey’s. It took a few minutes of insistent knocking before he finally got an answer.

“What?!” Mickey snapped irritably after yanking the door open.

Adam didn’t know which assault on his senses he needed to address first: the fact that young Mr. Milkovich seemed to have gasoline fumes wafting off him, the half naked girl doing a drunken cabbage patch dance on the couch behind him, or the fact that they were, as Adam had suspected, listening to bubblegum dance music. “Caramelldansen” had played earlier, which had attracted Adam’s attention, and now “Barbie Girl” was in full effect.

“You’re having an adult dance party!” Adam accused, shocked. Usually, the only thing he could hear when he pressed a cup against the wall was Mickey’s rage-filled, bass-heavy music and occasionally him and Ian going it in the living room.

Mickey belched loudly and sourly, “so?”

Adam blinked and drew his robe around him a little bit tighter. “Well…may I join you?”

Mickey shrugged and wandered back over to his sister, leaving the door open so Adam could step gingerly inside.

Manic, bubblegum dance music eventually gave way to The Cardigans and their ilk on Mandy’s docked iPod, giving her a chance to catch her second wind as she sat next to her brother and allowing Adam to wax rhapsodically about the allure of theatre and finding the light. Mickey sat between them, silent and dazed while the lyrics to “Lovefool” stabbed him in the heart. Realizing her brother was sinking into a funk, Mandy decided to switch to another playlist.

“I wish I had your body confidence, my darling,” Adam sighed as he watched Mandy’s lace clad behind shimmy as she fiddled with her music player. “Would that I could swan around in only a cute sweater and my fanciest underwear. Well I do, but not in front of company…unless he specifically requests it.” Adam giggled and elbowed Mickey conspiratorially.

“Hardcore G shit, homie, I don’t play around!”

Adam jumped and looked around frantically at the aggressive sound as Mandy sat back down next to her brother on the floor.

“My God, who is that?!” Adam asked, startled.

“Killer Mike,” the siblings responded automatically.

“He sounds angry…and profane,” Adam sniffed, though he doubted a person with “killer” in the name would be known for their mild temperament. He hadn’t heard anything yet. All of a sudden, the beat dropped with a heavy thud.

“Pow, motherfucker, pow! Come up off the chain!”

Adam squawked and clutched his chest. He felt as if he was literally being robbed at gunpoint. It didn’t help that the children of the corn were suddenly headbanging in unison.

“Pow, motherfucker, pow! One off in the brain!”

Mandy was already back on the couch, jamming out in a combination of flailing pale limbs and hairography. Mickey supplemented his own headbanging with aggressive punches to some phantom before him. It was horrifying, mesmerizing and strangely arousing all at once; but mostly horrifying. How young people could switch from happy bubblegum to whatever this was, was beyond him.

“Who are you imagining when you do that?” Adam gasped at Mickey. There was no way this was dancing. This was ghostly aggravated assault in progress.

“My dad, me…mostly me,” Mickey mumbled before laughing maniacally and resuming his violent jamming, tripping hard on Milkovich moonshine.

“And that’s my cue,” Adam nodded and started backing away from the potential crime scene. He knew from experience that when there was a mosh pit brewing, the man in the silk, lavender robe rarely fared well.

“We ain’t let that shit go. When you come here, you better come correct. This real G shit, you gotta show respect!” Mandy howled along with the music.

“I don’t know what that means,” Adam whispered and quietly slipped out the door.

“Who was that?” Mandy asked.

“You could see him too?” Mickey asked back in a daze. He had thought it might have been his fairy godfather; apparently not. “Fuck if I know.”

Mickey awoke in the small hours of the night, feeling too light and strangely uncomfortable and unanchored. The problem was immediately apparent—his bitch sister had stolen Clay and was snuggling with him on her side of the bed. Obviously he was having none of that. He sat up in bed and wrenched his bear from her. His sister woke up protesting.

“Wait, no!” Mandy clung to the bear for dear life, “we can share him, he’s big enough!”

“Nope. Fuck you. Mine,” Mickey finally wrenched Clay away and lay on top of him, cozying against the bear’s chest.

Mandy huffed in frustration. “You are the most selfish prick alive. You never want to share!”

Mickey raised up slightly to blow her a raspberry and went back to cuddling Clay, which only served to infuriate his sister more. She swivelled so she could plant some hard kicks to her brother’s hips until he slid cursing off the bed. She didn’t even get the satisfaction of hearing a painful thud.

“Clay saved me,” Mickey slurred as he taunted his sister. “He loves his daddy. Aunt Mandy can go fuck herself.”

“Screw you, you’re not getting back on this bed,” Mandy cried as she lay spitefully across the bed and spread herself out like an angry starfish.

“Fuck you, don’t worry about it!” Mickey shot back, “I got all the bed I need right here.”

To add injury to insult, Mickey reached up and scratched his fingers down the sole of Mandy’s right foot, sending her screeching over to the opposite end of the bed.

They then spent most of Mickey’s day off on their knees before the porcelain god, damning Uncle Ronnie back to hell he came from.

Mandy cautiously looked through the peephole of Mickey door to see red hair filling the space. She opened the door to find Ian Gallagher smiling sweetly at her.

“Mickey’s at work, where you should be,” Mandy raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. Ian was unperturbed.

“I’m not here to see Mickey. I heard you had a whole list of things you wanted to do while in New York. Figured you could use a chauffeur.”

“I’m fully capable of getting around on my own, thank you.”

Ian’s smile was downright cheeky. “You have your fanny pack stocked and ready to go? It’s gonna be hot today, so you might wanna try to jam in an extra bottle of water in there.”

“Fuck you, I do not have a fanny pack,” only she totally did. They were just so practical for hustling around the city. Hers was fashionable and edgy though; it definitely didn’t scream “lame tourist.”

It totally screamed “lame tourist.”

“Come on, you really want to spend $2.50 a pop on the subway, trying to navigate the city and the underground in this heat? Just tell me where you want to go.”

Mandy hesitated, completely tempted. “Mickey said I shouldn’t talk to you. He’s says you’re like the snake with his apple and if I don’t block you out, you’ll end up talking me into all kinds of trouble.” Mickey had been waxing all kinds of poetic lately, much to his sister’s amusement.

Ian’s surprise slowly transformed into the most luminous smile and Mandy was left gaping a little. “He did?” he asked as he leaned against the door jamb. “What else did he say about me?”

“He also said you loved fishing for compliments and information and it was not cute.”

“Alright, alright,” Ian relented before sending another dazzler her way. “So are we going or what? The sooner we start, the more you get to see.”

“Okay, fine” Mickey was going to throttle her, she could bet. “Let me go put on some pants.”

Ian finally examined the length of her. “Oh my God, you’re not wearing any pants.”

“To be fair, I thought you were the Jehovah Witnesses, and wow, you’re just hopelessly gay, aren’t you?”

“I guess.”

“Well, there goes my chance at climbing Mt. Everest.”


“Never mind,” Mandy said breezily, yanking on her ripped jeans and transferring everything from her still not lame fanny pack to one of Mickey’s messenger bags. “Let’s go!”

After they got in the car, Mandy handed over an actual hard copy of her to-do list for her trip to New York. Ian hadn’t laughed this hard in weeks.

“You have an actual list? That’s so cute. ‘Visit the Statue of Liberty,’ oh my God!”

“Shut up! You and Mickey are such assholes, I swear!” Mandy pouted while Ian programmed his GPS.

“We should group these by proximity so we can knock them out better,” Ian suggested, “want to go see Lady Liberty right now?”

Mandy nodded eagerly, barely suppressing her excitement even as she tried to play it cool. Ian simply smiled and pulled away from the curb.

Later on, Ian gave Mandy her options for the tour of Liberty Island. “You can take a ferry around it, or take one to it, get off, look around and climb her if you want.”

“Ferry around, I’m not that ambitious.”

Before long, they were on the ferry and making the trip around the statue. Mandy was over the moon. She shielded her face against the sun, cursing her self consciousness for not bringing her totally not lame sun visor. She gladly accepted an ice cream cone from Ian and they both watched as the statue loomed closer and closer.

It didn’t take long for her to get it; it really didn’t. As the day flew by, Mandy could see that Ian Gallagher was probably the easiest person in the world to fall in love with and Mickey probably never stood a chance against this charm juggernaut. He was sweet, funny and attentive, and Mandy found herself chatting openly and easily in a way she could never have imagined when she had been planning his painful death just a week prior.

If Mandy had met Ian first, she would probably have fallen in love with him, gay or not. Heck, the way things were going now, she probably still would. No wonder Mickey was so twisted up.

“High school was the worst,” Ian had confessed to her as they sat resting on a pair of swings in a park, “by junior year, everything was so fucked, I ended up stealing Lip’s ID and running off to join the army. Dumbest decision ever; I lasted like three months.”

“That sucks though,” Mandy said sympathetically, “we should have met in high school. I would have been your girlfriend—keep the morons off you, make sure no one gave you a hard time.”

“You would have done that for me?” Ian asked, touched and grinning.

 “Sure,” Mandy swung sideways and grabbed his hand playfully, “not like I wouldn’t have gotten anything out of it. You would have kept the creepy guys off me. Would have been nice having a real boyfriend back then to do stuff with, instead of just getting fingerbanged all the time.”

Ian’s horrified gasp gave way to snicker and soon they were both giggling over the absurdity of their childhoods.

As evening fell, Ian took her back to his condo and Mandy was appropriately awed and impressed by the massive, tastefully decorated, postmodernist space. It was white walls, high ceilings and glass tables; but they didn’t linger long in there since Ian only stopped to grab a few beers and some cigarettes and took her to the roof.

Of course, it was a bit of a wonderland on the roof; lush gardening spots and fairy lights and elegant patio furniture. All of that faded into the background to the ridiculous view of Central Park and the city against the fading twilight. Not for the first time since she’d come, Mandy felt as if she had stepped into a movie; a secondary character who was being swept up into Mickey’s romantic dramedy. The type of movie where the man courting Mickey would actually go so far as to fly her in as some kind of massive gift and grand overture.

At the literal end of the day, that’s what this whole thing was about, chasing Mickey. Ian might have genuinely thought that the day was about getting to know her and being her friend, and as much as she fell into it, she wasn’t dumb enough to not know what was at the very core.

This whole trip had been unsettling. The Mickey that had left the Southside six months ago, her Mickey, had been a scared, violent, antisocial, borderline psychotic child, just like her other brothers—just like her. The man who opened the door three days ago barely resembled him at times. Her other half, the person she had relied on the most as they clawed their way through the muck of the Southside to survive each day, was fading and she wasn’t sure who was most at fault. Maybe it was the freedom of New York, maybe it was the job and all the security, all of these new friends, or maybe it was mostly the fault of the tall redhead lighting up a cigarette, seated on a chair that cost more than her month’s rent.

“I’m trying to quit these,” Ian blew out a cloud of smoke and offered her a stick. She accepted it and sat in the chair across from him. “Not the best time right now.”

“Stressed out?”

Ian chuckled wryly, “you could say that, game release looming, stubborn workers…”

“Wayward boyfriend?”

Ian smiled sheepishly, “I guess; plus I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be manic right now and it’s kinda throwing me a little.”

“I thought you were on meds?”

“Yeah, no, I am, but you can still tell, you know? My mood still changes a bit, but the meds try to keep the monster of it in check,” Ian puffed away quietly and mulled it over. “It’s like being on a seesaw, I guess? Sometimes I’m really up in the air, or really down on the ground and the meds are just running around trying to keep things balanced. In the end, you’re kind of even, but you’re just wobbly and off-kilter and queasy.”

“Why would you want to be on a see-saw that doesn’t move?”

Ian sighed tiredly, “Good point—my analogies need work.”

Mandy frowned, guessing she had maybe missed the point of all of that, but she shook it off. “You should just walk away.”

Ian was surprised by the odd tone. “Walk away from what?” He caught on fairly quickly, because there really were only a few things to which she could be referring. “Mickey?”

“Yeah, I mean, you already have all this shit to deal with…you really want to deal with Mickey and all his shit on top of it?”

Ian stared silently at her before answering. “He makes everything bearable, though. Better than that, actually. So much better.”

“Look, Milkovich kids are damaged goods, seriously fucked up, and the longer you hang around us, the more evident it becomes,” Mandy hunched her shoulders and pulled on her cigarette, “you’re probably doing yourself a favour in the long run.”

Ian looked at her, confused by the odd tone, “Is this some sort of suitor test, Mandy? We’re all damaged goods.”

Mandy snorted and giggled, but there was no amusement in it. “Mickey said you were like this—all idealistic, kumbaya, rose-coloured glasses and some shit. It’s cute that you think we’re all the same Southside garbage, but we’re not, we’re really not.” Mandy sighed and hesitated before crushing the cigarette beneath her heel on the pristine looking roof.

”I mean, I think we had half a shot, maybe, at being somewhat normal, well-adjusted individuals, but then our mom up and died, and any part of our dad that was still human up and went with her. You know what’s weird, I thought me and Mickey were going to escape the worst of it because we were the little ones, but you know, Mickey has a mouth on him and he’s so smart. He must have been six the first time he told my dad how to do something better and that put him on the radar.

The smarter and mouthier he got, the more dad would lay into him, even though he was doing what Mickey said and letting him run things more and more the older he got. I guess he was reminding him who the boss was, I don’t know. Sometimes it was for nothing, and I thought maybe dad could smell it on him, that he was different somehow.” Mandy looked at Ian’s stricken face and spoke flatly, “you have no idea how bad it could get. Funny thing is, I still thought I was okay, because dad never hit me like that, you know?”

Mandy nodded jerkily, “Do you know when I realized how fucked we all were? When I was like twelve and me and Mickey were watching the Addams Family and I couldn’t hear shit because Mickey’s breathing was all fucked up because his ribs were busted or bruised or some shit. I got so pissed off. I told him I was so glad I wasn’t him, getting waled on like that. Then Mickey and his fucking mouth; he tells me he’s glad he’s not me too, because if dad touched him the way dad touched me, he wouldn’t know what he’d do. That fucked me up, ha. So there we were, sitting there wishing we were part of the freaking Addams family; any family but that shit show we were trapped in. So tell me again how we’re the same type of fucked up, Gallagher.”

Ian’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly before he sighed and reached for another cigarette. “I’m not walking away, Mandy. I can’t.”

Mandy heaved in frustration, “No. you’re not, are you? You know, it’s bad enough you made him move out here, miles away from everything he knows, but you’re just not going to stop. This can only play out one of two ways: you’re either going to worm your way back in and finish destroying him, or you’ll worm your way back in and totally change him into something he’s not, and either way my brother’s gone and I’m alone.”

“Seriously? Those are the two scenarios you can think of? You Milkoviches and the fatalism, I swear to God. How about I ‘worm my way back in,’ make Mickey happy and we’re all friends? No one loses anybody, no one’s alone. Also, I can’t change Mickey and turn him into someone unrecognizable. I can’t even get him to sit still and talk to me for five minutes. He’s always going to be your brother, Mandy.”

She shivered and folded in on herself even further. “It would be different if you were Southside.”

“I am Southside! What the fuck?”

“Are you fucking serious? What part of this is Southside?” Mandy asked, waving her hands at the fantasy scene around her. “You haven’t been Southside in forever.”

“You and your brother, I swear to everything,” Ian sighed before snorting and giving her a lopsided smile. “So you’re here to sabotage me now, is that it?”

Aye, there’s the rub, because just like with her brother before her, Ian Gallagher had her confused and indecisive. Of all the scenarios that she’d imagined before coming out, actually befriending the one who would hurt and steal her brother had not occurred to her. Now, just like her brother before her, Mandy was wondering if Ian Gallagher was getting her to believe in the impossible.

“I don’t fucking know yet,” she admitted at length and Ian’s smile hitched a little higher.

“In any event, it was nice to spend time with you, Mandy Milkovich. We should do it again some time.”

That night, Mickey was planning on how to keep Clay out of his sister’s jealous clutches, so he was taken by surprise when she cuddled up to him instead and rested her head on his chest and flung an arm around him. He grunted softly and relaxed into it, ruffling her dark hair with his hand.

“So, you and Gallagher all day, huh?” he asked her softly.

“Yep,” she mumbled into the soft material of his tank top.

“You okay? He upset you?”


“You know I’d kick his ass if he did?”

She raised her head, propping her chin on his chest and looked at him curiously. “Would you?”

“Of course I would.”

She smiled and laid on his chest again. “Nah, he was a perfect gentleman. Wouldn’t even take his dick out when I asked.” She listened to the laughter rumbling through him.

“Too gay, huh?”

“The gayest.”

“I know the feeling.”

They lay in silence for a while until Mickey spoke quietly and hesitantly into the dark. “What should I do, Mandy?”

There it was, the question she had been anticipating and dreading. Right then, in that moment, she knew her answer mattered, because she was still his little sister and it was still just the two of them against the world. That was going change one way or another, and maybe no matter how she played it, she was going to wind up fading into the background.

“We’re Milkoviches, and we don’t have much, but we have our pride and no one gets to shit all over it,” she said quietly, but fiercely, and she felt Mickey deflate a little. “That being said, I think he’s one of the decent ones, and I think he loves the fuck out of you, so maybe you can take a gamble on this one.”



“I knew if you spent time with him he’d pull you to his side,” Mickey said teasingly and she could hear his relief and gratitude, because right then, in that moment, it was just them and what she said still mattered.

“Nah, I’m on your side, Mickey, always,” Mandy picked idly at his tank top, “don’t rush into it, if you’re not ready though. I’ve made that mistake more times than I can count, and if you do make up, castrate him if he fucks up again. I’ll handle the piece of shit brother.”

“Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc?”

Mandy was delighted, “hell yeah. You know that’s not even real Latin? It’s totally made up!”

“Seriously? I’ve been feeling all classy knowing it and it’s not even real?”

Mandy snorted. “The Addams Family—total bullshit from start to finish. How were Morticia’s eyes always in the light?”

“Still a better story than our life, though.”

Mandy snorted again—wasn’t that the truth.

Ian was already in his office when Mandy called the following morning.  He answered just as Mickey was settling in to start his own work day.

“Hey,” he answered hesitantly, unsure of how this conversation would go.

“Hey yourself,” Mandy responded and got straight down to business. “You know you can’t fuck up again, right? I just endorsed you, so if you do, I’m going to end up looking like the worst asshole.”

She didn’t know where this would go, if she’d end up alone or if Gallagher was right about not losing a brother, just gaining a friend. She wasn’t about to stand in the way of her brother’s happiness, even if it negatively impacted her own. She was just going to have to gamble of Ian Gallagher being right.

Ian grinned into the phone, “I won’t, I promise. So you have a couple more days before you head back. You want to try and knock out the rest of your list, you lame ass tourist?”

“You know you’ve won, right? You don’t have to keep trying.”

“I know, and yet here I am.”

Mandy smiled in spite of herself. “I want to toss a coin off the Empire State Building.”

“I’ll set aside the bail money.”

“And Mickey says you cry when you get your ass handed to you in Mario Cart, so I would like to end the day with that,” Mandy enthused.

“You really want to put our fledging friendship through the horrors of Mario Cart?”

“Loser says what?”

Jesus, by the time she left, he was going to have problems telling her and her brother apart. “Fine, but leave your baton at home.”

Mandy begrudgingly agreed and hung up, smiling. What the hell, if you can’t beat them, join them and let the chips fall where they may.

Chapter Text


It was just a quick in and out. She had forgotten her case with her ATM card and she needed to grab it before she took the train home. The office was deserted as expected, dark but for a single row of dimmed lights just above the front lines of Skid Row.

She hustled to her station, eager to just grab her stuff and go, but was surprised to see Mickey’s bag and coat resting in his chair. She took another quick look around, still no signs of life or her friend and she stood confused for a minute. She contemplated digging for her phone and calling him to see if everything was okay, only to hear approaching, muffled voices coming from behind the closed doors of Ian’s pitch black office.  She froze, waiting, but something in her said “hide!” So the next second, she was zipping around the corner of Ian’s office and concealing herself behind a huge ficus.

She peeked through the leaves to see Mickey wander out and head over to his station. He looked weird, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. Maybe it was because he was a little dishevelled, maybe it was that odd half-smile, or maybe it was the fact he was in Ian Gallagher’s office minutes after nine on a workday. Still, something was rotten in the State of Denmark.

She watched silently as Mickey rooted through his bag and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. The man looked up cautiously for smoke detectors, or Carol maybe, and lit up before diving back into his search.

“What the fuck is taking so long?” an impatient whine came floating out of Ian’s office and Mickey’s smile hitched a little higher around his cigarette.

“Fuck off, I’m looking for something,” Mickey shot back and Carrie’s jaw slackened. Since when were these two on “fuck you” basis? The last time Carrie checked, Mickey was still struggling not to swallow his tongue when Ian was around, and her boss tried his best not to blush to his toes whenever they made inadvertent eye contact.

Their mutual crush was both hilarious and frustrating for her to observe, because they were such shy doofuses about it. Both were too dumb and insecure to approach the other and she had figured that the tension would have continued to build until they wound up making out in a utility closet during the office Christmas party. Apparently they had made some social headway. Perhaps they had bonded over their Southside origins and had become friends. 

Carrie watched bemused as Ian padded out and leaned against the workstation next to Mickey and frowned at his employee. Mickey ignored him and continued to rifle through his bag insouciantly. It was then Carrie identified what was bugging her—both of them were barefoot, which was beyond weird. Carrie felt as if she was supposed to come to an obvious conclusion here, but for some reason, it was refusing to click.

“Seriously, what the fuck are you looking for?”

“Good things come to those who wait, Firecrotch,” Mickey answered and Carrie’s jaw slackened even further. What fresh hell was this? “Firecrotch?

Finally, Mickey pulled out a short sleeve of condoms and handed them over to Ian. The redhead stared at them bewildered. “I’ve got condoms, Mick.”

Mickey huffed his amusement, “yeah, but are they banana flavoured? Those are...appropriate on so many levels.”

Ian’s smile bloomed as he turned the silvery packets over in his hand. “Flavour is important?”

Mickey nodded as he sucked on his cigarette, “essential.”  He blew out a cloud of smoke as he eyed Gallagher from beneath his lashes, wetting his lips deliberately. “I’ll show you how important in a bit.”

Ian’s grin was downright goofy by then, a giddy little boy in the face of raw sex and Mickey was happy to keep teasing him a while longer. Mickey offered his boss a cigarette and held his lighter steady so Ian could dip his head and light up.

“I’m thinking about quitting this shit,” Ian sighed and expelled the smoke. “Doesn’t make sense to be doing all these fitness routines and still suck down a pack of these a day.” He looked over at Mickey when the other man grunted in response. “You should quit with me, replace one addiction with another that’s healthier and more fun.” He tried to take Mickey’s cigarette away and the tester flailed and swatted him off. “Think of all the cardio; we’d be replacing carcinogens with endorphins together. Could add years...”

“Why the fuck are we talking about living forever right now? Jesus Christ you wanna spread a blanket out and look for shooting stars next?”

The two men fell into a companionable silence, contentedly waiting out their refractory period. Not that Ian could stay silent for very long. “You heard what Danny Jay said about the Sox’s chances this year?”

“Man, fuck Danny Jay, what the fuck does he know about anything? He’s the same one that said last season-” and Mickey was off and running. Carrie rolled her eyes as Mickey warmed into one of his grumpy old man rants. Ian wasn’t rolling his eyes, though, he was grinning during Mickey’s diatribe as if it was one of the most adorable things ever. Just when Mickey was about to curse all of Danny Jay’s descendents and pets, Ian moved in for a kiss. Mickey quickly danced out of the way, “the fuck! What is your malfunction, Gallagher?”

“What’s yours?” Ian raised a smug eyebrow at Mickey before taking a sweeping look around the office. “We’re the only ones here. Why did you choose to meet up here then if you’re going to freak out about it all the time?” he asked and reached out to hook his fingers in Mickey’s belt loops to pull him flush against him.

“I said your office,” Mickey muttered, “this ain’t your office.”

“Half this fucking building is my office,” Ian pointed out before shutting Mickey up with a kiss.

At least that might have been what it was. Carrie, whose ever slackening jaw was now on the floor, might have been witnessing one the first attacks of the zombie apocalypse instead; an event for which she was quite well prepared. Her poor friend might have been having his face eaten for all she could tell, but when they briefly broke apart, faces flushed and lips bruised, she realized the last thing Mickey needed was rescue.

“Come show me why banana flavour is so important,” Ian said huskily and dragged a grinning Mickey into his office and shut the door.

Carrie couldn’t move from behind her ficus plant for about two minutes. This was a development most unexpected.

Annie and Jimmy

It was almost eleven at night and the lines of code were starting to dance before Annie’s eyes. She and Jimmy were on the lower floor, helping out Nate’s team unravel a massive error that had characters moonwalking through closed doors and into prohibited areas. She needed a break before she snapped. She got up and went to slump against Jimmy’s back.

“Follow me upstairs; I need a snack from our break room.”

“I’m sure they’ve got the same snacks down here,” Jimmy said distractedly.

Annie sighed patiently, “I know, but I meant your dick, baby.”

“Oh, OH!” Jimmy quickly got to his feet and scurried after his girlfriend.

Annie knew people gawked at her when she swanned into Southside Enterprises wearing her bright sundresses, pleated skirts and ultra feminine attire. It was as if she was violating the gamer code of simply dressing one level away from hobo. She was a hardcore gamer and one of the best programmers in the company; but she was also a Southern belle and she’d be damned if she was going to sacrifice a killer dress and soft makeup for these smelly losers. Plus, it cannot be overstated the convenience of only having to shimmy out of her panties when a girl needed to get hers.

She stuffed said panties into Jimmy’s pocket and covered his mouth with her hand while he covered hers. It was a good thing they were keeping the noise down; else they might have missed the sound of approaching voices. There was a moment of panic as she and Jimmy went still as they stared at each other. If it was Carol or one of the other fun police, they were so dead.

The voices grew closer and Annie shoved Jimmy away, looking wildly around the break room before diving into the cupboard under the sink. She was petite, but she only just fit and Jimmy quickly scrambled to hide behind the massive fridge. Why the hell she hadn’t simply thought of that, she would never know. Now she was stuck under a sink, sans panties and in a dress, with an S-pipe digging into her back.

It was Mickey who blew in laughing and both Annie and Jimmy relaxed for a second. Mickey would take the piss out of them forever, but they had nothing to worry about with him. They were a second away from revealing themselves when Ian Gallagher of all fucking people came in behind him.

“You’re so full of shit,” Mickey accused light-heartedly and grabbed the nearest bag of cheese doodles. “No one would get rid of that much weed.”

Ian tore open some Doritos and leaned against the sink adjacent to Mickey, blocking Annie’s already limited view through the slats. “I’m telling you; Kev had to get rid of all that shit. In the end, he only had one huge garbage bag left that he hid from her.”

“My brothers and I would’ve known what to do with it; fucking waste, man.”

Annie and Jimmy were confused by all of this. They crossed their fingers that neither Ian nor Mickey would head for the vending machines and discover the man behind the fridge. Annie knew they were high, she could tell from the smoky scent clinging to their clothes and the way they were demolishing the food around them. Since when were they smoking buddies though?

From what she could tell, Mickey was always a little standoffish and reticent around Ian, and their boss seemed mostly suspicious and watchful of the newest addition to Skid Row. Neither of them had seemed particularly interested in engaging the other on any level, so this jump to laughing and comfortable banter was a surprise. Then again, weed has made strange bedfellows.

“So what did he do with the last bag?” Mickey asked curiously, cheeks puffed out with food, “did he at least sell that?”

“Nah, Veronica found out about that too. It was so cool though, because he burnt it in the biggest fucking bonfire ever! The whole town came out and made it a party,” Ian giggled at the memory, “best fucking contact high I ever had as a kid.”

“Shit, Canaryville was where it was at, huh?” Mickey mused. “If I had known half the crazy shit you guys got up to over there, I would have moved my ass right in.”

“Wish you had,” Ian murmured softly, more to himself than anyone else, “I keep thinking about how different things might have been.”

Annie squinted against the influx of light as Ian moved away from the sink towards Mickey. She watched in growing shock as Ian grabbed Mickey’s hand and closed his lips over a cheese dusted finger. Annie thought that Mickey would go Super Saiyan. She knew Ian was gay, she wasn’t entirely sure where Mickey fell, but no matter what his orientation, she doubted he would have been okay with this blatant sexual violation.

Except, Mickey didn’t do anything, just sucked on his lower lip, eyes wide while Ian finished sucking on one finger and moved on to the other. Maybe he was frozen in shock. Nothing could have prepared Annie for the next series of events. Ian finished deftly cleaning Mickey’s fingers and grinned cheekily at his dazed employee before unceremoniously undoing Mickey’s belt and sinking to his knees. Annie damn near passed out. Within seconds, Mickey’s eyes were fluttering closed and his lips were parting in pleasure. She could just barely see the top of Ian’s head as it bobbed before Mickey. What she could see clearly was Mickey’s face contorting in intense pleasure while Ian went about his ministrations voraciously.

If there were a list of things Annie believed she might never see in her lifetime, Mickey’s “O” face would have been right on it. Yet there it was in all its lip biting, brow furrowed glory. This would easily have been the hottest thing Annie had seen in ages and had she been at home with her Hitachi magic wand and an unobscured view, it would have been. As such, since she was stuck under a sink with a pipe in the small of her back, what she needed was for them to hurry the fuck up before she caught a cold in her ass. Fortunately, Ian’s blow job game was at least respectable and Mickey came quickly with a grunt and a groan. Ian got to his feet grinning like a cat that caught the canary. One suggestive look was shared and he and Mickey were stumbling out of the break room, clearly intent on resuming their fun elsewhere.

Jimmy and Annie were about to gingerly emerge from their hiding spots, only for Ian to double back and grab every bag of chips he could manage to hang on to and headed out again. They waited a few more minutes to make sure the coast was clear before finally coming out of hiding.

“What the fuck was that?” Jimmy asked in a horrified whisper while he helped Annie to her feet. “I heard all these…these noises!” he exclaimed while his girlfriend retrieved her panties from his pockets, smoothed her dress and frowned at her reddened knees. “Were they-” he dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “Were they sucking each other’s dicks?”

Annie rolled her eyes at Jimmy’s scandalized face. “Bless your heart, honey, of course not. Only one of them was getting Hoovered. Although I bet he’s returning the favour now.”

“But it’s Ian and Mickey! I mean, how can they do that?”

“With strong knees and a ruined gag reflex, baby. That’s how it goes down, down South.”


Raj Sengupta had a superpower; the power to go invisible whenever he so choose. Well no, not really. What he had was the tendency to sort of blend into the woodwork, the result of being the fifth of nine children and having the tendency to stray towards the unremarkable. He was a slim Indian young man of middling height and middling looks, with nothing really physically striking about him. If Raj kept quiet, one tended not to realize he was there and outside of his social group he tended to disappear altogether.

It was a great source of angst growing up. In the never ending chaos of his home, Raj tended to get lost in the mix of screaming women, men and babies. Getting girlfriends was a task and a half when a girl wasn’t sure just how she knew him, even though he sat behind her in homeroom for three years running. Still, he learned to be his own bullhorn pretty damn quick and a razor sharp tongue and acid wit went a long way in making himself heard. Once in a while though, the old invisibility trick still revealed some surprising things.

He was dead on his feet after the gym and the elevator was going up instead of down. He sighed and got in anyway, slinging his black towel over head to cover his damp hair and face. He was wearing black gym clothes in a dark elevator and shoved himself into a dark corner. His mother swore he did shit like this on purpose so he could bitch about being overlooked later when all the gulab jamun was gone and get his own batch.

The elevator went straight to his work floor and he was surprised to see Mickey and Ian waiting when the doors opened. It was so late for anyone to still be on the floor. They got in and if they noticed him shoved into the corner, they never said.

“What are you pressing the lobby for?” Ian groused and tugged on Mickey’s shirt. “Hit the button for the parking lot, I’ll drive you to the station.” Mickey simply shrugged and obeyed.

Raj was a little surprised; since when were these two friendly? From what he could see, they had this weird energy where they seemed to make each other twitchy and nervous all the time. Raj had constructed elaborate stories in his head about them meeting time and time again in past lives where one was always destined to kill the other. It helped explain the weird vibe. His little sister thought he was nuts.

“I’m going to put an Easter egg for you in the next game, Mick,” Ian said happily, high on love and a steady supply of orgasms. “Something awesome, like you’ll need a jet pack and you have to drop down at just the right spot and there’ll be graffiti on the wall just for you.”

“You’re so dumb,” Mickey mumbled before grinning at his boyfriend, “do it.” 

Ian’s smile was the widest, brightest thing Raj had ever seen. “Okay, it’s a promise.”

Mickey snorted, shaking himself out of staring like a moonstruck moron, “your fucking face,” he grumbled. Raj wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Ian’s smile got even brighter because obviously his boyfriend thought he was just the cutest ever.

“You coming over tonight?” Mickey asked quietly and Raj’s eyes widened.

“Sure, just got to grab some stuff and do a few things at home real quick. You can hang with me and we’ll drive back to your place later,” Ian suggested hesitantly.

Mickey immediately balked at the idea of going to Ian’s condo. “Nah, I’m going to Skype with Mandy until you show up. When you’re coming though, bring food.”

“Okay, like dinner food or groceries?”

Mickey thought it over. “Both, now that you mention it. You’re eating me out of fucking house and home.”

Ian was unapologetic as the elevator doors opened at the lobby and closed again to head to the basement parking lot.

“It’s partly your fault; you should let me eat you out more often. Probably wouldn’t be so hungry afterwards.” Mickey choked on air and Raj almost peed his pants.

“Oh my fucking God! Why are you so fucking gross sometimes? Why would you even say that?!” Mickey cringed and twisted as he had a fit, which only sent Ian into peals of laughter. “You are so, argh!”

“I can’t believe this; you say the grossest shit all the time! Why is that gross anyway? I don’t even think your ass would be considered an acquired taste. It’s that good!”

Mercifully, the doors opened to the basement and Mickey ran out screaming, his hands covering his ears. “Aah, I can’t hear you, lalalalala!”

Ian took off after him yelling, “especially with the right flavoured lube and all!”

“Shut the fuck up, you fucker! I will burn everything you love! Aah!”

Raj stood frozen and gaping listening to their shouts and laughter echoing around the lot until the door finally closed on the shell shocked tester. There went his reincarnation theory.


He caught up with Mickey buying breakfast in the little sandwich shop around the corner from work. They made their purchases and started eating as they stepped out into the brisk air of the May morning and Eric shivered.

“They need to decide if it’s still winter or if it’s spring already. This is bullshit,” Eric grumbled and Mickey snorted in response. Eric caught him checking his watch and looking around as people surged around them, hurrying to get to work and wherever they had to be. “Hey, you waiting on someone?”

Mickey shook his head hastily and they both took off towards their building. “How’s the wife and the half-baked bun?” Mickey asked as he scarfed down his bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Eric gave another involuntary shiver at the question.

“Yeah, they’re good. She’s in nesting mode right now—driving me up the fucking wall,” Eric answered.

“How you holding up?”

Eris sighed and shrugged before running a hand through his long, shaggy hair, “I don’t even know, man. Sometimes I sit there staring at her, watching her stomach balloon and it feels like the fucking walls are closing in. You know what I mean?” He then hurriedly clamped his mouth shut. He hadn’t meant to be so brutally honest, it had just slipped out and he cringed a little in anticipation of the burning judgement.

“Shit, I know exactly what you mean—don’t even fucking joke about it,” Mickey said softly, fighting his own memories of one of the worst periods of his life. To this day, he could barely look at pregnant women or babies without feeling his balls retreat protectively into his body—made him feel like there was a scream fighting to claw its way out of him. “I was basically blacked out for nine months until it turned out the kid wasn’t even mine, though he’s still family, I guess. You need to find a better way of coping than I did, though. You actually like your wife and want your kid.”

Eric didn’t answer, just stared down at the pavement as they came up to their building. “Speaking of that, I was thinking about this new bar opening up in the West Village, supposed to be all thematic and shit. I figured we could check it out,” he looked at Mickey hopefully as the elevator doors slid open.

“Yeah, I’m game. You’re going to have to check with Carrie when she’s free. Apparently Leslie has a whole bunch of ‘Free Whoever’ stuff planned.”

“Oh no, I mean I was thinking it would be just me and you. You know, a couple of bros hanging out?” Eric said a little nervously.

“Oh…oh,” Mickey responded slowly. Just a couple of bros hanging out in the West Village then. Mickey was still fairly new to this whole out and open thing and he tended to miss signals being beamed his way. He hesitated before attempting to seek clarification, “Eric, are you-”

“Hold the elevator!”

Eric pressed the hold button and a second later, Ian was barrelling inside. Their boss was panting and sweating, having just completed his run, and he slumped tiredly against the back of the elevator on the other side of Mickey, leaving the tester in the middle.

“Thanks,” Ian huffed and grinned at Mickey as he caught his breath, “I’m literally running late. My time is off and I’m supposed to have a meeting in fifteen minutes,” their boss sniffed his shirt critically.  “I hope I don’t stink too bad.”

“No, no, you’re, uh, you’re good,” Mickey mumbled as his gaze shifted from Ian’s torso to his face and back. Ian’s grin widened and Mickey pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hide his fluster.

Eric raised an eyebrow at the strange interplay. He’d be the first to admit that he wasn’t the best at reading a room, but there was something definitely up with these two. Ian hadn’t taken his eyes off Mickey since he’d entered the elevator which wasn’t surprising. Eric knew Ian had a thing for Mickey; it was obvious even to him. The redhead was always hovering around the other man when he could, giving off those intense creeper vibes. Mickey, for his part, always seemed skeeved out by the attention and tried to avoid engaging his boss on any level. Eric had contemplated telling Mickey to use HR to get Ian off his back if he felt uncomfortable.

Clearly, though, something had changed, because Mickey hadn’t really stopped looking at Ian since he came in the elevator either. Mickey was working so hard at appearing nonchalant and unaffected b y Ian’s presence, he seemed to have straight up forgotten Eric was there and the conversation they had been having.

“I changed up my routine this weekend,” Ian said offhandedly, alluding to the recent abandonment of Mickey’s dumb “no weekends” rule. “I guess it wore me out more than I anticipated. I’m still feeling the effects.”

There it was; total confirmation that something was going on between these two. Mickey’s face was flushing, even as he stared at his shoes and Ian’s face was the worst. He had an unholy smirk that said as clearly as it could in polite company that he had been inside Mickey recently and would be again soon enough.    

Eric sighed as the doors opened and ushered them into a new working day. What was one more disappointment added to the heap anyway?

It was clear as day something was up with those two. For a couple that had been running around giddier than two teenagers in love, the sudden about face was jarring. Mickey was sad and self-medicating, Ian was miserable and growing increasingly anxious and everyone was wondering what the hell was going on.

When Raj walked in on her stress eating in the break room, Carrie couldn’t hold it in anymore. “I know something you don’t know!”

“And I’ve something to tell you,” Raj whispered back.

“Ian and Mickey are sleeping together!” they said in unison and then gasped, “but how did you know?!”

“I saw them making out after hours one night,” Carrie admitted.

“I heard them talking about ass play in the elevator after gym one night,” Raj said.

“Wait, were they talking about performing ass play while in an elevator or were they in an elevator discussing ass play?” Carrie asked, confused.

“The last one.”


“Are you guys talking about how fucked up the Ian and Mickey situation is right now?” Annie asked as she and Jimmy blew into the break room.

“What? You guys know too?!” Carrie squeaked.

Annie shrugged, “Jimmy and I were trying to have a little fun and ended up seeing Ian giving Mickey a hummer right here. So hot; it was personally responsible for orgasms one and three the following night.”

“Hey!” Jimmy protested.

“Numbers two and four were all you, honey,” Annie soothed.

“What the hell goes on in this office at night?!” Carrie exclaimed, “I need to start buying hand sanitizer by the gallon.”

“So something is obviously up with them. You think they broke up? Should we do something?” Raj asked pertinently, getting the group back on track.

“Hell no,” Eric trumpeted as he pushed his way into the room. “It’s none of your business. People break up all the time. I don’t even see them as compatible anyway.”

“Eric, darling, we’re discussing this from a place of love and concern for both Ian and Mickey,” Annie chided gently.

“And I’m not?”

“I feel you might be thinking with your biased man penis,” she answered.

“That’s bull; I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m a happily ma—ahem—I’m a married, mostly heterosexual man.”

“You roll right along with that,” Annie rolled her eyes, “I vote we do something because I have already decided in my head that they’re soul mates, and when my world view is disrupted, I get angry. You will not like me when I’m angry.”

“Yeah except for the part where they are human beings living in reality and not Barbie dolls in your magical world of make believe,” Eric snipped.

“I will fucking cut you, Eric!” Annie raged suddenly and everyone jumped while Eric scrambled for cover.  Annie smiled sweetly at his paper white face and turned back to Carrie. “So what do we do?”

Carrie shrugged, at a loss, but any further discussion was prevented by Lindsay popping her head in. “What are you people even doing in here?”

There was a babble of discordant chatter as everyone made a different excuse for the congregation in the break room. Lindsay was having none of it. “Get back to work. This isn’t happy hour; we’re trying to run a business here.”

They all shuffled out, chastised, and headed back to their respective workstations. For the time being, they were a group without a plan. Still, Ian and Mickey got together on their own; maybe they could find their way back to each other the same way. Only time would tell.  

Chapter Text

“There, that should do it!” Mandy declared triumphantly. She put her hands on her hips and beamed at her handiwork while her brother looked on dubiously.

“That’s it?” He asked, unimpressed. There was now a vase filled with a cheap bouquet resting on his kitchen table. “That’s the woman’s touch my apartment was sorely lacking?”

Mandy just glared at the ungrateful brat. It had taken her the better part of an hour to find those flowers and a cheap vase to stick them in, and Mickey’s man-cave looked all the better for it. “I’m not Martha fucking Stewart. That’ll do, pig.”

“Probably end up breaking that shit in a week,” Mickey mumbled and eyed Mandy’s bulging suitcase. She was leaving with it being twice as heavy as when she had shown up. His sister was hell on his wallet. “If that’s overweight, I’m not paying for it,” he added grumpily.

“I don’t need your chump change. I’ve got a big spender chauffeuring me and taking care of all my needs.”

Mickey sighed and headed into his bedroom to double-check that Mandy hadn’t stuffed Clay into her bag. He wandered over to his bedroom window just in time to see Ian parking across the street. His boss got out, leaned against the car and whipped out his phone—probably alerting Mandy to his arrival—all the while looking like a Tommy Hilfiger ad. Devastating is what it was; just devastating. Perhaps sensing he was being watched, Ian glanced up at Mickey’s bedroom window and Mickey almost tripped over himself trying to disappear from view.

“Hey, Ian’s here,” Mandy paused and rolled her eyes at her brother plastering himself to wall next to the window as if he was in a bad spy movie.

“You know, I would have called a taxi and taken you myself,” Mickey kept grumbling. He gave the window a wide berth and followed his sister into the living room. “But no, your ass only needs a day to get used to luxury. Since Daddy Warbucks is out there, clearly you don’t need me to come with you.”

Mandy stood before her nervous brother and tenderly placed her hands on his chest. “Bitch, sack the fuck up and grab my bag.”

In preparation for Mandy’s departure, Ian had been hoping that Mickey would come along. He then acknowledged that it would be a near impossibility, however, and quickly talked himself into believing that it was probably for the best that Mickey wouldn’t be there to distract him from Mandy leaving. So when Mandy stomped out, sullen brother in tow, he might have panicked just a little.

“Uh,” Ian greeted eloquently.

“We’re good to go!” Mandy said happily and behind her Mickey gave him an awkward half wave before shoving his hands in his pockets and admiring a hotdog cart with hitherto unheard of focus. “Mickey demanded he come along to see me off. He played the brother card, I couldn’t tell him no.”

Mickey’s head spun so quickly, it was a miracle he didn’t get whiplash. Before he could say anything in his defence, Mandy was getting comfortable in the front passenger seat, leaving a hapless Ian and Mickey to navigate the seemingly simple task of loading a bag into the trunk of a car.

“I can do-” “I’ll just-” “No, it’s fine-” “You don’t have to-”

Mandy puffed out a gust of air and blew on her bangs before leaning out the car window and startling the hell out of the two morons. “Will one of you just put the bag in the fucking car so we can go?! This isn’t fucking Jenga!”

They moved surprisingly quickly after that and soon Mickey was in the backseat, arms crossed, slumped down and staring out the window, while Ian slid into the driver’s seat. Instead of pulling away and heading off to the airport immediately, Ian sat staring at the controls of his car, nonplussed, momentarily stymied by all the dials and buttons while his brain continued fizzling.

It was at the moment Mandy realized that she may have made a mistake forcing Mickey to come along. There was now a very real possibility she was going to die before she got anywhere near an airport. They were either going to end up wrapped around a tree or exploding into a fireball of angst and sexual tension. Before she could tell her brother to call the damn taxi, Ian finally remembered the logistics of his Bentley and pulled out—hands firmly at ten and two.

Five minutes into the ride and there wasn’t a sound to be heard except the quiet drone of the engine. Ian was gripping the wheel so tightly, his knuckles were going white and Mandy could see his eyes flicking from the road to his rear view mirror from which Mickey had yet to disappear despite his best efforts.

“Well this isn’t awkward at all!” Mandy said loudly, earning her suspicious sidelong glances from the two men in the car. She stretched and warmed up her shit-stirring muscles. “This is a nice car; very stylish, very roomy. How many times have you two fucked in it?”

Ian accidentally revved the engine and Mickey choked on air. They both recovered in time to yell at her, “Mandy!”

“What?” She asked, dripping faux innocence. Shit, if she was going to die, might as well go out with all types of bangs. “I mean, you guys have fucked in this car right?”

“Well yeah…”

“IAN!” Mickey said sharply and Ian cringed a little, though there was already a smile playing on his lips. A man after Mandy’s own heart, this one.

“She’s going to find out anyway!” Ian defended weakly.

“How the fuck is she going to ‘find out anyway’? Is it posted on her newsfeed?” Mickey raised his hands hopelessly—an appeal to the heavens to view the hardships continually being heaped upon him.

“You’re right, Ian, he tells me everything eventually.”

Mickey sputtered and stalled. Such lies!

“So where do you guys park when you do it?” Mandy asked breezily while her brother turned purple. “Like, does New York City even have lookout points, or do you just do it in parking lots, the way whores would?!”  Mandy whipped her head around and spat the word at her brother with blistering emphasis. Mickey was ready to strangle her, but Ian was grinning.

“Parking lots are always more convenient, but there are lots of sweet, romantic spots around, especially in Brooklyn and Queens. Manhattan has the water’s edge and he does have a fondness for the docks.”

Mandy shook her head slowly and looked at her brother with all the judgement in the world. “The docks, Mickey, you slattern.”

Mickey was beyond words. He was all eyebrows, convulsions and jazz hands and Ian would be flat out lying if he said he wasn’t loving every second of it. He missed this so much. Teasing Mickey to the point of apoplexy was one of his favourite things in the world.

“What other out of the box places have you guys done it?”

“Well there was that time we-”

“I’m coming to see you, Ma!” Mickey cried and prepared to tuck and roll when he hit the asphalt. Mandy, taking no chances, swiftly undid her seatbelt and dove for her brother, leaving Ian alone and laughing at the front of the car while the two siblings tussled in the back. Ian checked the power-locks and hoped to God the cops were nowhere nearby.

After Mandy checked in her bag, the time came for her to say her goodbyes. Mickey walked a little way off, leaving her and Ian to share a hug. She giggled as Ian lifted her off the floor and spun her a little before setting her down.

“Anytime you want to come back, you just say so,” Ian instructed, smiling down at her. “Call me when you get in.”

“I will,” she nodded towards her brother briefly and raised an eyebrow at Ian. “So, you’re sure about this? There is still time to call it quits without everything going all apocalyptic.”

Ian chanced a brief look over at the other man, who had been watching and chewing on his lip anxiously. Mickey quickly dipped his head and looked away, although he glanced back a second later. Ian looked back down at Mandy and gave her a determined nod and a sweetly defeated sigh. “He’s it for me.”

Mandy grinned in approval and gave an exaggerated shrug. “I tried to warn you. Just so you know, it’s your funeral if you fuck up again, gingerbread.”

“I won’t.”

“You better not—would be a crying shame to fuck up a pretty face like yours,” Mandy sighed and gave him another quick hug. “Just give him a minute, he’ll come around. Welcome to this shitshow of a family,” she waved over her shoulder as she walked away and headed towards her brother.

“So this is how it is, huh?” Mickey said drily as his sister finally sauntered over to him. “Eight days ago, you wanted to bash his fucking head in, now this. Jack and Rose didn’t have this much of an emotional farewell.”

“Shut up, I have to make my play. How often is a hot, gorgeous, single millionaire going to cross my path?” she asked pertinently.

“Yeah, yeah, cry me a river and go get your own,” Mickey mumbled, catching himself too late. He realized his mistake at Mandy’s elated, jaw-dropped face.

“Did you just warn me off your man, heifer?” she chortled and Mickey groaned.

“I didn’t mean it like that!”

“The fuck did you mean it then?” she teased mercilessly and made a move as if to head back to Ian. “I’m so going to tell him. Hey, Ian!”

Mickey grabbed her, waved Ian off and dragged his sister towards the security checkpoint. He smothered her protests with a hug. “Go please, before I kill you.”

She laughed and hugged her brother back tightly. When she pulled away, she yelled over to Ian. “Hey, I was just telling Mickey that I know my leaving is probably really emotional for you both. So, if you guys want to passionately comfort each other in your car in the parking lot—” she plunged the index finger of one hand into the tight fist of the other, “—I don’t think anyone here would fault you for it.”   

With that, she ran off laughing to the safety of the security checkpoint, throwing up devil horns and leaving the two men with graphic, vivid mental images of them getting it on in the backseat of Ian’s car.

“Jesus,” both men said in unison. Mickey was eventually forced to turn around and head back towards Ian since his boss stood between him and the exit.

“So, um, do you want to, uh…?” Ian had no idea how he really wanted to finish that sentence. Mickey looked at him as if he was growing a second head.

“I’m going to catch the air train, grab a bus from Jamaica Center and head home.”

It was probably for the best. Without Mandy to diffuse the situation, Ian probably would end up killing them both before they even worked their way out of the airport. He nodded, but couldn’t resist adding: “You’re not seriously going to take like five buses from Jamaica Center, just take the E and transfer to your local.”

“The E’s going to be nothing but suitcases and confused tourists right about now.”

“And the buses won’t be?” Ian pointed out.

“I guess I could take the LIRR from Jamaica to Atlantic?” Mickey mused.

“Now you’re just being fucking contrary because you know my way is the simplest,” Ian groused.

“Who’s being fucking contrary? I just believe there’s more than one way to do a thing!”

They were settling into their squabble when a puberty cracked voice interrupted them. “My mom and sister want to know if you guys are going to fuck in the parking lot like the Goth lady said.”

Ian and Mickey looked down to see a dishevelled boy of about thirteen, looking up at them expectantly while slurping a juice box. They were the most interesting thing to happen so far on this hellscape of a family vacation. His mother quickly grabbed him and dragged him away, apologising profusely.

“I’m so sorry, we dropped him a lot as an infant,” she offered and hustled him toward the rest of the family. Ian and Mickey glanced around to notice that there were a few people watching them surreptitiously, apparently waiting to see if they would leave together to engage in flagrante. Clearly, they were both going to have to take turns killing Mandy.

“I’m gonna go,” Mickey said abruptly.

“Yeah, I should probably…” Ian muttered disjointedly. They split immediately and headed off determinedly in opposite directions, only to realise a moment later that they were both going in the wrong direction. They both sighed before sheepishly turning back. Their lives were such bullshit right now.

Mickey sat on a bench across from Ian’s building and tried to psych himself up. It was just ridiculous that Mandy just blew into town, not even having known Ian, and got to see his condo before Mickey. Using that as his inspiration, he finally got up and strode across the street while trying to think up a cover story for his visit.

The lobby of the building reminded him of expensive French hotels that one would see on TV. His nerves were already beginning to desert him but he gritted his teeth and walked up the front desk. Why did they even have a front desk? The young woman behind the table had on a crisp suit and wore her honey brown hair in a stylish chignon. She smiled sweetly at him as he approached her and waited patiently for him to choke the words out.

Mickey’s first mistake was putting his hands on the desk and her eyes were immediately pulled to his tattoos. Her smile dimmed considerably. Next, he couldn’t stay still. He was as anxious and squirrelly as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs as Annie would say. By then, the receptionist’s smile was thin and brittle and she was barely hiding her suspicion.

“Can you tell me how to get to Ian Gallagher’s room…apartment, condo, whatever?” Mickey asked while he fidgeted and the young woman raised an eyebrow at him.

“Mr. Gallagher did not share this information with you?”

“If I knew I wouldn’t be asking, would I?” Mickey had zero patience for this. He was just trying his best not to run screaming through the front doors. The woman nodded stiffly and picked up the phone.

“One moment please, Mr.?”

“Milkovich, Mickey Milkovich.”

Ian was busy reading through focus testing reports when his phone rang. He grunted in annoyance and grabbed the phone off the nightstand, answering on the fourth ring.

Mickey waited and watched while the young woman slowly drifted away from him while she waited for Ian to pick up. She was clearly trying to get out of earshot and Mickey rolled his eyes and counted to ten.

“Ah, good evening, Mr. Gallagher, this is Lydia at the front desk. Oh, I’m sorry—Ian,” she laughed prettily and Mickey snorted loudly and rudely. She shot him a look, drifted a little further and dropped her voice. “I have someone inquiring for you at the front desk, a Mr. Mickey Milkovich?”

Ian almost fell off his bed. “Mickey? He’s here? Now?” He quickly did a quick assessment of his surroundings to make sure there was nothing to weird out his boyfriend. It seemed mostly fine. “Yeah, um, send him up.”

“Are you sure?” she asked unthinkingly, her voice barely above a whisper, “He seems rather large and angry-looking.” A sharp bark of laughter cut her off.

“Angry-looking maybe, but don’t let the tattoos and the hair fool you. They make him appear larger than he really is, but it’s really just an elaborate illusion to fool predators.”

With that, she had no choice but to begrudgingly send Mickey on his way.

In the elevator, Mickey distracted himself from his growing anxiety by looking at his finger tats. It was getting around that time to have them brightened and sharpened again, but he wondered if maybe he should have them covered or faded instead. If he was going to be hanging around with Gallagher, he had a feeling that there would be a lot more judgemental looks coming his way from the circles in which Ian moved. He sighed and jammed his hands into his pockets. He needed to see if he could get through this night first before he contemplated mutilating himself in the name of love and respectability. Too soon, he was in front of Gallagher’s door, and before he could gather himself and the courage to knock, the door was already swinging open.

“Hi!” Ian beamed at a gaping Mickey, whose hand was suspended in midair. Ian knew the broad, goofy smile he was wearing was way too premature, especially given how freaked out Mickey looked, but he couldn’t help it; this was everything right now.

“I, uh, wanted to say thanks again for everything with Mandy and her visit,” Mickey whooshed through his prepared speech in a single breath. “It meant a lot.”

Ian nodded, still trying to get his face under control. “You want to come in?” He backed away from the door and Mickey hesitated before stepping in gingerly. “You want the grand tour?” Ian asked eagerly, knowing he was getting ahead of himself, but too terrified of awkward pauses to stop. “So this is me.”

Mickey stopped hearing a word Ian said the moment he stepped over the threshold. It was worse than he had imagined. Ian’s living room looked like something out of Architectural Digest, or what Mickey assumed homes in Architectural Digest looked like. It had the postmodernist feel he had anticipated and Mandy had confirmed. It was pristine with gossamer curtains covering high, wide windows offering panoramic views of the park. It was so spacious, the artwork tastefully selected and positioned and the white furniture and glass tables were glaringly clean.

Mickey looked down nervously to see if he had tracked dirt into Ian’s home, where everything looked expensive, smelt expensive and felt expensive. It wouldn’t have mattered even if his shoes were filthy, because his legs had turned to cement blocks and he was incapable of movement in any direction. The feeling was odd, because this may just be the cleanest he’s ever been. The Mickey who existed back when there was no heat or water, and a layer of dirt helped keep tormentors at bay, probably wouldn’t recognise the clean cut, sweet smelling person he was now. Yet he’d never felt so filthy, as if every smudge and scab he’d ever had was blooming once again onto his pale skin. It was enough to make him itchy.

Ian turned to notice that Mickey hadn’t been walking silently behind him all this time. He doubled back to the door and turned the corner to find Mickey standing exactly where he’d left him, white as a sheet and breathing shallowly, blue eyes fixated on Ian’s chandelier, on the verge of a massive panic attack.

“Mick?” Ian’s concern spiked because he may not know a lot of things, but there were two things he did know: Mickey Milkovich and crippling anxiety. “Hey,” he said softly at first as he came to stand directly before Mickey, filling his field of vision. “Mickey,” he said more firmly and Mickey’s eyes quickly shifted to him before focusing somewhere over his shoulder.

Ian was in his face the way he always was, but his voice was oddly miles away. The way Ian said his name sounded distant and distorted and all Mickey could really focus on was how fast his heart was racing and how much all this stuff could net him on the street.

He and his brothers could toss this place in a couple of hours. He would stay away from the grandfather clock—those antique ones were expensive, but they’d learned their lesson when one of the stupid things almost crushed Joey. The artwork and sculptures were a goldmine; find a decent fence and there were people who would pay through the nose for shit like that. Ian grew up Southside, so he’d know not to hide valuables in the obvious places. They’d have to check the toilet tanks and tap for hidey holes. That might eat up a little extra time.


Maybe they would dress like painters; people hardly questioned that. His fucking tattoos wouldn’t look so out of place then. It wouldn’t be hard at all; it would be like slipping on an old pair of shoes or his favourite sweater. Mickey’s brain buzzed while his mouth went more numb than it had ever been and his chest felt as if it was about to explode. He blinked when Ian slammed him hard into the door.

“Why are you so scared of me?!”

The word “scared” floated up out of the fog. “I’m not scared,” Mickey replied tonelessly, an automatic, wind-up doll response with no real heat or thought behind it. A knee-jerk reaction to a carefully selected trigger word.

“You’re scared; you have been since day one. You were looking for an out before we even got started. You probably weren’t even pissed when I fucked up. You just took the excuse and ran, because that’s what scared people do!”

“I’m not scared,” more automatic responses—the furrowed brow, the curled fists, the sneer, but at least he had actually heard Gallagher this time while his brain battled between giving into the encroaching terror and addressing the more solid, redheaded threat before him.

“You’re a liar and a coward,” Ian seethed at him, “you gonna run away again?” And with all the right buttons successfully pushed, his brain made a choice. He shoved Ian away from him, almost sending the taller man sprawling before he managed to catch himself. Mickey always warned him to plant his fucking feet.

“You think I’m going to run from some soft, bougie little shit,” Mickey growled before barking, “Fuck you, I’m not scared!”

“Well fuck you, I’m not soft!” Ian yelled back. “What the fuck is with you and your sister with this ‘soft’ bullshit?! What, I’m not a real person unless I’m struggling to stay alive on the mean streets of the Southside? Well I have news for you; you’re not doing that anymore either!”

Mickey didn’t respond; he stood shaking slightly as his body calmed down from being yanked back from the brink. He cast a despondent look around Ian’s living room and Ian sighed.

“It’s just money, Mickey, it’s just stuff,” Ian said softly, “we have that now, it’s just that I have more of it. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean anything. You liked me when we were fucking around in my office and in your apartment and all of this was still here. Just because you’re actually seeing it now, doesn’t change anything.”

Mickey dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and tried to keep the sting at bay. “I know that. You don’t think I know that? I’m not fucking stupid.”

“I’m not calling you stupid, I’m calling you dramatic. Which is weird, because I’m used to being the dramatic one in my relationships,” he smiled when he managed to coax a huff of laughter out of Mickey. “We’re the same, Mickey; we’re from the same place. Why are you acting like we’re standing on two different planets?”

Mickey took another look as Ian’s curtains stirred gently and hinted at the dazzling view that lay beyond them. He inhaled shakily before looking starkly at Ian. “Aren’t we though?”

Before Ian could answer, the doorbell rang and Ian grunted in annoyance, silently begged Mickey for a minute and went to answer it. He opened the door to reveal Roger, a member of the complex’s security team.

“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting, Mr. Gallagher, but we’re doing a random security sweep. We’re just checking to make sure everyone is okay and that there are no problems or unwanted situations,” he said while peering in to stare pointedly a Mickey.

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Lydia, scared that Mickey was murdering Ian with his vulgar finger tattoos, had asked security to investigate. Mickey could only shake his head while Ian stared at the security officer incredulously.

“Yeah, you can call off the ‘random’ sweep, I’m out,” Mickey said and headed for the door. Right then he needed more air than even Ian’s condo held.

“Mickey, come on, I’ll take care of this…” Ian began but Mickey cut him off.

“Look, it’s fine; I just need a minute. I’ll see you at work tomorrow,” Mickey said softly while the guard eyed him suspiciously, having heard an earful from Lydia. “Alright Shaft, I’m going,” he snipped and shoved past the tall, heavy-set man. It did not help matters that Roger actually followed Mickey to the elevator and got in with him.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ian raged when he realized Roger was seriously intent on following Mickey off the premises. The elevator closed while Mickey looked out at him with the perfect expression of “I told you so” etched in his features. Ian closed the door so he could smack his head against it a few times. Someone was getting fired for this.

“I freaked the fuck out, Mandy,” Mickey sighed over his Skype call with his sister.

“Freaked out? Like how freaked out?”

“I don’t fucking know, just freaked out,” Mickey said testily before scrambling to find a decent comparison, “you remember when Miranda was freaking out about dying or some shit and her cat eating her? I guess it was like that.”

“Oh, so like a panic attack?” Mandy nodded sympathetically, “just from seeing his living room?”

“No, not just from seeing his living room,” Mickey said, “I mean that was part of it, but it was a lot of other stuff, alright?”

Mandy moaned, “Oh my God, Mickey, we are so fucked up. How have we not killed yet?”

“There’s still time,” Mickey responded before groaning, “he probably thinks I’m a freak now.”

“Please, he does not, and if he does think you’re a freak, he was thinking it long before this,” Mandy pointed out. “You should have turned the corner. His living room is definitely insane, yeah, some artsy-fart friend of his designed it; but the rest of his place is nice and normal. It’s still expensive, but relatively normal.”

“Yeah? Well I didn’t make it that far. Fucking mortifying.”

“Are you going to try again?”

“And risk pissing myself and leaving a puddle on his million dollar carpet?” Mickey exhaled noisily. “I’m going to have to though, aren’t I? I mean, you should have seen his face. I need to get over this shit somehow.”

“If for no other reason, you have to see his bed at least, because that shit was ridiculous.”

Mickey was relieved to enter the air-conditioned offices of Southside Enterprises. It was another day in the nineties; July had just started and it was already shaping up to be a bitch. He glanced stealthily into Ian’s office as he passed and was surprised to see his boss focused on his computer screen rather than playing on Monster II. He was so focused, in fact, that he didn’t realize that Mickey had come in.

Mickey settled into at his station and took some time to check his messages. He was a little surprised to see a message from Gallagher at the top of his mailbox, having just been sent a few minutes before he got in. He clicked the message and was surprised to see a bunch of real estate listings and a brief message from Gallagher.

“So I’ve been thinking of maybe downsizing a bit. What do you think?”

As if Mickey didn’t feel badly enough about his meltdown last night. That condo was one of Ian’s dreams; the swank apartment overlooking Central Park to help show that he’d truly made it. Mickey wasn’t about to let Ian give that up because of his anxieties. He quickly fired off a response.


Mickey could see the exact moment Ian spotted the reply and his boss gazed out at him before turning back to his computer.

“Don’t what?”

Mickey sighed heavily. Trust Gallagher to always need more words. “That shit is important to you, man. You don’t need to give up your place.”

“It’s not that important to me. There are other things I care about more.”

Gallagher was always doing this to him. How the fuck was he supposed to even respond to that? Flustered, Mickey simply sent a last message telling him to stop the apartment hunt and refused to engage beyond that. Still, Ian was smiling a little, so that had to count for something. Mickey couldn’t even bring himself to be nervous about what he might have just inadvertently agreed to. This could be shaping up to be a good day after all.

It was about half past ten when Nate strolled out of the elevator. He was a heavy-set young man with a neck-beard, a pony tail and swagger in his step that many would argue was not entirely justified. Carrie kicked Mickey’s leg to alert him to Nate’s arrival and the two watched as the man rolled into Ian’s office.

“Ian, how goes it on this fine summer day?” Nate greeted and Ian raised an eyebrow at the unexpected visit.

“Nate,” Ian replied suspiciously, “what brings you up here today?”

“If my liege lord summons me, what choice do I have but to answer?”

Ian squinted and thought it over before answering. “I asked you to come see me two weeks ago.”

Nate remained standing and spread his hands in mock helplessness. “Apologies for my tardiness, my team and I have had many a task to complete. I’m afraid I lost track of the time.”

“Yeah, whatever; you want to sit down?” Ian offered and Nate waved a hand dismissively at the chair. “So, we got back the results of the focus testing. ‘Rumble’ is shaping up to be well-received.”

“Was there ever any doubt?”

“There were some notes, as expected, some confusion over the rendering of Chatsworth being chief among them.” Ian leaned back in his chair and regarded the programmer coolly.

Nate shrugged magnificently, “there will be those feebleminded who fail to appreciate the commentary there, but the focus testers are just a tiny sample. I’m sure my art will be appreciated on a larger scale.”

“Ah, well at the risk of being found out as one of the feebleminded ones, I want Chatsworth re-rendered. Please fix it.”

Nate was a little surprised at Ian’s abruptness. Usually, Ian tiptoed on eggshells around him and was willing to massage his ego a bit. It hardly made a difference at the moment, however, since Nate had no intention of undoing his art.

“I am making a statement, Ian. This is my signature. You see, what I am trying to portray is-”

Ian raised his hand to stop the pompous word vomit which would have been sure to follow. “Look, Nate, I’m sorry if you’re attached to this rendering, but I need it to go. Everything else in the game is good to go with the exception of Chatsworth, which is driving me up the wall.”

Nate folded his arms and looked down his nose at Ian, which was exactly why he opted to remain standing. “Well, it would appear we are at an impasse.”

Ian raised an eyebrow. “No we’re not, there is no impasse here. This isn’t a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. We’re not coming into this with equal standing. Your statement or signature or whatever you want to call it is in my game, and I want it fixed. You do this every single time!” Ian cleared his throat and tried to gentle his approach. “Look, I know this is a pain, so you and your team run as much overtime as you need and I’ll make sure you guys get a bonus at the end of it.”

Nate was not mollified. “How can you properly compensate when you have no appreciation of what kind of time, manpower and the intricacies that go into a task such as this?” He never missed an opportunity to dig in Ian’s lack of programming knowledge and ability.

“I’ll ballpark it, Nate,” Ian was nearing the end of his rope. “Now fix the fucking section or I’ll find someone who isn’t so emotionally attached to do it.”   

Nate’s jaw dropped at the acidity. He had no idea what the hell had gotten into Ian lately, with all the fire, snark and sass. Nate could never guess that most of what he just heard was recycled Mickey Milkovich. None of that mattered in any event. Nate couldn’t afford for a new and dangerous precedent to be set. Up until now, he had had carte blanche to do as he pleased or had to be extensively bribed to do something he disliked. He wasn’t about to let Ian upset the apple cart. He hesitated before he spoke, knowing what he would say would be the equivalent of playing a Blue-Eyes White Dragon card. Still, it hardly seemed like he had a choice.

Outside Ian’s office, everyone was watching the interchange as stealthily as possible. Mickey had been well informed about Nate’s asshole tendencies and knew how wound up Ian could get when he was involved, so Mickey was watching the conversation with vested interest.

No one could hear what was being said, but Mickey could tell Ian was getting agitated and the other man just reeked of douche. Mickey sat up a little straighter in his seat, barely bothering to conceal that he was watching them closely.

“Look, Ian, if this is all getting too much for you…” Nate began softly and Ian also sat up a little straighter in his seat.

“Excuse me?”

Nate gave the forlorn sigh of a sacrificial lamb. “No one wants to say it to you, Ian, because you’re the boss and you’re well liked, but everyone is thinking it.”

“Thinking what?” Ian demanded, alarm bells already going off in the back of his mind.

“Every year we get more ambitious and the projects get more stressful. You know how overwhelming it can be for you. You have flown off the handle quite a few times.”

Ian could see where this was going and he was getting more keyed up with each word. Outside the office, Mickey read Ian’s burgeoning, agitated energy easily and it was winding him up in turn. He didn’t know what Nate was saying to Ian, but he sure as fuck didn’t like the way he was saying it.

“Hey, Mick,” Carrie said suddenly, resting a distracting hand on Mickey’s, “can you send me Lindsay’s events email again?”

Mickey looked at her incredulously. “Now?!”

She nodded her head vigorously, and scrambled for other tasks to distract Mickey from switching into charging white knight mode.

Back in the office, Nate finally dropped his bombshell. “There is a general concern, Ian, that maybe this position isn’t the best choice for someone of your fragile mental health.”

Ian got to his feet so fast the desk shoved forward violently. “What the fuck did you just say to me?!”

Everyone could hear that though and Mickey was halfway out of his seat when Carrie and Raj both grabbed a hand and his shirt and slammed him back down.

“Chill, chill!” Carrie hissed at Mickey and nodded over at Carol who had emerged from her office at the commotion. Mickey didn’t give a fuck however, and looked back to see if Ian needed him. “Ian’s not in trouble and while there is zero chance you’ll help the situation, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll make it worse! Now sit your dumb ass down!”

Nate went white when Ian flared up before him and he scrambled backwards. “I’m just telling you what is being said! This is only proving everyone’s point!”

Ian paused and looked out the window to his staff, and everyone, with the exception of Mickey and Carol, abruptly looked away or dipped their heads to avoid eye contact.

“We just think that maybe your legacy would be better protected and things would be far easier for you, if you perhaps minimized your role in-”

“Get the fuck out of my office and fix the fucking game,” Ian enunciated slowly. “I’m not going to ask again. You have until the end of the week.”

Nate swallowed convulsively, before nodding and turning heel. He scurried to the elevator, sweating bullets as numerous pairs of eyes skewered him.

“LINDSAY!” Ian bellowed.

“Ay, Santa María, protégeme,” Lindsay mumbled and quickly went to see what Ian wanted. Her terrified face was not helping matters.

“I’m going to be out for the rest of the day. I only want to be contacted if it’s an emergency, alright?” he said measuredly. She nodded and watched along with everyone as he stormed out, shoving through the doors to the stairs rather than wait for the elevator.

“We should probably give him a moment,” Carrie said quietly.

“Yeah,” Mickey mumbled, chewing hard on his lip. “Yeah.”

At lunch, Mickey followed Carrie to the cafeteria. It was far too hot to congregate on the roof, so the group disbanded for their midday meals. Carrie chattered away, trying to lift Mickey’s spirits as Ian had yet to respond to any of his texts. They paid for their food and headed towards some empty seats only to hear Nate, of all people, gabbing away on the phone.

“I’m not changing the scene. It’s not my fault he and the focus testers are plebs!”

Mickey went stock-still before abruptly turning and heading directly for Nate.

“Mickey, no!” Carrie hissed and followed behind him, hoping to prevent a very public murder. Mickey paid her no mind, and when he got to the table where Nate dined alone, he tossed his tray down with a clatter and sat directly across from him. Carrie hesitated before gingerly sliding into the seat next to Mickey and smiling awkwardly at Nate.

“What are you doing?” Nate’s voice climbed by an octave. “You can’t sit here, I’m sitting here. I eat alone!”

“This isn’t Mean Girls, bitch, I’ll sit wherever the fuck I want,” Mickey said acerbically as he eyeballed Nate.

“What the—who are you?”

“Here’s how I see things. If your boss tells you to do your job, you do your fucking job. This isn’t a multiple choice situation here.”

Nate looked on in disbelief, “you’re a tester, aren’t you? Why in the name of Odin is a tester offering me opinions? You don’t get to offer me opinions. A twelve year old Korean child with a rudimentary grasp of English could do what you’re doing now. Please stop talking to me.”

Mickey counted to ten while Carrie stroked his thigh and willed him not to go upside Nate’s head with his tray. “What did you say to Gallagher earlier?”

Nate rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. “Oh I see it now, you’re one of them, aren’t you? An ascended fanboy who thinks the sun shines out Ian’s ass. Well look, bride of Chucky,” Nate’s eyes narrowed as he leaned forward, “I don’t care what kind of hard-on you have for Ian and his so-called epic storytelling. As far as I’m concerned, he is now nonessential.  The universe has been created and the storyline writes itself. No one gives a shit about stories in video games anymore anyway, just the action. That’s what I tried to communicate to Ian before he had an attack of the crazies.”

Carrie had to dig her nails into Mickey’s thigh and miraculously, her friend stayed still. They watched as Nate struggled to his feet and gathered his tray.

“It’s high time people accepted the reality of the situation. You and Orphan Black here can feel free to worship at the altar of the redundant, but I refuse to entertain the ongoing notion that Gallagher is a significant contributing member to the franchise. Creatorship be damned, this ship is sailing itself.” He marched off only to double back quickly and address Carrie, “about the ‘Orphan Black’ thing earlier, please be advised that was a reference to your dreadlocks and well-documented lesbianism and not an allusion to your race.”

“Oh well as long as you’re not offending me based on my race!” Carrie grinned and gave him a double thumbs-up. Nate suspected sarcasm, but he nodded and flounced off anyway. “Wow, everything I’ve ever heard about neck-beards in one gelatinous package. Maybe all stereotypes are true; maybe Russians do have vodka for breakfast and that fucker Jimmy does have the best weed!” Carrie realized that Mickey was not listening to her. He was still laser focused on Nate’s retreating form. She leaned over and whispered, “still, taking on an OG like that? You’re officially the first man since Idris Elba to get my panties wet.”

Mickey immediately broke down laughing.

He wasn’t laughing for long, however, for he had planning to do. Before lunch was over, he was several floors down in the company gym. He headed straight for the locker rooms where he knew he’d find his target getting ready to head back to work. He found the man he was looking for standing next to his open locker, distracted by his gym bag. Mickey simply walked up and punched the locker shut with a vicious slam, badly startling his old poker buddy.

“Hey, Sanchez,”  Mickey grinned and casually leaned against the locker while the other man paled. Sanchez had to be the most nervous, fidgety gambling addict Mickey had ever met. The sweating and tics were why Sanchez was such a terrible poker player. Consequently, his terrible poker playing was why Sanchez was in debt to Mickey for over five hundred dollars.

“Mickey, hey!” Sanchez gibbered.

“Hey yourself. Time to pay up,” Mickey said simply and Sanchez tittered nervously.

“It’s been so long. I thought you forgot about it.”

“I’ve been a little busy and preoccupied.” Which was true; falling in love and getting ploughed by one’s boss on the regular were very distracting endeavours.

“I don’t have that type of money, Mickey,” the man whined and Mickey looked unmoved.

“Quelle surprise,” Mickey said drily and regarded Sanchez silently while the skinny young man sweated and went to pieces. “Tell you what, I could give you an extension, maybe even knock a couple bucks off your debt if you help me out with something.”

The man jumped at the chance for some mediocre reprieve. “Sure, anything!”

“You work directly under Nate right; you know him pretty well: likes, dislikes, habits…shit like that?”

Sanchez blinked, completely bemused. “Yeah, I guess. We’re not friends or anything though.”

“Better for you that you’re not, man” Mickey said cryptically. “I need to know everything you know about him. I don’t care how minor and stupid, and talk fast, my hour’s almost up.”

“Jimmy and I had a fight about Ian and Mickey as to who tops and bottoms,” Annie informed Carrie as the work day drew to a close. “I think Mickey’s a power bottom and Ian’s totally a service top. He thinks Mickey tops because Mickey’s all brawn and bluster and manly mutterings and Ian’s more emotional and has ‘feminine energy’. I told him he sounds plain ignorant trying to apply a bunch of heterosexist, antiquated gender roles to two homosexual men whose sexual preferences may or may not have anything to do with their energies or what have you. He took offense to my calling him ignorant. I took offense to the fact that he took offense, because he was being plum ignorant. So I’ve started pegging him, purely on principle.” Annie said with a firm nod of her head. “I think he’s starting to get it now.”

Carrie’s avatar idled in the middle of the Red Light District while she stared slack jawed at her friend. “Do you have like a sex tape that’s dropping soon? Because I’m not going to lie, I would be all over that shit.”

Annie blinked as she inclined her head curiously, clearly fascinated by the idea. Any further thoughts of pegging and sex tapes were derailed by Mickey coming off the elevator, clad in and head covered by a hoodie. He stopped before Carrie and  leaned over to tug on one of her dreads. “Can I borrow you for a second?”

Carrie huffed, ‘Right now, Slim Shady?” she asked, taking in his ensemble. “I’m on a mission for the greater good. Don’t you want to see Annie giving it to Jimmy up the poop chute in 3D?”

Mickey rolled his eyes. “You guys talk about nothing but porn all day, do you?” He tutted when the two women hung their heads guiltily. “Well I do need you right now. I’m calling in one of my favours.”

Carrie raised an eyebrow, intrigued. She took a rain check on the sex tape talk and excused herself from Annie’s company. “Sure, what could possible go wrong following a hooded white man on a mission.”

“Thank you, Whoopie. Can we go now?”

“You’re going to kill Nate, aren’t you?” Carrie whispered conspiratorially as they waited for the elevator. “I saw the mad dog look you were giving him at lunch. Can we do it on a lower floor, because I can’t drag his fat ass all the way down the fire escape.”

Mickey stared at her askance as the elevators doors slid open. “Really?”

“I told you I was ride or die.”

“Ride or die; you went to fucking Sarah Lawrence!”

Carrie didn’t know what she was supposed to derive from that. “Where did you think I learned ‘ride or die’ from; the mean streets of my gated neighbourhood in upstate New York? Those people wouldn’t know what to do if they met a mean squirrel. All the girls in the Garrison carried a shiv.”

Mickey snorted; maybe Gallagher’s sister needed to think about transferring. It sounded as if she would fit right in.

He filled Carrie in on his intentions as they entered without notice since Nate’s floor was a high traffic area and the main hotbed of activity for Southside Enterprises. They made their way towards the back and Carrie took up an unobtrusive position at an empty workstation right before the bathrooms, while Mickey headed inside.

He did a quick sweep, checking stalls to make sure they were empty. Satisfied he was alone, Mickey entered the second to last stall, sat on the tank, and waited. Not five minutes later, Nate came in, just as Sanchez said he would. Mickey waited until Nate had passed by and entered the last stall before stealthily climbing down and silently opening his door.

Nate felt as if judgement had come upon him. One second he and his bashful bladder were blissfully relieving themselves and the next second, a hard blow to the back of his right knee had him slumping before the porcelain god. Before he could gasp, let alone get a grip on what was happening, he was viciously submerged, leaving him blubbering into the bowl. His attacker wrapped his hand with Nate’s ponytail and yanked him back savagely and Nate gaped and gasped for precious breath before being dunked yet again. The fiend said nothing; simply persisted in his assault with brutal and relentless efficiency, sinking Nate again and again until he felt like he might pass out.

Carrie shook her head solemnly at the man who approached the bathroom door. “You don’t want to go in there, friend. Someone had the carne asada from the cafeteria.”

As if to back up her claim, there floated out the sounds of splashing, garbled moans and repeated flushings. The man turned away, disgusted. “Why won’t they stop serving that shit?! This is just reckless endangerment now!”

“I know, friend, I know…”

Lindsay cleared her throat nervously as she waited for Ian to pick up. The line finally clicked open on the sixth ring and she took a steadying breath, the Great Firing of 2011 still a fresh horror in her mind.

“Yes, Lindsay?”

“Um, hi, Ian. I’m so sorry to disturb you, because I know you didn’t want any calls unless it was an emergency and all, but I had to because it kind of is?”

“Lindsay, what are you talking about? What’s happening?”

Lindsay shot a nervous look at the two solemn, uniformed men next to her.

“Well, it’s just that…the police are here.”          

Chapter Text

Ian, Lip and Carol waited outside Nate’s office listening to him scream invectives at the NYPD officers. All the employees of Southside Enterprises had graciously agreed to wait until the police were through for the day, and it was already past eight. Ian paced and gnawed at his fingers while he waited, feeling the back of his neck warm until beads of sweat started forming.

“You’re going to chew your fingers off at the rate you’re going,” Lip pointed out, “just calm down, everything will be fine.”

Ian didn’t bother to respond, certain he would simply vomit his anxiety all over his brother if he opened his mouth. He stiffened when Nate’s door opened and the two officers filed out, despite the fact that Nate was still in his office screaming unintelligibly. The officers walked over to them and nodded.

“Are you the owners?”

Lip nodded back and answered smoothly, “I’m Phillip Gallagher, part owner and legal counsel for Southside Enterprises, this is my brother Ian Gallagher, CEO, and this is Carol Anderson, head of Human Resources.”

“Officer Martinez,” the shorter, stockier of the two said as he pointed to his badge, “Officer Priestley,” he nodded to his taller partner. There was a flurry of handshakes before Martinez nodded to an empty design room. “Can we…?”

They moved into the room and the officers quickly got down to business, consulting their notepads as they spoke. “As you may be aware, the victim, Nathaniel Carter, contacted us at approximately 6:20 p.m. to lodge a complaint that he had been ‘viciously’ assaulted in the men’s room on this very floor. He maintains that he was detained against his will and subjected to intense ‘waterboarding’.”

Ian scoffed incredulously, “oh come on. He was swirlied!” he exclaimed and the officers exchanged a look. Lip frowned at him disapprovingly, but Ian would not be suppressed. “He’s making it sound like he was in a freaking POW camp in Afghanistan. He got dunked in a toilet a few times. Is this really such a big fucking deal?”

“Ian!” Lip chided and Carol cast a nervous look over at the two stone-faced officers.

“It was admittedly juvenile, but it was still an assault, Ian, no matter the form it took,” Carol stated gently.

“Nah, he gets it,” Officer Priestley chimed in and all three Southsiders swung around to gape at the cops.

“What?!” they asked.

“Look, it’s like what we were trying to explain to Henry the Eighth in there, but he only wants heads to roll,” Martinez continued in lieu of his partner, “We at the NYPD take the punishment of crime very seriously as well as the safety and wellbeing of all our citizens. That being said, what transpired here today seems less like a job for New York City’s finest and more of a job for say a… a…”

“Hall monitor,” Priestley added helpfully and Martinez nodded his agreement.

“Yeah, that’s it, a hall monitor,” Martinez continued in his heavy New York accent, “You see, what you got here has all the trappings of a nerd fight, and while Augustus Gloop is understandably pissed about getting up close and personal with his own piss, we feel that this is not exactly a high priority case.”

“And screaming at us and being an insulting, condescending douche-canoe isn’t going to rally us to his side any faster,” Priestley chimed in, “but again, we understand his pique.”

“He is a total douchebag,” Ian nodded vigorously.

“Ian,” Lip warned again, while Carol blinked dazedly at the officers.

“But, it’s still assault though?” she asked carefully.

“With all due respect, ma’am,” Martinez sniffed, “I can almost guarantee that at this very moment within a fifteen block radius of your fine establishment, some poor sonuvabitch is out there getting stabbed. We’d much rather address what we feel are his more pressing concerns.”

Carol could hardly argue with that.

“Besides,” Martinez continued, “after interviewing security, everyone on the floor at the time of the assault, and anyone we believe may have been of assistance, we feel we may be building up to what I call an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”

“A ‘Spartacus’ moment; w-what is that?” Ian asked.

“No one saw anything, no one knows anything. Your security guards, who seem like sharp enough people, can offer no clues. After interviewing almost everyone on your staff, the aggregate response was ‘Nate is a giant asshole; he had it coming,’” Martinez flipped his notepad closed, “simply meaning that even if we did find out who did this, it would probably lead to a bunch of his friends and co-workers confessing simply to create a needle in a haystack situation.”

“Again, not an important enough case to deal with that aggravation,” Priestley said. “Who needs the aggravation?”

“I sure don’t,” Ian agreed and Lip skewered him with another quelling look which he ignored. “Look, officers, I assure you, we can and will handle this in house. I’m so sorry Nate dragged you down here. If there is anything we can do to make up for your wasted time. We have a merch room!” he offered eagerly, “anything you like!”

Lip pinched his arm hard enough to almost bring his little brother to his knees. “Please try to refrain from bribing the police off this case,” Lip whispered in his brother’s ear while Ian rubbed his arm painfully. Martinez and Priestley seemed quite taken with the idea, however.

“Hey, that’s real nice of you, Mr. Gallagher. We’ll take you up on that,” Martinez flipped his notebook open once more, “the victim did give us a description of the assailant. See if it helps you on your search.”

“That won’t be necessary!” Ian said a touch desperately and he cleared his throat nervously when four pairs of eyes fastened on him, “I mean it’s just that I’m sure Nate might not have been in his best frame of mind and probably didn’t even see his attacker properly. I wouldn’t want us to be biased going into our own internal investigations,” he added haltingly and Lip rolled his eyes.

“Ah no, you’re going to want to hear this,” Priestley waved a hand dismissively, “the assailant is described as being about six foot six, two hundred and fifty pounds, with brown, scraggly hair and the left side of his face severely scarred,” Priestley snorted at the description, “I can’t say it definitively, mark you, but I’m pretty sure that’s the Hound from Game of Thrones.”

“It’s totally the Hound from Game of Thrones,” Martinez averred. “We’re big fans.”

“We are; I’m all for Stannis on the Iron Throne,” Priestley informed them cheerfully.

“I don’t know. I feel if you’re a hot girl with a good heart and a three dragons, people should listen to you,” Martinez countered. “So anyway, I take it you don’t have such a person in your employ?”

Ian shook his head, finally relaxing enough to crack a smile. “No, we do not.”

“Yeah? What a surprise,” the two officers readied to leave, “Well happy hunting and we’ll take a look at your merch room now.”

“You think he’ll try to put us on the hook for anything?” Ian asked his brother as they both glanced at the now silent Nate’s office.

Lip snorted in amusement, “I wish a bitch would.”

Ian snorted in turn and raised an eyebrow at his brother, amusement stamped all over his features. “Another Sasha saying?” he asked, referring to one of Lip’s junior associates.

Lip nodded, “she says the best stuff, you can’t even imagine,” he leaned forward and added softly, “extends to the bedroom too. It’s crazy!”

“Ugh, whatever, I’m still Team Casper.”

“You would be, you ass munch. Anyway, Nate knows better than to tangle with me legally. He should try to sue. I would let Sasha dogwalk him all around the courtroom for a change.”

Ian gaped at his brother, “Dogwalk? What the hell is going on in your sex life lately? We need to have to a talk.”

“We need to have several; but don’t worry about Nate,” Lip looked his brother steadily in the eyes, “worry about trying to put a leash on your vigilante pit bull. The last thing we need is to have this escalating.”

Before the employees were allowed to leave, the floor managers were asked to address the incident to the workers on their respective floors. For the second time that year, Ian stood by as one of his supervisors wagged her finger at his employees.

“No!” Lindsay said eloquently, “do not flush people’s heads in toilets! Even if it’s Nate and he’s kind of a dick, just no! Not cool, you guys, not cool!”

Mickey chewed on his lower lip and hazarded a glance over at Gallagher. Ian wasn’t even looking in his general direction. His boss was looking at his watch and occasionally out the window instead. Mickey felt like pouting a little. At the very least, Gallagher could send a suspicious glance his way or something. Later, his sister would tease the hell out of him, calling him a cat that had taken a rat to his owner, only to get offended when said owner was grossed out by it. Mandy could be such a bitch sometimes.

“Seriously,” Lindsay surmised, “just no!”

“Thanks, Lindsay, well said,” Ian took over and Lindsay went off muttering in Spanish and stood next to an equally perturbed Carol—both women never imagining that a career in administration would end up being this aggravating. “Guys, stop trying to break Carol and Lindsay. I can’t deal with the hassle and implications of having to hire an in-house therapist. Okay, you guys can go. Thank you for your cooperation.”

With that, the tittering, gossipy set of workers were finally on their way home.

Ruined. This is what it felt like.

Mickey fell back against his pillows, sweaty, exhausted and unsatisfied. He tossed his anal beads to the side and exhaled noisily in his frustration. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a decent orgasm. Well, no, that wasn’t true. He could remember in perfect, vivid detail the last time he’d been satisfied. It was on the very same day his life had gone straight to hell. Now he was stuck, forced to try increasingly complicated ways to get his rocks off, with nothing really working. By the time he was finished with his latest attempt, Mickey had become convinced that there were probably simpler ways to summon Satan.  

After a full day of physical assault and unsatisfying orgasms, Mickey decided he just needed to sleep, so the last thing he needed was for some asshole to pound on his door so hard, the hinges rattled. He sighed, guessing it might be the police, and pulled on his sweats and tank and stumbled off to the door.

“Alright, Jesus!” Mickey yelled as he yanked his door open. He immediately realized that he may have been on to something before. Maybe his masturbatory sessions had somehow turned into summoning ceremonies; only instead of demons and devils and such, he summoned Ian Gallagher. Hell, maybe they were one in the same, because he could be easily convinced that the devil was at his door.

Ian Gallagher looked about eight feet tall and pissed as all get out. It was legitimately terrifying to behold. Admittedly, it was also an extremely good look for him, but still very terrifying. Mickey was instantly nervous while Ian glowered down at him. “What?”

Ian opened his mouth to say something, but quickly closed it again. His brow furrowed further and he squinted at Mickey suspiciously. Then, in a move designed to genuinely freak Mickey out, he bent forward and sniffed, honest to goodness, sniffed Mickey.

“The fuck, Mickey?!” Ian bellowed as he barged in, nearly bowling Mickey over.

“Whoa, what? What?! What did I do?” Mickey quickly locked and latched the door before turning to see Ian quickly examining Clay, who sat innocently on the couch, before charging into his bedroom like a deranged Rhinoceros. He stood at his bedroom door and watched while Ian tossed his place, searching his closet and actually going so far as to look under his bed. “Anything I can help you with there, crazy?”

“Who the fuck was here?!” Ian demanded and Mickey could only blink in confusion.


“Who.the fuck.was here?” Ian gritted out as he got to his feet and advanced on Mickey.

“It’s just me and Cl—why the hell would you think anyone else was here?”

“You’ve been fucking,” Ian accused, coming to a stop barely an inch away from Mickey. The latter was about to protest, but paused and sniffed his sweaty tank top curiously before looking at Ian in amazement.

“You can tell?”

“Mickey!” That wasn’t even Ian’s voice anymore, it was straight up Beelzebub. Mickey made the snap decision that it was in his best interests not to poke the bear anymore while Ian had that ominous red glow around him.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I was flying solo alright?!” Mickey made a crude jacking gesture with his hand. “I’ve learned that sex gets more complicated the more people you involve. Christ, chill out already.”

Ian frowned and looked back towards the slightly rumpled bed to note the partially hidden beads. Thusly mollified, the fires of hell receded and with them the searing odour of brimstone, leaving a more or less normal Gallagher in their wake.

“Oh,” he said simply and took another look at the bed before turning to Mickey, “so what were you thinking about?”

Mickey looked at Ian as if he was one IQ point away from being an absolute imbecile. “The fall of the fucking Berlin Wall; what’s it to ya?”

Mickey rolled his eyes, snorted and broke away from Ian to head into the kitchen. Ian wasn’t far behind, pausing only to take a proper look at Clay.

“You kept the bear,” Ian pointed out and Mickey remained silent as he retrieved a bottle of water from his refrigerator. “You said you tossed it.”

“Did I?” Mickey answered shortly as he watched Ian lean over from behind the couch to inspect the stuffed animal.

“You implied it… you keep it out here?” Ian yanked the hoodie back from Clay’s head and was immediately alerted to his mistake by a small noise of distress from Mickey. It was his boyfriend’s “don’t fuck with my shit” noise and Ian quickly put the hoodie back and smoothed it over. “Why is it out here on the couch?” Ian asked inquisitively, correctly guessing that Mickey would keep the stuffed toy in the privacy of his bedroom.  When Mickey didn’t respond and avoided Ian’s eyes, Ian zoomed in on the issue with disturbing accuracy. “Is it because you didn’t want the bear to see you jacking off?!” Ian burst out laughing when Mickey glared at him. “Oh God, you are ridiculous.”

“Shut up,” Mickey murmured, “he doesn’t need to see that shit. Is there a reason you’re here right now?”

The Ian’s smile faded and he slowly walked into the kitchen where Mickey perched against the dining table.

“What the hell were you thinking going after Nate like that?”

“Excuse me?”

“He called the cops, Mickey! If he wasn’t such an asshole, they might have actually taken it seriously,” Ian said, crossing his arms and glaring Mickey down again.

“He had it coming,” Mickey said as if that justified everything.

“Are you serious right now?”

“He had it coming all along,” Mickey grinned cheekily, sipping his water while Ian got clued in to what he was doing. “I didn't do it, but if I done it, how could you tell me that I was wrong?” he shrugged and kept grinning when Ian rolled his eyes. “It’s Carrie’s fault, she’s trying to expose me to ‘culture.’ By this time next year, I’ll be Neil Patrick Harris.”

“I will strangle you with my bare hands, Mickey!”

“Jesus, didn’t we just have a whole thing about you accusing me of shit, just because I used to—”

“Don’t you even fucking try that with me right now,” Ian marched over and got right into Mickey’s face, “because I know it was you! I don’t want you going to jail over a piece of trash like Nate!”

Mickey was silent for a minute, cowed by Ian’s righteous indignation. “I wasn’t going to fucking jail,” he mumbled sullenly, “I knew what I was doing. I covered all my bases.”

“Oh well, that’s such a relief to know,” Ian sneered, “I also don’t need you fighting my fucking battles for me. I’m a big boy.”

“Check the ego on you,” Mickey shot back, “the man is a prick to everybody. What makes you think it had anything to do with you?”

“So what was it about then, if it wasn’t about me?”

Stymied, Mickey simply stayed quiet for a while before rubbing his face in exasperation. “Look, it’s fine, right? No one who could prove it’s me would say it’s me, so there isn’t a problem. So what do you want, Gallagher?”

Ian paused for a moment, thinking it over before finally answering, “You want to know what I want?”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Mickey sighed heavily, “if you have something to say, just spit it out!”

“I want you to take it back.”

“Take what back?”

“The things you said about me just being a warm mouth to you…”

Mickey clicked his tongue and shifted in agitation against the table. “For God’s sake, are you ser—”

“I want you to take back what you said about us being done; about me not being your family!”

Mickey simply sighed and started to shove away from the table, but Ian slammed his hands down on either side of his skittish boyfriend, barring his escape and hemming him in.

“I thought you said you were backing off,” Mickey said quietly, suddenly crowded and surrounded by Ian all over again. “This doesn’t feel like you’re backing off.”

“Fuck that, you asked me what I wanted, so you’re going to listen while I tell you,” Ian said adamantly and Mickey looked down at his tattoos as he flexed his hands, dealing with Ian being so close his breath ghosted over Mickey’s face. Mickey finally looked up at him from beneath his lashes and gave a quick lift of his brows.

“There’s more?”

Ian shifted slightly, palms flat on the table, hands still firmly planted by Mickey’s sides. “I want you to say it—that despite the fuck-ups and all the confusion  and us not knowing how to handle everything that’s happening between us—that you love me. Just admit it, just this once,” he watched as Mickey convulsively swallowed and stared down at his hands once again. “Fucking admit it!” Ian snapped as he shoved the table hard, punctuating his demand and forcing Mickey to look up at him. Ian let out a shuddering sigh and his voice came out in a hoarse whisper. “Just admit it.”

Mickey wasn’t proof against any of it. He remained still for what felt like forever, looking into Gallagher’s eyes and feeling himself get pulled apart and everything in him give way. He was finally spurred into action when Ian began speaking once again.

“Mick—” Ian was cut off when Mickey’s lips crashed into his. He gasped at the contact but responded immediately. He leaned in, one hand still bracing against the table while the other dove into Mickey’s hair. The kiss deepened and grew rough quickly since they were both starved for the contact and everything felt long overdue. Mickey fisted his hands into the soft material of Ian’s shirt, before he slipped them underneath to explore the burning skin beneath it.  

“Fuck,” Ian grunted and pulled Mickey to full standing position so he could yank his sweatpants down. The aggression was always welcome, and Mickey’s laugh at the violence of it had Ian biting and sucking at Mickey’s throat as he kneaded his bare ass. Mickey had to shove Ian off a bit so he could undo his boss’s pants and reach inside to stroke the hardening cock inside. He leered and bit his lip as he felt the shudder ripple through Ian’s body and watched the green eyes cloud over. He kept stroking as Ian dipped his head and pulled him back into another heated kiss, a large hand twisting into his hair almost painfully.

“Get on me,” Mickey ordered and shoved Ian’s pants and underwear to his knees, before wriggling backwards onto the dining room table and kicking off his sweatpants. He grabbed Ian’s shirt and jerked him closer.

“Let me get you ready first,” Ian said hoarsely against Mickey’s ear and tried to move away to grab the nearest thing that could possibly double as lube, but Mickey held fast to his shirt.

“It’s fine; I’ve been getting ready for you all night,” Mickey locked eyes with Ian and let out another stuttered laugh when Ian shoved him flat on top of the table. He pushed Mickey’s shirt up and swiped his tongue over a hardened nipple before sucking on it until Mickey was writhing beneath him. He kept up the ministration while he trailed a warm hand down Mickey’s abdomen, ghosting over the tester’s erection before unceremoniously plunging two fingers into him. Mickey responded as if electrified.

“Ah, fuck!” Mickey panted and arched while Ian’s fingers worked their way deep inside him. Ian lifted his head and simply watched Mickey’s face while he fucked him with his fingers, occasionally letting his gaze sweep down Mickey’s body and back up to his face again. He watched, enchanted, as Mickey’s face flushed and the bruised lips parted, while Ian’s fingers scissored and plunged. “Fuck, Gallagher, please!”

Satisfied that Mickey really was already prepared, Ian pulled back and positioned himself between Mickey’s thighs. He hoisted one leg onto his shoulder, let Mickey wrap the other around his waist and slowly eased himself into Mickey’s tight, welcoming heat. They both almost fell apart.

“Fuck,” Ian exhaled slowly, his head lolling back while he pushed himself in to the hilt, “fuck you for making me wait this long.”

Mickey couldn’t speak while his entire being readjusted to being filled up and completed in a way it hadn’t been for the past two months. When he was certain he wouldn’t fly apart, he dug his heel into Ian’s naked ass, indicating that he get moving. Ian managed three measured thrusts before his control fell to pieces. He gripped Mickey’s thigh and hip with bruising force as he rocked into him, wrenching guttural moans out of them both.

Mickey reached up and grasped the edge of the table above his head and held on for dear life while Ian pounded into him. The table shook and shifted the harder and faster Ian went until there was the sound of smashing glass that neither one of them registered.

“Ah, don’t stop!”

Ian almost laughed at the demand because he couldn’t stop if he tried. His mind was gone, and the entire universe was now just the two of them and the dining room table and Ian couldn’t step out of that even if he wanted to. He kept grip on Mickey’s thigh, but released his hip to run his hands over as much of Mickey’s body as he could manage, before wrapping his hand around Mickey’s leaking neglected cock.

Mickey was close to sobbing; because had it always been this good? He gibbered nonsensically and thrust spasmodically into Ian’s fist while his boss frantically jerked him off while pistoning into him. He grunted when Ian sank his teeth into his ankle and the brief shot of pain gave way to amusement, because it was such a weird, possessive thing to do, and so typically Ian. If it is one thing Gallagher knew for a fact is that you can do whatever strange thing you like to the things you own.

Mickey could feel the edge approaching as he continued to leak badly over Ian’s hand. He took a steadying breath, unwrapped his leg from around Ian’s waist and planted his foot against his lover’s chest. One firm shove and Ian was sent stumbling backwards, away and out of his lover. Mickey tried to catch his breath before he sat up. Ian was staring back at him uncertainly, heaving while he waited for some kind of cue from Mickey.

“Get the rest of your shit off,” Mickey croaked before hauling his shirt off over his head. Ian didn’t hesitate, obediently kicking off his shoes and socks and struggling out of his pants and boxers. By the time he was done, Mickey was standing before him and pulling him down to shove his tongue down his throat. Ian moaned into the kiss and pulled Mickey flush against him. They savoured the kiss and ground together slow and hard until Mickey pulled back again and, without warning, swept Ian’s legs right out from under him.

Ian squawked in surprise as he hit the floor, his head mere inches from the wall. “You fucker,” he panted, grinning while Mickey stood over him, taking in every inch of the redhead’s body and rubbing his lip suggestively. Ian leered back and shifted until he was leaning against the wall, knowing from experience just how this particular dance went. He reached forward and grabbed the back of Mickey’s knees, causing the man to willingly and heavily fall on top of him.

Mickey crawled forward and positioned himself above Ian. He braced one hand against the wall and used the other to reach down and grasp Ian’s shaft. Ian cradled Mickey’s head, pulling him forward so their foreheads touched as Mickey slowly lowered himself on to Ian’s throbbing cock. They sighed contentedly when Mickey was fully seated.

“You like that?” Mickey whispered, slowly beginning to move while Ian gripped his hips. “You like this?” he gasped out as they quickly built up steam. Ian loved it; his hands were everywhere as were his lips, biting and sucking and making Mickey shiver all over. Mickey braced his hands against the wall above Ian’s head and rode his boss hard. Ian raked his nails down Mickey’s back and shouted his name, making Mickey’s eyes roll back in pleasure as he poured all his remaining focus into maintaining a rhythm. Stealth demon or not, fucking Gallagher was turning into a religious experience and he couldn’t believe he had really lasted without it this long.

“Fuck, touch me…” Mickey begged and Ian wasted no time reaching between them and stroking Mickey hard and fast. He also shifted, angling his hips until he felt the familiar stutter in Mickey’s rhythm and heard his boyfriend stammer his name. Mickey erupted hotly into Ian’s grasp, shuddering and convulsing as he dragged Ian over the edge with him. Ian hugged Mickey tightly to him and buried his face in Mickey’s neck while he rode out his own release.

“Jesus,” they said in unison and slumped tiredly against the wall. Ian still hugged Mickey to him, and the tester rested his chin on the top of the red hair and stayed there quietly until he started to cramp. When he began to move, Ian tightened his hold.

“Don’t make me leave,” he whispered into Mickey’s throat and Mickey, as was his wont, did not answer. Instead, he grabbed hold of what he could of Ian’s hair, dragged his head back, and kissed him deeply until the cramping really got too much.

“Let me up,” he ordered brusquely and Ian slowly loosened his hold. He got to his feet and worked the cramp out, all the while with Ian watching apprehensively like an abandoned puppy. “I’m not kicking you out, Jesus.” Mickey muttered and headed towards the sink. He narrowly avoided stepping on some shattered glass, and finally realized that they had fucked Mandy’s vase right off the table. Well, he had told her he was going to break it sooner or later.

He sidestepped the glass and moistened a couple sheets of paper towel. He cleaned himself off with one and dumped the other in Ian’s lap. Without saying anything further, he turned and padded off towards his bedroom, leaving a dazed Ian still seated on the floor.

Ian cleaned himself off and hesitated before gathering his courage and following Mickey into the bedroom. Mickey was busy clearing his bed of his paraphernalia and the other random crap that made their way into beds. Ian stood at the door while Mickey finished and watched as he pulled the covers back. Mickey stood by the bed for a moment before heaving a sigh of longsuffering and exasperation.

“What, are you a fucking vampire now? You need an invitation?”

Ian smirked and shoved away from the door.

“Close it,” Mickey said softly and Ian had to fight the laughter that bubbled to the surface.

“Why, you don’t want to scandalize the bear? I’m pretty sure we already traumatized him,” Ian teased.


Ian did laugh then as he closed the door. “You’re such a dork sometimes, I swear to God.”

Mickey only sniffed in mock indignation and sucked on his lower lip as Ian came over to him. “So what do you want to do now?”

“I want to kiss you until I’m hard again,” Ian said without hesitation, “Can I?”

“What did I say about asking stupid fucking questions and acting like a Boy Scout, huh?”

Ian couldn’t even bother pointing out the insanity of Mickey expecting him to read his mind after everything. Instead, he shoved Mickey backwards onto the bed and followed him in immediately. He sighed happily when he met no resistance as he covered Mickey’s lips with his own. He spent the time, languidly trailing his hands over Mickey’s body while they made out—getting thoroughly reacquainted with the body he had been missing and craving all this time. Later, when he was hard and moving purposefully inside Mickey once again, Ian couldn’t help but wonder just when his home had become a person and not a place.

They made love for most of the night and into the wee hours of the morning. Despite the heightened activity, it was the best sleep either of them had had for the past couple of months as they slept in snatches in between. Mickey had blinked awake at one point after midnight to find that he had been passed out, slumped over Gallagher, drooling while Ian held him. He gently wiped the tiny puddle off Gallagher’s chest and took in the vision of the sleeping man.

Ian was on his back, fast asleep, and embraced by the moonlight filtering through the curtains. The universe liked to conspire against Mickey like that, but he couldn’t complain about it too much. Mickey knew he was rapidly approaching the point where he would no longer be able to say what had happened that night was only a lapse on his part. Beyond that point, he was going to have to own it, to admit to himself and to Gallagher that he had wanted everything that had happened, that he had willingly allowed it. Simply put, he was going to have to kick Gallagher out now, or not at all.

Mickey sighed and a moment later, Ian was being shaken awake to see Mickey staring down silently at him. They stared at each other wordlessly, until Ian wrapped his hand around Mickey’s waist and flipped him onto his back. They fell asleep once again twenty minutes later.

Ian jerked awake around six thanks to his finely tuned biological clock. He blinked blearily at Mickey’s clock before groaning and settling back in to spoon against Mickey’s back. His boyfriend was having none of that, and Mickey reached back and gently smacked him in the face, “go.” Ian exhaled petulantly, but shuffled off the bed and staggered naked out into Mickey’s living room. He automatically reached out to rub Clay’s hooded head as he passed.

“Broken glass in the kitchen; don’t forget!” Mickey yelled from beneath the covers and Ian grunted in reply. He entered the bathroom, running on fumes and muscle memory and opened the medicine cabinet and measured out his pills. He swallowed them with tap water and waited for the after effects. While the fog of sleep cleared, it occurred to him that maybe it was significant that his pills were still there. Instead of waiting until the tremors passed the way he typically did, he made his way back to Mickey. He dived under the covers and snuggled against his lover’s back.  

“You came back fast,” Mickey murmured. Usually Ian wanted to be alone until the side effects subsided. Mickey could feel Ian shaking even as he curled around him. “Everything okay?”

“You kept my pills,” Ian said softly.


“Why? I thought they were in my big box of break-up.” He hadn’t unpacked the box except to toss out the food stuff, holding on to hope he would one day put everything back where they belonged. He had simply assumed his pills were in there.

They had been, for a while. At the height of his rage, Mickey had dumped everything and anything remotely Ian-related into the box. Then he had broken down on his couch and had gone through everything he had tossed in. He had only been a shade calmer, but had come to the realization that there were two things he couldn’t bring himself to return: Ian’s stupidly expensive cologne and the pills.

Ian obsessively kept back-up medication everywhere he considered a safe place. He kept pills at Lip’s condo, he had pills at work and in his car, there was even a set of pills at Fiona’s home all the way back in Chicago, and of course there was a set at Mickey’s. Even if things were to end permanently between them, Mickey couldn’t bring himself to say that he wasn’t a safe place for Ian anymore. No matter how things worked out, Ian should never have to worry about coming to him if he needed to, at any time.

Of course, Mickey hadn’t a clue how to articulate any of that to the waiting Ian, so he shrugged instead, “you never know, you know?”

Fortunately, Ian didn’t really need the full explanation to understand completely. “Yeah, I know.”

The second time Ian awoke, he was face down and sprawled out in Mickey’s bed. He winced against the powerful sunlight streaming into the room, warming the space despite Mickey’s modest air conditioner chugging away. He was alone in bed, and he squinted at the clock to see that it was past three in the afternoon. He immediately shot upright.

There were a few missed calls from work and he hurriedly dashed off a text to Lindsay to inform her that he was okay and that he might either be in late or would take the day. Ian’s more pressing concern was that Mickey was nowhere to be found. He sighed and rang Mickey’s phone. The line clicked open after the fourth ring.

“Hey, sleepyface, you finally awake?”

The genial greeting should have alerted Ian that maybe things weren’t as dire as he had feared, but he was already too keyed up to course-correct. “Are you at work?”


“You bolted, didn’t you?!” Ian yelled into the phone as he stalked into Mickey’s living room. “I can’t believe you fucking bolted!”

“I, what?”

“You are not calling this a mistake!” Ian warned. “You do not fuck someone all fucking night and get to call it a mistake the next day!”

Mickey’s phone wasn’t on speaker, but Ian was yelling loudly enough to scandalize the little old lady eating her jello a couple chairs down from Mickey. She skewered him with her gaze.

“Poker buddy,” he offered smoothly, “he’s just pissed because I really wiped the floor with them last night.”

She looked at him askance, but resumed her jello eating and TV watching while Mickey returned his full attention to a lambasting Ian. “Look, I didn’t fucking bolt, alright?! Why the hell would I leave? It’s my fucking apartment!”

It was an excellent point, which stymied Ian for a second. Even though Mickey had the bad habit of running from his feelings, he wouldn’t actually abandon his personal stronghold. Mickey was more likely to drag Ian’s unconscious, naked body outside his door and leave him out there.

“So…then, where are you?”

“I don’t know, some hospital or some shit,” Mickey yawned.

“What, why, what’s wrong?!” Ian almost crushed the phone from tightening his grip.

“Nothing’s wrong, don’t worry. You didn’t split me in two or anything.” He looked over when the lady let out another horrified gasp and Mickey rolled his eyes. “My friend’s an amateur magician… tried to saw me in half last night. He kinda sucks.” He quirked a brow, daring her to say otherwise before resuming his conversation, “Eric’s wife finally exploded; baby meat everywhere.”

Ian rubbed a tired hand over his face. “Okay, say that again in a way that’s not traumatizing or gross.”

Mickey grinned into the phone, “Eric’s wife had their babies. Triplet girls; totally called it.”

“Really? I believed that ultrasound when they said it was just one giant baby.”

“Anyone who believed that ultrasound was out of their mind. One look at her and you just know she’s packing more than one kid. Anyway, Eric called us, freaking the fuck out about his wife being in labour. Everyone else is cooing over them at the moment; I needed a break.”

“So how are they?”

Mickey snorted, “Eric will not stop crying. According to Carrie, he’s been blubbering since the first one popped out and he hasn’t let up since. It’s a little disturbing.”

Mollified, Ian stroked the back of Mickey’s couch sheepishly, “so you didn’t bolt?”

“No, I didn’t bolt, Gallagher.”

“So are we going to talk about this then?” He asked carefully and listened as Mickey sighed.

“Of course you want to fucking talk, Jesus. Look, can I deal with their stupid shit before I deal with our stupid shit?”

It wasn’t much and it was said very begrudgingly, but it was more than enough to have Ian beaming. “Okay.”

“And don’t walk around my apartment naked rubbing your dick all over everything!”

“I’m not!” Ian cried defensively, except he sort of was, and he quickly took a big step back from Mickey’s couch. Mickey, for his part, noticed that his inadvertent companion was regarding his with undisguised disapproval.

“Alright, look, if this conversation is upsetting your delicate sensibilities, maybe you want to go down your jello elsewhere,” Mickey said testily, “this is the visitor’s lounge; vis-i-tors!” He watched as the little old lady huffed, took her jello, and waddled off “…with your wrinkled, judgemental old ass,” he muttered beneath his breath.

Ian pinched the bridge of his nose in resignation. “Mickey, please stop picking fights with old people.”

“I don’t pick fights, Gallagher! They start them and I finish them!”

Ian could only sigh and the two fell into a heavy silence. Mickey couldn’t bring himself to just hang up, and he sat in the lounge getting increasingly horrified that he was once again trapped in some sort of middle school romantic bullshit loop with Gallagher—stuck on the phone, willing the other to be the one to end the conversation. Gallagher, of course, thrived on this shit.

“You hang up first,” Ian said teasingly and it was enough to spark a proper reaction in Mickey.

“Oh fuck off!” he snapped, longing for a time when he could smash a phone into its cradle. He hung up, but not before Ian’s laughter floated to him across the airwaves making all those butterflies flutter up.

Here they go again.

Chapter Text

Mickey had hoped he had been granted a reprieve from the talk Ian had planned. His boss had been called in to a Nate-related emergency before Mickey could get away from the hospital, so Mickey had dodged that bullet for the night. Still, if the looks Ian was sending him as he sat by his window or walked past Skid Row were any indication, Mickey was far from off the hook. Their intensity was enough to make him nervous too, so in his rattled state, he could be forgiven for making the tactical error of retreating to the break room for some respite. He had barely popped open his can of Coke before Ian was striding in, pausing only to lock the door behind him. Mickey was ready to panic at the idea of having that conversation now.

“Hey,” he greeted nervously as Ian advanced on him, “what’s happening?”

Another lucky break it seemed, since Ian was apparently not interested in conversation at the moment. He grabbed Mickey by the front of his t-shirt and shoved him up against the wall next to the door. Before Mickey could mount a protest, Ian was kissing him with gentle but insistent pressure until Mickey relented and accepted the invasion eagerly. He shoved his soda onto the adjacent counter and gripped the back of Ian’s shirt tightly while his boss set about destroying his balance. Ian eased up a little to suck on Mickey’s lower lip before nibbling a wet trail to the tester’s ear and gently sucking on the lobe. Mickey sighed at the pleasure of it, but glanced at the door apprehensively.    

“It’s locked,” Ian assured him, as if a locked break room door in the middle of the morning wasn’t just as incriminating. People would be craving their caffeine fixes and snacks right around then, and for the two of them to be holed up in there would definitely raise a few eyebrows at the very least. Ian clearly didn’t care, and by the time he pulled back, unzipped Mickey’s jeans and shoved a warm hand down his underwear, Mickey was beyond caring too.

“I’m sorry I had to bail last night,” Ian said huskily as he stared Mickey down and slowly pumped his hardened shaft, “That was on me. I had to come in to work, though I’m guessing you were actually relieved.”

Mickey didn’t have the wherewithal to confirm or deny that. He bit his lip and tried to stifle a moan, squeezing Ian’s bicep as Ian’s hand went incrementally faster.

“We’re going to talk about it tonight though, right?” Ian leaned forward and whispered into Mickey’s ear while his thumb glided over the slit of Mickey’s cock, eliciting a shuddering gasp and a tightening grip on Ian’s forearm. Ian pulled back and looked down at him again, marking the clouded blue eyes and bruised lips. Ian bent and licked along the abused lower lip soothingly before repeating, “We’re going to talk tonight, right?”

At this point, Ian could have asked him to sign an oddly specific life insurance policy and he would have done it. He nodded, grunting a little as Ian worked him firm and fast, beads of sweat beginning to dot his forehead. He barely managed to notice how slick Ian’s hand felt against his cock and the faint, but familiar vanilla scent of the lube Ian kept in his office. The fucker had come prepared; this was a nothing but a shakedown and Mickey was too far gone to give a shit.

“So no running off tonight,” Ian instructed and cemented Mickey’s compliance by guiding his palm down the underside of Mickey’s erection and smoothly against his perineum before abruptly shoving two fingers deep into Mickey.

“Jesus, holy fuck!” Mickey panted. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him, but he could have almost sworn he heard someone try the door before sighing and retreating. Yet, despite his paranoia and fears of getting caught in a compromising position, Mickey just couldn’t care much right then because Ian’s fingers were working inside him and that look was back. The look which said “you enthral me but I still own you,” and which never failed to make Mickey come undone.

“You’ll wait for me tonight,” Ian continued in a tone that toed the line between request and demand, “no fucking off with Carrie and the rest of them, no leaving me hanging for four hours and no fucking bolting.”

Mickey made a small noise of loss when the fingers pulled out of him, but Ian was soon pumping away at him again, hard enough and fast enough to bring Mickey right to the brink. “Gallagher,” Mickey whined desperately, making Ian smile because he knew exactly what Mickey wanted.

“So, it’s a deal?” Ian asked one last time and Mickey nodded jerkily before hauling Ian down and kissing him fiercely to smother his moans as he came hard into Ian’s palm. Mickey rode out the wave and fell back against the wall while Ian aimed a lopsided grin at him and gingerly removed his hand from Mickey’s pants. Mickey looked on while Ian slowly and deliberately licked his thumb clean before retreating to the sink. Mickey could only give a shaky sigh, because really, shit like that just wasn’t fair.

He zipped up, watching Ian askance while he cleaned up. Ian simply dried his hands, double-checked to ensure his surroundings were clean, before marching through the door without another word, leaving a thoroughly debauched Mickey behind. He stayed leaning against the wall, trying to catch his breath and regain his senses, and jolted when the door swung open once more. Only this time, it was Carol striding in. She paused for a moment and took in the tester who was still slumped, crumpled and shell-shocked, against the wall.

“Mr. Milkovich, are you alright?” she asked, her concern evident.

“Yeah… no… It’s hot today,” Mickey said dazedly before grimacing, because that had made no fucking sense. He retrieved his Coke and took a shaky sip of it. No, he was not alright. He had just been involved in the sexual equivalent of a drive-by. He needed to lie down. Carol peered at him above her glasses before shrugging and heading to the vending machine.

“I saw Ian leaving here a while ago—he seemed happy enough,” Carol said cheerfully as she watched her ice tea work its way down, “are you two seeing each other again?”

What Mickey did next wasn’t so much a spit-take as it was a Vesuvian eruption. He spewed cola like an broken fire extinguisher and was left choking and gasping at the end of it. Carol was about to rush over and thump his back, but he recovered enough to wave her off.

“What?!” he squeaked and Carol blinked at him owlishly, obviously not expecting such a spectacular reaction.

“I-I was asking if you and Ian had reconciled,” she spoke slowly and cautiously, “I didn’t mean to be inquisitive; I was just wondering if you were both doing better now.”

“You know?” Mickey wheezed and Carol frowned in deep consternation, glancing around the break room and back to the wild-looking young man.

“Well yes…was it supposed to be a secret?” she asked, bemused.

“How?!” Mickey gasped, “how did you know?!”

Carol gave a small shrug, “well there was that rubbish with the light bulb, wasn’t there? I mean, come on. I was born at night, Mr. Milkovich, but I wasn’t born the night prior to that incident.” She then nonchalantly went about tearing off paper towels to wipe up the wet floor.

The break room was now a shrinking box to Mickey and he contemplated going out the nearest window. “Well, who else knows?”

“I really couldn’t say. No one gossips with me,” Carol said a touch sadly, “I guess since I’m the head of HR and deal with all the workplace protocols, people tend to see me as the fun police. Anyway, I only know because of that incident…and the fact that you both had that whole smitten kitten thing going on when you were together. Well, also the fact that you both pretty much seemed to fall apart at the same time. Noticing these things is kind of my job, though. So maybe no one else knows.”

Mickey clung to the possibility like a drowning man to straw. He nodded and tried to forcefully reassure himself that maybe only Carol knew. Still, could a more dangerous person have found out? He glanced at her nervously as she dumped the towels in the trash.

“So, um, you’re okay with this?” he asked.

“With what?”

“You know… me and Gallagher.”

Carol frowned, “well it’s hardly ideal, isn’t it? It’s simply not the way things are supposed to go. There is an order and a process that I believe should be utilized and respected.”

Mickey deflated all the more and took a step back. Not that Carol’s opinion should really matter, but it still managed to feel like a punch in the gut. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected. It wasn’t as if there was any one place that was totally safe and welcoming.

“I mean there are rules governing interpersonal interactions in the workplace; rules that Ian himself ratified, might I add. Office romances are such a potential minefield of issues and the two of you should have also signed the ‘love contract’ that states—”

“What? No, I didn’t mean the whole office romance thing; I meant the fact that we’re two guys, you know?” Mickey petered off and was left staring sheepishly around the room.

“Why would that matter?”

“Aren’t you a, um, republican?” Mickey asked while he frowned at her. Carol only rolled her eyes and huffed a laugh.

“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘Christian,’ Mickey. Not all of us are foam-at-the-mouth conservatives either; I’m a democrat, thank you very much.”

“So you’re okay with it?!” Mickey repeated, still somewhat disbelieving.

Carol sighed, “Look Mickey, you’ve got me on one end, Westboro Baptist at the other and all points in between. I’m not conflicted on the issue. God is love; His greatest commandment was to love. Never said how to do it, who shouldn’t get it or that it should be regulated or policed. So love who you want, how you want, anyway you want as long as it’s not in my office, ever again,” she stared at him hard and the rest of the colour drained from Mickey’s face. She quickly switched back to brisk and professional Carol, “You have been in here forever, Mr. Milkovich, you really should be getting back to work!” She nodded and shooed him out the break room. Before he knew it, Mickey was back at his desk, brain still fizzling and it wasn’t even noon.

It was almost seven and Mickey waited at his station for Gallagher to wrap up his last meeting. Everyone else had either gone home or had drifted off, but he waited obediently and caught up on his work. He looked over when the elevator dinged and raised an eyebrow when Carol’s head popped out and looked around. She grinned when she spotted him.

“Mickey, come help!”

He jogged over as she held the elevator and kicked out three large boxes. “Grab them, I have to drag them to my office,” she instructed and he stacked two of the boxes while she picked up the other and lugged them into her office.

“It’s the 21st century; we’re supposed to be paperless company, a gaming one to boot, and what do you see?” she asked as she opened a box to reveal bunches of files.

“Lots of paper?” Mickey grinned.

“Lots of paper,” Carol sighed, “I wanted to bring these up before I went home tonight. I’ll go through them in the morning. Could you just shove those two into the corner over there and help me unpack this one behind my desk?”

“Sure,” he complied and was soon helping her to unpack the files neatly out of sight. They worked quietly until he spoke up, their earlier conversation replaying in his mind.

“You didn’t like me when I first came to work here, did you?” he asked and Carol paused for a moment in her unpacking.

“No, I didn’t. You interviewed terribly. You were rude, sarcastic and hostile; borderline offensive at times. You had dreadful posture and you spent an inordinate amount of time staring at our employer’s crotch.”

Mickey coughed self-consciously, “I, uh, don’t interview well.”

“You have a flair for the understatement, Mickey,” she said dryly. “You have to understand, we only have a handful of testers onsite, the vast majority telecommuting like you used to. At the time, I felt your place should have gone to someone with better social graces and with less potential to be disruptive.”

“Ah…” not much he could say to that.

“But my initial judgement has changed. You’ve integrated remarkably, you’re a diligent worker and you’re undoubtedly an asset here. So cheers to keeping an open mind and to positively proving people wrong,” Carol smiled warmly as they finished stacking and straightened up.

“You know you remind me of my mom,” the words slipped out of Mickey’s mouth unbidden, and the confession surprised them both. He quickly tried to clarify, “I don’t mean like the religious thing or whatever, I mean like people read her wrong, you know? Everybody sort of saw her as the loud, rough thug wife and she really wasn’t. She could go hard, yeah, but mostly she was sweet and, I don’t know, gentle, I guess. She would’ve given her life for her kids… she kinda did. Point is I read you wrong. You’re good people, Carol,” he said softly and awkwardly stared at his fingers as he flexed them.

Carol was quiet for a moment, “you know, that’s probably the nicest thing anyone has said to me since I’ve started working here,” Carol smiled sweetly at the fidgety young man, “thank you, Mickey, I’m touched that you feel that way,” she smiled a little wider when Mickey simply sniffed and shrugged it off, clearly hating being caught up in a potentially tender moment. “I’d tell you who you remind me of, but you probably wouldn’t believe me.”

“Who?” Mickey asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

“Me, circa my teens and early twenties.”

Mickey couldn’t help but laugh, “the fuck outta here!”

Carol kept on grinning, “no, I’m serious; up until my Damascus Road moment.”

“What the hell is a ‘Damascus Road’ moment?”

“It’s a ‘come to Jesus’ moment with a little more razzle-dazzle. I’m really serious though. You grew up in the Chicago Southside; I’m Southside Detroit—Southeast if you want to get specific. When I hear you talk it’s a struggle for me not to code switch sometimes.”

“Get the fuck out!” Mickey scoffed again, but hurriedly muttered an apology that Carol waved away, “You’re Motor City? I don’t see any Detroit in you at all.”

Carol only shrugged and sighed, “I’m a very different person now. I was born shortly after the riots, grew up during the drug and violence boom… it shapes a person.”

“I thought all the whites bailed out of Detroit by then.”

Carol sighed more heavily, the nostalgia creeping in on her, “most did, I guess. My parents didn’t; they were both too hooked on the stuff by then,” she answered as her fingers automatically ghosted over the crook of her elbow, “they weren’t going anywhere.”

“Oh,” Mickey breathed, understanding dawning on him, “oh…”

Carol shook herself out of her reverie and opened her drawer to pull out a large, clear container of chocolate fudge. She opened it and slid it towards Mickey, “as thanks for your help with the boxes.”

Mickey wasn’t about to turn that down. He bit into a piece blissfully; it was so sweet and so good, he probably wouldn’t even have minded the fact that he was being shaken down for the second time that day.

“If you don’t mind me asking, Mickey, and I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer, but what happened between you and Ian to break you up?”

Mickey blanched and hesitated, and Carol nudged the container of fudge a little closer. Mickey automatically took another piece while he mulled over leaving or actually talking about the situation with someone who wasn’t Mandy. He was a little amazed that his mouth started working before his brain caught up completely.

“He misunderstood some stuff I had on my computer; ended up thinking I was scamming him or some shit. Sicced his brother on me.”

“Oh,” Carol said simply, “oh…”

If anyone had told Mickey that Carol Matthews would be the one to fully understand the implications and nuances of the situation just like that, he would have laughed them to scorn…or decked them for getting into his business, one or the other. Carol sat in her chair and nodded for Mickey to sit down, continuing to use the fudge as bait. He was going to be diabetic by the time he left her office.

“I hadn’t imagined it was anything so complicated,” she admitted, “Ian has a lot of insecurities and Lip, I know, can be quite pugnacious.” It was quite the understatement and Mickey remained mum. Carol patted the table top quietly, mulling over the situation before starting again gingerly. “It’s rough though, isn’t it? Taking that chance, following someone into the dark, only for it turn out badly?”

Mickey still didn’t answer her, only dipped his head and took another bite of confectionary.

“But you’re making up, so that’s good right?”

Mickey snorted, “Yeah, feels a lot like punking out.”

“Why would you look at it like that?”

“His brother made me feel like I was dirt under their shoes. Ian somehow managed to make me feel worse than that. I feel like I should have handled this shit. Back home, you’re supposed to handle shit, let people know they can’t just disrespect you and get away with it. I didn’t do shit here, just freaked out most of the time. Now I’m crawling back like it’s nothing; like things weren’t already fucked from the beginning.”

“You’re just a bundle of sunshine and optimism, aren’t you?” Carol teased and Mickey quietly huffed, “why would you think your relationship was doomed before it began?”

“I didn’t say ‘doomed,’ it’s just that…”Mickey mumbled before he used his hands to mime a pair of scales, “he’s in the one percent, I’m in the ninety nine, he’s my boss, I just test his games for bugs…he calls all the shots and I let him.”

“So you feel like the power balance is even more skewed in his favour now?” she hummed when Mickey eventually nodded, “so restore the balance a little then.”

“Huh? How?”

“Well, there are two general schools of thought for this sort of thing. You can either do it the Old Testament way or the New Testament way, if you’ll forgive the religious references,” she nodded eagerly at Mickey’s sceptical and wary look, “no seriously, I’m not preaching to you or anything. I could try to find other ways to put it, but it would still be the same. Besides, we both grew up dealing with things Old Testament style, so maybe that will appeal to you best.”

Mickey watched the HR manager with narrowed eyes and questioned warily, “what’s Old Testament style?”

“First? Vengeance,” she said the word with a disturbing amount of eagerness and Mickey gaped.


“Seriously, it’s an eye for an eye there in the Southside, right? He hurt you, you hurt him back,” she nodded and rapped on the table, “hit him hard and fast; he won’t know which end is up. Boom, balance restored… somewhat. Where do you think he’s most vulnerable?”

The bloodthirsty vibes radiating from Carol were more than a little disturbing. Mickey blinked and slowly shook his head, “Uh, I don’t wanna do that.”

Carol seemed slightly taken aback. “No? No vengeance?” She gave a tiny sigh when Mickey shook his head a little more firmly, “ah, that’s the drawback: you never really want to hurt the ones you love intentionally. Fine, vengeance isn’t for you this time around. Retribution might be what you need.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No, no, not exactly. Retribution is all about finding a punishment that perfectly fits the crime and righting the wrong. You’re getting your pound of flesh, basically. You might have to think about it a little, but what do you feel Ian could do to correct the mistake he made?”

“How do you go about quantifying something like that?”

“With great difficulty, admittedly,” Carol said, “perhaps there is a punishment you feel fits the offence then?”

“Look, I don’t want to punish him, alright? I just…what else you got?”

“Well, vengeance and retribution were pretty much it back then. There’s also appealing to God’s holy wrath, but He once summoned a bear to maul a bunch of teenagers for teasing an old, bald guy. So maybe Old Testament God isn’t right for this situation. He can be a bit of a gamble.”

Mickey actually burst out laughing and Carol grinned back broadly.

“So what does that leave, New Testament?” Mickey asked and Carol nodded, “what the fuck do I have to do for that to work?”

“There is only one recommendation, forgive and let it go.”

Mickey was unimpressed, “really? That sounds beyond soft and simplistic.”

“It’s really not, Mickey. Forgiving someone after they’ve hurt you can be one of the hardest things you could ever do. It’s impossible for a lot of people, and following that person into the dark again? It takes a special kind of bravery.”

“Or stupidity…”

Carol let out a short laugh, “it can be a thin line,” she admitted before sobering. “Don’t believe anyone who tells you that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, Mickey. It’s the polar opposite of being weak, forcing yourself to let go of all that hurt and rage…”

“That’s the thing I don’t get,” Mickey interrupted, ‘why’d you have to let go of shit? What’s wrong with keeping a little anger? Ever since I got here, that seems to be the theme with everybody—let’s make him less angry; let’s turn him into someone else completely. I’ve been angry my whole fucking life, it’s been working out for me so far, so good.”

“Has it?”

Mickey looked at her a little incredulously, “anger keeps me safe, keeps me focused. It kept me fucking warm at night whenever our heat went out. I lost the anger for a minute here and look at all the shit that happened. What’s really so fucking bad about being a little angry, huh?”

“Because it’s poison,” she replied and persisted even though he scoffed, “I grew up with a lot of pain and a lot of rage, and I admit it, it can be like jet fuel in your veins, but it’s toxic. You hold on to it and you’re not even hurting the ones who hurt you, you’re just getting stifled and held back and blinded to all the good things you should be leaving yourself open for,” she paused and watched him chew on his lip in agitation. “Before Ian made his mistake and everything went haywire, you were happy with him; your whole demeanour changed—I could see it. You were really and truly happy. Is that really worth sacrificing just to hold on to the hard shell?”

“That’s not what I’m doing,” Mickey said irritably.

“Well, you’re trying your best to stay armoured and you should ask yourself why? We’re not in our Southsides; we’re not in our battlefields anymore. Why keep fighting when the war is over?”

Carol gathered up her things while Mickey stared at his hands and flexed his fingers; silence reigning until she dropped a hand on his shoulder.

“Final thought, you can take a chance and step into the dark with Ian and your friends and the life you’re making here; or you can resist going soft, hold on to all the armour and the hard edge and keep the possibility of change at arm’s length. Personally, I think you should go with the option that makes you feel free. Life’s too short to be miserable, Mickey, and I think someone’s looking for you.”

Mickey turned and peered out to see Ian prowling about Skid Row like some sort of stalking predator. He turned back to see Carol slipping on her glasses and putting her bag over her shoulder.

“I’ve got to run; you’ve made me late for my pyro-anon meeting.”

Mickey snorted in laughter and trailed off when Carol blinked at him seriously, “oh, that’s a real thing? I thought it was a joke like with the bear and mauling the kids.”

“…that wasn’t a joke either.”

“The fuck?!” Clearly he needed to go watch an Old Testament documentary or two.

Carol stooped forward to look him dead in the eyes before she headed out, “you think about what I said, and stay out of my office,” she deadpanned and it was enough to make his neck sweaty. There may yet be a little Detroit left in her.

They both walked out of her office and Ian emerged from the break room at the noise they made. He was shocked to see them both together.

“Um, everything okay?” he asked warily.

“Why wouldn’t it be?” She shot Mickey another warning look before heading off to the elevator with a wave. When he turned back to Ian, his boss had already disappeared into his office.

Mickey walked in to find Ian standing over his desk, painfully rotating his right shoulder. “What’s with you?”

Ian ignored the question, “for a minute I thought you bolted again.”

“Said I wouldn’t, didn’t I?” He winced when Ian grimaced and rubbed his shoulder. How the hell Carol could think he could go the vengeance route when he couldn’t even stand to see Ian sore was beyond him. When Ian gave another painful flex of his neck and shoulder, Mickey couldn’t help but snap at him a little, “what the hell is wrong with you? Did you sleep on it wrong or something?"

Ian only sighed and rolled his eyes, clearly irritated with the entire world. “There’s nothing wrong with my shoulder,” he said tersely and cut off Mickey before the latter could protest, “there’s nothing wrong with my shoulder. It hurts like a bitch right now, but there’s nothing wrong with it,” Ian’s voice began rising steadily in volume and frustration. “It’s psychosomatic; it pops up when I’m stressed. See, this is how my whole system works. My brain tells my body something is fucked up even when it isn’t because that’s what happens when you’re fucking crazy!”

Mickey jumped a little at the sudden violence when Ian sent half the things on his desk crashing to the floor. Ian hissed a sharp “fuck” at the jolt of pain caused by his rash act and went back to favouring his shoulder.

“Gallagher, you need to calm down…”

“Oh, is that what I need to do?” Ian withered, “is that all? Well thank you for the novel suggestion, Mickey! Let me get right the fuck on that then!”

Mickey exhaled noisily, feeling as frustrated and helpless as Ian, “well what the fuck do you want me to say then? What do you need me to do?”

Ian sighed, becoming subdued and a little contrite, “look, I’m sorry, I’m just…” his breath hitched as he hesitated before he succumbed to the temptation, grabbed Mickey and did his best to burrow his face into his boyfriend’s neck. Mickey let Ian crush into him and rubbed his hands through his hair and down the back of his neck soothingly.

“Hey, hey, alright, it’s okay,” Mickey whispered softly while Ian gripped him tighter.

“What do they really say?” Ian mumbled against Mickey’s throat and the tester tried to pull back a bit so he could hear him, but Ian resisted.

“What? Who?”

“Them, everybody,” Ian said a bit louder and more clearly, “what do they say? Does everyone really think I’m like this all the time? Do they think I can’t do this?”

Mickey finally did pull back then, “what the fuck? You think people are talking shit about you? Gallagher, no one talks shit about you. No one thinks you’re crazy or incompetent or whatever you're saying. What the fuck?”

Ian pulled away and retreated to his desk, “you wouldn’t tell me if they did anyway,” he accused.

“Oh you’d know, because I’d break their fucking faces if they did,” Mickey shot back, “but I don’t have to, because everyone here has your back,” he went over to Ian and jerked him around by the shirt, forcing him to face him, “hey, no one talks shit about you, I swear.”

He could feel the fine tremors of Ian’s body through his shirt, and frowned as Ian bounced in place the way he always did when he was agitated. “Gallagher, where is this shit coming from? You’ve been wound tighter than a spring these past few days.”

“I haven’t.”

“Yes, you have. You came to my apartment keyed up; you woke the next day keyed up. You were keyed up this fucking morning in the break room when you were shoving your hands down my pants. You’ve been freaking out since…” Mickey trailed off as the light bulb went off in his head. “Nate? Is that where this is coming from? Fucking Nate? He said this shit to you?” Mickey sighed as the guilty confirmation flashed in Ian’s eyes before the redhead looked away. “Well,” he said, oddly calm, “that’s just fucking unacceptable, isn’t it?”

“Don’t you fucking do anything!”

Mickey said nothing to that, “you’re the one who came by my place huffing and puffing about how he was trash and not worth the paper we wipe our asses with. You let him wind you up like this? You let him talk shit to you and you believe it?”

Ian didn’t respond, just went back to rubbing his shoulder and avoiding Mickey’s eyes. Fortunately for him, the pained movement was enough to distract Mickey for the moment. Mickey winced and snapped again.

“Jesus, it’s hurting me just looking at you. Take your shirt off and sit down in front of the couch,” he ordered as he stomped off into the bathroom.

“Why?” Ian asked innocently. He pulled his shirt off with a grunt and dropped down before the couch.

“Because I fucking said so,” Mickey barked before disappearing into the bathroom. He emerged a few moments later with a familiar small bottle in hand. Ian looked up with a mix of curiosity, hope and scepticism. Mickey rolled his eyes as he sat on the couch behind Ian and made him lean back into him. “You have a fucking one track mind. This wasn’t made exclusively for you to shove things up my ass. It’s marketed as ‘warming massage oil’ after all.”

“Hitachi wands are marketed as personal massagers too. How many people do you see rubbing their shoulders with them?”

Mickey grunted in response and poured a small amount of the oil into his palms and rubbed hard into Ian’s shoulder.

“Ow, ow, oww,” Ian whimpered, “did I mention this was psychosomatic?”

“Can’t massage your brain, can I?” Mickey said pointedly, and psychosomatic or not, Ian’s shoulder was far too tight beneath his touch. “Just deal with it.” Mickey continued kneading and Ian was not shy about making his suffering known. Mickey poked him, “will you man the fuck up already? I’ve done way worse shit to you and you loved it.”

“Yeah, well you tend to experience things differently when your dick is hard,” Ian pointed out and earned another hard jab. Still, Mickey decided to switch up his approach a little and alternated the massage between aggressive and gentle touches. He ghosted his hands up to Ian’s neck and ears and rubbed them soothingly and before too long, Ian was relaxing against him, sighing more contentedly as he curled his left hand around Mickey’s leg.

Mickey worked silently for while, smiling a little as Ian moaned his appreciation and hugged his leg a little tighter. Ian had to be the most expressive idiot Mickey had ever met, which was saying a lot because he knew some serious characters. He balked at the idea at first, but in the interest of trying something new and trying to move on, Mickey actually offered a piece on unsolicited information.

“I used to have to do this kind of thing for Jamie all the time,” Mickey smiled shyly when Ian snorted in surprise and tilted his head back to look up at him, “yeah, there, uh, was a time there where he had back problems every fucking minute. He’s a big dude and dad had him doing a lot of heavy work. His back would lock up and we’d have to do all kinds of shit to help him out. I’d be walking across his back and jumping on him and shit,” Mickey laughed at the memory before smacking Ian in the back of his head.

“Ow! What was that for?!”

“Whatever smart ass remark you’re planning on making.”

“Who was going to say anything? Shit,” Ian muttered and rubbed the back of his head, “although…you were just a little kid then, right?”


“I mean a lot smaller than you are now?”

“Yeah…” Mickey answered suspiciously, eyes narrowing on the back of Ian’s head.

“It’s just that I wonder,” Ian said cautiously, “how much of an impression could you possibly have made? Ow! Ow! OW!” he whimpered in-between peals of laughter.

“You know what? Fuck you and your fucked up shoulder!” Mickey nearly upended a giggling Ian and stood up to march off. He made it only a couple steps before Ian grabbed on to his leg, tripped him and dragged him back.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Ian tittered and grinned down at Mickey who glared up him. Ian then wondered if maybe he had ping-ponged too much in his mood for Mickey to deal with right then, and he self consciously muttered an apology and started to get to his feet. Mickey gave a small huff of annoyance and swiftly kicked Ian’s feet out from under him, causing his boss to crash back down on top of him. “Ow,” he complained again.

“Pussy,” Mickey teased softly and brought Ian’s smile back out. When Mickey raised his eyebrows in question, Ian answered by lowering his head and sucking on Mickey’s lower lip. Mickey relaxed his mouth and let Ian kiss him slow and deep for a while until Mickey surged up and flipped them over so Ian was on his back.

He kept Ian pressed down and kissed his way down his torso, sucking lightly on Ian’s nipple and nibbling gently along his ribcage, while his fingers brushed down his side until Ian’s entire body was flushed and covered in goose bumps. Mickey continued to shift downwards, trailing his lips down Ian’s abdomen before blowing a crude raspberry against Ian’s stomach. His boss burst out laughing.

“You are such a fucking child,” Ian giggled and shoved Mickey off to escape the ticklish sensation.

“You are so fucking stupid,” Mickey returned and sat up to undo Ian’s jeans and yank everything off. When Ian was naked and flushed beneath him, he wrapped his hand around Ian’s straining cock and held his gaze unblinkingly while he pumped slowly. He pumped faster while Ian’s breathing grew harsh and uneven underneath his gaze and at the first sign of precum, he dipped his head and swallowed Ian down.

“Fuck,” Ian shivered and arched into Mickey’s mouth. Mickey kept one hand splayed against Ian’s chest and hummed as his tongue flicked across Ian’s leaking slit. Ian bucked into Mickey’s mouth and twisted his hands into Mickey’s hair and tugged frantically, “fuck, Mickey, wait!”

Mickey backed off and suppressed Ian’s impending orgasm. “Jesus, you’ve got such a fucking hair trigger sometimes.”

“Shut up,” Ian said defensively and watched unabashedly as Mickey shrugged out of his clothes, “I’m a mere mortal, not a porn star.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Mickey grinned cheekily and reached back to grab the lube.

“You aren’t going to use the warming massage oil for something other than its marketed purpose, are you?” Ian teased as Mickey straddled him, and gripped Mickey’s hips to thrust upwards and grind against him.

“Keep it up, smart ass, and talk yourself out of a sure thing,” Mickey shoved Ian back down when he moved to get up, not wanting him to aggravate his shoulder. He gave Ian a quelling look when he began to protest, “I can handle it, Firecrotch, relax.”

He slicked Ian’s erection with a pump of his hand before bending forwards and reaching back to prepare himself. He kept eye contact as he pressed his fingers in and began stretching his muscles. He bit his lip and moaned lowly, more as a show for Ian than anything else and was rewarded with Ian’s eyes darkening and warm hands running impatiently up the back of his thighs.

“Fuck, Mick, just let me—”

“No,” Mickey said shortly, and gave another breathy moan just to make Ian a little crazy.


“Wait,” but Mickey had had enough of playing around too, and gripped Ian’s cock firmly and sank down smoothly until he was fully seated. He braced a hand on either side of Ian’s head and rocked forward. Ian matched his quickening rhythm and thrust up to meet him. Mickey rocked faster, taking delight in Ian’s helpless groans, fluttering eyelids and the desperate way he said his name. “You’re such a loud fuck sometimes, you know that?”

“You love it,” Ian said bluntly and angled his hips to find Mickey’s sweet spot. Mickey wasn’t about to deny any of that. He just moaned raggedly and rode Ian harder, revelling in the feel of Ian slamming into him from below, and the blunt fingernails digging into the flesh of his hips.

“You’re fucking perfect,” Mickey panted as he drew closer to the edge, “fucking perfect. Don’t let a motherfucker tell you otherwise,” he said looking Ian dead in the eye so he’d know, heights of passion or not, he was completely serious and lucid about it. Ian’s eyes widened, but he nodded, before twisting his body and slamming Mickey onto his back. “Fuck, fuck!” Mickey gasped and dug his fingers into Ian’s back as his boss hammered into him. Ian bit into Mickey’s shoulder and along his neck until he was kissing him desperately again. When Mickey came, he followed him over the edge immediately.

Ian wheezed a little as he deflated on top of his employee, knowing he was squashing Mickey a little, but was powerless to move right away. How Mickey thought he could ever leave him alone when he said shit like that was completely beyond him.

Ian was trying to wait patiently for Mickey to wake up. He sat against the couch; his boyfriend stretched out next to him on his stomach with Ian’s balled up t-shirt as a pillow and Ian’s office blanket covering his bare body. Ian chewed on the knuckle of his thumb and watched Mickey slumber. It was truly symptomatic of how far he’d fallen and how hopeless this really was, because you’re not supposed to miss someone this much when they were right fucking there.

He drummed his fingers against his thigh and told himself not to disturb Mickey. He knew this breakup had been as much hell on Mickey’s sleep patterns as it had been on his. Mickey had let him pass out in his bed practically all day while he went to see Eric’s descent into fatherhood, so the least he could do is let Mickey alone while he slept. Yeah, but still…

He coughed loudly, but Mickey didn’t even stir. He coughed again and cleared his throat, making the sound like an old engine failing to turn over, but still no signs of life from the sleeping man. Deluding himself into believing that as long as he didn’t shake Mickey awake, it was okay, he knocked a couch cushion right onto Mickey’s head. The man was stirred, but not roused and Ian finally took the cushion, held it aloft, and dropped it from the considerable height back onto Mickey’s head.

“The fuck!” Mickey said thickly as he jolted awake. He always awoke deeply suspicious of his surroundings—a fact with Ian found both heartbreaking and adorable as he did with everything concerning Mickey—but how could he not be suspicious when he awoke with couch cushions inexplicably on his head?

“You’re awake,” Ian observed innocently while Mickey knocked off the cushion and took another bleary, mistrustful look of his immediate surroundings. He looked up at the sound of Ian’s voice and struggled into a sitting position next to his boss. He leaned against the couch and rubbed his eyes tiredly.

“Time is it?” he yawned.

“A little after ten.”

Mickey scrunched his face and tried to clear the rest of the cobwebs. He looked over at Ian and inspected him closely, “you okay? How’s the shoulder?”

“I’m maintaining,” he answered honestly and then rotated his shoulder, “the shoulder’s good…thanks.”

Mickey unexpectedly flashed him one of those smiles and Ian might have fallen in love all over again. Ian reached for Mickey and pulled him close; capturing his lips until they were getting carried away again and Mickey’s hand was inching up towards Ian’s boxers.

“Quit fucking doing that!” Ian said suddenly after pulling away from Mickey and smacking his hand away.

“Doing what? You kissed me!” Mickey pointed out.

“You know what I mean. You can’t keep fucking me to avoid having a conversation, Mick,” Ian said firmly. Well, maybe he could, but eventually Ian would figure out a way to resist it and by then, he’d probably be implacable.

“Again, you kissed me, Gallagher.”

Ian sighed and fought against the urge to complain about how Mickey hadn’t really called him “Ian” since the fallout. He had a bigger issue to sort out and didn’t want to get sidetracked. He pushed the name thing aside and rubbed a tired hand over his face. “What is this, Mickey?”

“What’s what?”

“Jesus, please don’t right now,” Ian sighed and Mickey licked his lips in apprehension. “Mickey, what is this?”

“We have to label this right fucking now? What is it with you and labelling shit?”

“I have obsessive tendencies, okay? Having things neatly defined and categorized is really fucking soothing,” Ian offered with a smile, “no labels breed uncertainty, uncertainty breeds anxiety and anxiety makes me very agitated and I don’t handle agitation very well.”

“Really, I’ve never noticed that about you,” Mickey said wryly.

“I really need you to take me seriously right now, Mick,” Ian said and Mickey capitulated as best his could.

“Look, I just wanted to avoid making a huge deal out of this…”

“Seriously? We break up forever and you thought we’d just start fucking again without me noticing?”

“Oh, I was hoping you’d notice,” Mickey joked and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, “I was just hoping you wouldn’t make it into a thing.”

Ian sighed in defeat and started getting to his feet and Mickey’s hand shot out quickly to stop him and pull him back down.

“Alright, alright, Jesus,” Mickey worried his lip and Ian sat back down to stare at him steadily, “look, alright, it’s…I’m just…look, I feel fucked up when I’m with you,” he admitted, “but everything’s fucked when I’m not with you, and if I’m honest, I guess I like the way you fuck me up. So…yeah.”

“That is really fucking eloquent,” Ian couldn’t help but tease, but he was smiling, and just like that, he was beside himself.

“Look, what did you expect, fucking Shakespeare?” Mickey sniffed and stared at the floor and his blanketed feet; completely abashed. “It is what it is, alright?”

Ian grinned wider and shuffled closer to Mickey until his side was pressed alongside his boyfriend’s. “You do know that I’m sorry, right?”

Mickey’s hand fluttered up like a startled bird to shush Ian, “I know you’re fucking sorry, Gallagher. I know you’ve been fucking sorry since day one. It wasn’t about you being sorry; it was about me getting over it.”

“So are you over it then?” Ian asked anxiously and Mickey frowned in consternation.

“I guess so? I don’t know…I’m getting there,” Mickey admitted before adding, “it’s a tall-ass fucker; I should have gone around it instead.” There was a short beat before Ian connected the joke and they both burst out laughing.

“So what now?” Ian asked at length.

“I don’t know; try to pick up where we left off maybe?” Mickey offered tentatively.

Ian immediately went about pushing his luck. “So I can come over tonight?” He hazarded going further when Mickey nodded mutely, “and I can stay over?”

“Yeah, okay,” Mickey answered a little more hesitantly and eyed Ian warily.

Ian went for it, “can I get my keys back?”

“No, and they’re not your fucking keys,” Mickey said firmly. “I was lending them to you.” Gallagher having unfettered access was simply too much, too soon. Ian had expected as much and decided to back off…after one more attempt.

“It’s just that, technically, I had keys at the point where we left off and in the interest of historical accuracy—”

“Jesus fuck, Gallagher; no fucking keys!”

Ian quickly relented, “okay, fine, that’s cool. Rome was not rebuilt in a day.”

Mickey could see it and Mickey could hear it—the return of the Ian Gallagher who knew he had already won and who only had to simply play the wait-and-wear-down game. The Ian Gallagher who knew he would eventually get his way exactly the way he wanted it. Mickey would be lying if he said that he hadn’t missed him with all his heart and soul.

They sat together in shy but contented silence until Ian broke it yet again. “You hungry?”

“Fucking starving,” Mickey confessed and they both started reaching for their clothes.

“You want to get Chipotle?”

“Chipotle, seriously? You don’t think you’re hard enough on my ass,” Mickey grumbled and all Ian could do was keep on laughing.

They were having this conversation again. Carrie did not want to have this conversation again. She did not want to have this conversation ever, but Leslie was floating around their apartment, womb all aglow and in full-on Gaia mode. So yes, they were having this conversation.

“I believe we would be wonderful mothers, Care-bear,” Leslie sighed and glided to their window to stare out at the playground at the corner. Why Carrie kept forgetting to burn that shit down was beyond her. “It would be the perfect combination of our energies.”

“Actually, it would be your energy and some random dude’s. Science hasn’t caught up with the double mommy act yet.”

“We can have more,” Leslie suggested wistfully, “you could be the vessel for at least one of our children.”

“Baby, no, I’m pretty sure my womb is considered a hostile environment.” Carrie went over to her partner and grabbed her hands so she could look tenderly into her face and try to moonwalk out of this shit, “Bird, I think we should really contemplate if we want to be responsible for bringing another being into this overburdened, overpopulated, violent and unsafe world. I mean seven billion people. Jesus Christ, there has to be at least one deity out there looking down at us and going ‘enough already!’”

Leslie sighed prettily, her eyes downcast as she mulled over Carrie’s words, “you’re right, of course. We should be responsible.”

Carrie sighed in relief before Leslie’s next words shattered it. “We should adopt!”

“Jesus fuck,” Carrie grumbled beneath her breath as Leslie spun off into a cloud of sparkle and sunshine.

“We could adopt so many! This world is full of abandoned, disadvantaged, beautiful children who need—”

“Do you really think we’re parent material though?” Carrie interrupted, “I play video games for a living. The driving factor of my life is pissing my parents off. Do you really want to spend all of our disposable income on organic, free range diapers or whatever?”

“Don’t worry, Care-bear,” Leslie soothed, “who better to raise a child than those with the mind of a child?”

This bitch was crazy. Carrie stared at Leslie as her skin began itching; at a loss as to how to get out of this mess. When the doorbell rang, she literally sprinted for it. She opened the door to reveal Mickey dressed in his murder-hoodie and she sagged in relief.

“Oh thank God, you’re in Slim Shady mode. Let’s go burn some shit to the ground,” she chirped and started marching out the door. Mickey quickly hustled her back in.

“I might be calling in favour number tw—”

“Yes, okay, let’s go.”

“Will you listen to me, woman?!” Mickey shushed and greeted Leslie as she padded over. “Hey, Leslie.”

“Mickey, your aura is resplendent today,” she came over and enveloped him in a huge hug. Mickey glared at Carrie who shrugged at him apologetically and tried to disengage her girlfriend. “Have you ever considered donating your energy to two lovers who might want to create a precious, new life and—”

Mickey hissed at her like a thoroughly pissed off cat and Leslie rolled her eyes and stomped off. “Alright, Homo grumpus,” she said flatly, “keep your stupid sperm. I’m going to make a snack.”

“Barefoot, in the kitchen, and contemplating babies; you’re setting back the struggle, Leslie!” Mickey tossed after her.

“Fuck you! True freedom recognizes the right to all styles of life. My choices are my own and beyond your patriarchal reproach. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, pig!”

“Damn, she goes from Ariel to Ursula fast, huh?” Mickey grinned at Carrie and his friend rolled her eyes.

“Boy, you don’t even know,” Carrie sighed, “so what’s going on?”

“I need you to keep your phone clear and come bail me out if necessary.”

“Shit, who, what?”


“The dunking wasn’t enough?”

“He told Gallagher we all secretly think he’s crazy and want him out,” Mickey said and cracked his knuckles at the thought of it.

Carrie was appropriately shocked and pissed, “that camping motherfucker! I’m coming with you!”

“What, no; I need you to come bail me if I get pinched.”

“Leslie can do it. Her dad is one of the best criminal lawyers in New York State. You couldn’t ask for better barring Johnnie Cochran descending from lawyer heaven.” When Mickey began protesting again, Carrie grabbed him by the hoodie and snarled into his face. “Look, I don’t care if you’re going bobbing for dick right now. Get me the hell up out of this house!”

Mickey was not long in getting the point. “Yo Leslie, I’m taking your girl out to fight the man literally and metaphorically. You might need to bail us out of jail!”

“Rightaroonie! My dad’s on speed dial, and it’s about time a certain someone went out on the limb for social aware—”.

Mickey shut the door behind them and looked at Carrie askance. “I seriously can’t believe you two are together sometimes.”

“Shut up; my baby is a special unicorn and she completes me.”

“Just tell her kids give you hives already.”

“Not that easy! You try saying no to that face,” Carrie complained.

“I could say no to that face all day; it’s another face I have a problem with.”

When they were on the street, Carrie was shocked when Mickey slid into a beat up, black sedan and got in when he beckoned her inside. “Whose car is this?”

“Sanchez’s…borrowed it.”

Carrie shook her head and bit back a smile. “You’re just awful, how much did you knock off this time?”

“Fifty bucks.”

“You’re never going to let him off the hook are you?”


“You’re such a cocksucker, Mickey,” Carrie sighed fondly.

“I know, and I do it with relish!” Mickey grinned wickedly and peeled off into the street.

A little over an hour later, they were parked outside Nate’s house in a suburb of Queens. Mickey shrugged off his hoodie and reached back to the backseat to grab a plain, unmarked brown jacket and a matching cap. He shoved a clipboard at Carrie and told her to put up her hair and look as officious as possible.

“Are we seriously doing this in the middle of the day?” Carrie asked as she pulled her dreads into as neat a bun as she could manage.

“Best time—nobody’s home and nobody really thinks anyone would be so brazen despite all the evidence to the contrary. People who are home in the neighbourhood would rather not notice troublesome shit and will turn a blind eye once you don’t look too out of place. Someone spots us, I’m a delivery guy, or utility worker or some acceptable shit and you’re my supervisor.”

“You’re sure Nate or his mom aren’t home?”

“He LARPs on Saturdays, his mom goes to visit her sister’s family every other Saturday, including this one. Let’s go.”

They got out of the car and strode with easy purpose over to Nate’s house. Carrie couldn’t help but ask just how often he’d been staking out Nate’s house to gather all that information, but Mickey only gave her an enigmatic smile. He had ended up staking out the house a few times whenever Ian complained bitterly about the graphic designer, but he hadn’t thought Nate had been worth more than an introduction to toilet water, that is, until now.

Carrie watched open-mouthed as Mickey gloved up, produced a key and opened the door. He only smirked as he racked up more street cred and remained silent on the fact that Nate’s mother kept a key under a rock in her rock garden that Mickey had borrowed and copied. Everything seems cooler when the audience is in the dark.

Carrie sighed, “I’m just glad that if I’m going to pop my felony cherry, Mickey, that’s it’s with you; someone I love and care about and is shady as hell.”

Mickey smirked and closed the door behind them. It was the typical two-story family home, tastefully decorated by Nate’s mother. They decided to start upstairs to check if Nate’s room was there.

“So… wanna go see ‘the Book of Mormon’ next week?” Carrie whispered to Mickey’s back as she tiptoed upstairs.

“One, why are you whispering? There’s no one here, and two, you have me singing ‘Chicago’ to Gallagher. You’ve done enough damage with your Broadway addiction.”

Carrie was momentarily stunned by the seemingly offhand admission since Mickey was always so careful never to mention Ian outside of a working context. Mickey defended his drastic actions with Nate under the guise of fierce loyalty to someone who had taken a chance on a guy who badly needed a break. She had no idea if this was a slip on his part or Mickey was telling her something, so she stayed quiet and let it slide. They started surreptitiously peeping into the rooms upstairs and Mickey cleared his throat quietly.

“So, uh, you remember that guy I was seeing? I, um, think I’m getting back together with him,” he mumbled and kept ahead of her so she couldn’t see his face. Carrie was rendered briefly speechless and had to kick herself to respond.

“Yeah?” she said hesitantly, suddenly on a new and unfamiliar playing field with Mickey, “you really went through it with that breakup, though. You’re sure you’re good to try again?”

“Yeah,” he said as he checked the second room, “I mean, we’re working through it, but, uh, yeah.”

“Okay,” she nodded at his back, “As long as you’re sure and he’s making you happy…”

“It’s Ian,” Mickey finally sighed and Carrie nearly dropped like a rock.


“It’s Ian, Ian-Ian,” Mickey admitted and turned to face her sheepishly. “Gallagher Ian,” he officially confirmed and scratched and pulled at his gloves. She couldn’t stop the massive smile from splitting her face.

“Shit, boy, you can do a whole lot fucking worse!”

Mickey grinned back, happy and relieved at her easy acceptance. “Yeah and he could do a whole lot fucking better.”

She sucked her teeth rudely, “Fuck off with that noise. I guaran-damn-tee you’re the best thing to happen to that man since fever dreams. Shit, you’re the best thing to happen to him ever!”

Mickey smiled and shook his head and Carrie’s smiled gentled.

“You love him?”

Mickey seemed taken aback by the question. “I don’t know, maybe…” he exhaled noisily when she closed one eye and poked at him, but eventually let him off the hook.

“Yeah, you should probably tell him first.”

Mickey flushed and turned back to check the last room. A second later, he pitched forward from the force of Carrie pouncing onto his back, squealing like a little girl.

“The fuck, Carrie!”

“We levelled up, baby! We’re officially besties now! I’m going to find us BFF necklaces! That glow when they’re close to each other!”

“Will you get the fuck off me, woman, we’re in the middle of a criminal act here!” he chided and shrugged her off.

“Right, right, I’m cool!” she relented and stood with her hands on her hips, “you know, dollars to donuts that boy is a basement dweller,” she suggested and a minute later, they were trying the door to the basement beneath the stairs.

Mickey had to jimmy that open, but once they were down and the lights were on, there was no doubt it was Nate’s room. Southside Slaughter posters, katanas and all the typical nerd bait adorned the room, but there was one thing that dominated, a makeshift shrine to…

“Twilight Sparkle,” Carrie breathed, “holy shit, he’s a brony.”

“A brownie?” Mickey was completely bemused.

“Why don’t you know good things, Mickey?” Carrie shook her head in sympathy, “My Little Pony! It’s…I just…I’ll give you the gist later, but suffice to say that it’s a program with some overly fanatical members and I think Nate may be one of them.”

“There’s a cartoon horse on his wall,” Mickey said slowly, still befuddled.

“Look, I think I know what to look for.”

Later that night when Ian came over, he was greeted with the sight of a fairly large stuffed pony, encased in about four layers of plastic bags and shoved into the dark, far corner of Mickey’s living room.

“What’s that?” Ian asked as he deposited the Chinese food on Mickey’s table and nodded towards the pony. “Did you get a friend for our teddy bear?” Ian teased and almost lost it at Mickey’s offended indignation.

“No, it’s not a friend for Cl--the bear,” Mickey fumed before muttering under his breath, “crime against decency is what that is. Fucking friend for Clay…as if,” he yelled after Ian as the man went to investigate, “don’t you open even one of those fucking bags either!”

“Seriously though, why do you have this?’ Ian asked as he inspected the toy, “have I started a stuffed animal obsession?”

“Eric bought it as a surprise for his wife and kids, alright? I’m holding it for him.”

“He bought this for newborns?” Ian pressed, “this doesn’t seem very safe. He could lose one of his kids in the opening under the tail. Why is that even there? Is that some sort of storage slot?”

Mickey raised his eyes heavenward and prayed for deliverance. “Gallagher, put the fucking pony down and get over here. Do I need to wrap my dick in these noodles to get you to eat them?” his eyes narrowed at Ian’s thoughtful gaze, “I’m not wrapping my dick in noodles; go fuck yourself.”

Ian shrugged and obediently headed back over to his boyfriend. As they prepared to eat, Ian’s eyes kept wandering back over to the bagged pony and the strangeness about it that he couldn’t quite place.

“It that a used toy?” Ian asked at length as he slurped his noodles, “it looks used.”

“Gallagher, I swear to God, I will shove you up that pony’s ass.”

Ian finally let it go when Mickey let him into bed; but honestly, the things Mickey Milkovich would do to keep that stupid face smiling.

Chapter Text

“I cannot believe it’s you two again,” Nate shook his head in disbelief while officers Martinez and Priestley exchanged a look. “Your precinct is in Manhattan. How, by Odin’s beard, are you here in Queens?!”

“We were in the area, heard your name come across the scanner,” Martinez explained, “we asked to be put on your case—figured we owed you a solid after how things went bust last time.”

Nate shook his head again and gritted his teeth, “I want other people.”

“Aw come on, don’t be like that,” Priestley cajoled, “you’re not going to find another pair of cops more invested in this case. Preliminary reports state that we’re dealing with a kidnapping here? In cases like this we need to gather as much information as possible as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence here so, please, let us know what happened.”

Nate cleared his throat and crossed his arms. “Well, it’s not your conventional kidnapping per se…” He hesitated and the officers’ gazes bored into him. He sighed and gathered up his rage and prepared to stare ridicule in the face, “some blackguard has absconded with Twilight!”

The two officers exchanged another glance before looking back to the rapidly reddening man. “Twilight?” they asked in unison.

“Twilight Sparkle,” Nate choked out; slowly becoming overwhelmed with emotion, “they took my baby!”

“Twilight Sparkle… the pony from that cartoon?” Priestley prodded. He stared as Nate nodded and sniffled. “That’s my daughter’s favourite one. She has a ton of merchandise in her room. Costs me a fucking arm and a leg,” he looked at Nate askance, despite already getting the heads up from a laughing dispatcher, “you reported a missing toy as a kidnapping?”

“Twilight is not a toy!” Nate’s indignation was instantly palpable, ‘yes, she has the form of a plushie but she is as real and as important as any one of us here! She is the vessel that contains half my soul!” Nate took a deep, shuddering breath, “you have to find her!”

Priestley felt a vein in his temple throb. He looked over at his partner who had been staring at his notepad and shaking his head while muttering to himself for the past few minutes. Martinez must have felt his partner’s eyes on him, because he finally raised his head and casually lobbed a question at the programmer.

“So, uh, this Twilight pony—is it one of them ones with the, uh, action slot around the back?”

Nate’s face suffused with colour and Priestley’s jaw dropped when the full implication of Martinez’s question sank in. The taller officer sent a scathing glare Nate’s way. “You sick son of a bitch! My daughter loves that freaking pony!”’

Martinez put a restraining hand on his partner’s shoulder, “Jason, remember what they said at sensitivity training—don’t judge the weirdoes.”

“As God is my witness, she is never going to one of those conventions, ever!”

“I don’t have to stand here and be judged simply because I don’t adhere to your xenophobic, societal norms! It’s your job to find my love and for once can’t you people just do your fucking jobs?!” Nate was panting from the exertion of emoting and the officers regarded him silently for a minute before Martinez explained the world to him.

“Alright look, there’s no sign of forcible or unlawful entry. As far as you and your mother can tell, nothing has been disturbed, nothing else has been taken—no valuables, no money. Once again, no one saw anything remotely suspicious and if it weren’t for your missing teddy bear-”


“Pony,” Martinez amended, “no one would know anything happened at all. You see the problem we’re having here?”

“But she’s gone! Someone took her!”

Martinez sighed; dollars to donuts the mom had simply reached the end of her rope and had burnt the stupid thing, judging by the way she went from looking guilty to relieved at the drop of a hat. “What do you want us to do here? Send out a BOLO for pony sex toy?”

“She’s not a toy!” Nate screeched.

“Tell them to look for a bearded, swarthy man, about six feet four, covered in tribal markings and with an extremely long braid,” Priestley said suddenly and both his partner and Nate looked at him agog. “Well, I figure it was the Hound last time, maybe now it’s Khal Drogo.”

Martinez smirked while Nate’s head threatened to explode. “The Dothraki do appreciate a pretty horse,” Martinez averred.

“Yeah, it is known.”

Mickey and Carrie watched from a distance in Sanchez’s car as the police officers exited the house with Nate shrieking bloody murder after them. They waited until the coast was clear before Mickey dialled Nate from his burner phone, voice concealer app activated.

Nate frowned at the unknown number and answered testily, “Yes?”

“I’ve got your pony bitch,” a voice that sounded suspiciously like Bane crackled across the line. Nate’s grip on his phone went white.

“You’ve got Twilight?! How is she? Who are you? this the dungeon master?”

Both Mickey and Nate’s mother rolled their eyes and Mickey muted the phone to turn to Carrie. “Seriously, I have to do all this? I can’t just go over there and beat his ass? He’s almost too much of a nerd to function!”

“Big picture, Mick, you have to see the big picture. This way keeps you out of trouble and achieves all your objectives. Get on with it.”

“Fine, ugh,” Mickey resumed his conversation with Nate, “no, this isn’t the fucking dungeon master. The pony’s fine for now, but if you ever want to see toaster’s strudel-”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Carrie sighed.

“-Twilight Sparkle again, you’ll do exactly as we say.”

Nate listened in increasing horror as Mickey outlined his instructions, “and if I refuse?”

“Dude, don’t even fucking try me right now. I am not in the mood for this bullshit. This whole thing is silly enough. You do what I told you tomorrow or Twisted Sister-”

“Twilight-” Carrie and Nate began simultaneously.

“The next motherfucker who corrects me gets shot!”

Both Carrie and Nate clammed up and Mickey continued uninterrupted. “Tomorrow or I put the pony out to pasture and come put my foot up your ass instead!”

“She’s seriously not letting this go, Mickey,” Carrie whined the next morning as they idled at their workstations, “I swear she waited until I fell asleep last night and just whispered ‘baby’ in my ear for hours. My dreams were so fucked up.”

“Just tell her already.”

“I’m seriously scared to do that. I mean, I’m ninety-five percent sure this kid thing is just her most recent kick and eventually her focus will switch, but when she’s in it, she’s all in,” Carrie wrung her hands, “I don’t want to tell her only for her to decide it’s a deal-breaker.”

“How long do these jags of hers last?”

“Ugh, who can predict? Sometimes her enthusiasm peters out naturally and you can never guess when. Sometimes she gets jolted out of it.”

Mickey didn’t know how Carrie did it. He got exhausted just hearing Leslie’s name. “How did you guys get this far without having this conversation?”

“We did! That’s just it! We had this talk the first night we hooked up. Granted, we were high as fuck, but she said she never wanted to be tied down like that. She wanted to smoke high grade kush in Amsterdam and climb Kilimanjaro naked and finally track down Carmen Sandiego—yeah, okay so in retrospect, we probably should have had that conversation again, but this is only happening now because her sister keeps shoving her fertility in her face!”

“Gross…” Mickey mulled over the situation while he warmed up his computer, “ninety-five percent sure, huh?”

“It fluctuates between ninety-four and ninety-eight.”

“Okay, here’s what I think you could do,” Mickey began, “I know a guy back home, a lab tech that works for one of those baby simulator companies. They don’t sell to individuals but I’ll get him to hook you up with one and I’ll make sure he customizes it to Satan mode. You guys can test out your parenting skills, see how long you last.”

Carrie gasped, “That is dastardly.”

“Not really, customized to cranky or not, those simulators are nothing on the real thing. The first time I had to play daddy with my ex-wife, I’m pretty sure my tubes snipped themselves in the first five minutes. Ian told me about this lady in his neighbourhood who was so tired, she put the baby out with the trash and almost got him compacted. Shit, just look at Eric now,” Mickey and Carrie shook their heads sadly in memory of Eric as he languished on paternal leave. “You know though, if Leslie rides it out, you’re going to have to talk to her, Carrie.”

Carrie slumped at the idea, but was saved from dwelling on it by Nate’s arrival on the floor. She nudged Mickey and nodded towards the visitor and the two watched as Nate marched into Ian’s office like a man about to face a firing squad.

Ian looked up, surprised, when Nate knocked and entered his office. He was immediately on his guard and watched suspiciously as the man shifted from foot to foot and cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Nate? What’s going on?” Ian asked warily and narrowed his eyes when Nate inhaled deeply and pulled himself up to his full height.

“I have come to apologise!” Nate exclaimed with an added theatrical flourish. Ian’s eyes widened and he sat up straighter in his chair. “I have done some extensive soul-searching and have come to the realization that I have been somewhat of a heel in a few of our interactions. It’s clear that I must show more magnanimity when dealing with others, so again, my apologies. I will also alter Chatsworth to the specifications that you demanded.”

Ian scratched his cheek and hazarded a glance out at Mickey, who was busy burning holes into Nate’s skull, before turning back to the game designer. “Um, well, thanks. This is, um, unexpected. It’s really big of you to do this, Nate.”

“I know.”

Ian coughed and stifled his knee-jerk response to the smarm. “So this all came about through introspection? You weren’t coerced or anything, were you?”

Nate’s eyes popped open and there was a flash of panic. “Of course not! Why ever would you think that?”

Ian could only sigh and stop himself from sending Mickey another censorious glance. “I was just kidding, don’t even worry about it. But it’s great that we could come to some kind of accord with all of this, especially in light of what I’m about to do.”

“What’s that now?”

Ian drummed his hands on his desk before clapping them together. “Nate, you’re fired.”




“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done to make this company what it is, and I’m sure you’re going to prove an asset wherever you end up. If you ever need a reference!” Ian tacked on cheerfully.

“Are you out of your pathetic, deranged mind? You can’t fire me!”

“Just did,” Ian pointed out, “You shouldn’t take it so hard. This is me listening to you and acknowledging you’re right. What you said to me the other day had a lot of truth in it. If I’m going to be a good and effective leader for my company then I need to create an environment for myself that is conducive to good mental health. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that such an environment can’t include you.”

“You think I give a fuck about your wretched feeblemindedness? I built this company! If it wasn’t for me, you’d have nothing but the fucking voices in your head!”

“What do you want me to say?” Ian shrugged, “thanks? Look, let’s not end this on a sour note. I was even thinking I’d throw a going away party for you and everything.”

“You and the rest of the plebs can shove it up your asses!”

“Fine, no party then. Human resources will be in touch with you soon. Of course, you have two weeks official notice, but you don’t have to come in—your passwords have already been deactivated and your office is going to be occupied anyway.”

Nate stomped forward and slammed his hands down onto Ian’s desk, but the latter remained unperturbed. Ian could see Mickey in his peripheral vision trying to get up and getting shut down and scolded by Carrie. Clearly, Ian was going to have to wrap this up quickly.

“You’ve already replaced me?!” Nate’s voice was rapidly climbing towards octaves beyond human comprehension. “With whom?!”

As if on cue, Annie chose that precise moment to float across the window on her way back from the break room, looking for all the world like a Disney princess promoting iced tea. Her smug smile to Nate was all the evidence he needed of the ongoing travesty.

“Her?!” he glared at Ian while he jabbed an accusing finger at Annie’s retreating form. “Her?!

“Well, we still have to pretend to advertise the job, but yeah,” Ian admitted. “You were her biggest endorsement actually. You had her spending more time with your crew than she did on Skid Row. She was constantly fixing your problems and helping on your projects. Besides, I like her design aesthetic better and her mock-ups for ‘Legend’ blew yours out of the water.”

Nate was fit to be tied and shaking with rage. “You can’t do this! I’ll sue the shit out of you!”

“Bring it; Lip’s waiting and he has a hard-on for you the size of the Empire State Building. You’re combative, negative, uncooperative, and it’s been your personal crusade to create a hostile work environment, but if you feel you’ve got a leg to stand on, by all means…”

Nate visibly blanched at the mention of Lip and took a step back. “Fine, keep deluding yourself into thinking you have any competence in this field. When you run this company into the ground with your brain-addled antics, I’m going to be the one laughing.”

With that, Nate turned tail and stomped out of Ian’s office, heaving with rage and a mix of volatile emotions. As he marched past Skid Row he paused.

“GIVE ME MY PONY BACK!” he screeched, stunning the workers into gaping silence. His hot gaze swept the roomful of potential culprits, but all stared back at him uncomprehendingly. Chin trembling, he spun and stormed to the elevators, all eyes on him until he retreated behind the elevator doors.

“Boy, when the mask falls off, it really makes a thud, huh?” Jimmy mused and everyone quietly murmured their agreement.

The news of Nate’s dismissal and Annie’s promotion spread like wildfire and Ian could not have been happier and prouder of himself. Mickey couldn’t have been prouder of him either or more relieved. The longer Nate lingered, the higher the likelihood of Mickey winding up in jail and Ian going off the deep end. So no one was happier to see the back of Nate than Mickey Milkovich. He, Carrie and the rest of the company buzzed with pleased and gossipy excitement until close to lunch time. Mickey was distracted from his titter-filled conversation with Carrie by his phone buzzing.

“Feel like celebrating. Want to go grab lunch with me today?”

Mickey bit back a grin and managed a quick peek at Ian before replying, “sure, what do you feel like eating?”

Ian’s response was immediate. “You.”

Mickey almost choked. A moment later, Carrie nudged him to work out lunch orders. “Can’t babe, I’ve got something to take care of during lunch.”

Carrie raised an eyebrow in question and Mickey barely inclined his head towards Ian’s office, just as his boss was exiting and heading for the elevators. Carrie’s knowing smile bloomed and a teasing glint entered her eye.

“Oh, so that’s what’s up? Go get yours then, but honestly, it’s simply disgraceful the way you homosexuals choose to flaunt your deviant lifestyle while the rest of us decent people try to buy their lunches.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and yanked on Carrie’s dreads as he headed towards the elevator, unable to suppress his smile. Carrie grinned and tsked, “just happier than a motherfucker.”

“Disgusting,” Raj nodded.

“Just the worst,” Carrie giggled and the two got busy figuring out lunch.

Ian tapped out a beat on his steering wheel while he waited patiently for Mickey to join him. He leaned back and looked over at his boyfriend as Mickey slid into the seat next to him and shut the door.

“Where we going?” Mickey asked as he buckled in, eyebrows slightly raised and tongue wetting his lower lip as he eyed Ian.

Ian hummed for a minute, thinking it over, before he made a snap decision. “Fuck it, we’re not going anywhere.” He moved suddenly, squeezing between the seats and shoving himself onto the backseat. Before Mickey could form a word, Ian had already surged forward, undone his seatbelt and was dragging him bodily over to join him.

“Dude, here? It’s in the middle of the fucking day!” he protested as he was sprawled beneath Ian, barely propped up against the door.

“We’re underground, and it would be the middle of the day no matter where we went,” Ian pointed out as he straddled Mickey and sat on him to keep him still. “What did you do to Nate now?”

“Nothing compared to what you did to him, boss man,” Mickey beamed and choked out a laugh when Ian jabbed him in the sides. “What makes you think I did something?”

“That pony? That fucking pony you have in Hazmat bags in the corner of your living room—that’s Nate’s?” Ian jabbed Mickey a few more times, “Is that why Nate was trying to apologize? What did I say about doing shit that could get you into trouble, Mickey?”

“But I didn’t do anything that would get me into trouble,” Mickey said innocently, “besides, what I hypothetically may or may not have done was certainly overshadowed today. Way to kill the beast,” Mickey smiled up at him proudly and Ian was left flustered by it. He sighed and gave up before reaching back and yanking off Mickey’s shoes and his own.

“Please bear in mind that what I’m about to do next is by no means an endorsement of whatever messed up thing you did to Nate,” Ian nodded and slid backwards off Mickey so he could begin tugging down his boyfriend’s pants, “and let the record show that I’m actually quite pissed off at you.”

Mickey’s indolent smirk dissolved into lip biting pleasure when Ian dipped his head and swallowed him down. Mickey moaned softly and shifted backwards until he was sitting up properly against the car door, Ian inching forward with him. He used both hands to grip Ian’s head while his boss deep-throated him and arched into the wet, heat of his mouth. He was briefly distracted by a car driving past on its way out of the parking lot and his nerves immediately resurfaced.

“Gallagher, seriously, you don’t want to go somewhere more priv-” Mickey was cut off when Ian shoved two fingers into his mouth and hummed loudly around his cock. Mickey’s protests quickly died and he sucked eagerly on Ian’s long fingers and coated them well, thoroughly conditioned by what he knew would always come next.

Ian pulled back and finished yanking off the tester’s pants and boxers and playfully tossing them on Mickey’s head. He then watched as Mickey’s eyes fluttered closed when he pushed the slicked fingers into him and worked them deep inside until Mickey was flushed and writhing beneath him. Mickey gave a groan of disappointment when Ian pulled away completely to reach over and rifle through his glove compartment for lube.

“I wonder how many people have pills and lube in every square mile of the country,” Mickey mused as Ian came back to him.

“Always be prepared,” Ian said and balanced the small bottle on Mickey’s hip so he could tug off his t-shirt, accidentally bumping his head on the roof of the car.

“You are both the best and worst Boy Scout I have ever met,” Mickey said as he chuckled at Ian’s muffled swearing and reached up to help his idiot with his shirt, before following suit and yanking off his own. Freed of his constraints, Ian looked down at his smirking boyfriend, grabbed his hips and dragged him flat out onto the seat with a sharp yank.

Mickey chuckled and moaned a little at the roughness. “I don’t know what gives you the right to think you can treat me this way,” he said airily with a touch of aloofness he had managed to procure from Annie. It made Ian smile as he settled over Mickey, dragging a groan out of the tester as Ian’s jeans slid against his nakedness. Ian teased him a little; ghosting his lips over Mickey’s with light, insubstantial kisses and quick pecks until Mickey lost his patience and dragged him into a deep, voracious session.

They both groaned with the satisfaction of it, and the windows fogged quickly as Ian dug his fingers in Mickey’s hip and Mickey fumbled with Ian’s jeans. He used his hands and the friction of his legs to pull Ian’s pants down and freed him from his underwear. Ian knocked away Mickey’s groping hands and rocked against him, revelling in the feel of Mickey’s fingers clawing at his back and the leg locking around his almost as much as the sensation of grinding against him. Once he started, it felt almost impossible for Ian to stop. He rutted hard and fast against Mickey, gasping out his name while his boyfriend sucked and bit hungrily at his lips.

“You planning on finishing like this?” Mickey panted and squeezed Ian’s ass as he thrust against him.

“Fuck no,” Ian murmured and tried to regain some self control, “shit, where’d the lube go?”

“Fuck if I know, man, you had it last.”

Ian grunted in aggravation and scanned the floor of the car, glimpsing the bottle under the front passenger seat. He reached back for it and was tripped up by the jeans and underwear bunched up around his lower thighs. He yelped as he tumbled off Mickey and subsequently got wedged in the foot space between the front and back seats. Mickey took this all in and clicked his tongue.

“I can never get over how smooth you are, man; so freaking seductive.”

“Shut up you!” Ian grumbled and clumsily kicked off his pants, retrieved the lube and struggled to get out of the confined space.

“Car’s probably rocking like hell right now and no one would guess it’s because you’re having a ‘Three Stooges’ moment. You wanna hurry up before all the sexy wears off?” he watched, eye cocked as Ian finally liberated himself from the floor and then sat on Mickey’s legs to catch his breath. Mickey could only shake his head. “Sometimes I can’t believe you make my dick hard.”

Ian couldn’t help but grin. “I know right? What does that say about you?” He squeezed a bit of lube into his palm and slicked and worked his cock back to full hardness and put the bottle back in the glove compartment. He settled at Mickey’s legs, nudging his boyfriend until he was lying on his side. He straddled Mickey’s lower leg and pushed at the other until the tester was in the recovery position. Ian aligned himself and shoved forward, eliciting a ragged moan out of Mickey as Ian filled him.

Ian braced, placing one hand behind Mickey’s head on the seat and gripping his thigh with the other. He tightened his grip as he thrust into Mickey, the car filling with the sounds of their harsh breathing, grunts and moans.

“See, now the car’s rocking for the right reasons,” Ian teased as he moved faster and deeper into his boyfriend.

“Mmm,” was all the response Mickey could manage. He reached up to grab the door handle as Ian’s hand slid up his thigh to circle his cock and start pumping it in time to his thrusts. They both quickly unravelled, their lovemaking building up to a frantic pace. The rhythm of Ian’s hips and hand stuttered while Mickey clenched and pulsed around him. His orgasm was building to a fever pitch when he was suddenly jolted forward and hit with a blast of cool air.

“Oh shit, fuck!” Mickey gasped as the door popped open, his hand accidentally opening the safety lock. He hurriedly shut it back only to realize his pants had fallen outside. “Fuck, shit, fuck!” He quickly reopened the door to the barest slit and retrieved his pants while Ian laughed behind him.

“Now who’s having a Stooges moment?”

“Will you just finish me off, please?” Mickey demanded, red-faced, but the momentary embarrassment burned away when Ian redoubled his efforts and send them both toppling over the edge.

Ian flipped on the air conditioner and they sat side by side in the afterglow of the moment, slowly pulling on their clothes as their bodies cooled and pulses slowed. When they were fully dressed, Ian keeled over and rested his head in Mickey’s lap and stretched out on the seat. Mickey smiled softly and shifted a little to accommodate him, propping his leg up against the driver’s seat and raking one hand through Ian’s hair while the other slipped beneath his shirt to rub his stomach. Ian was practically purring within seconds.

“Fucking puppy,” Mickey grumbled, but continued with the ministrations, loving the way he made Ian’s body clench and twitch at will.

“You know, say what you will about the expense of luxury cars, but we would have already murdered the shocks on a lesser vehicle,” Ian pointed out and Mickey snorted. “Give Nate his pony back,” Ian said at length and looked up at Mickey with one eye, “in a way that won’t get you in trouble either.”

“That was always my intention, Gallagher” Mickey said glibly.

“And please stop doing shit that makes me nervous. I’m fucking serious, Mick.”

“Who was joking? He’ll get Twilight: Breaking Dawn back. What would I do with her?” He raised a brow and Ian looked at him askance before relaxing back into Mickey’s caress.  “So you really got rid of the deadweight, huh? Fucking finally… You think he’ll create problems later?”

“Nah, it’s over. I’ve already gone over it with Lip and made sure all the bases are covered,” Ian murmured, “he steps out of line and Lip will fucking destroy him.”

Mickey’s hands slowly stilled and he was left staring blankly down at Ian. “Yeah…yeah,” Mickey pulled his hands away and fidgeted with his hair. “Yeah, I’m going to head back up.”

Ian’s eyes flew open in surprise and glanced at his watch, “now? We still have a little time…”

“Not that much,” Mickey muttered and reached down to tug on his shoes, “plus, I forgot that this is probably Annie’s last lunch with us since you’re sending her downstairs. I should probably go see her off.”

“Ah, um, okay,” Ian said awkwardly, twisting in the wind a little over the sudden and weird mood shift. Before he could say anything else, Mickey was out the car and halfway to the elevators. “So nothing to eat then?” he asked to the empty seat and looked around blankly before tapping his thighs and finally reaching for his shoes.

The group was still deep in animated conversation when Mickey made it onto the roof. He grabbed his chair and dropped down next to Carrie while the others greeted him.

“So how was lunch?” Carrie asked, dropping her voice to a whisper.

“Delicious,” Mickey grinned back.

“And what did you eat at this delicious lunch?” she rolled her eyes at Mickey’s sheepish smile and the low, answering rumble of his stomach. She handed him her containers of General Tso and rice, “I figured you’d forget to actually eat, moron.”

“Annie’s worried about Nate-loyalists and controlling Murderer’s Row when she heads down there,” Raj got him up to speed while he wolfed down Carrie’s food, “we’re offering suggestions.”

“Prison style—find the biggest motherfucker down there and drop him like a bad habit,” Mickey offered, “keeps the rest of the riff-raff in line.”

“Oh Michael, you are so adorably institutionalized,” Raj cooed, “I occasionally dream of us being prison pals; you claiming me as your own in Oz like fashion. Damn your real life reticence!”

Mickey bit his cheek and ignored his friend, “I mean obviously, you’re going to have to adjust that for this setting, but the principle remains the same.”

“Ooh, Randy was second banana after Nate, right?” Carrie chimed in, “when he steals your shit from the fridge, and you know he will, it will give you a chance to scream frightening things at him, sure to strike fear into the hearts of others.”

“Touch my creamer in the fridge and I’ll chop your face off?” Annie suggested eagerly.

“Bingo,” the group said in unison. Annie’s pretty princess spiel was hiding a full-on psychopath beneath its shiny veneer.

“Just so there is no confusion, Mickey. I meant Oz, the gritty prison show and not Oz as in Wizard,” Raj persisted.

“I’m spoken for, Raj,” Mickey said around a mouthful of rice.

“Why do you keep hurting me this way?!”

Mickey lurched out of his elevator to find Ian patiently seated on the floor outside his door. His eyes were closed and his headphones were in and the image irritated Mickey for a reason he was too drunk to pinpoint. Ian roused himself and grinned widely at him when he heard Mickey approach.


“What the fuck are you doing here?” Mickey frowned as he fumbled with his keys and Ian got to his feet, “I told you we were taking Annie out tonight.”

“I know, I just figured you’d be in around now,” Ian said, closing the door behind them, “I just wanted to see you.”

“So you sit outside my door like you’re a fucking Dalmatian?”

“You don’t have a waiting area and people get freaked out when someone just sits in their car like they’re on a stakeout,” Ian defended himself, “the people on your floor know me. I didn’t think it would be such a problem.”

Mickey’s brow furrowed and he watched Ian warily. “I told you you’re not getting a key yet, so I’m not giving you a fucking key!”

“Who fucking asked you to?!”

“No, you’re not gonna ask, just sit outside my door looking fucking pathetic until I offer it to you on a silver fucking platter!”

“That wasn’t what I was doing…”

“Yeah, sure whatever,” Mickey sighed and kicked his shoes off.

Ian raked his hand through his hair, at sea, “I shouldn’t have shown up without calling first. I’m sorry; I’ll just go.”

Mickey scratched at his forehead and grunted in defeat. He grabbed Ian before he went out the door. “Hey, alright, c’mon, look I’m sorry, alright? I’m drunk, I’m fucking irritated, I don’t know,” he turned Ian so they were face to face. “C’mon, don’t go. I want you to stay.”

Ian hesitated, “if it’s not fine…”

“It’s fine,” Mickey reassured him as he stroked his cheek and leaned up for a kiss. He grabbed Ian’s hand and led him into the bedroom. “It’s fine.”

Except it wasn’t fine, not really. There was the illusion of fine and Ian was having a bitch of a time trying to work out just where the problem lay. Mickey had said they were picking up where they left off, but this isn’t where they had been. Ian didn’t know if they had ever been at this point, where he felt he was tiptoeing on eggshells and waiting for Mickey to say “enough.”

He didn’t have anything concrete to complain about. Mickey answered his calls and opened the door when he came over. He laughed at his jokes and chatted with Ian easily enough when Ian raised a topic. Still, something was off, just a little off-kilter and it scared the crap out of Ian more and more every day.

There were some little things; they had weird spats now, stemming mostly from Mickey’s irritation with Ian over one thing or another, but they ended quickly and Mickey was usually apologetic about losing his temper. When Ian sprawled on Mickey’s couch, the tester no longer crashed down into him, pretending to complain about Ian’s long limbs and presumptuousness as he covered his desire to snuggle. Instead, he swept Ian’s feet off the couch and sat an arm’s length away until Ian pulled him close. It felt like forever since he was “Ian” too. Now he was back to Gallagher and every other casual nickname Mickey could think up, and Ian couldn’t help but feel like it was a hell of a downgrade.

But what could he complain about; what could he really say? He barely had his foot back in the door and he was supposed to tell Mickey that he was nervous because he wouldn’t say his name right? So just like that, all the confidence that had come roaring back to Ian, quietly bled away, and the big box of break-up sat in his car unmoved, Ian doubting he had the capital to move it back in and reclaim his space.

The only thing that remained unshifted was the sex. Just when Ian was sure Mickey had checked out and was out the door, they would make love and the doubts would burn clean away. There was no faking that, and if they could just figure out how to keep the honesty going while they had their clothes on, Ian would have been able to figure out how to get back on track far more quickly.

It was official, Ian Gallagher had lost his Mickey mojo, and with the irritation and all the eggshells and everything slightly off-kilter, the last thing he expected to hear floating up to him, was a confession of the heart.

“I fucking love you.”

Ian blinked into the inky darkness of Mickey’s bedroom and wondered if his mind was playing tricks on him. They were drunk, they were high and they were slowly coming down from another torrid bout of lovemaking. It took a moment for him to convince himself that he hadn’t hallucinated the soft, husky statement. He wasn’t sure what raced faster, his heart or his brain, but it didn’t allow for clear thinking or a clear course of action. Was that Mickey talking or the drugs and alcohol? If he said it back now, would Mickey only recant later and make things even weirder?

“Mick, I-” but it was pointless, while his substance-soaked brain was stumbling over itself and all the possible outcomes and consequences, Mickey had rolled away from him and fallen asleep.

He woke up next morning to an empty bed and there was a frisson of panic before he heard Mickey moving about in the kitchen. He quickly pulled on a pair of pants and headed out. Mickey greeted him with his usual flash of a smile.

“Hey, sleepyface, I’m making eggs, bacon and toast. If you want pancakes, you got to make them yourself,” he looked up at Ian hopefully, “you feel like making pancakes?”

“Hey, Mick, about last night…” Ian began hesitantly and Mickey only looked at him blankly as he went about making breakfast, “about what you said?”

Mickey stilled for a second before resuming his flurry of activity, all the while refusing to meet Ian’s eyes. So obviously, Mickey hadn’t forgotten or blanked it out.

“You said you loved-”

“Forget it,” Mickey cut him off with a clipped, terse statement, “how’d you want your eggs?”

“How do I want my eggs? I don’t want to talk about any fucking eggs right now!”

“And I don’t want to talk about anything else,” Mickey countered, “I said some shit. I was fucked up.”

Ian crossed his arms protectively over his chest and nodded. “You were fucked up, so what does that say? You’re taking it back; you didn’t mean it? Is this about me not saying it back fast enough?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Gallagher!”

“Ian!” he yelled back, “my fucking name is Ian. Do you remember it?”

“I’m not in the mood for this shit, Gallagher. Don’t turn this into a fucking thing. Just drop it.”

“Why the fuck would I drop it, Mickey?!”

“Because I fucking asked you to!” Mickey howled, “Once, just one time, can you not fucking steamroll me? Can we not do it your way and on your schedule today?” Mickey turned off the stove and gave Ian a wide berth on his way out the kitchen. “You want breakfast, make it yourself. I need a shower.”

Ian backed off and Mickey was contrite and a tenuous peace was restored soon after. Still, the elephant sat squarely in the room while Ian wondered how he should frame his own confession and Mickey tried to figure out what the fuck was wrong with him and his mercurial temperament lately. He knew he was confusing the hell out of Ian and pushing him away, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He was just barely keeping it together.

“So guess who’s gay?” Ian asked, trying to dispel some of the awkwardness that always seemed to hang in the air between them lately.


“Devon from accounting; I told you he wasn’t just metrosexual,” Ian watched Mickey from the couch as his boyfriend rifled through the fridge.

Mickey grinned and nodded, “okay, you get one notch in your column then, but I’m telling you you’re wrong about Seymour though. How’d you find out?”

“He asked me out actually, sort of out of the blue,” Ian shrugged dismissively.

“Yeah? What did you say?” Mickey asked as he ambled into the living room.

“What did you think I said? I told him I had a boyfriend.”

There was a brief silence while Mickey stood biting into his sandwich and regarding Ian thoughtfully.  “You could if you want, you know.”

Ian looked up briefly, not really registering what Mickey was saying. “Huh?”

“Devon, you should go out with him if you’re interested. Check out an art installation or some shit,” Mickey scrunched his face at the thought, “whatever it is you guys do for dates.”

The last time Ian had felt anything like this, Mickey had been implying that he had been sleeping around while falling in with Ian. Ian hadn’t taken it well then and he wasn’t about to take it well now. There was a palpable change in the air, a sparking point being reached, and Ian slowly put down his tablet and levelled a gaze at Mickey.

“Run that by me again?”

Sensing the dangerous shift in the mood, Mickey tried to reframe his offer as diplomatically as possible. “I’m just saying that if you’re interested or curious or whatever, you can go out. I won’t blow a gasket or anything. Just let me know what’s happening.”

A headache descended on Ian the likes of which he had never experienced. This is the kind of bullshit that came out of backing off and walking on eggshells and being scared to breathe funny for fear of your relationship falling part—it ends up falling apart anyway.

“The fuck, Mickey?!” Ian gritted out.


Ian was on his feet and rounding the couch in agitation. “We’re back to this shit again? This is how far back we’re going; this ‘other people’ bullshit?”

Mickey raised his hands and tried to placate Ian. “It’s just…I’ve been thinking about it and maybe we tried too much too fast with the whole exclusivity thing. I think you should keep your options open for a while.”

Ian was stupefied. “You want to keep fucking options open?” Ian wiped a hand over his face and tried to get his thoughts together. “This is because of the other night, isn’t it? About me not saying it back; is that why you’re doing this?”

“Don’t try to backdoor that shit; this has nothing to do with that,” Mickey flared up, “why are you acting like this is some awful thing? I’m just saying that I have no problem if you still want to explore a little, maybe.”

“It’s like you’re not even speaking fucking English right now; I don’t know what you’re saying,” Ian laughed, “is this some sort of convoluted break-up? Are you ending this? Because you’ve been giving a vibe lately...”

“I’m not ending anything, Jesus! I just feel we should go a little slower this time!” Mickey snapped defensively and raked a hand through his hair. “Shit, maybe I’m saying this wrong.”

Ian regarded Mickey silently for a moment. “You said we were fine, Mickey.”

“We are fine,” Mickey murmured as he stared at his shifting feet.

“We’re fine but you can’t even look at me when you say it?” Ian asked and Mickey’s eyes darted up before settling on his feet again. Ian scoffed and went to grab his shirt, shoes and car keys, “you know what, fuck this and fuck you! Let me know when you’re at least orbiting Earth again.”

“Gallagher, don’t leave like-” Mickey trailed off when Ian stormed out, slamming the door so hard behind him the hinges rattled. “Fuck, fuck!” Mickey chanted beneath his breath as he dug the heels of his palms into his eyes. “Fuck!”

“I need more friends,” Ian sighed and took a swig of his beer.

“What are you talking about? You have a shitload of friends,” Lip said and dropped down on his couch next to his brother.

“No, I mean friend-friends. The type you want to talk about heavy shit with,” Ian sighed again, “whenever something goes wrong, I automatically want to talk to Mickey or talk to you, and Mickey’s the problem right now-”

“Shocker,” Lip mumbled under his breath.

“And I don’t even like you anymore,” Ian continued and pinned his brother with a glare. Lip covered his heart with his hand and stifled a sob. Ian resumed his musings. “I suppose I could talk to Mandy, but she’s Mickey’s sister and she can’t be truly neutral. Why don’t we have friends, Lip?”

“Seriously?” Lip thought it over as he lit up a cigarette, “maybe has something to do with the fact that we’re two of six neglected and abused kids who were forced to band together and take on a distrustful, ‘us against the world’ mentality. Then within that tiny, hard-shelled framework, there’s us, two brothers, born within a year of each other, literally can’t remember being alive without the other being there; allies, devoted contemporaries, equals, finding in each other a ready-made best friend. Why look for anything else?”

“So you’re saying we don’t have any friends because we’re lazy and hate everyone?”

“Pretty much,” Lip admitted, “so you’re here for advice?”

“God no, keep your advice out of my ears. You are patently terrible at this,” Ian waved his brother off before reconsidering, “on the other hand, scratch that. Advise the hell out of me. I’ll just do the exact opposite and Mickey and I will be holidaying in the south of France by next weekend.”

“Funny; you’re such a cute, funny little man,” Lip said while he shoved at his brother. “Look, he doesn’t want to break up, alright? He loves you, or whatever you want to call it. He keeps defending your honour against Nate for fuck’s sake. He’s just pissed off.”

“He said we were okay,” Ian said softly.

“He fucking lied,” Lip quelled Ian’s protests before he could get going, “look, the most dangerous and convincing liars are the ones who don’t know they are lying. He may have thought he was okay, but he’s pissed. If it’s one thing I know, it’s the blatant passive aggression of a pissed off lover. Fortunately, it’s like mother’s milk to me.”

Ian knocked his head against the backrest of Lip’s couch. “I don’t know what else to do.”

“Maybe there’s nothing you can do, I don’t know,” Lip said, “I’ve never been able to get a girl to stop being pissed at me. I just wait them out until one of us blinks and moves, or has a half Chinese baby.”


“Hey, I advised against buying the cow and you went out and got a freaking Pamplonan bull!” Lip’s cell phone buzzed and he groaned and clapped Ian’s thigh. “I have to head down to court for a couple hours. You gonna hang out here until I get back?”

“Yeah sure,” Ian shrugged and grimaced when his brother kissed the top of his head and ruffled his hair.

“Savannah is still asleep in the room,” Lip informed him as he headed for the door, “so be a gentleman and keep your hands off my fuck buddy.”

“I’ll try to restrain myself.”

It was about a half hour later when Savannah sauntered out and headed for Lip’s unused treadmill. She blinked when she spotted Ian slumped and brooding on the couch and greeted him warmly. Savannah was a lawyer from another firm, and one of the several women Lip currently had in rotation. He would never admit it, but Ian was a little envious of how neat and clean Lip kept his arrangements: no feelings, no expectations and certainly no brooding on your brother’s couch worried that your soul mate was planning to up and leave you. 

“You okay, honey?” she asked in her saccharine Texan drawl that Lip swore she used to maximum effect in the courtroom and everywhere else.

“Oh yeah, no, I’m fine, just thinking,” he assured her and she nodded and started out at a slow walk on the treadmill. At length, he couldn’t help but ask for want of something better to do, “hey, Savannah, what do you think of open relationships?”

“Open relationships?” she parroted, “no such thing.”


“Well not for me anyway. You’re either fucking around or you’re in it to win it. I don’t do the halfway bullshit. I reckon it’s a myth anyway.”

“How’d you figure?”

“It’s just that if you really care for someone, why the hell would you want them fucking around on you? It’s not natural. You lock that shit down like Fort Knox.”

“There are polyamorous people though,” Ian pointed out, “who do the multiple partners thing.”

“Ugh, new age hippie, liberal bullshit. If you lack the discipline and commitment to fuck one person, just own it and admit you’re fucking around,” Savannah trumpeted while Ian yawned and quickly lost his already piddling interest in her. He tuned back in a little, however, when she continued talking. “You know how I know the open relationship thing is bullshit? My sister tried to pull that fast one. Had her an oil tycoon junior on the line; swore it was love. That boy was head over heels. He’d buy her a Maserati one week and Lamborghini the other. He was her one and only until he got fucked up.”

“Fucked up? Fucked up how?”

“Afghanistan—wanted to give back, he said. Came home about forty different kinds of fucked in the head. He had night terrors, got violent in his sleep; straight up coldclocked her good one night in the middle of a nightmare. It wasn’t long after that Emily proposed the whole open relationship bull. She just kept him on the line until she could find herself a good ole boy with enough money and just the right amount of crazy. When she got that, no more open relationship, just bye, bye, bye.”

“Your sister sounds a little like a bitch to be honest,” Ian said drily. Now he remembered why he usually chose not to engage Lip’s women. Maybe he needed to call Mandy after all.

“To be sure, you can argue that. But who wants to deal with crazy?” she asked, completely ignorant of Ian’s own struggles and his sudden sharpened interest. “It’s unfortunate, but no one should have to deal with that shit unless they want to or have no choice. My sister wanted a family, someone she could build a life and have kids with and not worry he would mistake her for a goddamned insurgent at two in the morning. Oil Jr. knew it too and let her go. Why the fuck would you saddle someone you claim to care about with all that mess, huh? That’s why God made blood family and allowed the burden that is Obamacare.”

It was close to midnight when Mickey heard the knock on his door and he scrambled for it. He had been calling and texting for what felt like ages without a response from Gallagher and he had been starting to seriously worry. He opened the door to find a tired looking Ian and ushered him in.

“Hey, I’ve been trying to call you all day. Are you okay?”

Ian didn’t answer, opting instead to push Mickey up against the front door and kiss him stupid. He pulled back after awhile and when Mickey, eyes soft and unfocused, leaned up to start again, Ian held back. “Just wait a second,” he toyed with Mickey’s tank top nervously, “you still want to be in this, right?”

“Yeah, I told you…”

“So, we’re just keeping our options open? Just options…don’t have to act on them or do anything like that?” Ian persisted and Mickey nodded. Just because a choice was there meant either of them had to act on it. “And you’d tell me if there was someone right? Like before you did anything, you’d let me know?”

Mickey looked up at him as if he was crazy. This wasn’t about his options, it was about Gallagher’s and anticipating and regulating the outcome the way he should have been doing all along, instead of freefalling into this mess.

“As long as you do the same,” Mickey finally answered and, at length, Ian nodded though still clearly anxious and internalizing more crap than he knew what to do with.

Mickey hesitated before tentatively reaching for Ian and kissing the frown off his face. He broke the kiss and led a defeated but compliant Ian into the bedroom. At least there they could be honest.   

Chapter Text

A violent sneeze woke Nate in the early hours of the morning. He blinked and rubbed his nose, inadvertently brushing away the bit of cotton fluff that had irritated him. He yawned and blinked into the darkness of the room before rubbing his face, subsequently stirring up more of the fluff. He frowned at the weird sensation of it, and when his hand fell back against his sheets, it sent up a fine cloud of fuzz.

He sat up in consternation, flicked on his bedside lamp and stared hard at his bed. All was normal except the dusting of cotton stuffing that covered his legs and built in concentration towards the strange lump beneath the sheets next to him. More than a little alarmed, Nate grasped the covers and yanked them back with a sharp tug. At first he could only give a shuddering gasp at the glassy, dull eyes staring sightlessly back at him. There, next to him, with a torrent of cotton flowing out of her gaping wound was the head of Twilight Sparkle and only that. Nate scuttled backwards as his horror bubbled up and transformed into a scream that rent the air.

It was the moment Mickey had been waiting for as he leaned against the wall, Nate’s window next to his feet. He lit up a cigarette and took a few drags to the sounds of Nate’s panicked screams and incoherent babbling. Satisfied that the deed was done, he kicked off from the wall and headed for Sanchez’s car.

He had promised Gallagher he would return the abomination and he did. His boss should have specified the conditions. Besides, maybe it would teach Nate to keep his bitter ass off the gaming forums.

“Of all the sandwich shops in all the towns in all the world, he walks into mine,” Carol purred as she sidled up next to Mickey while he stood in line.

“You better watch yourself. It’s saying things like that that gets nice dames in trouble.”

“Pfft, the trouble I’ve been in you couldn’t fathom, boy,” Carol sniffed and stepped forward with Mickey, “you’re a bit far from home on a Saturday. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?”

“Shooting range a couple of blocks from here,” Mickey said, “Helps me blow off some steam. What are you doing in this neck of the woods, besides using me to cut the line?”

“Actually Jesus sent me. I received a vision from Him earlier telling me to be here at this time and place, because He knew you needed me,” she stared at him unblinkingly until sweat started to prickle at the back of his neck.


She held out for a few seconds more before she cracked up, “Oh my word, your face! No, not really, you idiot. I had to restart my pilot light and I found myself on my knees, staring at it for about twenty minutes. I realized I needed a meeting pronto. There’s one in the area.”

“You okay?”

“Eh, fine, just a little upheaval in my life. It’s positive I guess, but upheaval none the less. Even eustress can be triggering. Never mind that though; you are aware you’re paying for my lunch right? I’ll get the dessert.”

Mickey only grunted his acquiescence and obediently paid for her Monte Cristo sandwich and his Reuben, while Carol pointed out the small tray of cookies to the server.

“Which ones and how many?” the young lady asked cheerfully.

“All of them,” Carol nodded and the server blinked at her nonplussed.

All of them?”

“Did I stutter?”

Mickey didn’t question it or resist at all when he was piloted to a picnic table in a nearby park where he and Carol dumped the considerable amount of food they had purchased. Carol nudged the sack of cookies to the side, ready to deploy them at a moment’s notice and fixed her eyes on a feasting Mickey.

“So I’ve been meaning to ask, how is Operation ‘New Testament’ going?”

Mickey sniffed around a mouthful of sandwich, “Crashed and burned; I suck. I don’t know what the fuck I was doing.”

Carol looked mildly amused, “I didn’t ask how it went, I asked how it was going. I probably should have mentioned that this is a process and not some overnight thing, Mickey.”

Mickey huffed and finished off his food. “Doesn’t matter one way or another. It’s like I’m losing my shit. The harder I try to let this shit go, the weirder I feel. Then I keep getting irritated and picking fights. I’m confusing the hell out of everything and fucking everything up. Then I go do something even dumber.”

“Something else happened?”

Mickey hesitated and before he knew what was what, he was chomping on a cookie and shrugging in defeat, “I might have said I loved him or something.”

Carol’s eyes widened, “that’s pretty major. How did Ian react?”

“React? He didn’t react. He didn’t fucking do anything; just looked at me like I was an extra freaking puzzle piece…like he didn’t know what the fuck to do with me. So fucking stupid; I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Well, why did you say it?”

“I don’t know! I mean, I guess we’d just finished having…a moment and I got too into it.”

Carol couldn’t help her tiny smile, “‘a moment,’ huh? Now there’s a gentle euphemism if I ever heard one. You know, love confessions during sex can be very tricky things. You’re not always sure about the motivations and authenticity…maybe he was trying to figure out your mindset before responding.”

“Don’t you defend this shit! Whose side are you on anyway?”

“Yours, of course,” Carol answered promptly, “and Ian’s. I’m just trying to approach this rationally,” She grinned at his rude snort. “So, while worried about the ever growing power imbalance in their relationship, Mickey Milkovich slips and confesses his love for his boss, inadvertently giving him even more power. Alarmed, desperate, and perhaps a little angry and embarrassed that his confession wasn’t returned, Mickey Milkovich overcorrects and does what?”

Mickey rubbed his nose sheepishly and glanced out at the park before muttering, “I might have told him it was cool to see other people.”

“Ha!” Carol threw up her hands before collapsing on the picnic table. At length, she propped up her chin on her hands and gazed at Mickey in wonder.


“I swear it’s like looking in a time-and-gender warped mirror. It’s amazing and wonderful and terrifying all at once. Keep following my playbook and thirty years from now, you’ll be having this exact conversation with some punk kid who thinks his world is ending.”


Carol shook her head, “I am seeing it perfectly: you, bespectacled and respectable, possible corner office. Hmm, I don’t think you’d be a fit for human resources, maybe something more black and white…finance maybe? I’ll recommend that you don’t lose the tattoos after all. It will give you edge and character when you go corporate.”

Mickey rolled his eyes, “fuck off.”

“Hmm, nope, can’t do that. I see it, I claim it, and I’m going to speak it into being,” Carol said firmly. To Mickey’s fascinated horror, she clasped her hands together, moved her mouth wordlessly before she nodded and suddenly reached across the table, smacking Mickey’s forehead hard. “It is done!”

Mickey froze, stricken, his mouth agape as Carol lost her shit and fell to pieces laughing uncontrollably. “You are fucked up, Carol!” Mickey cried and gingerly felt his forehead for any signs of stigmata or such like things.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Carol wheezed, “it’s just that you’re so easy. Your face, oh my word!”

Mickey pouted and continued rubbing the stinging spot on his forehead while Carol pulled herself together.

“Okay, I’m back now,” Carol hiccupped and wiped her eyes, “look, let me tell you a story, okay?” she inhaled deeply and tried her best to sober up, “alright so, around the time I had my Damascus road moment, I wasn’t exactly making the best decisions when it came to men. The guy I had at the time was more of the verbally abusive, demeaning type. Now don’t get me wrong, it pissed me off, but at the time I figured that since he wasn’t smacking me around, he was a keeper. I know, I know,” she waved away Mickey’s look, “I told you, different me entirely. Anyway, after my conversion, I felt like a whole new person. I figured all my issues were gone, my anger problem was resolved and I could roll with anything. That is until my idiot boyfriend decided to try me one more time and I ended up setting his bed on fire, with him in it.”

“Jesus,” Mickey stared at Carol agog.

“That’s exactly what he said, only with more urgency,” Carol said lightly, “anyway, I had thought making the conscious decision to forgive, let go and let God, would have taken care of everything. The problem was anger just doesn’t dissipate like that. I might have met God, but I still had all these issues out the wazoo; issues that had to be addressed before I could truly move on. Are you seeing where I’m going with this, Mickey?”

“So like did he die or…?”

“That’s not important right now. I’m trying to tell you that you’re still angry and things with Ian aren’t going to get better until you address it and work on it. You want to move forward, but you’re going to stay stagnated until you deal with it and the longer you take to deal with it, the more things are going to erode.”

“Are you telling me you killed a guy?”


“Alright, Jesus,” Mickey sighed.

“Do you really want to move ahead with Ian?” Carol asked, fixing Mickey with a hard stare.

“Yeah, I do,” Mickey confessed, “for as long as it can go.”

“Then, you have deal with all the issues you have simmering.”


“Try talking to him. Tell him what you’re feeling so he can acknowledge it and both of you can address it and try to work through these problems.”

Mickey slumped onto the table, “what is with all the talking? I’ve said more shit in eight months than I have the entire time I was in the Southside!”

“I know, isn’t it swell?” Carol reached across and poked at Mickey, “but it is what it is. Until we become the Borg, we have to communicate clumsily by talking. Also, you might want to look into your tendency to place people you admire on impossible pedestals.”

Mickey raised his head and squinted at Carol, “I do not put people on pedestals.”

“Yeah, you do. You’ve turned me into the Glinda, the Good Christian Witch of the South, and Ian is Superman—the Christopher Reeve Superman, not this last one with the whiny white saviour overtones. Not only can we not live up to those expectations, it’s so much more traumatizing for you when we fail.”

“I do not put people on pedestals,” Mickey mumbled into the crook of his elbow as he rested his head on the table.

“Yes, alright, grumpy boots. Let’s leave that one for another day,” Carol sighed, “but at the very least, you are going to have to talk to Ian. You don’t want to end up burning Ian’s bed down, at least not in a non-gentle euphemistic manner.”

“Freeze! You’re both under arrest!”

Carol and Mickey both gave longsuffering sighs as they automatically spread their hands on the table and relaxed into their most compliant, passive stances; all the while muttering darkly to themselves. The jig was finally up.

“I was kidding,” Officer Martinez said uncertainly as he looked askance from one bowed head to another, “it was a joke. I’m-I’m not really arresting you.”

There was a pause as Mickey and Carol stared at each other before giving the policeman suspicious sidelong glances and straightening up quickly. “We knew that, we were just playing with you.” “For goodness sake, Joseph, that’s a terrible joke.” The two possible criminals babbled over each other while the cop frowned at them.

“Well that wasn’t suspicious at all,” he deadpanned.

“We were just minding our business, what do you want?” Mickey snarled and received a swift kick to his shin.

“Mickey, don’t be rude. I had asked Joseph to meet me here. I hadn’t expected to run into you.”

“Joseph?” Mickey echoed as he looked back and forth between the man’s pleasantly passive face and Carol’s pinkening one. “Oh…” Mickey whispered, all synapses now firing, “OH!”

“Mickey!” Carol hissed while poor Joseph was plunged further in confusion while he waited for his date.

Mickey grinned and got up from the table before another revelation hit. “Wait, is he the pilot light?”

Carol reddened and sputtered, “go home, Mickey, and do what I said.”

“Yeah, I’m going, I’m going,” he said, face full of mischief as he raided the bag for a few more cookies. He backed away slowly and gave one last parting shot. “Hey, I guess another thing that changes is the meaning of ‘fuck the police,’ huh?”

Carol’s shoe came sailing after him, but he was already halfway across the park, cackling like a maniac.

Mickey answered the door after Ian’s second knock and let the tired looking redhead into his apartment. Mickey gave him the once over as he climbed out of his shoes and peeled off his socks.

“You okay?” Mickey asked, tempted to reach up and stroke Ian’s face, but chose to cross his arms instead.

“Yeah, the final run up to a release is always a bitch,” Ian yawned and followed Mickey into his bedroom. He was surprised to find Clay sprawled in the bed, since Mickey usually stashed him somewhere outside the bedroom when Ian was coming over. Mickey immediately climbed underneath it, leaving his entire lower half obscured by the massive teddy bear. Ian simply lay across the foot of the bed and stared up at the ceiling, decompressing from the day. “Working with the promotions team is always exhausting. Now we’re trying to figure out where to send which developer on the release day. I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should have waited until after the release to get rid of Nate. He’s an ass, but he’s a pretty formidable presence on the circuit. Plus he’s been talking so much shit in the forums.”

“Fuck Nate, he’s not the pull for the Southside games and everyone knows he’s just butthurt over getting canned. Besides, Annie makes a way better visual.”

“Undoubtedly; I really want her debut to go well. Gamer guys can be such douches sometimes.”

“Annie can hold her own; you don’t have to worry about her. You should stop worrying about the release too. It’s your best game yet, you know it’s going to be amazing.”

Ian slowly relaxed, comforted by Mickey’s confidence. He stretched out his hand and grabbed Mickey’s foot which was barely sticking out from beneath Clay. He kept staring at the ceiling while he slowly massaged the sole of Mickey’s foot with his thumb, until he was surprised by his boyfriend pulling out of the ministration.

“Yeah, so, we need to talk or something,” Mickey cleared his throat and pulled Clay closer. For a surreal moment, Ian’s vantage point made it seem as if the bear was talking until Mickey pushed him back down a little. Mickey pulled Clay’s hood back and played fretfully with his ears and tried to think up his opening statement, while Ian frowned his consternation.

Ian observed the scene unfolding across from him with growing dread. Mickey was literally hiding beneath the stuffed animal, eyes furtive and never meeting Ian’s, all the while toying fretfully with his bear. Ian could only sigh heavily and drag his hands through his hair.

“Seriously, you’re going to hit me with this now, Mickey? I’m trying not to lose my shit with the release and you’re going to dump me now?”

“Who’s fucking dumping you? I said fuck all about dumping you. Can you maybe keep your tits calm for five fucking minutes and let me get a word in edgewise?” Mickey snapped and cowed Ian into silence. On one hand, okay, maybe he was angrier than he thought. On the other hand, words flowed a lot better when his blood was up. He had been contemplating ignoring Carol’s advice and avoiding this mortifying conversation, but if the remainder of this relationship was to be just him screaming at Ian at random intervals, then its shelf life was going to get a whole lot shorter. Ian didn’t need that shit on top of everything and Mickey didn’t think he should be making himself all kinds of miserable either.

“This isn’t a breakup then?” Ian asked anxiously and Mickey threw a pillow at his head.

“Look, I know lately I’ve been a little…” Mickey paused and searched for the word.

“Bipolar?” Ian supplied helpfully and earned another pillow to the head.

“That’s offensive,” Mickey snorted, a little amused in spite of everything.

“Nah, I can say it. You can’t, but I can,” Ian informed him, trying to keep some levity into the moment while he waited for Mickey to start the ball rolling again.

“I know I told you I was over it with everything that went down and, uh, I want to be,” Mickey started out hesitantly, “but I don’t think I am. I mean I’m not.”

“You said we were fine,” Ian’s voice was small and he picked at his pants nervously, still half afraid this was going to end with him getting the boot.

“I thought we were fine. I mean, I thought I was over it, I don’t know,” Mickey sighed, “what happened was way too fucked up, Gallagher.”

Ian automatically shifted in defence mode, wanting to make his case while allaying Mickey’s fears quickly. “I know what I did was wrong, but I-”

“No, you don’t fucking know!” the sudden sharpness of Mickey’s voice shocked Ian into silence, “you have no fucking idea what you did and this is part of the shit that keeps bugging me, because you act like you do and you couldn’t possibly know!”

Mickey actually managed to put Clay aside as he finally warmed into the conversation, tapping into the core of what had been eating at him all this time.

“You don’t know. You have no fucking idea what it took for me to do any of the shit I did with you. You think all of that came naturally, that I was born for this shit? You just…” Mickey paused, groping in the dark for the right words. If he could just scream and be understood, he would have. “You had me on a fucking leash doing all this domestic, touchy-feely shit, and it’s like nothing to you, like this is just how it is for everybody. It fucking isn’t.”

Ian didn’t dare speak, but just stared wide-eyed as Mickey revved and stalled and started up again.

“You don’t know what it took to let you in and I knew you were going to fuck me over somehow; I just fucking knew. But fuck if I didn’t keep getting sucked in deeper into your storybook bullshit and when it finally happened,” Mickey let out a short rueful laugh and shook his head, “it still came down like a fucking hammer, man, like I didn’t even see that shit coming. I felt so fucking stupid I couldn’t even look at myself and you think you know?”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you, Mick.”

“But you did! You ripped me apart and you weren’t even trying. Do you understand how fucked up that is? And it’s not even on you, it’s on me, because I should’ve fucking known better,” Mickey swiped the back of his hand against his nose roughly, feeling the burning sting climbing from his throat to the back of his eyes and desperately trying to tamp it back. “You think I wanted you to know me like that? I didn’t want you to know about my dad, I didn’t want you to know about what it was like for me; I didn’t want you to know any of that stupid shit. I didn’t want anyone to know. You dredged all that shit up without even asking me and then the rest you just…you just pulled out of me. Then you made me think that maybe I could trust you with all of that crap and you made me think there was a chance this could work--”

Mickey’s voice broke, forcing him to stop for a moment and Ian reached out hesitantly. “This will work, Mick; just let me fix it—”

“Fix it how?” Mickey asked plaintively, genuinely desperate to know, “I let you see all this dark, ugly shit about me and my family and you turn around and you hand it all over to your fucking brother. So now he has all this ammunition on me and I’m honest to God scared of that smug piece of shit. You have any idea how fucking humiliating that is? A Milkovich is scared of a fucking suit—it’s a disgrace,” Mickey snorted and smacked his head against his headboard a few times, carefully measuring his next words, wondering if he could chance being that brutally honest. “What’s worse? As scared as I am of him, it’s nothing compared to how scared I am of you.”

It was the depth charge that hit Ian to his core. His face crumpled as he stared helplessly at Mickey. “You don’t mean that.”

Mickey sighed heavily and futilely rubbed at his eyes. “I can’t go back, Ian,” Mickey took a shuddering breath, “If I fuck up here, I can’t go back. I just—”

Ian moved swiftly, climbing over Mickey to cradle his face and force him to look him in the eyes. “You’re never going back. I would never…Jesus, Mickey, you can’t think I would ever let you go.” Ian sighed and backed off, settling once again at Mickey’s feet. “I fucked up; I fucked up so bad and you’re right, I didn’t really get it. But I swear to God, I would never do anything to hurt you; not intentionally,” he amended quickly before Mickey could point out the obvious, “and never again. Mickey, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to keep you safe and happy.”

“I don’t need you to do all that shit, Gallagher; I just don’t need you cutting me off at the knees.”

“I’m not going to,” Ian said plaintively, “and even if you didn’t need protecting, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it anyway.”

Mickey was trying his best to keep it together and he was barely managing. It was déjà vu all over again, getting sucked in heart, body and soul despite knowing better.  Only this time, he was determined to do better, “So just like that? Just let it go and move on after all that, huh? Why is it always so easy for you?”

“Because I fucking love you!” Ian’s adamant declaration had Mickey falling silent for once. “I freaked out and I fucked up and I wish I could convince you about how sorry I am. I can’t undo what I did, I can’t, but I’ll do whatever you need me to, because I need you to trust me again and I need you to stop being scared of me. Jesus, Mickey, what the fuck?! But yeah, I love you, so be pissed at me for as long as you need to, I’ll respect that, but I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not letting you go.”

Mickey honestly couldn’t remember the last time someone told him that they loved him. He wondered if he ever actually heard it from anyone at all. It was partly why it was horrifying that he could say it so easily to Ian and say it first at that. Before Ian, he had convinced himself that they were just meaningless words that any idiot could say and there was no real power behind them. How could he have predicted that three little words could be so completely devastating?

What was worse, Ian’s eyes, huge and watery as they were, were unblinking and unmoving from his face, and the sting behind his eyes had turned into an inferno and he was positively certain that he was about to lose it. This was just the most unbelievable, mystifying and mortifying bullshit possible. He desperately reached out and grabbed the closest thing he could get his hands on—Clay— hugged it to him and buried his face in the soft fur. In retrospect, grabbing the giant, fuzzy teddy bear to hide his tear-filled meltdown might not have been the manliest move. However, Mickey was out of pillows and thus out of options, so Clay would just have to deal for his daddy.

Ian couldn’t help a watery laugh and nudged Mickey’s foot gently. “You’re going to ruin his fur if you do that.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Mickey choked out pathetically, “I have a headache.”

“Yeah, okay,” Ian muttered and got up to kill all the lights in the apartment. When they had been suitably plunged into darkness, he came back to Mickey and gently disengaged the teddy bear from Mickey’s death grip and put him aside. When Ian got into bed, Mickey instinctively curled into him, burying his face in his chest, and he hugged Mickey close. “Better?”

So much. Mickey could only try to suppress his sniffling and burrow deeper into Ian, while waiting impatiently for this embarrassing flood of emotion to settle down. He didn’t know what he had expected to happen. There was simply no winning when dealing with Ian Fucking Gallagher.

“Good lord, where does he find you lads?” Adam exclaimed after coming upon Lip waiting outside Mickey’s door. The older gentleman shifted his grocery bag and gave Lip the once over, clearly against the idea of simply heading inside his apartment and minding his own business. “Ah to be young and hot with a butt like Baryshnikov again; to have young swains knocking at my door. It gets to be such an arid wasteland when one becomes a gentleman of a certain age, you know? But what can one do?”

Adam sighed forlornly and gazed wistfully out into the middle distance, oblivious to Lip’s continued silence and growing amusement. “It’s quite an embarrassment of riches for our darling Mickey isn’t it? First that brilliant redhead and now you, but oh, oh!” Adam clapped his hand over his mouth and rolled his eyes theatrically, “oh I do hope I haven’t said too much. Mustn’t make mischief and all that, you know?”

Adam’s performance was interrupted by Mickey opening his door and taking in the scene. His eyes narrowed and he glared at Lip. “What the fuck do you want?”

“Ah, you see, you see? You don’t have to be polite or gracious when you’re beautiful and rakish,” Adam said, rolling his R’s with aplomb. “You can be a magnificent bastard and still they coming running,” he then turned his full attention to Mickey and said in full seriousness, “I believe the young man, as they would say in modern parlance, wants the ‘D’.”

Lip choked on his tongue and Mickey’s face twisted in a grimace. Mickey then snorted derisively, “I’d rather stick it in the garbage disposal.”

Lip looked to Mickey with wounded eyes, “harsh!”

Mickey rolled his eyes before sending a watchful Adam a glare of his very own, “go put away your groceries and mind your business, Adam, please.”

“Fine, fine, I’ll bid you adieu. If by any chance you find his harbour to be unwelcoming, you’ll find friendly shores behind my door,” Adam winked at Lip, “give us a knock, eh?” With that Adam swept into his apartment leaving the two men alone.

Lip grinned at Mickey and waved, “can I come in?”

“Fuck off,” came the succinct answer.

“It’s just for a second and it’s about Ian. Nothing hinky; I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”

Mickey hesitated, but ultimately stepped aside and let Lip inside his apartment. The lawyer did a quick sweep of the place while Mickey closed the door and came to stand behind him—arms crossed, brow furrowed and posture completely defensive.

“Nice place,” Lip offered.

“Fuck off repeatedly.”

“Understood,” Lip scratched his nose and looked around surreptitiously for anything that could be used as a weapon or a shield. “So, you love my brother?”

“What the fuck are you—”

“It’s an honest question that I ask for a reason,” Lip interjected quietly, “It’s my job to look out for my brother and this is me trying to look out for him. Do you love him? Gonna try and ride all this shit out with him?”

Mickey stayed silent for a moment, staring Lip down before answering simply, “yes. So what now?”

“I’m not apologising, but the way I came at you was fucked up. The things I said, the way I did it, shouldn’t have gone down like that, but it is what it is and it’s done. When it comes to my family, I’ll always come out swinging, that will never change.”

“Look, if Ian sent you to build some fucking bridge or something…”

“He didn’t send me and he doesn’t know I’m here. Giving the nature of this visit, I’d consider it a favour if he never knows I was here,” Lip suggested which only ended up confusing Mickey. “I love my brother, Mickey, and I want him safe and I want him happy. I won’t say it doesn’t worry me, but he needs you to be happy and I can’t be a stumbling block to that. I know as long as you and I have issues, I’m going to keep being a problem, so I’m trying to correct that.”

Lip then dug into his jeans pocket and pulled out a fairly thick envelope. Mickey looked at it sceptically before taking it and tearing it open.

“What the fuck is this?” Mickey asked, genuinely confused. He had been half expecting another bribe and was surprised to find a sheaf of papers and a flash drive instead.

“Leverage,” Lip said simply and shrugged when Mickey stared, “I’m a certified genius and everything, but you don’t get to where I am and get the things I get done without delving into the unsavoury. I’ve cut a lot of corners and done a lot of things the typical person would find, for want of a better word, appalling. In that envelope is the power to hurt me and hurt me bad. I tried to leave Ian out of it as much as possible, but the truth is Southside Enterprises wasn’t just built on dreams, sunshine and stripper money—not that he knows that. Some of what is in there could hurt him too, but I know you wouldn’t use those parts.”

Lip sighed and chewed his lower lip. “You hurt my brother and I’m still coming after you, but now you can be assured that I’ll never do it frivolously and if and when you go through all that, you’ll see exactly how much I have to lose.”

“Mutually assured destruction?” Mickey asked.

“Yeah, ain’t it beautiful?” Lip clapped his hands together and headed past Mickey on his way out the door. “So yeah, welcome to the family, I guess.”

Mickey tapped the envelope thoughtfully against his chest and mulled it over. “Hey, Lip.”

“Yeah?” Lip turned and in the split second before it connected, all he could see was the word “Fuck” coming towards him at light speed. Pain exploded throughout his face and he dropped like a rock to the floor. “Fuck, fuck, never the face!” he cried, clutching his head.

“I’ll keep that in mind next time,” Mickey said dryly, “Well, I feel a little better now. You get home safe.”

Mickey hadn’t closed the door ten seconds before he heard Adam screech, “my darling, what has that brute done to you?!” Mickey simply rolled his eyes and headed back to his teddy bear.

Southside Rumble is a go people!” Lindsay cried as she popped the cork on the first bottle of ridiculously expensive champagne Ian had supplied.  Everyone cheered and the release party was officially underway.

The champagne was the classy exception to the piles of pizza, Buffalo wings, chips and snacks that were stacked everywhere since the denizens of Southside Enterprises had the collective palate of a fourteen year old. The release seemed to be going well, with people waiting in crazy lines for the game and Ian, Annie and a bunch of the creative team members pounding the pavement at major outlets. Sucked to be them, because everyone else got to party. Raj did his best Nightcrawler impression and nabbed a couple boxes of pizza and champagne bottles and headed back to his friends.

“Our group has been decimated,” Carrie moaned and grabbed two bottles of champagne. She handed one to Mickey and dropped down into his lap, all the while bemoaning the fact that Annie and Jimmy were out roaming the streets, while Eric was still stuck in daddy daycare. The three remaining members of the Skid Row crew would simply have to eat, drink and make merry for all six.

“That’s not technically accurate,” Raj began after swigging from his own bottle, “historically, to decimate is to reduce by a fraction of one-tenth, when in truth, our number has been halved.  Truly, this is a result far worse than mere decimation. Although to be fair, the colloquial use of the—”

“Shut up, nerd!” Mickey and Carrie said in unison, eliciting a massive pout from Raj.

“Why do you have to be so rude?!”

“You guys hear from Annie or Jimmy yet?” Mickey bounced his knee and jiggled Carrie, causing her to spill champagne on her lap. For revenge, she swatted him in the face with her dreads.

“Jimmy checked in,” Raj informed them, “says it’s going great so far. Annie didn’t even need him. She’s basically karate chopping anyone who steps out of line in one form or another. They probably won’t make it back in tonight though.”

Carrie yawned and slumped down to cradle against Mickey. She wasn’t sure how long she was going to last. She was exhausted.

“What’s with you?”

“That fucking screaming, mechanical, spawn of hell is what’s with me. I feel like I haven’t slept in days. That little shit damn near drove us insane. Although that’s over now,” she said cryptically and Mickey and Raj exchanged a look.

“What happened?”

“Woke up this morning to Leslie softly sobbing and drowning it in the sink,” she responded blithely.

“My God, woman, that’s awful!” Raj exclaimed.

“You do know that there was a kill-switch somewhere on it, right? She, uh, didn’t have to do that.”

“Shh and appreciate the macabre symbolism. We decided that one day, a long way from now, maybe we’ll get a cat.”

“This is the creepiest thing I’ve heard all week!” Raj said.

“Well, I did decapitate a toy horse in the name of love and revenge, but I do think doll drowning wins.”

“What the hell goes on when I’m not around you people?!” Raj demanded, “I want in on this ridiculous action. I am not a fan of this sub-cliquing within our clique. You two psychopaths have each other; Annie and Jimmy are always off somewhere indulging in their one hundred and one kinks. So that only leaves me with Eric. What the hell can I do with Eric? I demand we rezone the friendship lines.”

Raj’s rant was derailed by Ian returning from the streets and everyone whooping at his arrival. He gave them all a quick update and encouraged them to make sure all the food and drink was gone by the end of the night. He then went around mingling with his staff, everyone finally decompressing from their biggest game release yet, which thankfully happened without their boss going nuclear.

Mickey was terrible company after that, too distracted by tracking Ian as he floated around the room from person to person. He stiffened a little when Devon laid a casual hand on Ian’s shoulder and drew him into conversation.  Ian might have told him he was already seeing someone, but you would never have guessed it from the way Devon was acting. Mickey didn’t know how guys like that could even exist. End of the day and still perfectly crisp and pristine, holding a champagne flute delicately while Mickey was covered in pizza crumbs, spilt champagne he had been chugging from a bottle, all the while surreptitiously wiping his greasy hands on his best friend’s jeans.

Devon and Ian were laughing, probably over some clever, topical reference to art or culture or some stupid shit and the accountant was doing that flirty girl thing of giggle, blink, touch, that made Mickey want to shove Devon’s head up Twilight Sparkle’s ass. He nearly upended Carrie getting up, but he lifted her bridal style before dumping her in his chair. If he didn’t quit the room soon, he was going to get violent, which would be a very poor showing on Ian’s big day. He mumbled a hasty “gotta piss” at his friends and took off for the bathroom.

He sat in a stall and counted to ten while he tried his best to stop visualizing squeezing Devon’s neck until his head popped off. He needed to get it together. This whole open relationship thing was his idea after all, so he was going to have to suck it up and deal.

Ian didn’t like it when he lost track of Mickey. One second Mickey had been sitting in a corner with his friends, Carrie draped over him like a mink coat and the next time he glanced over, his boyfriend had vanished. It put him in the mind of when he used to babysit Liam, only to realize that the house was deathly quiet and it had been a little too long since he’d actually seen his little brother. Mickey’s disappearing acts inspired the same kind of nervousness. 

He had been missing him all day and regretted not asking him to come with him on his game store rounds. They wouldn’t have had any alone time, but it would have made the day far more fun and much less stressful had Mickey been there. Still, he was trying to back off and do the take it slow thing, especially now after realizing just how badly he had messed up and how deep he was in the doghouse.  So he really shouldn’t have been jealous that Carrie got to cuddle him—in public no less—and he shouldn’t be searching for Mickey now like he needed him to breathe. Yet, there he was. After his first instinct of checking the now crowded break room, he headed for the men’s room.

“Ah, I can see what’s happening,” Carrie nodded.

“What?” Raj asked through a mouthful of pizza.

“And they don’t have a clue,” she sighed.


“They've fallen in love and here's the bottom line, our trio's down to two,” she pointed with her lips and Raj turned to see Ian disappearing into the bathroom.

“Oh,” Raj said simply, returned to his pizza and fought with Carrie over Mickey’s remaining champagne.

Ian finally spotted Mickey’s workman boots in the last stall and knocked politely on the door.

“Fuck off, it’s occupied.”

“What’s the matter, Buffalo wings repeating on you?” There was a small noise of surprise from behind the stall door before it was quickly opened and Ian was getting dragged inside. “Hey,” he said softly and grinned dopily when Mickey pushed him up against the walls of the stall.

“Hey,” Mickey said back just as softly before pulling Ian down and capturing his lips with his own. They kissed hungrily, Ian gripping his boyfriend’s waist while Mickey massaged his neck and pressed closer. When Mickey’s hands dropped to the button of Ian’s jean, however, his boyfriend stopped him.

“Hey, whoa, hold up a minute,” Ian stilled Mickey’s hands and kept grip on them, “since when are you all about bathroom sex with all these people around?”

Oh right, Mickey had forgotten all about the party and his tipsy coworkers. For the moment, he had been solely focused on the fact that if Ian was there with him, he wasn’t with anyone else and had been determined to keep it that way. He was still determined in fact, and pulled his hands out of Ian’s grasp so he could fist them into Ian’s shirt and lean up to nibble along his jaw line.

“It’s fine,” Mickey said thickly.

“I’m not celebrating Rumble with a bathroom fuck, Mick,” Ian said and wriggled out of Mick’s grasp. “I’ve been fantasizing about this for months now.”

“Yeah,” Mickey grinned mischievously, “what were you thinking?”

Ian hesitated and shook his head, “it’s fine, it’s no big deal, but let me take you home.”

“No, nope, tell me what it is, chief.”

Ian looked away sheepishly before chancing a glance at an expectant Mickey. “It’s nothing at all, really. It’s just that I had been hoping after Rumble released, we would have hung out back at my place, you know, but it’s not a big deal, honestly. Let’ just go back to your—”

“Okay,” Mickey said abruptly and nodded when Ian blinked at him. “Your place then.”

Ian kept staring at him uncertainly, “Mickey, it’s fine. You don’t have to—”

“You wanna go or not?” Mickey raised his eyebrows at Ian coolly, belying the fact that his pulse was already quickening at the mere thought of that fucking chandelier.  Ian hesitated and nodded when Mickey jabbed him hard in the stomach.

“Okay, let’s go.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, just go,” Carrie waved Mickey off before he could even open his mouth to give an excuse for leaving. Ian was already telling his employees to eat up and get home safe while basically backing into the elevator. “Just don’t forget we have an appointment tomorrow.”

“Right, call me when you guys are heading out or something,” Mickey grabbed a last slice of pizza and pretty much ran for the elevator. “Later losers!”

“Disgusting,” Raj nodded.

“Just the worst,” Carrie agreed.

When they crossed the threshold into the lobby of Ian’s building, he automatically reached back and took Mickey’s hand and kept going. Mickey would have grumbled about it if he wasn’t so happy to have an outside force stop him from turning tail and running. He peeked over at the receptionist’s desk and a sleek ice blonde greeted them without so much as batting an eye at Mickey being marched across the lobby.

“The other one’s off tonight?” Mickey asked, panting a little from the building adrenaline.

“What other one?”

“The one who was here last time.”

“You mean Lydia?” Ian tugged Mickey into the elevator and stabbed at his floor. “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

“Oh,” Mickey said quietly, looking side-long at Ian’s impassive face then down at their still clasped hands, “oh.” Hot.

By the time Ian opened his door, Mickey’s heart was thudding so hard in his chest he thought it would crack open. Ian’s grip on his hand tightened and Mickey was propelled forward despite the leadening of his feet. Ian dropped his bag on the floor and pulled Mickey across the threshold.

“Kitchen,” he said tersely, nodding to his right as Mickey entered the condo. Mickey barely got to behold the chrome magnificence of it before Ian was dragging him to the left. “Living room,” he went on, and quickly rounded the corner with Mickey trotting after him, desperate to take off his shoes and not getting a chance. Mandy was right though, once Mickey turned the corner Ian’s place became dramatically less terrifying.  It was simply a wide passageway straight down to the back of the condo.

“Lip and I both got three bedrooms so when the family comes over, there’s no issues about hotels,” Ian said, skipping the first room which Mickey guessed was Ian’s master bedroom, and taking him to the ones beyond it instead. “Fiona and Liam stay with Lip; Debbie and Carl stay with me. Debbie’s room,” Ian nodded and opened the door to the room and flicked on the light.

It was big, roomy and bright, done up in shades of yellow and rather boring in its typicality. “She claimed it because it has its own bathroom. It’s also the de facto guest room, since Carl leaves his stamp on his room every time he visits.” Ian took Mickey next door and revealed the glory of Carl’s room. The bed was made and the room was clean, which were the only indicators that Mickey hadn’t in fact stepped into one of his brother’s rooms. The haphazard posters, the weird accoutrements, the dumb shit nailed and screwed into the walls, and the dark motif made Mickey almost sob with relief. Ian grinned and nudged him out of the room, nodding to the guest bathroom across from Carl’s room and the personal gym across from Debbie’s.

Then it was pièce de résistance, Ian’s room. The room was massive, but that was a given. There was a Monster-style television mounted on the wall and the huge Southside game posters framed and hanging neatly around the room. Looking at pictures of his family, game consoles and Ian’s random shit, Mickey realized that he was in Ian’s office. It was the most beautiful thing. Nothing could have made Mickey happier. Ian’s bedroom was quite literally a mirror image of his Southside Enterprises office with the exception of one thing.

“Gallagher, what the fuck?!” Mickey burst out laughing and could not stop. Ian’s room was massive because it had to be, for where Ian’s office couch would have been sat the biggest fucking bed in existence. Mickey was doubled over and close to tears, partly from catharsis and partly from genuine amusement. It looked as if someone had welded a bunch of stray beds together. It was the Megazord of beds. What’s worse, the striped sheets were giving it a further elongating effect and tripping Mickey out.

“Are you quite done?” Ian asked testily, slowly flushing to the roots of his hair while his boyfriend took the piss out of him.

“Nope!” Mickey yelled, kicked off his shoes and socks, and did the only sane thing one could do when confronted with such majesty—execute a running jump onto the bed and commence bouncing. He bounced happily while his boyfriend continued his impression of a steamed lobster. Mickey spread his hands as he continued bouncing with wild abandon. “For God’s sake, Gallagher, why?!”

“Shut up! I grew up sleeping on a bed that was this big,” Ian huffed, holding his thumb and index finger close together, “my feet were always hanging off, I fell off like ten times a night. It was bullshit. I swore that if I ever made any money, I’d get the biggest bed I could find.”

“Well mission accomplished!” Mickey cackled.

Ian sucked his teeth and grabbed his lube from the nightstand and scrambled onto the bed and over to Mickey. He let his boyfriend bounce like a giddy toddler for a bit longer before knocking him onto his back with a sweeping kick. The tester was still giggling when Ian settled on top of him.

“You’re laughing at me,” Ian pouted and Mickey grinned impishly at him, eyes wide and bright as he rubbed Ian’s chin.

“Yeah, a little bit,” he said softly and hooked his leg around Gallagher’s and pulled him down flush against him, their faces barely an inch away from each other.

“You think it’s stupid?”

“Nah, never. Funny as hell? Yeah. It’s cute, though; you and your big bed,” Mickey reached between them and palmed Ian’s hardening length through his jeans and drew a shuddering breath from the redhead. “Big beds for big boys.”

“I’ll get a regular one,” Ian sighed into Mickey’s neck and pressed soft kisses beneath his ear, “just a plain king sized bed.”

“What, because I teased you a little bit? Don’t be like that. What did I tell you about you giving up shit you’ve dreamed about?”

It wasn’t because Mickey had made fun of it. He had been thinking about it for some time now. He had loved it for a while and simply gotten used to it after that, the novelty wearing off rather quickly. After he and Mickey had started messing around, the bed had felt bigger, emptier and more ridiculous with each passing day. After they had broken up, it had become unbearable and he would end up crashing in Carl’s room or on the couch in his living room. It wasn’t just about what he wanted anymore. It was about what made them both happy and comfortable, and getting a more practical bed was the smallest of things.

“Nah, just time for some changes maybe.”

Mickey sighed and pressed his heel into the back of Ian’s thigh; his signal that Ian should shut up and kiss him now. Ian complied happily and ground slowly against Mickey until they were both moaning from the sweet friction of it.

“So this was the extent of the fantasy?”

“Pretty much, though there is a lot more fucking involved,” Ian admitted, sitting up so he could undo Mickey’s pants and pull them off along with his underwear.

“It will be a sacrifice, but I’ll try and get onboard with that,” Mickey said with a sigh of longsuffering and tugged off his shirt. He balled it up and tossed it towards the edge of the bed only for it to land well short of his target. Mickey’s lips twitched. “Seriously though…”

“Shut it,” Ian growled and stripped quickly. Once naked, he settled over Mickey again, trailing a lazy hand up the length of Mickey’s body while staring into blue eyes.

“So, game’s out, Nate’s gone and you didn’t kill anyone this year… you happy now?”

It was a hell of a loaded question, though Ian was sure Mickey hadn’t meant it to be. So much had been going on that he hadn’t actually stopped to think about it. It wasn’t perfect yet. He and Mickey were still working their way out of a strange grey area of their relationship and he had a lot of penance to pay. But Mickey was here and with him, and maybe even loved in his own way. There was light at the end if this tunnel and they were moving towards it. All he knew was that he had never felt anything remotely like this before, and it was a feeling he never wanted to lose.

“Yeah,” he affirmed, dipping his head to suck on Mickey’s throat and resume his grind against him. He’d found his happiness; one hundred and thirty pounds of Ukrainian brand happiness. Now he just had to hold onto it.

He worked his way downwards, licking Mickey’s heated skin until he was nipping the flesh of Mickey’s hips, and tattooed hands were fisting into his hair. Above him, Mickey was moaning softly, eyes fluttering closed while he silently begged Ian to take him in. His groan was bone-deep when Ian swallowed him down and he thrust instinctively into it, hissing as Ian’s tongue flicked across the slit of his cock. Ian sucked him off eagerly, humming around his boyfriend’s cock until Mickey was clawing at his shoulders. He lapped at the precum pooling at the tip before pulling off with a wet pop and used his tongue to follow the thick vein running down the underside of Mickey’s penis.

He didn’t stop at the base of the shaft; instead he gripped Mickey’s thighs and spread him open even wider. He mouthed at Mickey’s sack and watched mesmerized as Mickey wrapped his hand around his cock and pumped frantically, aching for some relief. Ian stopped him before he could get himself off and nudged him to roll onto his stomach. Mickey’s hands twisted into the sheets in anticipation, revelling in the feel of Ian’s hands sliding reverently up his thighs before they firmly massaged his ass and slowly spread him apart again.

He mewled when Ian’s tongue swiped across his opening and he buried his face in the sheets to suppress the embarrassing, needy noises he was making. He groaned and thrust back against Ian’s face, gasping when Ian tongue pushed into him.

“Ah, fuck,” Mickey raised his hips and leaned further into the ministration as Ian’s tongue moved faster and more insistently inside him. He couldn’t help touching himself and earned a slap on his ass for his self-indulgence.

“That’s my job,” Ian chided and popped the lube open to slick himself and give Mickey the fastest preparation possible.

“Hurry the fuck up then,” Mickey grumbled, but it transformed into a breathy moan as Ian sank into him until he was down to the hilt. He then shifted forward and lowered himself until Mickey was flat on his stomach and Ian was plastered against his back. He bit into Mickey’s shoulder and rolled his hips, grunting when Mickey reached back and grabbed his hair. Their breathing grew rougher as Ian built up the power and speed of his thrusts.

“I’m going to have you every fucking way tonight,” Ian panted into Mickey’s ear and hissed when his boyfriend responded to the promise by clenching around him and gripping his hair tighter, holding him fast to his neck. He covered Mickey’s hand still fisted into the sheets with one hand, braced with the other to try and spare Mickey a little of his weight, and aimed right for his boyfriend’s sweet spot.

Mickey writhed helplessly beneath Ian as his boyfriend pounded him into the bed, trying to build friction against his cock while he quickly fell apart.

“That’s also cheating,” Ian chided again and rolled onto his side, taking Mickey with him. Mickey lapped his leg over Ian’s and the latter wasted no time wrapping his hand around Mickey’s leaking cock and pumping in time to his thrusts. No longer able to stifle his moans, Mickey’s voice was now in stereo and filled the room as Ian fucked him hard and fast.

“You’re fucking amazing,” Ian growled in Mickey’s ear, feeling the edge approaching.

“I know,” Mickey retorted and grinned over at his boyfriend, “you’re not bad yourself.

They both snickered like idiots, until Mickey’s orgasm crept up and knocked the wind out of him. “Fuck!” was all he could manage as he spilled into Ian’s hand. He finally let go of Ian’s hair to reach back and squeeze Ian’s ass instead. “Fuck, Gallagher.”

“Yeah, that’s what you get, dick,” Ian teased, his thrusts stuttering with his own impending orgasm.

“Was that a pun?” Mickey asked incredulously, “are you seriously punning while you’re fucking me?!”

The double meaning of what he said hit Ian like a brick. “I was calling you a dick, you—Jesus, fuck!” Ian gasped and Mickey moaned and laughed as Ian rode out his own release.

“Yeah, that’s what you get,” Mickey teased and just grinned when Ian growled at him.

Ian had not been kidding about his “every fucking way” promise, and the mood changed and deepened each time. By the wee hours of the morning, they were swathed in the darkness and slowly coming down from the slow, thorough exploration of their last session. Mickey felt soft and replete, feelings only Ian could evoke and that still surprised him every time.

Ian stroked Mickey’s face and rested his forehead against his boyfriend’s, clearly not ready to pull out or away yet. Mickey certainly wasn’t complaining. He was too busy getting swept up in all those dumb feelings again and Ian had left him with no energy to fight them. It hardly mattered; he was going to lose every time anyway. Who could win against six foot, ginger force of nature?

“I fucking love you,” Mickey whispered, filter and self preservation instincts destroyed.

“I love you too,” Ian whispered back.

Mutually assured destruction had never been so beautiful.


Chapter Text

Ian Gallagher had his curtains on a timer, because of course he did. This was why when Mickey blinked awake, sunlight pouring into Ian’s room, he received an eyeful of New York skyline at sunrise for his effort. He jolted a little, startled by the alien view, but slowly relaxed when he remembered where he was and took it all in. Mickey had to admit, it was all just a little bit amazing. The view was insane, the bed ridiculously comfortable and the redhead softly stirring the hairs at the nape of his neck wasn’t bad either.

Mickey shifted a bit and snuggled contentedly into the softness of the sheets. No wonder Ian had been so eager to get back to his own place. He must have missed his creature comforts terribly. Mickey’s sheets must have felt like sandpaper compared to this bit of cotton luxury. It would be the easiest thing in the world to get seduced on sheets like this. It made Mickey want to stop compulsively saving every red cent he could and maybe buy some cushy shit for a change.

Ian was still out cold and in human taco shell mode, effectively trapping Mickey in bed with him. Mickey stayed in the ginger cocoon for a while; smiling dumbly and doing silly things like using his fingers to make Ian’s longer ones, which covered his, dance. He was soon too antsy to stay still, however, and he was curious to look around Ian’s condo again without the rushed tour. He reached back and scratched lightly at Ian’s nose until the man snorted in annoyance and rolled away from the mild irritant, released Mickey, and settled back into sleep.

Mickey groped around for the first pair of boxers he could find and stepped gingerly up to the window. Being fifteen floors up with a gently glowing sunrise, New York looked like a mystical place. It wasn’t hard to see why Ian wanted it to be the first thing he saw when he woke up. Mickey admired it for a while before deciding to venture out into the living room to see what it was all about once and for all.

It didn’t seem so overwhelming in the light of day. It was still massive and slick and brutally neat, but it didn’t seem impossible and did look more lived in than he had imagined before. He resisted the urge to tiptoe through the living room and instead tried to walk as normally as possible. He was drawn to the window again, and took in Central Park as it lay at his feet. It was amazing and it was almost impossible to not feel as if you were at the very top of the world looking down on everything.

It was unreal, as was the allure of the whole thing. Ian, and all the opulent trappings that came with him, seemed designed to make Mickey feel like the worst kind of thief. Damned if he didn’t want him though, and damned if he couldn’t get used to it all. He was already justifying it in his head. Shit, half the people in this building were probably criminals of some kind, who had done way worse shit than he did and without a decent reason. Why should he have to feel bad about being there?

He tore himself away from the window and gave the living room another once over. It wasn’t bad, but he still didn’t trust himself around the huge, soft, white leather couch. He padded past the dining room and over to the kitchen and poked at the pots that hung over the kitchen island. Some actually looked used, and the image of Ian cooking for himself in this big, modern kitchen made him feel weirdly guilty. He shook off the odd feeling and opened the fridge and was a little surprised by how familiar it was, fancy food and all. It shouldn’t have been surprising though; before they had broken up, Ian had pretty much commandeered Mickey’s fridge as his own.

He eyed the offerings and grabbed a bottle of orange juice. He scanned the surroundings quickly, looking for a glass before defiantly saying “fuck it” and downing the juice from the bottle; draining it completely. He dropped the bottle in one of Ian’s recycling bins—because of course—and smiled proudly about his mini coup d'état of Ian’s kitchen. Let no man say Mickey Milkovich was scared of prime real estate…anymore.

Ian really needed to have a talk with Mickey about his not being there when Ian woke up. It was anxiety inducing to say the least. However, a quick look around his bedroom assured him that either Mickey was still in the condo or was roaming the streets of New York in his birthday suit in a blind panic. On second thought, he had better go look for his boyfriend. He stuck his head out of the bedroom and could hear Mickey shuffling about in the guest bathroom. Satisfied, he retreated to his own bathroom, took his pills and then ventured out to see what Mickey was up to.

“What are you doing?” Ian asked sleepily, stepping into the bathroom and leaning against the door to watch Mickey brush his teeth. Mickey paused his brushing and stared at Ian’s reflection in the mirror.

“Painting the Mona Lisa; what does it look like I’m doing?”

“I thought you got lost in this massive, industrial complex I call home and I’d never see you again,” Ian said with a touch of theatricality, prompting Mickey to roll his eyes.

“Always with the jokes huh, Chuckles?” Mickey hesitated briefly before grabbing one of the towels and drying his face.

“You know, I have my own bathroom. You didn’t have to come all the way out here.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. Even so, this would still seem like the lesser of two evils. I don’t feel confident crossing to the other side of that bed without a Sherpa,” he said and grinned when Ian stuck his tongue out at him. He then ran his hands soothingly over Ian’s arms, comforting him through the shakes.

Ian reached out and steadied his trembling hands on Mickey’s hips and pulled him flush against him. “It’s not so bad though, right?”

Mickey shrugged, a shy smile playing on his lips while he focused on Ian’s collarbone. “Yeah, it’s alright…I guess.”

“Yeah?” Ian unconsciously gripped Mickey’s hips a little tighter, “think you could get used to it?”

“Pfft, yeah,” Mickey huffed, “it’s not that big a deal is it?”

He chanced looking up at Ian and that sunrise earlier had nothing on that smile. It only served to fluster Mickey some more. “Come on, man,” Mickey protested softly. What was really criminal was making someone feel this way. Ian only grinned harder at Mickey’s distress and made it all better by kissing him. Ian spun them around and pressed Mickey against the wall. He quickly got to his knees and tugged Mickey’s boxers to his knees and swallowed Mickey down before the man knew what was what.

“Shit,” Mickey breathed, “you’re okay for this?” Ian hummed his eager reassurances into Mickey’s cock. As far as he was concerned, this was now the absolute best way to ride out the morning meds’ jitters. It was yet another reason for Mickey to keep his ass in bed in the mornings.

Ian sucked steadily until he tasted the first hint of precum on the tip of Mickey’s cock. He pulled away and got to his feet and Mickey could only whine his displeasure. Ian ignored his protests and ordered him into the living room while he went to pop into his bedroom for a second. He came back to find Mickey standing naked and uncertain in the middle of his living room. He came up behind him, caught him around the waist and bodily tossed him onto the couch.

“Are you crazy?” Mickey exclaimed and tried unsuccessfully to wriggle out from under Ian’s weight.


“We’re not fucking up your couch?!”

“It’s leather, and also who cares?”

“It’s so white though…” Mickey fretted and Ian could only stare down at him incredulously. Honestly, it was like playing mad libs with this idiot for all the sense he made sometimes.

“Oh shut up already.”

If Ian thought he could get Mickey acclimatized and comfortable in his condo by fucking him on every available surface, he was probably right. Mickey’s apprehension about messiness and white couches evaporated with the first snap of Ian’s hips against his. He groaned deeply as he licked at the fine sheen of sweat covering Ian’s shoulders and grunted when Ian’s blunted nails bit into the back of his thigh.

“I think I can see my apartment from here,” he joked after Ian shifted his head to rest against Mickey’s other shoulder, allowing Mickey to see out the window once again.

“Dumb ass,” Ian shifted a little more and found Mickey’s sweet spot again, and rocked faster and harder into him. “Are you close? I’m close,” Ian panted into Mickey’s ear. Of all the stupid, fucking questions… If Mickey still had the power of speech, he would have told him that he had been close since the bathroom. At the moment he was just hanging on for dear life. Instead, he only nodded and gripped Ian’s head with both hands, pulling at him so their lips could meet as they went over the edge together.

“Goddamn, Gallagher,” Mickey sighed after Ian slumped on top of him, replete, “I should start coming over more often.”

“You should,” Ian mumbled into Mickey’s neck, “I’m really glad you’re here.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Mickey teased and sagged bonelessly into the couch under Ian’s weight. The tender moment was interrupted by an ominous growl that rumbled into the quiet of the living room.

“Jesus, did that come from you?” Ian asked.

Mickey was unabashed, “yeah, well maybe you should feed a guy first before you wear him out.”

Ian snorted softly and checked to make sure his hands were steady. “Fine, fine, although I’m pretty sure you guys ate like twice your body weight at the party,” he said over his shoulder as he went off to his bedroom to pull on some clothes.

“Do I look like a fucking camel? That shit doesn’t carry over,” Mickey shot back and went to the bathroom to clean up and retrieve his abandoned boxers. Soon, he was sitting at the kitchen island patiently while Ian took stock of his fridge.

“What do you want? I could make you some bacon and eggs and such or I could warm up a bunch of these breakfast sandwich things I have.”

“Whatever’s faster,” Mickey replied. There was some urgency there since his stomach was threatening to become a black hole—an imminent threat to all surrounding time and space.

“Sandwiches it is then,” Ian then switched his attention to the lower portion of his fridge. “Want some OJ in the meantime?”

“We’re out of juice,” Mickey yawned and Ian was glad he was facing away from his boyfriend so Mickey wouldn’t see the goofy smile that erupted onto his face. “Give me coffee.”

“There are other types of juices besides orange, you know. How about some cherry juice? It’s really good,” Ian said as he retrieved the bright red juice from the fridge.

“The fuck?”

“No, seriously; it’s sweet and a little tart, it’s got some ginger in it…” Ian poured out a glass and readied himself to extol the virtues of the drink. Mickey was unimpressed and unconvinced.

“Just give me the coffee please, Barefoot Contessa.”

“Fine, but you really should expand your palate a little more.”

“My palate is plenty expanded, thank you very much,” Mickey grumbled and took his coffee while Ian finished warming the sandwiches and shoved them across to him on a large plate.

They ate in silence for a couple minutes; Ian leaning on the counter across from Mickey, swiping sandwiches off the plate and making an elaborate show of enjoying his weird juice. Mickey blithely ignored him until he had enough food and coffee in him to make him feel human again.

Ian could tell Mickey was working his way up to something. He had this nervous look of concentration on his face and was sending furtive glances from Ian’s idle hand resting on the counter, to his own hand, then to Ian’s face and back. Ian simply waited to see how whatever it was would play out. Eventually, Mickey reached over and grabbed Ian’s hand and began massaging his palm.

“Who the fuck drinks cherry juice anyway?” Mickey asked gruffly; covering his awkwardness and sudden craving for physical intimacy with the lame jibe.

Ian pulled his hand out of the massage and interlocked his fingers with Mickey’s instead; smiling as he watched Mickey’s face warm and his boyfriend focus on his cooling coffee cup instead. Freaking adorable; watching Mickey try to initiate intimate physical contact evoked the same emotions in Ian as watching a newborn fawn try to walk. It was clumsy and heartwarming and he loved every second of it. Mickey relaxed in increments and was even managing to look at Ian for a second or two at a time. At length, he ran his thumb along Ian’s and took a nonchalant sip of tepid coffee. Ian realized his face was starting to hurt, he was grinning so hard. This was dumb; they were dumb. They were the dumbest idiots alive and it was amazing.

Eventually, Mickey cleared his throat and attempted a casual question, “so how do you think the release is going?”

“What release?”

Mickey’s eyes rolled heavenward, “your video game, jackass; aren’t you wondering how it’s going?”

“Oh fuck, yeah. I should probably check on that, shouldn’t I?” he reluctantly disengaged from Mickey and tried to remember the last time he saw his phone or any of his essential electronic devices. While Ian was gone, Mickey eyed the cherry juice in Ian’s glass suspiciously, before taking a sniff of it and eventually a taste. To his chagrin, it actually tasted pretty good; different, but good. He drained Ian’s glass and went for a refill.

A few minutes later, Ian dropped heavily against Mickey’s back and dangled his phone in front of him. Mickey grabbed it and quickly got to reading.

“Ahh fuck, you see?! You see?! I told you, didn’t I?” Mickey whooped while Ian hugged him from behind. “I told you booting Nate wasn’t going to hurt you. This could be your best release yet! I seriously can’t believe people still line up to buy shit though,” Mickey mused. “Anyway, did I tell you?”

“Yes,” Ian relented.

“How long have I been telling you?”

“All along,” Ian sighed.

“Boom, I should have wagered some serious shit against your pessimism—take all your cookies,” Mickey continued triumphantly.

“You can have everything,” Ian said softly.

“This is fucking awesome though,” Mickey reached back and rubbed Ian’s head playfully, “you did good, Gallagher.”

“Yeah, now if only I can get Legend off the ground half as well…”

Mickey growled and smacked Ian on the forehead, “Jesus, Ian, take fifteen minutes and enjoy this for fuck’s sake!” he chastised. “Bask in it! Bask!”

“Alright, Jesus,” Ian laughed and took the phone back to go over the numbers and let the reality of another successful release sink in. “This feels fucking weird,” he mumbled.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll make sure you get used to it,” Mickey nodded and swallowed another mouthful of cherry juice. Ian had the good grace to stay quiet about it.

“I’m going to shower,” Ian let go of Mickey and headed for his bedroom, “I smell like ass.”

“Yeah, you kinda do.”

“So do you by the way!” Ian informed him gleefully, leaving Mickey to sniff at his tank top. Yeah, he kinda did.

Mickey peeped around the door frame to take a gander at the master bathroom. It was typical of what Mickey had seen so far. It was huge, of course, seemingly carved entirely out of cool, green marble. There was a giant Jacuzzi next to a floor to ceiling window, which made Mickey raise an eyebrow. Next to that was the standing shower, somewhat obscured by Ian getting naked in front of it.

“What?” Ian yelled back and stepped into the glass shower.

“You have zero concept of privacy, don’t you?” Mickey sniffed as he ventured in, “who puts a tub next to a window?”

“We’re fifteen floors up. If they manage to look in then they deserve to see me naked,” Ian watched as Mickey continued casting a critical eye over his bathroom, “what’s wrong with my bathroom?”

“Nothing actually…it’s surprisingly simple in here. I figured there would be a miniature replica of Victoria Falls; maybe the grotto from the Playboy mansion.”

“You’re an ass. Are you coming in or what?”

Mickey grinned and stripped off his tank and boxers, unceremoniously dumping them on the floor just as Ian had done. He stepped into the shower, forced to slide in against his smirking, unmoving boyfriend. Before he could make some smart comment about the marble seating and laziness, he was nearly flattened by a deluge of water from above. He could hear Ian laughing and if he survived the drowning, he was going to kill him.

“The fuck, Gallagher?!” The pounding abated to a manageable downpour, just in time for him to be able to see Ian tossing him body wash.

“That was ‘torrential downpour,’ this is ‘calming rain.’ You want to be sitting down for ‘monsoon,’” Ian pressed another button and water shot out from the walls, making Mickey laugh.

By the time Ian had finished showing off the shower controls and sauntered over to Mickey, his boyfriend had already finished executing the quickest, most aggressive showering technique he’d ever seen. “You shower like someone’s about to blow a whistle on you.”

“Old habits, I guess; had to get it done before the hot water gave out, or before the CO calls time, or before some dude takes too much of a liking to you,” Mickey spewed out a mouthful of water, “it’s hard to break out of it.”

Ian poured some gel onto a wash towel, spun Mickey around and began washing his back. “Yeah, well it’s a new normal now. I’ll make sure you get used to it.”

“I mean, I do take long showers sometimes and everything, I just have to get that out of the way first,” Mickey grumbled, “just so you know.”

“Uh huh,” Ian said distractedly.

“You’re not even listening to me; you just brought me in here to play grab ass,” Mickey sighed softly as Ian’s hands glided down his back to linger on his ass. He frowned when Ian turned him back around and pulled him against him, “you know, I didn’t come in here for this.”

“Like hell you didn’t,” Ian slicked Mickey’s hair back out of his face before reaching down to squeeze his ass again, “so shut up and make out with me in the simulated rain.”

For today, Mickey was nothing if not obedient. It should be alarming, for he couldn’t envision a day when Ian wasn’t the corny, romantic sap that he was now. Fuck it though; maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing. What was life without some storybook bullshit thrown in anyway?

Ian sat on the bed and reached for Mickey’s towel with clear intent, only to get his hand slapped painfully. He turned huge eyes on his boyfriend and whimpered a “why?” when Mickey shut him down. Mickey stopped drying his hair to stare in amazement at him.

“Dude, as happy and impressed as I am that you can maintain beast mode for this long, after last night and this morning, I’m just this side of sore and fuck if I’m going to be walking weird tomorrow.”


“You’re going to be feeling it too, once all this fucking adrenaline burns out of you,” Mickey said defensively, annoyed that it appeared as if he was being bested. However, he immediately softened at Ian’s pout, “yeah, don’t make that face. I’m going to take care of you.”

He shoved Ian further onto the bed and yanked off his towel. He settled between Ian’s legs and promptly swallowed him down, leaving Ian gasping above him. Long fingers pushed through damp, black hair as Mickey alternated between sucking lightly on the tip of Ian’s cock and deep-throating him as best as he could. Ian shivered, moaned and thrust into the moist heat of Mickey’s mouth, while his boyfriend groaned around him. He twisted his fingers into Mickey’s hair and tugged, getting blue eyes to look up at him. Ian didn’t think he’d seen anything more beautiful.

“Hey,” Ian said breathily, “while you’re doing that, you want me to return the fav—”

Ian was interrupted by Mickey’s phone buzzing angrily somewhere in the tangle of sheets. Mickey dug around for it, despite Ian’s protests, and finally fished it out before it could go to voicemail. “Hello?”

“Spit the dick out!” Carrie yelled at him across the line.

“How did you—I mean what?”

“Ugh, I cannot believe you right now! You made a commitment, Michael Milkovich! We have plans!”

Mickey closed his eyes and groaned in aggravation, “shit, shit, fuck…”

“Yes to all of that! I knew your thirsty ass was going to come down with dick amnesia the second you left the party,” she accused before screeching, “I would never abandon you for a man, Mickey!”

“Yeah, well, you’re a lesbian, so…” Mickey glanced over at Ian—sprawled, hard and waiting for him—and gave him a placating smile. He pumped Ian’s shaft slowly and firmly while his friend yelled at him. Let no one say that Milkoviches couldn’t multitask.

“Okay, I know you two are kind of in your second honeymoon phase right now, with all the feelings and the makeup sex, and you know any other time I would tell you to get all of that, but Mickey, this place is baby hell. There is baby shit everywhere. Not literally, thank Lilith, or maybe literally and we just haven’t found it yet because it’s buried under three feet of other crap!”

Ian’s patience with Carrie’s interruption and Mickey’s distracted hand job had worn thin very quickly. He shifted fitfully before clearing his throat and moaning loudly enough to startle Mickey. The tester gave him a sidelong glance, knowing full well he was doing nothing to warrant that kind of response.

“Oh please, really?” Carrie sneered, “tell Ian he needs to chill with that noise. I know that moan. I invented that moan. You know how many raggedy, interrupting bitches I’ve chased off the phone with my lusty lungs? He needs to stop until he gets on my level.”

Mickey figured it was probably best he didn’t relay that message. “So it’s that bad, huh?”

“It’s worse! The only clean place is the baby room, Eric and Maria are already passed out and Raj keeps threatening me with very breakable looking babies!” Carrie’s voice had more than a touch of hysteria in it. “Come help me!”

“Alright, alright, okay!” Mickey was already climbing off the bed, much to Ian’s dismay, “I already showered; I’ll get dressed and grab a cab. I’ll be there soon.” Mickey hung up even while Carrie continued blubbering for rescue. He worried his lower lip and faced Ian, hangdog look firmly in place. He rubbed Ian’s foot apologetically, “I gotta go.”

“Seriously? I thought we were going to spend the day together,” Ian went to a drawer and grabbed a pair of boxers to haul on while Mickey looked on with interest. After quickly surveying his discarded clothes, he realized that the only serviceable items he had were his jeans and his boots.

“I know, I know,” Mickey sighed and ducked past Ian to raid his underwear drawer, “I kinda forgot that I agreed to this thing. I need to borrow some underwear, and a shirt…and socks. Lend me?”

As if Ian was going to aid his abandonment, though as it turned out, Mickey was only asking as mere polite formality. He was already digging through Ian’s things, looking for the requisite items.

“Where are you even going?”

“Over to Eric’s place,” Mickey said as he pulled on a pair of socks. Ian made a quick mental note not to lose his shit before doing precisely that.

“Eric? You’re leaving me to go to fucking Eric?!”

Mickey looked at him askance. “You know, while that statement isn’t technically inaccurate, it sounded like a whole lotta crazy just now.”     

“As well it should. What the fuck?”

Mickey sighed and went for his pants. “Look, it was Annie’s idea, alright? She went over there and said that Eric and Maria were overwhelmed and they were about ready to chew their own legs off. So she got us to agree to use our day off to go over there and help out.”

Ian was not mollified. He trailed behind Mickey like a miffed puppy while the other man went about getting ready. “How the hell is that your problem? Who the fuck told him to pop out three kids at once?”

Mickey snorted his amusement, “you make it sound like he filled out some kind of order form for this shit. He didn’t plan for this. Plus, I’m pretty sure there were more kids in there and these three cold little fuckers ate them. So you know they’re hardcore.”

“So why are you helping? You hate kids!”

“That was way harsh, Tai,” Mickey looked wounded, “Hate is such a strong word; I mean it’s accurate, but strong. Besides, I’m not interacting with the triple threats. Raj and Jimmy will be handling the kiddies, me and Carrie are on clean up and Annie will be the Queen of Sheba, I’m guessing.”

“And what will Eric be doing?” Ian demanded.

“I dunno, sleeping? Sleeping while dreaming about more sleep? Sleep-ception?” Mickey joked, “dude, what is your malfunction when it comes to Eric?”

Ian huffed at Mickey’s blasé ignorance. “He’s been trying to get into your pants from day one; which is at least sixty days before I even tried!”

Mickey laughed and grabbed a T-shirt out of another drawer. He tugged it on before he went over to Ian and gripped the back of his boyfriend’s neck with a warm hand. He pulled the tall redhead down until their foreheads touched and held him there while smiling winningly at him. “And yet you’re the one that got into them. You got into them good too. Way to come from behind, chief.”

Ian scoffed, poorly resisting giving into the charm. He stuck his chin out stubbornly anyway and Mickey sighed. “Ian, Eric is not an issue. He was never an issue, never will be an issue. So dial back the crazy, Crimson Chin.”

Ian relented for the moment and sat on his bed, watching while Mickey tugged on his shoes next to the bedroom door. He chewed his thumb in agitation and when Mickey straightened up, ready to leave, he got up, grabbed Mickey around the middle and shoved him against the wall. Mickey searched his face, curious but unconcerned at his abrupt behaviour.

“Just…don’t fuck anyone else, alright?”

Mickey sucked his teeth, “man, I’m going house cleaning, not trolling for cock.” When Ian’s apparent agitation didn’t abate, Mickey looked at him like the crazy person he apparently was. “I’m not going to fuck anyone else; I won’t,” he licked his lips and stroked Ian’s face. “Look, you want me to come back here after I’m done?”

Effective distraction achieved. “You…you want to come back here?” Ian asked, pleased and cautiously hopeful.

Mickey nodded, suddenly bashful and twitchy. “I mean, I’m cool with it. It’s not so bad. Since I’m bailing on you for a while, maybe I should just swing by my place and pick some stuff up and then we can play hooky tomorrow and hang here like you wanted.”

Ian was beaming now. “You really think it’s okay to just take off from work like that?”

“Supposed to rain all day tomorrow anyway. Besides, I got an ‘in’ with the boss, you know. Actually, it’s more like the boss gets really into me.”

Ian snorted and finally backed off. “Okay, it’s a date.”

“Hopefully this shit won’t take more than a few hours, so I’ll see you in a bit,” Mickey grabbed his bag and headed for the front door. “Stay warm for me!” Mickey yelled back and Ian only snorted again before collapsing into bed. He’d been taken in by the old razzle-dazzle again. Maybe it was for the best anyway—he was starting to feel a little sore.

The closer things came to perfection and feeling as if they were back to normal again, the more the specter of paranoia haunted Ian. Mickey hadn’t technically called off the whole open relationship thing, and the insecurity of it was wretched. An ever growing part of him just wanted to do it himself, to just call bullshit on the whole thing and demand exclusivity. Then he would think about the facts that his boyfriend pretty much thought he was the boogeyman and that there might be a time bomb in his head and he was half tempted to go find Mickey a more deserving partner himself. As such, he stayed mum and tried to focus solely on the euphoria that came with making up.

It worked for the most part, until he found himself sitting in his office, quietly seething while Mickey lost his shit over some dumb joke Derek was telling Skid Row. Derek was about nineteen, one of their wunderkind programmers and just the perfect little charmer in a Metallica T-shirt. Well, fuck Derek; he was basically a toddler and all his jokes were unfunny fart humor. Grumbling under his breath, Ian found that he was dialing Mandy’s number before he really understood what he was doing. The reception was not warm.

“For fuck’s sake, Ian,” Mandy snapped, “you think I give a flying fuck about you and Mickey’s ‘he loves me/he loves me not’ bullshit?!”

“Whoa, Mandy,” Ian said, taken aback by the sudden hostility. Beneath the aggression, however, the young woman sounded shaky. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just…I’m not here to solve your romantic dilemmas alright?” Mandy was sounding increasingly wobbly, “sort your own shit out. I have my own to deal with. And don’t say anything to Mickey!” she yelled before she hung up abruptly, leaving Ian to stare at the phone in shocked silence. What the hell?

A few hours later, Mandy was peering through her peephole at the hooded figure outside her door. She flicked her wrist and her Asp baton extended to its full length. She was about to yell at the stranger to get the hell away from her door until she saw a familiar glimpse of red hair and green eyes. She quickly undid the multitude of latches and swung the door open.


Her friend had slipped back into his Southside skin easily. He knew better than to roam about Mandy’s neighborhood looking like a million bucks. His well worn hoodie and jeans blended into the surroundings seamlessly. He gave Mandy the once over and waved.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked, still gaping at him as he filled her doorway.

“I came to check up on you, duh,” he replied and cocked his head at her. “So, what did I miss?” She hesitated for a moment before launching herself at him, almost knocking him off his feet. He wrapped his arms around her in the narrow passageway of her apartment building and rubbed her back soothingly. “That bad, huh?”

“How are you even here?” she asked thickly.

“It’s only a couple hours in the air, you know. It’s not a big deal.”

She pulled away and ushered him into her small apartment. He dropped down on her couch and watched her expectantly while she sheathed her baton and finally plopped down next to him.

“You didn’t have to do this,” she said quietly and slumped down to rest her head on Ian’s shoulder.

“I was overdue for a visit to the Southside anyway.”

“Does Mickey know you’re here?”

“Nah, I took off at lunch. He won’t think it’s weird. Half my job is on the streets and you’d said not to say anything.”

“Thanks…he can get kinda crazy about stuff like this.”

“Are you okay? What’s going on?”

Mandy sighed and sat up, staying quiet for a while before suddenly smacking Ian on the thigh. “You know this is your fucking fault! You and my idiot brother’s.”

“What did we do?!”

“You and your dumb, schmoopy, romance shit,” Mandy pouted, “I came back here with stupid stars in my eyes, thinking that if Mickey can find a prince, maybe I could too,” she sighed heavily, “totally forgot about my shit taste in men.”

Ian’s brow furrowed and he stared at Mandy seriously, “what happened?”

“This fucking asshole…he was perfect for a grand total of two weeks. For two weeks he was the sweetest fucker on the planet and I had the butterflies and I was racing ahead thinking maybe this was it,” Mandy pulled at the knees of her jeans and shrugged, defeated. “Yesterday we were kidding around and I made a small dick joke. Let’s just say he didn’t take it so well.”

Ian could tell from Mandy’s face how the next part of this story would go and could already feel the anger building. Mandy shrank further into her couch.

“He’s ends up shoving me into the counter and starts coming after me. I don’t know why I keep pulling guys that just flip the switch like that. How can anyone go from being mellow to full on fucking insane in a second?”

“What happened; where the fuck is he now?”

“County General,” Mandy replied, flicking out her Asp again and surprising Ian, “and when he gets out of that, he’s going to County Jail. No one fucks with Mandy Milkovich…anymore. I’ve been through this enough times as is. I’m done with these fuckers.”

“County General?!”

Mandy looked at him with a raised brow, “it was self-defense. Fucker had it coming for miles. The police took my statement and they’ll take him in when all the relevant swellings go down.” She smiled a self-satisfied smile at Ian’s stunned, admiring look before she shook the baton in his face. “Do not tell Mickey. He freaks the fuck out about this shit and I’ll be hearing it for years.”

“My lips are sealed.”

“They damn well better be,” She then picked nervously at her jeans again. “The cops did say that I should prepare for him possibly charging me with assault and battery or whatever, but that he’d have no case.”

“Don’t worry about it. Even if he does, I know a good lawyer.”

Armed with bottled water, a lighter, a bong and a fair amount of weed in a backpack, Mandy led Ian in the fading afternoon light to Mickey’s favorite abandoned building. Ian admired it as they hunkered down in a corner. It was exactly as Mickey and Mandy had described and he could easily imagine Mickey in the center if it, firing away at makeshift targets and hiding out when things got to bad at home.  Ian just kept staring while Mandy packed and prepared the bong.

They smoked, chatted and joked about everything and nothing while evening fell, getting high enough to rise above their romantic troubles for a while. Eventually, Mandy settled against Ian again and rested her head on his shoulder while he toked.

“The Southside is such bullshit sometimes,” Mandy sighed, “my job is bullshit, my life is bullshit.”

“It’s the Southside, man, it’s fucking toxic is what it is,” Ian coughed and leaned back against the wall, “you should get out like Mick did; start fresh somewhere else.”

“He didn’t just up and leave for his health. He had to, dumbass. You transferred him to New York.”

“Oh right,” Ian laughed to himself and mulled it over, “okay then, you want a job?”

“Excuse me?” Mandy lifted her heavy head slightly off Ian’s shoulder to eye him. “You want me to work at the same place as my idiot brother?”

“It would be a heartwarming tale of family and shameless nepotism.”

She fell into the suggestion with surprising readiness. “What would I be doing?”

“Helping? I don’t know yet, I’ll talk to Carol.”

Mandy sniffed and grabbed the bong, “I’m not cleaning up after people.”

Ian could only laugh, “it’s a pretty clean place, Mandy, and I’ve a full and capable janitorial staff, thank you very much.”

A light bulb went off in Mandy’s mind. “How about security? You know, scaring people trying to cause trouble. I have my own baton.”

“Actually, I think we should find something less potentially litigious.”

“Fine, do whatever…you brought it up,” Mandy muttered, barely hiding the fact that she was getting excited already.

They were interrupted by Ian’s phone going off and when he saw it was Mickey calling, he actually struggled to his feet and drifted away to answer it, prompting an eye-roll from Mandy.

“Hey,” Ian answered softly and Mandy proceeded to make gagging noises behind him. He flipped her off and drifted even further.

“Hey, boss man,” Mickey greeted while he dropped his bag onto his couch and grabbed Clay on his way into his bedroom, “guess what I found outside my door today?”

“A solution to world peace?”

“Close, my own copy of Southside Rumble. It’s like Christmas!”

Ian grinned, “you actually bought it? You know you didn’t have to do that, right?”

“Eh, gotta support the franchise, don’t I?” Mickey said while he stripped down to his tank and boxers, loaded in the game and got into bed with the controller, “besides, I’m making up for the fact that I pirated Slaughter, so now we’re even.”


“Mmhmm,” Mickey agreed unabashedly.

“You should go to your old address when you start playing. There might be something there for you,” Ian hinted.

Mickey went still, “you didn’t?”

“Just go look; I’m not saying more than that.”

“I’m actually about to play it now. You wanna come over and watch me beat it? The game that is,” Mickey tacked on and Ian could just see the goofy, lopsided grin perfectly. He was about to agree until he remembered he was in Chicago, secretly visiting his boyfriend’s sister.

“I can’t tonight,” Ian hedged.

“Yeah? What are you doing?” Mickey asked.

“Nothing,” Ian responded perhaps a little too quickly, “I’m just out.”

“Oh,” Mickey replied, his voice suddenly clipped, “okay then, that’s fine. Later.”

“No, no, not out like that,” Ian attempted to amend quickly, but the line was already dead. “Ah fuck it, I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

He headed back to Mandy who was cracking up. “I told you we’re a shitshow, and your excuse game is weak sauce.”

“Why does he always pull this shit when I’m high?” Ian complained and sat back down next to Mandy. “I should probably cut back on the weed.” Ian sighed before taking another deep hit from the bong.

“Ah, cheer up, it’ll be fine,” Mandy comforted her friend, “besides, think of the all the romantic, dramatic stories you’ll get to tell Clay.”

Ian coughed again and looked askance at Mandy, “who the fuck’s Clay?”

Mandy sputtered before breaking out into hysterical laughter again. “Oh my God, Mickey is going to kick my ass.”

Mickey focused on the opening credits of the game and tried to keep the paranoia of where Ian was and who he might be with at bay. He had no right to get mad about anything which may or may not be happening, although he had set some ground rules about Ian at least giving him some kind of heads up first. He forcefully shoved the thoughts out of his head and focused on designing his avatar.

Before long he was back in the Southside, where he wasted no time acquiring a vehicle and heading back to his childhood home. He parked outside and spent a minute taking it in. It was definitely his house, perfectly replicated. He couldn’t figure out how Ian had pulled it off. However, while it was bowling him over, there wasn’t much stylistic differentiation between his house and the others in the neighborhood—nothing to indicate it as a hot spot. Whatever Easter egg there was would be hard to find for anyone else.

He got out of the car and headed into the house, and was immediately gobsmacked by the near flawless copy of his living room. He hadn’t spotted the biggest surprise yet, because there seated on his couch was his sister. He heard a noise and walked forward to find the source. When he finally spotted her, he blinked and immediately went to mess with her.

“Get off, assface!”

Now it all made sense—how Ian knew the design of his home and got everything so perfectly. He and Mandy had obviously made good use of her time in New York and she’d even managed to get a little voice acting in. He badgered her until her string of aggravated insults began repeating and then he left her to go exploring.

All the rooms in the house were inaccessible except his own. Mandy clearly did her best to get his room right though it fell a little short. Just being in it was enough to give Mickey that weird mix of emotions in his gut. He pushed that aside for the time being, because he spotted what Ian had meant for him to find. A jetpack—which should have been unavailable until sector three was unlocked—was floating at the head of his bed, while a can of spray paint glowed on the bedside table. He grabbed them both and went to figure it all out.

Seeing his old neighborhood from above was quite the experience, so Mickey was enjoying himself even though he wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for, or even if he should be looking for something else. Seeing your childhood home recreated and getting a jetpack at the start of the game were pretty major as is, but knowing Ian, Mickey felt he should be looking for the pièce de résistance. A few minutes later, Mickey figured he may have found it.

He was  looking down at one of his old haunts—one of the abandoned buildings in which he used to blow off steam back when he had access to a closet full of weapons and Milkovich gunfire was a normal part of the background noise of the Southside. This time, though, there was a hole in the ceiling where there wasn’t before; large enough for him to drop in and take a look around.

Mandy obviously had a big mouth and good memory, and for once, Mickey couldn’t fault her for it. The detailing was incredible and obviously for him. Everything was perfect, down to his makeshift target with the ratty little teddy bear on top of the bullet ridden pile. He was immediately remorseful for every hole he’d ever pumped into that thing.

The main difference between the recreation and the inspiration was the graffiti. Walls that should have been bare and stark were instead intensely colorful and graphic-dense; not a spot uncovered. The east wall answered a few remaining questions, for there was Annie’s distinctive artwork and a mural of the designer herself, decked out in full warrior princess gear and holding the head of a familiar looking troll aloft in the middle of a chaotic battle field.

“That’s Annie for you, man,” Mickey murmured to Clay, who sat behind him and offered his chest as a pillow, “subtle as ever.”

The western wall was a densely packed mélange of Southside slogans, symbols and inside jokes, which would come off as typical graffiti but for the initiated. It appeared in several places of each game and the players were always trying to make sense of it. The other two walls, however, seemed expressly designed for him.

The southern wall beckoned him with a bright red “Hey Mickey!” scrawled across the top. His idiot had scattered the lyrics to the song all over the wall, hidden amongst all the dumb shit Mickey liked to say and his brilliantly horrendous puns. There were his finger tats, raised eyebrows, hearts, stars, guns and roses—a middle school girl’s romantic thug fantasy all splattered on a wall. Mickey could neither stop rolling his eyes or smiling, and he spent far too long loving and admiring it. Annie was incredible to make something so esoteric and pointed look like a generic graffiti’d wall, but some gamer with too much time on his hands would figure it all out. Someone always did. He finally tore his eyes away from it, dreading yet eager to see what the North wall had to offer.

It was also colorful, but surprisingly stark when compared to the tightly assembled collages of the other walls. He raised an eyebrow as his avatar edged closer, though the simple message was pretty clear, written in giant letters within an artsy swirled border. “I ‘heart’ M. Does M ‘heart’ I?” followed by the standard options of yes, no and maybe so, all with accompanying boxes for checking. Mickey almost rolled off the bed.

He was fidgety for a minute as it occurred to him that if Ian used Annie to do all this, it stood to reason that she now knew what had been going on between them. He took a moment to sort that feeling out, waiting for the frisson of panic to get him. It didn’t come, however, and instead he was a little surprised that he felt okay with it. He exhaled, relaxed and stepped ever closer to the wall.

“You and your middle school bullshit, I swear to fucking God, Ian,” Mickey breathed, shaking his head as he took in the absolute, romantic ridiculousness of it all. As he edged closer, he was prompted to fill in his answer with his spray paint.

“Jesus, are you even serious right now?” he laughed into the quiet of the room and equipped his spray paint. For a second, he toyed with the idea of playing the asshole and filling in the ‘no’ or the ‘maybe so,’ but found that he couldn’t bring himself to lie anymore even in the context of a goddamned video game. He carefully filled in the yes and the game chimed.

Achievement unlocked: Anustart.

“Anus tart?” Mickey asked incredulously, but eventually the words slowly spaced out a bit. “Oh, A ‘Nu’ Start…right, fucking Annie.”

There was a brief cut scene and the game seemed to reset. This time when his avatar emerged outside his starter safe house, all his stats had doubled, he had fifty grand—a veritable fortune to start out with—and the biggest fucking rocket launcher the game could offer. That thing was mostly only good for anarchy, which just happened to be Mickey’s favorite mode of play. Clearly Mickey had chosen wisely. It was a new start indeed.

Ian rang the doorbell and waited for an answer. Before long, there were a couple of tiny voices answering from inside the house. “Who is it?”

“The Cat in the Hat.”

A second later, two small blurs were barreling into him. “Uncle Ian!”

“Rugrats!” he roared and picked up his niece and nephew and marched inside with the two giggling under his arm. He sat on the couch and let them crawl all over him.

“What are you doing here? You didn’t say you were coming!” Abigail, Fiona’s firstborn interrogated.

“I don’t answer to you. You’re not the boss of me. I come and go as I like,” he scowled at her and made her giggle even more.

“What did you bring me?” JJ was never one to beat around the bush.

“Nothing! I brought you nothing, because you only love me when I bring you things.”

Abigail took his head in both her hands, squishing his cheeks and spoke with all the gravity only a five year old could truly muster. “That’s not true, Uncle Ian. We love you all the time.”

Ian grinned and headbutted her gently, “you’re the freaking worst. You’re going to scam me out of everything I have in a couple of years,” he sighed and relented. “They’re in the van, go get them before a bum does, and come right back inside.” They abandoned him squealing to get their presents just at their father came downstairs.

“I thought I heard the doorbell. Ian, I didn’t know you were coming.”

“JimmyJackSteve,” Ian greeted cheerfully, “how are you?!”

Jimmy sighed the longsuffering sigh of a man who knew his in-laws would be taking the piss out of him until the day he died permanently. Before they could say anything else, the kids came barreling inside with the gifts and Fiona came rushing down the stairs. There was a babble of excited chatter while the kids dived into the bags and Ian stood to greet his sister.

“Jesus, are you taller?” Fiona asked and grabbed Ian’s face the same way her daughter did. “How come you just showed up, bastard? Is everything okay; what’s wrong?”

“Everything’s fine, I came to take care of some business and just stopped by to say hi,” Ian replied, “not staying though. I need to get back to New York by nightfall before I’m single again. Where’s Frank?”

The Alibi looked the same as it ever did, and Ian was almost sure that the patrons were in the exact position he had left them in the last time he was there. No one paid him any mind when he walked in. He slid onto a bar stool and sat quietly until Kevin finished wiping down the counter and looked over at him. It took the bartender a second to register the face beneath the hoodie.

“Holy shit, man, look who it is!” Kevin was around the bar and crumpling Ian into a massive bear hug, lifting him bodily off the floor. “Hey guys, it’s Ian; no loans!” Kevin announced to the bar and the boozehounds greeted him noisily. “Son of a bitch, you tell Fiona you were coming?”

“No, but I just saw her and the kids. Gonna swing by Liam’s school after this,” Ian nodded and then told Kevin to put the next couple of rounds of everybody’s drinks on him. That should buy him enough goodwill to escape the bar unscathed. “Where’s Vee?”

“Some bullshit parents’ thing at the school; it’s her turn. She’s going to lose her shit when she hears you were here.”

“Was an impromptu thing; a proper visit is still on the books, I promise,” Ian said before peering around the bar, “where the fuck’s Frank?”

His father was on the floor of a bathroom stall, propped up against the door, contemplating life and the ceiling. When Ian opened the door, he was sent sprawling backwards at his son’s feet. For a moment, the stony faced young man staring down at him was virtually indistinguishable from the stony faced seventeen year old of a few years ago. He looked so much like his mother.

“Why the hell aren’t you in school?”

“I’ve been done with school for a while now, Frank,” Ian sighed.

His father blinked and his mental tape whirred and soon he was back up to speed. “Right…well what the hell are you doing here then? You lose all your money?”

Ian rolled his eyes heavenward and sighed again. His father continued undeterred. “Well, never you mind, son,” he held up his hand and Ian yanked him to his feet. He patted Ian on the back and staggered past him. “Easy come, easy go as they say. It was a sad inevitability. Even among the so-called ‘one percent’ there is marked stratification.” He lumbered over to the urinals, talking over his shoulder to Ian as he did his business. “The only real enduring money, my boy, is old money and the nouveau riche are damned by their own ignorance and inability to handle their sudden good fortune. It’s why I never strived for material wealth, ahh, nope. The moment you get it, is the moment they come to take it all from you.”

“Well, it’s good to know you love me no matter what, Frank,” Ian said and dug into his pocket for his check book, “luckily, they haven’t taken it all yet. I’m just here for a quick visit and it’s my turn to give you your allowance so…”

His father did a complete about face. “Well, that’s an entirely different thing then isn’t it? Thank God for newly moneyed; long may they reign! Can you add a little extra for this month?” he asked as he hovered around Ian as he wrote out the check, “I’ve gotten involved in a bit of a kerfuffle with a gentleman who insists that I owe—”

“Your kerfuffles are not my concern,” Ian said dryly, tore off the check and thrust it at his father.

“Typical New York fat cat,” Frank yelled after Ian as his son stalked out the bathroom, “no regard for the common man!”

It was approaching nightfall when Ian finally made it to Mickey’s door. He knocked and waited, bottle of moonshine in hand courtesy of Mandy. Unfortunately for him, Adam answered his door before Mickey answered his.

“Ah, look who’s properly back in the saddle,” Adam greeted warmly, “bearing gifts and everything. Tell me; is clear liquor the new candy and roses? Is this what we have become? Modern life is absolute hell on a true romantic.”

Ian sighed wearily, “hello Adam, do you not own a TV?”

“When you get to my age, you’ll know nothing on the boob tube comes even close to human theater,” Adam sniffed. “Besides, I wouldn’t have even bothered to pop out if I had known it was you. I thought it was the other young swain.”

That caught Ian’s attention, “what other young swain?”

Before Adam could say anything else, Mickey opened the door to find Adam hosting Ian outside his apartment. “Hey,” he said to Ian and ushered him inside before pinning Adam with a glare, “Jesus, Adam, do you not own a TV?”

“That’s the same thing I just said to him,” Ian’s voice floated out from behind Mickey, “ask him; the same thing!”

Adam huffed and fluttered into his apartment and finally left them to it. Mickey closed his door firmly and turned to face Ian who was leaning against the back of the couch and regarding him closely.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted again softly.

“Hey yourself,” Ian returned.

Mickey crossed his arms and shifted his weight from foot to foot before finally blurting out what was on his mind. “So where were you yesterday?”

“Chicago…just got back actually,” Ian answered and that answer took Mickey by surprise.

“Chicago? What the hell were you doing out there?”

“A family thing came up,” which was technically true. Mandy was pretty much family now, “I flew out to see what was going on, try to get things sorted out.”

“Oh,” Mickey said, dropping his arms and relaxing slowly, “is everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine, and I dropped in on Mandy who sent you this,” Ian presented Mickey with the bottle, “and I got loaded up with photo albums and care packages, because we don’t have food here in New York. Want to see pictures of the next generation of hell raisers?”

Mickey grinned, completely mollified, “yeah sure.” He stashed the moonshine before heading into his bedroom to evict Clay with Ian trailing behind him. It was now Ian’s turn to cautiously broach a pressing subject.

“So Adam raced out a while ago thinking I was someone else…”


“I don’t know; the other ‘young swain’?”

Mickey let out a short laugh, “Adam needs to mind his own fucking business. He was probably talking about your brother.”


“That’s the one.”

“Shit, what was he doing here?”

Mickey shrugged casually while he tidied up, “he was extending the olive branch, I guess; trying to even out shit between us.”

“Oh…” Ian said quietly, “did it work?”

As much as any smoke and mirror bullshit could work. Mickey had known long before he opened that envelope that there was nothing but nonsense in there. Lip would never willingly hand anyone the keys to bring down the kingdom, but it had been amusing reading the manufactured dirt in the documents. He had no doubt Lip sold a good chunk of his soul to get Southside Enterprises up and running and his career on track, and there was just enough truth in the documents to be convincing—still bullshit—but convincing. Still, the gesture had been a big one and had a fair amount of work going into it. The intent, at least, he believed was genuine.

“Yeah, for the most part,” Mickey reassured Ian, “still ended up punching him in the face though.”

“So that’s what happened to him,” Ian exclaimed, “he said he had to wear makeup to court!”

“Yeah, sorry…”

“No, no, it’s fine! I fully support punching Lip in the face if it makes you feel better,” Ian nodded vigorously, “any time you like. I’ll drive you.”

Mickey gave Ian a lopsided grin and lifted Clay off the bed and lugged him to the living room, “let’s go, big man.”

“You know, you can call him by his name,” Ian yelled after Mickey, “I know all about CLAY!”

“What the fuck…Mandy!” Mickey growled, mortified. “It’s like she’s physically incapable of keeping a secret. You know she enjoys Glee unironically?”

“Don’t try to change the subject here,” Ian smirked and pulled Mickey to stand between his legs, “you named him after me. You’ve been in love with me forever. I’m daddy number one.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Mickey huffed, red-faced.

“You find your Easter egg?” Ian asked nervously while he ran his hands down Mickey’s hips and down the back of his thighs.

“Of course I did, you might as well have put up neon direction signs. Got anus tart and everything.”

Ian beamed, “That was Annie’s idea. Her humor is so weird. Anyway, it means you chose wisely then. Did you like it? What did you think?”

Mickey bit his lip and shoved Ian roughly back onto the bed. “Here, let me show you.”

Ian was still awake in the wee hours of the morning while Mickey slept soundly next to him. He was too anxious to fall sleep, replaying the evening in his head. He knew Mickey, and he had known that stance earlier when his boyfriend had questioned him about his whereabouts. He had no doubt in his mind that if he had even hinted that he had been with another guy, Mickey would have lost his shit. So obviously, Mickey wasn’t okay with the idea of him seeing other people and it seemed to lend credence to the idea that Mickey was trying to keep his own options open. The worst part of it is he couldn’t bring himself to fault Mickey for it. It was just like Savannah had said; who wants to deal with crazy?

He couldn’t stop thinking about his mother, the way she made their lives a weird sort of hell, even when she was trying her hardest, even when she had the very best of intentions. For a few glimmering moments, Monica could be a decent mother, maybe even a good one, until her illness overtook her and she became terrifying and heartbreaking. Seeing his mother bleeding out on the kitchen floor followed him for life. It had fucked them all up.

Then there was him, Ian Gallagher who was just like his mother; too much like her in the worst way. How could he put Mickey through that that? “No one should have to deal with that shit unless they want to or have no choice…That’s why God made blood family.” Ian snorted softly at the idea. When his illness had taken hold, his own family had run the gamut from ill prepared to unwilling, and demanding more from Mickey, who had his own trauma to deal with, seemed so unreasonable.

They had been lucky so far. He’d had a few meltdowns since they began seeing each other, but Mickey had yet to meet the monster caged behind a wall of pills inside him, the one that occasionally slipped out when his brain decided to change the game again. The last thing he wanted was to put Mickey through that and then resurface to see the fear, worry and exhaustion etched into his boyfriend’s face when the fog receded. You’re supposed to protect the ones you love, even if it’s from yourself; put their happiness before your own. It’s what a good person should do, isn’t it?

He couldn’t stop agonizing about it though, the eventual meet-cute where Mickey would stumble across the guy he really ought to be with. Ian kept playing scenario after scenario in his mind, only stopping when Mickey was with him. Would they meet at Mickey’s gun range? Maybe it would be at the sandwich shop at the corner where Mickey and Eric grabbed their breakfast before work. Perhaps it would be at work or a shy exchange of smiles at the supermarket.

He imagined the guy too, someone calm, good-natured and blue collared, who wouldn’t intimidate Mickey with his money and would do normal things like defend the Yankees to the death and build random shit in his garage. Someone who might occasionally need antihistamines and maybe one day would need a prescription for Lipitor, as opposed to needing a fistful of antipsychotics and antidepressants to get through the day.

Maybe what Ian was, was simply a stepping stone for Mickey to get to that guy. Maybe he was just supposed to help get Mickey emotionally ready to be with the right one. Someone else who would listen to his horrible puns and off colour jokes; someone else who would get charmed by Mickey’s odd brand of sweetness and bracing encouragement. Someone else who would discover how amazing he smells all the time. When it finally happens, he should suck it up and let it happen, because part of loving was knowing when to let go, and it is what a good person would do…wasn’t it?  

Ian’s thoughts were interrupted by Mickey rolling over onto his back and sighing. His boyfriend opened a bleary eye and saw that Ian was still wide awake. Mickey reached over and tugged Ian towards him. “C’mere,” he said huskily, still mostly asleep. He settled Ian’s head on his chest and dropped a soothing kiss into the red hair. “Try and turn your brain off. Go to sleep.” He rubbed Ian’s back and quickly fell back to sleep.

Ian shifted slightly and settled properly on Mickey’s chest, absorbing his heat and listening to the steady, calming sounds of his heartbeat. He hugged his boyfriend closer and slowly drifted to sleep, gradually suspecting that he may not be such a good person after all.

It was just before midday when Ian left Mickey’s apartment and the elevator opened to reveal a face he hadn’t seen in a while.

“Hey twinsy!” Alexis, mini-mall heiress and Ian’s romantic doppelganger, greeted warmly, “you look a little rundown today,” she said with concern as he joined her in the elevator.

“You look on top of the world,” Ian replied, eyebrow raised at her lovely glow.

“Ah, it’s the look of love, my friend,” Alex sighed “things are finally as they should be and once again, that old black magic has got me under its spell.”

Ian was intrigued, since Alex’s own romantic woes had bizarrely mirrored his own up until this point. Clearly, she had managed to outstrip him somewhere. They stepped off the elevator together and were about to part ways before Ian was suddenly inspired.

“Hey, Alex, are you busy? You want to grab some lunch, maybe?”

She nodded eagerly, “sure, I could use a drink right about now anyway. There’s this lovely little bistro a few blocks from here that should be serving brunch right now.” With that, she linked their arms and practically skipped all the way to the restaurant.

Admittedly, they made a fetching looking couple, and it was almost a little too much for their waiter. He watched wide-eyed as Ian held Alexis’ chair for her and she slid in gracefully, golden blonde hair stark against her black sheath dress. She gave a small toss of her head and her hair fell back in place in a smooth, shampoo commercial wave. Ian wasn’t much better. He sat down and ran his fingers through his tousled hair, seemingly in slow motion, buttons of his polo shirt open and alluring.

“I want to know what your children look like,” the waiter said breathlessly, earning a pair of weird looks from his customers. He quickly cleared his throat and presented them with their menus. He then readied himself to take their drink orders and tried to spare himself further embarrassment.

“If you would be so kind, please bring me the biggest orange-strawberry mimosa you can manage,” Alex said, “and don’t think I’m being coy. I mean the biggest. Empty the fish tank if you have to.”

“That works for me,” Ian added and the waiter nodded and tripped off. “Hitting the mimosas hard for a Sunday morning, huh?”

“Ugh, don’t judge…I just remembered that I have a meeting with the de facto in-laws tomorrow, and mommie dearest would like nothing more than for me to take a long walk off a short plank, if you get my drift,” Alexis sighed and threw up her hands. “Can’t expect anymore than that, I guess; I hurt her baby badly.”

“What did you do exactly; if you don’t mind me asking?”

Alex smoothed her dress and brushed some imaginary lint off the dining table, “fucked his brother,” she eventually admitted.


“You can’t even begin to imagine,” she said forlornly, “think of all the issues two brothers can have; one the sensitive, creative type, the apple of his mother’s eye, while you have older, book smart, overachiever that dad hangs all his hopes on. Can you imagine all the angst and turmoil that comes with it?”

“Huh, I can try” Ian muttered.

“Tim already thought we were incompatible because of the difference in our backgrounds. Me sleeping with his investment banker brother? He lost his fucking mind.”

“Were you into the brother or something?”

“Todd? No way. He’s a chauvinistic, condescending, soulless asshole.”

Ian couldn’t help but ask the obvious question, “why’d you sleep with him then?”

“How can I put this—cocaine is a hell of a drug.”

“Ah,” Ian nodded with understanding.

“Never touching the stuff again,” Alex shook her head firmly. “Todd inhales it like oxygen; you know the Wall Street types. Dumbest mistake I’ve ever made.” She eyed Ian in turn, “what did you do?”

“Um, I snooped in his computer, found some stuff that seemed incriminating out of context, incorrectly accused him of sleeping with me in order to scam me and inadvertently threatened to destroy his life forever and ever.”

“Wow, far out.”

 Ian grunted in acknowledgment. “It’s been a long road back to say the least.”

“Ugh, tell me about it. It was like slaying the fucking hydra. One issue would resolve and another one or two would pop up in its place. I get him to forgive me for the brother fucking, only to realize he was still hung up on the class division thing. Jesus, not so long ago, he actually tried to set me up with one of Todd’s nicer, less coked out friends.”

“No dice, huh?” Ian grinned at the wounded look on Alex’s face. They paused while their waiter placed their drinks before them and took their meal order.

“Are you kidding? I’ve been in love with Tim ever since I saw his art work at one of those pop up art galleries that appear around Brooklyn,” Alex’s entire being seemed to soften and lighten as she related her story, “it was so raw and visceral. I ended up buying every one of his pieces. So of course, he had to come and meet me and it was just…”


“Yeah,” she sighed, “he’s it for me, you know? So it’s so fucked up that he would think that I could ever be with anyone else. I mean, I know I fucked up bad, but it had nothing to do with my feelings for him or him being inadequate or any such shit. I mean, I do not need or want to keep my options open and I’m not going to get up one day and—”

Ian spit a little of drink back into his glass, “I’m sorry what?”


“He told you to keep your options open?”

Alex nodded and rolled her eyes, “the insecure jackass. I mean at first, I thought it was because he felt like he couldn’t accept my lifestyle and he was holding out, hoping for one of those artsy, earth mother, patchouli scented women. Admittedly, such a woman might seem better for him on paper, but fuck that bitch, I saw him first and I’m keeping him!” she exclaimed while waving her butter knife menacingly, “so anyway, I go to confront him, he’s looking at me as if I’m crazy because he’s wonderful, but so, so dumb, and he tells me it’s not about him finding the right girl, it’s about me finding the right guy!”

“So…wait, I mean,” Ian stammered and leaned forward in his seat, “the whole keeping options open thing was because he thought you were too good for him?”

“I lost the ability to even—I’m telling you!”

Ian was still processing, “so he isn’t holding out for someone else? He honestly thinks he isn’t good enough? Could that really be it?”

Alex took a large gulp of her mimosa and nodded, “I don’t know why he thinks I’m such a perfect princess. Until my daddy made one good business decision, we were all white trash. In fact, I try to tell him that we’re all still white trash. My dad makes hooch in the bathtub.”

Ian had stopped listening eons ago, “so it’s not because I’m crazy, it’s because he is?”


Ian threw his head back and groaned to the heavens. “He is so fucking stupid.”

“That’s what I said!”

Ian stood up abruptly and quickly shelled out some cash onto the table. He apologized profusely to Alex who was staring at him wide-eyed. “I’m so sorry; I have to take a rain check. I need to sort something out. I just—later!”

“Okay, good luck!” Alexis waved off his rapidly retreating form and went about ordering another monster-in-law mimosa.

Mickey scrambled off the bed and raced to the door to answer the frantic pounding. Something had to be on fire, or someone was dying. Clearly time was of the essence or they wouldn’t be rocking his whole apartment. He flung the door open and Ian collapsed inside and rolled, puffing and wheezing onto his back. This was not helping Mickey’s blood pressure.

“What?! What?! What’s happening?!” Mickey asked urgently while Ian struggled for breath.

“Ran eight blocks,” Ian panted, “just missed the elevator, so just ran up the stairs to your floor. We need to quit smoking. This is bullshit.”

“You fucking piece of—” Mickey kicked Ian a few times in the side, “don’t fucking scare me like that!” he stepped out and grabbed Ian’s legs and swung them into the apartment so he could close the door. “And didn’t you just fucking leave?” Mickey kicked him one more time in annoyance and stepped over him to stalk back to his bedroom. He was halted, however, when Ian grabbed his foot and held tight.

“Hang on, we need to talk,” Ian sat up and released Mickey’s foot. He narrowed his eyes and looked up at his expectant boyfriend. “This whole open relationship thing, is it because you’re hoping to meet someone else?”

“What? No, what the fuck?” And there was the “are you crazy?” look, just as Alexis had said.

“Then why put it out there?” Ian persisted despite the relief flooding his system, “were you doing it to mess with me?”

“Why the fuck would I mess with you like that?”

“I don’t know, as punishment?” Ian offered, “what other reason is there?”

“I just thought, maybe,” Mickey’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly and looked out towards his window as if searching for help, “I figured that maybe further down the line you might meet someone who’s...who isn’t…”

“Who isn’t what? Fucking stupid?” Ian sighed and lay back once again, “I want my fucking keys back, Mickey!” Ian demanded from his supine position on the floor, “and we’re done with this open option/relationship bullshit too.”

“Ian, I’m just saying you don’t have to commit to this right now and—”

“Oh God, Mick, please shut up,” Ian groaned and slowly got to his feet. “You know what I’ve come to realize? I’m not really a good person.”

That caught Mickey from straight out of left field, “what, of course you are.”

“No, not really,” Ian scrunched his face, squinting one eye closed, “I mean, I’m okay, not evil or anything, but I’m definitely not pure or selfless or anything like that.”

“Well who is?” Mickey was nonplussed, thrown off by the odd turn of conversation.

“Did I ever tell you about the time we stole an old lady from a nursing home to cover up our welfare fraud?” Ian asked and went to sit on the couch, obviously expecting Mickey to join him. Blinking, his boyfriend obediently sat with him on the couch, looking at him askance the whole time. “Frank had been cashing Aunt Ginger’s checks for years, even though she was dead…and buried in our backyard.”

Mickey’s eyebrows immediately collided with his hairline.

“When I was fifteen, I almost killed Lip. I got so mad; I almost smashed his head into the edge of the bathtub.”

“Seems reasonable,” Mickey muttered beneath his breath and listened confused but attentively as Ian began his confessional spiel. He sat quietly as Ian outlined as faithfully as he could every bad deed he had committed from as far back as he could remember. It ranged from the ridiculous—trying to cut off a woman’s toe to make her a physical match for his aunt—to the sublime—stealing pizza out of delivery cars to save on food bills.

“I might have been a little manic then, but one time, I shoved some guy who called me a faggot into oncoming traffic. And then this other time—”

“So like did he die or…?”

“That’s not important right now,” Ian said blithely and glossed over possible attempted murder to continue listing his other sins. He went sequentially, and by year nineteen, Mickey realized this confessional was going to go the distance. Eventually he was forced to order pizza online, careful to make sure it was obvious he was still listening. Ian continued undeterred even when the pizza guy showed up and continued his tale of wondrous misdeeds even with a mouthful of meat lovers’ deep dish.

Full of pizza and listening to Ian’s steady drone, Mickey’s head grew heavy and before he knew what was what, he was resting on Ian’s shoulder and had nodded off. He was rudely awakened by the clap of Ian’s hand on his thigh.

“Yes, what, I’m here!” Mickey startled awake.

“Did you fucking fall asleep on me?!”

“No, I was listening. I was just resting my eyes,” Mickey said, rubbing his eyes and straightening up.

“What’s the last thing you heard?”

“Something about a donkey show in Tijuana?”

Ian pouted in irritation, “that means you missed all of year twenty-one!”

“Ian,” Mickey sighed, “look, you’ve been circling the airport for a while now. You maybe wanna bring this in for a landing?”

Ian nodded and turned to face Mickey full on. “I’m not going to leave. I’m not in the market for any upgrades, I’m not keeping my options open and I’m not going to drop you for something better. You’re it for me; it doesn’t get any better than you.”


“No,” Ian shook his head firmly, brooking no interruption, “at first I thought this was about you maybe planning to bail when you found someone better, and I figured that a good person would try to be cool about it and let it happen. However, as I’ve spent the last few hours detailing, I am not that good of a person, so if by some chance you come across someone who you feel is better for you, it’s probably in his best interest if you didn’t let me know,” Ian mumbled under his breath, making Mickey snort in amusement. “It doesn’t get better than you,” Ian repeated, “you’ll sit and listen to me babble for hours; you don’t freak out when I get loopy. You make me feel like there’s nothing wrong with me.”

“But there isn’t anything wrong with you,” Mickey said quietly.

“You’re the only person in my life that thinks that way,” Ian laughed, “and I’m including myself in that. And you’re the only person I believe when they say it.” Ian stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. “I have plans for us, Mick; there’s stuff I want to do now. I want to get a dog, I want to get a place in the south of France maybe, and we could backpack across Europe or something. I haven’t quite gotten all the details figured out yet, but there’s so much stuff,” he added sheepishly.

“Okay…” Mickey grinned at him, amused at his breathless enthusiasm.

“You’re laughing at me, but you don’t understand yet what this means for me. I stopped making plans when I was eighteen, Mick. The second I accepted my diagnosis, I just figured there were certain things I was never going to do and there was a part of my life that was over—even with the money. It doesn’t matter how good the meds are, there’s always that possibility that I’ll go to bed one night and wake up in an entirely different place than where I’m supposed to be and it’s…” Ian’s voice broke and his eyes filled up, though crying was the last thing he wanted to do right then, “and it’s fucking terrifying.”

“Hey, hey, come on,” Mickey soothed Ian gently, cradling his face and wiping away at the tears that spilled over, “I’ve got you. We’ll be okay.”

“I know, that’s just it,” Ian said haltingly, “it can get really bad, Mickey, and I don’t want to put you through it. The last thing I want to do is to put you through it, but you’re the only one I can imagine riding it out with and you’re the only one I trust to still be there when the fog clears. I fucking need you.”

“Yeah,” Mickey whispered back, momentarily at a loss before he found himself saying the promise out loud that he had made ages ago, “I’ll take care of you, no matter what. You’ve got me.”

Ian exhaled a noisy, shuddering breath, “Well good, so can we just do this, please? No more bullshit, no more options and eggshells—can we just make this work?”

“Just you and me, huh?” Mickey appeared to muse, still gently stroking Ian’s face with one hand while the other twisted into the knee of his sweatpants, “just us…forever?”

Ian gave his boyfriend a watery smile, “forever’s not that long if you really think about it.”

Mickey snorted softly before staring into Ian’s eyes seriously. “I swear to fucking God, Ian, if you put me through any of this bullshit again, I will kill you. I’m not being cute; I will honest to God kill you until you die from it. Then I will keep your nuts in a mason jar on a shelf somewhere obvious.”

“Fair, fair, that’s fair,” Ian nodded vigorously and Mickey’s expression gentled into a soft smile.

“Fine, okay, you’ll get your fucking keys back,” Mickey said gruffly, “always making a federal fucking case out of everything.”

Ian’s face split with a huge smile and he lost no time pouncing on his boyfriend until they wound up on the floor in a heap. Mickey could only laugh and moan as Ian breathed warm kisses and “I love you’s” into his skin.

Maybe Ian had gotten to him again, and maybe they were biting off way more than they could chew. It could end up an epic disaster and he’d wind up destroyed in the end, but fuck it, Mickey Milkovich was all in.

Mickey popped another can of coke open and yawned widely in the break room. He was exhausted and sore and Ian could go fuck himself with his executive privilege. Except for a few minutes of semi-consciousness to take his pills, Ian had been sleeping the sleep of the innocent while Mickey was practically crawling to the bathroom to get ready for work. When Mickey had poked at him to get up, his idiot had simply played the “boss” card and rolled over. It was unbelievable, and after Mickey had let that carrot-topped bastard work him over like a professional all goddamned night too. The humongous dick—the least he could have done was drive Mickey to work.  

Mickey was still trying to find some hidden reserves of energy when Lindsay sidled into the break room. She greeted him while he drank his soda and idled about, getting chips and watching him out of the corner of her eye. He seemed tired but content and calm, so she figured she could take a daring chance.

“So, Mick, how are things going; hard at work or hardly working?” she giggle-snorted awkwardly.

“Good, good,” Mickey nodded, smiling happily into his drink, “Oh, um, everything okay?”

“Yeah, as good as gold,” she cleared her throat and inched closer, “well, there is an office pool that’s been going on a while, and I’m the bookie and the natives are getting kinda restless.”

“Office pool? I don’t anything about any office pool.”

“Yeah, no, you wouldn’t,” she said while twirling her hair nervously, “mostly because it was kind of about you…”

“Say what now?”

Lindsay quickly began talking about a mile a minute, “listen all I need to know is the approximate date you and Ian got back together and I’ll be out of your hair forever. Everybody’s getting mad at me and insinuating some really untrue things. I paid for my boyfriend’s dirt bike with my own hard earned money!” she was then off and running in rapid-fire Spanish.

Mickey held up a finger and Lindsay sputtered to a halt. “There’s an office pool about me and Ian?”

“Yes?” Lindsay squeaked.

“About us getting back together?” he chewed on his inner cheek when she nodded, “how many people are in this pool?”

“Like, everybody?” she answered hesitantly, “it’s a really big pool.”

Mickey’s cheeks puffed out after taking a large swig from the can. He thought things over quickly and could come to only one conclusion. “CARRIE!” 

She came rushing in a few seconds later to see a glowering Mickey and a cowering Lindsay. “What it is, chief? I thought it was the hammer of Thor coming down on me a second ago.” She had a while to wait for Mickey had been reduced to enraged sputtering and she was eventually forced to turn to the office manager for clarification.

“I really needed the date, alright?” Lindsay confessed, “who knew gamers could get so mean?”

“You told?!” Mickey finally choked out.

It was Carrie’s turn to raise a quelling finger. “Slow your roll, one second,” she turned her attention once again to the office manager. “Lindsay, destroyer of worlds, why are you still in here?”

“I really need that date!”

Carrie heaved in annoyance, “July 17th, Jesus.”

Mickey squeaked and Lindsay loped off into the office. “Who had July 17th?!”

“Carrie, how could you?!”

“Oh calm down, drama queer, I didn’t tell anyone anything. Well, except for just now, but the jig was already up and Lindsay can get super annoying, super fast,” Carrie said.

“How the fuck does everyone know my business then?!” Mickey demanded.

“Oh, I don’t know…maybe half of them have come across your and Ian’s horny, pale asses going at it all over the goddamn building,” Carrie sneered, “and then the other half found out when the first half gossiped about it, as is God’s will.”

Mickey was taken aback; there was no way. “There is no way!” he averred vehemently, “we were discreet; we were careful.”

“Yeah, you have no idea what either of those words mean,” Carrie replied with a roll of her eyes, “last week Ernesto had to sit and wait for over half an hour because the two of you had occupied the handicapped stall. You have any idea how demoralizing it is to have to clean a bathroom after you know for a fact people have gotten freaky in it? The man just wanted to go home to his Dachshund. He better get a hell of a bonus this Christmas.”

“That…that wasn’t us,” Mickey gnawed on his lower lip and avoided eye-contact. Carrie was shockingly disbelieving of this display.

“I told no one anything. I did try to bring Raj up to speed, but he already knew because the two of you were discussing ass eating in the elevator.”

“I, um, don’t recall that.”

“You left a condom in Carol’s office, you’ve been giving each other head in the break room, and—you should take this as a compliment—Ian is louder than a fucking banshee. So his office door offers no real protection.”

“I’m good at what I do,” Mickey mumbled.

“No shit, daddy,” Carrie grinned broadly, “good on you.”

Mickey would not be distracted by the acknowledgement of his sexual prowess. This was horrifying. “But why is everybody talking about this?!”

Carrie was incredulous, “are you out of your goddamned mind? It’s sex! Is there anything more inherently interesting? It doesn’t matter who or what is having it. People will stop traffic to watch squirrels going at it, let alone when it’s their boss and a coworker. Stop freaking out. Yes, everyone knows you’re a wanton harlot, but what you should focus on is that everyone is rooting for you guys and quite a few people are even financially invested.”

On cue, the door burst open revealing a jubilant Travis, flush from victory in the Ian-Mickey Reconciliation Office Pool. “I love you, man! I love your love! You and me, Comic Con 2015, you can be comic book Wolverine, I’ll be movie Wolverine,” Travis then turned back to his grumbling workers and continued gloating, “I’m rich, bitches.”

“They wouldn’t let me play,” Carried bitterly informed a dumbfounded Mickey, “Lindsay said I had access to inside information and had undue influence. Bitch… that could have been my Florida vacation.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Again, are you crazy? Mickey you were dealing with a million and one things already and going through it with Ian. You would have panicked if you knew that it was common knowledge and made some fucked up decision because of it. Don’t act like it’s not true. Besides, with the exception of the pool, no one fucking cares. We’re all doing the same thing. Did you know that Martin and Anya finally hooked up in the supply closet after the release party?”

“Yeah?” Mickey’s voice dropped and he edged closer, “about fucking time. Liquid courage?”

“Hoo yeah, they were blitzed and of course mousy little Anya is into the 50 Shades of Grey, shit. Only she’s the Robert Pattison stand-in and Martin is the generic white girl.”

“Get the fuck out!”

“I shit you not,” Carrie giggled and readied to tell Mickey the whole sordid tale, only for Mickey to realize he was being craftily distracted.

This was fucking mortifying. “I’m heading to the roof; I need to smoke and possibly jump off.”

Ian straggled in after all the hubbub, yawning and laden with caffeine-choked Starbucks. Mickey was away from his desk and after he dumped everything in his office and wandered back out, he was told why.

“Gee!” Carrie began in a too loud, far too stilted voice, “I hope Mickey’s okay up there on the roof. He was a little upset!”

Raj pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned tiredly, “by the old gods and the new, Carrie.”

“Why is Mickey upset?” Ian asked, eyes darting from Carrie to Raj.

“Okay, I’m no snitch and I won’t name names, but LINDSAY—”


“Lindsay,” Carrie soldiered on, “let him know that we all know about you two being together.”

“You all know?” Ian asked, surprised.

“Yes,” the denizens of Skid Row answered tiredly.

“But we were so careful and discreet,” Ian mused as he headed for the elevator, “please stop freaking out my boyfriend, people. He’s skittish enough as it is,” Ian ordered before the elevator doors slid closed.

“Unprovoked declaration! Who had today’s date?!” Raj yelled out.

“Booyah! Otakon 2015 is a go!”

“Son of a bitch,” the office grumped collectively, while Travis performed his second victory lap of the day.

“‘Mickey’s upset,’ I heard,” Ian said after he found his boyfriend tucked into the corner where he had lunch with his friends. Mickey was sitting on one of the chairs, shoes off and feet propped up on another, smoking with his eyes closed. “Mickey doesn’t look so upset. Mickey looks like he’s on the roof slacking off.”

Mickey barely opened one eye to take in Ian’s approach and yawned when Ian lifted his feet and sat down before resting them in his lap. “I’m fucking tired, alright? Some inconsiderate prick took me to the mat last night.”

Ian smirked and rubbed Mickey’s socked feet, propping his own foot on Mickey’s chair. “You initiated just as often. Besides, be grateful about it. Sometimes when I need to change my meds, my sex drive just flat-lines until me and my doctor can get the balance right,” Ian spoke softly, focusing on Mickey’s feet. “I’ve been having a good run with these. I mean, they give the shakes and their half-life is almost non-existent in my bloodstream, but you can’t say my dick doesn’t work.”

“As long as you’re feeling okay, everything else is gravy,” Mickey nodded and Ian finally peeked up at him.

“You okay?”

Mickey snorted and slumped down further into the chair to get more comfortable, bracing his feet against Ian’s abdomen. “Whole fucking office knows my business thanks to you.”

“Yeah, because I’m the one who made the ‘only in the office’ stipulation in the beginning. Besides, they were bound to find out anyway, especially if we’re serious about doing this right now.”

“We’re serious,” Mickey reassured him, “you have your keys back don’t you?” Mickey smiled tenderly at his boyfriend, “but it’s fucking weird, man, people knowing shit about me. We don’t all put our Jacuzzis next to giant windows.”

Ian laughed, “once again, we’re fifteen floors up; no one is seeing us. Besides, you weren’t so shy in it the other night.”

“I had to cross it off the bucket list, didn’t I?”

“Whatever, come on,” Ian slapped Mickey’s thigh and shoved his legs off his lap, “I have super coffee for you downstairs.”

“Why the hell didn’t you bring it up here?” Mickey complained and started pulling on his shoes.

“I was distracted by the whole ‘Mickey’s upset’ thing, okay? Now come get it while it’s still tongue-blisteringly hot.”

Mickey sent a warning glare around the office when he and Ian got off the elevator; daring someone to say a word or step out of line. Skid Row stayed wisely silent and everyone kept their eyes on their respective tasks. Ian disappeared into his office and Mickey slid into his station, but before he could slip on his headset, Ian was back and deliberately placing a large cup of coffee before him. Mickey looked up at him and couldn’t help but redden, but did manage to mumble a shy “thanks.”

“Ah, so sweet, so kawaii,” Carrie sniffled next to them, “make my fangirl heart go ‘doki doki’ long time.”

“Shut the fuck up, Carrie,” Mickey groused and Carrie only giggled. “I hate you so fucking much sometimes.”

“Language, Mr. Milkovich,” a voice boomed at him, making everyone jump. Carol had seemingly apparated out of nowhere, “this is a place of business, not the Salty Spitoon. Please take your coffee and both of you come with me.”

Ian and Mickey exchanged a nervous look before following Carol into Ian’s office. She sat in one of the chairs before Ian’s desk and nodded to Mickey to take the other one. Ian sat in his chair and the men held their breath.

“I take it that your little caffeinated display a while ago was some sort of public declaration of your relationship?” she asked drily and Ian nodded slowly. “Very well then, I’m going to need you both to read and sign these,” she slapped a folder in front of Mickey and handed another to Ian.

A quick scan and Ian heaved a sigh of relief, “oh, it’s just the love contract.”

“Yes, a contract which, might I add, should have been signed ages ago, Ian,” Carol withered and Ian slunk a little lower into his chair.

“It was complicated,” he replied and Carol barely arched an eyebrow.

“Yes, I rather imagine,” she said and leaned back in her chair waiting for the return of her folders. Ian grabbed a pen and quickly signed on the highlighted dotted lines, while Mickey just kept on reading.

“Mickey!” Ian demanded impatiently and if looks could kill, Carol would have smeared him all over the wall.

“Mr. Gallagher, surely you aren’t pressuring an employee to abandon his personal responsibilities as it concerns making an informed decision, are you?”

“No!” Ian whimpered, “it’s just that—”

“Silence,” Carol ordered and Ian stared at his hands and contemplated every wrong thing he’d ever done in his life with deep regret. Carol then nodded at Mickey, “take as much time as you need and sign when you’re ready.”

“Yes, Ms. Anderson,” Mickey answered politely and stuck his tongue out at Ian.

“‘Yes, Ms. Anderson,” Ian mocked before quickly going back to staring at his hands. Mickey finally signed and they switched folders to sign the other’s copy and the folders were handed back to Carol.

“Thank you,” Carol tapped the folders on the table to neaten everything and stood up, “by the power invested in me by the New York State Department of Labor and Southside Enterprises, I declare your relationship duly recognized and above board. Mazel tov; don’t ever have sex in my office again.” With that she took her folders and marched out.

Mickey and Ian sipped their coffees thoughtfully. Ian couldn’t help but muse, “you know, I don’t know what it is, but something about her makes everything feel so much more official. I mean, just a few minutes ago, you were young and sexy and exciting; now you just feel like my ball and chain.”

“While we’re on the topic of suddenly suffocating domesticity; those dad noises you make in the morning, can they be any louder and more disgusting?”

“Yes, actually, they can as you’ll soon find out,” Ian deadpanned, “and I will not be criticized by a man in an intense and puzzling relationship with a giant teddy bear.”

“Wait, are you talking about yourself or Clay?” Mickey asked innocently, which made Ian break first. He burst out laughing and threw a pen at Mickey.

“Take your coffee and get the fuck out of my office.”

Two months later

December had barely started and it was already colder than his sister’s shriveled, blackened heart. Mickey stepped into the lobby of Ian’s building and whipped off his beanie, taking a moment to absorb the glorious heat before he trekked to the elevator.

“Cold outside, Mick?” Anja, the Teutonic, ice blonde receptionist greeted with a smile.

“It’s not even fucking winter yet,” Mickey groaned, “what the hell?” he stopped for a moment at the desk to catch up with her, “you guys have Roger working the door tonight, huh? That’s cold, pun intended. Who’d he piss off this time?”

Anja chuckled and dropped her voice, casting a wary glance around, “Mrs. Weinstein’s grandson came in looking like a hobo. Roger escorted him out before finding out who he was. Honestly, I don’t know whose side I’m on in this case. That kid is a brat.”

“A snotty, rich kid? Who’s ever heard of that?” Mickey pushed away from the desk and ambled over to the elevator, “later, Valkyrie.”

“Keep warm,” she yelled back as the doors closed.

“I intend to; I don’t have to work the doors.”

Mickey swiped his keycard and stepped into Ian’s condo to find his boyfriend toiling away in the kitchen. He dropped his bag next to the door with a “thunk”—a sound that never failed to make Ian happy because it signaled Mickey’s staying for the weekend—kicked off his shoes and stomped into the kitchen.

“My so-called sister kicked me out of my own goddamned apartment because I was ‘throwing her chakra’ out of whack!”

Ian laughed and nodded, “more stuff from anger management?”

“I guess so. Fuck if I’m going to listen to her chant all weekend. This is your fault.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You imported her is what you did,” Mickey groused, “a little more than a month and she’s taken over my whole apartment, keeps trying to steal my bear…don’t you pay your voice actors enough for them to get their own apartments?”

“I’m sure I do; maybe she just loves her big brother’s place.”

Mickey only huffed and rifled through the fridge for a drink. He leaned against it after he found something and watched Ian busying himself over the steaming pots. “Whatcha making?”

“Japanese curry.”

“Of course you are.”

“Give it a chance, you’ll—”

“—like it, I know, I know.”

Ian spooned up a chunk of sauce covered chicken and blew on it to cool it. He then unceremoniously shoved it into Mickey’s mouth and watched him chew thoughtfully. “Huh?”

Mickey shrugged, “it’s okay, I guess,” and avoided his boyfriend’s knowing smile.

“I’ll make sure to share out an extra large helping for you then.”

Later, when they sat across from each other at the dining room table, Ian watched with no small amount of smug glee as Mickey plowed through his plate of curry and rice. Mickey scoffed and untangled his legs from Ian’s so he could go get more. “Shut up with your face. You know you’re good at this shit.”

Ian didn’t say a word and just went on grinning maddeningly into his food until Mickey came back to the table and recaptured Ian’s feet with his own.

“I found a bunch of Van Damme movies on Netflix,” Ian told Mickey when his boyfriend came back from the bathroom and crawled into bed with him.

“You found them, huh? Where were they, with the Holy Grail?” Mickey settled next to Ian and watched him channel surf. “For every Van Damme movie you make me watch, I get a Segal, one to one ratio.”

Ian agreed, although about a half hour into the first queued flick, Ian lost interest in the action on screen and turned his attention to nuzzling Mickey’s neck instead. He slipped his hand into Mickey’s sweatpants and nipped and sucked on his neck, pulling low moans out of Mickey while he stroked his boyfriend to full hardness. Mickey tilted his head, giving Ian more room to mark and a few minutes later, Ian pulled back to admire his handiwork, grateful that Mickey bruised just as easily as he did.

“I swear to God you’re like fourteen, Ian,” Mickey teased, breath hitching as Ian’s thumb swiped over the tip of his cock. Ian only hummed and covered Mickey’s lips with his own and pushed him to lay flat against the pillows. “Wait, fuck,” Mickey hissed and sat up abruptly.

“What? What’s wrong?” Ian asked and waited as Mickey reached back and dug a controller out from beneath the pillow. “Jeez, you’re sensitive. Was the Princess and the Pea based of your life experiences?”

“Shut up,” Mickey growled and casually lobbed the controller. As expected, it fell well short of the edge of the mattress. Mickey bit back a smile and the ongoing ridiculousness of this bed. “Seriously though.”

“Don’t blame my fucking bed just because you’ll never play for the Sox,” Ian said as Mickey got comfortable against the pillows.

“I can still hope for the Mets though, right?” Mickey grinned and hooked his hand around Ian’s neck and pulled him down for another kiss.

“Well yeah, you don’t have to abandon that dream just yet.”

Mickey felt Ian must have always been unabashedly loud, although his boyfriend claimed that it’s only Mickey that made him that way. Prior to him, Ian said he hated all the noise and chitchat during sex, but Mickey had unlocked that side of him. Mickey wasn't sure if he entirely bought that, though he sure as fuck wanted to, but he did know that he loved it, and tried everything to get Ian moaning and grunting and screaming his name. Just the way he was now.

Mickey arched towards Ian, electrified, as Ian pounded into him. Ian was braced on one arm above him, his other hand gripping the back of Mickey’s thigh and encouraging Mickey to wrap his legs tighter around him. Mickey clawed at Ian’s back, feeling himself splintering as their lovemaking grew rougher and more torrid. Ian wanted him loud too and Mickey was quickly getting there. He certainly was never this moaning, wanton mess before Ian got a hold of him. Still, it wasn’t that easy. After years of stifled groans, low pitched grunts and buried faces, the idea of screaming his passion to the heavens was something Mickey had to work towards.

But fuck if he didn’t feel like he’d go nuclear if he didn’t get it out. Mickey’s entire world shrank down to a six-foot, red tinged superhero and if the red god wanted Mickey loud, then Mickey was going to get fucking loud. For the time being, they’d found a happy medium, where Mickey would drag Ian down into a searing kiss and stifle his new found noisiness there. Ian wasn’t about to complain about that, but Mickey knew it was only a short matter of time before Ian stripped him bare of the few inhibitions he had left and heaven help him them.

Ian leaned down, breathing moist heat into Mickey’s ear while he connected with his love’s sweet spot. Mickey rocked his hips, meeting Ian’s thrusts with his own and kneading Ian’s ass in wordless encouragement. He felt Ian’s rhythm begin to stutter and knew they were both close to finishing, so he shoved at his boyfriend, rolling with him until he was on top.

“Mick, fuck!” Ian shouted as Mickey rode him, and gripped Mickey’s hips to keep him balanced and steady while continued thrusting into Mickey’s welcome heat. Mickey braced one hand next to Ian’s head, wrapped the other around his leaking cock and pumped frantically. Ian dug his fingers into Mickey’s hips and moaned a warning, “I’m gonna come.”

“Yeah,” Mickey shuddered, the deep huskiness of Ian’s voice wrecking him. He rode him hard, the stroke of his hand falling out of tempo with his hips. Ian erupted first, and twisted his head to bite Mickey’s wrist. The brief shot of erotic pain sent Mickey right over the edge and he came hard, spilling onto Ian’s chest and yelling Ian’s name.

Mickey collapsed next to Ian and the two lay struggling to catch their breath. At length, Ian looked down at his chest and sniffed to Mickey, “doesn’t exactly look like a pearl necklace though, does it?”

“You complaining? If I did that on a canvas, MOMA would be knocking my door down.”

“True,” Ian admitted, “if they do come knocking, tell them you only do private exhibitions on one wealthy benefactor.”

Mickey burst out laughing, “okay, I make sure to do that.” He then looked at his wrist and made note of the angry-looking bite mark blooming there. “This is turning into a real thing for you, isn’t it?”

“Sorry,” Ian said quickly and grabbed Mickey’s wrist to soothe it, “I don’t even know when I’m doing it. You don’t like it?”

“I didn’t say that, did I?” Mickey answered with a suggestive arch of his eyebrow and Ian immediately relaxed.

“Don’t know why I was worried, you’re never shy about pointing out shit you don’t like.”

“You’re damn skippy,” Mickey affirmed and set about doing the mental calculations to figure out the closest bathroom and the most efficient way to get there. “This fucking bed…”

“I promise I’m getting a regular one; give me a break!”

Later on, Mickey had commandeered the remote and lay naked on his stomach away from Ian while he channel surfed. His boyfriend lay back against the pillows, trailing a lazy hand over Mickey’s legs, and thighs, pausing to massage Mickey’s buttocks and to outline the large handprint he left there. Mickey was unperturbed, completely accustomed to the molestation.

“Wanna come with me down to the farmer’s market tomorrow?” Ian asked.

“Hell no, it’s colder than a motherfucker out there this week.”

“You grew up in Chicago, you wuss!”

“So what, that makes me Nanook of the fucking North? If Amazon or FreshDirect can’t deliver it, then it’s not worth having. I’m going to spend the next two days staying indoors, playing video games, drinking all of that fancy hot chocolate shit you have in the cupboards, and fucking whatever carrot top that happens to be around at the time.”

Ian had to admit, that did sound like a far superior plan than visiting the market and immediately dumped the idea of leaving his condo. “At this rate, you’re going to turn into a winter hermit. By the time January rolls around, you’re not even going to want to come over.”

“Let’s not go overboard. Hot dick is a way stronger motivator than fresh cucumbers; despite their structural similarities.”

Ian snorted and crawled over Mickey , trailing kisses up his back before settling on top of him and nuzzling his neck.

“Knocking on the back door?” Mickey asked blithely.

“Yeah, figure it’s more polite than just barging in.” They both giggled and Mickey shoved the remote away so he could flip onto his back.

“Polite motherfucking boy scout,” Mickey chided gently and reached for Ian’s dick.

“You know you love it,” Ian replied.

“Yeah…I kinda do.”

The next morning, Mickey stood at the bedroom window, watching the swirl of snowflakes floating down to earth. He was waiting while Ian took his pills and when Ian wandered back out, he nodded out at the view.

“Snowing,” he said, his voice still thick with sleep and Ian hugged him from behind and watched the cascade.

“Wow, so early. I guess we might get a white Christmas this year.”

“I’m glad Mandy’s here,” Mickey said suddenly, “we’ve never actually had that many Christmases together, let alone decent ones.”

“We’ll make this one epic then, I promise,” Ian kissed Mickey’s shoulder, “come on, you can watch the snow from bed. I always knew you were a softy.”

“What, because I don’t hate my sister and like snow? Fuck off,” Mickey grumped but melted into Ian when his boyfriend wrapped around him. “Who doesn’t like a little snow?”

Later in the morning after they’d had breakfast, Ian tossed an unmarked CD. “Demo for a kids’ game I’m considering. Give me your opinion.”

“Kids’ game?” Mickey said sceptically, “Southside Enterprises wants to wade into the kiddy market?”

“I haven’t decided yet, hence why I’m asking for your input,” Ian waved Mickey back to the bedroom. He scooted back into bed, directing Mickey to pop the disk in the correct console before tapping the space between his legs. Mickey was clearly suspicious, but climbed into the bed, settled where he was told, and leaned back against Ian who promptly cuddled him.

“You’re being weird, Ian.”

“Shut up and play.”

Mickey quieted and started the game, watching in amusement as little pixelated creatures bounced across the screen. “Oh it’s an eight-bit game,” Mickey said, “very popular with the young people.”

“Withhold judgment until the end, please and thanks.”

“Here we go, opening crawl. ‘Once upon a time there was a dark haired prince—stop grabbing my dick! How am I supposed to play this shit when you’re grabbing my dick?!”

“It’s a game for eight year olds. If you can’t play it while your dick’s being grabbed, maybe game testing isn’t for you.”

“Ugh, where was I? ‘There was a dark haired prince whose castle was taken over by an alleged witch—‘alleged?’ Why is her witchiness even in question? She’s all up in the prince’s castle!”

“For fuck’s—just play!”

“Ahem, ‘it now falls on you to help the prince escape.’ Lot of pressure for an eight year old,” Mickey murmured, only to be distracted by the title screen. Mickey paused, mouth slack and stupefied. He eventually shook out of it. “Don’t think shoving your hand down my pants is going to distract me from ‘Mickey’s Big Move, Ian.’ Are you even serious right now?”

Mickey exited the title screen and was ushered to a rough approximation of his apartment in all its pixelated glory. Mickey almost burst out laughing only to nearly swallow his tongue when Mandy, or rather a tiny, pixelated, Mandy-approximate accosted his avatar in the living room. “Get out,” she said simply, and the next thing Mickey knew there were things being tossed at his avatar’s head.

“Is she throwing my shit at me?” Mickey asked incredulously, “bitch, this is my apartment!”

Not for long it seems, because the blue hue of the apartment was slowly succumbing to encroaching blackness. At last, Mickey was prompted for a decision: stay and fight, or grab your stuff and escape! He was going to fight, obviously, only to be told that he couldn’t because he was a pacifist.

“Since fucking when?!” Mickey bellowed while game Mandy began poking him with a broom towards the door. He was forced to choose the escape option and soon it was him, his teddy bear and a backpack out on the street while Mandy cackled audibly inside his old apartment. His avatar sat down on the sidewalk, defeated, and giant, comical tears began sprouting from his head. “I feel you, little dude. This is bullshit, how can this even happen? What the fuck happened to my renter’s rights?”

“There are no renter’s rights in Mickey’s Big Move. Deal with it,” Ian said coldly.

“Is there a real estate section in Mickey’s Big Move? Wait a minute, is that fucking Carrie?”

Carrie, be-winged and decked out in pink, poofy dress, descended upon Mickey’s bawling avatar, “I have heard of your embarrassing defeat to the alleged witch of Greenpoint. Lucky for you, I know somewhere you may shelter forever!”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Mickey muttered and Ian hummed innocently.

“There is a red haired prince across the way—”

Mickey rested the back of his head on Ian’s shoulder and looked up at his boyfriend. “You know, you are about as subtle as a fucking anvil to the head.”

“Okay, so this isn’t a real game,” Ian admitted.


“I might have ulterior motives.”

“You don’t say?”

“Can you just finish the game please? I had to pay a bunch of people several days overtime to do this.”

Mickey shook his head and allowed his avatar to be teleported to the vast castle of the red prince. Carrie then informed him that he should not be alarmed, because the red prince only lived in a small section. The fact seemed to relieve his poor, beleaguered avatar so much, Mickey dimpled trying not to laugh. Before long, the red prince himself appeared, holding a massive fucking key above his head. Mickey, whose avatar now inexplicably sported heart eyes, was prompted to accept or reject the key.

“Does the reject option even work?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“I guess I’ll take the key then,” Mickey nodded and groaned painfully when a massive heart popped up overhead. The two princes held hands, one still gripping his teddy bear, and disappeared into the castle, leaving fairy godmother Carrie still floating awkwardly outside. She looked around for a bit before mumbling “fucking rude” and disappearing in a shower of glitter. The credits then had the audacity to roll afterwards.

“I fucking hate you. I’m so done. How are you even real?” Mickey moaned into his hands.

Ian toyed with the waistband of Mickey’s sweatpants. “That was a game asking you to move in with me.”

“I gathered.”

“Did it work? I also have a PowerPoint presentation that deals with the more practical aspects of things.”

Mickey’s eyes fluttered closed and he struggled against the laughter bubbling up. He was in love with an idiot. “I love how you’re acting like I gotta choice in this,” he joked.

“You do though,” Ian said seriously, “I know the game was a little one-tracked, but I wouldn’t force you into something you’re not ready for, Mick.”

Mickey rolled over suddenly and quickly pinned Ian beneath him. He looked down at his boyfriend who was staring back with those huge puppy eyes—lethal as ever. “You don’t have to worry so much all the time, you know.”

“Just wondering if we’re ready to do this or not,” Ian said softly, though by “we” he clearly meant Mickey.

“Of course we are,” Mickey leaned down and kisses his idiot stupid, so when he pulled back Ian was grinning at him with the goofiest expression ever. “When am I moving in?”


Mickey did burst out laughing then, “I think I need a little more time than that. Although I’m guessing Mandy has been packing my shit since day one.”

As it turns out, Mandy had been discreetly packing her brother up, and Mickey had been spending so much time at Ian’s place, he hadn’t even noticed. He made sure to secure Clay first, sneaking him out in the dead of night when Mandy had been asleep. She had not been pleased, but tough tits, it was his bear. After Clay, he only had his clothes, some random accoutrements and his wall decorations.

He and Ian took down and packed his posters and artwork carefully and Ian had then stood over him like a drill sergeant, wanting him to insert a huge, bright red comma in between the “Fuck” and “Love” of the center poster. It was such typical Ian thing that had turned out to be surprisingly bittersweet for Mickey. He hadn’t really thought about it much since then, but he had made that poster in a fit of passion after finally accepting he was gay in an impossible place and that love was simply something that was never going to be a reality for him.

That poster had served as a constant reminder of who he was and where he was and the nowhere and nothing that had been waiting for him. Now, all of that had turned upside down and he was moving into a new place in every possible way, thrown in with a bunch of people who were helping him change from the inside, out. His hand hesitated over the page for what must have been an inordinately long time, because Ian sat next to him and bumped his elbow.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just felt kinda weird for some reason, I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to do it yet if you don’t want to.”

“Nah,” Mickey carefully pressed the marker down on the aged paper and colored in the punctuation mark, “it’s okay. It was due for an upgrade.”

Mandy had helped cart Mickey’s stuff over to his new home and had graciously stuck around to help him unpack his things. She had only attempted to steal Clay twice, which Mickey had to admit was awfully decent of her. By midday, all of Mickey’s clothes had been unpacked and neatly hung or folded away and his personal effects successfully merged. It was then Mickey realized that he really needed to get more stuff, because the move in had been embarrassingly easy. The only unpacked box remaining contained his posters and Mandy decided to leave that to them.

“I vouched for you with the landlord, so don’t fuck around with the rent and bring shame upon the Milkovich name,” Mickey directed.

“I can’t believe you just said that with a straight face,” Mandy scoffed, “but yeah, I got it covered. Thanks for leaving me all your shit.”

“Don’t think I didn’t want to take everything, but then,” Mickey waved a hand, “fucker already has anything, so you caught a break.”

“You only thought he had everything, Mickey,” Mandy said with all the mock seriousness she could manage. She clapped a hand on her brother’s shoulder and looked him in the eye, “but you’re here now and truly Ian Gallagher now knows what it means to be really rich.”

“Hallelujah!” Ian sang out from the bathroom and Mickey chewed on his inner cheek.

“Yeah, I can’t deal with the two of you being in the same place with me. It gives me heartburn. So that’s your cue to get the fuck out of my place.”

Mandy pressed a hand to her chest and blinked rapidly, “Your place is it? It only took—” she checked her watch, “—four and a half hours for bitches to get all uppity. How quickly money and power corrupt,” she grinned and pounced on her brother to hug him goodbye. “Don’t freak about being too happy, jerk,” she whispered in his ear, “just relax and let him love you.”

“Gay…but I’ll try,” Mickey let go of his sister and gave her the once over, “so you gonna be okay on your own there Caroline in the City?”

“Are you kidding? I’ve been training for this shit since birth. I’m just glad to have that apartment to myself. I’ll miss you terribly of course, so on and so forth,” she stepped around the corner and yelled out to Ian. “I’m outta here!”

“Hang on,” Ian finished putting away Mickey’s suitcases and came out to pick up Mandy and spun her around, “thanks for helping me out with your idiot brother today. Sure you don’t want to stay for lunch?”

“Can’t, Annie and Carrie are taking me shopping in a couple hours. I need at least two hours to figure out what to wear so I can stand next to those two.”

Ian’s phone went off and he quickly promised Mandy to take her out the following night before putting her down and racing for his phone.

“I’m gone; go be gay and schmoopy with your boyfriend. Just remember one thing: fish don't fry in the kitchen; beans don't burn on the grill.”

“Get out!”

“Took a whole lotta trying, just to get up that hill,” Mandy had officially burst into song, “now we're up in the big leagues, getting our turn at bat…”

“I hate you so much.”

“As long as we live, it's you and me baby; there ain't nothing wrong with that!” Mandy was shoved out into the hallway where she remained unruffled and unrelenting, “Well we're moving on up to the east side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky—”

Mickey slammed the door and pretended he couldn’t hear her belting it out in the hallway. He had half a mind to call Roger.

Ian framed “Fuck, Love” and set it dead center on the wall above the bed, leaving them free to squabble over the placement of Mickey’s other posters and their fusion with Ian’s own wall decorations. Everything else with the move had been integrated within minutes, but poster arrangement, of all things, had taken them all bloody afternoon.

When they finally stepped back and assessed their handiwork, they both had to smile at it. Fucking perfect—for all the trouble it had given, it had come together in the end, and most of Mickey’s things had seamlessly merged with Ian’s. His boob and dick drawings, unfortunately, had not made the cut, but he was more than happy with his representation.

“Huh? Huh?!” Ian said happily, a grin too big for his face just stuck there. He elbowed Mickey, desperate for his boyfriend to pass judgment.

“We’re getting a proper bed, Ian. I’m not going to cross country ski this shit every morning,” Mickey held out, torturing his boyfriend a little longer.

“Yes, dear,” Ian nodded and elbowed Mickey again and finally the man relented.

“It’s fucking awesome, alright? I fucking love you and I’ve never been happier,” Mickey sighed heavily, but couldn’t properly hide his delight and fluster, “are you fucking satisfied? You happy now?”

Ian answered by tackling him to the floor and keeping him there for the next  fifteen minutes. When Ian came up for air, he did manage a verbal answer. “I fucking love you too, you’re not going to regret this, I swear.”

“Yeah, I know,” Mickey answered softly, “now get the fuck off me and go make me something weird to eat.”

“Am I your maid or your short order cook?” Ian asked while he adjusted his clothes.

“Both if you play your cards right,” Mickey replied as he followed suit and got dressed. “Besides, who else are you going to get to try all that gastric mad science stuff on?”

“Shut up,” Ian ordered as he padded out to the kitchen with Mickey in tow. “You know you love all of this.”

Yeah, Mickey couldn’t help but admit to himself, he most definitely did.

Chapter Text

A year later

It had been a good run. Ian had hoped it would have lasted forever, but he had always known that wasn’t realistic. It was sort of inevitable, kind of like an eclipse; perhaps a long way off, but still a certainty. He would have liked a little more warning though; it was always so insidious. It was never the same way twice. This time it was the weird lethargy first, then the irritability and the distractedness along with the slow spiral of his thoughts towards the dark. He just wished he could call it the minute it began happening, but there always had to be a tipping point.

It came the morning Ian woke up to find himself confronted with the New York skyline and the crushing impossibility of leaving his bed. He could barely manage to reach out and hit the remote, closing the curtains again. It was only a few minutes after that that Mickey came in, slapping his legs and going to open the curtains, letting in a flood of light with a rousing “rise and fucking shine, Cinderella!”

They had plans today, a ball game and a tourist style excursion around the city. It had been a rough couple of weeks between them, with Ian’s deteriorating mood and Mickey’s defensiveness in response to it. They had figured they just needed a day off. The MMORPG was beyond stressful for Ian and Mickey was dealing with school—they just needed a little break.

Only Ian couldn’t manage any of that. He squeezed his eyes shut to block out the light and rolled over and muttered darkly to himself. “What’s that, Mumbles?” Mickey grinned and crawled into bed next to his boyfriend. After that, it wasn’t hard to see that Ian was serious about not moving and Mickey’s smile faded; his disappointment palpable. “Come on, man, we had plans today.” There was no response, and Mickey huffed in annoyance and gave up.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for them to put it all together and, after some urging, Ian was once again facing his psychiatrist.

Ian’s inkling was quickly confirmed; one or more of his meds had conked out on him—his brain changing the game once more—and it was trial and error time again. He had danced this dance before and he knew what was coming, but it was Mickey’s first time. Ian watched, somewhat detached, as Dr. Lester explained to Mickey just what was on the horizon, and felt a part of him sink as the apprehension crept into Mickey’s face. The world faded to a dull roar as she set about arranging the first trial. They would have to judge efficacy, weigh the burden of the side effects, and round and around they would go until they found the magic slipper that fit just enough.

The first set was a bust from the get go. The meds made Ian nauseous and destroyed his balance. Mickey was left rubbing his back and whispering soothing words while he huddled over the toilet getting sick to his stomach after he had tried to eat. There was no abating with the side effects and they were quickly on to trial two.

For weeks it went on, as one trial went bust after another. Either the side effects were too much to bear or the effect was too weak  to manage Ian’s symptoms. For weeks, Ian was left vacillating wildly in mood, behaviour and physical tolerance. There were pockets of complete lucidity where Ian could see the worry and exhaustion etching deeper and deeper into Mickey’s face. When the haze came back, Ian was almost glad for it, because that face was more than he could manage.

He had almost forgotten what it was like to go through this while there was someone there watching over him, the way the guilt and mortification never really left. At first, Mickey hovered too close and sometimes pushed a little too hard and Ian would snarl and snap to get a little space and relief. The stung hurt in Mickey’s eyes stayed with him long after Mickey himself was over it. Sometimes Mickey would snuggle close, trying his best to be comforting through the worst of it. Ian understood what Mickey was trying to do, so it only made him feel worse that he couldn’t accept it. Mickey’s body felt heavy, stifling and crushing, but Ian tried to endure the affection as best he could until he simply couldn’t take it anymore. Mickey eventually retreated to the other end of the bed, having caught on to Ian’s distress.

It felt like forever, but finally there was light at the end of the tunnel. Ian was responding well to the latest set and Dr. Lester was cautiously optimistic that they had found his latest drug regimen. Despite that, the mental and physical exhaustion of the trials and his disorder lingered and left him leaden and lethargic even as the fog rolled back. Ian hated surfacing. In some ways it was worse than going through the trials. There was the acclimatization while his body adjusted to the new normal brought on by a new set of pills, coupled with the crushing guilt and fear of returning to reality.

Carl and Debbie had tried playing caretaker for a while, but they had been scared and overwhelmed, and he had been too much for a couple of traumatized kids to manage. Fiona had been working her butt off keeping the family together while her own world stayed in constant upheaval and Lip was scrambling to get their game off the ground. In the midst of several levels of chaos, he had ultimately surfaced alone in a mental institution. He knew why, but it had felt like the worst kind of abandonment. He had scared everyone off and he would keep doing so as long as he was defective.

For weeks he had disappeared to a dark place, leaving Mickey with a withdrawn, mercurial, sometimes verbally abusive shell, and now he would have to find just how far he had chased Mickey off. There would be no apologies, he already knew that, already knew how the conversation would go if he even tried. “What the fuck are you apologising for? You’re sick, it wasn’t you; you can’t help how this shit goes down!” Yeah, they would never let him apologize, but they still wound up resenting the hell out of him anyway. It was the weirdest kind of guilty hell—the unknown circle of Dante’s Inferno.

He was still drained, but feeling tons better, and perhaps as close to feeling himself as these new pills would let him get. Mickey had gone back to work, assured that he was on the mend and could be left alone. For the first time in he didn’t know how long, Ian got out of bed under his own volition and padded off to the bathroom to take a shower. He stopped at the sink and was startled by the person in the mirror. He was now bearded since Mickey had decided to leave shaving out of Ian’s daily shower and tidy-up sessions for fear of the razors. Ian stared at himself for a bit. It needed a little grooming, but he didn’t mind the look or the idea of being someone different for a while.

The hot shower had sapped most of his energy and he had gone back to bed afterwards. It was Mickey’s latest check-up text that had woken him, telling him that Mickey would be home in a few hours. He got up, determined to at least have dinner ready for when Mickey got home. He headed into the kitchen and tried to get his bearings back. It took a moment for him to realize that all his knives were gone. In fact, anything with a  semblance of a sharp edge had disappeared. Ian found himself in that weird space of not knowing if he wanted to laugh or sob hysterically. He decided on neither, and went about seeing what he could do with the tools he had on hand.

Mickey was surprised to find Ian seated and waiting at the set table when he came home.  He dropped his bag, climbed out of his shoes and went over to check on his boyfriend.

“Hey,” Ian said softly, suddenly more self conscious and apprehensive than he thought he’d ever been. Mickey looked so tired; his eyes were bloodshot and his movements were slowed. Ian didn’t know where to focus.

“Hey yourself,” Mickey answered and nodded to the food and place setting, “you do all this?”

“Yeah, we’ve been living on take out forever now. Figured I’d make something even though I was a little handicapped,” Ian said, “you can put the knives back now, Mick.”

Mickey smiled at him sheepishly and nodded. He still stood awkwardly, clearly hesitating before dropping a quick, chaste kiss on the top on Ian’s head and pulling back hastily. Ian sighed internally and tried to ready himself for the strained interactions and awkwardness. He wondered how much of that little kiss was Mickey being careful because he didn’t know how much Ian could deal with yet, and how much was him being gun-shy since all his affection had been more or less rebuffed during the trials.

“Don’t be doing too much too soon, Ian,” Mickey warned as he slid into the opposite seat, “I mean, I can make something if you want home-cooked.”

“It’s okay; I need to get back into my routine,” Ian said, “did you pass along my messages for me?”

“Yeah, Annie says you’re needed for a bunch of stuff but nothing life or death, so take your time. I told everyone your email is back open, so brace yourself. Everyone misses you like crazy.”

“I miss them too. I think I’ll be able to head back in next week,” he waved Mickey down when his boyfriend looked up at him sharply, “I should be back to a hundred percent by then. Once the meds settle in, I’m good. I’ve done this like a hundred times, Mick.”

Mickey nodded reluctantly, “as long as you’re sure you’re ready. Just…don’t overdo it, okay?” he gave Ian’s hand a friendly pat and took his hand back before Ian even had the chance to react and grab it.

Right then, Ian wanted nothing more than to tell Mickey that it was okay to touch him again, that he wasn’t going to shatter and he wasn’t going to lose his shit about it like he had been doing lately, but Mickey had turned his attention to his pasta and the moment seemed lost. Mickey nodded at Ian’s plate, encouraging him to eat.

“I know you haven’t had anything since I made you  breakfast this morning. You’ll get back to a hundred percent faster if you eat more.”

They ate in awkward silence for a while, both sneaking glances at the other until Ian broke first. Fuck it, he had to try at least. “Look, Mick, I know it’s been hell and I’ve been all kinds of fucked up, but I’m on the mend now and I swear I’ll make it all up to you—”

“What the fuck are you doing?” Mickey broke in gently, “don’t do that. You don’t have anything to make up for. You were sick. Who’s going to blame you for being sick?”

“I know,” Ian persisted desperately, “but I’ve been a fucking nightmare and I know it was scary and too much and I don’t want you to…to…”

“To what?” Mickey asked before lightly covering Ian’s shaking hand with his and squeezing, “Ian, you didn’t ask for this shit; no one does. You didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t blame you for anything. I’m tired, yeah, but you’re going to give me like a month’s paid leave after this so I can catch up with school, so I’m definitely not mad.”

Ian gave a short laugh and stared down at their interlocked hands. “Why do I always believe you when you say these kinds of shit?”

“Because I’m a lot of bad things, but disingenuous isn’t one of them?”

Ian ran his thumb over Mickey’s knuckle tats, not quite ready to look him in his bloodshot eyes yet, “it’s not going to get easier, you know? It never does.”

“We’ll get better at it then. We’ll handle it.”


“Yeah,” Mickey kissed Ian’s hand and bit one of his knuckles, “now eat your goddamned pasta.”

Ian knew he was being annoying as hell with his clinginess. He was starved for affection and he was equally eager to give it. They hadn’t been intimate since before the trials started and Ian felt as if he had a lot to catch up on. He still wasn’t ready for sex, since his libido hadn’t bounced back yet, but he was more than ready for everything else.

“Don’t go anywhere today,” he begged after his umpteenth attempt to crawl into Mickey’s skin. His boyfriend was having none of it, however, and wriggled out of his grasp.

“Can’t; I’ve already missed a shit ton of classes, man,” Mickey sighed and hauled on his shoes, “can’t afford to miss anymore. Ian!” Mickey snapped when Ian reached for him again and the latter promptly backed off with a mumbled apology.

Ian watched sullenly as Mickey headed out. Between work in the day and classes at night, Mickey was more out than in and, for the moment, Mickey seemed to prefer it that way. Ian could hardly blame him. Mickey had been stuck in a hellscape with him for what must have felt like forever and was probably sick of his face. Ian worried about the fact that they  hadn’t had sex in ages and wondered if Mickey was pissed off with the increased physicality since Ian couldn’t follow through on it just yet. Visions of healthy, blue collar guys with working dicks, just waiting to satisfy his boyfriend filled his head. He sighed and reached for his laptop. After about ten minutes of his favourite porn video, he gave up. Nothing was happening. He sprawled on the bed and stared hopelessly at the ceiling. This was the fucking worst.

The next day, Mickey turned out to be far more receptive to Ian’s snuggle cravings and slumped docilely against their headboard, allowing Ian to sprawl on his chest and hug him close while he watched TV. Mickey rubbed Ian’s head idly and made periodic adjustments for the strange tickle of Ian’s beard and the relief of his own erection.

“Sorry,” Mickey mumbled as he shifted again, “I kinda like you.”

Ian snorted and settled back into his nook. All signs indicated that his body was getting back on track, so until all systems were a go again, Mickey’s hard-on was a welcome reassurance.

“You’re making me ticklish as hell. Are you shaving that shit off or what?”

Ian grunted noncommittally. He was still wholly unprepared to deal with his own face. While Mickey had viewed it as a necessary evil during the trials, he seemed more than ready for Ian’s facial hair to go. Mickey would simply have to deal for a while longer.

“So, I’ve been doing some thinking,” Mickey started off in what Ian had come to recognise as his serious issue voice. It made Ian’s whole body tense because he couldn’t imagine how this could possibly be a good thing after the hell they’d just gone through. He instinctively hugged Mickey closer and tried to mentally will him to stop talking, but to no avail. “Don’t get mad, because I don’t remember the exact date, but we’ve been officially fucking around for about two years now, right?”

Ian was caught completely off guard. He blinked up at Mickey as the realization struck him. “Oh shit, I missed our anniversary,” Ian groaned deeply and smacked his head into Mickey’s chest.

“You didn’t miss it, you were sick. But that’s not what I—”

“No, I had shit planned and everything! No, wait!” Ian’s head shot up suddenly, “We’ve been counting from the time we started fucking, which was in April, but wouldn’t make more sense if we counted from when we agreed to go exclusive? No, shit, I missed that too. Wait, how about when we finally sorted everything out and—”

Mickey grasped Ian’s face in and stopped him before he could go spinning off. Clearly he really was almost back to normal. “Ian, we’ll figure out the date later. Can you just…?”

Ian obediently quieted and sat up to listen. Mickey chewed his lower lip apprehensively while Ian waited for him to finally started eking out what he had to say. “So okay, I’ve done the marriage thing once and I thought it was bullshit. Granted, it was a shotgun wedding  and all, but I’ve found it’s soured me somewhat on the whole institution. I mean, who gives a shit; it’s a fucking piece of paper.”

Ian didn’t know whether to be crushed or even more curious. Mickey was doing his sweet and shy shtick, plucking at the bed sheets and periodically looking up at Ian from beneath his lashes, which usually preluded wonderful things, so Ian tried to keep an open mind.

“But I know you have your romantic notions and like your symbolism and all that, so I wanted to compromise a little. I might not like the official thing, but I do respect the hell of the ghetto version.”

Ian couldn’t help but grin, “a ghetto marriage? Are you saying we’re ghetto married?”

Mickey returned a lopsided grin, “well yeah, I mean we’re here now, but you and me, we’re still Southside, right?”

Ian snorted softly and smiled at the idea of it, “ghetto married, huh? I guess I could live with that.” He did have grand, sweeping, fairytale notions; he couldn’t help it. But that wasn’t Mickey and it would never be. As goofy and as downscale as it sounded, Mickey offering up the idea was a lot more than Ian had realistically expected.

“Still though,” Mickey continued suddenly, “Southside or not, we have upgraded a little, and there’s no reason we can’t add a little bling into the mix,” Mickey slithered off the bed and rifled through his messenger bag. He then returned to a gaping Ian with a ring box, “like I said,” Mickey said as he popped open the box to reveal the two platinum bands inside, “I know you like your symbolism.”

Ian was frozen, completely dumbstruck, as Mickey slowly pulled the larger of the two rings out of the box.

“Had it engraved and everything too,” Mickey murmured, nervous and bashful, “I was going to put the anustart thing inside, but I decided to keep it classy and just stick to M ‘heart’ I. Will you stop looking at me like that and say something?”

Ian was at a loss. “Did…Did you engrave yours?” Ian’s voice was little more than a barely audible squeak.

“Uh no, was I supposed to?” Mickey shrugged and grabbed Ian’s left hand. It was hard to figure out whose hands were clammier. Mickey paused before putting the ring on. “Are you okay with this?” Of all the stupid fucking questions… Still, Ian could only manage a dazed nod. Mickey grinned and slipped it on and then handed the box to Ian. “Wanna do the honors?”

Ian fished out the ring and slowly slipped it onto Mickey’s finger and the two were left staring at their hands in wonderment. Mickey looked up at Ian, shy, lopsided grin firmly in place. “Boom, ghetto married with an uptown twist.” He reached up and gently stroked Ian’s face. “I just want to take care of you, Ian.”

Well, that tore it. Ian fell apart in spectacular fashion and Mickey was left panicked and scrambling.

“No, no, what’s with the waterworks?!” Mickey tried soothing his partner as Ian crumpled into his lap, “no crying! I mean, this was good, right?! Right?!”

Ian simply ignored him and went on wailing.

“He cried for like an hour in my lap and then fell asleep!” Mickey whispered into his phone and peeked around the corner into their bedroom. Ian was still passed out on his stomach, sleeping the sleep of the innocent and the exhausted.

“You fucking idiot,” his sister snarled at him, “I told you to wait like another week before you did this!”

“Your dumbass is probably one of those people that jump out of dark shadows and scream ‘surprise’ at elderly cardiac patients,” Carrie accused.

“Why am I talking to the two of you at the same time?!” Mickey demanded, “This is bullshit. One of you hang up!”

“No!” Mandy and Carrie yelled in unison.

“Look, I know Ian, alright? He loves this shit. His reaction was just a little more…forceful than what I was counting on.”

“You know your man, huh?” Carrie snorted, “the one you just made cry himself to sleep? That man?”

“They were happy tears!”

“If you break Ian, so help me I’m taking Clay!” Mandy chimed in.

“How the fuck does that even make sense? Will you stop being an opportunistic bear thief for five fucking minutes and just tell me I didn’t do anything wrong?”

The two women sighed and immediately softened towards his plight.

“He’s fine, Mick,” Mandy said soothingly, “he’s just wrung out and emotional right now and this sent him over the edge. Even ghetto marriages are emotional flume rides; take it from me.”

“Yeah, baby, don’t worry about it,” Carrie added, “that was sweet as hell. Besides, you’ll know for sure when he wakes up.”

When Mickey woke up, he was once again in his rightful place as the little spoon. Ian was curled around him, large hand covering Mickey’s and slowly twisting Mickey’s ring.

“We’re ghetto married,” Ian murmured into Mickey’s neck.

“Yep; in sickness and in health, death do us part, the whole enchilada,” Mickey yawned.

“I’m going to get yours engraved tomorrow.”

Mickey flipped over and stroked Ian’s hip slowly, “you’re sure you’re up for that?”

“I’m getting your ring engraved tomorrow,” Ian repeated in no uncertain terms. “But you can come with me if you like.”

“Okay then, chief,” Mickey relented with a smile, “I bet I know what it’s gonna say.”

“You get no points for that.”

Mickey sniffed in mock offense, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful and smart.”

“I’m married to an idiot.”

“Pfft, you know you love it.”

A couple months later, the beard was still alive and was slowly creeping up the length of Mickey’s body. Mickey remained unmoved, however, and the owner of said beard was forced to shake him awake.

“Mick!” Ian said as he shook his partner’s shoulder and made him jolt awake.

“The limit does not exist!” Mickey gasped before blinking and slowly focusing on Ian’s face. “Oh, what’s up, Barbarossa?”

“Today…today’s the day,” Ian whispered in excitement. “I wanna do it today.”

“Yeah? You ready?” Mickey grinned at Ian’s answering nod and took a deep breath to psych himself up. “Okay then, let’s go get you a dog!”

Armed with a list of shelters, breeders and pet stores that were peppered throughout the city and upstate New York, the two men subsequently ventured out on their quest. Mickey resolved to remain patient and mellow throughout the process because he knew this was a huge thing for Ian and he was charmed by the other man’s excitement. That resolve lasted for exactly two shelters, three pet stores and one overeager breeder.

Ian fell in love with almost every dog he came across and had to fight the urge to adopt them all. After strengthening his resolve, he decided that while they were all adorable, none of the dogs he’d seen so far was “the one.” Mickey nearly strangled him. Of fucking course Ian would turn this into a true love quest, but Mickey had committed, and now he was along for the ride. He just prayed it wouldn’t turn into a multiday event.

It was the last pet store before they decided to call it a day. They split up, Mickey wandering off to gawk at the more exotic animals while Ian continued his mission. He came upon a litter of black and tan puppies playing rambunctiously in their pen. All with the exception of one which lay in a corner, looking as over it all as a puppy can look. Ian wondered if the puppy was ill until it seemed to sense him looking and looked over.

The puppy sat up and took him in, obviously making some crucial decisions and judgments before finally getting up and running over. It paused again, eyed Ian closely and then yipped at him and danced around expectantly, demanding to be petted. Ian was instantly charmed. Sensing a human-canine connection being made, an assistant quickly materialized next to Ian.

“Falling in love with one of our Cairn Terriers?”

“Maybe, I don’t know,” Ian hedged, “can I?” he asked, nodding to the puppy.

The young woman nodded eagerly, scooped up the tiny dog and plopped it in Ian’s arms. The puppy immediately tried to wriggle up further to lick Ian’s face—it had clearly made its own decision.

“Wait, it that Lola?” the assistant squinted at the puppy, “well this is a surprise!”


The young woman hesitated, “Cairns are absolutely lovely and so is Lola, though she can be a little bit of a grumpy boots,” she intimated, “when you came over, was she pouting because her littermates wouldn’t let her boss them around?” she grinned when Ian nodded, “that’s Lola for you.”

“Is that true, Lola? Are you grumpy?” Ian cuddled the puppy closer and scratched behind her ears eliciting a happy whine from her.

Mickey walked up as man and dog were getting acquainted and wasted no time in demanding answers. “Is this it? Is this the one?”

Lola didn’t appreciate this newcomer or the impatient tone of voice he used with her master and let her displeasure known with a growl and a yip. Mickey was taken aback, his eyebrows flying up in offense before he looked at Ian and the assistant to see if they were seeing this affront to his existence. Without even thinking about it, he leaned forward and barked back at the puppy, which looked just as stunned and was also shocked into silence. Ian nearly burst out laughing—LOVE.

“She’s the one,” Ian confirmed.

“Of fucking course,” Mickey grumbled, “well, let’s do this,” and stalked off towards the front of the store.

Ian grinned widely at the young woman, “I’m a grumpy whisperer,” he assured her and all she could do was grin back.

They stumbled into their building, Ian holding a leashed Lola in one hand and a ton of packages in another. Mickey could barely see over all the boxes and bags Ian had loaded on him. Carlos, at the front desk, immediately started cooing at the sight of the puppy and Ian paused so he could pet her.

“Oh my god, she’s so cute,” he patted the skeptical looking dog and waved as he carted her off to the elevator.

“Yo heads up, there will be a shit ton of packages arriving over the next couple of days. Forewarned is forearmed.”

“Ah, he’s going to spoil his little princess, huh?” Carlos nodded with understanding.

“God help us all,” Mickey sighed and struggled off to the waiting elevator.

Lola took to her new domain like a dog who knew from birth that she was destined for luxury. She explored every nook and cranny of the condo before settling into her role of following Ian everywhere and anywhere. She clearly loved him with all of her doggy heart and soul, and listened obediently as Ian taught her commands and tricks.

Ian adored her and spent all the time he could playing with her and teaching her, all the while secretly relishing the fact that she seemed to hate everyone on the planet except for him. Hence his amusement with the frequent stand-offs between Mickey and Lola. Ian left Mickey with the unenviable task of not only having to prove to Lola that he wasn’t a very persistent interloper on her and Ian’s love-in, but that he was, in fact, also her master. Lola wasn’t exactly buying it, but in the early days, she and Mickey had at least reached a détente, and life fell back into its routine. The only bone of contention that remained was the ongoing presence of Ian’s facial hair.

“When the hell are you going to get rid of all of that?” Mickey demanded over dinner one night and Ian rolled his eyes.

“Say what you really feel, Mick.”

“You look like a hipster Paul Bunyan,” Mickey continued, “it’s been like three months; why is this still a thing?”

“I happen to like the look. I like the beard…I’ve grown somewhat attached to it,” Ian shrugged and took another bite of his steak.

“No shit, it’s growing out of your face. A face, I vaguely recall, was sort of decent. Am I ever going to see it again before I die?”

Ian stuffed his mouth with food and simply glared at Mickey in sullen silence. His partner stared back unapologetically, but didn’t press the issue any further. Later, Ian sat in the recliner in the living room, watching TV while Lola slept in his lap. It was well past midnight and Mickey eventually came looking for him.

“You planning on staying out here all night?”

“Maybe,” Ian answered testily, “what’s it to you.”

Mickey scratched his cheek in amused silence and kicked at Ian’s feet. “You’re pouting?”

“I am not pouting,” Ian groused.

“Yeah, you’re pouting.”

“I liked your beard when you grew it!” Ian snapped, “I never gave you shit about it.”

“Fuck off, I had that shit for five fucking minutes and I was hiding the fact that starting school was giving me stress rashes,” Mickey countered, “when the rashes stopped, the beard went and you were happier than a motherfucker.”

“Ugh, alright fine, I prefer you clean-shaven,” Ian admitted, “but I thought the beard was kind of hot too, and I never thought you were less attractive because of it.”

Mickey was dumbfounded, “you think that–I mean why would I—you are out of your mind!” he exclaimed and huffed in exasperation when Ian continued glowering at him. He scratched the back of his neck and contemplated Ian for a minute. “Alright, you don’t want to come to bed, fine; ditch Scrappy-Doo for a minute.”

Mickey scooped up the snoozing puppy before Ian could protest and deposited her in her bed in her designated corner of the living room.  He came back and peeled his tank off before a conflicted looking Ian, and tossed it to the floor.

“Yeah?” Mickey asked before proceeding further and Ian’s mouth worked wordlessly for a moment.

“Well…I’m not saying no,” Ian shrugged, poorly feigning disinterest.

Mickey rolled his eyes and stepped out of his sweatpants, while Ian peeled off his own T-shirt quickly. Neither of them had yet to figure out the whole withholding sex concept no matter how bad the argument. Mickey knelt before Ian and pulled his pants down to his knees. He stroked Ian slowly and firmly, leaning forward to lick at the head of Ian’s cock until he was fully hard in his grasp.  He gave Ian a few more strokes before getting up and straddling him in the chair.

“You’re so fucking dumb sometimes,” Mickey groaned and ground against Ian, dragging a moan out of him.

“Insulting me isn’t going to endear me to you right now, you know?” Ian sighed and reclined the chair slightly so they could both get more comfortable. He jolted in surprise when Mickey took hold of him and positioned to lower himself onto Ian’s cock, “hey wait, don’t you need to—”

“I thought you were coming to bed so I got ready for you,” Mickey braced against Ian’s chest and sank down until he was fully seated, “if I had known you were out here having a tantrum, I probably wouldn’t have been so accommodating.”

“Aw, I missed the show?”

“And it was a good one too,” Mickey’s head fell back as he rocked on Ian slowly, savoring the heat and fullness of Ian inside him. He moaned when Ian gripped his hips and began moving with him using matching slow undulations. He ran his arms up Ian’s arms to his shoulders and leaned forward to brace his hands on either side of Ian’s head. He rocked down harder, keeping the pace deliberately slow and aching. He groaned when Ian grabbed his ass and kneaded it roughly.

Ian finished kicking off his pants and underwear and shifted so he could thrust upwards into Mickey’s tight heat. He loved it when Mickey rode him like this, loved the intensity of the blue eyes as they burned into him from above and the erotic way Mickey chewed his lip in concentration. He loved the way it put Mickey’s body on display and Ian took no small amount of pleasure in running his hands all over it, making Mickey shiver and moan as Ian deftly worked all of his sensitive spots. He stroked Mickey’s waist and leaned up to lick and suck Mickey’s nipples and nip at his neck.

There were soft moans and deep groans as they continued to rock together. Ian wrapped a hand around Mickey’s leaking cock and stroked him steadily, squeezing a little harder each time he neared the head. He kept his eyes on Mickey’s face as the man arched into his touch and Ian shifted incrementally until Mickey stuttered his name. He used his free hand to bring Mickey down to him so he could fist into the dark hair and keep their faces pressed together. He kept pumping Mickey’s cock, despite the tight squeeze and Mickey rocked desperately on top of him, the pace quickening as they approached orgasm.

“Close,” Mickey warned as he pulsed around Ian’s cock.

“Uh huh,” Ian sucked on Mickey’s lips before kissing him deeply as Mickey spilled into his hand. He came a second later, gasping Mickey’s name as he erupted deep inside him. Ian still held him close as they sagged from their release.

At length, Mick sat up and grinned down at him lasciviously, “you’ve got me all woken up now; like maybe I could have a few more rounds in me.”

“How much is ‘a few?’” Ian moaned softly as Mickey lifted away from him and climbed off the recliner.

“Come find out,” Mickey teased and turned to almost trip right over Lola. “Perv,” he accused the puppy and ambled off to the bedroom.

Ian reset the recliner and spotted Lola when he bent to pick up the scattered clothes. They stared at each other for a moment and Ian felt the strange need to defend himself. “Okay, so I know it seemed like I caved and everything, but if you look at it, he’s the one who came to me, so technically—”


“Go to bed, Lola, I’ll explain my victory to you tomorrow,” Ian said quickly and trotted off to the bedroom.

“I’ve got so much fucking homework,” Mickey groaned a few days later as he and Ian got off the elevator and headed to their door, “I finished that English paper last night, you gonna check it for me?”

“Sure,” Ian replied and rubbed Mickey’s back as the man opened the door.

Lola raced over and received her head scratch from Mickey before heading over to Ian and properly losing her mind. Mickey left them to it and grabbed a drink from the fridge before heading into their bedroom. A second later a heart wrenching scream rent the air, startling Ian and he dropped everything to race to the bedroom. He found Mickey on his knees, frozen before a spread out Clay whose left ear had been mostly severed causing his head seams to partially pop open and cotton fluff to spill out. The drawstring of his hoodie had been mostly dragged out and chewed, and his left leg was left slightly frayed.

“Oh shit,” Ian whispered and watched as Mickey gingerly gathered the huge bear into his lap.

Mickey’s subsequent pain and mourning were exquisite in their beauty. It was as if twenty-seven years of constant level-headedness, avoided drama and repressed histrionics had coalesced into one shining meltdown. It was Shakespearean, a lament to rival Hamlet. Mickey stayed on his knees and appealed to the heavens to bear witness to the injustice and devastation that had been wrought that day. He cradled Clay the way one would a fallen comrade in the battlefield and keened over him.

Before long, the song of mourning became a psalm of vengeance, akin to those of the Jews of ancient Babylon. It promised pain and retribution, swift and true, and the routing of Clay’s enemies. Ian figured that now would probably be a good time to take Lola for her walk. But he arrived at the realization too late, for it was then Mickey slowly turned, blue eyes wild and tear-streaked, and zeroed in on the dog.

“Now Mick, come on, this was just a—shit!” Ian quickly snatched the puppy up as Mickey lunged for her, and made a quick dash for the bathroom. He locked the door in time for the full force of a hundred and thirty pounds of aggrieved fury to collide with it.

“Okay, baby, you’re a little upset right now and you’re not viewing things rationally,” Ian attempted to soothe the man on the other side of the door. Mickey sounded uncannily like the cartoon Tasmanian devil and Ian sighed as he stared down at the puppy in his arms. “You could have chewed on anything in this house, anything, but the one thing that could get you killed is what you go for? He’ll calm down in a minute.”

Ian sat against the door with Lola in his lap and waited for Mickey to wear himself out. It took a few minutes of crazed cursing and banging on the door but Mickey eventually drifted away. Ian and Lola waited it out, taking no chances. A short while later Mickey was back and knocking calmly on the door.

“Ian, it’s okay, you can come out now. I’m-I’m good. I lost it a little, but I’m fine now.”

Ian sighed in relief and got up to open the door. Lola latched on to his pant leg and pulled at it with all her might and Ian bent down to reassure her before opening the door. “He’s good now, no worries. We’ll sort this out.” Ian was about to open the door again when the most chilling sound floated through the door.

“Give me the dog, Ian.”

That wasn’t even Mickey’s voice, what the hell? Still Ian was now struck by the ridiculousness of the situation.

“And then what, Mick? Really? You know you’re not going to hurt her. What the fuck are you going to do to the fucking puppy other than rage at it for hours?”

“Send her back?” Mickey hissed.

“I…I actually forgot that was an option,” Ian admitted, “you’re not getting rid of Lola, Mick. I can fix Clay, just calm down for a minute.”

Mickey went silent and Ian was left trapped in both the bathroom and uncertainty. “Un-fucking-believable, not even five years and our lives have turned into the Shining,” Ian said before he was struck with a realization. “Why am I even hiding in here? I’m bigger than he is. Stay,” he instructed Lola, and to her horror, he marched out into the open.

There was the sound of loud, intense arguing for a few minutes and then nothing but silence for about twenty minutes until Ian popped back into the bathroom. “Okay, you’re free to go, but we’re going to have the ‘off-limits’ talk, Missy!” Ian warned as he followed her into the living room, tiptoeing past his bedroom where Mickey was passed out naked on the bed.

That night, Ian felt the pressure as Mickey sat on the bed watching him with eyes the size of dinner plates as Ian tried to patch up Clay. Until the day he died, Ian would never understand the psychological Pandora’s Box he’d unlocked in Mickey when he bought him that bear. Ian sat on the chair—Clay on the floor between his legs—and tried to keep his hand from shaking as reattached the ear and mended all he could. There were heart surgeons who weren’t as careful and precise.

Still, despite his best efforts, it wasn’t perfect. The thread wasn’t an exact match, the seams weren’t uniform and the ear hadn’t aligned perfectly throughout. There wasn’t much Ian could do about the frayed and chewed parts. He didn’t have a lot of confidence when he finally put the needle aside, and Mickey’s expression was not encouraging.

“Well, you know, it gives him character,” Ian offered lamely, feeling as guilty as a man could feel. When Mickey didn’t respond, he offered to take the stuffed bear to a workshop instead. Mickey still said nothing. Instead he got off the bed, scooped up his bear and walked silently into Carl’s bedroom. Mickey usually stashed the bear in one of the other bedrooms at night, or whenever Ian and Mickey were going to be intimate, so Ian thought nothing of Mickey’s behavior. It wasn’t until perhaps an hour had passed and Mickey hadn’t reemerged that Ian began wondering what was up.

“Hey, Mick?” Ian called and turned the knob only to encounter a disturbing phenomenon; a locked door. This immediately raised a number of philosophical questions for Ian, the chief of which was why would Mickey lock a door when he, Ian, was on the other side of it? It was alarming to say the least. “Um, Mick? The door’s locked…”

On the other side of said door, Mickey rolled his eyes as the giant, fuzzy-faced, lover of bear-butchering dogs kept knocking. Just typical of Ian, thinking he could just throw some dick at everything and it would be fine—him and that rabid pipsqueak dog. Mickey simply killed the lights, cuddled his bear and tried to sleep.

It took a few more minutes for the reality of the situation to hit home for Ian. “S-Seriously?” Ian blinked uncomprehendingly at the door, “you’re pissed at me?! I tried to fix him! Not to throw Lola under the bus here—and by the way, she’s also your dog— but I didn’t even do anything! How is this my fault?”

Actually, with a little creativity, Mickey could assign Ian blame in several instances. Of course, what had happened was a series of unfortunate events. Ian, having left after Mickey that morning, was tasked with putting Clay back in their bedroom. When he had realized that he was running late, Ian had left Clay perched precariously on his chair, causing him to succumb to gravity a few minutes later. Alerted to the noise from her master’s bedroom, Lola had investigated to find Clay in an undignified sprawl on the floor. It had been Christmas, Thanksgiving and a birthday all rolled into one, and Lola had descended upon Clay with a victorious battle cry. She didn’t have much luck with his massive legs and arms, but she had found port with his ears and had settled down to work for the next hour or so. She had left her toil, tired and replete; satisfied that she had done a good day’s work. Now there was this hubbub.

“If you don’t like the job I did, we can always get him fixed by a professional,” Ian was met with a yawning silence and he knocked persistently on the door, “This is classic transference, Mickey! And you shouldn’t be this mad at Lola or me! Puppies chew on things, she wasn’t being spiteful. This is not the big deal you’re making it out to be!” Then he said it, the one thing he knew he should never say. He knew he shouldn’t say it even as it came out like a slow motion car crash. “It’s just a fucking teddy bear!”

Ian winced immediately, knowing the magnitude to which he’d just fucked up. Any hopes he had that Mickey might have been asleep or by some miracle had not heard him were dashed by the absolutely blistering “fuck you, Gallagher!” that came blasting through the closed door.

Ian withered against the door accordingly. “Look that came out wrong. You know I didn’t mean it like that. Can we just please discuss this?”

No dice, the silence only seemed to intensify and Ian was forced to give up. A short while later he was in bed and facing the very real possibility that he was going to sleep alone that night. A couple hours ticked by and he was back outside Carl’s bedroom door.

“Are you serious right now?! You’re really not coming to bed?!” Ian addressed to the very solid, very closed door. “How the fuck am I supposed to sl—this is fucking spousal abandonment, Mickey!” Still nothing. “Fine, be a bitch. See if I care!”

It might have been the end of the July, but by the next morning things were pretty frosty in the Gallagher-Milkovich household. Mickey wasn’t talking at all and after a fitful, sleepless night, Ian wasn’t in much of a mood to be cajoling just yet. As the day wore on however, Ian came to the stunning realization that while he was the master of dishing out the cold shoulder, he wasn’t particularly adept at taking it—he was a giver after all, not a receiver.

Facing the prospect of another lonely night and eager to end this insane fight quickly, Ian pulled out the big guns. He bid his glorious beard a wistful goodbye and shaved it off. Not that he’d admit it to Mickey, but he was definitely missing his own face too. When he’d finished, he looked down at Lola who had been watching him shave with great interest.

“Oh yeah, you’ve never seen me without the beard before, have you? What do you think? Still love me?”

She loudly assured him that he was still perfection personified and he grinned at her. “Ah, you’re easy. Let’s go see what the big dog has to say.”

It did get him a double-take, but not much more. Mickey clearly had some thoughts on the return of the face, but he wasn’t about to express them to Ian and anyone like him. Mickey licked the corner of his mouth briefly while he took in Ian’s face, but eventually returned his attention to his phone.

“I decided to shave it all off today,” Ian offered tentatively, “the maintenance was getting to be a pain anyway.”

Nothing; not a “good for you, Superfly,” no “you look halfway decent again,” not even a “what do you want, a parade?” Zilch. Mickey just ignored him. Ian would never ever say Mickey was talkative, but this level of silence was beyond the pale and he was at a loss as to how to deal with it. It was starting to make him a little nuts.

The next day, he tried the gastric method and made one of Mickey’s favorite meals. He thought he had triumphed when Mickey strolled out of Carl’s room near dinner time, and came to join him in the kitchen.

“Hey, I’m making pineapple chicken,” Ian tempted the man behind him, “the pineapple’s pretty sweet too…” he trailed off when he saw Mickey deliberately opening the cabinet to get a bowl and then set about preparing a bowl of cereal. “Or you know you can just ignore me and the good food I’m making and just eat your sugary cereal and watch cartoons with your teddy bear in your boy cave.”

Mickey took a deliberate spoonful of cereal while looking Ian dead in the eye before heading off to watch cartoons with his teddy bear in Carl’s room.

“That’s fine,” Ian nodded at Mickey’s retreating form, “that’s really mature, just A+ adult behavior right there,” Ian seethed and then stomped out of the kitchen to yell around the corner at his partner. “You’re gonna be thirty in a couple goddamned years; you really wanna go this hard over a fucking teddy bear?!

The thundering slam of bedroom door was the only answer to that and Ian sighed heavily. “I need to stop saying shit like that,” he admitted to Lola, “One more crack about that bear and he’s going to move back in with his sister. This shit is bananas.”

“You wanted a face to face about the level reports?” Carrie asked Ian after she knocked and stepped into his office. Ian pinched the bridge of his nose and sent a quick glare out at Mickey.

“The levels I want to discuss aren’t yours, Carrie,” Ian said as she plopped down into a chair.

“Yeah, but he’s not going to talk to you, so…” Carrie shrugged, “and not to tell you your business or anything, but do you really want to pull the ‘boss’ card out for this? It has a bit of a Marxist capitalism air of oppression to it. Doesn’t really feel kosher.”

“I can’t get him to talk to me. I barely remember what he sounds like,” Ian was unruffled by Carrie’s massive eye-roll, “I don’t care if you think I’m being dramatic. It’s true. This is the stupidest fight. Who fights over shit like this?”

“Are you kidding?” Carrie responded, “if a couple has been together for more than a minute, dumbass fights are inevitable. Leslie and I once had a knockdown, drag out over the ingredients in fruit roll-ups. My grandparents, who have been married since the Mesozoic Era, got into it about the necessity and correct usage of bidets. To this day, the mention of one of those things stirs up lingering bitterness,” Carrie nodded, “but seriously though, Ian, ‘it’s just a teddy bear’? What are you going to do for your encore, piss on his mom’s grave?”

“I didn’t mean it! He knows I didn’t mean it!” Ian paused to get out his phone and dashed off a quick text. Outside, Mickey’s phone buzzed, “you know I didn’t mean it!” He appeared unmoved.

At that moment, Mandy strolled past the window, glaring daggers at Ian. She sat in Carrie’s empty seat next to her brother and commiserated with him, periodically sending Ian death glares.

“She’s not talking to me either,” Ian informed Carrie, as if it wasn’t patently obvious.

Carrie couldn’t help but smile at the absurdity, “look, I admit that there is some fucked up Rosebud level of attachment between those two and that teddy bear—maybe it’s a bad childhood thing—but it is what it is. You can’t have your pet mauling Clay.”

Ian couldn’t even summon the energy to clarify that the tiny Cairn Terrier didn’t maul Clay so much as explored him with her teeth. But he doubted that would have helped his case.

“Dude, it’ll be fine. He’s just as angst-filled and melodramatic about the two of you not speaking as you are,” Carrie reassured him as she stood to go, “oh, and I figured you’d want to know, he got A’s for his econ paper and accounting exercises, a B+ for philosophy which would have been an A if he’d just stop ending his critical thinking points with ‘but who gives a shit?’ and a low B for his English paper because his construction and grammar were kinda janky.”

“Aw, I could have fixed that. He didn’t send me the paper before he handed it in!”

“Yeah, life is brutal,” Carrie sighed and went to chase Mandy out of her seat and back to the studio.

Mickey was in a bit of a bind. The problem he had encountered with the silent treatment was that while it had been satisfying to torture Ian with it while he was angry, there was no graceful way to exit it when he wasn’t mad anymore. He didn’t want Ian to think he was now fine with that disguised pit bull messing with his things and he didn’t want to lose face breaking first. Thankfully, Ian solved that problem for him.

Mickey had snuck into their room to take a shower while Ian had taken Lola for her walk, and had clearly lost all track of time under the spray.  By the time he got around to rifling through the drawers for clean clothes and underwear, the front door was opening and he was forced to make a mad dash to get back into his private room of spite before he was caught. He was not fast enough. He nearly collided into Ian at their bedroom door and now Mickey was faced with the problem of Ian filling the doorway.

He shot Ian a quick warning look before stepping to the side to go around him. Ian simply moved with him and continued to block his path. Mickey glared up at Ian’s impassive face briefly before stepping to the other side and again, he was blocked. He was not about to dance this dumb dance with Ian.

“Move,” Mickey bit out.

“Oh, he speaks!” Ian exclaimed before uttering a simple, “no.”

“Move,” Mickey repeated.

“Make me,” Ian baited him.

Mickey hated having to look up at his jackass from so close a distance, because he always felt at a distinct disadvantage. Not only was it making him cross-eyed, but he was being painfully reminded about how good looking his idiot was and how nice he smelled. Fuck it; he growled something unintelligible, fisted his hand into Ian’s T-shirt and yanked him down to him. There was a frantic mash of lips and teeth and there was a hand diving into Mickey’s hair while another divested him of his towel.

Ian tossed him on the bed and paused only long enough to yank off his own clothes before he was on top of Mickey again, palming Mickey’s hardening cock while he kissed him long, hard and deep. Ian broke the kiss to slide down the length of Mickey’s body and deep-throated him eagerly until Mickey was writhing beneath him and raking his fingers through the red hair.

“Made me fucking sleep alone,” Ian grumbled after he pulled off Mickey’s cock with a wet pop, “flip over,” he ordered and Mickey quickly obeyed.

Mickey buried his face in the sheets and groaned harshly as Ian spread him apart roughly and swiped his tongue firmly over his entrance. He pushed back against Ian, matching his partner’s rhythm as Ian tongue-fucked him. He gasped with the loss of it when Ian pulled away totally and fumbled around behind him.

“Didn’t even send me the goddamned English paper,” Ian muttered over the popping of the cap of lube, “would have edited it anyway, idiot.”

Mickey’s heart pounded with anticipation as Ian gripped his hips and pulled at him until he was on all fours and spread wide open. One moment Mickey was empty and next moment he was full, Ian hot, hard and slick inside him. Ian’s aggravated grumblings stopped and were replaced with ragged moans and grunts as Ian fucked him furiously. Mickey panted Ian’s name repeatedly, his volume climbing steadily as Ian gripped his hips even tighter and took good aim of Mickey’s prostate. The tester groped blindly for a pillow and buried his face in it to stifle his noisiness.

“Yeah, that’s not happening today,” Ian warned and reached forward to yank Mickey’s head back with a hard tug of his hair.

“Fuck!” Mickey’s scream joined Ian’s as they came to a shuddering climax. They both collapsed in a heap, with Mickey trapped beneath his partner.

“Quit being mad at me,” Ian demanded, wiggling his hips in emphasis and dragging a last defeated moan out of Mickey, “it fucking sucks.”

“Okay,” Mickey murmured and Ian finally rolled off to lie next to him. Mickey flipped onto his back and sighed contentedly.

“I’m sorry about what Lola did,” Ian said, “I probably should have just said that before. I know how much Clay means to you and I didn’t mean to demean that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Mickey sighed, “maybe I did go a little nuts. I would never send back your dog either…so sorry I freaked you out, I guess.”

“If you want, I really can get Clay patched up good as new.”

“Nah, it’s alright. You did an okay job.”

“Don’t want him going back under the knife, huh?”

“Yeah, you’re not far enough out of the doghouse yet to make jokes.”

“You’re right, sorry, sorry, God,” Ian swiftly peppered Mickey with conciliatory kisses, “I’m a work in progress.”

“Yeah,” Mickey agreed, “who isn’t?”

Mickey’s studies were interrupted by Lola dropping her favorite squeaky toy at his feet. He shifted the book and look down from his place on the couch to find her dancing around expectantly.

“You’re kidding me, right?” he said drily, “go bother the dude at the dining table.”

She would not be swayed, however, and nudged the squeaky toy closer. Meanwhile, Ian was watching the interchange from the dining room table with great interest.

“You really think offering me a freaking squeaky toy is going to fix everything, Lola?” Mickey’s eyes narrowed and then proceeded to test the waters. “Sit,” he ordered and she quickly obeyed, “roll over…” he ran the gamut of commands and inched his eyebrow higher each time she immediately complied.

He held out for a minute more before sighing and putting the book down. “Alright fine, but you and me got a thing we gotta settle.” He shifted to the edge of the couch and leaned down to the panting dog. “I own you, got that? And my fucking bear is off limits.”

She reared up and licked his nose and the treaty was sealed. Mickey sent a harassed look over at Ian who quickly hid his amusement behind the newspaper.

“Fine,” Mickey picked up the toy and tossed it, “go fucking fetch.”

Six months later

“I need you, baby,” the voice purred and Mickey grinned in response to it.

“Mmm, you know that’s the second time I heard that exact line today?” Mickey told his best friend as they chatted on the phone, “although I don’t think it’s going to have the same outcome.” He looked down at Ian who was asleep on his chest.

“I suspect you might be right, but let’s never say never,” Carrie said, “Leslie and I need a ride to Amagansett. Her favorite horse had a foal and her sister had a baby, and we’re pretending she’s going to see the kid and not the horse.”

“All the way in the East fucking Hamptons? Have you never heard of a train?”

“Oh come on! When’s the last time you got a chance to open that pussy wagon of yours way up? It’ll be just like Crossroads. I’ll be Zoe Saldana, Leslie will be Taryn Manning, so you have the all clear to be 2002 Britney.”

“I don’t want to be fucking Britney, circa 2002 or otherwise!”

“Bitch, yes you do. Don’t lie!”

“Ugh, fine,” Mickey relented, “but only because her abs were insane. But Jesus, all the way out in Amagansett, really?”

“You need to keep me company. They’re all crazy, white people,” Carrie begged, “besides, you’ll want to be there. Nine times out of ten, Leslie and her sister wind up in an insane catfight. The husband and I just stand back and make vague disapproving noises while discreetly squirting oil on them.”

“Now, I’m all about that,” Mickey laughed, then quieted as Ian stirred, disturbed by the constant rumbling in Mickey’s chest, “I’ll bring the camera.”

Ian trapped Mickey against the kitchen counter by placing a hand on either side of him and leveled him with a look. “Adhere to the speed limits while in the city. Do not assume everyone who looks at you while you’re behind the wheel wants to race. Do not get into a police chase…”

“Why the hell did you get me that car if you’re going to nag me every time I pick up the keys?”

“I didn’t know you’d be trying out for NASCAR every single time you drove it,” Ian shot back.

“I am an excellent driver, Ian. Do you know how many times I’ve driven the getaway car?”

Ian rolled his eyes, “you see that’s not a comforting thing to say to me. Just be careful, alright?” He leaned in and kissed Mickey softly, “don’t be stupid and bring me back a gift.”

Mickey watched Ian walk off and muttered under his breath when the redhead turned the corner, “I know what I’m doing. I’m a grown-ass man; you can’t tell me what to do.”

“What was that?” Ian asked, suddenly reappearing from around the corner.

“Nothin’,” Mickey lied, “love you…”

“Yeah, that's what I thought,” Ian snorted and strolled off to their bedroom.

Leslie sighed when the super-powered black Mustang growled to a stop at her feet, and sighed again, loudly, when its driver emerged.

“What’s with you?” Mickey asked and Leslie sighed again.

“You really should be thinking more about your carbon footprint, Mickey,” she chided and was about to launch into a lecture before Carrie nudged her.

“Honey, what did I say about being a killjoy about certain things? Ian bought Mickey this car for his birthday and it means a lot to him, so maybe we can cut him a little slack of his footprint on this one,” Carrie suggested. Leslie pouted a little but nodded and gave Mickey a vaguely apologetic shrug.

“It’s fine, but Carrie gets shotgun,” Mickey declared and dropped the front passenger seat so Leslie could crawl into the back.

“As if that wasn’t the plan all along,” the young woman muttered from the back. “Gaia help, there is so much black leather in here.”

Mickey and Carrie exchanged an amused look and soon they were off. Carrie looked on gleefully as Mickey drove circumspectly throughout the city.

“What is this, a homage to Driving Ms. Daisy?” she teased and Mickey cleared his throat and muttered softly.

“I’m not allowed to drive fast until I’m out of the city.”

Carrie could not disguise her delight. She poked at her friend and laughed. “You ever sit down and just shake your head over how absolutely whipped you are?”

“Only like every other day,” Mickey sighed.

“It’s okay, baby. We’re all in the same boat,” Carrie comforted him with a pat on the arm.

“Tunes!” Leslie yelled out and passed a few CDs over to her girlfriend.

“Is that fucking Enya? I’m not driving for three hours listening to whale songs or ambient noise or whatever,” Mickey said and Leslie flipped him off in the rearview mirror.

“Fuck you; my taste in music is as awesome as your hair is greasy.”

Carrie let them bicker and popped in the first CD and in the next moment Joan Jett was blasting throughout the car.

“Oh, okay,” Mickey said begrudgingly, “that’s not terrible.”

Leslie just stuck her tongue out at him and got to rocking out in the backseat. If it’s one thing Mickey liked unreservedly about Leslie, it was how uninhibited she could be, plus she made Carrie goofily happy, so there was a lot of awesome under all that judgmental hippie crazy.

“An' I could tell it wouldn't be long till she was with me, yeah me,” Leslie purred and pushed forward to hang over her girlfriend, making Carrie giggle. By thetime they got to the chorus, the three of them were belting out their wild love of rock and roll.

Finally they were on the expressway and the traffic thinned to Ian-approved levels. Mickey looked at Leslie in the mirror again and nodded. “What do you say? Can I put my foot down?”

“Fuck it, ratchet it to the redline!” Leslie howled, surprising Mickey.

“She likes to go fast,” Carrie whispered and gave Mickey a lopsided grin.

“Who’d have thunk?” Mickey grinned back as he shifted into a higher gear and pressed down, sending a ton of supercharged American muscle roaring down the highway.

Mickey took a deep whiff when he got out of the car and scrunched his face in consternation. “What the hell is that weird smell?”

“Fresh air,” Carrie informed him, “I know it’s disgusting. Wait until you see your cell phone reception.”

Mickey looked at his phone and gasped in horror, “we need to get out of here as quickly as possible.”

“I know it’s disgusting,” Carrie moaned and Leslie rolled her eyes and strode off, leaving the two idiots waving their phones about trying to get a signal.

Mickey was introduced to Leanne, Leslie’s sister, and Leanne’s husband, Todd, and then the next few hours were an exercise in passive aggression and fucked up WASP family dynamics. Carrie, Mickey and Todd sat awkwardly while the sisters sniped at each other about everything under the sun.    

They feigned interest when Leanne presented the fruit of her loins and then feigned interest when Leslie cooed over the horses. Despite Leanne needling Leslie about her childlessness and hippie-dippy ways and Leslie’s snark about Leanne’s corporate soullessness and tendency towards self-medication, there seemed to be no catfight on the horizon, leaving three people bitterly disappointed.

The visit was mercifully reaching its conclusion and Mickey was this close to making a clean break. That is, until he felt something pulling at his pant leg as he sat at the ranch style dining table. He looked down to see a Golden Retriever puppy gnawing on him. He reached down automatically and picked him up and scratched the squirming puppy behind the ears.

“Ah, that was a mistake, friend,” Carrie warned and Mickey blinked in confusion. The puppy was now trying desperately to lick his face. “You now own a dog.”

“Um, what?”

Leanne materialized next to him, “oh, one of our puppies has adopted you!” she said with the eagerness of a woman who had been trying to unload a litter of puppies for weeks now. “He adores you already.”

“Oh, no, I was just…” Mickey felt sweat beading since everyone was either looking at him desperately, or as if the adoption was a foregone conclusion. “I already have a diva that runs my place back home.”

“Retrievers play well with other dogs,” Leanne continued smoothly while the puppy fell in love with Mickey forever and ever. Mickey quickly put the puppy down.

“I live in a high-rise. I mean, how big do these dogs get? That’s no place for him.”

“Oh these are highly adaptable dogs. They just need to get their exercise and they’re happy anywhere!” Leanne continued with the burning, unblinking gaze of a woman on a mission who was unused to hearing no.

Mickey looked down at the reddish-gold puppy that was looking back at him with the biggest eyes ever. He was cute, but there had been no plan for anymore than one dog. He scratched the puppy regretfully, heart filling a little as it licked his fingers.

“Nah, I-I can’t. I can’t just take on another dog. I’d have to talk to my partner first and there’s no signal out here—”

“He will never love another the way he loves you,” Carrie sighed and Mickey sent her a glare.

“Look, I’m not taking another puppy, and that’s my last word on it.”

Mickey sighed as Carlos cooed over the squirming puppy and gushed about how gorgeous he was. Mickey nodded wearily and informed Carlos to once again be on the lookout for a ton of deliveries.

“You think Ian is going to spoil this one too?” Carlos suggested.

“Yeah, Ian, sure,” Mickey mumbled and avoided Carlos’s eyes and hurried to the elevator.

He paused outside his door and gave his new puppy a warning. “Alright, you’re about to meet Lola and she can be a bit of a handful. Now for the time being, she’s got a couple pounds on you and she’s gonna try to push you around. Just hang in there for a few months and then you can eat her.”

He opened the door and Lola immediately bounded up. She gave one look at the newcomer and expressed her consternation. Mickey squatted down, holding the puppy securely in his grasp and let Lola come over to sniff him and facilitated introductions.

“Lola, this is Tony; Tony… Lola,” Mickey said and then addressed the Terrier, “look, I’m going to need you to show him the ropes and go easy on him; he’s a country boy. Be nice.”

Lola was making no promises.

Ian was surprised to say the least when he came home that night and not one, but two dogs tripped over themselves to get to him.

“Mickey, what is this?” Ian demanded after he picked up the squirming puppy. “Mickey, what is this?!”

“It’s a fucking dog, what does it look like?” Mickey answered and pulled on his cigarette. “You said to bring you back something,” he mumbled before looking at Ian uncertainly, “it’s okay?”

Ian grinned widely, “yeah, it’s fine. You named him yet?”



“Yeah, you know,” Mickey huffed, immediately exasperated, “Tony, Lola…the Copacabana?”

Ian laughed out loud and put the puppy down. “I swear to God, you’re like an eighty year old trapped in a young man’s body.” He took away Mickey’s cigarette and dumped it, ignoring the man’s protests. “You’re quitting,” Ian said simply and marched off with Lola in tow.

“Thinks he owns me,” Mickey whispered to his new puppy, “I mean, I’m not saying he’s wrong, but still…”

Six years later

Mickey sighed deeply and massaged his forehead as he slumped further down into his chair. He had gone boneless and relaxed, so when his office door burst open, it was all he could do not to yelp. His intruder seemed surprised to see him there.

“Mr. Milkovich, I didn’t know you were in here,” Jenny Nakamura, one of their junior accountants, backpedalled. “Your secretary was gone and it seemed so quiet, so I figured…”

“It’s okay and it’s just Mickey,” Mickey said and turned slowly to sit up straight at his desk, “what’s going on?”

The young woman took a seat and woke up her tablet before Mickey could say anything else, “I was going to leave a post-it on your desk, but since you’re here. I examined all the employee expense reports as you asked, ignoring superfluous food purchases.”

Mickey shrugged nonchalantly, “half the people here are stoners, what’re you gonna do?”

Jenny tittered and nodded, “so I compiled a list of employees with problematic spending and suspicious charges for you to go over. It should be in your inbox now.”

Mickey nodded and slipped on his glasses. He opened the email and scanned the list of names and charges. “Alphabetical order too, nice… Adler—did this fool really get a happy ending on our dime?”

Jenny blushed prettily at the implications, “I, well, it’s a massage parlor, but who knows.”

“Yeah, sure,” Mickey murmured, “you can take off Carol Anderson’s name. I’m authorizing her purchases.”

“Okay, all those winter candy apple scented candles though?”

“It’s a long story,” Mickey replied, “but it’s fine.” He continued going down the list of names when he suddenly spasmed.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.

Mickey blinked at her wide-eyed, “um yeah, I’m fine. Hit the gym a little too hard last night…catching up on me.”

“Oh, okay,” she nodded before adding shyly, “I can tell you work out.”

Mickey missed that due to another odd spasm and inhaled deeply before staring at her, momentarily nonplussed, “yeah, um, what are we doing again?”

“Employee expense reports?”

“Ah, right,” he turned his attention back to the computer screen and almost laughed out loud when he came upon a certain name halfway down the list. “Ian? You’re writing up the big boss?”

Jenny panicked, “was that too presumptuous? Should I leave him off? He has quite a few big ticket purchases that don’t seem to relate to the business.”

“No, no, you’re right. None of purchases listed here are business related and should not be charged to our expense account. By all means, write him up,” Mickey assured her, “this happens because he doesn’t pay attention to which card he’s reaching for when he’s all excited to buy something. If I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a thousand times, pay attention!” Mickey said and pounded on the table. He cleared his throat when the young woman stared at him. “I’m very passionate about fiscal responsibility.”

While he continued checking the list, she used the time to check out his corner office and was pulled to his framed credentials. “You got your MBA at NYU?”


“My parents want me to go get mine at Harvard. I think it’s the name recognition.”

“Well you’re not going to beat Harvard Business when it comes to name recognition, but Stern is good. I liked it. Half the class was Gordon Gekko types and most of the rest were Occupy Wall Street—made for some very interesting class discussions.”

She laughed and continued checking out his office and, more surreptitiously, her boss.

“Yeah, okay, everything seems in order; good job, very thorough,” he flashed a smile, “so what you’re going to do now, look in the correspondence folder and you should see a form letter addressing suspicious charges. Write one up for each of the employees listed here, customizing a little as you see fit. Don’t get familiar or personal, just be polite and firm—the form letter should have most of it anyway. Give them ten working days to present justification for the stated charges and if they are unable to do so to our satisfaction, state that they’ll have to reimburse. When you’re done, send them to me and I’ll sign off on them.”

Jenny nodded, finished taking her notes and smiled winningly at Mickey. “You have such fascinating tattoos.”

Mickey frowned at his fingers before grinning at her, “bad childhood, good reminders. So that’s it right?” He clapped his hands together when she nodded, “okay, get to it then.”

When she left, he heaved a huge sigh of relief, took off his glasses and collapsed over the table. “Okay, she’s gone.”

Ian crawled out from beneath the table, grinning like a maniac and rubbing the top of his head. “Should I be concerned about how easily you interact with your underlings while your pants are around your ankles?”

“You fucker, you could have at least stopped for a few minutes,” Mickey accused.

“Yeah, I could have, but how is that fun for me?” Ian chuckled and got to his feet.

“Where are you going? You didn’t finish,” Mickey said plaintively.

“You didn’t finish, you mean,” Ian said, “I’m going to close the door before she comes back to show you her corresponding ‘fuck me up’ tramp stamp.” He came back around to Mickey and stared him down, “are you seriously going to let Hermione-lite write me up?”

“I told you to pay attention to the card you use. It’s necessary to maintain transparency, Ian. Keep this up and I’m going to confiscate your credit cards one of these days.”

“You can’t do that!”

“I’m your CFO; I can do what the fuck ever. Now can you please? My dick’s getting cold.”

Ian attempted to strike a bargain. “How about you call off your financial groupie and then I’ll suck your dick?”

“Hmm, how about I don’t do that and you suck my dick anyway? Just take your medicine, you child. Besides, we both know you’re dying to finish me off right now.”

Ian sucked his teeth, “God, if only that weren’t true.” He got to his knees and licked at Mickey’s cock. “I feel so cheap right now. At least put the fucking glasses back on,” he demanded. Mickey smirked and fully complied.

“So how did they do today?” Mickey asked the attendant at the doggy daycare.

“Tony was an absolute sweetheart as usual,” she said as she swiped his card, “and Lola was…much improved!”

“Uh huh,” Mickey answered knowingly. Another attendant brought out Tony and his dog raced over to greet him. “There’s my guy,” Mickey greeted as Tony yipped happily, “you still have all this energy. Daddy’s going to have to take you for a run later,” he retrieved his card from the attendant, “not this daddy, the other one. I only run if I’m being chased.”

The girl made sure to commit that last part to memory for when she and her coworkers played the “who in the heck is Mickey Milkovich?” game. At the moment, they were leaning towards Russian mobster, since it explained the suit, the tattoos, the attitude and hair raising language he tended to use. But did that fully account for the open gayness and the willingness to use a dog daycare? The mystery continued.

Soon, Lola was racing out to meet him and he scooped her up. “Did you play nice today, Toto?”

He took them out to the car and sent Lola off to Ian’s lap so she could properly lose her mind. It was always clear as day which dog belonged to which man. Tony worshipped the ground Mickey walked on and Lola was always unabashedly Ian’s.

“Was she a good girl today?” Ian asked after he scooted her over to the backseat and rubbed Tony’s head.

“She was ‘much improved!’” Mickey replied and they exchanged knowing looks. “Are we all stocked up? Supposed to be a blizzard tomorrow and I’m doing fuck all until Monday.”

“You’re a winter hermit and you get a little worse every year,” Ian said affectionately and rubbed Mickey’s thigh. “Yeah, I think we’re good; although I guess we could swing by Whole Foods, pick up some more bread and a few other things to be sure.”

“Yeah, let’s do it. Make soup tomorrow.”

“Really, grandpa, soup? Okay,” Ian agreed and they pulled out into the heavy Manhattan traffic.

That night, Jenny wasn’t the only one dreaming of deft, tattooed fingers and blue eyes. Ian woke up and reached blindly for Mickey, only to find himself alone in bed.

“Mick?” he said thickly, but it was Lola who sprang into action and licked his face eagerly as he lifted it off his pillow. “Right idea, wrong mammal,” he said and went looking for the right one. He found Mickey lying on the couch, giggling as he watched TV with Tony resting on top of him. “What are you doing?” Ian asked and scratched Tony’s head idly.

“Shark week!”

“In January?” Ian asked    

“Well not the Shark Week, a Shark Week. Sci-fi channel Shark week, not Discovery channel’s,” Mickey clarified, “I’m watching Sharkocalypse now. It’s amazing!”

 “You total dork,” Ian scolded, “DVR this shit please and come to bed.”

“But I’m not tired yet!” Mickey complained.

“Neither am I, idiot!”

“Oh…oh, you want me to take care of some business, huh?” Mickey scooted Tony away and turned off the TV. “I’m getting slow in my old age.”

By the time Mickey got to the bedroom door, Ian was already naked on the bed and lubing himself up. Mickey trailed his tongue along his lower lip and looked at his partner teasingly. “That how it is, daddy? Not even going to try and romance a dude first?”

Mickey was about to shed his own clothes when he spotted Clay still seated in the corner in his easy chair. He glared daggers at Ian. “You didn’t take him out first?!”

Ian realized his faux pas and apologized profusely as Mickey rescued his scandalized bear. “Although, it’s better he learns it from us than on the street!” he called after Mickey.

“Shut up!” Mickey yelled back and got Clay situated in Carl’s bedroom. When he came back, Ian was waiting and antsy, but Mickey hadn’t finished clearing the room yet. He looked under the bed and spotted Lola. “Hit the road, missy.”

Lola barked and trotted obediently out of the room, much to Ian’s amusement. “I like how you have to clear the room like we’re about to go nuclear in here.”

“Aren’t we though, Ian? Aren’t we?” Mickey wiggled his eyebrows, and stayed off the bed just to drive Ian a little crazy. It always worked and Ian dived to get him and bodily tossed him onto the bed.

Mickey laughed out loud and struggled to get out of his tank top while Ian yanked off his pants roughly. When he was finally nude, Ian surged over him and Mickey eagerly grabbed his head with both hands and pulled Ian into a kiss.

Ian shifted to the side slightly, keeping the kiss going and stroking Mickey’s cock until the man was thrusting desperately into his grasp.

“Ah, fuck,” Mickey hissed against Ian’s lips and shoved Ian off so he could roll over and get on his knees.

Ian was behind him and ready immediately and ran his hands up the back of Mickey’s thighs as he waited for his partner to position himself properly and relax. When he got the go ahead, he thrust forward without hesitation, reveling in Mickey’s soft cries of pleasure.  He gripped Mickey’s shoulder and hip and thrust in deeply, pulling out almost entirely before slamming back into him again. Ian’s strokes gradually shortened as he built up speed, until he was fucking Mickey with wild abandon and Mickey’s shouts were as loud as his own.

Ian bent forward and kissed and sucked on all the exposed flesh he could reach. When he straightened up he took Mickey with him, and hauled the man flush against him. He grunted sharply when Mickey reached back and twisted his hand into his hair—one of Mickey’s favorite things to do. Ian responded in kind by sinking his teeth into the hard muscle of Mickey’s shoulder and groaned because of Mickey’s throaty laugh.

“Fuck me!” Mickey demanded as his head lolled back against Ian’s shoulder, “fuck me good, Ian.”

Ian dragged his blunted nails up the length of Mickey’s thighs and swept his hands over Mickey’s body, desperate to touch him everywhere. He brusquely brushed Mickey’s hand away and took over stroking the rock hard, leaking cock.

“Fuck you, I need more hands,” Ian panted harshly into Mickey’s ear, eliciting another laugh.

“I dunno, I think you’re doing pretty good with the two you’ve got,” Mickey said and gasped then groaned when Ian pulled his head back to kiss him from behind.

Ian’s rhythm was quickly eroding in that position and he gave Mickey another hard bite on his other shoulder and trailed his tongue over the impression of his teeth. He pulled away once more and directed Mickey to lie on his back. He sank back into Mickey and braced over him so he could stroke Mickey’s face. Mickey captured Ian’s thumb between his teeth and wrapped his legs securely around Ian’s waist.

“I’m about to fucking lose it,” Ian warned and Mickey spasmed rhythmically around his cock in response. “Fucker,” Ian growled and buried his face in the crook of Mickey’s neck as his orgasm built.

Mickey cradled Ian’s head and groped his ass and screamed his encouragement into the quiet of the room. They came together, hard, and sprawled panting next to each other. As their breathing quieted and their heart rates slowed, they could finally hear the dogs scratching at the door.

“See? This is why I kick them out all the time,” Mickey pointed out, “any time we get loud they think we’re killing each other.”

Ian chuckled and moved to slide under the covers. “Going back to shark week? Watch it in here.”

“You really want to try falling asleep to the sound of crunching bones and z-list screaming?”

“Yeah, it won’t bother me. I want you in here.”

Mickey sat up and grinned down at Ian, and stroked his face tenderly, “yeah, okay. Be right back.”

“Hurry up.”

Mickey pulled on his sweatpants and opened the bedroom door to see two pairs of very concerned eyes staring up at him. “The two of you are as dumb as rocks. We go through this like every night.”

Lola darted around him to check on the wellbeing of her master and Tony followed him to go retrieve Clay and his abandoned bowl of popcorn. When he came back into the room, he deposited Clay into his chair and gave Lola a boost onto the bed so she could curl up at an already dozing Ian’s feet. Tony waited until Mickey got into bed and settled in before he bounded up and settled at Mickey’s feet as well. All the movement roused Ian, and he automatically shifted into his favorite position; lying atop Mickey with his head on his chest. Mickey shifted a bit until he was comfortably propped up and Ian was settled and soon, Mickey was the only living creature still awake in the room. He turned on his knock-off Shark week and munched his popcorn, periodically chuckling at the over-the-top carnage and horrible acting. It was just a man, his dogs, his teddy bear and his sleeping red giant.

Could anything be more perfect?