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Ian Gallagher And All Of His Mistakes

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He’s... Ian isn’t sure. He’s a bit of a disaster, is all Ian can say with certainty. Ian can’t really tell if he’s cute or not. Under all the layers; thick ratty coat with a broken zipper, hoodie and t-shirt underneath, Ian can’t tell if he’s strong or chubby or both. He can sort of tell that he has strong legs, albeit kind of short and bowlegged. He can’t tell if he’s smart and quick or dumb as shit. He can’t even tell if he’s gay or not. The looks he shoots Ian when he thinks Ian isn’t paying attention say one thing; the moment he opens his mouth, a different story comes out. Sometimes, on his early shifts when he starts at six a.m and the guy comes in at six thirty, like a whirlwind with a dirt streaked face or a bloody lip or a black eye, but ordering his coffee like he doesn’t look like he just got into a car crash, Ian thinks he hallucinates him. This little guy can’t actually exist out there in the world, right? He’s not actually part of society, is he? Surely, this angry asshole only exists in Ian’s diseased mind?

So maybe Ian is sure of two things, he decides on Tuesday afternoon, when the usual suspect comes in with his phone pressed against his ear. For the first time in all the weeks that Ian has been serving him, he sees the man smile; big and real. He has dimples. So Ian is sure of two things now. The guy is a disaster and he is incredibly cute. In fact, with that smile on his face, he looks like a real person.

Today, he is even too distracted by the phone call to be visibly annoyed by the line, but by the time he reaches Ian, his face is back to... well, at least he’s clean this time. There is only a faint yellowing bruise under his eye, barely visible, but Ian has been following its progress for days.

“Black coffee,” the man barks.

“Sure thing. Can I get your name?” Ian asks innocently.

“None of your business and stop asking me that,” the pit bull drones up. One time, early in the morning, he had almost slipped up and Ian had half a heart attack. “M...” he had said, and then cut himself off.

“Whatever, Mason,” Ian says today. Yesterday it was ‘Matthew’ and the day before ‘Marcus’. Ian was pretty sure that his very first guess (Michael) was probably the closest, but it never stuck.

Today, the guy hands him the fiver, unimpressed by Ian’s antics and goes to wait for his drink. He tips well, at least.

“Black coffee for... Mason,” Ian’s coworker Tammy calls out a few minutes later.

Ian looks up to watch his favorite customer look around and then sigh in resignation before going up and grabbing the cup. He flips Ian off as he leaves and Ian is inexplicably in a great mood for the rest of the day.

 

Ian works the early morning shifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He works the afternoon shift on Saturday and the evening shift on Mondays, Wednesdays  and Fridays. He is pretty sure his new little buddy comes in everyday, but his visits don’t always coincide with Ian being there. He can show up at all times of the day. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to it, though Ian has only seen him come in once after six p.m.

There are plenty of regulars who love to tell Ian all about their day even if there are five people waiting in line behind them. He knows the people who work in the high rises around this specific Starbucks. He knows the moms who live a few blocks away and he knows the teens from the high school down the street.

He has no clue who the tattooed, heavy booted, raggedy looking guy is, though he can make a few guesses.

On Friday, Ian is making the drinks when the most exciting thing of his whole damn week happens. His favorite customer walks in. It’s 9:30 p.m and Ian can barely believe his eyes. In fact, it feels incredibly strange for some reason, to be standing on this side of the bar rather than at the till when he comes in. Ian is honestly taken aback by himself for how excited he is to see him; he had given up at six, thinking he must have come in early or not at all.   

At the same time, Ian is kind of annoyed that he can’t talk to him, no matter how briefly. He can’t soak up the man’s bizarre energy all the way from behind the bar. Damnit. So he does something… something. Maybe some might call it desperate.

There is no line, and the guy (cute) is walking straight to the till. Ian taps Tammy on the shoulder and says: “You can take a break if you want.”

She looks confused for a moment, and then her eyes fall on Ian’s new best friend. She rolls her eyes at Ian, but without saying a word, she disappears into the back.

“Hi,” Ian says, even before the guy is close enough for it to be considered a normal greeting.

“Black coffee,” the man says gruffly, without looking at Ian.

“Isn’t it a bit late for that?” Ian blurts.

The man looks up now, with an incredulous look on his face. “Do you people not serve coffee at this time? Why even open the fucking place? You got edibles? Some good shit to get me to sleep?”

“Anything else?” Ian sighs, but is silently ecstatic at the prolonged exchange.

“No.”

“Alright, can I get your name?”

“Fuck off is what my name is,” he says and slaps a five dollar bill on the counter.

He walks to the other side of the bar and Ian follows him. The guy looks confused for a moment before it dawns on him that Ian is also going to pour his coffee.

“Are you alone?” The guy then asks and Ian thinks that it might be the first direct, not sarcastic question he has ever asked him.

“My coworker is in the back,” Ian says. “Why?”

“It’s not safe, working alone at night,” the man says with a shrug.

“Black coffee for... ‘Fuck off’, was it?” Ian then asks sweetly, handing him the hot cup. He takes it with a smirk and Ian wants to blow him. Real bad. The man leaves without another word.

“What is it with you and that guy?” Tammy asks when she returns. “You know you can do way better, right?”

“I think he’s cute,” Ian shrugs.

“He’s whatever. I get that he’s funny, but I don’t know if he’s worth all the hassle.”

“He’s the best,” Ian says and even he has to admit that the swooning is a bit much.

 

Ian can’t make up his mind. He could just ask him, right? He can ask him if he wants to go for a drink, or for a walk or if he wants to hook up in the back; whatever is easiest. The only danger in that is that the guy spits in Ian’s face. Even if he doesn’t spit in Ian’s face, there is a chance he won’t return to the coffeeshop after that.

And if they do fuck, somehow, there is also a huge chance that he won’t return to the coffeeshop after that either. But maybe that’s better, right? It’ll be out of Ian's system and he can get over this idiotic crush of his on Chicago’s hottest gremlin.

Except that Ian doesn’t want to get over it. If that ugly bastard doesn’t show up anymore, Ian might as well quit his job, because nothing would be more unbearable to him than working this bullshit job with nothing to look forward to all day. For fuck’s sake, he had considered quitting two months ago, before that dickhead made life interesting again. 

That Monday, another first happens.

Ian is on his break. Lip has been sitting at the table right across from the till all morning, working on one thing or another and getting increasingly frustrated. Ian loses the apron and joins him at the table for his break.

“Give it a rest,” Ian says.

“I’m going to kill him,” Lip says.

“Just leave it.”

“If this paper isn’t the best thing the world has ever seen, Ian? I’m killing him, you, Frank.”

“What the fuck do I-” But Ian falls silent. His favorite disaster just walked through the door, right past him. He looks at the line in annoyance as he stands behind the last person. Ian wants to get up and get behind the till, but there are already three people working the bar. Goddamnit.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Lip asks.

“Nothing. Shut up.”

But Lip doesn’t shut up and Ian is kind of thankful for that. It keeps him from staring at the man in line the entirety time and hoping he’ll notice him sitting there.

By the time he gets to the till, all Ian can see is the back of his head.

“Black coffee,” he orders, shortly.

“Anything else?” Mona asks.

“Firecrotch not working today?” He asks and Ian feels his face heat up, like it never has before.

“Firecrotch?” Lip repeats, because of course, he heard it and of course he knows exactly who it’s referring to. Lip turns to look at Ian and his mouth practically falls to the floor. “I didn’t know you could get this fucking red.”

Ian has half a mind to get up and go outside to cool down. Maybe he can just crawl under the table and not be noticed.

“Uh,” Mona responds. “I don’t...”

“Black coffee,” the guy then repeats and slams the fiver on the table.

“Can I get your-”

But he is gone already, waiting at the bar.

“Who the fuck is that?” Lip asks Ian.

“I don’t know him,” Ian says quickly and truthfully. But it comes out too defensively, and it visibly fuels something in his brother. “Don’t,” Ian warns. “Don’t, don’t, don’t.”

As soon as the disaster gets his coffee and walks past them, heading to the door, Lip coughs loudly. Comically so.

The guy turns his head and links eyes with Ian immediately. There is a hint of acknowledgement there, only in how he doesn’t turn away immediately. Ian smiles at him tentatively, despite the fact that he can already feel Lip revving up for never ending torment.

He doesn’t smile back, not really, but something does happen on his face that isn’t completely aggressive and abrasive.

He leaves without slowing down his pace.

“You got yourself a little boyfriend, I see,” Lip says.

“Do you think that means he’s been thinking about my dick?” Ian blurts. “If he calls me Firecrotch, he has to be thinking about it, right?”

 

Ian doesn’t see him again for the rest of that week. By Friday evening he has given up on hoping he’d come in. It is close to ten, Ian is wiping down the bar and Tammy left fifteen minutes ago to catch her bus on time. There are only a few people left in the coffeeshop and Ian has already warned them that they’ll be closing in ten minutes.

The psychopath walks right up to Ian at the bar. Ian is ecstatic.

“You work night shifts?” Ian asks.

“I work when I work,” is the answer. “Black coffee.”

“It’s not a complicated order. I think I remember by now.”

“So what do you want me to do? Get up here and say nothing until you get the point?”

“You can say ‘Hey, how are you doing’,” Ian suggests, pleasantly surprised that he managed to engage him at all. He resents the black coffee order for the first time. It’s done with the press of a button.

“No, thanks,” he says shortly. It’s the first time he has ever thanked him. Ian hands him the coffee and takes a chance. “Can I get your name?”

“For what?” He asks, actually confused. “I got my shit.”

“For me,” Ian says. “I just want to know.”

“Why? So you can write about me in your little diary?”

Ian rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t move. “It’s Michael, right?” he tries.

The guy pulls up an eyebrow. “Something like that.”

“I’m going to just call you Michael then.”

“You don’t need to call me shit. You don’t know me,” Michael says, far more frustrated than any normal person would be.

“Whatever, Michael.”

“It’s Mickey,” he snaps.

Now Ian is truly confused. “So I was right!” He calls out. “That’s short for Michael.”

“It’s short for Mikhailo, dickhead. You want my social security number, too?”

“I’m the dickhead?” Ian gawks. “I know you asked about me, Mickey.”

“So what? Your tall ginger ass sticks out like a sore thumb around here,” he says, and he says it so flippantly that Ian almost believes him. Almost.

“Heard you asked about my crotch, too,” Ian pushes, knowing full well he could get boiling hot coffee thrown right in his face.

“Yeah, you and your ginger pubes can go fuck yourselves,” Mickey says dismissively.

“Myself, huh?” Ian is overstepping, probably fucking things up for himself. Mickey gives him one last look, up and down and then he leaves.

Ian is tenting in his pants. This is unbelievable.

He gives the last patrons five minutes before telling them to leave. He needs to get out of there, needs to clear his head, before he does something stupid like jack off in the employee bathroom.

He grabs his coat, turns of the light and dashes for the door, only to be stopped in his tracks. Mickey is back and he is blocking the door.

“Did you come back to rob the joint?” Ian asks, but his limbs are jittery and his heart is pounding in his chest.

“Nah, I’m here to give you a hand,” Mickey says, looking Ian up and down. “So drop your pants and don’t waste any more of my time.”

 

If Ian said that he was completely surprised he’d be lying. The truth is that Mickey might be a bit of a mystery, but he is also just another guy trying to get his rocks off in the dark. So when they’re done and Mickey has nutted a solid load right down Ian’s throat, it only takes Mickey two minutes to gather his shit and get dressed. Ian follows his lead; he feels good, satiated. He hasn’t had an exciting encounter like this in a minute and this has him riding high. “That was good,” Mickey tells him, and that is a surprise.

Ian is emboldened by those words and he makes a mistake that he’ll beat himself up for later. He tries to kiss Mickey right before they part ways in front of the Starbucks.

Mickey turns his head around smoothly and says: “This ain't a fairytale, princess.”

“Alright, asshole. Relax,” Ian says, disappointed, but not upset. He’ll get him next time.

 

Except he doesn’t. Friday night becomes a thing. At first Ian had thought he’d ruined it, because Mickey wasn’t there during the week, at least not when Ian was there. The theory that Ian just needed to fuck him once to get it out of his system was also false, because he hasn’t stopped jacking off to the thought of that angry punk bent over the counter at the coffeeshop for even a second.

Next Friday, Ian goes for the kiss first, before they even take their clothes off.

“What the hell did I say last time?” Mickey snaps at him, and pushes him hard, backwards. He then moves back in quickly and fumbles with Ian’s belt.

“God, you’re an asshole,” Ian sighs, but that’s his last complaint for the night as Mickey gets on his knees.

He’ll get him next time.

 

He doesn’t get him next time, or the time after that or the time after that. A lot changes, but not that. Mickey stays longer each time. They talk before, they talk after, and Mickey even smiles at him, like a real human being. Mickey becomes a real human being. He smells good, he feels good and Ian can stare at him all day, trying to analyze what all the facial expressions mean. Sometimes they go for a drive together afterwards, and get stoned somewhere quiet. Mickey is funny, really funny in a way that Ian can’t play it cool. In a way that makes Ian’s stomach ache. And when Ian laughs, Mickey laughs too. When Ian manages to make Mickey laugh all on his own, and Mickey doesn’t just roll his eyes or shake his head, but actually laughs, Ian feels like he has won a prize of some kind. It’s a strange feeling, not really anything he’s felt before, terrifying and exciting and something worth chasing.

Ian earns Mickey’s phone number and last name (Milkovich, uh-oh) after the fifth Friday. They text, they hook up on a couple of fucking Wednesdays, too. Sometimes on Monday. On one of those Mondays, Mickey rides Ian in the backseat of Mickey’s car. It’s freezing cold, they’re still wearing their shirts and coats. Mickey clasps his hands around Ian’s shoulders and buries his face in Ian’s neck. It is the first time Ian feels Mickey’s mouth on any part of his body that isn’t his cock. His lips are warm and soft and they feel so tender that it sends a wave of something all the way through Ian’s body when Mickey kisses him right under his ear, right under his jaw, in the nape of his neck. Ian tries to turn his head, tries to catch his lips with his own.

When Mickey finally looks at him in the darkness of this abandoned McDonald’s parking lot, he presses their foreheads together. The steady roll of his hips, slow and fucking perfect, has Ian completely dazed. Their lips do touch, once, twice by accident and then Ian pulls him in with a hand in his neck. Mickey kisses him back, doesn’t seem to think twice about it. Ian learns that Mickey tastes twice as good as he smells. He kisses soft, but with purpose, follows Ian’s lead and doesn’t lose the rhythm of his hips even once.

“That was nice,” Ian tells him later that night as they’re pulling their pants back on in the backseat.

“Don’t do it again,” Mickey says, and doesn’t look at him again until he drops Ian off at his house.

 

By the time ten Fridays have gone by, Ian is sick of it. “You have to kiss me,” he says.

“What?” Mickey asks, half paying attention to Ian as he pulls his boots back on, sitting on the couch in the coffee shop that he’d just been bent over less than ten minutes ago.

“Before you go, you have to kiss me. Or - or you don’t have to come back next week.”

“Oh is that the deal, huh? I guess it’s time to hop on the next dick, then,” Mickey says easily. “Shut the fuck up and let’s get something to eat.”

“You’re bluffing,” Ian says.

“No, I think you’re bluffing. Why do you give a shit anyway? I’m not your fucking boyfriend and a little peck on the lips isn’t going to change that.”

“I know you like me, Mickey. I’m not going to yell it from the fucking roof tops, but at least you can try when we’re alone-”

“I don’t like you, Gallagher,” Mickey snorts. “And you sure as hell don’t want me as your boyfriend.”

“Give me a kiss before you leave, Mickey,” Ian demands.

“No.”

“I’m serious.”

Mickey picks up his jacket and flips him off dismissively. “Fuck you, you fucking homo.”

“I’d rather be a fucking homo than be a homo and a fucking pussy,” Ian spits back.

There is a moment there, a moment of real rage, far more sinister than Ian has ever seen in Mickey’s face before. “You better watch your mouth, you little bitch,” he seethes. “You think you can just have whatever you want, just because you want it?”

“What’s wrong with wanting this? Huh? I’m too old to fuck around and be your fucktoy. I’ve been there and I’ve done that and it’s bullshit.”

“Then sign up for OkCupid, bitch,” Mickey practically yells at him. He leaves.

“Mick!” Ian yells after him, but Mickey leaves him with one last “fuck you” for the night.

 

The day that follows is the worst day of Ian’s life. Okay, it isn’t, not by far, but it feels like it at that moment. He wakes up angry and when Carl cuts him off on his way to the bathroom, Ian nearly creates a new hole in the wall, that’s how hard he shoves him out of the way.

“Dick!” Carl calls after him and Ian slams the bathroom door shut behind him.

At breakfast, Fiona tells him that they just ran out of cereal and she needs the car for a grocery run this afternoon, so Ian is going to have to take the bus to work.

Lip tells him that they’re also out of orange juice and coffee and fucking chairs to sit in.

“God, this is bullshit,” Ian explodes when Debbie grabs the last apple out of the basket.

“Jesus, kid,” Fiona says unimpressed. “What’s got you all twisted up?”

“He got home angry last night,” Liam jumps in. “Very angry.”

“Last night was Friday night,” Lip says. “Ain’t that your date night with the drug dealer?”

“Did you guys have a fight or something?” Fiona asks. “Ain’t it a bit early in the relationship for that? It has only been a couple of months.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ian says.

“Then you don’t get to be prissy about it,” Debbie says.

“You better not break up with him yet,” Lip warns. “He’s got the best weed in town. Can’t lose him just yet.”

“Too fucking late. You want his weed, you can suck his dick yourself. I’m done with that bitch,” Ian explodes anyway.

“You’re the bitch,” Carl says, coming down the stairs after his shower. He clearly still has a vendetta against Ian and Ian is more than willing to throw him out of a window if be tries something.

The topic soon shifts to making the grocery list. Ian at least convinces Fiona to leave early enough so she can drop him off at work first.

On the drive there, Carl keeps kicking at his seat.

When they reach the coffee shop, already ten minutes later than his shift was supposed to start, Ian turns to the backseat and seethes: “I’m going to fucking murder you, Carl.”

“Like to see you try, asshole,” Carl bites back.

“Have a good day at work,” Fiona says cheerfully, before she takes off.

 

Ian gets fired that day, because he forgot to throw last night’s used rubber in the trash.

The manager found it lying on the floor next to the sofa in the coffee shop when he opened the place up that morning. Ian has to admit, that it’s fucking nasty.

The only security cameras they have are pointed at the door and Ian and Mickey were clearly last to leave, so all Ian can say is: “Isn’t firing me a bit much?”

“No,” Jerry, the manager, says. He has always been a bit of a push over. “It is exactly enough.”

“But I’m good at it and people like me,” Ian tries. “Won’t happen again, I swear.”

“Plenty people good at pouring coffee, kid. Look, you can use me as a reference. I won’t say what happened, but I can’t let you keep working here.”

 

The first thing Ian does when he is outside, is scream into a voice text at Mickey.

“You’re really a piece of work, Mick. Not only are you a faggoty ass fucking coward, but your little tantrum last night cost me my fucking job. I forgot to throw the condom away and my manager nearly slipped on it this morning. All because your bitch ass can’t pucker up his fucking lips. I told you, I’m nobody’s fucking slut anymore so if you can’t nut up, don’t call me and don’t text me.”

He sends it, doesn’t give a shit.

 

Mickey calls him fifteen minutes later. Ian has been wandering the streets, feeling like a dead beat already.

“What, bitch?” Ian answers.

“How is you not being able to pick up your own spunk my problem?”

“No, fuck you. I’m just letting you know there is no reason for you to go cruising for dick at the coffee shop anymore.”

“Why, because you’re gone? Plenty of dick to go around without you there, buddy.”

“...What?” Ian asks, taken aback for the first time.

Mickey waits a moment and then asks: “What?”

“Have you been fucking other guys at my Starbucks?”

“No, princess, of course not. The whole fucking world revolves around you and your fucking cock. I swear, I was a virgin before I met you.”

“At my Starbucks, though?”

“No, you idiot. Who else would I fuck at your Starbucks? Your geriatric manager? The tits?”

“Forget it,” Ian says. “Forget you.”

“Wait. Wait a second,” Mickey then says, calmer than he has heard him thus far. “What do you want from me, right now? Except to fucking yell at me while you’re obviously in the middle of a crowded street.”

“That’s all I want,” Ian says.

“What about that kiss, huh? That’s not going to fix anything?”

Ian deflates and leans up against an H&M window. “No,” he says.

Mickey sighs audibly and then asks: “What do you want, Ian?”

And it shocks him. Hearing his name coming through the phone. Hearing Mickey say his name. Is it the first time Ian has ever heard Mickey say his name?

"I don't know," Ian admits. "I hate holding back."

"Yeah, no, I noticed."

"But I've been holding back a lot. You might not understand, but it's not exactly ideal to see you for one hour a week."

"I don't get it, no. Why do you want to see me at all? Why give a shit?"

"I'm not doing this. You know why. It's not a mystery. It's not a fucking secret. You like me too.”

"You got to pump the brakes," Mickey says matter of factly. Ian imagines him saying that to his face. They would be fighting in the street right now.

"I don't think it’s going to be a problem, anymore,” Ian snaps at him.

Another sigh. And then Mickey hangs up on him.

 

It's a stalemate. Ian is fine with it. Except, you know, with each day that passes, jumping into traffic starts to look more and more attractive. Not just because of Mickey, but also because he lost his fucking job, he lost his fucking routine and he can't deal with Liam and Carl everyday anymore. It takes everything out of him not to punch holes through their chests when they start getting annoying, and sometimes he lets go and smashes their heads together anyway.

For a change, Carl and Liam jare ust hanging out and watching whatever they're watching on Netflix. It’s the first Friday night in eleven weeks that Ian is not going to get laid. Lip is home, Debbie and Fiona are out.

It's peaceful, it's chill. Ian tries not to think about how shitty his life has become in just a fucking week, and then Lip decides to remind him when they're left alone in the kitchen. "So, we can't call your dealer?"

"You can call whoever you want," Ian says.

"Are you finally going to tell me why you broke up?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because it's none of your business."

"No, because you want to get back together with him and you think I'm going to hate him if you tell me."

"Shut the fuck up, Lip."

"Alright. I'm calling him to the house. Stay away from the windows if you don't want him to see you."

"Are you serious?" Ian asks and peers over Lip's shoulder at his phone.

Lip has already sent the text with two pre-rolled and then their fucking home address. "You're such a dick."

"He's fast and I want a joint," Lip says. "If it makes you feel any better, he never talks about you when I buy from him."

"Feels great, man," Ian says and heads up to his room. He is not going to be nervous. He refuses. He gets into bed, and stares at the ceiling. He makes it five minutes and then starts doing push ups. He hates this. He hates the jitteriness and the intensity of these feelings. It reminds him of the worst time of his life, of the darkest places in his mind and in his body;  he knows that this is not that, knows that there is a clear distinction. His mind is as clear as it can be. It's just his body that is reacting to the idea if Mickey showing up here. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt anything like this.

 

Mickey shows up about half an hour later. Ian can hear the car rolling up and he peaks out of the window, just to be sure and because he is curious to see if Mickey came alone. He can't tell, because Mickey doesn't get out of the car.  Instead, Ian watches Lip hop down the stairs in his slippers and put his head through the window of Mickey’s Jeep.

They talk longer than any regular weed - money exchange should warrant, Ian notices. Lip pulls his head out of the window and comes back into the house.

"Ian!" Lip shouts up the stairs seconds later.

Ian also notices that Mickey hasn't taken off yet.

"Ian!" Lip screeches again. "Get your ass down here."

Ian stomps down the stairs, pissed. "You sold me out?" Ian asks him.

"For free weed, babe," Lip shrugs. "He just wants to talk to you.”

“And if I don’t go?”

“You got forty bucks? Put on a sweater, it’s cold out there.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be out there long,” Ian says as he puts his shoes on. He yanks the front door open and slams it shut behind him. He stomps down the front steps and onto the street. His mind is blank. He should have probably thought of something to say.

He steps into the passenger’s seat. It’s dark, half the street lights on the block are busted.

But Mickey’s blue eyes are bright as all hell. “Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” Ian answers, and because he is a monster and a fucking asshole, he lunges forward.

Mickey lets him or maybe he is just taken by surprised, but he doesn’t push Ian away. He doesn’t punch him in the face or head butt him. Their lips crash together, too hard at first, but as soon as Ian realizes that it’s safe, he eases into it. He grabs Mickey’s face with both hands and melts into him. This is what he wanted, except it’s so much better than he remembers it being.

Ian doesn’t let go. He drinks him up over and over again, until he is hard. He lets his body take over and slides a hand down and cups Mickey’s cock through his jeans. He grinds down with his palm, and that’s what finally forces Mickey up for air. He breaks away from the kiss, noses still touching. Ian pushes Mickey’s coat up and yanks on his belt. Mickey grabs his wrist. “I have another delivery,” he pants.

“You don’t want to get paid for this one first?” Ian smirks and kisses him again.

That is all the convincing he seems to need. Mickey takes his coat off and throws it into the back seat. Ian goes straight for his cock again.

 

“I didn’t say you had to blow him for the weed,” Lip says when Ian returns to the house. “But thanks, anyway.”

“You saw it?” Ian asks. He was sure it was too dark-

“No, but you confirmed my suspicions,” Lip chuckles. “So what, you’re all good now?” He asks and passes Ian the blunt he just lit.

“What did I say about smoking in the house?” Liam says from the living room, agitated. “Open a damn window.”

“I don’t know, we didn’t exactly talk,” Ian says. He pushes the kitchen window open. “But he... apologized. In a way.”

“Apologized for what?”

“Why are you so damn curious? You never gave a shit about anyone I’ve dated before. In fact, I remember a strict ‘no talking about bullshit boyfriends who no one cares about and who are boring as shit’ rule, when I was dating before.”

“Yeah, and that rule definitely still stands. But you’re not dating boring ass Tyler or Conner.”

“Trevor and Caleb, thanks.”

“You’re dating a Milkovich,” Lip says, lowering his voice with an eye towards the living room.

“Dating is a big word,” Ian says. “I think he’d argue with that.”

“Because he’s not out, or something? Is that why you were fighting?”

“Sort of. I don’t know,” Ian gives in and leans over the table. “I... I think he likes me. More than he wants to.”

“I don’t want to be a downer or anything, but if what they say about the Milkovich clan is true, then Terry Milkovich is going to put a bullet in the both of you if he finds out about this.”

Ian doesn’t really know what to say to that. Of course he knows. Mickey refuses to talk about his family unless it’s about business, but Ian knew as soon as he found out he was dealing with a Milkovich that none of this was going to be a walk in the park.

There was a time, before they started seeing each other and when Ian only had a stupid crush on the man, that he thought he might be some crazed artist with a studio in a high rise somewhere. Or that he might be a tattoo artist with his own business somewhere downtown. Maybe even a porn star, that would have been pretty cool.

But of course, Occam’s razor was nagging at the back of his head the entire time. Drug dealer from the Southside with a farm in a basement downtown was far more realistic.

“Have I been acting crazy, lately?” Ian asks.

“Don’t think so,” Lip says. “Not like I’ve seen before. Why?”

“He just makes me feel fucking crazy, sometimes.”

“He tells you you’re acting crazy?”

“No, but I feel like I’m insane for wanting him.”

“Oh, well yeah,” Lip snorts. “He’s an ugly fucking psychopath, so it is definitely insane that you want him.”

“He’s not ugly,” Ian objects.

“Whatever you say,” Lip shrugs. “Look, if you like the guy, you like the guy. But you got to take this thing slow. This isn’t college or the pride district. We got nazi’s living down the street.”

Ian knows this. Of course he does. He’s been called a faggot all his life, he’s been beaten the shit out of and jumped for that reason alone. He has been dealing with it less and less as an adult. He’s not a street rat anymore. He’s not blowing dudes in bathrooms at bars for fifty bucks anymore. He doesn’t let himself get groped at clubs anymore. He doesn’t fuck anyone who is more than ten years older than him. He tries to be safe. Before he was on his meds he barely had a concept of what being ‘safe’ even meant. He’d do whatever, whenever and with whoever.

He knows now that what he is trying to do with Mickey isn’t safe. He wants it anyway, because he is falling for the first time ever, without it feeling like he is going to smash straight into a concrete wall. He is falling hard and fast, but it doesn’t feel psychotic, it doesn’t feel like he is watching himself from outside of his own body.

It feels good.

“Don’t forget to delete Grindr off your phone again,” Lip says.

“Never downloaded it back,” Ian says absently.

“Wow. You must really like him, huh?”

 

They don’t have Starbucks anymore, so Ian spends time that he isn’t looking for a new job at Mickey’s... apartment. It is a one bedroom apartment and the only piece of furniture in there is a bed. Mickey doesn’t live here, Ian quickly realizes. He lives at home with his family, but he rents this place for when he needs to be… somewhere else, he says.

So they have no choice but to spend all their time in that bed for the next week or so.

Mickey kisses him when they’re in bed and when they’re fucking. It feels normal, natural then. In fact, Mickey is such a good kisser that Ian can’t fucking get enough of it. It’s addictive, tasting all of him over and over and over again.

But when Ian tries to kiss him just to say hello when he arrives or to say goodbye when he leaves, it feels stilted. Mickey allows it, sort of, but he clearly doesn’t enjoy it. Ian lets it go, because it’s an argument that will lead to nothing. He can hardly force Mickey to do more than he is doing already. It hurts either way.

Ian falls for him even harder that week. Because Mickey has an iPad at his ‘apartment’  which they watch movies and tv-shows on for hours and hours on end. They sleep together, wake up together, eat together and Ian gets to know Mickey a little bit better, secretly.

Ian gives himself that week, but he knows he needs to take the job search more seriously.

”Why are you applying to another Starbucks? Don't you have degrees and shit?" Mickey says, peering over at the screen of Ian's laptop. Mickey has been rolling joints for the last hour or so and Ian has been fighting the urge to grab one out of the massive pile and light it, and to throw the rest of the day away. But it's still early, Ian needs to be productive.

"I have one degree. Or certification or whatever you want to call it," Ian says. "But I don't know if I want to do be doing that."

"Why not?" Mickey asks.

"People keep... dying," Ian says. "I don't know. You don't deal with people who've been shot in the head at Starbucks."

"Maybe not. That's why they hire fifteen year old’s to pour coffee. Did you like working there?"

"I met you there," Ian says, as if that's an answer.

"Uhuh, but did you like it?"

"Meeting you?"

Mickey rolls his eyes and throws another blunt on the pile, before climbing off the bed. "That's a hundred. I gotta do the rounds."

“Give me ten, I’ll go with you.”

“This ain’t bring a ginger to work day, idiot. I’ll be back before midnight,” he says and walks into what is supposed to be the living room and open kitchen. It would he a pretty nice apartment, Ian thinks, if there was any fucking furniture in it at all. It’s got all the appliances, all of them but the fridge have probably never been used before.

“Why can’t you bring a ginger to work?” Ian calls out.

“You ever see a ginger drug dealer? It’s a lot of outside work. Standing on street corners and shit. You can’t be in the sun too long, can you?” Mickey yells back.

“It’s dark out. Whatever. Pretty sure you just don’t want me to know how many people pay you with a blowie.”

Mickey comes back into the bedroom wearing his boots and his jacket. He gathers the joints and dumps them into his backpack. He fishes one back out and presses it between Ian’s lips. “You can pay me for that one later.”

Ian takes the joint out of his mouth and grabs Mickey by the collar with his empty hand. He drags him down for a kiss. It’s just a quick kiss, but it seems to take Mickey by surprise once again. In fact, he looks annoyed. He snatches the joint out of Ian’s hand and says: “That’s for being a fucking homo,” and leaves the room.

“You’re a lunatic. If you’re not back by ten, I’m leaving,” Ian warns, loudly.

He hears the front door open and close, and then Mickey is stomping back into the bedroom. “Get up. I’m driving you home.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I’m not going to be back at fucking ten. Then what are you going to do? Take the fucking bus?”

“You’re kicking me out?”

“Yes. Get up.”

Ian gets up. “Again with this shit? There is no one around. I can’t flirt with you? Not even in private?”

“Flirt with me? Are you out of your fucking mind?” He practically screams and then storms out the front door, leaving Ian behind. Alone, sober and fucking pissed.

He starts packing his shit immediately and he even puts on his shoes. He has one hand on the door before deciding that he is not going to leave. Fuck him.

Ian hate-applies for about ten jobs that he is definitely not qualified for. He orders a pizza and eats half of it, before finally attempting to fall asleep. He can feel himself drifting away and gets yanked right back into the waking world when he hears the front door open and close.

He checks the time. It’s almost two a.m. He can’t remember ever being this sleepy and this pissed off at the same time.

It takes a while before Ian finally feels the bed dip.

“You asleep?” Mickey asks softly.

“Shut up, you fucking cunt,” Ian says. There is no response, unbelievably.

Instead, Mickey lies down behind him and crawls under the covers. Ian feels Mickey’s bare legs slide against his own, before he finally feels Mickey’s whole body pressing up against his back. The anger seeps out of his limbs slowly, and before he realizes it, he has Mickey’s hand in his own, pressed against his stomach.

“Your mom’s a cunt,” Mickey whispers into his hair and Ian wishes he was a stronger man. He’s not. He laughs out loud and Mickey tightens his hold on him.

 

They wake up around ten the next day, and the first thing Ian does is adjust his cock in his underwear. Mickey is just about rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, too. Ian turns around to face him. Mickey is lying on his back with one arm slung over his eyes. So Ian fondles his chest first, just to get a reaction out of him.

Mickey doesn’t react at all, so Ian doubles down, slides his hand under Mickey’s sweatshirt and pinches one of his nipples, hard.

“Ah, you bastard,” Mickey groans.

His voice alone gets Ian going. He slides up and plasters himself onto Mickey’s side. Ian pulls Mickey’s arm down and nips at the man’s jaw, his ear and the soft skin of his throat. He keeps playing with the man’s nipples and grinds his hard cock up against Mickey’s hip.

Mickey cups his own cock through his underwear and hums sleepily: “You’re not getting away with this.”

But Ian is going to get away with it, at least for a little while. As long as they’re fucking, he’ll get away with being soft and he’ll get away with loving Mickey’s body.

It doesn’t take long for them to cum, just like that with Ian grinding into Mickey’s hip and Mickey lazily jerking himself off. The only light in the room tries to flood in around the edges of the black out curtains. Ian feels like he could fall right back asleep again, but he’s late for his meds already. He drags himself up after a couple of minutes of afterglow and grabs his bag off the floor. He knows Mickey is looking at him, like he always does when he catches Ian taking his pills. The first time Mickey had asked if Ian was popping pain pills and if he could have one. Ian had snorted and said that they were his meds. He had left it at that and Mickey didn’t seem to care beyond that. Ian wasn’t ready to disclose any more than that at the time.

Today, he feels an itch. He wants Mickey to ask. He wants Mickey to care, to want to know things about Ian.

Ian goes to the bathroom and when he comes back, the curtains are open and Mickey has one of Ian’s pill bottles in one hand and his phone in the other. Mickey looks up when Ian comes back in and Ian doesn’t know what to focus on. There is a dark bruise on Mickey’s face that wasn’t there when he left yesterday afternoon.

“I knew it,” Mickey says. “I knew you had an unhinged look in your eye.” Of course, the bottle Mickey is holding is filled with Ian’s antipsychotics.

If it was anyone else, Ian would have been, well, insulted. Angry, even. “You calling me unhinged, you fucking psychopath?” Ian shoots back and yanks the pills out of his hand and puts them back in his bag. “You’d fit right in at the psych ward, just the way you are. What the fuck happened to your face?”

Mickey puts a hand up to his face, like he forgot about the massive bruise right under his left eye. It hadn’t been there the day before, Ian is sure of that.

“Some punk tried to run,” Mickey then shrugs. “College kids really are the dumbest people alive.”

“You didn’t get outrun by some preppy bitch, did you?”

Of all the things Ian has said to him, Mickey looks especially insulted at that. “Of course not,” he scoffs. “So what’s your damage?”

Ian is about to tell him everything. He can feel it crawling up his throat, he wants Mickey to know everything about him.

But then he remembers Mickey freaking out over a kiss goodbye yesterday, and he remembers Lip telling him to slow down a little bit. Pump the brakes. “It’s none of your business,” Ian says. “Why do you want to know, anyway? Thought you only got me here to fuck. What’s the point in getting to know your fucktoy?”

“If the fucktoy can lose it and kill me in my sleep, I’d like to know,” Mickey says.

“Pretty sure everyone you’ve ever met has considered killing you in your sleep, Mick.”

Mickey rolls his eyes at that. He gets up and steps into the bathroom himself. Ian gets dressed, though he knows he could use a shower. Mickey hasn’t cared enough about this place to get hot water installed, though, so Ian opts to wait until he gets home. Mickey doesn’t seem to give a shit, because Ian can hear the shower running. He can’t help but wonder what type of fucking psychopath would take a cold shower in the middle of winter.

Mickey drives Ian home that afternoon. Ian gets out of the car without trying to kiss him, because he has had enough drama to last him for another couple of days, thanks. Mickey does hand him a joint, before he leaves and Ian accepts it with a smile.

 

“Hey, where have you been?” Fiona asks when Ian gets through the door.

“With a friend,” Ian says and flips Lip off who immediately emulates sucking a dick.

“Oh yeah?” Fiona questions. “You’re not spending the night at the Milkovich house, are you? You’ll wake up dead there one morning, Ian. I’d rather you bring him here.”

“You told her?” Ian asks Lip.

Lip shrugs.

“I’m not staying at their house,” Ian assures her.

“Good, now eat something and get ready. You can help Lip with the groceries.”

 

In the car ride over to Costco, Lip can’t shut up about idiot college kids with stupid thesis questions and about how he should be paid more for his black market scheme of writing whole dissertations for people. After that, he dives into how some girl Ian has never heard of before, cheated on him.

“Why would anyone cheat on you, Lip? You’re a catch. You always pick up the phone. You always text back.”

“Oh, shut the fuck up. I don’t text back once and you hop on some other dick?”

“If she doesn’t hear from you in weeks, you might as well be fucking dead, Lip.”

“Well, she’s dead to me now. Hey, you want to go out tonight? I’ve been meeting hotties at the Alibi lately.”

“No fucking way. What type of girls hang around at the Alibi anyway?”

“Girls cruising for dick. I’m not looking for a wife.”

They’re in the cereal aisle when Lip finally asks: “So how’s Mick?”

Ian is caught by surprise at the hard shift in topic from Lip hating his life to Mickey Milkovich. “Uh, good, I guess.”

“Are you sleeping at their place? You know that’s a death wish, right?”

“I’m not sleeping at their place,” Ian assures him.

“Then what? You’re sleeping in his car?”

“What the fuck is this? High school? No, he’s got a place. It’s empty.”

“He’s squatting somewhere?”

“No. I mean, I don’t think so. I don’t think his family knows he has that place. I probably shouldn’t be talking about it,” Ian sighs.

“That’s good. You don’t want them showing up, catching you homo’s playing house.”

“Believe me, we’re not playing house. That asshole doesn’t even have hot water. There’s a bed, soap and lube. That’s it.”

“And condoms.”

“Yeah, sure,” Ian snorts.

“Oh, come on. Don’t be out there raw dogging drug dealers in some crack den, Ian. I thought you were past that phase of your life.”

“I don’t raw him,” Ian admits. “Believe me, I would if I didn’t think he’d freak out because that’s too gay for him or some shit.” 

“I still have a hard time imagining that animal trying to be cute with you.”

“That’s the thing, there is nothing cute about him. We fuck, we talk, but as soon as things get anywhere near cute... I don’t know. Maybe he just doesn’t like me like that.”

“Maybe. You’ve still only been seeing him for three months. Take it down a notch, if you want this to last.”

“I’m trying not to put him on blast, here. But if you knew the weird shit he pulls, you’d be on my side.”

“Do it, then. Put him on blast,” Lip grins. “Please.”

“He’s going to kill me.”

“Come on,” Lip urges.

“He doesn’t even want to kiss me, Lip. I kissed him for the first time, like, last week. I thought we were fine for a second, but now he still goes nuts when I try to kiss him if we’re not fucking.”

Lip laughs at him, out loud. Ian waits for him to finish.

“I’m not the crazy one here,” Ian says.

“No, you’re not the only crazy one. Maybe you’re just a bad kisser, considered that?”

“He’d have no problem telling me that,” Ian dismisses that.

“Trauma, then. He’s probably terrified to be intimate with you, because he has been punished for it before. Maybe Terry caught him making out with some kid in the past and beat the shit out if him. Maybe the whole romance thing with a man is still new to him.”

Ian hates Lip when he makes too much sense. “So what am I supposed to do? I can’t fix his trauma. Do I kill Terry?”

“Look, that sounds like a lot of fun and it would probably fix a lot of problems.”

“But?”

“But, you know. Prison sucks. You know that better than anyone.”

“So I’m stuck then? This isn’t going anywhere?”

“Where the fuck is it supposed to go, Ian?” Lip asks, suddenly a lot more serious. “You in a hurry for something? I get that you want to go all in, head over fucking heels, but he can’t be on your schedule all the fucking time. Give it a rest.”

“You think I’m being annoying?”

“All the fucking time,” Lip repeats.

 

The Alibi is never really busy, but it is busier than most nights on Saturdays. The usual old drunks who are there pretty much every night are there tonight as well. Some other usuals and quite a few strays who have seemingly decided to visit a new bar and who will probably never be back after tonight.

“Haven’t seen you in here in a while,” Kev says when Ian takes the stool in front of him. “Are you twenty-one yet?”

“Turned twenty-one two years ago, Kev,” Ian reminds him.

“No shit? You didn’t celebrate it in here then.”

“No, he celebrated it in prison,” Lip reminds him. “That must have been a fucking rager.”

“Can I get a beer and can you get Lip some chocolate milk, Kev?” Ian orders.

“Coffee,” Lip tells Kevin.

“Milkovich is around here somewhere, if you want to have a joint with that,” Kevin says.

“Mickey is here?” Ian asks.

“Terry,” Kevin says and makes a face.

“We’re good,” Lip says.

Kevin pours Ian his beer and presses the button on the coffee machine before turning back to them. “How do you know Mickey?” He asks Ian.

“We buy from him,” Lip says before Ian can open his mouth.

“Uhuh, this one got kind of excited, though,” Kev says, nodding at Ian. “He a friend of yours?”

“I know him,” Ian admits.

“You know they don’t like gays, right?” Kev says quietly.

Lip snorts.

“Mick’s alright, though,” Ian feels the need to say.

“Yeah, I've known him a long time. Practically my best friend,” Kev says with an amused smile. “Just didn’t think he’d be your type.”

“No, it’s not… like that,” Ian says weakly and Lip snorts again.

“Don’t worry about it. I know Mickey’s a faggot -gay, I mean gay. No offense,” Kev quickly recovers.

“I don’t give a shit,” Ian shrugs, he wants to hear more about Mickey.

“Gay Jesus doesn’t mind people saying faggot?” Kev asks.

“Gay Jesus died in prison, Kev,” Ian shrugs.

“And gay Ian gets a real hard on for verbal abuse,” Lip chimes in.

“Guess that explains why you’re into Mickey Milkovich,” Kev laughs. “But fair warning, his dad goes nuts about that gay stuff. They’ve trashed this place more than once, fighting about that stupid shit. Nearly killed each other.”

“Really?” Ian asks curiously.

It’s no fun getting drunk alone, so Ian stops after two beers and they spend the rest of the evening listening to Kev tell stories about Mickey and his family in hushed tones. Ian and Lip learn about Mickey’s time as a nineteen year old pimp who liberated whores and fought for fair wages. They laugh at the thought so hard that Ian’s ribs hurt.

In the meantime, Ian tries to overhear conversations Terry Milkovich is having. It’s bizarre to hear him talk; he speaks in the same cadence as Mickey. He is quick and witty and colorful with his language.

Ian realizes then that this isn’t Mickey’s dad in the way that Frank is Ian’s dad. This man raised Mickey. He was there, probably everyday of Mickey’s life, making his life hell, up close and personal.

 

Ian goes to the apartment on Sunday afternoon, after Carl’s baseball game. He texts Mickey that he is coming and doesn’t wait for a reply. He makes Fiona drop him off in the neighborhood before the rest of them head home. When he gets there, Mickey still hasn’t replied. He hasn’t even read the message yet. Ian knocks on the door a couple of times, but quickly realizes that Mickey isn’t there. He knows his chances weren’t great, but he is still disappointed.

He leaves the building and is about to head south on foot when he hears; “Hey, bitch. What are you doing here?”

Ian turns to see Mickey yell at him from his car window.

“Came to see you!” Ian calls back. “Are you coming or going?”

“Come on, get in,” Mickey says, without answering his question.

So Ian does. He gets in the car and his first thought is that he wants to kiss the idiot. Because Mickey is looking at him and he is smiling, like he is happy to see him. Give it a rest, Lip had said.

“Where are we going?” Ian asks.

“I don’t know. Somewhere,” Mickey shrugs.

 

Ian doesn’t say it. He doesn’t say that this is definitely a date. This is probably the best date he has ever been on. It’s freezing cold, but the sun is out and the sky is blue. The water is beautiful and the slight ripples on the surface are mesmerizing. Mickey hands him a coffee and sits down next to him on the pier. He leaves about a foot of space between them.

Ian scoots closer, just an inch, because he’s an asshole like that. Mickey peers over the lake as he takes a sip of his coffee. He is handsome, Ian decides. The blue eyes are captivating and the chubby cheeks are actually cute as shit. He looks young when he is clean and clean shaven like this. The bruise on his cheekbone is getting darker and Ian knows that it is the white trash in him that finds it so fucking attractive. His dark hair is thick, and a long mess on top. He’s handsome, Ian thinks, but he is definitely beautiful, too.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” Mickey then asks.

“Your ugly mug looks good in this light,” Ian says.

“Yeah? Because I was just about to say that the way the sunlight hits your skin, literally makes you look like an alien whose head is on fire. Your skin is practically translucent.”

“Are you going to give me one of those?” Ian asks, nodding towards the two Snickers bars lying next to Mickey’s thigh on his other side.

“I don’t know,” Mickey says. “Depends on how annoying you are.”

“That’s not fair. We’re not at home. I can’t suck your dick to make up for how annoying I am.”

“You’re going to suck my dick for a Snickers bar?”

“I suck it for free, moron.”

“Great, that’s a point deducted for calling me a moron,” Mickey says. He grabs both chocolate bars and puts them in his jacket pocket.

“What do you want me to do?” Ian asks around a laugh. “You yell at me if I say anything nice and you deduct points if I call you a moron. What, short of sucking your dick, can I do for that Snickers bar?”

“If you had just kept your mouth shut about it, I would have given it to you, eventually.”

“I’m fucking starving right now.”

“I’m going to throw it in the lake if you don’t shut up about it,” Mickey says.

“Well, we’re past that. How do I fix it now?”

Mickey shrugs. “The stand is right over there, pal. You got to have a dollar on you somewhere. Or steal it, I don’t give a shit.”

Ian rolls his eyes and says: “I’m bipolar.”

Mickey looks at him like he grew another head. “So? Does that affect your fucking glucose levels or something?”

“I’m giving you personal information. It’s an exchange.”

“I already knew you were nuts, man.”

“I woke up in a psych ward twice.”

“What did you do?” Mickey asks and Ian puts his hand out triumphantly.

Mickey rolls his eyes and digs the bar out of his pocket and places it in Ian’s hand. “Tried to steal a helicopter the first time and kidnapped a baby the second time.”

“The first thing sounds fun. The second thing not so fun,” Mickey says flatly.

“It was - family. I didn’t hurt him or anything. I would never,” Ian feels the need to clarify. “I just had a mental break and it worried a lot of people. Rightfully so.”

“Stealing a baby will definitely get you locked in a psych ward,” Mickey snorts.

“I’ll tell you more if you tell me a story first,” Ian offers.

“What do you want me to tell you? You know I’ve been to prison.”

“What about your family?”

“They’ve all been to prison, too.”

“Yeah, but... Lip and I were at Alibi last night. Your dad was there.”

Mickey takes a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. “And?” he asks.

“You’re a lot like him.”

Mickey drops the cigarette, snatches the Snickers bar out of Ian’s hand and launches it into the lake. “You say that again and I’m drowning you next,” he says. He calmly picks the pack of cigarettes up again and takes one out. He lights it and Ian sighs loudly. Maybe he deserves that one.

“I guess I can’t get one of those either, then?”

To his surprise Mickey hands him the lit one and grabs another one for himself.

“Look,” Mickey then sighs. “I get that you’ve been diddled a lot as a kid and you’ve probably had your head shrunk to learn how to talk about your feelings or whatever, but not all of us get to talk about how we feel all the time.”

Ian lets that sink in for a moment. “I wasn’t diddled as a kid,” he says.

“Nah, real normal to get banged by your forty year old boss when you’re fourteen.”

“And I don’t go to therapy.”

“Why not?”

“Expensive. But back to your dad-”

“No, not back to my dad. He’s a piece of shit, that’s all you need to know.”

“Fine, this conversation is making me fucking depressed anyway.”

 

Later, Mickey breaks the leftover Snickers bar in half and gives one half to Ian. Mickey doesn’t talk about his dad, but he does talk about his brothers and about his sister. There is a fondness when he talks about her specifically that almost hurts to listen to. When it gets darker and colder, they sit closer together and when the pier is completely abandoned Ian finally gets a kiss. He doesn’t give Mickey a kiss. Mickey gives him a kiss. He grabs Ian’s chin with a cold hand in a moment of silence and turns it towards him. He kisses him firmly and he keeps kissing him. Ian’s body floods with warmth and he curls his arms around Mickey as tightly as he can.

They drive home past midnight, having sat on that dock for hours.

“I could really use a hot shower right about now,” Ian says, back at Mickey’s apartment.

“Put on a sweater,” Mickey says and throws a black sweatshirt at him that he digs out of a trash bag. Ian obediently puts it on over his t-shirt and is surprised that it fits perfectly. Good thing Mickey doesn’t know shit about clothing sizes.

“You don’t want to fix this place up a bit? You’re here a lot,” Ian says.

“No, I’m not. I’m only here when I want to fuck.”

“These days, that’s pretty often,” Ian says and drops his jeans before getting into bed first. He watches Mickey switch his jeans for a pair of sweats and exchange his t-shirt for a hoodie that is definitely two sizes too big.

“What’s with the pants?” Ian asks. “Aren’t we here to fuck?”

“We’ll get to it, but let me warm up first,” Mickey says. He grabs his jacket off the ground and pulls a joint and a lighter out of his pocket. “You want to share?”

“Fuck yeah,” Ian says. Mickey settles into bed, leaning into Ian’s shoulder. He places the joint between Ian’s lips before lighting it. Ian takes the first drag and relaxes into the pillows. He passes Mickey the joint and wonders how sitting at the docks for hours in forty degree weather only to return to a freezing cold apartment with nothing but a bed in it, is the best date he’s ever had.

They forget to fuck that night, too caught up on giggling into each other’s mouths for half the night.

 

On Monday, Ian only goes home because he needs to get back to applying for jobs. Mickey drives him home and Ian convinces him to come in for a little bit, because Debbie, Carl and Liam are at school and Lip and Fiona are at work. “Come hang out in a heated room for a little bit,” is what he entices him with.

Ian also manages to convince him to get into the hot shower with him first. Ian fingers him in the shower and grinds his hard cock against his ass, before moving to the bedroom. Ian pushes him onto his bed and crawls over him. Mickey spreads his legs easily when Ian pushes his knees apart. “You know you can’t hit the spot from that angle,” Mickey reminds him with a playful smile.

“I gotta try sometimes,” Ian says, reaching for the bottle of lube hidden behind the leg of his bed. “Otherwise I might never see your face again.”

“I’d rather cum than watch you fuck me for no reason,” Mickey says. And then: “Jesus, one at a time,” when Ian presses two fingers in, up until the second knuckle.

Ian is pretty sure he is not going to hit the spot at this angle, he never has before, but he likes watching Mickey like that. On his back, with his head in a pillow and his legs spread. He is so open and ready when it comes to having sex, it sometimes boggles Ian’s mind at the sharp contrast with the rest of his life.

Ian is fully in heaven as he fucks into him for the first time in the comfort of his own home. Mickey’s face is gorgeous, mouth open as he pants and licks his lips, he runs his hands over Ian’s abs and chest. He is about to tell Mickey to flip over, so that he can take care of him, too.

“Fiona!” A dreadfully familiar voice screeches. “Lip! Kids!”

“Who the fuck is that?” Mickey hisses and pushes Ian off of him.

“Fucking Frank,” Ian curses and scrambles off the bed. “Get dressed.” But they barely pull their boxers over their cocks when Frank bursts through his bedroom door.

“What the hell, Frank,” Ian snaps and he moves to stand in front of Mickey, for whatever it’s worth.

“Where is everyone?” Frank asks. He doesn’t seem to notice the fact that they’re naked.

“It’s Monday afternoon, Frank. They’re at school and at work. What do you want?”

“I want to see my children, is that so farfetched?”

“Well, you’ve seen one. The rest ain’t here.” Right as Ian finishes that sentence, Mickey steps past Ian and then past Frank. Two seconds later, he hears the front door open and close.

“Who was that?” Frank asks. “Was that Carl?”

Ian doesn’t respond. He doesn’t bother with pants and puts a shirt on while he runs down the stairs, through the door and into the street. Mickey is already in his car with the motor running. Ian has half a mind to step in front of the car to keep him from leaving, but he is too late to try anyway.

 

Ian storms back into the house, ready to drag Frank out of the house by his hair. He finds Frank passed out in his bed. Instead of smothering him with a pillow, Ian just stares at him for a while and vows that if Frank ruins this for him, Ian will definitely be back to kill him.

 

Fiona gets home at four and Ian is still fuming. “What’s that smell?” She asks as soon as she walks into the kitchen. “Have you been day drinking?”

“No,” Ian says.

“Then what - oh, no. Where is he?”

“In my room. In my fucking bed,” Ian nearly screams.

“Did you two have a fight?”

“The only reason he’s not dead right now, is because I want him to be awake when I kill him.”

“What did he do?”

“Mickey was here. For the first time, ever. Frank walks in on us like he owns the fucking place. Mickey ran off, god knows where. If his dad finds out about this, we’re all dead.”

“How would his dad find out about this, Ian? Frank is passed out, I’m pretty sure he’s got no clue what he saw in the last couple of weeks, let alone just now. And we don’t know that he knows who Mickey is. You didn’t know him, even though he’s been living a borough away all his life.”

“I don’t spend all my fucking time at the Alibi, Fiona. Frank practically lives there and so does fucking Terry Milkovich.”

”We wait until he wakes up and figure out what he knows,” Fiona says calmly.

“If he tries to blackmail me again, I’ll kill him,” Ian says.

“And I’ll help you, relax,” Fiona says, with a  ittle less patience this time. “You’re acting like this is the first time you’ve been caught with your dick out.”

“This time is different.”

“Hey, you chose him,” Fiona sighs. “I hate that fucking Frank got to meet him first. I’ve been wondering how hot this kid is for him to have you all jacked up for months now.”

“I’m not jacked up.”

Very jacked up. Three months ago you were walking around here like a ghost. Going to work and coming home and you barely talked to anyone. Now you’re throwing Carl into walls and plotting Frank’s murder again.”

“Does that mean the meds are working or not working?” Ian snipes.

“I think you’re doing great. The fact that you didn’t kill Frank proves that.”

 

Frank wakes up and comes down the stairs while they’re having dinner. They ignore him as he walks right to the couch in the living room and turns the tv on.

Lip watches Ian intently, but Ian knows the plan. He’s not going to stray from it, not unless Frank forces him to.

They finish dinner with mostly Carl and Debbie talking loudly and incessantly.

They put the both of them on dish duty.

Liam stays in the kitchen with them and Ian, Fiona and Lip corner Frank in the living room. Fiona sits down on the coffee table in front of the couch. Ian and Lip stand behind her.

“You can’t stay here, Frank,” Fiona says. “There is no space for you. If you want to see us, you can call us and we’ll figure something out.

Frank looks at her, and then at Lip and then at Ian. “No space?” He then asks. “All I need is a bed to sleep in. You won’t even notice I’m here.”

“There are no empty beds and the no couch policy stands,” Fiona says unwaveringly. “Things have been really good, Frank.” Don’t ruin this, she doesn’t say.

“Good? You have Milkoviches running around here and you call that good? Ian doesn’t know what he’s doing. Is he off his-“

Fiona slaps him so hard that Carl stops talking in the kitchen.

Ian and Lip are both startled. This wasn’t the plan.

“Who did you say you saw running around here?” she asks him.

“You fucking bitch,” he curses at her.

“Who was it, Frank? Who did you see?” She presses.

“If you want me to keep my mouth shut, I stay here for a month,” Frank finally says.

“You could get him killed. Do you understand that?” Lip snaps. “This is not a game.”

“He is getting himself killed,” Frank spits back at Lip, as if Ian isn’t standing right there. “You two should have never let him get involved with a Milkovich. Especially not that one.”

Ian would love to see him get slapped some more, but he can’t stay there. He goes upstairs and dials Mickey’s number. Ian hasn’t talked to him yet, because he didn’t know what to say.

To his surprise, Mickey picks up on the second ring. “Yeah?” Mickey answers.

“Come pick me up in half an hour,” Ian says.

“Alright,” Mickey says and hangs up without another word.

Ian starts packing his bag when Lip comes into the room. “Where are you going?”

“He wants a bed, he can have one,” Ian says. “I’m not staying here with him.”

“We’ll kick him out. We’ll change the locks.”

“He’s a vindictive drunk, Lip. Kick him out and he’ll go straight to Terry Milkovich.”

“I don’t think he’d do that, okay? I get that you’re worried, but even Frank wouldn’t do that to his own kid.”

“Guess who’s not his fucking kid?” Ian snaps.

“Ian.”

Ian turns around to find Debbie peering into the room. “Where are you going?”

“I’m staying with a friend for a bit,” he says as calmly as he can.

“Because of Frank?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he answers.

“You don’t have to do this, Ian,” Fiona says, appearing behind Debbie. “This is your house, not his.”

“I get it, alright? But if I stay here with him for five more seconds, I’m going to strangle him.”

“Do it,” Debbie says. 

“I get that you need some space, but we’ll get him out of here as soon as possible okay?” Fiona assures him.

“I’ll make sure he keeps his mouth shut. Kill him if I have to,” Lip says.

“No way, not without me. Debbie, go get my shit out of the shower,” Ian says.

“Are you staying at Mick’s apartment?” Lip then asks.

“If he lets me. Otherwise we have to kill Frank for real,” Ian says.

“We’re not skipping options here, believe me,” Fiona says.

“Text me the address,” Lip says. “I need to know where you’re staying.”

 

Mickey doesn’t say anything on the way to the apartment. He just rubs his hand over his face and curses at traffic on their way there.

“You’re going to have to install hot water,” Ian tells him when they get to the apartment and Ian drops his bag in the corner of the room. “Like tomorrow.”

Mickey sighs, still rubbing his eyes. “Am I going to have to kill your dad?”

“You gotta get in line for that.” Ian sits on the bed. He turns his phone over, so that he doesn’t have to see his screen light up with the incessant conversation in the family group chat about what they are going to do with Frank.

Mickey stands between his legs and grabs Ian’s face with both hands. “I’d kill both of them before they touch you,” he says.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Ian says. “What is your dad going to do if he finds out you’re gay?”

“He knows I’m fucking gay, okay? I’ve been dealing with his bullshit all my life.”

Ian curls his arms around Mickey’s waist and rests his head on his stomach.

“The only thing Frank can do is add fuel to the fucking dumpster fire that is already my dad,” Mickey says, curling a hand into Ian’s hair. “I won’t let him ruin this.”

 

They have hot water in the apartment three days later. Ian and Mickey celebrate by going to Target to buy new towels after sharing an enthusiastic shower and being forced to dry off with a t-shirt, because the only towels in the apartment was still wet from the day before.

“What else do we need?” Mickey asks.

“A couch, table. Plates. Literally every single thing that an apartment should have. Central heating.” 

“We’re not buying a couch right now. Plates, we can do.”

“What about a table, so that we’re not sleeping in weed crumbs every night?”

 

Another two days later, Ian gets a voicemail. He can’t remember the last time he got a voicemail, but he knows the only people who still leave them tend to be managers and HR people. So he listens to it nervously while Mickey is out doing the rounds one evening. Hi Ian, this is Latifa from Malcolm X Chicago Hospital. I looked over your application for the open position as an physicians assistant in our ER and I’d like to invite you for a face to face interview...

 

Ian picks Lip up in Mickey’s car on Saturday morning. “Frank in there?” Ian asks.

“He hasn’t left the house since he arrived. He orders in booze.”

“How is everyone holding up?”

“Let’s just say that if we all had a drug dealer’s apartment to retreat to, we’d be there. Fiona is going to have an aneurysm.”

“Cool, I don’t want to know anything more about it. You have to help me win my job interview on Wednesday. I’m way too unqualified for it, but Mickey thinks I should go for it.”

“Mickey is giving you career advice?”

“Well, he called me a pussy for not wanting to do the interview. And a fag. And a coward and a stupid fucking bitch. He went on for a while, you know, until I said I’d do it.”

“So you’re going to do it?”

“I said I would?”

“So? You can say you did it and that you didn’t get the job. Keep looking, in the meantime.”

“I mean, it can’t hurt to try.”

“What’s the job?”

“A physician’s assistant.”

“You’re not qualified for that.”

“No shit.”

“Did you lie on your resumé?”

“No, but yes. I said I was a physician’s assistant in a prison.”

“Let me guess, you didn’t mention that you were an inmate in that prison?”

“Gotta get your foot in the door first and all that.”

“Fine, how do we do this?”

“You need to cancel your plans for this weekend.”

After Lip pledges to help him, they go to the mall for a job interview outfit because all the clothes Ian owns are plaid shirts and Adidas track suits.

 

It’s not until later that afternoon when they sit down for a couple of burgers with Ian’s Zara haul under the table, that Ian says: “So Mickey didn’t kill Frank.”

“Yeah. I was kind of counting on him to take one for the team,” Lip says.

“Frank ain’t worth a day in prison,” Ian says.

“So have you two kissed yet? Or is it still just assfucking and blowies?”

“We’ve kissed. Like twice,” Ian snorts. “It’s been alright, though. I figured he’d have killed me by now, but things have been pretty cool.”

“So Valentine’s day is going to be lit, huh?”

“Valentine’s day?”

“Yeah.”

Ian looks at his watch. “Hah. He will absolutely stab the shit out of me if I bring that up.”

“You have to.”

“Nah.”

“If you want me to help you with that interview, you will. And you’re going to tell me all about it, in detail.”

“Lip, he doesn’t even hold my hand unless we’re stoned. I say something about Valentine’s day, he might push me out a window.”

“Tell me all about it afterwards and I’ll make sure you fraud your way into the healthcare profession of your choice. Get him chocolates. The little hearts.”

“Why are you making me bully my boyfriend?”

“Boyfriend, he says.”

“Don’t do this.”

“The little hearts. Maybe some flowers, too. What? You think I’m going to spend four days helping you study for free?”

 

Ian drops Lip off at the house before he heads back to the apartment. Mickey is there.

Sitting on a couch.

“What the fuck?” Ian is gobsmacked. Absolutely shocked. He had pretty much accepted that Mickey wasn’t planning on turning the apartment into an actual home. It was just a hide out, nothing permanent.

Now the living room has a couch and a dining table with four chairs. It is practically a penthouse compared to a week ago. 

“You like it?” Mickey smirks. Ian drops the shopping bags at the door and sheds his coat which he leaves on the floor with the bags, before dropping himself onto the soft, dark grey couch. “I can’t believe it. This is the cleanest couch I’ve ever seen.”

“Brand new.”

“You change your mind about this just being a fuck shack then?”

“No. Now it’s a fuck shack with a couch.”

Ian waits. He thinks Mickey might kiss him, because he is looking at him from up close. His eyes shift to Ian’s lips, even. But he doesn’t do it.

And now Ian is annoyed, so he decides to bully his boyfriend for Lip’s amusement. He knows he can try doing something else. Like talk to him or just let it go. But antagonizing Mickey has proven to work just as well to get his undivided attention.

Or just as badly, whatever.

“I got you something,” Ian says and gets up. He picks up one of the bags he left at the door.

Ian tries to hand it to him, but Mickey looks at him with so much suspicion that Ian has to put it down on Mickey’s lap.

“What is this?”

“Happy Valentine’s day,” Ian says.

“Happy fucking what?” Mickey asks.

 

Ten minutes later, Ian takes a picture of the chocolates scattered on the floor of the newly furnished living room of their fuck shack. He sends it to Lip.

Mickey comes back out of the bedroom dressed to leave while Ian is picking up the smashed pieces of chocolate.

“You can’t be doing this shit,” Mickey tells him seriously. “No gifts. It’s fucking weird.”

“No, you’re fucking weird,” Ian says without hesitation. “All it means is that I thought about you while I was out today. That’s all it means.”

He is ready to admit that this is his own fault. He knew Mickey wasn’t going to react well to the mushy shit and if he’s honest, Ian couldn’t care less about a fucking Valentine’s day gift. But he was hoping, maybe, that the bullshit with Frank and Terry might have put some things into perspective.

“You know,” Ian then continues, because he is petty and an asshole all rolled into one. “There are plenty of people out there who would be lucky to fucking have me. Getting an actual boyfriend ain't so fucking hard for me.”

Mickey’s face does something that Ian has never seen before. His eyes go glassy for a moment and his lips part a few seconds before he actually speaks. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “I’m not the one making the bad decisions here.” And then he leaves.

 

Bad decisions. Ian has made a lot of those in his life. All of his career choices have been bullshit. He dives into things far too fast and gives up as soon as things get inconvenient for him.

All of his relationships were lackluster wastes of time.

He has been out of prison for a year and a half now, and for about a year of that time he tried not to make any decisions at all. He kept the first job he got. He only screwed guys from Grindr, and only ever with a condom on and only ever a few times, because the idea of going out and talking to strangers seemed exhausting.

He was absolutely a boring piece of shit, but he knew it beat stealing babies, blowing up vans and giving out blowjobs at fifty bucks a pop in bathroom stalls.

Finding Mickey and latching onto him doesn’t feel like a bad decision. But is it? Lip seems to think so. Mickey sure as hell seems to think so.

Give it a rest, pump the brakes. For what? Ian knows how he feels about Mickey and he knows that Mickey at the very least likes having him around; otherwise Ian wouldn’t be practically living in his apartment. So why this annoying fucking dance of pretending they’re not serious about this?

Maybe Ian would have left that night if he had anywhere else to go, but the idea of hearing Frank’s voice is a far worse fate than being played by Mickey fucking Milkovich.

Somewhere in the back of his head, he knows that this is karma for all the guys he’s ghosted in his past.

 

Ian is on the new couch reading some articles Lip found for him for his job interview, when Mickey returns. It’s barely eleven on a Saturday night. For a moment Ian wonders if he is going to get murdered.

Mickey stands right in front of him and says: “I’ll give you one hit.”

“Huh?”

“One hit,” Mickey says and shrugs his jacket off. “Wherever you want. If you’re still pissed after that, you can have another one.”

“I’m not going to punch you in the face, Mickey. Just say that you’re sorry.”

“In the stomach then,” Mickey suggest. “Get up. Just do it. You’ll feel better.”

“I feel fine,” Ian snaps.

“Yeah? Because it looks like you want to choke me out.”

“Just say you’re sorry..”

“Get up, you pussy.”

Ian throws his phone down on the couch and stands up. “Why can’t you just say it?”

“Say what, bitch?” Mickey says and glances down at Ian’s balled fists. “That I’m sorry? What’s that going to change?”

“It’ll let me know that you give have a shit,” Ian says.

“No, it will let you know that you got what you wanted. Again.”

“I’m not doing this,” Ian warns. “I don’t want to hurt you and I know you don’t want to hurt me either, Mickey. Let’s just fucking drop it.”

 

Ian fucks him hard that night. Ian has fucked him hard before, but not like this. Not with his fingers digging so hard into Mickey’s skin that they leave bruises there. Not with a hand snug on Mickey’s throat and not with the kind of desperation that has Ian’s heart beating in his chest like he is about to jump out of a plane.

They don’t talk about it after that. Not that night, not the next day or the day after that. It’s easier to move on, easier to forget and to try again another time.

On Wednesday morning, Ian steps into the living room with his arms spread. “What do you think?” He asks Mickey who is scooping Fruitloops into his mouth at the kitchen table.

“What the fuck?” Mickey gawks. “Are you going on a date or something?”

“Job interview,” Ian says and smooths a hand over the denim stretching across his chest. It’s tighter than anything he’d casually wear these days, but Lip had assured him that it doesn’t look like he’s trying too hard or too little. A suit or dress shirt would feel unnatural on him, he’d said and he’d been right.

“Are you trying to fuck everyone there?” Mickey asks.

“You think I look good?”

“You got the job,”

“Thank youuu,” Ian drawls and he can’t hide his pleased grin. “I’m taking your car.”

“Can you take my car, you ask? Of course, buddy. Whatever you need,” Mickey says.

“Great, because I’m picking Debs and Liam up afterwards for lunch at Juliana’s. Haven’t seen those shits in over two weeks. You want to come?”

“No,” Mickey says easily.

Ian shrugs and goes to grab the car keys out of Mickey’s jacket in the bedroom. “Alright, I’m off,” Ian says. Mickey gets up from the table and meets Ian at the front door.

“Good luck,” he says and... kisses him. Right on the lips, chaste and sweet. Ian feels his face heat up.

“And remember,” Mickey continues and puts a hand on Ian’s cheek. “If this doesn’t work out, there are plenty of Starbuckses out there who would be very lucky to have you.”

 

It’s not until he is in the car, halfway to the hospital that he realizes why Mickey’s last words sounded so familiar. There are plenty of people out there who would be lucky to have me.

“That fucking asshole,” Ian curses underneath his breath.

 

The interview goes well. Lip had prepared him for pretty much all the questions they asked and the last twenty minutes of the hour long interview is spent talking about how much of a nightmare it is to work in a prison and how comparable it might be to working in a public emergency room in Chicago.

As he leaves, Ian is suddenly terrified that he is actually going to get the job. He shakes it off and drives to the elementary school to pick up Liam and then to the high school to pick up Debbie. “Where’s the other asshole?” Ian asks as she settles in the backseat.

“Carl said he’d meet us there. His friend has a dirt bike,” Liam says.

“It was so cool,” Debbie says. “But Carl is for sure going to die on his way there.”

 

Carl doesn’t die on his way there. He shows up at the restaurant right as Ian and the kids join Lip and Fiona at the table.

Carl walks right up to Ian and yanks at his hair. “Where the fuck have you been, fuckface?” He asks before taking the empty chair at the end of the table

“Busy, Jesus,” Ian says and fixes his hair.

“For two weeks?” Carl asks.

“Does he not know I moved out?” Ian asks Fiona.

“You moved out?” Carl asks.

“He just needed to get away from Frank for a while,” Fiona says.

“I didn’t know we could do that,” Carl says.

“How did the job interview go?” Lip asks.

“Good, probably. That place was a shithole, though.”

“You’ll fit right in,” Lip says easily.

“What about the boyfriend?” Fiona then asks, and that is about where Debbie, Carl and Liam stop listening to them and start arguing about the menu.

“What about him?” Ian asks.

“That bad, huh?” Fiona says and makes a face.

“I showed you the picture,” Lip says to Fiona.

“It’s not that bad,” Ian says. “It’s fine.”

“Uhuh,” they both hum in unison. “Hey, Frank hasn’t been back in a couple of days. You can wait it out, but I think he’s gone,” Fiona says. “You can come home whenever you’re ready.”

“Yeah, you know things can get stressful if you start the new job and everything,” Lip says. “Might be better if you’re home.”

Ian tries not to be annoyed when they worry about him like that, but what can he do? What can they do? “If Frank isn’t back by Friday, I’ll come home,” Ian says, instead of what he really wants to say which is but Mickey bought a couch.

Fiona and Lip seem pleased so Ian says: “Mickey asked me to punch him in the stomach to make up for the Valentine’s Day thing,”, just to take them down a notch.

“Did you do it?” Fiona asks eyebrows shooting up to her hairline.

“Nah.”

“But you wanted to, huh,” Lip says.

Ian shrugs.

 

Fiona has to go back to work after lunch and Liam, Debbie and Carl all have their own plans which are all too cool to be shared with the rest of them. Before they part ways, Carl does ask: “When are you coming back?”

“I don’t know. When Frank is gone for sure,” Ian says.

 

Lip and Ian get a coffee at a Starbucks that’s two blocks away from the one that Ian used to work at.

Ian checks his phone, but Mickey hasn’t texted him. Not to ask about the interview and not to ask about the car. Ian drops Lip back off at the house at seven thirty and heads to the apartment. He’s hungry and he hopes to find Mickey there, so that they can share a meal.

 

Mickey isn’t there, so Ian settles in and decides to call him.

“Yeah?” Mickey answers.

“Hey, are you getting home anytime soon?” Ian asks. “I thought we could eat together.”

“Yeah, if you can wait an hour,” Mickey says. “I’m out of town, but I’m heading back now.”

“Out of town doing what?”

“Don’t ask me that over the phone, dickhead,” Mickey snorts. “Let’s do Chinese, yeah?”

 

When Mickey comes home about forty five minutes later, he is only five minutes later than the food. Ian looks at his face, examines it for bruises and scratches, but he can’t find any that weren’t already there. He looks at his hands next, as Mickey washes them. Sometimes his knuckles will be busted and bruised for days. But not today.

“What the hell are you looking at?” Mickey asks, as he dries his hands off in a kitchen towel. They have those now. No, Mickey has those now. You’re just visiting.

There is no heat behind Mickey’s words, and Ian just shrugs. He watches Mickey grab a couple of plates and put them on the table -

“Oh shit,” Mickey then says. “How did your interview go?”

 

Fiona calls Ian on Friday afternoon to excitedly tell him that Frank hasn’t been back yet.

“Oh, great,” Ian says, looking across the table at Mickey who is looking right back at him. They’d gone for a drive that morning and of course, they ended up at the pier. They’d taken a walk along it and settled for coffee at a café with an outside space. Mick has a cigarette behind his ear and he is warming his hands around a cup of coffee. He pulls an eyebrow up at Ian’s shaky voice.

“So you can come settle back in whenever you want,” Fiona says. “Let me know and I’ll pick you up. I’m sure you miss your own bed. Don’t worry, I cleaned Frank all out of the sheets.”

“Yeah, no, that sounds great. Look, I’m kind of in the middle of something right now...”

“No worries. Me too. I’ll see you soon.” She hangs up before Ian does. He lowers his phone and puts it down on the table.

“You said that was your sister. Why does it look like you got a call from El Chapo telling you you fucked up,” Mickey says.

“It’s nothing,” Ian says. “Frank left. He hasn’t been back to the house in a week.”

“So? That’s a good thing, right?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah, for sure.”

“So what’s with your face?”

Ian shakes his head. “I...” God, why is this so hard? “I told Fiona and Lip I’d go back home when Frank left.”

“Yeah, and?”

“And Frank is gone now, so...”

“So you can go visit your brothers and sisters whenever you want. What’s the fucking problem?”

Visit.

“Move back,” Ian clarifies, painfully. “I said I’d move back.”

That shuts Mickey up for a moment. He grabs the cigarette out from behind his ear and puts it between his lips. He lights it and then asks: “You don’t want to go?”

“Do you not want me to go?”

Mickey rolls his eyes like he expected the question. “Go if you want to go and stay if you want to stay. I’m not your keeper.”

“But you kind of are.”

“How?”

“You keep me in your apartment.”

“I keep you there? Like some fucking pet?”

“Mick, I like staying with you.”

“Then stay.”

“But Fiona-“

“Then go.”

Ian snatches the cigarette from between Mickey’s lips and brings it up to his own. “If I get that job, I have to go. I promised.”

“Why would you promise that?”

“Because they’re afraid that if I’m under a lot of stress, I’m going to crack and start gargling old man balls again and then slit my wrists in a ditch somewhere.”

“Ah,” Mickey says, his face softening. “They’d rather have you slitting your wrists where they can take care of you.” Mickey reaches a warm hand over the table and let’s his fingers ghost over the palm of Ian’s hand. "But if you don't want to go back there for whatever reason, I can take care of you. Whatever happens."

Ian stares at him, and wonders if anyone has ever been as in love with anyone as he is with Mickey Milkovich.

 

Ian gets the job. Of course he does. Latifa from HR calls him on Monday morning to let him know that he can come sign the paperwork on Wednesday and he can start the following Monday.

Ian is ecstatic at first. He is so happy that he wakes Mickey up to tell him. Mickey smirks at him through his sleepy haze and smacks him in the face. "'Course you got it," he says, and turns onto his side, still with his eyes closed.

Ian has been ignoring Fiona and Lip all weekend, because he is not ready to answer any of their questions about him moving back home, but he can't keep this to himself.

He texts them in their separate group chat and they congratulate him excessively, which is cute. But right behind the congratulations, Lip asks: When are you coming home?

It is… a question. Ian has been thinking about it incessantly, but Mickey has made it clear that he was not going to get involved in the decision. He was not going to ask Ian to stay. He was welcome to, but he had to make the decision on his own. And here is the thing; Ian makes moronic decisions on his own.

So, of course, he does the worst possible thing. He packs his bag while Mickey is still asleep and puts it at the door. He thinks of the Valentine’s day chocolates and about how fucking pissed Mickey gets when Ian tries to even consider the idea of anything romantic. So he figures that some tearful goodbye would just sour the mood between them for another few days. So he leaves before Mickey wakes up.

He drops all his stuff off back at the house and is surprised to see that Carl is home. “Hey, idiot, what are you doing here?” Ian asks him.

“Skipping a test,” Carl says. “What are you doing here?”

“Coming back.”

“You left?” Carl asks and Ian punches him in the stomach.

 

Lip punches Ian in the stomach on his turn when he comes home from work that night. He starts on dinner and asks Ian: “How did Mickey take it?” 

“He hasn’t said anything yet,” Ian shrugs from his spot at the kitchen bar.

“What?”

“He hasn’t said anything yet,” Ian repeats.

Lip puts down the knife he’s holding. “What the fuck are you talking about? You told him you’re moving back and he didn’t say anything?”

“Well no. Last week I told him I was thinking of moving out, and he said it was fine. He didn’t really care whether I left or stayed. I left while he was still sleeping. You know how he gets with that mushy shit. He’d just get pissed again that I’d try to have a moment or something insane.”

Lip’s eyes get wider and wider.

“What?” Ian asks.

“You’ve got to be shitting me, right? Here I thought you were all hung up on the guy,” Lip says, shaking his head.

“What do you mean? I am-“

“Then you’ve screwed yourself. Severely.”

“How? I told you, I know him. He’s not going to give a shit that I didn’t give him some tearful goodbye-”

“No, you didn’t even tell him you were leaving, Ian. You’ve been living there for a fucking month. So what? He wakes up and he sees that you’ve packed your shit and left without saying a fucking word? Whether it’s tearful or not?”

“Oh, come on. If anything, I’ve saved myself a fucking headache.”

“So you’re done with him?”

No, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Lip snaps at him.

“What are you two talking about?” Debbie asks, sliding onto the stool next to Ian.

“Tell her,” Lip says, waving the knife at him.

So Ian does. And Debbie makes a face he doesn’t like. “I thought you really liked him?” she asks. “Sounds like you’re trying to break up with him.”

“I think someone else is going to break up with someone else,” Lip sighs. “You see what happens when you try to ignore my texts?”

“You two don’t know shit. You don’t even know him.”

“I don’t know him? He’s my weed guy. He’s practically my best friend,” Lip says. “And you are not only ruining your own relationship, but my weed hook up, too. You know how long it took me to convince him to give me a family discount?”

“Oh fuck off. I know him. I haven’t ruined shit. I’m doing him a favor. And you’re supposed to be sober anyway.”

Ian is lying through his teeth. God, he is a coward. He hopes he is doing Mickey a favor, but Ian left first and foremost, because he didn’t want to have this conversation with Mickey. He didn’t want to explain to Mickey that he would rather be home with his family in these stressful times. He didn’t want to tell Mickey that no matter how good things are going, how stable he feels, he is still too terrified to take a risk that could cause an episode. The feeling of anxiety about the job is enough to make him reach for the safety net of his family. His family who has seen him go through all of it before. His family who is not allowed to abandon him, no matter how much of a dick he is.

He doesn’t tell Lip or Debbie this. He doesn’t tell Fiona who gets involved later that night.

Mickey doesn’t call him that day and Ian doesn’t know why he is waiting.

On Tuesday, Ian is too anxious to call him. Mickey calls him that night, and Ian isn’t ready for it. He can’t. On Wednesday, he has the contract signing. Once that is behind him, he feels a little calmer.

“Are you really this much of a cunt?” Lip asks him on Wednesday night.

“What? I didn’t finish the shampoo. Carl did,” Ian says.

“Why is Mickey Milkovich asking me if you died?” Lip demands.

“You talked to him?” Ian asks and jumps up off the couch. “What did he say?”

“He asked me if you died.”

“What did you say?” 

“I told him you’re dealing with Frank’s bullshit again and you’ll call him when you’re done. What are you doing, Ian?”

“What did he say after that?” Ian pushes.

“Nothing. Call him. You’re going to be sorry if you don’t fix this soon, okay?” Lip says and pushes Ian back down onto the couch. “Where is your phone? Call him right now and tell him you’re going through some shit and you’ll reach out to him again soon.”

“I’ll do it, but you have to get out of my fucking face,” Ian says, pushing past Lip. He puts his shoes on and goes to sit on the front porch.

It takes him a few minutes to gather his thoughts before he finally dials Mickey’s number. “Yeah?” Mickey answers.

“Hey.”

“Did he tell you to call me?”

“No… I mean he said he saw you, but I was going to call you anyway.”

“For what?”

Ian pauses for a moment. God. “I shouldn’t have left without saying anything. I had a freak out. Not because of you. I’m not feeling all that great with Frank and the job and now you… I mean, it has nothing to do with you, but I get that it affects you – and I’m sorry, is all. That I left without saying anything.”

“It’s fine,” Mickey says shortly. “I just wanted to be sure you didn’t slit your wrists in that ditch.”

“No, not yet,” Ian says. “It’s nothing like that. I’m sorry, again.”

“You take care of yourself. Call me if you need anything,” Mickey says.

“I will,” Ian promises. “Look, Mick-” but Mickey has hung up already. Ian punches the wooden stair railing as hard as he can.

“That well, huh?” Lip asks from behind him.

 

Having Mickey pissed at him does not help with the stress. But it will have to wait, unfortunately. Ian texts him every day, just to make sure that Mickey doesn’t forget that he still exists. Sometimes Mickey responds, and sometimes he doesn’t.

On Monday, Lip and Fiona drop Ian off at the hospital for his first day of work. It feels like he is being dropped off at school by his parents. At least, he thinks that this is what it would feel like if he has to believe the movies; he has nothing else to compare it to, of course.

“You’re smarter than you think,” Lip tells him. “It’s all gangsters and South Side trash that come here.” It is strangely comforting.

“I love you,” Fiona says. “You’re going to do great.”

“Alright, faggots, that’s enough,” Ian says.

 

Ian has a weird first day. He expects to follow someone around all day who shows him the ropes. He does not expect to be treating a gunshot wound in the first hour. “You want to learn, you got to learn,” Marcus says, handing Ian the surgical tray. “If you fuck it up, I’m here.”

The patient, a young man barely conscious, with a bullet in his thigh is not impressed by any of this, so Ian decides to learn while he fucking learns.

 

Ian calls Mickey at the end of his shift, when he is already walking to the subway. Mickey doesn’t pick up the first time, but he picks up the second time. “Yeah?”

“Hey, Mick.”

“Gallagher?” Mickey asks. “You still out there in the world?”

“I just got off work,” Ian tells him.

“Yeah? How was it?” Mickey asks.

“Kind off gross, but I think I can fake my way through this,” Ian says. “How have you been doing? You want to meet me for dinner?”

“I can’t. I’m on run past midnight. Are you working tomorrow?”

“Yeah, but-“

“Go home, I’ll see you when I see you.”

 

Ian tries to get Mickey to meet him after work for the rest of that week, but Mickey refuses. He is always on his rounds or counting or doing some other annoying shit that Ian knows is an excuse, but he can’t really prove it nor does he feel like he has any right to question it.

It’s frustrating and also kind of nerve-wracking. What if Mickey is really just over him?

On Friday night, after dinner, Ian calls him twice without getting an answer. He texts him too, and waits half an hour for it to be read, but it doesn’t get read.

He then puts his shoes on and goes. It takes forty-five fucking minutes on the subway while it would have been less than a fifteen minute drive. He arrives just after ten. He doesn’t expect Mickey to be there, but he is ready to wait all fucking weekend if he has to.

He enters the apartment with the key Mickey had given him when he moved in. As soon as he shuts the door behind him and reaches over to turn on the light, a brick wall comes crashing into him from the side. Ian is tackled to the ground and punched, hard.

“What the fuck, Mickey!” He seethes and pushes Mickey off of him.

“Gallagher? Jesus Christ, you fucking asshole. I could have blown your goddamn head off,” Mickey pants and scrambles up to his feet. He puts something heavy down on the table and then turns on the lights.

Ian stares at the gun on the table and then lets his head fall back onto the floor. He is lying right in front of the couch. His jaw is still throbbing, but he doesn’t taste any blood. “Fuck,” he exhales. “I didn’t think you were going to be home.”

“Why the fuck are you here?” Mickey asks. He helps him up with an out stretched arm. Ian grabs his hand and gets off the floor. Mickey’s hair is tousled, he is frowning in annoyance and he is wearing a sweatshirt that is two sizes too big.

Ian kisses him. It feels like he is being pulled in by a magnet. How can he not? Mickey is right there, wild and beautiful and everything Ian has been missing for almost two weeks. Mickey kisses him back, matching Ian’s hunger every step of the way. Ian lets himself get carried away. He sheds his layers; his coat, his sweater, his t-shirt - he is about to drop his track pants, too, when Mickey pushes him away, hard, creating over five feet of space between them.

“Is this what you’re here for?” Mickey asks. “Or is there something else you want to get off your chest.”

Ian deflates a little. He hadn’t expected Mickey to be here. He thought he’d have more time. “I missed you,” he says. “I just wanted to see you for a little bit. It’s not my fault my dick gets hard every time I see you. That’s kind of your fault, actually.”

Mickey rolls his eyes and turns away, walking into the bedroom. Ian hesitates before grabbing his t-shirt off the floor and putting it back on. He kicks his shoes off and follows Mickey into the bedroom. He stays in the doorway and watches Mickey light a cigarette, sitting on his bed, leaning against the wall.

“So,” Ian says. “You not wanting to fuck me is kind of new.”

Mickey shrugs. 

“Have you...” Ian asks, as the possibility dawns on him. He looks away for a moment. “Are you getting it somewhere else?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Are you?”

Mickey flips him off. Ian is torn between leaving - just abandoning this conversation all together, or pushing forward and possibly getting shot. He steps further into the room and closes the door behind him. He gets on the bed and sits across from Mickey, cross legged. Ian can’t remember if anyone has ever walked out on him while he was practically naked and ready to go. He wonders how pissed a man has to be to not want to fuck him.

“Can we please talk like normal people?” He asks.

“What do normal people talk about?” Mickey asks. He has a hand resting on his raised knee. The ‘FUCK’ tattoo on his knuckles is mocking Ian.

“How they feel, for starters,” Ian says.

“Do they talk about when they plan on moving out of an apartment or no?”

It catches Ian off guard and he can only stare at Mickey for a moment. Mickey looks completely unimpressed.

“I know I should have said something,” Ian finally concedes. “It was a dick move. But I just... I didn’t want to make it into a thing. You get weird when I try to get emotional about anything.”

“What is emotional about saying ‘hey, man, I’m moving back in with my family today’?”

“It’s not that easy, though. I’ve gone over this a million times and all I could think about was saying goodbye to you even though I didn’t really want to go. But I knew I had to, if I want to be sure I don’t have some type of episode. What type of bitch does that make me?”

“What makes you a bitch is not saying anything,” Mickey snaps at him. “You really believe I’d think less of you because you have to go be with your family?”

“I don’t know what you think, Mickey. You have to know you’re like a ticking time bomb sometimes.”

“You going to compare this to the bullshit chocolate that you bought specifically to piss me off?”

“I didn’t-”

“Then why? Because you care about fucking Valentine’s day that much?”

Ian sighs. “Look, I don’t give a shit about Valentine’s day. But can you blame me for trying to gauge how you feel about me? It’s been four months and I still don’t know if you’re even my boyfriend. I lived in your apartment, I fucked you every day. I still don’t know, because you refuse to even kiss me-”

“I’ve been kissing you.”

“It’s not enough.”

The words hang between them, heavy and thick. This conversation has been derailed completely and Ian feels it, how they are teetering on the edge. Mickey can end this now. He can tell Ian to leave and to leave his key behind.

“I never wanted this,” Mickey then says, frustrated. “I never wanted a fucking boyfriend. I didn’t want you to be one.”

“But I am,” Ian pleads, desperate now.

“I know,” Mickey says and turns his hand around on his knee. Ian stares at it, before he grabs onto it like it’s a lifeline. “But if it’s not enough, then you have to tell me what you fucking want. You can’t just decide to leave without saying a word and blame it on you being a psycho.”

“I wasn’t trying to...” Or maybe he was? He’s not sure.

Mickey puts the cigarette between his lips and uses his empty hand to stroke Ian’s sore jaw.

Ian steals the cigarette and takes the last puff. He can’t believe this. He can’t believe he has to blink away tears. He exhales and Mickey leans forward and kisses him with a hand clasped firmly around the back of Ian’s neck.

Ian kisses him back and then he buries his face in Mickey’s shoulder until he has these bullshit tears under control.

“Come on,” Mickey says, rubbing a hand over Ian’s back. “You’re being a real pussy now.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian laughs and wipes his nose on Mickey’s shoulder. “I want you to say it, though.”

“Say what?”

“Whether you’ve been fucking anyone else.”

“Why would you want to hear that?”

“So that’s a yes, then.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yeah, fucking right. There is no way you’ve not been out there getting your dick sucked by some frat boys on your rounds.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I might let you blow me for a joint, but I’m not losing any money on mediocre head.”

“Hm. Whatever, but it ends here.”

“What do you mean?”

“No more fucking around. We’re a couple.”

“We’ve been a couple. Are you saying you’ve been screwing around?”

“No. I’ve been addicted to fucking your gremlin looking ass since we met.”

“Uhuh, you feel like fucking this gremlin right now or are you just going to cry all night?”

Ian puts a hand behind each one of Mickey’s knees and pulls them apart. He yanks him forward, so that he is lying on his back. Ian crawls over him, sliding his hands up Mickey’s thighs, over his shorts and under his sweatshirt. He pushes the shirt up to his armpits. Ian revels at the smooth stretch of skin from Mickey’s stomach to his chest. Mickey likes to tease Ian about how pale he is, but Mickey stomach and thighs are almost just as pale. Ian lets his fingers graze over his nipples before putting his lips on one of them.

Mickey threads his fingers into Ian’s hair tightly and tugs on it from the base. Just enough for it to sting and for the excitement to go straight to Ian’s cock. He feels Mickey’s nipple harden against his tongue and he can feel Mickey’s breath quicken and his chest heave. “God, you’re a dream,” Ian says softly. He moves down, trailing open mouthed kisses over Mickey’s stomach. Mickey doesn’t let go of Ian’s hair as Ian pulls Mickey’s shorts and underwear down to his knees. Mickey kicks them off and then tugs Ian’s head back down towards his half flaccid cock. Ian takes it into his mouth eagerly. It’s one of the things Ian silently likes to get off on; the feeling of a flaccid cock getting harder and bigger in his mouth. Mickey quickly grows hard and thick, Ian’s mouth stretching over the tip of Mickey’s cock.

“Fuck, Ian,” Mickey sighs. Ian hums around his cock and let’s it slip out of his mouth, just long enough for Ian to spit in his hand and to shove that slick hand down his own track pants. He puts his mouth back on Mickey’s cock, he mouths at his balls and at the base, he runs his tongue up the shaft, before going for all of it, taking all of it down his throat. He stops breathing, he hears Mickey cuss again, and Ian nuts into his own hand so hard that he is dizzy for a moment. His eyes are watering and so is his mouth. Ian brings his now cum slicked hand up and coats Mickey’s hard, wet cock with it even further. He puts his mouth back on it, reveling in the taste of the both of them. It doesn’t take long before he feels Mickey’s stomach tighten under his fingers. The grip Mickey has on Ian’s hair tightens as well as he shoots his load down Ian’s willing throat. Ian sucks him dry, keeps his mouth on Mickey’s cock until he goes soft again. He gives the sensitive head one last teasing lick and chuckles as Mickey shudders and yanks his head away. The hold on Ian’s hair loosens, but Mickey doesn’t remove his hands completely. He scratches Ian’s scalp. It feels so good that Ian closes his eyes and rests his head on Mickey’s half bare, half sweatshirt clad chest.

Mickey doesn’t stop running his fingers through Ian’s hair. Ian can feel himself drift off to sleep, but Mickey’s voice filters through: “You’re a dream.”

 

On Saturday morning Ian is staring at himself in Mickey’s bathroom mirror. The bruise on his jaw is sensitive. It is still a reddish color and Ian hopes it won’t get any darker than that. As he presses a finger against the tender skin, he remembers something that Mickey might have knocked right out of his head last night.

He decides he can let his hair air dry, for fear of otherwise forgetting about this again. He steps out of the bathroom with a towel around his shoulder. He looks for his bag in the bedroom, because he had packed some clothes in there the night before, including a pair of underwear. He quickly realizes that he must have left it in the living room.

Mickey is sitting at the kitchen table, the gun he almost shot Ian with the night before, still lying in the exact spot where he left it.

Mickey glances up at him and then does a double take. “Good morning, Firecrotch. Ain’t it a bit cold for this?”

“Hey, why were you in bed at like nine thirty last night?” Ian asks, spotting his bag in a corner of the couch. He grabs it and looks at Mickey expectantly.

“Are you going to put your dick away or what?”

Ian rolls his eyes and opens his bag. He puts the black boxers on. “Well?”

“I was tired,” Mickey says. “Come drink your coffee.”

Ian pulls a clean grey t-shirt on too, and joins Mickey at the table. He sits next to him. They have a coffee maker now, Ian notes in surprise as Mickey pours him a cup. No, Ian corrects himself, Mickey has a coffee maker. You don’t live here anymore.

“Tired from what?” Ian asks.

“I was with my dad the night before,” Mickey says.

“Ah,” Ian says and he doesn’t ask what they were doing. “I didn’t know you were still working that closely with him.”

“I don’t. Not a lot. He asks for my help sometimes.”

“Is it safe? Being around him?”

“Being around him isn’t safe for anyone, but as long as I’m not talking about how much I like cock, it’s fine.”

“Must be hard for a cock hound like you.”

Mickey smacks him in the stomach with the back if his hand.

“But, I’m serious,” Ian finally says. “If he-”

“Then I kill him,” Mickey cuts him off. “Believe me, I’ve thought about it. Speaking of dead beat dads, how is yours doing?”

“Frank?” Ian scoffs. “How would I know? Probably dead somewhere, who cares.”

“Uhuh, you’re clearly not hung up on the whole thing.”

Ian pointedly ignores that and takes a sip of his coffee. “So what do we do?” He then asks. “You want to go out for breakfast and then come back and fuck each other silly all day?”

“Yeah,” Mickey says. “But I gotta go pick up a rug at Target first.”

 

On Sunday afternoon Ian has to go freeze his ass off at Carl’s baseball game again. Mickey drops him off at the field, and Ian steps out of the car right where Lip is trembling on a bench.

“Hey,” Lip calls out. Ian is about to open his mouth, when he realizes Lip isn’t talking to him.

“I don’t have anything on me,” Mickey responds through the open passenger’s seat door.

“Wasn’t asking. You not staying for the game?”

“Nah, I got accounting to do,” Mickey says.

“You don’t know how to count,” Lip says. Mickey flips him off and tells Ian to close the door before taking off.

“You two are best friends now?” Ian asks, sitting next to Lip on the frozen wooden bench.

“I can’t help but notice there was no kiss goodbye,” Lip says.

“Why would you notice that? Unless you’re trying to make a move on my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend, huh?”

“Confirmed it.”

“Even though you ghosted him for a week?”

“What can I say? This dick is just that good.”

“Did you cry until he took you back?”

“How do you know that?”

“I know you,” Lip laughs. “I’m starting to get the vibe that you’re either going to marry the guy, or this is going to end in a murder-suicide.”

Chapter Text

 

Almost a week later, on Friday, it’s Liam’s birthday. He has invited about five other ten year olds to come over and play video games. Kev and V show up and Ian spends about an hour on the phone with Mickey that afternoon way past his lunch break, convincing Mickey that he has to come, too.

Mickey gives in eventually, and Ian calls him twice that evening to make sure he plans on actually coming. Mickey assures him, clearly annoyed, that he is going to be there.

Ian is still surprised when he shows up, a little past eight when the kids are in the living room having a Mario Cart tournament, with Carl keeping score and handing out punishments to everyone who loses.

Mickey walks into the kitchen with Lip, and before Ian can say anything Fiona asks, amused: “Lip, you brought a friend?”

“I brought something,” Lip smirks, wiggling his eyebrows at Ian like they’re twelve year olds themselves. “You know Mick, right, Kev?” Lip then asks.

Kev, who hasn’t been paying attention until then, looks up at the sound of his name and breaks out into a surprised grin. “I didn’t know we were going to get high at this children’s party,” he says excitedly.

Mickey rolls his eyes and Ian gets up, grabs a beer out of the fridge and hands it to Mickey.

“He’s here for pleasure, not business,” Ian says. “Mick, that’s Fiona and that’s Debbie.”

Fiona’s eyes become impossibly wide and Debbie says: “Oh, the boyfriend. Hey.”

“Hey,” Mickey greets and shakes Fiona’s hand first.

“About this getting high situation, though,” Lip then interrupts.

 

Ian spends most of the evening staring at Lip, Mickey and Kev talking, laughing and being dickheads halfway on the front porch and in the hallway to the house.

Ian realizes that Mickey and Lip are far more comfortable around each other than Ian had any clue about and that Kev has known Mickey for years. It’s bizarre, but it feels strangely natural as well. It’s the first time that Ian brought a boyfriend home without feeling like they were completely out of place, like Ian had to explain every single thing about his family, every step of the way. People tried to be understanding and open minded, but Mickey didn’t need to try. This was his life, his world too.

Ian goes back inside to take a leak and when he is on his way back, Fiona corners him in the hallway. “When I heard you were dating a Milkovich, I thought it was going to be a light version.”

“Huh?”

“Just saying, I didn’t know this was your type.”

“I don’t have a type, Fiona.”

“Just saying, they’re usually far more boring than this. Lip tells me you’re doing more than screwing. Said he bought you a couch.”

Ian rolls his eyes, but leans against the wall anyway. “Yeah, and then I moved back here. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of that.”

“He understands, though, doesn’t he?”

“I think so. We haven’t seen much of each other since I started working at the hospital.”

“Yeah, well, welcome to the adult dating world. Life is bullshit when you got to be in bed by ten to wake up at six every morning. In the hours in between you’re dead fucking tired. Not a lot of time left for romance.”

“Maybe not for you, but I got fucked at a McDonald’s drive-thru the other night. We’re doing fine.”

Fiona grins at him and smacks him on the back before she moves to join Debbie and V in the kitchen. Ian quickly grabs her by the arm. “Wait, I need a favor.”

She looks at him, suspicious.

“Can we have your r-“

“No.”

“Please. I swear we won’t fuck in it.”

“Of course you’re going to fuck in it. What’s wrong with your bed?”

“Carl and Liam is what is wrong with my bed.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem if you’re not planning on fucking in it. And why my room? Why not Lip’s room?”

“Because Lip’s room is fucking grosser than mine. Please, Fiona. I’ll do the groceries tomorrow. I’ll pay for them all by myself.”

She squints her eyes at him and points a finger at his face. “If I hear even one creak.”

“Thank youuuu,” Ian sings and flees out to the front porch before she can change her mind. It takes a bit more convincing to get Mickey to stay. He’s only had two beers and a joint, says he’s fine to drive, but Ian doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s only a little past midnight when Ian leads him up the stairs. The kids have just left, but Kev and V have just opened another beer. In Fiona’s room, Ian closes the door behind them and then pulls the dresser in front of the door.

“I heard that!” Fiona screams up the stairs and Ian giggles into Mickey’s mouth. Mickey kisses him back. “She’s going to be pissed.”

“I bought her out for the night,” Ian shrugs. “Come on, get comfortable.”

Mickey kicks his boots off and Ian helps him with his pants. Ian gets distracted by Mickey’s lips in the middle of it and proves to be no help at all when his hands wander around and he grabs two handfuls of Mickey’s ass. “God, I can’t wait to fuck-“

“Hey, Ian?” Fiona calls from right outside her bedroom door. “Before you go raiding my underwear drawers, you should probably know that there’s no lube and no condoms in there. You’re going to have to risk coming out here to get it, if you plan on fucking.”

“We’re not going to fuck,” Ian calls back and then swears under his breath.

“We can just blow each other,” Mickey suggests with a shrug, but Ian has other ideas.

“You don’t understand,” he tells Mickey. “She can’t win.”

“What?”

“She can not win,” Ian says heatedly and he is about to ransack her drawers anyway, because she has always had condoms hidden there before, when Mickey says: “Call Lip. Tell him to throw it up to the window.”

 

Ian will never forget the look of complete and utter joy on Mickey’s face as he watches Fiona tackle Lip to the ground in their yard, in the middle of the night, right as he tries to throw a bottle of lube up at them through the window.

 

The next morning, they wake up before the kids, but they can hear Fiona and Lip talking downstairs. And when Ian and Mickey stumble down the stairs together, Ian first sees Lip’s sour expression, then Fiona’s stiff shoulders and then, finally, the scent of hard liquor reaches him.

He steps down the staircase and peers over the couch. And sure thing, Frank is lying on the couch, passed out.

“Who let him in?” Ian asks.

“We left the back door unlocked,” Lip says. “That’s what we get for having the audacity to have one night of fun.”

Ian feels a hand on his shoulder. Mickey squeezes it, and moves past him. “Do I smell coffee?”

“Why aren’t we dragging him out to the street?” Ian asks.

Fiona pours Mickey a cup and then looks at Ian apologetically. “Because I think he came for Liam’s birthday.”

“There is no way in hell he remembered Liam’s birthday,” Ian snorts and finally joins the rest of them in the kitchen. Fiona pours him a cup too.

“Who knows? They were getting along last time he was here,” Lip sighs. “I don’t know what we should do. If he’s here for Liam’s birthday...”

“And If he’s not?” Ian asks. “Besides, it doesn’t matter. The sooner Liam realizes what a piece of shit Frank is, the better. He’s only going to get more disappointed when Frank screws him over later on.”

“Fuck you, you spoiled redheaded cocksucker,” Frank slurs from the couch. Ian is about to explode when he hears Mickey snort beside him.

“What?” Mickey says when Ian shoots him a look. “That is exactly what you are.”

Lip seems amused for a second before he gets back to the task at hand. Mickey puts a hand on Ian’s back, under the counter where no can see. Ian has to do his best not to lose any of his anger. He has to stay angry at Frank at all times. Especially right after he calls him a redheaded cocksucker.

“What are you doing here, Frank? You just left,” Lip says.

“I’m here for my son’s birthday,” Frank says, pulling himself up into a seating position.

“I gotta ask,” Mickey then says. “Liam is this fuck’s son?”

“Unfortunately,” Fiona sighs.

“Exactly!” Frank shouts over her. “The only bastard here is the ginger fuck who tried to kick me out of my own house last time.”

“You?” Mickey asks Ian.

“Uhuh,” Ian says, still having a hard time to feel the usual rage he feels at the mere sound of Frank’s voice.

Lip rubs his forehead and Fiona is covering her entire face in frustration.

“Hey, Frank,” Mickey then says, suddenly.

Frank looks over at him. “Milkovich? What are you doing here? You got any pills on you?”

“Shut the fuck up, is what I’ve got on me, you broke piece of shit,” Mickey says.

“You’re screwing my son, so I think a family discount is in order,” Frank retorts.

“Oh, now he’s your son? I thought he was a bastard ginger fuck just now.”

“Fuck you, you eastern block scum,” Frank finally slurs and slumps back on the couch.

“So?” Mickey asks them, then. “Do I throw him out a window or does the little guy get to celebrate his birthday with sweet old pops?”

“You know what my vote is,” Ian says and gets onto his feet. “We’re going on the grocery run. You two can figure it out.” He tugs on Mickey’s shirt for him to follow him upstairs. Ian ducks into his room where Carl and Liam are still fast asleep, having been up half the night. He grabs a couple of shirts and dips into Fiona’s room. He gives Mickey the sweatshirt Ian had once taken from him and changes into another shirt himself.

“Hey,” Mickey says while Ian is sitting on the bed, putting his socks on. He puts a hand under Ian’s chin and tilts his face up. “I’ll throw him out, if you want.”

“If Liam wants him here, then Liam wants him here,” Ian says. “We have to do the groceries.”

They take Mickey’s car to Costco. Ian rants about how much he hates Frank all the way there. He overshares, a lot and in detail. Mickey tells him to shut up when they enter the store. Ian makes it to the cereal aisle , before he starts again.

 

“Alright,” Ian says, when they pull back into the drive way. “I’ll shut up now. We’ll drop the groceries off and go back to your place.”

Mickey looks at him. He seems to hesitate for a moment and then says: “No.”

“What?”

“You’re not coming back to my apartment. You’re not letting that piece of shit chase you out of your own house again.”

“So what am I supposed to do? Tell them he has to go? Liam won’t forgive me for that. Or worse, he’ll go with him and then what? Find my brother dead under a bridge somewhere?”

“No, you stay with your family, where you fucking belong,” Mickey says. “You don’t run away and leave them behind.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing? Abandoning my fucking family because I don’t want to hear him talk about what a piece of shit I am?”

Mickey looks annoyed at that. “I’m just saying; don’t make them choose. Liam is a smart kid. You don’t think he notices you jolting whenever Frank shows up?”

“It’s better than him watching me kill him one of these days,” Ian says coldly.

“Ian, come on-”

“No, you can fuck off,” Ian says and gets out of the car. He slams the passenger’s door shut behind him and opens the door to the backseat.

“Ian, stop,” Mickey says, getting out as well. He walks around the car and slams the door shut. “Stop,” he repeats. “Look...”

Mickey is uncharacteristically hesitant and Ian sees it in his face. “If you want to stay with me, you can stay with me. Whenever you want. I just figured the next time you decided to stay with me, you’d actually stay because you wanted to and not because of fucking Frank’s bullshit.”

Ian opens his mouth, but has no clue what is about to come out of it.

That is when the front door of the Gallagher house bursts open and Frank Gallagher comes rolling down the stairs in a flurry of limbs. Carl is standing in the doorway wielding a bat in nothing but black boxer-briefs. “Go fuck yourself, Frank,” he yells. “Next time I see you, I’m blowing you to fucking bits with my shotgun. See if you survive that.”

Frank is still moving around at the bottom of the stairs and Ian can’t see any blood on the snow under him just yet.

“I guess you don’t have to worry about it,” Ian says to Mickey, who gives Carl a curt nod.

“Hey, you guys got Fruitloops?” Carl calls out to them.

“Yeah, get back inside before you freeze your fucking nuts off,” Ian calls back at him. Mickey steps out of the way to let him open the door to the backseat.

“In case you’re wondering how pissed I am, right now,” Ian says, grabbing all three of the bags off the seat. “You can still go fuck yourself. And if you ever think of taking Frank’s side on anything again, you better keep it to yourself. Because I will fucking fight you.”

“Really, you want to fight?” Mickey asks, defiantly. “Because I’m going to have to agree with Frank that you’re a spoiled, redheaded cocksucker.”

Ian drops all three of the bags so fast. He get Mickey right under the eye, so hard that Ian’s hand hurts. Mickey stumbles backwards into the street, and the rage Ian sees flashing in his eyes is as satisfying as it is terrifying. He reacts immediately, tackles Ian to the ground and straddles him before he starts railing into him.

“What the fuck?” Carl shouts and it echoes through the neighborhood. Ian tries blocking the punches and gets Mickey in the liver hard enough for him to stall for a second. It’s long enough for Ian to push him off, but just like that, Mickey has a hand around Ian’s throat and Ian returns the favor. Ian vaguely realizes that cars are honking at them.

“Hey, hey, what the fuck is this?” Lip’s voice cuts through. It takes Carl, Liam, Lip, Fiona and Debbie to pry Mickey off of him. Ian scrambles off of the ground and gives Mickey one last punch to the gut, while Lip drags the smaller man off. “Asshole!” He screams. Lip kicks at Ian in annoyance and Mickey breaks free. He chases Ian for three houses and then tackles him into Ms. Brown’s front yard. The snow is soft and for a moment Ian expects Mickey to beat the shit out of him right then and there, but he doesn’t. He stares down at Ian, blood dripping down from his busted lip and busted eyebrow. He sinks into the snow next to Ian, and sticks his knuckles in the snow, too.

Ian closes his eyes, exhausted, and when he opens them, all of his siblings are standing over them in their pajama’s. Ian sits up and looks at Mickey. Mickey looks back at him.

“What is this shit?” Fiona asks, frustration about to explode all over them.

“He started it,” Mickey says.

Ian gives him a weak slap, just for good measure.

“Get up, before someone calls the cops,” she snaps at them.

Carl grabs Ian’s arm and Lip yanks Mickey up by the front of his jacket. Like fucking pack animals, they walk back to the Gallagher house. Ian sees Mickey stray from them and head for his car, and yanks him back by his jacket and swings his arm over his shoulder, leading him back to the house. They step over Frank who is still lying at the bottom step of the front stairs.

Debbie gathers the groceries and runs in after them. She is quick to fish the frozen veggies out of the bags. She places them on the kitchen table. Lip pushes Ian down in a chair at the kitchen table and tells Mickey to stay at the counter.

“So, if you’re gay and you’re dating, it’s okay to beat the shit out of each other?” Carl asks. “That’s cool.”

“No, it’s not okay and it’s definitely not cool,” Fiona says. She grabs the peas and presses them on the most painful side of Ian’s face. She throws the carrots at Mickey who catches them mid air.

“How is he so strong?” Lip asks Ian, pointing a thumb at Mickey. “It took all five of us to get him off of you.”

“He’s a fucking gremlin,” Ian says.

“I’m going to shove my fist down your throat if you don’t shut up,” Mickey says.

“Is anyone going to tell us what the hell happened?” Fiona asks.

“Frank happened,” Liam says, leaning against the back of Ian’s chair. “These things always happen when Frank is here.”

Ian reaches a heavy hand up and pulls Liam out from behind the chair and makes him stand next to him. He drops his arm over his shoulder and says: “Good thing he came today and not yesterday.”

Mickey gets off the chair and starts washing the blood off his hands in the sink. “How did Frank cause this?” Lip asks Ian. “What did he say to you?”

“This wasn’t Frank’s fault,” Ian says.

“It wasn’t?” Mickey snorts.

“Not entirely. It’s personal,” Ian attempts to clarify. Lip and Fiona look completely unconvinced.

“Do you two do this often?” Fiona asks seriously. “Roll around in the open fucking street beating the shit out of each other?”

“No, we do it at the apartment, usually,” Ian attempts at humor, but his entire face hurts. Mickey dries his hands off on a kitchen towel. He doesn’t bother with the blood on his face. He looks at Fiona when he says: “It was nice meeting you, I guess,” and heads for the door.

“Mick,” Lip calls after him, but he’s gone. The adrenaline leaves Ian’s body in such a sudden shift, that he feels freezing cold suddenly, and sore all over.

“Go clean up,” Fiona commands. “Take a shower, calm down a bit.”

Ian does as he is told and hauls himself up the stairs. Lip follows him all the way into the bathroom and locks the door behind them. He closes the toilet cover and sits down. Ian catches a first glance of himself in the mirror and assesses the damage.

“You look like shit,” Lip says, helpful as always. “You’re lucky you got a couple of days before you have to go to work. The swelling will be down by then.”

Ian doesn’t respond. He starts the shower and peels his clothes off. “You want to tell me what the fuck happened?” Lip finally asks.

“He called me a coward for not wanting to be around while Frank is in the house. He kept saying I was leaving you behind and running away. And then he said I was a spoiled redheaded cocksucker. And then I lost my mind.”

“He knows how to push your buttons, huh,” Lip snorts.

“And he knows how to land a fucking punch, too,” Ian says. He steps into the shower and lets the hot water beat down on his scalp. He washes the blood off of his face as gently as he can, but Debbie’s face wash stings anyway. He deserves it, of course, so he doesn’t complain.

Ian wants to end the conversation with Lip there. He wants it to be done. He wants the argument with Mickey to be clear cut, simple. But it’s not.

“He said…” Ian starts, not sure why this feels like he is exposing too much. Mickey wouldn’t want him to tell Lip this. “He said that he didn’t want me to move back in with him, until I was planning on moving back for real.”

Lip is silent for a moment. Ian grabs the body wash. “What did you say?” Lip asks.

“That he doesn’t have to worry about me moving in with him at all.”

“And then he punched you in the face?”

“No, then he called me a spoiled, redheaded cocksucker. And then I punched him in the face.”

“Even though you are a spoiled, redheaded cocksucker?” Lip questions.

Ian yanks the curtain open. “How am I spoiled? How?”

“Well, the rest of us don’t have ourselves a cute little drug dealing boyfriend with an apartment we can hide out in whenever Frank shows up. I know Frank gets to you, Ian. I know he targets you and he pushes all your buttons when he’s here, but he fucks with all of us and we’re stronger against him when we’re here together. Here’s the thing. If I could leave and hide out in some apartment until he’s gone, I would. But I don’t have that option. Right now, you do have that option and that makes you a spoiled redheaded cocksucker. I can’t go anywhere. Debbie can’t go anywhere.”

Ian steps back behind the curtain and exhales out of his nose. “So you think I was an asshole for leaving last time?”

“No,” Lip says easily. “Last time he threatened to out you and Mickey to Terry Milkovich. You could have killed him and I wouldn’t think you’re an asshole.”

“Do you…” Ian exhales again. “Do you think I ruined it? With Mickey?”

“Well, I don’t want to be cynical or anything, but he is probably used to getting knocked around a bit. I don’t think he’ll break up with you for this.”

“You think he should?”

“I don’t know,” Lip says. “You should talk to him. I’ll drive you over to his place when you’re done.”

Ian nods to no one and hears the bathroom door open and close.

 

Ian gets dressed and takes the frozen peas with him when Lip drives him over to Mickey’s apartment. He tells Lip that he doesn’t need to wait. Lip seems hesitant to leave, but Ian promises he won’t get shot. Even though he really can’t promise that.

But just to be safe, he knocks on Mickey’s door instead of using his key. He knocks hard enough for Mickey to be able to hear him from everywhere in the apartment. The door flies open and Mickey looks annoyed to see him. “What the fuck do you want?”

Ian steps past him into the apartment and drops the peas on the table. Mickey closes the door and Ian finally gets to look at him. He is clean, but the cuts in his eyebrow and lip still look tender.

Ian’s breath hitches, because he doesn’t know what to say.

“What?” Mickey presses.

Ian moves closer, slowly, just in case Mickey wants to choke him again. But Mickey doesn’t say anything, doesn’t move away. In fact, Ian thinks his face softens a little bit when Ian kisses him on the side of his mouth that isn’t fucked.

Mickey kisses him back, with a hand cradling Ian’s face. He pulls away just a little bit and pushes the damp strands of hair out of Ian’s face. “You look like a drowned rat.” 

Ian hugs him, tightly.

“Say something,” Mickey says, curling his arms around Ian, too.

Ian breathes out and asks: “Did you fuck anyone in the forty-five minutes we were apart?”

Mickey pokes him in the sides, but Ian doesn’t let go as he laughs.

 

Ian sheds his coat and hangs it on the back of one of the chairs at the kitchen table. He kicks his shoes off too and then joins Mickey on the couch. Mickey is watching him every step of the way. When Ian sits down, he stands up. Ian is about to have another fit when he realizes Mickey is headed for the fridge. He grabs two beers.

He hands Ian one and cracks open the other one before sitting down again.

“We should get a TV,” Ian says and downs as much of the beer as he can.

“I’m not taking suggestions,” Mickey says.

Ian clamps his mouth shut for the next five minutes, only opening it to sip his beer. When the beer is finished, he asks: “Are you going to break up with me for this?”

Mickey looks at him with the bottle at his lips. He shakes his head and takes a sip. “You?”

Ian shakes his head. He knows Mickey might push him away, but he curls his arms around the smaller man and puts his head on his shoulder. “But I might change my mind when you tell me why you think I’m spoiled,” Ian then says.

“You’re not. Your life is just as shitty as the rest of ours.”

“No, but you meant it, earlier. I saw it. You were serious.”

Mickey’s face contorts in a way that is new. Or maybe it just looks new, because of the new layer of bruises.

“Frank is a piece of shit, alright? You are right to hate him. But I don’t think Frank ever put a gun to your head and forced a whore to fuck the gay out of you. Not to make this about me. I know Frank is a dick and he has made your life a living hell, but I also know what real evil looks like. You can’t let that asshole ruin your life. He ain’t shit.”

Ian stops breathing. He doesn’t know for how long and he only notices when he is forced to exhale. “Mickey,” Ian says, but Mickey doesn’t turn to look at him. So Ian makes him. He grabs his chin and turns his face towards his own. Ian kisses him on the corner of his mouth and then presses their foreheads together. “I thought it was because of all the free weed you give me,” he tries for light. Mickey’s hand shoots out and smacks Ian in the dick, light enough for it not to hurt, but quick enough for Ian to double over as a reflex.

 

On Monday, Ian’s face still looks like it’s been pummeled, but the swelling has gone down significantly. It takes his co-workers two looks to realize. “What the fuck happened to you?” Marcus asks. “Is all that from where that junkie punched you in the face on Friday?”

“Uh,” Ian says, remembering that he was, in fact, punched in the face by a junkie trying to steal meds on Friday. “Yeah. It looks worse than it is, though. I bruise like a bitch.”

To his surprise, that is the end of that conversation. It’s true that this ER is a pretty damn violent place. It might be the only reason Ian has adjusted so well to the job. When someone is throwing chairs at you from across the waiting room, you don’t really have a lot of time to think about workplace etiquette or whatever the fuck.

 

When Ian gets his first pay cheque, the first thing he does is buy Liam the birthday present he hadn’t been able to get him two weeks earlier; it’s some bullshit graphic calculator that Ian remembers needing in high school and stealing from an upperclassmen.

Lip had told Liam to do his math homework at school as much as possible and that they’d save up for it. Lip and Fiona were of the opinion that birthday presents were supposed to be fun; things like video games and new sneakers, not things like calculators. Ian would agree with them completely, if he didn’t know his youngest brother was a huge fucking nerd.

It costs him two hundred bucks. He drops it in Liam’s lap at breakfast on Saturday morning.

“First pay cheque?” Is the first thing Liam asks. “Thank you. Now I don’t have to stay in creepy Mr. Davis’ class to finish my homework.”

“First pay cheque?” Carl asks.

“Did someone say first pay cheque?” Debbie pipes up from behind her cereal.

Ian uses both hands to flip them off.

“This is nepotism,” Debbie says. “I’m a high school senior. You never bought me a calculator.”

“You want one?” Ian asks, knowing the answer fully well.

“No, I want Yeezy’s,” she grins.

“You must be out of your damn mind.”

“Size six,” she adds.

“Hey, if you’re buying everyone gifts-”  Carl starts.

“I’m not.”

“I really need my own black Adidas tracksuit. I think you left yours at Mickey’s. I can’t find it anywhere. It would be easier if I had my own.”

“Hey Carl, over my dead body,” Ian says.

“Did someone say first pay cheque?” Lip asks, wandering into the kitchen. He picks up Liam’s new calculator and examines it. “You know, I was thinking of getting one of those Apple watches myself.”

“Toaster is acting up,” Fiona announces from upstairs, before she comes prancing down them, already dressed and ready for the day. “What are you doing here anyway?” She asks Ian. “Isn’t Friday night date night?”

“He had a family thing last night,” Ian says and ignores Lip’s prying eyes.

“Alright. Groceries and then the mall. Spring sale started last week,” Fiona says. “Nothing on credit. Only cash or debit. You pay for your own shit and if something is too expensive, you can bat your eyelashes at Ian today.”

“Great,” Ian sighs. It’s a tradition, probably the most fun one they have. Fiona started it a couple of years ago. They stopped being on the brink of total financial ruin, they had a family buffer and Fiona, Lip and Ian had their own savings accounts. Sure, Ian is still paying for the damages he caused with the whole van explosion, but he’s making enough to pay for that, his meds and to have a little bit left over.

It allows them to spend their first pay cheque at every new job on fun shit, and fun shit only. Now Ian had gotten the job at the hospital only five weeks after losing his old one, but the pay was more than twice as high, so while he was acting cranky about his siblings bleeding him dry, he was actually pretty excited to go spend a good amount of money with them.

They pile into the car and when they reach the grocery store, Fiona takes Liam, Carl and Debbie inside with her.

“So, a family thing, huh,” Lip says.

Ian knows that if Mickey ever finds out that Ian tells Lip everything, he’d murder them both. “I told him not to go. I tell him every time,” Ian sighs. “But he’s got Stockholm syndrome or something. I don’t know.”

Mickey has been back to the house after their little rumble in the street quite a few times. He comes in when he picks Ian up and when he drops him off. He refuses to stay the night there, even though Ian always asks him. He doesn’t care if they have to share his tiny bed while Carl is jerking off in the top bunk and Liam is staring at them like he is trying to figure how all the technicalities work. These days, Ian hates sleeping alone. He hates waking up alone, without Mickey’s hair in his face and his hands on him. He looks forward to the weekends, like an excited kid going to a sleepover, and he is sorely disappointed when Mickey has to tell him he’s busy. The other night Ian had even considered going to the apartment anyway. At least he could sleep in Mickey’s sheets.

He decided last minute that that might be a bit of a psycho move.

“Has he talked to you about it since?” Lip asks. He is sitting in the front seat and turns to look at Ian. Ian shakes his head. “I wouldn’t even know what to say if he did want to talk about it.”

“You don’t really gotta say much, you know,” Lip says. “You gotta try to listen. I know that’s hard for you.”

Ian rolls his eyes at the jab and looks out of the window at all the families getting in and out of their cars.

“Did you feel bad when I got you blown by Karen?” Lip asks. “Did you feel like I made you do something you didn’t want to do?”

“You didn't put a gun to my head,” Ian shrugs. “I also knew you didn’t exactly care that I was gay. You just didn’t want me to get beaten to death for it.”

“I tried giving you away to Clayton for it, too.”

Ian snorts at that and rubs at his eyes. “You straights really think you know what’s best, huh?”

“How long has it been since you started seeing each other?” Lip then asks.

“Since November, I think. So about five months.”

“Does he fuck with his Timberlands on?”

“Stop asking me how he fucks.”

“Fine, whatever. I’ll ask him myself. So are you going to do something nice for Mick with your first pay cheque?”

Ian exhales. He has been thinking about it, but he hasn’t been able to think of one thing he could do for him, short of stocking his fridge with beer, that wouldn’t be another misser. No gifts, Mickey had been loud and fucking clear.

“I was thinking of maybe asking him out on a date,” Ian admits.

Lip frowns: “You mean take him some place nice? Like a place with a tablecloth and all that?”

“Doesn’t have to be that crazy,” Ian shrugs. “I just want to go out, as a couple, without him being nervous about it.”

“He’s got good reason to be, Ian. For all we know, Terry killed him last night and he’s been dead for hours.”

“You’re such a fucking asshole. Like I’m not worried enough as it is? He texted me this morning to tell me he’s back at the apartment, you dickhead.”

“Just checking if you care about him, is all,” Lip smirks.

 

At the mall, Ian hijacks Debbie into helping him get some new shirts. They come up with a system. Ian takes about ten shirts into the dressing room with him and puts them on one by one. Debbie then gives him a ‘douchebag’ or ‘hot’ verdict. Liam shows up about halfway to make fun of him for suddenly giving a shit about what clothes he wears. “You never leave the house except to go to work and you wear scrubs there,” he says.

“I got a boyfriend now,” Ian reminds him.

“Mickey would be the last person to care what you wear,” Liam says.

“I get that you want to look nice around him,” Debbie says.

“I’m no one’s trophy boy,” Ian says, a bit miffed. He’d been pretty much exactly that from the age of fourteen onward. He’d been used and abused because of his looks, and he had never wanted to get rid of that image more than when he went to prison. He had come out the other side as pretty much the opposite. He was fitter than ever before, but he let his hair grow out for too long, he wouldn’t shave everyday and he’d pretty much spend all his time in atheleisure.

Mickey might have been the first guy he’s been with who never said anything about his looks other than to tease him and bully him. It was fun and all, and when they were fucking Mickey was clearly attracted to him, but recently... Ian is starting to want to be hot again. Maybe it has something to do with Mickey being more open and trusting. Maybe it has something to do with the new confidence Ian got from working at the hospital and being actually useful in some way.

Either way, it is time for Ian to show Mickey exactly how hot he is.

 

They don’t get back to the house until after dinner, which is perfect because, it gives Ian exactly enough time to shower and get dressed before Mickey comes around to pick him up. When Ian comes down the stairs in his new form fitting dark green henley (“This brings out your eyes!”) with the top button open and his tightest pair of black jeans, Mickey is looking down at his phone. Lip is paying attention, though, and he says with a smirk: “You look cute, Ian.” Ian wants to kick his ass, but it successfully prompts Mickey to look up. He frowns: “What the fuck is this shit?”

“We’re going out,” Ian says.

“You’re going out? Then why the hell am I hear?” Mickey asks.

“No, you and me are going out,” Ian clarifies.

Mickey looks him up and down, and makes a face like he is in physical pain.

He then says: “I got blood on my shirt.”

And he does in fact have blood on his faded grey t-shirt. Several drips from his shoulder down to his hip. Ian hadn’t noticed before then. To be fair, it was not uncommon for Mickey to have stains on him.

“I can give you a shirt,” Lip offers.

“Where are you going?” Mickey asks Ian.

“We,” Ian says forcefully. “You and I are going on a fucking date. Bloodstains or not.”

“Why the hell would you want to go on a date with me now?”

“Don’t be an annoying bitch about this, Mickey. Just say I look hot as fuck and let’s go.”

Mickey squints his eyes at him then. The ‘annoying bitch’ comment must not have been appreciated, because the next thing Mickey says is: “Fine, let’s go.”

Lip laughs at that.

Ian grabs his leather jacket rather than his parka, and heads for the door with Mickey behind him. “It’s not your birthday or anything, is it?” Mickey asks when they’re outside on the porch.

“No,” Ian says. “My birthday is in May.”

“So why are we doing this?“

“First pay cheque,” Ian says. “We’re going to get hammered off it.”

“We can’t go to the Alibi,” Mickey says. “Unless you got a death wish.”

“I know a place,” Ian assures him and grabs his hand. “Trust me on this one, okay? It’s going to be fun.”

“Fun?”

“What’s wrong with fun?” Ian says innocently and forces Mickey down the stairs with him. He also makes Mickey hand him his car keys so that Ian can drive them.

Mickey doesn’t pester him for more information on the drive there. He just turns the radio on and every now and then he glances at Ian like something is going to appear on the side of his face to tell him where they’re going.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Mickey sighs as soon as they cross into Boystown. “I’m not going to a fucking gay club with you, Ian.”

“We’re not going to a club. It’s just a bar. We’re going to have a couple of drinks. We’re going to hang out and have a great fucking time.”

“You’re going to pay for this,” Mickey says.

 

Ian has to physically guide Mickey into the bar. It’s a little past nine and the place is starting to fill up. Ian spots an open booth and pushes Mickey towards it. “Sit down, take your coat off. I’ll get us some drinks.”

Mickey doesn’t sit down and he also doesn’t take his coat off. The bar is close to the booth and the girl behind the bar sees Ian approaching. Ian opens his mouth to order them a couple of beers when he hears a stranger ask:

“Hey, you here alone?”

For a second, Ian thinks someone is talking to him. He is about to tell that someone to fuck off, when he turns around and sees that no one is talking to him. Some fucking guy is talking to Mickey. 

And Mickey responds: “Fuck off.” Without even looking in his direction.

“What can I get you?” The bartender asks Ian, and he has to turn back to her. She smiles at him brightly.

“Two beers, please. Whatever you have on tap,” Ian orders.

“Sure thing.”

“What the fuck are you still staring at, asshole?” Mickey’s voice pierces through the soft music.

“Can I also get six kamikaze shots?” Ian then asks the bartender. “I’ll be right back.”

Ian turns around to find Mickey with his middle finger up, pointed at a tall, broad shouldered man who is hurrying away to the other side if the room.

“Two seconds,” Ian says to him and pushes him down to sit in the booth. “I turned my head for two fucking seconds.”

“What, I’m supposed to let that faggot stare at me all night until I lose track of wallet? Fuck him.”

“Maybe cool it with the faggot-talk around here. And what the fuck are you talking about a wallet? You think he wants to rob you at a gay bar?”

“Fags steal, too,” Mickey says.

“You got a bigger chance of him wanting to fuck you,” Ian says and for some reason, he feels something, something uncomfortable and annoying. Ian has never really been the jealous type, but apparently that’s different too now.

The bartender shows up before Mickey can respond and sets three shots and a beer in front of each of them.

“Thanks,” Ian says, grateful that she’s so quick.

“You’re welcome. Here’s our cocktail menu. We’ve got a bunch of different shots, so let me know if I can get you anything else.”

Mickey picks up a shot and downs it while the girl is still at the table. She smiles at him, sweetly and says: “Enjoy.”

Ian, for some bizarre reason scans the bar to see if he can spot the guy who was talking to Mickey earlier. When he doesn’t find him, he turns back to his boyfriend who is now two shots down the line.

“You having fun yet?” Mickey asks with a smirk. Ian smiles back and downs his first shot. He can’t remember the last time he did this. Lip had been alcohol free for two years and Fiona for three (they don’t say sober, because their weed intake has spiked since then) and Ian doesn’t have any other friends that he can stand to be around for more than an hour these days.

The vodka burns his throat as it goes down and he grabs the second one immediately after, to catch up.

“If I start a fight tonight, you can’t be pissed,” Mickey then says and finally takes his jacket off. Ian shrugs his own off as well, tugging it into the corner of the booth.

“As long as it’s not a hate crime, I don’t give a shit,” Ian says and leans back into his seat. Mickey... he looks good. His eyes look dark in the dim lighting of the bar, his hair is only combed through with his fingers and the pale stretch of skin on his neck look delicious.

“The fuck are you looking at?” Mickey asks.

“My boyfriend,” Ian says and leans forward. He reaches for Mickey’s hand, resting on the table. Mickey pulls it away.

“Okay, see,” Ian sighs. “That is a hate crime. The only people here are bunch of other faggots, alright? Like you and me.”

Mickey doesn’t look at him. He grabs the last shot and downs it. Then he reaches for Ian’s last shot as well. “You’re going to die of toxic shock syndrome if I let you drink that.”

“You mean lithium toxicity?” Ian asks. “I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“Well, it can’t be good for you,” Mickey says and downs his fourth shot. Ian gets out of his seat and slides into the booth next to Mickey.

Mickey slides all the way to the wall. “If you wanted to get cozy, we should have stayed home,” he says.

“You have to try to relax, Mick,” Ian tries one more time. He doesn’t close in on him, but he does reach over and puts a hand on Mickey’s thigh, where no one can see it.

Mickey doesn’t smash his fingers into the table, so Ian figures that it’s okay.

“So first pay cheque, huh,” Mickey says. “That’s why we’re here?”

“We’re here because we’re dating and this is a date,” Ian says.

“Any reason you felt the need to Shanghai me into a date rather than warn me so that I could at least change out of a shirt with dog’s blood on it?”

“That’s dog’s blood?”

“They had a pit bull.”

“Who?”

“We’re talking about you right now,” Mickey reminds him. “What is this all about?”

“It’s about us doing normal shit couples do. Terry might want to blow our heads off, but there are plenty of places where that fuck can’t get to us.”

“So I have Terry to thank for all of this?”

Ian digs his fingers into the flesh of Mickey’s thigh. “No, you’ve got your hot fucking boyfriend to thank for this.”

“Right and why did my boyfriend put on his best whore outfit and then drag me out of the house like this?” he says gesturing at himself.

“You think you would have come if I sent you a formal invite?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Bullshit. You still want to leave,” Ian says. He feels Mickey’s hand on top of his own.

“If you want to be here, I’m here,” Mickey says.

 

Ian goes to take a piss about an hour later. He isn’t drunk, exactly, but he is definitely not sober, so when he sees the guy who tried hitting on Mickey when they first got there, Ian has the bizarre urge to punch him in the back of the head. He doesn’t, but only because he can’t go to jail while he is still in his probationary period at work.

Ian slides back into the booth with Mickey and puts an arm around his shoulder. Mickey had more to drink, but the man still has the audacity to shake Ian’s arm off.

“Fine,” Ian says. “You just wait until we get home. I’m going to fuck the life out of you.”

Mickey smirks and says: “Why wait, bitch? Is the bathroom that nasty?”

 

If someone told Ian five months ago that soon Mickey Milkovich would be riding his cock, reverse cowboy on top of a toilet seat in a bathroom stall at a gay bar in Boystown, Ian would have laughed and then jerked off to the fantasy. But this is his life now, his life and Mickey’s life, and it feels damn good.

 

It goes from him sleeping at home on work nights and spending his weekends at Mickey’s, to him sleeping over at Mickey’s on most Sundays, too, because Mickey offers to drive him to work on Monday morning. Why not? Ian thinks. He has clothes at Mickey’s place now. And the clothes are in actual closets, which Mickey has now. No more digging for clothes through trash bags for these two all grown up boys.

 

It’s the first of April, a Wednesday. Ian comes home to the smell of chocolate cake? Brownies? He is starving and ready to steal whatever it is that Debbie is probably slaving over for a bake sale.

He stops in his tracks when he finds not Debbie, not Fiona, not even Liam in the kitchen. It’s Mickey and Lip.

“Edibles?” Ian asks, miffed, but not overly so.

“We’re just about to try them,” Lip says and grabs one from the neatly cut stack. “Diversifying the product line.”

“You eat that whole thing and you can’t leave the house tonight,” Mickey warns Lip and at the same time smacks Ian’s hand away when he reaches for one himself. “You gotta eat something first or you’ll have a psychotic break,” he says. “We’ll share one after dinner.”

“What’s for dinner then? It better be here in the next ten minute or I’m choosing a psychotic break anyway.”

“Debbie’s getting deep dish, she’ll be here in a minute,” Lip says. He takes a bite of his brownie. He then looks at Mickey, shocked. “What the fuck? This is delicious.”

“It’s the espresso, I told you,” Mickey says triumphantly and breaks a large piece off of Lip’s brownie. He breaks it into two smaller pieces and gives Ian half. Ian pops it into his mouth before anyone can remember the earlier objections.

“So, what’s the price tag?” Mickey asks.

“What did we say earlier? Twenty a pop based on grams. You can add another ten, tell ‘em it’s gourmet,” Lip suggests.

“Thirty bucks for a pot brownie? Who’s dumb enough to pay that?” Ian snorts

“You’ve been getting yours for free for too long,” Lip says. “College kids love overpriced bougie weed. It makes ‘em feel sophisticated and woke.”

“So forty-five bucks a pop,” Mickey decides. “Your oven can take two dozen at a time. If I sell all of them this weekend, that’s an extra grand.”

“You gonna buy a tv with that?” Ian asks, sneaking another piece of Lip’s brownie.

“Stop eating that,” Mickey warns.

“Why? The sooner I forget about this bullshit day, the better,” Ian says. “Got spit on by a junkie.”

“Did you deserve it?” Lip asks.

“No. That fuck OD’ed on the street and I pumped his stomach when he came in. Went fucking nuts when he woke up.”

“Don’t let junkies spit on you,” Mickey says. “You gotta be faster than that.”

“Thanks for the love and support, assholes. I’m going to take a shower and if there is no food in the house when I come back-“

“Then you’re going to bitch about it some more. We got it,” Lip says.

 

Ian runs up the stairs, the prospect of a hot shower almost as exciting as the prospect of deep dish pizza. He grabs a towel out of his room, notes the absence of anyone else in the house and strips down in his room. He listens, wondering if Mickey knows that no one else is in the house and wondering if he has the wherewithal to follow him upstairs.

Ian is already standing under the hot shower stream, rinsing the shampoo and soap off of him, when there is a knock at the door. He turns the water off.

It could be Mickey, but it could also be Carl or Debbie just getting home. “What?” He calls out.

The door opens, Ian pops his head out of the shower curtain to see Mickey slip into the bathroom, locking the door behind him.

“You have a bad day, tough guy?” Mickey asks. 

“Tired,” Ian sighs and steps out of the shower. Mickey grabs the towel Ian left on the sink, unfolds it and slings it around Ian’s shoulders. He pulls him down for a kiss, a long and hot one that has Ian curling his arms around Mickey and settling into the comfort of his body.

“There,” Mickey says, pulling away and pressing a last kiss to Ian’s cheek. “Now we both got junkie aids.”

 

Debbie is home and the kitchen table is set when Ian comes downstairs. Mickey and Lip are already sitting at the table and Debs grabs a bottle of Coke out of the fridge.

It’s just the four of them, with Fiona working late at the restaurant and Liam and Carl having some sort of school event that is only marked on the calendar in Carl’s shitty handwriting as ‘school shit 5-9’.

They watch Lip scarf down half the pizza by himself and chug almost half a liter of coke down over it.

“Strong weed?” Debbie asks.

“You want to try it?” Mickey offers.

“It’s a school night,” Ian says.

“I got first three periods off,” Debbie shrugs.

So for desert they end up sharing two brownies amongst the four of them. They eat pretty much everything in the house and pass out in the living room watching Fahrenheit 451 for Debbie’s philosophy assignment.

 

Fiona comes home around one thirty and wakes them up to go to their beds.

Mickey heads to the front door, still rubbing sleep out of his eyes and Ian has to drag him up the stairs, whispering threats until he finally stops fighting. Liam and Carl are already in bed, and Ian makes Mickey get into bed first, so that Ian can block him from attempting another escape.

They fall back asleep wordlessly after that.

 

Their walks on the pier become a little less private as the weather shifts towards spring. There are more people there in the weekends, families going out on boat rides and having picnics near the coast. It’s not exactly warm yet, in fact at night it’s still freezing, but Ian is still mesmerized by seeing Mickey out in the world without all the layers. No big puffy jacket, no hoodies. His skin looks paler in the sun and is a stark contrast with the black sweater he is wearing, in pretty much his size, though he has to roll up the sleeve twice. Ian teases him for it, of course he does, and he doesn’t say how fucking cute he thinks it is.

It’s stupid, but Ian thinks it’s kind of romantic. When they sit in the grass that day, Ian feels it. They might not be exactly like other couples. They’re still too unhinged, too rough around the edges to ever even attempt to go on a double date. But these days they do pretty well when it’s just the two of them. Mickey smiles at him these days, easy and personal and sweet, like it’s just for him, just for Ian.

Do you love me, Ian wants to ask, staring at Mickey’s profile. Are you ever going to feel half of what I feel for you?

 

They stop for gas on their way home. Ian stays in the car when Mickey goes inside to pay for the pump.

As far as Ian can see, there is no one else in the gas station, so when two songs on the radio play from start to finish, Ian starts to wonder what the hell Mickey is doing in there. He’s probably just taking a piss, Ian thinks, right as Mickey appears at the door of the gas station. He pushes through the door, stepping outside. Right behind him is Terry Milkovich.

“Jesus Christ,” Ian curses out loud. He makes an attempt at lowering himself in the seat, but it’s too late. Terry Milkovich seems to stare right at him, face unmoving. Ian still hopes that the bright lights of the station blind Terry enough, but when the man turns to Mickey and then turns back to peer through the window of the car, Ian’s heart sinks.

Mickey looks tense. They exchange a few words and then Mickey starts walking off while Terry is still talking.

Mickey climbs into the Jeep without saying a word, starts the car and drives off.

“What did he say?” Ian asks.

Mickey looks at him like he forgot Ian was even there. “Nothing,” he says with a painful expression.

“You think he saw me?”

“So what if he did?” Mickey sighs.

“Everyone knows I’m gay, Mick. There is no way he doesn’t realize.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” Mickey says. “Short of a bullet to his head, nothing is going to work. If you’re scared, you can... I don’t know, break up with me now.”

“Oh shut the fuck up,” Ian sighs. “But...”

“What?”

“We can’t hide forever.”

“We’re not hiding,” Mickey says, annoyed. “The fact that I don’t take you home to my sweet, gentle soul of a dad, doesn’t mean I’m hiding. I go on your stupid dates, don’t I?”

“Yeah,” Ian admits. He’s not sure why he is so frustrated. Seeing Terry reminded him that the man isn’t just some dark, abstract spirit hanging over them. Terry is a real man, with a real relationship with his son, capable of real, devastating violence.

Mickey is trying to be open with him, Ian knows this and appreciates this. There are kisses now, random and sweet and they give him butterflies each and every time they catch him off guard. They go out, they eat at restaurants, they go for walks and hang out with Ian’s family at the house. It is more than Ian could have ever hoped for.

Except he knows that Mickey still always has his guards up. Always, even when it’s just the two of them lying in bed in his apartment. A noise in the hallway can grab Mickey’s full attention.

“Why do you still contact him?” Ian finally asks the question he’s been wanting to ask for months now. Ever since he realized that Mickey’s weed business has nothing to do with Terry’s more sinister weapons dealing. As far as he knows, Mickey doesn’t rely on Terry for work anymore.

“Better to check in sometimes, than have him come looking for me,” Mickey says.

 

Mickey drops Ian off at the house rather than going back to the apartment. “I’m sorry about this,” Mickey finally says when they’ve come to a standstill. “I’ll bring your shit over in the morning. I just couldn’t risk having him following us to the apartment.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ian says. “Are you coming in?”

“No, I’m going to the house,” Mickey says.

Ian kisses him, to say goodbye. “Don’t go to prison for murder,” he tells him. “I can’t wait that long.”

 

It’s almost one a.m when Ian steps through the front door. Lip and Debbie are hanging out in the living room and look surprised to see him.

“Saw Terry Milkovich at the gas station,” Ian explains.

“Huh,” Lip says. “How did that go?”

“I didn’t talk to him, but he definitely saw me,” Ian says and pushes Debs legs out if the way, so he can sit down between her and Lip. She puts her legs back in his lap.

“Did Mickey say anything?” Lip asks.

“That if I’m scared of Terry, I should break up with him.”

“You’re not going to break up with him,” Debbie snorts, looking up from her phone.

“Of course I’m not breaking up with him,” Ian sighs. “This is such fucking bullshit.”

Debbie sits up, curls her arms around him and squeezes his shoulders tightly. “Worst case scenario, you move to Vermont and open a bed and breakfast together,” she says. “Remember, there are a lot of options before murder.”

“Not when you’re dating Mickey,” Ian says and relaxes into her hug. He doesn’t remember the last time she hugged him. Or that he had hugged her.

 

On Sunday, Ian doesn’t wait for Mickey to bring him his stuff. He’s not sure what he left there anyway. He takes the subway to the apartment and shoots Mickey a text when he is halfway there. He knows Mickey might still be at his dad’s house. He also knows that Mickey might be dead or that he might be halfway to Mexico because he killed Terry. A lot can happen in eight hours, and Ian doesn’t like the sick feeling of being worried about someone who seems to be literally capable of anything.

When he gets to Mickey’s building, his car is in the parking lot out front. It puts Ian at ease, and he can finally breathe normally during the elevator ride up.

Mickey opens the door while Ian is still fumbling with his keys in the hallway. Mickey pulls his eyebrows up at him.

“You’re stressed,” he says, and Ian hates that he knows that from just a glance.

“No shit,” Ian says, pushing past him into the apartment. “I’ve been worried sick about you.”

“About me? Why?” Mickey asks, sounding outraged.

“Because you went to your stupid fucking dad’s house. Don’t look at me like that. I get to hate him.”

“Hate him all you want, but don’t get worked up over him like that. He doesn’t deserve all that energy,” Mickey says calmly.

“This isn’t about him, it’s about you, idiot.”

Mickey still seems unimpressed. “I’m fine,” he says. “Great, even.”

“Great,” Ian mimics. “What is that smell?”

Mickey nods at the table and Ian stares at the biggest pile of weed he has even seen in his life. “Jesus, Mick.”

“Fresh harvest,” Mickey says. “I was going to bag half and roll a couple for next week.”

“I didn’t know you were working,” Ian says.

“I don’t have to be,” Mickey says. “What, you want to go out?”

Ian shakes his head. He grabs Mickey’s shoulder and pulls him closer, so that he can smell the top of his head.

“Is this it?” Mickey asks. “The psychotic break? You smelling my fucking head, right now?”

“I want to check if you showered,” Ian hums and that’s a lie. He’ll sniff Mickey’s head, the sweatier the better.

“Yes, I took a fucking shower. Ask next time,” Mickey says, but doesn’t push him away. Instead, he turns around so that they’re face to face. “What’s going on with you, huh? Terry got you this wound up?”

“Told you it’s not about him.”

“Yeah, you said it’s about me and then you stopped talking and started sniffing my head. If you wanted to fuck, you’d already be on me. So what’s the deal?”

Ian doesn’t really know. He wanted to see Mickey. That’s really all he wanted. “We can fuck,” Ian suggests.

Mickey shakes his head. “Pull up a chair. Two grams a baggie. There is exactly a kilo here. Half of it goes into the bags. I’m rolling up the rest. This scale is ultra sensitive, so you better use it. Don’t try eyeballing it.”

Ian takes his jacket off and pulls up a chair.

 

They are nowhere near done with the pile when Ian does start getting kind of hot at the way Mickey keeps darting his tongue out to lick the rolling paper. He adjusts his cock in his jeans, staring at Mickey’s lips shamelessly. Mickey notices immediately and smirks. “Time for a break, huh,” he says.

Ian pushes his chair back. “I want to fuck you on your back.”

Mickey frowns at that. “Again with this? You’re never going to hit the spot, Ian.”

Ian stands up, miffed and puts his hand out for Mickey to take. “I want to try again, come on.”

Mickey rolls his eyes and grabs Ian’s cock instead. He palms him through his jeans, firm and with purpose. He stands up and laughs when Ian latches onto his neck.

 

Ian doesn’t think he has ever seen anything sexier than Mickey Milkovich on his back, with his legs apart and stroking his cock. Then Mickey spits in his hand and starts stroking his cock again and now that is the sexiest thing Ian has ever seen. Mickey smirks up at him, puts one arm behind his head and says: “You’re not going to hit it.”

“Shut up,” Ian says, and snaps out of his trance. He coats his fingers in lube, and Mickey spreads his legs further on cue. Ian pushes one in, eyes on Mickey’s face. The man bites his lip, but doesn’t lose eye contact with Ian for even a second. He nods and Ian twists his finger, pulls it out, and then adds a second one. Mickey closes his eyes then, and this is the thing. This is what Ian wants to see more often. That gorgeous fucking face. Ian can hit the spot with his fingertips, knows exactly where to push to make Mickeys toes curl and his mouth fall open. And yet, Mickey has enough wherewithal to say: “This doesn’t count.”

“I know, you dick,” Ian sighs. He reaches for the box of condoms thrown haphazardly near Mickey’s head on a pillow. There was still one in there when he checked-

It falls down onto the bed. An empty wrapper. “No,” Ian says. “Do we have-”

“Just raw me already, moron,” Mickey says, and well, Ian isn’t going to question that for even half a second. He is in a hurry suddenly. He pulls his fingers out of Mickey’s hot hole, and coats his bare cock in lube. Mickey shifts his hips up a little bit when Ian presses the head of his cock right against his hole. It already feels different, it already feels like he is going to bust a minute from now. He pushes in, and is torn between watching Mickey’s hole stretch around his cock and watching Mickey’s face, contorted in pleasure. And then there is Mickey’s thick throbbing cock, twitching against his stomach. He loves how Mickey clings onto him in this position, his legs hooked around Ian’s hips, his hands on Ian’s shoulders.

“God, that feels good,” Ian feels the need to says, because it does feel good, incredible; Mickey’s hot walls clenching around his bare cock feel like fucking heaven on earth.

“Yeah,” Mickey says.

Ian moves in, pushing his whole cock in and bottoming out, he stays there, leaning down over Mickey’s body. Mickey grabs him by the back of the neck, kisses him, a hot open mouthed kiss that makes Ian’s mouth water, makes Ian want to taste every fucking bit of him. Ian can only do this for about two seconds though, before he feels the need for friction on his cock. He pulls out, just a little bit and thrusts back in. Mickey is still kissing him, his nails digging into the back of Ian’s neck. Ian pushes into him again, oh god, and then again.

“Oh no,” Ian blurts right into Mickey’s mouth and then nuts, hard and with no going back.

Mickey stares at him, their faces less than an inch apart and then laughs, loudly. He curls his arms around Ian’s chest and squeezes the breath out of him. “Was that it, tough guy?” he snickers. “You proving me wrong, huh?”

Ian laughs, because, god, that felt fucking good and Mickey’s delighted laughter is one of the few things that will never seize to send Ian spiraling into the best mood he can possibly be in.

“Sorry,” Ian says around an exhale. He pulls his cock out of Mickey and drops his head down on the man’s chest.

“For what, dumbass?” Mickey snorts. Ian curls his hand over the hand Mickey is still stroking himself with. Mickey pushes his hand away. “In my ass,” he directs and Ian does as he is told. He drags himself up again and pushes his fingers against the puckered hole, trying to gauge if he needs more lube. He pushes one finger in, and then he feels it, the hot sticky liquid; his own nut leaking out Mickey’s ass. Ian watches, fully mesmerized by his own cum leaking out around his fingers.

“Put your mouth on my cock,” Mickey groans. Ian happily obeys. He blows Mickey and fingers him until he cums down Ian’s throat.

He slithers back up to Mickey’s side and curls an arm over his chest. Ian kisses him, and he keeps kissing him, because it feels like something he could do all fucking night long.

But Mickey is more determined to be a bully. “That was a new record, I think,” he smirks. “Why the hell did you nut so fast?”

“Because I love you, you bitch,” Ian sighs.

“Yeah?” Mickey questions lazily. “All that came from the heart huh? Had nothing to do with you rawing me for the first time?”

“All from the heart,” Ian says.

“I’m going to be cleaning cum out of my ass from now on, aren’t I?” Mickey asks.

“I’m never buying condoms again,” Ian says. “You don’t know how good that felt.”

“No, I think I got the gist,” Mickey snickers. “Too bad you couldn’t hit the spot, that would be something.”

“I’m starting to think it’s impossible,” he sighs into Mickey’s shoulder.

“It’s not like you to give up.”

Ian tries not to think too much about how Mickey doesn’t say that he loves Ian, too. Ian can feel it. He feels it in the fingers scratching his head, in the soft expression in Mickey’s face. It would be nice to hear it, though.

 

Debbie texts Ian later that week while he is at work, asking if they can talk later that night. Ian calls her immediately.

“You’re not pregnant, are you?” is the first thing he asks.

“No,” she responds. “And no one’s dead and no one is dying. Just come home tonight and we’ll talk over dinner.” 

“What is this about, Debs?” Ian asks, worried.

She sighs and finally says: “It’s about Frank. I’ll talk to you tonight.”

 

Debbie has been talking about her prom dress for weeks now. She’s been out with Fiona for three weekends in a row looking for the perfect dress. The perfect dress turned out to be a dress they found two shopping trips ago and that was far too expensive for Debbie to buy on the spot. Fiona had asked Lip and Ian if they could put in a hundred bucks each, and she’d pay another two hundred bucks and Debbie would pay the last third. It is probably the most expensive piece of clothing anyone in their family has ever bought, but Ian doesn’t see a reason why they shouldn’t do it. Debbie is rarely this excited about anything. The dress has been hanging on her closet door for over a week now.

“Prom is this Friday,” Debbie tells Ian that evening. He already knows this, it’s all she’s been talking about. Fiona is working on dinner and Liam is doing his homework at the table with Lip looking over his shoulder. They can hear Carl talking on the phone upstairs.

“I asked Frank to come to the house, so we can take pictures,” Debbie then says. Lip, Fiona and Liam don’t react. This is an announcement for Ian only.

“Why would you do that, Debs?” Ian sighs.

“Because I want to have at least one memory of him that’s not totally fucked,” Debbie says, a little heated. “And I want you to be there, too.”

“I’m going to be there,” Ian says. “Of course I’m going to be there, but Frank isn’t.”

“Ian,” Fiona warns.

“What? Debbie, you’re not this stupid. You know that the chances of him showing up are actually zero,” Ian says.

“He said he’d come,” she says, stubbornly. “And if he doesn’t, then that’s fine too.”

“And if he does and he’s a drunk fucking mess? Then what?”

“Then it’s like old times,” Lip chimes in. “We’ll snap a couple of pictures anyway.”

“Can you just promise me not to be a dick about it?” Debbie finally asks Ian. “Please?”

“I’m the dick?” Ian asks. All four of them look at him, pretty meaningfully. “Fine, this is the last you’ll hear from me about it.”

Ian doesn’t think that Frank is going to show up. The amount of times that Frank showed up to something he was actually invited to can be counted on one hand. When he does show up, it usually has disastrous consequences.

 

He leaves work an hour early on Friday, so that he can be part of Debbie’s elaborate pre-prom celebration. When he comes home, the limo Carl managed to finesse is already parked in front of the house, along with the family car.

When Ian steps into he house, he is a little more cautious than he would usually be, because as skeptical as he is about Frank showing up, he doesn’t want to be caught off guard by him either.

But the house is quiet. Maybe a little bit too quiet. He had expected to find Debbie and her friends to be pregaming in the living room, dripping booze on their overpriced dresses before they even got to the prom.

Ian goes upstairs, and then he hears it.

“No, don’t tell him,” Debbie says and she is… crying. Ian pushes the door to her room open without a second thought.

Fiona and Debbie are sitting on the bed, Debbie’s eyes are red and puffy. Ian can’t remember the last time he saw her cry. “What is going on?” he asks. “Debs, is this because Frank didn’t show? I promise you, you’ll have more fun without him here. Come on, put on your dress.”

“Frank was here,” Fiona finally says, looking up at Ian.

“Don’t tell him,” Debbie says softly.

Ian’s blood turns cold. “Don’t tell me what?”

“He took her dress, Ian. And the receipt. Lip and Carl are out looking for him, but he probably returned the dress right away and took the money.”

Ian’s ears are ringing and his eyes are trembling. He turns around, walks down the stairs and grabs the car keys off the table.

 

Ian has every intention of murdering Frank as soon as he sees him. But the thing about a cockroach is that it’s slippery and fast and it hides in disgusting places that Ian doesn’t always know how to find. He is not at the Alibi and he is not under the bridge. Lip and Carl also text him that they’ve visited every other bar they know him to frequent, but the fucking thief would know better than to go somewhere where they could find him.

Ian is already on his way back to the house, while he calls Mickey to vent.

“So go get it,” Mickey says.

“What?”

“Go get the dress,” Mickey says. “If he returned it, they have it. You know where she got it?”

“It was a six hundred dollar dress, Mickey. I don’t know-”

“Just text me the store address and meet me there. Be quick, before they close.”

 

And Mickey is right. They do have the dress, still in the bag lying behind the counter. Mickey slams a huge stack of crumpled twenty dollar bills on the counter to pay for it. The girl behind the counter blinks rapidly and just starts counting the bills.

“I’ll pay you back next week,” Ian promises.

“Frank is going to pay me back,” Mickey says easily. “Whether it’s with money or with some of his teeth, that’s up to him.”

 

Debbie scream-sobs into his chest when Ian comes home and shows her the bag. Fiona punches him in the shoulder hard, and then they retreat back upstairs to get Debbie ready.

“Good call,” Lip says. “I was so fucking pissed, I could barely think straight.”

“So was I. I was raging out on the phone to Mickey. This was his idea,” Ian admits.

“Leave it to the gay thug to save prom, huh?” Lip smirks. “Where is he anyway?”

“Great night for business,” Ian answers. “What are we going to do about Frank?”

“I’ll deal with him,” Lip says tightly. “You have to try to stay out of this.”

“We can’t let him get away with this. She was fucking devastated-”

“I know, okay? Like I said, I’ll fucking deal wit it.”

“Like you dealt with it when she said she invited him? We should have never let her do that, Lip. We knew he was going to fuck this up-”

Let her do it, Ian?” Lip finally snaps at him. “We’re going to fucking tell her what to do now? You remember what happened when me or Fiona tried to tell you what to do? You ran of and tried to get your head blown off in fucking Afghanistan. Debbie is smart, okay? Smarter than you were at her age. She’s just a lot softer too. Knowing her, she’ll forgive him for this. We have to fucking deal with it.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Ian says. It feels like his legs are made of lead after that. He kisses Debbie on the cheek for her prom pictures, and they send her and her friends off in the limo that Carl drives to the high school. The whole time his legs feel like led and his heart feels like… like it’s not there anymore.

He doesn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night. He ignores Lip and Fiona when they try to talk to him and he avoids Liam. He goes to bed early, way too early, and when he wakes up in the morning, he still feels like that. He knows what this is. Always knew that it was going to rear its ugly head again sooner or later. He ignores Mickey’s calls that morning and forces himself out of bed, because he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

He leaves the house, walks around for a bit, in the hopes that some fresh air will snap him out of it. When that doesn’t work, he heads for the park and runs, as fast as he can, for as long as he can.

That doesn’t work either.

He sits down on a bench in the park for a while. It is colder than it has been in the last few days. He thinks it might rain, even, and feels the sweat on his body become cold. His sweatshirt is wet and refuses to dry up. He weighs his option, there, on that bench.

He can call Mickey. He can ask him to pick him up and ask if he can ride this out at his apartment. That way Debbie doesn’t have to see him like this right after her own issue. That way Lip and Fiona don’t have to hover over him for the rest of the day. Or week. Or month. That way he doesn’t have to share a room with his seventeen and ten year old brothers while he contemplates why life is no longer worth living.

But why would he do that to Mickey? And why would Mickey even let him? It is exhausting to think about.

Eventually, he goes back home. He can pretend for a little bit. He’s not seventeen anymore. He has been up and down since then, but he hasn’t had a severe manic episode since he got out of prison, now almost two years ago. This, the depression, comes back every once in a while. He has bad days sometimes. Days where things don’t really seem to matter that much; when he doesn't want to talk to anyone or see anyone. He’ll be on autopilot until his mood shifts and it usually doesn’t take more than a day or two.

It has been almost a year now, since Ian felt like the world around him has shifted into something else entirely, something so much heavier. He knows how to deal with this better now. He isn’t allowed to stay in bed. He has to shower every day. He has to get dressed every day. He has to keep taking his meds every day. If he does at least that, things will eventually shift back. If there is anything Ian learned in prison, it’s that the monotone routine - no matter how boring - is what works.

Things will shift back eventually. He just doesn’t know when and as he trudges through the days, he wonders if this is it or if it is going to get worse.

A week goes by with Ian going to work and coming home and going to bed with minimal interaction with anyone around him. He uses all of his energy to act like a normal, healthy person at work and all the distractions there, all the problems that are not his own; he strangely appreciates how it takes him out of his own head. He ignores Mickey’s phone calls and constantly feels guilty about it. He tries to respond to his texts, tells him that he is working double shifts at the hospital.

Lies to him.

By the end of the week, on Friday evening, Mickey shows up at Ian’s bedside.

Ian only notices because he can smell the vague scent of weed mixed with the sweet scent of flowery soap. It’s heartachingly familiar and one of Ian’s favorite scents. Today, it fills him with dread.

He feels the bed dip, and then there is a hand on his shoulder. Ian finally turns around. He sees Mickey first and then Lip standing in the doorway. Lip looks apologetic, like he has done something he knew Ian didn’t want him to do. He leaves after they lock eyes.

Ian turns to lie on his back and doesn’t look at Mickey. Mickey is staring intently at him. “Why didn’t you call me?” he asks.

“Didn’t know what to say,” Ian says, staring at the underside of Carl’s bunk.

“He says you haven’t been out of bed in a week. You could have told me that,” Mickey says.

“So you could do what?” Ian asks, coldly.

“Whatever you want.”

“I don’t want anything.”

Mickey stands up then. For a moment, Ian’s heart sinks, thinking Mickey is leaving again already. But then he watches the man kick his shoes off and shrug his jacket off. “Move,” he says. And Ian does. He moves towards the wall and Mickey lies down in the small empty space besides him. Mickey brings a hand up and touches Ian’s face. A firm, rough hand on Ian’s cheek. Mickey moves in closer and presses his lips against Ian’s temple. He leaves his hand where it is. Ian closes his eyes and breathes in, breathes in Mickey Milkovich. “I’m sorry,” Ian says.

“Me too,” Mickey says. “I should have come sooner.”

“You shouldn’t have come at all,” Ian sighs.

“Why? Does being alone help?”

“I’m not alone.”

“They said you haven’t talked to anyone all week.”

“Everyone in this house is a fucking snitch.”

Mickey moves his thumb, stroking Ian’s cheek and then his lips. He puts his thumb on the corner of Ian’s mouth and pulls it up. “Oh fuck you,” Ian snorts and turns onto his side, turning his back on Mickey. He is pissed. Pissed that Mickey made him laugh.

“Come home with me, then,” Mickey says. “If you live in a house of snitches.”

“You don’t want to hang out with me like this, Mick.”

“I’m not talking about hanging out. You can be as miserable as you want there.”

“You’re going to get sick of me sooner or later,” Ian says. “I don’t know how long this is going to last.”

Mickey puts a hand on Ian’s back, warm and heavy. “However long it lasts.”

“Do they want me to leave?” Ian asks.

“Who?”

“Fiona. Lip.”

“No. All Lip said was that you hadn’t gotten out of bed in a week except to go to work and that you refused to talk to anyone,” Mickey says. Ian doesn’t think he’s lying. “Refused to eat.”

“Well, you can tell them I talked,” he says.

“Ian, I want you to come with me,” Mickey finally says. “I don’t want you to be alone.” Ian. He said his name, serious.

“I’m not alone.”

“But you feel alone. Otherwise you would have talked to someone. Look, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I just… I don’t want you to feel alone, because you’re not.”

That makes Ian turn around. He wants to see Mickey’s face. He wants to know if Mickey knows what he is saying. If he knows that Ian is going to cling onto those words.

Mickey grabs his face again, as soon as Ian turns around. He brings their foreheads together. Ian thinks that he is going to kiss him, but he doesn’t. “If you stay here, you have to talk to me. Every day.”

“You just said I didn’t have to do anything I don’t want to.”

“One thing,” Mickey says easily.

 

Ian leaves with Mickey on Saturday morning. Mickey spent the night in Ian’s bed. He looks tired in the morning, like he hasn’t slept at all, and Ian doesn’t know how he could have. He was stone cold sober and crammed into Ian’s tiny bed for twelve hours with Ian who on his own was too tall for that bed anyway.

Ian takes his prescribed shower that morning and when he comes back to get dressed, Mickey is dozing off in Ian’s bed. He hears Ian come in and sits up straight slowly. Liam and Carl are still asleep, so Ian sits down on the bed in his boxers and t-shirt. He puts on a pair of clean track pants. He puts on a sweatshirt. “I want to go with you,” Ian tells Mickey without looking at him. He puts on his socks. “But you have to tell Fiona and Lip that it was your idea.”

“Why?” Mickey asks.

“I don’t want to deal with it,” Ian shrugs.

“Fine. Pack your shit,” Mickey says and leaves the room.

Ian grabs his clothes, only sweats, underwear and t-shirts and his work scrubs. He drags a duffel bag out from under his bed and throws the clothes in without folding them. When he looks up, Carl is staring at him from the top bunk.

“You leaving with Mickey?” he asks.

Ian doesn’t want to answer. He’s not sure why, but he doesn’t want to talk to Carl or to Liam or to anyone else. He knows that it’s not fair. He knows that Mickey would hate him for ignoring Carl.

“Yeah,” Ian says.

“Are you going to come back?” Carl asks.

“I don’t know,” Ian sighs. “Probably.”

Carl doesn’t ask anymore questions and Ian picks up his bag and leaves the room. Downstairs in the kitchen Lip and Fiona look up as soon as Ian enters. Mickey has a cup of coffee at his lips.

“You want some breakfast before you go?” Fiona asks. She holds a glass of juice up for him.

“Uh, no,” Ian says, looking from her to Mickey. “We’re leaving now.”

“Have some fucking juice, asshole. You’re wasting away,” Mickey says.

Ian doesn’t have the energy to argue, so he doesn’t. “I’ll wait outside,” he says and leaves.

Mickey follows him outside only a few minutes later. Ian is waiting for him by the passenger’s seat of the car. Mickey clicks the doors open as he walks down the front steps.

“Do I want to know what they said?” Ian asks, as Mickey walks around the car.

“If you did, you’d have stayed in the room,” Mickey answers and gets in the car. Ian gets in and for some reason he expects Mickey to go off on him. He looks tense and tired. Ian expects him to start yelling, to start asking him where the fuck he thinks he gets off not calling him for a week. Ian deserves it, and he’ll sit there and listen to it, if he has to.

Mickey turns to look at him. He doesn’t say anything. He barely smiles, but it is there and Ian settles into the seat as he drives away.

It takes way too long for Ian to realize that they’re not going to the apartment. He’s been staring out of the window without seeing anything for half an hour.

Mickey parks the car in their usual spot. He takes his seatbelt off, rolls down his window and lights a cigarette.

They’re overlooking the pier, but from here all they can see is the open stretch of the lake. It looks endless, a million times bigger than anything else Ian has ever seen, short of the sky itself. He has still never been to the ocean.

Mickey hands him the cigarette pack and his lighter. Ian lights one. He has been smoking way, way too much in the last week. In fact, the only fresh air he’s gotten apart from the five minute walk from the house to the subway on his way to work, was him hanging his head out of the window in his bedroom for half the night.

Ian rolls down the window on his side. It’s still early. In a couple of hours the parking lot will have filled up, but for now it’s just them right there.

“Do you have to go to a doctor?” Mickey finally asks.

Ian exhales, most of the smoke coming out of his nose. “I called her Wednesday,” Ian says.

“Yeah?”

“She said to wait it out.”

Mickey turns his body, leans his back partially against the door. “She can’t do anything about the meds?” And Ian hears Fiona and Lip in that question, desperate for the quickest fix. Ian had asked the psychiatrist the same thing.

“Look, you can’t tell anyone about this, alright?”

“Pinky promise,” Mickey says, rolling his eyes. “What did she say?”

“I told her about the thing with Frank. She said it was probably a trigger thing and the meds were working fine. This just happens. If I don’t feel better in three weeks, call again.”

“Who knew Frank would be a trigger for you,” Mickey says. Ian feels a smile tug on his lips, but he doesn’t want to talk about Frank anymore. Or ever again.

“I got one last question for you,” Mickey then says. “And you have to be real with me.”

“Pinky promise,” Ian says, rolling his eyes.

Mickey looks at him intently and then, as casual as he has ever sounded, he asks: “Do you want to kill yourself?”

No one has ever asked Ian that directly. He has read it on forms he had to fill in, doctors have asked him if he ever thought of hurting himself. No one ever looked him right in the face and asked him if he wanted to kill himself, without using some sort if vague euphemisms.

“Not really,” Ian says. “As a kid, I used to think about it a lot. Right now... I just wish I could close my eyes and wake up and feel normal again. I don’t exactly want to be awake for this.”

Mickey nods, thoughtfully and then turns on the radio. Ian sits there with him for a while. He would rather be home, where it is quiet and where he doesn’t feel like he needs to be doing something. He doesn’t complain, though, because why would he? It doesn’t matter whether he is here or at the house or at Mickey’s apartment. Right now, it just doesn’t matter. 

 

It takes four days for Mickey to finally snap at him. On Tuesday night, Ian comes home from work, takes all of his clothes off and buries himself in bed without a word. He is vaguely aware that Mickey is in the living room, following him with his eyes.

Mickey comes into the bedroom a few minutes later. “What do you want to eat?” He asks, for the fourth night in a row and like those previous three nights, Ian says: “I’m not hungry.”

“Stop with that shit,” Mickey snaps and that’s new. The nights before he’d just told Ian what he’d order and that he should have some when he’s done being braindead. Yesterday Ian had two bites of a slice of pizza. The night before he ate a cold bowl of rice at three a.m when Mickey was asleep. “Tell me what you want and I’ll get it for you. Anything,” Mickey says.

Ian doesn’t answer.

“Ian,” Mickey presses.

“No, Mick,” Ian says, mustering up all the force he can get into his voice. “Leave me alone.”

Mickey does. He doesn’t leave the apartment, but Ian doesn’t hear him for the rest of the night either. Later that night, thirsty and anxious, Ian walks out into the living room and finds Mickey sleeping on the couch. It doesn’t look comfortable and Ian wants to wake him up and tell him to come to bed, but he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t do anything. He drinks a glass of water and goes back to bed.

 

On Friday evening, Mickey tells him: “Your brother and sister are coming over. Put some clothes on.”

Fiona and Lip call him every day. Usually early in the morning when he is on his way to work or later, right as he gets off from work. He doesn’t answer their calls. He texts them sometimes that he’ll call them later. He never does, but he knows all they care about is a sign of life. He doesn’t have anything to say to them and they know that.

Ian puts on a clean sweatshirt and tries not to notice that he doesn’t exactly fill it out like he used to. It’s not too big, the difference isn’t very noticeable, but Ian notices the slightly looser fabric around his arms. He puts on jeans for the first time in two weeks.

To his surprise, it’s not Fiona and Lip who push through the apartment door. It’s Debbie and Carl.

“What are you two doing here?” Ian asks, genuinely confused. He answers Debbie’s hug and is a bit taken aback when Carl swings his arms around them, too.

Mickey closes the door and tells them to sit down and wait for the food to arrive. Ian is still trying to grasp this turn of events as Carl is telling him a story of them seeing a guy falling off his motorcycle on their way there, when he vaguely hears the front door open and close. Mickey just left.

 

Carl and Debbie stay for the rest of the night. Ian doesn’t hate it. They only ask him how he is doing once and then talk about the apartment (“damn, how much did that tv cost”) (“oh my god, that rug is so cute. Who picked it out?”) and about school and work and Liam. Ian tells them they should have brought Liam and they say they’ll bring him next time.

Massive amounts of food from the Cheesecake Factory arrive, which Debbie and Carl destroy without Ian’s help. They don’t seem to have any plans to leave. At one point they stop trying to talk to Ian completely and just sit back and watch tv.

Mickey returns around midnight and Carl asks him for a joint as soon as he steps through the door. Mickey lights one, takes the first pull himself and passes it to Debbie.

Ian thinks that this must mean they’re staying the night. He is exhausted already, so he doesn’t wait much longer before retreating to bed. He closes the bedroom door behind him, gets out of those damn jeans and gets under the cool covers. He can hear them talking in the living room and he listens to them for quite a while, wondering why they came and why they stayed. Ian wasn’t good company, Mickey could attest to that. He has been stuck in this apartment with Ian for a whole week now and Ian could feel the frustration vibrate off of his skin in the last couple of days. His patience with him is already running thin and Ian can't blame him. He just hopes Mickey can last a little bit longer.

 

When Ian wakes up the next morning, Mickey is sleeping on the couch again and Carl and Debbie don’t seem to have stayed over after all. Mickey must have driven them home.

It’s Saturday. Ian doesn’t have the distraction of work, of other people’s physical problems to deal with. It’s a long day, because he tends to wake up early. He drinks a glass of juice and quietly tries to clean up the mess of take out containers they left out the night before, without waking Mickey up. He fails. He is just about to pick up the full ashtray when he feels Mickey’s hand firmly on his ass. Ian is surprised by it, and even a little bit embarrassed. He turns around to look at Mickey. Mickey doesn’t let go, lets his hand slide over Ian’s thigh. He is still sleepy eyed and he has his free hand cupping his own cock through his sweats.

It has been over two weeks since they had sex. Ian hadn’t really thought about it much (that’s not true; he hasn’t been horny at all, but the fact that they were not having sex was constantly eating at him) and Mickey hadn’t tried to make a move on him. He would kiss him, chaste, but meaningful enough. It let Ian know that he was still there. It wasn’t sexual.

Until now.

Ian wonders if he can do it. Maybe his body will take over once they get started. Mickey sits up on the couch and lets his hand fall off of Ian’s body. “Sorry,” he says, rubbing at his eyes.

“No,” Ian says.

“I know, sorry,” Mickey repeats and wants to get up. Ian pushed him back down onto the couch and straddles his lap. Ian kisses him, slow at first. He tries to remember how he is supposed to feel. Mickey rests his hands on Ian’s hips and pulls him in as closely as he can, kisses him back like he actually knows what he is doing, like he is actually feeling something.

Ian can do this. He can make Mickey want him, he can make Mickey feel good, he can make Mickey want to stay-

“Hey,” Mickey says, pulling away. Ian chases his lips, but Mickey puts a strong hand on his chest. “Hey,” he repeats and reaches up to Ian’s face. He wipes at Ian’s cheek.

Ian brings a hand up to his own face and is surprised to feel that his cheeks are completely wet.

He tries to get up, tries to run, fully intending to lock himself away for the rest of the day, but Mickey traps him with his bizarre strength. He grabs onto each of Ian’s arms and holds him in place. Ian stares at him, feeling completely insane. This is not how you make someone stay.

Mickey says his name. Soft and gentle and this time Ian does feel the tears prick behind his eyes. He drops his head onto Mickey’s shoulder. “I don’t want to feel this way,” He breathes, desperate. “I don’t want to be an asshole.”

Mickey curls his arms around his bare back and hugs him tightly. “You get a pass,” Mickey sighs. “But you have to keep talking to me, okay? Ian? About this, about how you feel. You feel like shit, you tell. I don’t care if you got to tell me every day.”

“Why? So you can get depressed as shit, too?” Ian asks, muffled.

“Yes. That’s how it works. Sickness and health and all that shit. You wanted to be a couple, remember?”

“Yeah, and you agreed before you knew about this bullshit.”

“I knew you were a nut job when we met. You got to be, trying to get with me.”

Ian lets out a shaky breath. He nods, remembering a time, not very long ago, when Mickey was the crazy one between them. Maybe they’ll get back to that one day.

 

Mickey doesn’t let him go back to bed. Instead, he forces Ian to stay in the living room with him. Mickey doesn’t try to talk to him a lot, but does ask Ian what he wants to have for lunch.

Ian says: “I want Kev’s tomato soup.”

Mickey is surprised to get an answer at all and Ian is surprised to want anything at all, but the excited expression on Mickey’s face makes Ian a little bit shy. How could Mickey be so happy about Ian wanting some fucking tomato soup?

Mickey gets dressed immediately.

“Regular tomato soup is fine too,” Ian tells him. “If Kev doesn’t-”

“He will,” Mickey grins and gives Ian a kiss before he takes off.

 

Mickey comes back with a whole pan full of the stuff and Ian has to tell him to stop staring at him while he eats it. It’s the first thing in weeks that hasn’t made him feel completely sick when hitting his stomach. 

 

Ian declines the invitation to go out for a walk afterwards. “Maybe tomorrow,” he says.

 

But tomorrow, on Sunday, Ian asks Mickey to stay in bed with him. He is too terrified to say it out loud, but since his break down the day before, the cloud seems to have been lifted just a little bit. He is still tired, too tired to think of going out and having fun. His limbs still feel heavy.

But he wants Mickey to stay with him, to be in the room and to talk to him. And maybe it’s not fair, to ask Mickey to give his whole day up for him. He asks him to do it anyway.

Mickey doesn’t complain, just takes his rolling papers and his weed with him to bed and sits there, rolling joint after joint while Ian scrolls through the family groupchat for the first time in two weeks.

He reads about Debbie’s prom updates from that night. He reads how Lip asked if someone could drop his wallet of for him at work, because he forgot it. He reads how Carl asked if someone could pick him up from a party last Saturday night. How Fiona told everyone to look at the grocery list. How they ask him how he’s doing every single day.

They’ve texted him separately too, and Ian tries to answer those texts, sometimes, but he had been too exhausted to keep up with the group chat. He feels horrible now.

“What’s with the face?” Mickey asks him.

“They hate me, don’t they?” Ian sighs.

“Who?”

“Everyone. Fiona.”

“Why would Fiona hate you?” Mickey frowns. “I’m pretty sure she’d die for you.”

“I always... even when we were kids I always let her down. I was such a dick to her, all the time. I’d blame her when things weren’t fucking perfect, like she could do anything about it. And then I’d just run away. Let her and Lip deal with the bullshit on their own.”

“They’ll have your back, no matter what,” Mickey says. “Maybe you were a dick, so what? I’ve got dickheads for brothers. Even my sister can be a fucking bitch sometimes. Doesn’t mean I won’t bail any of them out of jail. Hell, if Terry catches me on a good day, I might even bail his ass out of jail.”

“You shouldn’t do that.”

“My point is that you’re smarter than to think a couple of mistakes are going to make them write you off. That’s just not how family works. Otherwise you would have put Carl down a long time ago.”

Ian snorts at that. “Maybe. I still feel bad about it. I always have, not just now. You know, Fiona and Lip did Twelve Steps. They tried to make amends about a lot of stuff and I never really... I was in prison for most of it, but I also never took it that seriously.”

“You should just talk to a shrink already,” Mickey says.

“The waiting list at the clinic is three months.”

“Then go to a private one.”

“I’m talking to you now, aren’t I? Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Talk all you want and I’m listening, but I’m not a psychiatrist. I dropped out after middle school.”

Ian looks at him intently and then asks: “Have you ever been to a shrink?”

“Me? No,” Mickey snorts. “That’s for pussyboys like you.”

Ian rolls his eyes. He had though he might learn something interesting about his boyfriend, but alas.

 

Later that night, after one more bowl of soup, Ian decides to try again. Mickey is lying down next to him, on top of the covers while Ian is lying under them. Mickey has been scribbling in his notebook and checking his phone intermittently for over an hour. He calls it accounting, and every time Ian tries to peak to see what all the numbers mean, Mickey shoos him away. At eleven, Mickey goes to sit in the living room and he tells Ian to go to sleep, work tomorrow, like a weird mom would do.

Ian does fall asleep for a little while. He wakes up when Mickey comes back to bed. He climbs into bed carefully. Ian is lying on his side, facing Mickey’s side of the bed.  He watches Mickey in the dark, and he is about to close his eyes again and let sleep take over him, when he sees Mickey adjust his cock under the covers. He quickly stops, but he now has Ian’s full attention. Ian waits to see if there is going to be more, and after a few minutes, there is. Mickey shifts his cock again. All Ian can see is his hand move under the covers. It’s lazy and somewhat hesitant. And then he stops again. Ian closes his eyes quickly, like a fucking lunatic. He doesn’t want Mickey to see that he’s awake. He doesn’t want Mickey to stop.

But after a moment, Ian can feel the covers shift around him. Ian opens his eyes just in time to see Mickey swing his legs over the bed, ready to get up again.

Ian reaches over and grabs Mickey’s arm. Mickey turns to look at him. Ian can’t see his expression, but his voice cuts deep: “You okay?” He asks.

“Stay here,” Ian says. “Do it here.”

“Do what here?” Mickey asks, sounding genuinely confused.

Ian tugs on his arm and pulls him back into bed. “You know what,” he says softly. Ian isn't turned on, exactly, but he is getting warm at the thought of Mickey jerking off under the covers while he is in bed with him.

“You want to watch me jack off?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah.” 

Mickey lies back down, one hand on his cock. “You’re not going to help?”

“Nah.”

Mickey finally shoves his hand into his sweats and tugs on his erection a few times.

“Pull it out,” Ian says.

“Go to sleep,” Mickey growls. Ian laughs and reaches over. This, this he can do. He spits in his hand and shoves that hand into Mickey’s pants as well. Mickey makes space for him, lets Ian curl a hand around the base if his cock and jerk him off.

He knows that it’s mediocre. Mickey would obviously much rather Ian use his mouth on him, but Ian still enjoys the way Mickey’s chest heaves as his breath quickens. He enjoys the arm Mickey slides under Ian’s neck and the fingers tangled in his hair. Mickey cums in Ian’s hand and Ian wipes it on Mickey’s t-shirt.

“Dick,” Mickey chuckles around a sigh.

“Let me spoon you,” Ian demands and Mickey turns onto his side. Ian slides up against him, buries his face in Mickey’s neck. His cock is soft against Mickey’s ass. He is too tired to try and get it hard and the last thing he wants is for Mickey to watch him fail.

 

The following week is a bit of a haze. Ian doesn’t feel as heavy and solemn as the weeks before that, but his mind is still foggy and he still would rather stay holed up in the corner of Mickey’s apartment all day than do anything else. But now, he has enough energy to watch some bullshit reality television while he is doing it. Mickey calls it ‘depression-tv’ and he is right about that.

Fiona shows up on Wednesday night with a lasagna. She gives Ian a hug at the door, squishes his face and is about to leave when Mickey asks what Ian wants to ask: “You’re not staying for dinner?”

“I don’t want to, uh, intru-“

Mickey looks at her like she’s crazy. “Are you out of your mind? Sit down.”

Ian knows that this is his fault. It is his fault that his sister will always feel like she is intruding. He has made her feel unwelcome on so many occasions that this is the result of it. He wonders if she wanted to come by sooner, but didn’t because she felt like Ian didn’t want her there. She would have been right, in the first few weeks.

“Hey, this place looks good,” Fiona says with a bright smile. “Debs said you had a fancy smancy rug. You did all this?” She turns to Mickey who shrugs.

“It was still practically a crack den two months ago.”

“He doesn’t sell crack,” Ian is quick to assure her.

Fiona gives him a strange look and says: “I know that.”

 

During dinner Fiona asks him mostly about work. “I haven’t ruined it yet. My probationary period ends at the end of the month. They already said I could stay. You know, as long as I don’t ransack the drug supply in the next couple of weeks.”

“Has it been three months already? That’s great, Ian. You know, Lip looked over your credits when he was helping you with your interview and he said that with all the classes you took in prison, you’re only a few credits shy from getting your bachelor’s degree in nursing.”

“Yeah, that sucks,” Ian says.

“What do you mean ‘that sucks’?” Mickey frowns. “Why don’t you finish it?”

“Twelve thousand dollars is why,” Ian sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “And my brain is fried, so I don’t really feel like thinking about doing any extra shit at the moment.”

“Of course, but I think it’s worth revisiting when you feel better.” She says it with her eyes on Mickey and not on him.

Ian looks at Mickey too and he is just shoveling lasagna into his mouth.

Fiona leaves a little past ten, giving Ian another hug that could crush his bones. She ruffles Mickey’s hair and he pushes her hand away after allowing it for two seconds. When they close the door behind her, Ian turns to Mickey and says: “You’ve been talking to her.”

“She’s been talking to me, mostly.”

“What have you been talking about?”

Mickey shrugs. “What the fuck do you think we’ve been talking about? She is worried sick about you. If it was up to her I’d be filming your every move all day long and send it to her.”

“What do you tell her?”

“The truth. That some days are worse than others. You can’t be mad at her for keeping tabs on you.”

“I’m not mad,” Ian sighs. “I’m not. I’m just so tired of everyone being worried about me all the time.”

“Poor fucking you,” Mickey says. “You’re not too depressed to do dishes, are you?”

 

On Thursday Fiona brings over her famous rice and beans, but has to leave immediately for work. On Friday she brings over pasta.

“You don’t have to do this,” Ian says.

“I know,” she says with a hand on his cheek. “I can’t stay right now, but how about I come over tomorrow morning and give you a haircut?”

Ian rakes a hand through his hair. It has been getting pretty long and it is starting to look more and more like he has given up completely. He hasn’t combed his hair once this week.

“Okay,” Ian agrees.

 

She arrives on Saturday afternoon, a little after one and besides her clippers and her scissors, she also brings Lip with her.

“I hear we’re having a spa day,” he says pulling Ian into a tight hug. It has been three weeks since he saw him. It feels surreal, how happy Ian suddenly is to see him there.

“Where’s Mickey?” Lip asks.

“He didn’t want to get in the way,” Ian says.

“That soft bitch,” Lip smiles and gives Ian a little slap on the cheek.

 

It is also surreal to have the three of them piled into Mickey’s bathroom. It feels strangely nostalgic. Fiona has been cutting their hair for years. When they were younger, she’d do all of them in one day, washing their hair carefully, massaging their scalps. They pull a chair into the bathroom for Ian to sit on, while Lip takes a seat on the closed toilet.

“You look like shit,” Lip tells him, catching Ian’s eye in the bathroom mirror. “Does Mickey fuck you like this?”

“No, he doesn’t,” Ian says. “But I don’t think the hair is the issue.”

“Put your head in the sink,” Fiona tells him. “Don’t break your neck.”

Ian leans his head back, and feels warm water run over his scalp a few second later.

They don’t ask him a lot of questions after that. They talk to each other more than to him, while Fiona massages shampoo into his scalp. It feels amazing, good enough that Ian relaxes under her fingers and forgets to listen to anything they’re saying for a long time. He doesn’t blink his eyes open again until Fiona rinses his hair and tells him to sit up straight again. “So? About an inch off the top and a buzz on the side?”

“Uh, maybe not an inch,” Ian says, thinking about Mickey’s fingers running through his hair. “Half?”

 

He closes his eyes again. They don’t stop talking, not even for one second, and it isn’t about anything they haven’t talked about a hundred times before; Fiona’s dickhead boss, Lip hating each and every one of his jobs, Debbie’s graduation, Carl’s inevitable demise one of these days. Liam’s school shenanigans. Ian doesn’t know how much time passes, but he doesn’t open his eyes again until Fiona turns on the blowdryer.

Lip flips him off in the mirror as soon as soon as his eyes open, just because.

 

They don’t exactly ask him to go grocery shopping with them. They more like tell him that’s what they’re doing and he will also be there while they do it.

He notes, absently, that there are far less groceries in the cart than the usual Saturday groceries, but doesn’t think the answer to why could possibly be interesting enough for him to waste a question on.

When they get back to the apartment building, Ian realizes he was wrong. Because instead of saying goodbye, they get out of the car. “What are you doing?” Ian asks, watching Lip pull the grocery bag out of the back seat.

“Hanging out. Our time ain’t up, is it? Or am I going to have to fight your boyfriend for custody?”

 

And that’s how for the first time since Ian stepped into the apartment, the stove and the oven are turned on. Ian has never even touched the thing. The only pan they have is Kev’s soup pan and they still have the oven dishes Fiona brought over a few days ago.

 

Fiona just about puts the mac ’n cheese in the oven when Mickey comes home. He takes in the three of them, Lip is in the middle of a story about a dickhead customer while he is doing dishes, Ian at the kitchen table pretending to scroll through his phone and Fiona sitting cross legged on the couch.

“Hey, Mick,” Lip greets him with a lazy smile. “We missed you at Walmart.”

“I’m banned from Walmart,” Mick says, and kicks his shoes off. “This is a Target household.”

“How do you get banned from Walmart?” Fiona asks. “After the shit I’ve seen there over the years, you’d think they don’t adhere to the law of the land.”

“Retribution,” Mickey explains. “You don’t need to know everything about my life.”

Ian makes Mickey tell the story over dinner, because he knows Lip will enjoy it and it will send Fiona into a cold sweat.

Ian is reminded that Mickey and Lip are... friends. He is not sure how close they are, he’s not sure how often they talk to each other, but it becomes clear that Ian isn’t the only thing to connect them. Lip has always been fascinated by characters and if anyone can appreciate Mickey’s existence close to how Ian appreciates it, it’s Lip. Lip laughs a lot, not just at the actually funny things that Mickey says, but also just at how Mickey is.

Ian wonders how the separate relationship between them developed while he wasn’t paying attention.

 

They leave after dinner, and Ian doesn’t think he has been this tired in weeks. He hasn’t tried to be social outside of work since Debbie and Carl came over.

When Mickey is done doing the last of the dishes, he drops down next to Ian on the couch and ruffles his hair.

“You like the haircut?” Ian asks.

“You mean the same haircut you’ve had since we met? It’s alright,” Mickey shrugs. “You look better.”

“I feel okay,” Ian says and leans into Mickey’s warmth. Ian kisses him, just a touch of the lips, dry and chaste. Ian has been trying to be more physical with him, but since the hand job they haven’t really done anything sexual. He is pretty sure Mickey jacks off when Ian is at work, so that he doesn’t have to bother Ian with it at night. Ian had enjoyed giving Mickey a hand, but he can understand that Mickey might not have had as much fun as he would have if Ian was actually hard too. He is a soft bitch like that, Ian knows.

So Ian kisses him again, with his lips parted this time. Mickey respond eagerly, with a hand on Ian’s face.

Ian knows he should make a move. Grab Mickey’s cock, grab his ass, suck on his neck - but Ian’s body doesn’t lead him there. There is no blood rushing to his cock, but it still feels... nice.

“I can, uh, blow you,” Ian offers, pulling away just a little bit, just enough so that Mickey can’t actually look him in the eye.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mickey says absently, he pulls back a little bit, but Ian isn’t having any of that. He pushes Mickey back all the way, until he is lying on the couch on his back.

“You don’t have to-” Mickey starts.

Ian crawls over him, settles on top of him with his full weight. Their faces are less than an inch apart. “Fine,” Ian says. “But I want to make out with you.”

“Fine, homo,” Mickey smirks and brings a hand up to Ian’s face.

 

Ian knows that he is somewhere close to what he considers normal, when he wakes up with a boner.

It’s a Thursday morning. He’s had a full night’s sleep and can’t remember any weird dreams. His cock is hard, much harder than it’s been in the last month. The first thing he does is turn around. Mickey doesn’t move when Ian slides up against him from behind, but when Ian starts pressing kisses on the back of his neck, he stirs. Mickey reaches a hand back, absently, landing on Ian’s hip. Ian, feeling mischievous and excited, grabs Mickey’s hand, pulls it down a little and plants it on his hard cock, over his underwear.

Mickey stills for a moment and then says: “No way.”

“Uhuh,” Ian hums and let’s go of Mickey’s hand. He grabs Mickey’s hip and grinds his cock against Mickey’s ass instead.

Mickey doesn’t waste any time. He lifts his hips up, slides his pants and underwear down to reveal his ass, and lies down onto his stomach. “Get on me,” he breathes.

Ian doesn’t need to be told twice. It takes him a split second to squeeze some lube onto his finger, the bottle tucked within reach under the bed. He presses his fingers between Mickey’s ass cheeks and into the heat of his hole. Mickey takes them in with a little groan, his hole feeling impossibly tight around Ian’s fingers.

Ian awkwardly fumbles with the bottle of lube with one hand. He coats his cock quickly and probably not thoroughly enough. But he can’t wait much longer. He pulls his fingers out of Mickey’s hole and replaces them with the tip of his cock.

He feels Mickey buck back against him, take in more of Ian’s bare cock and Ian presses open mouthed kisses against Mickey’s shoulders, his neck, between his shoulder blades. He moves his hips and has to close his eyes, he has to, that’s how amazing it feels. Ian grabs one of Mickey’s hands and threads their fingers together under the pillow.

He doesn’t last very long, but having Mickey under him again, hearing his rumbling groans and feeling his bare skin on his own, it’s mind blowing either way. He cums inside of him, shakily and with a deep moan.

Mickey follows him seconds later, grinding into the mattress shamelessly, pushing back into Ian’s softening cock. It has Ian’s head spinning, his vision blurring. He rests his head between Mickey’s shoulder blades as he slowly pulls out his cock.

It takes him a minute to open his eyes again.

They’re still under the covers. They’re still wearing their shirts, their pants are around their knees. God, he needed this. He mouths at Mickey’s neck some more, at the bare stretch of skin under his ear.

“Get off me before I piss the bed,” Mickey says finally, but doesn’t shove him away, like he has done plenty of other times. “You need to get ready for work.”

“I’m sick,” Ian say, and takes Mickey’s earlobe between his teeth.

“I still have to piss,” Mickey reminds him.

Ian finally rolls off of him, but follows Mickey right into the bathroom. Ian strips down to the sound of Mickey pissing and he drapes his shirt and his underwear over Mickey’s shoulders, before stepping into the shower. Mickey calls him a dickhead, but joins him in the shower thirty seconds later.

“Was it good?” Ian asks, grabbing the bottle of shampoo off the rack. He squirts it into his hand, way too much, and flops half of it onto Mickey’s head.

“Might have been some of your best work, Gallagher,” Mickey grins, as he starts washing his hair.

“See, I thought so, too. But maybe we just forgot what good sex is like,” Ian says.

Mickey pushes Ian out from under the stream so that he can rinse his hair. “Whatever,” he then says, he reaches down and lifts the head of Ian’s dick with one finger. “I’m glad to have the big boy back for a minute.”

 

Ian officially gets a permanent position at the hospital the next day, on Friday the 25th of May. It’s also Ian’s birthday.

It’s more than a little bit bizarre to have people who he’s known for three months enthusiastically congratulate him. There are streamers. His name is on a cake.

Ian hadn’t forgotten his own birthday, exactly. He was sort of vaguely aware of it all week, but he had been much too distracted the day before, because his cock was working again. Mickey had gotten home late the night before and he was still asleep when Ian left.

Of course, the family group chat started blowing up when he was on the subway on his way to work. It’s Liam who texts first, a string of emojis that make Ian smile. It’s when Debbie asks about a party that he stops reading. His dick might work again, but he most certainly is not in the mood for a party. Especially not one where he is the center of attention.

Of course, at work he becomes the center of attention anyway, but he could care less about these people, so he doesn’t feel the same pressure.

He forgets all about it again, until the end of the day when he checks his phone in the locker room.

Picking you up, Mickey texted him about an hour ago. Ian checks the time, annoyed at himself for straggling. He could have been sitting in the car with Mickey ten minutes ago.

He changes out of the scrubs in record time and rushes out into the parking lot. As soon as he steps out, there is a honk. Ian looks up to see Mickey’s Jeep, double parked a few yard away. He honks the horn again. And again and again and again, until Ian yanks the passenger’s door open.

Ian is about to ask him if he lost his fucking mind, but falters at Mickey’s smile.

“There’s the birthday boy.” He honks again.

Ian climbs into the car. “Who told you?” he asks.

“All of them.”

“I’m not going to a surprise party,” Ian says. “And if you try to bring me to one, I’m breaking up with you.”

“Your sister is making dinner at the house,” Mickey says. “She wants you to go.”

“And you lied to her and said that we’ve got plans, right?”

“I said I’d drop you off at eight. That gives you enough time to go home and put on one of those little outfits you like so much.”

“Mick, I really don’t feel like doing a whole thing tonight. I just want to hang out. Just the two of us. We can get cake and fuck all night. Remember that? Remember fucking?”

“Nice try, bitch. She said it was just going to be the family. No party or anything.”

“But what if it is? I can’t do that right now.”

“Then we leave, who cares,” Mickey shrugs and starts the engine.

 

They stop off at the apartment first so that Ian can put on one of his ‘little outfits that he likes so much’. Ian considers trying to fuck Mickey in an attempt to make him forget all about going to the house. He thinks he can do it. Probably.

And yet, the possibility of it not working, of his cock not fully rearing to go, is too humiliating. There is no way Mickey has been attracted to him in the last month or so, and the truth is that Ian has not been attractive. He has been sloppy and rude and emotional and constantly complaining. Mickey might not wanted to fuck him even if he could.

 

“Surprise!”

Ian has half a heart attack when Liam jumps up from behind the door. Ian glances around; Debbie and Carl are on the couch. Lip and Fiona in the kitchen and Liam is standing there, holding up a neatly wrapped package. The house smells like cinnamon and apple pie.

“Jesus, kid,” Mickey is first to respond. “You trying to kill him before he turns twenty-five?”

 

They make Ian open his gift at the door. How he fully forgot that gifts were part of birthdays, he can’t explain.

“Mick told us your phone has been acting up,” Lip says. “And we can’t exactly have you out there in his world with no way to contact you.”

“My phone?” Ian asks and as soon as the words leave his mouth he figures it out. He has about a two hundred unread text messages and over a thirty missed calls on his phone. He glances at Mickey who shakes his head, just lightly. Ian stares at the brand new iPhone in his hand, still in the packaging. Ian’s current phone is three models older, but still works fine.

“Mickey paid for half of it,” Debbie says. “But it was my idea.”

The irony isn’t lost on Ian; Mickey lying to his family about his phone being broken to cover the fact that Ian has been ignoring all their calls and text messages, and then having to buy Ian a new phone, for no real reason.

“Who do you people think you are?” Ian says. “Did Jeff Bezos move in while I was gone?”

“Say thank you, bitch,” Mickey says.

“Thank you, bitch,” Ian says, with his eyes on Mickey, and swoops Liam up into a hug.

 

They have dinner, they have pie. Carl challenges them to a Uno tournament and is first to lose in every round. There is no booze and no weed, just his siblings’ incessant voices all night. Mickey fits in among them seamlessly; how a grown man can argue with a ten year old for a good forty five minutes is a mystery for sure.

Ian goes to pour himself another glass of coke when Lip corners him in the kitchen. Ian is anxious for a moment, afraid that Lip is going to ask him how he is feeling.

“I know your phone isn’t broken,” Lip says. “I just wanted to see how far your boyfriend would go to cover for your ass.”

“You’re a dickhead,” Ian chuckles. “You think he’s going to make me return it?”

“No fucking way. He’s got money.”

Ian snorts. “What makes you say that?”

Lip looks at him a bit strangely. “I know you don’t get to see his books, but your boy is making bank with his sales. He never told you?”

“I know he sells, but he doesn’t show me his stacks of cash, if that’s what you mean. We keep talk about his criminal shit to a minimum.”

“Smart. He’s a better businessman than I thought,” Lip shrugs.

“The guy who is banned from Walmart is a better businessman than you thought?”

“He is also pretty much banned from the Apple store,” Lip says, as if he just remembered that.

“For what?” Ian snorts.

“Slapped a Genius’ iPad out of his hand when he told us to go wait in a new line after we waited in line for like twenty minutes.”

“They kicked you out?”

“We already paid. They gave us the phone and then kicked us out,” Lip chuckles at the memory. “So, I’m guessing he’s not been getting laid a lot, huh?”

“We had sex yesterday, actually,” Ian says, a little proud.

“We went to the Apple store on Tuesday,” Lip nods, as if that means something. “So how was the sex?”

“Amazing,” Ian says without missing a beat and raises his glass of coke. “Here is to hoping I can keep it up.”

“Praying for you,” Lip says and clinks their glasses together.

 

They leave before midnight. Ian has to admit that he is happy they went. It felt normal, being with the people who know him the best and who care enough about him at this point not to smother him or to rush him into pretending everything is fine again.

Ian is tired that night, but in his bones and not just in his head. He dozes off in the car for a couple of minutes and wakes up just a block away from the apartment building.

When they are inside, shoes kicked off and jeans discarded into a corner of the bedroom, Ian sits down on the closed toilet while Mickey is in the bathroom brushing his teeth.

“You really shot yourself in the foot with that phone thing,” Ian says.

Mickey shrugs and spits. “Your phone was an old piece of shit anyway. And your brother and sister paid for half of it.”

“How much money do you have?” Ian asks curiously. “You paid for Debbie’s dress and now the phone.”

Mickey shrugs again. “I got money.”

“Then why do you have exactly three shirts and two pairs of pants? Why do you buy ten pairs of underwear for three bucks?”

“Because I don’t give a shit about shirts or pants or underwear,” Mickey says.

“How much money do you have?” Ian repeats.

Mickey rinses his mouth and drops the toothbrush in the cup. He turns to look at Ian. “That depends,” he says.

“On the sales?”

“On why you want to know. If it’s because you want to finish those classes for nursing or whatever, then I have money. If it’s because you want me to buy more clothes and be some fancy faggot, I’m broke.”

“You have twelve thousand dollars?” Ian blurts.

Mickey looks at him, confused. “Do you know what I do for a living?”

“You sell weed, not fucking cocaine. Right?”

“Right. And how much do you think the mountains of weed you see cost?”

“I don’t fucking know. I try not to do the math to know exactly how long you could go to prison for if you get caught.”

“Weed’s legal, bitch.”

“Uhuh, I’m sure you have all your taxes and permits in order, huh.”

“Tax evasion is six year, max,” Mickey shrugs.

Ian grabs Mickey’s hand, rough, scarred and tattooed. He threads their fingers together. “And that’s it? There is no way you’ll ever be charged with assault or attempted murder again?”

Mickey looks at him, just a little bit differently. “You think I’m a killer?”

“I didn’t say that,” Ian says. And then: “Are you?”

Mickey snorts and lifts Ian’s shirt. “Are you wearing a wire or something?”

“You think I’d rat you out?” Ian asks, pulling the shirt over his head. He drops it on the floor. He pulls Mickey in closer by his hips, so that he is standing between his legs. “You think I wouldn’t cover for you after what you’ve done for me?”

“Me buying you half an iPhone isn’t exactly the same as covering up a fucking murder,” Mickey says. He rests his hands on Ian’s shoulders, thumbs rubbing at his neck muscles.

“You know what I mean,” Ian says. He slides his hands under Mickey’s shirt, plants them firmly on his warm skin. “One of these days you’re going to tell me everything.”

“Uhuh,” Mickey hums. “Get up. I don’t want to blow you on the fucking toilet.”

 

Mickey gets on his knees as soon as Ian sits on the edge of the bed.

“It might not-” Ian breathes out.

“I can try, can’t I?” Mickey asks, quirking up an eyebrow. He takes Ian’s soft cock out of his boxers casually. Ian lifts his ass off the bed and Mickey tugs the underwear all the way down his legs. Mickey looks focused and very determined. Ian bites his lip, because he can already feel the heat pooling in his groin, just at the sight of Mickey between his knees.

Mickey takes the head of Ian’s cock into his mouth and does that thing with his tongue that Ian is obsessed with. It takes him less that thirty seconds to get Ian fully throbbing.

 

“You can’t wear this anymore,” Ian says, yanking the old, ratty grey t-shirt out of Mickey’s hand right as he is about to put it on.

“Do you want to fucking die?” Mickey asks.

“Why would you wear this dog blood stained shirt if you can just buy some new shit? We’ve washed it five times already, the blood is not coming out.”

“So fucking what?” Mickey snaps and yanks the shirt back. “If you think you’re tricking me into going to the mall, you’re out of your mind.”

“You need new clothes.”

“You need to shut the fuck up.”

 

They go to the mall.

Ian knows he’s pushing his luck. How many more stores could Mickey possibly get banned from before he actually gets arrested? Mickey doesn’t try anything on, just touches things and grabs them if he likes the way the fabric feels and doesn’t really look at the price tags. It’s all black, grey and dark blue, and to Ian’s surprise, he also picks a dark burgundy red sweater. Ian has to remind him every time to check the size and not grab anything bigger than a medium.

“You happy?” Mickey asks, annoyed and not looking at Ian, but at Ian’s freshly squeezed, seven dollar juice. “I’m going to be a fancy faggot like you now.”

Ian brings the straw to Mickey’s mouth, and Mickey looks at him like he is insane before grabbing the cup with his empty hand and taking a sip.

“You’re never going to be a fancy faggot, Mick, but you can at least be a clean one.”

“You think I’m dirty?”

“Hella dirty, what the fuck,” Ian snorts.

“I think I liked you better when you were depressed as shit,” Mickey says.

Ian flips him off at that, and wonders when he stopped being depressed as shit. He feels... normal. Okay.

It’s not until they’re leaving the parking lot, and Mickey stops at a crosswalk while a heavily pregnant lady, holding a small toddler’s hand crosses the road and Mickey mutters: “Look at this fat slut,” that Ian cracks and breaks out into real, honest laughter.

Chapter Text

 

The weather in June is Ian’s favorite. It’s warm, but the breeze keeps it bearable. It still rains every now and then, giving the city a bit of different smell than the heat of full on summer or the incessant snow of winter. Ian barely remembers what the weather in May was like this year, but he enjoys June. Maybe he enjoys it a little more when Mickey is peering up at him, one eye closed in an attempt to block out the sun. His hair has gotten long on top, and it gets tossed in the wind coming from the lake. In the sun it looks deep brown, rather than black. He is wearing one of his new t-shirts. Grey, incredibly soft and more expensive than Ian expected he’d go for. A size small would have fit him perfectly, since the fit is loose already. Buy Mickey got a medium, and the already wide neck is wide enough to expose his collarbone a little bit.

“Thought you drowned in the lake,” Mickey tells him, blowing cigarette smoke out of his nose as Ian hands him his cup of coffee, before sitting down next to him on the pier. He only leaves about an inch of space between them.

“There was a line. There are a lot of people here today.”

“It’s a nice spot,” Mickey shrugs, eyes on the stretched out water.

“You ever come here with anyone else?” Ian asks. Mickey doesn’t look at him and it takes a while for him to answer. He takes another drag of his cigarette.

“I used to come here with Mandy,” he finally says, surprising Ian. “When we were kids. Sneak out at night. We’d hop on the boats, find an easy one and take it out onto the water.”

“You’d steal a boat?”

“We’d bring it back to the dock,” Mickey shrugs.

“You know how to... ride one of those?” Ian asks, nodding at the speedboats in the distance.

“Not really,” Mickey snorts. “We capsized a bunch of them. We could have died every time we did it.”

“When do I get to meet her?”

Mickey looks at him then. “She knows about you.”

“I’d sure hope so. We’ve been dating for eight months, Mickey.”

“Feels like it’s been longer,” Mickey says.

“Can’t imagine a live without me, huh,” Ian teases. “But I’m serious. I want to meet her. We could drive up to New York for fourth of July maybe.”

“I’ll ask her,” Mickey says.

Satisfied, Ian takes a sip of his coffee. “So no boys?” he then asks.

“Huh?”

“You never brought another boy here? On like a date?”

“Why would you want to know that?”

“I want to know everything about you. You’d think I wouldn’t have to pull it out of you by now.“

“You like sad stories too much,” Mickey says.

Ian lets that one sink in for a moment. “What’s the story?”

Mickey presses the cigarette bud out onto the wood panel below them. “There was one boy. Long time ago. We were seventeen, eighteen maybe. We’d do the same thing. Come out here at night, pick a big boat, but we’d leave it docked. We’d just screw in it.”

“That’s... fun.”

“Maybe I should stop there then,” Mickey says.

“No. What happened to him?”

“My dad. You know the story. The kid ran. I never saw him again. Didn’t call him and he didn’t call me.”

“He ran?” Ian blurts, a flare of anger seeping into his voice.

“What else was he going to do, tough guy? We were just kids back then.” Mickey shrugs, takes a sip from his coffee. He licks a drop off his bottom lip.

“Did you love him? That kid?” Ian asks.

Mickey shrugs again. “I didn’t know anything about no fucking love.”

It’s the first time Ian hears Mickey say that word. Love. It sounds foreign in his voice. Ian notices it, the way he pauses for less than a second before the word rolls off his tongue. A gust of wind sweeps the cigarette bud off the pier and onto the water under their feet.

“You know a thing or two about it now,” Ian dares. He knows he might get his head bitten off for the assumption, knows in fact, that he shouldn’t assume. Mickey might not love him, maybe he does, and maybe he loves parts of him and hates others. It’s becoming harder for Ian, though, to keep his distance, not to jump head first into them after Mickey saw so much of Ian’s miserable vulnerability. He thinks of a time in his life when he would have ran, as far away from Mickey Milkovich as he could, if he saw him like that. But Mickey… had stayed for him. Ian didn’t know it was possible, but he had fallen even deeper.

Mickey doesn’t answer. He also doesn’t deny it and he doesn’t smack Ian in the face, so that’s something.

“You’re the one with all the boyfriends,” Mickey finally says.

“Not really,” Ian replies and sits back, leaning on his hands. “A couple. The rest was just... a mistake, I guess.”

“You love any of them?”

“Nah,” Ian says without hesitation. “At the time I thought maybe, sort of. But now? It doesn’t even compare. Don’t look at me like that. You asked.”

“It was a yes or no question. I didn’t ask you to fucking elaborate.”

“You know, if you didn’t want me to fall in love with you-”

“Shut the fuck up already-”

“-you shouldn’t be so good at sucking dick.”

Mickey looks at him, finally. His eyes, bright blue and hard and always filled with something Ian has been trying to figure out since the day he first saw him. Mickey is really not hard to read, usually. He is pissed when he is pissed and he is happy when he is happy and everything is written on his face. It’s the words, or lack thereof, that tend to complicate things.

The pier is dark, quiet and empty when they finally get up to leave. The temperature has started to drop, so they walk down the pier in a steady pace, back towards the parking lot.

Mickey surprises Ian by grabbing his hand. For a second, Ian thinks Mickey is just holding it, and Ian is about to melt, when Mickey stops dead in his tracks, yanking Ian to a halt.

“You want to do something stupid?” Mickey asks him. Ian follows his gaze to the large boat, docked right in front of them.

“Are you out of your mind?” Ian whisper shouts. But Mickey is already pulling Ian towards the flank.

“Mick,” Ian hisses at him.

“We’re just going to take a look,” Mickey says. And just like that, Mickey lets go of his hand and hops onto the deck of the boat. Ian takes one last look around before he follows him.

The deck is smaller than it looked from on the pier. Mickey is peering into the hut. He turns to Ian, grinning.

“We’re not stealing a boat,” Ian says.

“There is a bed in there,” Mickey replies.

And well. Ian is willing to compromise.

It takes Mickey less than a minute to shimmy the lock to the hut open without breaking it and for them to slip in. It’s small, tiny really, but there is a bed. The only light seeping into the boat comes from far away street lights. It is just enough to see Mickey turn to him and grab his face. Mickey kisses him, firm and with purpose.

They fuck in a stranger’s bed, in a stranger’s boat. Besides it feeling amazing, Ian’s heart pretty much beats out of his chest the whole time.

If it hadn’t gotten so damn cold that night, they might have considered staying the night there, but Ian also thinks it’s kind of nice to finish the walk to the parking lot with Mickey tucked under his arm, feeling loose and satiated and well, in love.

 

“Hey, dickhead, by the time you’re done getting ready for your date, your coffee is going to be ice cold,” Mickey says, shooting Ian an annoyed look from the bathroom door. Ian is working on a particular annoying strand of hair, has been for a while.

“You’d think you’d want me to look as hot as possible when meeting your sister,” Ian shoots back.

“The hotter you get, the more she’s going to think I’m paying you to be with me.”

Ian has FaceTimed with Mandy Milkovich a few times in the last few weeks and she had been, well, very much like Mickey. From the same piercing blue eye to the dark hair and pretty lips. She also immediately called Ian a whore and claimed Mickey was paying him. She also called Mickey a ‘fucking lying homo’ and Ian would have been annoyed by it if Mickey hadn’t called her a ‘stupid fucking bitch’. It had been very hard to get a word in edgewise the first time, but Ian had called her again, a day later, and told Mickey to stay in the living room while he spoke to her in their bedroom. She proved to be much nicer, and much easier to talk to than Mickey had been when they first met. In fact, the few conversations he’s had with her since then have made Ian want to make a good impression on her.

Mandy flies out to Chicago rather than have them going to New York. That’s a bit of a bummer, because Ian had been pretty excited about going on a trip, but Mandy had been more excited about ‘coming home’ for a few days.

“How do I look?” Ian asks, turning to Mickey.

Mickey rakes his eyes over Ian’s body. The dark blue long cut t-shirt, stretching over his chest. The jeans, hugging his thighs. “Like I’m paying you to be with me,” Mickey says. “Leave the hair. It’s better when it’s not perfect.”

 

When Mandy appears at the arrival gate, Ian only realizes that she’s there because suddenly Mickey is hugging a girl, a mess of dark hair, sweet perfume and fully tattooed arms. They are the exact same height, Ian notices for some reason.

And then Mandy says something, holding Mickey at an arms length. And then Mickey says something back.

For a moment, Ian thinks he’s hallucinating, because that definitely ain’t fucking English.

“ти гарно виглядаєш, сука,” Mandy says.

“ти теж, Курва,” Mickey replies and then: “This is Ian.”

“Yeah, I know,” Mandy then says, taking Ian’s outstretched hand. She looks him up and down unapologetically. “Tall fuck, huh. How much did he pay you to come all the way over here?”

“He is a tall fuck,” Mickey says, before Ian can answer. He takes Mandy’s suitcase.

“Hi, uh, did you just speak Russian?” Ian asks stupidly.

“Ukrainian,” Mandy says with a glance between. “How long have you been dating again?”

“No, he just never- he never told me -“

“About his mother tongue?” Mandy snorts. “Not a great case for him not being a callboy, Mickey.”

“Oh shut up. You think I rattle off my life story to everyone I meet? Let’s go, before I get a parking ticket.”

Ian keeps his mouth shut about it and hopes he doesn’t look too shook at the fact that his boyfriend of eight months apparently speaks a whole other language and Ian had absolutely no fucking idea. Mandy and Mickey talk incessantly during the drive and Mandy is nice enough to pull Ian into the conversation from the backseat, but every now and then a Ukrainian word slips out - and it sounds normal coming out of her mouth, Ian doesn’t know any better, but Mickey sounds so different in that language, even his voice sounds different.

They stop at a restaurant for lunch, Mandy’s choice, and when she gets up to go to the bathroom (‘gotta take a piss’) right after they order the most expensive deepdish pizza Ian has ever seen, Ian turns to Mickey in their booth furiously and smacks him on the back of the head.

“What the fuck,” Mickey curses, dropping the drinks menu on the table.

“Why the fuck did you never tell me you were Ukrainian-Ukrainian? Now she thinks I’m some asshole who knows nothing about you.”

“Relax, will you?” Mickey snaps. “I only ever use it with my family, so how the fuck would it even have come up?”

“You can just fucking tell me, how about that? How about you tell me when your fucking birthday is, too? Before I find out it was three damn days ago.”

“It’s not a big deal, you idiot. Who cares if she likes you?” Mickey says. “December 25th.”

“Huh?”

“Our birthday is on December 25th.”

Ian’s ears our ringing. “On Christmas? Why have you never told me that?”

“You never fucking asked, you dickhead.”

“Did you just say ‘our birthday’?” Ian then asks, processing the strange choice of words.

Mickey looks at him like he has lost his mind. “Yes, moron.”

“You better be talking about you and Jesus, Mickey.”

“I definitely told you-”

“What are you so heated about?” Mandy asks, strolling back to their table. She sits across from them, eyeing the two of them curiously.

”What has your brother told you about me, Mandy?” Ian asks her. He ignores the annoyed sigh coming from the asshole sitting next to him. “Before we talked.”

“That you’re a redhead,” she recalls.

“Anything else?” Ian asks.

Mandy glances at Mickey who is rubbing his face and then back at Ian. “And that you’re... the love of his life, I think.”

“Nice try. He would never say that,” Ian says.

“Okay, he said that your dick is huge,” Mandy tries.

“Also a lie. He didn’t tell you a thing about me.” Ian finally turns to look at Mickey. The man is staring straight ahead, shaking his head. He has a wry smile on his face, one that tells Ian that he is absolutely furious.

“You know, the fact that he brought you up at all...” Mandy tries, but Mickey cuts her off.

“Don’t indulge him,” he says, shortly. “We are not doing this right now.” He motions for the waitress who prances over immediately.

“Three beers,” he orders.

The waitress smiles in amusement and Ian feels like an absolute dickhead.

 

The alcohol helps. Ian has been sober since the start of his depressive episode, which was over two months ago now. He hadn’t had a drink and he hadn’t smoked any weed since. Mickey never offered him any, though he would come home sometimes smelling more like weed than he usually does when he comes home from work. There hadn’t been any booze in the apartment at all, and Ian hadn’t asked why. He knew why.

He drinks his beer eagerly, and Mickey orders them one more round during their meal. It’s fine, really. In fact, it’s practically magical to see Mickey casually interact with his, apparently, twin sister. He smiles a lot, talking to her, more than he smiles at anyone as far as Ian knows. He is relaxed and comfortable and he seems genuinely happy that she is there.

He is still pissed at Ian, though. Mandy notices it too and she seems to take pity on Ian for some reason and talks to him a lot, to compensate.

Mandy goes to take another piss before they leave while Mickey and Ian smoke a cigarette outside of the restaurant. “You’re still angry,” Ian feels the need to voice. “Look, I just thought you’d have told her something-”

“Don’t make this about you,” Mickey says sharply. “Not everything is about you.”

Ian clamps his mouth shut. He can feel his anger rising and looks away before Mickey can see it on his face. He is probably too late. Mickey could probably see it on the back of his head, even.

 

They bring a crate of beer with them to the apartment and manage to have a good time. Ian likes Mandy. In fact, he likes her a lot. She has an interesting life and an even more interesting personality. Ian could probably listen to her talk about her job as a tattoo artist in New York City for hours.

Ian still notices that Mickey hasn’t dropped the attitude towards him. He is annoyingly polite, does not call him a name or excessively tease him for something very very minor. Mickey is actively not bullying him, which is a dead giveaway that he is still upset with Ian.

When Mandy takes a shower, Ian helps Mickey get the couch ready for her.

“How are you still mad at me?” Ian asks softly, knowing how thin the walls are. “It’s been hours. I forgot what we even argued about.”

“You didn’t forget shit,” Mickey says, sounding uninterested in having this conversation.

“If anything I’m the one who should be mad, here. You haven’t told-”

“If you don’t shut the fuck up, you’re going to be the one sleeping on this couch, Ian.”

Ian. Just the sound of his name makes Ian clench his jaw. “Fine,” he snaps and yanks the pillow out of Mickey’s hand. “I’d prefer it.”

“I’m not letting my sister sleep in your cum stains,” Mickey says and yanks the pillow back.

“Then change the fucking sheets. I’m not getting into bed with you if you’re still pissed. I’d rather go home,” Ian says. It slips out and means nothing for a split second.

And then it means way too much. He sees Mickey’s gaze shift from him to the pillow and turn glassy for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” Ian says quickly. “I - we can talk about it in the morning.”

“Yeah, or not,” Mickey says coldly. He drops the pillow on the couch and turns around, disappearing into the bedroom.

Ian lets out a breath and sits down at the kitchen table. He wrings his hands, rubs his face, drags his fingers through his hair and considers really leaving. He sits there long enough to hear Mandy come out of the shower. He hears her muffled voice, and then Mickey’s, softer than he has ever heard even through a closed door.

Mandy comes out of the bedroom, gives Ian one glance and says. “I’m turning the lights off and going to sleep.”

“Good night,” Ian says.

“Are you going to just sit there all night?” She ask. She sits down on the couch, lifts her legs up and yawns around the last word. “That’s a creepy move, even if you’re gay.”

“I don’t think he wants me in there,” Ian admits.

“Well, I don’t really want you in here, so...”

Ian rolls his eyes at her. He gets up, turns the lights off and wishes her good night again. He closes the bedroom door behind him. Mickey is in bed, leaning against the wall, with his legs crossed under him. It is a hot night. He’s not wearing a shirt and his underwear is riding up his thighs.

He is rubbing the tattoo’s on his knuckles, but doesn’t move another muscle when Ian comes in.

Ian strips out of his clothes safe for his underwear. He leaves the pile of clothes on the floor, and gets onto the bed. He sits opposite Mickey. He wants to grab his hand, wants to ease the tension in his fingers. Good thing he knows that Mickey doesn’t like being touched when he is truly pissed.

Mickey surprises him by speaking up first. “You have to stop with the insecure bullshit,” he says, and it feels like he is looking directly into Ian’s soul. “Not everything is about you.”

The harsh words ring in Ian’s ears. All he can do is stare at Mickey’s hands for a moment.

“I didn’t want to ruin this for you, I swear,” Ian finally says when he finds his voice. “I was being an asshole.”

Mickey glares at him.

“I... look, you don’t owe me anything. But I’m asking and I’ve asked before for you to be more open with me. It’s not normal for me not to know Mandy is your twin after we’ve dated for eight months. Or to find out you speak a whole other language.”

“You’re right. I don’t owe you anything. We talk when we talk. I’m not trying to write a book about my life. You want to know something, ask me.”

“How could I know which questions to ask if I don’t even know you?”

“Now you think you don’t know me?” Mickey asks sharply.

“God, I do know you. But I want to know everything. Not just who you are, but why you’re this way. The people in your life...”

“They’re all criminals. All the people in my life are drug dealers and arms dealers and pimps. So no, I’m not going to sit around and tell them about my cute little boyfriend. People know we’re together. They don’t need to know more about you.”

Ian knows that Mickey is indulging him. He’s giving into Ian’s argument, because Ian is a fucking brat who threatened to leave.

“I love you,” Ian tries. “And I know you love me, too. I just wish you’d say it sometimes.”

“Maybe I don’t love you,” Mickey shrugs. “Maybe I just think you’re alright.”

Ian smacks him, hard, right it the middle of his chest. “Take it back.”

“You better stop before I downgrade you from boyfriend to just friend, bitch,” Mickey warns, he rubs his chest. “You keep this up and you’re going to be the best man at my wedding.”

“I would never let you get married to anyone else.”

“Yeah? What are you going to do? Set fire to the church? Plead insanity in court?”

“You’d be dead long before you picked out a church, Mickey.”

“Such a tough guy right after you had a hissy fit over not knowing my birthday.”

Ian relaxes a little bit. Mickey is bullying him again, which at the very least means he is not about to punch Ian in the face.

Ian reaches over lazily, wraps a hand around one of his calves and pulls his legs apart.

“Your birthday is on Christmas day. You share it with your twin sister,” Ian says. He scoots in closer and forces Mickey to rest one leg on each of Ian’s thighs. “That explains a lot about you.”

“Like what?” Mickey asks.

“Maybe you never had anything that’s just for you,” Ian says, tracing his fingers between the hairs on Mickey’s thighs.

“And?”

“And maybe you feel weird about having me.”

“So this is still about me, huh. There is no issue with you, at all?”

“I’ve got plenty of issues. You gotta be more specific.”

“You’re insecure.”

“What?”

“You were being a needy bitch today. Don’t look at me like that. I haven’t seen my sister in over six months and all you gave a shit about were your own bullshit insecurities.”

“That’s not true. I was pissed for a second, but we had a good time after. I think she likes me.”

“Sure thing, Romeo,” Mickey says and retracts his legs. “You were very smooth about it. I’m going to bed. Turn off the lights.”

Ian huffs in annoyance and gets off the bed to turn off the lights. He is not done with this conversation, not even fucking close.

He gets into bed next to Mickey who is turned away from him. Ian isn’t sure how long he stares at the ceiling, before he sighs and says: “I’m not needy.”

“Go to sleep.”

“It is not weird to want a sign that your boyfriend loves you.”

“It’s weird that you think I give a shit right now,” Mickey huffs in annoyance and turns onto his back. “Turn around.”

Ian huffs back at him, but begrudgingly turns onto his side. Mickey plasters himself against Ian’s back and grabs Ian’s hand, threading their fingers together. “Sleep.”

Ian thinks he can feel Mickey’s heart beating against his back. It’s not hard to fall asleep after that.

 

Ian blinks his eyes open and immediately knows he has a hangover. He had only had a couple of more beers the night before, but considering the fact that it’s been months since he had a sip, he isn’t exactly shocked.

They changed position during their sleep. Ian is curled around Mickey’s warm sleeping body. He moves his face in a little closer, pushes his face into the crook of Mickey’s neck. He inhales.

“So I guess you sluts made up, huh.”

Ian startles and looks around. For about a split second he wonders how the fuck this chick got into their home-

“Jesus, Mandy,” Ian sighs. She looks at them from the bathroom doorway, toothbrush in her mouth.

“I had to take a piss,” she shrugs.

“Are you still pissing or can you get the fuck out?” Mickey growls at her, startling Ian again. He lies on his back and he has to reach down to check if he is wearing underwear.

“Good morning to you, too, fuckface,” Mandy says. “Is there any coffee in this dump or do I have to go get some?”

Mickey flips her off before pushing the covers off of him and walking out of the bedroom and into the living room.

Ian listens to Mandy walk back into the bathroom, spit in the sink and rinse her mouth. Ian waits for her to leave, before getting up himself and stepping into the bathroom. For the first time ever, he locks the door while he is in there.

He takes a piss, takes his meds and throws back two Advils as well. He looks at himself in the mirror. He looks fine. He slept fine. It’s just the headache that’s a bitch. And also the fact that Mickey said that Ian was being needy and that he pretty much ruined his reunion with his sister. That’s a bitch, too.

Ian takes a quick shower, hopes it will ease the pressure he feels on his scalp. He doesn’t waste time getting dressed, pulling on a pair of black track pants and the first clean t-shirt he gets his hands on. He grabs his phone and his wallet and steps into the living room. His hair is still fully wet.

“Lip called,” Ian lies, glancing at Mandy and Mickey sitting at the kitchen table. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“What does he want?” Mickey asks, suspiciously.

“Something with the fireworks, I’m not sure. Bye, Mandy,” Ian attempts to save face.

“Bye,” Mandy says, absently. And Ian flees without looking at Mickey.

 

“But you are a needy prick,” Carl says, throwing a soccer ball at Ian’s head.

Ian catches the ball and launches it back at his younger brother, stretched out on a lawn chair with his feet in a kiddie pool. Carl catches the ball easily, kicks some water up at Ian who is sitting right across from him, pants rolled up to his ankles.

“He’s not wrong,” Lip says. He is the only one who dared to take his shirt off without any sunscreen. “But a twin? I don’t believe you.”

“I saw her with my own two eyes,” Ian objects. “She looks just like him.”

“Poor girl,” Lip says.

“She’s cute, actually. And she’s nice.”

“So she’s nothing like him, then?” Lip snorts.

“Is Mickey the evil twin?” Carl asks.

“No, they’re pretty much the same,” Ian says.

“If she’s so fucking nice, why did you bail?” Lip asks.

“He pretty much said I ruined his day with her yesterday.”

“Weren’t you the one who wanted to meet her?” Carl asks.

“And I met her,” Ian says. “They’re hanging out. I’d rather not stick around and say some dumb shit again.”

“Ever thought about sticking around and not saying dumb shit?” Lip suggests.

Ian rolls his eyes, but he has to wonder if he’ll ever be able to do that. He doesn’t know how not to be confrontational. They have a better chance of getting into a fist fight and making up after, than actually talking anything out like adults.

Debbie comes down the steps of the back porch, hauling a bucket of ice down with her. “Have you assholes still not set up the barbecue? Fiona and Liam are going to be home any minute now. Come on, guys.”

“Ice in the pool, Debs, please,” Lip says.

“Barbecue first,” Debbie says. “I’m fucking starving. I don’t want to delay the burgers even for one second.”

“Alright, god,” Lip says, but doesn’t move. “Carl, barbecue. Try not to blow the whole neighborhood up.”

Carl kicks more water up at them before getting out of his chair. Lip takes the bucket from Debbie and dumps half of it into the kiddie pool.

Debbie takes Carl’s chair and dips her feet in. “God, this feels good,” she sighs. “Where is Mickey?”

“With his twin sister,” Ian says.

“Oh, Mandy is in town?” Debbie asks pleasantly.

Ian frowns. “You know Mandy?”

“No, but Mickey told me about her once,” Debbie shrugs. She pushes her baseball cap up a bit to look at them. “Is she nice?”

“Mickey told you he has a twin sister?” Lip asks.

“Yeah.”

“When?” Ian demands.

“I don’t know. Months ago. Why? Is it a secret?” Debbie asks, amused.

“Yes and no, it seems,” Lip laughs. “Ian is a bit jealous.”

“Jealous of what?” Ian snorts. “You think I’m afraid he’ll fuck Debbie?”

“I’d let him,” Debbie offers. “Still feel bad about the dress.”

“You’re jealous, because you found out that your boyfriend’s life does not completely revolve around you,” Lip explains, way too excited.

“Kind of late, don’t you think?” Debbie muses. “Carl, get the soda’s out the freezer before they explode.”

“I’m not jealous. That’s insane,” Ian objects. “Of course I want him to have friends and be close with his sister.”

“Not closer than he is with you, though,” Lip almost sings.

“He can be closer with his sister,” Ian says and he ignores the tiny voice that says but not by much. Only because she’s known him all her life. Only because they grew up in the same house.

“Look, this doesn’t need to be a huge issue. In fact, if you drag this shit out, you’re going to regret it,” Lip says.

“But why? Why would I be jealous? That’s not normal, right?” Ian asks.

“Maybe because you were banged by a bunch of pedophiles as a kid,” Debbie offers. “I read that the trauma can come out in some weird ways.”

Lip cackles.

Ian almost yells: “I was not banged by a bunch of pedophiles, Jesus Christ.”

“At the risk of you having a mental breakdown, you have to process it some day,” Lip snorts. “They were literally thirty years older than you, buying you shit-”

“Grooming,” Debbie adds.

“I never said I wasn’t a whore,” Ian says.

“When you’re fourteen, you’re not a whore. It’s called being a victim of sexual assault and statutory rape,” Debbie says, factually. “These gross dudes knew you were broke and looking to escape a bad situation and they used a child’s vulnerability to get their rocks off. They are full pedophiles.”

“Jesus Christ. I don’t want to talk about this right now,” Ian says. “I don’t want to spend the fourth of July reliving every bit of trauma I’ve been through.”

“That’s what the holidays are for.” Fiona and Liam come down the stairs, carrying groceries. “What’s the trauma?”

“I think Ian and Mickey are breaking up,” Carl pipes up. “Because Ian was banged by a pedophile.”

“That’s the short version,” Ian admits defeat.

“Well, are you guys breaking up before or after I make these burgers? Where is he anyway?” Fiona asks.

“Hanging with his twin,” Lip says.

“Twin?”

 

Ian stays at the house that night. He hasn’t slept there since he left with Mickey two months ago, and it feels like a betrayal. He texts Mickey and tells him he won’t be back that night. Ian enjoys the night with his family, especially when they are not trying to dissect his issues, but rather focus on tearing Fiona’s new boyfriend to shreds purely based on one picture of him.

It is a fun time, but he still feels a pit in his stomach when he tries to fall asleep in the too small, too cold bed.

 

Ian stays for breakfast on Sunday and he doesn’t object when Lip makes him help clean the remnants of fireworks and bullet shells out of their yard and in the street in front of their house. They’re still not done when Liam calls them in for lunch and when they are actually done, it’s already four p.m.

Mandy’s flight leaves at five, so Ian makes Lip drop him off at the apartment around that time. He isn’t surprised to find the place empty.

He waits for Mickey to come back, but he doesn’t have the nerve to call him or text him to let him know he’s waiting.

It doesn’t take long for Mickey to come home. Too soon, maybe, because Ian still hasn’t figured out what to say.

“What are you doing here?” Mickey asks, throwing his keys onto the coffee table, right next to Ian’s feet. “I thought you moved out.”

“You didn’t think that,” Ian says.

Mickey shrugs, but doesn’t look at him.

“How is Mandy? Did you have fun yesterday?”

“It was fine.”

“I just thought, you know, maybe you wanted to have some time with her alone,” Ian says. He grabs Mickey’s wrist and pulls him down to sit next to him on the couch. Mickey doesn’t fight him, but he sits down a foot away and shrugs Ian’s hand off of him. “Okay,” Mickey says.

“So what did you do?”

“We got high and talked a bunch of shit about you. Watched fireworks at the pier.”

“Oh, fun,” Ian says.

“It was fun,” Mickey says.

“Did you, uh, get a lot off your chest about me?”

“Plenty.”

Ian tries to let it go, he really does. He tries to settle into the couch, focus on the tv and not on the fact that Mickey is so tense beside him. Maybe if Ian stops thinking about it, they’ll relax into each other sooner rather than later.

Ian makes it through half an episode of My 600 Pound Life before he cracks.

“Take your cock out,” he says.

Mickey looks at him, quirks up an eyebrow.  He waves at the tv. “This shit got you hot and bothered?”

Ian doesn’t answer, he slinks onto his knees between Mickey’s legs. Mickey doesn’t move, lets Ian undo the button and zipper of his jeans and pull his pants down just enough for Mickey’s cock to appear. Ian puts his mouth on it, tongues at the head and sucks him down. It takes no time for Mickey’s comforting hand to nestle itself into Ian’s hair and scratch his scalp. Ian is gone, focused on the hot cock pushing against his throat when the hand clutches his hair. Ian opens his mouth, ready for Mickey to fuck his face, but instead, Mickey pulls Ian’s head back. Ian can feel the drool on his chin. He licks his lips.

“Get the lube,” Mickey tells him and Ian scrambles onto his feet. When he comes back out of the bedroom, Mickey is fully naked, on his knees on the couch and leaning against the backrest with one hand and his other hand on his cock. Ian gets undressed in the five steps it takes him to walk from the bedroom to the couch, already lubing up his fingers. 

“Don’t fuck me like you’re sorry,” Mickey tells him. “Fuck me like you’re angry.”

Ian’s cock processes that first, before his brain even gets to.

When he finally shoves his cock into Mickey’s hole, he doesn’t wait. He pulls out and thrusts back in at a pace that suits him. Mickey wants Ian to use him, to fuck him like he’s angry and Ian doesn’t even have to try. They are always angry about something.

 

“That’s how you make up,” Mickey grins and steals the cigarette out from between Ian’s lips. Ian kisses him, before he can take a drag. He drags the kiss out, doesn’t want this feeling to end. Mickey settles under his arm and finally takes a drag from the cigarette when Ian leans back on the couch.

Ian grazes Mickey’s jaw with the hand that is hanging off his shoulder. “I know we haven’t talked about this,” Ian starts. “But I’m not planning on moving out.”

“Now we’ve talked about it,” Mickey says.

“I’ll pay rent if you show me where you hide all your cash,” Ian says.

“Keep your rent money, then,” Mickey shrugs.

 

“Tell me about your mom.”

“She ran out on us.”

“When?”

“Our mom, Mandy’s and mine, took off when were twelve, maybe thirteen. My brothers have another mom. She was around for a while, but she never gave a shit about the gypsy whore’s kids.”

“Your mom is a gypsy?”

“Fresh off the boat.”

“But your dad’s a Nazi.”

“Yeah, guess she figured it out after twelve years and fucked off.”

“That makes you a gay gypsy.”

“You get why I’m not my dad’s favorite? And don’t let Mandy hear you say ‘gypsy’. She is all about that Romani pride, these days.”

“Where did she go? Your mom?”

“Who fucking knows. She left. She left a letter for Mandy. It said she’d come back to get her, but she never showed her face again.”

“Just for Mandy?”

“Hm.”

“You have a lot of sad stories, huh?”

“Guess so. She was alright, though. Before she left she was a good mom, I think.”

Ian hates it. He hates that Mickey has so many memories that he doesn’t want to talk about, that are too painful for him to bring up on his own. Ian understands now, that it’s not about him. He understands that Mickey had a whole full life before he met Ian, but that most of the time it wasn’t a good one. In fact, it sounds horrific and Ian knows a thing or two about having a traumatic childhood. Ian’s mother left, too. Time and time again. She was insane and irrational, all the way to the very end, but when she left, she left them with Fiona.

Not with Terry Milkovich, a gay hating racist piece of garbage.

Ian wonders silently who he hates more. Terry Milkovich for being who he is, or Miryam Milkovich for leaving her children with him.

He watches Mickey that night, long after he’s gone to sleep, face soft and young, and beautiful.  Ian hopes that Mickey knows how much he loves him. He hopes that Mickey can feel it, all around him. He hopes that he can be good enough for him one day.

 

Ian calls Mandy later that week, because he is wracked with guilt and Mickey refuses to listen to him about it. Mandy doesn’t mind, and they stay on the phone for over an hour.

 

Ian has been hurting his brain on this for too long. He can’t make this decision. He has never made a good decision in his damn life, so there is no way he can trust himself with something like this.

On his way to work, Ian calls Fiona.

“Do you really think it’s worth going into debt over?” Ian asks. “Twelve thousand dollars is insane. All my savings went to reparations for the fire. I still have payments to make until December.”

“Yes,” Fiona says adamantly. “You have a steady job now. You’ll make more money with a nursing degree. I get that you’re worried about the money now, but you got to invest a little in yourself, alright?”

“I have a steady job for now, but that can change. My whole fucking brain can change. I can deal with being a piece of shit, but I don’t know if I want to be a piece of shit in debt.”

“I’d be willing to take the risk,” Fiona says easily. “You’re good at your job. It’s worth the investment. Let me put it this way; If I had the money, I’d give it to you without thinking. Be as good as you can be, Ian. We’ve got time.”

“The deadline for signing up is Friday,” Ian sighs. “Lip says I should do it.“

“What about Mickey?” Fiona asks.

“We talked about it once, a while ago. I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind.”

“Talk to him. If all three of us say you should do it, then do it.”

“What of he thinks it’s a stupid idea?”

“Then you get into a fist fight and roll around in the street. That’s how you two solve things, right?”

“We haven’t done that in a while,” Ian chuckles. “We mostly fuck our problems away these days.”

“Then do that. Hey, I was thinking about introducing Julian to you guys soon.”

“Who is Julian?” Ian asks, confused.

“The guy I’ve been seeing. I’ve told you about him.”

“Oh. I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about bullshit boyfriends and girlfriends anymore?”

“The rule stands, but it’s been four months. He wants to meet you guys. He met Debbie and Liam. We’re having dinner with Lip tonight and with Carl on Wednesday. I thought maybe if you’re free on Friday...”

“Oh my god,” Ian says.

“What?”

“Are you leaving the worst for last?” He demands. “You’re putting me after Carl?”

“Not you, per se,” Fiona sighs. “Obviously, not you. He’s a restaurant manager, Ian. I thought I’d introduce him to the smart kids first. Then to my brother who makes his money scamming universities. Then to Carl. And then maybe he’ll be used to this shit enough that knuckle tattoos with a full threat on them won’t immediately send him running.”

“This is about Mickey? He doesn’t need to be there,” Ian says. “I don’t think he’d even want to.”

“He doesn’t have to, but I figured the sooner he meets the whole family, the better.”

“We’ll be there,” Ian promises, chest tightening at the fact that Fiona just called Mickey her family. “I don’t know if we deserve to be left for last, though.”

“I’ll evaluate at the end of the week,” Fiona says. “Talk to Mickey about the classes, alright? Let me know what you do.”

 

Ian gets back home at seven, starving and exhausted. His back is kind of wrecked and he wonders if Mickey will ride him right after dinner.

“There he is,” Mickey grins, when Ian comes in. “How many lives did you save today?”

Ian drops his bag at the door and trudges through the living room. He plants a noisy kiss on Mickey’s lips. “Are you saving someone’s life if they have a shampoo bottle stuck up their asshole?” Ian asks. He washes his hands in the kitchen sink and sniffs at the paper bag on the counter. “You got me Alberto’s?”

“Yeah, less chitchat about shampoo bottles. The food is going to get cold.”

They eat their burritos on the couch. The food is gone in less than ten minutes, and for some reason this reminds him of the fact that Fiona invited them to have dinner with her new fancy boyfriend. Mickey burps as be throws all the empty wrappers in the trashcan. “You wanna fuck?” He asks.

They do fuck, because there doesn’t seem to be a single thing about this man that could possibly turn Ian off. Mickey does ride him, slightly begrudgingly, because the slut usually likes being pounded instead, but it allows Ian to pull him down and kiss him lazily and from the grin Mickey shoots him, Ian figures he likes that a lot too.

When Mickey gets off of him and lies down on the bed, Ian turns onto his side to face him. “You think I should go back to school?”

Mickey seems surprised at the question and turns to look at Ian. “Yeah, if you want.”

“It’s not just about what I want, though. It’s a lot of fucking money.”

“Do it if you want to do it,” Mickey says easily and closes his eyes.

“But what if-”

“Do you want to do it?”

“I- I mean, yeah, but tuition is twelve thousand dollars and that is if I pass the classes. If I fail even one if them, that’s a whole extra year of tuition...

Ian watches Mickey get out of bed, distracted for a second by the naked bubble butt. “Close your eyes,” Mickey says.

“What?”

“Close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you to.”

“Why?” Ian asks.

“Just do it, asshole,” Mickey snaps and Ian does what he is told. He presses his palms into his eye sockets. Ian hears footsteps and then a click he can’t place, another click, and then some rustling.

“What the hell are you doing?” Ian asks.

There is the clicking again and then something falls onto Ian’s chest.

“What the fuck?” Ian blurts, picking up the two stacks of cash. He sits up.

“That’s fifteen,” Mickey says. “I want three back.”

“Where did you get this?” Ian asks.

“What kind of dumb fucking question is that?” Mickey snorts. He gets back on the bed and takes the smaller stack out of Ian’s hand. He unwraps the rubber band around it and takes about half of it off the stack. “There. Do the classes and shut up about it.”

“I can’t take your money, Mickey.”

“I’m not giving you the money. I’m giving it to the bullshit school. Twelve thousand dollars for two classes is a scam by the way.”

“And maybe that’s a good reason not to do it. It’s way too much.”

“Well, we’ve got to fucking spend it somewhere. I’ve worked for it, you know. It might not be deposited into my fucking bank account, but it’s not stolen money either,” Mickey says.

“It’s too much,” Ian says again, shaking his head.

“There’s a lot more,” Mickey shrugs.

“How much more?”

“Don’t worry about it. I made you close your eyes for a reason, dickhead. And if I find you’ve ransacked the place looking for it, I’m killing you real quick,” Mickey threatens, but there is no heat behind it at all.

Ian stares at him, and then at the money in his hands. “Mickey…”

“I’ve taken it off the books already. Sign up for the classes and shut up about it, alright?”

“I love you,” Ian says.

“Yeah, I know,” Mickey says, rolling his eyes. “You better not tell Mandy about this or she’ll think I’m paying you to fuck me for sure.”

 

Mickey goes out later that night, a quick run, he says, and as soon as the door shuts behind him, Ian calls Lip.

“Hey, bud,” Lip answers. “Fiona’s boyfriend is officially the most boring guy I have ever met. What’s up?”

“Are you still with them?”

“Nah, I left like twenty minutes ago. I was going to call you when I got home.”

“Mickey says I should do the classes,” Ian blurts.

“Good. We all agree. Did you sign up yet?” Lip asks.

“He gave me the money, Lip.”

“Ah. Lucky you.”

“I can’t take it, right? It’s twelve thousand dollars. I’ve never even seen that much money in my life and he just pulled it out and handed it to me.”

“Take the money,” Lip says. “Sign up for the classes. Get your degree. Finish this thing. Who knows, maybe you’ll be taking the MCAT next year and sucking his dick so he pays for med-school too.”

“I shouldn’t tell Fiona, right?” asks, rubbing at his face.

“Maybe not. Her new boyfriend is so fucking boring, he looks like he’d have a heart attack if she ever told him she used to be a cokehead,” Lip says. “I don’t think he liked me. I was a dick.”

“Can’t change who you are,” Ian sighs.

 

Ian signs up for the classes. He googles MCAT right after.

 

Fiona texts him the address of the restaurant they are supposed to meet her at. She does this on Friday morning. Ian looks up the restaurant in his lunch break and then calls her immediately.

“You want me and Mickey to go to a five star restaurant with you?” he asks.

“He’s the manager there. You won’t have to pay for anything,” Fiona says, without missing a beat.

“Except for a whole fucking wardrobe change. I don’t have a suit. Mickey sure as fuck doesn’t have a suit.”

“No suit or tie required. Unstained shirts would be appreciated, you know, but definitely don’t worry about it too much,” Fiona says. “Carl spat on the table, so, you know. Mickey is coming?”

“Yeah,” Ian says, even though he definitely hasn’t asked him yet. In fact, and Ian feels guilty about this, he had forgotten about the whole thing until Fiona texted him that morning. Ian had done such an extreme deep dive into everything that has to do with med school, that he hadn’t really been thinking about much else.

So now Ian has to convince Mickey to not only go out with him, but also dress up and go to a place they’ve never been before to meet someone they’ve never met before.

When he hangs up the phone with Fiona, Ian texts Mickey to keep his night free. Friday night is usually their night, ever since they met, but sometimes Mickey has something work related that Ian can’t make him skip since Mickey literally just spent twelve thousand dollars on him.

When he gets home that night he finds Mickey just got home, too. “Come take a shower with me,” Ian says and Mickey doesn’t question that, because why would he? They have about an hour to get ready and get to the restaurant. It’s a twenty minute drive. He does the numbers in his head while Mickey shampoos Ian’s hair and massages his scalp. It feels so good that Ian gets hard and, well.

They fuck and waste about twenty minutes. When Ian cums, he practically forgets what they were getting ready for in the first place and loses another five minutes to fooling around in their bedroom while drying off.

“Oh shit,” Ian says, loudly, when he remembers what he is supposed to be doing. “We’re going to be late.”

“Late for what?” Mickey asks, not moving from where he is lying on the bed.

“Uh, dinner. With Fiona,” Ian says and opens the dresser.

“Is she coming over?”

“No, we’re going to a restaurant.”

“Is it her birthday or something?” Mickey asks, sitting up.

“Can you wear this?” Ian asks, holding up the burgundy sweater that Mickey never wears, despite it being the nicest thing he owns. “We’re, uh, having dinner with her and her boyfriend. I forgot all about it, sorry.”

“You mean like on a double date?” Mickey asks and he is completely outraged. “Why the fuck would I do that?”

“Because I asked you. I already told her we’d go, okay? You can be as pissed at me as you want afterwards. Put on the sweater and put on some pants that fit.”

Mickey snatches the sweater out of his hands, cursing at Ian under his breath the entire time as he gets dressed. Ian gets dressed himself and when he looks at Mickey, he melts for two seconds because he looks great. Who knows what you’re supposed to look like at a five star restaurant, but Ian would screw Mickey’s brains out for sure.

“You can’t be serious,” Mickey says on their way to the restaurant. “Why the fuck would your sister want me to meet her stupid fucking boyfriend? Are you sure she told you to bring me? That’s insane.”

“We can be nice for like an hour, can’t we?” Ian tries. Mickey shoots him a glare.

“Okay, maybe you don’t need to talk at all,” Ian then suggests. “Just don’t be worse than normal.”

When they arrive at the restaurant, Ian quickly realizes that this is not going to be great. There is valet and as soon as Mickey sees it, he says: “I have a pounds of weed in the car. I’m not giving him the keys.”

So they have to find a parking space a few blocks away, and take a ten minute walk back. Ian texts Fiona that they’re almost there and Mickey smacks him on the back of the head, hard, while they’re on their way. Ian deserves it.

 

Fiona is waiting for them in the air conditioned lobby of the restaurant. They’re only ten minutes late and when Fiona sees them, her face lights up in excitement.

“You made it. I was starting to get nervous. You look great,” she adds with a hand on Mickey’s shoulder.

“Well, look at yourself, lady,” Mickey snorts. Fiona’s is wearing a loose fitting, flowy red dress that cuts off right above her knee. Her heels make her almost as tall as Ian and her curls look even bouncier than usual.

“Where’s the guy?” Ian asks.

“This is him,” Fiona says, waving beside her. Ian is startled by the man standing beside her. He has apparently been standing there the entire time, watching them patiently.

“Hi, you must be Ian,” he says, with a kind smile. Ian takes his hand and realizes that he forgot this man’s name. Fiona told him, she definitely did. It was something mundane like Jeffrey or James. “I’ve heard a lot about you. And you must be Mickey.”

Mickey shakes his hand and John definitely looks at the tattoos on his knuckles for way too long. “Yeah, what’s your name?” Mickey asks.

“Oh, I’m Julian,” he introduces.

“Come on, guys. I’m starving,” Fiona says and ushers them in.

Mickey looks at Ian and Ian looks at Mickey and they both are definitely wondering what the fuck is wrong with this guy.

 

The menu is a mystery, so they let Fiona order them what she recommends. Julian starts asking Ian questions about his job at first, which is fine and normal and very boring talk. He then very quickly turns to Mickey and says: “I don’t think I know what you do.”

The food isn’t there yet. They’re only drinking water, because Ian has no clue if restaurants like this serve regular beer or even soda. Ian can see Fiona tense just a little bit, and she watches Julian as Mickey opens his mouth.

“I work at a dispensary,” he says easily. Beautiful, Ian thinks. Gorgeous, perfect boyfriend. Fiona seems pleased and she is about to open her mouth to say something when Julian asks: “Oh, like in a pharmacy?” 

Ian has to process that for a moment.

“No, man,” Mickey says slowly. “Marijuana dispensary.”

“Ah. That’s exciting. Do you like it?”

“It pays the bills,” Mickey shrugs.

“No, I mean marijuana. Do you like marijuana?” Julian asks.

Ian stares at him. Fiona studies the wine menu, despite being sober for three years and Mickey looks at the guy like he grew another head.

“Sure,” Mickey finally says. “Do you smoke?”

“Oh, no, no,” Julian quickly hurries out. “I’ve never done drugs.”

“Boozer then?” Mickey suggests and Julian laughs, very loudly.

Ian wants to ask Fiona who the fuck this man is.

 

The food is delicious but nowhere near enough, the waiter is way too involved in the whole thing and this Julian guy might just be the worst human being Ian has ever met. He lists his hobbies (golf, going for walks, oh and he makes pottery) and talks about his job in such a factual way that Ian only listens to half of it. The man seems obsessed with Mickey for some reason, too. He looks at Mickey with so much interest and intent, from his hands to the tattoo on his arm that shows when Mickey’s sleeve rides up for a moment. He laughs way too loudly at anything that is even remotely funny that comes out of Mickey’s mouth.

Mickey and Ian slip out between dinner and desert to smoke a cigarette.

“What the fuck is wrong with that guy?” Ian snorts, when they’re standing outside and Mickey hands him a smoke. He lights it for him too. “He definitely has some kind of torture chamber at his house, right?”

Mickey lights his own cigarette next and takes a drag. “That guy is gay.”

“What?”

“Big old ‘mo,” Mickey says.

“No way. He hasn’t looked at me even once,” Ian says.

“He’s not after you, which is the weird part,” Mickey says. “He is gay and he has bad taste.”

“You think Julian is into you?”

“For sure.”

“Maybe he just likes you, because you’re actually an interesting person.“

“No, he wants to suck my dick,” Mickey says.

“Why your dick and not mine?” Ian asks.

“Maybe because I’m more interesting. Maybe he’s not into redheads,” Mickey shrugs. “Maybe I look more like the type of guy who would let a closeted bank teller suck him off in the back alley of a restaurant.”

“No, you’re definitely looking like a snack tonight,” Ian sighs. “I’m not convinced, though. Fiona has been dating this guy for months.”

“Months? I want to blow my brains out after talking to the guy for thirty minutes,” Mickey says. “Pay attention when we’re in there.”

When they go back inside, Julian looks only at Mickey and says: “Hey, you’re back.”

So, definitely gay, Ian decides. It is so bizarre to watch the most boring man in America attempt to impress Mickey Milkovich while his girlfriend is sitting at the table. Ian sits back, enjoys his tiramisu and, just because he is a little shit, he feeds Mickey some and gauges Julian’s reaction. Mickey seems to know exactly what Ian is up to, because he first looks at the spoon in disdain, before giving in and taking the spoon out of his hand and taking the bite. Mickey gives Ian the spoon back, and Ian puts it in his mouth. Julian’s face does something. Is he jealous or just homophobic? Maybe just disgusted that they’re sharing cutlery? Ian can’t tell.

Ian sends Mickey a text and because Mickey’s phone is not on the table, Ian taps on it in Mickey’s pocket under the table.

Go take a piss, see if he follows you. 

Mickey reads it, rolls his eyes and shoves the phone back into his pocket.

“Gotta take a piss,” he announces, standing up and Ian has to hide his laughter behind his hand.

“Oh, I’ll show you the way,” Julian offers immediately.

“Great,” Mickey says with a tight smile and looks at Ian pointedly.

Don’t fuck him, Ian quickly texts.

“So this is going well, huh,” Fiona says. “Mickey cleans up nicely.”

“How long did you say you and Julian have been dating?” Ian asks.

“About four months now. We’ve been taking things slow, you know. I don’t want this to end in another fucking disaster.”

“Yeah, no, I understand. How slow are you taking it? You guys, you know, have sex?” Ian asks. It feels weird. He has always talked about sex with all of his siblings, but for some reason he has never been comfortable knowing the details of Fiona’s sex life.

“Of course we have sex,” Fiona says. “We don’t see each other a lot, but, you know.”

“And is it good?” Ian asks.

Fiona stares at him for a moment. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing, I’m just curious,” Ian says. “He seems a bit mundane, you know. Where is he from?”

“Mundane to you, maybe. You’re dating a psychopath. No offense.”

“None taken,” Ian sighs, because she’s got a point.

“He’s from Milwaukee and he’s thirty-five. Not exactly a Southside street rat,” Fiona says. She really does look beautiful tonight. He wants to tell her, wants to pull her out of this fantasy as soon as possible.

He sits back. “You like him?”

“Of course. You think I’d put you through this if I didn’t?”

“He seems nice,” Ian says and decides that he is going to make Lip tell her tomorrow.

Mickey comes back a few minutes later, walking up behind Fiona with big, meaningful eyes. Ian shakes his head at him for him to keep his mouth shut.

“So, Mick,” Fiona says. “What do you think?”

“He’s the worst,” Mickey says. “He tried to look at my dick the whole time I was trying to piss.”

Ian covers his face and drags his hand down it.

“What?” Fiona asks.

“Your boyfriend is boring as shit and gay as fuck,” Mickey says.

“Maybe- maybe he’s bisexual,” Ian tries to salvage this disaster.

“Maybe,” Mickey snorts.

“You think he’s gay?” Fiona asks Ian.

“I mean, I don’t know the guy-”

“Ian,” she says forcefully.

“He could still be bisexual,” Ian says. “I’m sure he likes you a lot.”

“No, he’s horrible in bed,” Fiona says as if she just realized it.

Mickey laughs in delight. “Hey, this is finally getting kind of fun.”

 

Fiona tells them to leave before Julian comes back so that she can talk to him in private. Outside, Ian smacks Mickey on the back of the head. “I was going to make Lip tell her.”

“Jesus, why?” Mickey asks, pushing Ian away. They start walking down the street, towards the car.

“Because she hates me enough as it is. I didn’t want to be the one to ruin this for her,” Ian explains. “I’d rather her be pissed at Lip for a few days.”

“Why would she be pissed at either of you?” Mickey asks. “I’m the one who told her and it beats her wasting even one more second of her time with that piece of Wonderbread. You really have to stop with that shit, you know.”

“With what?”

“Thinking she hates you. She doesn’t.”

“Whatever, you know what I mean,” Ian sighs. “This sucks.”

“‘Maybe he’s bisexual’,” Mickey grins at him and puts an arm around Ian’s waist. “Such an optimist.” Ian laughs and swings his arm over Mickey’s shoulder. “We should wait for her, right? We should drive her home.”

They pick up the car and Ian calls Fiona on the short drive back to the restaurant. She picks up on his second try.

“Ian? You okay?” she asks.

“Yeah, we’re waiting outside. Thought maybe you’d need a ride.”

It is quiet for a moment, just long enough for Ian to start wondering if something is up. “Yeah,” she finally says. “I’ll be out in a second. Thanks.”

 

Fiona doesn’t say much when she gets into the backseat. She puts her bag down next to her on the seat and kicks her heels off.

“Gay?” Ian has to ask.

“Yeah,” Fiona says. “Said Mickey made him so nervous all night that he kept… slipping up.”

“Jesus. He never see a guy with a tattoo before?” Ian asks. “No offense, Mick.”

Mickey shrugs.

“I don’t fucking know. I’m glad I found out now. It explains why he always tried to smash my tits together when we had sex,” Fiona sighs. “This is so embarrassing.”

“What are you supposed to do with tits, then?” Ian asks.

Mickey laughs and Fiona gives him a look that says she’s too tired to get mad. “It would be wasted knowledge on you, kid,” she says, longsufferingly. “Watch some straight porn, if you’re curious.”

They drop Fiona off at the house and it is not even ten o’clock. She says that she is going to get out of the dress and stop by V, so they leave. But not before Ian says: “I guess you were right to leave us for last, huh?”

“Seems to me I would have saved myself some time if I put you guys first,” Fiona says with a smile. “You guys have fun tonight.”

 

They drive back to the apartment. Ian feels… unsettled, is probably the right word. His sister has been dating a closeted man for the last few months and they just outed him to her after talking to the man for less than an hour. He trusts Fiona not to have been a monster about it, but something in him still feels… guilty, maybe.

“You good?” Mickey asks him. He has already lost the jeans and sweater and put on a t-shirt instead. It’s hot night. Ian is sitting on the edge of the bed, still wearing his shoes.

“You remember coming out for the first time?” Ian asks him. “Like, on your terms. Without someone finding out about it or outing you?”

“No,” Mickey says immediately. “The first time I said it out loud, was after my dad threatened to kill me because he already knew. He threw a whole table at my head.” Mickey throws his phone down on the bed and sits down next to Ian. “What, you feel bad for the guy?”

“Kind of. I mean, he lied to Fiona all this time so I’m more inclined to think he’s a dickhead. But it can’t be easy, hiding all that time.”

“Don’t feel bad for him. He is a dickhead,” Mickey says. “I don’t think he’s some poor confused soul.”

“How do you know? I know he was lame, but maybe that’s just… what?” Ian watches Mickey’s face do something.

“What?” Mickey asks, not looking at him.

“Tell me,” Ian demands, turning his whole body towards Mickey.

Mickey lies down on the bed, legs dangling off it at the knee. He puts one hand behind his head. “I told you, he tried to look at my dick.”

“Yeah, but-”

“And then when I put my dick away, he fully grabbed it and I liver punched him so hard, he barfed.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Look, I didn’t want to freak your sister out. Or you. He’s a fucking asshole.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? That piece of shit groped you?” Ian exclaims.

“Why would I have? So we could pummel him to death together?”

“Exactly!”

Mickey grabs Ian’s arm and pulls him down to lie next to him. “I took care of it. Kept his lame ass face intact, cracked a rib, probably. I don’t think he’s going to keep in touch with your sister much.”

“Jesus, Mickey,” Ian says, and puts a hand on Mickey’s jaw, turning his face to look at him. “Why are we such fucking disasters?”

“What? You don’t think this was a successful double date? Did it not go exactly like you thought it would go?”

Ian kicks his shoes off. “I didn’t expect you to get fucking groped. Jesus, I was the one who told you to go to the bathroom.”

“He barely touched me,” Mickey waves it off.

“Still,” Ian says. He pops the buttons of his jeans open and pushes them down his hips. He kicks them off his feet and onto the ground. “It’s horrible.”

“Yeah, well.”

Ian turns to him again. “I’ll visit him tomorrow.”

“No, you won’t, tough guy,” Mickey laughs. “You want a restraining order on your record?”

“I want to kick his ass.”

“I already did that.”

“You should have called me.”

“Next time,” Mickey assures him and presses a dry, chaste kiss to Ian’s lips. Ian kisses him back, curls a leg around Mickey’s, but the tension doesn’t ease out of his lips. Mickey notices. “You want to share a joint?” he asks.

 

This does help Ian relax. They sit in the living room, Ian with his head in Mickey’s lap while the tv buzzes in the background. Mickey strokes Ian’s scalp with lazy movements. It has Ian close his eyes in pleasure every now and then.

“You have any big secrets you want to tell me about?” Ian eventually asks.

“Only things that could land me in prison,” Mickey says.

“You can tell me,” Ian says, but Mickey shakes his head. “Anything else?”

“You first,” Mickey says. “Anything you haven’t told me, blabbermouth?”

Ian smiles at that, wondering exactly how tired Mickey is of hearing him talk about himself at this point. “There is one thing,” Ian admits. “I haven’t told anyone, not even Lip.”

“Is this going to be another sad fucking story? I don’t know if I’m high enough for that,” Mickey sighs.

“I did porn once.”

“Jesus Christ,” Mickey says. He takes his hand out of Ian’s hair and rubs his eyes. “When?”

“Last week,” Ian jokes and earns himself a smack to the chest. “Years ago. I was manic. The worst I’ve ever been, I think. We needed the money for bills at the house and a guy at the club offered me cash up front.”

“How old were you?”

“I had my first manic episode when I was sixteen, so it was around that time. It was the first time I ever let anyone fuck me in the ass. It was horrible.” Ian doesn’t look at Mickey’s face. It’s not a memory Ian looks back at often. He forces it away to the back of his mind as soon as it pops up. He barely recognizes himself in that memory.

“Is it still out there?” Mickey asks. “The video?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen it,” Ian says. “Why, you want to watch it?”

“Jesus, no thanks. You know that’s considered child pornography, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a secret for a reason,” Ian says. “You can’t tell anyone. Not even Lip.”

Mickey brings his hand back down and returns to scratching Ian’s head. “You think that’s why you don’t like it up the ass?” Mickey asks.

“I’ve bottomed a couple of times later in life and it was okay, you know.”

“Finding a good top ain’t easy,” Mickey says around an exhale.

“Is that why you keep me around?” Ian asks.

“It’s one reason,” he says and plants the joint in between Ian’s lips.

Ian takes a drag, as big as he can manage. “It’s your turn.”

“I don’t have any secrets outside of things a lawyer would tell me never to talk about.”

“You’re lying,” Ian says. “When we first met even your name was a secret. A couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know you had a whole twin sister and an extra language up your sleeve. You never talk about the whole fucking year you lived in Mexico.”

“All you have to do is fuckign ask, bro. What the fuck? Fine, here’s a secret for you. I hate Starbucks coffee. It is probably the worst fucking coffee I’ve had to this day.”

“Huh? Then why did you keep coming there?” Ian asks. It takes his intoxicated brain a few seconds to catch up. He laughs. “You had a crush on me!”

“I guess,” Mickey admits. “The bullshit coffee was worth watching the cute redhead who worked there try to flirt with me every once in a while.”

“Jesus, Mick,” Ian says, still laughing. “That’s so fucking gay.”

 

Fiona puts the ‘no meeting bullshit girlfriends and boyfriend’ rule firmly back into place the following week. She announces it in the group text, which she adds Mickey to first.

 

The summer is mostly peaceful. They work, they fuck, they go out to eat and have barbecues at the house with the family. Mandy flies in one more time and like a real fucking moron, Ian goes out on a joyride on a boat with them. It’s terrifying and complete lunacy, and Ian falls in love with Mandy Milkovich a little bit when she shoves them into the water first and them strips down to her underwear and jumps in after them.

She stays for a week and she and Mickey spend hours teaching him Ukrainian swearwords. Ian asks Mickey once how to say ‘I love you’ and Mickey tells him to fucking google it.

Mandy hangs out with Ian on nights that Mickey needs to go out. She lets him look at her tattoos, all smooth and sleek geometric lines on her lower arms and blooming flowers and strands of wheat on her upper arms. A Ukrainian Romani pattern, she says. Brings good luck to you and your family, and curses the enemy and all their loved ones. It is the most intricate and detailed tattoo Ian has ever seen up close and she obviously gets embarrassed at Ian pulling on her arms and lifting them up to examine all of it.

But if he hadn’t done that, Ian would have missed the separate tattoo hidden under her left arm. It’s an astrological sign, he realizes. His astrological sign. The gemini. The twins. “Is that for Mickey?” He asks.

She seems shy suddenly. “When he was in prison,” she clarifies. “He’s never seen it and you’re never going to tell him about it.”

Ian feels bad for putting her on the spot like that, so he shows her his own tattoos. When Mandy is done laughing and roasting him, she offers him a free cover up if he ever visits New York.

Mandy also shows Ian a folder of pictures on her laptop. The folder it’s filled with babyfaced Milkoviches, pictures of them from the ages of twelve to around eighteen. Mandy is tattoo free in all of them. There is only one picture in there in which Mickey doesn’t have the knuckle tattoos. Mickey can’t be older than ten, sitting on his father’s shoulder, wide smile on his face. They seem to be in their front yard, Terry is smiling too, looking for all the world like a normal, loving father. He has one hand curled gently around Mickey’s ankle. If only he wasn’t holding a fucking AR-15 in the other hand.

There are a couple of more picture that Ian looks at for a long time. It’s a picture of Mickey and the first person that is obviously not a Milkovich. Mickey is sitting at the pier, blue eyes huge as he looks straight into the camera. His skin looks impossibly smooth and pale. He even still has a little babyfat on his cheeks. He can’t be older than sixteen. The sun is setting, sky reddish and beautiful. There’s another boy there; handsome, dark skinned with big brown eyes and a wicked smile. Mickey isn’t smiling, but he looks comfortable, content. Ian thinks Mandy must be behind the camera.

There are no pictures of Mickey from the ages of nineteen to twenty three and only one pictures of Mickey in Mexico. Ian knows that he had lived there for a year, right after he got out of prison. He had worked for a cartel that his father was involved with. That’s all Ian knows. Mickey had told him a story here and there, but he had always been vague about where exactly he stayed and what he did there. Said he was high on cocaine most of the time he was there, anyway.

In the picture of Mickey in Mexico, he is lying back on the front of a docked speedboat, cigarette hanging between his lips, arms behind his head; he is tanned and gorgeous, with reddish brown sunburnt hair -  he’s wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt and Ian knows it’s a joke, knows that Mickey took the time to send Mandy that picture to remind her of their time together when they were teenagers, to remind her that he was still out there in the world, thinking about her.

Mandy tells Ian the story of how Mickey came out during Terry’s welcome home party after a short stint in prison. Ian had already heard a variation of the story from Mickey himself and from Kev, but Mandy’s story is more detailed, told with more emotion. Mickey had been drinking, everyone had, and according to Mandy Terry had brought that Russian whore with him to the party again.

Mickey had been loud and aggressive. “You’ve got a better chance of going to my fucking funeral tomorrow than ever going to my fucking straight wedding,” he had told Terry so loud it had startled everyone in the bar. “I’m fucking gay. You got a problem with that, put me in the fucking ground, before I put you in it.”

Mandy recites it by heart, like it’s not a terrifying memory, but an inspirational one. “I thought for sure Mickey was going to die that day,” she says with a smile. “But Mickey would have burned the entire city down to make sure Terry died with him.”

“Why do you think he did that?” Ian asks.

“Nothing to lose,” Mandy says wryly. “Maybe he wanted to die. He wasn’t really afraid of anything anymore after that.”

Ian knows that’s not true. The part about Mickey not being afraid of anything. He knows that Mickey still cares, maybe not much about himself but he cares about Mandy. About his brothers. And now about Ian, too.

 

A little drunk and a little high Ian begs Mickey to fuck him that summer; fuck me and make it feel good, show me what it’s all about, Mickey. Mickey does, makes Ian’s eyes roll to the back of his head that night and the next night and the next, until Mickey says I’m done topping your tall ass. It’s your turn to fuck me.

 

At the end of summer, less than a week before Ian’s classes start, Ian goes to the Alibi with Lip. It’s Friday night, Mickey is working. When Ian and Lip get to the Alibi, Mickey is there.

Ian vaguely knew it was a possibility, but hadn't thought about it much beyond that. But seeing Mickey sitting at a booth, across from Terry Milkovich makes Ian’s blood run cold.

“What’s wrong with you?” Lip asks immediately and follows his gaze to the table. Mickey is looking straight at them. “Oh shit. Come on, let’s go,” Lip says. “We’ll go somewhere else.”

“No way,” Ian says, pushing forward towards the bar. “We’re fine. He has known about us for months and he hasn’t killed us yet.”

Kevin looks between them nervously as they take a seat right in front of him. “Uh, your boy doesn’t look happy,” he says.

“Yeah, Ian, maybe we should go,” Lip repeats.

“Why? That piece of shit doesn’t own this place, does he? Relax, I won’t talk to him. Either of them,” Ian says. “Whiskey, Kev, please.”

Kevin pours him a drink and then stops halfway. “Incoming,” he says and the next thing Ian feels is him being yanked off the barstool. He manages to land on his feet, turns around with a “What the fuck,” and comes to stand face to face with Terry Milkovich.

Ian doesn’t think he has ever gone from zero to one hundred so fast, doesn’t think he has hated anyone so purely and completely before in his life. “You’ve got some nerve-” Terry starts, but there is Mickey already, standing in between them. Lip scrambles off the stool and starts pulling Ian to the door. “Out, now.”

“You touch him again, you’re dead,” Ian hears Mickey spit out with about as much rage as Ian feels.

“So this is it, huh. You’re sticking up for a little fucking faggot-”

There is a crash, a loud one and Lip loosens his grip enough for Ian to pull himself loose  completely, just in time to see Terry clutching his face with one hand and snatching a beer bottle off the nearest table. “Come on, asshole,” Mickey breathes. “Come on, give me a reason to kill you.”

 

The next time Ian talks to Mickey is the next morning after receiving a phone call from cook county jail. Ian is sitting at the kitchen table, Lip across from him and Fiona at his side.

“Hey, it’s me,” Mickey says.

“Hey, how are you doing? What did they say?” Ian asks in a rush.

“I’m fine. You? You got knocked around a bit yourself.”

“I’m good,” Ian says, hand coming up to his busted lip unconsciously.

“And Lip?”

Ian glances over the table, his brother sporting the darkest black eye Ian has ever seen on him. “He’s alright. Mick, what did they say? It’s just a fine, right?”

Mickey doesn’t answer immediately and when he does, he says: “It’s looking more like ninety days. I’ll be sure in a couple of days.”

“Ninety days? For a bar fight?” Ian exclaims. Fiona puts a hand on his arm.

“It’s because of the priors,” Mickey says. “They didn’t say anything yet, but that’s more plausible. Terry was on probation, though, so he is doing at least a year. They already transferred him.”

“When can I come see you?” Ian asks.

“Sundays.”

“Tomorrow?”

“I don’t think so. Processing won’t be done by then. Maybe next week.”

“Jesus Christ, Mickey.”

“I know. Look, it could have been a lot worse, I could have killed him,” Mickey says lightly. “I was going to kill him.”

“Don’t say that over the phone, asshole,” Ian sighs.

“Don’t worry about it. This shit is not going to trial.”

Ian gets up and leaves the kitchen, leaves the house. He sits down on the front steps. “Mickey, I’m so sorry,” he says softly. “I should have left when I saw he was there. I just - god, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t do this,” Mickey says, voice gentle, the way it only is when they’re alone, tucked away in their bedroom. “This isn’t your fault. He’s the monster, remember?”

“God, ninety days, though? That’s three months, Mickey. It’s almost going to be Christmas by then.”

“Okay, thanks for the pep talk, buddy,” Mickey sighs into the phone.

“I’m just saying I’m going to miss you like crazy. And if you do anything to prolong your time in there, I will kill you myself.”

“Okay, alright. Let this shit start first and see if you actually miss me, before you start with the threats.”

There is a beep on the other line, signaling that their time is about to run out. “Call me everyday, if you can,” Ian says. “At seven a.m if you have to, okay?”

“Yeah,” Mickey says. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Same time. You staying with your family?”

“Yeah, for now,” Ian sighs. “I love you.”

“I-”

Three beeps and the connection gets cut.

 

Ian sits out there for a couple of minutes, long enough for Lip to check up on him. He sits next to Ian on the steps. “He alright?”

“I think so,” Ian says. “This is all my fault.”

“Not all of it,” Lip says. “I’d say the old homophobic prick wins the blame game and you’re a close second.”

“I can’t fucking believe this. Everything was fine. Great even. And in like a split second it all went to shit.”

“Ninety days is the worst case scenario,” Lip assures him with a hand on his shoulder. “He’s got priors, but with overcrowding there is no reason to keep him there over a bar fight.”

“They could find something,” Ian says. “If they start digging they will definitely find something.”

“Why would they start digging? He had no gun and no drugs on him.”

“Which is insane,” Ian says. “He always has drugs and weapons on him.”

“Exactly. I know this sucks, but things could have ended a lot worse,” Lip says.

I was going to kill him Mickey had said.

 

Ian and Lip go back to the apartment that afternoon to get some of Ian’s things. When they’re there, Lip asks: “Hey, did Mickey say anything about what’s going to happen with his business?”

“No,” Ian says. “I don’t think he’s had a chance to think about it.”

“Do you know where he grows his stuff?”

“Only that it’s somewhere in the neighborhood. I’ve never been there and I don’t have access. Why?”

“He has a lot of clients. If he can’t deliver for over a month, it’s going to be a problem. The harvest could die, people move on to a new dealer, a new big player takes over.”

“Okay, El Chapo, I’ll ask him when he calls me tomorrow,” Ian says, shoving more underwear in his bag. “God, this is so stupid. I don’t want to go back to sharing a room with two teenagers.”

“You can’t stay here alone,” Lip says, like it’s a fact.

“Why not? I fucking live here.”

“Because there could not be a more stressful time, Ian. Mickey is in jail, you got fucking attacked by his dad. Your job is stressful enough as it is and you’re starting school on Wednesday. It’s a lot. It would be a lot for anyone.”

“But especially for me,” Ian says annoyed. “Because I need a fucking caretaker?”

“Yeah, bitch. When are you going to get used to this?”

“To being treated like a ticking time bomb? Never.” 

“We have another option,” Lip then says. “I could stay here with you.”

“Why? So you can turn my living room into your fuck shack? No, thanks. I’d rather sleep in Carl’s farts.”

“Great, then stop complaining and pack your shit,” Lip says. He sounds disappointed.

 

Back home, Debbie calls out to him later that night when he walks on the landing on the way to his room. He turns into her room instead. She is sitting on her bed, iPad in her lap. “You’re in bed early,” he tells her. “No end of summer parties?”

She shrugs. “I wasn’t in the mood. My classes start on Monday morning, so I figured I might as well get my sleeping schedule back in order.”

“You nervous about starting school?” Ian asks, and takes a seat at the end of her bed.

“Kind of. I don’t know if I can deal with a bunch of grown ups, you know? Manipulating high school kids is one thing.”

“You’ll do fine,” Ian assures her.

“What about you? How do you feel?” Debbie then asks.

“Terrible,” Ian admits. “I feel very, very bad.”

“I remember when you just went to prison. I had a stomach ache for like a month. But Mickey is going to be fine, right? He’s been in there before. He can take care of himself.”

“I… yeah. I’m more worried about him doing something to prolong his stay.“

“He won’t. He loves you too much. Of course he is going to want to come back to you as soon as possible,” Debbie says with so much conviction that Ian believes her.

 

Mickey calls him again the next day, same time. “Hey,” he says. “How are you doing?”

“You first,” Ian says. “Did you sleep alright?”

“No. You?”

“Same. I miss you already.”

“That’s too soon,” Mickey says. “But yeah, same.”

“Did you hear anything about your sentencing?”

“No, they won’t say anything until after the weekend. Tomorrow, maybe. By the end of the week more likely.”

“Alright. Do you think I should-”

Lip pushes through the front door and drops down heavily on the steps above Ian. “Ask him about the business. Be subtle.”

“Is that your brother?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah, Jesus. He wants to know what you're going to do with the sales.”

Mickey lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m still thinking about it. Let me talk to him for a second.”

“No,” Ian says, but Lip snatches the phone out of Ian’s hand and stands up.

“Mick,” Lip greets him.

 

On Monday, Ian has to go to work and pretend that everything is normal. It’s actually not that difficult, thankfully. The chaos of the emergency room is comforting only in that it doesn’t allow Ian to get lost in his own misery. He does check his phone every hour or so, but Mickey doesn’t call.

On Tuesday morning, he does call. It’s early, right when Ian is about to enter the hospital. He stops at the doors and picks up the phone.

“Hey.”

“Hey. You okay?”

“What about you?” Ian shoots back, because they both know that Ian isn’t.

“I was going to call you yesterday, but by the time I got the chance, it was late. You were already at work so-”

“So what? I’d pick up-”

“So I called Mandy instead,” Mickey finishes.

“Fine. Fine, have you heard anything?” Ian sighs and rubs a hand over his face. Mickey’s voice has sent him back into a guilt spiral immediately.

“Nothing yet. Come on, tell me how you’re holding up.”

“I hate this.”

“What, me calling you?”

“No, asshole. I want you back home. It’s been days and I can’t stand that I can’t just call you of text you whenever I want.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not here for a summer vacation, am I?”

“No, you’re there because of me.”

“Stop, don’t do this. If you want to hate me for putting myself in here, that’s fine. But you didn’t start this shit. He attacked you. I attacked him. Me and him are in jail.”

“I don’t hate you, okay? I know I sound angry, but I’m not mad at you. I’m just frustrated that this happened in the first place. I love you.”

“I’ll see you on Sunday, right?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“We’ll know by then how long this is going to last. Whatever happens, you have work and you have your classes to focus on.”

Beep.

“Will you call me tomorrow?” Ian asks.

“I’ll try to catch you before work. If I can’t, I’m calling Lip about some business in the afternoon.”

“Do I get to know what the hell you two are talking about?”

“It’s not a secret, but he’s a bigger scoundrel than you are.”

“I can help with whatever you need.”

“Alright. We’re going to get cut off.”

“I’ve got my first class tomorrow. Call me before-”

Beep beep beep.

 

Mickey calls him the next morning, too late. His class starts at eight thirty and Ian stares at his phone, on silent, but lighting up with an UNKNOWN NUMBER screaming at him at eight forty five. He had expected it, sort of. Or at least he knew that it was a possibility that Mickey would call a little later.

He considers his options. Let it ring and talk to Mickey tomorrow or be the jackass who gets up in the middle of his very first university lecture to take a phone call from his prison boyfriend?

Fuck it, this was the whole reason he took a seat at the end and at the very back near the door anyway. The teacher (professor? Whatever) has already passed his name in attendance.

Ian grabs his phone off the table, answers it before he misses the call and dashes for the door.

“I’m here,” he pants, pushing the phone to his ear in the hallway.

“There you are,” Mickey says mildly. “Bad time?”

“No, fuck no. How are you? How did you sleep?”

“Shitty. Whatever. How are you?”

“Okay, I guess,” Ian answers, having decided to try not to be a frustrated, depressed prick on the phone anymore.

“Are your classes starting today?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah, the first one is about to start. Next one is Friday morning.”

“Hm, you have work after?”

Ian leans against a wall, and closes his eyes for a moment. “Yeah, going there right after.”

“Alright. Well, I have good news, sort of.”

“Yeah?” Ian smiles. “You standing outside the university right now? Anything less and I’m not considering it good news.”

“Thirty days,” Mickey says. “And a fine of a grand.”

“Thirty?” Ian asks unable to keep his excitement out of his voice. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I got the letter this morning.”

Beep.

Ian feels a sudden urge to kill everyone involved in the prison phone system. “That’s… Jesus, that’s way fucking better than ninety days, Mick. You have no idea how happy I am.”

“Only twenty six left. You can do that, right? No need to find yourself a new boyfriend?”

“Ninety would have been a toss up, but I think I can do twenty six more days. I’m definitely going to suck the life out of your dick when you get out, though.”

“Oh, you’re going to tear this hole -”

Beep beep beep.

 

Ian takes a moment, just a quick moment to be happy outside of the lecture hall. Twenty six days. He can do that.

He slips back into the lecture hall, and immediately has the lecturers annoyed expression pointed at him. Ian doesn’t give a shit. He almost wants to flip him off, but doesn’t. Mickey would have.

 

Lip texts Ian later that day that he’s going to pick Ian up from the hospital so they can go get something from Mickey’s apartment.

“He called you today?” Ian asks once he has stepped into the car. “I thought he only had the one.”

“He bribed a guy to forfeit his call. So thirty days, huh? That’s going to be over before you know it.”

“Hm. Still too fucking long, but whatever. What do you need from his apartment?”

“We need to find his books and pay out a couple of his dealers. We also need to check on the supply; make sure rats didn’t get too it, no flooding.”

“Are we just all going to jail?” Ian asks.

“I just need your key,” Lip shrugs. “You can go home, if you don’t want to be involved in this.”

“No, I want to see it. I’m not selling shit, though,” Ian says.

 

When they enter the apartment, Lip heads straight to the bedroom. He pushes the dresser out of the way and gets on his knees. “It’s under one of these floorboard,” Lip pants. “At least I think that’s what he meant. He is not good at being cryptic.”

Ian gets on his knees and pats down on the floor, scanning it for a crease. “I think we need a knife,” he sighs.

Ian grabs Mickey’s butterfly knife off of the coffee table and returns to the bedroom. He lets the knife drag over the leveled floor, until it hitches.

“Ha,” Lip says.

Ian cranks the knife up and the floorboard pops right out. The first thing Ian sees is a Glock. The Glock is lying on top of a large, black safe.

The safe is way too big to fit through the hole they've created by removing one floor board. “Do we have to tear this whole fucking floor out?” Ian pants. He covers his hand with his sleeve and grabs the gun. He puts it to the side.

“No, I think we need two more boards,” Lip says. The one to the left pops out easily and the one to the right take some kicking and stabbing with the knife. They now have full view of the safe.

“Now what?” Ian asks. “He tell you how to unlock it?”

“No,” Lip sighs, rubs his eyes. “He said you’d know.”

“Me? How the fuck would I know? He never even told me where this fucking thing was,” Ian exclaims. “Jesus Christ.”

“You gotta think. Six digits. He’s not stupid enough to use your birthday, right?” Lip asks, already turning the knob. No. “What other dates are meaningful to you? When did you meet? When did you start dating?”

“I don’t fucking know, Lip. That’s never been a thing. I don’t…” Ian wracks his brain in an attempt to come up with any numbers that could be meaningful for Mickey.

Ian takes his phone out of his pocket, quickly looking something up. “It’s only five digits,” Ian says.

“Try a zero first or a zero last,” Lip says and moves to the side to give Ian room to reach the safe.

Ian puts in the zip code for the pier with a zero in front of it. There is literally nothing else Mickey could care about. The safe pops open.

“Ha,” Lips says and smacks Ian on the back. “That wasn’t that hard, was it? What’s the code?”

“If he didn’t tell you, I’m not telling you, jackass,” Ian grins. He pulls the heavy door to the safe open, and is about to tell Lip that Mickey would kill him if he disclosed the one thing Mickey can get sentimental about.

They both fall silent though. Completely struck dumb by the sight of the safe, stacked from top to bottom, absolutely bulging, with stacks of cash.

Ian doesn’t know how long he stares at it. He just can’t take his eyes off it.

“Did you know about this?” Lip asks, tentatively.

“No. You?” Ian asks.

“No. I knew he had a lot of cash, but this is…”

“This is over a hundred thousand dollars, Lip.”

“Closer to two hundred,” Lip says. He reaches in and slides out a black notebook, tucked tightly into the side of the safe.

Lip flips it open to the most recent page, sees the month and year neatly scribbles in Mickey’s handwriting at the top. Ian loses track of all the columns; more dates, names, dollar amounts. Lip takes out his phone, snaps a picture of the page before he closes the notebook again. He tucks it back into place and grabs one stack of cash.

“He owes his dealers nine thousand dollars for August. Three grand for each guy.”

“How are you going to find them?” Ian asks.

“I already know them. His brothers and a cousin,” Lip says. He snatches something up from the bottom of the safe and hands it to Ian. Car keys.

“His car is still at the Alibi. I don’t think he’ll mind if you drive it for a while.”

“What about the plants?” Ian asks.

Lip shows him the single key he still has in his hand. “I’ll go tomorrow.” He closes the safe back up and motions for Ian to put the gun back in its place. They put the floorboards and the dresser back.

 

On Sunday morning, Ian is about to jump out of his skin, waiting for Mickey in the visiting room. It has only been a little over a week and they’ve talked over the phone almost every day, but the three minute limit is getting more and more frustrating every day. He is excited to see him, to talk to him for an hour. He had hoped to see him out in the open, but Ian’s excitement is railed in a bit when he sees he is being led into a room with the windows and the phones.

He sits down first, fiddles with his sleeve while orange jumpsuit after orange jumpsuit come into the room, until his orange jumpsuit finally appears.

Mickey’s scowl disappears when they lock eyes and Ian’s cheeks hurt, he is smiling so wide.

He tries not to let it show on his face; the way his stomach turns at the yellowing bruises on Mickey’s face. Ian remembers it vividly, Terry getting on top of Mickey, railing in on him, in the face, over and over again. Mickey could have pushed him off immediately, but for a couple of second he let it happen. He let Terry break his skin, let Terry spill his blood.

Until he pushed him off.

“You look good,” Mickey says. “Really good.”

“You look horrible,” Ian says. “Jesus, Mick. I didn’t know it was this bad.”

“Yeah, well,” Mickey says, unwavering. “You should see the other guy.” He is holding the phone with his left hand. His right hand is under the table.

“What’s that?” Ian asks.

Mickey lifts his hand up to show the cast. “Just two knuckles.”

“Broken?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t feel great, but you know,” Mickey shrugs. “I really don’t want to talk about that shit, though. How are you? How is the headspace?”

“It’s been better, but it’s been a lot worse, too,” Ian says truthfully. “Talking to you everyday helps, but I get anxious thinking about you in here.”

“Don’t. I’ve done this dance before. I know how to take care of myself in here.”

“I’ve got no doubts about that. I’m more worried of you doing something to earn yourself an extra thirty.”

“I won’t,” Mickey says, defensively. “You don’t think i want to get back home as soon as I can?”

“You better,” Ian says. “You fucking better, I swear.”

“I got it, I got it,” Mickey snaps at him. “How are your fucking classes? Jesus.”

“Chemistry professor hates me and it is way too fucking hard. Anatomy is fine. I have a pile of homework, which I have no fucking time to do.”

“Why does your chemistry professor hate you?”

“Because I walked out of his lecture to pick up the phone. He noticed, called me down after class and told me not to do it again.”

“What the fuck is this? Fucking middle school?” Mickey huffs.

“I know. It’s more hassle than I thought it would be,” Ian sighs.

“Don’t pick up next time,” Mickey says, with a little knowing smile, that has Ian grinning in response.

“Fat fucking chance.”

“You do really look good,” Mickey then says.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I almost forgot what a fucking stud you are. Everyone in here is so fucking ugly, it’s depressing.”

“Damn, it only took ten months of dating and a week in jail for you to admit that I’m hot,” Ian says, heat pooling in his stomach, and Jesus, he can feel his face heat up too.

“Well, I can’t exactly suck your dick through the glass to let you know,” Mickey says and he seems… bashful.

“I like it when you say it out loud,” Ian says.

“I thought you had weird old guy trauma with people calling you a hot little twink?”

“Ah, I forgot I told you that. You’re not a weird old guy. You’re my guy. You can say whatever you want.”

“In that case, you look real fucking hot. Like a breath of fresh air in this shithole,” Mickey tells him, and he doesn’t look Ian in the eyes. He looks at his lips.

“Don’t start jerking off now,” Ian warns, but he is still blushing. God.

Mickey rolls his eyes at him and tightens his hold on the phone. Ian thinks of that tattooed hand wrapped around his cock.

“How’s the business going?” Mickey then asks.

“Good, I think. Lip said something about drainage that he fixed. I’d like to get back to complimenting me, though. What else do you find attractive about me? Want to say anything about my eyes?”

“I have to save something for next week, don’t I?” Mickey smirks.

“Even now you’re going to play hard to get with me? Maybe you should read that book on love languages I told you about, now that you have some free time.”

“Yeah, I’ll check if they have it in the library,” Mickey rolls his eyes. “You paid Joey and Iggy?”

“Lip took care of it. Do you want him to come next week?”

“No fucking way,” Mickey says and Ian wants to reach through, to grab him and take him home. “I want to talk to you. The rest can fucking wait for a couple of weeks.”

 

Those weeks are grueling. Ian is reminded that it is much fucking easier to focus on his studies in actual prison, rather than after a grueling day at work and in his family home. He needs Lip’s help for pretty much everything that has to do with chemistry. He only has the most basic knowledge, and the gap between his knowledge and what he is apparently supposed to know as a fourth year nursing student is huge. Lip is nice enough to sacrifice an hour a night after dinner to sit down with Ian like they used to do in high school. Ian is only just starting to sort of understand what the fuck is going on with chemistry by the third week of school (and jail) when the anatomy class throws him for a loop. Their usual professor is out sick, and will be out for quite a while and they’re getting a new professor.

Dr.  E. Lishman.

It takes Ian way too long to realise why the name in the email looks familiar. He first remembers Fiona’s ex-boyfriend. And when he remembers Jimmysteve, he instantly remembers…

“Hey,” Ian bumps Liam on the arm. Liam looks up from his homework. “What is Ned short for?”

Liam thinks about that for a moment. “Maybe Bernard?”

“Yeah, probably,” Ian says, sitting back into his chair. It’s just someone with the same last name in the same profession. It happens all the time, just a coincidence-

“Oh, Google says it’s short for Edward,” Liam says a minute later, holding up his phone.

Ian grabs the phone out of his hand, heart stuttering in his chest. “No way.”

“What’s got you worked up?” Fiona asks casually, strolling into the kitchen. She grabs a Coke out of the fridge.

“My life is a fucking joke,” Ian says handing Liam back his phone. “This can’t be fucking real.”

Fiona sits down and Ian feels crowded. He fights the urge to get up. She doesn’t hate you. She never will, he reminds himself.

“What happened?” She asks.

“Nothing,” Ian says without missing a beat. It’s a reflex. “I’ll deal with it.”

“You don’t want to talk about it? You seemed pretty worked up a second ago,” Fiona says. She doesn’t push. She just asks.

“No, it’s…” he stops, wondering why he is lying. What is the point? He grabs his phone off the table, opens the email and lets Fiona read it.

Her eyes become impossibly wide when she reaches the end. “That can’t be him. What is Ned short for?”

“Bernard or Edward,” Liam says absently, eyes back on his homework.

“Well how many people are in that class? It’s a lecture, right?” Fiona asks. “He might not notice you’re there.”

“The class is mandatory. They take attendance every week. Not to mention I have to submit assignments every week with my fucking name on it. There are two TA’s but there is absolutely no way he isn’t going to come across my name sooner or later.”

“So what do we do?” Fiona asks, seriously.

“Nothing. Just deal with it, I guess,” Ian sighs. “Like you said, there are like a hundred and fifty people in that class. And who knows how many… teenage boys he’s been fucking over the years. He might not even remember me.”  Kids, he wanted to say. Who knows how many kids he’s been fucking over the years?

“Is there no parallel class you can transfer to? Can we get him fired somehow? Let’s consider our options here,” Fiona says. “We’re not letting him ruin this for you, Ian.”

“Let’s not get carried away, okay? This sucks, but as long as he doesn’t try talking to me or anything, it doesn’t have to be a big deal,” Ian says, convincing himself, too.

“And if he does?” Fiona asks.

“Well, Mickey gets out of jail in four days,” Ian says and can’t help but smile at the idea. “He can be pretty creative.”

Chapter Text

The anatomy class is the very next day. Ian sits in the back, as he always does. Today he wore a black hooded sweatshirt, one of Mickey’s old ones that he took to the house with him. He pulls it over his head in an attempt to hide his cursed orange hair.

“Late night?” Shelley, the dark skinned girl that has been fighting him for the seat furthest in the back and closest to the door since the year started, asks. “Couldn’t wait for the weekend?”

“I look that bad, huh?”

“Not really, but hood up in class usually means you plan on sleeping through it.”

“Just comfortable,” Ian shrugs, which it is. It still smells like Mickey. Ian had to snatch it out of the laundry basket while Fiona was already walking down the stairs with it. “That thing smells like weed,” she had said and Ian put it on over his t-shirt anyway.

Liam, the little creep that he is, sniffed at Ian’s arm over breakfast and said; “No, it smells like Mickey.”

 

When Ned walks into the lecture hall, Ian sinks down in his seat, not helping his I’m-not-planning-on-sleeping-in-class case. He looks the same from back here, maybe a little older, but he has always been old. He was fifty back then he is fifty eight now.

Professor Wilson would let his TA’s take attendance while he got his cup of coffee, but Ned picks up the sheet of paper and starts a spiel about ‘getting to know each other before starting the lecture’. His voice makes Ian’s stomach turn for some reason.

He goes through the list and when he finally comes to Ian’s name, Jesus.

“Ian… Gallagher?”

Ian hates the recognition in his voice, hates how his eyes search the room immediately. He hadn’t done that with any other student before he got to him.

Ian doesn’t look at him. He doesn’t look up from his desk at all. “Here,” he says, and doesn’t put his hand up. It is quiet for a moment, a moment that feels like it goes on forever, before he finally moves on to the next name.

Ian doesn't listen to the rest of the lecture. He doesn’t even put his textbook on the table. He checks his phone to see if Mickey has tried calling him in the last half hour and then Googles if he can get his tuition back if he drops out now and then he spends the rest of the time texting Mandy about nothing, really.

When the lecture ends, Ian gets up immediately.

“Ian,” Ned says, loud enough for Ian to hear him over the rustle of students packing their things. “Ian,” he calls again.

Ian ignores him and pushes through the double doors without looking back.

 

Mickey calls him right when Ian gets into the car.

“Hey,” Ian answers. He rests his forehead against the steering wheel.

“Good morning,” Mickey greets him lightly. “How was school?”

“Fine. Boring. You know how it is,” Ian says shortly.

“Not really,” Mickey says. “You doing alright with that chemistry shit?”

“Yeah, it’s alright. How are you doing? How is your hand? Did they take the cast off already?” Ian asks, desperate to get off the topic of his classes.

“They replaced it this morning. Another two weeks.”

“What? That’s not just a normal break then. Did you shatter your wrist, too?” Ian asks, shooting straight up in his seat.

“Yeah, Gallagher. I keep forgetting you’re a fucking nurse. Wrist fracture or whatever.”

“That must hurt like fucking hell. They giving you painkillers?”

“Of course not,” Mickey snorts. “It’s not that bad, anyway.”

“You’re lying. You could barely hold it up last Sunday.”

“Today is Friday. A lot has changed. You on your way to work?”

“About to head there now,” Ian sighs. “It’s expected to rain today, so lots of trauma patients, since no one in Chicago knows how to fucking drive in the rain for some reason.”

“Good thing they got you, huh-”

Beep.

“-any plans after work?”

“Fuck no. I don’t get off until nine, because of this bullshit class in the morning. Probably just watch a movie at the house. Carl has a book report due on Monday, so.”

“Sounds nice. Hey, take care of yourself today. I gotta go.”

“Oh, okay-”

Mickey hangs up, thirty seconds too early. Ian stares at the call time, confused and annoyed. Not once in the last 27 days did they hang up voluntarily. They were always cut off by the fucking machine.

Ian takes off, forgets about Ned for a moment, redirecting his rage at Mickey instead.

His workday is worse than he thought it would be. It rains all day; car crash victim after car crash victim comes in with injuries ranging from neck sprains to impaled limbs. Ian would lie if he said it wasn’t a welcome distraction. He doesn’t get a free second to overthink this whole Ned thing and his mind travels to his shortened phone call with Mickey only a couple of times and mulls it over during his break.

When he gets ready to leave work, he looks at himself in the mirror in the locker room. There is nothing left of the subtle tan he had gotten over the summer. In this light he looks even paler than he actually is. His hair has gotten a bit too long again. He makes a note to get it cut before Mickey gets out on Monday.

Ian steps out of the hospital and into the dimly lit parking lot, pleased to see that it stopped raining. The temperature has dropped down quite a bit and he feels the chill in his bones. He hurries to his parked car, far away of course, because he only got there at noon.

He is focused on digging his car keys out of his pocket when he glances up to see someone leaning against the driver’s side door of the Jeep. Ian is about to start cursing someone out, when he stops dead in his tracks.

“Hey,” Mickey says with a smirk and pushes himself off the car.

Ian lunges forward, smashes himself into Mickey’s arms who catches him just in time. “What the fuck are you doing here?” Ian manages to force out.

“Came to see what you’re up to,” Mickey says. He squeezes Ian into the hug and then tries to pull back. Ian refuses to budge. “Why the fuck didn’t you say anything this morning?” Ian asks, tightening his hold.

“Jesus, Gallagher,” Mickey chuckles and Ian feels his breath on his neck. Ian pulls back, but only so that he can kiss him, fucking finally.

Mickey allows it for a moment and then tells Ian to get into the car. There are people in the parking lot with shifts and visiting hours ending not long ago. They get in the car and as soon as the doors close, Mickey pulls him in by the front of his shirt. “Come here,” he says softly. Ian melts into him.

 

They stay in the parking lot for a while, locked at the lips mostly, but also talking a little bit about Mickey’s early release due to overcrowding over the weekend.

Mickey drives them home. To their home, their apartment.

As soon as the door locks behind them, Ian pushes him, not very gently towards the bedroom. Mickey smirks at him, takes his coat off while walking backward and drops it on the couch. Ian sheds his clothes, too, maybe in record time. They fall into bed, naked and grabbing at each other like it’s been a year, not a month.

 

Fucked out, dying for a cigarette, but still clinging on to Mickey for dear life, Ian whispers: “God, I missed you.”

They are lying on their sides, facing each other. The bed covers have disappeared onto the floor. Ian pushes their foreheads together, lets a hand run over Mickey’s stomach and chest. He looks different than he did just a few days ago. He had looked tired then, he hadn’t shaved in a while and the orange jumpsuit washed him out. He has lost weight since he went in, Ian notices now. Just a little, just enough to make his clean shaven face look a little younger and his bright blue eyes look a little bigger. From up close like this, Mickey looks like a boy. No tattoos in sight, no defensive stance and tense shoulders. Not someone who beat his own father half to death. Just a young guy, all soft skin and long eyelashes and warm mouth. Like this, in here, he kisses Ian eagerly. Ian doesn’t really have to ask anymore, hasn’t had to ask for a while now.

Ian hasn’t felt this content, this relaxed all month. He’s dying for a smoke, though. But that would mean him getting out of this warm bed, losing Mickey’s arms around him and walking all the way to the living room to grab the pack and an ashtray.

But Mickey is first to unlatch himself, and Ian lets him go, follows him into the living room. Mickey heads for the fridge, naked form sauntering towards the kitchen. He grabs two beers that Ian didn’t know were in there. “You did groceries?” Ian asks as he fumbles the pack of Marlboro out of his jacket pocket.

“I got beer, chips and cereal,” Mickey says.

“Milk?”

“Milk,” he nods. He cracks the beers open and hands Ian the first one. Ian takes it and slides two cigarettes and a lighter out of the pack.

“I’ve been off it for a month,” Mickey says, but accepts the cigarette anyway. He puts it behind his ear and heads back to their bedroom.

“You quitting?” Ian asks loudly, sifting through the kitchen for an ashtray, before he finds it on the coffee table. “Leaving me behind?”

“Probably not,” Mickey snorts. When Ian joins him in the bedroom, Mickey is sliding his boxers over his ass. Ian wants to grab it, but his hands are full.

He sets his beer and the ashtray down on the floor next to the bed, noting that this is probably the reason people have nightstands. Now that they’re not curled up together, it is kind of cold, so Ian slips his boxers on as well and pulls his hoodie over his head.

He is just about standing up straight when Mickey grabs him by the front of his shirt with his left hand.

“I missed you, too,” he says, faces less than an inch away.

“Yeah?” Ian asks, stupidly. His eyes dart over Mickey’s face, looking for something, he’s not sure what. Maybe wondering if there is an ‘I love you’ in there, somewhere.

Mickey kisses him, a real kiss; warm and long and Ian thinks there has to be an ‘I love you’ in there.

 

They drink their beers in bed, leaning against the wall and against each other. Ian takes two drags of his cigarette before Mickey snatches it out from between his lips to take a drag himself.

“We can try to quick,” Ian suggests. “Maybe in the new year.”

“Maybe,” Mickey snorts, exhaling through his nose. “We can try not smoking in the house. The air got pretty clean in here, over the last month.”

When they’re done with their beers and the bottles are discarded on the floor, Ian tells Mickey to lie down. “On your stomach.”

Mickey smirks at him, and does as he is told without question. Ian moves over him easily, presses kisses all the way down Mickey’s spine, kneading Mickey’s ass in the process.

Mickey lifts his hips, allows Ian to slide his underwear down. Ian can’t help himself, he sinks his teeth into Mickey’s ass cheek, right over an old scar. He doesn’t bite deep enough to leave an imprint, but hard enough for Mickey to groan and swat at him weakly.

“You don’t like that?” Ian chuckles, smoothing his thumb over the spot.

“Not when I’m half asleep. Leave that rough shit for when I’m hard,” Mickey mutters.

“Well it wasn’t just for you,” Ian says, absently. He moves his thumb, slides it between Mickey’s asscheeks and is distracted by the heat. He doesn’t push in, just rubs at Mickey’s hole. He has tightened up since their first round. Ian gets that Mickey isn’t in the mood for another aggressive pound session. Ian is pretty satiated on that front as well, for now. But Mickey’s ass is still right there and he hasn’t complained about the rest of Ian’s fooling around. So Ian goes for it.

He leans down, drags his tongue over Mickey’s hole, slow and wet.

“That’s more fucking like it,” Mickey sighs and bends one knee to give Ian more room.

 

They’re startled awake, both of them annoyed and only having slept about three hours when the banging on the front door starts. Mickey curses, flips his phone up to reveal it’s only seven a.m. on fucking Saturday morning. “Who the fuck…” he gets up, grabs Ian’s track pants and yanks them on aggressively.

“Neighbors?” Ian suggests. “Maybe something is wrong.” He jumps up at the thought of that and heads for the front door first, still dressed in the sweatshirt and boxers from the night before. He peeps through the peephole first and feels his blood run cold. He yanks the door open. “Fiona?”

His sister’s eyes widen when she sees him and then her face twists in frustration. She smacks him against the chest. “Jesus, Ian. Where the fuck is your phone? I’ve been calling you all fucking night.”

“Why? What’s going on? Is everyone okay?” Ian asks, grabbing her hands.

“Now they fucking are. You didn’t come home last night. I thought something happened with that old piece of shit - Mickey? What the fuck are you doing here?”

“I live here, lady,” Mickey says, sounding only mildly annoyed.

Ian lets her words sink in. That old piece of shit. Jesus Christ. Ian hadn’t thought about Ned at all, not even for a second since Mickey got back. In fact, Ian hadn’t thought about anything other than Mickey since last night. His phone must have died, still long forgotten in his coat pocket.

“I thought you didn’t get out until Monday,” she says, but she’s smiling, relieved. Ian hopes the look he shoots her is enough.

“Early release,” Mickey shrugs.

“I think my phone died last night. I wasn’t thinking, sorry,” Ian says. Part of him wants to say that he’s not fifteen anymore, not volatile, not prepared to jump on the first dick with potential to get him out of the Southside. He wants to be pissed at her for assuming he’d fuck his life up, just based on him not calling in for one fucking night.

This isn’t the time.

“I’m glad to have you back,” Fiona says to Mickey, and her smile is genuine, relieved. She turns to Ian: “I’m sorry about this, but I get worried, alright? I didn’t know where the hell you would spend a night if it wasn’t at home or here.”

“It’s fine, Jesus. I thought you were going to tell me to get ready for Carl’s funeral,” Ian says.

“Not yet,” Fiona says. “I’m sorry I woke you guys up. Here.” She tucks something into Ian’s hand and takes a step back. “Come over to the house for dinner tonight, yeah? Both of you. Welcome home, Mickey.”

She disappears down the hall with a wave. Ian looks down at the pill bottle in his hand. He curses. He forgot to take his meds the night before. Of course he did. And he was going to forget it again this morning, too. He really can’t be happy for one second before fucking his life up, huh.

Ian closes the door and turns around to find Mickey looking at him. “A real bitch, that one, huh,” Mickey says, dripping with sarcasm. “I see why you have such a problem with her.”

“Shut the fuck up. I don’t have a problem with her,” Ian lies. He digs his phone out of his jacket pocket and plugs it in with Mickey’s phone charger. He takes his meds, leaving the bottle on the counter.

Mickey is already back in bed. Ian crawls over him to get to his side.

“What old piece of shit?” Mickey asks, face in his pillow.

“Huh?” Ian plays dumb,

“She said she was worried about you and some old piece of shit,” he says, finally turning to look at Ian with one eye open. “You back to gargling old man balls already?”

“No, Jesus, Mick. Your car… it crapped out on me a couple of times,” Ian lies.

“What’s wrong with my car?”

“It’s an old piece of shit,” Ian says. He’s not sure why he’s lying. “It’s working fine now. It was just the battery.”

“Hm. If you ruined my car, you’re paying for it,” Mickey grumbles and pulls the covers up over his shoulder.

 

It’s more difficult not to think about Ned when Ian has now clearly lied about it to Mickey. Fiona texts him about it, asking how the class went. Ian tells her the truth; that nothing happened. He pushes it aside, enjoys his weekend with his boyfriend.

Until Lip gives him another thing to fucking be pissed about.

Lip comes over to the apartment on Sunday night to help him with the assignment for his chemistry class on Wednesday. Mickey is out, but could probably be back any minute. They’re just about finishing up, when Lip says: “Hey, don’t be pissed.”

“I’m not,” Ian says, confused.

“No, but you’re about to be,” he says, leaning forward in his chair.  He crosses his arms on the table. “Fiona told me about Ned.”

“Still not pissed,” Ian says. “I know that if I tell either one of you something, you’ll snitch right away.”

“That’s not - whatever. Mickey being in jail was stressful and now this bullshit with Ned. You didn’t take your meds that night. That hasn’t happened since you got out of prison.”

“That was an accident and you know it,” Ian snaps, and now he’s pissed.

“I know,” Lip says, calmly. “I know. It could happen to anyone.”

“I’m forgiven, am I?”

“Look, I’m just trying to talk to you, okay? I want to know what’s going on in your head. You talk to me about everything, but you haven’t said a word about that brain of yours.”

“Because I feel fine. I’ve been fine for months. Missing one fucking pill isn’t going to send me into hypomania or depression.”

“I know you’re doing good, Ian. Really good. And I want you to keep going. So this Ned bullshit - If that becomes a problem, you have to tell me. I’m saying it now, so that you hear me loud and fucking clear. Don’t wait for him to do something you can’t come back from. Don’t talk to him, don’t argue with him. Stay the fuck away from him. And if he contacts you, you have to tell me.”

“I can take care of myself, thanks. Last I checked you’re not allowed on that campus.”

“Finding out where he lives is the easy part,” Lip shrugs. “I mean it. You need to stay as far away from that guy as possible.”

“Got it.”

“Did you tell Mickey about this?” Lip then asks, and Ian visibly hesitates. “Why not?”

“Because he’s crazy. He’d have killed him already,” Ian says.

“Sounds good to me,” Lip shrugs.

“He just got outta jail, Lip. He was in there because of me. When I was depressed, he took care of me for months. I tell him everything, every sad fucking thing. I don’t want him to deal with more of my stupid shit.”

“If he finds out, he’s going to rage out.”

“He won’t find out,” Ian says. “And if he does, I’m holding you responsible. And tell Fiona to keep her mouth shut, too.”

 

Mickey comes home less than half an hour later. All signs of Lip or their earlier conversation are gone. Ian has a beer after he leaves, in the hopes it will ease the tension in his shoulders a little bit before Mickey arrives.

It doesn’t. He feels tense and angry and he hates that he can’t talk about it.

Mickey kicks his shoes off at the door, slips out of his sweaty shirt before even entering their bedroom. He emerges wearing a fresh one and joins Ian on the couch. He grabs the empty beer bottle off the table and shakes it. “You starting without me?”

“Lip was here,” Ian says.

“Yeah, that fuck will send you looking for a bottle,” Mickey snorts and gets up again. “You want another one?”

“Nah, I shouldn’t. I’ve got work in the morning,” Ian says.

Mickey comes back with a beer and a coke, gives the red can to Ian. “So, what did he do to you? Make you feel stupid about all that school shit?”

“That too,” Ian smiles faintly. “He is only a year and a half older than me, you know, but he still thinks I’m some fucking child that could fly off the handle at any second.”

“He doesn’t want you to move back here?” Mickey asks.

“What? No, he didn’t say anything about that,” Ian says. He cracks the coke open, leaves it to rest on the table next to Mickey’s beer. “He just thinks I can’t take anything without cracking.”

“Like what?”

“Whatever, anything,” Ian sighs, guilt clawing at his chest. He grabs Mickey’s beer bottle, takes a swig out of it and hands it to him. “I don’t want to talk about him, right now.”

 

On Friday morning, it’s raining again. Mickey lets Ian take the car on Wednesdays and Fridays so that the commute between home, the university and the hospital isn’t as shitty. Shelley is in the preferred seat, but she has her bag and jacket dumped into the seat below her, which she removes as soon as she sees him.

“Thanks,” he says and shoots her a smile. “Did you submit the assignment on time?”

“With thirty seconds to spare,” she snorts. “Took more time than I thought.”

“Right. You think he’ll check all of them?”

“Yeah. I got a B on mine. He emailed the feedback this morning,” Shelley says. “Probably discuss the shit today.”

“This morning?” Ian questions and pulls his phone out of his jacket. He checks his email, somewhat nervously. Not because of the grade, he couldn’t care less, at this point. But Ned emailing him - that can’t be okay.

And he is right.

 

Ian,

You got a B on your assignment. The feedback is enclosed in the document.

See me after class,

Ned.

 

“Bad news?” Shelley asks from behind him.

“Got a B,” Ian says, locking his phone.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s a compound grade. You can still make an A out of it with the upcoming assignments,” Shelley says.

“Yeah, no, it’s fine,” Ian says and taps his fingers on the table. He considers screen shotting the email and sending it to Lip. This is what he was talking about, right? But it seems ridiculous. Why would he make this Lip’s problem? Or Fiona’s or Mickey’s? Ned is his past, his mistake. He just has to deal with it.

When the lecture ends, Ian packs his shit and puts his jacket on. He hesitates. Shelley says goodbye cheerfully and disappears. Ian wants to follow her out of the door and not look back. But it feels cowardly. It feels like he’s running.

He puts his bag on his back and walks down the stairs to the front of the lecture hall. The TA’s are already gone. Ned watches him take every step until he is standing in front of him.

“You wanted to see me,” Ian says, tries to keep his voice neutral.

“And I’m glad to,” Ned says easily. He looks Ian up and down.. “Look at you, you haven’t changed at all.”

“Why did you want to see me?” Ian asks, sounding even to his own ears, annoyed.

“I thought we could catch up. I’m very curious how you ended up here. I can’t remember you ever being interested in the medical field. Something must have inspired you.”

“Catch up?” Ian snorts. “What, like we’re friends?”

“Old friends,” Ned says and Ian takes a step back. There are still plenty of straggling students in the room. They are nowhere near alone. This man has some balls on him.

“No, we’re not,” he says. “And I’m not interested in being any type of friends.”

“Why is that?” Ned asks, the smarmy smile make Ian’s skin itch. “We were very close at one point. Must be fate that brought us back together.”

“Fate, huh? I thought you’d be more interested in fate bringing you a high school kid.”

“Don’t worry about that. You look just as good as you did back then.”

“You can’t be serious with this,” Ian says and heads for the stairs. “Like I said, I’m not interested in any of this. Don’t try talking to me again.”

“I can do a lot for you, Ian,” Ned says.

Ian ignores him. The urge to flip him off is massive, but he doesn’t want any other student to question his relationship with the man. He wants to forget this, forget this completely.

 

Friday night used to be their night, but Ian has a feeling that it’s going to have to change. With his shift at the hospital not ending until nine p.m and him not getting home until around nine thirty and being completely fucking exhausting, it might not be the ideal date night. Last Friday, Ian was bursting with adrenaline at the sight of Mickey in the parking lot, because he hadn’t seen him for a month. Tonight, Ian comes home with an aching back and a strain in his neck. He is dying for a hot shower, a hot meal and some headscratches in Mickey’s lap.

“Hey,” Mickey greets him from the couch. There is a pile of joints on the coffee table, a bag of weed right next to it. “Food will be here in twenty.”

Ian walks up to him, grabs his face from under his chin and plants a kiss on his lips. “I’m going to take a shower real quick.”

“You want me in there?”

“I want you after,” Ian tells him. “I need to scrub the hospital grime off me.”

“Bad day?” Mickey asks, raking a hand through Ian’s hair before letting him stand up straight again.

“Just fucking long,” Ian sighs and heads for the shower.

When he comes back, dressed in a sweatshirt and shorts, the weed is cleared off the coffee table and moved to the table in the kitchen. The coffee table now holds a large pizza and a couple of beer bottles.

“Can we smoke instead?” Ian asks, sitting down on the couch, watching Mickey pack the joints neatly into a ziplock bag at the kitchen table.

“Instead of what?” Mickey asks.

“Beer.”

“We gotta choose now?”

“You don’t, but I don’t got that many functioning braincells left,” Ian says. Mickey strolls over after fishing two joints out of the ziplock bag and closing it again.

Mickey sits next to him, but turned towards him, legs crossed under him as well. TLC is on, because that is almost exclusively what they watch these days.

They pretty much destroy the pizza in less than ten minutes and Ian has to relight his joint twice because he is too distracted by Mickey’s very amusing rant on how people have the nerve to be disloyal to their drug dealers if they happen to go to jail for thirty days or so.

Ian settles his head into Mickey’s lap halfway through, and Mickey’s hand reaches for Ian’s head immediately. His hair is still damp, but it feels just as good when Mickey gives him headscratches. Life ain't so bad, Ian has to admit.

And when Mickey later comes back from taking a piss and sinks down on his knees in front of Ian without much of an explanation or question, and tugs Ian’s shorts down, Ian even thinks that life is actually pretty fucking great at the moment.

 

Friday night wasn’t that bad after all, but Ian stills feels bad for the short evening, because he passed out practically soon as he came.

So on Saturday, Ian tries to make up for it. The sky is clear, probably one of the last nice days in October, so Ian suggests they go out, spend the afternoon at the pier and have lunch somewhere. Mickey doesn’t argue, even lets Ian drive.

They sit down for lunch on a patio of a sandwich shop near the pier. They wolf down the sandwiches very quickly and share a stack of pancakes afterwards. Mickey sips his coffee, gives Ian a contemplative look that makes him kind of nervous.

“What?” Ian asks.

“I don’t know,” Mickey says. “Something.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a bad liar, Gallagher.”

“What am I lying about?” Ian plays dumb, shifts his eyes back to the empty plate. He grabs his cup of coffee. Empty. He puts it down.

“Maybe if you look me in the eye at some point today, I’d figure it out,” Mickey says.

Ian’s eyes snap up. Mickey looks at him, piercing blue eyes, and squints. “So? There is nothing?” Mickey asks.

“What would there be? Maybe I’m a little distracted. It’s been a long week,” Ian sighs, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Keep looking,” Mickey says and Ian realizes that he’s averted his eyes again. Jesus. “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s one thing. But don’t lie about it. You’re not good at it.”

Ian rubs a hand over his face again, hates that this has become a thing, hates that Mickey sees right through him. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why not?”

“That’s not how it works. If I say I don’t want to talk about it, you drop it,” Ian says.

“I never agreed to that,” Mickey says and Ian can see that he is getting aggravated. Ian wonders how pissed he’ll be about Ned. Maybe he won’t care. Maybe Ian has blown this whole thing way out of proportion.

“You can’t get pissed,” Ian says.

“Too late.”

“I’m serious, Mickey. It’s not a big deal, but I know how you get. I don’t want you to get hung up on this for the rest of the day,” Ian says.

“Enough with the fucking disclaimer, Gallagher. Give it up,” Mickey says.

“I got a new professor. Someone I knew a long time ago.”

“A guy you banged,” Mickey deduces immediately, with a frown. “When?”

“A long time ago,” Ian sighs.

“How long ago? Are we talking when you were twenty or are we talking fifteen?” Mickey demands.

Ian presses his palms into his eyes. “Sixteen.”

“This the doctor?”

Ian nods and removes his hands. “It’s awkward, but nothing to be worried about.”

“Did he talk to you?”

“Yeah, I’m in his class.”

“Don’t be a fucking bitch, Ian. You know what I mean.”

“What the fuck do you want me to say? Yeah, he was being a fucking creep,” Ian snaps. “I told him to fuck off and not to talk to me again. That’s the end of it.”

“What do you mean he was being a creep?” Mickey asks, frown deepening.

“I’m not getting into the details with you. It’s none of your business anyway.” Ian instantly regrets the last part. It’s too much, too defensive and Mickey just went from being pissed at the situation to being pissed at Ian specifically.

Mickey gets up, takes his coffee with him and walks off, towards the parking lot over a mile away. Ian takes a moment, lights a cigarette and tries to gather his thoughts. When he realizes there is nothing to gather, he pays for the food and follows Mickey down the pier.

“It’s only been a week,” Ian says breathlessly when he catches up with him. “Last Friday was the first time he taught the class and I didn’t talk to him until yesterday.”

“None of my fucking business, Gallagher,” Mickey says. “You want to deal with this shit on your own, fine. Shut the fuck up about it.” 

“You’re the one who fucking pulled it out of me,” Ian almost yells.

“Should have kept my damn mouth shut, huh.”

“Look, it’s not like I’m going to bang the guy. He’s just trying to see what he can get, like the creep that he is. I’m not worried about it and neither should you be.”

“I’m not worried about that geriatric fuck,” Mickey snaps at him, coming to a standstill. “You lied right to my face about this bullshit, Ian. Why? Because you thought I’d get pissed? Like I’m not always pissed already?”

“Yeah, and maybe that’s the fucking problem. Why worry about this when there are a thousand other things to worry about? Not everything needs to be a huge fucking deal.”

“Fine,” Mickey says. “Fine. I guess when something isn’t a huge fucking deal, we just lie about it from now on.”

“I didn’t lie to you. Just because it didn’t come up, doesn’t mean I’m hiding it from you.” Ian knows he might be digging himself even deeper here. He just wants this to be over.

“Tell that to your shifty little eyes,” Mickey says and continues walking. Ian grabs his arm, holds him in place. Mickey yanks his arm away. “You want to die, or what?”

“I want you to listen. Please. Just sit down with me for a second,” Ian says, waving at the empty bench a few feet away.

“Are you actually going to say something? Or just bullshit your way through it until I’m sick of listening to you?”

“You know what? Fuck you, Mickey. You just be pissed like you always are. We’ll talk when you realize what a fucking dick you’re being.”

“Don’t hold your fucking breath, asshole,” Mickey says and continues walking.

The drive home is more of the same. Ian trying to explain, but not knowing how or what he is actually defending. Mickey telling him to shut the fuck up already.

When they get home, Ian doesn’t go into the apartment. Instead, he steps out of the car and heads down the street, towards the subway. Mickey doesn’t ask him where he is going.

 

Ian finds Lip at the kitchen table with Debbie and Liam. “I need to talk to you,” Ian says, looking at Lip and grabbing Liam by the back of the neck as a greeting. “Outside.”

Lip looks at him suspiciously, but gets up and grabs his jacket anyway. They sit in the last step in front of the house. “You’re jacked up,” Lip says.

“We had a fight,” Ian says.

“Physical? Did you win?”

“No. To both. He found out about Ned.”

“What is there to find out? How pissed can he get at you for that? You didn’t fuck the guy.”

“He says he’s mad because I lied to him.”

“But you told him eventually,” Lip shrugs. “He’ll get over it. He’s an intense guy, sometimes he looks angrier than he actually is.”

“I didn’t tell him, exactly. I wasn’t planning on it. He said I’ve been acting shifty all week and pretty much pulled it out of me.”

“I see. That’s a bit tougher. What, he thinks you’re actually banging the guy? Did you tell him you’re not talking to him?”

“I did… talk to him.”

Lip stares at him for a moment and Ian feels like he is thirteen and about to be scolded. “When?” Lip asks.

“Yesterday after class. Emailed me that morning that he wanted to talk. I didn’t want to run away.”

“That’s fucking stupid, Ian. You give that piece of shit even a second of your time and you’re fucking up.”

“Yeah, I get it. I already have Mickey ready to kick me out. You have to wait your fucking turn,” Ian sighs, rubbing his eyes. “What do I say? To Mickey? He keeps saying I lied to him… I don’t want him to think that of me.”

“Try telling the truth,” Lip suggests. “Tell him why you lied. Tell him why Ned gets under your skin.”

“Really? You think this is a good time to delve into the daddy issues?”

“There ain’t never a good time, just got to talk about it if you want to understand each other a little better,” Lip says. “If you don’t want to do that, you can try delving into his kinks. Use sex as a weapon, you know. I hear it works wonders in relationships.”

“You don’t know shit about relationships,” Ian sighs.

“Yeah, guess not,” Lip shrugs. “None of us really do. I think you’ve made it further with Mickey Milkovich than any of us have ever gotten with anyone. Life really is a simulation.”

 

Ian stays for dinner. He is helping Debbie cut the vegetables for a lasagna when Fiona comes home from work. She usually works evening shifts at the restaurant she manages, but the first Saturday of the month is something of a buy-in nightmare, according to her.

“Ian, it’s good to see you,” she says, with a hand on his shoulder. “Where’s your scarier half?”

“They’re breaking up,” Lip says before Ian can even open his mouth.

“No, they’re not,” Debbie is first to react, outraged.

“We’re not,” Ian says, flipping Lip off halfheartedly. “We had a fight. I’m letting him cool off.”

“Don’t wait too long,” Fiona says with a mischievous smile. “Fucking Julian texted me a few days ago asking if you two were still dating and if not, if he could get Mickey’s number.”

“Julian?” Ian wracks his brain. “Mickey gut punched him in the bathroom at the restaurant. Why would he want Mickey’s number?”

“Says he wants to apologize,” Fiona says wiggling her eyebrows.

“Mickey would eat him alive,” Ian snorts. “What did you say?”

“Nothing. I don’t respond to asshole anymore,” Fiona shrugs.

“Smart,” Lip says, looking at Ian.

 

After dinner, Ian shrugs his coat on at the door.

“Leaving already?” Fiona asks.

“Gotta go face the music,” Ian sighs. “If he’s home anyway. He might be out.”

“Why don’t you call him over? You can talk it out here. Liam wants to watch some old horror movie he found on Netflix.”

“That sounds like fun, really, but us talking it out tonight is pretty optimistic.”

“That bad, huh? Maybe Lip can drive you,” Fiona suggests.

It takes some convincing, but Lip is finally sick of his whining and drives him home.

 

Mickey isn’t home. It’s not a complete surprise, he is often working on Saturday nights and Ian can’t deny that he is kind of relieved to have a moment alone to try to gather his thoughts.

He sends Mickey a text; I’m home. Want to talk to you.

He steps into the shower right after and takes his time in there. He still hasn’t gotten his hair cut. The longer it gets, the denser and darker it gets. He runs his fingers through it, thinks of the boy with buzzed, bright orange hair, only sixteen and spending hours in fancy hotel rooms with some strange man after school. He’d walk around naked, let Ned touch him wherever and whenever he wanted. It was uncomfortable at the time, but Ian didn’t entirely hate it. He should have hated it, right? At the time, he would do anything not to spend a second in that house with Frank or Monica, or a drunk Lip or a drugged out Fiona. Ned knew that, shamelessly took advantage of that. He’d give him alcohol, why not? It’ll help you relax, it’ll help you forget about home.

Kash had been an asshole. Just as much of a lowlife as Ned, but Ian knows that it’s different. Kash was lost, closeted and had no fucking clue what he was doing.

Ned knew exactly what he was doing.

 

Ian puts on track pants and a sweatshirt, checks his phone and sees that Mickey just texted him back a couple of minutes ago.

Coming

So Ian waits.

Mickey comes through the door about forty minutes later. He looks good. No blood, no bruises, no dirt under his fingernails. “Hey,” Ian says and gets off the couch.

Mickey shrugs his denim jacket off, walks over and drapes it over the couch, he doesn’t say anything. Ian grabs two beers out of the fridge and joins Mickey on the couch.

He cracks one beer open and hands it to Mickey, who takes it with his left hand. His right hand still in a cast, lying in his lap.

Ian hesitates for a moment and then starts talking. Mickey already knows the story of Ned, knows all about the horrible decisions Ian made as a kid. So Ian talks about how it makes him feel now; just as useless and helpless as he felt all those years ago. Ned had power over him, he had money and status and promises. And now his power is even more tangible. Ian doesn’t know what to do or what it means. Does it even mean anything at all? Ian has been to fucking prison since then. He is miles away from being a naive kid on the brink of a psychosis.

He just hates it, hates that Ned still exists and that he is now part of Ian’s life again. It’s humiliating.

Mickey listens, doesn’t interrupt, though Ian can see that he wants to.

“I didn’t want to lie to you,” Ian finally says. “I just didn’t want to talk about it. For my fucking mess of a headspace. I don’t want him in there.”

“So we get rid of him,” is the first thing Mickey says. Simple, decisive.

“No,” Ian says. “We don’t do anything. We forget he exists.”

“He isn't going to forget you exist, Ian. He is going to try talking to you again.”

“I told him to fuck off. I don’t want you to get involved with him, Mick. I mean it,” Ian says pointedly. “He’s not worth any of this.”

“Are you going to tell me if he tries something?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah, if it’s noteworthy. I’m not going to report back to you on every single thing he does. I’m not that bitch of a kid anymore, alright? I can take care of myself.”

Mickey doesn’t look satisfied. Far from it. “You can’t lie to me about it.”

“You can’t go near him,” Ian counters. “Ever.”

Mickey rolls his eyes at that. “I can take him out. It wouldn’t be hard.”

“Don’t. I’m not visiting you in prison for the rest of our lives,” Ian warns. “Promise me you won’t go near him. You won’t get involved. I promise I won’t lie to you about it.”

Mickey takes a swig of his beer, frustration etched on his face. “I’m supposed to let him fuck with you?”

“He won’t fuck with me. And if he does, you’ll hear about it,” Ian assures him. “Are you done being mad at me? Please?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mickey waves it off. “I wasn’t mad at you until you started being a dick about it.”

Ian latches on to that, grabs Mickey by the back of the neck and kisses him, because he is pretty sure they haven’t kissed all day and that’s not how Ian wants to live his life. Mickey kisses him back, sweet and hot and with all of his attention.

 

Ian,

Your grade for this assignment is a C+. It is a passing grade, but you can do much better. My feedback is enclosed in the document.

If you’re interested in bettering your work, see me after class or during my office hours on Mondays  between 2 p.m and 4 p.m.

I can help you.

Best,

Ned.

 

Ian clutches his phone and feels his blood boil. He got a C+? There is no way. He made sure that this assignment was better than the last one. He spent twice as much time on it, gave it to Lip to look over; no fucking room for argument.

He ignores the email. Maybe it’s a fluke. Maybe he misinterpreted the assignment. It’s still a passing grade.

 

When Ian comes home that Friday night, Mickey isn’t home. He has texted Ian earlier that he would be back late. He has been working late for the last few days.

Ian is somewhat thankful for this, just somewhat. He’d much rather Mickey be there to share a meal with, but he also knows that Mickey would have asked him about his class that day. He had woken up with him that morning. Sent him off with a: “If he fucks with you, break his nose.”

They hadn’t talked about it much for the rest of that week, other than to talk about this week’s assignment. There is no way he got an A for his last chemistry assignment and a C+ for anatomy.

Ian takes a shower before Lip comes over with burritos to hang out for a bit. Ian keeps his frustration about his grade to himself and opts to listen to the disaster that are Lip’s chaotic love and work life.

Lip stays until Mickey comes home a little after midnight. Mickey’s hands are completely coated in what looks like black dirt. There are streaks of dirt on his face and the shirt under his jacket is a complete mess. “Long day in the basement?” Lip asks as soon as they’ve taken it all in. “I told you I can help.”

“Didn’t need your help,” Mickey says, kicking his shoes off.

“System working?” Lip asks.

“Working.”

“And the lamps?”

“If something breaks, I’ll tell you,” Mickey says and disappears into the bedroom. They hear the shower start a minute later.

By the time Mickey comes back out, Lip is gone and Ian has made himself comfortable in bed, under the covers, leaning against the headboard.

“Bedtime already?” Mickey asks. He pulls on a pair of boxers.

“You tell me, stranger,” Ian says. “Feels like it’s been a while.”

Mickey puts a t-shirt on and discards the sweats back into the closet. He gets into bed, wastes no time and gets on top of Ian, straddling his hips. Ian curls his arms around Mickey’s waist, pulling him in tightly.

Mickey settles his warm hands on Ian’s neck, the cast finally gone, the FUCK tattoo finally back. Ian spaces out for a moment, disappears in icy blue hooded eyes.

“How was work?” Mickey asks.

Ian shrugs, barely remembers what happened that day at this point. None of it seems that important now that he is here, getting to wind down with the man he loves. “You?” he asks.

Mickey doesn’t reply, smiles into the kiss that Ian presses against his lips before he even gets the chance to answer.

 

Ian,

Your grade for this assignment is a D+. It is a passing grade, but I get the feeling you’re going to need some help with the midterm. Contact me and we’ll discuss it.

Best,

Ned

 

This is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. As soon as the class is over, Ian storms down the stairs.

“Ian, good to see you,” Ned says.

“I don’t deserve a D,” Ian cuts straight through. “And I didn’t deserve a C last week either.”

“Ah, well, I have to get to my next appointment. Why don’t you visit me during my office hours? Or better yet, I’ll email you with a time and we’ll go over your assignments more… thoroughly.” Ned rakes his eyes over Ian’s body. Ian hates it. Hates that Ned is seeing him in the outfit he wore for his date with Mickey later that night.

“Not going to happen. Are you doing this so that I talk to you? You can’t do that,” Ian says, aggravated.

“I don’t think you understand what I can and can’t do, Ian. You want better grades, accept my help. It’s really that simple.”

“It sounds to me like you’re going to want something in return.”

“Well, nothing is free, after all.”

“I have a boyfriend,” Ian says, stupidly.

“Invite him, too,” Ned shrugs. “Well, if he’s cute. And, of course, if he’s young.”

Ian shakes his head, rage taking over. He wants to punch him, wants to tackle him to the ground and knock his lights out. “Go fuck yourself,” Ian spits out, loud enough for people to hear him. He doesn’t give a shit. “If you give me another grade that’s lower than what I deserve, we’re going to have a real problem.”

He heads for the stairs as Ned asks: “Is that a threat?”

“You bet your fucking ass it is,” Ian says without turning around.

 

He has a date that night. He’d convinced Mickey to meet him at the Alibi after work so that they could go eat somewhere. Ian showers at work, just to wash the hospital smell off of him before driving towards the Alibi. The whole drive, Ian tells himself over and over not to explode in frustration as soon he sees Mickey. His anger and disgust with Ned is at the forefront of his mind, and there is no way that Mickey isn’t going to notice.

When Ian enters the Alibi, Mickey is sitting at the bar, talking to Kevin. He glances at the door when Ian comes in and smiles, just a little bit. “You’re late,” Mickey says.

“You gonna hold five whole minutes against me? I had to wash the hospital off me, didn’t I?” Ian gets on the stool next to him, wants to kiss him, but doesn’t.

“Hey, Ian,” Kev greets. 

“Hey, the bar looks good,” Ian says. The last time he was there, Terry and Mickey had trashed half of it.

“Your boy made sure we were back in business,” Kev smirks at Mickey. Ian sneaks Mickey’s beer off the bar and drinks the last two sips that are left.

“What kind of legit business doesn't have insurance for this shit, anyway?” Mickey snarks and turns to Ian. “You want a drink or you want to go?”

“I’m fucking starving,” Ian says, putting the empty glass on the bar. “Maybe we can come back here after.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Mickey snorts and slides off the stool.

They go to a burger joint that’s open late and filled with mostly hipsters. They opt to sit outside, on the heated patio where it isn’t as fucking loud with the most obnoxious chatter Ian has ever heard.

It’s starting to get cold. Especially the nights can get freezing, but they sit under a heat lamp and the waitress comes out with their burgers, their drinks and two blankets, which she leaves on the arms of their chairs. Ian grabs his immediately and drapes it over his knees.

“You good? We can sit inside,” Mickey suggests.

“No fucking way. This is great,” Ian says and he means it.

They eat fast, they always do, and Ian asks Mickey about his day was first. Mickey glosses over it, tells him that he’s been looking into finding a bigger space for his plants. Ian thinks about the money in the safe.

“Lip helping you with that?” Ian asks.

“Sort of. He has other ideas. I’m sure he told you,” Mickey waves it off.

“Not really. He doesn’t really get into specifics about the illegal shit, you know. Just like you,” Ian says.

“Me and him are very different,” Mickey snorts. “But I get it. He doesn’t want to get you involved in this shit.”

“What did he say?” Ian asks, curious now.

“He thinks I should go legit. Invest in opening a dispensary, before the market gets saturated.”

“You can do that?” Ian asks, mouth falling open in surprise.

“In theory,” Mickey shrugs. “We’ve got the money and the product. We just don’t have a way to use the money without tipping off police or IRS. Not to mention they don't give out licenses for that shit easily. Considering I spent my fair share in the metal motel, there is no way I’d get a loan either.”

“You’ve thought about this,” Ian says, unable to contain his gloating. “Mickey Milkovich is considering to go legit.”

“If I was considering it, I’d have to scam my way there,” Mickey snorts.

“So what? If you want to do it, you should do it. Besides, if Lip thinks you can pull it off - he wouldn’t just say that. He’s not that nice.”

“But he is the kind of guy who’d love to see me fail.”

“No way,” Ian says. “He might be a dick, but he knows how I feel about you. He knows I’d never forgive him if he screwed you over. He wouldn’t do that.”

“That’s nice and all, but I’m not going to take the guy’s business advice just because I happen to be screwing his little brother.”

“It’s worth considering, though. I’d feel a lot better knowing you weren’t one broken tail light away from spending years in prison,” Ian says.

“I’m thinking about it. Either way, it’s a long term thing. Could take years,” Mickey shrugs. Ian has a feeling he wants to keep talking, but he stops, looks at Ian. “How was class with that dickhead?” he asks.

“Oh, you know,” Ian sighs. “I think I’m going to kill him.”

Mickey snorts. “What did he do?”

“He just makes me feel weird,” Ian says. “He keeps asking me to come to his office. He’s giving me lower grades than I deserve. Keeps saying he can help me pull my grades up.”

Mickey leans forward. “What do you mean he’s giving you lower grades than you deserve?”

“I mean, maybe I’m exaggerating. I thought I did fine on the assignments the last two weeks, but he gave me a C and D.”

“So what does he want? He wants to fuck you in exchange for better grades? What is this? An afternoon special?”

“I guess so. I told him I’d ruin him if he gave me another grade I didn’t deserve. Let’s hope he’s a little bitch and backs down,” Ian sighs, running a hand through his hair.

“Huh, you went Prison-Ian on him?” Mickey smirks and reaches over the table to squeeze Ian’s arm. “Tried to make it look like those muscles aren’t just for show?”

“You have no idea how badly I wanted to punch his face in,” Ian says around a chuckle.

“You’ll get the chance. You have to start thinking about what you’re going to do if he fucks with your midterm. That’s in two weeks, isn’t it?” Mickey asks.

“Yeah, I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that. I’ll think about it,” Ian says, thankful that Mickey is taking this as well as he is. Ian was afraid of another fight, another argument about why Ian had the nerve to talk to him. Instead, Mickey lets it go after that. They talk about the business a little bit more over a beer and head back home.

 

Ian,

Your last assignment was not passing. I haven’t graded it, because I want to give you the opportunity to redo it. Tell me when you’re free to talk about the details. Remember, you must have a passing grade for all assignments, otherwise I’ll have to exclude you from taking the midterm.

Best,

Ned

 

He ignores the email. He studies for the midterms with Lip every fucking night for a week. Lip makes him do three separate mock exams for each subject and until Ian aces them.

The chemistry midterm goes well, and the anatomy midterm goes even better. Ned is there, surveying and Ian makes a point of slamming his exam on the table as he hands it in. He’s not stupid. He takes a picture of his exam before he turns it in, just in case the asshole ‘loses’ it or some other shit.

This is his last chance, he thinks to himself as he walks out of the lecture hall and out into the parking lot. If Ned tries to fuck him over after this, Ian has to do something.

He shakes it off as best as he can once he is outside. He has been neglecting Mickey all week and he doesn’t want the upcoming weekend to be overshadowed by some bullshit again. He switched his shift at the hospital out with a coworker who didn’t want to work on Halloween night, so Ian goes straight home after his exam, ready to fall right back into bed, hopefully with some good company.

 

“Is this what you do when I’m at work?” Ian asks, when he finds Mickey sitting at the kitchen table, four stacks of cash in front of him and counting out a fifth.

Mickey takes the lit cigarette out from between his lips. “Friday is collection day,” he explains. “My dealers get a new supply, I get my money. We’re almost back to where we were before I went to jail. Only about five grand lost over the whole month. Not bad.”

“Five grand sound like a lot. You think you have enough to take me out to lunch?” Ian asks, and presses a kiss on top op Mickey’s head.

“If I move some money around, I think I can manage. Where do you want to go?” Mickey asks. He wraps a rubber band around the last stack.

“The mall, maybe? Carl’s birthday is on Sunday. I have to get that monster something before I forget. You need a new winter coat, too.”

“My winter coat is fine. It’s not even cold enough for that yet,” Mickey says. He gathers up four of the stacks of cash and leaves one on the table. He walks into the bedroom. Ian hears the dresser being pushed aside.

“It’s littered with cigarette burns, Mick. You’ve had it for years, you said so yourself,” Ian calls after him. He opens the fridge to check what they need. Pretty much everything.

“So what? It’s warm,” Mickey calls back.

“It’s going to fall apart if we try to wash it,” Ian says. He checks the cereal boxes, almost empty.

Mickey comes back out of the bedroom in his black hoodie and denim jacket. He puts on his shoes. “You got more nagging to do or are you ready to go? Grab the money.”

 

Ian isn’t sure what gets into them, but the first thing they do when they get to the mall is take a piss in the public bathroom. They use the urinals and when they’re done, Ian looks around and then pushes Mickey into a stall.

“Are you serious?” Mickey asks when Ian locks the door behind them. It’s a fancy stall, roomy too. The door goes from floor to ceiling.

Ian crowds Mickey up against the door. “You don’t want to?” he asks.

“Not saying that,” Mickey smirks. He grabs Ian by the back of the head and pulls him down for a kiss. Ian slides his arms around Mickey’s waist, presses up against him and pushes one of his legs between Mickey’s. Mickey grinds down on Ian’s leg and pulls away from the kiss. He leans his head against the door. “Fuck, you better have lube, bitch,” he pants.

Ian shakes his head, latches onto Mickey’s neck wordlessly and slides his hands down to grab Mickey’s ass. They’re wearing way too many clothes. Jeans, sweatshirts, jackets. The heat rises so quickly that Ian has to take his jacket off. He has enough wherewithal to hang it on the hook on the wall and Mickey’s laughter rings through him.

“Sssh,” Ian sushes, amused. He could stand there and make out with Mickey all day, but they can hear people come in and out, so it’s only a matter of time until this becomes suspicious. “You want me to blow you?” he then asks softly.

Mickey grabs Ian by the collar of his shirt. “No, I want your cock up my ass,” he says, deep and rumbling and Ian’s cock never even stood a chance.

“I can’t dry fuck you here, Mick,” Ian says, well, whines. “You want me to run to fucking Spencer’s real quick?”

“With this thing?” Mickey snorts, cupping Ian’s hard cock with one hand through his thick jeans. He slides his other hand down Ian’s chest and stomach and unbuckles Ian’s belt. He pops open the top button, unzips Ian’s pants, all in less than five seconds. “You’d be tackled down before you even got out of this bathroom.” He reaches into Ian’s underwear easily, pushes the waistband down to snap back right under Ian’s balls and starts jerking him off slowly. Ian curses.

“Spit in my hand,” Mickey orders. Ian complies easily. The heat keeps rising around them, god, this was a great idea. He spits in the palm of Mickey’s hand and watches Mickey spit in it too before coating Ian’s cock with it. Mickey uses his empty hand to work on his own jeans, pops the buttons and pushes the pants down his hips. He then grabs Ian’s right hand and brings it up to his face. He separates two fingers from the rest and wraps his lips around them.

“Are you fucking serious,” Ian curses and bucks forward, because this is new and so fucking hot that he forgets where he is. Mickey coats Ian’s fingers in as much of his saliva as he can before pulling away.

“You started this,” Mickey pants. He pushes Ian off of him and turns around.

Ian has fingered Mickey with just some spit during blowjobs before, but they’ve never fucked without it. Ian has in fact never fucked without it, but he gets the feeling that Mickey might have more experience in this sort of prison-esque fucking. It’s kind of worrisome, really, thinking of Mickey’s sex life before Ian became part of it. “You sure about this?” he whispers, leaning into Mickey’s body already, rubbing his wet cock against Mickey’s hole.

“Try it,” Mickey says, so Ian does. He presses the fingers in, watches Mickey stretch around him slowly. He takes his time, spits on Mickey’s hole again before he puts the tip of his cock in.

Mickey pushes back shamelessly, and has the nerve to say: “Go slow.” He spits in his hand again, reaches back and coats Ian’s shaft with it.

Here’s the thing; Ian never lasts very long when they do something new and exciting. He just puts the tip of his cock in and he can already feel his stomach tighten. The spit-fucking in combination with the fact that they’re in a god forsaken mall bathroom, is going to send him over the edge real fucking quick.

Ian thrusts into him, watches Mickey turn his head with his bottom lip between his teeth. Mickey nods at him, pushes back again and then, just like that, they’re fully fucking in this tiny bathroom. Ian comes fast, of course he does. He pulls out and comes in his own hand, because he’s pretty sure Mickey won’t appreciate walking around with cum dripping out of him after this.

He is about to turn Mickey around and get on his knees, when he sees Mickey cumming in his own hand. They catch their breath slowly, staring right at each other and fighting the urge to burst out laughing at the absurdity of what they just did.

 

Ian gets Carl the sneakers he’s been sending him pictures off all week, and adds an Adidas track suit to it, because he’s in a great fucking mood.

 

“Why the fuck,” Lip starts in a hushed tone, “would two grown men who live together in their own apartment, fuck in a bathroom stall at the mall?”

“Because it’s fun,” Ian says wistfully. “Really, really fun.”

“I bet, if you’re in high school and you’ve got nowhere else to go,” Lip says.

“I have to say, it’s more fun when you’re doing it because you fucking want to and you can’t keep your hands off each other, not because you have no other choices.”

“Ugh, you gay bitch. We get it, you’re in love or whatever,” Lip rolls his eyes and stuffs a piece of cake in his mouth. “Where is your guard dog anyway?” He mumbles around it.

“He was talking to Debbie, last I checked,” Ian shrugs.

“Did you talk to him about Ned’s last email?” Lip then asks, suddenly serious.

“No,” Ian says. “I want to see what happens with the midterm first.”

“And then what? What’s the plan?”

“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Ian admits. “If I threaten him, he can get me kicked out of school. If I report him or some shit, it’s my word against his and only one of us is a bipolar ex-con, so.”

“You sound like you’ve given up already. Look, I’ve thought about this. I think you should sick Mickey on him,” Lip says.

“Are you out of your mind? Mick’s a psychopath. He’ll be sick of Ned’s smarmy bullshit in a second and just kill him.”

“So we tell him not to touch him. No violence, just a… conversation.”

“Then what’s the point of sending him? I can threaten him myself,” Ian sighs, feeling sort of hopeless and wanting this conversation to end.

“Look, I’d do it myself. Happily,” Lip then says. “But Milkoviches do these things differently. This shit is in his blood. And I’m also banned from that campus for life.”

“I don’t want him to get in trouble,” Ian says. “Not again, not because of me.”

“Well, something needs to give. We’re not letting that asshole ruin this for you,” Lip says, seriously. “You don’t deserve this bullshit.”

 

Ian,

Your combined grades for the assignment and the midterm are insufficient. Unfortunately you have failed the first half of this class. The exam in December is your last chance at passing the class.

Come to my office to discuss tutoring.

Best wishes,

Ned.

 

It’s a power move. It has to be. Ian can’t imagine that Ned is so desperate for Ian’s cock. He wants Ian to do what he says, he wants to win.

Ian rubs at his eyes, and calls Lip during his lunch break on Monday.

“He failed me for the midterm.”

Lip doesn’t answer him immediately. He sighs, deeply. “We checked your answers. You didn’t fail. You still have the picture. We can prove it.”

“Except that I wasn’t supposed to have my phone out during the exam either. That picture is worthless.”

“Then we’ll talk to Mickey tonight. Ask him to take care of it,” Lip says, decisively.

“He’s going to murder him,” Ian sighs.

“We’ll tell him not to,” Lip says simply. “I’ll come over tonight. We’ll talk to him together. What about chemistry?”

“Aced it, thanks. I’ll be home around seven. Text me what you want for dinner.”

 

Lip stares at Ian over his last egg roll. It’s been over twenty minutes since they sat down for dinner and Ian has yet to bring it up. Mickey hadn’t exactly been surprised when Lip showed up; he’d been over pretty much every night the week before to help Ian study.

It’s not until Lip starts clearing their plates, that Ian makes an attempt.

“Uh, hey, Mick,” Ian starts, somewhat nervously.

Mickey looks at him, immediately suspicious. “Yeah, hello,” he says, with a hint of amusement in his voice.

“I, uh, need to ask you a favor.”

Mickey raises an eyebrow and sits back. He glances at Lip who pointedly starts doing the dishes. “What favor?”

“I need you to do the… big scary guy thing.”

Lip turns around and rolls his eyes at Ian, hard.

But Mickey gets it. He frowns. “To who?”

“Ned failed him for his midterm. He definitely didn’t deserve it. I checked his answers,” Lip says. “He isn’t going to let this go until Ian bangs him or something.”

Mickey doesn’t look surprised, but he does look annoyed. “Fine. I’ll take care of it,” he says.

“How?” Ian asks.

“I’ll think about it,” Mickey shrugs. “Kidnap him, bleed him out in the shower, chop him up. Burn the limbs in a bonfire. Reported missing without a trace. That’s one option.”

“Never mind,” Ian says. “I’ll just bang him.”

“We were thinking maybe we don’t kill him,” Lip tells Mickey.

“Why not? He’s a pedophile, power tripping because he can’t deal with the fact that a kid he used to bang doesn’t need him anymore. He deserves to die.”

“I know that, but the last thing we need is someone going to prison over that piece of shit, okay?” Lip says calmly. “We just need him to back off.”

“I’ll think of something,” Mickey finally says. He turns to Ian. “Did you just say you need me to be a ‘big scary guy’?”

“I mean, maybe not big,” Ian grins.

 

Ian makes Mickey swear that he will not talk to Ned alone. They can’t risk Mickey flying off the handle and hurting the man.

So on Friday morning, Mickey wakes up with Ian and over breakfast he says: “It’s take a thug to school day.”

“Today?” Ian asks, going over his schedule for the day in his mind. He has forty-five minutes between his class and the start of his shift at the hospital. The drive to the hospital is only fifteen minutes. They can fit in some threats in between, he supposes.

“Okay,” he says. “No guns or knives.”

“I got to bring my knife. I have other business afterwards.”

“Business you need a knife for?” Ian asks skeptically.

“Don’t play cute with me, Arson. You were one skin shade away from a domestic terrorism charge.”

“All I did was blow up a van,” Ian objects.

“To further your little gay pride cause. That’s would be considered terrorism in Russia, for sure,” Mickey says. “Look, I get that you’re not into the whole violence thing, but you can’t go weak on me while I’m talking to him.”

“I’m not a weak bitch.”

“Good. Because it’s not going to be pretty. Berating an elderly man like that.”

“Berate him all you want. I don’t want to ever think about him again after this,” Ian says and he means it.

 

Mickey drives them to the university, gets out of the car and walks into the building with him. “Where are you going to wait?” Ian asks him, about five minutes before the class begins.

“I’m going in with you, I guess,” Mickey shrugs. “There’s like a thousand people in there, right?”

“You want to sit in on the class?” Ian guffaws.

“Believe me, I don’t want to,” Mickey snorts. “But I’m doing it.”

For a moment Ian forgets all about what they are about to do. He is mesmerized and completely enthralled by Mickey Milkovich filing into a lecture hall with him. He takes the seat at the edge, making Ian take the one next to him. Ian doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone more out of place, and remembers how much he felt like he didn’t belong there when he started. He still feels like that, but as he watches one student after the other make a second take at in the sight that is Mickey Milkovich as they pass him, legs spread out, hands on the table, tats in full view and casual scowl; Ian remembers where they come from. He remembers that they don’t let anyone fuck with them, no matter where they are.

Shelley takes the seat in front of Mickey, but not before shooting Ian a questioning look. Ian smiles at her.

“I get why he’s so thirsty for you,” Mickey says, turning to Ian. “Every other guy in this shithole is a fucking troll.”

“You’ve been in here for five minutes and you’ve already checked out every guy?” Ian asks.

“Bunch of dogfaces. I thought college guys were supposed to be hot,” Mickey says.

“You want to trade me in for a new guy at eight fucking thirty in the morning?”

“I just said you’re hotter than anyone in here.”

“But you had to check to make sure, huh?”

“Of course - oh, I think your boyfriend just walked in. The old bitch is wearing tweed, for god’s sake,” Mickey mutters, nodding towards the front of the lecture hall.

Ian follows his gaze and sure thing, Ned is standing there, plugging his laptop into the system and putting his papers on the desk in a neat stack.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Ian says softly. “I don’t know if I have to tell you this, but you have to keep your mouth shut during the lecture.”

Mickey makes a jerk off motion and takes his phone out as soon as Ned starts taking attendance.

Ian spends the next hour and a half partially following the lesson, but mostly peeking over Mickey’s shoulder and following the aggressive text conversation he is having with Mandy about Thanksgiving plans. She is trying to get them to come to New York, Mickey is trying to get her to come to Chicago.

Mickey mutters something about ‘the most boring shit he’s ever heard’ and ‘twelve thousand dollars’, but is otherwise preoccupied with the text conversation and tilts his phone so that Ian can read with him.

Ian fights the urge to push his nose right up to the back of Mickey’s neck. It gives him some doubts, when he reads: Ian’s got family shit on Thanksgiving. I don’t want to drag him to New York. You gotta come here.

Why did Ian bring this incredibly cute, thoughtful man out here to threaten his professor? Mickey is by no means frail, but he's not a big guy. He can be intimidating, sure, but Ian knows him as the guy who was elated to watch him eat soup during his depressive episode. Secretly the sweetest man alive; his skin smells like flowers and his jacket vaguely smells like weed.

It seems absurd for a moment, that Mickey could be a violent criminal. But just for a moment. Ian’s eyes gloss over Mickey’s hands; every one of his knuckles scarred, a thicker scar in his right palm from an old stab wound that Mickey couldn’t exactly remember the story of.

Class seems to end abruptly, but then again, Ian has not been paying attention. They stay in their seats, leave room for people to pass them on their way out. Shelley waves goodbye and Ian waves back at her.

Mickey’s eyes are zeroed in on Ned. It takes a while for everyone in class to filter out.

“You can leave if you want,” Mickey tells Ian when he finally gets out of his seat.

“Fuck no,” Ian says. He follows Mickey down the stairs to the front of the lecture hall. The TA’s are the last to leave. The silence that’s left behind is deafening.

“Ian?” Ned asks, watching them come closer.

“Nah.” Mickey’s voice sounds perfectly casual. He saunters over to the desk and sits down on the edge. His legs don’t reach the floor. “I don’t think you know me, but my buddy here has told me plenty about you.”

“You can’t be serious,” Ned says, looking between Ian and Mickey. “You brought your little boyfriend-”

Mickey has a hand on Ned’s throat so fast that it startles Ian into taking a step back. Mickey pushes the man down into the chair and kicks the chair so that he is facing Mickey straight on. Mickey doesn’t get up from the desk. “This is my fault,” Mickey says easily. “Maybe I should have opened with the message that if you say a fucking word to him, I’ll choke the shit out of you. Let’s pretend that it’s just the two of us here, yeah?”

Ned looks frozen in place, eyes wide, hand on his throat. He nods.

“Great. So, I hear you’ve been fucking with a certain redhead’s grades. He’s not happy about it and well, when he’s not happy I’m not happy either. The difference between me and him is that I’m not opposed to beating and elderly man to death right here, right now. So let’s get right to it. You look over his grades again, fix whatever bullshit you tried to pull. Anything he turns in from now on, gets grades by one of your assistants. If I hear that you’ve even given him a sideways glance, the next time you see me, it will be at your fucking house. Forest Glen, right?”

“You- you can’t just come in here and threaten me like this. Are you out of your mind? Ian-”

Mickey’s boot shoots up. He plants it right in Ned’s crotch. Nowhere near as hard as he could, but Ned doubles over.

“Mickey,” Ian warns.

Mickey ignores him. “Hey? You listening? You have to understand that I’m not threatening you. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m telling you exactly what is going to happen if you ever even consider fucking with him again. Now, I understand that my friend here is a lot older than you usually like ‘em, but I heard there’s a kid from Southside you’ve been talking to. I happen to know him, too.”

Ned looks up at that, eyes showing about as much shock as Ian feels.

“Yeah,” Mickey says. “You’re a real sick fuck and if I had my way, you’d already be dead. Danny Alvarez isn’t going to press charges, for now. You’re going to give him some money, just to be sure.”

“Danny talked to you?” Ned asks.

“Yeah, he told me all about how you help him with his ninth grade math homework.”

“Fine,” Ned says, quietly. “Fine. You keep your mouth shut and I don’t bother you anymore.”

“Sounds like a great start. I promised Danny you’d give him some money before you disappear. Ten grand sounds good to me for now. He’s got my number, so if you ask him to suck your dick, I’m going to hear about it.”

“You want me to give a fifteen year old ten thousand dollars?” Ned asks.

“Sure, why the fuck not. If you don’t, I’m coming to get it for him myself in Forest Glen, number 54. You’ve got a pretty nice car, too.”

“Fine. Are we done here?” Ned spits out.

Mickey looks at Ian for the first time. Ian nods, speechless.

“Think so,” Mickey says and jumps off the desk. “I know where to find you if I think of anything else. Try not to bang anymore kids. If you get the urge, remember that getting beaten to death is not a good way to go. Oh, and fix those grades today. Put a finger on Danny or any other kid and you’ll fucking die. That’s a promise, not a threat.”

 

Ian knows that he probably shouldn't reward Mickey for violent behavior, but he blows him in the parking lot anyway, because guess what? He doesn’t think he has ever been so turned on in his fucking life. He’s ten minutes late for work because of it.

His grade is updated later that afternoon. An Average of an A-.

 

“What did you want to be when you were a kid?” Ian asks, much later that night. It’s pushing midnight and they didn't go out. They’re in bed, on their backs sharing a joint. The lights in the bedroom are off, but the living room lights are on and give off a dimmed glow over their bed. The tv is buzzing with vague chatter.

Mickey snorts and doesn’t answer.

“There has to be something,” Ian says. “Like an astronaut or a fucking veterinarian or whatever.”

“I was always pretty sure I’d be dead before I turned twenty-five. It’s not until the last year that I figured I might as well make some real money if I’m going to stay on this bitch of an earth.”

“Come on, tell me. I’ll keep it a secret if it's embarrassing,” Ian tries.

“You’ve never kept a secret in your life,” Mickey says.

“Lip doesn’t count.”

“Is this because you’re about to be done with this nurse shit? You want to do doctor shit next, right?”

“Fuck no,” Ian snorts. “You see me as a fucking doctor?”

“Why not? Pretty sure there’s dumber people doing the job already,” Mickey says. He takes a hit and hands the joint over. Ian takes the last drag and presses it out against his palm, before dropping the bud into the ashtray on the ground. They really need to get those night stands.

“I never thought I’d be in the medical field at all, let alone as a doctor,” Ian says. “I wanted to be an officer in the army. When that didn’t happen, everything else was… whatever.”

“You didn’t want to be an officer in the army,” Mickey says with a little shake of his head. “You grabbed onto the one thing you thought was going to take you as far away from Southside Chicago as possible and you ran with it. You going to tell me you really wanted to be out there in some dessert with a bunch of bootlickers?”

“You need to see my tattoo again?” Ian offers.

“You were fully out of your mind when you got that. It doesn’t mean anything,” Mickey laughs. He reaches over with his left hand, lifting Ian’s shirt up to reveal the eagle. He traces his fingers over it, shaking his head. “It’s almost worse than the one on your back.”

“I know what you mean, though,” Ian then says. “It’s not exactly easy to have big dreams as a kid when you’re just trying to survive, I guess.”

“Are you still going to want to be with a drug dealer when you’re a doctor?” Mickey asks.

“No, I’m going to be with the owner of a marijuana dispensary,” Ian says. “We’re going to be wildly middle class.”

“We’ve got a bigger chance of you curing cancer than me going legit.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Ian says, he threads their fingers together, lets their hands rest on his t-shirt clad stomach. “What did you want to be?”

Mickey is quiet for a moment, before he answers. “I didn’t want to be anything. The only thing I really wanted as a kid, was something like this,” he says. He squeezes Ian’s hand.

“You saying I’m a dream come true?” Ian asks, amused.

“Almost. I always thought my dream girl would be able to make me nut while I’m lying on my back.”

“Shut the fuck up. I can make you nut just fine. Your prostate just fucking disappears when you lie on your back.”

“What the fuck? Maybe you deserve to fail that anatomy class after all,” Mickey laughs.

Ian rolls over easily, lies flat on top of Mickey and pins both his hands down on the bed, under the pillow. “You want me to try again?”

“So aggressive. You think I’m going to say no?” Mickey smirks. He spreads his legs, leans up and catches Ian’s lips with his own. They take their time, they usually do when they’re a little buzzed.  They fool around for a while before any clothes actually come off. When they’re finally naked and thoroughly lubed up, Mickey asks: “So, what’s the plan?”

“Huh?”

“You’re just going to plow in? No game plan?”

“What plan could I possibly have?” Ian asks. “I can’t change the curvature of my cock.”

“Fine, but don’t say I never did anything to help you,” Mickey sighs. He grabs Ian’s pillow from beside them, lifts his hips using Ian’s thighs as leverage and places the thick pillow under his ass, tilting his ass up, just a little bit.

“You think that’s going to make a difference?” Ian asks curiously. He presses the head of his cock up against Mickey’s hole.

Mickey doesn’t answer, just lies back and uses both hands to goad Ian's cock in further as he bites down on his lip. God, Ian really loves the sight of that. He loves the feeling of leaning over him, of having Mickey’s hard cock rub up against his stomach, of being able to kiss Mickey over and over as he fucks into him.

“There you go,” Mickey breathes into his mouth and wraps his legs tighter around Ian’s waist. He grabs a fistful of Ian’s hair. “You’re almost there.”

“Really?” Ian pants.

“Yeah, fuck down. Not forward,” Mickey tells him.

Ian tries, tilts his hips up and fucks down. He watches Mickey’s face intently, tries not to get distracted by the heat around his cock.

“Stop thinking about it and just fuck me,” Mickey says. He pulls Ian down for a kiss, fingers tightening in Ian’s hair  and Ian’s brain turns off. It doesn’t take long before Mickey’s mouth falls open and familiar noises start flowing out. They’re still not the noises that tell Ian he is where he is supposed to be, but they still go straight to Ian’s cock.

“Turn around,” Ian commands and doesn’t wait for Mickey to move. He yanks Mickey’s legs off of his waist and flips him over. Mickey gets on his hands and  knees quickly and strokes his cock a few times before Ian grabs his hips and pushes back into Mickey’s heat.

That’s the noise, the one that tells Ian he is doing the best he can do. Ian fucks into him faster and rougher than before, digs his fingers into Mickey’s hips without restraint and he feels Mickey buck forward, cumming with one last groan. Ian moves his hands up his body, pulls Mickey up straight so that his back is pressed up flat against Ian’s chest. Mickey turns his head and Ian kisses him, sloppy and quick, and moves down to his neck and shoulders as his own orgasm rips through him.

They fall back into bed, breathing synchronized and on their side. Ian lifts himself up just a little bit, kisses Mickey again, with more coordination and purpose this time.

“Pretty good,” Mickey tells him with a smile between kisses. “Really good, actually.”

“I got close, huh?”

“You could have gotten there if you weren’t so impatient,” Mickey shrugs.

“I want you to feel good from start to finish,” Ian sighs, tracing circles over Mickey’s stomach.

“If it didn’t feel good, I’d let you know,” Mickey breathes out. “You’re pretty fucking good at this.”

“I want to be your dream girl, though,” Ian says, pressing another kiss onto Mickey’s shoulder. He wants to tell Mickey that he loves him, but Ian knows Mickey isn’t going to say it back. Most days it doesn’t bother him, but today he knows it would.

 

Mickey has ‘a thing’ on Saturday, so Ian makes Lip drive him to Target to look for nightstands. Lip grabs his own cart for the weekly groceries.

“Only two more payments for the fire,” Lip says. “After that you’re going to be rolling in cash, huh. Christmas is going to be lit this year.”

“I hope so. Can’t wait to get rid of the shoulder tat,” Ian says, pausing to let a lady pass them with her cart. “A hundred and fifty bucks a session.”

“Jesus,” Lip says. “Guess this is really the year of paying for your mistakes. Which reminds me; I still need the details on what Mickey did to Ned.”

“Well, you were right about one thing. Milkoviches really do things differently. He found out where he lives, sent Iggy out to follow him for like two days, found out he’s banging some other fifteen year old kid. He got pictures and everything. Threatened him to have the kid press charges if he didn’t fuck off and pay the kid out.”

“Jesus Christ, this guy,” Lip shakes his head with a smile on his face. “So he didn’t touch him.”

“Didn’t say that,” Ian says. “He didn’t beat the shit out of him or anything, but he definitely made a point.”

“How’d you feel about it?” Lip asks.

“Oh, horny as shit,” Ian sighs. “I have a mental illness, in case you didn’t know.”

“I mean, you chose him,” Lip shrugs. “We’d have a bigger problem if it completely turned you off.”

“It’s not like I see him do that kind of shit often. I hope he doesn’t,” Ian feels the need to clarify. “He told me about your idea for him to go legit.”

“That wasn’t my idea. He had some questions about the bureaucracy of it all. He started talking about it, I’ve just been hounding him on it ever since.”

“It was his idea? He told me he doesn’t see himself going for it,” Ian says.

“He has to do something with the money sooner or later,” Lip says. “He might have the attention span of a fucking goldfish, but he’s not stupid. The clock is ticking on the cash. He needs to deposit it somewhere.”

“Let’s not talk about laundering money in this Target, today,” Ian sighs. “I don’t know how to help him with that shit. I don’t know how to help him with anything. He spent weeks taking care of me and I can’t even figure out what he needs from day to day. He doesn’t tell me anything.”

“You ask?”

“All the time.”

“What does he say?”

“That he’s not purposefully hiding anything. I just feel like there has to be more, you know? After everything he’s been through, there has to be shit he wants to talk about.”

“You’re a talker. We talk about things at our house. That’s easier if you share the same experiences and you grow up in each other’s business. Maybe Mickey ain’t like that. He talks to his sister, right?”

“I don’t know. Sort of. I still don’t feel like it’s enough. Like he doesn’t trust me with his baggage or something,” Ian sighs. “So I’m buying nightstands to compensate.”

“He ain’t sticking around for no nightstands. You love him, right? The sex is good and you have a good time together?”

“Yeah, but-“

“Then don’t overthink it,” Lip interrupts.

Ian also buys a two new bedsheets, because they’ve really been going through them lately.

 

On Sunday, Mickey has another ‘thing’.

“What thing?” Ian asks this time, because Mickey hadn’t come home until after midnight the night before. Ian had figured they’d spend the Sunday together.

“I gotta be somewhere,” Mickey says, vague on purpose. He doesn’t look at Ian as he puts on his shoes.

“Where?” Ian asks. If it was something that had to do with drugs or money or guns, Mickey usually wasn’t this mysterious about it. He’d just say ‘meeting Iggy for some work’ or ‘Jamie needs to get punched in the head.’

“Cook County Correctional,” Mickey finally says.

“What? Why?”

“Visitation.”

It takes Ian a couple of seconds to process this.

And then he explodes. “Why the fuck would you ever want to visit him, Mickey?”

“Relax. It’s for business,” Mickey says, annoyed. “ I’m not going out there to sit in daddy’s lap, alright?”

“You said you didn’t work for him anymore,” Ian says, anger not subsiding one bit.

“He’s got connections I need to get to. There is no other way,” Mickey snaps back at him. “Unless you got the names and numbers of some crooked city hall folks in your back pocket.”

“What makes you think he’s going to give it to you? He wants you dead, Mickey. He’s not going to help you.”

“You don’t know shit, Gallagher. I’ll see you later,” Mickey heads for the door, but Ian grabs his arm.

“I’m coming with you,” he decides.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Mickey says, yanking his arm loose. “He’s not going to talk to me with you there. Stop, don’t worry about this.”

“I don’t want you going out there alone, okay? I know how you get around him. They’re going to lock you the fuck up if you put a finger on him.”

“All the more reason you can’t be there. The only reason I’d want to strangle him is if he says something about you.”

“So if he says something about me you have a problem with it, but he can call you a faggot all he wants?”

“I’m not eighteen anymore, Gallagher. I can hold my own against that asshole. And fuck you for thinking otherwise.”

“I’m going with you,” Ian says, resolutely. He passes Mickey and puts his shoes on at the door.

“Fucking fine,” Mickey relent. “Grab your jacket. Hurry up.”

Ian walks into the bedroom to grab his jacket and hears the front door open and close. He curses loudly, loud enough for Mickey to hear him in the hallway and quickly follows him out the door.

 

Mickey doesn’t talk to him on the hour long drive over to the prison. Ian talks a lot in an attempt to make him understand that visiting Terry Milkovich in prison is the dumbest idea anyone has ever had. He watches Mickey’s knuckles whiten as he tightens his grip on the wheel. Ian half expects him to punch Ian in the jaw from the side, but he doesn’t.

He zones Ian out instead and chain smokes the whole way to the prison.

When they arrive at the familiar brick walls to enter the visitor’s parking lot, Mickey yanks Ian’s ID out if his hand aggressively, without touching him.

Ian knows he’s in trouble. Mickey is furious with him, and Ian gets why, but every cell in his body is telling him that he can’t let Mickey face that man alone.

They get patted down and one of the guards greets Mickey amicably. Like they’re old friends. Mickey grumbles a reply back that Ian doesn’t hear, but they’re lead out into the visitor’s room quickly.

“Not a fucking word out of you,” Mickey warns him. “If he does something crazy, let the guards handle it. If he leaves, let him leave.”

They sit down at the table closest to the exit and wait for the other visiting families to filter in.

When the door to the prisoner’s entrance opens, luck would have it that Terry Milkovich is the first convict to enter the visitors hall.

He locks eyes with Mickey immediately. His eyes rake over Ian next, and his face contorts.

“Not a word,” Mickey warns him again as Terry stalks over. He’s not wearing any handcuffs.

“What the fuck is the carrot dick doing here?” Terry asks, before he has even sat down.

“He wanted to come,” Mickey answers casually. “What happened to your eye?”

Ian stares at the older man and notices for the first time that his left eye has fogged over completely.

“My ingrate of a son broke my eye socket and the shards of my skull fucked up my eye,”  Terry Milkovich explains impatiently. “I might never see out of this eye ever again,  because of your bullshit.”

Ian wonders why Terry is still sitting there and is still talking to them.

“Damn, that sucks, man,” Mickey says not hiding the amusement in his voice. “I broke my hand on your face, if that makes you feel better.”

“What the fuck is he doing here, Mickey?” Terry asks again. “Why didn’t you bring Iggy? Or Jamie?”

“They don’t want to see you.”

“And out of all of them, you two want to see me?”

Mickey glances at Ian for a moment and then, almost vindictively, he continuous to hold an twenty minute long conversation with his father in Ukrainian.

It’s heated, from start to finish. Mickey is the one talking the most, clearly trying to convince the older man of something. Terry shoots Ian plenty of dirty looks and Ian recognizes plenty of swear words he’s learned from Mickey and Mandy in the last few months.

Ian bites his tongue. It was a mistake, coming here. He doesn’t know what he was expecting. For Mickey to get hurt somehow. Whether it was physically or otherwise. But Mickey is forceful; of course he is, Ian has always known that Mickey Milkovich was a real contender for being the strongest man on earth. But this is a side of him that Ian had yet to see. It’s not like with Ned, who Mickey couldn’t have cared less about.

He is sitting across from Terry Milkovich, the man who has abused him his entire life; the man who had tortured him and shamed for years. He is sitting across from Terry Milkovich, and while Ian can’t understand a word they are saying, he can see that Mickey has the upper hand here.

Ian doesn’t want to admit it and he will never say it out loud again, because he knows that it hurts Mickey a lot, but Terry and Mickey have the same mannerism, the same way of talking and moving. Their voices are similar. They are more father and son than Frank and Ian have ever been or will ever be.

It makes Ian wonder for the first time in months where the fuck Frank even is.

Before they leave, Terry says: “As soon as I’m out of this place, I’m coming for the both of you. You better knock this faggot shit out before then.”

“Let’s see if you make it out first,” Mickey says easily. When they leave, Ian feels Mickey’s hand low on his back and he is making a point, hard and dangerous.

Once they’re out of sight, Mickey drops his hand.

 

In the parking lot, Ian opens his mouth to say something yet undetermined, but Mickey tells him to shut the fuck up before he can even make a sound.

 

Ian tries again in the car, fifteen minutes later. “He misses you,” he says.

Mickey glances at him before turning his eyes back to the road. “His fault, not mine.”

“Of course it’s his fault. It’s just… Mick, it can’t be easy sitting across from him like that after everything that happened. I just want to know how you feel.”

“It is easy,” Mickey then says. “This is how it’s always been, alright? He wants me around; do the work for him, get the money, payout the rest of his kids for him. Until he gets it in his head again that all faggots need to die and he remembers that I’m one of them.”

“You don’t have to torture yourself by seeing him. You… you do this a lot, you know. Torture yourself.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Mickey says off handedly.

“You going back to Terry is the big one, but I’m talking about the fucking jacket you refuse to replace. Your phone screen has been busted and pretty much unreadable since we met. I had to force you to buy some new clothes. Before I moved in you had no fucking furniture. You showered with cold water for fuck’s sake. And why? You have money now, Mick. You don’t - you don’t take care of yourself and I don’t know how to take care of you without you feeling like I’m overstepping.”

Mickey brings his hand up to his face. “What you’re doing right now, is fucking overstepping.”

“Why? Because I care about you? Because I love you?”

“Stop. It’s not your job to take care of me or be worried about me or give a shit about what fucking jacket I wear-”

“Yes, it is,” Ian yells, loudly. “You’re my fucking boyfriend and if you’re not happy then I’m not fucking happy. That’s how it works. Look, no one wants people to worry about them. I know that better than anyone, alright? But you have to know that it’s just because I love you.”

“Yeah, I heard you the first five hundred times,” Mickey snaps back. “I’ll buy a fucking jacket, Jesus Christ.”

“That’s it? Nothing else you want to say?”

“Like what, Ian? I’m a piece of shit, I just am. You want me to dress up like some fucking monkey, fine, but it’s not going to change a fucking thing. Terry won’t stop wanting me dead and it won’t stop me from needing to make money the only way I know how. The problems don’t disappear just because I put a fucking Woolrich coat on.”

“...You got Woolrich money?”

“I got money out the ass, bitch.”

 

Ian’s frustrations don’t disappear. Mickey is purposefully missing the point and Ian doesn’t know how far he can go without Mickey shutting down and either physically fighting him or completely ignoring him. Ian doesn’t know which option is worse, he just knows that he doesn’t want either of it.

They go back home, tired - fucking drained. It’s just past noon and Ian already feels like they’ve had a whole fucking day behind them.

Mickey disappears into their bedroom and reappears quickly, tucking a stack of cash into the inside pocket of his old ratty coat. “You coming?” he asks.

“Where?”

“To the fucking fancy bitch mall. Let’s see how long it takes them to kick us out.”

Ian hesitates. “You know that’s not what this is about, right? This is about your dad.”

“So, you’re not coming?” Mickey asks flatly.

 

At the mall, Ian forces Mickey into a bookstore first. Ian steps right up to the counter and asks the woman behind it is she has The Five Love Languages. She says she’ll go get it for them and disappears. She shoots Mickey a nervous look first, so Ian turns around to find the man staring right back at him, fuming.

“You’re going to read it,” Ian says. “And then I’ll drop it.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Mickey says. “I’m the one pissed at you right now. Why the fuck are you making me do shit?”

“I’m not making you do anything. You’re doing it voluntarily, because you love me,” Ian snaps at him.

“Right now? You think I love you right now?” Mickey spits back.

“I don’t even know what you’re so pissed about. The thing with your dad went fine. I think he might even start to like me,” Ian says.

“He spent half an hour describing how he was going to disembowel you as soon as he got out of prison. Said he’s going to feed me your guts since I like having you inside me so much.” Strangely, Mickey seems to calm down as he says that. He even smiles a little bit.

“And what did you say?” Ian asks.

“That I’d have him shanked in prison,” Mickey shrugs. Of course. That’s when the lady from behind the counter decides to return, book in hand.

“He’s joking,” Ian says. “A real fun guy, this one.”

“Uh, should I ring you up?” She asks, ignoring Ian completely and throwing glances over Ian’s shoulder instead.

“Yes, please,” Ian sighs.

 

Mickey is relentless. When Ian tries to give him the book outside of the bookstore, Mickey slaps it right out of his hand.

Annoyed, but not defeated, Ian follows Mickey further into the mall. “Did your dad really say all that shit?”

“Yeah.”

“And you really said that to him?”

“Uhuh.”

“Are you really going to do it?”

“I might. The important thing is that he knows I can.”

Ian tries not to let that turn him on. “Did he say anything else? About me?”

“Plenty. You really think he was going to change his mind about you?”

“Of course not. I just figured he’d be more aggressive,” Ian says.

“Like I said, he can’t wait to get out for a real family reunion. I never thought I’d step foot in this place to actually buy something. You ever shoplift here? Security was real lacks when I was a kid. Mandy stole a whole case of gold rings once.” Mickey stops at the entrance of Neiman Marcus.

“No, I never shoplifted here and we’re definitely not shoplifting today. You don’t need a five hundred dollar coat, Mickey. We can just go to fucking H&M or something.”

“H&M? I didn’t sit through your whole speech about what a piece of shit I am, just to get a piece of shit H&M coat.”

“I never said you were a piece of shit,” Ian says hotly. “If you want to get something nice, that’s fine, but don’t waste your money to prove a point.”

“Watch me, bitch.”

 

Security follows them around the store and Ian can’t blame them. Mickey is wearing his old winter coat, the one littered with cigarette burns and bleach stains, and Ian left the house in the clothes he slept in the night before. When he passes a mirror he also sees that his hair has been untouched since he woke up that morning. It’s a mess that he can’t fix with his fingers. Jesus, it’s getting long again.

“You can’t get one with fur,” Ian tells him when Mickey reaches for a thick black parka.

“Why the fuck not?”

“Debbie hates it. You won’t hear the end of it,” he says and steps closer. “Try the blue one.”

Mickey grabs the navy blue coat off the rack, the security tag threaded all the way way through the sleeve.

“What size is that?” Ian asks.

“Medium.”

“The sleeves are going to be too long.”

“How the fuck do you know that?” Mickey snaps, unzipping the coat.

“You think I don’t know your fucking body?” Ian snorts and grabs a small of the rack. When he turns the tag around to see the size, he also sees the price. “Jesus Christ.”

He looks at Mickey who is tugging the medium on and has to reach for the stars to get his hand out of the sleeve. Ian laughs, loudly.

Mickey rolls his eyes and gives up. He takes the small out of Ian’s hand and Ian puts the medium back on the hanger and returns it to the rack.

“That looks really good,” Ian has to admit when Mickey has the coat on. “Is it warm?”

“I’m already sweating,” Mickey says. “It looks good?”

“Really good. There’s a mirror over there,” Ian says, pointing at the mirror a few feet away.

“Whatever. You say it looks good, it looks good,” Mickey says and takes the coat off again. “Your turn.”

“No fucking way. I don’t have eight hundred dollars just lying around,” Ian snorts. “Go pay for yours so we can throw that old piece of shit away.”

“Put on the green one,” Mickey commands as he puts the coat back on the hanger and tugs his old one back on. “You’re always cold. You’re going to love this shit.”

“And then what? You want me to shoplift it?”

Mickey grins at that. “If you got the balls. And if you don’t, consider it an early Christmas gift.”

“You’re doing it again,” Ian tells him. “Why can’t you just buy yourself something nice? You don’t have to buy me one to feel better about it. You deserve this… eight hundred dollar coat.”

“Alright, buddy,” Mickey rolls his eyes. He grabs the forest green version of his own coat off the rack, checks the size and walks away.

“Mickey,” Ian hisses, but he’s fast for someone with short legs. He follows Mickey into the women’s section where he yanks two of the same brand off a rack, a grey one and a black one, before continuing on to the register.

“For Mandy?” Ian asks when they get there. The man at the till, slender and dressed in black from head to toe, looks at them curiously.

“She’s been hounding me for it for Christmas. Or her birthday, whatever,” Mickey shrugs.

“And the other one?” Ian asks.

“For Sandy.”

“Who the fuck is Sandy?” Ian asks.

“These four, sir?” The man behind the till asks kindly, reaching over to take the coats from him.

“Yeah. I told you about Sandy.”

“Never even heard of her,” Ian says.

“Would you like me to wrap them up for you?” Tall and Slender asks mildly.

“For the girls, yeah,” Mickey replies gruffly. “Do you people ship shit?”

Ian then continues to sweat as he watch Mickey drop thirty two hundred dollars bills on the counter.

 

Ian’s coat and the book on love languages are left under the coffee table, both neatly wrapped and in their individual shopping bags. Mickey refuses to touch the book, so Ian refuses to touch the coat.

Well, that’s not true. Ian tries on the coat when Mickey leaves for an hour. Ian has never worn anything as warm and in such a perfect fit. He wraps the coat up neatly again and puts it back in its box and its bag.

When Mickey comes back with dinner, Ian has a hard time staying mad. Mickey brings the fancy deepdish pizza that Ian loves and that’s too far away to order from.

It’s a stupid argument anyway. The thing with Terry went as well as it could possibly go. Ian still gets a pit in his stomach at the thought of Mickey’s poor self care, but Ian concedes to the fact that having a whole fight about it is kind of crazy.

“Thanks,” Ian says gratefully, when Mickey hands him a plate and sits down on the couch next to him. “You went all the way to the Northside?”

“Had a delivery,” Mickey says. “You don’t have homework?”

“Some reading. I can do it whenever,” Ian shrugs. Ian decides to talk about something completely different while the tv buzzes in the background. About Carl’s baseball season starting back up in the new year. About Debbie’s latest community college drama, about people at work. Mickey seems to appreciate it, the break from this bizarrely intense day, keeping the chitchat light even if it is just for their meal.

Ian is rewarded for it when he returns back to the couch after washing their dishes; Mickey lifts an arm seemingly without thinking, but a clear invitation for cuddling. Cuddling always leads to headscratches, which has become Ian’s absolute favorite sensation short of fucking or getting his dick sucked.

Ian slides under his arm eagerly, relaxing a little bit more in the warmth of the other man’s body. “Lie down,” Mickey mutters absently and Ian does, putting his head in Mickey's lap. Mickey buries his hand in Ian’s hair and Ian hums in appreciation, closing his eyes. “You’re like a big fucking orange cat sometimes,” Mickey says.

“You know those cute pictures of the cats sleeping with pit bulls?” Ian asks with a smile creeping on his face.

“No,” Mickey responds gruffly. “Any pictures of pit bulls eating cats alive?”

 

Mickey gets up to take a shower before bed, and Ian has a strong, strong urge to follow him in. But there is no invite, no flirty look or squeeze, so Ian stays put. He could use a shower himself and when Mickey comes out, he slips in for a quick one.

He gets dressed for sleep right afterwards, pretty sure his chances of getting laid are very low. He is pretty tired anyway, but he wouldn’t mind a little something before bed. Maybe he should have jacked off in the shower.

Mickey has turned off the tv and the lights in the living room and he’s in bed already, phone in his hand. Ian turns off the lights and gets into bed with him. On cue, Mickey locks his phone and puts it down on the nightstand.

“C’mere,” Ian says softly, wrapping his hand around Mickey’s wrist. Mickey doesn’t fight it, just turns onto his side and lets Ian curl around him from behind. Ian pushes his face into Mickey’s hair.

He is already dozing off when Mickey asks: “You still awake?”

“Hm?”

“Go to sleep.”

“No, what is it?” Ian mutters, lips moving against the back of Ian’s neck.

It takes a moment for Mickey to answer, but he does. “I’m not unhappy,” he says. “You, what you and I have, makes me happy.”

Ian’s stomach flutters and he tightens his hold on him. He wishes he could see his face. “Me too,” Ian says. “You make me happy, too.”

 

 

Thanksgiving is… well. A compromise. Mickey flies to New York, because apparently his cousin Sandy is out here too. Ian stays behind. It’s only for a couple of days, so feeling too upset about it is ridiculous. It’s just that Ian also realizes around the same time that they started seeing each other only a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and that they’ve missed their one year anniversary completely.

It’s fine. Mickey gets to spend time with his sister and cousin and Ian gets to spend time with his family, so everyone wins. He’s sipping coffee at the kitchen table with Lip, Fiona and Carl on Thanksgiving morning. Debbie and Liam are making pancakes, attempting to make them look like turkeys and then trying to make them look like leaves and then settling on whatever shape it is that Ian eventually gets presented with.

“Thanks, kid,” he tells Liam who puts a plate down in front of him with a grand gesture. “Do we have syrup?”

“And whipped cream,” Debbie sings as she puts both containers in the middle of the table. Fiona snatches the whipped cream before Carl can put his hands on it.

“Too slow, loser,” she laughs. Carl objects and Ian feels the need to tell him that he is, in fact, a loser. Lip comes to Carl’s defense, and retaliates by snatching the syrup out from Ian’s grasp before he can poor some over his own pancakes. It’s the start of a loud and lively breakfast, with incessant chatter and shrieks and laughter and Ian is happy he is there.

When Frank shows up around noon, Ian keeps his mouth tightly shut. He hears Debbie greet him at door, hears Lip talk to him in the hallway and then hears Liam’s excited: “Hey, dad!” in the living room.

Ian and Fiona had been bent over her iPad, vaguely watching the parade, but mostly talking about nonsense for the last half hour. She tenses up right next to him as soon as they hear the first hint of Frank being there. They stare at each other, wordlessly for quite some time.

When Frank finally strolls into the kitchen with Lip on his tail, he says: “Happy Thanksgiving, children.”

Ian doesn’t think of Frank a lot and when he does, he tends to spiral. The thought of him alone tends to ruin his mood and possibly the rest of his day. The last time he remembers Frank being at the house, it had resulted in Ian spending over a month in a depressive haze, because of what he did to Debbie.

He tries not to let him ruin this. Just for once, Ian doesn’t want to be affected by him so much, so he ignores him. He can feel Fiona’s eyes on him, he sees Lip hovering between him and Frank, like he is shielding him from the man.

Ian gets up, takes his second cup of coffee of the day with him and goes out to sit on the back steps of the house. The entire world is coated in snow, it seems. Still clean, this early in the year and it is absolutely freezing. The coat Mickey got him has been a godsend in the last couple of weeks; his walks to and from the subway have been a lot more tolerable thanks to it.

He lights a cigarette, puts his coffee mug down next to his feet on the step and  takes his phone out of his pocket. He considers sending Mickey a text about Frank being there, but decides against it. What’s the point? Just to bum Mickey out as well?

The back door opens and closes. He expects Lip, but it’s Fiona who takes a seat next to him, hands wrapped around her own mug. “Did Mickey leave you with any weed?” she asks.

Ian snorts at that, turns to look at her. “Lip might think he knows better, but I’m pretty sure AA still considers pot a bad idea.”

“Yeah, maybe” she sighs. “It’s just times like these, you know.”

“I know,” she concedes. “Liam seems glad to see him.”

“It’s been a while. He’s at the age where he still forgets what it was like the last time,” Fiona says.

The backdoor opens and closes again. This time it is Lip. He passes between them and sits a couple of steps down from them.

He puts his open hand out at Ian who hands him his pack of cigarettes and lighter. Lip takes one cigarette out, puts it behind his ear and puts another one between his lips before lighting it. He hands the pack to Ian.

“Dick,” Ian says.

“Ask your boyfriend to get you some more,” Lip shrugs. “Ask him to buy me one of those jackets, while you’re at it.”

“I don’t think he likes you like that,” Ian says. “He’s got standards, you know.”

“I did not know that, no,” Lip smirks. “He leave you any weed, at least?”

“Yes, Jesus,” Ian sighs. “You two are the worst AA people ever. I’ve got one joint on me. I was trying to save it.”

“Extreme circumstances,” Fiona says, vaguely waving back at the house.

“He hasn’t done anything yet,” Ian says.

The backdoor opens and closes. “Are you guys smoking weed out here?” Carl asks.

“You only got the one?” Lip asks Ian.

Ian rolls his eyes. “I didn’t know we were going to hold a fucking circle, alright? There’s more at the apartment. I can pick some up later.”

“What’s he doing in there?” Fiona asks Carl.

Carl shrugs, slips between them to sit next to Lip. “Watching tv with Liam and Debbie. He’s high on something.”

“Where’s he been all this time?” Ian asks.

“Living with some sad old lady in Glencoe. I think she kicked him out, or he wouldn’t have come,” Carl says. “Liam visited him there once. Said the house is huge. The lady has a Porsche.”

They all groan in annoyance. Ian pushes his cigarette out on the railing next to him and digs the joint he was saving out of the bottom of his pack of cigarettes. He hands it to Carl, together with his lighter.

The joint doesn’t last them very long. They stay out there for quite some time after. Fiona is the first to go back inside, muttering something about not wanting to leave Debbie alone in there. Carl follows her inside; the idiot came out without a jacket.

Lip doesn’t move and Ian doesn’t either, wanting his high to settle in some more before going anywhere near Frank.

“You going to stick around?” Lip asks.

Ian shrugs. “Got nothing better to do.”

Lip nods, grabs the cigarette out from behind his ear and lights it with the lighter laying to the steps behind him. Ian lights himself another cigarette as well and exhales long and deep. “When is he going to die, you think?” Ian asks.

“He’s a cockroach,” Lip says without missing a beat.

 

By the time they go back inside, Ian can’t feel his fingers and toes anymore. The whole house smells like apple pie. Kev and V are in the kitchen with Fiona and Debbie, and the twins are playing in the snow in front of the house with Carl and Liam. Frank is passed out on the couch.

Ian is running his hands under warm water to warm them up, when he feels something freezing cold dripping down the back of his neck and down his back. The next thing he knows, there is a pile of snow smashed into the back of his head.

“What the fuck,” he hisses and turns around right in time to see Carl flee right back out the front door. Lip, Kevin, V, Fiona and Debbie are howling with laughter, clearly having abated Carl in sneaking up on him from behind.

Debbie helps him shake the snow out of his hair and then helps him hunt Carl down, all the way up and down their street until they feed him a couple of snowballs.

 

Frank doesn’t get up until after their Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of mostly Kev who drapes a heavy blanket over Frank’s head to cancel out the noise. It’s fine. Really, it’s even fun. Maybe Ian would have enjoyed his time more if he wasn’t still tense because of Frank’s presence, but he can’t have everything.

“Liam, can you check if he’s still breathing?” Fiona asks, nodding towards the living room they’ve all avoided for most of the day. Liam trods into the living room and says: “Breathing,” before trodding back. “You think we can play Mario Kart without waking him up?” he then asks Carl.

Carl shrugs and heads to the living room with Liam. Ian peers over and watches them sit on the floor in front of the couch.

Fiona puts a fresh pot of coffee on and sighs. “They’re going to wake him up.”

“Carl can deal with him,“ Lip shrugs and then wiggles his eyebrows. “You guys want to play truth or dare? All dares have to involve Frank’s unconscious body.”

Debbie perks up from where she has been leaning against the counter, eyes plastered to her phone. “I want to play. Lip, truth or dare.”

“Dare, obviously,” Lip says with a grin.

“Go put one of Frank’s socks in your mouth,” Debbie says, without missing even a second.

Ian howls.

“I was thinking more along the lines of we torture Frank,” Lip says, rolling his eyes at Debbie. “You know, shave his head, cut off one of his toes.”

“You should have thought about that sooner, sockboy,” Fiona smirks.

“See if you can taste if he still lives with that old lady or if you can taste the sludge from under the bridge on his fucking toes,” Ian snickers.

“I’m not getting aids from Frank’s fucking socks,” Lip decides.

“Fucking pussy,” Ian says, earning him a smack to the stomach so hard, it doubles him over before he can block it.

“Why does everything have to come back and bite me in the ass, huh?” Lip snarks at Debbie who is still snickering at them from her corner.

“You gotta think before you torture, Lip,” she says, tapping her forefinger against her temple.

 

Ian steps out of the house again a little while later, and calls Mickey.

“Yeah,” is how Mickey answers the phone, always.

“Hey,” Ian says, deciding he might as well take a stroll around the block now that he’s out there. “Having fun?”

“As much fun as you can have with two annoying chicks,” Mickey says. “You?”

“Debbie has been trying to get Lip to eat Frank’s sock,” Ian offers.

“Sounds like a fucking blast. Frank’s there, huh?” 

“Showed up this morning. He’s been passed out ever since,” Ian sighs.

“You okay?” Mickey then asks, softly.

“I’m fine. Annoyed, is all. We’re still having a good time,” Ian admits.

“Good. You got work in the morning, right?”

They manage to waste forty-five minutes on the phone and only hang up when Sandy loudly and aggressively demands for his attention (“You’re burning the marshmallows too much, you fucking dickhead!”).

Ian returns to the house, and is greeted by curious looks from Lip and Fiona. “Where you been?” she asks.

He holds up his phone. “Mickey.”

She opens her mouth to say something, but is cut off by Frank who comes staggering into the kitchen. “You still seeing the Milkovich boy? You know, the name doesn’t necessarily define the man, but Mickey Milkovich could not be a better example of Milkovich scum. Following right into daddy’s footsteps.”

Ian stares at the man for a second. Wonders if a swift punch to the temple would rid them of him once and for all.

“You think you’re a good judge of character, huh?” Lip asks calmly.

Ian decides not to do it. Any of it. “Alright, guys, it’s been fun,” he says. “I’ve got work in the morning so I’m heading home.”

“Home?” Frank snorts. “This is your home.”

“Not when you’re here,” Ian can’t help but shoot back, already halfway towards the door.

Lip follows him onto the steps. “You handled that well.”

“Either I leave or I kill him,” Ian says, hotly. “If he was anyone else, I would have fucking murdered him for talking about Mickey like that.”

“When’s Mick back in town?”

“Sunday morning,” Ian answers. “You can come with me, if you don’t want to deal with Frank all weekend. Couch is pretty comfortable.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Lip says. “Let me grab my work stuff.”

 

The weekend goes by slowly. Too slow, really, for Ian’s taste. He works in the ER on Black Friday, which seems to never fucking end and on Saturday all Ian wants to do is shake off the bad vibes that still haunt him since his conversation with Frank. He and Lip hang out at the apartment all day, order in breakfast, lunch and dinner and catch up on a bunch of movies.

Ian picks Mickey up at the airport on Sunday morning and they have breakfast at a diner on their way back home. “So,” Ian starts. “How was the family reunion?”

“Who knows? I blacked out literally every night I was there,” he shrugs. “Those bitches love getting lit and just sitting in their living room, like we’re still in fucking high school or some shit.”

“Sounds like you had a good time,” Ian grins.

“It was fine. You should come next time,” Mickey says.

“Sure, but I’m not really supposed to get fucked up like that. Don’t think I’d be much fun,” Ian says, though his heart does skip a beat at the casual invitations.

“Mandy can’t shut the fuck up about you,” Mickey says.

“I really wanted to see her,” Ian sighs. “You think she’ll ever move back here?”

“Sure, as soon as Terry takes his last breath. How did things go with Frank?” Mickey changes the subject easily.

“I left as soon as he woke up,” Ian says.

“You didn’t talk to him at all?”

“He talked to me mostly,” Ian shrugs. “Ripped you to shreds.”

“Yeah? Frank’s got a problem with me?” Mickey snorts.

“Maybe. He just likes to shit on me every chance he gets. Lip stayed at the apartment with me for a couple of days. No major depressive episode, in case you were wondering.”

Mickey doesn’t react to that. “Is Frank staying around?”

“I fucking hope not,” Ian sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “I don’t want to have to deal with him every time I want to go to the house.”

The waitress comes with their coffees, puts them down in front of them with a gentle smile. “Your pancakes will be done in a minute.”

Ian turns his eyes back to Mickey who doesn’t waste any time. He brings the cup of coffee to his lips, sips it, steaming hot.

“I, uh,” Ian starts. “I know it was just a couple of nights, but it was weird sleeping in our bed without you. I missed you.”

“Words of affirmation,” Mickey says.

Ian wracks his brain to figure out why that sounds so familiar. When it clicks, his entire mouth falls open. “You read the book?”

“Fuck no. I started reading it on the plane and it was so fucking boring I considered breaking up with you for a minute. So I googled the shit. They got wifi on planes now.”

“What did you think?” Ian asks and he can’t hold his excitement. Mickey read the book. Sort of.

“I took the test,” Mickey shrugs.

“What test?”

“To figure out what fucking love language is best or whatever. It’s real fucking stupid,” Mickey says, shaking his head. He is uncomfortable. Ian loves it.

“I never took a test,” Ian says, grabbing his phone. “I just read the book. What was your result?”

“Why don’t you take the test first,” Mickey says, eyes on the waitress coming their way with two stacks of pancakes. She places them on the table.

“I told you, I read the book when I was prison,” Ian says, still rapidly googling this test. “I know I’m a words of affirmation kind of guy.”

Mickey looks at him skeptically. “Don’t think so.”

“I am. You just don’t want to do it,” Ian shoots back.

“No, you’re not. You’re definitely not,” Mickey says shaking his head. He grabs a fork. “You’ve made it this far with barely any words of affirmation at all.”

“So what? Doesn’t mean I don’t want it,” Ian says.

“You’d want it over headscratches?” Mickey asks, pouring syrup on his pancakes liberally, eyes intent on the stream.

Ian stalls for a second. “I want both.”

“The test makes you choose.”

“The test is fucking stupid then.”

“That’s what I fucking said,” Mickey says. He places the syrup bottle next to Ian’s plate.

“I guess I’d want the headscratches,” Ian admits, mostly because he is craving it as they speak. He puts the phone down. He’ll do the stupid test later.

“You like that physical shit,” Mickey mumbles around a mouthful.

“Yeah, I guess I do. So do you, though.”

“It was my second thing.”

“What was the first one?”

Mickey doesn’t look at him and doesn’t answer either.

“What?” Ian pushes curiously. “Is it that embarrassing? It’s not fucking giving gifts, is it?”

“Fuck no,” Mickey snorts. “Quality time.”

“Oh. Really? That’s…”

“Real fucking gay?” Mickey suggests.

“I just never thought about. I was thinking in the acts of service corner, you know? I just never figured out what I could do for you that wouldn’t just be annoying.”

“I don’t need you doing anything for me,” Mickey shakes his head.

“Quality time, huh? Is that why you were getting kind of tense when I had midterms?”

“Maybe. Your pedophile ex-boyfriend was also causing some tension, I think. The business dropping after I spent time in jail. It was an overall shit time. It wasn’t you.”

“But do you think we don’t spend enough time together? We’ve been pretty busy. I work all day and I work late on Fridays and Wednesdays now. You work late a lot of the time.”

“Do you think we don’t spend enough time together?” Mickey asks, eyebrows raised. “We fucking live together.”

“I mean, yeah, but we don’t, you know - hang out as much as I’d like. During the week we don’t see each other much and when we do, we bang. We used to have more time before these stupid classes and the stupid fucking homework that I’m too dumb to do at a normal fucking a pace.”

“You’re looking too much into this. It’s simpler than that. We were fucking attached at the hip all summer. I spent all of September in jail and October was a shit show with Dr. Pedophile and your schoolwork. Then the thing with my dad. It’s not like you can do much about it. Life’s just a fucking bitch like that,” Mickey says, with a shrug.

Ian wonders how this works. How they can come to a stalemate for weeks and then Mickey leaves for a couple of days and is ready to talk about them and their relationship all of a sudden. He is elated, he really is, but he also has to wonder what it means that the separation has made such a difference. Ian knows that he can be a pushy dickhead sometimes, especially when it comes to Mickey.

Maybe Mickey really just needed Ian to shut up for a second. Give Mickey the opportunity to miss him, and all that bullshit.

God, they’re really becoming boring ass fucking adults at this pace.

 

Back at the house, they don’t really waste any time. Ian has his hand down the front of Mickey’s pants before they’re even through the fucking door. Mickey has a hand at the back of Ian’s head, pulling him deeper into their kiss-

“So you two really are gay,” Lip says, startling them out of their fucking skin. “Thought you guys were just pretending.”

“Jesus Christ,” Ian pants. He scratched the back of his hand on Mickey’s zipper as he pulls it out of his pants. “What the fuck are you still doing here?”

Lip shrugs, cocky smile playing around his mouth. He is sitting at the kitchen table, behind his laptop. “It started raining. No car. Got work to do.”

“Great,” Mickey says flatly, heading towards the bedroom. “Glad to have you here.”

“He’s not going to fuck me while you’re here,” Ian hisses at his brother.

“Close the fucking door, put a song on,” Lip says, affronted. “I’ve got deadlines.”

Ian flips him off with both hands before following Mickey into the bedroom. He closes the door behind him. “Sorry about him,” Ian apologizes, shrugging his jacket off. Mickey is unpacking his bag, making a mess of their bed. Ian puts his hands on Mickey’s shoulders from behind. “Frank is still at the house and I think he needs a break from him, too, you know?”

“It’s fine,” Mickey says evenly.

“So much for quality time, huh?” Ian teases, sliding his hands down Mickey’s back so that he can push back up, this time under his shirt.

“Not bending over with him in the other room,” Mickey states unwaveringly.

“Why not?” Ian whines, dropping his hands. He plops down on the bed. “You know how many times I’ve walked in on him banging some slut? He doesn’t even stop when he sees me.”

“That’s between you and him,” Mickey shrugs.

“So mall bathrooms are fine, but our own bedroom with someone else in the apartment is a no go?”

“I don’t give a shit who hears us at the fucking mall. I don’t want your brother knowing how we fuck. That’s fucking weird.”

Ian doesn’t say that it’s definitely way too late for that and that Lip pretty much knows all details of their sex life already. He hooks a finger into Mickey’s belt loop. “What if we put on some music?” Ian suggests. “Or we can screw in the bathroom.”

Mickey looks at him, rolls his eyes and Ian sees him visibly relax. “Pick a song,” Mickey says. “If it’s too weird, we’re stopping.”

Ian does his very best to make him forget all about anything that’s happening outside of their bedroom for the next hour or so.

 

On Monday evening, about half an hour before Ian is done with his shift and already wondering what they’re going to have for dinner, Frank is rolled into the ER on a stretcher. It just so happens that Ian is first to notice, shock and worry rolling over him.

“Frank?” Ian asks. “What the fuck happened?”

Frank is conscious but delirious, and he grabs onto Ian’s arm tightly, fingers digging in. “This is it. This is the end.”

“You know this clown?” The EMT asks Ian, sounding somewhat amused. Her tone sets Ian at ease. She wouldn’t joke with him if Frank was actually dying, right?

“He’s my son!” Frank yells, loud enough for half the floor to hear him.

Chapter Text

Fiona arrives first, clasping Ian’s shoulder and startling him out of a daze. He looks up at her anxious face, notes the pressed white shirt and the sharp black slacks and heels. “You took off of work?” Ian asks. “He’s not dying, you know.” He covers her hand with his own. 

“Didn’t want you to sit out here alone for too long,” she says, taking the seat next to him. “Lip and Mickey are on their way.”

“Yeah,” Ian says, holding his phone up. 

She extends her arm and wraps it around Ian’s shoulder. “Is he going to be okay?” she asks softly.

“Yeah,” Ian says again. “Broke his leg in three places. Concussion. Not sure how severe, but he’s going to be here for a couple of nights.”

“That’s what you get for walking along the highway drunk off your ass,” she sighs heavily. “You okay? Can’t imagine how you felt seeing him come in.” 

“Didn’t feel great. He was being a fucking asshole the entire time, too. I’ve tried so hard not to let any bullshit ruin this job for me. No one here has met any of my family and now the first thing they fucking get to know about me is that Frank is my dad.”

“Having a fuckhead dad is pretty universal. Frank is worse than most, but I don’t think you have to worry about your job because of him.”

“Until he attacks a nurse or tries to steal meds,” Ian says. “I haven’t even been here for a year. They won’t think twice about firing me.” 

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Fiona says. “If he has to stay here for a couple of nights, we can keep an eye on him. I can pretend to give a shit about sweet ol’ dad and stay the night.” 

“You want to put him under twenty-four hour surveillance?” Ian snorts. “One of us is definitely going to kill him.”

“If that’s how it ends, then that’s how it ends,” Fiona says. 

Mickey and Lip show up fifteen minutes later. Lip and Fiona finally go talk to the doctor to deal with the details of it all and Mickey takes the seat Fiona was in a second ago. “You’re buzzing,” he says. 

“I want to run through a wall,” Ian admits. “I don’t know if it’s adrenaline or hypomania.” 

“What do I do if it’s hypomania?” Mickey asks. 

“Try not to break up with me for the next week or two?” Ian suggests. 

 

Fiona stays at the hospital and they drop Lip off at the house before going back to the apartment. Ian can feel Mickey’s eyes on him every now and then. Ian tries to talk about it, tells him that his last severe manic episode was over two years ago, a couple of weeks after he got out of prison. Thanks to the strict medical regiment he had been on in prison, the episode wasn’t as severe as it has been in the past. He stopped sleeping. He was a dickhead to his siblings and met a different guy off Grindr almost every day for two weeks straight. Ian doesn’t remember any of them; not their names, not their faces and not their bodies. By the third week, Ian had mellowed out. The crash lasted only a couple of days. 

Compared to the episodes he’d have as a teenager, it was very manageable. He kept taking his meds, there was no psychosis and there was no hysteria. He can only hope that it’ll be comparable this time. He can’t really tell at this point.

“You planning on downloading Grindr again?” Mickey asks amused, but Ian doesn’t miss the concern still etched on his face. They’re in bed. It’s barely ten p.m, but Ian feels safe there, feels like he can tell Mickey things in there and he won’t be angry at him.

“Don’t think that’s going to be necessary,” Ian says.

“But you need something,” Mickey says. “If it’s not strange dick, you need a new hobby.”

“How about your dick gets to be my new hobby? You haven’t fucked me in a while. We never use toys. We can countdown until Christmas, fuck a different way every day,” Ian suggests.

“I don’t know if I have that many moves,” Mickey laughs. 

 

They spend only half the night fucking. Mickey falls asleep a little after two and Ian waits for the sun to come up. 

 

At work on Tuesday, Ian does fine. Better than usual, even. He is quick, sharp and he doesn’t hesitate. No one would ever want to fire him, right? In a strange twist of events, his colleagues mostly seem to be sympathetic to the fact that Ian's father is occupying one of their beds now.

He visits Frank during his break, because Debbie asks him to go with her. Lucky for him, Frank is passed out when they get there. He has lunch with her and Fiona, before Fiona goes home and Debbie takes over her surveillance shift for the afternoon. Lip is going to stay the night at the hospital. Ian doesn’t want to think of where the hell Frank is going to stay for six weeks until his leg is healed. 

Ian stops by his room to see Lip after his shift ends, and regrets it immediately. He turns away at the door when he hears the shouting match he and Frank are having inside. 

Mickey is waiting for Ian in the parking lot, right at the entrance of the hospital. 

Ian is happy to see him, really, he is. He just wishes Mickey wouldn’t look at him like that. Not when Ian actually feels good. “You good?” Mickey asks. 

“Great,” Ian says. “Thought about that hobby you were talking about. Maybe we can start cooking at home more.” 

“I thought we were going to do a bunch of sex stuff,” Mickey says, amused smile playing around his lips. 

“That too. But cooking is like a fun thing we can do together, right? Spend time together before we bang.” 

“Sure, why not,” Mickey shrugs. “You want to go get some groceries?” 

 

The week passes by fast. Mickey drives him to work and picks him up. They cook. Well, Ian cooks and Mickey stands around and has a running commentary on everything Ian does. 

They bang until Mickey doesn’t want to anymore. Ian tries not to push, tries not to push for one more time, but it’s a compulsion when he is like this. When he is depressed, he doesn’t want to fuck at all. When he is hypomanic, his dick is constantly throbbing.

It’s not fun or romantic; it’s something he feels like he has to do and he doesn’t really want Mickey to be part of that. He doesn’t want their sex life to become that. Vaguely, he realizes that this is new, him knowing that his behavior is fucked and him not wanting it to affect his relationship with Mickey when he is stable again. This foresight, knowing that this is something that is passing, is new.

So Ian jacks off a bunch at night and he jacks off in the bathroom at work ( once a day, he tells himself, just to get it out of the way ). 

Ian goes to his chemistry class, but skips anatomy. He gets intrusive thoughts, thinking about it; sees himself punching Ned in the face over and over and over, so he decides it’s safest not to go.

 

“What the fuck is that?” Mickey asks, when Ian comes home at ten thirty that Friday night. It’s the first night that week that Mickey didn’t pick Ian up from work and he seems to regret it. 

“Christmas tree,” Ian says, dragging the tree through the door of the apartment. “I got the biggest one.” 

“Yeah, I can see that. That thing isn’t going to fit in this room.” 

“Of course it will. Right here, in the corner,” Ian says, waving at the empty space next to the tv. Kind of small, he notices. “It’s going to look great. We’ll get all the decorations tomorrow. I’m sure Liam would love to help us put it up.” 

Ian props it up against the wall and looks at Mickey who is now standing just a couple of feet away.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t be going anywhere alone,” he says. 

“The lot was just down the street from the hospital,” Ian shrugs. “I passed it on the way to the subway.”

“You took that thing on the subway?” 

“Don’t do this,” Ian sighs and closes the distance between them. He puts his hands on Mickey’s hips. “It’s just a Christmas tree.”

“It’s eight feet tall. Take your coat off first, will ya?” Mickey says, pushing lightly at Ian’s shoulders. 

“I thought maybe we could go out,” Ian then says. “It’s a nice night. Cold, but the sky is clear.” 

Mickey hesitates for a moment. Ian can’t be sure why, but Mickey gives him a pat on the cheek and says: “Yeah, alright.” 

 

They grab burgers at a drive-thru and end up at the pier. It feels like a while since they’ve been there. It’s completely deserted. Their boots sound loud and heavy on the wooden planks under them. This side of the lake is lit for recreational boats. It’s all orange light warming Mickey’s skin and making his eyes impossibly bright. 

“It’s going to end soon,” Ian tells him. “I’m tired.”

“Alright,” Mickey says. “You still feel good?”

“Yeah. Doesn’t feel like a crash, but I don’t know.”

Ian feels something tug on his arm, looks down to see Mickey pull on it. Ian takes his hand out of his coat pocket and watches Mickey thread their fingers together. “We’ll figure it out when we get there,” Mickey says. He sounds tired, too. 

“I don’t want to be fucked up during Christmas. During your birthday,” Ian admits. 

“We’ll be fine either way,” Mickey says, squeezing his hand. 

 

They try to pick Liam up on Saturday and end up with Liam, Carl, Debbie, Lip and Fiona in Target to pick out Christmas ornaments. They need to get out of the house, get the fuck away from Frank who has taken up residency on the couch once again. They put Kev and V on nurse duty for the day so that they can all take a break and Ian tries not to let guilt eat him up for not having helped his siblings with Frank at all since he got dismissed from the hospital. 

It takes quite a fucking while and Mickey exploding and loudly proclaiming that we are fucking done here before they finally leave the store.

Piling into their tiny four hundred square foot apartment is surreal. Debbie, Liam and Carl gawk at the tree. Lip cuts it open and as soon as he does, Mickey turns to look at Ian. 

“Okay,” Ian says. “Maybe it’s kinda big.” 

“It’s the biggest tree I’ve ever seen,” Fiona says. “It’s beautiful, though. And you don’t have a Carl or Liam running around all day, knocking shit over all the time. It’s going to look great.” 

Fiona starts on lunch. Carl, Liam and Debbie start in the decorations in the tree and Mickey, Lip and Ian start working on the massive piles of lights Debbie managed to convince Mickey to buy for the entire apartment. “These will look so cute on the windows,” she had said. “It’s going to look like winter wonderland.” 

“Is winter wonderland going to keep your ass from getting depressed?” Mickey had asked Ian. 

“Definitely,” Ian had said. 

 

The tree is something you’d see in the lobby of a hotel or in a house that has a foyer, not in a one bedroom apartment on the edge of the Southside. It is massive and they have to move the tv stand a couple of feet so that none of the branches are blocking the tv. The decorations are all gold and silver (“It’ll look great with your furniture,” Fiona had said).

It does look great. It is more beautiful than anything Ian thought he’d ever have, he realizes as he watches Mickey hoist Liam onto his shoulders to let him put the star on top. 

 

They don’t leave until around one a.m. Ian and Mickey fall into bed minutes after the door closes behind them. They don’t have sex; Ian sleeps deep and long. 

The world has shifted again when he blinks his eyes open. Mickey isn’t in bed when he looks around, the curtains still drawn and the door to the bedroom closed. Ian finds his phone under his pillow; two p.m. 

“Jesus Christ,” he sighs, rubbing at his eyes. He takes another minute before hoisting himself up and shuffling into the living room.

Mickey looks up from his phone when he hears Ian shuffle towards him. Ian blinks at the bright sun shining through the kitchen windows, rubs at his eyes again. 

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” He grumbles, his voice still hoarse with sleep. 

“I did. You took your meds and went back to bed. You looked like you could use a couple more hours,” Mickey says. Ian plops down onto the couch next to him. There is half a sandwich on the coffee table. Ian destroys it in three bites. 

Mickey stretches his arm and places his hand in the back of Ian’s head. “You good?” 

“Yeah, fine,” Ian says and pretends that the question doesn’t make him itchy. Mickey doesn’t say anything, saunters into the kitchen and grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge. He drops it in Ian’s lap before sitting down. 

“How do you feel, really?” Mickey then asks, voice even. He puts his hand back in Ian’s neck, strokes his hairline with his thumb. 

Ian shrugs, takes a large sip of his water. “That tree is fucking ridiculous,” he says. It looks massive, takes up about a quarter of their living room. The star pokes at the ceiling. “What the fuck was I thinking?”

“Yeah, well,” Mickey shrugs. “It beats you coming home with a stolen baby.” 

Ian snorts and shakes his head. He leans into Mickey’s body. “Sometimes I think about,” he says, “if you hadn’t dropped out after middle school, we might have met back then. We’d have fallen in love way too soon and I would have lost my mind, lost you.” 

“You wouldn’t have wanted me back then,” Mickey says easily. “I was an even bigger piece of shit than I am now.” 

“So was I,” Ian says. “I would have found you and I would have ruined it.” 

“What makes you say that?”

“I was just… so much worse,” Ian sighs. “This week was so mild compared to how I was before I got on my meds. I was still terrified I’d do something insane, but back then I couldn’t even give a shit. I made Fiona’s life a living hell. Lip, too. All of them. If I had known you-”

“I’d have wanted you anyway,” Mickey says. “You don’t know what kind of trash I was into.”

“I’m glad I met you when I met you,” Ian finally says. “I don’t want you to ever have to go through all of that shit.” 

“You’re mine,” Mickey says. It sounds easy, casual, like he has said it a hundred times before. “I’ll go through whatever shit I have to. Whether it’s big fucking Christmas trees or stolen babies.” 

“I had one intrusive thought this week,” Ian admits. “It was about Ned.” 

Mickey’s thumb stills in his neck. 

“Not like that,” Ian says. “I just kept imagining myself pounding the shit out of him.” 

“What the fuck?” 

“Not like that . I mean like, smashing his face in until it was completely covered in his blood. I imagined doing it in front of everyone in the lecture hall. I thought about following him home, strangling him.”

“I fantasize about killing people all the time,” Mickey shrugs. 

“You’re a psychopath. I’m not usually like that. I just really hate it when I can’t control what I’m thinking. It scares me.”

“You did good,” Mickey says, Ian feels his lips move against his forehead. “You didn’t murder anyone. You didn’t steal any babies or blow any dudes. Right?” 

Ian jabs him in his side, hard. Mickey laughs and squirms, but doesn’t let Ian go. “This tree is a disaster, though,” Ian finally sighs. “You think we should take it down?” 

“After those kids spent hours decorating it? No fucking way,” Mickey says. 

“Yesterday was fun, huh?” 

“It was something.” 

Ian looks up, presses a kiss, just a peck, onto Mickey’s lips. “You said I’m yours.” 

“When did I do that?” 

“Mickey.” 

“Doesn’t sound like me.” 

 

The crash isn't bad. It’s not great either. He does fine at work, but he can’t focus on his studies for the fucking life of him. His exams are in two weeks and he is behind on his reading. He isn’t worried about the anatomy final, but every time he opens his chemistry textbook, the words and graphics dance across the page. 

He also just doesn’t want to do it, really. Who wants to come home after working for ten hours and do fucking homework? He has a boyfriend who he wants to cook dinner with. He lives in an apartment with a fucking Christmas tree and Christmas lights all over the place. He wants to be home and spend time with Mickey. He doesn't want to do fucking homework. 

“You sound like a twelve year old,” Lip tells him after Ian unloads on him that Thursday over the phone. Ian is on the subway, on his way home. Lip had asked him how the studying was going. “You have a week and half to go. After that you can bang your fucking boyfriend until your balls fall off.” 

“I know. I just, I’m already doing all this extra shit at the hospital. That paper isn’t going to make me better at my job.” 

“It’s going to make the salary better,” Lip reminds him. “Think of the money. Your tattoo removal is around the corner. You can get your own car. You might even be able to get a bigger apartment. You want to buy a house some day?” 

“I never wanted to be a nurse,” Ian says. “This is all your fault.” 

“Do I have to push a fucking button?” Lip threatens.

“What button? I don’t give a shit about any of this,” Ian dares. 

“Don’t make me do it.”

“Do it, bitch.” 

“Remember who is paying for this shit,” Lip says seriously. “You want him to think you’re throwing his money away? Why? Because you don’t feel like finishing this? Because you’re fucking tired, bitch?” 

“Hey, Lip. Go fuck yourself, man,” Ian says, and hangs up. 

 

Ian hate-studies. He spends hours in the evenings forcing himself to sit at the kitchen table and stare at the words in his books until they make sense. He makes Mickey leave some nights (too distracting, too much fun, too sexy).  

Both exams are scheduled on the twenty-third. As soon as he leaves the lecture hall after his last exam, he forgets everything he learned, happily so. 

While that all seeps out of his head, he comes to a shocking realization. For someone who has an eight foot tall Christmas tree in his living room, he somehow managed to forget to buy fucking Christmas gifts. 

For fuck’s sake.

He calls Fiona on his way to the parking lot. 

“Hey, kid, what’s up?” she picks up cheerfully. 

“Hey, are we doing gifts this year?” He asks. 

“Secret Santa, hon,” she says. “Lip didn’t tell you?”

“What? No. What do you mean?” Ian asks, confused. 

“What’s he pissed at you for, anyway?” She asks.

“Just being a dickhead. What’s the Secret Santa thing?”

“We pulled names. There was one name left in the bowl and Lip said he’d give it to you,” she explains. “He must have forgotten.” 

“Jesus Christ, alright,” he sighs. “I’ll figure it out with him. What are we doing on Christmas day?” 

“Haven’t really had a chance to think about it, if I’m honest,” Fiona admits. “Any ideas?” 

“I can ask Mick if we can do the presents at our place. They’ll look good under the tree,” he suggests, suddenly feeling guilty. “No Frank.” 

“Yeah, sounds great. Let me know and we’ll figure it out. Hey, how did your finals go?”

 

Ian goes back in his texts with Lip. He doesn’t need to scroll far to find what he is looking for: You got Fiona for Secret Santa, dipshit. 

 

Ian is relieved that he doesn’t have to scramble together five gifts for his siblings, but he’d have preferred anyone over Fiona. 

He had told Mickey he’d come home right after his exams. Now he has to text him that they have to go to the fucking mall two days before Christmas. 

They have to park four blocks away and walk to the damn mall. The place is crawling with people and Mickey says: “No fucking way,” as soon as they step into the place. “You don’t even know what you’re looking for.” 

“We’re already here, Mickey,” Ian says. “Come on, you have to help me. You got a sister.”

“Yeah, I got that shit out of the way last month,” he says. “But here we fucking are.” 

“Try to be helpful, please. The sooner we find her something, the sooner we can get the fuck out of here.” 

“Buy her what she wants,” Mickey says. 

“Are you really this useless?” Ian shoots back. 

“What the fuck am I doing here anyway? Why didn’t you ask your brother? He lives with her.” 

Ian knows this is the last place Mickey wants to be. Not only does he hate crowds, but they’ve barely spent any time together other than in their bed before going to sleep for the last two weeks. Ian knows that this is no ones fault but his own for getting pissed at Lip, for getting carried away, for not knowing enough about his sister these days to know what type of present she would like. He doesn’t know what she does for fun. He doesn’t know if she still works out. He can’t remember if he has seen her wear jewelry in the last couple of years. 

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Ian says, because he is a petulant child. 

“Don’t be such a pussy,” Mickey growls at him. “If you don’t know what she wants, fucking ask him.” 

“Jesus, fine. It’s a cop out, though. I should know this,” Ian says as he pulls out his phone. The phone was a thoughtful gift his family got him for his birthday. The coat he is wearing was an excessive but sweet gift from his boyfriend. And what’s Ian giving back? He barely sends a text back these days. Mediocre sex. 

He shoots Lip a text asking if he has any idea what Fiona could want for Christmas. 

“I’m sorry,” Ian then says to Mickey who just pulls an eyebrow up at him. “I know you don’t want to be here. I just wanted to hang out with you, too.” 

“Whatever,” Mickey sighs. “You’re too sensitive sometimes. Your sister isn’t going to give a shit about what you get her. Give her a mug with ‘Best Big Sis’ on it and she’ll be over the fucking moon. Give her a teddy bear. Chicks love that shit.”

“You think you know what chicks like?” Ian muses, right when his phone lights up. Something you can do together , Lip’s response reads. 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Ian groans.

 Mickey reads the text over his shoulder. “What, like a puzzle?” 

 

Ian doesn’t feel great. He’s tense and he has plenty of reason to be. He is waiting to hear if he has graduated. He has a bullshit gift for Fiona. He invited his entire family to their apartment for Christmas day (“Yeah, whatever,” Mickey had said) and only remembered later that it also means that Mickey is going to spend his entire birthday in that chaos. 

He knows that it’s the aftermath of his hypomania. He has been either completely scatterbrained or hyper focused since he came down and neither of those mindsets are very conducive to him not being a fucking prick. He has been short and grouchy with Mickey, he’s been a dick to Lip and he has barely spoken to any of his other siblings over the last couple of weeks. 

He relaxes a little bit on the day of Christmas Eve. He has the day off and Mickey doesn’t wake him up that morning. He wakes up at ten, feeling light at the idea that he has no obligations that day. No exams, no work, no class, no nothing. The smell of coffee meets him right as he steps into the living room. Mickey is dressed and showered, from the looks of it. He is lounging on the couch. Ian thinks of the night before, when they were settled in bed and Ian had already closed his eyes in an attempt to go to sleep early. Mickey had pushed him onto his back after the tenth time Ian had tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable. Mickey had gotten on top of him, had ridden him in the dark from start to finish. Ian remembers twisting his hands in the sweatshirt Mickey hadn’t cared to take off, he remembers Mickey leaning down, pressing their foreheads together. “Relax,” he had told him. “Just relax a little bit.” And Ian did relax. He doesn’t remember anything from the moment he came onwards, so that means Ian must have fallen asleep right after. Very relaxed.

“Morning,” Mickey greets Ian with a glance in his direction. 

Ian shuffles to the back of the couch and messes up Mickey’s already tousled hair a bit more. “Good morning,” he says, and heads into the kitchen to pour himself some coffee. “Did I fall asleep before you got off, last night?” He saunters back to join Mickey on the couch. 

Mickey shrugs, so that’s a yes. 

“I’m sorry,” Ian says, pulling him in with a hand in his neck. “I can make it up to you right now, if you want.” Ian kisses him, is elated to see Mickey smile into their kiss. 

“You’ll make it up to me, just not right now. I have a couple of things I need to take care of today,” Mickey says, pulling away. 

“Oh. You’re going out?” Ian asks, forgetting to mask his disappointment. 

“Won’t take long,” Mickey says. 

“What are you going to do?” Ian asks. 

“Got to pay out some Christmas bonuses,” Mickey answers. “Dropping by your brother, too. I can take you there first, if you want?” 

“Last I checked Frank was still there. You’re giving Lip a Christmas bonus?” 

“Got to keep those enemies close, you know,” Mickey shrugs. 

“You two hang out a lot without me?” Ian asks curiously. 

“Wouldn’t call it hanging out,” Mickey says. He gets up, heads to the door to put his shoes on. “The farm is growing. Can’t maintain all of it on my own without spending every second of the day there. He’s annoying as shit, but he knows what he’s doing at least.” 

“Yeah, that about sums him up,” Ian sighs. 

“You still pissed at him?” Mickey then asks. 

“Not really. Pissed at myself, more than anything.” 

“He forgot all about it,” Mickey tells him. “He loves whining about shit, so I’d know if he was pissed at you. He’s not.”  

“I can’t imagine him talking to you about anything,” Ian says. 

Mickey takes a few strides back to the couch and buries his hand in Ian’s hair. He tilts Ian’s face up with his other hand. “You look better,” he says. “Try to clear your head, alright? I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Text me if I got to pick up lunch.”

Ian pushes his hands away. “Go, leave me alone,” he faux complains. 

Mickey smiles at him, a real, sweet smile that is so rare and beautiful these days that it makes Ian’s heart ache. Or maybe it’s not rare. Maybe Ian just hasn’t been paying attention these days.

Mickey leaves and Ian takes a much needed shower before heading towards the grocery store a short walk away. Ian had really enjoyed cooking for that one week they had decided to do that. They hadn’t done much of that after; Mickey doesn’t like doing it as much as he likes watching Ian do it and Ian had been too scatterbrained to give a shit. He decides to make lunch rather than to have Mickey pick something up. He asks Fiona if he needs to do any groceries for Christmas day, and she sends him a picture back of a Costco cart bursting with grocery bags. He smiles at the bored look on Carl’s face as he poses next to the cart, crouched down. We’ll be there at ten tomorrow! the caption reads. 

Ian picks up what he needs for that day and a little something extra for tomorrow morning. While he is walking home, he passes a yoga studio and hesitates. Fiona used to do yoga for a while, something to do with her sobriety. He vaguely remembers a conversation in which she tried to get Lip to join her. Once. Does she still do yoga? He has no clue. He also doesn’t know how good she is or if she even likes it.

He thinks of the shitty scarf he got her yesterday. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he curses at himself and steps into the yoga studio.

 

Ian makes the beef tacos Mickey had liked the first time they made them. It takes some time, which he doesn’t mind, because he has time, finally. He turns on the Christmas lights in the tree and around the apartment. He puts on a Christmas song playlist and is immediately annoyed by it. So maybe that’s just not for him. He puts on something else, something mellow and with less or no bells. 

When Mickey comes home, the food is almost ready. 

“Did you know that John Legend knows about us?” Ian asks him as way of greeting. 

“Hm?” Mickey asks, sniffing the air. 

“All his songs are about us,” Ian says. 

“About you and him?” Mickey asks, amused, as he shrugs off his coat. “You dating John Legend?”

“Wish I was,” Ian lies. 

“Is that done? I’m fucking starving,” Mickey says, joining Ian in the kitchen. Ian blocks him from reaching into the pan.

“About to be done. Wash your hands first.” 

Mickey lets out a little growl in annoyance, but does as he is told. He washed his hands and dries them by wiping them on Ian’s shirt, hands flat on Ian’s chest, first the front and then the back. 

“There. Time to eat or what?” Mickey asks. 

“Comes with a price,” Ian flirts and turns off the stove, but Mickey shakes his head. 

“Nice try. You fell asleep with your cock in my ass last night. The sad dismount I performed after that should be more than enough to earn a meal.” 

“All I was going to say was that you had to kiss the cook,” Ian says, feigning hurt. “But if it’s going to be like that, I can blow you before we eat.”

“Yeah?” Mickey asks. Ian should probably argue that the food is going to get cold, that they’re both hungry and that they can fool around after eating. But Mickey wants him, eyes lingering on Ian’s lips. Ian gets hot under his gaze, feels his cock wake up. “Yeah,” Ian says, closing the gap between them. 

It’s been a while, he realizes. It’s been a while since they took their time. His fault, of course, because Mickey had said to him a few times to slow down, relax . But Ian had just wanted to get off, compulsively at first and as a stress releaser after. He’d get Mickey off, of course (except for last night), but it had lost its playfulness a little bit. They never did get to use any toys, Ian forgetting the idea as soon as it had popped up. 

They used to fuck quick and dirty when they started seeing each other and it had felt great. Ian was hooked on Mickey’s body after their first time, but after they got to know each other, after they had a safe place to be together and take their time, the sex became more than just getting his dick inside of Mickey as fast as he could. It had become about seeing Mickey smile that real smile, about all the expressions Mickey made during sex - all of them so soft and beautiful that it was hard to imagine him as an aggressive, short tempered thug outside of the bedroom. Having sex was about having fun and laughing and teasing and exploring first and about getting off second. It was about being together before and after, too. 

“I missed you,” Ian says, both hands on Mickey’s face.

Mickey doesn't question it, barely nods. Mickey hadn’t gone anywhere, but Ian had been absent.

“I’m so sorry,” Ian feels the need to say.

“Don’t,” Mickey quickly cuts him off and kisses him, presses his whole body against his, curling one arm around Ian’s neck, letting his other hand roam over Ian’s chest. He fists Ian’s shirt, tries walking backwards and immediately trips over the rug. Ian holds onto him, laughing. “You knock over the tree and I’m fucking murdering you,” he says. 

“Tough guy, huh,” Mickey smirks, straightening himself up.  “Come on then. Show me what you’d do to me.” 

 

They eat the taco filling out of the pan later, luke warm and with a cold beer. They sit in their underwear at the kitchen table, with the heat cranked up. Mickey’s thighs still have a shadow of Ian’s handprints on them, red marks disappearing slowly. 

 

“Mick. Mick, wake up.” Ian nudges his shoulder and whispers and gently as he can, but since Ian has known the man, he has never not aggressively flinched when being woken up. 

So Mickey flinches, nearly smacks Ian in the face in the process. “What the…” 

“Relax, it’s me,” Ian shushes him. “It’s time to get up.” 

Mickey glares at him through one eye and then turns his whole head around and into his pillow. “What time is it?” 

“It’s seven o’clock.” 

“Leave me the fuck alone, then,” Mickey grumbles. 

“Come on,” Ian says and presses a noisy kiss against the bare patch of skin on Mickey’s neck. “I want to show you something.” 

“It’s too fucking early. It’s too fucking cold. Just come back to bed.” Mickey makes a great point, but Ian has other plans. He’s already been up for an hour, for fuck’s sake.

He crawls over Mickey’s form, drops his weight on top of him and presses his lips against his ear. “Please,” he says loudly. 

Mickey kicks at him, but it’s futile as he’s wrapped in the covers and trapped under Ian’s weight. Ian laughs, presses another sloppy kiss on his cheek and gets off of him. “Let’s go.”

Mickey finally sits up. The room is still dark, but Ian can see the icy glare and grouchy eyebrows. “The fuck do you want?” he whines. 

“Stop whining and come see,” Ian says and leaves the room, a little bit nervous. It takes a minute for Mickey to follow, but he comes sauntering into the living room quickly enough. He comes to a standstill when he sees the set table. He looks from the table to Ian’s face, from the eggs, bacon,  pancakes and croissants, back to Ian’s face. 

“Happy birthday,” Ian says and he can’t keep the smile off his face. “I thought we could do your birthday first, before we move on to Christmas.” 

“Birthday,” Mickey says, like he just remembered. But then his face softens and he finally comes into the kitchen. “You didn’t have to do this.” 

“Yeah, but it can’t hurt, right?” Ian shrugs. He grabs the coffee pot off the counter and pours Mickey’s mug full. “Sit down.” 

Mickey sits down. He still looks a little apprehensive. “It's just breakfast,” Ian reminds him and takes the seat closest to him. 

“No, I know,” Mickey says. “You’re just a real fucking dweeb sometimes.” 

Ian grins at him. “Did you look under the tree?” 

Mickey turns around to peer at the massive tree with two, small neatly wrapped packages under it. Mickey laughs and shakes his head. “Where did you hide those?”

“With the cleaning supplies. They’ve been there for weeks.” 

“We have cleaning supplies?” 

“Exactly,” Ian says. 

Mickey kisses him, and that’s all Ian wanted, really. 

 

They finish breakfast lazily. It’s way too much food and they’re definitely going to be eating a lot more later that day. 

“The small one is your birthday gift. The bigger one is the much lamer Christmas gift,” Ian says as he piles their dishes into the sink. They have an hour and a half. That should be more than enough time for them to get ready. “Open the small one.”

Mickey snatches the package out from under the tree, sits on the couch and tears into it without hesitation.

“Wait,” Ian yelps and sit down next to him. “Wait, wait, wait. Before you open up anything, you should know that if you react anywhere near the way you did on Valentine’s day, I’m going to be really upset.” 

Mickey rolls his eyes. “I barely knew you back then.” 

“We’d been dating for months, dickhead.” But Mickey has a point. Back then, Ian still thought that Mickey was a cold hearted bastard. He still thought that Mickey needed to be pushed, to be convinced to love Ian back. He didn’t know Mickey, not really.

Mickey ignores him, rips the rest of the green wrapping paper off, and smashes straight through the cardboard box. 

Ian winces at the garbage collecting on the floor. 

“Huh,” Mickey says, holding up the sleek black velvet Zippo box. “That’s cool. Thanks.” 

“No, open it,” Ian says, impatiently. “I didn’t just get you a fucking lighter.”

“Seems pretty damn useful to me,” Mickey says, flicking the box open to reveal the lighter. 

“A lighter,” Mickey says. 

“Silver,” Ian points out. “Real silver.”

“No way,” Mickey says and takes it out of the box. “How much did that set you back?” 

“A lot. Pretty much everything I had left from last month's paycheck. I know it’s nothing compared to the coat, let alone the tuition money…” 

Ian stalls when Mickey seems distracted. Oh, Ian had almost forgotten about the engraving at the bottom. 

“So I can’t pawn it, huh?” He says, tracing the initials with his thumb. I.G & M.M

“No,” Ian says firmly. “You’re going to keep it forever. If you ever lose it, we’re going to have a real problem.” 

Mickey grabs a pack of cigarettes off the coffee table and pulls out two cigarettes. He hands Ian one, and puts one between his own lips. He flips the lighter open, starts an aggressive blue flame and lights their cigarettes. 

“You like it?” Ian asks after taking a long drag.

“I didn’t get you anything,” Mickey says, still running his thumb over their initials. 

Ian snorts at that. “We’re nowhere near even,” he says. 

“You trying to get even?” Mickey asks.

“I’m trying to… I don’t know. Take care of you as well as you take care of me. I still don’t know exactly how, though.” 

“I’ve got no complaints,” Mickey says, tapping the ash of his cigarette out on the ashtray on the coffee table. “Just wish I could give you something back right now.” 

“I wear the coat everyday,” Ian says. “I can put it on and walk around the house with it today, if you want.” 

 

They spend a good hour on the phone with Mandy that morning. She had stayed in New York to stick around for Sandy who had to work all through Christmas. It’s ten fifteen when they hear Carl screeching in the hallway and Debbie louder, telling him to shut the fuck up and mind the neighbors. 

They pile into the apartment in a flurry of ‘Merry Christmas!’ and ‘Happy Birthday!’ Debbie hugs Mickey like it’s not a security breach and Mickey smacks her on the back. She laughs and says: “You’re in a good mood, huh? Ian slinging birthday dick around?” 

“Stop thinking about your brother’s dick, kid,” he tells her casually. 

Carl and Lip and Liam deposit four grocery bags in the kitchen, before taking off their coats and piling them into Ian’s arm. He deposits them in the bedroom, goes back to grab Debbie’s and Fiona’s too. 

When he comes back, all gifts have been deposited under the tree, Mickey and Lip are already disagreeing about something loudly over a cigarette on the couch, Fiona and Debbie are unpacking the groceries and telling Liam and Carl where to put everything. Ian gets on the couch, next to Lip and steals his brother’s cigarette before getting comfortable. 

 

Debbie implements a rule that they can’t touch the presents until they’ve made hot coco and the cookies are in the oven and the place smells like it. The kid has always been a strange mix between practical and romantic. She also puts on Christmas music, which is where Ian draws the line, with Carl backing him up. 

“Is that really necessary?” Ian asks. 

“Turn that lame shit off,” Carl says. 

“It’s Christmas, assholes,” she says. 

“It’s fucking annoying is what it is,” Ian says. 

“Liam?” Debbie asks.

“I like Michael Bublé,” Liam says. 

“What the fuck? Who raised you?” Ian asks. 

“Bunch of white people,” Liam says pointedly. It’s so cute that Ian gets off the couch and squeezes his face. His hands look massive on his little head. Liam doesn’t fight him, curls his arms around Ian’s waist for a second and giggles. 

He is suddenly so thankful that he had dragged Mickey to the mall just a few days ago to look for Fiona’s gift. 

“What about the kid?” Mickey had asked. “He’s getting more than one gift, right? God forbid Carl pulled his name.” 

From the looks of it, and the amount of package far outnumbering the amount of Gallaghers in the house, Ian must not have been the only one to have picked up something extra. Jesus, times really have changed. 

For most of Ian’s life, Christmas was based around whether or not they could shoplift something or steal money from somewhere or maybe scam someone out of something. Sometimes Christmas was just them eating a nicer meal than usual. They’ve been going to the mall rather than the thrift store these days. 

He tries not to take it for granted; that they’ve grown up to be mostly okay. He has a job, Fiona has a job, Debbie is going to school and works, Liam is going to a private school, Carl is still in high school. Lip still fucks around, but he’s never short on money these days. All the bills are paid and they have extra’s. There was a time in Ian’s life where it all seemed so incredibly unfeasible. He’d imagine Carl getting shot on the street before imaging him graduating high school. He’d imagine Lip drinking himself to death before thinking he’d ever be talking to Ian’s boyfriend about business ideas. When Debbie was pregnant, it made sense. When she got an abortion, it made sense too. Her going back to school right after, enjoying her time there and going to prom with the dress of her dreams, that was a fantasy. He used to think that Liam might never talk. He used to have nightmares about social workers taking him away when he was still a baby and that they’d never see him again. 

He used to think that Fiona was going to abandon them and never come back. When he was really small, he’d wake up in the middle of the night to check if she was still sleeping in her room, to make sure she hadn’t ran away like she so often told Frank she would. When he was a little older, he started wondering why she never did. He was going to, he knew that much at that point. Ian was barely ten when he decided with all the knowledge of the world that he was going to leave as soon as he was able to. It didn’t really matter where to.

When Fiona did leave, Ian barely missed her. He was in prison. She’d visited before going and told him she’d be back before he got out. He told her he wouldn’t hold it against her if she never came back, if she was never wanted to see him again. 

But when he got out, there she was - bright smile, sober and with stories to tell about working on charter boats and serving the wealthy hand and foot. 

But she had missed them. 

Ian was living a ten minute drive away now, and he still missed them. Because he’s a mess, of course, but still. 

So they listen to fucking Michael Bublé’s whole Christmas album. It’s soft, barely there and Ian has tunes it out in no time. Mostly because Mickey and Lip talk over it, there is whisking and cutting and there are plates clattering in the kitchen and Ian can appreciate those noises much better. 

The hot chocolate Debbie makes tastes exactly like he remembers and he hands Mickey his mug and pours himself a new one. In the meantime, the apartment definitely smells like cookies and Fiona has taken enough pictures of Liam and Carl with the tree that she seems satisfied. 

Doing things in an orderly way sounds nice and all, but as soon as Debbie gives the go ahead for gifts to be opened, Liam and Carl attack the tree like they’ve been waiting for this all year. Liam, being the sweetheart that he is, gives everyone their present while Carl rips into his own as soon as he finds it. 

“Let me help you with that,” Lip says and when Ian looks away from Carl, he sees Liam struggling to haul a big, square gift off the ground. It looks heavy. Lip grabs it, and deposits it firmly in Ian’s lap, the corner missing Ian’s balls by a hair length. 

“Ah, fuck you,” Ian curses, the thing feeling like a brick’s been dropped on him. “Did you get me a fucking block of cement?” 

“Open it when everyone’s gone, alright?” Lip tells him and then turns around. “Who got me this?”  he asks, holding up a blue package with his name on it, ignoring Ian completely.

“Me,” Debbie says cheerfully. 

Mickey leans over Ian, turns the box in Ian’s lap. “What the fuck is this?” 

“He’s being weird about it,” Ian says. He gets up and puts the package in his bedroom. If Lip is telling him to wait, he’s sure it’s something that’s going to sour his mood, so he is more than happy to postpone that.

When he goes back to the living room, he hears Fiona say: “Hey assholes, where’s my gift?” 

“Oh, check your email,” Ian says, scratching his head. “I, uh, didn’t have time to print it out or whatever.” 

“My email?” she asks, surprised and takes her phone out of her back pocket. Ian edges her into the kitchen, blocks them from everyone else in the living room. 

“I didn’t know if you were still into it or not, but I figured, I don’t know, maybe if you like it, we can do it together, you know. Be those bitches who do yoga on Sunday morning,” Ian stammers. “Hot yoga, it’s good for you apparently.” 

She stares at him, shocked. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Together? You want to do hot yoga with me?” 

“It’s supposed to help with stress and anxiety and all that shit,” Ian shrugs. 

“It does. Ian this is great. Thank you so much,” she says, and wraps her arms around him tightly. He realizes a few second too late that he is supposed to hug her back, so he does. 

“Liam, who the fuck got you that?” Fiona then asks, letting go of Ian and stomping into the living room. 

“I did,” Carl grins proudly. 

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Fiona sighs. “Where the hell did you get the money for that?”  

Ian turns around just in time to see Liam attempting and failing to hide the Nintendo Switch behind his back. 

“Don’t worry about it,” Carl says and then looks at Mickey. “Can we use it on your tv?” 

Mickey shrugs with one shoulder, sips his hot chocolate. 

Ian forces Debbie to move and sits in between her and his boyfriend. “She looked happy,” Mickey says softly. 

“I think she was. For two seconds,” Ian admits. “Did you open your lame Christmas gift?” 

“You mean the shirt I already have? Yeah, I put it with the other one.” 

“I’m throwing the other one away. It’s falling apart.” Ian tells him decisively and Mickey just rolls his eyes. 

 

The food comes out in batches. First the cookies come out of the oven, and then suddenly there’s a tray of mac and cheese on the table, and then potatoes and then vegetables and eventually burgers and pie. 

Ian is completely fucking stuffed when Debbie puts a big white box on the middle of the coffee table. “Really, Debs?” Ian smiles at her and squeezes Mickey’s thigh. Ian hadn’t let him move in about an hour. It was way too satisfying to see Lip sit on the a pillow on the floor to keep a conversation going wit him. 

“Hm?” Mickey grunts and looks up. 

“Anyone got a lighter?” Debbie asks. 

Lip fishes his out of his chest pocket and hands it over with a smirk. Debbie opens the box, blocking them from seeing the cake just yet. She lights the candles and scrapes her throat dramatically. “You guys ready for my solo?” she asks. 

“Go off, Debs,” Fiona grins. 

Her rendition of Happy Birthday has been different for every person every year, ever since Ian can remember. It’s amazing, watching Mickey squirm in discomfort, hearing Lip and Fiona laugh and having Carl and Liam completely ignore them in favor of their video game. Debbie turns the cake around. 

It reads: 

Happy Birthday Jesus!  

And Mickey! 

The first part written in professional green swoops of icing, the second part in shaky block letters and in a different shade of green on a round chocolate cake.

 

Carl and Debbie have to work in the morning, so just a little past midnight, Mickey and Ian are left in the apartment alone again. The place is a mess, but Mickey decides for the both of them that they will deal with it in the morning. Their bedroom is clean and cool, as opposed to the rest of the apartment which still seems to be buzzing with the energy of cheerful Gallaghers. 

When they strip down, getting ready to crawl into bed and wind down, Ian remembers the package he had slid under the bed on his side. He hesitates there, touching the package with his foot. 

“What?” Mickey asks, eyeing him from the other side of the bed. His pants are gone, his undershirt stretching tightly against his chest. Ian considers ignoring the gift for tonight. He can deal with the mess in their apartment and the mess that is Lip Gallagher in the morning. 

“Lip’s gift,” Ian says anyway and leans down to pick it up, because curiosity will always get the best of him. He drops the package on the bed. “It can’t be good, right? Why would he tell me to wait to open it?” 

“I don’t fucking know. Maybe it’s sex toys or something,” Mickey shrugs. “Just open it up already. What are you afraid of?” 

“It’s not going to be sex toys,” Ian sighs. “If this is what I think it is, I’m going to fucking kill him.”

Mickey gets on the bed, above the covers and leans back into his pillow casually. “Open it.” 

Ian does. 

He sighs. “I knew it.” 

Mickey reaches over and picks one book off the pile. “MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review Part One of Seven,” he reads out loud, voice laced with disdain. “This is supposed to be a gift?” 

“What the fuck is he thinking?” Ian groans, pushing the stack of books aside and getting onto the bed. He grabs the book out of Mickey’s hand. “After how hard it was to get through two fucking classes? I don’t even know if I passed them, yet.” 

“You don’t have to do it, if you don’t want to do it,” Mickey says. 

“Of course I don’t want to do it,” Ian says. “I can’t do it.” 

“You probably can if fucking professor Phillip Gallagher thinks you can. But if you don’t want to, then fuck him,” Mickey shrugs. 

“He’s not my fucking dad, Mickey. He doesn’t know what I can and can’t do. It’s not just about studying for the test. You really see me going to fucking med school for four more fucking years? My brain could barely handle two exams. Not to mention you don’t just get into medical school. They do background checks. I have a felony conviction with an insanity plea. How far do you think that application’s going to get? And what’s wrong with being a nurse anyway? If I actually get registered, that’s good fucking money. All the doctors that work at the hospital are all dickheads. I like the nurses and other staff way better.” 

“You done?” Mickey asks, eyebrows almost in his hairline. “Jesus, then don’t do it. Blow the books up with some fireworks on New Year’s Eve or some shit.” 

“I - why the fuck would he do this?” Ian asks, frustrated and confused. God, he hates Lip sometimes. 

“Look,” Mickey finally says, curling his arm around Ian’s neck, coaxing him to lie down with him. “He just wants you to take the test. Said something about you going as far as you can go.” 

“Why do I have to go anywhere? I’m fine where I am, aren’t I? I’m so fucking tired already,” Ian sighs. 

“Yeah, you’re fine where you are. Guess he’s still got some fantasy about one of you guys climbing the ladder all the way up,” Mickey says. 

“But why the fuck would it be me?” Ian questions. “Everything I’ve ever done has been completely fucked. I don’t know what the fuck I can do from one day to the next. What makes him think I can help people like that? Be a fucking doctor?” 

“You already help people, Ian,” Mickey says and sounds annoyed. “Or what? You go to that hospital and sit behind a fucking desk all day?”

“No, but-” 

“But what? Look, I get that you’re scared, okay? This month was fucked. Your life’s been a shitshow, but who’s fucking life hasn’t been around here? They’re not better than you, alright? None of them.” 

“You think anyone is ever going to trust a doctor with bipolar disorder and a felony record?” 

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this, alright? If you want to do this, we’ll find a way. Get you a new fucking identity if we have to. I know a guy for that.” 

“‘Course you do,” Ian sighs. “I just… I hate being reminded of how badly I fucked my life up.” 

Mickey runs his hand through Ian’s hair silently for a while. Ian can feel Mickey’s chest heave, before he finally speaks. “I’ve fucked my life up more than you have. Way more. There are things I haven’t told you.” 

“Criminal shit?” Ian asks. 

“All sorts of shit.”

“Tell me,” Ian says, heart skipping a beat. 

“It’s sad shit,” Mickey says. 

“Tell me,” Ian pushes. 

“I told you about the whore,” Mickey says evenly. “Didn’t tell you she got pregnant. Made me pay for her abortion or else she’d tell my dad I was still sucking cock. She threatened to tell him so he’d force us to get married.  I robbed a liquor store to pay for that shit, god fucking knows if it was even my kid. She told my dad I was sucking dick anyway, and he kicked me out. I lived with that bitch and like ten other whores in an actual whore house for a year. Pimped for them, all that shit.” 

“Why did she do that?” Ian asks, his voice cracks. 

Mickey shrugs. “She thought Terry had money. She wanted him, I think. She didn’t know that he didn’t have shit to offer.” 

“So you became her pimp?”

“I fucking guess. I was an idiot,” Mickey sighs. “When Terry kicked me out, Mandy left too. Moved in with some piece of shit boyfriend who would beat the shit out of her every chance he got. We got into it. He was a big guy, you know, but I guess I was just fucking... crazier. Got ten years, three probationary and I only did four. But it’s stated as attempted murder on my record anyway. He only survived, because Mandy was there. I would have killed him. I was going to.” 

Ian tightens his fist in Mickey’s shirt. 

“No drug charges. Went to juvie for robbery and assaulting police. Prison for attempted murder. Violent crimes, all of ‘em.” 

“You’re not…”

“Yeah, I am. I was, anyway. I was young and stupid, sure, but it still could have swung the other way. I could have gotten life back then, and no one would have been surprised. No one would have given a shit.” 

“Mandy,” Ian reminds him. 

“I abandoned her, too. She ended up with that piece of shit, because I was a faggot and I couldn’t keep it to myself. Couldn’t be with her, because my dad found out. Couldn’t do anything for her from prison. When I got out, I was nothing. Nobody.” 

“Ain’t like that no more,” Ian says. “What did you do after? Did you go back home?” 

“No. My dad sent me to Mexico to run drugs for the Sinaloa cartel as soon as I got out. Paid my PO off with crack. I was in Mexico for about a year. Learned a lot about growing weed. When my dad’s debt with the cartel was paid, I came back and started growing here.” 

“Why’d you come back?”

“Iggy called, said Terry was going broke, which means they’re all going to starve. I liked it there, in Mexico. I saw some shit, but…” 

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?” 

“I did, sort of.” 

Mickey did, sort of. Ian knew about the whore, but didn’t know about the pregnancy. Ian knew Mickey had pimped, but he didn’t know he’d lived in a whorehouse with the woman who was forced to fuck him.  Ian knew about the attempted murder charge, but he didn’t know about Mandy and her boyfriend. Ian had always thought - assumed, stupidly, that it was during an armed robbery. Mickey had stories about that too. Ian even knew that Mickey had learned to grow weed in Mexico. He just didn’t know that his dad had practically sold him to the cartel. 

“You don’t tell me the things that hurt you,” Ian says. 

“I have a million horror stories, alright? But things are good now,” Mickey sighs. “As good as I could ever fucking imagine things being. The old shit, it is what it is. It isn’t going to go away, but things are better now. For me, for you, for Mandy. Ten years from now, maybe you're a doctor. Crazier shit’s happened. Way fucking crazier. Going from who I was ten years ago to who I am now, is way fucking crazier.” 

Ian nods and he feels something bubbling in his throat. “It was Liam,” Ian finally admits. 

“Yeah, I figured.”

“I remember thinking that I didn’t want him to grow up like we did. I just wanted to get him out of there. That’s all I remember,” Ian breathes out. “It’s why Frank hates me. And he’s right, you know. He’s not right about much, but you’d hate me too if I kidnapped your kid.” 

“You were sick. You didn’t hurt the kid. You told me about the shit your mom pulled and he never hated her for any of it,” Mickey reminds him. “Frank's got his own problems. Liam loves you. Ain’t that more important?” 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to end the day like this.” Ian kisses Mickey on the cheek. 

“S’ okay. Ain’t a holiday if you don’t relive some trauma, right?” 

 

Ian has one more day of. They sleep in on the 26th, waking up slowly. Mickey gets up first, goes to the bathroom and turns the coffee machine on in the kitchen. Ian stretches, listening to the soft buzz of the machine. He takes a piss, takes his meds and gets back into bed. 

Mickey seems to have the same idea. He returns with two mugs of coffee and a plate of cookies left over from yesterday. He hands Ian a mug and the plate, leaves the room and comes back with an empty ashtray and a pack of cigarettes. 

“Real breakfast of champions, huh,” he jokes handing Ian the pack of cigarettes first. 

“We’ll do better in the new year, maybe,” Ian says. He takes a cigarette out of the pack, ignores the blue BIC lighter in there. “Where’s your new lighter?” 

Mickey digs it out of his pants on the floor and gets back into bed. They drink their coffee, smoke a cigarette and eat fucking Christmas cookies. It’s nice. Really nice. So nice, even, that Ian has to ruin it. 

“Can we, uh, talk for a second?” Ian asks. 

Mickey pulls an eyebrow up at him. “We’ve been talking.” 

“I know, I just. I want to say I’m sorry.” 

“For what?” 

“For everything. For being such a dick all month,” Ian starts. 

“You already said sorry and I told you to shut up about it,” Mickey says. 

“You keep cutting me of when I try apologizing.” 

“Because you don’t need to apologize-”

“I still feel like shit about it, so I think I do need to apologize. Look, I just know I’ve been a fucking asshole since the hypomania. Especially after. I was such a dick. I was short with you. The sex wasn’t that good. We didn’t really talk or have fun or hang out much.” 

“You weren’t feeling well,” Mickey shrugs.

“Yeah, so what?” Ian says, a little heated because Ian doesn’t want this conversation to end like that again. “Regardless of how I was feeling, you didn’t deserve any of that. You deserve a guy who can be there for you all the time and not some shitty guy who sticks his dick in you and rolls over. I hate being like that, I really do. You deserve better. I’m sorry for being a piece of shit boyfriend and I want to make it up to you the best I can.” 

Mickey rubs his thumb over his lip, looks at Ian, and shrugs. “Fine. How are you going to make it up to me?”

“You can tell me. But first I want to know how you feel, you know?” 

“You know how I feel. I can handle you being a dickhead for a while. I’m glad your head’s clear now. Glad to have your attention back, but you don’t have to beat yourself up over it. It wasn’t as bad as you make it out to be. You’re going to give yourself a complex about that sex stuff. It wasn’t that bad.”

“It wasn’t great.”

“I’d still rather have you stick your dick in me for three minutes over any other fucker putting his hands on me,” Mickey tells him. Ian believes him.

They spend the rest of the morning in bed. Mickey rides him; he seems to be liking the position more and more. Ian loves it, loves watching Mickey roll his hips, loves holding Mickey’s hard, leaking cock in his hand, loves pulling Mickey down for long sloppy kisses, loves it a lot when Mickey shoots his load and it reaches all the way up to Ian’s chest. Ian runs his finger through it and brings it up to his own mouth; he nuts inside of Mickey with the taste of him on his tongue. 

They take a long, lazy shower too, avoiding the mess in the living room left there from the night before for as long as possible. When they finally get to cleaning it up, it’s not as bad as Ian had dreaded. There is a mountain of dishes in the sink and on the counter and there are bits and pieces of wrapping paper scattered all over the apartment. Ian does the dishes, Mickey picks of the wrapping paper. They have leftovers for lunch and by that time, Lip texts Ian: Taking Liam to the rink in Millenium Park. U coming?

Ian hesitates. He wants to go, wants to hang out with them, sure. 

“What?” Mickey asks, peering over his shoulder.

“Lip wants to hang out,” Ian says. “I don’t really want to talk to him about all that MCAT shit.” 

“Then tell him you’re still thinking about it,” Mickey shrugs.

“You think he’ll let me off the hook that easily?” 

Mickey shrugs again. 

 

By the time they get to the skate rink, Liam has long abandoned Lip in favor of playing with his friends. Lip is sitting at one of the picnic tables, under a large venue style tent next to the rink. He is just lighting a cigarette hanging from his lips. “When the fuck are you going to get a haircut?” Lip asks as soon as he sees Ian walk up to him. 

Ian runs a hand through his uncombed hair. He hadn’t touched it since getting out of the shower. It’s been over three months since he’s cut it. Mickey already told him he started looking like Lip with the mess on his head. “I’m going to be a slob until the year ends, try better next year,” Ian says, taking a seat right across from him on the cold bench. 

“You look good, though,” Lip says. “Apart from the hair. Didn’t want to say anything yesterday, but you look better than last week.” 

“Feel better,” Ian shrugs. “Did I see you last week?” 

“On Facetime,” Lip reminds him. “You had some really stupid questions about chemistry.” 

“Not to sound fully insane, but I barely remember a thing that happened last week,” Ian admits. 

“It’s not uncommon for things to be kind of blurry after hyperfocusing,” Lip shrugs.

“I feel a lot better,” Ian feels the need to clarify. “Been feeling better for a couple of days now.” 

“Good. You’ve been talking to Mickey about it?” 

“Yeah. He’s getting coffee somewhere back there,” Ian says, waving his towards the booth somewhere behind him. “This place looks so much nicer than I remember it being when we were kids.” 

“Did you open your gift?” Lip finally asks. 

“Yeah, dipshit, I opened your gift.” 

“Spent two hundred bucks on that.” 

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Ian tells him. 

“Christmas bonus,” Lip shrugs. “Got you boyfriend to thank for, it really.”

“Lip, I can’t make decisions like that right now. I barely got my head on straight in the last couple of days.” 

“That’s fine. Don’t make the decision right now. You just got to know that if you decide to take the test, I can help you with it. I’ll make you a study schedule, so that you’re not getting fucked with work and all that shit.” 

“I hear you,” Ian says. “Okay?” 

“Okay.” 

“Watch it, fuckface, or I’m melting your fucking face off,” Mickey’s voice travels over and Ian turns around just in time to see a toddler swirling around his legs. 

Mickey’s balancing two paper cups stacked on top of each other in one hand and a third in the other. He reaches the table without kicking any toddlers and puts the coffees down. Ian reaches for the one stacked on top. 

“That one’s mine,” Mickey tells him and hands him a different cup.

“We drink the same thing,” Ian objects.

“Not today,” Mickey says and gives Lip the last cup. 

When Mickey and Lip are distracted by their conversation Ian steals a sip out of Mickey’s cup, because Mickey drinks his coffee black without fucking exception and if he is switching it up now it obviously means he’s hiding something. Ian also doesn't sneak a sip as much as he wrings the cup out of Mickey’s hands until he relents. 

“What the fuck,” Ian chuckles after a tiny sip. He immediately takes a bigger one. 

“Hey, cool it,” Mickey warns him. “I made her pour extra shots in there.”

“Yeah, tastes really fucking Irish, Jesus,” Ian says, scrapes his throat and gives it back. “It’s good, though.”

“I bet it fucking is,” Lip smirks. “You planning on drinking and ice skating, Mick?” 

“Not planning on ice skating,” Mickey snorts. 

Ian sneaks a couple of more sips, until the cup is finally just his after Mickey relents and switches their cups out. It is delicious and the combination of coffee, whiskey and sugar reminds him so much of Mickey that it is incredibly warm going down, in more than one way. He knows he probably shouldn’t be drinking hard liquor and caffeine at this point, but he figures he’ll do better in the New Year.

 

Ian’s alarm wakes him up at seven the next morning. He silences it, pulls the covers over his head and buries his face in whatever warm part of Mickey’s body is closest. Mickey is facing him, so Ian smushes their faces together. 

“Hmm?” Mickey questions and Ian doesn’t answer. Mickey waits a few seconds and then says, almost inaudible: “Get up.” 

“No,” Ian mumbles. “I don’t want to go.” 

Ian had taken a day off for his exams, a day off for Christmas Eve and Christmas happened to be on a Saturday. Those four days really were a godsend and Ian isn’t really ready to get back to the chaos in the hospital on this Monday morning just yet. 

“You have to,” Mickey reminds him around a sleepy sigh. Ian can feel one of Mickey’s warm hands on his hip, and then under his shirt. 

“I want to stay here,” Ian tries to say, and it comes out in a low whisper; he’s almost back to sleep. 

“Wake up,” Mickey tells him, a little more forceful this time. He moves his hand down, slides it into Ian’s boxers and curls his fingers around Ian’s half chub. 

Ian smiles, but doesn’t open his eyes and doesn’t move. He lets Mickey jerk him off until he is fully hard, Mickey keeps going for a long time and Ian is dazed at how good his hand feels on him, still too sleepy to think of what’s to come next. 

“Come on,” Mickey tells him and turns around to lie on his other side, back towards Ian. When Ian reaches down to slip his hand down Mickey’s crack, it’s already hot and slick with lube. 

Ian slides up against him, pushes Mickey’s underwear down to his ankles and slips his cock right into the too tight heat of Mickey’s body. Mickey lets out a groan, and Ian rests his head against Mickey’s shoulder, waiting just a few seconds to let him adjust. Ian pushes a leg between Mickey’s, tangles their legs together and rocks into him slowly, again and again. Mickey grabs Ian’s hand, leads it down to his own cock. When Ian starts stroking him in the same rhythm as his thrust, Mickey turns his head and Ian eagerly meets him there for a long, languid kiss. They keep fucking slow, Ian forgetting all about the time, forgetting about anything that isn’t Mickey’s body. 

Mickey kisses him deeply after they cum, turning around and burying a hand in Ian’s mop of hair. 

“This doesn’t exactly make me want to get out of bed,” Ian tells him. 

“You’re already late,” Mickey says, eyes closed and settling back into his pillow. 

 “Not if I take your car,” Ian tries. Mickey brings a hand up to Ian’s face again and this time he flips him off from very up close.

 

Going back to work isn’t so bad. Mickey eventually relents and tells Ian that the car keys are in the inner pocket of Mickey’s coat. Ian gets there on time, the crew working are all people Ian can get along with - he does find out that the days between Christmas and New Year are kind of a nightmare; a lot of firework related accidents which can be far more gruesome than even gunshot wounds. 

Ian comes back home to his boyfriend for dinner every day that week, no homework or classes or anything to really be all too worried about. They start cooking again and Ian flips through the MCAT study material Lip gave him every now and then, just to get an idea of what it really entails. 

Ian also makes a list of what he wants to do in the new year. His last payment for reparations for blowing up the van will be this month. That means that starting next month Ian will have an extra eight hundred dollars a month. He can start saving money again. He can help Mickey pay the bills. He can get the tattoo on his shoulder removed. He can go to an actual barber. He’s going to do hot yoga with Fiona starting the first Sunday in the new year. They have to start cooking more, eating healthier. 

He adds ‘stop smoking’ to the list with a large question mark and under it ‘weed’ with another question mark. 

Mickey looks over his list a few times and one time when Ian whips it out after dinner, settled on the couch, Mickey says: “You’re not going to add therapy to the list?” 

“I’m doing the yoga,” Ian says. 

“Yoga is gayer than therapy.” 

“You think I need therapy?” Ian asks and Mickey just pulls his eyebrows up at him, as high as they can go. “Oh, shut the fuck up. Like you’d ever dish out two hundred bucks an hour to talk to some guy about your daddy issues.” 

“Me? Fuck no. But you’re supposed to be smarter than me,” Mickey says. 

“It’s way too fucking expensive anyway. I’d much rather help you pay the bills.” 

“I told you, I don’t need help with the bills,” Mickey says. “You want your name on the lease, that’s fine.” 

“I want to help. You won’t have to pay everything in cash anymore.” 

Mickey rolls his eyes. “So, that’s a hard no on therapy?” 

Ian doesn’t answer. He hasn’t talked to his doctor since last May. He gets nauseous, just at the thought of it. He gets it, he really does. He should be going to therapy regularly, not only because of his bipolar. He has plenty of other issues that he’s chosen to bury deep inside and that sometimes come bubbling to the surface with some pretty bad consequences. Unfortunately, Mickey always gets the brunt of it.

Ian just can’t. He tried, when he just got out of prison. His parole officer told him to do it, so he went exactly once. When his parole officer found out that Ian couldn’t pay for therapy and the reparations, he decides that therapy wasn’t necessary anymore. The conversation with the therapist had been awkward, stilted, and superficial. Ian wasn’t planning on sharing anything and the therapist had probably expected him to come back and hadn’t pushed for more information. Ian doesn’t even remember her name. He just remembers feeling horrible, leaving her office, having wasted her time. 

He couldn’t do it, couldn’t talk about any of it. 

Thinking about it now fills him with dread. As easy as it is to talk to Mickey or Lip, he can’t imagine sitting across a stranger and diving into years and years of trauma. It is a surefire way to get Ian to spiral into another depressive episode and if there is anything he can do to avoid that hell, he will. 

“Let me try yoga first,” Ian finally says. 

 

Mandy and Sandy fly in on New Years day, only for twenty four hours. They show up wearing their gifted coats with their hair up and their eyes zeroed in on Mickey as soon as they exit the gate. 

Ian works the night shift, starts at eight after they have dinner at the apartment. Mandy is great, as always, and  Sandy doesn’t seem to like Ian much. Then again Mickey had already told him she doesn’t really like anyone all that much. She seems to like Mickey a lot, and while Ian is again confronted with the fact that there are relationships that Mickey has that Ian doesn’t know much about, it doesn’t bother Ian as much as it used to. These days Ian can ask Mickey a personal question and Mickey will answer it. Mandy is more than willing to tell stories from their childhood, fun stories, stories that make it clear that Mickey was just a boy at one point in time. A monster of a child, from the sound of it, but a child nonetheless. And while Mickey likes to tell Ian that he was nothing, a nobody, an absolute piece of shit until just a couple of years ago, Mandy and Sandy seem to remember him in a different way. As their brother, cousin, as the guy who helped them with their rent even when he was in prison, even when he was in Mexico. He had done everything to make sure that Terry never found out where they lived. Helped them leave the house for days on end when they were teenagers because Terry was out for blood. 

Ian goes to work at seven thirty and leaves behind the Milkoviches to get hammered. They plan on going to the pier to watch the fireworks, so Ian takes the car and makes Mickey promise they’ll take an Uber back home. 

Ian is kind of disappointed that he doesn’t get to go with them, but he doesn’t have enough time to think much about it as soon as he clocks in. Plenty of children and strangely way more of adults with mangled fingers and eye injuries to focus on. As they get closer to midnight, things get a little slower. 

Ian is washing his hands after stitching up the palm of a man who for some reason didn’t let go of a firecracker, when Marcus pops his head into the room. 

“You got a visitor, Gallagher,” he tells him. Ian turns to look at him. The man doesn’t look worried, so Ian doesn’t jump to any conclusions, even though his gut tells him that Carl is going to be sitting in the ER without an eye. 

Instead, when Ian walks into the main room, Mickey is leaning against the front desk. There is no blood, no bone or any other visible injury. 

“Hey,” Ian says. “Everything okay?” 

“Everything is fine. Come on, let’s go outside for a second,” Mickey says. Ian throws a glance at Marcus behind the counter, who shrugs at him and looks at the clock. 

“Take your break,” Marcus says. 

Ian grabs his jacket and joins Mickey in the parking lot of the hospital. “With two minutes to spare,” Mickey tells him. 

“‘Till midnight?” Ian grins. “You came here to watch the fireworks with me?” 

“Came here to watch you watch the fireworks,” Mickey says. The parking lot is mostly empty, barely any cars and definitely no people. They sit on a bench in front of the hospital that during the day is used as a hang out for EMT personnel waiting for calls. 

“The girls didn’t mind you leaving?” Ian asks. 

“Don’t think they noticed,” Mickey shrugs. “Left you brother back there with them. I just hope I don’t have to fish one of their bodies out of the lake tomorrow morning.” 

“Lip’s out with you guys? He’s not drinking, is he?” 

“Didn’t see him take a sip. Maybe he was waiting for me to leave. Figured I’d see you first, worry about him later.”

Ian kisses him, and Mickey’s lips and face are cold. Mickey kisses him back, says something about how Ian is warm, and slips his tongue into Ian’s mouth. Ian is delighted; they’re fully making out under the open night sky and Mickey feels relaxed, leaning into him. Ironically, they are startled apart when the sky above the city seems to explode with fireworks. 

“Jesus Christ,” Mickey laughs. “Happy fucking New Year.” 

 

When Ian does finally get home at four thirty in the morning, there are two girls passed out on the couch, and two men passed out in his bed. 

Of course, Ian has half a fucking heart attack and yanks the covers off the bed, before realizing it’s Lip. Mickey startles awake first, curses at him. 

“Sorry,” Ian says softly. “Didn’t think you’d be into him.”  

Lip groans and turns onto his side. Mickey turns to look at Lip with one eye open and then pushes him off the bed and onto the ground. 

“Fucking fuck you,” Lip curses at him, but grabs a pillow off the bed and snatches the covers out of Ian’s hand before lying back down. “Turn the fucking lights off.” 

Ian grabs another comforter out of the closet, gives it to Mickey before getting undressed and into bed. “He’s not drunk, is he?” Ian asks Mickey. 

“No, just fucking annoying,” Mickey mutters and from the smell of things Mickey might be the one who’s drunk. Ian can’t imagine him letting Lip into their bed in any other case. 

“No fucking pillow talk,” Lip complains from the floor. 

 

Ian’s timer for his meds goes off at ten, waking all three of them up. He steps over Lip to go to the bathroom and comes back to both his brother and his boyfriend rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. 

“Happy January first, dickheads,” Ian greets them, getting back into bed. He ruffles Mickey’s hair. “You’re not hungover, are you?” 

“Not hungover,” Lip answers. “Fucking hungry, though.” 

“Nobody’s talking to you,” Ian tells him.

“Not hungover,” Mickey says, but doesn’t open his eyes.

“Mick, go wake your groupies up so we can make breakfast,” Lip says. 

“They were so smashed, they’re probably still drunk,” Mickey says. 

“Tell them to come sleep it off in here, then,” Ian suggests. 

Mickey gets out of bed, kicks at Lip on his way out of the bedroom. “Hey, douchebags,” Ian hears Mickey in the other room. “Get up, go get into bed.” 

There is a yelp and a dull thump and then shuffling. 

Ian jumps out of bed as the girls start shuffling into the room, comforters wrapped all around them. Mandy trips over Lip - or Lip trips her on purpose. She growls at him and he laughs. Ian pulls him off the floor, because the man clearly does not look like he is planning on leaving the bedroom on his own volition now that two girls have waddled in. 

But Mandy and Sandy don’t seem to give a shit about anything. They fall into bed and don’t move again. Ian closes the bedroom door behind them. 

 

Sandy and Mandy leave for New York again exactly twenty-four hours after they got to Chicago. Ian pretends not to hear Lip ask for Mandy’s number that afternoon. He pretends not to notice that Lip does it, strategically, right when Mickey leaves to bring their bags down to the car.  

 

On Sunday, January second, Ian goes to hot yoga with Fiona. When Ian leaves the apartment, Lip is still asleep on the couch. He meets her in front of the studio at nine a.m. Ian has an appointment at the barber at eleven. He hopes to have enough time in between to have a shower. 

Hot yoga proves to be the hardest thing Ian has ever done. He curses and groans through the whole thing and Fiona is right there with him. Every now and then, she sprinkles water from her water bottle in the back of his neck. The yoga teacher, a short middle aged woman with insane biceps, tells them that it will get easier. 

By the end of the one hour session, Ian and Fiona are both fully drenched in sweat. Ian has to admit that it was pretty fun. No part of it was relaxing at all, in fact, it was pretty damn stressful, so he’s not sure if he is going to be getting anything therapeutic out of it. But as a work out, he likes it.

“Did you have breakfast already?” Fiona asks him afterwards. 

“Nah, but I got to get home and take a shower. Getting a haircut at eleven,” Ian says. 

“Haircut?” Fiona questions. “Who’s cutting your hair?” 

“A real barber. A fancy one. Found him on Yelp,” Ian admits. 

“A fancy one, huh?” she grins. “You don’t want to take a shower here? This place is pretty fancy, too. We can grab something to eat and I can see what this whole barber thing is about.” 

Ian weighs his options and decides not to put his eight hundred dollar coat on over his disgustingly sweaty torso. 

They grab a couple of sandwiches at a café near the yoga studio and walk for thirty minutes to the barbershop with the sixty dollar haircuts. Ian hadn’t exactly planned on anyone accompanying him to the appointment, especially not Fiona, but here they are. 

The lady at the front desk offers them coffee, tea or kombucha. 

 

Ian can’t remember ever doing any type of activity with Fiona that didn’t involve any of their other siblings. He doesn’t think they’ve ever gone out, just the two of them. When they were kids, Ian would take Debbie to the library with him. He would take Carl to the thrift shop in an attempt to make the little shit stop shoplifting, and for some time Ian would take Liam everywhere he went, because Fiona and Lip weren’t in a good place. 

They used to go running together, a long time ago, but they always took Carl with them. Fiona was always faster than him, even after ROTC. He doesn’t know the last time they ran together, but it was before his diagnosis and he doesn’t remember ever beating her. Carl was always around, but Ian figures that it is the closest thing to him bonding with his sister that he has. 

So it makes sense, he thinks, for them to do something like hot yoga. When she offers to go with him to the barbershop, he doesn’t have a reason to tell her no, but he also doesn’t know why she would want to. 

He briefly considers that this might be some sort of ambush. Maybe about med school. Maybe Lip talked to her and now she’s going to try and convince him to do it. Or maybe she’s going to tell him not to do it. Maybe she thinks he’s too fragile for something like that. 

Or maybe it’s about Mickey. Maybe this is where she tells him that she never really liked Mickey, that she thinks Ian should break up with him. 

But Fiona doesn’t say any of that. She sits in the empty barber’s chair by his side, flips through her phone, talks about Kev and V, talks about the news and about how she thinks Debbie might be dating someone. It’s pretty easy chatter that Ian doesn’t mind at all. In fact, if anyone can catch him up on the family these days, it’s her. Lip doesn’t know what the hell is going on at the house these days with him working at the garage by day, forging university papers by night , and working with Mickey somewhere in between. 

“Damnit, Ian,” Fiona says at one point while Ian is getting his hair blowdried. “This is going to look really good.” 

The barber nods at Ian in the mirror and Ian is sure it’s going to be fine. He just told the guy to make it look less like he’s given up completely, which he seemed to find amusing enough. The only question he asked was about the length of it and then went to work with three different scissors, clippers and a straight razor. Ian has to admit that it’s is all pretty elaborate. The guy gives him a scalp massage that kind of feels like Ian should be getting fucked afterwards and they refill Fiona’s drink as soon as it’s empty. 

They guy blow dries Ian’s hair, puts something in it that smells like coconut and then tells him to look into the mirror. 

Fiona whistles. “Fine,” she says. “I guess that’s better than anything I could ever do.”  

Ian looks different. He looks clean, first and foremost. The sides are buzzed shorter than he’s used to, the top is still long and dark, and the stuff the guy put in it must still be kind of wet, because his hair has the kind of deep red sheen to it that it only has when it’s still damp after a shower. 

He looks hot, he knows he does. Maybe a little too hot for someone who works in an ER and who is probably going to forget to do anything with his hair on most days. 

Is it worth sixty bucks? Probably not, but he’s not going to complain about it now. 

When he steps out of the barbershop with Fiona, he gets a text from Mickey: Fuckhead is gone, come watch Hoarders and take down this fucking tree.

 

Ian doesn’t stop smoking cigarettes, and he doesn’t smoke enough weed for it to matter whether he stops or not. He smokes about one joint a week, shares it with Mickey, usually on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. It has never sent him into a manic or depressive episode, though he has read plenty of horror stories about other people with bipolar being launched into full psychotic episodes because of it. He’s sure that he isn’t safe just because he hasn’t had a psychotic episode yet , but he figures that if it happens… well. God hasn’t talked to him since before he went to prison. 

He gets the e-mail that he passed both his classes on Wednesday. The only thing he needs to do now to be a registered nurse is take the NCLEX. He decides to register for the exam immediately, doesn’t tell anyone, except of course Mickey who takes one look at him and says: “What’s up with you?” 

Ian has to take another half a day off work to take the test, but Marcus seems more than pleased that he is about to be able to unload a lot more responsibility onto someone without breaking a hundred violations. Ian passes the test without much effort, and announces it in the family group chat. 

He knows that he is running the risk of getting Lip on his case about the MCAT again, so he isn’t entirely surprised when he comes home that Friday evening to find him on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table. Mickey is nowhere to be found and Ian checks his phone; no warning. That asshole. 

“What are you doing here?” Ian asks, stripping out of his jacket. 

“Hanging out,” Lip says. “Watching 90 Day Fiancé.” 

“Mickey let you in?” 

“He’ll be back in a minute. Ran out of smokes. Hey, congrats on the new title. Anything going to change at  the hospital?” Lip asks, as Ian kicks off his shoes. 

“Talking to my boss about it next week,” Ian shrugs. “I don’t think a lot’s going to change. Hoping for a raise and an official title change. Pretty sure I’m already doing everything an RN is supposed to do.”

“A raise, though,” Lip says. 

Ian sits down next to him on the couch, picks up the cigarette pack lying on the table and flicks it back; empty. He had just crumpled his own empty pack up and thrown it away on the way home from the subway. 

“You hungry?” Lip asks. “You guys have everything in the fridge for spaghetti. You want me to start on it while you take a shower?” 

“You didn’t come all the way here right after work to make spaghetti, did you?” Ian snorts. 

“Let’s talk over dinner, alright?” Lip says and gets off the couch. He heads for the kitchen and Ian heads for the bedroom. He does want to take a shower, but he really doesn’t want to have this conversation now. He hates Mickey for not giving him a heads up. He holds onto that grudge, even when he finds Mickey with Lip in the kitchen when he gets out of the shower. 

“Hey,” Mickey says. Ian glares at him and doesn’t answer. He grabs a Coke out of the fridge and goes back to sit on the couch. And to think that Ian had called this man right after the exam was over to share the news with him first. What a traitor. 

“Got you apple pie from Patsy’s,” Mickey says. “To celebrate.” 

Ian flips him off. Suck up. 

 

Lip does make good spaghetti and apple pie from Patsy’s is Ian’s favorite dessert, but Ian doesn’t have much of an appetite as they sit down at the table.

“Jesus, Ian,” Lip sighs at him from across the table after a while of watching Ian play with his food. “I just want to know if you’ve thought about it. I’m not here to ruin your day.”

“Think it’s too late for that,” Mickey says around a mouthful. 

“I haven’t thought about it,” Ian lies. “Been pretty busy.” 

“If you really didn’t want to do it, you’d have said so already,” Lip says. “And that would be fine, but you’re obviously thinking about it. Studying for the exam in March can’t fucking hurt, can it? Even if you don’t pass it or you decide you don’t want to do it after all. All you gotta do is study three nights a week for two hours until then.” 

“Not doing any of that,” Ian says. 

“You have to,” Lip says. “I have a plan to get you in. All you have to do is take the test.”

“Why don’t you take the fucking test, asshole?” Ian snaps. He drops his fork, gets up and heads for the bedroom. He slams the door shut behind him. 

It doesn’t take long before he hears the front door open and shut. He can’t make out what the muffled voices are saying and he’s not all that interested in it anyway. 

It is barely eight p.m, but he figures he might as well watch 90 Day Fiancé on Mickey’s iPad from his bed. Ian can hear Mickey shuffling around the living room, he can hear the familiar sound of dishes being rinsed and washed. Ian can even hear the familiar scratch of Mickey igniting his lighter and then seconds later, the bedroom door opens and Mickey stands in the doorway. 

“You can fuck right off,” Ian blurts out. 

Mickey rolls his eyes at him, doesn’t move. “Come eat your apple pie, asshole.” 

“Did your new best friend not want to stay for dessert?” Ian asks. 

“What is this? You’re mad at me for letting your brother come over?” 

“You fucking knew what he wanted to talk about,” Ian exclaims. 

“Yeah, so fucking what? I didn’t know you were going to react like this.” 

“So this is my fault?”

“That’s not what I’m saying. I didn’t know you were still upset about it. You haven’t talked about it since Christmas.” 

“I’m not upset,” Ian snaps. 

“No, you’re a real ray of sunshine,” Mickey snorts. He takes a drag of his cigarette and leans his back against the doorway. “What is this really about, anyway? You’re scared to fail, whatever. What else? What’s your problem with him?” 

“Why does he give a shit? That’s my problem with him. He didn’t give a shit when I was fucking talking to god and making molotovs. He didn’t give a shit when I landed my ass in prison. Nobody gave a shit and now that I’m actually doing good, he wants to get involved? No, fuck him.” 

“You think you going off your meds is his fault?” Mickey asks seriously. 

“No. It’s my fault. But I know that if Carl or Debbie or Liam were sick, I would force feed them whatever I had to.”

“Yeah, you say that now. You think you’d be able to focus on that while you were neck deep in shit yourself? Your brother and sister were both junkies at the time.” 

“Why are you taking their side on this?” 

“I’m not. If you want me to go out there and knock his teeth out, I will,” Mickey shrugs and takes another drag. He taps the ashes out in his palm. “You really feel like they let you drown?” 

Ian hates this. He knows that Fiona and Lip had so many more problems to deal with besides Ian’s mania. He knows that they tried and that he lied to them, pushed them away over and over again, and threatened to leave and never come back if they didn’t back off. He let himself drown. Fiona was drowning. Lip was drowning. He never did anything to help them either. 

He still feels it, deep in the pit of his stomach; Why was no one there? In a family of eight people, no one could save anyone from anything. 

“Yeah,” Ian answers. “They tried. Sometimes I think they should have tried harder. I know I don’t have anyone else to blame but myself, but I just feel it, okay? And you can’t take their side. Ever.” 

“Or else?” Mickey asks, takes a drag. “You’re going to punch me in the face again, like when you thought I was siding with Frank?” 

“You literally strangled me after that, so I think we’re more than fucking even.” 

“So he was an asshole back then,” Mickey gets back to the argument. “Now he can’t talk to you about anything?” 

“Why the fuck do you care about him?” 

“Because he looks out for you. Maybe not back then, but he does now. If I’m not here with you it’s going to be him or your sister. You can’t go around being a dick to them like this.” 

“Great. Hey, why don’t you fuck off, huh? Why don’t you go suck Lip’s dick. See if he wants to fuck you up the ass, alright?” 

The look Mickey shoots him at that isn’t as patient as the ones before. He isn’t annoyed anymore. He’s pissed. Good. 

“Fuck you, you fucking pussy,” Mickey tells him. “Your life is better than it’s ever been. You got nothing left to complain about, so you reach four years back? Because they didn’t drag you back to the psych ward kicking and screaming?” 

“Yeah, well, some of us don’t repress every single memory we have, hoping someone crosses you so you can deal with your anger by beating the shit out of them.” 

“Maybe you should repress some more of that shit, because this,” he points at Ian, “is fucking pathetic.” 

He leaves the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Less than a minute later, the front door opens and closes. Ian throws the iPad at the wall. 

 

He drinks the four beers that are left in the fridge and stays in the living room until he dozes off on the couch. When he wakes up, it’s four a.m. Ian turns the tv off and shuffles to the bedroom. To the empty bed. He turns the lights on, looks around like a fucking moron. Mickey isn’t there, Ian knows he isn’t. The apartment is too small for anyone to go unnoticed. 

 

Ian leaves the house early that morning and steps into the Apple store right as it opens. He has a headache, a bad one and it only becomes worse after he uses his credit card to buy a new iPad. When he gets back home at ten a.m and Mickey is still not there, Ian starts to worry. He calls him, finally, at noon. 

“Yeah,” Mickey answers. 

“Where the hell are you?” Ian asks, relieved that he picked up - not in jail or in a hospital bed - but suddenly pissed again because where the hell was he? 

“I fell asleep at the house,” Mickey says gruffly. “You okay?” 

“Just… fucking come home,” Ian says and hangs up. 

 

Ian kisses him, as soon as he comes through the door. Mickey lets him, for a second and then pushes him away. Ian pushes harder, slams him up against the front door. 

“I get it, okay?” Mickey snaps at him, unscrewing Ian’s hands out of his coat. “I need a fucking shower.” Ian lets him go, spends the next fifteen minutes sitting at the end of their bed next to the broken iPad, raking his hands through his hair, leg bouncing like he is about to get on a fucking roller coaster. 

Ian hears Mickey brush his teeth and spit in the sink, before he emerges out of the bathroom in a towel. He barely glances at Ian as he heads for the dresser, pulls out a pair of boxers and a sweatshirt. 

“You can’t stay out all night,” Ian says. 

“Why not?” Mickey asks flatly. 

“You can’t do that.” 

“What was I supposed to do then? Stick around and break your shit?” Mickey says, he almost sounds bored as he gets dressed. 

“I - I got you a new one,” Ian says. “I’m sorry - I really didn’t mean to. I just got so angry after you left.” 

“My fault again then, huh.” 

“No, Mickey, that’s not what I mean,” Ian says and stands up, frustration still solid in his voice. He still sounds angry. Ian takes a breath. “I’m sorry I was being a dick to you last night. I wasn’t… I wasn’t mad at you, alright?” 

“Then why’d you break my iPad and drink all my beer?”

And Mickey’s got him there. “I’m sorry, I- I don’t know what got into me,” Ian says. “I know you’re on my side, always.” Maybe it’s a little manipulative, but Ian needs Mickey to remember that. 

“Move back,” Mickey tells him with an outstretched hand on Ian’s chest and Ian only then realizes how he’s crowded him up against the dresser. 

“Sorry,” Ian mutters and takes a step back. “You hungry? I’ll make us something.” 

“Whatever,” Mickey says. He grabs his phone off his nightstand and leaves the bedroom. 

Ian takes another breath. He goes into the bathroom, still warm from the shower Mickey just took. He looks at himself. He looks fine, normal. He fixes his hair and takes off his sweatshirt, leaves just his t-shirt on. It’s one of Mickey’s new shirts, the grey one, fitting snugly around Ian’s chest and arms. Ian replaces his track pants with a pair of jeans. 

It’s too cold for this. The apartment on the sixth floor never gets warm enough in winter to hang around in anything but sweatshirts, but Ian figures he’ll manage for an afternoon. If his nipples get hard, that’s a plus. 

He opens the fridge and the cupboards. There is barely anything in there, let alone anything he can make a meal with. “You want to come to the grocery store with me?” Ian asks. 

“No,” Mickey says. He’s unboxing the new iPad on the couch, not looking at Ian. 

“You need something?” 

“No.” 

“Come with me?” Ian asks again, shrugging on his coat. “I don’t want to go alone.” 

“Then order something in,” Mickey says.

“I want to cook something-” 

“That’s your problem, then.” 

Ian tries to kiss him before he leaves, but Mickey turns his head away in such obvious annoyance that it almost makes Ian laugh. Almost. Instead, he just plants a wet one on Mickey’s cheek before he goes. 

 

Mickey doesn’t relent until later that evening. The silent treatment is getting old and Ian does not feel like getting into another argument, so he decides to get onto his knees instead. He blows him on the couch, leads him to their bedroom and fucks Mickey hard and rough handed, from behind, just the way Mickey likes it. Ian doesn’t let him roll away and off the bed when they’re done. He holds on to him, squeezes Mickey against his chest as tightly as he can. “You can be mad,” Ian murmurs into Mickey’s shoulder. “But you can’t leave me for a whole night again.” 

“If you ever suggest I’d want to fuck the ugliest Gallagher again, I’m leaving you for good,” Mickey respond. 

“Promise me,” Ian says. 

“Promise you what?” 

“That you won’t ever leave for a whole night again.” 

Mickey doesn’t answer immediately. Ian can feel him breathing, can even feel his heart beating. “I promise,” Mickey says. “You have to promise me something, too.” 

“Yeah,” Ian says. 

“You got to find a therapist.”

Ian squeezes his eyes shut and nods. 

“Promise.”

“I promise,” Ian says. 

 

Ian doesn’t skip out Sunday morning hot yoga with Fiona. He deserves a fucking medal for that. She doesn’t ask him about Lip or Mickey or med school. She just congratulates him excessively on his nurse registration before they start the class. 

 

His first therapy session is from six-thirty to seven-thirty on Wednesday night.s A hundred and seventy-five dollars a session. That’s twenty-five more than if he chooses a time between nine to five. Ian makes Mickey promise not to tell anyone. Not Fiona, not Lip, not anyone. 

Mickey picks Ian up from work at six and gives him a ride to a high rise on Michigan Avenue. “Alright, I’ll be back here in an hour,” Mickey tells him. 

“Where are you going?” Ian asks him. 

“I don’t know. Find us a place to eat when you’re done.” 

“And I’ll meet you back here?” 

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” 

“You’re going to be late.” 

“I have another five minutes.” 

“It’s on the twelfth flour.” 

“They have elevators.”

“You want me to go up with you?” Mickey finally asks. 

“No,” Ian says. “Jesus, I’m not that much of a pussy.” 

“Then go inside before I get a fucking ticket,” Mickey says. 

 

On the twelfth floor the elevator opens up to a lobby. It’s fancy, all dark wooden surfaces, white flowers and dimmed lights. It’s supposed to be calming, Ian figures, but it has the opposite effect on him. He doesn’t belong here. He can’t afford this shit. 

“Hi,” he says, stepping up to the lady at the front desk. Mickey has already driven off anyway. “I have an appointment at six-thirty.” 

She has been looking at him from the second he walked out of the elevator, polite smile playing around her lips. “Mr. Gallagher? You can walk right through. Dr. Jackson is expecting you.”

 

Dr. Jackson is an older women, grey streaks in thick, long black curls. She is thin, wearing dress pants and a colorful blouse. She reminds him of Fiona, if Fiona was a black woman in her late forties or early fiftees. She offers him coffee or tea, makes him sit in a large leather chair and she has to remind him that it’s okay for him to take his coat off. 

Ian takes his coat off, says he doesn’t need anything, but she makes him tea anyway. “It’s something for you to do with you hands,” she tells him as she hands him the warm mug. It’s black with a silver trim. Fancy mugs even. Ian realises he’s been wringing his hands together. He accepts the mug and waits for her to sit down across from him. 

The office is too nice. It fills him with dread; the idea that he is going to walk out of here with too much fucking debt. He works at a public hospital for god’s sake, gets bled and spit on for a living. This isn’t for him. You have health insurence, you fucking idiot. It'll cover at least half. 

“I’ve read through your paperwork, Ian. You’ve clearly been through a lot, but I understand that you haven’t had any regular therapy before. Can you tell me what made you decide to start now?” Dr. Jackson asks, fingers wrapped around her own fancy mug.

“My boyfriend made me do it,” Ian admits. “He was sick of my shit, I guess.” 

She nods. Ian doesn’t look her in the eye. “Any specific incident that lead to the decision?” she asks.

“Yes and no. He’s brought it up before, but this weekend we had a fight. Stupid. I was acting out of line.” 

“Can you get more specific about the incident?” she asks. 

Ian shakes his head. “It’s… a very long story.” 

“We’ve got another fifty-four minutes,” she shrugs. “I’m curious to know why you’re here now.” 

“Because I have the money, now,” he says. “Barely.” 

“I get the sense that maybe what happened this weekend isn’t completely resolved yet,” Dr. Jackson says. “Maybe that’s why it’s hard to talk about it.” 

“No, it’s hard to talk about it because you don’t know Lip. My brother,” he clarifies. “You don’t know him as a person. You don’t know Mickey either. My boyfriend. It’s not just my story, you know. I don’t feel right talking about them.” 

“I get that,” she says. “Trusting a psychiatrist is not a given. Maybe we can work up to the story. If you want to talk about yourself first, we can do that.” 

“I’ve got bipolar,” Ian says. 

“I figured that out from your paperwork. Have you had a manic or depressive episode recently?” 

“Hypomanic at the start of December. It lasted… I think about a week, but I didn’t feel like myself again until a few days before Christmas. Depressive episode in May. That lasted longer.” 

“Do you want to talk about your last hypomanic episode?” 

“Yeah, sure.”

“Do you know what triggered the episode?” 

“Yes.” 

“But you don’t want to share it? Does it involve your brother or your boyfriend?”

“It has to do with Frank. My… father.” 

“Would you rather not talk about him either?” 

“No, I don’t care about him. We can talk about him.”

“Alright, let’s start there then.” 

 

Mickey is double parked right in front of the building when Ian comes down at seven-thirty five. Ian gets in the car, slams the door closed behind him. He looks at Mickey and says: “I’m all better.” 

Mickey smiles. “I bet she loved shrinking your huge orange head.” 

 

Ian does get a raise, a new contract and a title change. Marcus who has worked at the hospital for twenty years and has been head nurse for ten of those years, gives Ian the stack of papers and tells him to bring them back tomorrow - no time to look over them now. 

“Hey,” Ian says, tugging the papers under his arm. “You ever think about going back to school? Med school?” 

“I have four children,” Marcus tells him with an amused smile. “At this point I’m hoping to save enough for one of them to go to college.” 

“You ever thought about it when you just got out of nursing school?” 

“Not really. I wanted to get to work as soon as I could. Why? You applying for next year after all?” 

“Just curious, you know,” Ian says and wonders when he brought it up before.

“You could,” Marcus shrugs. “Application process at University of Chicago ain’t no joke. At least that’s what the kids tell me who come here looking for residencies.” 

“We don’t have any working here right now, do we?” Ian asks. 

“Nah, some of them think they can do the ER, but it’s not exactly the safest place for some kid with no work experience. They usually last a week or two and then fuck off again. We don’t have a research facility or anything that would make it attractive for kids like that to put up with this shit.” He waves at a the junkie strapped to a bed in the room they’re passing, screaming his head off about how he definitely did not stab himself in the leg just to get pain killers. Nurse Jenny is calmly trying to tell him that she can’t stitch him up or give him painkillers if he doesn’t shut the fuck up and stay still. 

“Look,” Marcus then says. “Recommendation letters I can do. There have even been tuition programs in the past. You got to talk to Denzel about that. Your biggest problem is that you’ve got a felony on your record. I don’t know how that's going to fly.” 

“What do you mean tuition programs?” Ian asks. 

“Are you really going to do this? I don’t want to hire a new fucking nurse this summer, Gallagher,” Marcus says. 

“Even of I did do it, I wouldn’t be able to stop working,” Ian waves that off. “Tuition programs?” 

 

“Ugh, are you doing this again?” Mickey says when he gets home to find Ian buried in the MCAT study material, while dinner is cooking. Mickey takes his coat and shoes off before trudging into the kitchen. He puts an ice cold hand in the back of Ian’s neck. “You going to kick me out again?”  

Ian swats at him and rubs his neck. “No, you dick. I’m just reading. Guess who doesn’t know a single thing about physics?” 

“I know someone who knows a lot about physics,” Mickey says and runs his hands under the sink. “He fucking loves talking about it, too."

“I’m not that desperate yet,” Ian says and gets up to check on the pasta sauce. “This is vegetarian. You’re going to hate it.” 

“Haven’t hated anything you’ve made yet,” Mickey shrugs. He hops up to sit on the counter, dangerously close to the stove. “So you’re going to do it?” 

“Yeah, as soon as I figure out how to scrub a felony off my record without faking my own death and changing my identity,” Ian says. 

“What happened to ‘I’m bipolar so I’m never going to accomplish anything’?” Mickey asks. 

“Guess I’m over that,” Ian says, rolls his eyes when Mickey snorts loudly.

“After one therapy session, huh? You think that lady can help you get over this stupid beef you have with your brother?” 

“No beef. Fully vegetarian, I told you.” 

“You suck,” Mickey says. “What made you change your mind?” 

“I haven’t really changed my mind. It’s still going to be a waste of time, probably, but I talked to my boss about it today. He thinks I could do it, if not for the felony. They even have a whole education fund for staff at the hospital. They have a partnership with Pritzker that they barely ever use because no one wants to work at our shitty hospital in exchange for tuition.” 

“They’d pay all of it?” Mickey asks. “Four years? A quarter mil?” 

“I’m never getting in.” 

“Lip says he’s got a plan.” 

“What kind of plan could he possibly have? Go back in time and stop me from ruining my life?” 

“He’s made a career out of scamming colleges,” Mickey says pointedly. 

“I don’t want to base my future on a scam,” Ian says.

“Life is full of scams. Like charging sixty grand a year for school isn’t a fucking scam. Like a three month waiting period unless you can drop a grand a month to see a therapist isn’t a scam.” 

“You think I should do it?” Ian asks. Mickey has yet to give a straight answer to that question. 

“If you want to do it,” Mickey says, again. 

“Yeah, but what do you think?” Ian asks. He lowers the gas on the stove and goes to stand between Mickey’s swinging legs. “You don’t think it’s a stupid fucking idea? A waste of time and money and energy?” 

Mickey shakes his head, barely noticeable. “You’re made for that shit,” he says softly. “EMT, nurse, doctor. It’s what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. You learn fast, get bored real fast too. You might as well try going all the way.” 

“You really think I should try?” 

“Yeah. And if Lip gets you in, and the hospital doesn’t want to pay for it, I’ll pay for it.” 

“Shut the fuck up.” 

“I’m serious,” Mickey says. “I have the money.” 

“That’s all of your money.” 

“I’ll make more. I’d rather have your job pay for it, so we can use our money to go to fucking Hawaii or something, but either way we have the money.”

Ian shakes his head, wonders what the fuck he did to deserve this. He kisses Mickey, deep and long. He thinks of Mickey in Mexico, in that Hawaiian shirt, on that boat. “I’m going to take you to Hawaii,” Ian tells him.

“You’re still recovering from the iPad purchase,” Mickey reminds him. 

“It might take a while, but I’m taking you. That’s a promise,” Ian says. “We’re not allowed to go there, unless I pay for it.” 

“Alright,”  Mickey agrees. 

 

Ian texts Lip after dinner: So what’s the scam?  

 

“First part of the scam is that to start classes upcoming school year, you should have sent in the application before November first.” Ian has been to the house a few times since Frank’s triple fracture, but only to pick someone or something up. He hasn’t stuck around for more than twenty minutes at a time, zoned Frank out completely for the time he was there. 

But it’s Saturday afternoon now, and the house is empty. Lip is the only one home, but Ian can still smell Frank in the air. He must still be staying there.

They’re sat at the kitchen table, Ian brought the physics text book with him. 

“So we try for the year after that?” Ian asks. “I don’t have to take the test in March then.” 

“Yeah, no, I sent in your application already,” Lip says. “Did it when you passed your midterms.” 

“How? Don’t you need a bunch of shit for that? Recommendation letters or whatever?” 

“Fraud, buddy. Keep up,” Lip says. “I wrote a great essay. Very heartfelt and emotional. A real tearjerker.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? You’ve been doing this since October? Why? I never even said anything about it-” 

“Just in case you wanted to do it,” Lip says. “Look, I’m not trying to go all Fiona on you, but there was no way you would have gone through the process back then. It was in the middle of all the Ned bullshit. I sent in the application, wrote the essay. The recommendation letter is real, though. I sent your boss Marcus an email back in October and he got back to me real fast. Great letter. I think he really likes you.” 

“Marcus wrote me a recommendation letter in October? He never said anything about that?” 

“Maybe he doesn’t really care about you all that much. The important thing is that he has your back in the application process. The only missing piece of the puzzle is the actual exam. If you want to start next year, you have to take the test in March,” Lip tells him. “At the end of this January, you’ll hear if you got invited for an interview. And you’re definitely going to get invited.” 

“How the hell do you know that?” 

“Because Ned Lishman is on the application board,” Lip says. “If he doesn’t vote you in, Mickey burns his house down or whatever.” 

“Love it,” Mickey speaks up for the first time since they got there. He is sitting at the counter, barely looking up from his phone. 

“What if it swings the other way?” Ian asks. “What if he wants me to bang him to get in?” 

“He’s not going to do that. Mickey will get Danny Alvarez to press charges and his entire career will be ruined. He might even do jail time.” 

“I don’t want to bank on that piece of shit,” Ian sighs. 

“It’s the only way,” Lip says. “And once you get the interview, it’s up to you to be, you know.” 

“Sane?” Ian fills in. 

“Bangable, more like,” Mickey says. 

“I can be bangable,” Ian says. 

“Better chance of that than you being sane,” Mickey agrees. 

“Whatever, we’ll prepare for the interview when it comes to it, but most importantly, you need to study for the MCAT. You’re shit at physics and it is going to take a lot of time to beat it into you.”

“Don’t you have like three jobs?” Ian asks. “You don’t have time to go through all of this with me.” 

“Maybe not, but we’ll pick a night to go over the theory and you work on the rest yourself. Like I said, I’ll make you a schedule. Get it to you by Monday.”

“Fucking fine. I don’t want to do shit on Wednesdays and Fridays,”  Ian says. 

“Sure thing,” Lip says. 

“You know this is a psycho move, right?” Ian asks, just to be sure. “You shouldn’t be so invested in this. I can still fail.” 

“I know it’s a psycho move, but who gives a shit? My first idea was to find someone to hack into Cook County public records to delete any evidence of you ever having gone to prison, but that would mean we had to fabricate how you got your nursing degree, since you followed all your classes in prison. Not to mention that could get you another twenty years,” Lip says. “Blackmailing Ned is a lot easier and safer.” 

“You can’t tell anyone we’re trying to do this,” Ian tells them both. “I’ll apply for the tuition grant from the hospital on Monday.” 

Mickey gets up to leave as soon as they start on the first chapter of the physics textbook. “Let me know if I have to pick you up,” he tells Ian before leaving. 

 

Ian applies for the tuition grant on Monday. Marcus signs his name under it as a recommendation and Ian hands it in to the hospital administrator that same day. 

 

“What about your mother?” Dr. Jackson asks. “Can you tell me a little bit about her?” 

“No,” Ian says. 

 

He doesn’t hyperfocus this time. Lip tells him to work on physics on Monday and Thursday and the other subjects on Tuesday and Sunday. Lip comes over on Thursday for dinner at seven and stays until ten. They study, but they also get distracted by long stories about some date Lip went on with a nameless girl or what insane thing Mickey’s done in the last week. 

Ian doesn’t tell Mickey to leave, he really doesn’t want him to, but Mickey goes out most nights anyway. They have dinner together and he comes back around ten so that they have another hour to fool around and talk a little bit before Ian has to go to bed. 

It’s fine, whatever. They go to the Alibi on Friday night, which is fun and Ian makes sure they have sex in the middle of the day, fully naked and on top of the covers on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

 

“Ian, you seem to be very close with your family. Maybe you can ask them how they feel about you discussing your relationship with them during your sessions. Consider it your homework,” Dr. Jackson tells him. “And if you feel overwhelmed with your work and your studies, it might help to keep a written calendar. Be sure to explicitly put down your free time on the calendar too.”

 

“Did Mickey tell you I started therapy?” Ian asks as soon as Lip stops talking about something called a harmonic oscillator which Ian blocks out completely, not on purpose. 

“What?” Lip asks. 

“Did he tell you?”

“No. No, he didn’t tell me,” Lip says, blinking rapidly. “When did you start?” 

“Had three sessions.” 

“Huh. Is it working for you?” 

“I don’t know,” Ian says. “The lady is smart. Really smart, but I don’t exactly give her much to work with, you know.” 

“It’s hard in the beginning. I didn’t say a word until my fifth AA meeting,” Lip tells him. “It gets easier after a while. If you’re still not comfortable with her, you can try someone else.” 

“I feel weird talking about real stuff. About Mickey or you or Fiona,” Ian admits. “Feels like I’m talking a bunch of shit behind your back.”

“Don’t feel bad about it,” Lip says seriously. “There’s a reason you want to talk about it, so you probably should. Mickey knows you’re seeing a therapist?”

“He made me do it.” 

“He didn’t say anything to me.”

“I told him not to. I didn’t know if I was going to stick with it. I still don’t know.” 

“How are things between you two anyway?”

“Good,” Ian says. “Really good. Less time together, because of this shit,” Ian says, dropping his pen in his notebook. 

“It’s just a couple of nights a week,” Lip says.

“I want to be with him every night,” Ian sighs, knowing how it sounds. “That’s all I want to do; is come home and hang out with him. I know I’m being a fucking pussy about it, but it just is what it is.” 

“You love him?” Lip asks, suddenly and seriously. The question takes Ian off guard. 

“Yeah,” Ian says. "Of course."

“You going to marry him?” 

“Oh, shut the fuck up.” 

“Just asking.” 

“Yeah? Just asking? You’re not going to plan a whole wedding behind my back and force me to propose to him?” Ian shoots back at him. 

“Jesus, fucking get over it already,” Lip laughs. “Try to finish this chapter this weekend and text me anything you don’t understand,” he then says and gets up, ending the session fifteen minutes early which Ian is thankful for. “Keep going to therapy. Give it a chance. Be honest with her, you know. As honest as possible. Don’t tell her about any murder attempts or fantasies.” 

“Thanks for the advice,” Ian says. 

 

At exactly ten p.m, Mickey comes home. “It’s fucking freezing out there,” He says, closing and locking the front door behind him. “You better be saving for Hawaii, because I’m sick of this shit.”

“You want some tea?” Ian offers. 

Mickey rolls his eyes at him. He hasn’t become as big of a fan of tea as Ian has since Dr. Jackson told him what brand she drinks. Mickey disappears into the bedroom and emerges a few minutes later, ready for bed. He presses his still freezing fingers against Ian’s cheek as he sits down next to him on the couch. Ian grabs his cold hands and holds them in his own. 

“Where did you go?” Ian asks. 

“Iggy’s car crapped out on him in the middle of fucking nowhere. Tried starting it up, started fucking snowing. Couldn’t see shit. It was a nightmare.” 

“What did you do?” 

“Towed him to a garage in the city. He’ll figure it out in the morning. Snow was falling down so thick, we’re lucky to be alive.”

“Do you just go out and try to get killed every night?” Ian asks. He grabs his own hot mug of tea off the table and forcibly curls Mickey’s hands around it. Mickey rolls his eyes at him again and shakes his head. 

“Did you learn a lot?”  Mickey changes the subject. “You a doctor yet?”

“I’m never going to understand any of that shit,” Ian says with an exaggerated sigh. “I really fucking hate it.” 

“You going to back down?”

“No, but I’m going to complain about it a lot, though.” 

“So nothing is changing, then,” Mickey grins at him and takes a sip of Ian’s tea. He makes a face at it and gives it back to Ian. “That’s so nasty. You can’t put some sugar in that or something?” 

“Not right before I go to bed.” 

“Alright, grandpa,” Mickey says, looking at the time on his phone. Mickey has had a cracked screen since Ian has known him. Ian stopped telling him to get it fixed. It's ridiculous.

“You want to go out on a date tomorrow night?” Ian asks. 

“Depends,” Mickey says. “Where do you want to go?” 

“What, like you wouldn’t go anywhere I want to go?” 

“You’re not the only one good at complaining,” Mickey reminds him. 

“Thought maybe we could go to a nice restaurant.” 

“You got nice restaurant money?”

“Not really, but I’m willing to go fully bankrupt on it,” Ian shrugs. “Getting paid next week.” 

“Alright. You finally going to take me to your sister’s restaurant?” 

“Oof, I’ll have to ask her if the family ban is lifted,” Ian chuckles. Ian hasn’t been to Fiona’s restaurant since the last family dinner they had there, almost two years ago. Frank had been on his best behavior, right up until the last five minutes when he snuck into the wine cellar and broke ten bottles of fancy wine. 

It didn’t help that Carl set fire to Debbie’s napkin on a candle either. 

Or that Lip banged a waitress in the bathroom. At least Ian and Liam had been on their best behavior, for whatever that’s worth. 

 

Can Mickey and I eat at your restaurant tonight? Ian texts her. 

No fights or fires or thievery? Fiona texts back. 

I’ll try, but I can’t control him, Ian lets her know. 

Let me know what time you’ll be here and I’ll reserve a table for you , she says. 

 

Mickey looks… well. He got a haircut, just a trim, but Ian notices it immediately. When he takes his coats off and gives it to the lady to check in, Ian also notices that he is wearing a deep black sweater that Ian has definitely never seen before. It fits him perfectly, it’s new, thick and soft and Mickey’s smooth pale skin and blue eyes are pretty damn mesmerizing in contrast. Mickey shaved, too, a tight shave that he usually doesn’t bother with and that makes him look like he’s barely twenty. 

“You look good,” Ian tells him, he has to. 

“Me?” Mickey asks, amused and rakes his eyes over Ian’s body. Ian might have gone full slut again with one of Mickey’s newer shirts. He’s only worn it once or twice, a grey denim shirt that is slightly too big on Mickey and fits Ian perfectly, stretching over his chest and back. It’s just a little tight around his arms when he flexes, but that’s a good thing for tonight, Ian figures. He tried styling his hair the way the barber had done it the first time, and he got pretty close, too. It’s better when it’s not perfect, Mickey had once told him. 

A waitress walks up to them, with a bright smile on her face. A little too bright, Ian thinks for a moment, like she recognises them somehow. “Mr. Gallagher?” she questions. “My name is Elly. I’ll be your server for tonight. Can I lead you to your table?” 

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Ian says and realises that this really is way too fancy for them. They work at places like this, they aren’t supposed to be customers here. The restaurants is on the top floor of a high rise, looking out over half the city and the last time Ian was there, he could even see the lake through the massive glass wall. The lights are dimmed, only a little bit, but enough to make it feel intimate and like the place isn’t absolutely packed with people. It is, pretty much every table is taken and Ian wonders where the hell the waitress is leading them for a moment, until she stops.

The table is right at the window, just a little bit further away from all the other tables, overlooking the terrace that’s open in the summer months and with a full view of the city. It’s not snowing as heavily as it has been the past week, so even the pitch black lake is still visible. 

The server snatches the ‘reserved’ sign off the table and steps back. “Please, take a seat. I’ll be back momentarily to start you off with our wine experience. Your first course will be coming out in about twenty minutes. If you need anything before that time, please press this button and I will be with you right away,” she says. She puts a sleek black little machine down on the table.

“Our first course?” Ian asks curiously. “I don’t remember ordering anything.” 

“Ah,” the server says with a small smile. “Ms. Gallagher made sure you received the full Location Experience. If you would like to order anything to supplement that, the menu is available on your right side.” 

Ian stammers a thank you and picks up the little machine as soon as she leaves. “I don’tsee anyone else with this shit,” Ian says once she's out of ear shot.. 

“Vip,” Mickey tells him. 

“Why? ‘Cause we look so fucking hot tonight?” 

“‘Cause your sister is the boss, dumbass.”

“Maybe, or maybe I’m the hottest guy in here right now,” Ian shrugs. 

“Not to bring you down, but the competition ain’t that serious. We might be the only people here under fifty,” Mickey snorts. “Compared to them you’re the sexiest man alive.” 

“Just compared to them?”

Mickey flips him off, and picks up the leather bound menu, the playful smile falls off his face as soon as he opens it. “Did that bitch just say full Location Experience?” 

“I think so. I’ve heard Fiona talk about it. It’s supposed to be really fancy.” 

Mickey’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “I don’t have enough cash on me for this.” 

“You’re not paying for it,” Ian reminds him. 

Mickey laughs at him. “ You definitely don’t have enough money for this.” 

Ian snatches the menu out of Mickeys hands. Right at the top it reads: 

Full Location Experience: $760 for 2 people.

“What the fuck?” Ian whisper shouts and looks around. “I thought I was going to be spending a hundred bucks on a couple of steaks and I was already budgeting for next fucking month.” 

“Are we going to dine and dash at your sister’s restaurant?” Mickey snorts. “I can ask Iggy to bring over some cash before we leave.” 

“No, this isn’t what I-”

“Hey, boys,” Fiona appears suddenly, wide smile on her face holding a bottle of wine with one hand on the bottom and one on the cork. “You guys having fun?” 

“Fiona, we can’t do the full experience thing. I don’t have that kind of money on me,” Ian blurts out. 

Fiona rolls her eyes at him and lets out of huff. “You really think I’d make you pay eight hundred dollars for a meal? What kind of bitch do you think I am?” she pulls the cork out of the bottle smoothly, and flips Mickey’s glass over. “All you have to do is give Elly a nice tip. She’s a sweet girl, one of my best servers, so be nice to her.” 

“You can do that?” Ian asks. 

“Do what?” Fiona asks, flipping Ian’s glass over next. 

“Just give out a whole meal like that? I don’t want you to get into any kind of trouble.”

“Kid, I’m the manager. The owners show up once a year. If I want to give my family a nice evening, he can come pry the wagyu beef out of my dead fucking hands, alright? Now, I don’t know how crazy you boys are about wine, but this is supposed to cleanse your palate before your first course.” 

“Supposed to, huh?” Mickey says. 

“I’ve never tasted it. It has a lemony thing going on, I think,” Fiona explains. “If you want, I can send the sommalier over and he can give you a full description of each wine that comes to your table.” 

“Absolutely not,” Mickey says. “How much wine are you bringing out anyway? We drove here.” 

“One per course, so that’s four glasses for you guys. They’re not that big. The dessert comes with an El Cafecito, which is a coffee drink with a lot of rum and Cuban Liqueur. Probably get an Uber for tonight, just to be safe,” she says with a hand on Mickey’s shoulder. “I’m going to leave you guys to it. First course will be out in twenty.”

She pinches Ian’s cheek before she leaves. 

“You should have seen your face when you thought we had to pay for this,” Mickey says. 

“Scared the shit out of me,” Ian admits. “I knew she worked at a fancy restaurant, but I didn’t think it was this fancy. This is insane. Look at all these forks. We would never come here, even if we had that kind of money.” 

“We’re here now,” Mickey shrugs and picks up the glass of white wine. “Cheers to not deserving any of this and taking it anyway.” Ian is more than happy to cheers to that, silently also cheering to the fact that he doesn’t deserve Mickey Milkovich in the slightest, but he is damn sure going to take him anyway. 

Neither of them is a fan of wine; as far as Ian can remember they’ve never drank a glass together. In fact, Ian can’t remember the last time he even had wine, but tonight the glasses go down easily. It’s sweet and boozy and actually tastes good with all the food that comes out. Elly, bless her, tries to explain what everything is and Ian tries to listen and pretend he’s interested, but Mickey is nowhere near into having any company at their table for more than putting down their plates. Ian loves it, loves that Mickey tenses up and is annoyed when someone approaches them and relaxes when they’re left alone, just the two of them. It’s selfish and childish maybe, but Mickey wanting to be with him and him alone during their meal feels intensely satisfying. It’s as intimate as they’re going to get in a public setting, though the urge to reach over the table and grab Mickey’s hand or lean over fully and kiss him, becomes greater and greater with each sip of wine. 

Elly seems to get it eventually, because when she brings over dessert, she just puts down what looks like a chocolate cake with plenty of frills on it and two dark drinks in shot glasses, tells them to enjoy and then leaves. The dessert is made to share, obviously, and Mickey picks up both forks that come with it and hands Ian his first. 

Ian hugs Fiona before they leave and thanks her profusely - too much, probably, because by that time, he’s very drunk - and Mickey tells her that they’ll be back. “We’ll pay for it next time,” he says. 

They take the elevator down to the ground floor, and as soon as the doors close, Ian turns around and grabs Mickey’s face. He still tastes sweet and bitter from the chocolate, coffee and rum. Ian pushes him up against the wall, crowds him and attempts to devour him like he hasn’t eaten anything all night. Mickey kisses him back, curls his arms around Ian’s waist under his open coat and pulls him in as close as possible. 

The elevator dings and Ian knows they’re not at the ground floor just yet. He pulls his mouth away, breathless and horny as shit. A group of people get into the elevator and Ian lets out a laugh at the annoyed and horrified look on Mickey’s face. He nudges Ian off him gently and Ian backs up just to leave enough space between them that they’re not touching anywhere. 

“I love you,” Ian whispers at him. 

“You’re wasted,” Mickey whispers back and from this close, he has to look up to catch Ian’s eyes. The amused smile on Mickey’s face is as sweet as it tastes. 

“Love you,” Ian shrugs. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Mickey whispers with a glance around the elevator, but the smile doesn’t leave his face. Ian barely notices anyone else in there, could really not care less. 

 

“Hey, you can’t fall asleep like this,” Mickey says, heavy hand slapping Ian on his ass. “Take your pants off.” 

“The room is spinning,” Ian mutters. “You’re going to have to ride me.” 

“We’ll bang in the morning, alright? But you can’t sleep in those clothes. I don’t want to wake up next to your corpse because you fell asleep in fucking jeans so tight they cut off your circulation.”

Mickey puts one hand under his hip and one hand under his shoulder and flips Ian over easily. “You’re so strong,” Ian sighs and reaches a hand up to Mickey’s cheek. “All that in this tiny body. How do you do it?” 

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Mickey says and undoes Ian’s belt. 

“Are you going to get on me?” Ian slurs. 

“There is no way you can get it up anyway,” Mickey teases him. 

“You want to fucking bet?” Ian croaks as Mickey pops all the buttons to Ian’s jeans open and pulls them down his hips. “I’ve been wanting to go balls deep in you all fucking night.” 

“And I’d let you if I didn’t think you’d throw up on my back,” Mickey says. He slides Ian’s jeans off completely, throws them onto the floor and starts on the buttons of Ian’s shirt. 

“You gotta ride me,” Ian says, palming his flaccid dick through his boxers. “I’ll aim for the floor, if I throw up.”

“Can’t take that risk. We don’t have any clean sheets left this week,” Mickey reminds him. “A cumstain is one thing, but I’m not sleeping in your barf. Sit up and take the shirt off.”

It takes some time, but Ian eventually manages to sit up and shrug the denim shirt off his shoulders. Mickey hands him a sweatshirt. Ian puts it on, sort of, because Mickey has to help him with the sleeves. 

“How am I this drunk?” Ian sighs, lying back down and looking at the ceiling. “I feel good, though. Really good.” 

“You look like you’re having a good time,” Mickey says from somewhere in the room. 

“Did you have a good time?” Ian asks. 

“Great time.” Mickey finally gets onto the bed, his face appearing into view. “You have to get under the covers if you want to go to sleep, or you’ll freeze to death during the night.” 

“I’m not tired,” Ian says and touches Mickey’s face again. “I’m kinda horny, I think.” 

“You think, huh?” Mickey says. “Get under the covers and we’ll find out for sure.” 

Ian realises he’s getting tricked when Mickey turns off the lights in the bedroom, gets back in the bed and pulls the covers up all the way to Ian’s chin. “We’re not going to bang?” Ian murmurs.

“In the morning,” Mickey tells him. 

“Come closer,” Ian says. “Come cuddle with me.” 

“You’re being a real gross, right now,” Mickey says. He moves in closer, puts an arm over Ian’s waist. 

Ian waits for a moment, thinks that maybe he shouldn’t ask it at all, but it is on the tip of his tongue. “Do you think you’re ever going to say it?” Ian finally asks, closing his eyes. 

“Hm?” 

“That you love me. You think you’re ever going to say it?”

“You know how I feel about you.” 

“Why can’t you say it?” 

“I don’t know,” Mickey admits. “I’ve never said it to anyone. You’re the first person to ever say it to me.”

“But you feel it, right?” Ian asks, placing his hand on Mickey’s chest. 

“Yeah.” 

“You can say it now and maybe I won’t remember,” Ian tries. “And if I do, I’ll pretend I don’t.” 

“I’ll tell you when I tell you,” Mickey concludes. “In the meantime, I show you. Right?” 

“You show me all the time,” Ian nods. He feels Mickey’s hand come up. He runs his fingers through Ian’s hair until he falls asleep. 

 

The hangover isn’t that bad. Ian’s mouth is dry and there is a dull ache behind his eyes, but after a glass of water, a cup of coffee, some toast and a hot shower, he feels a lot better already. He doesn’t remember a lot of what happened after they left the restaurant. He remembers Mickey getting into bed with him. He remembers: you’re the first person to ever say it to me. 

Mickey teases him that morning for being a lightweight and a sappy wine drunk, but he seems to agree that the night was great from start to finish, despite the lack of sex. Over breakfast, Ian persists that he could have had sex the night before and Mickey just rolls his eyes at him. 

 

“So you asked Lip and he agreed,” Dr Jackson says. “What about Mickey? How did he react?” 

“I didn’t ask him,” Ian admits. 

“Why not?” 

“I don’t know. He’s private. Lip is in AA, he gets the whole therapy thing,” Ian says. 

“You think Mickey doesn’t get it? I thought you said that he was the one who suggested you find a therapist?” Dr Jackson questions. 

“He was. It’s just not for him. I know he doesn’t like it when I discuss private things about him,” Ian sighs. “He’s just private, you know?”

“Of course, but your relationship is something you share together. It’s yours as much as it is his. Do you really think he’d mind if you discussed your relationship every once in a while?” 

“The thing is that I don’t think anyone would understand our relationship if they don’t know about him. He’s been through a lot, too. More than I have. I also don’t know why I would talk about him in here anyway. He’s… he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The one good thing. Plenty of bad shit to focus on, right?” 

“Ian, the fact that Mickey felt the need to push you towards therapy tells me that he must have some insight into your wellbeing and the fact that you’re here tells me that you value his opinion greatly. He will come up eventually and while I highly doubt he’d have a problem with you talking about him-”

“You don’t know him,” Ian scoffs.

“-I think it’s worth a conversation with him. Ask him if he has any objections. Certain topics he might want you to avoid.” 

“Fine. Any more homework? I made a schedule for the next two weeks. It’s at home on the fridge,” Ian says. He doesn’t tell her that Mickey took one look at it, grabbed a pen and scrawled Fuckfest on it for this upcoming Friday. 

“You seem pretty tense today, Ian. You’re waiting to hear if you get an interview to go to your school of choice.” 

“Wouldn’t you be tense?” 

“Of course. Have you thought about how you’d cope if you got bad news?” Dr. Jackon asks. 

“Yeah, I decided that I’m not going to give a shit. It is such a fucking long shot anyway. It’s a joke, really,” Ian sighs. “I’m not even that stressed about it, because I know how small my chances are. I’m more tense about the fact that Lip is going to realize he’s done all of this for nothing.” 

“You’re afraid you’ll disappoint him,” Dr. Jackson notes. 

“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” Ian shrugs. 

“Your brother has a lot of faith in you.” 

“Too much.”

 

Lip calls Ian on Thursday morning; Ian got an interview. 

 

“Did you talk to him?” Ian asks Mickey later that night, in bed. 

“Who?” Mickey asks, looking up from his phone to glance at Ian. 

“Ned,” Ian says. 

Mickey shrugs. 

“Mick,” Ian hisses. 

“I didn’t touch him, alright? There was no way to be sure he’d see your application. There are like fifteen people on that board. I made sure he got yours and I made sure he convinced the rest to give you an interview.” 

“Jesus Christ. Made sure how?” 

“You fucking know how, asshole.” 

“Did Lip tell you to do that?” Ian asks. 

“All he said was that there are fifteen people on the board and there is no way to know who gets which applications to look through.” 

“What did Ned say?” 

“Does it matter? You got your interview. He’s not conducting them, so all you have to worry about from this point on is preparing for that and for the test.” 

Ian sighs again and sits up. He reaches over to his nightstand to grab the pack of cigarettes and lighter lying there. He lights a cigarette and leans back. “You don’t think it’s costing way too much fucking energy?” 

“Not to me,” Mickey says. “If you don’t want to do this, you can quit whenever you want.” 

“Lip would kill me.” 

“Fuck ‘m.” 

“I don’t want to quit. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way,” Ian sighs and rubs at his eyes. “This isn’t exactly something I can discuss in therapy, you know.” 

“Yeah, well. Just because it’s this way, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it,” Mickey says. 

“Doesn’t feel like I deserve it,” Ian admits. “If I somehow get in that means someone else is not getting in. Someone who did all of it right.” 

“That someone can come fight me for the spot if they want it so badly,” Mickey says offhandedly.

Ian doesn’t respond. He feels Mickey sit up too and then a hand on his arm. “Gimme that,” he says. Ian gives him the cigarette and runs his hands through his hair. “I’m not trying to be ungrateful,” he says. “I just don’t want you to get in trouble. It’s not worth the trouble.” 

“I’m careful,” Mickey says. “I’m not eighteen anymore. With age, you learn how to cover your tracks. Getting away with murder isn’t half as hard as they make it look ok CSI.”

“You’ve never murdered anyone.”

“Just saying, it’s still not off the table for the pedophile,” Mickey shrugs.

Chapter Text

 

On Friday night, Mickey isn’t home when Ian gets there. No text, no call. Ian starts on dinner. When Mickey isn’t home an hour later, Ian sends him a text. Another hour later, Ian calls him and doesn't get an answer. His phone rings, and keeps ringing. 

When it's close to midnight, Ian calls Lip.

“Hey,” Lip says. “What’s up?” 

“You seen Mickey around?” Ian asks, and he feels stupid for it, but he also can’t imagine Mickey disappearing for any good reason after he put Fuckfest on the calendar. He even pointed at it that morning and said: “Don’t be late.” 

“No, haven’t seen or talked to him today,” Lip says. "What's going on?"

“He was supposed to be home hours ago. He’s not answering calls, not reading texts.” 

“Alright, I’ll try Iggy and Jamie. I’ll call you back in a minute.” Lip hangs up and Ian smokes the last cigarette in his pack and takes a new pack out of the carton stuffed in their kitchen cabinet. 

When Lip calls him back, he’s two cigarettes down the second pack. “Hey, they haven’t heard anything,” he says. “I’ll check at the farm. I’m about fifteen minutes away.” 

 

It's another nerve-wrecking half an hour before Lip comes to the apartment just to tell Ian that Mickey is nowhere to be found/ 

“He didn’t tell you anything?” Ian presses. 

“No. Last I spoke to him was when I was here yesterday. Does he have a GPS in his car? You got him on Find My Friends on your phone?” 

Ian shakes his head, bites his thumb and grabs another cigarette. “He’s either in jail or dead somewhere,” Ian says. “Except that if he was in jail, they’d have turned his phone off. His phone isn’t off. He’s just not answering.” 

“Doesn’t mean he’s fucking dead,” Lip says. “Maybe he’s just cheating on you.” 

“I’d rather he be fucking dead,” Ian snorts and regrets it immediately. Because the chances of Mickey being dead are actually a lot higher than Mickey cheating on him, today of all days. 

 

The front door creaks open at five a.m. Ian’s heart practically pounds out of his chest, and at the same time a rush of relief washes over him as Mickey enters the living room, only lit by the light beaming off the tv screen. Lip startles awake next to him on the couch when Ian says: “Where the fuck were you?” 

Mickey looks at him, tired, too tired and heads for the bedroom without a word.

Lip gets up and turns the lights on, before following Ian and Mickey into the bedroom. Mickey is in the bathroom already and in this lighting Ian can see it. He sees Mickey’s shoes first. The yellow Timberland boots stained with reddish brown drops. His jeans have streaks of reddish-brown running down them. There are spatters of it on the front of Mickey’s dark blue coat that is less visible.

“What did you do?” Ian asks, quietly. 

Mickey strips out of his coat, and kicks off his shoes. “Grab a trash bag,” he says. 

“Mickey,” Ian says. Lip leaves the bathroom. “What did you do?” 

“I didn’t do it,” he says and strips out of the rest of his clothes until he is standing there in nothing but his underwear. He isn’t hurt anywhere, Ian notes. 

“You didn’t do what?” Ian pushes. 

Mickey looks at him, just for a second and then looks away. He strips out of his underwear, steps into the shower and turns it on. 

Lip returns with a trash bag and moves forward to collect the bloody clothes off the tiled floor. Ian stops him, takes the bag from him and collects the clothes and shoes himself. He empties the pockets of Mickey’s jeans and coat. Phone,  ID, money, driver’s license. Lighter. 

He feels nauseous, shoving the eight hundred dollar coat in the trash bag. He knows he’s never going to see it again. 

“What happened, Mick?” Lip asks, moving further into the bathroom. “This is insane, even for you.” 

“I’m not talking about it,” Mickey says steadily. “And you two idiots should know better than to fucking ask.” 

“I need to know if there’s a chance the fucking cops are going to raid this place, while my brother is living here,” Lip says, heated. 

“They’re not,” Mickey says. 

“Lip, go home,” Ian says, putting a hand on his brother’s shoulder. He leads him out of the bathroom, and closes the door behind them. 

“You don’t have to stay here,” Lip tells him. “Maybe it’s better to stay at the house for a couple of days. At least until we know for sure that no one is after him.” 

“How am I supposed to know if someone is after him if I’m not here?” Ian says. “Go. He won’t talk to me while you’re here.” 

“Tell that dickhead that I’m killing him myself if his ass goes back to prison,” Lip says. 

 

After getting dressed, Mickey lights a joint and sits on the edge of the bed. Ian sits down next to him and looks at the trash bag in the corner of the room. “I know I promised I wouldn’t stay out all night again,” Mickey says after the first drag. “I wanted to call you, but I couldn’t. Just to be safe, you know.”

“I was worried sick about you,” Ian sighs. “What happened, Mickey?” 

“It’s nothing you have to worry about, alright? I didn’t kill anyone or hurt anyone,” Mickey says and Ian want to believe him, he really does. 

“I’d believe you if you didn’t walk in here covered from head to toe in blood,” Ian says. 

“I’ll burn the clothes,” Mickey says, looking at his hands. “Then everything is gone.” 

“If you want me to believe you didn’t kill anyone, you have to tell me what happened, Mickey.” 

“Not now,” Mickey says. “I’ll tell you when I know for sure everything is done and over with.” 

“You promise?” 

“Yeah.”

“Mickey.”

“I promise, alright? We’re safe, but if you want to go stay with your family for a while, that’s fine.” 

“You really think I’m that much of a pussy, huh?” Ian asks. He takes the joint out if Mickey’s hand. He probably shouldn’t, but there is no fucking way he is going to get to sleep otherwise. 

“Could go either way with you,” Mickey says with a tired smirk. 

“I’m not letting you go to prison, Mick.” 

“I’m not planning on going back to prison. It’s just fucking easier said than done around here,” Mickey sighs and lies down on the bed. He grabs Ian’s arm and pulls him down with him. “I’m sorry I was gone all night,” Mickey says again. 

“You couldn’t text me?” 

“Cell tower pings,” Mickey says. 

“Then why did you keep your phone on?”

“My car was parked near the house. It would be more suspicious if I turned it off. The ping narrows down when you send a text or pick up a call.” 

“Okay, CSI. Maybe if you plan on killing someone next time, put it on the calendar so I know you won’t be home for dinner.” 

“I didn’t kill anyone,” Mickey says. 

“You swear?” Ian asks. “I won’t- I know you wouldn't without a good reason.” 

“Shut up, I didn’t. For any reason.” 

Ian believes him. 

 

He doesn’t wake up fully until noon. Ian is startled awake at ten to take his meds and goes back to bed right after. A little after noon, Ian stirs when he hears the all too familiar sound of the rustling of a trash bag. Mickey is fully dressed. He’s wearing sneakers and a hoodie with his denim jacket over it. They had thrown Mickey’s old coat out when Mickey bought the new one. 

“Morning,” Mickey says casually, tying a knot in the trash bag. “Next time you complain about how I’m not buying Gucci sweatshirts or Louis Vuitton sneakers, remember this.” 

“Everything about this is your own fault,” Ian says, rubbing at his eyes. “You’re going to freeze to death out there.” 

“I’m going to take care of this and I’ll be back in an hour. Coffee is still hot.”

“You don’t want me to go with you?” Ian asks. “We’ll dispose of the evidence and go out to brunch after. It’ll be romantic.” 

“You want to come start a fire with me at the landfill? That sound romantic to you?” Mickey asks. 

“Sure,” Ian says and pushes the covers off of him. 

 

It really is humbling, Ian thinks. Last week they were eating at a Michelin star restaurant. This week, Ian has to bury his nose in his jacket and gags anyway, as Mickey dumps the trash bag into an empty dumpster at the edge of the landfill about an hour out of town. He douses if with lighter fluid that a man in coveralls and a thick, grease streaked coat gives to them. He seems to work at the landfill and greets Mickey like an old friend, with a thick eastern block accent.

Ian watches Mickey light a piece of paper on fire too and throw it in the dumpster. The heap ignites immediately. 

“Done?” Ian asks, muffled. 

“Gotta be sure nothing’s left,” Mickey says. “Don’t want to get caught because of the fucking ring that my shoelaces go in or some other bullshit like that. Why? Are you not having fun?” 

“No, this is great. Saw two rats fucking near another dumpster fire just now.” 

“Make you horny?” Mickey asks. He puts his hands over the dumpster, for warmth. 

“Don’t think there’s words to describe how I feel right now,” Ian says, but he can’t help but smile at the fucking absurdity of the situation. He still doesn’t know whose blood was on Mickey’s clothes. At this point, he’s not sure he wants to know, really. The only thing that is really eating away at Ian at this point is the fact that Mickey said he didn’t hurt anyone or kill anyone. That means that someone else did and that Mickey was there to witness it or clean up the mess. Even if Mickey isn't going to prison, that doesn’t mean he’s safe from whoever spilled so much blood last night. 

“You still worried?” Mickey asks. 

“‘Course. How the fuck could I not be?” Ian snaps. 

“It’s not what you think, okay? No fucking drive by or drug deal gone wrong. No gang shit.” 

“Then what happened? Someone cut their finger and bled on you?” 

“Stop, don’t get worked up over it.” 

“Fuck you,” Ian says. “Fuck you for all of this.” 

“Whatever. You don’t even know what this is,” Mickey says, but he doesn’t seem as angry and Ian expects him to be after a solid fuck you. “You can go wait in the car, if you don’t want to stay here.”

“No, this is fun,” Ian says. “Can’t wait to tell my therapist about this.” 

“You can’t tell her about this,” Mickey says sharply. 

Ian rolls his eyes at him. He’s not sure Mickey can see it; with Ian’s hood up and his mouth covered. The smoke is rising too. 

“‘Course I’m not telling her about this. I can’t tell her about shit. Everything we do is fucking insane. I’m pretty sure she thinks you’re my imaginary boyfriend, because everytime you come up I have to be vague and mysterious.”

“Why would you want to talk about me anyway? You’re supposed to be talking about you, aren’t you?” Mickey asks.

“You don’t think you have anything to do with me?” Ian retorts. 

It’s Mickey’s turn to roll his eyes. God, he’s cute. He has the black hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head, his hand coming in and out of the pockets of his denim jacket. He could get pneumonia, that’s how fucking cold it is. He doesn’t seem that fazed, but his cheeks are getting pink. He looks young. Too young and too soft faced to come home in the middle of the night covered in blood. 

Mickey reignites the fire one more time. They stand out there in the landfill for a total of forty minutes until all off the clothes have completely disintegrated. The only things left are the soles of Mickey’s boots, melted and bent and barely recognisable. 

The smell of trash and burnt rubber is going to be following them all day, Ian figures, but he’s happy to get in the car for the hour drive back to the city. It’s still all a little surreal. 

“You can’t go back to prison,” Ian says.

“I’m not going to prison.” 

“I don’t want to start over,” Ian continuous. “I don’t want to find some other asshole.” 

Mickey glances at him and shrugs. “I’m right here.” 

“For now.”

“I’m not going anywhere, alright?” Mickey says, annoyance clear in his voice. “This isn’t something I do all the time anymore. Didn’t have much of a choice last night.” 

Ian has seen it all morning. Mickey is trying to act normal, casual, trying not to worry Ian. Ian sees the tightness in his smiles and the way that smile fades completely and a hard expression takes over when he thinks Ian isn’t looking at him. He didn’t have much of a choice last night, he said. 

When they get out of the car to do some groceries before they go home, Mickey still looks tense. He checks his burner phone, and slips it into his chest pocket. As far as Ian knew, Mickey left his burner in the car, always. Ian had never seen it in their apartment, but he’d seen Mickey take it out of the glove compartment every now and then. When Ian takes the car to go to work, it’s never there. 

Because Ian is a shit and because Mickey is frowning, Ian takes a chunk of dirty snow off a pile in the parking lot. He grabs the hood of Mickey’s sweatshirt, pulls him back and slips the chunk of ice into his shirt. 

“Agh, what the fuck,” Mickey says and swirls around to glare at Ian with all his might. 

“That’s for staying out all night,” Ian says. “For not calling. For making me think you got murdered.” 

“Alright, alright. I already said I was sorry,” Mickey huffs. He pulls at the back of his shirt. 

“Yeah, I didn’t forgive you," Ian says. 

”You forgive me now?” 

“Gotta know what was so important you had to skip out on Fuckfest, before I can forgive you.”

“Think you’re just going to stay mad then,” Mickey grunts and heads for the entrance of the supermarket. 

Ian follows him.

 

Ian puts the groceries away as soon as they get home. When he’s done putting things away in the cupboard above the sink, he turns around and finds Mickey standing next to the fridge, a black marker in his hand. Ian glances at the calendar on the fridge. Fuckfest is crossed out on Friday. On Saturday it now says Fuckfest Redo. 

Mickey bites his lips and raises his eyebrows.

“This doesn’t change anything,” Ian says and takes his shirt off.

“Okay, tough guy,” Mickey says, moves in closer and pulls Ian down for a kiss. 

 

Ian forgets for a little while. They blow each other, argue about ordering food despite them having a full fridge, fuck, eat, shower together and Mickey ends the Fuckfest by fingering Ian long and slow, making his toes curl and his mouth hang open the entire time. Mickey fucks him with his tongue first and then with his cock and they stay like that for while, their third orgasm building up slowly but more intensely then the first two; with Ian on his back and Mickey fucking into him, kissing him, kissing his neck and his chest. Feeling fuckdrunk without actually being on anything is something only Mickey can make him feel. He forgets for those hours to be worried and annoyed and tense. There is plenty of time for that later. 

 

On Sunday, Fiona and Ian have their last hot yoga session. Fiona thanks him again, and tells him she’ll probably be back every now and then and that she’ll let him know, if he wants to join her. Ian says that he’d like that a lot. 

 

On Wednesday when Mickey picks Ian up from the hospital to take him to therapy, Ian tells him that he’s not doing that anymore. “I called on Monday and told them I’m not coming back.” 

“What?” Mickey asks. “Why? You didn’t tell me about this.” 

Ian had in fact specifically not told Mickey about this. “I don’t want to do it anymore,” Ian says simply.

“I thought you said you liked her.” 

“It’s not about her. It’s about me. I can’t do this right now. I’d rather focus on preparing for the interview and the test. I don’t want to talk about Frank for an hour and feel like shit for a whole night every week.” 

Mickey doesn’t say anything at first, just looks at him for a moment and then sighs. “You trying to get back at me?” 

“What?” 

“I broke my promise and now you break yours?” 

“No, I’m not breaking - this isn’t about you. I don’t want to go back there and you can’t fucking guilt me into it,” Ian says. “I tried. It’s not worth it. Not right now.” 

He doesn’t say that he feels like he is lying to his therapist every time he is in there. About how things happened, about circumstances, leaving things out that could incriminate his family in any way. Whether it’s an actual criminal act or just vaguely pointing the blame towards someone - Ian just can’t talk about them to this woman, no matter how open and smart and professional she is. 

Mickey doesn’t say anything, though Ian can see that he wants to, or at least that he feels some kind of way about it. He keeps his mouth shut. 

 

On Thursday evening, Lip shows up for their tutoring session. Or at least Ian thinks he does. 

The first thing he does when Mickey opens the door is shove at his chest, hard. “What the fuck?” Mickey growls, stumbling backwards but finding his footing quickly enough. Ian shoots up like a rocket, because Mickey has his fists balled. Ian stands between them, before either of them can make another move. 

“What the fuck is your problem?” Ian asks Lip. Lip slams the front door shut, eyes blazing. 

“Jimmysteve called Fiona this morning,” Lip seethes. “Asking her if she could check up on his fucking dad, because he hasn’t been able to get in contact with him since Friday morning.” 

It takes a moment for Ian to register that name. Jimmysteve. Fiona’s ex. Ned’s son. 

Ian looks at Mickey. Mickey darts his tongue out, wets his lips and calmly says: “I didn’t kill him.” 

“Of course you did,” Lip spits at him. “You better have covered your tracks, because if Ian goes down for any of this, you’re a fucking dead man.” 

“Mickey,” Ian says. 

Mickey shakes his head and takes a few steps back from the two of them. “I didn’t fucking kill him,” Mickey says, rougher this time. 

“Then tell me what happened,” Ian says forcefully. “All of it. Is he dead?” 

“You want me to cover my tracks? Telling two people who have nothing to do with it what happened is not covering my tracks. The less you know, the better. I didn’t fucking kill the guy. That’s all you need to know.” 

“But someone did,” Ian states. “And you know who.” 

“I called Iggy and Jamie that night. They were at the Alibi,” Lip says. “Why would anyone else kill him and have you involved in it?” 

“Not involved,” Mickey shrugs, dangerous glint in his eye. 

Ian looks between him and Lip, right as Lip seems to realise something. His face softens as he asks: “Was it Danny?” 

Mickey’s face doesn’t change, which is enough of an answer. 

“It was,” Lip says. “And he called you to clean up the mess.” 

“The sick fuck deserved it,” Mickey says. 

“Of course he deserved it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get life in prison as an accomplice,” Lip says. 

“Why?” Ian asks. “Why did he kill him?”

“He found out Danny and his mom don’t have any papers. Threatened to have them deported if the kid didn’t keep fucking him. Got shot by the mom for it,” Mickey says flatly.

Ian has to sit down. He steps away, sits down on the couch and buries his face in his hands. 

“Where are they now?” Lip asks. 

“I’m not telling you that. They’re safe. There is nothing left to connect them to Lishman or to me. Lishman knew  to stay off the radar when coming to the Southside, because he only went there to fuck a child. No one knows he was ever there and that worked out really great for us."

“What did Fiona say when Jimmysteve called?” Ian asks, finally looking up.

“That she hadn’t thought about his father in years and to call the cops of he was worried,” Lip says. “He’s been reported missing by the university already.” 

“This is the last time we talk about this,” Mickey says. “His name does not fucking come up again and if that fuckhead son of his comes digging around, you tell me.” 

“Is the kid okay?” Ian asks. 

It takes Mickey a moment to respond. “He’ll be okay.” 

“And his mother?” Lip asks. 

“She’s alright.” 

“She did what I should have done years ago,” Lip says. Ian looks up at that and finds Lip is looking right back at him. He turns back to look at Mickey. “You covered your tracks? And theirs?” 

Mickey nods. 

“I’ll deal with Jimmysteve and Fiona,” Lip says. “She said she didn’t want to be in contact with him, but you never know. Grab your textbooks. Hey, I’m talking to you.” 

Ian is startled by the shout in his direction and flips Lip off. Guess they’re just going to get on with their tutoring session just like that. 

Ian wonders what Dr. Jackson would say about all of this. 

 

Mickey doesn’t leave the apartment during their lesson. He goes into the bedroom and doesn’t come out for the rest of the night. Lip leaves without spilling another word about Ned. Ian makes two mugs of tea. He adds some honey to one and takes them into the bedroom with him. Mickey is sitting on the bed, notebook and iPad in front of him. He is reading something, twirling a pen between his fingers. He has a joint stuck behind his ear and Ian knows that if he hasn’t smoked it yet, he must have forgotten about it. 

He looks up when Ian comes in, face mostly neutral. He pulls his nose up when Ian hands him a mug. 

“I made it sweet for you. You’re going to like it,” Ian says. He walks around the bed, to his own side and puts his mug down on the nightstand before getting into bed, under the covers. Mickey stands up to give him room, and Ian reaches for him as soon as he’s settled in.

Mickey takes his hand and gets into bed again. 

“Tell me what happened,” Ian says. 

“I told you.” 

“Tell me everything.” 

“You wearing a wire?” Mickey snorts. 

“You want me to get naker so you can see?” Ian asks. 

“I want you to forget all about it,” Mickey says. 

“Why did you help them?” Ian asks. 

Mickey shakes his head. “I told the kid to call me if he showed up again. He’s a neighborhood kid. No one is going to give him or his mom the benefit of the doubt.” 

“Are they going to find his body?” Ian asks quietly.

“Nothing left.” 

“How do you feel?” 

Mickey shrugs. “Was more worried about the kid and the mom. She was young, too. Maybe your sister’s age. Freaking out. It’s not the first body I’ve seen, but I’m not a monster, you know. It’s not… it’s not easy.” 

“You’re not a monster,” Ian agrees. “But you take scary risks, Mickey. Whether you were helping someone or not, I don’t want to lose you like that.” 

“Can’t promise you I won’t ever get rid of a body again,” Mickey says. “You could fly off the handle at any moment, after all.” 

Ian appreciates that Mickey can find the humor in this mess. “But you’ll try,” Ian says. “Not to do that kind of stuff.” 

“I’ve been trying,” Mickey admits. “Sometimes this shit just pulls you back in. Living where we do, people know who I am, they know my name, they know my dad and what we've done."

And Ian knows that in this case, he is the one who pulled Mickey back in. He is the one who asked Mickey to talk to Ned. If Ian had kept his mouth shut, then Mickey wouldn’t have had to be put in that position. If Ian had killed Ned himself, then there wouldn’t be another kid out there with the same trauma. 

Mickey sips his tea and smiles. “That’s way better than that bitter bullshit you usually drink.” 

“You’re welcome,” Ian says. “And I’m still drinking it. I just made one extra special for you, because you’re a fucking toddler.” 

“Thanks,” Mickey says. 

Ian takes a moment and then says: “Do you feel that?”

“What?” 

“How much you love me right now.” 

Mickey lets out a surprised chuckle and leans in a little closer. “Remember that. When you go to med school or whatever and you find some hot doctor type who you think is better than me. Remember that with me, you could feel that shit in the air.” 

“If I leave you for some boring ass doctor, feel free to put me down like a sick dog,” Ian tells him. 

 

It’s a bit strange how easily Ian forgets about Ned’s death. He doesn’t care, really. He cares more about the kid that he has never met that now has to live with the aftermath of this shit. 

Ian’s interview is scheduled on the twenty fifth of february. The MCAT is on the third of March and Ian is trying to balance his studies with work and with a social life for the next two weeks. Lip is relentless and Mickey compares him to a Russian ballet teacher when he insists on Ian writing things down a certain way or going past their scheduled time. 

Mickey doesn’t leave all the time anymore. Ian thinks it might have something to do with the fact that he still hasn’t bought a coat or boots to replace the ones they’ve burned. Something about things getting ruined anyway, so what’s the point? Ian tries once to bring up the self care thing again and Mickey asks him if going to therapy four times and then giving up is in line with self care, so Ian shuts his mouth after that. 

Ian likes this, though. He likes sitting on the couch with his earbuds in, reading and feeling Mickey’s warm body next to his. Mickey watches tv and turns Ian’s head back to his book if he gets too distracted. Mickey reads things on his iPad too, and when Ian asks what he’s readingm he’s mysterious about it. But Ian sees it sometimes; articles about property tax for businesses, articles about commercial law, business licenses; things that Ian would never care about, but now make his heart skip a beat. He’s hesitant to say anything about it, doesn’t want Mickey to think he is pushing for something. 

They skip Valentine’s Day this year, though Ian plays with the idea of turning their kitchen into a candle lit restaurant; a sort of lame (but cuter?) version of their date at Fiona’s restaurant. When he comes home from work that night, tired and with a backache that’s been back since he stopped doing yoga, he has forgotten all about it. 

 

On the twenty fifth, Ian has three interviews. One with a member of staff in de medical department of the university, one with a board member and one with a fourth year medical student.

“For today, you have to be who they want you to be,” Lip tells him that morning, having made his way all the way into Ian’s bathroom. “You’re highly motivated, energetic, you have five years of experience in the medical field already. You’ve worked yourself up from nothing. You are involved in the LGBT community, unless you think they might hate gays, in which case you’re god-loving, straight and waiting until marriage.” 

“Hilarious,” Mickey’s voice travels in from the bedroom. 

“Don’t bring up your bipolar unless they bring it up. It isn't disclosed in your criminal record, so they shouldn’t know about it, but you never know. They do some intense background checks.” 

“Pretend to be sane, I got it,” Ian says, dragging his razor down his throat. “We’ve been over all of this already.” 

“You nervous?” Lip asks. 

“Not really,” Ian says.

“Sounds like you’re the one who’s nervous,” Mickey calls out. 

“He’s not wrong,” Ian says quietly. “You don’t have to worry about this. I know how to pretend not to be an asshole. You might struggle with that, but I used to be a gogo dancer, remember?” 

“You think people like you more than me?” 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” 

“No swearing,” Lip warns him with a grin. “You need me to pick out something for you to wear?”

“Sure and then you’re going to zip up my jacket, tie my shoelaces and hold my hand while we walk over to the big scary school?”  

“You want me to leave you alone?” 

“Can you?” 

Lip rolls his eyes and leaves the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Ian hears Mickey say: “You’re fucking embarrassing.” 

 

Ian isn’t nervous. He knows he’ll be fine whether he gets in or not. It’s not a lifelong dream. He has a job that he’s pretty content with at the moment and the money is okay. This is just a shot at something, a fucking long shot, but still. It’s for Lip and all the effort he put in to get him this far. And it’s for Mickey who thinks he deserves this, for some reason. And maybe it’s for Fiona a little bit, because it would be nice if she could be proud of him for something. 

But it’s also for himself. He looks around the entrance hall, sees the gaggle of nervous students wringing their hands, looking over notes and talking fervently on the phone. Some of them look on the edge of hyperventilating, even. 

Ian looks at them and he’s pretty sure that most of them have never treated a patient. Most of them haven’t dug bullet holes out of legs and chests, because all the on call surgeons were swamped with other victims of a drive by shooting. He’s pretty sure most of them haven’t seen half the shit that he has, so no, he’s not really nervous. 

He feels like an adult among them, which is sort of strange, because he’s only a couple of years older than a few and he’d guess about the same age as the rest. 

But these are college kids. Still absolute pussies, Lip had told him and if anyone had good authority on that it would be him. 

 

The week before the exam has Ian a bit more anxious. He has to admit that he’s always been way better in practice than with all the theory. Lip comes over every night, just to be there and probably to make sure Mickey doesn’t distract him too much. 

Mickey tries not to, he really does, but he can’t help it. He walks around in boxers all the time and he has a great ass and amazing legs and Ian would rather cut his own tongue out before asking him to put on pants. So Lip being there as sort of a buffer is fine, for now. 

The test is… well, a nightmare. It takes over six hours and by the time he finishes one part and starts on the next, he completely forgets what the fuck the last part was about. By the time he’s done and stumbling out of the hall, he has no clue how he did. He is just really glad he’s done now. He doesn’t have to think about any school shit for the next month. 

God, it feels good to not be scrutinized by Lip for a little while. It feels even better to grab a handful of Mickey’s ass as soon as he gets home. 

“Hey, you want to go out?” Ian asks him, pulling him in tightly, hands firmly on his boxer clad ass. Ian has discarded his jacket near the door, but his shoes are still on.

“Do you?” Mickey retorts, but Ian is already leaning in. He takes Mickey’s lower lip between his teeth gently, pulls on it a little bit, before diving in with his tongue. 

Mickey kisses him back, warm hands in Ian’s neck and running down his chest. “You got time?” Mickey breathes, licking at the corner of his mouth. 

Ian nods, and follows Mickey’s ass into the bedroom. He feels like burying his face in it, plans on doing just that for the remainder of the afternoon. 

 

Mickey is lying under him on his stomach, bare ass a perfect mound for Ian to rub his leaking cock on, just to feel the promise of soft flesh on him. He frames Mickey’s ass with his hands, pressing his thumbs into the creases and pulls his ass cheeks apart. 

The knock on the front door startles them both. “What the fuck,” Mickey curses. “I swear to god, if that’s your brother, I’m shooting him in the fucking face.” 

“Get in fucking line,” Ian bristles and jumps off the bed. He puts his underwear back on and puts on a t-shirt, because his cock is poking its way all the way through the fabric of the flimsy boxers.

There is another knock, right before Ian gets to the door. Ian yanks the door open, ready to tell Lip to fucking fuck off already. 

His brother is at the door. 

Except it’s not Lip. It’s Liam. 

 

“Liam? What are you doing here? Is everything okay?” Ian asks, grabbing at the ten year old’s coat and pulling him into the apartment, before closing the door. Ian looks him over, looking for scratches, cuts, any sign of distress. 

“I ran away,” Liam says after a moment. 

“Ran away from what?” Mickey asks, suddenly looming over them. “Who’s after you?” 

“No, not like that,” Liam says. “I ran away from home. I need a break. Carl’s girlfriend moved in and all they do is scream. I don’t want to spend my spring break like that.” 

Ian relaxes, unaware that his entire body had tensed up with worry at the sight of his little brother at their door. He rakes a hand through his hair and looks at Mickey right in time to see him roll his eyes. He’s managed to put on pants and a t-shirt. 

“Does Lip know you’re here?” Ian asks. 

“I ran away,” Liam says pointedly. “They won’t notice any time soon, anyway. He and Fiona are busy trying to find Frank a new girlfriend to get him out of the house, because he’s been driving everyone crazy.” 

“So what was your plan?” Ian asks. “You want to stay here until they come looking for you? Fiona is going to have a fucking aneurysm about this.” 

“Like I said, they won’t notice. And you won’t even notice I’m here. I just want some peace and quiet on my spring break. All my friend went on vacation with their families.”

“Alright, enough with the sob story,” Mickey says, no heat behind his words. “What makes you think you’re going to get peace and quiet here? You think you’re going to enjoy sleeping on this couch and hanging out with two old guys? And we are not quiet, not by a long shot. Ask the neighbours.” 

“We’re not old,” Ian objects. 

“You’ll be at work during the day anyway,” Liam shrugs. “I don’t mind being alone and your couch is more comfortable than my mattress at home.” 

“Alright, take your coat off, sit down,” Ian sighs. “We have to talk about this for as second.” He lets Liam get comfortable and pushes Mickey back into the bedroom. Ian starts getting dressed again as he asks in a hushed tone: “What do we do? We can’t let him stay here. Fiona and Lip will kill me.” 

“Why? It’s not like you kidnapped the kid again. Just tell them he’s here,” Mickey shrugs. 

“He doesn’t want us to tell them.”

“Because he thinks they’ll make him go back home.” 

“You don’t mind him staying here?” Ian then asks a not unimportant question. 

Mickey shrugs. “Do I want a ten year old kid hanging around the fuck shack, absolutely not. But if the kid needs a break then give him a break. You’re telling your brother and sister. No weird bullshit.” 

“And what if they say he can’t stay here?” 

“Why would they say that?” Mickey asks, confused. 

“Because I’m a nutcase and you’re a drug dealer who came home covered in a dead man's blood not too long ago?” 

“Yeah, well. At least there’s no Frank around here,” Mickey shrugs. And he’s got a point there. It’s just that he feels it in his gut, that they’re not going to get away with this with no weird bullshit. 

He is happy, ecstatic really, that Liam would come to them for a safe and quiet place away from home, but there is no way in hell that Lip or Fiona would consider Ian to be fit to take care of him. Ian knows he can and that if for any reason Ian had an episode, Mickey would never let Ian do anything to endanger any of them, but -

But why risk it? That’s what Fiona and Lip would think. Should think. 

Ian waits a couple of hours before he calls Fiona. Liam and Mickey are fully immersed in the videogame Liam brought with him and the lasagna in the oven is almost done.

“Hey kid, what’s up?” Fiona answers the phone cheerfully and then hisses: “No, Frank. Go die in a hole.” 

“Hey, Fi. I just wanted to let you know that, uh, Liam is here and he wants to spend the night. He says he wants to stay a couple of days, to get away from Frank and Carl’s girlfriend apparently.” 

“Oh,” Fiona then says, sounding not at all surprised. “Oh, well, if he’s giving you trouble I can come pick him up.” 

“He’s not giving me trouble, but-”

“Then what’s the problem? Mickey don’t want a kid walking around the fuck shack?” 

“No, we-"

“You know, he misses you a lot. Threatens to run away and ‘stay with Ian’ about once a week. Lip planted the idea to wait until spring break, but I’m sure Liam thinks it’s his own genius idea. But if you guys are too busy, I can come pick him up…”

Wait until spring break. Or until after the MCAT. “No, it’s fine,” Ian says quickly. “I miss the little guy, too. Just didn’t want you to worry.”

“Not worried. I know you guys are boring domestic dumbasses these days. Hey, try to have a some fun with him, if you have the time? He’s been slipping through the cracks a bit with Lip working so much and Frank being on my case and Carl’s annoying girlfriend - Debbie is trying to break them up - there's a lot going on right now.” 

“Sounds like a lot,” Ian smiles to himself as he hears Liam giggling on the couch at Mickey’s lighthearted curses. “Thanks.” 

“Thank you, kid. Frank says hi.” 

“No, he doesn’t, but you can say hi to him for me anyway,” Ian says. 

“Will do. Let me know if you need anything, alright? Good night.” 

“Night.” He looks over at Liam and Mickey again. Mickey had said ‘no weird bullshit’ and he’d been talking about Ian, he realises with a strange feeling in his gut. You’re insecure, Mickey had once said to him. Stop with the insecure bullshit. Ian thinks he’s figured it out with Mickey, with their relationship. He wonders if he’ll ever figure out how to do that with hsi family. Probably not anytime soon. Maybe if he ever goes back to therapy. 

 

The weather is getting better. No new snow has fallen in the last two weeks and Mickey stopped nearly dying of hypothermia everytime they go for a stroll down the pier without his winter coat. It is by no means time to put their coats away, but Mickey’s weird body seems to have adjusted pretty fucking well. 

They had stayed up late the night before, playing video games and watching movies until Liam fell asleep between them. Ian had tucked him in on the couch. 

This morning, Liam was first to get up, very quietly shuffling into their room and into the bathroom, before just as quietly shuffling out again and closing the bedroom door behind him. 

 “What exactly do ten year olds do on spring break?” Ian asks Liam over breakfast. 

“Most of my classmates go to the Caribbean or skiing or camping with their family,” Liam says in between scoops of Frootloops. 

“Camping?” Mickey says with intense disgust, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “That’s got to be the worst fucking thing I can think of. Skiing is a close fucking second by the way.” 

“So you’re taking us to the Caribbean then?” Ian grins at him. 

“After you take me to Hawaii,” Mickey smirks. 

“I really don’t mind staying home this week,” Liam says. “I just want to relax, you know. Catch up with my shows.” 

“Have yourself a spa day, huh?” Mickey hums, leaning against the counter. 

“Or,” Ian says, giving Mickey a pointed look, “we could go to the zoo.” 

“What the fuck,” Mickey grunts, but Liam looks up at Ian with tentative excitement. 

 

“So what are we doing tomorrow?” Mickey asks right when Liam dashes off in the direction the sign with the lion points to. “Going to fucking church? Having a picnic at the park?”

“Come on,” Ian says. “You have to admit the giraffes were pretty fucking cool. We haven’t seen any of this shit since elementary school.” Ian had strong armed Mickey into going with them, sure, but he had figured he’d appreciate it once they got there. Ian wouldn’t have minded going with Liam alone, but Liam had looked at Mickey expectantly and truth be told, Ian had missed going out with Mickey, too. It’s a date, secretly. The Lincoln Park Zoo is surprisingly packed with families and couples, despite the temperature barely passing forty degrees. But the sky is blue and the sun is out, it’s a nice day to be there. 

Mickey looks unimpressed. “I look at a fucking giraffe every time I look to my left,” he says and smudges his thumb over Ian’s cheekbone. “Complete with long legs and spots.” 

“Calling me a giraffe is not an insult. You saw how cute they were,” Ian says, smiling and feeling his face heat up at the unexpected touch. They’re outside in broad daylight in the middle of a crowd, after all. Mickey has a tendency to keep at least a foot of space between them when other people are around.

“Not everything I say is an insult,” Mickey shrugs, burying his hands into his jacket pockets. 

They follow Liam towards the lions. There’s a huge crowd around and Mickey helps Liam get onto Ian’s shoulders so he can catch a glimpse of them. 

 

They get ice cream, despite the weather, and Mickey takes Liam to sit at a table in the back of the café by the window that overlooks the flamingo’s while Ian pays for the cones. 

The woman working the till smiles at him brightly as she takes his twenty. “You’ve got a beautiful family,” she says, nodding towards the table where Mickey and Liam are snickering at something. 

Ian is dumbfounded for a second. He wants to correct her, but doesn’t know what for. “Oh, thanks,” Ian says, accepting the change. 

“Have a nice day,” she greets, 

“You too,” he mutters. They are his family, of course they are, but Ian doesn’t think this random lady of all people somehow sees the family resemblance between him and Liam. It’s the first time anyone has ever mistaken him for a dad, let alone him and Mickey for gay dads. 

He’s nowhere near old enough to be a gay dad, but the idea still gives him a fuzzy feeling, one that Mickey would probably think is even gayer than camping. 



On Sunday, the sky breaks open and it rains all day. They stay in, catch up on Liam’s shows - four episodes of two separate telenovelas that he apparently used to watch with Debbie - and then play some more video games. 

Liam hangs out for the rest of the week. Ian isn’t completely sure what he does during the day, but he knows that Mickey takes him out a couple of times ‘to run errands’. 

The only annoying thing of having Liam over is that Mickey is weird about having sex with him in the other room. Ian is pretty sure Liam has seen a lot worse, but he understands the sentiment. They only have sex twice that week, quietly, under the covers and in the dark. 

The next Friday night Mickey is out and Liam and Ian are left alone in the apartment. Liam is playing a game while Ian is fucking around on his phone when Liam suddenly asks: “What do you and Mickey talk about?” 

“Huh?” Ian blinks. 

“At night, before bed. I always hear you talking,” Liam says. 

“Oh, sorry. I know the walls are thin. We’ll try to keep it down,” Ian apologises. 

“It doesn’t bother me,” Liam shrugs. “I fall asleep before you guys stop talking. But what do you talk about every night?”

“I don’t really know,” Ian admits. What had they talked about the night before? It’s a habit they’ve fallen into a while ago; during the week they’d get into bed somewhere between ten and eleven, they’d talk for a while, make out, have sex, go to sleep. It’s Ian’s favorite part of the day. If he wants to discuss something painful or serious with Mickey, whether it’s something that happened at work that day or something that has stuck with him from ten years ago, he knows that he can talk to Mickey about it in that hour without feeling the pressure of having to talk about it. Mickey also seems to have a far higher tolerance for Ian’s complaining in that hour. Mickey tells him things in that hour that Ian is pretty sure he has never told anyone before, stories about his mother, about memories from before she left, about the nameless boy he slept with in his teens; and Ian keeps those stories close, doesn’t give them to anyone, not even Lip. 

“We talk about everything. We just talk before we fall asleep, you know?” Ian tries to explain. 

“Like at a sleepover?” Liam asks. 

“Yeah, I guess so,” Ian smiles at the idea. He can’t say he has ever been to a sleepover that hasn’t ended in him fucking someone, so that seems fitting.

“Is Mickey your best friend?” Liam then asks.

“He’s my boyfriend,” Ian says, simply.

“But not your best friend?”  

Ian has to let that sink in for a moment. “I guess he is, yeah.” It’s a strange idea, a strange thing to admit for some reason. Ian can’t really process the idea of Mickey ever just being his friend. He’s not sure of much, but he is pretty sure that if there are other universes out there, Ian and Mickey are banging in all of them. He is pretty sure that if Mickey’s parents had never left the Ukraine, Ian would have still found him and banged him somehow. He just would have. 

“What about Lip? Wasn’t he your best friend?” Liam asks. 

“When you get older, ranking your friends becomes less of a thing,” Ian chuckles. “So yeah, Lip is my best friend, too.” 

“I guess you don’t have to worry about who will be your best man,” Liam grins. Ian lets out a nervous laugh, something constricting in his chest.

 

On the Sunday before the end of Liam’s spring break, Ian and Liam go to watch Carl’s first baseball game of the season and go back to have dinner at the house. 

Fiona hears out Liam’s extensive review of his stay, and Ian only listens with half an ear, because at the other side of the table Carl’s girlfriend is trying to feed him scoops of rice and dropping half of every spoonful on the floor. 

“What the fuck is this?” Ian asks Lip who has been staring at them with just as much disgust as Ian feels. 

“What? Mickey doesn’t insist on spoon feeding you your whole meal every fucking night?” Lip says with an exasperated eye roll. 

“Why is he with her?” Ian mouths at him behind his hand, not subtle at all. 

Lip covers one side of his mouth too, very obviously, and mouths: “She lets him do anal.” 

Ian lets out a strangled noise before he and Lip have to leave the table in a fit of laughter and coughing as grains of rice shoot into Lip’s trachea. 

 

They smoke a cigarette on the front porch before Ian plans on heading back home for the first evening alone with his boyfriend in what feels like forever. 

“Liam had fun,” Lip says. “Who would have known Mickey Milkovich was such a good babysitter.” 

“I could have told you that,” Ian says. “He’s been babysitting my ass for over a year now.” 

“Yeah, but he has a pretty big soft spot for you. I’ve noticed that it usually doesn’t extend to anything or anyone else.” 

“You jealous he likes Liam better than you?” Ian teases. “If it makes you feel any better, he still only barely likes me.” 

“Things have been good, though, right?” Lip then asks, genuinely. 

“Yeah. I think he’s still annoyed I quit therapy, but he dropped it. Maybe he forgot, since we had Liam around.” 

“It was a dumb thing to do,” Lip says.

Ian shrugs. “Got to save my money for a vacation.” 

“You going on vacation?” 

“I promised I’d take him to Hawaii.”

“Jesus Christ,” Lip laughs. “You going to propose to him or something?” 

“Oh, fuck off. Why did the whole fucking world decide to get on my case about this all of a sudden?” Ian huffs. “You, Liam, some strange lady at the fucking zoo.” 

“Well, are you?” Lip asks, still snickering.

“Fuck no,” Ian says. 

“Alright.” 

“Don’t tell him I said that.”

“That you’re not going to marry him?” 

“Shut up.” 

“Why? Maybe he’ll be relieved to hear it. He might not want to marry you either.” 

“... Did he say that to you?” Ian asks, suddenly serious. “He said he doesn’t want to marry me?” 

Lip rolls his eyes at him quite aggressively. “He doesn’t really talk to me about you unless it’s about your health. Tries to keep things kind of professional, if you can fucking believe it.” 

“Can I believe that he doesn’t talk about me, his boyfriend of a year and a half? Yeah, that sounds exactly like him,” Ian says with no real heat behind it. “When did we get this fucking old, Lip?” 

Lip smiles at that, blows out a tuft of smoke and then shrugs. “You feel old now? Wait ‘till you hear the news I got for you.” 

“What’s that?” 

“Someone’s pregnant,” he says, pulling up an eyebrow. 

Ian’s mouth falls open. “Who?” he urges. “It’s not Carl’s fucking girlfriend, is it? Please tell me it’s not Debbie again.” 

Lip shakes his head. “Fiona told me a couple of days ago. She’s still deciding,” he says softly. “Not a word, you hear me?” 

Ian wants to smile, but his glee quickly turns into something far, far more sinister. He bites his lip and looks up at the sky. “Before I say anything else,” he breathes out, “did Mickey maybe kill Fiona’s baby’s grandfather?” 

“Good question. She says she hasn’t met up with Jimmysteve at all since he called. Maybe she’s lying, but I don’t know why she would.” 

“Because she knows how I feel about Ned,” Ian says. 

“She seemed honest. Seemed kind of excited, too,” Lip says with another exhale.

“She say anything about the dad?” 

“Said it’s someone she’s been banging every now and then since the gay guy.” 

“Is he married? Or sixty? Or some other bullshit?” 

“I don’t think she wants to get into it, until she’s made a decision. She hasn’t said anything about him,” Lip tells him. “Hence, not a fucking word out of you, alright?” 

“How far along is she?” 

“Eight weeks.” 

“Jesus. She’s been doing a lot of intense hot yoga. You want her to keep it?” 

“I want her to do what she wants, you know. Don’t want her to get rid of it, because of us or Frank or the kids,” he says with a small shrug. “I’ve talked to her, told her we’re in a pretty good place these days. Even if she’s doing this alone, she’s hardly doing it alone.” 

“Uncle Lip coming through for the embryo, huh,” Ian grins at him and puts an arm around his brother’s shoulder. 

 

Ian gets home later than he was planning. Lip had kept him there on the front steps for over an hour. When he gets home, it’s already close to ten and Mickey is dressed for bed, hair damp and the apartment smells slightly of weed. He had stayed off it for the whole time Liam had been there, so Ian isn’t surprised to find him lying back with his feet next to a bong on the table. 

“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Ian says, shrugging his coat off. “Did you have dinner?” 

Mickey pulls an amused eyebrow up at him. “You think I’d forget to eat ‘cause you’re not here?” 

“Only eating chocolate cake doesn’t count. We can’t keep eating like ten year olds. Spring break is over,” Ian says, already spotting the dirty plate on the kitchen counter. 

“Shut the fuck up, nerd,” Mickey says as Ian walks up behind the couch. Ian stops, takes a fistful of Mickey’s hair and yanks on it. 

“Ah, you bitch,” Mickey curses, but cranes his head back and lets Ian plant a kiss on his lips. 

“Hm. You smell good,” Ian says. “I’m going to take a shower and then I’ve got some gossip for you.” 

“Can’t wait,” Mickey mutters and pushes up for one more kiss. It really does feel like it has been forever, Ian thinks as he sighs into the kiss. With Liam around, they haven’t really been making out much just to make out. It’s stupid to say that he’s missed Mickey, because he has been right there, but he’s missed Mickey. As beautiful and heartwarming as it is to see Liam have a good time with them, Ian still craves Mickey’s undivided attention as much as possible. 

Ian makes his shower quick, just to get rid of the griminess of being outside for half a day. When he comes out, he doesn’t find Mickey in bed as he expected. Ian moves to get dressed, before retrieving Mickey from the living room, but changes his mind. 

Instead he sits down on the edge of the bed, spread his legs and wraps a hand around his flaccid cock, stroking himself slowly. He leans back with his other hand, rolls his head back and closes his eyes. He thinks about what he wants; about Mickey’s mouth on him, about wet pink lips stretched around his cock and hooded icy blue eyes looking up at him, he wants Mickey’s hands on his thighs, spreading his legs further apart, pushing him back to lie down, exposing his hole for Mickey’s tongue. 

He has to force himself to stop as soon as he is fully hard. He gets off the bed, arousal emboldening him. He walks into the living room, naked and throbbing; he wants Mickey’s undivided attention and he’s going to get it. 

Mickey doesn’t react to Ian’s footsteps, doesn’t move his gaze away from the episode of Love after Lockup at all. 

So Ian steps into his field of vision, in front of the couch about a foot away from Mickey’s face.

Mickey’s eyes zero in on Ian’s hard cock before anything else. His tongue darts out so quickly that Ian would have missed it if he had blinked. Mickey then drags his eyes up Ian’s body, before finally landing on his face. Ian pulls up an eyebrow, curls a hand around the base of cock and bites his lip. 

He reaches for Mickey with his other hand, puts a finger under his chin and goads him forward. Mickey’s eyes flutter back to Ian’s cock and the way his mouth falls open and his glistening tongue appears right before he wraps his lips around the head of Ian’s cock is one of the most beautiful things Ian has ever seen. 

He forces himself to look, despite the bright lights in the living room combined with the heavenly sensation making him dizzy. Mickey sucks on the head of his cock, cradles it with his tongue and brings his hand up to cup Ian’s balls. Mickey opens his mouth, takes Ian in deeper and deeper before coming up for air. 

“Can I fuck your mouth?” Ian asks, because it’s something they haven’t done in a while and they’re in the perfect position for it. Mickey licks his lips and gives Ian a curt nod before opening his mouth again, taking Ian in. Ian clutches one hand into Mickey's hair and puts his other hand on Mickey’s cheek before carefully thrusting into his mouth. Mickey puts his hands on Ian’s hips. 

“Look at me,” Ian pants and watches Mickey’s blue eyes shoot up at him. “Ah, fuck.” 

Mickey runs his hands up and down Ian’s thighs absently, eyes glazing over a bit as he tries to keep eye contact with him, and Ian keeps going, keep thrusting into the heat and wetness of Mickey’s mouth. Mickey gags once or twice when Ian thrusts too far in touches the back of Mickey’s throat, but clutches onto Ian’s legs, tells him to keep going.

It’s too hot. Not only the way it feels, but the way it looks and the fact that Mickey is allowing him to do this, to take what he wants. He feels his orgasm building, he feels it roll up on him and he knows how he wants this to end, knows that Mickey might hate him for it. 

Against all of his instincts, Ian pulls his cock out of Mickey’s mouth. He lets go of Mickey’s hair, but keeps his other hand on his cheek. 

He wraps his free hand around his spit slick cock and keeps his eyes on Mickey’s face. “Fuck,” he blurts. “Fuck, can I?” 

“Can you what?” Mickey asks, wiping the saliva off his lips and chin. His mouth has gone from pink to red and puffy. 

“On your face?” 

“On my - oh, yeah, okay,” Mickey says hoarsely, voice drenched in arousal. 

Ian busts on the ‘okay’, most of his load landing on the front of Mickey’s black sweatshirt, but there is a steady streak that lands right across Mickey's reddened lips. Ian runs his thumb over it as he lets the last of his cum drip on his thigh. He presses his thumb into Mickey’s mouth. Mickey bites at it, just a little bit and them pushes at Ian’s hips. 

“Lie down,” he orders. When Ian doesn’t move fast enough, Mickey stands up and shoves Ian down onto the couch, pushes at his chest until he is almost completely lying down, shoulders pressed into the armrest. Ian watches Mickey climb on top of him, straddle him right below Ian’s spent cock. Mickey takes his own throbbing cock out of his shorts, rakes his hands up and down Ian’s chest and stomach and he strokes himself. Ian let’s him do what he’s doing for a while, before his selfish side takes over again and he fists the front of Mickey’s sweatshirt and pulls him down for a kiss. Ian laps up the drop of cum on his chin, wraps one hand around Mickey’s cock and his other hand around Mickey’s throat. He smirks at the growl Mickey lets out at Ian’s tight grip on both. It doesn't take much longer; Mickey nuts onto Ian’s stomach, Ian feels it drip into his belly button right before Mickey presses their foreheads together, panting and shaking his head. Ian closes his eyes, kisses him again. 

“You nasty bastard,” Mickey finally accuses.

 Ian can’t see him, but he smirks. “Did you like the surprise?” 

“Yeah, I fucking liked the surprise,” Mickey grunts. He moves a little bit, mouths at Ian’s collarbone for a moment and then drags himself up and off the couch, with a hand wrapped around both of Ian’s wrists. He drags him up with him. Ian tries to fight it, but he’s too tired to do anything against Mickey’s bizarre strength. “You’re going to get cold,” Mickey says, so Ian wraps his arms around his boyfriend, who despite still being fully clothed has never seemed more sexy to Ian than in that moment.  

 

“Fiona’s pregnant,” Ian says when he has cleaned the cum out of his belly button, has put on some clothes and has Mickey lying on his arm. “Lip told me. She’s not telling anyone yet.” 

“Pregnant? Didn’t know she was seeing anyone.” 

“No one did. Lip says she might not keep it, you know.” 

“Don’t know if we need another Gallagher out there,” Mickey says. “Either way, she’ll be fine.” 

“I think it might be nice to have another Gallagher out there, as long as it’s not one of Frank’s or Monica’s,” Ian says. “I always thought Lip would have knocked someone up by now.” 

Mickey snorts at that. “She say anything about the dad?” 

“No, just that it’s definitely not Jimmysteve,” Ian says. 

“Well thank fuck for that.” 

There are questions on the tip of Ian’s tongue. Do you ever want to get married? Do you want kids? A house? A mortgage? Retirement? But it’s too soon, Ian knows it is. Mickey has yet to tell Ian that he loves him, and Ian has stopped saying it, because it’s starting to hurt more and more everytime Mickey does not say it back. 

He wants to pass that hurdle first, before he even considers anything else. 

“Did you go see your dad today?” Ian asks, because Mickey had been vague about why he couldn’t make it to Carl’s game. Mickey being vague on Sunday mornings has become a pattern that wasn’t all that hard to figure out. He doesn’t go every week, but he has been at least four times this year and Ian had told him he’d rather he not go. He doesn’t insist on going with him anymore, doesn’t think the emotional toll that takes on him is worth it at all. 

“Hm,” is all Mickey lets out. 

“You know when he’s getting out? 

“Probably not until August. Can’t imagine they’d grant him leniency for anything, but you never know with this bullshit system.” 

“You going to get him shanked?” Ian asks. It’s a joke, but also, Ian is kind of curious. 

“Thought you said you didn’t want me to do any crazy shit like that,” Mickey answers. 

“There are always exceptions to the rule. Like if your fuckhead dad threatens to kill you because you’re gay, again.” 

“If he tries something, I’m not hesitating,” Mickey then says seriously. “But he’s not just my dad, you know. He has five four and three of them vetoed murdering him.”

“You took a poll?” 

“Yeah. I thought at least Mandy would be all for it, but I guess premeditation scared her off. That’s capital punishment in other states, she said.” 

Ian has to laugh at the idea of Mickey visiting his siblings and asking them how they’d feel if he killed their father, and then respecting the democratic vote. Ian has only met Mickey’s brothers a few times and only for a couple of minutes at a time. Mickey had introduced him to them once, only by his name. There was no doubt that they knew exactly who Ian was, but they seemed completely uninterested in the man who their youngest brother was living with. Jamie had been the only one to comment; “So this is the reason we don’t get to call you past seven anymore? I thought Frank Gallagher’s kid would be a lot uglier than this. The red hair is a fucking bummer, though.” 

Ian had been surprised to find that both of them were older, and had about a foot on him. Ian knew that Mickey and Mandy had a different mother than Jamie and Iggy. but the twins didn’t look anything like the dirty blonde brothers who were more than happy to follow the lead of their youngest brother. 

Mickey built a life for them, gave them a job and a steady income in a field that they were comfortable with. Terry had been unpredictable, dealing in guns and hard drugs, robberies and retaliations, a different nightmare every week. 

No one wants to go back to that, and Ian knows that Mickey has worked incredibly hard to make sure Terry has no one when he comes out. 

Ian should be terrified, probably, but all he feels when he thinks of how far Mickey has come, how much he has done for his family while putting his own life on the line, is pride, so much pride that it makes him emotional. 

 

He hates rainy days at work. People have the stupidest car accidents and fill up the ER with their fucking back aches and wrist sprains. They loiter and harass the nurses, because people get really fucking weird when it’s busy at the ER. His day was so annoying that he doesn’t even have the energy left to be annoyed at how crowded it is on the subway. He does get really pissed when it starts pouring rain as soon as he steps out of it. His coat is waterproof, but by the time he gets home, his pants are sticking to his legs and his feet are sopping wet. 

To make things worse, Mickey isn’t home when Ian arrives, so there is no one he can complain to. So to compensate, he takes an extra long, extra hot shower and decides not to attempt to make dinner with the crumbs left in their fridge. They need to do groceries soon, but he doesn’t even want to think about any of that right now. 

He texts Mickey and asks him if he can bring home their favorite deepdish. Ian knows that it's far away and traffic is a nightmare, but Mickey responds five minutes later with a tongue emoji and an eggplant emoji followed by a question mark and Ian’s mood is instantly lifted.

Mickey comes home forty minutes later, looking very much exactly like Ian felt when he came home; like a wet fucking cat - except Mickey doesn’t have the protection of an eight hundred dollar coat anymore.

“Jesus, you’d think I swam from the parking lot all the way here,” Mickey grunts and dumps the wet plastic bag with the pizza box in Ian’s lap. 

“Go dry off, I’m starving,” Ian says. “And hurry the fuck up or this whole thing is going to be gone before you come back.” 

A couple of minutes of grunts and annoyed muttering later, Mickey comes back. He heads for the fridge first and to Ian’s surprise pulls out two beers. 

“Where did those come from?” Ian asks. 

“Target.”

“You went to Target today?”

“There was nothing left in the house,” Mickey shrugs. 

“How’d you know what to get, Mister What The Fuck Is Zucchini?” Ian teases as Mickey cracks a beer open and hands it to him. 

“You left the stupid list you made last week lying on the table and shut the fuck up about the stupid yellow zucchini. They’re not supposed to be fucking yellow and you’re not going to change my mind about it.” Mickey plops down on the couch next to him. “You had a bullshit day, I take it?” 

“Agh,” Ian says and takes a sip if his beer. “I’m glad I’m home. Don’t want to think about anything else.” 

“You could have called me to come pick you up from work,” Mickey says. 

“Why would you do that?” Ian asks, deciding to play dumb a little bit. 

“Why wouldn’t I?” Mickey asks, sounding confused. 

“Seems like a lot of effort. Driving all the way to the hospital in heavy rain and killer traffic, just to pick up some guy.” 

“Some guy?” Mickey asks, loudly. “What the fuck are you talking about?” 

“Sorry, just to pick up some guy you’re fucking,” Ian corrects flippantly. “Seems like a lot of effort.”

“What the fuck are you doing right now?” Mickey exclaims. 

“Unless you feel some type of way about me,” Ian continues. “If you had strong, deep rooted feelings for me, I might feel comfortable calling you for a ride home.” 

Mickey seems to catch on while Ian is rambling and rolls his eyes aggressively. “You really want to get into this shit again? You know how I feel about you.” 

“Maybe I don’t,” Ian lies. 

“Fuck you. How can you not know?”

“You’ve never told me,” Ian shrugs. 

“Of course I’ve told you. Maybe not in the exact fucking words you want. Besides, I shouldn’t need to tell you all the time.”

“You don’t like it when I tell you?” Ian asks. 

“I could take it or leave it, honestly,” Mickey says and okay, that one stings. Ian knows that this is his fault, he started this and he is adamant on not letting this spiral into an actual argument. 

“I’ll be sure to keep to myself from now on,” Ian says, sounding pretty much like a petulant child to his own ears. “You’ll never hear that I love you ever again.” 

“Alright,” Mickey says. “You going to move out, too? Need me to help you pack your shit, and bring it to the car?” 

“Fuck off,” Ian huffs. 

They manage to finish their dinner without actually getting into an argument, which Ian has to admit is very impressive on his part, because he has about a hundred things he wants to say. Mickey seems to notice, because after he’s washed the dishes and comes back to join Ian on the couch, he puts an arm around Ian’s neck and pulls him close. “Are you going to stop making that face? Or am I really going to have to whisper a bunch of bullshit in your ear first?” 

“If it’s bullshit, I don’t want to hear it,” Ian says, but leans into him anyway. Mickey buries a hand in Ian’s hair and starts raking his fingers over Ian’s scalp. “Stop, that’s not fair,” Ian complains. 

Mickey doesn’t stop, he keeps doing it until finally Ian gives in and puts his head in Mickey’s lap and closes his eyes. “Like a fucking orange cat,” Mickey hums. 

 

When Ian gets ready for work the next morning, it is still pouring rain. Mickey is still shuffling around the apartment in his underwear when Ian puts on his coat. Ian already has a hand on the door handle when Mickey says: “Hey.” 

Ian turns around and watches Mickey grab the car keys off the coffee table and toss them in his direction. Ian catches them with a smile and says: “Love you, too,” before leaving. 

 

When Ian comes home on Tuesday, there’s a citrusy smell in the air, the apartment is cold and windy and suspiciously clean. Mickey is hanging out of the kitchen window with a cigarette between his lips.

“You cleaned?” Ian asks and thinks he’s going insane. Mickey does dishes sometimes and he has yet to fucking touch the washing machine even once. It had been a while since Ian had the time and energy to give the place a once over and with Liam here he barely even thought about fucking vacuuming, let alone mopping the fucking floor.

“Paid Debbie to do it,” Mickey smirks at him. “Bathroom tiles are white again.”

“That poor fucking girl,” Ian laughs. 

“Not poor anymore,” Mickey shrugs. 

Ian slides up behind and presses a kiss onto the back of his neck. “Love you, too.” 

 

On Wednesday Mickey comes home late, a little past midnight, and says: “Sorry I’m late,” even though he had already texted Ian that afternoon that he wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner and then later that evening that he’d be even later than that.

“S’okay,” Ian says, dragging himself off the couch. He had almost fallen asleep. 

“Come on, Sleeping Beauty. It’s way past your bedtime,” Mickey says. He turns off the tv and grabs both Ian’s hands, leading him to the bedroom.

“Love you, too,” Ian says. 

Mickey rolls his eyes at him, slowly walking backwards and says: “That one doesn’t make sense.”

“‘Course it does. You’re going to tuck me in, aren’t you?” Ian kisses him, feels Mickey’s cold face against his warm one. 

“Yeah, I’ll tuck your seven foot ass in,” Mickey says. 

 

On Thursday during Ian’s lunchbreak Mickey texts Ian a video of Lip working on some wiring in the wall at the Alibi. “You’re going to die,” Mickey says off screen. 

“I know what I’m doing,” Lip says only to immediately get shocked. Mickey’s howling laughter in the background is what makes it and Ian gives him a love you too!! Just because. 

 

Dear Mr. Gallagher,

We have looked over your application with great interest. Because of its unusual nature and the circumstances of your previous education, we have decided that you have been accepted into the program for the upcoming school year with reservation that the results of the MCAT is above 520. We understand that this is an unusually high score. We require this to compensate for the lacking GPA due to your studies during your incarceration. Please respond to this email with your MCAT results in the attachment. 

 

“Five twenty?” Lip balks. “That’s the ninety ninth percentile.” 

“Yeah, I’m fucked,” Ian sighs, taking his phone back from his brother. To Ian’s surprise, Lip had come home with Mickey for dinner that Thursday night, one of his hand has a bandage on it. 

“We don’t know that,” Lip says. “You said you had a good feeling about it.” 

“Not that good of a feeling,” Ian retorts. “Lip, you knew it was a long shot.” 

“We still have another week for the MCAT results to come in. How about we don’t get depressed until we get that news, alright?” 

“I’m not depressed. It fucking sucks, but it’s not like I didn’t expect this shit,” Ian shrugs. 

“So we fake the results,” Mickey says. “How hard could that be?”

“It’s a felony whether it’s hard or not,” Ian says. “At least we know they liked me in the interviews, right?” 

“Let’s just wait for the results,” Lip says decidedly.

 

A week later, Ian looks over the results four times. He checks the name, checks the registration number, checks his fucking address to make sure he’s not hallucinating. 

Marcus is the only one out there with him, smoking in the shameful hospital employee smoking room. He barely looks up when Ian screeches a voice message into his phone and sends it to a group chat with Lip and Mickey. 

 

“There is still one thing,” Lip says, after congratulating him - and himself - quite excessively. Mickey dropped them off at the Alibi and promised to be back an hour later. “The money. Your need to talk to the hospital administration and ask them when they’ll grant it.” 

“Well, they might not grant it,” Ian says, coming down from his high a little. “So it still might all have been for nothing, but at least we know I’m not completely useless.” 

“What do you mean ‘all for nothing’?” Lip asks. “You’re doing it whether you get the grant or not. You said Mickey was going to pay for it.”

“No, I said Mickey offered. I’m not letting him pay over fifty grand a year so I can go get my ego stroked in med school. That’s insane.” 

“Ian, he has the money-”

“Which he worked for. It’s money he wants to invest in starting a real  business. You know that, Lip. I’m not taking that from him. Any of it.” 

“No one is going to give a convicted felon a loan, Ian. So what was your plan? That if the grant falls through, you’re just not going through with it? What kind of bullshit is that?” 

“Look, I know you put a lot of effort into this-”

“This isn’t about me,” Lip snaps at him, loudly. “For fucking once in your life can you go try and finish something? Be a fucking man and not give up halfway to the finish line? Not waste your fucking life-” 

“What the fuck-” 

“No, fuck you,” Lip says and slides out of the booth. And just like that, he leaves. 

 

As promised, Mickey shows up at the Alibi an hour later and Ian is still shell shocked. “What’s with you?” Mickey asks, sliding into the booth across from him. “Where’s your brother?” 

Ian shakes his head. “Can we go home? Please?” 

 

“But who the fuck does he think he is? Like he’s ever done anything worth a fucking damn. Why the fuck does he think he can talk to me like that? Like I’m some fucking child? Fuck him - No, he can go fuck himself, Mickey. He can shove med school and the grant money up his ass. I never asked for any of this. First he shoves it down my throat and now he’s pulling you into this, too? No, fuck him.” 

“Can you sit the fuck down? The neighbours can hear your sasquatch feet stomping around. Ian, you know I agree with you. You decide what you do, but the money is not going to be the problem, okay?” 

Ian can’t stop pacing in front of the couch. He is too angry. Too fired up. “It could be. It could be a huge problem and I’ve already decided that I’m not taking your money and I’ll be fucking damned if Lip gets a say in it.” 

“Fine, Lip doesn’t get a say-”

“He is telling me not to waste my life? That fucking asshole got the world handed to him and he chose to follow into Frank’s footsteps. But I’m the fuckup?” 

“Hey, stop talking,” Mickey says, shooting up off the couch. “You’re going to regret what you’re saying right now.” 

“He’s not here, Mickey, he can’t hear me,” Ian snaps. 

“But you can hear yourself. I don’t want you to wake up tomorrow with another break down about how you’re a piece of shit brother or whatever.”

“He’s the piece of shit!” 

“Alright,” Mickey says and grabs Ian by the waist. “Alright. You’re going to tire yourself out before we even get to celebrate that you’re practically a genius.” 

“I don’t feel like fucking right now, Mick,” Ian sighs. 

“Yeah, right now you don’t, but give it a minute or two. I know he can be a fucking asshole, shouldn’t have talked to you like that.” 

“What else?” Ian asks and curls his arms around Mickey’s shoulders. 

“He’s way uglier than you are,” Mickey continues. 

“And?” 

“And if you want to fight the guy, I’ll hold him down for you,” Mickey says, face softening. “Look, if you don’t want to go through with the whole thing, then don’t. It’s your life. You’re going to be stuck with this for the next four years. If you don’t want it, don’t do it.” 

“It’s not that I don’t want it. If the grant goes through, I’m doing it. Of course I am.” 

“And if it doesn’t, it’s covered too. I told you that.” 

“Don’t start with this, too. I know you mean well, but I don’t think you’ve thought about it. You’re not giving me two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That’s absolute insanity.” 

Mickey lets go of him and takes a step back. His face isn’t soft anymore. “I’m not giving it to you. It’s for school, not a fucking Lamborgini.” 

“Doesn’t matter what it’s for. I’m not taking that kind of money. I could never pay you back,” Ian says, his frustration rising again. 

“No one is asking you to pay it back, Ian. We’re not fucking friends or whatever, we’re together-”

“Yeah, for how fucking long are we going to be together?”

“What?” 

“We’ve only been together for a year and a half, Mickey. We don’t know how long this is going to last. How are you going to feel if we break up next year? Or the year after that?” Ian asks. “You’re not going to want the money back then?” 

“Why the fuck would we break up?” Mickey asks, razor sharp. “What the fuck is this shit?” 

“We don’t know what’s going to happen-” 

“What the fuck are you talking about? What makes you think this would end?” 

“Mickey, I love you and you know I do, but we don’t fucking know anything, do we? What makes you think investing that kind of money in me is smart?” 

“No, you’re right. I’m a fucking idiot for trying to help you while you’re already imaging a life without me in it.” 

“I’m not! That’s not what I mean. I’m bipolar, right? A lot can change in a year, let alone four fucking years. This last year was a mess already, but things can get a lot worse and you don’t know if you’re still going to want to be with me then.” 

“Don’t tell me what the fuck I know or don’t know. I know what the fuck I’m here for. You’re the wishy washy asshole. Take the money or don’t take the money, I don’t give a shit,” Mickey says, furious. Ian is stunned, completely fucking mortified, when Mickey leaves and slams the door behind him. 

Ian doesn’t remember the last time he felt his eyes stinging like this, but he wants to fucking throw up because of it. 

 

When Mickey returns, it’s late enough for Ian to start wondering if Mickey is coming back home at all. It’s two a.m and Ian tried to go to bed, only to get up and sit back on the couch again, only to return to their bedroom. He’s in bed with the lights out when he hears the front door creak open. It takes a while for Mickey to finally come into the bedroom, and Ian hates it. Hates that he probably considered sleeping on the couch. 

Mickey steps into the bathroom first, before Ian feels the bed dip and the covers shift around him. He waits for Mickey to be settled in completely, before turning around and latching onto him with his entire body. Mickey freezes for a second, but Ian doesn’t back off. “I love you,” Ian tells him as forcefully as he can. “More than anything. I don’t want this to end. Not now, not ever. Sometimes, I get scared, okay? Because of me and how I am.” 

Mickey finally turns around in his arms, Ian feels his hand land on Ian’s hip. Mickey kisses him, long and hard. “If you’re not actually breaking up with me, don’t ever bring it up again,” Mickey tells him seriously. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to think about it.” 

“I’m sorry,” Ian whispers, heavy weight on his chest lifting a little bit. “I won’t say anything like that again.” 

 

Ian feels a lot better after they have sex the next morning. Mickey is pliable under his hands, spreads his legs easily when Ian nudges him onto his back and slides down his body to take Mickey’s cock into his mouth. Ian sucks him off and fucks him with his fingers slowly, makes sure that the muscles in Mickey’s thighs are trembling, that the hand in Ian’s hair feels desperate, that Mickey comes as hard as Ian can make him come. 

Mickey returns the favor with just as much vigor, so Ian feels better. He feels good, even. 

Later that morning over breakfast, Ian asks Mickey if he wants to go to the mall to get a couple of new shirts now that it’s getting a bit warmer. 

“I fucking hate the mall,” Mickey says. 

“Didn’t ask about your feelings about the mall," Ian says. "Are you coming or not?” 

“Yeah, whatever,” Mickey grunts. “Hey, maybe your next boyfriend will like the mall.” 

Ian stops with his spoon full of cereal halfway through his mouth. “I thought we weren’t allowed to talk about that anymore.” 

“You’re not,” Mickey says. 

“Are you still mad at me?” Ian asks. 

Mickey doesn’t answer that question, but the annoyed look on his face says a lot. 

 

With Lip and Mickey being pissed at him at the same time, Ian pretty much has no friends left in the world to complain to. The only person left is Fiona, and she has yet to utter a word about her pregnancy to anyone but Lip, so Ian isn’t sure if shoving his problems onto her plate is the right thing to do. 

He does it anyway, of course, because he has no choice. If there is anything he learned from his four sessions of therapy, it’s that if you let things live in your head they become something that’s not based in reality anymore. He figures Mickey will get over it sooner or later, but he doesn’t want things with Lip to escalate. 

“Hey, kid,” Fiona greets him with a surprised look on her face when he arrives at the house that Saturday evening. “Lip’s working tonight.” 

“Yeah, I know,” Ian says, shoving his hands into his pockets as deeply as he can. “I came to see how you’re doing, actually.” 

“Is everything okay?” Fiona asks, getting up from the couch to meet him in the doorway. 

“Yeah, no, everything’s fine. How are you doing?” 

“Great. Just tell me what happened already,” she says, pushing him towards the kitchen. 

Ian sighs, hears Mickey’s voice in his head telling him; Not everything is about you. “Had a fight with Mick,” he admits, sitting down at the kitchen table. He takes his coat off and watches Fiona grab a bucket of ice cream out of the freezer. 

“Ah,” she says, walking around the table to rummaging through a drawer for two spoons. 

“And with Lip,” Ian adds. 

“How’d you manage that?” She snorts before finally sitting down and popping the top off the ice cream container. Cookies and cream. 

“Did Lip tell you… what we’ve been doing the last couple of months?” Ian asks carefully. He can’t imagine that he hasn’t. Sure, he promised, but he’s never been able to keep his mouth shut around Fiona to save his life. 

Fiona looks at him, and shrugs. “He told me you were going to try to take the MCAT and that I’m not supposed to know about it.” 

“Nothing else?” 

“Something about a University of Chicago scam,” she adds. 

“Did he tell you I got in?” 

“Got in where?” 

“Into med school?” Ian says and immediately feels like his head is going to explode with heat when her eyes widen and her mouth falls open. 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” 

“I only found out yesterday,” Ian says. “Guess the scam worked.” 

“Ian, what the fuck?” She exclaims. “Are you starting next school year?” 

“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing,” he sighs. “The hospital I work at said they might pay for it, but chances that there’s no money for it in the budget are huge.” 

“Oh,” Fiona says, smile faltering a little bit. “But you’re not sure. We can figure out something with loans, Ian. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

“Mickey says he’ll pay for it,” Ian says and rakes both his hands through his hair. “I told him I’m not taking the money and now he thinks it’s because I don’t think we’re going to last or some bullshit and Lip thinks I’m a failure for giving up if I don’t take the money.” 

“Wait, wait. We don’t even know if you’re getting the grant or not. You might still be getting it.” 

“Yeah, I guess we figured we’d get these fights out of the way early,” Ian smiles wryly. “I’m an overachiever in that way, at least.” 

“All three of you are pretty hotheaded,” she smiles back at him. “Does Mickey really have that kind of money?” 

“I don’t know exactly how much he has, but I don’t think there would be much left if he paid for four years of medical school. He needs that money if he’s ever going to try to start a legit business, you know. He’s got all these plans that he doesn’t want to talk about, but I know it’s something he wants to do. And there is nothing in this world that I want more than to stop worrying about whether or not he’s going to come home on any given night. I don’t want there to always be the chance of him going to jail or getting fucking shot in the street.”

“Did you talk to him about that?” 

“I tried to. It… we didn’t get that far. Things escalate so fast when he’s mad.” 

“And when you’re mad,” Fiona adds. 

“We made up, sort of. But I said stuff last night that I know I shouldn’t have said and he’s still mad about it. I know he’ll be fine, eventually, but I’m scared he’s going to be worried that I really meant that stuff.” 

“Like what?” 

“That we might not last,” Ian says and hates the words. “That I don’t want to owe him anything if we ever break up. I know it hurt him a lot when I said that. I’m more worried about that than anything else, if I’m honest.” 

“Are you thinking of breaking up with him?” Fiona asks. 

“Of course not,” Ian snaps, annoyed that it’s even a fucking questions. It’s his fault, but still. “And I don’t want him to start doubting that I love him.”

“Ian, I don’t think anyone could deny how much you love him. You said something stupid, but who doesn’t say some dumb shit sometimes? Give him a couple of days and he’ll forget all about it. You need to start thinking about what you’re going to do about the money. You need to have that conversation with him again sooner or later.” 

“But it’s insane, isn’t it? If I don’t take it, he thinks I’m planning on breaking up with him. If I do take it, I’m ruining his future.” 

“It’s more nuanced than that and you need to have the conversation again when you’re both a little calmer. He loves you too, you know. He doesn’t want you to feel like shit.”

“Then why does he keep talking about what kind of person my ‘next boyfriend’ is going to be?” Ian asks, putting ‘next boyfriend’ in air quotes. 

“He’s riling you up,” Fiona laughs. 

“He says it’s probably going to be someone who likes going to the mall, someone who doesn’t have road rage, someone who knows that yellow zucchini’s exist.” 

“That’s not so bad.” 

“He also started talking about what his new boyfriend is going to be like,” Ian says. 

“What, he thinks he can get someone better than you?” Fiona smirks. “What on earth could Mickey Milkovich want in a boyfriend that you don’t have?” 

“Maybe someone without fucking mood swings. I think he’d like that,” Ian sighs. 

“Did he say that?” 

“No, he would never say that. His only complaints are about how I can’t make him cum when he’s lying on his back-”

“Alright, okay,” Fiona cuts him off. “Just eat some goddamn ice cream before you start going there. You know you’re going to be fine, right? Whatever happens, Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich isn’t something that’s going to be ruined by the first adult decision they have to make. Prioritizing and thinking about the future can be a scary thing, but you’re a smart kid. You’ve been doing really great, Ian.”

“Lip doesn’t think so.” 

“Lip can be a dick,” Fiona rolls her eyes. “He could not be more proud of you.” 

“Seemed pretty disappointed, actually,” Ian says. “Do you think I should take the money? If the grant falls through and Mickey still wants to give it to me?” 

“It’s a tough one,” Fiona says. “I understand that you don’t want to be indebted to him. He paid for you to finish nursing school, too. How has that been?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Does he ever say anything about it?” 

“Not really. He never brings it up. I have, but he never really wants to talk about it,” Ian says. “I tell him I want to help with bills, he ignores me. He calls me a broke bitch a lot. Says I should save my money for vacations and therapy.” 

“I thought you quit therapy,” Fiona says. 

“Has Lip ever kept a fucking secret?” Ian huffs. 

“You tell me.” 

It takes a moment for Ian to understand. Fiona pulls an eyebrow up at him and Ian smiles at her faintly. “Don’t think so.”

“‘Course not. You’re in a tough spot, Ian. I really hope you don’t need to make this decision, but you might have to. I suggest you and Mickey try doing it together.”

“I really hope we don’t have to,” Ian sighs. “I hear you’ve got a pretty big decision to make, too,” he then adds softly. 

“I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up,” Fiona says, eyes intent on the ice cream. “The father isn’t exactly someone I’d want to have a life with.” 

“Then don’t. You don’t have to marry the guy,” Ian says. 

“You don’t think it’s unfair? To bring a kid into this world knowing that their dad is a piece of shit who doesn’t want anything to do with them? I always told myself that if I ever had children of my own, it would be completely different than how we grew up. They’d have two parents. They’d have a room of their own. An allowance. No job until they turn sixteen. But the most important part was that I want them to have two parents. I know there are a lot of single mothers out there who do amazing jobs raising amazing children… I just don’t see myself being one of them.”

“I don’t know about amazing, but you’ve got five kids right now who are doing alright most of the time. One of them might or might not be a doctor one day,” Ian jokes. “Considering you had five kids by the time you were eighteen, I think it’s pretty fucking impressive.”

“It’s sweet of you to say that, but you were there, Ian. Most of our lives we were just barely surviving and always suffering. We might not need to be worried about money as much these days, but we’re all still…” 

“Suffering?” Ian fills in. 

“I don’t want to be that dramatic, but it’s hard to move on. Maybe we never will. Does a kid deserve a mother with all that shit going on?” 

“I don’t know,” Ian admits. “I just know you’d love that kid with all your heart.”

“It’d be selfish,” she sighs. 

“So what?” Ian asks. 

Fiona looks at him, faint smile playing on her lips. “So I still have a lot to think about.” 

“Okay. You know whatever you do-”

“I know,” Fiona says and then looks at Ian intently. “What’s it like to be in love like that?” she asks. “To know that it’s real?”

Ian is caught off guard by the question, but realizes he’s got an answer ready. “It makes all the bullshit we went through worth it,” he says. “Frank, Monica, prison. All of it was worth it, to end up with Mickey. I wouldn’t give him up for anything. Not for perfect parents. Not even for a normal brain.” 

She smiles at him, a soft genuine smile and ruffles his hair. “You’re such a fucking sap.”

 

When Ian comes home that night, a little after eleven, Mickey is lying on the couch. He barely looks up when Ian enters. “Did you find him yet?” Mickey asks. 

“Who?” 

“Your next boyfriend,” Mickey says. 

“Oh shut up,” Ian sighs and takes his shoes and coat off. “I told you I went to see Fiona.” 

“Maybe she can set you up with one of the faggots she’s dated,” Mickey suggests, eyes on the tv screen. 

Ian makes a move towards the couch. Before Mickey can get up, Ian lies flat on top of him, noses touching. “Be nicer to me,” Ian says.

“You be nicer to me,” Mickey retorts. 

“I said a million nice things about you to Fiona today. I apologized to you a hundred times. I don’t know what else to do,” Ian says. “Tell me and I’ll do it.” 

Mickey’s face softens for a moment. “You don’t have to do anything. I just… can’t stop thinking about it.”

“About what I said?” Ian asks softly and Mickey nods. Ian puts his head down on Mickey’s shoulder. “Do you remember when we first started seeing each other? You didn’t want to kiss me. You said you never wanted a boyfriend. It hurt a lot. It crushed me, really. But I knew you had feelings for me. I knew maybe you were scared to get hurt, too. So I pushed and pushed until you let me love you.” 

“You moved in after like two months. Didn’t really have a choice.”

“Mickey, I fell so hard for you. If you love me half as much as I love you-”

“Okay, enough, you pussy.” 

“Then what am I supposed to do? You’re upset, I can tell.”

“I’ll get over it, alright? But don’t ask me to be fucking nice.” 

“No, I want to know what it’s going to take to for you to understand that I’m committed. You want me to tattoo your name on my chest? I will.” 

“Only if you do it in the ugliest way possible,” Mickey laughs at that. “Needs to match the rest of the ugly shit.” 

“A little Mickey Mouse with a heart around it?” Ian chuckles. 

“That’s too cute. Maybe Mickey Mouse with a gaping asshole. Right next to your mom’s tits.” 

“You’re making sure no one else will ever want me, huh?”

“No one else fucking needs to,” Mickey huffs. 

“Still gotta be sexy for you, though.”

“Dick gets hard every time you walk into the room. Even with the lights off.”

“You fucking liar,” Ian says, cupping Mickey’s flaccid cock through his sweats. “You’re not even kind of hard.”

“Was hard before you started whining about how I’m not nice to you,” Mickey laughs, swatting Ian’s hand away. Ian keeps it there and moves his palm over Mickey’s crotch. 

“You want to try and stay mad?” Ian asks.

“I’m not trying. You’re very annoying,” Mickey says, but spreads his legs a little bit anyway. 

“If you want my cock up your ass, it’s worth trying to be nice to me,” Ian grunts.

“Fuck off, you think you can keep your cock out of my ass?” Mickey snorts.

“No,” Ian admits, mouthing at Mickey’s jaw. “If it was up to me, I’d be inside of you all fucking day.” 

There’s not a lot of talking after that, and Ian is vaguely aware that they haven’t really discussed anything or moved forward in any way, but he fucks Mickey into the couch twice before they finally go to bed. They sleep well. 

 

Mickey is less grumpy the next morning, but he turns down the invitation to Carl’s baseball game. 

“You going to see your dad?” Ian asks, sipping his coffee, leaning back against the wall behind their bed. 

“Nah, I just don’t want to be there when you and your brother get into it again,” Mickey says.

“Oh shit, I forgot he’s going to be there. Maybe we should skip today altogether,” Ian sighs and then reaches over to curl his arm around Mickey’s neck, pulling him into his chest. “Want to stay in bed, fool around and tell each other secrets all day? It’s supposed to rain anyway .”

A smile blooms on Mickey’s face. “How do you still have secrets? All you do is tell me your fucking secrets.” He climbs into Ian’s lap and sits between his spread legs, leaning fully back against him. 

“I save a couple for when I want you to tell me some of yours,” Ian shrugs. He puts his coffee down on his nightstand before he curls his arms around Mickey’s chest.

Mickey waits a beat and then asks: “How long are you going to avoid him?”

Ian tenses at that and huffs in annoyance. “If he wants to talk to me, he can come find me. He was the one being a dick. Can we at least agree on that?”

“He’s a dick,” Mickey agrees.

“Did he…” Ian doesn’t want to talk about it now. He was looking forward to just hanging out, looking forward to reminding Mickey just how much he loves him. “Did he talk to you about the money?”

“I told him I’d pay for it months ago. Before the grant was even a thing,” Mickey says. 

“Was it your idea or his?” Ian asks. 

“Don’t remember and it doesn’t matter. You’re looking for reasons to stay mad.” 

“Are you going to be angry if the grant falls through and I don’t take the money?” Ian asks, tightening his grip around Mickey’s body. 

“I don’t know,” Mickey sighs. “Maybe. I want you to do what you want to do. But I want you to trust me, too.” 

“I do trust you, but what I want is for you to be safe and turn the business into something that can’t land you in prison on any given day.”

“We can do both,” Mickey says after a pause. “Money is going to be really tight for a while, you might have to keep working at the hospital and actually start paying rent around here.” 

“I was already planning on staying at the hospital.” 

“I don’t want us to go back to being broke bitches. Both of us.” 

“How much money do you have, Mickey?” 

“Right now in cash? Two hundred grand.”

It takes a moment for Ian to process that number. A long moment. “Then why the fuck do you still buy boxers in packs of ten  that fall apart as soon as you touch them?”

“As soon as you touch them, you mean. They went a long way before your heavy handed ass came along. But if you really want to know, I can make a year’s tuition back in about three months.”

“Then why the fuck didn’t you buy a new coat after you ruined the last one?” 

“Because it’s just going to get ruined again. Things like that don’t last with me,” Mickey says, annoyed. “And cops around here know who I am. The second a Milkovich gets fancy, alarm bells start ringing. Why do you think we still share that piece of shit Jeep?” 

“I don’t think cops are going to give a shit if you get a nice jacket, Mickey. It’s not like you’re going to buy a Rolex or drive a fucking Audi. I don’t know how often I have to say this, but you don’t have to feel guilty about buying something nice for yourself,” Ian says. “Just for you.” 

“I don’t really want any of that,” Mickey shrugs. “I want you to have everything you want. Mandy and Sandy, too. That’s it.” 

“I have everything I want,” Ian says and presses his lips to Mickey’s cheek. “Everything else is extra. There’s nothing wrong with having a little extra, though. You liked the coat. You had a good time at Fiona’s restaurant. Doesn’t mean all your clothes need to be Gucci or that we’re going to a five star restaurant every week, but you should get to enjoy your money a little bit.” 

“We’ll wait until you hear more about the grant, alright? There’s no point in getting pissed again before we even know anything,” Mickey sighs. “So, what’s your secret?” 

“Oh, uh, I think Fiona is going to keep the baby and raise it by herself. She doesn’t think the dad is interested,” Ian says. 

“That’s a weak secret,” Mickey says. 

“Okay, I have one more,” Ian says. “But it’s a pretty big one and I’m going to want a big one in return.” 

“I’ll decide if it’s a big one,” Mickey snorts. 

“It’s about Mandy,” Ian says. 

Mickey pushes out of his arms and turns around to look at him. “What about Mandy?” 

“It’s nothing bad,” Ian prefaces quickly. “Relax. It’s actually really cute, but she made me swear never to tell you.” 

“But you’re going to.” 

“Yeah, but you have to promise never to tell her I told you,” Ian says. 

“Cross my fucking heart. What is it?” Mickey demands. 

“Mandy got a tattoo in your honor when you went to prison,” Ian tells him. “It’s a little gemini sign under her arm. I wasn’t supposed to see it and she was so embarrassed. But it was sweet. Our conversation last night reminded me of it.”

“She has a million tattoos. How do you know it’s ‘in my honor’?” Mickey asks, skeptically.

“She told me. She didn’t want to admit it at first, but she obviously loves you a lot. She said she wanted to feel like part of you was still with her when you went to prison and she moved to New York.” 

“Jesus.” 

“She told me not to tell you,” Ian repeats. “So you don’t know any of this. But… if you were thinking of getting a matching one for her, that would be pretty cute.” 

Mickey rolls his eyes at the suggestion and then sighs loudly. “Fine. That’s a good secret.” He leans back into Ian’s warmth. 

“You still owe me one,” Ian says. “Make it a good one, too.” 

“Hm. I have one,” Mickey says, grabbing both of Ian’s hands and threading their fingers together. “I lied to you.”

“Uh, when?” Ian asks, trying to keep the nerves out of his voice. 

“When I said that I don’t care whether you say that you love me or not,” Mickey says. “I do like it.” 

“Oh, well, I like saying it.”

“But when you started talking about how we might break up, for a moment I thought you’d been lying to me every time you said it.” 

“Jesus, Mick, of course I wasn’t lying-”

“I know that, but it crossed my mind. It wasn’t fun.”

Ian presses his lips to the side of Mickey’s face hard. “I love you more than anything.” 

“Yeah,” Mickey says softly. “I love you, too.” 

Ian’s ears are ringing. It could be a delusion. He has heard Mickey say it in his dreams, in his daydreams. “Really?” Ian asks. 

“Yeah, fucking really,” Mickey says. “More than anything.” 

Ian takes a breath and buries his face in the crook of Mickey’s neck. He stays like that for minutes, could stay like that for the rest of the day. 

“You got one more?” Mickey finally asks. 

“Yeah,” Ian mumbled against Mickey’s skin. “But it’s a scary one.” 

“What it is?” Mickey asks, squeezing both his hands.

Ian stays silent for a moment, inhales more of Mickey’s scent and presses a couple of more kisses to his neck, jaw and ear. “I can see us starting a family some day,” Ian admits and it comes out in a whisper. 

Mickey lets go of his left hand and reaches back to touch Ian’s face. “What, like with a little dog wearing a little sweater or something? That is fucking scary.” 

“Asshole,” Ian mutters. “I wouldn’t mind a dog, though.” 

“When we get a house,” Mickey says. “Big house, big dog.” 

“What about a kid to play with the dog?” Ian asks. When we get a house. 

“Sounds like a lot of work,” Mickey says. 

“I’ll do most of it,” Ian says. He unthreads their fingers and slides his hands down Mickey’s chest and stomach, before grabbing the hem of his shirt and pulling it up. Mickey lifts his arms without hesitation and lets Ian remove the shirt. Ian presses his lips to the soft skin on Mickey’s shoulder and lets his hands roam over his bare chest. Mickey leans his head back a little, letting Ian nip at his throat and jaw a little bit. 

“Are you ready for another secret?” Mickey mutters

“Hm?” 

Mickey unlatches himself out of Ian’s grasp and gets off the bed. “Get naked,” Mickey commands and Ian doesn’t need to be told twice. He strips and watches Mickey bend down and open the little cabinet in his nightstand. Ian is immediately intrigued. He had no idea that Mickey used that space. The one on Ian’s side is completely empty. He only ever uses the surface space. 

When Mickey stands up again, he’s holding a long black string with four big, round beads attached to it. Ian stares at it, and snatches it out of Mickey’s hands. “What is this?” he asks.

“I think you know what it is,” Mickey says casually. 

“Yeah, but why haven’t I seen these before?” Ian asks. “How long have you had these?” 

“Since before we met,” Mickey shrugs. “They were hanging in the shower forever. I moved them when Liam stayed over. Somehow you never noticed them.” 

“No way,” Ian says. “How could I not have noticed these?” 

“That’s what I’ve been wondering,” Mickey snickers. 

Ian rolls one of the balls between his fingers. The silicon is soft and pliable. “You didn’t tell me because of my weird sex issues, huh?” he asks, and takes a moment before looking Mickey in the eyes. 

Mickey shrugs. 

“Did you use them when I was depressed?” Ian has to ask. 

“I use it them sometimes when I jack off and you’re at work,” Mickey says and doesn’t elaborate. “So? You want to shove them up my ass and pull them out real slow?” 

“How is that fun for me?” Ian smirks. 

“You get to play with my asshole, what’s more fun than that?”’Mickey makes a great fucking point. 

“Honestly, I’d have been less surprised if you had shown me a massive dildo,” Ian says around a laugh. “You like it rougher most of the time.”

“Most of the time,” Mickey says, pulling a shoulder up. “Look, if you don’t want to use them, it’s fine-”

“No,” Ian says, pulling the beads away when Mickey reaches for them. “I’m just… still wondering why you didn’t tell me about them sooner.” 

“It’s private, I guess,” Mickey says and Ian rolls his eyes at that. If anything had never been taboo between them, it’s their sex life. Mickey has always been vocal about what he does or doesn’t like and his openness about it always gives Ian the courage to do the same. Mickey is surprisingly easy to talk to about these things, because he manages to see the humor in everything. 

But apparently they hadn’t talked about everything. They don’t really talk about the time Ian was depressed and he didn’t want to have sex for almost two months. They haven’t really revisited Ian’s weird sexual behavior when he was hypomanic. They’re sore points for Ian, bordering on humiliating. But Mickey was there for all of it. He knows all of it, whether they talk about it or not.

Ian drops the beads onto the bed and puts his hands on Mickey’s boxer clad hips. He pulls him in closer. “I want to know about everything you like,” he says. “Whether it’s anal beads or a fantasy of getting gangbanged by a whole football team.”

Mickey looks surprised. “How the fuck do you know about that?”

“‘Cause you’re supposed to use incognito, if you don’t want me to know.” 

“I don’t care if you know,” Mickey smirks. “It’s less embarrassing than your DILF porn.”

 

Ian watches the beads slip into Mickey’s hole one by one, wet with lube, right under Mickey's throbbing cock which Ian takes into his mouth every now and then, to taste the drops of precum leaking out. 

When Ian pulls them out slowly, it’s absolutely mesmerizing how Mickey’s hole stretches over the balls and closes again around the string. 

Mickey is biting his lip, looking at Ian with hooded blue eyes and an easy, pleasure filled smile. There is no way, Ian thinks. There is no way that anyone has ever loved someone as much as Ian Gallagher loves Mickey Milkovich. 

 

On Monday evening, right before Ian’s shift ends at six, he is called into the hospital administrators office and he is congratulated. “We’ve looked at all the possibilities and we can grant you one year up front. You will have to reapply for the grant every year,” she tells Ian and hands him a stack of paperwork, as she shrugs on her coat, ready to leave for the day. “I’m glad we could help you, Ian. Marcus thinks you’re very talented.” 

“Is this - wait, is this definite? It’s done? For a year?” Ian asks. 

“For a year,” she nods. 

Ian screeches a voice message at Mickey as he walks through the hospital hallway. 

 

He gets to be happy and celebrate for about two weeks or so. The fight with Lip is long forgotten. Debbie, Liam and Carl are filled in on two pieces of important news; Fiona’s pregnancy and Ian’s acceptance. 

And two weeks later, on a Saturday morning, Ian feels heavy and more tired than when he fell asleep. He checks the time; seven a.m., and closes his eyes. He wakes up again when his alarm goes off to remind him of his meds; it’s ten o’clock. He snoozes it and pulls the covers over his head. Mickey gives him fifteen minutes and then Ian feels a hand on his shoulder. 

“Get up and take your meds,” Mickey says. “Coffee’s waiting.” 

Ian doesn’t respond. Buries his face deeper into his pillow and hopes he’ll wake up one more time, feeling normal. 

“Hey,” Mickey says a couple of minutes later and Ian hears the rattling of a pill box coming down on his nightstand. “Come on, don’t wait too long with this shit. You can go back to sleep after.” 

Ian waits for Mickey to leave the room before he peeks out through the covers and reaches for the pills. There is a glass of water and a cup of coffee on his night stand, too and Ian hates himself more than he’s hated himself in a while. He takes the pills with a sip of water and stares at the ceiling for a moment. The room is still dim, the curtains are still drawn. He can hear Mickey in the living room, hears his footsteps coming closer and Ian closes his eyes again before Mickey appears. 

“You okay?” Mickey asks, from the the doorway. 

Ian shakes his head and pulls the covers back over his head. He doesn’t want Mickey to see him like this. He doesn’t want Mickey to have to deal with this shit again. As shitty as Ian feels, he knows this is milder than his major depressive episode of a year ago. Still, it’s also worse than his normal shitty days. He can usually get out of bed and take a shower before feeling like life is pointless. He can hide it under the guise of a bad mood or being tired and sometimes he even fools himself into thinking that’s all it is. 

He feels the bed dip, but Mickey doesn’t touch him. “Can you say something so I know you’re not catatonic?” 

“I took them,” Ian says, sounding loud to himself from under the covers, but Mickey replies with: “Okay, mumbles. I’m going to make you some toast and you’re going to eat it. We gotta do groceries after.” 

“You,” Ian says. 

“I don’t know what to get. No list,” Mickey says. 

“I don’t feel good, Mick,” Ian sighs, pushing the covers off, as it becomes harder to breath. “I’m tired.” 

“Doesn’t have to be now,” Mickey says. He is already showered and dressed and the worry in his blue eyes makes Ian’s heart hurt. “When you feel up to it, but we’re leaving the house today.” 

“We leave the house every fucking day. Enough is enough,” Ian whines and turns onto his side, back towards Mickey.

“You want us to be hermits from now on? Is that going to be our new thing?” Mickey asks, hint of amusement in his voice. 

“Don’t you have fucking toast to make?” Ian grunts. 

“You want anything else?” 

“Quiet.” 

“Maybe your next boyfriend will be quieter,” Mickey says. He presses a kiss to the back of Ian’s head and gets off the bed. 

 

He is only gone for a couple of minutes and when he comes back he sits down on the bed again. “We can stay in, if you want. But I don’t want to leave you alone.” 

“I’m not going to kill myself,” Ian says. 

“Sounds convincing, really. But you know the rules. Food, shower, schedule. The only thing on the schedule is doing groceries,” Mickey says. 

“I should have never fucking talked to you about that shit,” Ian sighs.

“You want me to leave you alone for a while?” Mickey asks, and the question sounds genuine. 

Ian doesn’t know. He doesn’t want Mickey to leave, but he doesn’t want to trap Mickey in this bedroom with him either. So Ian pulls up the one shoulder that he isn’t lying on and feels like a stubborn child. 

But it has the effect he was hoping for and that is that Mickey gets under the covers and presses his chest up against Ian’s back. He feels lips on the back of his neck and then just a hand on his stomach. “I don’t want to hear you complaining about how much muscle mass you’ve lost again,” he says. “Eat the toast. I made some of your nasty tea, too. I’m going to go out for a little bit and when I get back you’re going to have taken a shower, alright?” 

“When are you coming back?” Ian mutters, already dreading being left alone with his thoughts. 

“Couple of hours.” 

“Hm.” 

“What, you can’t eat one piece of toast and take a shower in two hours?” 

Ian mutters his grievances into his pillow. 

“What was that, mumbles?” Mickey asks, shaking him a little bit.  

“Don’t,” Ian says. “Stay with me.” 

“Don’t stay with you?”

Ian turns around and finally looks at the man. “You suck.” 

“Because you like the lamest shit,” Mickey says. 

“You can go if you got stuff to do,” Ian says. 

“Don’t have anywhere to be. Just thought I’d give you some space before you start yelling at me.” 

“Yelling at you is the only thing that brings me joy when I’m like this.”  

“Only when you’re like this, huh?” 

Ian searches Mickey’s face. “You staying?” 

“‘Course.” 

“Even if I don’t take a shower?” 

“What’s so bad about the shower?” Mickey asks. 

Ian shrugs. How do you convince someone that getting out of bed, stepping into a cold, tiled bathroom, getting undressed, getting wet, drying off - how do you convince someone that doing all of that sounds as hard as running a marathon at this moment? “‘s cold,” Ian says. 

“Hm. I’ll turn the heat on.” 

“‘M tired.”

“I know. You’ve been working really hard for the last few months.”

“How am I going to do it next year?” Ian asks. 

“You’re going to work less,” Mickey says. “That was your plan.” 

“Our trip to Hawaii is going to suck, if I cut back on my hours.”

“Knowing our luck, it’s going to suck no matter what,” Mickey says. 

“We can’t both be pessimists, Mick,” Ian complains. “It’s my turn today.”

“Alright, alright,” Mickey smiles and buries his hand in Ian’s hair. “It’s going to be great, no matter what happens, because we’re going to be there together.” 

Ian closes his eyes, melts into Mickey’s touch and sighs. “How am I ever going to be a doctor if I can’t even take a shower.” 

“You’ve taken a million showers. And you’re going to take one later today. You’re not going to erase everything you accomplished this year, just because today sucks.” 

“It’s all your fucking fault, you know,” Ian says. 

Mickey laughs. “Jesus. How?” 

“When I met you I was working at Starbucks. I got fired because of you. I applied for jobs in the medical field because of you. Went back to school because of you. My life was simple before you came along. Didn’t feel shit about anything. Didn’t want anything. It was perfect.” 

“You regret meeting me, huh?”

“It’s just… on days like these it feels like I don’t deserve any of it. I feel like that all the time, but on days like these… it feels like it’s all wasted on me, you know?” 

“No, I don’t know,” Mickey says. “You deserve the world. If I could give it to you, I would.”

“You’re biased,” Ian says and forces himself to sit up. He feels strangely cold as the covers slide off his chest, and reaches for the mug of hot tea on his night stand. It reminds him of Dr. Jackson. He realizes that he’s really not feeling as bad as he could feel. He’s lethargic and he doesn’t want to think about anything or do anything, but the absolute hopelessness and dread he has become so familiar with over the years is not as prevalent. Maybe it’s still coming, but for now Ian manages to eat a piece of toast and drink his tea. He warms up enough to get out of bed eventually and take a shower without Mickey having to ask him again. 

 

It only lasts for a couple of days. On Wednesday evening, when Ian feels better, normal, Mickey asks: “Have you thought about going back to therapy?”

They're in the middle of an episode of Love after Lock up, and Ian is pretty invested in the lunatics on screen, so it takes a moment for him to register the question. He turns to look at Mickey, who is looming over him, as Ian had put his head in the man’s lap for headscratches right after dinner. “No, not really,” Ian says. His hands start tingling with nerves. He buries them in the pouch of his hoodie.

“You haven’t thought about it or you don’t want to do it?” 

“I don’t want to do it.” 

“Why not?” 

“Mick.” 

“I just want to know why. I’m not going to tell you to do it again,” Mickey says and he sounds genuine, painfully so. 

“I don’t like talking about everything that’s wrong with me over and over again,” Ian says, unable to mask the frustration in his voice. “I don’t like talking about my family issues with strangers. You of all people should understand that.”

“I do.” 

Ian waits for Mickey to continue, to say more, but he doesn’t. “Look,” Ian then starts and hoists himself up to sit up so that he can look Mickey in the eyes. “If I’m acting like an asshole or being weird, you can tell me and I’ll try to do better -”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Mickey says. 

“Then what are you worried about?” Ian asks, nervously.

“I just want you to be happy, is all. I keep reading that it’s supposed to help a lot.” 

“I’m happy, Mick. Happier than I’ve ever been. Maybe not all the fucking time, but we know that shit is never going away.” And as the words leave Ian’s mouth, he hears them too. It’s never going away. For the rest of his life, Ian is going to go to bed at night and not know how he’s going to wake up in the morning. Never knowing if an event is going to trigger him. 

“Hey, don’t do that,” Mickey says, cutting through. “Don’t disappear into that hole right now.” 

Ian snaps back into focus, and looks at Mickey who is looking back at him with worried eyes. “I’m okay,” Ian says. “I get that you don’t want to deal with this, but-”

Mickey’s face visibly hardens. “You’re not listening. I don’t know how many times I gotta say it before you hear me. This isn’t about me. If you don’t want to go back to therapy, that’s fine, but you don’t get to tell me that you’re happy and that everything is okay when two days ago you were saying you feel like a waste of space who doesn’t deserve love or whatever other bullshit you get into your head.” 

“I was in a different headspace then,” Ian says, sounding way too defensive even to his own ears. 

“So you don’t feel like that now?” 

Ian opens his mouth to deny it. And then closes it again. “It’s not… that serious. I love you and I know you love me. But I know it’s not easy.” 

“It is easy. It’s not like I have a fucking choice, is it?” Mickey then says and moves in closer. He grabs Ian’s face with both hands and Ian has to force himself to keep their eyes connected. “I love you,”  Mickey tells him. “I want you to feel good about yourself.” 

“You make me feel good about myself,” Ian says. “Not some psychiatrist who doesn’t know me.” 

Mickey nods, hesitant, and then says: “Okay.” 

 

It takes a while for Ian to clear his mind. He thought he’d been better, but it takes another week for him to feel like having sex. The conversation with Mickey keeps running through his head over and over again and Ian knows he did or said something wrong. He just can’t pinpoint exactly what it is until they’re lying wrapped around each other in bed and Ian feels as much of Mickey’s bare skin pressed against his own as he can manage. Ian is holding on to him tightly, pressing kisses along the curve of Mickey’s shoulder. It’s a moment of clarity that he hasn’t had in the last two weeks, and it hits him hard and painful. 

“Mick,” Ian says softly. 

“Hm?” 

“It’s not your job to make me feel good about myself. I shouldn’t have said that.” 

Mickey stills for a moment before he turns around in Ian’s arms. He puts a hand on Ian’s face, blue eyes searching. “‘Course it’s my job. I might not be good at it, but-”

“No, that’s… that’s not what I want. I don’t want you to always be worried about me and my self-esteem or whatever. You worry about me enough as it is. The bipolar is one thing and you help me with that a lot, but this is something I should figure out myself.”

“Just keep me in the loop of what’s going on in this huge orange head of yours,” Mickey says. “You don’t have to do anything by yourself.” 

Ian nods and steals a hard kiss before leaning back a little. “But you do make me happy, you know. I used to feel so alone all the time. I don’t feel like that anymore. Haven’t felt like that in a long time.” 

“Yeah, me too,”  Mickey says. 

 

Ian calls Dr. Jackson’s office the next morning and makes an appointment for Thursday evening. 

He feels different this time as he walks through the door to Dr. Jackson’s office. He isn’t as nervous as he was the first time he was there, and he doesn’t feel as on edge as he was the couple of times he went after that. He hadn’t really stopped to think about it much, back then. There was a lot going on. He had work, the MCAT, the interviews, Mickey disposing of Ned’s body… it was a lot to focus on and then sit across from a therapist and talk about Frank for an hour.

Mickey had told him to talk about whatever he wanted. “Just don’t get into specifics of the criminal shit, alright?” 

Alright. Ian is going to try it. 

 

Chapter Text

“Doesn’t fit?” 

“Does it look like it fucking fits?” 

“Size the fuck up, asshole. What’s the problem?” Mickey asks, not even attempting to hide the amusement in his voice. He has been sitting outside of the dressing room for over twenty minutes as Ian tries on shirt after shirt.

“This is an XL,” Ian huffs, taking the shirt off before he busts out of it. 

“Well, maybe if you weren’t trying to flex on the entire world, you’d fit in normal people clothes,” Mickey says, with a smirk. 

“Is this the first sign of getting too sexy?” Ian smirks back at him. “Too buff for fucking shirts.” 

“You barely wear shirts anyway. Just pick something off those piles,” Mickey says, waving back towards the store. 

“I’m not wearing a double XL white t-shirt on the one date we go on once every six months,” Ian complains, grabbing his own shirt off the stool in the fitting room.

“We go on dates all the time,” Mickey says. 

“I mean the kind with utensils. The kind where people know we’re a couple and don’t assume we’re best friends who hang out a lot.”

“Maybe you should buy a dress then,” Mickey suggests and catches Ian’s wrist when he tries to smack him.  “Hey, it’s not my fault you’re spending every fucking day in the gym. Zara is made for twinks, anyway. Told you to go to Neiman Marcus or Hugo Boss.” 

“Hugo Boss, he says. Do you ever want to go to Hawaii?”

“Come on, I told you birthday boys shop for free,” Mickey says and releases Ian’s wrist so that he can get dressed again. “You can get those shoes that make you seven feet tall.”

“Those are Alexander McQueen,” Ian says. 

“I don’t care what they are, you homo.”

“Five hundred bucks, Mick. For sneakers.”

“Who gives a shit? I didn’t get you shit for Christmas, I didn’t get you shit for Valentine’s day or for getting into med school. Get the sneakers. Get two pairs, I don’t give a shit,” Mickey says. 

“You want to get matching shoes?” 

“I would die before I put on those clown shoes,” Mickey snorts. “They looked good on you, though.” 

“You want to get me something stupid, you got to get something stupid for yourself first,” Ian says, gathering the discarded shirts before stepping out of the dressing room.

“I already got something stupid,” Mickey grins. “He’s turning twenty-five tomorrow.” 

“I can’t believe this. I have never been hotter in my life and this is the shit I got to deal with now?” 

“The bigger the muscles, the bigger the CTE.”

“You don’t get CTE from lifting weights.” 

“You’re not a fucking doctor yet.” 

“Not yet,” Ian smirks. 

About six weeks ago, Dr. Jackson had made the surprising suggestion during Ian’s first session back, for Ian to start doing an activity he enjoyed. Hanging around at home and having sex were not viable options. So Ian started working out again. It had been a while since it was part of his routine, but once he started going to the fitness center connected to the yoga studio he went to with Fiona, he didn’t stop going. He had been going five days a week for six weeks now, and Ian felt - dare he say it? - good about himself. Being stuck at home for months studying for the MCAT had nearly made Ian forget that he was and always had been pretty athletic, no matter how often Mickey calls him a nerd. 

Ian had gained about an inch around his arms and chest. Mickey rolls his eyes at him most of the time, but Ian revels in how he drags his fingers up and down Ian’s abs when they’re fooling around. Mickey has always been weird about vocalizing his physical attraction to him - Ian has always been weird about people objectifying him and Mickey knows that. Well, not always. He had shamelessly and aggressively used his looks to gain whatever he could for years. You could only get attention from older men if you were prepared to get naked and keep your mouth shut. According to Dr. Jackson, being objectified from such a young age can be detrimental to anyone, with or without bipolar. 

Ian has yet to wrap his head around the idea that he was some kind of victim, because it had never felt like that to him. He’s also not very keen on the idea of unwrapping that whole mess anytime soon.

Either way, he has decided to let Dr. Jackson take the lead this time around. He’d go wherever she wanted him to go, talk about whatever she wanted to talk about. It had only been six weeks, but Ian feels like he’s told her at least twice as much as he did when he visited her for four weeks the first time around. 

He was still almost always in a bullshit mood afterwards, especially when they spent a lot of time on Frank. Monica or Ned are dead ends as Dr. Jackson calls them. Relationships and issues that he might never fix outside of himself, but that live inside of him, so they are worth trying to mend inside of him. He has yet to get into it with her. 

Ian gets it, really, he has read at least fifteen self-help books when he was in prison and none of these concepts are completely unfamiliar to him, but it is just so hard to take any of it seriously when ignoring all his problems works pretty well about seventy-five percent of the time. 

But he tries. 

It’s his twenty fifth birthday tomorrow and Mickey picked Ian up from work on this Friday night to go out to eat. Ian had tricked Mickey into going to the mall afterwards very easily - ‘let’s go to that dessert place you like near the mall’ - so that he could get a couple of new t-shirts and maybe even something nice for their date tomorrow. 

“So, you want to go back for the shoes or what?” Mickey asks, when they exit the last store. 

“They’re too expensive,” Ian says. Sure, Ian had liked them when he tried them on the last time they were here. Sure, Lip and Carl would eat their fucking hearts out if they see him wearing them and he loves that idea. But spending five hundred bucks on a pair of sneakers is something that he used to scoff at. 

“Come on, it’ll make me feel better about the bullshit gift I got you for tomorrow,” Mickey says, nudging him with his shoulder to start walking. 

“You got me a gift?” Ian asks, amused at the idea of Mickey going out and trying to pick something out for him. He really can’t imagine it at all. As sweet as the man can be, he just doesn’t have the patience for that kind of thing. 

“A bad one,” Mickey says. 

“What is it?” 

“I still want to see your face when I surprise you with it,” Mickey smirks at him, leading Ian towards Neiman Marcus. 

Ian gets the shoes and holds his breath while Mickey pays for them with ten fifty dollar bills. Ian then offers to blow him in the car before they leave the parking garage. “For some shoes?” Mickey snort. 

“No, because I love you,” Ian says. “And also to thank you for the shoes. It was a very nice thing to do.” He reaches over and puts his hand between Mickey’s legs, palming at his cock. Mickey accepts the kiss that comes with it, but pulls away after a couple of seconds. “There are a million people around, assholes,” he tells him. And it’s true. The mall is closing and everyone who was still inside has filtered into the parking garage. 

“Hmm. That’s kind of hot though,” Ian says pressing a kiss against Mickey’s jaw, pressing his hand down harder. 

“Ah. Fuck. Not when they can actually see us, dickhead. There is a twelve year old staring right into the car,” Mickey says. 

“If you don’t let me blow you right now, you got to ride me at home.” 

“Damn, my life really fucking sucks, doesn’t it?” Mickey rolls his eyes, kissing Ian one more time before turning on the ignition. 

 

The next morning Ian gets to have coffee in bed, because Mickey wakes up first. They shower together, fool around in there for way too long, and around noon this is already turning out to be the best birthday Ian has ever had. 

When Mickey had asked him a few days ago what he wanted to do for his birthday, his first thought was nothing. That turned into no party and then maybe we can just hang out together and eventually let’s go on a date. He doesn’t need it to be anything like Fiona’s restaurant, but he liked the idea of having another nice, intimate meal as part of the outside world and not just on their couch or in their bedroom. Mickey is right to say that they eat out at least twice a week and it’s always fun, but scarfing down a pizza at a restaurant while they’re still wearing their jackets isn’t exactly romantic. Ian doesn’t need a lot of romance, especially not since Mickey started saying that he loves him ((three times now), but Ian thinks the idea is nice; sharing a meal without the distraction of phones or having to go to work right after, or falling asleep right after.  

Ian made sure his siblings knew he’d be busy today as soon as he found out that Frank had been skulking around the house again. That doesn’t stop Debbie from sending Ian a voice message in which she sings a very original rendition of happy birthday with Liam doing background vocals at ten in the morning. 

“You want to go for a drive?” Mickey suggests a little past noon. “Go have lunch somewhere?” 

They’re still hanging around in their underwear; it’s a pretty warm day. “I want my shitty gift first,” Ian says.

“I’m trying to give it to you,” Mickey says. “Get dressed and put on your gay little shoes. I’ll give you your shitty gift.”

“You’re making me very curious,” Ian says, pushing himself off the bed. 

“You’re going to hate it,” Mickey smirks with a mischievous glint in his eyes. 

“I can’t wait,” Ian says, and he means it. The shoes are already an amazing gift, so Ian will no doubt be insanely amused by whatever Mickey got him. Maybe it’s a shirt Ian already has, or something dorky like cologne.

He puts on a pair of dark grey jeans and a dark blue long sleeved shirt he got a while ago and that now fits a little more snug around the arms. “Looking like a sexy douche is okay if it’s your birthday, right?”

Mickey looks up from where he is rummaging through a drawer and takes in Ian’s form. “You look good,” he says. “Barely douchy at all.” 

“Wait ‘till I put on the shoes,” Ian says.

Mickey puts one of his long, black t-shirt, loose falling and with a slightly wide neck and a pair of black jeans that he never wears. They’re not tight, but definitely snugger than he normally wears, but more impressively, they’re ripped at the knees and there are even a couple of slits on his thighs. 

“How’s this for some hoe shit?” Mickey asks. 

“Oh, Mick,” Ian sighs. “I’m going to cum all over that black outfit.” 

“Birthday boys can do whatever they want,” Mickey says, poking his tongue out of his mouth. Ian moves closer, and folds the t-shirt sleeves of Mickey’s shirt over a few times, so that it exposes his biceps a little bit more.

“There,” Ian says. “I’m fully hard.”

Mickey’s hand shoots out and cups Ian’s cock, making Ian laugh as he doubles over in surprise.

“You’re a fucking liar,” Mickey accuses. 

 

Ian has already fully forgotten about the shitty gift, until they’re down in the parking lot in front of the building and Mickey tosses Ian the keys to the Jeep. “There’s your gift, birthday boy,” he says airily.

Ian looks at the keys. “I get to drive you around today? That’s my gift?” 

Mickey bites away a smile, digs into the pocket of his jeans and fishes out another set of car keys. Shiny ones. With a logo on it that makes Ian’s jaw drop. “What the fuck?” 

Mickey presses a button on the keys and Ian watches the headlights of a deep black Audi SUV blink. It’s only parked two cars down from the Jeep. “No fucking way. Is that a rental?” 

“Nah,” Mickey says. 

“You have got to be kidding me,” Ian breathes, walking up to the car. “This is a brand new car, Mickey.”

“Sort of. You understand that I didn’t buy this one for you, right? You get the Jeep. This one is mine.”

“Yeah, dickhead, I get it. I just… I can’t believe you did this. Is this the Q8? That’s a hundred and fifty grand, Mick.”

Mickey sheugs. “You like it?” 

“I might, if I know for sure it’s not a fucking stolen car. I know for a fact that your cheap ass did not pay a hundred and fifty grand for a car,” Ian says. 

“It’s not stolen, asshole. You want to check the paperwork?” Mickey huffs. “And I didn’t pay a hundred and fifty grand for it. It’s a murder car.”

“What the fuck is a murder car?” 

“Exactly what it sounds like, genius,” Mickey says. “Some asshole bought the car in February and got shot up in it in March. Massive discount on murder cars at the police auction after they get released out of evidence. Driver’s side door was riddled with bullet holes, but the rest is untouched. Some blood here and there, but I got all of it out, I think. That’s the nice thing about leather seats.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Mickey Milkovich,” Ian sighs. “You know, this is the reason I could never be with anyone else. No one else would ever buy me a murder car.” 

“Okay, we need to be very clear about this. This is not your murder car. You get the Jeep. I get the Audi. That’s why it’s a shitty gift and not the best gift anyone has ever gotten,” Mickey says. 

“Whatever. What’s mine is your and what’s yours is mine and all that shit.”

“Fuck you.” 

“Can I drive it?”

“I have barely driven it myself, you dick-” 

“Birthday boys get whatever they want,” Ian says and dashes for the driver’s side door before Mickey can block him. 

 

Ian has only driven in cars that were at least ten to fifteen years old. To sit down in soft leather seats and realize there is a start button rather than a keyhole is a lot of fun. They spend another hour in the parking lot fucking around with the dashboard and all the buttons in the car, before Mickey finally trusts Ian enough to let him actually start the car. 

They drive along Lake Michigan and Ian falls in love with the car instantly. Ian makes Mickey take some extra douchy pictures of him with the car in the restaurant parking lot, to send to Lip and Carl and with a middle finger emoji attached to it.

“You’re a fucking nightmare,” Mickey tells him, snatching his sunglasses back off of Ian’s face. Ian laughs as they head into the waterfront restaurant. It’s almost an hour outside of Chicago and it’s something Fiona had suggested as a nice place to go for a date without spending literally half a paycheck. It’s fancier than the places they usually go to, but not so fancy that ripped jeans and all of Mickey’s visible tattoos are a problem. They get a table outside on the deck, and as soon as they take a seat, Ian notices a couple of girls gawking at them from the table behind them. 

“I think they like you,” Ian smirks at Mickey, who has no clue and is focused on lighting up a cigarette. 

“Hm?” 

Ian takes the pack from him and lights one up for himself. “The girls behind you,” Ian says glancing past him, and catching one girl tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, staring at Mickey’s profile.  “They’re nervous.” 

Mickey takes his sunglasses off and puts them down on the table. “And you think they like me, you buff bitch?” 

“I’m not the one dressed like a sex machine,” Ian says. “Who can blame them, honestly?” 

“You are dressed like a sex machine,” Mickey says, tapping his ash out on the ashtray on the table. “But even if you weren’t, people have got their eyes on you everywhere you go. Seven feet tall hot ginger is hard to miss.”

“You think I’m hot?” Ian asks innocently, pulling a laugh out of Mickey and a middle finger to accompany it. 

And then, to Ian’s great surprise, shock even, Mickey turns around to look at the girls. All three girls freeze in place. Honestly, Ian does too. 

Mickey doesn’t really engage with strangers voluntarily. Not ever. He avoids any social interaction with strangers like the plague - so all Ian can do is hold his breath when Mickey opens his mouth.

“Hey,” Mickey says. 

“Uh, hi,” the girl sitting closest to him responds, surprise evident in her voice. She leans over towards him in her chair, tits first. Ian rolls his eyes and sits back, takes a drag of his cigarette. 

“We’re on a date,” Mickey then says and Ian shoots up straight in his chair again. 

“Oh,” the girl then says. “Are your girlfriends still coming?” 

“Gay,” Mickey says impatiently, pointing his thumb at Ian. “I’m on a date with him.” 

“Oh my fucking god,” Ian huffs and feels his face heat up. 

“Ah, oh, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to assume-”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mickey says casually and glances at Ian with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “He just wants everyone to know that this is a date and that we’re not just best friends or whatever. Right, Ian?”

“I’m not here,” Ian says and grabs a menu off the table to hide behind. 

 

Once their food arrives, Ian forgets all about the girls sitting beside them. In fact, he forgets about them entirely until they’re about to leave and Mickey asks to for the bill and the server tells them that their meal was paid for by the girls that were sitting at the table next to them. 

“Huh,” Ian says. “Guess not everyone in the world is a fucking monster, huh, Mick?” 

“What makes you think that they don’t still want to bang you?” 

“Because you made it pretty fucking clear that we’re gay. Some people are just nice,” Ian says and curls his arm around Mickey’s shoulder as they walk out of the restaurant. Ian tries it, because it’s his birthday and Mickey seems to have settled on giving him what he wants today, so he figures that on this occasion Mickey won’t shove him away. And he doesn’t. He does give Ian a look to let him know that he’s aware of what Ian is doing. Ian would have kissed him too, right there in broad daylight and with tens of people around, if he didn’t think that Mickey would be actually uncomfortable with it. 

But in the car, Ian has free reign. He gets that they can’t bang in the car at three thirty in the afternoon, but they do make out a little bit before they head back to the city. They go for a walk along the pier first and then end up about two miles away from the car at a bar with an outside space, very hipstery and fancy looking. Ian hasn’t been drunk since their date at Fiona’s restaurant and he doesn’t plan on getting drunk tonight - they still have to walk two miles back to the car which Mickey doesn’t want to leave behind in favor of an Uber. So they have a couple of beers each in a booth under a heat lamp. They hang out there long enough for the temperature outside to drop significantly and for them not to want to get out from under the heat lamp. 

“We gotta walk all the way back to the fucking car,” Mickey huffs, plastered against Ian’s side. His body feels warm against him, but his fingertips are cold in Ian’s hands. They’ve been sitting like that for over an hour, Mickey’s hand in his, resting on Ian’s thigh. They’re mostly out of sight anyway and the table is blocking their hands from the rest of the patrons. 

“Well, we’re definitely not calling a fucking Uber and leaving that car behind,” Ian says. “You good to drive, right?” 

“After two beers?” Mickey snorts 

“I mean, my head is already fucking spinning,” Ian says and knocks their heads together.

“Your head is special,” Mickey says. “I’m also getting kind of hungry again.” 

“McDonald’s?” Ian suggests. “We had our first kiss in a McDonald’s parking lot, remember? In the Jeep.” 

“You mean you stole that kiss in a McDonald’s parking lot,” Mickey corrects. 

“You liked it.” 

“It was alright.” 

“God, your were such a dickhead about it back then,” Ian muses.

“I still got that voice message from you. You want to hear it? See who was the dickhead?” Mickey retorts. 

“I kissed you and you kissed me back and then you said ‘don’t do it again’,” Ian reminds him. “I’ve never experienced that type of emotional abuse before.” 

“You called me a ‘faggoty ass fucking coward’.” 

“No, I didn't,” Ian denies, though it does sound kind of familiar. 

“You know, if you’re going to deny shit you’ve said, you really got to stop sending voice messages. I can play it for you right now. I saved it, so that I don’t have to scroll all the way to the end of time to find it.” 

“Oh shut the fuck up,” Ian huffs. “I was trying to get closer to you and you were trying to run away. That’s what we’re talking about.”

“No, we’re talking about going to McDonald’s.” 

“Just saying, we experienced a lot in the Jeep. First kiss, second kiss. We had sex in it a lot. I’m going to be sad to see it go,” Ian sighs. 

“The Jeep is not going anywhere. You’re going to be driving it to work everyday.” 

“Hm.”

“No fucking ‘hm’. The Audi is mine and mine alone.” 

“Uhuh.”

“Gallagher, I swear to god, if I ever wake up and find out that you took the new car and left the Jeep, I will slap you all around the world. I will slap all the freckles off your face. I will slap you so hard, you won’t remember the last two years of your life. We’ll be strangers again as far as you’re concerned.” 

“I get it, it’s your car,” Ian says. “So are we going to get Big Macs or what?” 

 

They get home around one a.m, and Ian wants to fall right into bed. Mickey says he’s going to take a quick shower, so Ian let’s himself get dragged into the bathroom. All they do is stand under the stream for five minutes making out, before Mickey tells him to fuck off so he can finish up. 

Ian gets into bed in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, and he forces himself to keep his eyes open, because it feels like it would be very easy to doze off. 

“Just go to sleep,” Mickey says with an amused smile when he comes out of the bathroom, naked.

“I want to make love to you first,” Ian says around a yawn. 

“Like you want to actually bang or like you want to pet me like a dog and then fall asleep?” Mickey asks, sliding a pair of shorts over his perfect ass. He grabs a sweatshirt out of the dresser, turns the lights off and puts the shirt on as he climbs into bed. 

“Just because it’s May 26th now, doesn’t mean you have to be mean to me,” Ian says. He grabs Mickey by his arms and pulls him down so that Mickey is lying flat on top of him. Ian puts both of his hands on Mickey’s ass where they belong.

“Did you have a good birthday?” Mickey asks. 

Ian smiles at that. “Yeah.” 

“We didn’t have cake,” Mickey says. 

“That did kind put a damper on the whole day,” Ian teases. 

“We didn’t have sex,” Mickey says. 

“Yes, we did. This morning in the shower.” 

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” 

“So mean,” Ian sighs, gripping onto Mickey’s ass tightly and grinding up. “Is my dick really that forgettable?” 

Mickey spreads his legs and grinds down. “This morning might as well be three fucking days ago.” 

Ian hums in agreement and helps Mickey out of his sweatshirt and shorts before discarding his own as well. He switches their positions, sliding over Mickey’s bare body, hands spreading strong thighs and stroking the perfect skin of his stomach and chest as he kisses him, deep and hungry and finally warm. They have sex like they always do when they’re tired and horny, on their sides with their hands tangled together and their mouths connecting every now and then, because every inch of their bodies touching counts. 

“I love you,” Mickey tells him, when Ian pulls out. Soft and tired and Ian is pretty sure he’s almost asleep. 

“I love you, too,” Ian says with a kiss against his shoulder. 

 

Had it been anyone else, Ian wouldn’t he’d have noticed. But he had been waking up next to Mickey Milkovich everyday for a year and a half now and they have a sort of a routine; Ian wakes up first during the week to go to work. Mickey stays in bed until Ian is finished getting ready and is about to leave. So around eight thirty, Mickey is up. He complains about it all the time, because he doesn’t need to be up, but if you go to bed at eleven thirty most nights, that’s just what happens. 

On the weekends Ian likes to sleep in, but Mickey’s not wired that way, so he’s usually up around eight thirty anyway. 

So when Ian notices that Mickey is staying in bed longer during the week and on the weekends, he gets a little worried. Nothing else is different, except that maybe Mickey seems a little less energetic when Ian comes home from work in the evenings.

“Hey, are you okay?” Ian asks on Sunday morning at ten thirty when Mickey’s face is still shoved into his pillow, and Ian shuffles back into the bedroom after drinking his coffee. He sits down next to him on the bed and puts a hand on Mickey’s back.

“Hm?” Mickey asks. 

“Are you getting sick or something?” Ian asks.

Mickey turns onto his back, peering at Ian through one eye. “‘M fine.” 

“You’re tired.” 

“Bad sleep,” he yawns. 

“All week?”

“Hm.” 

“You want to talk about it?” 

“About what?” 

“Something’s gotta be on your mind.” 

“No.” 

“No, you don’t want to talk about it, or there’s nothing on your mind?” 

“You know I have nothing going on in this head.”

“Then what's causing the bad sleep?” 

“I don’t fucking know. It’s getting hot at night,” Mickey mumbles into his pillow. “Your body is like a fucking furnace these days.” 

 “Oh fuck off,” Ian says. “You better tell me what’s up or I’m going to stop cuddling with you while we sleep.” 

“Then how the fuck are you going to sleep?” Mickey snorts. “You’re the one who latches on like a fucking snail every night.”

“I’ll hug a fucking pillow, you dick,” Ian says. 

“Alright.”

“Mick, come on,” Ian pushes. “You’re losing sleep over something and it ain’t my super hot body. I’m a nurse, remember? Maybe I can help. And I’ve been going to therapy for two months now. That practically makes me a psychiatrist myself.” 

Mickey turns onto his back and presses the palms of his hands into his eye sockets, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “I’ve had shitty sleep for a couple of days. It ain’t something to call a fucking doctor about.” 

“Okay, maybe you can go to the gym with me,” Ian suggests. “Exercise helps you sleep better. Maybe if we get you really tired today, we can go to bed early and you’ll sleep through the night?”  

Mickey removes his hands and looks at him, annoyed. “Do I look like a fucking toddler to you?” 

“I just want to help.” 

“I’m fine,” Mickey says and gets out of bed. He heads for the bathroom. “Got shit to do today anyway.” 

“Like what?” Ian calls out after him and texts Lip in the meantime to ask if he wants to join him at the gym instead. “You’re not visiting your dad, are you?”

“No,” Mickey says over the sound of him pissing. “Gotta harvest.” 

“Do you need Lip for that?” 

“Never needed Lip for anything,” Mickey says. 

 

Lip meets Ian at the gym for a session at twelve and they go out for lunch right after. They go to the café Ian used to visit with Fiona in their yoga days. They have the air conditioner on high and Ian and Lip sit right under it. 

“So you think he’s worried about something?” Lip asks. 

“I know he is,” Ian says. “He might not want to talk about it, in fact, he might not even realize it. But I know there’s something.” 

“Sounds like you know what it is.” 

Ian hesitates. He knows Mickey doesn’t like it when Ian discuses his personal stuff with Lip. Ian really needs to learn how not to do that. “His dad is getting released in two months. Might be sooner. Overcrowding gets worse in the summer. You know how the system is.”

“I mean, I’d be stressed if the man who got me raped was getting out of prison,” Lip shrugs. 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Lip. Don’t say that out loud. Mickey will fucking murder me if he finds out I told you about that,” Ian hisses at him. Not to mention, Ian hates thinking about it. If he really wants to ruin his own day, that is all he needs to think. Mickey never talks about it, outside of what he has already told Ian. Sometimes it feels like Mickey sees it as just one of the many things Terry Milkovich did to torture him. 

“You know what I mean,” Lip says. “If he’s nervous about that, there’s not much you can do. It just fucking sucks.” 

“We can try to keep him in there, maybe. Mickey doesn’t want to kill him, but maybe he can convince someone to plant a bunch of heroin in Terry’s cell or something,” Ian considers.  

“Or maybe you can help your boyfriend take his mind off his nightmare of a father and go on that vacation you keep talking about?” Lip suggests. “We don’t need to turn to felonies as the very first option.” 

“That’s not a bad idea. Maybe not Hawaii, but I’ve got enough to make it not suck completely somewhere else, I think,” Ian says. “Wouldn’t mind seeing the beach before I go back to prison for life for killing Terry Milkovich as soon as he gets out.” 

“You got enough money to buy five buckets of sunscreen?” Lip asks.

“Fuck you. Do you know if Mick can leave work for a week?” Ian then asks. “I have to get my vacation approved first, too, but…” 

“Just let him know beforehand so he can set something up,” Lip shrugs. “And stop trying to get yourself put back in prison.” 

“Do you think Mickey is really going to try to open a shop?” Ian then asks. 

“He stopped talking about it,” Lip says. “When I bring it up, he tells me to fuck off.”

“He is still working on it, though, right? I know he’s still reading up on a bunch of boring stuff,” Ian says. 

“I honestly don’t know. Maybe that’s another thing he’s stressed about,” Lip says. “Does he talk to you about it?”

Ian shakes his head. “Not really. I told him I really want him to try, but he keeps quiet about it. He’s still reading stuff about it all the time. He has some connections at city hall through his dad, but I don’t know if he did anything with that.” 

“Why don’t you ask?” 

“Don’t want to push.”

“Why not?”

“Because he doesn’t do that me, either. He said it might not ever happen, and if it doesn’t, I don’t want him to think I’m disappointed or something stupid like that,” Ian sighs. “He knows what I want. It doesn’t feel right to keep bringing it up.” 

“You might be able to help him, though. He’s not going to talk to me or anyone else if he’s got doubts about something.” 

“This might surprise you, but he doesn’t talk to me about that stuff a lot either,” Ian says. 

“Maybe not a lot, but more than he’d ever talk to anyone else,” Lip says. “Look, you know better than anyone that it takes more than asking Mickey Milkovich how he’s doing once.” 

“Nah, a vacation is going to fix everything. No tough conversations needed,” Ian says sarcastically. “I like taking the easy way out. You know that.” 

“Why do you still talk to me about anything?” Lips asks. 

“I don’t fucking know,” Ian sighs. “You got any news on Fiona’s baby daddy?” 

“Nothing. I keep having nightmares that it’s going to end up being Jimmysteve after all and that twenty years from now we’re going to get together and the kid is going to find out that uncle Ian got statutory raped by grandpa and uncle Mickey chopped up his body after he got murdered.”

“I think I’ve had the exact same nightmare,” Ian says. “Fiona seems pretty happy, though.” 

“Yeah, I think she is. Debbie is through the fucking roof. It’s hard not to get carried away with that one around,” Lip chuckles. “Which reminds me, I’m pretty sure Liam is going to ‘run away’ again at some point this summer.” 

“Yeah? He getting sick of Frank again?” Ian asks. 

“Nah, I think he just likes being around you guys,” Lip shrugs. “He can’t wait to go for a ride in the Audi.”

“He can come over whenever he wants,” Ian says. “We had fun last time. He hung out with Mick so much, it made me jealous by the end of the week.”

“You get jealous when he doesn’t text you back within five seconds. I bet you get jealous when he takes his eyes off you for even a second when you’re at home.” 

“Be honest, does he complain about me when I’m not around?” Ian asks.

 

Ian stops by the house for a little bit to see the rest of his sibling - he only finds Debbie and Liam and they immediately berate him for not coming in the Audi, so he texts Mickey to ask if he can drop by the house after he’s done with work. 

Mickey shows up around eight, and by that time Carl is home, too. They fuck around with the car for as long as the sun allows it, then pile into it and take it to the Popeyes drive thru before heading back to the house. 

Ian and Mickey have to drive back to the apartment separately after dinner, but they reconnect in the parking lot. Ian puts his arm around his boyfriends shoulder as they walk into the building. “You got any plans from July first to July fifth?” Ian asks. 

“I don’t even know what the fuck I’m going to do tomorrow, man,” Mickey says. 

“Well, block it out on your calendar then,” Ian says. “We’re going on vacation.” 

Mickey turns to look at him, eyebrows pulled up. “Are you serious?” 

“Yeah. It’s not going to be Hawaii, but we can do Mexico. I’m going to have less time after the summer, so we should do it already,” Ian says. “So? Can I buy the tickets?” 

“Sure,” Mickey chuckles. “You got the cash, you broke bitch?” 

“Yeah, I got the cash, asshole. Don’t expect no five star hotel, but it’s going to be good enough for your fucking highness in the Audi.” 

“I don’t think murder cars get you a royal title, man.” 

It’s already past eleven o’clock when they finally get to the apartment, so they get into bed soon after. Ian pulls Mickey against his chest, even though Mickey is right about it getting too hot. Ian has gotten so used to holding him while they sleep, he’s not sure if he can manage to get to sleep without something pressed up against him. 

“You don’t want to smoke some weed or something?” Ian suggests. “It might help you sleep.”

“You got work tomorrow,” Mickey says. 

“I don’t need to smoke with you.” 

“I’m fine.” 

“Okay,” Ian says around a yawn. He’s actually pretty fucking tired himself, so he’s pretty sure he’ll be gone as soon as he closes his eyes. “You want to fool around?” 

“Shut up. You’re practically already asleep,” Mickey snorts. 

Ian kisses the back of his neck and closes his eyes. 

 

It doesn’t get much better during the rest of the week and Ian debates with himself if he should try talking about Terry or the business. He knows he should, he just doesn’t know how to do it without Mickey shutting down completely. 

He goes as far as to ask Dr. Jackson and her advice is very annoying. Be honest with him, Ian. You should be open with him about your concerns, so he can be open with you about his. Goddamnit. 

It’s much easier said than done when the person you’re trying to care for is Mickey Milkovich. The man’s cell phone has bits and pieces missing off the screen. He’s been cutting his fingers on it for months and he still refuses to get it replaced. 

“Mick.” 

“Hm.” 

“Is this about Terry?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Mickey looks up from his Fruitloops on Saturday morning. Ian watched him take two Advil before sitting down for breakfast. 

“Are you worried about him getting out?” Ian asks. 

Mickey frowns at him and sits back. “Are you?” 

“I don’t know. Maybe. We haven’t really had to worry about him for almost a year. We don’t really know what he’ll be like when he comes out.” 

“He’s going to be blind in one eye and he’s going to be pissed like he always is. I’ll deal with him when it comes to it. You don’t have to worry about him,” Mickey huffs. 

“This isn’t about me, Mickey. If this is what’s stressing you out, I want to know. We can talk about it.” 

“What is there to say?” 

“Whatever you want. It does help, you know. Just talking about stuff. You always force it out of me when I’m feeling like shit.” 

“That’s different.” 

“How? Because I’m crazy and you don’t have a diagnosis?” 

“Yeah, exactly,” Mickey says, biting back a smile. “Because you’re a fucking lunatic and I’m completely normal.” 

“Mickey.” 

“Look, I don’t like getting into it. What’s the point of complaining about it? Nothing short of him dying and me watching his body burn and his bones get pulverized will ever make me feel better. Actually, saying that out loud made me feel better, kind of. I want to shove a shotgun into his mouth and blow his spinal cord all over the wall.” 

“Okay, alright.” 

“No, this feels great. I want to choke him from start to finish and watch the light go out in his one good eye. Chop the bitch up and dissolve his body in an acid bath. Make a necklace out of the pieces left over from his skull.” 

“I’m not letting you carry around DNA-evidence,” Ian says. 

“Smart. I knew school had to be good for something,” Mickey says. 

“Did you get enough murder fantasies off your chest? You can’t be talking like this while we’re trying on swim trunks at the fucking mall.”

“You can’t censor me, bitch. I thought you wanted to hear about my feelings or whatever.” 

“Yeah, I thought you’d talk about having anxiety or that you’re scared he’ll do something to you when he gets out. Turns out what’s keeping you up at night are thoughts of how you want to kill him.” 

“So? You and I deal with things differently.” 

“Yeah, clearly. Eat your Fruitloops. Go on, any other ways you want to kill him?” 

“Bash his head in with a bat until I see brain matter,” Mickey says without missing a beat. 

“Do these murderous thoughts help you relax?” Ian asks, genuinely curious.

“If I say yes, are you going to tell your therapist about it?” Mickey asks. 

“No, I’m just trying to figure out if thinking about your father’s violent death makes you feel better.”

“Of course it does. Much better.” 

“So should I just cancel the trip, or what?” Ian smirks. “Maybe we don’t need to be doing all that to make you feel better.” 

“Yeah, you’re definitely not freaking out about the trip because you have no idea how to plan anything. I swear to god, it better not fucking suck ass,” Mickey warns. 

“What the fuck are you talking about? I’ve been doing fucking great. I got the tickets, didn’t I?”

“Oh, you definitely got the tickets,” Mickey snorts. “Can’t fucking wait to arrive somewhere at midnight and drive for two more hours.”

“I saved us two hundred bucks. Who cares, anyway? All we’re going to do there is sleep and bang. Not like you’re so fucking excited to go swimming with sharks or go on a hiking trail.” 

“I would literally rather die,” Mickey says. “And if you have the fucking nerve to plan any of that shit, I’ll fucking murder you.” 

“When you’re mad at me, do you fantasize about murdering me like you do with your dad?” Ian asks.

“No, I just fantasize about how my next boyfriend is going to be way fucking better at planning vacations.” 

“Too bad you’re literally going to have to kill me if you ever want to get a new fucking boyfriend,” Ian says with a shrug. 

“Right back atcha.”

 

To be completely fair Ian is really, really bad at planning anything. The only reason he got his nursing degree is because he got to study while he was in prison and there was literally nothing else to do. He only finished it because Lip made a schedule for him and the only reason Ian got into medical school is because Lip, again, made a schedule for him. Ian performs pretty well when all he has to do is show up and do the thing. So for him to plan a five day trip? Impossible. 

He gets as far as nearly booking a hotel when Fiona mentions AirBnB and he has to do another deep dive. Mickey seems to be itching to take over the whole thing after he finds out Ian has yet to book a place to stay three days before they leave, but Ian stubbornly refuses and decides to go for broke, literally, and books a private AirBnB near the beach. The place has a private pool, too, and well, Mickey deserves it.

 

“You got your meds with you?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Double check.” 

“I got ‘em.” 

“You bring extra’s?” 

“Yes, Jesus. Let's fucking go.” 

 

“If you get shot by TSA, I’m not helping you, Mick.” 

“If I get shot by TSA, you’re getting shot by TSA, Ian.” 

“Just don’t get shot.” 

“I’m not fucking planning on it, you bitch.”

“You brought two fucking knives.” 

“Three inch blades are allowed.” 

“Like you won’t start a fucking riot if they try to take them away from you?” 

“Why the fuck would they try to take them away?” 

“Because you’re a weird fucking gremlin with threats tattooed on his knuckles?” 

“Now I’m for sure dragging you down with me. I’ll shoot you myself if I have to.” 

 

“Mick.”

“Hm.”

“Mick, that baby is staring at you.”

“So fucking what?”

“It’s cute as shit.” 

“You can’t steal a baby at the fucking airport, Ian.” 

“Shut the fuck up. People are going to hear.” 

“The little shit is kinda cute, I guess. But if she cries on the flight, I’m choking her out.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

 

“Ian.” 

“Hm?” 

“Get the fuck off me.” 

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re seven feet tall and your massive head weighs a ton.” 

“Shut up, I’m tryna sleep…”

“We’re all tryna sleep.”

“Stop, Mickey. My head’s not that big…”

 

“Are we landing already?” 

“Yeah, we got about half an hour left.” 

“Should have probably thought about what the fuck we’re supposed to do when we land, huh?” 

“I’m never letting you plan a trip ever again, Gallagher.” 

“It’ll be fine. I think. Worst case scenario, we make it to the AirBnB and just fuck for five days, right?” 

“Sounds like a best case scenario to me.” 

“If that’s where the bar’s at, then I promise it’s going to be great.” 

“Do you at least know how we get to the AirBnB?” 

“I’ll google it when we get off.” 

 

As it turns out, it’s not hard to figure out. Ian at least knows that they land in Cancun and it’s about a two hour drive to Tulum, which Ian chose as their destination because he read somewhere the food is supposed to be better and there is less of a party crowd. He really doesn’t know anything else about it, other than they need to take either a bus or a cab to get there. 

“Would we be assholes for taking a taxi all  the way there?” Ian wonders out loud. He really doesn’t feel like getting onto a crowded bus, but he’s also not sure a driver is going to take them on a two hour drive at midnight, only to have to drive all the way back.

“If we’re too good for the bus, we can go the extra mile and rent a car,” Mickey suggests, nodding towards the car rental booth right next to the bus ticket station. 

“That’s fifty bucks a day. A bus ticket costs eight dollars,” Ian says. “I’m not planning on spending five days in a car.” 

“I don’t think you’ve planned anything at all. Just get the bus tickets, them]n. The next one is leaving in fifteen minutes.” 

“Why don’t you get the tickets, Mister I Lived In Mexico For A Year? Bust out that Spanish of yours.” 

“I never said I spoke Spanish.” 

“Of course you didn’t, but I know you’re still full of fucking secrets.”

“You mean you want to know the most boring shit about me, but you never want to fucking ask?” 

“Do you or do you not speak Spanish?” Ian asks, and he kinda loves the fact that he really did only think to ask while they’re already in Mexico, waiting in line for bus tickets. 

“A little bit,” Mickey admits. “Lived here for a year, after all. Not exactly a year abroad like the college students do.” 

“Still very sexy of you,” Ian says. 

 

The bus is air conditioned and spacious. Ian falls asleep as soon as they start driving.

 

They arrive at the Tulum bus station a little before two a.m, and from there it’s another fifteen minute cab ride to their AirBnB and then they finally get to fucking lie down. 

They stumble into the place, after Ian fumbles with the lock box at the front door for a minute. They fall into bed immediately, barely looking around at all. The only thing Ian notices is the sound of waves crashing in the distance and Mickey’s steady breathing as soon as they’re settled in.

 

It’s surreal. Ian doesn’t really dream much, and when he does, they’re always stress induced. Never peaceful or beautiful, but as Ian looks over the balcony, out over rows and rows of different types of trees and then the pale white sand and then, finally, the turquoise beach, all he can think is that it looks like some kind of dream. One that he doesn’t even allow himself to have. 

The next cabin over is obscured by trees for the most part, so it’s just the two of them practically in paradise. Mickey is standing next to him, peering over the trees. His hair is still damp from the shower they just took together in the spacious bathroom overlooking the pool at the back of the cabin. He’s only wearing dark blue shorts, and nothing else. He can make fun of Ian all he wants, but Mickey is a pale bastard too. There is no way they have enough sunscreen with them. In fact, between the two of them, there might not be enough sunscreen or lube in this whole town to last them five days. 

“Not bad, Gallagher,” Mickey says, pressing a kiss against Ian’s bare shoulder. “Not bad at all.” 

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ian says. “Lake Michigan ain’t shit.” 

Mickey nuzzles at Ian’s throat, before curling his hand around the back of Ian’s neck and pulling him down for a kiss. Ian responds eagerly, with one hand on Mickey’s face and the other on the curve of his back. 

“You like it?” Ian asks softly. 

Mickey smiles at that and averts his eyes for a moment. “Yeah, of course. But to be fair, I had a great time with you at a landfill once. Starting to think it doesn’t really matter what we do.” 

“Ssh. This is the best and most romantic experience of your life and you’re eternally grateful that I went to the great lengths of two whole google searches to make it happen,” Ian says. 

“I’m definitely the luckiest man in the world,” Mickey smirks and kisses him again. “Do you like it?” 

Ian nods, forgetting himself a little bit. It is incredibly stupid, but he can feel himself get emotional, very emotional, with stinging eyes and all. He diverts these emotions in the only way he knows how without embarrassing himself, and pulls Mickey even closer by his hips. “One more time before we go out?”

 

It’s sun, beach, pool, food and gallons of margaritas and horchata. It’s a perfect sunny, boozy and very, very horny vacation. 

It’s… surreal, from start to finish. Ian catches himself more than once wondering if he is going to wake up in a psych ward and find out that this is all an incredibly cruel dream. But then Mickey burps right into his ear, and Ian knows that this is very real and that Mickey Milkovich is more intricate and beautiful than any man Ian could have ever dreamt up. 

Five days isn’t enough, Ian already realizes that on the second night. Nowhere near enough. Ian thinks they could have taken a month and it wouldn’t be enough. They’re pleasantly tipsy at the end of the evening. They spent the whole day walking along the beach, swimming and then getting drunk off margarita’s at a restaurant on the beach while the sun set over the water.

Ian has never seen Mickey get anywhere near drunk for as long as he’s known him. While Ian is a complete lightweight on his meds, Mickey holds his liquor well. It takes about half a bottle of tequila for him to start getting a little loopy and loud. Ian had to convince him that it was fine and promised that he wouldn’t get too drunk himself so that they wouldn’t both drown in the pool in their little cabin. It feels nice, actually, being able to take care of Mickey for a change instead of it being the other way around. So Ian is more than happy to stop after taking two shots, so that Mickey feels comfortable enough to keep drinking. 

Ian only realizes that Mickey is truly drunk when they’re back in the house. They take a quick shower before getting into bed and turning on the air conditioning on high, so they can cuddle as they sleep without dying of heatstroke. 

Ian realizes that Mickey is hammered, because he turns around in Ian’s arms as they’re settling into bed and says: “You are so fucking sexy.” 

It is so unexpected and sounds so sincere that Ian bursts out laughing. “Yeah?” 

“Don’t laugh, this is serious,” Mickey says and puts his hand on Ian’s cheek. “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but you’re a ten out of ten. Perfect body, perfect face.”

“Thank you,” Ian says, amused. “You ain’t too bad yourself.”

“Ugh, whatever. I’m talking about you.” 

“Fine. What do you like about me?” 

“Hair,” Mickey says without missing a beat. “Cock. Eyes.” 

“In that order?” Ian chuckles. 

“I don’t know. I like all of it,” Mickey shrugs. “I love all of it. Love you.” 

 “I love you, too.” 

“I love you more.” 

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.” 

“You don’t know how much I love you,” Ian argues. 

“You’re so fucking annoying,” Mickey sighs. 

“That sobered you up real quick, huh?” Ian laughs. 

“Shut up, I’m trying to be nice to you,” Mickey says. 

Ian curls a leg over Mickey’s hip and sidles up to him a little bit closer. “I’m very happy you like my hair and my cock and my eyes. I won’t tell anyone you’re secretly attracted to your boyfriend.” 

“‘S fucking gay.”

“Sure is,” Ian says and plants a kiss on Mickey’s lips. “Got any more secrets you want to tell me about now that you’re drunk?” 

Mickey shakes his head. 

“You sure?” Ian pushes. 

“What do you want to hear, dickhead?” 

“I don’t know. Your hopes and dreams.” 

“Oh, fuck off. I’m not that fucking drunk,” Mickey snorts. 

“Then why am I practically getting drunk off your breath?” 

“‘Cause you’re the biggest pussy to ever live?” 

“What happened to trying to be nice to me?” Ian complains. Mickey apologizes with a kiss and with a gentle squeeze of Ian’s ass.

Ian looks at him and decides to go for it. “Can you tell me what you’re going to do when we get back? With the business?” 

Mickey doesn’t really seem surprised by the question, but it does take a while for him to respond. “I don’t know,” he admits. “I wanted all of it to be done before my dad got out, but that’s never going to happen.” 

“Why? Why does it have to be done before he gets out?” Ian asks. 

“Because he’s going to find a way to ruin it. He always does.” 

“You don’t have to tell him about it.” 

“He’ll find out.” 

“You won’t let him ruin it,” Ian says, intensely. “You’re bigger than him now, remember?” 

“Even if I do something, he’ll burn all of it down.”

Ian doesn’t know what to say. He had figured out that Mickey was worried about his father coming out, but he had no clue how bad it really was. He should have dug deeper a lot sooner. He should have paid more attention. 

“You’re going to do it anyway,” Ian finally says. “We’ll deal with him.” 

“Or we don’t,” Mickey say. “We can stay here. Fuck Chicago.” 

“Don’t tempt me,” Ian sighs. “I don’t want to think about going back home.” 

“You brought it up,” Mickey reminds him.

“Because I worry about you. About your work… I should have tried helping you with that stuff a lot sooner.”

“Don’t need your stupid help,” Mickey huffs. 

“Mickey.” 

“I’ll figure it out, but you don’t have to worry about this stuff. You’ve got your own job and your own shit-”

“So do you, but that never stopped you from shoving your nose in my business, did it?” Ian says. “When we get home, you’re going to tell me everything. We’ll figure it out. Together.” 

“Fine, you going to drop it until we get back home?”

“You promise to talk about it when we get back home?” 

“Promise,” Mickey says. “So how do you want to fuck tonight?” 

That pulls a surprised laugh out of Ian, and he’s still laughing when Mickey kisses him. “You too drunk to come up with something yourself?” Ian asks, between kisses.

“Feels like a face to face type of night, doesn’t it? You think you can handle that pressure, tough guy?”  

Ian wrestles Mickey onto his back, wasting no time and tugging his boxers down so that he can get his hands on Mickey’s bare ass. Ian could already see the tan lines form when they were in the shower, but in this light the pale skin on Mickey’s upper thighs is contrasted even more. It makes Ian’s cock react, and he shuffles down mindlessly, spreads Mickey’s legs as far as they’ll go and nuzzles his face in the crease of Mickey’s thigh and groin. He drags his tongue across it, he laps at his balls and cock a little bit, before moving down to Mickey’s hole. Mickey’s hand is a solid presence in Ian’s hair, dragging his fingers over his scalp. 

They’d had sex that morning before leaving the cabin, and again earlier that evening when they got back before dinner and Ian is starting to think that if this is what the next four days are going to be like, he really might not want to ever go back to Chicago. 

 

The next day they decide that it can’t hurt if they both get a little drunk and it results in a sunburn, because Ian forgets to reapply sunscreen on time and it is the perfect karma, because Ian convinced Mickey to hang out by the pool for hours so that they could tan naked. It’s was a dumb idea from the start, but Ian is definitely no stranger to sunburn. Him getting a full sunburn on his ass is a first though. 

It’s not so bad, really. Ian’s shoulders get the brunt of it and Mickey’s ass and thighs get a perfect tan. Ian considers it a win. 

They take a well deserved drunken nap after The Sunburn and stay up for the rest of the night. They get to see the sun come up over the ocean and Ian is intensely jealous of all the people in the world who get to enjoy this type of view on a daily basis. 

They talk a lot. They’ve always talked a lot, but it’s different here. Thousands of miles away from Chicago. Mickey made Ian promise not to bring up his dad or the business again, but Mickey brings it up himself. Ian learns that Mickey already has a location lined up and that as soon as his name is on the lease, the only thing he’ll need is the permit. Now that is something his father could definitely put a stop to, if he got to his connection at city hall first. They’re all things that Ian can’t help with, which he really fucking hates, but the least he can do is listen and try to ease the tension in Mickey’s shoulders a little bit. Mickey, as crude and harsh as he may sometimes be, is ironically much better at being comforting and reassuring than Ian is. 

But Ian tries. He tries not to use his body to make him feel better, tries to talk through it, but god it hurts to see Mickey hurting and Ian mostly hates himself for not seeing it sooner. Ian has always been preoccupied by his own bullshit. As hurtful as it is, Ian understands why Mickey wouldn’t want to talk to him about it sooner. Ian has always known he’s a pretty shitty boyfriend; he’s an emotional nightmare who takes and takes and who has yet to figure out how to give anything back that isn’t far too intense for Mickey to be comfortable with. The only other thing he has to offer in the realm of comfort is sex. It’s eye-opening really. He’d be even more of a piece of shit if Mickey never asked him to go to therapy. 

So Ian sucks him off on a deserted beach at six in the morning, and despite everything, he’s never felt as free and happy as he does in that moment.

 

They wake up in the early afternoon, and have their first meal at a restaurant they visited the day before. Ian convinces Mickey to do an actual activity with him that day, which isn’t just swimming or walking or fucking. 

Mickey looks like he wants to argue as soon as Ian brings up the idea of snorkeling, but then just rolls his eyes and shrugs. “I’d rather drown than hear you complain about that fucking sunburn one more time.”

 

With every new thing Ian sees, going back to Chicago becomes less and less attractive. Ian never gave a real shit about nature. He never had any type of feelings towards animals apart from being mildly impressed by them at the zoo and being vaguely disturbed when Carl kept a bunch of elderly and dying dogs in the basement, and looking at cute pictures of cats and dogs when he’s in a particular depressed mood. 

But watching a wild turtles lazily float past him, and a school of colorful fish peck at a reef in real life? It’s absolutely surreal. 

He watches Mickey hoist himself up onto some rocks, water droplets on his tanned skin glistening in the sun and his thick hair, a mess of spikes as he pulls the snorkel of his face, and it is absolutely surreal.  

But it’s not. It is real. It is Ian’s life right now and later that night he’ll realize that he’s happier than he has ever been. Happier than he’s ever been when he was manic. It feels completely different than the buzzing euphoria he’s familiar with. It feels calm and beautiful and real. He’s not standing on the edge of a cliff. He has both feet firmly on the ground for once. 

He might be worried that he’s being delusional about this, if Mickey didn’t seem to be right there with him. Beautiful and smiling and laughing, putting his hands on Ian and kissing him as soon as they’re alone. 

Being out on the beach, in the water and under the sun is amazing, the food is amazing and the drinks are amazing, but there is nothing better than getting back to their air conditioned little cabin for a shower and to cool down together, sprawled out on the bed. 

 On their last night there, Mickey says: “I’m sorry.”

“Hm? For what?” Ian asks. Mickey is leaning against the headboard and Ian has his head in Mickey’s lap, enjoying headscratches and the cool breeze of the air conditioning on his prickly sunburned skin. 

“For being a dickhead,” Mickey says around a sigh. 

“The fuck are you talking about?” Ian snorts. “You can’t apologize for who you are.” 

“I mean when we first started seeing each other,” Mickey clarifies. “I was such a fucking asshole to you. I thought about the other day and the fact that you rode that bullshit out… could have gone differently if you weren’t such a pushy asshole yourself.” 

“This your apology?” 

“I already said I’m sorry,” Mickey huffs. “I just never wanted a boyfriend and at the time I was being a real piece of shit about it.” 

“It was a long time ago, Mick,” Ian shrugs. “Said some horrendous shit myself back then. Not like it held us back.”

“Still. I hate that I treated you that way.” 

“You didn’t want a boyfriend. You were pretty up front about it from the start.” 

“I’m glad you were a pushy asshole.”

“You can always count on me for that,” Ian smiles up at him.

“I have to admit, in a million fucking years, could I not have predicted we’d end up here,” Mickey says, running his thumb over Ian’s cheekbone. 

“What, you didn’t think you’d have a smoking hot boyfriend with rock hard abs taking you on vacation?” 

“A boyfriend at all. Whether he’s hot or not. It was just never an option in my head.” 

“Hm. In your wildest dreams you get gangbanged by a football team, don’t you? Are you telling me this is better?” 

“I’ll let you know after I get gangbanged by the Bears.” 

“Shut the fuck up. Best you’re going to get is me wearing a football jersey while I fuck you.”

“Cut it into a crop top and we’ve got a deal.”

“Okay, that sounds sexy, but those jerseys are like a hundred bucks a pop, so…”

“I forgot you’re a cheap bastard. I’m sure I’ll bust a nut either way.” 

“You’re so sweet, Mick.”

“Alright, I’m going to say one last thing and then I’m going back to terrorizing you,” Mickey says. 

“I’m ready,” Ian says, amused. 

“There are a lot of things I hate about myself-”

“Mick.”

“Shut the fuck up. Lots of things I hate about myself, but for pretty much all my fucking life, the thing I hated the most about myself was that I’m gay.” 

“Mick…”

“Ssh. I get it now. If I wasn’t gay, I’d never have found you. Can’t really imagine that anymore, so.” 

Ian lets it sink in, lets it fill him up and swoop around his heart like a million butterflies. “I love you, too,” Ian finally says. “More than anything.” 

 

Getting back to Chicago is kind of harsh. It’s too soon, is what it is. They could have easily spent another week or two in paradise, but they have to go back to work, back to their apartment building, back to their everyday life. 

They have three weeks before Terry Milkovich gets released. Mickey seems less stressed, and way more determined. It’s a hard shift; they go from spending every second of the day together in paradise, to Mickey working late almost every night in the weeks following their return. When he comes home, he is exhausted and his shirts are caked in dirt every night. 

And then, Mickey finally takes Ian with him. Lip has told Ian about the farm before, Mickey has told Ian about the farm before, but Ian has somehow never stepped foot in the place. It feel kind of bizarre not to know exactly where Mickey goes every single day, but then again Mickey has only been inside of the hospital Ian works at twice, and Ian doesn’t do anything illegal. 

He’s not sure what he imagined, but this was definitely not it. Mickey parks the car in front of an enormous industrial warehouse, all brick and timber with high windows. It’s in the middle of the busiest street of Oldtown. 

“What the fuck is this?” Ian asks. 

“You didn't think I was going to take you to the musty ass basement, did you?” Mickey says. 

“I did,” Ian says. “What is this?” 

“Come on,” Mickey says with a smile. 

 

Ian knows that Mickey makes a lot of money doing what he does. He puts in an insane amount of hours and according to Lip, he is on top of every fucking dollar. To Ian, Mickey has only ever been insanely generous, but now Ian realizes that it’s because he can afford to be.

Ian steps into a long hallway, down to the enormous warehouse space through massive steel doors. 

It looks even bigger than it does from the outside, the lights are intensely bright and it is packed with rows and rows and rows of marijuana plants. Ian can’t even see the end of it. 

“What the fuck?” Ian exclaims, turning to Mickey. “When did you do this?” 

“I found the place a couple of months ago,” Mickey explains. “Couldn’t make the move yet, because I didn’t have the permits.”

“You have them now? All of them?” Ian asks, amazed. 

“All of them,” Mickey says. 

“How? You said you wouldn’t be able to get it done before your dad got out.” 

“Oh, you know. You threaten to chop up a couple of people and suddenly things happen a lot quicker,” Mickey shrugs. “The rent on this place is three times the amount I used to pay for the basement, so that’s a fucking bitch, but we can reach more dispensaries this way.” 

“How did I not know you were doing this? Lip never told me,” Ian says, because he still can’t believe his fucking eyes. 

“I didn’t tell anyone,” Mickey shrugs. “Why do you think it took me so long to make the move?” 

“You did it all by yourself? Why? I could have helped. Your brothers could have helped.”

Mickey shakes his head. “You were working and there is no one out there I trust enough with a move this big. That’s how my dad gets wind of shit. That’s how competitors get wind of shit.” 

“Guess that’s why you’re the businessman,” Ian exhales and puts his arm around Mickey’s shoulder. “Jesus Christ, Mickey. This is insane.” 

“I’m going to bleed the fuck out in taxes,” Mickey says. “Especially at the start. Hopefully business picks up within a year.” 

“I can take care of rent and bills at the apartment,” Ian says. “Whatever you need.”

“You’re a real stand up guy, Gallagher,” Mickey smirks at him and squeezes Ian’s waist. “But I think we’re good for now. We might not be moving into a penthouse anytime soon, though.” 

“Whatever you need, Mick, I mean it,” Ian says and presses a kiss against Mickey’s temple. “You don’t have to do it alone. Not anymore.” 

“Yeah? You want to get your hands dirty?” 

“I mean, sure, if it means we get to spend time together and I’m not spending every night alone at the apartment,” Ian says. 

“I’m sorry about that,” Mickey says easily. “I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. You’re the first to see it. I’ll have Lip double check the wiring and irrigation system this weekend and bring my brothers in next week.”

“I’m first to see it?” Ian asks. 

“Alright, don’t get soft about it.” 

“I’m going to cry.”

“There are cameras everywhere, so if you want me to play a video of you sobbing every night before you go to sleep, sure.” </