Work Header

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Ian Gallagher

Chapter Text

“Guy in the booth, green shirt, wants a dance.”

Ian hadn’t been off the stage for thirty seconds yet when Roger approached him, nodding at a tall, heavyset man tucked away in one of the nearby corner booths. Ian made eye-contact and the man immediately twitched, his hand flying up to nervously smooth his thinning hair before he tugged at his shirt. Ian smirked a little and started moving forward, gliding through the crowd with seemingly effortless ease. It wasn’t effortless; it was a thing Ian worked hard on—moving smoothly, making it seem as if the crowds parted just for him—he wanted to emanate quiet confidence and control within the chaos. It achieved its desired effect, and the man was left gaping as Ian came to stand before him.

“Hi, I’m Curtis,” Ian kept swaying in time with the music and his smirk hitched a little higher. The man was staring at him as if he was some sort of god.

“Salvatore Boerio, Sal…My name is Sal. You can call me Sal,” the man croaked and wiped his hands on his pants.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sal,” Ian purred and then got down to business, “twenty-five bucks gets you a dance,” the man was already nodding and reaching for his wallet before Ian could even finish, “but, uh, one-fifty gets you the champagne room and a lot more privacy.”

It was a no-brainer; Ian rarely saw one hundred and fifty dollars produced so quickly. He cocked his hip, motioning to Sal to put it into the waistband of his shorts, and almost snickered at the reverent, shaky way Sal slipped him the cash. He watched the older man struggle to his feet and Ian narrowed his eyes in assessment. Sal was older—Ian pegged him as being in his early to mid sixties—but he was tall, almost Ian’s height, and with a large build. Ian was willing to bet Sal played football in high school, maybe even college, before excess and age softened his body.

Sal had all the hallmarks of a lovestruck puppy patron, but Ian knew from personal experience that was the type that could easily be the most problematic. Sal was a big guy and while Ian knew he could most likely take him if he got handsy, it would probably not be without a major issue. Ian quickly caught Roger’s eye and subtly signalled him and only moved off when Roger nodded back. The security guard trailed behind them as they headed to one of the private rooms. Until they re-emerged, Roger would be standing outside the door listening for any signs of trouble.

The champagne room was little more than a plush couch, low table and carpet, all luridly decorated in shades of red. Ian grabbed Sal by the front of the shirt and gently guided him to the couch and pushed him down. Sal’s breath expelled in a whoosh, excitement and heady arousal causing him to visibly flush even under the red glow of the tinted lights.

“A couple ground rules before we start, Sal,” Ian said before he began his private dance in earnest, “you should know there’s no sex in the champagne room, so my shorts stay on. The touching is one way, meaning I can touch you, but you can’t touch me, unless of course, you don’t want me touching you. I know it’s a little bit of a disappointment, but if we respect each other, we can both have some fun tonight. Is all that okay with you?”

Sal nodded and seemed to brace when Ian finally started the music and approached him. Ian gave Sal another critical once-over. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, Ian decided. He showed his age, certainly, with the thin wisps of a comb over covering his baldness and the laugh lines wrinkling his face. But the short beard was well-groomed, the brown eyes were bright and laser focused on Ian, and Sal radiated expense. His clothes seemed tailor made and the cologne he wore was heady without being overpowering. Ian had fallen for worse, so as far as he was concerned, Salvatore Boerio definitely wasn’t bad at all.

“Having fun?” Ian asked as he straddled Sal and slid down slowly to almost sit in his lap. Sal could only nod, his eyes glazed as his hands twitched at his side. Ian continued trying for light conversation. “So how’s your day going?”

“It hasn’t been the best day,” Sal surprised Ian a little by actually speaking, “but it’s gotten a whole lot fucking better.”

Ian grinned at that and continued his routine, pleased that Sal was following the rules. Before long he was done and he trailed a hand down Sal’s thigh as he readied to leave. “That was fun… Find me again if you ever want another one.”

“How about now?” Sal said hastily, “can’t I get another one now?”

“You can get as many as you want as long as you pay for it,” Ian said and raised an eyebrow as Sal fished out a wad of hundreds from his wallet. “Yeah, okay, let’s have some fun.”

Alex flicked her compact open and examined her face closely while she waited at the corner. She used a perfectly manicured nail to carefully wipe away a stray bit of lipstick, before sighing in mild frustration as she examined her eyebrows. Her inspection was interrupted by some catcalling from the occupants of a black lowrider as it slowed to a halt in front of her.

“Hey baby, qué pasó?” a young man called to her, grinning madly as he hung out the passenger window, “how you doin’?”

Alex sighed and plastered on a brittle smile. She was used to the attention, usually unwanted, and all the unease that always came with it. Now to try and pull off the delicate act of turning this guy down in the hopes that he didn’t do an about face and flip out on her. She gave a slight shake of her head and mumbled a “good, thanks” before deliberately checking her phone, hoping he’d get the hint and leave.

“Damn though, you’re fine as hell,” the young man persisted while the driver snickered at the impending strike-out, “you got a number for me?”

“Sorry, I…I have a boyfriend.”

“So what, that mean you can’t make any friends?” he asked, “just wanna talk to you some more; get to know you a little better, baby.”

The guy seemed determined not to go anywhere and Alex’s anxiety was beginning to spike. Her mind raced, trying to find an acceptable soft answer that would put an end to this standoff. She was about to hazard another rejection when Ian rounded the corner and she sagged with relief.

“Hi sweetie,” she greeted Ian warmly, immediately clinging to his arm and leaning up to kiss his cheek.

“Hey babe,” Ian raised an eyebrow at the waiting young men and there was the sound of disgruntled grumbling before the car peeled off.

“God, just in the nick of time,” Alex sighed, keeping hold of Ian’s hand as they started walking, “he was striking me as the never take no for an answer type.”

“The trials of a hot blonde.”

“Ugh, don’t start. I didn’t see you all weekend. What did I miss?”

Ian shrugged, “not much, although guess who made two grand in under an hour Saturday night?”

Alex was gobsmacked, “two grand?! You made two thousand dollars in an hour?! Oh my god, I need to start shaking my ass for some cash,” she paused and stared at him through narrowed eyes, “it was from shaking your ass, right? Please tell me you weren’t sucking some wrinkly, grey-pubed dick for that money.”

“You make that sound like such a bad thing,” Ian rolled his eyes, “but no, it was strictly come dancing. I met a big spender last night who might be a little in love with me. Kinda cute actually.”

“Over fifty?” Alex asked and grimaced when Ian sighed and nodded, “ew.”

“You seriously need to stop being so judgemental about my preferences.”

“Ugh, I swear to god, Dr. Lester isn’t working fast enough on your daddy issues, Ian,” Alex sighed and gave an irritated toss of her blonde mane, “it kills me every time you settle for one of these boring grandpa types.”

They turned another corner and walked across the large parking lot of the supermarket. They slowed a little; they were early and not in any particular hurry to start their shift.

“I don’t settle; I like what I like,” Ian said firmly, “some people like them tall, some people like blondes, I happen to like older guys. How is this a crime?”

Alex groaned, “bullshit, Ian. You can barely stay awake when you talk about some of these dudes. We have our whole fucking lives to settle for boring, staid relationships. We’re young! It’s supposed to be all about heat and passion and wild fucking; at least in the beginning!” Alex huffed and began dancing around a sceptical looking Ian, “how can you stand it? I want a guy who sets me on fire. Like I’m this close to going up in flames from the way he looks at me. I want…” Alex flailed her arms as she struggled for an appropriate word, “boom!”

“Boom?” Ian sniffed.

“Fucking boom!” Alex confirmed, “We’re twenty-one years old, our love lives should be fucking nuclear.”

“Eh, no thanks,” Ian said, “that kind of thing isn’t for everybody. Take it from me, wild and out of control can be very overrated.”

Alex nodded, getting the implication of what Ian was saying immediately. “Alright, I admit, different strokes for different folks, but I wish you wouldn’t knock it until you’ve at least tried it, you know, the whole desperately in love thing.”

“You shouldn’t knock older guys until you’ve tried them either,” Ian nudged his best friend, “they can be quite educational.”

Alex stuck a finger down her throat and dry-heaved; so much for being open-minded.

They were neighbouring cashiers on a slow day, so Ian and Alex passed the time chatting and watching the clock in between random customers. Alex flipped open her compact again and examined her face critically.

“Ugh, I seriously need a better pay check. I need proper moisturizers and MAC just unveiled a new line that I need to have.”

“Your skin is perfect, Alexis, you don’t need more cosmetic shit. You need to eat properly and meet your savings quota. You haven’t actually saved anything in months.”

“Maybe I just need a job where I can score two grand in a night and cover all my needs,” she grumbled.

Ian shook his head, “it’s not typical, and you know that’s not the route for you. Still, at least I’ll be able to get financial aid off my ass for the semester. It’s got to be a little bit of a relief knowing your parents have your tuition covered.”

Alex rolled her eyes in disgust, “my parents are fucking fascists who refuse to believe that there might be more pressing issues than a degree right now. Fat lot of good a psych degree is going to do me at the end of four years if I can’t figure my real shit out before then.”

Ian didn’t have a response to that, but he was distracted for the moment by a familiar face. “Holy shit, it’s him!”

“Him who?” Alex’s head snapped up as she peered around the supermarket.

“Him!” Ian hissed, nodding to the large man strolling into the supermarket, “Big Spender!”

Alex’s eyes fastened on him and she could barely hold back a sneer. “Creep,” she thought, a dapper looking creep, but a creep nonetheless. She frowned when the man made eye contact with Ian over her shoulder and smiled shyly at him. She watched, unblinking, as the man grabbed a cart and quickly ducked out of sight. She whipped around to Ian and was horrified by the small smirk she saw on his face. She knew that look; it was his “reel them in” look and Alex was not having it.

“Don’t even think about it! He’s a fucking creepy stalker,” she warned, “fuckers like that shop at Whole Foods in the North side. You think it’s a coincidence he drops two grand on you and then shows up at your day job two days later?!”   

“So he’s resourceful,” Ian was grinning, his eyes fastened on the aisle into which Sal had disappeared, “doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

God, she hated when he got like this. She grabbed the spray bottle from beneath the cash register and squirted him with it.

“What the fuck, Alex!” he hissed at her.

“You are on the cusp of making a terrible decision. I can feel it in my bones.”

He shot her a quelling look and turned his attention to Sal as the older man sauntered up. Alex turned to him as well and pinned him with a saccharine smile.

“Hello, sir,” she addressed him cheerily while Ian shot suspicious daggers at her. “My colleague is manning the ‘ten items or less’ line and you appear to have more than that. Perhaps I can assist you?”

Sal seemed stuck, but Ian intervened quickly and replied to Alex through clenched teeth, “it’s not that much more and it’s a slow day. I’m perfectly willing to help the customer, but thanks, Alexis.”

Alex huffed, tossed her hair and turned her back firmly on them. Let the world burn, see if she cared.

Ian turned his full attention to Sal, smiling sweetly, and indicated that he should start putting his items on the conveyor belt. Sal seemed as nervous and awestruck as he had been at the club and he jerkily tossed the very random assortment of items out of the cart. Ian said nothing as he deftly swiped the items across the sensor while he waited for Sal to make his move.

“You, uh, look kinda familiar,” despite the obvious expense of his clothes and how well put together he was, Sal spoke with a strange thuggish roughness that seemed to contradict his carefully put-together look.

“Let me guess; do I look like an old boyfriend or a new one?” Ian asked. Alex rolled her eyes while Sal chortled.

“Actually, I, uh, met a young man who looked an awful lot like you at a club the other night; only his name was Curtis, not Ian,” Sal said, nodding at Ian’s nametag.

“Fancy that…they say we all have our twins out there. Maybe he’s mine.”

Sal grinned and scratched at his nose, struggling to get some kind of flow going on his part. “I don’t want to seem like some kind of creep or weird guy,” he paused as the young woman behind him was suddenly struck with a coughing fit. When it subsided, he continued, “but I felt like I had to see you again. I, um, spoke with your manager at the club and he was kind enough to give me some information. I don’t usually shop here.”

“Really? You mean you’re not a fan of our store-brand chicken liver?” Ian held up the package to a very surprised Sal before he swiped it, “I’m shocked. Cash or charge?”

Sal was nonplussed before he remembered what he was supposed to be doing. “Charge,” he said and proceeded to make quite the production of getting out his platinum Amex and handing it over to Ian. The younger man didn’t even blink; instead he indicated to Sal to swipe his card while Ian went about packing up his groceries.

“I hope you don’t consider this too forward, or anything, but I was hoping I could maybe take you out some time.”

Ian said nothing, but ripped the receipt out of the register and started to hand it to Sal. Before Sal could accept it, Ian yanked it back, whipped out a pen out of his smock, and jotted down his number. “Give me a call some time…we’ll see how it goes.”

Sal’s grin was immense, and he took the paper with damp hands, nodding dazedly before finally stumbling off. Ian watched him go, smirking slightly to himself before turning around to face a scowling Alex.


“Are you fucking serious? First of all, aren’t you the least bit concerned that your piece of shit manager is selling your information to whatever slime is willing to shake a dollar at him?”

“Martin isn’t like that,” Ian said quickly, “he looks out for us. If he told Sal about me, it’s a recommendation of Sal’s character.”

“Or his wallet,” she shot back, “and ‘Sal,’ really? ‘I hope I’m not being too forward.’ Where the fuck is he taking you, his cotillion? Gross, Ian.”

“Okay seriously, Alex, stop,” Ian sighed, “are you always gonna give me shit for my personal fucking preferences?”

Alex chewed her inner cheek and tried to hold her tongue, knowing full well she had a tendency to become overly critical, but she knew she was right here. She tried to soften her tone.

“This guy though? Are you sure?”

Ian shrugged and it broke her heart a little. “He seems nice and he’s kinda cute; seems like he’d be a really good listener. Why not?”

Alex shook her head, “seriously, Ian…boom.”

Sal wasn’t playing it cool in the least and by nightfall, he was on the phone with Ian and by the following night, they were on their first date. Sal had a driver, because of course he did, and the scruffy young man dressed the part perfectly, smart driver’s cap included.

“Ian, this is Iggy, one of my boys…Iggy, this is Ian,” Sal made the introductions as he ushered Ian into the back of the town car. Iggy gave Ian a lopsided smile and an awkward half-wave and slammed the car door shut after them.

It was a long drive to the restaurant, but then, Ian had anticipated that. He had done this a hundred times before, accompanying the semi-closeted, older man to some destination beyond the reach of his social circle, thus lessening the fear of getting caught. It was a cosy, but swank Italian place, and the owner left the kitchen to greet Sal warmly and personally escort him to his table. Wine came quickly and Sal, full of what Ian figured was nervous energy, quickly filled their glasses to the brims.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful,” Sal breathed out, “I saw you up there on the stage and, I don’t know, you were mesmerizing. I actually can’t believe you’re here sitting across from me right now.”

Ian took the compliment, basking a little in the frank admiration. He took a measured sip of the wine and regarded Sal thoughtfully over the rim. “So what do you do, Sal?”

Sal let out a short laugh, shrugging a little before gulping his wine, “I’m a glorified mechanic, is what I am. I own a chain of garages that specialize in the restoration and maintenance of classic cars. I’m a great appreciator of beautiful things,” he waggled his eyebrows meaningfully at Ian and refilled his glass.

“That sounds kind of cool actually,” Ian said.

“It is, it is; this business is something else, you know?” Sal chuckled, “a few months back, some sonuvabitch brings in a Model T—a Ford fucking Model T! Mickey, my boy—my chief—he nearly pisses himself he’s so excited…can’t wait to get to work on the fucking thing.”

Ian had to laugh, “sounds like fun.”

“For him,” Sal laughed, “I like to see the beautiful things, but I leave the work to the young and the eager. I just sit on my ass and wait for my money to roll in. But you tell me, what about you? Supermarket in the day, club at night…? What’s all that for?” Sal asked as heaping plates of food made their way to their table. There was a pause in the conversation as the waiter arranged their spread.

“School,” Ian said after the waiter went away, “I just started going to Preston in September. I’m going to be a business major.”

“Beauty and brains, huh?” Sal swallowed and nodded, “that’s fucking impressive. Full-time at school?”

“I’m trying to stay full-time, hence the two jobs.”

“That’s fucking beautiful; that shows ambition and an incredible work ethic,” Sal said, “I wish some of my boys were even half as motivated.”

“You have a lot of boys working for you, huh?” Ian asked, amused.

“Tons,” Sal replied, tongue in cheek, “wouldn’t you if you were in my position?”

Ian couldn’t deny that, “how does your wife feel about it?”

The question caught Sal in mid-gulp and he promptly choked on his wine. Ian watched him coolly as he sputtered and coughed and tried to get himself under control. It was clear that Sal hardly wore his ring, since there was no visible tan line on his finger, but the hard outline of the ring in Sal’s wallet was hard to miss, especially since the man was determined to flash his wealth in front of Ian.

“What makes you think I have a wife?” Sal wheezed, slowly regaining his composure.

“You’re saying you don’t?” Ian rolled his eyes a little, “come on.”

Sal sighed heavily, “I’d hoped to delay that conversation a little. I didn’t want to spook you before you’d even given me a chance.”

“Dishonesty spooks me the fastest,” Ian said bluntly and leaned back in his chair, bracing himself for the litany.

And so it began. “I was born in a different time, Ian…”

Of course he was, and he grew up in a traditional setting and had certain expectations of him. Ian could write that poem by heart; he had heard it and its iterations a million times before. He would probably hear it a million times more before he found someone to settle down with; if he ever found that one. Ian could practically hear Alex screeching at him already.

“…I love my wife, in my own fucked up way, and she loves me. We just can’t make each other happy.”

“Does she know?” Ian asked, tuning back into the conversation.

“Don’t they always?” Sal laughed ruefully, “I don’t know what she figured out first, the sneaking around, or the men, but, uh, she knows. The rules are simple enough, be discreet, be respectful—I live my life, she lives hers, and then put on a show when we have to.”

Ian doubted it was so neatly cut and dried; it rarely ever was, but Ian didn’t dwell on that. He had made a decision. He shoved his plate forward slightly and stared evenly at his date.  “You want to get out of here?”

Sal didn’t hesitate, “more than anything.”

Ian nodded, his whole being slowly settling into his resolution. “Take me somewhere nice, Sal.”

It was nice, Ian couldn’t deny that. He popped open a bottle of champagne and took a deep swig directly from the bottle as he stared out at the Chicago skyline from the high-rise hotel. He had removed his shoes and socks, and his bare toes dug into the softness of the carpet. Sal came up behind him and rested a hand on the small of his back. Ian took another mouthful of champagne and turned to face him.

“Nice, huh?” Sal asked softly and pressed tentative hands into Ian’s hips.

“It’s alright,” Ian said noncommittally, “I think you can make things a little better for me. How are you going to that, Salvatore?”

Sal stared at him blankly before he finally got the implications of Ian’s words and his steady green gaze. He slowly got to his knees before Ian and unzipped his pants.

“That’s good, Sal; so good,” Ian said automatically as his mind began to wander. He whispered soft instructions to Sal between sips of champagne and glanced out the window to take everything in.

Was he hot for Sal? No, not really; but Ian was never after heat. Despite Alex’s cheerleading for passion and booming and all that shit, Ian found it exhausting and overrated. What he wanted was stability, someone who would pay attention and listen to him; give him support when he needed it without making insane demands on his time and attention. Ian couldn’t much help that all the qualities he sought tended to be encapsulated in older, closeted, married men; it just seemed to shake out that all the time.

Ian didn’t have to be the number one priority in someone’s life, nor did he want to be. He didn’t mind falling in line behind the wife, the kids, the business and all that noise. He just needed to know where he stood and the expectations that came with it. Alex could call it pathetic and settling, but it was what he craved and what made him happy. If there was anything better than Salvatore Boerio and his ilk, Ian Gallagher had yet to meet it.

Chapter Text

Ian stared at the ceiling and patiently waited for the sun to come up. Sal was out cold, asleep next to him with one arm slung across Ian’s stomach. He listened to the steady snoring, growing increasingly antsy as the time slowly ticked by. Once the room adequately brightened in the early morning hours, he slipped out of Sal’s grasp and started gathering his clothes. Despite his best efforts of stealth and silence, Sal still snorted awake and blinked at him blearily.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you,” Ian apologised as he pulled on his pants.

“Where the fuck you going so early?” Sal grumbled and rubbed his face, “where’s the fire?”

“I have school later and I usually do my early morning jog…I have a whole routine, you know?” Ian said, slipping on his shirt and buttoning up, never pausing in his quest to leave. “Go back to sleep; I can make my way home.”

“You can make your way home, huh? What the fuck you take me for?” Sal groused, making Ian smile, “Jesus, you think I’m going to give you some change for the bus and kick you out? I thought you’d be hanging around here today.”


Sal waved him off and grabbed his phone off the night table. “Ah, it’s fine; you have your ‘whole routine’. Hold your horses for a second; let me at least get one of my boys.”

Within a matter of minutes, he had bid Sal goodbye with a peck on the cheek and was greeting a surprisingly awake-looking Iggy outside the hotel. Ian shivered a bit in the crisp air of the fall morning, and smiled apologetically at Iggy.

“Sorry that you had to come out so early.”

Iggy snorted dismissively and went to open the rear passenger door. “This is the least, man; don’t even worry about it.”

Ian looked uncomfortably at Iggy holding the car door open. “Can’t I just ride upfront with you? This is a little weird.”

Iggy blinked in surprise and shrugged before slamming the door shut and making his way to the driver’s seat. He tugged at his jacket and tie, scruffy and rumpled in his slightly ill-fitting suit in a way that Ian imagined must drive Sal to distraction. Ian slipped into the passenger seat and Iggy peeled off, leaving smoke and the smell of burning rubber behind them.

“I can’t believe it’s so fucking cold already,” Ian said, “autumn just started.”

“Yeah,” Iggy mumbled, unused to any of Sal’s romantic interests engaging him on any level. Then again, this new guy was a horse of an entirely different colour. Iggy gave Ian sidelong glances, eager to say something but first trying to gauge how Ian might react. He eventually made an attempt. “So you’re Sal’s new side piece, huh?”

Tact was not Iggy’s strong point. Fortunately, Ian only snickered.

“Yeah, I guess? I’ve never been called a side piece before, but I guess that’s what I am.”

Iggy snorted his agreement, relaxing a little in Ian’s company. “It’s not a bad gig if you think about it. You keep Sal happy, he keeps you happy. Just weird, you know? You aren’t his normal type.”

“Yeah? What’s the norm?”

Iggy stuck a straw in his mouth and scratched at his face while he tried to process an answer, his eyes never leaving the road. “Fuck, I don’t know. Older? His age and shit? Last piece was one of those drag queen types, but low key, you know? Looked like some regular shmuck until he put all that make-up shit on. Mickey called him Victor/Victoria. Prissy, but he was kinda alright.”

“What happened to him?”

“Got dumped for your ass,” Iggy grinned widely at Ian and looked him up and down. “Can’t say he was too happy about it, but, uh, the kiss-off was sweet at least.” Iggy knew he was probably talking too much, but he couldn’t help but automatically like this new one, who was a contemporary, but also didn’t treat Iggy as if he was a piece of Sal’s furniture. “Like I said, just keep him happy and it’ll pay off in the end.”

Ian only nodded, well aware of the assumptions made about him. If he told Iggy that it was about something more than money, he would be met with nothing but disbelief and derision. So he left it alone and accepted it. Besides, there was an expiration date on all these relationships, and if he could get some nice things and be a little better off when it all inevitably went to shit, then all the better. He even felt a little envious of Victor/Victoria. Before either man could make further conversation, Iggy’s phone rang and the hands-free set up announced that Joey was calling.

“You’re on speaker,” Iggy warned immediately, “what the fuck are you doing up so early?”

“I need to head into Canada for a minute,” Joey Milkovich crackled across the line, “gotta take care of something and I need an early start.”

Iggy started snickering, knowing exactly what his brother was up to. “You and these internet bitches. All the way to fucking Canada for some tail? I’ve been told Eskimo pussy is mighty cold.”

“Eskimos are in Alaska, you fucking moron,” Joey snapped and clearly those were fighting words.

“Fucking moron says what? Eskimos are in Canada too, jackass!” Iggy, in his affronted indignation, managed to snap out of his stoned drawl for the moment.

“…they are?” Joey asked uncertainly, and an air of genuine confusion settled between the brothers. Ian had to bite his tongue and look out the window to keep from laughing. “Anyway, you think Mickey will be pissed if I borrowed the ‘Stang?”

Iggy stared at his phone in disbelief. “His mustang? Don’t even ask that shit, man. If you’re going to take it, take it, but don’t ask that shit or get me involved. I’m not about to catch an ass-kicking for your dumb ass. There are like a dozen other cars you can use.”

“The ‘Stang is cool though,” Joey whined, “I’d look cool. I want to make a good impression here.”

“Well take pictures so you can remember how cool you looked after Mickey puts you in a wheelchair. You touch one of his cars and he’s going to know,” Iggy warned and abruptly cut the call off when Joey began to protest.

“Territorial about his cars, huh?” Ian asked after Iggy hung up.

“Who, Mick? You don’t even know, man,” Iggy sighed, “you even slightly fuck up something he loves and he goes beast mode. He has no chill whatsoever.”

“Sounds charming,” Ian muttered, but his sarcasm was lost on Iggy.

“What’s your line up today?” Ian asked Alex after they met up under the massive oak tree at the front of their campus.

“Abnormal psyche over at the M building, Interpersonal communication and then Lit.”

“Okay, so we’ll meet up in Lit then,” Ian nodded, “you’ll get there first, so save me a seat.”

Alex eyed him expectantly, “we have a few minutes; you’re not going to tell me about the sagging man meat?”

Ian rolled his eyes before shooting her a warning look, “Allie…”

“Just asking!”

Ian hoisted his backpack and starting ambling towards class, Alex following doggedly at his heels. “What do you want me to say? He was nice; it was nice. We went to an Italian place, talked a while, went to hotel afterwards,” Ian trailed off, shrugging listlessly.

“Oh, be still my heart,” Alex said, “please curb your enthusiasm.”

“Look he’s a nice guy, he’s sweet, but it’s early days and there’s not much to tell yet. Alright?” Ian changed the topic quickly, “you talked to Mr. Simpson yesterday? Any luck?”

Alex’s face immediately clouded, “nothing. I made my case again about the bathroom situation and he shut me down. Then I tried to talk about how Kevin, Nate and the rest of the asshole patrol keep messing with me. He said ‘boys will be boys’ and it sounded like a little teasing, and I should perhaps try to not be so sensitive.”

“Fucking asshole,” Ian grumbled, “there’s got to be something else we can do.”

“I don’t want to rock the boat too hard. I seriously need this job until I can find something that doesn’t turn me into a fucking ball of anxiety at the end of the day.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s so fucking gross you have to deal with this shit. Kevin’s only doing this shit because he wants to fuck you and doesn’t know how to deal,” Ian grabbed Alex and hugged her close, “we’ll figure something out. Until then, just stick with me and keep avoiding those morons.”

Alex nodded and hugged him close for the moment, craving the safe contact. Sometimes she felt he was the only thing keeping her sane. Dr. Lester would probably have a few choice words to say about that.

Ian was at home working on his crunches when his phone rang. He knew immediately that it was Sal. He was the only person who actually called as opposed to texting. They were three weeks into their relationship and Ian was developing a genuine fondness for him. The man was doting and generous, and hadn’t stopped trying to impress. He listened, although Ian couldn’t say how much actually registered, and conversely, was pretty easy to please. Ian figured he could do a whole lot worse.


“Hi,” Sal greeted warmly, “what are you doing?”

“Working out.”

“As always,” Sal teased, “takes that much work to have a body like that, huh? I’m never going to be Mr. America.”

Ian picked up the odd inflection in Sal’s voice as he spoke. The man sounded strained and tired. “Is everything okay?”

“I just had a business meeting. Sometimes my investors give me fucking agita. I’m in need of some pleasant distraction,” Sal said, “can I pick you up in about a half hour?”


By the time Ian got downstairs, the town car was parked outside and Iggy and Igor were standing outside the car, having a smoke. Ian tried to stop labelling Tony as Igor, because it really wasn’t fair to him. So far, Ian had met four Milkovich brothers and they seemed to come in two distinct sets: first were Jaime and Tony, two physically imposing specimens that were terrifying to behold.

Sal explained their presence by telling Ian that every successful business man needs at least a couple of heavies around, for safety purposes. While Jaime would grunt at Ian occasionally and not much else, Tony engaged him easily enough, though it was usually to try and take the piss out of him for some reason or another. Jaime and Tony followed Sal’s lead, dressing their larger frames in tailored suits that only made them all the more intimidating. Iggy and Joey were the second, younger set. They were rough and tumble and looked it, standing in untidy contrast to their big brothers. They were chattier and far less successful at putting the fear of God into Ian. 

“Yo, Ian, help settle this shit,” Iggy called to him as he approached, “Alice in Wonderland, right? That shit was about drugs mostly, right?”

“Yeah, that’s one popular theory.”

Iggy grinned triumphantly and whirled on his sneering brother, “fuck, I told you! Give me my money!”

“What, just because he goes to college, you think he knows everything?” Tony said and opened the back door to let Ian in next to Sal.

“About this he does! Pay up.”

Sal shook his head as Ian settled in next to him. “You see the shit I have to put up with; dealing with these knuckleheads?”

The two brothers went on squabbling in the front of the car and Ian grinned at his long suffering boyfriend. Sal kissed Ian’s hand and pulled him closer.

“What’s going on today?” Ian asked, “you’re kinda out of it.”

“These meetings…they always leave me a little unhappy. There are people there for whom I have the utmost respect, but never see it fit to return that respect for one reason or another. To know that you can spend your life putting in the work, but yet at the end of the day…ah,” Sal grunted with disgust but refused to say anything further. Instead he turned to Ian and smiled softly at him, “what can you do to cheer an old man up?”

Ian could only guess what Sal was hoping for, but he directed Iggy to head down to the water front. It took some urging, but he convinced Sal to take off his shoes and socks so they could walk together on the deserted beach. He left Sal for a few minutes and ran off to one of the small food kiosks dotting the shore and promptly returned with a carton of cherry cheesecake bites.

“You’ve got to try these,” Ian waved a piece of the confection in Sal’s face, “you’ll love it.”

“Ah,” Sal groused and waved it away.

“It’s impossible to eat one of these and not feel better. I promise,” Ian tempted him further, and when Sal protested further, Ian raised an authoritative eyebrow at him, “Sal? Sal…”

Sal huffed a little, but sheepishly leaned forward and let Ian pop the cheesecake bite into his mouth. He made a pleased noise and flushed a little under Ian’s smug, lopsided grin.

“See, what did I tell you?” Ian said as he wiped away the sugar around Sal’s mouth with his thumb, “I get these any time I want to treat myself and—”

“Faggots!” the word rent the air and Sal stiffened and went white while Ian spun to face the troll. Their harasser was hard to miss—a young man in a bright yellow cycling suit, atop an equally bright yellow bicycle. He wasn’t interested in sticking around, and yelled a few more invectives over his shoulder as he rode laughing.

“We’re done here,” Sal said tightly and turned abruptly to head back to the car.

“Sal, don’t let that shit get to you,” Ian began, but Sal only seemed to move faster. Ian could only sigh and go after him.

Sal had fallen into a ponderous, sullen silence in the car and no one else spoke as Iggy headed for his boss’s favourite hotel. The silence stretched; the weird tension that had coiled around Sal earlier now spinning out and enveloping the whole vehicle. They had only been driving for a few minutes when a familiar yellow sight came into view and Sal did a double take. He leaned forward to tap Tony on the shoulder.

“That right there?” Sal said softly as he pointed to the rider ahead of the car, “is a fucking rude individual. Pick him up when you get a chance.”

Ian frowned in consternation and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Tony had taken the directive without so much as a question and Iggy had immediately cut his speed, hanging back and quietly trailing the man as he rode his bike.

“Sal, what’s going on?” Ian asked, but Sal didn’t answer him. Instead he laid a soothing hand on Ian’s thigh and kept his eyes locked on the unsuspecting rider.

It didn’t take long for the target to make an unwitting mistake. He turned onto a quiet road and started picking up speed. That was Iggy’s cue to hit the gas pedal and the car lurched forward. Seconds later, the car veered in front of the bike and screeched to a halt, leaving the cyclist mere feet to come to a sliding halt to avoid colliding into the side of the car. He barely managed it, and crashed to the ground inches before the vehicle.

“What the fuck?!” the cyclist spat out as he tried to disentangle himself from his bike and get to his feet.

Tony exited the car and came around the cursing young man, reaching him just as he struggled to his knees. A powerful blow to the back of the neck, just below his helmet knocked him right back down again.

“Sal, what the hell?!” Ian hissed, panicked, and still Sal didn’t speak. He kept stroking Ian’s thigh and watched the folding violence with the oddest, serene look on his face.

Tony delivered several hard kicks to the cyclist’s stomach before picking up the man’s bike and slamming it viciously on top of him. Now certain that the man was stunned and hurting, Tony dragged him to his feet and nodded to Iggy to open the trunk. Tony frisked him roughly and took his wallet and phone before shoving him into the trunk.

Ian blanched as the car dipped under the weight of the moaning man. “Sal, what are you—you can’t—” he caught Iggy looking at him in the rear-view mirror and the scruffy young man shook his head. Ian swallowed his words and sank down in the seat, trying desperately to stave off the fear, panic and confusion setting in.

They drove for what felt like forever with the sound of a terrified individual banging frantically against the trunk of the car. They arrived at an abandoned warehouse down by some docks and Ian was momentarily left alone when the three other men silently exited the car. Ian waited for a moment, unsure of what to do, until he heard the stranger babbling as they pulled him from the trunk and tossed him to the ground.

“What the fuck?! What the fuck?! Who are you people?!”

“Stand him up,” Sal ordered. Tony obediently yanked the gibbering man to his feet, making sure to keep his arms pinned as he forced him to face Sal. Sal stepped forward, slipping on a set of brass knuckles and frowned at the bruised up cyclist. “What, you forget my face already? You call me a faggot and forget me? There’s just no end to your rudeness.”

“Hey, no wait, I—” there was the crunch of hard metal connecting with flesh and teeth when Sal punched the man hard across the face.

“Wasn’t done talking,” Sal sniffed and shrugged off his jacket, tossing it to Iggy. “See what I’m talking about? Now why would you verbally assault two complete strangers? What animal raised you to think that’s okay? Why do people think it’s acceptable to disrespect me?!” another hard hit, this time below the ribs, and the man’s knees buckled.

Ian scrambled out of the car, unable to sit quietly while the carnage unfolded. Sal and Tony paid him no mind, but Iggy fixed him with a look of warning when he came to stand behind the enraged, older man. Sal was growing winded as he laid into the cyclist and finally stepped away.

“Let him drop,” Sal directed and watched as the cyclist crumpled, sobbing, to the ground, “teach him.”

Ian watched in horror as Tony started stomping on the man, alternating occasionally with vicious kicks to the face and body. Ian rested his hand hesitantly on Sal’s shoulder in an attempt to calm him down and get him to call this off. Before he could speak, Tony derailed his thoughts with an odd complaint.

“Fucker got blood all over my shoes,” Tony said and rummaged in his coat for a handkerchief.  Ian was nonplussed by the surrealism of the moment, but it stirred Sal all over again.

“Are those the new Ferragamo?” Sal asked and seemed to bristle when Tony nodded. He turned his rage once again upon the downed man, “you got blood all over his fucking Ferragamo!” landing another hard kick into the man.

Ian grabbed him in desperation. “Sal, no, come on, this has gone far enough. It’s not worth it. Just let him go…please?”

Sal was breathing heavily and looked at Ian as if he was registering him for the first time. At length, the older man nodded and signalled Tony to back off. By then, the cyclist was a broken, bloody mess, virtually unrecognizable from the man that had heckled them earlier.

“You see that?” Sal asked the barely conscious man, “you see how classy that is? This beautiful individual is interceding for you even after the disgraceful way you treated him. You going to fucking thank him or what?” It took a while, but eventually the man mumbled out something that sounded vaguely like a “thank you” with his ruined mouth. Sal appeared to be satisfied. “Clean this shit up,” he said to Iggy and took his jacket and headed back into the car.

“Can we call him an ambulance?” Ian asked Iggy softly, “he needs an ambulance.”

“Yeah, sure, give me a sec,” Iggy stooped down next to the moaning man and rifled through the wallet Tony had handed him. He did a quick check of his identification. “You look like shit, John Foster of 2358 Bernice Ave. You need an ambulance for real, man, but I need to know first, what happened to you tonight?”


Iggy’s laugh was weirdly good-natured, adding to the ongoing surrealist feel. “Nah, man, ‘nothing’ doesn’t fuck you up like this, John Foster of 2358 Bernice Ave. You gotta spin a better story, man. Ah, but you’ll figure it out, right? I’m going to keep this though, just in case,” Iggy pocketed the man’s driver’s licence and finally dialled 911, tossing the phone down next to him and then nodding to a shell-shocked Ian. “Let’s go.”

They joined Sal and Tony in the car and an awkward silence settled over them as Iggy headed back to the streets.

“I think I want to go back home now,” Ian said quietly, his hands fisted atop his thighs as he braced for Sal’s displeasure.

Sal said nothing, and simply nodded to Iggy who looked to him for confirmation. When the car stopped outside his rundown apartment building, Ian quickly exited without a word.

The following night, Ian finished his shift at the club and walked out into the chilly night air. He walked quickly, eager to get home to wash the sweat and smell of the club from his skin. He’d only made it a few blocks before a familiar town car pulled alongside him.

“Need a lift?” Sal asked from the backseat, looking as contrite and conciliatory as a man could look.  

“No thanks,” Ian ducked his head and kept walking, trying his best to ignore the car creeping along next to him.

“Ian, please, get in the car,” Sal asked again.

It was Iggy who convinced Ian to relent by giving Ian another of his significant looks. It had become a constant marvel to Ian, the way someone who seemed as constantly laid back and strung-out as Iggy could convey so much with a glance. All the brothers were like that to an extent—surprising experts at subtle, unspoken communication.

“Are you afraid of me?” Sal asked as Ian reluctantly settled next to him and Iggy stepped out of the car. Ian didn’t respond, but the answer was clear as he kept his head dipped and his eyes focused on his shoes. When Sal spoke again, the shame was heavy in his voice. “Please don’t be afraid of me. Be angry, yes, but don’t be afraid.”

Ian’s sardonic chuckle escaped his lips before he could stop it and he shot Sal a nervous glance to gauge his reaction.

“I wanted to apologise to you, Ian,” Sal started again, “what happened last night was fucking disgraceful and I should never have behaved the way I did. I was wound up from the meeting and then that fucking guy,” Sal took a deep breath and slowly expelled it. “You’re important to me, Ian, and if you’re with Sal Boerio, you’re supposed to feel protected. I take you out and there’s this fucking asshole saying this ugly shit. I lost it; it all just got on top of me for a second. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Ian looked at him uncertainly, “that was fucking scary, Sal.”

“I know, I know, but I promise you that that is not the man I am, and it’s a side of me you will not see again,” Sal shifted, turning his body fully towards Ian and taking the young man’s hand in both his own, “I swear to you on my mother’s grave, you will never have anything to fear from me, Ian. I just want to make sure you’re taken care of and protected.” Sal reached up and tenderly stroked Ian’s face, and smiled hopefully when Ian’s face softened. “What do you say, give a dumb old man another chance?”

Ian toyed with his bag, a small smile on his lips as he felt himself giving over. “No more scary shit, Sal.”

“No more scary shit,” Sal swore and reached for something on the floor. He handed a box the size of his palm.

“What’s this?” Ian asked and opened the box to retrieve the brand new cell phone within it.

“When Sal Boerio apologizes, he does it with a little substance,” Sal grinned widely. “Besides, the boys told me a phone like yours was due for an upgrade.”

“You didn’t have to do this, Sal.” Ian began, but Sal quickly dismissed the mild protest.

“Spoiling you is going to be my greatest pleasure. Perfection like yours deserves everything.”

A few days later, the four brothers sat in the basement of Sal’s pool house, drinking and playing poker while Sal entertained upstairs. Jaime’s phone rang, interrupting the game, and he fished his phone out.

“Collect call from a correctional facility…I wonder who that could be,” he said dryly before putting the phone on speaker and placing it in the center of the table.

“Hey, Mick!” the brothers said in chorus and all grinned at the surprised grunt at the other end of the line.

“You fuckheads are all together?” Mickey asked.

“Yeah, Sal’s talking shop with a few of his friends, so we’re sitting tight,” Tony explained.

“Yeah, okay…who’s coming to get me Friday?” Mickey asked and Joey raised his hand before catching himself and answering. “You remember how to get to the drop site? Don’t be fucking late and leave me waiting out at the bus stop like some kind of bitch.”

“I know how to get there and I won’t be late, Jesus!”

“We were just talking about you, Mick,” Jaime said, “we’re trying to figure out how best to ease you back into life on the outside. The world has changed.”

“Oh fuck off, how much can you assholes have fucked up in two months?”

“Nothing like that, but other things…like wait till you see the new mistress,” Tony chortled.

“Big fucking deal. Tell me about shit I care about, like not getting left standing at the fucking bus stop, Colin!”

“I fucking hate when you guys call me that,” Joey grumbled.

“I’m just saying,” Tony persisted, “wait till you see…”

“Yeah,” Mickey sniffed; a bundle of enthusiasm. “I can hardly wait.”



Chapter Text

“Why does everything I touch die?!” Dr. Anne Lester wailed while she desperately spritzed the potted plants lining her window sill.

Ian grinned at her hysterics and closed the door behind him as he stepped into her office. “Hyperbole or should I make a quick exit?”

Dr. Lester sighed and slumped dramatically. She was a short and slight woman, with large, expressive olive eyes and wild, curly brown hair which was haphazardly pinned together into a messy chignon. She shoved the sleeves of her too large cardigan up a little and held up her hands to Ian.

“Run, child; run as quickly as you can. You see these?” she wiggled her thumbs at Ian, “black as midnight; black as the evil that lurks in men’s hearts. I’ve have black thumbs, Ian! I’ve killed about five cacti in the space of a year and now these little traitors are about to give up the ghost.”

Ian laughed and grabbed a lump of play dough from one of the tables in the large, airy office and threw himself down onto the couch. “Those plants look like annuals, Dr. Lester.”

She blinked at him owlishly, “hmm?”

“It’s autumn now, they’re going to die. Not much you can do about it.”

She stared at him for a few seconds more before sagging with relief and clutching her chest. “Oh thank god! They were gifts from another patient and I was feeling so guilty. So I’m not the grim reaper of greenery!”    

Ian scrunched his face sceptically, “no, no, you’re probably still death on legs, but just not for these particular ones. How do you even kill cacti?”

“Meanie,” she sniffed and sat in her comfy armchair across from him. “Anywho, how goes it? Anything new to report?”

Ian shook his head and began messing with the play dough, “nah, just the usual.”

“How’s symptom management? Are you maintaining okay? Any new side-effects since I switched out the Lamotrigine?”

Ian shook his head again and shrugged, “it’s the same old stuff. I mean I have dry mouth sometimes, some days it’s hard to keep a train of thought going…but, you know, nothing I’m not used to by now.”

“And the exercising?” she asked a little softer, “have you been practicing what we’ve discussed and are you recognising your limits?”

His eyes flicked up to meet hers before he went back stabbing the play dough with his fingers. “Yeah, I still think I can push a little further, but I’ve been stopping when I begin feeling that twinge. I don’t even get to maintain my training schedule as much I like, anyway. You know, with school and everything?”

Dr. Lester smiled happily at that. “Ah yes, and how are things shaping up for your first semester, freshman?”

Ian groaned loudly and sank further into the couch. “So much freaking work. It’s insane how much they dump on us. I’m trying to manage my time and navigate everything and I’m maintaining for far, but between two jobs and Sal—”

“Who?” she asked, quickly latching on to a name she hadn’t heard before from Ian.

“Sal? Oh, this guy I’ve been seeing…”

Dr. Lester did her patented double take, performing what Ian regarded as the human equivalent of a needle scratch.

“A guy you’ve been seeing?!” she said, “correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it about five minutes ago I asked you if there was anything new to report?”

“I swear you and Alex are the same person sometimes. I didn’t think it merited a report. Hooking up with someone is not that big a deal.”

“Oh really? That’s not what those eHarmony commercials have been telling me and right now they have far more credibility than you do,” she leaned back in her chair and eyed him steadily, “when did this start?”

Ian shrugged and thumped the play dough, “I don’t know, I guess maybe a month ago?”

“A mon—you’ve been here a million times and you never once thought to mention this?”

Ian snorted, “it’s not a big deal and Alex has already made enough of a ruckus out of the fact that he’s older. She did a couple of AP psych courses in high school and started thinking she was the second coming of Freud. Now that she’s actually started her degree, her elementary-level psychoanalyzing is this side of insufferable. I happen to like older guys, alright? She needs to tie everything into my so-called ‘daddy issues.’ So cheap and basic; and not everything in my life has to be about Frank!”

“Oookay!” she brushed her hair from her face and leaned forward, propping her elbows on her knees and resting her chin in her hands. “Admittedly, it is a broad, oft abused diagnosis by the lay people, but if I may in Alex’s defence, she’s a close friend who knows that you grew up in a household with an extremely neglectful and unreliable father. It’s not unreasonable for her to believe that you may have a very specific void there. One that might be filled by an older, paternal figure. Surely you’d agree that it’s not a hard leap for one to make.”

Ian snorted and mumbled a low “whatever” beneath his breath. Dr. Lester decided to tackle the issue from another angle.

“So tell me about Sal.”

Ian thought it over for a moment, not entirely sure what to say. “He’s alright, I guess” Ian said at length, “he’s really sweet to me; actually listens when I talk and lets me get words in edgewise.” Ian dropped his defensiveness a little as he focused on Sal’s selling points. “He’s really generous, loves giving me stuff; he even got me some things I was still missing for school. He’s sixty-two, but he doesn’t look terrible or anything. Oh, and he’s funny, has some really interesting life philosophies…” Ian trailed off awkwardly, unsure of what else there was to add.

Dr. Lester smiled gently, “he ticks a lot of important boxes for you, doesn’t he?”

Ian nodded, though his brow furrowed as he turned over the dough in his hands. “Yeah, he’s great… Well I mean there was this one thing.”


“A little while ago, we were walking on the beach and some asshole called us fags. We sort of ran into the guy again a while later and Sal lost his mind—beat the shit out of him. It was pretty bad…kind of scary.”

Ian could tell she was alarmed. Her usual slouch disappeared and her brow furrowed in consternation. He could tell she was gearing up for a concerned lecture and he tried to head her off at the pass.

“He apologised for going off like that, though. He was having a bad day and everything kind of boiled over. He swears he’s not usually like that, and that nothing like that will ever happen again.”

“And when he apologised, did you truly and honestly believe it? That this was the first and last time you’ll see this violent side of him?”

Ian turned over the dough in his hands slowly and refused to meet her eyes. “He’s really good to me. Nothing’s going to happen that I can’t handle.”

Dr. Lester sighed, “you know, Ian, one of the more difficult things to deal within psychotherapy is tearing down the harmful mental infrastructure that develops in an individual coming from an abusive and unstable environment. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how time passes, or how smart and mature the person is… these things can sneak up on you, and it’s shockingly easy to get sucked  back into a cycle…”

“Can we not go down this road today?” Ian said wearily, “and I didn’t grow up in an ‘abusive environment.’ Frank’s a piece of shit and a fucking awful human being in general, but he wasn’t smacking us around every day. I mean, a couple of times—Jesus, not everything in my life has to come back to fucking Frank!”

“No,” Dr. Lester stated quietly, “but he does have an awful lot to answer for.”

Ian was only half-listening to Iggy’s babbling as they drove to the hotel. His session with Dr. Lester was still weighing on his mind even a day later. “You deserve so much more than what you’re accepting, Ian.” Except he wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Sal was good to him, the thing with the cyclist seemed isolated and Ian couldn’t figure out what “better” was supposed to be; what it would feel like. He shifted restlessly while Iggy contemplated the merits and drawbacks of natural and enhanced asses, chortling the whole time.

“I mean why would you even get an ass that big? Like what is it for?” Iggy mused, “tits, man, give me giant tits any day. Now that makes sense.”

“Hey, Iggy,” Ian began tentatively, “can I ask you something?”

“Yeah man, shoot.”

“Has anyone ever broken up with Sal?” Ian asked and waited while an awkward silence descended over them.

Iggy stayed quiet for a while, his eyes shifting back and forth between the road and Ian, clearly struggling with what he should say next. At length, he laughed and lazily smacked Ian’s arm with the back of his hand.

“Fuck, man, you still worried over that shit with that clown?” Iggy said, “don’t fucking worry about that. You got nothing to worry about with Sal. He’s a puppy for you. I told you, you keep him happy, he keeps you happy.”

“Yeah, but that’s not exactly answering the question though,” Ian persisted. “Has anyone ever broken up with him?”

Iggy hesitated before finally nodding, “well, yeah… a few times.”

“How does it usually work out?”

Iggy’s eyes flicked over to Ian and he licked his lips anxiously, “from what I’ve seen? Not so good.”

Ian nodded slowly, mostly surprised by how unsurprised he was at Iggy’s reluctant revelations. “So how do you think it would go if I tried to break up with him?”

Iggy sobered completely and gave Ian another of those weirdly meaningful glances. “Look, Ian, I know you’re freaked out, alright? It was a messed up thing to see, but this isn’t a conversation you need to be having. Just ride this out, man,” Iggy urged him, “Sal, he has his shit, but he’s not a bad guy, not to his side pieces at least. Plus, he’s got like the attention span of a goldfish. Give it a couple months…you’ll be free of it and sitting pretty.”

“What if I don’t want to wait a couple months?”

Iggy sighed and rubbed at his face. “Then you might end up having an entirely different conversation with Tony, or Jaime or any of the other dudes Sal has to take care of any unpleasantness,” Iggy said grimly, “Ian, man, I can’t tell you what to do, but Sal don’t take rejection too good and he’s crazy about you, dude. Just…be patient. You can work him any way you want. I know you can; you’re a smart dude. Sit this out and it will be all worthwhile.”

“Hey, Al! How’s it hanging, dude?” Kevin yelled after Alex as she passed them, stone-faced. He clicked his tongue, apparently reprimanding her for her non-responsiveness. “Yeesh, always so cranky. Smile, baby, you couldn’t possibly be on your period now, could ya?”

Alex cringed at the sound of Kevin’s voice as she marched up to the supermarket. The Asshole Patrol was hanging out behind the supply trucks, taking their smoke break and of course, she had the bad timing to show up while they were out. She couldn’t help but physically recoil whenever one of them so much as spoke up. She quickened her step, almost shivering with anxiety at the thought of one of them coming after her.

The gods were good, however, and it appeared that they decided she wasn’t worth tormenting at the moment. Not that the damage wasn’t already done. As much as she tried, she just couldn’t seem to develop a thicker skin when it came to them. Instead, she felt more vulnerable and sensitive by the day, and by the time she reached the door, she was a bundle of nerves. She met Ernesto at the door, the newest stock boy, who hadn’t done much to warrant an opinion yet besides leering. He smiled widely when he saw her, his gaze sweeping her body as he greeted her.

“Hi, Alex,” he said warmly.

It was a benign enough greeting, but she was already so overwrought, she felt like throwing up at the sight of him. She could only manage a disgusted “ugh” as she shoved past him.

“Stuck up bitch,” she heard him snarl behind her, and clearly she was on her way to making another friend.

“Leave that alone, ese; it’s a trap!” a member of the Asshole Patrol called out to a confused Ernesto and Alex shuddered and hurried off to find Ian.

She found him alone in the employee break room, fussing with the laces of his boots as he lounged around waiting for his shift to start.

“Your phone doesn’t work anymore, jerk?!” she snapped irritably. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, trying to regain control of her frayed nerves.

He was genuinely surprised to see her. “What the hell are you doing here? What’s the point of having a day off if you show up to work anyway?” he paused a beat before another realization struck him. “Wait, you just walked in on your own? Why didn’t you call me to come out?”

“Well like I said, I thought your new space-age phone wasn’t taking my number anymore. I sent you a bunch of links last night and I tried calling you! Did you see them? Did you read them?!” she demanded and her brow furrowed when Ian only sighed and sidestepped her to get his smock.

“I was kinda tied up. What was so important, Allie?”

“Oh you didn’t read them then? What, were you too busy shoving your fist up your mob boss boyfriend’s ass?!” she dramatically whipped out a bunch of printed out news articles from her jacket and shoved them in Ian’s face. She was gobsmacked when he only huffed tiredly and sidestepped her again. “What? What? Hello?” she stared as he poured hitherto unheard of focus into tying his smock. “Oh my god, you know?!”

“He’s actually a capo. Probably found out around the same time you did,” he confessed and threw up his hands in defeat. “There was an incident a little while ago, figured I should see if there was anything to know.”

“What kind of incident?!” Alex’s alarm was growing rapidly. None of this was good for her health.

Ian shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Some guy harassed us and Sal ended up taking him to some abandoned warehouse and beating the shit out of him.”

Alex didn’t know how she hadn’t collapsed from the shock. “Ian!”

“I know…”

Alex was apoplectic. “You know?! You can’t possibly know and still be in this! He’s mafia, Ian! A mobster! Like the legit mafia. He’s a member of the Outfit! As in the Valentine’s Day Massacre and Tommy guns and Al Capone and…and…other mafia type guys,” she petered out.

“Only know the one, huh?” Ian’s cool half-smile nearly murdered her.

“This isn’t fucking funny, you idiot!” she huffed, “you have to get out of this! How are you not shitting yourself right now?!”

“Maybe because I grew up with gypsies, tramps and thieves?” Ian nonchalantly checked his watch and smoothed his smock, “You’re a North side girl, so you don’t know that the Outfit is basically the Southside with union benefits. I’ve seen way worse shit than what those articles describe. Besides, have you really read those? Sal is definitely no Al Capone.”

Alex glanced down at the papers, already knowing what Ian meant. There weren’t a ton of articles on Sal, and the ones she found were old and weren’t exactly charitable. Sal seemed to have been at his most visible during the eighties and nineties, when the media sneeringly referred to him as the “second Dapper Don,” since he seemed to be mimicking John Gotti as best as he could. He had been a flashy show off with a taste for expensive clothes and vices, but clearly lacked the business acumen and reputation to back it up.

Based on the articles, the media and public seemed to regard him as some kind of lumbering buffoon, despite his fairly high ranking in a powerful and dangerous organization. By the early 2000s, the articles had slowly dried up, most likely from a combination of Mafia’s shrinking relevance and Sal either learning his lesson or acquiring better handlers. Still, the Outfit and its members were never anything to sneeze at.

“Ian, I don’t care what you say; you’ve got to get out of this!”

“How?” Ian asked simply, “how would you break up with a mobster?”

Alex was stymied; she hadn’t actually thought that part out. “Shit, I don’t know…very carefully?”

“From what I heard, he doesn’t take rejection well. However, he has the ‘attention span of a goldfish,’ so he should be kicking me to the curb in a minute.” He could see her doubt and agitation, so he walked over and enveloped her in a big hug. “Look, I know you’re worried, but I’m not. I have this under control. I can handle Sal. He’s a sweet guy, and he’s good to me. Somehow I know this will all be worth it in the end.”

“Milkovich! Time for you to get the fuck out!” The correctional officer came to a stop at Mickey’s cell, where the young man had already packed everything and was standing at the bars, raring to go. “You ready?”

“Nah, I thought I’d just hang out here for a while, C block’s having a volley ball match later,” Mickey sneered, “what the fuck do you think? Get me the fuck up outta here.”

“God, such a charmer, this one,” the CO rolled her eyes, “my daughter would absolutely love you.”

She yelled for them to open Mickey’s cell and soon they were marching down the corridor, heading to processing and discharge. Mickey smirked as the block hooted and hollered as he headed out for release.

“Ay, fuck you, fuck you, and especially fuck you!” Mickey yelled to selected inmates as he passed.

“So touching,” the CO said.

“Well you know me. I’m all about the Hallmark moments.”

Not soon enough, Mickey was in processing, eyeing another officer impatiently as she slowly returned his things, announcing each item loudly before sliding the sealed bags across to him. He got back his clothes and personal effects and tried to suppress his irritation when she lingered over his watch.

“Bulgari? Nice…” she nodded and finally handed it over.

“I’m so glad you approve.”

She too rolled her eyes at his sarcasm. “Transport is waiting for you. Try not to come back too quickly.”

Mickey stepped out of the transport van and sighed at what he didn’t see. He was going to kick Joey’s ass all over the North side. He pulled up the hood of his jacket against the early morning chill and headed for the bus stop. He sat down and fished for his cigarettes, slipping one between his lips as he went searching for his lighter. He found it, but it was empty, and how he was going to have to kick Joey’s ass even harder.

“Need a light, or are you doing that stupid metaphor shit?”

Mickey raised an eyebrow at the young woman that seemed to pop out of nowhere. For a moment, she looked like an old movie starlet—smooth blond hair and black trench coat, with suspiciously bare legs in oxford pumps. Mickey nodded at her and she stood squarely before him and leaned in, letting Mickey know there wasn’t a whole lot of clothing beneath that coat.

She sat next to him on the bus stop and crossed her long, well-shaped legs, drawing Mickey’s attention to them. He didn’t mind admiring them, or the absolutely ridiculous body that he now knew was beneath that coat.

“I’m Trish,” she swept her hair to the side and eyed a still silent Mickey. “Waiting for someone?”

Mickey took another drag of his cigarette and chuckled to himself before taking a sweeping look around. “I take it you’ve just started doing this.”

“Doing what?” she asked innocently and swung her leg a little, loosening the trench coat even more.

“Yeah, you just started, because you haven’t run into problems yet,” Mickey took another puff of his cigarette and swept another assessing gaze over the length of her. “Thrill seeker, huh? What do you do, wait to see who gets off the transport and make a judgment call? That’s not a sustainable or advisable plan, Trish.”

“Oh, why is that?”

“Because you have to figure out if a guy is bad enough to satisfy you, but not so bad he won’t stab you in the neck after you’re done. Law of averages says you’re going to make an error in judgement sooner or later.”

Trish rolled her blue eyes. “Oh Jesus, I’m getting lectured by a jailbird. Listen, I’m good to go, are we going to bang or what?”

Mickey couldn’t help but be amused. He sort of liked her. “Look, this is dangerous and stupid—extremely stupid. You want the thrill of crazy, anonymous sex? I can hook you up, and with a lot more control and considerably less danger.” Mickey searched through his jacket for a piece of paper and a pen and handed Trish a single phone number. He could hear the approach of a familiar engine. “Think about dyeing your hair red. I’m partial to them, and I need a Jessica Rabbit type.”

Trish looked from the paper to him before blooming into an amused, intrigued smile. “Oh my god, are you some kind of pimp?”

“No, I’m more like the mayor of New Jack City,” Mickey got to his feet as Joey screeched to a halt before the bus stop. “Go home, Trish, and call that number when you’re ready to talk to me.”

Trish raised an eyebrow and deliberately tucked the paper into her cleavage, choosing to bypass the pockets of her trench coat and flashing the lacy bra beneath it. Mickey smirked before turning his attention to his brother.

“Sorry I’m late, Mick! I—”

“Who told you that you could drive my fucking Mustang?! And did you just grind my goddamned gears? You had this shit in second the whole damn time; I could hear it straining from a mile off. Get the fuck out of my car, you goddamned imbecile.”

Despite the abuse, Joey grinned widely at his brother as he got out of the car and came around the front. He pounced on his grumpy brother despite Mickey’s protests.

“Get the fuck off me, jackass,” Mickey said gruffly, but hugged him back briefly before shoving him off. “You better have brought me some food.”

Joey headed for the passenger side and caught sight of a watchful Trish. He immediately slowed and leered at her. “How you doing, girl?”

“Zip it back up and start saving your money. You’ll be seeing her soon enough,” Mickey said and gave his car a once over before getting in.

“That’s quite the assumption,” Trish said and stood up to tighten her belt.

“Go home, Trish, and think about that dye job,” Mickey started the car and ordered his still gawking brother in. “Let’s go.”

Mickey had told his brothers to forgo the welcome home party, but Jaime made sure to make a massive meal. Mickey came home to the pool house at the back of Sal’s property, and spent an hour with his brothers, chatting and stuffing himself to bursting. When he was done, he took the longest, hottest shower he could manage before crawling into bed and passing out for the rest of the day.

He roused just before nightfall and he sat up groggily, taking a minute to get his bearings. He stretched and padded off to the bathroom to start freshening up, but it wasn’t long before there was a knock at his door. He yelled that it was open and Jaime and Tony came in.

“We come bearing gifts,” Tony said and placed a couple large boxes at the edge of the bed before he sank down into it and made himself comfortable. Jaime took a seat in the chair by the window. Tony spoke again, “from Sal; he came by to see you earlier and we told him you were sleeping. So he left you this shit, says he might see you later.”

“Yeah?” Mickey opened the boxes to reveal a new trench coat in one and a three piece suit in the other.

“Armani… fucking teacher’s pet,’ Tony teased, “hey, Jaime, what did you get the last time you got out?”

Jaime scoffed, “pfft, I dunno—a six pack?”

“You fucking wish you got a six pack,” Mickey muttered beneath his breath and dragged out the pair of pants.

“Sal said it should fit perfect, but to go Federico if it needs any adjustments. You know your short ass will need adjustments,” both brothers snickered as Mickey swept them both with the finger. “As I was saying, last time I sprung the joint, I think I got a gift card to Applebee’s.”

“Of course you got a gift card to Applebee’s, with your fat ass,” Mickey shrugged on the vest over his T-shirt and the jacket and turned to examine himself in his full-length mirror. “You wanna know the real difference between you and me? I make this look good.”

Jaime laughed out loud while Tony crumpled up some of the wrapping paper and tossed it at his baby brother’s head. Mickey was unrepentant, preening in the mirror and laughing to himself.

“Gotta kiss myself, so pretty,” Mickey added before starting to shrug out of the suit.

“You going to hit the ground running?” Jaime spoke up and quickly sobered the room, “shit’s gotten a little weirder since you went in.”

“Yeah?” Mickey replied while he packed away his new clothes and went about looking for some casual ones. “Tell me.”

“Sal’s up to two party packs a day now,” Tony said. “Old man’s got more drugs in him than the neighbourhood Walgreens.”

“When the fuck did that happen?”

“A little after you went in? It’s not like he’s going to listen to any of us about going easy on that shit,” Tony pointed out, “I swear, man, it’s like the second coming of the mid-life crisis.”

“And now that he’s filled with all this ‘inspiration’ and new energy, he’s having all kinds of plans and ideas,” Jaime said, picking up the thread, “went as far as bringing up some of those ideas at a meeting of the heavies a couple weeks back.”

“Shit,” Mickey breathed, “how the fuck did that go?”

“How did you expect?” Jaime said grimly, “some of the bigger boys straight up laughed in his face. Fucked him up real good. He ended up going off on some random on the street; had Tony fuck him up. Side piece was freaked out. It was sloppy; he’s getting sloppy again, Mick.”

“How’re his made boys acting?” Mickey chewed on his inner cheek, not liking any part of the picture his brothers were painting.

“Fuck the made men,” Jaime snarled and Tony nodded, “they’re barely even pretending they respect him now, and they resent the hell out of us any way. They’re leaving us to clean up all his shit. It’s even worse with this new side piece. Sal is fucking whipped and being careless about him. You know how the old boys feel about Sal flaunting his…proclivities.”

Mickey ran a hand over his face and sighed. “So what about this new trick then? Is he the one encouraging the drug use?”

“Nah,” Tony shook his head, “he’s a good boy. Sal’s putting his best face forward for as long as he can. I don’t even think Ian knows that Sal uses yet,” Tony said, looking at Jaime for confirmation.


“Ian Gallagher,” Tony and Jaime said in unison.

“He’s banging some fucking Mick now? What the hell?”

Tony started laughing, “that’s the fucking least of it. You need to see this one, Mickey, and you will because Sal wants you to take over chauffeur duties from Iggy. Precious cargo, you know?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Like I don’t have a million and one fucking things to do ahead of schlepping some bitchy, old queen around?!”

Jaime and Tony exchanged a look and wordlessly agreed not to correct Mickey. Some things were better found out naturally, and it was bound to be amusing as all get out.

“So what are you going to do first?” Jaime asked as Mickey buttoned his jeans and pulled on a clean T-shirt.

“First? I’m gonna go get my dick sucked, is what I’m going to do,” Mickey pulled down a leather jacket and shrugged it on. “I need to get my pipes cleaned before I deal with any of this stupid shit.”

Mickey settled into his car and took a few deep breaths. He just sat quietly for a while, processing the fact that he was once again free from jail only to come right back into this stressful, suffocating bullshit again. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and then his temples before picking up his cell and speed dialling a familiar number.

“What’s good?” Andre’s smooth tenor came across the line and made Mickey smile.

“You tell me.”

“Mick? Shit, I thought it was one of your brothers,” Dre laughed, clearly pleased to hear Mickey’s voice. “I thought you got serious time for holding the old dude’s bag. They really let that ass out of jail already, Nyquil? You should have given a brother a head’s up. I’d have thrown you a little parade.”

“You still can. You busy?”

“Shit, all the time; but what’s life if you don’t stop to smell the roses?” Dre said, “you coming through right now?”

“Yeah, see you in twenty.”

Mickey ended the call and started the car. Drugged up bosses and brand new side pieces could wait one more night.

Chapter Text

He was feeling that twinge again—that alarm going off in the back of his mind and in the muscles of his body that warned he was pushing too hard. He knew he should start cooling down and end his session but all he wanted to do was to keep pushing. He dropped to the floor and started some crunches, trying his best to ignore the pain, fatigue and Dr. Lester’s aggravated voice in his ear. Maybe he should do some low impact cardio instead as a sort of compromise. He eventually stopped, however, and very reluctantly gave into the physical and mental warnings.

After cooling down, Ian made his way to the bathroom and stared wearily into his mirror. He had overdone it a little, but he was getting better at managing the impulse. In fact, it had been a while since he had broken his promise, but he craved control. He couldn’t remember the last time things had felt this crazy. For as long as he could remember, things had always been spiralling for him in one way or another, and Ian rarely felt in control of anything. Anything, that is, except his body—that was his and his alone, to use, push, punish and barter if needs be.

But this mess was on a whole other level. Not only were things spinning wildly out of his control, but he felt stuck, which to Ian was the absolute worst feeling in the world. Stuck to a person, stuck in a situation, unable to yank free of the restraints and just get the fuck away from it. He sighed heavily and bent to wash his face. Alex had been showing superhuman restraint by not repeatedly slapping him in the face with “I told you so’s” and truly, he seemed to have gotten himself into yet another ridiculous situation.

Iggy had painted a pretty ominous picture, but Ian still struggled reconciling the Sal he knew with the one Iggy presented. Ian had been actively trying not to think of the worst case scenarios and the encroaching darkness of the situation and chose to focus on the fact that Sal, duplicitous with hidden depths of rage, was still tightly wrapped around his little finger. Sal wasn’t bad, he told himself again and again, and there was a semblance of power to be reclaimed there. Ian knew that it might be heights of denial and self-delusion, but how else could he approach this? One thing he knew though, he couldn’t simply rely on Iggy’s interpretation. He was going to have to find just where his boundaries lay with Sal, which meant he was going to have to push.

“Man, it’s good to be out,” Mickey sighed contentedly as he yanked up his pants and searched for his socks and shoes. Dre was already up and moving quietly around his apartment, messing about. Neither of them was the type to linger in bed.

“Shit, you’re lucky they didn’t hit you with ‘intent to sell.’ They could have smoked your ass for that,” Dre said from the bathroom where he checked the neatness of his dreads in the mirror. He strolled back out, grinning easily at his guest.

He was amazing to look at—tall and well muscled with a litany of tattoos winding up the lengths of his arms over his biceps and to his shoulders, some with meanings Mickey could only guess at. His even, white smile stood out in warm contrast to the smooth darkness of his skin, and he obsessively kept the hair of his waist-length locks neatly in place. He liked to preen sometimes, which was fine with Mickey, because sometimes Mickey liked to admire.

“Did the old man feel bad about you taking the rap at least?” Dre asked and offered Mickey a blunt. He grinned when Mickey emphatically shook his head. “Right, first night on parole jitters.” He lit up and sat at the foot of the bed across from Mickey, who had made himself comfortable in the chair.

“I guess he feels bad about it,” Mickey replied, “it was his shit after all. Haven’t seen him yet, but he left me a new suit for my troubles. He knows his ass wouldn’t last a day in the joint—connected or not.”

Dre expelled a plume of smoke and snorted, “that shit seems worth more than a suit to me. I ain’t taking shit for nobody unless they’re kin or they’re really making it worth my while. You mob boys though, funny as shit,” Dre shook his head, “but that lawyer y’all got though, mad skills; you guys willing to loan her out for a bit? Trey caught a case.”

“Fuck, really? What did he do?”

“Returns fraud…let his dumbass girlfriend sweat him and followed her to grab a bunch of shit off a department store rack and tried to return them for the gift cards.”

Mickey was mildly impressed. “That’s actually not a bad racket.”

“Word, except they hadn’t moved any of that merchandise yet, so returns were a little impossible. Now we gotta find character witnesses and shit so he can hopefully get off with community service or something.”

Mickey shrugged, “I’d love to help you out and testify to his character but…”

Dre laughed out loud, “Nah, don’t worry about it. Can you imagine that shit? A bunch of you Outfit motherfuckers telling the judge that Trey’s a good boy? No thanks.”

Mickey snickered at the thought before his smile eventually faded and he suddenly stomped Dre on his bare foot. Dre nearly swallowed the blunt in shock.

“Ow, bitch, what?!” Dre cried and massaged his battered foot.

“Two party packs a day?” Mickey accused, “you have his ass on two fucking party packs a day? One was bad enough. One fucking party pack got me sent up for two months and now you have him on two?”

“Man, what the fuck do you want me to do about it? I’m just the pharmacist; I fill the prescription but I don’t write the script,” Dre put his foot down gingerly, watching Mickey’s booted feet with great wariness. “Who am I to say no to a loyal customer? He’s gonna put my brother and sister through college at this rate.”

Mickey snorted ruefully, “if it doesn’t fucking kill him.”

“Eh, the Viagra will kill him before anything else. He goes fucking hard on that shit.”

Mickey hadn’t been so grossed out in ages and his face crumpled. “I don’t need to know that shit! Gross… wait, you sell Viagra?”

“I solve all types of problems, baby,” Dre reached over and playfully ran his hands over Mickey’s thighs, “just holla at me and I’ll cure whatever ails you.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and slapped a laughing Dre’s hands away.

“That reminds me though; I’m getting some Shatter in couple of days. If he wants a hit, he needs to talk fast. That shit goes like hotcakes.”

“Shatter?! What the fuck is Shat—I can’t fucking believe this!” Mickey was off and running, “I have to learn some new drug shit like every fucking week. He’s on shit called Shatter now?! What kind of a fucking name is that? What does that—what does that even do?! What is that? What the fuck is next? What other brain liquefying, ass leaking shit am I going to have to deal with next week? Fucking Shatter…No he does not want any fucking thing called Shatter or Crash or Splinter or whatever the fuck!”

Dre was delighted. He sat enraptured as Mickey quickly worked himself into a fine lather, hands and eyebrows flying everywhere. By the time Mickey wound down, Dre was almost in tears.

“Jesus, grandpa is that you? I swear to everything, man, you sound exactly like my granddad. You both got that cranky, old nigga spirit in you,” Dre slapped Mickey’s thigh affectionately and shoved off the bed. “It’s just good old THC, very concentrated.”

Mickey grunted and stood to find his jacket. “Whatever, it still sounds stupid.”

Dre ignored that and popped out of his closet with two dress shirts and held them up for Mickey’s inspection. “Which one? I’ve got a date tonight.”

Mickey nodded at one and raised an amused eyebrow at Dre. “Seems fancy for IHOP.”

“Man, fuck you. Nothing low brow for this princess; she could be wifey.”

“Yech, girl cooties,” Mickey grinned and shrugged on his jacket.

“Fuck off with your prejudice. You monosexuals are an endless source of bafflement to me. How can you limit yourself like that? How can you want to fuck Jay-Z and not Beyoncé?”

“Terrible example—pretty sure the only person who wants to fuck Jay-Z is Beyoncé,” Mickey pointed out, “and you find a new ‘one’ every other month, so forgive me if I don’t share your wide-eyed optimism. But good luck on your epic quest to find true love and unicorns, and slay dragons and all that shit.”

Dre was unruffled, “I have missed your special brand of cynicism, so go ’head,” he smiled at Mickey’s sceptical snort and yelled after him as he headed out the door. “It’s coming for you, man! and I’ll be here laughing my ass off when it turns your dumb ass goofy!”

Mickey flipped him off and shut the door behind him.

Iggy kept throwing nervous glances at Ian while on their way to the hotel. Ian was being uncharacteristically quiet, giving brief, usually monosyllabic answers to Iggy’s questions and thwarting all of Iggy’s effort s to draw him into conversation.

“Hey, everything cool?” Iggy asked.

“Yeah, fine.”

Iggy was unconvinced, but ploughed on anyway, “so here’s the thing, I’m not going to be your regular driver anymore. Mickey’s back and Sal wants him to take over.”

Ian’s head whipped around to glare at Iggy. “What? Why?”

“I dunno. Mickey doesn’t usually do the side piece detail. Best I can guess, Sal’s really into you and if it’s important to Sal, Mickey handles it.”

Ian was pissed; this was yet another piece of straw on the camel’s back. “What the fuck? You’re driving me back and forth, not performing my brain surgery! Why does Mickey have to be in charge of everything anyway?”

Iggy stared at Ian blankly, a little thrown by the question. “Because it’s Mick?”

“What does that even mean?” Ian persisted, “I mean, is he the oldest?”

“No…Jaime is. Mick’s the baby out of the boys.”

“So why isn’t Jaime in charge? Doesn’t that make more sense?”

“Because Mick is?” Iggy replied slowly, clearly discomfited and confused by this incendiary, and possibly heretical, line of rhetoric. “Mickey’s the smart one, okay? He just…he just runs shit. It’s the way it’s been forever. Look, don’t worry about it. Mickey’s cool; you’ll like him. Just don’t talk too much when you meet him, alright? He gets a little cranky.”

Sal opened the door and leaned up eagerly to kiss Ian, only to plant his lips on a folder blocking Ian’s face instead. He blinked in confusion at Ian’s terse “no” as the young man shoved past him and huffily tossed his bag to the floor. Sal closed the door and turned to face a glowering Ian.

“What the fuck’s the matter with you?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you tell me, Sal?” Ian sneered, his hostile demeanour belying the heart shaking in his chest. “I wish you’d tell me so many things. Like, what is it like being a capo in the mafia? How does that go?”

Sal froze and stared at Ian silently, the gears clearly grinding hard between the brown eyes. An uncomfortable silence settled in the hotel room and neither moved until Sal wiped a hand over his face and rubbed his chin.

“Who told you about that?”

Ian rolled his eyes and waved the folder before tossing it at Sal’s feet. “Google, Sal; Google told me. It had a whole lot to say too. Stuff I figure you should have told me first!”

Sal kept rubbing his face and watching Ian, ignoring the folder at his feet. “What gives you the right to look into me?”

Ian looked taken aback. “Are you kidding?”

“You had no fucking right looking into me like I’m some common criminal.”

Ian snorted his derision, “I don’t know; according to Google, you are some kind of common criminal. All that shit is public record.”

“Public record, my fucking business,” Sal said quietly before suddenly exploding, “you have no right going in my fucking business!”

The alarm was blaring loudly in Ian’s head, but he couldn’t afford to be cowed now. He needed to push, to find just where those boundaries lay.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ian shot to his feet and stomped forward to get right in Sal’s face, “you wanna turn this shit on me? You let me find out I’m fucking some goddamned mobster, but I made the fucked up decision?!”

Sal was forced to step back to avoid having to crane his neck to stare up into Ian’s face. He glared hard but didn’t lash out just yet. Instead, he shook his head ruefully. “It’s my fucking business. It has nothing to do with you.”

“It has everything to do with me! I told you the one thing I wanted was honesty. That’s all and you haven’t fucking delivered!” Ian’s volume climbed steadily, “last month it was the wife, this month you’re a mobster! What the fuck is going to happen next month?!” Ian backed off and shook his head. “How could you think I’d be okay with any of this? Fuck this; this is insane. I don’t know you.” Ian turned and picked up his bag off the floor, “I’m going home.”

Sal did reach out then, grabbing Ian’s arm and holding fast until Ian stopped. “Alright, stop, just hold on a second,” Sal sighed heavily, “why are things like this, huh? You want to know who I am? Fine,” Sal released Ian and took a deep breath as the young man crossed his arms and glared him down. Sal shrugged and pulled uncomfortably at his white tank. “I’m Salvatore Boerio, sixty-two years old. I’ve got a wife, who hates me, and a kid that resents the shit out of me. I’m a capo in the Chicago Italian Mob, not for anything of merit, but because I had the foresight to marry one of the Don’s favourite nieces. He wanted her taken care of and married to a man who wasn’t some piece of shit mafia soldier. Hence my promotion.”

Sal rubbed at the back of his neck, clearly unhappy with the current conversation, but forging ahead because Ian was still listening and seemed to be relaxing in slow, small increments. Sal continued, “I’m barely a gangster…not for lack of trying, I’ll admit that. But a lot of the higher ups think I’m some kind of joke because I married up or because they think I’m a fairy or what have you. Some of them don’t even need a fucking reason. I’m just trash. I give ideas, they laugh them off. I do my job, I put in my time, they still look at me like I’m fucking nothing…I get no respect, no respect at all!”

Sal laughed lamely, but trailed off when he saw Ian looking at his askance. “You know, ‘no respect’? Rodney Dangerfield?” he sighed when Ian shook his head in confusion, “Jesus Christ, you’re young.”

He stepped close to Ian and rubbed his hands over Ian’s biceps. “Please tell me you can understand why I wouldn’t tell you about these things, Ian. They’re unpleasant and ugly, and I don’t want any part of that getting anywhere near you. That Sal Boerio, with the hateful wife and the resentful kid, in a job where he’s just a well-off loser…I don’t want to be him. I don’t even want to think about him. This right here, this is the Sal I want to be—the one who’s with you, the one who takes care of you,” Sal reached up and cradled Ian’s cheek. “I’ll answer any question you have, but I swear to you this is the truth.”

Ian wasn’t sure what to make of all of it. Part of him was rejoicing, since he felt that there had been a definite power shift in his favour. He had gotten in Sal’s face without consequence which bolstered his own feelings of control and optimism. Another part of him said he needed to stop kidding himself. He was trapped for the time being in a relationship with a dangerous man who had yet to shed his skin and show true colours. What he needed was to find a way out. His thoughts were derailed by Sal abruptly dropping to his knees.

“Please, Ian, give me another chance,” Sal spoke into the soft material of Ian’s T-shirt, “I’m not above begging…you make me want to be a better man!”

Ian laughed in spite of himself, “okay, that movie I actually saw…”

“Oh,” Sal peeped up, “‘here’s looking at you, kid’?”

“You’re an idiot,” Ian sighed and felt himself giving over, “this is so fucking weird. I don’t know…”

“One more chance,” Sal intoned and grabbed Ian’s ass and rubbed his face just above the younger man’s crotch, tickling him and making him laugh. “Just one more chance, it’s the last I’ll ask of you.” He grabbed the back of Ian’s knees and got him to the floor. He leaned over Ian and brushed a lock of the red hair from his face. “I keep fucking up, but this will be all worth your while, Ian; I swear to you.”

Once again, Ian found himself unable to reconcile the two Sals he knew about. This Sal cared about him, he didn’t doubt that, but Christ was it worth it? “Alright…one more chance,” Ian said and gave in when a grinning Sal leaned down to kiss him. Fuck, he hated being stuck, but maybe it would be worth it somehow after all.

Mickey was already confused. He sat in the car staring at the rundown apartment building and wondered if he had the right place. The place was a dump, situated in one of those unofficial college towns that were half way between the North and South sides. There should be nothing but broke college kids and cheap, greasy fast food around, so it made no sense that Sal’s high maintenance new piece would be here. 

He checked the satnav one more time and sat checking out the place a while longer. He wasn’t sure why he was hesitating; he had endured dozens of Sal’s lovers. But Sal had been unpredictable lately and this new one had happened while he was away. It was all coming together to make him a little on edge. Mickey huffed in annoyance, straightened his tie and got out of the car, making his way to meet Sal’s new love.

He lit a cigarette in the elevator, ignoring the censorious glances of the other occupants, and got off at the eighth floor. It was even more of a dump on the inside, and Mickey’s confusion only grew. He headed down the dark corridor to the last apartment on the floor and—after double checking the address—knocked hard on the door.  

Awkwardness settled quickly after Ian opened up and the cigarette smoke finally cleared. The acrid mist dissipated leaving two very shocked young men staring at each other in disbelief. Not a word was said; instead the two looked each other up and down and surmised that this had to be some sort of mistake; a serendipitous mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

Ian’s brain ground to a halt as he took in the vision before him. He recognized the outfit as yet another Brooks Brothers suit, though Iggy and Joey certainly didn’t look like that in theirs. This guy was gorgeous, and the well-tailored, black three piece suit and open trench coat certainly weren’t hurting. It was funereal, but for the pop of colour courtesy of the red tie, but it was hot as hell and actually screamed mobster as opposed to the sad attempts he had seen so far. The only things missing were the fedora and the Tommy-gun.

His face was the selling point for Ian though. That was an amazing face. A face that was looking at him rather sceptically and with a tinge of horror, but that could hardly be held as a mark against it. Ian was distracted by the hand coming up to bring a cigarette to his visitor’s lips, which were also quite the distraction, but the tattooed fingers managed to get the ball rolling in Ian’s brain.

“Um, hi?”

Mickey was dumbfounded. There had to be some sort of mistake. This was a kid. Sal didn’t date kids; he liked his side pieces to be contemporaries; flamboyant old queens who got his dated jokes and didn’t make him feel dumb or decrepit. Something must have gone wrong somewhere. His brothers had told him about the fall of Victor/Victoria and had warned him that he was in for a surprise with the new one, but this? Mickey had been bracing for a bunch of possibilities, but this though, this was just unacceptable.

His gaze moved slowly over the chiselled torso and down to Red’s abs. He could wash and hang clothes on those things. He couldn’t stop staring despite his best efforts. Sal was officially losing it. How the hell do you go from drag queens to Calvin Klein models? Still, a package like that would shove anyone out of their comfort zone. Where the fuck did Sal even find this guy, and were there more like him?

“Um, hi?”

Mickey blinked when Red spoke and he was chagrined that the other man had snapped out of their weird fugue first. He took a slow drag of his cigarette and raked Red up and down again. He couldn’t fucking help it, but he hoped it read as intimidation rather than the blatant sexual assessment it really was. He seethed out a billow of smoke and nodded at the other man.

“Sal wants to see ya.”

“Sal?” Ian echoed hollowly.

“Wonderful and he’s a Rhodes Scholar too,” Mickey thought to himself. Just his luck that he was going to be the one dealing with this ginger clown until Sal got tired of him. Still, that fucking face… a face like that covered a multitude of shortcomings. He still couldn’t really fault Sal for this foray into the unusual. One doesn’t need brain cells to bang.  

Meanwhile, Ian’s overtaxed brain was drawing a blank. For the life of him he couldn’t summon an image of this so-called Sal. It was working hard though, connections were being made, synapses were firing, and neural pathways were being created. Finally he had a bingo.

“You’re Mickey, right?” Ian’s face lit up, “you’re the missing Milkovich.” For all of his harrumphing earlier, Ian suddenly found himself completely okay with Iggy’s ouster.

“And you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Mickey muttered, trying not to feel a little tingly that Red already knew his name. “Can you go get ready, please? Or are you good to go already? …I don’t really know the arrangement,” Mickey said under his breath and allowed himself another peek at Ian’s body. God-fucking-dammit, Sal.

Since he was no longer struggling to place Mickey, remembering Sal was no longer a problem. That didn’t mean he was problem free. “Right now? I can’t go anywhere right now. I have a shit ton of homework and a shift later tonight. He didn’t even call to ask or anything. He can’t expect me to just up and—”

Mickey clicked his tongue. It was a low, soft sound that miraculously managed to cut through Ian’s ranting and arrested his attention. Mickey eyed him evenly while he took another pull of his cigarette. “Wasn’t a request, Red.”

Besides the ability to wear the hell out of an expensive suit, apparently Mickey had been gifted with the menace absent from his brothers. Ian was now a very confused mix of nervous and turned-on and he had no idea where to go with it.

“No, of course it wasn’t,” Ian sighed and hoped he could just get this interlude with Sal over with quickly after he made it clear he wasn’t an on-call service.

“Now you’re getting it. So how about you get pretty and me and you take a ride?” Mickey raised an eyebrow before his eyes dropped down to Red’s body again. Red really needed put a shirt on, and Mickey needed to get a grip. “I’ll be downstairs, black Escalade across the street.”

“Yeah, okay, give me a minute,” Ian sighed and retreated into his studio apartment.

Mickey waited until the door closed and Ian had fully disappeared from view, before he found the strength to move. Mickey had never been struck by lightning before, but he had a fair idea that it would be a very similar experience to whatever the fuck just happened to him. Oh, this wasn’t good; this wasn’t good at all.

Things weren’t much different on the other side of the door. Ian was left reeling and confused about what the hell just happened to him. That’s Mickey? What the hell? Ian wasn’t really sure what he had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that. Alright, so Mickey Milkovich was more attractive than he had imagined, way more attractive, but he’d met tons of hot guys, been attracted to some, but this was insane. He took a minute and tried to shake himself out of it and went looking for a shirt.

Something had definitely gone haywire somewhere, because he found himself staring at his shirts, wondering which one would make the hardest impact on a guy he just met five minutes before. He tried to focus, but still chose a tight green shirt, quickly gathered all his things and hurriedly made his way down to Mickey Milkovich.

Mickey tensed when Ian emerged from the building and headed straight for him. He had spent the last few minutes trying to convince himself that he’d hallucinated a smoking hot redhead and someone far more appropriate and expected would appear. He was wrong, and Ian was coming like a bad storm. Shit.

Ian climbed into the front passenger seat and grinned goofily at Mickey, who glanced back suspiciously and apprehensively. There was another odd moment of silence, with neither of them knowing what to do or say until Mickey remembered he was supposed to be taking Ian to Sal.

“Yeah, okay,” Mickey mumbled to himself and finally started the car.

They drove in silence for a while, both giving the other sidelong glances as the car sped towards the hotel. Ian squirmed, antsy and chafing under the heavy silence.

“So, you’re Mickey… I’ve heard a lot about you,” Ian offered nervously.

“Yeah? From who?”

Ian scratched at his cheek, a little flummoxed at the curt dryness. “Um, I don’t know, here and there. Mostly from Iggy I guess.”

“Iggy has problems keeping his mouth shut,” Mickey sniffed, “I’ll find a way to cure that one day.”

And now he had gotten Iggy in trouble with his brother—great. Ian tried to follow Iggy’s advice about not talking too much, but found his mouth moving before he could stop it.

“So, how’s your day going?” Ian asked and got some side-eye for his consideration.

“How’s my fucking day going?” Mickey replied a little incredulously. The question actually managed to throw him for a loop. None of Sal’s lovers even pretended to care about him and his brothers in the early stages, so Mickey was surprised into answering. “I made a few runs, went to a funeral then came straight here to get your ass. That’s how my day’s been going so far.”

 Well at least that explained the sombreness of the suit, not that it subtracted anything from the deliciousness of it. That suit raised a lot of questions in Ian, like how long would it take to strip a suit like that off someone, and just what lay beneath it? Ian decided it was more prudent to keep that line of questioning to himself.

“So, whose funeral was it?” Ian continued his interrogation, earning more annoyed sidelong glances.

“Nobody you know,” Mickey replied, a hint of warning in his tone. They fell into an odd silence and Ian struggled to stay quiet despite the burning interest welling up inside him.

“Stop talking, stop talking, you’re being annoying,” his brain warned but his mouth was moving before anything else could stop it. “So…how did they die?”

“He caught a bad fucking case of curiosity. That’s how he died!” Mickey snapped. Honestly, what the fuck was with this guy?

Ian didn’t know what the hell was wrong with him. He knew he was being irritating and all kinds of stupid with his questions and his nosiness, especially with Mickey, who seemed genuinely scary and on the verge of throttling him. What was even stranger was that despite Mickey’s evident annoyance with him, Ian didn’t feel particularly scared. He was actually finding the grumpiness weirdly adorable even; further evidence his brain was eroding.

Ian managed to hold out a few minutes more before his lips were moving again with absolutely zero input from his brain.

“So you were in jail, right? What were you in for?”

Ian almost yelped when Mickey suddenly swung the car to the curb and screeched to a halt. There was a tense silence before Mickey leaned forward and flipped on the stereo, flooding the car with opera at an almost ear splitting volume. Mickey then leaned back in his seat and seemed to count to ten, and Ian got legitimately scared very, very quickly.

“I’m going to ask you something,” Mickey began quietly despite the yowling aria swirling around them, “and I’m going to need you to answer honestly, okay?” Mickey looked inquiringly at Ian and waited for his nod. “Are you wired?”

“Huh?” Ian asked, nonplussed.

“Are.You.Wired?” Mickey repeated and levelled Ian with a hard stare.

“I…I don’t know. Maybe? I had a couple Red Bulls earlier…”

That answer was so mind numbingly stupid that Mickey almost forgot himself for a moment and burst out laughing. He stared at Ian in disbelief, sucking hard on his lower lip to keep the laughter at bay. He stared ahead at the road winding before them and tried to regain his composure. He took a minute to look everywhere but at Ian and put his game face back on.

“Wired as in snitch wired, Red; wired up by the Feds,” Mickey said slowly, and Ian was aghast.

“No way! What the fuck?!”

Ian immediately lifted his shirt—a little too eagerly in Mickey’s estimation—and showed off the chiselled stomach beneath it. Not that there was anywhere to hide a wire under a shirt that snug. Mickey had spent the last fifteen minutes wondering how the hell Ian was breathing in that thing, and if he should get him to take it off… for health purposes.

Mickey forgot what it was he was supposed to be doing for a moment as he stared at the washboard abs and listened as his car seemed to sing their praises. He snapped out of it, ignored the gorgeous moron across from him and reached between Ian’s legs for his backpack.

For a glorious moment, Ian thought he was about to get lucky, but was quickly dismayed when Mickey grabbed his bag. He blinked as Mickey opened it up and started rifling through the contents of textbooks and papers.

“You’re in college?!” Mickey asked—a surprising discovery for a number of reasons. He removed each item from the bag, flipping through textbooks and tossing them unceremoniously into Ian’s lap. When he had emptied the bag, he ran his fingers along the seams, and then, to Ian’s horror, whipped out a butterfly knife from a coat pocket and prepared to eviscerate Ian’s bag.

“Don’t you cut my fucking bag!” Ian demanded and met Mickey’s eyes defiantly when the other man turned to him slowly.

“Excuse me?”

“That bag was a gift from my little sister, who is way fucking scarier than anything you could ever hope to be,” Ian said, “so don’t rip up my shit, because you have no right and I’m no fucking snitch!”

Mickey raised an eyebrow while Ian put his foot down. Red was lucky; defiance was a super hot look for him. Mickey pocketed the knife and dropped the bag in Ian’s lap.

“I’ll take your word for it this time, but enough with the stupid fucking questions.”

They managed to make it to the hotel without further incident or manslaughter. For the first time since this whole mess started Ian felt what he could only describe as the hot blush of embarrassment as Mickey knocked on Sal’s room door. He could feel Mickey’s eyes on him as they waited for Sal to open up, and he practically dived in as soon as the door cracked open.

“You ordered room service?” Mickey said dryly and Sal snorted his amusement.

“Look at him, huh,” Sal said to Ian as he smoothed out Mickey’s collar and adjusted his tie, “knows fuck all about anything else, but can certainly wear a suit.”

“Yeah,” Ian agreed, for there was certainly no denying that. He smirked a little, feeling better and watching with growing amusement as Mickey transformed into an impatient little boy forced to stay still while his father fussed over him.

“Now I just need to send you on a run with some sun so you can try and get a little colour, huh?” Sal patted Mickey’s face, “how was the funeral? You paid our respects to the widow Donati?”

“Yeah, it was alright, not a real big turnout, but still.” Mickey caught Ian’s eye over Sal’s shoulder and glared at him for his amusement. Ian only grinned harder, but turned his back to unpack his homework. Again, Mickey forgot himself and was left staring. Fortunately, Sal took his gawking simply as Mickey doing his usual assessment.

“So, what do you think, huh?” Sal whispered and laughed when Mickey raised an eyebrow at him that said everything, “Yeah, I know, I know…he’s a new flavour and everything, but I’m keeping up. He’s special, that one, seriously. He’s not getting away.

“What the fuck?!” Mickey burst out the second he hit the first basement step of the pool house, and his four idiot brothers nearly killed themselves laughing around the card table.

“We told you!” Tony nodded, “what did we fucking say? Horse of a different breed.”

“I just…what the fuck?” Mickey sat on the couch in a daze, nowhere close to having recuperated for meeting Ian Gallagher.

“Sal has lost his mind,” Jaime said, “running around with a dude a third his age isn’t even the fucking worst. Fucking ridiculous…”

“Where did he even find this one?” Mickey looked over the back of the couch at his brothers.

“Boys’ Town; go-go dancer from some fucking club,” Tony informed, “we didn’t know Boys’ Town even had it like that. We’d have picked out something nice for you. Shit, you like the redheads, right? We’d have put this one on ice if Sal hadn’t nabbed him first.”

“You wouldn’t have been doing me any favours. He has a motor mouth that doesn’t stop running. Sal can keep him.”

His brothers went back to their game and Mickey stretched out on the couch, trying to process what the hell had just happened to him. Shit, maybe he should have been scoping out Boys’ Town sooner. The whole meeting had been an utter shock, especially the electric physical attraction; but in the end, that was neither here nor there. Mickey fully intended to get over it quickly and grow accustomed and blasé to Ian Gallagher and his particular brand of nonsense. He had to, or else he was going to be in for a world of trouble.

Chapter Text

“So a guy walks into his therapist’s office, buck naked except for a little bit of Saran wrap. The therapist looks at him and says ‘well I can clearly see your nuts!’”

Mickey slowly and deliberately lit a cigarette while he stared askance at a waiting and expectant Ian. This was Mickey’s coping mechanism for dealing with Ian and his plethora of jokes, random facts and observations. Mickey would wait until Ian got into the car, brace for his latest nonsense and quickly light up, using the cigarette to cover his knee jerk reaction, which was usually—to Mickey’s horror—dumb, appreciative laughter. Ian seemed to be on a mission to break the ice and get Mickey to engage him, and constant chatter and a barrage of lame jokes were his weapons of choice. Ian Gallagher was going to be hell on Mickey’s lungs. Hell, Gallagher was a danger to Mickey’s general health on a number of levels.

It had been a couple of weeks since Mickey had assumed his duties as Ian’s driver, and Mickey hated to admit it, but he was thawing and he had no idea how to stop it. They were slowly relaxing in increments, feeling each other out a little more with each car ride. Well Mickey was; Ian seemed to be labouring under the impression that they were already Thelma and Louise. Still, it was hard for Mickey to be proof against that face, and that smile, and that eager puppy lameness. Shit, he didn’t want to be Ian’s friend. It was bad enough that he had the hots for the idiot; actually liking him would be disastrous. So Mickey puffed on his cigarette and stared at his passenger, stone faced and unresponsive.

Ian was incorrigible and simply rolled his eyes at Mickey. “Nothing, huh? I’m starting to think you’re defective. What kind of person doesn’t laugh at a funny joke?”

“Tell a funny joke and maybe I’ll laugh,” Mickey retorted before silently berating himself. Damn it, don’t engage. Every word Mickey spoke was like a personal victory to Ian, and just seemed to encourage him further.

“I didn’t realize you were so discerning. You tell a joke then.”

“Fuck off,” Mickey grumbled and glared directly ahead, trying his damndest not to get charmed by the idiot next to him. His brothers might have folded, but he could hardly afford to.

“Come on, you’ve got to know at least one joke, right?” Ian persisted. “I heard you were funny.”

Mickey looked over at him, stiffening a little. “What do you mean I'm funny?”

Ian was nonplussed by the question and noted the subtle shift in Mickey’s body language. Mickey could be just as prickly and unsettling as Sal, and just as random. Ian was quickly nervous. “Um, I don’t know? You can tell a joke? Like funny ha ha?”

Mickey only seemed to get more annoyed. “What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?”

Ian was only plunging deeper into confusion. “No, just…I mean, just funny? I don’t—”

Mickey was scowling, his grip tight on the steering wheel. “You mean, let me understand this cause, you know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh; I'm here to fucking amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?!”

The light bulb finally went off in Ian’s head and he gaped at Mickey before losing it. “Oh my fucking god!” Ian cracked up, his tension leaving his body in a whoosh as he laughed, “how fucking long were you waiting for someone to set that up?!”

Mickey’s lips twitched, “a while,” he admitted. Shit, now why did he do that? Why couldn’t he just stick to his resolve about not engaging? He gave Ian a sidelong glance, watching him crack up from a mixture of relief and amusement. He liked Ian’s laugh. It was open, uninhibited, and reckless, just like Ian seemed to be. Dangerous would be a more accurate term. Mickey was getting charmed right down to his shoes and he couldn’t seem to do a thing to stop it.

“A while, huh? Not a lot of opportunity for Goodfellas quotes in your line of work?” Ian asked after he stopped laughing.

“Surprisingly not,” Mickey found himself grinning from Ian’s infectious energy. “I get to use lots of stuff from the Godfather, but Goodfellas,” Mickey shook his head before finally realizing that the light had changed to green just in the nick of time. Luckily there had been no one behind them.

Ian’s heart did a series of flips the moment Mickey started grinning. So it was as he had always suspected; Mickey Milkovich had an amazing smile. It had been worth almost having a coronary to get to see it, and now Ian was determined to keep him smiling, and maybe even get him to laugh.

When the laugh came, it caught them both off guard. Ian had climbed into the car in the supermarket parking lot, fresh off his shift and pissed that Sal had summoned him without warning yet again. Despite his annoyance, Ian displaced his pique to a much safer target.

“Ugh, guys are so gross sometimes,” Ian groused while Mickey waited, cigarette and lighter at the ready. “This guy had been circling me like a vulture all day, just coming in and out, buying random shit. I was like dude, just come out and say whatever so I can shut you down already. Finally, just before my shift ends, he plops down a pack of magnums in front of me, looks me dead in the face and says—and I shit you not—‘you got any Slim Jims in this shithole?’ I mean what the fuck?”

Mickey desperately tried to light his cigarette in time and keep his composure, but it was all in vain. He snorted, then snickered, then lost it completely and draped himself over the steering wheel, laughing. Ian was flabbergasted.

“Seriously?” Ian gaped at the laughing man incredulously. “Seriously?! This? This is your humour?!”

Ian’s indignation only fuelled Mickey’s amusement and he cracked up even harder. The more he tried to get himself under control, the worse his giggle-fit became.

“I can’t believe this,” Ian huffed, though he was fighting back his own laughter from watching Mickey laugh hysterically. “I bring you gems, real jokes, Comedy Central  material, but you lose your shit over ass ploughing? I cast my pearls before swine. I can’t even look at you right now.”

Mickey flailed one hand, trying desperately to get himself under control and mount some sort of defence. “Now that’s funny,” he gasped.

“Bullshit it’s funny, you ass,” Ian laughed, “you’re such a dork. You’re a stealth dork.”

Mickey hiccupped and wiped at his face, “look, that come on works on so many levels.”


“It’s clever, alright?!”

“No it’s not; it’s disgusting, and you’re gross for liking it.”

Mickey leaned back in his seat and beamed at Ian. “Alright man, whatever you say. The dude probably fucked it up with his delivery, but I guarantee you, if the right dude with the right attitude said that shit to you? Your panties would be dropping so fast.”

Ian sniffed, his heart suddenly thumping painfully in his chest, “yeah, whatever…maybe.” He fussed with his bag on his lap and glanced across at Mickey shyly. They both fell silent, and a charged, tense silence fell over them.

Ian didn’t know what he was doing, but he knew he needed to stop. He didn’t know what Mickey’s sexuality was, but he knew he was spending way too much time lately thinking about it and wondering about things he had no business wondering about. When Mickey wasn’t doing his tough guy routine and trying his best to put emotional distance between them, the way he looked at Ian sometimes made him sizzle down to his toes. Maybe it wasn’t sexual, maybe Mickey just had the attitude and one of those faces that made it seem as if he was always stripping Ian in his head. What Ian knew for sure was that he already had a boyfriend and a full plate that was overflowing. Mickey’s eyes and mouth and hands and ass were the absolute last things he needed to focus on.

Mickey clicked his tongue and turned over the engine, “let’s go. Sal gets antsy when you make him wait.”

They were in the North side and halfway to the hotel when Mickey’s phone rang. He put in on speaker and was soon in conversation with a woman with a heavy Russian accent. Ian wasn’t listening. He had spent the last fifteen minutes trying to get some reading done, but had been hopelessly distracted by Mickey’s hands instead.

Mickey had an odd habit. Every time he slowed the car or stopped for whatever reason, Mickey’s right hand would flutter away from the wheel and settle on the gear shift without fail. Ian had no idea why Mickey did that, since there was rarely any need to touch the gearshift throughout the length of their journey. Yet, Mickey did it automatically, and it was one of the many extremely distracting things about Mickey Milkovich and right then, it was bordering on torture for Ian.

Mickey didn’t just rest his hand on the stick, but ran his hand compulsively over it, since it seemed impossible for Mickey to ever be completely still. Ian watched, spellbound, as Mickey trailed his hand smoothly and slowly up and down the length of the stick, occasionally palming the bulbous knob at the top and working his way back down again. Sometimes Ian swore that Mickey was fucking with him. He could feel sweat start to prickle at the back of his neck in anticipation as Mickey started his upstroke and held his breath as Mickey’s thumb began to swipe over the top.

“Hey, Red—”

“Jesus fuck, what?!” Ian snapped taking Mickey aback.

“What the fuck’s the matter with you?!”

Ian swallowed and tried to clear the fog from his head, “I was just—I was studying,” he nodded to his book, beyond grateful for the heavy bag on his lap. “I—you startled me.”

“Huh, well try to take it down a notch,” Mickey eyed him suspiciously. “Look, I have a small issue I have to take care of. You mind if I take a little detour? I’ll let Sal know it’s my fault.”

More time with Mickey, less time with Sal—total no brainer. Ian sighed internally when he realized what he’d just thought. He needed to get a grip. Sal was his boyfriend and the one he should want to spend all his time with. Ian was going to have a serious talk with himself in his bathroom mirror the minute he got home. He eventually realized that Mickey was eyeing him curiously.


“You feeling okay?” Mickey asked, taking in Ian’s flushed face, “want me to turn down the heat a little?”

If only he could.

Ian’s curiosity grew as Mickey pulled into the driveway of a large colonial style house, tucked away at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet North side neighbourhood. To his surprise, Mickey told him that he could come in, and Ian was out of the car and at Mickey’s heels before Mickey could even properly close his car door.

Ian wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the bevy of lingerie-clad women strolling about the tastefully decorated house. In the large sitting room to the right were four large couches, two of them occupied by whom Ian assumed were clients.  Mickey headed into the center of the room with Ian close behind, and Ian could see there were a few more clients in the sun room to the left. A moment later, they were approached by a voluptuous, red haired, young woman. She draped herself over Mickey and smirked up at him.

“Hi, daddy.”

Mickey snorted loudly, “daddy?! I see you’re enjoying yourself already.”

She tossed her hair and looked up at him expectantly. “Well, you like?”

Mickey curled a finger in Trish’s hair and shot a glance over at a glaring Ian. Her hair was a few shades warmer than Ian’s but Mickey figured it would do—it suited her perfectly.

“It’s nice,” he nodded, “nothing beats Jessica Rabbit. Now go make some money.”

She sauntered away towards the sitting room just as another woman stomped purposefully down the winding stairs.

“So you are here,” she said and Ian immediately recognized the Russian accent as the caller from earlier. “It took you long enough. Who is this?” she eyed Ian suspiciously as she came to a stop before Mickey.

Mickey dryly made the introductions. “Sal’s new side piece, bottom bitch; bottom bitch, side piece.”

She rolled her eyes and turned to Ian. “Adorable, isn’t he? You just want to squeeze cheeks until they rip right off.” She extended a hand to Ian and he took it. “Svetlana.”

“Ian,” he replied.

Mickey nodded to the empty couch in the sitting room, “pop a squat. I shouldn’t take too long.”

Ian nodded and made his way over to the couch, carefully avoiding making eye contact with the men and women milling about that were waiting for services. He tried reading while he waited, but his gaze eventually found its way back to Mickey.

“He’s young,” Svetlana sniffed, “So it’s true; no fool like old fool.”

“Hmm,” Mickey hummed his agreement and his eyes wandered back to Ian, who quickly looked down at his book pretending to read.

“You are not fool… most of the time,” Svetlana withered, “do not start now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You get look in your eye,” Svetlana continued, “he’s Sal’s; you don’t look.”

Mickey huffed and dipped his head while he tugged guiltily at his coat sleeves. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Where’s the john?”

Svetlana led him into the study, where a sandy haired, middle-aged man sat waiting patiently. He looked like someone’s accountant—average height, with grey eyes within a plain, spectacled face. He was unremarkable to the point of being wallpaper, so Mickey knew he was in for a doozy.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted and closed the door behind him, leaving them alone in the study.

The man shot to his feet, clearly nervous. “Hello, sir.”

Mickey waved him down and indicated that the man should resume his seat. “It’s just Mickey.”

“Ah yes, I’m…John.”

Mickey bit back a smile, “yeah, of course you are. So I heard what you needed required some set up?”

The man nodded and adjusted his glasses. “I hope you don’t find requirements too strange. It’s just that I don’t have much other recourse,” John hesitated, “My job is so stressful and I don’t have a lot of outlets.”

Mickey quickly put him at ease. “Hey man, don’t worry about it. We’ve accommodated some crazy shit you wouldn’t believe. As long as my girls stay safe and we follow all the rules, let your freak flag fly.”

The man nodded and allowed himself a small smile. He was a little shocked, but soothed by Mickey’s frankness. He then set about describing exactly what he required and the complexities of the set up.

“Hmm, I think we can manage that,” Mickey nodded, “any particular type of girl?”

The man shook his head. “I don’t really have a strong preference for a particular type. I just need the conditions to be right.”

“Yeah, I got you.”

Mickey nodded again and told the man to wait a while. He made his way back out to a waiting Svetlana. “Government freak show.”

Her spine straightened, Mickey’s words putting her on edge. “You think he is plant?”

“Nah, not with a kink that specific.”

“We accommodate?”

Mickey nodded and cast an eye around the house. “Who do you think will be down for that shit?”

“Maybe new girl? She has appetite like shark.”

“She’s on probation for now. I need a pro—someone who can get stuff out of him,” Mickey said. “Get Natasha and set up the video room. I want him on tape from start to finish and I want his face showing clear as day.”

Svetlana’s eyes flicked towards the study door. “You think he might be useful?”

“Couldn’t hurt… You know what car he came here in?”

Despite the busy bordello scene around him, Ian actually managed to get a little reading done. That is until Mickey wandered out again and Ian could not tear his eyes away. He watched as Mickey and Svetlana huddled in a corner and spoke in hushed tones. It was a sign of how haywire his thinking and priorities had become that he was agonizing over the possible nature of Mickey’s relationship with Svetlana rather than the fact that Mickey had just revealed himself as a freaking pimp. Ian was distracted from his thoughts by a warm body pressing against him. The young woman from earlier had joined him on the couch.

“Hi, I’m Trish,” she parted her robe to give a better view of her garter and stockings set up. “Do you want some company?”

Trish might look like the love child of Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake, but Ian was not a fan.  

“Sis, you are so barking up the wrong tree right now,” he informed her and turned his attention firmly back to his books. She cocked her head and blinked at him curiously, a little bewildered by the rejection.

“What the hell are you doing?” Mickey asked Trish after he materialized in front of them. “Does he look like he needs to pay for it? Find an actual customer.” Mickey glanced around and eventually nodded at a florid gentleman who looked quite overwhelmed by his surroundings. “How about him? Dude’s so horny, he’s growing antlers over there.”

Trish was not impressed, “he looks like he’d be a terrible lay. Three minutes at best,” she pouted.

Ian thought Mickey would get angry at her reluctance and grew uncomfortable at the thought of seeing some kind of pimp-style discipline. To his surprise, Mickey looked over at the john in question, appeared to reassess him and actually agreed with Trish.

“Yeah, probably; but you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life,” Mickey waved her off, and she sighed and got up to head over to him. “Now go take care of him, please? Thank you.”

Ian was fighting back a smile so hard his face was cramping. It didn’t escape Mickey’s notice.

“What the fuck are you smiling about?”

The Facts of Life? Really, dork?” Ian said, “you motivate your prostitutes with the Facts of Life?”

“Worked, didn’t it?”

They watched as Trish sauntered over to the john, whose eyes grew wider and wider with each step of her approach. She greeted him warmly, asking if he wanted her company, and rested her hand on his shoulder. The man erupted like a volcano.

“Ew,” Mickey and Ian said in unison, grossed out, but a little empathetic.

Trish snatched her hand back in horror and Ian nearly ruptured his spleen trying not to laugh. It didn’t help when Svetlana hurried over to scowl her displeasure at the mortified man.

“Did you make mess in my living room?” she hissed at him before yelling over to Mickey, “do we still charge?”

“Of fucking course we do,” Mickey replied and Ian was sputtering. Mickey ignored him, but seemed to gentle his stance a bit. “Charge him half rate.”

Ian was close to tears and Mickey looked down at him, grinning. “You better not be laughing at my place or my girls. The service is good and my girls are pros, but there’s no accounting for the clientele sometimes.” He was distracted again by the man protesting unhappily that he shouldn’t have to pay for a service he didn’t use. “Hey, Johnny Rocket, don’t make me come over there. Pay the lady and say thank you for a job well done. One minute motherfucker,” Mickey mumbled under his breath before catching Ian grinning goofily at him. “What? Shut up with your face,” he grumbled before turning his narrowed gaze back to the john, Trish and Svetlana.

That was the precise moment Ian realized that he could have all the get-a-grip talks in as many bathroom mirrors as he could manage. It wouldn’t change the fact that he had it bad for Mickey Milkovich. Ian hoped to god that Mickey wasn’t gay and that his crush was hopeless, because otherwise, he was in for a world of trouble.

“Alley cat!”

Alexis squawked and giggled as Ian snuck up on her and swung her into the air. He put her down, draped an arm over her shoulder and dragged her along towards the supermarket.

“Tell me you did the math homework,” he bumped her happily as they walked along. “I took look one at it and fizzled.”

“Listen to the future business major,” she teased, “I did the math homework if you did the communications assignment.”

“We’ll swap after work,” Ian nodded and took a deep breath, “nice day, isn’t it?”

Alex raised an eyebrow as Ian practically bounced along as they turned into the supermarket lot. At some points it even sounded like he was humming. He was clearly in the best mood and it was positively infectious. Still, this was all just a little suspicious.

“What’s with you?” Alex asked pointedly.


“You look like you’re on cloud nine over there.”

Ian shrugged it off, “I don’t’ know. Just in a good mood, I guess.”

“Anything new going on?” Alex prodded gently, and her eyebrow shot a little higher when he seemed to hesitate. Instead of dishing, he simply smiled at her and shook his head.

“Things going okay with the Salamander?” Alex asked, wondering if maybe Ian was in a good mood over some grand romantic gesture.

“Forget Sal,” Ian said with such breezy dismissiveness, Alex was nearly blown away. She decided not to push it any further. Whatever it was, Ian wasn’t ready to tell her yet. For now, she was perfectly willing to let her friend be wonderfully, suspiciously happy.

A few hours later, Alex grabbed her pouch and headed over to her friend. “Bathroom break?” she asked and Ian nodded. They headed to the employee men’s room and Ian went in first, doing a quick check of the stalls while Alex bounced in place by the door.

“Clear,” Ian said and quickly stepped out of the way while she made a beeline for a stall. He locked the door and waited, all the while listening to the sounds of Alex shuffling about and muttering in irritation.

“Fucking adhesive is weak as shit on this roll,” she called out. Finally she re-emerged, relieved and annoyed all at the same time. “That was a photo finish; shouldn’t have had all that tea.”

“I know I’ve asked this before, but aren’t there tucks that allow you to pee without having to do the whole thing over?”

“Yeah, but none of them are as good as this one. I’d rather do the whole thing over than use a technique that isn’t as tight and smooth,” Alex washed her hands and looked tiredly into the mirror, making note of all her problem areas.

Ian frowned at her, “you okay?”

Alex sighed and fluffed her hair. She twisted from side to side, frowning at her reflection from a number of angles. “Yeah, just a little tired. It’s been one of those days.”

It was more that it had been one of those weeks, months, years, forever. She retrieved her small makeup kit from her pouch and began touching up. “Just wish it would all go away sometimes.”

Ian shifted, his concern growing steadily, “Allie…”

Alexis sighed and immediately regretted her dire tone. This was their lives, always scanning each other’s words and actions for red flags, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice in order to drag the other back from the edge. She waved him off.

“Nothing like that, please don’t freak out,” she looked at him pointedly. “It’s just that I went to a club last night and ran into the holy trinity of transphobic douchebags. First it was Mr. ‘oh, I’m not gay,’ followed by Sir ‘pre-op or post-op?’ Number three had me going for a while until I realized he has a serious chicks with dicks fetish, with heavy emphasis on the dicks. I told him I don’t use it, I don’t like it and I don’t want it, so of course he peaced the fuck out.”

“I just want a day when I don’t feel gross,” she continued before she took a deep breath and eyed the mirror with a steely gaze. “My hair looks really healthy today!” she said chirpily, “very glossy! I have great skin; it takes make up very well. My lips look really soft,” she said before muttering under her breath, “granted, they could be a little fuller.”

“Uh uh,” Ian chastised her, “you’re not supposed to put qualifiers in your affirmations.”

“Ugh, I can’t believe Lester has us doing this affirmations bullshit. Does it work for you?”

Ian shrugged, “sometimes… but I’m not always buying what I’m selling.”

“Yeah, me neither,” Alex checked her watch and gathered up her things. “But in other news, tomorrow it’s my one year anniversary for my HRT, so you know… whoo!”

“Shit, it’s been a year already?” Ian hugged Alex close, “we need to celebrate.”

Alex smiled tiredly into his shirt, “yeah, just get me a spiro cake with an oestrogen ganache. I’ll binge and maybe I’ll wake up the next day as Wonder Woman.”

Ian could tell he was there the second he walked into the club. It was the weirdest thing that he was so certain. He couldn’t see Mickey; he couldn’t hear him over the powerful, driving beats. It was the way the fine hairs on his body slowly stood on end and the delicious shivers coursed through his body that alerted him that Mickey was somewhere nearby.

Ian was on stage, bathed in light and moving in time to the music. He loved every second of it. He never felt more powerful or in control than when he was in the spotlight, bare, every eye on him and wanting him while the adrenaline pounded through him. The money was a huge benefit, but this feeling was the true allure that drew him back after he started his treatment.

He searched fruitlessly for a few minutes before spotting Mickey when he stepped out of the shadows to get closer to Ian’s stage. Ian watched as Mickey leaned on the rail and slowly sipped his drink, blue eyes never leaving Ian. Ian wasn’t suppose to dwell on one patron too long when he was on stage—that was what private dances were for—but he honestly couldn’t help it. Mickey looked so good. It was the closest Ian had come to seeing him dressed down, in a black T-shirt and jeans, and a leather jacket. Ian decided he loved it just as much as the suits.

There had to be something there, right? The way Mickey was looking at him, turning him inside out, there was no way that could just be his imagination, could it? Shit—how was it possible to get this fucked up in a couple of weeks? The moment Ian got his break, he stepped off stage and headed straight for Mickey.

“Hey,” Ian sounded wired and breathless, and for once it had nothing to do with his set on stage. “What are you doing here?”

Mickey took a measured drag of his cigarette. Holy fucking shit. He knew what he’d be dreaming about the second he fell asleep that night. Ian’s outfit was ridiculous in theory—tiny gold shorts, a dumb tie and not much else—but it made Mickey’s mouth water. The obscene dancing hadn’t helped either. Mickey had been magnetized and mesmerized from the second he stepped into the club. Sal never stood a chance.

“Sal sent me.”

“Oh,” Ian was crestfallen. It had been a long shot, but he had hoped it was a case of Mickey just having to see him.

“Says to make sure you get home safely,” and alone, Mickey added silently.

“Yeah, that’s really not necessary,” Ian crossed his arms over his bare chest and jutted out his chin.

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Red,” Mickey dragged on his cigarette and let his eyes slide down Ian’s body, “the night is dark and full of terrors and creepy old fucks; but rumour has it you’re into that.”

“Among other things,” Ian said, “so, twenty-five bucks gets you a dance.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and Ian’s lips hitched into a half-smile.

“Sorry, I have to offer if I’m going to talk to you for more than a few seconds. Don’t wanna dance, gotta move on,” Ian said before adding, “fifty bucks gets you the champagne room.” He was taking a risk engaging Mickey in that way, but he didn’t care. He was feeling high, empowered and horny, and not in the best space for good decision making. He watched Mickey lick his lips slowly before drawing his lower lip into his mouth. Ian was fairly certain this was some upper echelon of hell.

“What happens in the champagne room?”

“Whatever the fuck you want,” Ian thought to himself but said nothing out loud; only shrugged. Jesus, Mickey needed to either take him back there or let him go, because his shorts were going to do him no favours and keep no secrets in a couple of minutes.

For an agonizing minute, Mickey seemed to think it over before shaking his head, “sorry, not my bag. But I’ll be waiting for you when your shift’s over.”

“Open the door, but let me go in first.”

Ian was this close to strangling Mickey. It was bad enough Mickey had basically forced him to have a slapdash masturbatory session in the club’s bathroom while surrounded by countless couples going at it, but now he was delaying Ian from doing it properly and going the fuck to sleep. Ian had school in the morning. The last thing he needed was Mickey and his leather jacket and his hair idling in his apartment and winding him up again.


“Following orders. I was told to do a check. Make sure bad guys like me aren’t in there hiding under your bed,” Mickey grinned at him, slow and sexy, and Ian wanted nothing more than to punch his stupid face in.

“I’m eight floors up and I’m a broke college student. Who’d be in there?”

“Let’s find out.”

Ian leaned against the door jamb and watched as Mickey inspected his tiny studio. There wasn’t much to see, a large bed with two small night tables on either side of it, next to the huge window to maximise natural light. Beyond the foot of the bed were Ian’s desk and chair and mounted bookshelf, then a chest of drawers. Mickey headed into the small kitchen at the rear of the apartment first, before peeking into the bathroom and working his way back up to the bed and Ian.

“Seems bad guy free,” Mickey said maddeningly, and ignored Ian’s tapping foot to examine the bed and window more closely, “Mmm…”

Okay, Mickey needed to leave. Mickey needed to leave now. “I have school in the morning,” Ian blurted out. By then he was almost sure Mickey was fucking with him. To his relief or disappointment—he wasn’t sure which—Mickey seemed to relent and strolled towards him to head out the door.

“I know you get pissed off when Sal doesn’t give you a heads up, so I’m giving you a heads up; he’s probably gonna want to see you tomorrow. So don’t get all pissy at me when I show up,” Mickey slid past Ian into the hallway, “sweet dreams, Red; nice place.”

True to his word, Mickey was there for Ian the following evening. Ian got into the car a little worse for wear—the effect of a fitful night followed by a long day of school.

“You look like hell,” Mickey observed after Ian threw himself into the seat.

“And yet you still wish you looked this good,” Ian shot Mickey a cheeky grin and was beyond thrilled when he got one back.

The drive was quiet and uneventful with Ian too tired to mount his usual social attack and Mickey actually contemplating a caffeine run just so he could get his Chatty Cathy Gallagher back. The peace of the moment was soon shattered by a phone call.

Ian had been expecting Svetlana to call with another Rub-and-Tug emergency, so he was surprised to hear Iggy’s panicked babbling over the phone.    

“Wait, what? Slow down, I can’t understand what the fuck you’re saying!” Mickey was clearly adept at translating Iggy’s gibberish, because Ian had yet to figure out heads or tails of what Iggy was saying, but Mickey was already flooring it. “Fuck, I’m on my way!”

It didn’t take long to figure out where they were when Mickey swung into the driveway of a sprawling North side estate. This was Sal’s place; this was Sal’s home. Ian looked at Mickey in a bit of a panic. He wasn’t allowed to come here; it was one of their rules, or rather, Sal’s wife’s rules. Ian stayed silent, because Mickey’s face was grim and they were speeding past the massive Tudor style house and heading around back.

Mickey screeched to a halt in front of the pool house, not that Ian recognised it as such. The two-story pool house was easily the size of the Gallagher house and was only given away by the large, ornate pool in front of it. Mickey had barely stopped the car before he was out and running into the house, and Ian quickly scrambled out to find out what the fuss was about. What he walked into was bedlam.

There had been only three of them inside: Sal, Iggy and Joey, but the ensuing chaos seemed to speak of a much larger number. Ian stepped in and was immediately hit so hard by the familiar madness of the scene, that it gave him a sense of vertigo. There was Sal, in a towering rage, looming over the cowering form of a terrified Joey. Iggy was in a corner by the front door, babbling incoherently and running his hands though his hair in agitation as Ian and Mickey came in.

“You stupid, useless piece of shit!” Sal roared and picked up the closest thing he could grab—a small vase—and smacked it on top of Joey, “useless, empty headed prick! Who the fuck do you think you are talking to me like that, huh?!”

Joey curled into a tighter fetal position, trying his damndest to protect his body while Sal laid into him. He babble-sobbed apologies as Sal’s ire only seemed to grow.

“I should have left you in the fucking gutter!”

“Where the fuck are Jaime and Tony?” Mickey hissed at Iggy as he rushed past, but Iggy only shook his head. Jaime and Tony had jobs and it hadn’t even occurred to Iggy to call them.

Ian watched as Mickey rushed straight into the fray and put himself between Sal and his brother. Sal was still roaring and tried to get past Mickey, but the young man only skipped around and kept himself squarely between Sal and his target, one hand extended pleadingly to calm Sal down.

Ian ventured closer and immediately figured out the situation. A couple rails of coke still sat atop a low center table, with liquor and random paraphernalia alongside. It was clear the three where partying together, getting high as kites before something went sour and chaos erupted. Mickey was calming Sal down, and the man’s roaring and violent twitching seemed to be subsiding, but Ian was still worried. He knew how it could be. Sometimes they’d be lulled in thinking the storm was dying down, only for it to get a second wind for it to redirect its focus. The last thing Ian wanted was for Sal’s drug fuelled rage to redirect to Mickey. He stepped forward and laid a hand on Sal’s shoulder. The older man’s skin was so hot to the touch, Ian almost yanked his hand away.

“Disrespecting me, Mickey, in my own fucking house,” Sal slurred, “talk to your fucking brother.”

Mickey’s eyes widened when Ian dropped a hand on Sal’s shoulder. Sal swung around at the touch, still in fight mode, and only barely managed to stop short when he saw that it was Ian.

“Ian, baby, what are you doing here?” Sal’s skin was fever hot and his eyes his dilated and unfocused. He smiled goofily up at Ian and grabbed him suddenly to hug him close. “She’d kill us both if she found you here,” he buried his face in Ian’s neck and inhaled.

Ian patted Sal on the back and rocked slowly in place in an effort to soothe and quiet him. “It’s done, right? We’re all okay now?”

Mickey watched Sal and Ian for a bit before running to his brother’s aid. Joey was still curled on the floor, in fear of Sal’s wrath.

“Hey, Joey, you okay?”

At his brother’s voice and touch, Joey slowly unfolded. The left side of his face was badly swollen and he looked plaintively at Mickey. “I didn’t even say nothing, Mick.”

“I know, I know,” Mickey sighed and cradled the side of his brother’s head gingerly. He then pulled him to his feet, “you’re okay, come on.” He was going to get Iggy and Joey out of there until he was certain the sight of them wouldn’t set Sal off again.

Sal was snuggled up to Ian, eyes closed, and contentedly humming Fly me to the moon as the two of them swayed together. Ian kept rubbing Sal’s back soothingly and looked pointedly at a hesitating Mickey, indicating that he should get his battered and bruised brothers out of there.

Mickey was conflicted. Sal seemed worn out and happy now, but that could change in a minute. He wanted his brothers in a safe place, but he wasn’t keen on leaving Ian alone with Sal either.

“I’ll be fine,” Ian mouthed silently and jerked his head again telling Mickey to go.

“I’ll be right back,” Mickey promised and herded his brothers out.

Ian watched Mickey as he left, not even blinking until he was completely out of sight. He listened as the car sped away and then went back to swaying with Sal—both of them burning for entirely different reasons.


Chapter Text

Ian was out like a light the moment he got comfortable in the front seat of Mickey’s car. He had been tired from the start, and talking Sal down had been like caring for a colicky, volatile infant. Sal had finally calmed down right into sleep and Mickey had wasted no time getting Ian off the property.

Mickey kept stealing looks as Ian slept in the seat next to him. It was disturbing how strong the urge was to reach over and touch him, and Mickey squirmed in his seat as he fought against the temptation. He fidgeted with his hands and willed the light to change before he did something regrettable.

It wasn’t long before Ian was tossing his bag on the floor, yawning and stretching while he eyed his bed longingly. He was so focused on his plan to just peel off his clothes and fall into bed that he actually managed to forget that Mickey was behind him, still hanging by the door. He was quickly reminded just before he started tugging off his shirt.

“Hey, Gallagher,” Mickey tapped the door frame nervously when Ian turned to face him, “look, about what went down earlier—you helping with Sal and my brothers and everything—I just wanted to say thanks. You didn’t have to do that. You shouldn't have, to be honest.”

Ian waved him off and scratched the back of his neck tiredly. “Been there done that thousands of times. Don’t worry about it; it was nothing.”

“No, it wasn’t ‘nothing’,” Mickey said firmly, “when it comes to my family, it’s never ‘nothing.’ I owe you one, Gallagher.”

Ian smiled softly and nodded, growing shyer and warmer under Mickey’s steady, sincere gaze. “Yeah, okay then…so you owe me one.”

They stared at each other silently for a while, feeling that now familiar tension growing between them. Ian bounced on his heels slightly, his tiredness quickly dissipating while he got his charge out of being with Mickey. Neither of them seemed to know how to break the spell of the moment, or if they even wanted to.  Still, it couldn’t go on forever and Ian couldn’t help but push his luck a little further, now filled to the brim with the audacity of hope.

“Um, you want to come in for a little bit, maybe? I’ve got beer…”

Mickey couldn’t think of a worse possible idea, nor could he think of anything he wanted to do more right at that minute. He hesitated and tugged at the sleeves of his black overcoat.

“Nah, I should go,” Mickey replied, regretting it even as he was turning Ian down. Still it was the only smart option and Mickey couldn’t afford to slip. “You should get some sleep anyway.”

Mickey Milkovich was proving to be hell on Ian’s wallet.

There had to be a dozen guys lined around the platform, just waiting for him to make a little eye contact and make them feel special so they could stuff his shorts. Unfortunately, there was Mickey, leaning on his railing a short distance off, sipping his drink and burning Ian to a cinder with those blue eyes of his. Ian was powerless to look anywhere else. It was pathetic, but Ian couldn’t help it. On the plus side, he doubted he’d ever danced better than when he did when Mickey was around. It was just too bad he wasn’t reaping the maximum benefits.

Mickey headed outside near the end of Ian’s shift to get the car and bring it around. Ian wasn’t about to dawdle and scrambled to change so he could head out and join him. Ian was halfway to the door when Martin stopped him and asked to speak with him privately and Ian had no choice but to follow the man to his small office around the back. Ian tapped his foot impatiently as the manager smoothed his handlebar moustache, and Martin decided to just dive right into it.

“Look, Ian, I’m going to have to let you go.”

It took Ian a second to process what Martin was saying, and he blinked at him nonplussed until he regained the power of speech. “What?”

Martin shrugged and fiddled about straightening the papers on his desk. “This isn’t working out anymore.”

“What? Why?!” Ian’s panic quickly built and he struggled to think of what he could possibly have done. “What did I do?!” Ian’s thoughts fell to Mickey and the way he had been hyper-focused on him during his sets. But Mickey had only been to the club twice and Ian doubted Martin or anyone else had caught on yet to Ian’s massive crush and how it was affecting his tips. “I’m one of the most requested dancers here. I need this job—”

Martin wasn’t long on patience and rolled his eyes at Ian. “You can’t need a job that badly with the type of crowd you’re rolling with now,” he sneered. “Look, he doesn’t want you dancing; you’re not dancing. I’m not about to risk my livelihood over one twink.”

It all fell into place instantly, and all Ian could do was glower hotly for a second before storming out. He burst out and took a few heaving breaths in the cold night air before zeroing in on Mickey who had just pulled up across the street. He stomped over and smacked Mickey’s door.

“You fucking owe me one, huh?!” Ian seethed while Mickey’s brow furrowed in confusion. “It’s not enough that he sends you to crowd me and take me home and sweep my fucking apartment for ‘danger,’ but he has to take my fucking job too?!”

Mickey frowned and got out of the car. He didn’t know what had happened in the ten minutes since he left the club, but Ian looked like he was losing it.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Gallagher?”

“I needed this job!” Ian cried, “you don’t understand; he doesn’t understand! I have school and I need the money and this is the only place that I can—that I feel like I’m—” Ian sputtered, unable to explain the insanity of needing a place like the White Swallow.

“What are you on about?!”

“Sal got me fired!” Ian yelled in Mickey’s face, “fuck this, you don’t know anything.” Ian pulled out his phone and quickly brought up Sal’s number, but before he had the chance to dial, Mickey had whipped it out of his hand.

“Hey, whoa, okay,” Mickey danced out of reach when Ian grabbed for his phone, “come on, let’s not do anything hasty here. You’re all worked up; maybe wait a bit and cool down before you talk to him.”

“Why the fuck should I calm down first?!” Ian seethed, “I want to talk to him now.”

“Alright, look,” Mickey said softly, trying is best to calm Ian and not have him call Sal in the middle of the night in a rage. “Let’s just take it one thing at a time first, okay? Let’s get all the information here; you’re not even sure of anything,” Mickey pointed out, though he knew full well that Sal more than likely had made the phone call that got Ian fired. Still, he needed to buy time. “You got severance?”

Ian looked at Mickey as if he was crazy. “Severance? What? No, it’s a gay club in fucking Boys’ Town. We’re not exactly unionized.”

“You still got rights. Let’s handle this first,” Mickey said and headed back towards the club, still in possession of Ian’s cell phone. Ian watched him go, conflicted and uncertain, but shook himself when Mickey yelled back at him, “Gallagher, let’s go!”

Ian grunted with the futility of his frustration and jogged after him.

“Where is he?” Mickey asked and Ian sighed and led Mickey to the back office. Mickey pointed to the closed door for confirmation and Ian nodded, watching with growing interest to see just how Mickey intended to handle this. Mickey tried the door and found it locked, so he backed up a little and unceremoniously kicked it in. Ian followed Mickey in to find a young man struggling to get up off his knees, while Martin shot up from the chair in shock, while quickly trying to zip up.

“Auditioning replacements already?” Ian sneered, “you’re so fucking gross.”

Mickey jerked his head, telling the young man to get out. The startled youth wasted no time hightailing it and Mickey locked the door behind him.

“Ian, what the fuck—” Martin began, but Mickey cut him off.

“My friend here told me you just let him go. I imagine you’re not exactly Department of Labour compliant, but you can’t just fire someone without a little compensation.”

Martin was beside himself, “what fucking compensation?” he then glared at Ian, “look, I’m sorry you had to get the boot, but it is what it is. I’m not pissing off the Mob for you or anyone like you. Getting your boyfriend to snot at me isn’t going to make a difference.”

Mickey let out a short laugh and edged closer to the table. “Boyfriend? You calling me gay?”

Martin huffed his impatience, “please, honey, you make Justin—”

Mickey’s hand shot out and grabbed Martin’s tie, yanking it down so viciously that Martin’s face collided painfully with the tabletop. Mickey came around quickly and pressed the groaning, whimpering man’s head hard into the desk. Ian could only gape.

“Hey, Gallagher, how much do you clear at the end of a night?” Mickey’s eyes snapped to Ian’s and the latter was left sputtering.

“Ah, usually like two hun—” Ian faltered when Mickey glared at him sharply, “I-I mean, like four? No, five hundred a night?”

“Bullshit you clear five hundred on aver—argh!” Martin screeched when Mickey pulled hard on his moustache.

“Okay, so two weeks’ severance is typically the norm, right?” Mickey slapped the side of Martin’s head, “so that’s five hundred a night, at five nights a week for two weeks. What does the math say?”

“He doesn’t work five nights a—ow!”

“Five hundred a night, at five nights a week for two weeks… What does the math say?”  Mickey repeated through gritted teeth.

“Five grand!” Martin was close to sobbing from the painful pressure on his head.

“Good job, now pay the man,” Mickey finally let him up and watched, eagle-eyed, as Martin lurched to the small safe in the office and begrudgingly pulled out the bills.

The manager quickly counted and double checked the money before handing the roll over to Ian. “You’re not going to get away with this.”

“Yes we are, so take it down a notch, Snidely Whiplash,” Mickey said and motioned to Ian that it was time to get going. “Who are you going to complain to about this?”

“Alex was right about you,” Ian said as a parting shot, “you are an amoral asshole.”

With that, Martin was left glaring impotently while five thousand dollars of his money marched out of the room.

“Take me to see Sal,” Ian demanded as he climbed into the Escalade.

“Gallagher, it’s the middle of the night.”

“Take me to see Sal now,” Ian repeated with grim determination. “I don’t give a fuck if he’s asleep and if his wife has rules. He keeps expecting me to bend over backwards for him; it’s time he did the same. And give me my fucking phone back!”

Mickey grimaced and relented. He took the opportunity to fire off a quick text to Sal—“Gallagher’s coming. He's pissed”—in the hopes that it woke him up and prepared him a bit. The last thing Mickey wanted was for Ian to confront a discombobulated Sal, startled from his sleep.

Too soon and they were at the pool house, in another flagrant violation of the set rules. Sal was inside and seated on one of the stools around the kitchen island, past the living room where chaos had occurred just days earlier. He stood up tiredly when they came in and stretched painfully.

“You got me fired?!” Ian wasted no time on preamble. “What the fuck, Sal?”

Sal looked past Ian to Mickey, who was hovering worriedly behind a fuming Ian. “Get gone; Ian and I need to talk alone.”

“No, Mickey stays,” Ian snapped, “because I might need a fucking witness.”

Mickey fell back but refused to leave. Before Sal could take him to task for it, Ian was once again in Sal’s face and bearing down on him.

“You got me fucking fired!”

Sal sighed heavily, “what the fuck are you doing here in the middle of the night? I told you that you’re not supposed to come here. What are you trying to pull?”

Ian shook his head in disbelief. “I hate when you try to flip shit on me like I’m the one fucking up here. You’re not even slick about it. You think I’m here on a whim, like I just felt like fucking shit up tonight? You went behind my back and got me fired!”

“Why the fuck are you coming at me like this, huh?” Sal’s brow furrowed as he glared at Ian. “I was doing you a fucking favour. I was looking out for you. I thought you’d be a little more grateful.”

“Grateful?! You want to explain that one to me?” Ian was flabbergasted, “why the fuck would I be grateful? I need that job, Sal. I have school, I have family that needs help; I’m going to be fucking grateful that you’re cutting off my best source of income?”

Sal was unapologetic. “That shit was beneath your dignity. Shaking your ass, practically naked in some sleazy club; it’s fucking degrading. I won’t have it.”

“Oh, it’s degrading now?! You weren’t so fucking snobby about it when you were shelling out close to two hundred bucks to get into the champagne room; but now it’s ‘degrading,’ is it?”

Sal inhaled sharply, and Mickey squirmed from his unobtrusive spot in the far corner of the living room. Mickey’s brain was working overtime trying to figure out if there was anything he could do to de-escalate the situation. He kept watch nervously as Sal levelled Ian with a steely gaze.

“You need to adjust your fucking tone when you talk to me. I’m not some boy you can scream down to,” he paused and then switched it up a bit, softening his tone, “Ian, you’re young, you’re not thinking this through clearly. For one thing, this is a dangerous environment. I worry about your safety every single night I know you’re there. There are bad people around—predators—just waiting to take advantage. Besides, this is about your career too. You’re the one that wants to be some corporate big shot. You think the Trumps and Kochs of the world are going to let some fucking go-go boy into the Boy’s Club? It’s like wanting to turn a whore into a housewife. Who’s gonna do that, huh? What the fuck are you thinking? Are you trying to fuck up your future?”

Ian flinched visibly, Sal finally hitting on one of Ian’s sorest spots. Sal’s eyes narrowed slightly at Ian’s grimace and noted the lack of furious retort. He swooped in for the kill.

“Ian, honey, I have been around this block thousands of times. I know what it’s like out there, and you need someone looking out for you. What I’m doing here is looking out for you. You’re worried about school and money? Don’t be. I told you before and I’ll say it again, when you’re with Sal Boerio, you’re safe, you’re taken care of.” Sal grabbed the back of Ian’s neck with one hand and patted his cheek with the other. “I don’t want you to worry about a thing, ever.”

Mickey kept on shifting uncomfortably as he watched the exchange. It had been a little alarming watching Ian deflate so spectacularly, all the heat and justifiable rage just knocked cleanly out of him, only to be replaced with uncertainty and anxiety. Still, Mickey had predicted this outcome almost down to the letter. Sal could find a chink in someone’s armour as easily as breathing, or he would keep stabbing away until he found one. Mickey could only guess at why that particular jab hit Ian so hard; maybe it was the idea of fucking up his future or never being respected. Either way, it was clear that Sal had won another battle in this very strange war. There were more assurances and promises, though Ian seemed to barely register them and soon Sal was nodding for Mickey to get Ian out of there.

During the car ride back home, Ian rarely spoke; his mind far too full of thoughts and anxieties to even make note of Mickey’s presence. Mickey kept darting glances at him, trying to mentally will the fire back into him.

“Sal shouldn’t have done what he did,” Mickey said, startling himself and Ian. He was breaking his long held code to never get involved in Sal’s dramas with his lovers. The argument had been more discomfiting to watch than he had thought possible, and Ian’s subsequent sullenness was even worse. Mickey knew Sal’s method; he and his brothers had been raised in it, had been shaped by it. The constant breakdowns and build ups, the lightning fast switches between affection and aggression. They grew up believing that Sal Boerio was God and the world was subject to his whims and moods.

As he got older, Mickey understood it all a little better. The rational adult in him knew Sal was just a man, and one with a hell of a lot more failings than the typical person. Yet, that rational adult, who was in charge of Mickey’s life the vast majority of the time, still had nothing on the half-starved, terrified, eight year old boy that had been rescued in magnificent fashion by the neighbourhood mobster. “Stick with me, kid. Sal Boerio takes care of his own.” Fourteen years of that shit. Fourteen years of believing the sun rose and set because Sal said so. Fuck, it might have been too late for him, but Ian didn’t owe Sal anything. Ian didn’t deserve to get sucked into this shit.

“He should have at least asked you first, or something,” Mickey continued, ignoring the tremor that moved through him at the thought of denouncing Sal to someone else besides his own family.

Ian blinked at him and nodded, but still didn’t say much. He remained silent on the elevator ride up to his apartment and as Mickey did his pointless check. He grew a little more despondent as Mickey readied to leave, and wished he knew of a way to ask him to stay. To his surprise, the usually reticent Mickey still had something more to say.

“Look,” Mickey said as he paused at the open door, “that job will still be waiting when Sal fucks off. You’re hands down the best talent in the joint. They’d be nuts to not take you back.”

Ian smiled in spite of the situation. “‘In the joint?’ really? How old are you, grandpa?”

Mickey grinned back, relieved that Ian was perking up a little. “I am what I am, alright?”

Ian bit back a laugh and stared down at his sneakers. It was crazy he could still feel this way despite all the crap that had gone down tonight. But there they were, the sneaking warm and fuzzies mixed in with the rest of his jangled, raw emotions.

“I don’t know. Maybe Sal’s right. My background check is going to be a fucking mess. Who the fuck’s going to want some gay go-go dancer working accounts in their firm?”

“Someone who respects the hustle,” Mickey said easily. “Sal doesn’t know shit about the corporate world or the real big boys. I mean he wishes,” Mickey snorted. “Everybody loves a redemption tale and the rise of the underdog. You had to shake your ass to put yourself through college? That’s determination, that’s grit, they love that shit in an interview.” Mickey gave Ian an encouraging smile. “Plus by then they’d realize you’re willing to get down and dirty to get the job done. Shit, you’re hired right there.”

Ian was close to giggling like an idiot, and was at a loss as to how to deal with being slingshot from feeling the absolute worst to feeling the best he had in ages—all within the space of a couple hours.

“Redemption tale?” he asked Mickey quietly.

“Fuck, I know I’d hire you,” Mickey murmured, and lit up a cigarette to cover his warming face and distract from the weird tingling in his palms and in his gut. “Just be patient, Gallagher; it’ll work out. Silver lining, more time to study, right?”

Ian couldn’t remember the last time anyone besides Alex had worked so hard to make him feel better. He certainly couldn’t remember the last time someone had been even remotely that effective at it. He was tempted to tell Mickey that the easiest and best way to cheer him up was to maybe hang around for a while and make out with him a little for an hour, or two or six. But he couldn’t find his voice for that, and soon Mickey was nodding goodnight and turning away. Ian was left leaning against the door, mourning the loss of Mickey’s presence, long after the man had left the building.

“So, guess who’s not working at the club anymore?” Ian said to Alex as they sat under one of the elm trees on the school grounds.

“Wait, what, you actually quit?!” Alex asked hopefully, her eyes brightening at the prospect. “How, why?”

“Well, I didn’t quit so much as get fired, thanks to Sal.”


“Yeah, says it’s degrading and dangerous and all that shit. So he called Martin and told him to fire me.”

Alex sputtered incoherently for a minute before shaking her head in stunned disbelief. “This guy…this fucking guy.”

Ian raised an eyebrow at her. “I thought you’d be relieved. You’re always freaking out about me working there. He pretty much used some of the same arguments you did.”

“The difference being that while I made my case and tried to persuade you to quit, I still respected your choices and your fucking agency! He didn’t do that for your sake; he did it because he’s a fucking possessive, controlling über-creep! I just—flames on the side of my face!”    

Ian rifled through his bag and pulled out a notification from the financial aid office. “First year of college was all paid up this morning. Sal Boerio likes to apologise with pizzazz.”

“I can’t even—this is just,” Alex took a deep breath and flailed her hands for a bit, “and what exactly will you have to do or put up with for year two? It’s like you’re trying to give me a rage-stroke.”

“I’m looking at the positives. I have more time for school, because let’s be honest, I was getting a little overwhelmed here. Financial aid is off my ass for a year and I can get a proper sleep schedule now.”

“Yeah, but at what cost?” Alex was conflicted. On one hand, she had wanted so much for Ian to get out of that environment. Ian’s first stint with the clubs had been during his drug-fuelled, manic phase, where disgusting men readily took advantage of him. He was medicated now and maintaining, but Alex felt the clubs were just one huge trigger waiting to go off. On the other hand, she certainly didn’t want him under Sal’s thumb. She always feared that Ian wasn’t handling things nearly as well as he thought he was.

“Make sure you tell Dr. Lester about all this shit, Ian!” she jabbed a finger at him. “I’m only in my first year. I can’t even begin to explain how fucked up all this shit is without my head exploding.”

Anne Lester was frowning deeply at her listing plants. The assistant at Home Depot had assured her that they were evergreens and would survive even nuclear fallout. Apparently she was worse than nuclear fallout now. Wasn’t that wonderful? She sighed and threw her hands up in defeat, but was distracted by Alex barrelling into her office.

“Alex, how are you, hon—”

“Dr. Lester, has Ian been telling you about his slimy disaster of a boyfriend?!” Alex cried while dumping her bag on the floor and tossing herself onto the couch. “He got him fired, did he tell you that?!” Alex’s voice was increasing rapidly in speed and volume and her face was flushed. “Ian doesn’t listen to me, and his relationship has more red flags than a communist parade!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Dr. Lester waved her hands wildly and cut Alex off. “Can we take a breath? Let’s take a breath,” she said and sat in her chair in front of Alex and extended her hands, palms up.

“But Dr. Lester—”

“Let’s breathe!” Dr. Lester insisted, her eyes closed and her hands still outstretched, waiting for Alex to take them.

Alex sighed and relented, obediently holding Dr. Lester’s hands and taking a deep breath and holding it as instructed. For the next few minutes, Dr. Lester walked her through her breathing exercises, forcing her to calm and center herself before the session could go any further.

Dr. Lester popped one eye open and peeked at Alex, “okay?”

“Okay,” Alex murmured softly and slumped into the seat.

“So here’s the thing,” Dr. Lester clapped her hands together and settled back into her chair. “I know you’re concerned about Ian, and I know he’s going through some things right now. I promise you that I will offer him all the help and guidance as I can, and I assure—because I know you worry—that I will give him all the love and attention I can. I will try my best to do right by him, as I will try to do right by you. Hmm?” she cocked her head in question and Alex nodded slowly. “Ian has his own time with me, and unless there is imminent danger, he should be the one to tell me what’s going on, right? So, this is Alex’s time, and we’re going to shift the focus from Ian for now to where it rightfully belongs.”

Alex again nodded mutely and twisted her fingers into the hem of her sweater. Dr. Lester watched her for a bit before leaning forward and patting Alex’s knee gently. “So what’s going on?”

“I… well, not much. I’ve mostly been worried about Ian,” Alex shot her therapist a moody glance and went on fussing with her sweater.

“I can imagine,” Dr. Lester replied, not taking the bait, “last time you were here, you were telling me about issues with your gender reassignment counsellor. Are things any better now?”

“No, she’s a twat,” Alex sneered, “I don’t get why you can’t be my counsellor. You’ve known me forever and you understand everything.”

“I wish I understood everything, but I’m afraid I don’t. I’ll help you every way I can, but I do feel you need someone with more specialized experience guiding you through this process.”

“I guess, but some of the times, I don’t think she hears me. I think she’s using her own experience to just blanket everything, like I’m weird for not experiencing my transition the same way she did. If my piece of shit parents hadn’t kicked me off their insurance, I would look for someone else. I guess it’s like my dad says, ‘you get what you pay for.’”

Dr. Lester stayed silent and watched as Alex worked her way up to saying something else.

“It’s been a year, you know?” Alex said softly, “since I started my HRT. It’s been a whole year.”

“That’s a pretty significant anniversary. It’s been quite the change for you.”

“Has it though?” Alex frowned and picked at the knees of her jeans. “I mean, yeah, my breasts are always sore and my hips have a little extra on them, but it’s been a whole year. I just thought—I had thought that I’d feel so much better now, that I’d be in such a better place, but I still feel so wrong, like nothing fits.”

She twisted uncomfortably as if there wasn’t a good spot anywhere on the couch to relax. “I keep taking stock of my life and I realize that I have so much shit I have to sort out. I have to deal with my issues with my parents, my fear of failure, my fear of success, my clown phobia,” she laughed, “I mean, I have a whole fucking laundry list, but when will I ever get to them? How am I supposed to deal with any of that shit when every day I wake up and I look in the mirror and still don’t recognise the person I see there?”

Her voice shook and tears welled up quickly. “I should be so much further along now, right? How can it still feel so wrong after a whole year? What if this is the way it still is after everything? What if I wake up after the surgery and find that the only thing different is that I’m mutilated. What if I’m still gross?!”

Dr. Lester got up and grabbed a box of tissues from her desk before heading back to sit on the couch next to Alex. She pulled the crying girl down until Alex was resting in her lap, and held her until she calmed down, rocking her a little until the sobs subsided into sniffles.

“Did I ever tell you about this girl I met when she was sixteen?” Dr. Lester began while she stroked Alex’s hair. “She was striking, to say the least. She had this wild, black pixie cut, tons of eyeliner, dressed like a spokesmodel for Hot Topic…”

Alex let out a watery giggle, “sounds like a total mess.”

“Well she was, but not because of how she looked. She was just trying to do something she had been struggling with for years—getting the outside to match the inside, you know? God, she was all over the place; so much rage and confusion and hurt. She was going down this self-destructive path that was so frightening, even to me and I thought I’d seen it all. I honestly worried if I’d be able to help this girl.”

Alex sniffled, “so what happened?”

“She surprised me. She had these hidden reserves of strength and braveness that you wouldn’t believe. I had written down a date for when I had hoped she would achieve one of her personal milestones—buying a skirt she liked and wearing it out. By the time we got to that date, not only had she bought the skirt, she had a whole wardrobe, was practically a make-up guru, had a strong obsession with thigh-high socks—”

“I was going through my Clueless phase. Cher Horowitz was the shit.”

“Indeed, and this girl in question was living openly as a girl, despite being terrified of the fall out. And there I was thinking she would have just owned a skirt!” Dr. Lester pulled Alex’s blonde mane from her face and looked down at the tear-streaked girl tenderly, “Alex, I so wish psychiatry had progressed enough to allow me to just pull you outside yourself for a minute just so you could see how far you’ve come. You have been moving in leaps and bounds and it is stunning to see. That’s how I know you’re going to get through this, and that one day, you’re going to look in your mirror and all you’re going to think is ‘ugh, bed head.’”

Alex snorted and Dr. Lester smoothed her hair soothingly.

“I know it’s slow and agonising, and I wish I could make the process of correcting nature’s mistake go just like that; but we’ll get there. We’re going to keep working on making you feel whole until you do.”

“What if I never do though?” Alex asked quietly.

“Then we’ll keep working, and I need you to hold on to the hope that you will feel at home in your own skin one day, okay?”

Alex nodded and sighed into the doctor’s skirt. She snorted again at Dr. Lester’s next question.

“Now what’s this about you being scared of clowns?”

Mickey had lost count of the number of times he caught himself glaring at the back of Sal’s head. He was leaning against the wall, watching Sal demolish a lobster while the latest supplicant laid out his case.

“He’s undercutting me out of spite,” the man moaned, “he’s not even making money the way he’s doing business. He just wants to ruin me over this! We were friends once…”

“With all due respect, Mr. Gillespie, taking a man’s wife isn’t a small thing,” Sal said before downing a glass of wine and refilling his glass, “I’d be pretty fucking vengeful too if someone dared to take what’s mine.”

“She’s a good, sweet woman; not a goat,” Gillespie said, sounding somewhat scandalized, “he treated her with contempt for years and then he’s surprised he lost her?  I admit, it was a hurtful thing to do to a friend, but you can’t help who you fall in love with sometimes,” he sighed. “Now he seeks to ruin me. He’s stealing my contracts, slandering me all over Chicago… I’ve tried, but I’m at my wits end and if something isn’t done soon, I could lose everything.”

Sal sniffed and sucked down another piece of lobster while he regarded the morose man for a moment. “You sure you know what you’re asking for here? You get me involved and I’m not going to send my boys down there with a strongly worded letter. This really the route you want to go?”

“I’m on the edge of ruin,” the man responded despondently.

Sal shrugged, “alright…thirty percent.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Thirty percent of your profits and your problem disappears.”

Gillespie’s mouth moved wordlessly as he mulled it over, “that’s so steep.”

“Is it?” Sal turned in his seat and called for Mickey. “Mick, lemme ask you something. What’s the going rate these days for getting snatched back from the edge of ruin?”

“Who can put a price on such things?”

“That is an excellent fucking point,” Sal said and turned back to the anxious man, “how do you quantify a thing like that? And you with a brand new wife to take care of and everything. Thirty percent, or solve your own fucking problems.”

That night found Mickey, Jaime and Tony in a dark, beat up Toyota Camry, intent on solving Mr. Gillespie’s problem for him. In the backseat, Tony had fallen asleep and was snoring softly while Mickey cruised through the quiet streets.

“What’s with Sleeping Beauty?” Mickey asked and Jaime peeked over his shoulder just in time to see Tony’s mouth fall open.

“AJ’s running a fever, kept them up all night, and that was after Tony came in from that O’Hare run.”

“Kids fucking suck,” Mickey chuckled, “I don’t know why you insist on having them.”

“Who insisted? They keep springing mine on me. I swear to god.”

The brothers drove for a while in companionable silence until Mickey spoke again. “So Iggy or Joey tell you what went down with Sal the other night?”

“The coke’s making him meaner and meaner with every hit he takes,” Jaime said, “Iggy and Joey need to learn how to read a situation and clear the fuck out.”

“Gallagher actually stepped in,” Mickey added, “kept Sal distracted while I got them out.”

“Yeah, I heard about that mess too,” Jaime said, frowning a little. “He didn’t need to do that. He’s not family. We handle our own fucking business. I heard he was at your place again last night. What the fuck was he even doing there that time of night?”

“Sal got him fired from the club,” Mickey explained, “he lost his shit and wanted to take Sal’s head right off.”

“You should have taken his ass home. He doesn’t call the shots here, Sal does,” Jaime groused, “he started off so cool and quiet, but now he looks like he’s going to bring more fucking drama than the goddamned drag queen Sal dumped for him.”

“He got him fired though; he had a right to be pissed.”

“About what, not having to shake his ass in front of a bunch of drooling perverts? I thought that was the gold-digger dream. He’s reaping the benefits, so all he has to do is show up, shut up and suck Sal’s dick as required. It’s not that hard.”

“I hear that’s what it says on Sal’s dick,” Mickey joked and they both sniggered.

“Can’t be, who has the skills to tattoo all that on so small a canvas?” Jaime said and they both giggled goofily.

The laughter trailed off and Mickey tentatively brought up Ian again. “I don’t know; I’m not getting the gold-digger vibe off Gallagher though.”

Jaime gave his baby brother a sidelong glance, “oh, so he’s just fucking with Sal for his health? Last I checked Sal Boerio wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. Gallagher seems like a nice enough guy, but make no mistake, they’re all fucking gold-diggers, every last one of them that comes through there. Sal can afford to get fooled, you can’t.”

The conversation ended when they pulled up to the target store front. Jaime slapped Tony awake and Mickey sat ready and waiting while his brothers unloaded the cans of gasoline and bolt cutters from the trunk. It took only a few minutes before the flames got rid of one of Mr. Gillespie’s problems while plunging him into a whole lot more. Once one got into bed with the Mob, one tended to stay there forever.    

Chapter Text

Food, shower, homework, bed—Ian had his night all planned out. He sighed with relief when he pushed his door open and dumped his bag on the floor. He eyed his bed longingly; the gym at school had zapped his remaining energy. He toyed with the idea of taking a short nap first, only to get startled by a familiar voice.

“That how you do it, Gallagher? Just walk in without even doing a check to see if bad men like me are hanging around your apartment?”

Ian jumped, startled, and spun towards the voice. There was Mickey, partly shrouded in the dark and barely illuminated by the soft glow of his cigarette, leaning easily against Ian’s kitchen counter.

“What the fuck, Mickey?!” Ian frowned at his unexpected visitor, and watched as Mickey kicked away from the counter and approached him slowly.

“Tossed your place,” Mickey answered blithely, “I tried to put everything back how I found them. I’m not sure how successful I was.”

“You searched my place?” Ian’s anger sparked quickly, “what the fuck was Sal hoping you’d find?”

“This was my call, not Sal’s,” Mickey stopped directly in front of Ian, “I was doing my due diligence; had to make sure you weren’t a narc.”

“I already said I wasn’t!”

“Like I’m going to just take your word for it?” Mickey sniffed.

Ian simply sighed, unable to summon the energy to stay angry, “so are you done now? You satisfied?”

Mickey snorted softly. “Satisfied? Not exactly, but we can work on that,” he blew out some smoke and eyed Ian from head to toe, “I’m only halfway done after all. I never did search you for that wire.”

Something about the way Mickey said it had the heat instantly pooling in Ian’s gut. It finally clicked that something was simply weird about the whole scene and he realized just how close Mickey was. Ian didn’t even have any room to step back with the night table right behind his knees. Mickey was staring him down, watchful and teasing and easily winding Ian up. Frissons of energy were moving down Ian’s spine as his anticipation built before he was hit with a sobering thought.

“You’re fucking with me,” Ian sighed. “You’re such an asshole, Mick. Can’t you just—oof!” All Ian could manage was a surprised grunt when Mickey grabbed him by the jacket and unceremoniously tossed him onto the bed. Ian struggled to sit up only to see Mickey climbing out of his shoes and stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray on the night table. “Mickey, what are you doing?”

Mickey didn’t answer; instead he climbed into the bed and slowly and deliberately straddled Ian.

“I don’t—what are you…” Ian trailed off as Mickey leisurely unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it off to reveal the tight, white tank beneath it. “Is this some sort of test?” Ian asked suddenly, “I swear to god, if this is some sort of bullshit test to see if I’m loyal or faithful or some shit!”

Mickey only smirked and leaned forward to brace on one arm while he firmly massaged the growing bulge in Ian’s pants. All the air promptly left Ian’s lungs.

 “Might be a test,” Mickey said breezily while he kept up the gentle pressure on Ian’s crotch. He edged forward a bit so he could grind down against the stunned redhead. Ian moaned and Mickey smirked as Ian squirmed beneath him. “So what do you say, chief?”

They locked eyes and Ian’s brain hastily played the odds. This was probably a test. Shit, it was most likely a test and the consequences of failing could be dire. He needed to decide quickly, because all the blood was rushing away from his brain and his decision making skills were getting severely compromised.

“I suck at test taking…” Ian murmured and Mickey raised an eyebrow at him. “Fuck it,” Ian said and surged up to catch Mickey around the middle and abruptly flipped him onto his back.

Mickey’s lecherous laugh went straight to Ian’s cock and he struggled desperately to get out of his jacket. While he fought off his jacket, Mickey leaned up, deftly unzipped Ian’s jeans and took him in hand. Ian gasped and froze as Mickey stroked him to full hardness. Mickey’s gaze on him was burning and unblinking, and it made Ian shiver all over. Mickey’s hand moved faster on his cock and squeezed him just tightly enough to have Ian choking. It was the most amazing thing Ian had ever felt, though he shouldn’t have been surprised at Mickey’s skill—the man had been jacking off gear sticks for years.

Mickey reached up with his free hand and tugged Ian down to him by his shirt. He then tangled his hand in Ian’s hair and hooked his legs around Ian’s, leaving just enough space between them to continue jerking Ian off.

Ian was held fast, unable to do anything while Mickey swiped his thumb over the head of his cock and breathed harshly into his ear. His hands twisted into the sheets and he bucked hard into Mickey’s grasp. He tried his best to keep it going, to keep his orgasm at bay and prolong this amazing feeling for as long as he could, but he couldn’t fight against it. He groaned deeply and came hotly into Mickey’s hand, revelling in Mickey’s self-satisfied chuckle as he slumped on top of him.

Ian lay sprawled on top of Mickey and struggled to catch his breath. Not that he was in any particular hurry. Mickey wasn’t complaining about his weight or shoving him off, so Ian was perfectly content to lay there for a moment, absorbing Mickey’s heat and scent. Ian finally pulled his head out of the crook of Mickey’s neck to see that Mickey was staring at him. Unthinkingly, Ian moved towards him, craving a kiss, and was bewildered when Mickey jerked his head back.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Mickey frowned at him, leaving him blinking.

“I was going to kiss you.”

“Kiss me?” Mickey sounded incredulous, “do I look like some kind of faggot to you?”

Ian was stupefied and searched Mickey’s face to see if he was serious. “But you just—I mean I thought…”

“Greedy fucker,” Mickey chastised him, “I jerk you off and still you push for more. What do you want, everything?”

“Yes actually,” Ian said quietly, his fingers reaching up to trail along Mickey’s jaw. Again, Mickey twitched away from the ministration.

“In your dreams,” Mickey scoffed, “what you need to do is wake the fuck up.”

“Mickey, can’t we just—”

“WAKE THE FUCK UP!” Mickey boomed, sending Ian scrambling away in shock.

“Jesus fuck!”


Ian shot upright and on instinct sent the screaming alarm clock sailing towards the kitchen. Fucking Carl—of course of all Ian’s going off to college gifts from his siblings, Carl’s would be the one most likely to induce a heart attack. Ian sighed and groaned as the alarm kept warbling from its new home on the floor in the kitchen. He peeked under his sheets and groaned again in disgust. He shuffled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to clean up. It was a hell of a way to start the morning.

Mickey Milkovich was the worst.

By the time the weekend rolled around, Ian was convinced that everything wrong in the universe was Mickey’s fault. It was Mickey’s fault he wasn’t sleeping well, it was Mickey’s fault his appetite wasn’t great and it was mostly Mickey’s fault that he was so distracted in the middle of his business course lectures. It was entirely Mickey’s fault that he was doing stupid middle school shit like trying to work out their love percentages when his mind wandered in class (“Mickey + Ian” worked out to twenty-six percent, “Mickey Milkovich + Ian Gallagher” yielded forty three; ergo, Mickey also had a stupid, low yield name).

The only thing more infuriating than Mickey Milkovich himself was his blissful, wilful unawareness of his human wrecking ball status. Mickey went about his business completely ignorant of how much Ian wanted to stomp his stupid face in, or how often Ian glared at him while he went about lost in his own world. Instead, Mickey just went about licking his lips like he was starring in his own private porno, and there he went again molesting the gear shift. What the fuck was his problem?!

“You okay? You seem a little distracted,” Sal asked, jerking Ian’s attention back to him.

Ian hadn’t been distracted in the least; in fact he had been quite focused on glaring at Mickey over Sal’s shoulder as they dined at the little upscale bistro. Mickey sat by himself at a small table and was passing his time flirting with a very receptive waitress. She kept coming back to refill his drinks, and bring him water and rolls, all the while tossing her hair and giggling up a storm at whatever stupid shit Mickey was telling her.

“Ah, no I’m just a little tired from school and everything,” Ian smiled weakly at Sal before his eyes slid back again to Mickey, who—miraculously devoid of the waitress—was actually looking back at him. For a moment, it was like being back up on stage at the club with Mickey’s gaze caressing him. His body automatically responded to it, and Ian decided that he hated Mickey for that too.

Ian was lucky; Sal’s energy was flagging and he had been keen only on having lunch. A hushed phone call for Sal got Ian off the hook entirely and he was free to continue glaring at his crush on the drive home. He nearly bit his tongue at the first red light where Mickey’s hand automatically left the steering wheel to the gear shift and every tortuous dream Ian had been having for the last couple of weeks came rushing back in graphic detail.

“Do you have to do that?!” Ian finally snapped.

“What the fu—what?!” Mickey answered, startled by Ian’s abrupt outburst. Mickey swore to everything he was going to end up accidentally shooting this spastic, redheaded moron one day.

“That thing you do,” Ian sputtered, red-faced, “why do you keep grabbing the stick?!”

Mickey glanced down at his hand and back up to Ian, and looked at him askance and bewildered. “What?!”

“It’s fucking distracting, alright?” Ian struggled with the mortification of having to explain away his weird behaviour, “there’s no reason for you to touch it until you’re parking again. I keep thinking something’s about to happen and it freaks me out!” It was a lie, of course, but not an unreasonable one, Ian hoped.

Mickey frowned and looked down at his hand again. “Look, it’s just instinct, alright? My own cars are both manual transmission; I have to work the stick for everything. I just developed the habit. There’s nothing dire going on, so calm the fuck down.”

Ian simply huffed and looked out the window, annoyed and embarrassed by everything. “Whatever, it’s stupid; you’re stupid.”

Mickey bit back a laugh at Ian’s huffiness. Gallagher was clearly in brat-mode these past few days and Mickey was again surprised by how much he loved it. Mickey would have unhesitatingly strangled anyone else throwing these tantrums and bringing this attitude, but not Ian. On him, Mickey found the whole thing weirdly adorable and endearing. He watched, amused, as Ian glared out the window at nothing in particular, and Mickey was tempted to walk his fingers up Ian’s side and into his neck until the redhead snapped and flailed at him in annoyance. Of course he didn’t give into the temptations. This was Mickey’s life now—constantly fighting all his Ian-related urges.

A short while later, Ian slowly realized that they weren’t moving at a reasonable speed. The car had been creeping along in a neighbourhood that Ian didn’t recognise. The first thing that sprung to Ian’s mind was that this speed was at a drive-by level, and he quickly turned to Mickey to find out what was going on. To Ian’s alarm, Mickey did seem to be trailing someone; a dark-haired man, absorbed in his phone, and who seemed oblivious to the danger stalking him.

“Mickey what the fuck?” Ian whispered and Mickey only frowned in answer, his eyes never leaving the man.

A few more minutes of slow stalking and Mickey parked the car. To Ian’s growing apprehension, Mickey reached towards the backseat and pulled out a baseball bat. He then turned a stern glare on Ian.

“Do not leave this car for whatever reason,” he ordered and looked back at the man still walking up the street, “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Do not leave this car, Gallagher.”

Ian just gaped as Mickey climbed out of the Escalade and quickly closed the distance on his target. When Mickey had halved the distance, the other man suddenly broke into a run—apparently not as unaware as Ian had imagined—and had Mickey yelling and chasing after him. The man jumped a fence into a yard and Mickey took off after him.

Ian was on pins and needles the second Mickey and his target disappeared from view. He didn’t know what to do. He obediently stayed put, his heart racing as he prayed for Mickey to re-emerge, uninjured. Within the next minute, the noticed a dark sedan pull up and park a short distance ahead of him. Three scruffy young men spilled out, one armed with a tyre iron, another with a crowbar, and they quickly took off in the same direction Mickey and his target had gone.

There was no way they were Sal’s guys, and Mickey hadn’t called for any back up. Ian’s anxiety spiked and he squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. Before his brain could process what he was doing, he was out of the car and taking after them.

Mickey caught up with his target in the middle of someone’s pristine backyard. He sent the man sprawling heavily to the ground and stood menacingly over him.

“Jimmy…Steve, or whatever the fuck you’re going by these days,” Mickey said, “long time.”

“Hey, Mick,” Jimmy looked up from his prone position on the ground and cringed at the sight of the bat hovering near his face. “I’ve been meaning to come see you.”

Mickey seemed unconvinced, “where the fuck are my cars?”

“I ran into a little difficulty acquiring the ones that you ordered and –oof” Jimmy was silenced by a hard kick to the ribs.

“I know you got them, because those cars were stolen not long after I gave you the order. Only they aren’t in any of Sal’s garages, so now me and you have a problem.”

Jimmy struggled to his knees, “okay look, Mickey, I ran into some trouble on the Southside. You see there’s this girl—”

Mickey kicked Jimmy’s legs right out from under him, “that sounds like a whole lot of ‘not my fucking problem.’ All I want to know is how you plan to compensate me.”

“Hey, let him go!”

Mickey turned to see three men scaling the fence into the yard. They stopped immediately after they got to the ground and stood lined off watching Mickey.

“Took you long enough,” Jimmy groused, and Mickey’s eyes narrowed as he took in the newcomers.

“You’re Johnny Two toes dudes,” Mickey surmised before looking down at Jimmy, “you’re crossing me and giving my shit to Johnny? You’re as stupid as you look.”

“He pays upfront, and I needed the cash. My girl’s looking out for five kids and—”

“Shut the fuck up, Jimmy,” Mickey said and turned his attention back to the men.

“Are you going to let him up?” one of the men asked and Mickey raised an eyebrow at them before deliberately stepping on Jimmy’s hand.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Mickey responded after Jimmy’s pained yelling subsided, “what do you plan to do about it?”

The three men looked at each other nervously. No one was too keen to tangle with a bonafide mobster, even if the odds were in their favour for the moment.

“There’s like three of us and only one of you,” another of the men posited.

“Very good, chief. I’m surprised you can count that high,” Mickey flexed his shoulders and slung the bat across them. “We gonna dance or what?”

Mickey’s flippant insouciance wasn’t helping the men’s apprehension either, and they wondered if he was really the only one there. They hesitated and looked to each other for some sort of direction and support. Across the short distance between them, Mickey was getting visibly impatient and irritated and the men were coming to the realization that he was crazy. They weren’t too keen to tangle with a crazy man either. In the end, it was Jimmy that broke the standoff by reaching up and biting Mickey hard on the back of his leg.

“Ow! The fuck?!” Mickey spun on instinct and kicked Jimmy across the face, knocking the car thief unconscious.

It was all the men needed and they used Mickey’s distraction and the proof of his vulnerability to charge at him. Mickey was caught on the back foot and the men were practically on top of him, only for all four men to freeze mid-action, momentarily stymied by the sound of an unexpected battle cry. They all turned in its direction, and there was Eric the Red charging in with a roar. Mickey could only blink as Ian dived in and used a crushing tackle to take out the man with the tyre iron.

Mickey shook himself awake and shoved the head of the bat into the stomach of the other armed man, before swinging on the other. The man narrowly avoided getting brained by the bat, and decided then and there that there was no time like the present to quit the scene. He ran off, leaving his two colleagues to deal with Mickey and Ian on their own. Mickey looked over at Ian, who had straddled his opponent and was happily exorcising all his frustrations by beating the hell out of him. Satisfied, Mickey turned his full attention to the man on his knees dry heaving and prepared to take him out. That is until a gunshot rang through the air. All the men who were still conscious turned to see an elderly woman, toting a musket, standing on her back porch. She didn’t seem happy to see all the fighting men in her yard.

“Get the hell off my property!” She yelled and waved the gun about.

“Oh no, heat packing grannies, my only weakness,” Mickey muttered, making Ian burst out laughing in spite of the fraught situation. If only Mickey was kidding. Old ladies were going to be the death of him. “You wanna watch where you’re pointing that thing?”

“Get the fuck off my property, you fucking piece of shit cocksuckers!” she screamed again.

“Oh my god, lady; you kissed Lincoln with that mouth?!” Mickey asked as he pressed a scandalized hand daintily to his chest. Behind him, Ian kept cracking up.

“Mickey, don’t aggravate her!”

“Me? She came out here aggravated,” Mickey answered Ian’s warning, but raised his hand to placate the grumbling woman who was now fussing with her gun, “alright, Annie Oakley, I’m leaving. Just give me a second to get my shit.”

Mickey walked backwards, keeping an eye on the woman, and grabbed Ian by the back of his jacket. “Let’s go; we only have hours before she reloads.” He dragged Ian to his feet and quickly headed back the way they came.

“What about him?!” the woman screamed, indicating a still unconscious Jimmy—his would be saviours having abandoned him.

“Not my division!” Mickey yelled back, and he and Ian ran off laughing.

They ran back to the car and peeled off quickly, since they had no intention of being anywhere near the area if the police showed up. When Mickey felt they were far enough from the scene, he pulled over to the side of the road and turned on Ian.

“What the fuck did I say?!” he demanded.

Ian turned big, innocent eyes on him. “What?”

“Didn’t I say to stay in the fucking car?”

Ian was unapologetic, “you were about to get your ass handed to you! I saved you, you ungrateful prick.”

“Like fuck you saved me; I had it covered,” Mickey sniffed and Ian rolled his eyes at him. Mickey assessed his ward, looking for signs of injury, “you alright? You didn’t get any damage I have to explain, did you?” He then shocked the hell out of Ian by grabbing his chin and turning Ian’s face back and forth, “nah, still pretty.”

Ian was tongue-tied, especially when Mickey unleashed a megawatt of a grin on him.

“Maybe you did help me out a little,” Mickey admitted as he started the car. He eyed Ian shyly, “you hungry? I guess I might owe you a burger. You didn’t really eat at the bistro.”

“I-I guess I could eat,” Ian replied, all the butterflies coming out in full force.

“Yeah, okay…let’s go eat.”

The restaurant was a ‘50s style diner complete with chequered floors and red booth seats. The bright, airy restaurant was only half full, but Mickey didn’t look around for an empty seat. Instead he headed straight for a booth near the center of the diner, with two couples on a double date.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted them fairly warmly and they responded in kind, “I kinda need your seat.”

The couples stared at Mickey blankly while he waited patiently for them to vacate the booth.

“There are like a dozen empty seats here,” the petite brunette of the group pointed out.

“Yeah, but I want this one.”

The potential standoff was interrupted by the waitress swooping in. If the couples thought she was going to chase Mickey off, they were wrong. Instead, she pinned on her sweetest smile and asked them sweetly to move to another table, soothing the sting with the offer of a free dessert. The group begrudgingly moved, shooting Mickey a few dirty glances. The waitress came back quickly to clean the booth and leave their menus, and Ian and Mickey slid right in.

Ian gave Mickey a disapproving look. “I take it you’re a regular, but did you have to chase the nice people off and take their seat?”

“Yeah, actually I did,” Mickey said, unabashed for the moment, only for Ian to give him the chin and raise a disapproving eyebrow at him. Mickey sighed and called the waitress over. “If they’ll accept it, their meal’s on me,” Mickey said much to waitress’s surprise. He rolled his eyes at Ian who was now grinning at him. “You happy now?”

“Well, why’d you chase them off in the first place?”

Mickey nodded to the north entrance where the car was parked, then to the second entrance on the east side of the restaurant. “I see everything and no one sneaks up on me. See, I’m not an asshole for no reason.”

“I never thought you were,” Ian said softly and that familiar tension and loaded silence quickly settled between them. They were mercifully saved by the reappearance of the waitress to take their order.

“The usual,” Mickey smiled up at her before nodding over at Ian.

“What’s the usual?” Ian asked him.

“Double cheeseburger, chocolate-banana milkshake, lots of fries…”

“That sounds good, I’ll take that,” Ian handed over the menu to the waitress, not really caring what she brought back. He glanced back at Mickey, who was still smiling at him—who actually hadn’t stopped smiling at him since the fight—and it was slowly turning Ian inside out.

“Shit, where does a college boy learn to fight like that?” Mickey finally asked, his grin growing wider at the memory of Ian rushing in like a red-tinged superhero and beating the shit out of Johnny’s goon. It was easily one of the hottest things Mickey had ever seen.

“Hey, I’m Southside, straight out of Canaryville,” Ian informed him happily, “plus I was in ROTC for ages…and there was that stint in the army.”


Ian shrugged and grimaced. “Yeah, I kind of stole my big brother’s ID and ran off to join the army when I was seventeen.”

“Wow…go army!” Mickey said, surprised and impressed.

“Yeah,” Ian said slowly, “except I washed out like a month later after I tried to steal a helicopter and ended up snapping the rotor blade.”

“So, no army?” Mickey grinned at him, even more surprised and impressed.

“Yeah, I was going through some shit,” Ian admitted ruefully, “I told you my background check is going to be a shitshow. Sometimes I feel like I’ve fucked up everything.”

“Nah,” Mickey paused when their waitress returned with their shakes, “you’re supposed to fuck shit up when you’re a kid, right? Any asshole that would hold that against you can take his job and shove it. Shit, at least you aren’t boring, Gallagher, goddamn.”

Ian grinned into his shake, almost too giddy to take a proper sip. He shifted his legs and wound up brushing up against Mickey’s, making his whole body tingle. Mickey glanced up at him over his shake, but said nothing about the contact nor did Mickey shift his own legs to avoid him. Ian felt as if he was on cloud nine. Something had obviously shifted, as if he’d unlocked another level with Mickey. Shit, was that it? Did fighting with Mickey cause them to level up? Now all he wanted to do was to get into another fight to see how far that would get him. He was sorry he guilted Mickey into making nice with the couples, because maybe they’d have been willing to throw down.

They sipped their shakes in silence for a while, smiling goofily and stealing glances at each other until their burgers came. Despite the Mickey-induced fluttering in his gut, Ian found that he was ravenous after the fight, and both he and Mickey tore into their food. While he ate, he couldn’t keep from looking up at Mickey. Ian didn’t think they had ever been this close to each other before, especially while face to face. He was so cool, and amazing to look at. Ian didn’t know how he was going to get through the meal without doing something monumentally stupid.

“Just ask,” Mickey sighed and Ian looked at him, confused. “You want to ask me a stupid fucking question. I know, because you always get that look on your face just before you do. So just ask…I might answer this time.”

Ian shifted in excitement and anticipation, and he “accidentally” brushed against Mickey again beneath the table. “So, how long have you been doing this?”

“What, you mean working for Sal?” Mickey appeared to think over whether or not he was really about to divulge anything personal. He relented, giving into the power of that green gaze on him. “Since I was eight, so fourteen years.”

“Eight?! How the hell does an eight year old fall into shit like that?!”

Mickey shrugged nonchalantly, “circumstances, what can I say? My dad was the only thing keeping us together back then. He was a piss-poor excuse for an abusive fuck up, but he was all there was. Tony and Jaime’s mom took off ages ago; don’t even know what happened to Iggy and Joey’s mom. My mom died a little after Mandy was born. Terry kept us all though, until he went out drinking one night and never came back.”

Mickey clicked his tongue and shifted his fries around his plate. “Things went to shit so fast, man. No heat, no power, no food…it was kind of a miracle we lasted as long as we did to be honest.”

“No one called CPS?” Ian asked softly, thinking of all the times Child Protective Services had been summoned to their home.

“Maybe once or twice,” Mickey said, “no one really gave a shit, but even if they did show up, we would have dodged them. No one was going to split us up,” he added with ferocity in his voice. “Although it probably wouldn’t have mattered for much longer. We were on the brink,” Mickey laughed ruefully, “we were filthy and hungry, and Jaime and Tony tried it, but they were in and out of lockup all the time and had no clue how to deal with running the house. It was fucking crazy.”

“How did Sal come into it?”

“Oh man, he pulled some just in the nick of time shit,” an odd smile settled on Mickey’s face, “he showed up one day to collect what Terry owed him, except instead of my dad, it was just a bunch of gross kids in a disgusting house. When he finally figured out the situation, I remember he asked his right hand man then, Tony, what he should do. That Tony was a scary fucker, man. He runs his own crew now. He told Sal to call the cops and let them deal with it and I told them no, nobody was splitting us up. So Sal just shrugged and emptied out all the cash in his wallet, like maybe five hundred bucks and hands it to me—like what the fuck?—and then he just leaves. So I chased him, got to him just as he was getting into his car and I yelled at him ‘you’re just going to leave us here? You’re supposed to take care of everybody!’ And I don’t know what the fuck happened, but it worked and he took us, all of us; it was amazing!” Mickey let out a small, shaky laugh as he blinked back tears at the memory of it all. “It was amazing.”

Ian didn’t know what to say. He stared at his plate, giving Mickey a second to compose himself, and turned over the story in his head. Ian saw the hero worship shining in Mickey’s eyes when he spoke about the Sal that saved them, and Ian couldn’t help but wonder how much of that Sal was real, and how much of him remained today. When Ian glanced back up, Mickey appeared back to normal.

“So, are you being groomed to take over?” Ian asked.

“What, from Sal? No way, can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Milkovich, remember?” Mickey replied and grinned at Ian’s confusion, “either you’re forgetting your mob movies or you’re not paying attention. You have to be true blue Italian to become a made man, and we’re Ukrainian, so no dice. Officially, the most I’ll ever be is an associate. Unofficially though…”

“What will happen to you when Sal’s gone?”

Mickey’s smiled dimmed a little before he shrugged dismissively, alarming Ian. “I guess I get thrown on the funeral pyre with him. Who the fuck knows? I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Ian frowned at him, his mind spinning with all this new information, but he was distracted by Mickey taking out his phone and calling someone. Ian then felt his phone vibrating. He fished it out to see an unknown number flashing up on his screen.

“That is for emergency purposes only, Gallagher, and only emergencies. No calling to shoot the breeze, or telling me any of your dumb jokes—emergencies only!”

“You had my number all this time?” Ian asked incredulously as he quickly saved Mickey’s number.

“Yes, Sal gave it to me for emergencies. You see how what works?” Mickey gave him another warning. “I figure it’s the least I can do since you’ve been saving my ass all over the place and all. Emergencies only.”

Ian grinned at Mickey irrepressibly, heart all a-flutter. “Sure…I’m nothing if not obedient.”

“How lucky can one guy be? I kissed him and he kissed me,” Sal crooned as he danced across the hotel room floor in his boxers, surprisingly light on his feet for a big guy, “My head keeps spinning, I go to sleep and keep grinning. If this is just the beginning, my life is gonna be bee-yoo-tiful!” Sal fell into bed next to a grinning Ian. He reached over and stroked Ian’s face tenderly. “I swear to everything, I can never get over this face of yours. You should be in movies, as god is my witness.”

Ian laughed and flipped over onto his back. “You wanna paint me like one of your French girls, Sal?”

“Ah, you see he’s trying to be funny,” Sal groaned, “trying to pull one over on the old man, but little does he know, I saw that movie and I understood that reference.”

“And I understood that reference,” Ian said, “maybe there’s hope for you yet.”

“Ah,” Sal threw up his hands, “it’s over for me. I’m but an ancient ruin surrounded by great beauty.”

Ian smiled up at Sal while the older man ran his fingers along his jaw line and down his bare chest. “So I heard a story about you,” Ian said.

“What awful thing did you hear?”

“Not awful in the least…Mickey told me about how he came to work for you,” Ian said, watching Sal’s reaction carefully.

“My Mickey? He opened his mouth and said shit to you? You’re a miracle worker, you’re beautiful,” Sal laughed easily, “the little shit; he wasn’t any bigger than my right hand when I first saw him, but had an attitude the size of the Empire State Building, I shit you not.”

Ian could easily picture that. He couldn’t imagine Mickey being anything less than a huge personality from birth.

“His father didn’t know what he had with those kids…his own fucking army and he had them doing petty runs and squandering their potential—the dumb fuck. He had a diamond in the rough right there. I could see it the instant I looked at him, you know, that he was special…the same way I could tell when I saw you that first time,” Sal said before quickly amending, “well not the same way, but you know what I mean.”

Sal sighed, transported back to that earlier time the same way Mickey had been in the diner. “A bunch of half-starved kids living by themselves in that shithole. I was overwhelmed by it; didn’t know what to do at first. I offered to call the cops, they said no. They’d rather die than get split up. The one good fucking thing Terry Milkovich made sure to instil in his kids was that family always sticks together. What could I do? I handed them some cash and planned to get the hell out that depressing shit. But Mickey, he came after me like a bat out of hell. Asked me if I was just going to leave them there, if it wasn’t my job to take care of them. The balls on this outrageous little punk; covered in filthy god knows what, standing all of four feet tall and still managing to look down on me. Can you believe that?”

Ian could quite easily. He hadn’t thought of much else since Mickey had told him the story.

“But I saw it right then,” Sal continued in his reverie, “that specialness. I realized that this was him, this was my general right there, and he turned out beautiful. The other ones I could take or leave, but my Mickey. And he’s mine,” Sal said with a sudden, strange ferocity, “that’s the best part. My own son—the ingrate—benefits from everything I do, but looks down on me like I’m filth, but my Mickey knows who saved him, knows who made him, and he never forgets that. It’s gonna stay that way.”

Ian hated the coldness that came over him as Sal spoke. He didn’t understand how everything could sound so wrong coming from Sal sometimes. Then abruptly the mood shifted again, with Sal snapping out of his weird fugue before he clapped Ian on the thigh.

“I’ve got something for you,” he scooted off the bed and retrieved a box from his jacket which hung in the closet. He sat on the bed and opened up the elaborate white box, revealing a fussy looking bottle of cologne. “Caron’s Poivre, I fucking love this shit. It’s one of my favorite things to smell. Smells like shit on me for some reason—body chemistry or some dumb fuckery they say—so make an old man happy and wear this once in a while, huh?”

Ian watched with interest as Sal carefully opened the bottle of cologne. “I’m going to teach you how to wear this shit. You don’t just slap it on like some dumb ape.”

“Really now? I need cologne lessons?” Ian rolled his eyes.

“Yes, you do when it comes to the primo stuff,” Sal nodded and nudged Ian with his elbow, “stick with me, kid; I’ll teach you things. Now you need to put tiny dabs on certain pressure spots; areas of the body that warm up—”

Sal finally opened the bottle and Ian was immediately hit with the familiarity of the scent. It didn’t take him a second to recognize it. That was Mickey’s cologne, the same one that wafted off his skin and invaded Ian’s dreams every night. For a moment, Ian was struck by the mental image of Mickey naked before his bathroom mirror; carefully applying the cologne in the way he had been instructed. The image stuck in Ian’s head and combined with the olfactory stimulation proved almost as intensely arousing as one of his dreams. Ian forgot where he was for the moment and ended up gasping in surprise when Sal’s fist closed around his hardening cock.

Ian forced himself to relax and closed his eyes, allowing his mind to drift off to a place where an entirely different mouth engulfed him in its heat and eagerly swallowed him down.

Chapter Text

Alex narrowed her eyes and focused on Ian’s chest as he sauntered up to park bench. She stood abruptly and let two well-aimed fists fly straight at his nipples.

“Ow! Alex, what the fuck?!” Ian cried, crossing his hands protectively over his abused chest.

“Boob punch, motherfucker!” Alex said triumphantly before slumping back onto the park bench and rubbing her sore breasts. “Why should I be the only one suffering?”

“Misery really does love company,” Ian sighed and settled into his seat across from his friend.

“Thanks for covering my shifts for me while I was at those stupid workshops,” Alex said. “What did you do all weekend?”

“Nothing much, just hung out, did some reading, masturbated furiously to the scent of expensive cologne; you know… the usual.”

“Of course; that’s how I typically spend my alone time,” Alex said dryly and shoved her books towards her friend.

He wasted no time finding her notes and homework so he could start copying them off. As he scribbled away, Alex pulled out her tablet and was soon engrossed in it, both she and Ian toiling away in companionable silence. Not long after, however, Ian was distracted from his work by a woman’s moans floating over to him and he raised a cool eyebrow at Alex.

“You’re just going to stone cold watch porn in front of me?” he asked.

Alex scrunched her face. “Ugh, I wish it was porn. I’m watching this girl dilate her brand new vagina with a series of increasingly large and horrifying dildo-type things. This will be my life—manually keeping my fashionable lady parts open until my body wizens up and stops regarding them as a gaping wound.”

“Mmm, lady parts…so enticing,” Ian said under his breath and turned his attention back to his books.

“Shut up, fairy; I’ll have you know all pussies are magical.”

“You’ll get no arguments from me, but also no enthusiasm.”

Alex scoffed softly, “could you be any gayer?”

“I don’t think so, but I do try.”

 They fell back into silence again, until a sudden, particularly painful squeal had them both cringing. Alex hurriedly shut down her tablet and shoved it away from her.

“Fuck that; that is bullshit. I just need it to pee and look cute! I’ll just keep backdooring it!”

Ian laughed out loud as Alex flailed in despair. “You won’t find a bigger proponent for the backdoor than me, but maybe you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it first?”

“Yeah, says the gold star top,” Alex sneered. “I’ll get to dilating just as soon as you shove one of those monsters up your butt.”

Ian simply grimaced before grinning maddeningly at her. Alex gave up on watching videos and went about copying Ian’s English homework instead, unaware that her friend was periodically glancing at her in uncertainty and excitement. He had been searching for an opening to share his news since he had arrived at the park.

“So…I met a guy,” Ian finally blurted out, making Alex blink up at him in surprise.

She took a minute to process the information and the implications. “Mazel tov! In which museum is he being displayed?”

Ian rolled his eyes magnificently before flipping off his friend. “Fuck off, he’s twenty-two.”

Alex gasped audibly. “Twenty-two?! Are you sure, Ian? Are you certain he wasn’t just singing a Taylor Swift song?”

Ian sighed heavily. “You know what? Just go ahead; get it all out of you system.”

“There has to be something wrong with him,” Alex continued gleefully, “I know you. Stop me when I hit on it. Is he a carnie? Is he a Twilight-esque vampire? Have you ever seen him in direct sunlight? Have you only seen his profile pic because his computer somehow lacks video capabilities? Is he an Ethiopian prince who needs to hide his fortune?”

“I fucking hate you. I’ve met him.”

“Okay, bear with me now, I’ll get there. Might he have that Benjamin Button disease?”

That actually gave Ian pause. “You know what; I can’t actually rule that out yet. It would explain a lot.”

Alex giggled before eyeing Ian suspiciously. “I don’t trust you. I know something is up. Where did you meet him?”

“At my building,” Ian hedged, not adding any more information.

“Okay, no immediate red flags there, I guess,” Alex said and threw her hands up in defeat. “Alright, I give up—what’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing,” Ian sighed dreamily, “he’s perfect. He’s funny and he’s sweet, and he’s kind of adorable when he’s grumpy,” Ian sighed again, “and he’s so hot; it’s ridiculous.”

“Wait a minute, this sounds like you’ve been interacting with this guy for a while now! How am I just hearing about this?” Alex frowned, growing even more suspicious as Ian fussed with the books and appeared to avoid her eyes. She decided to address that later in the interest of hearing more. “So he’s hot, you say?”

“Disgustingly,” Ian moaned and rested his head on the table in miserable frustration. “He has amazing blue eyes, and his hands drive me crazy, and his hair…”

Alex looked at her friend with amusement. “And these amazing eyes, hands and hair are all in the right places, right? He’s not some sort of epic Lovecraftian monster?”

Ian ignored her idiocy to continue bemoaning his hopeless crush. “I just want him to touch me, somewhere, anywhere. It’s driving me insane.”

Alex had never heard Ian talk this way about anyone before. She was surprised and intrigued. “Who is he?”

Ian sighed and sat up. He contemplated Alex and he chewed his inner cheek thoughtfully, and finally admitted what he had been hiding. “He sort of works for Sal.”

Alex straightened in her seat immediately. “He sort of works for Sal? How does one ‘sort of work for Sal’? What does he do, pick up his dry cleaning, shine his shoes?”

“He’s kind of his right hand man?”

“Jesus, Ian!”

Ian waved his hands, trying to cut her off before she was off and running. “I know, alright? I know everything you’re about to say.”

“Do you?!” Alex glared at him incredulously, “when the hell did this Mob fetish start?! And as if Sal wasn’t bad enough, you have to go and get the hots for Sal-lite?!”

“He is nothing like Sal!” Ian snapped suddenly, surprising Alex into silence. Ian calmed down quickly and gave Alex a sheepish smile, “look, it’s just a hopeless crush, okay? I don’t even know if he’s gay. He’s hard to figure out; he eye-fucks everything with a pulse.”

Alex mulled it over for a moment as she regarded her forlorn friend, and decided to look at the situation in a positive light. “Well okay, on the plus side you’re having an age appropriate crush and you seem like you’re actually physically attracted to the guy for once. On a scale of one to ten, how hot are you for this dude?”

Ian thought it over briefly, “about fifty?”

Alex couldn’t help up smile at him in sympathy—the poor guy seemed so lovesick. “That bad, huh?”

“So hot,” Ian whimpered and Alex shook her head.

“I swear to god, your taste in men is going to give me a stroke. I need to keep your dick locked away in a box on top of my fridge until you can present someone who isn’t wildly inappropriate.”

Ian grinned at her. “You don’t want yours, but you’re willing to keep mine?”

“Hey, as long as it’s not mine, I’m a big dick appreciator; a cock connoisseur if you will,” she said and they tittered over the joke. Alex regarded Ian again. Her friend looked flushed and giddy, and happier than she’d ever seen him—just from having a crush. She couldn’t bring herself to deflate him with her portents. “So deets, please? Tell me everything. What’s Benjamin Button’s real name?”

“Mickey,” Ian made it sound like a song, “Mickey Milkovich.”

“So we were haggling over the price of the yayo, and then one thing just kind of led to another, you know? I’ve known this nigga for years; didn’t even know he got down like that,” Dre informed Mickey while he went about scrambling eggs for his evening meal, “he ended up giving me a real good price though. But then it dawns on me that I literally let him hit it because he slings cocaine. My life has turned into a Nicki Minaj song. Can you believe this shit?”

Mickey had no idea what Dre was jabbering on about. He was busy checking out a message that had come in on his phone. It was a picture of a sunset with an attached message. “This is an emergency. You could have missed this amazing sunset.” Mickey ran his tongue along his inner cheek as he fought back a smile. Another message followed in quick succession, this time with Ian’s face grinning dumbly up at him in front of the aforementioned sunset; his red hair fading perfectly into the halo of the setting sun. “Just in case you thought it was a stock photo or something.” A selfie with a sunset—it was like his idiot was trying to kill him. No, Sal’s idiot, not his. These slips were getting worse and worse with each passing day. Mickey was brought back to reality by a pair of rolled up socks smacking into his head.

“What is your malfunction?!”

Dre was unimpressed, “how about in the future I just leave my dick out on the bed for you and piss off, so you don’t have to deal with the weight of my sparkling personality?”

“Be honest, have you said anything of the least bit of importance since I got here?”

“Bitch,” Dre grumbled and eyed Mickey speculatively, “what’s going on with you?”

“What do you mean?” Mickey murmured, getting distracted once again by the sunset selfie. He was going to have to bury it deep in the recesses of his phone and pretend to be pissed at Ian, but he was definitely keeping it.

Dre was watching the scene with growing interest. “You’re acting kinda shady, all distracted and smiling to yourself and shit.”

“Forgive me, I have a lot on my mind,” Mickey said dryly, “and Iggy just told me a joke. I’m allowed to laugh at my brother’s jokes.”

“What the joke?”


“What’s the funny joke that’s got you all smiley and shit?” Dre’s disbelief and amusement were evident and growing by the second.

Mickey was caught flat-footed. “It wasn’t a joke-joke, just a funny picture…”

“Okay, lemme see it,” Dre said and pushed away from the kitchen counter to slowly advanced on Mickey.

“It’s a joke about Outfit business; so just mind yours,” Mickey eyed Dre warily and quickly pocketed his phone.

Dre was undeterred. “You see, I don’t think it’s any Outfit business. I think you’re acting all goofy over some new dick.”

“Fuck off,” Mickey scoffed, “you don’t know shit.”

“Show me the phone then,” Dre said while flexing his shoulders, obviously gearing up to get physical. Mickey only crossed his arms and stared at him stone-faced.

“Just admit it’s some new dick that’s got you all twisted and I’ve leave you alone,” Dre offered magnanimously.


There was a brief standoff before Dre finally lunged for Mickey. It was an embarrassingly short match. Mickey managed to dance out of the way of Dre’s charge and went right for his hair.

“Ow, ow, ow! Get the fuck off me, Mickey!” Dre wailed while his opponent tightened his grip on his locks.

“Say uncle.”

“If you fuck up my hair, bitch!”

“None of those words is ‘uncle,’” Mickey pointed out and Dre finally relented.

Dre fumed as Mickey finally let him up. “What kind of self-respecting, grown-ass man pulls hair? What were you going to do next, knee me in the crotch?”

“You’re lucky, that’s usually my first move,” Mickey said through a mouthful of eggs. Honestly, the audacity of the whole thing.

“I’m going to figure it out eventually, you know,” Dre grumbled and headed straight for his mirror to check on his hair.

“Yeah, good luck with that.”

Ian loved this feeling, hitting the wall and pushing through it, just forcing his body beyond its limits. He had lost track of how long he was running. It was just him and his music in the zone, and he wanted to keep going forever.

He thought better when he ran. The irrelevant stuff fell away and the world quieted. He knew he needed to get a grip. His feelings for Mickey were getting far out of hand and if he didn’t figure it out soon, there would be no way to rein them in. He needed to rid himself of his romantic notions and step outside the attraction. Mickey was an impossibility. It didn’t matter whether or not Mickey was gay, it just wasn’t going to happen. Mickey’s relationship with Sal was one of the most complicated things Ian could imagine and Sal himself was a dangerous, volatile wildcard. The best thing to do—the only smart thing—would be to starve his crush and wind it down.

Granted, he wasn’t entirely sure how to do that. Mickey occupied his mind in a way that was bordering on a little scary. Mickey made him feel good—about  himself, about life, just good in general—and he was loathed to give it up. Still it wasn’t just about him. Even in the best case scenario where Mickey was into him too and they both wanted a relationship, the very last thing he wanted to do was disrupt Mickey’s relationship with Sal, and put him the mob boss’s crosshairs. No, he needed to squash this and he needed to set his mind to it. No more seeking Mickey out, no more daydreaming, and he should probably cut back on the cologne scented self-love a little. Sal’s innocuous gift was turning him into the weirdest, kinkiest junkie.

He finally stopped running. He doubled over panting and willed the lightheaded feeling to pass. When he was finally able to straighten up and look around, he was surprised to find that he had no idea where he was, having been too deep in thought to take in his surroundings. Ian sighed and turned to retrace his steps, hoping he’d get back to familiar ground soon. He was barely able to go—his legs felt like overcooked spaghetti –and clearly he was going to pay dearly for his hubris. At least he’d come to a firm decision about his most pressing problem.

A few minutes later, he was forced to stop walking for a bit. His body screamed in protest with every move he made. As he stood still on the sidewalk, desperate for some kind of second wind, he heard the low growl of an engine creeping up behind him. Every hair on his body stood on end and that now familiar tingling was out in full force. Ian wasn’t sure if the universe really loved him or seriously despised him.

“What the fuck are you doing all the way out here?” Mickey slowed to a stop at Ian’s feet.

Of course, on the day when Ian decided he was done with Mickey Milkovich, the universe would send him and his leather jacket, packaged in a feral, classic black Mustang, straight to Ian. Was it love or hate? Ian wished he knew.

“I was trying to outrun gay thoughts,” Ian said and smiled tiredly at Mickey.

“Oh yeah? How’d that work out for you?” Mickey leaned back in his seat and grinned at Ian.

“Not so good,” Ian shrugged and swallowed anxiously. He didn’t know where to look. Mickey’s smile was making his knees weaker and, true to form, Mickey’s hand was all over the stick. “Seems like it makes no sense to try and outrun them; they’ll roll up on me anyway.”

Mickey’s smile exploded into a laugh, and there was no way anyone could convince Ian that Mickey didn’t know exactly what he was implying.

“You’re miles from your place and you look like you’re about to drop. Get in,” Mickey offered, giving a small toss of his head towards the passenger seat.

“Right, I’ll just climb into your dumb, sexy car, with your dumb, sexy hair and watch you work that stick like a pro. No big deal.” It was confirmed as far as Ian was concerned; this was the devil at work.

“I can’t,” Ian said sheepishly. “I’ve been sweating like a pig. I’m gross.”

“No, you’re not,” Mickey said softly, his tongue trailing along his lower lip as he looked Ian up and down. “You look fine to me.”

This was exactly the type of shit that made Ian want to strangle him to death.

“I don’t want to mess up your car,” Ian said a touch desperately, now barely clinging to the promise he just made, “your brothers told me how you are about your ‘babies’.”

“That’s okay; you’re allowed,” Mickey said simply. He gazed at Ian as he lit up a cigarette, “so you coming or what?”

Ian nodded meekly, just grateful his clothes managed to stay on during all of that. He climbed gingerly into the Mustang and buckled up, far too conscious of how much closer Mickey was in this car as opposed to the Escalade.

“So you restored this?” Ian croaked.

“Mmhmm,” Mickey said, making one of Ian’s favourite sounds.

“It’s awesome, you’re awe—it’s awesome,” Ian gibbered before sighing and looking out the window. Fucking mortifying.

“Wanna see what it can do?” Mickey asked and peeled off immediately.

The speed and power of the car had Ian nearly swallowing his tongue, but that had nothing on the beauty of watching Mickey change gears. By the time they found a decent stretch of road where Mickey could push it into top gear, Ian was convinced he had found his new religion. Mickey Milkovich in a classic muscle car. Could anything be sexier?

The one drawback to powering home in a muscle car, was that it felt far too soon when they pulled up in front of Ian’s building. Mickey parked and they both sat quietly and awkwardly for a moment; Ian unwilling to leave and Mickey unwilling for him to go.

“So, you’re not going to come sweep my apartment for bad guys?” Ian asked at length.

Mickey chuckled and fiddled with the steering wheel. “Nah, I only violate your privacy when I’m on the clock. I’m doing other things right now.”

Ian was filled with burning curiosity. “So what do you do on your day off?”

Mickey shrugged, “mostly random nonsense. Usually I just keep driving and see how far I get before I freak out and turn back.”

Mickey regretted it the second it was out of his mouth. He didn’t know what it was about Ian that so easily dragged mortifying honesty out of him, but he wished it would stop. He glanced over at Ian anxiously, afraid he had embarrassed himself or had come off sounding monumentally stupid. He tried his best to shrug it off.

“It’s just…it’s dumb,” Mickey said lamely.

“No, it isn’t; I get it,” Ian said softly and stared out at the stretch of road ahead of them. He ran, Mickey drove, but it seemed as if neither of them was getting anywhere. “Is that what you’re going to do now?”

Mickey shrugged before finally nodding , red-faced, sheepishly admitting his plans. His next words were out his mouth before he even knew what was happening. “Wanna come? See how far I get this time?”

“Yes,” Ian responded before Mickey had even finished his sentence. They both sat in silence, surprised at each other and themselves. Ian sniffed his shirt and looked over at Mickey with a grimace. “Can I just take a quick shower first? I’m seriously gross.”

“Uh sure, okay…I’ll just wait.”

Ian rolled his eyes and grinned broadly at Mickey and his fluster. “You’re just going to sit out here the whole time while I shower and change? Don’t be dumb, come on. You know you want to sweep my apartment anyway.”

Mickey watched as Ian got out the car and headed off purposefully towards his building. This was a bad idea wrapped in a terrible idea inside the worst idea, but Mickey was soon out of the car and going after his redhead. Moths can’t help being sucked in by the flame.

The second Ian hit his apartment he started stripping, not sparing a thought for the gaping man behind him. He tossed his shirt down at the foot of the bed and glanced over his shoulder as Mickey hovered at the door.

“Just sit anywhere,” he told Mickey as he kicked off his sneakers and socks, and pulled down his pants. He grinned when Mickey nodded jerkily and glanced around the tiny apartment, looking for safety.

Ian was loving Mickey’s fluster and knew that it was his disrobing that was causing it. Granted, he didn’t know if Mickey was doing the straight guy thing of checking out another man’s body out of some innate need to compete and compare, or if he was doing the not-straight thing and checking him out because he was attracted. Ian hoped it was the latter, but it didn’t particularly matter; not right then. In any event, Ian was feeling emboldened. The one thing he knew was the effect his body had on other men, whether it was intimidating or attracting, and the fewer clothes he had on, the more powerful he always felt. It was why it felt so amazing on stage at the clubs, the reason he never had “naked in public” nightmares, and the reason he was in no particular hurry to disappear into the bathroom while Mickey blushed up a storm because he was standing there clad only in his boxer-briefs. He decided to give Mickey a break and quickly grabbed some fresh underwear and headed off to the bathroom.

Mickey shed his jacket after Ian disappeared into the bathroom. His body had warmed so much, he could feel sweat dampening his forehead and prickling at the back of his neck. He heard the shower turn on and closed his eyes to steel against the sound. What the fuck was he doing? Why had he come up here? What the hell was he doing asking Gallagher to take a ride with him? He doubted there was even a word that could encapsulate just how much he was fucking up right now.

He licked his lips nervously and tried not to think of Ian naked under a stream of water just mere feet away. He tried to distract himself by pacing and glancing around the apartment while he waited. Naturally, the only other thing he could focus on was the wrought iron bed tucked into the corner of the apartment, separated from the large window only by a small night table. It was fairly large for such a tiny place, maybe a queen sized bed. It looked old as hell and so elaborate compared to the rest of Ian’s modest furnishings.

Mickey edged closer to it. It probably made more noise than a motherfucker when someone moved around on it. He sat on the edge of the bed and bounced a little, smiling when the bed groaned and squeaked in protest. He wondered idly about just how much of a work out this bed got from Ian, if he took a lot of guys here or rather kept his space intensely private the same way Mickey did. Mickey turned and ran his fingers down one of the spindly columns of the headboard, before gripping and shaking it a little to see if the headboard smacked easily against the wall.

His imagination was off and running. He could see himself kneeling in the bed, his hands gripping the columns tightly while Ian took him hard and fast from behind. He could practically feel Ian’s blunted nails digging into his hips and the sweet heat against his back as he pushed back against Ian’s thrusts. He imagined Ian getting him off like no one else before him could manage, and fuck if he wouldn’t return the favour with gusto. Ian was wasted on Sal; it was an injustice and a crying shame. Sal didn’t know what to do with Ian; couldn’t possibly know what to do with him. Ian with Sal was like watching a stodgy senior citizen drive a brand new, fire red Lamborghini in the city, just creeping in traffic, never once getting to open up and even taste a little of its potential. Mickey would know what to do with Ian—he would rock his whole fucking world.

There was a loud clatter as something fell in the bathroom and Mickey shot off the bed as if it was on fire. He stood panting, trying and failing to feign cool ease as he checked to see if Ian had caught him in his raunchy reverie. The bathroom door was still locked, however, and the shower was still running and he could hear Ian’s muffled singing. Mickey relaxed and once again looked to the bed. He raised an eyebrow at something  poking out from beneath it and he stooped down to investigate. It was a picture of Ian that must have drifted under there at some point. It made Mickey smile—there was Ian in a beanie, smirk firmly in place and flipping off the camera. Mickey’s lopsided grin hitched higher as he trailed a finger along Ian’s face. The bathroom door flew open and Mickey quickly and instinctively pocketed the picture.

“I hope I didn’t take too long,” Ian said as he stepped out, “were you bored?”

Mickey shook his head and struggled not to ogle too hard at Ian’s towel clad form. He headed around the bed to peer through the curtains of the window, distracting himself while Ian quickly pulled on clothes.

“Okay,” Ian sighed happily and grinned broadly at Mickey, “let’s go.”

It wasn’t a date, Mickey told himself as he grabbed a six pack out of the fridge at the supermarket. He had left Ian in the car while he ran in to get a few things, just beer, sandwiches and chips. It wasn’t a date. Friends take joyrides all the time. The food was just him being practical and considerate. It’s not like he could invite a guy for a ride and not provide him with as much as a snack. It wasn’t a date.

He ignored the way his heart flipped hard when Ian beamed at him as he got back into the car. He handed Ian a bag of chips and tucked the beer and the food behind the car seats. “Don’t get crumbs all over my shit,” he grumbled and stole another glance at that amazing face. Fucker was the living embodiment of a sunrise…or a sunset, or both. Shit, what was he even saying? This non-date was just the worst idea.

It was the furthest Mickey had ever been before outside of being on a run. Between the laughing and the easy conversation, they were well into Milwaukee before Mickey’s nerves started getting the better of him. Ian could sense Mickey tightening up and saw the way his brow furrowed as they pushed forward. He fought the urge to stroke Mickey’s thigh soothingly. Instead, he pointed to an open lot which turned out to be a small hill overlooking a sports field, where some high school kids were practising football drills.

Mickey parked beneath one of the huge trees and they both got out to stretch their legs. The sun was starting to set and Ian took in the beauty of it while breathing in the cool, evening air. It felt good to be far away from everything, it felt even better just being with Mickey. He watched as Mickey came around and leaned easily on the hood of the car. Ian simply stared; it was like something out of a magazine. During the ride, they had been laughing and talking so much, there hadn’t been a chance for their usual heavy sexual tension to settle, but now it was back in full force. Mickey held out a beer and then nodded to the empty space next to him on the hood of the car.

“You can sit on the hood; I won’t mind.”

“Man, if I had a nickel for every time a dude said that to me.” They both snickered and Ian took the beer and carefully sat on the hood of the car, scooting as close to Mickey as he dared.

“This is kind of cool,” Mickey admitted quietly, “me and my brothers used to sneak into ball games all the time when I was a kid. Later on I’d mostly just park up  on hills like this and just watch the games from the distance. Still didn’t have to pay, and I preferred it to all the noise and shit.”

“Hmm, frugality, avoidance of social interaction and a dislike of loud noises…I guess it’s typical of people who grew up during the Depression.”

Mickey choked on his beer. “You making fun of me, asshole?”

“No, never! I have nothing but love and respect for my elders,” Ian said with all the mock seriousness he could muster.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve seen it.”

The spectre of Sal immediately dampened the moment and they fell silent, sipping their beers while they watched the drills.

“So what other grumpy old man things do you like to do?” Ian asked at length, desperate to reclaim the moment.

Mickey smiled and shook his head before giving Ian a sidelong glance. “Why do you insist on making fun of me, Gallagher? You should know better; I’m a scary guy. You don’t make fun of bad men.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think you’re so bad,” Ian said, rolling the beer can carefully in his hands while he returned Mickey’s sidelong look.

“You don’t, huh? That the kind of reasoning ability you brought to the army, washout?”

“Oh, so now you’re making fun of me?!”

“No, never,” Mickey said, eyes wide and affronted, “you think I’d make fun of an almost veteran? You’re just so brave and army strong and—” he burst out laughing when Ian shoved him.

“I wish I had something to hit you with,” Ian said.

They sipped their beers slowly and killed time, pretending to watch the football game below while they basked in each other’s company. Ian knew it wouldn’t be long before it was nightfall and he and Mickey would be heading back. He glanced down at Mickey’s hand resting on the hood of the car between them, and wondered to himself just how much he could get away with in that moment.

“Have you ever taken anyone else with you on one of these rides? Like your girlfriend maybe?” Ugh, it was the lamest attempt at fishing, but Ian needed a distraction from dangerous thoughts and he needed to know just how hopeless his crush really was.

Mickey shook his head. “Nah, and Svetlana isn’t exactly the adventurous type.”

“Svetlana?!” Ian echoed hollowly, all the air suddenly sucked out of him. “You’re dating a whore?!”

“What’s wrong with whores?!” Mickey snapped defensively. Shit, yet another thing he shouldn’t have said. It wasn’t as if he could explain the mutualism that was his relationship with Svetlana—protection for her, a beard for him. He knew Ian was curious, especially about his sexuality, and he knew he hadn’t done nearly enough to quell Ian’s curiosity and interest. It was stupid, but the last thing he wanted was for Ian to lose interest completely, even though it would be the best thing for the both of them. Now he had accidentally admitted to having a “girlfriend” and he could see Ian recoiling.

“Nothing, never mind,” Ian mumbled miserably and stared unseeingly down at the field. He couldn’t believe how much it hurt. It was as if Mickey had just up and stabbed him in the chest. He knew he had no right to be upset, but that didn’t stop the crushing feeling. So there had been no chance from the very beginning? Of course there wasn’t; he was the dumbest idiot alive. “Can we go now? I’ve got a bunch of reading to do.”

Mickey pinched the bridge of his nose before running a hand through his hair in agitation. He should have known he would have fucked this up royally somehow. He nodded and slid off the car. “Yeah, okay.”

The beginning of the journey back home was the polar opposite of the journey away from it. Both were quiet and subdued as they headed back into Chicago. Still, it was hard to stay cold. Before long, the stolen glances started again and the desperation to re-establish the connection overtook them.

“It’s not even that serious or anything,” Mickey said softly, “I mean, she’s from my old neighbourhood and she helps me run the Rub and Tug….it’s just easy, you know? It’s not like a Harlequin romance or anything.” It was as far as he could go without flat out admitting to the fraudulence of the relationship. Still, that was all Ian needed.

“Yeah, I know how it is,” Ian whispered, staring at Mickey’s profile as the passing street lights illuminated it in flashes. He knew exactly how it was.

By the time Mickey parked in front of his building, Ian had done all the mental gymnastics necessary to bring him back to his sweet spot as it concerned Mickey. Svetlana didn’t matter, no more than Sal did. Even the vow he’d made just hours earlier to put Mickey Milkovich out of his mind had been forgotten. All that mattered was them, now, here, together in Mickey’s car where nothing else and no one else existed. They sat quietly for a while with the engine idling, until Mickey’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He checked it and sighed.

“Looks like I’m back on the clock,” Mickey looked over at Ian. “Have fun with all that reading, college boy.”

Ian scoffed and reluctantly got out of the car. He shut Mickey’s door and stood on the curb, his heart pounding away in his throat. This was hopeless. How could anyone get so fucked up so quickly?

In his car, Mickey was thinking the very same thing. He leaned across and called to Ian through the passenger window. “Hey, Gallagher!” he licked his lower lip and smiled shyly when Ian leaned back in through the window. “The next time I try this shit, should I come pick you up?”

“Yeah,” Ian breathed, his smile broad and bright, “please.”

“Yeah, okay,” Mickey huffed quietly, his fluster evident, “maybe we’ll make it into Canada next time.”

Ian nodded back. Maybe they’d make it to Canada; shit, maybe they’d stay. Ian backed away and waved lamely as Mickey peeled off, roaring off into the night. He barely made it to his room before he collapsed on the floor with a groan, his body shuddering from exhaustion and upheaval and everything in between. He texted Alex a goodnight message with two simple words: “I’m doomed.”

“Sal wants to see ya.”

Ian didn’t immediately register what Mickey was saying, given that he was busy registering Mickey. God bless the Brooks brothers and the suits they made. Mickey had a preference for dark suits and solid coloured ties, and Ian was being thoroughly being distracted by the silver tie nestled beneath the dark vest.

“You have some kind of prejudice against patterns or something?” Ian asked, trying to cover his assessment.

Mickey smoothed his tie and turned big puppy eyes on Ian. “What, you don’t like it? It’s the Regis Philbin look,” he grinned and waggled his eyebrows at Ian, “now go on, get pretty. Sal’s having a shindig.”

“‘Shindig,’ really? Can you at least try to pretend you’re not an AARP member trapped in a young man’s body?”

“Today, please? Thank you.”

They pulled up to the “Sandrini’s,” a bar owned by one of Sal’s made men. Ian was ready to climb out of the Escalade, but a sharp click of Mickey’s tongue stopped him in his tracks.

“Okay, a few words of advice before you go in there…”

Ian blinked at him. “Wait, you’re not coming?”

“Have some other business to take care of,” he smiled apologetically at Ian’s crestfallen face. “Look, when you go in there, you’re not Sal’s side piece. You are whoever the fuck he says you are: nephew, cousin, whatever—just go with it. Nothing but a bunch of dumb wise guys in there and they can get real fucking traditional and old school pretty fucking fast. Someone comes onto you, tell them to fuck off. A lot of them either know or suspect Sal is an old queen, and all they need is a little confirmation to make a move on him and take him out.”

Ian was dumbfounded, “why the hell would he want me here?!”

“Because he feels the two of you haven’t been spending a lot of time together lately. Plus he can be a fucking idiot sometimes, and likes to think he’s untouchable. He gets that way when he’s choking on the nose candy, which brings me to my next point,” Mickey frowned at Ian, “Sal parties hard. Do not try to keep up with him because you can’t.”

“How are you going to tell me what I can manage? You think I’m some kind of lightweight? I’m Southside—”

“I don’t care if you’re Captain Morgan from Blue Hawaii. Everyone’s a lightweight when compared to Sal. He offers you party favours, just politely turn him down. I’m serious, Gallagher. You get fucked up and I’m the one cleaning up the mess.”

The place was a mess. How a bunch of old guys would wreck a whole bar within a few hours was a marvel to Mickey. It looked like a crime scene, but for the hired strippers swaying lazily on the bar top. There were bodies everywhere, men passed out at the bar, on the floor and around tables. He rolled his eyes and stepped over the unconscious bodies—carefully for some, not so carefully for others—and went searching for his ward.

He found Sal passed out cold behind the couch in one of the side rooms, and there was Ian fast asleep on the couch. Mickey could only sigh. “Jesus Christ, Ian,” he muttered beneath his breath and went to get him after he checked Sal’s pulse.

“Gallagher?” Mickey stood over Ian and shook him lightly, but Ian didn’t even stir. Mickey sighed again and sat at the edge of the couch for a minute, watching Ian sleep.  

He peeked over the back of the couch again and double checked to make sure Sal was still out. He turned his attention back to Ian and lightly shook his shoulder again. He bit back a smile when Ian fussed grumpily and kept on sleeping. He leaned forward slightly and brushed the hair out of Ian’s face before sliding his hand down the side of Ian’s face. He grinned when Ian instinctively burrowed against his palm.

“I warned you, idiot,” he sighed and shook Ian hard.

Ian finally grunted awake. He looked around the room, blinking owlishly until he settled on a very unimpressed Mickey. He grinned goofily, high as a kite. “Hi, Mick!”

Mickey rolled his eyes and got to his feet, and dragged Ian along with him. Ian managed to get to his feet before pitching wildly sideways. Mickey grabbed for him quickly and just narrowly stopped him from face-planting. When he tugged Ian upright again, Ian’s unholy grin was back.

“Hi, Mick!”

“Say ‘hi, Mick’ again, one more fucking time!”

“Hi, Mi—”

“Shut the fuck up, you idiot,” Mickey sighed and heaved a giggling Ian over his shoulder.

“You have a great ass, Mickey!” Ian blurted drunkenly.

“Jesus, just shut up until we get outside, alright?!

They managed to get out without incident and Mickey wasted no time hustling Ian into the backseat of the car. That was the easy part. The real struggle was getting a defiantly snoring Ian out again and up the elevator to his apartment. It was only an hour or two before the dawn and Mickey had to drag a six-foot jackass down a narrow corridor as quietly as he could. By the time he propped Ian against his apartment door, the redhead was somewhat awake and in a giddy mood.

“Hi, Mick!”

“I will punch your teeth down your throat, I swear to fucking god,” Mickey hissed, “where are your keys?”

“Pocket,” Ian tapped his right trouser pocket.

“Give them to me.”

“Get ‘em,” Ian challenged.

Mickey shook his head in disbelief—what was his life right now? He looked at Ian’s pocket and contemplated fishing for the keys. He then decided breaking and entering was the much safer option. He jimmied Ian’s door open and yanked him bodily inside.

“What did I fucking say about partying with Sal?!”

“I’m not a lightweight! You’re not…boss…” Ian slurred and briefly gave up trying to string words together as he was dragged inside his apartment. He soon made another valiant effort, “you should let me take care of you, Mick.”

Oh, the irony. Mickey grinned as he propped Ian against the wall once more and closed the door. “Take care of me, huh? You trying to turn me out, Gallagher?”

“Yeah,” he surprised Mickey suddenly by grabbing him by the lapels of his trench coat and shoving him up against the door.

“Mmm,” Mickey grunted softly at he bumped up against the door, surprised and impressed by Ian’s momentary drunken coordination and aggression.

“I love it when you make that sound,” Ian whispered, still clinging tightly to Mickey’s coat lapels to maintain his balance, “I want you to make more sounds.”

Mickey would make whatever sound Ian wanted, but not when he was three sheets to the wind. “Gallagher, you’re drunk, you’re high and you’re not thinking clearly.”

“Never been clearer 'bout anything,” Ian said breathily, “why are there two of you?”

“Gallagher, you need to sleep this off,” Mickey’s voice was soft and he kept his itching hands firmly at his sides.

“No, I need to…I need to kiss you,” Ian laughed and swayed tantalizingly close before his gaze narrowed on Mickey’s lips. “Can I?”

Mickey inhaled sharply, suddenly finding himself trapped in a surreal moment. “I don’t know, can you?” Mickey said softly and raised a challenging eyebrow, “I’m not the boss of you, right?”

Mickey kept his hands at his sides while he did his own mental gymnastics in an attempt to square what was about to happen. He wasn’t touching Ian—wasn’t going to touch him—so he was just there being passive, minding his own business. He didn’t even fucking like kissing. Ian’s hands slid further up the lapels of Mickey’s coat and managed to move even closer. Mickey’s eyes fluttered closed, the anticipation overtaking him.

The kiss never came. What came instead was a dull thud and a groan as Ian slid sideways and crumpled to the ground. Mickey could have strangled him. Instead he sighed, rolled his eyes heavenward, and heaved Ian into his bed. He removed Ian’s socks and shoes, and took his coat; he was taking no chances on the rest. He then sat on the edge of the bed and hesitated briefly before stroking his face tenderly.

“Don’t get sucked into this, Gallagher,” Mickey said sombrely, “there’s nothing here for you. You’re going to ride it out then get going. I’m making sure of that.”

Mickey pulled his hand away, forcing himself to ignore the way Ian’s entire body protested the deprivation. He had to go anyway. His job was only half done.   

Chapter Text

“Sal wants to see ya.”

Ian rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as he regarded Mickey. It had been a couple of days since Sal’s party and Ian’s recollection was cloudy at best and non-existent at worst. The small snatches of memory and the few foggy images that floated up to him made Ian worry that he might have acted somewhat inappropriately. He had been fretting about it nonstop. He wasn’t sure what parts were memories, dreams or just fantasies, and Mickey’s knowing smirk wasn’t helping matters any.

Ian didn’t say much until they were in the car. He eyed Mickey nervously as they set off, and drummed his fingers on his knee. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore.

“So that was some party the other night, huh?”

Mickey looked over at him briefly before turning his attention back to the road. “So it would appear.”

“I might have overdone it a little bit,” Ian admitted and had the good grace to redden when Mickey’s eyebrows spelt out “no shit.” He cleared his throat and hazarded another glance at his driver. “Did you take me home?”

“Somebody had to.”

Clearly Mickey wasn’t going to volunteer the information he needed, judging from the teasing smirk that had yet to leave his face. Ian sighed heavily and decided to get it over with.

“I’m not a lightweight or anything, but sometimes I can react a little funny when I drink,” he hesitated as Mickey’s smirk hitched a little higher. “Did I do anything I need to apologize for?”

Mickey was flat out grinning now—the bastard—but stayed mum. Ian was going to throttle him.


“What?” Mickey laughed. He had torturing Ian down to a fine art.

“Well did I?”

“Nah, man, you were a perfect gentleman. My virtue is still intact and everything,” Mickey grinned at him and Ian relaxed a little, though he didn’t quite trust Mickey and that smile of his.

“You have virtue?” Ian teased back as he slumped into his seat.

“You don’t believe me? I’m as pure as the driven snow,” Mickey said, looking scandalized.


“You don’t know my life,” Mickey looked across at him slyly, “I could be waiting for someone to take care of me; someone who can really turn me out.”

Ian’s brow furrowed even as heat slowly crept up from his neck and warmed his face. He vaguely remembered hearing something like that in his jumble of memory and dreams. Mickey Milkovich had to be the shadiest person on the face of the Earth.

“Hey, Gallagher, can I ask you something?”

The question was soft and Mickey seemed to be hesitating over it, and it made Ian curious, apprehensive and hopeful all at once. Ian nodded and watched in anticipation as Mickey slowly rubbed his lower lip and glanced over at him.

“You and Sal,” Mickey began at length, and Ian’s heart dropped into his shoes. “I don’t really get it. I mean, why him?” Mickey started to babble on a bit, trying to explain himself without sounding too disparaging of his boss. “It’s just that Sal’s not exactly the Romeo type, you know, and you could get anybody looking the way you do.”

Now it was Ian’s turn to smirk, “what, you think I’m pretty, Mickey?”

Mickey gave Ian an exasperated glance, but his reddening face was giving the game away. “You’re alright, I guess, but seriously… I mean you gotta like him a lot, right? You wouldn’t be with him if you didn’t, would you?”

Ian shrugged noncommittally; the last thing on his mind lately was Sal Boerio. “Yeah, I mean, he’s nice to me.”

“He’s nice to you?” Mickey echoed in surprise. Shit, was that all it took?

Ian shrugged again, “He buys me stuff; orders me room service,” he said and trailed off lamely, at a loss as to what else there was to say.


That one little word was all Ian needed to know that he had fucked up somewhere. He looked over at Mickey who was now staring silently ahead, all trace of his earlier humour gone. Yeah, he had definitely fucked up.

He replayed Mickey’s question and his answer in his head. His answer had been a little flippant and careless, and in retrospect, he realized it made him sound shallow. He glanced over at Mickey again before staring down at his lap as he twisted his fingers nervously. It’s not as if he could have done a better job if he had taken the question seriously anyway. How could he explain his penchant for men like Sal Boerio and his ilk? He had just made himself sound like some kind of expensive escort—all opportunism and transactional sex—and it wasn’t that way at all.

How could he even begin to explain his myriad of issues and the weird, sucking void they left in him? Still, he was desperate for some kind of do-over with Mickey’s question. He was tempted to just give him Dr. Lester’s number and have her expertly explain all the ways he was fucked up and why, in spite of all that, Mickey shouldn’t run screaming for the hills. He quickly put the thought out of his mind, however, because he was fairly certain Mickey would give him the widest berth after hearing just how much crazy was stored in his head.

“He listens to me,” he added at length and earned a sceptical look from Mickey. Ian decided it was probably best to just stay quiet for the rest of the ride to the hotel.

The silence of the ride was interrupted by Mickey’s cell phone going off. Mickey quickly answered it, listened silently before muttering a confused sounding “okay” and then hung up.

“Looks like you’re going to have to postpone the room service for a while,” Mickey said dryly and Ian winced, “Sal wants us to meet him at the pool house.”

This couldn’t be good. “Why, what’s happening?”

“Fuck if I know,” Mickey sighed, “let’s go find out.”

Sal was nowhere to be found when they got to the pool house. In fact, there wasn’t anyone there at all. He had already been there twice, but it felt and looked like an entirely new place to Ian. It was the first time he had been there without the imminent threat of someone committing murder, and his eyes were everywhere the moment they stepped into the foyer.

“I seriously can’t believe this is a pool house.”

“There’re pool noodles and shit in that closet behind you,” Mickey said, nodding to the white closet right near the front door while he checked his phone. “Sal says he’ll be here in a few.”

“Well, since we’re waiting and nothing seems to be on fire, you wanna give me a tour?” Ian gave Mickey a hopeful smile and Mickey looked back at him uncertainly as he lit up a cigarette.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s certainly got nothing on the main house. You’d probably be more interested in that.”

Ian didn’t miss the dig. “Mickey, come on, you know I’m not like that. It just came out wrong.”

They were still standing near the front door. Mickey pulled on his cigarette and eyed Ian critically. Jesus, sometimes it was hard to look directly at the fucker—it was beautiful and painful all at the same time. Mickey knew that he’d let Ian’s response bother him far more than it should have. Shit, anyone who had to put up with Sal’s crap deserved to be compensated, but Mickey hadn’t liked the implications. In that moment after Ian had answered him, all he heard was Jaime’s voice ringing in his ears with a resounding “I told you so.”

Now, Ian was turning big, green puppy eyes on him, making him melt and turning him into every pathetic man ever to fall for the stripper with the heart of dubious gold. He honestly didn’t believe Ian was like that, but wouldn’t it be best if he didn’t put himself in the position to be proven wrong?

“Mick, come on.”

Fuck, why was he already this weak? He’d hear people talk about how their significant others would look at them “like that” and render them powerless, and Mickey had thought it was the stupidest shit he’d ever heard. Now here he was, putty in someone’s hands, wholeheartedly believing he wasn’t a gold digger despite evidence to the contrary.

“Come on,” Mickey capitulated, blissfully defeated, “I’ll give you the grand tour.”

They walked straight ahead out of the small foyer into the living room, with its huge leather sectional sofa and chairs, and the center table that probably had enough cocaine residue on it to choke a horse. A giant flat screen TV hung on the wall separating the living room from the kitchen.  Mickey wasn’t the most verbose tour guide. He nodded at the living room, then led Ian into the kitchen and simply said “kitchen,” before pointing to a door off to left, “guest bathroom.”

Ian loved the modern looking kitchen, and admired the kitchen island and the matching black stools surrounding it. There was a breakfast nook next to the huge bay windows and Ian wondered how much use Mickey and his brothers made of the room. Could any of them even cook? He almost lost track of Mickey when the man disappeared through another door. He jogged to catch up.

“Basement,” Mickey nodded and flipped on the lights before heading down the steps.

Ian didn’t have to guess that this was Milkovich central. Not far from the base of the steps was a poker table, and beyond that, a pool table. The upstairs living room was also replicated with another massive TV and comfortable couches. Mickey turned back to head upstairs.

“What’s down there?” Ian asked, indicating the dimly-lit rear of the basement.

“You don’t worry about that,” Mickey said and paused close to Ian, completely distracting the redhead with his sudden closeness, “wherever I show you is all you need to see, right?”

Ian nodded mutely, having forgotten what it was he had even been asking. Mickey tugged on Ian’s coat and pulled him upstairs. “Come on.”

The last bit of the breakneck tour was the on the second floor. They climbed the short, spiral staircase near the foyer and Mickey pointed out the three rooms.

“Room at the end is Sal’s office, sort of. He doesn’t really do shit in there, nothing productive at least. Still, you don’t go in there. He keeps it locked anyway, ” Mickey said and then nodded to the two opposing rooms closer to the stairs. “One on the left is Mandy’s room, one on the right is mine,” Mickey then opened his room door and let Ian peek inside.    

It was like staring into the Promised Land. Ian eagerly took in the rumpled bed, and the requisite Scarface and death metal posters doing battle with the sunny airiness of the room. There were little knickknacks everywhere, and a dresser filled with toiletries next to a floor length mirror. Ian couldn’t help but grin at the image of Mickey getting ready and preening in front of it.

“It’s just you and your sister? None of your brothers crash here?”

Mickey shook his head. “Linda says me and Mandy are the only ones allowed to live on the property. I guess because we were the babies?”


Mickey blinked at Ian’s shocked outburst. “Yeah, Linda…Sal’s wife?”

“Her name is Linda?” Ian nearly peed. After Kash’s wife, Ian vowed to steer well clear of pissing off any more Lindas.

“You’ve been fucking with Sal for months now. How the fuck did you not know this?” Mickey asked, looking at Ian askance.

“Well, he called her a whole lot of things when he talked about her, but never her name,” Ian admitted sheepishly. Honestly, he hadn’t much cared to ask. The less he thought about the wife, the better. Had Sal been forthcoming with the name though, it would definitely have been a deal breaker. Lindas were lethal.

“Well, she calls the shots about what goes on here,” Mickey said and wandered into his room, leaving Ian leaning against the door frame. “I don’t mind her rules. I like keeping my space private. Family only.”

 Mickey checked his watch. It was late, and typically, dropping off Ian at the hotel would be the last of his duties for the night. He wasn’t sure if Sal would want him to do anything after he showed up, so Mickey decided against changing completely. He shrugged off his trench coat and tossed it on the bed and then slipped out of his suit jacket.

Ian watched unblinking as Mickey unbuttoned his vest and threw it on the growing heap of clothes on the bed. He wondered if this was some sort of revenge for his own strip show. He gnawed his lower lip as Mickey undid his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. Was it normal to find this hot? Mickey wasn’t even getting naked—just stripping away a few layers—and Ian was about ready to sweat through his own shirt.

Mickey loosened his dark blue tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his blue shirt. Sal’s insistence that his crew be as sharp as possible might make for a good look, but it was a pain in the ass half the time. Mickey like the classic mobster look, he wasn’t going to deny that, but sometimes he felt as if he was suffocating in all the suits, pomp and circumstance. He went through his coat pockets and retrieved his box of cigarettes. He lit one up, his body gradually relaxing since he was now home and had stripped down a bit. He looked up at Ian, who was gaping openly at him from his place in the door frame. Mickey grinned at him and made his way over.

“So, like my place?” Mickey asked as he leaned against the door frame, opposite Ian. It wasn’t a very wide door and they were left mere inches apart. Ian had to straighten up simply to accommodate Mickey’s insouciant lean against the door. Like hell he was about to move away though. The proximity was intoxicating.

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Ian glanced once again towards the bed. “So it’s just you then? Doesn’t it get lonely?”

Mickey snorted, “I have four pieces of shit brothers and a harpy of a sister. It’s quiet now, but somebody’s usually here.”

“Yeah, but I kinda meant lonely as in…” Ian trailed off significantly and glanced again towards Mickey’s bed, “you said family only; so you don’t bring anyone here? Not even your girlfriend?”

When he looked back at Mickey, the man was regarding him silently over his cigarette, his eyes narrowed and dark. It set Ian’s pulse off racing. It was hard to process anything with Mickey so unusually close.

“Why are you worried about what goes on in my bedroom? That’s not your business,” Mickey said, and while there was heat behind it, it wasn’t censorious.

“I’m just thinking about your wellbeing is all,” Ian was all innocence and sugar, “I’m just being considerate.”

“Mmm,” Mickey groaned softly, making Ian’s skin prickle, “you did say you wanted to take care of me.”

Ian blinked and the memory floated up out of the fog with Mickey’s prompting; vague images of him pressing Mickey against his door and babbling at him drunkenly. Fuck, had he really said that?!

“You asshole! You said I didn’t do anything to be embarrassed about!”

“Oh no, I never said that, Gallagher,” Mickey smirked as he pulled on his cigarette, “You asked if you did anything you had to apologize for. You didn’t.”

“In your estimation,” Ian sighed and ran a hand over his face.

“Isn’t it my estimation that matters?” Mickey pointed out. “Besides, made me all curious and shit. Ian Gallagher thinking he can turn me out. Really think you could wreck me, Gallagher?”

Mickey didn’t know what he was doing winding Ian up like that—and by extension himself. He had crossed the line and left it miles behind. It was probably Ian’s nearness scrambling his circuits, but all he could think about was that damned kiss Ian owed him, and fuck if he didn’t feel like going for it.

Ian stared at Mickey for a moment, trying to read the moment and the man. His heart was hammering in his chest and the blood was singing through his veins. Mickey was fucking with him, no two ways about it, and it wasn’t even close to fair. He reached up and closed his fist around Mickey’s tie. Mickey didn’t move away. Instead, their eyes locked and they were both caught up in another surreal moment, only there wasn’t a drop of alcohol or a bit of controlled substance anywhere to be blamed.

“Mick,” Ian’s voice was low and rough and it made Mickey wet his lips in anticipation. Ian tightened his grip on Mickey’s tie and tugged himself even closer. “You can’t just say shit like that to me and not think that I won’t—”

“Mickey?! Ian?!”

They flew apart like startled birds as Sal stomped into the pool house. For a moment, they were so thrown by the older man’s arrival that neither of them knew what to do or how to react. They were both frozen, wide-eyed and panting as Sal bellowed for them a second time. Ian finally remembered himself and flew down the stairs before Sal could get suspicious. Mickey needed another minute, and stood still trying to get his nerves under control while he smoothed his tie.

“Hey, Sal!” Ian greeted the man breathlessly, “Mickey was giving me a tour.”

“Ah, there you are,” Sal’s face lit up and he kissed Ian on the cheek and patted it. “He gave you the tour, huh? Good, saves me the trouble. You like the old place?”

“Yeah, it’s great.”

“Designed and decorated the whole thing myself,” Sal started to tell Ian, but was distracted by Mickey coming downstairs to join them.

“Everything okay?” Mickey asked, looking between Sal and Ian.

“Fine, fine, I was just getting Ian’s opinion on the place here. I’ve been thinking that maybe we could do away with the hotel bullshit,” Sal grinned widely while the two young men froze.

Mickey was the first to sputter to life. “W-what? You want to…you want to start meeting here?”

“Why the fuck not?” Sal asked, clearly pleased with the idea. “I’m getting sick of the hotel, having to haul ass all the way out there, all the damn time. A man wants the creature comforts of home and this way,” Sal took Ian’s stunned face in between his hands, “you don’t have to run off, you can just hang out here for a while.”

“The fuck he can!” Mickey blurted out before he could stop himself. It was bad enough having to drop Ian off at the hotel every time, but like hell he could deal with them fucking around in the pool house. This was his home, his safe place, and Sal had never thought of taking any of his lovers here before. Mickey scrambled to cover when Sal’s face darkened. “Linda said you couldn’t take anyone on the property. If she found out…”

“Don’t tell her,” Sal said simply. “There’s about three dozen of you Milkovich fuckers coming in and out of this place like a goddamned clown car. Even if she spots Ian, she’ll just think he’s one of your cousins. It’s perfect.”

Mickey didn’t know how he hadn’t vomited all over Sal’s shoes yet. He was horrified on so many levels. “But where would you—I mean, where would there be room? There isn’t—”

Sal’s brow furrowed deeper at Mickey’s uncharacteristic fluster. “What’s wrong with the room across from yours?”

“That’s Mandy’s room!” Mickey thundered.

“Is Mandy fucking here?!” Sal was nearing the end of his patience, “now you get this through your head. That room isn’t Mandy’s; it’s mine. That room you sleep in isn’t fucking yours either. Everything and everyone in this motherfucker is mine. You got that?!”

The two men glowered at each other. Ian, who had been standing aside silently, slowly becoming awash in humiliation over the whole mortifying situation, read the warning signs. He tried to placate Sal and defuse the situation.

“Sal, it’s okay; there’s no need to—”

“You stay the fuck out of this!” Sal barked at him and Ian stepped back, rebuffed by Sal’s anger. Sal turned his attention back to Mickey and advanced on him, getting in his face. “You have any more opinions you need to share with me, huh? You got something else to fucking say?!”

Mickey could see Ian wringing his hands behind Sal, silently imploring him to back down. Mickey took a step back and swallowed his words and bile. It had been a lost and foolish battle from the get-go.

“No, Sal,” he shook his head, “I’m done.”

“That’s what I thought,” Sal snarled, and the tense situation was interrupted by Joey opening the front door.

“Hey, Sal, the gas man is here; says he needs to see you for a sec.”

Sal nodded. “I’ll be back in a second,” he said to Ian, “make yourself something to eat and get comfortable.” With that, he shot Mickey another glare before heading outside.

Ian eyed Mickey nervously. Mickey was glaring at the floor, his hands on his hips and his entire body vibrating with repressed anger, revulsion and a swirl of negative emotions.

“Look, Mick, it’ll be okay. Maybe I can talk him out of it…” he trailed off when Mickey looked up at him. The look Mickey gave him was absolutely sulphurous.

“Whatever, Red; do whatever the fuck you want.”

Ian’s mouth opened and shut wordlessly as Mickey stormed off outside, and soon he could hear the screech of the tires as Mickey raced away.

“So now I’ve been downgraded back to ‘Red’ again and he can’t even look at me right,” Ian resumed moaning once there was a lull in the customers. “I was enjoying being ‘Gallagher’ too. I just liked the way he said it, you know? And I’m pretty sure I was on the cusp of becoming ‘Ian.’”

Alex finished wiping down the conveyor belt at her station and pivoted on her stool to face her best friend. “Oh my god, ‘becoming Ian’ could be the name of the greatest Lifetime trans movie ever!” she quickly assumed her most theatrical voice, “for years Ina struggled; fighting with herself, the world and its demons. Little did she know she was on the path of…becoming Ian; premiering this week on Lifetime! God, they’d get so much wrong, and it would be campy and overwrought as fuck, but when they get to the part where he sees his penis for the first time, I know I’d be crying like a baby.”

Ian rolled his eyes, “will you please?”

“Right, right, sorry, you said you got name downgraded?”

“He’s so mad at me, Allie, but what was I supposed to do? When Sal decides to do something, that’s it. I don’t hear Mickey downgrading Sal and it was his fucked up decision.”

“He’s not really mad at you; he’s mad at Sal. But he can’t afford to be demonstrably mad at Sal, so he’s taking it out on you instead.”


Alex fluffed her shiny, blonde mane. “You know how it is when someone’s boss chews them out at work? That person can’t retaliate because there’s too much risk; might get fired or suspended or some crap. Instead, that person ends up going home and taking their anger out on their family, where there is low risk of severe consequences for their behaviour. It’s displacement 101; that’s what’s happening with you and Mickey.”

“That’s not fair!”

“Well, tough titties, it happens.”

Ian sighed heavily, “well how long is he going to be mad?”

“I’m training to be a psychologist, not to join the Psychic Friends’ Network. Do I look like Dionne Warwick to you? He’ll stop being mad when he stops being mad.”

Ian was inconsolable. He and Mickey had gone from being on the verge of…something, to Mickey feeling too grossed out and angry to even look at him. “Fucking Sal, he just ruined everything.”

“Yeah, the nerve of your boyfriend, complicating your budding relationship with another man!”

“Whose side are you on?!”

Alex raised a cool eyebrow at him. “You think that’s an easy call to make in this Italian soap opera you call a life? A tale of two mobsters? Sure Mickey’s young and could probably tie your dick in a knot with his tongue, but is that enough to overcome the fact that he probably kills people for a living? Why won’t you date Alan?!”

“Who the fuck is Alan?!”

“Cute half-Japanese dude who is always trying to get a seat next to you in English? He’s so hot for you and so totally normal. He drives a Ford Focus! He wants to own restaurants!”

“I bet Mickey tastes incredible,” Ian mumbled to himself and Alex rolled her eyes heavenward.

“Look, Mickey just has a lot to process. His boss is having gross sex with his boyfriend smack in the middle of his safe place. He’s feeling invaded and violated.”

“I know that, and the last thing I wanted was for Sal to pull this shit!”

Alex eyed him sceptically, “you can’t tell me that a part of you isn’t excited to be there though.”

“Of course I want to be there, but not like that, and certainly not with Sal!” Ian sighed, “the whole thing is so fucked up, I can’t even focus.”

“Are you still able to…” Alex made a jerking motion with her fist before bursting into jazz hands.

 Ian could not hide his amusement. “Well getting it up is no issue. I’m pretty used to fucking guys I’m not exactly hot for, but there’s almost no way I can finish now.”


“Are you kidding? Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a fifty-fifty chance if I come. These are not the best of circumstances. I’m a pro at faking it though and Sal usually passes out right after, so I get away with it.”

They both trailed off and pasted on plastic smiles as a few customers came up to cash their groceries. They picked up their conversation once the registers cleared again.

“God, what is even the point of fucking around with someone that can’t get you off?”

“Ugh forget that. My issue is now that Mickey’s mad at me, I feel so guilty jerking off to him. He’s giving me guilt boners.”

Alex burst out laughing. “How are guilt boners any different from regular ones?”

Ian grinned. “Apart from the pervading sense of shame? Your dick might make a sad trombone noise when you come. Sort of a ‘wah waah’ kind of thing,” he ended up laughing at Alex, who was in stitches, “you are loopy as fuck today, despite my pain. What’s up with you?”

Alex hiccupped and wiped her eyes as her laughter subsided. “I may or may not have popped a couple Xanax before coming to work today.”

“Why? Is everything okay?”

Nate walked up to the registers as if to provide visual aid. He had come to refill the candy displays and Alex tensed visibly.

“If it isn’t Laverne Cox and Shirley,” Nate  sneered.

“I don’t know what is more surprising: that you know the name of an actual trans person or that you can reference anything that pre-dates 2005,” Alex withered, “just how much time do you spend perfecting these little bon mots of yours, Nate?”

“I bet not nearly as much time as he spends thinking about what it’s like to suck cock,” Ian added thoughtfully as he regarded the purpling man. “You know, you could just ask. I mean the greasy neckbeard type isn’t my thing, but I could close my eyes and take one for the team if you need to know that badly.”

Nate was close to apoplectic. “You can fuck off, faggots.” He blanched and backpedalled quickly when Ian’s face went cold and the redhead slowly rose from his stool.

“Say it again,” Ian challenged. Nate swallowed audibly and looked around, but none of his usual crew was anywhere in sight. He shot them both dirty looks and turned tail quickly, not bothering to finish restocking the displays.

Alex shuddered, “I fucking hate them so much,” she murmured under her breath.

Ian gave his friend a comforting smile. “What do you want to bet that his dick makes nothing but sad trombone noises?”

Alex snorted and  dissolved into laughter again. How could anyone stay mad at this total dork?

Mickey had fallen asleep on the couch in the basement. He couldn’t stay upstairs when Ian and Sal were there together. He either hit the road or made his way to the basement, making sure to give them a wide berth. It didn’t stop him from agonizing over it—the thought of Ian and Sal together, doing god-knows-what just feet away made his gut twist and heart hurt. This whole thing was too fucked up to deal with.

He jerked awake, brought out of his nap by the explosions on the TV. He blinked and peered around in the darkness. Clearly he had been out for a while and he hoped that meant Sal and Ian were done defiling his sanctuary and had pissed off somewhere else. He grabbed his beer from the table, clicked off the TV and headed upstairs. The door was slightly ajar and when Mickey hit the top stair, he could hear soft grunts floating from the kitchen. Mickey’s stomach clenched—there was no way.

He pushed the door open slowly and silently and cautiously peeped out. It was only Ian working out on the pull-up bar in the bathroom doorway; on Mickey’s pull up bar no less. Mickey frowned; for all Ian’s alleged understanding of how Mickey was feeling about the arrangement, the redhead had certainly gotten comfortable with it pretty darn fast. Two weeks into this new deal, and Ian was around almost as much as the other Milkovich brothers. Mickey was left in the weird space of being annoyed when Ian was there, then missing him terribly when he wasn’t.

Ian’s eyes were closed as he counted his pull-ups and Mickey crept silently across the kitchen, his eyes glued to Ian’s bare torso. Ian worked out as if it was a religion and the effects were very well-defined indeed. Mickey figured the least Ian could do was keep a shirt on while he did all that and make Mickey’s life a little easier.

Mickey sipped his beer and kept staring as he crossed the kitchen, just completely mesmerized by Ian and his routine. Naturally, this led to him colliding with one of the kitchen island stools, like a moron, and almost going over it headfirst. The stool was sent clattering into its neighbour and Mickey barely managed to save his beer and stay upright. There went his plan to escape unnoticed.

“Hey, Mick.”

Mickey took a deep breath and steeled himself. He felt a pang of guilt over the hesitation in Ian’s voice. He wouldn’t deny it; he had been an ass to Ian the past two weeks while he struggled with being a conflicted mess. He turned to face an uncertain, slightly sweaty, shirtless Ian, as if his life wasn’t hard enough.

“What’s up?” Ian continued, and Mickey had to give it to him, no matter how cold the shoulder, Ian just kept on trying.

Mickey simply nodded at him and looked around. “Where’s everybody?”

Ian simply shrugged and moved a little closer. “Dunno? Out, I guess?”

Mickey sniffed and looked about apprehensively. He hated an empty house, hated it when it was too quiet. One of the worst feelings in the world for him as a child would be waking up to an empty house, fretting if anyone would ever come back. Now, usually at least one of his brothers was around at any given time, so an empty house still unsettled him. Granted, he wasn’t alone now. Ian was there, easily filling the house with his presence like smoke, but a smoke-filled house was a very dangerous thing.

“Looking for a buffer?” Ian asked suddenly, surprising Mickey, “you get scared when your big brothers aren’t around?” Ian smirked, edging even closer.

“Fuck off,” Mickey snarled, struck to the quick by Ian’s surprisingly insightful tease. He frowned when Ian only smiled and came closer, and Mickey found himself backed against the kitchen island. “You want to back off a little?” he groused. He could feel the heat radiating off Ian’s skin and it was making him hyper-aware of his own body and its ready response.

Ian appeared to think it over, “no.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?”

“Why should I? You don’t really want me to.”

Mickey snorted derisively, “what the fuck do you know about what I want? What the fuck do you know about anything?”

Ian was practically on top of him, and the redhead leaned forward and trapped Mickey between his arms as he gripped the counter on either side of the startled man. “I know the way you look at me when you think no one’s watching,” Ian whispered softly against his ear, “I know you never stop thinking about me, even when you treat me like shit,” Ian let out a short laugh. “Probably especially when you’re treating me like shit,” Ian’s body was now pressed flushed against his. “I know how you like it…”

Mickey’s heart was thumping so hard, there was no way Ian couldn’t feel it, pressed as closely to Mickey as he was right then. There was also no way Ian wasn’t feeling Mickey’s rock hard arousal either.

“Yeah?” Mickey asked hoarsely, completely gone, “How do I like it?”

Ian pulled back slowly until his face was hovering just a breath away from Mickey’s. Green eyes raked Mickey’s flushed face before locking with blue eyes and Ian’s smirk turned unholy. His hands were suddenly fisting into Mickey’s shirt and Mickey was flipped around roughly and shoved flat against the kitchen counter. The beer bottle went sailing to end up smashed on the floor and Ian’s hand slid quickly up the length of Mickey’s back to press his head down against the cool of the counter.

“What the fuck?!” Mickey’s voice was panicked, his breathing coming in short, fast puffs from the mix of arousal and anxiety, “here?! Someone might come in! Someone could—someone could see!”

Ian kept Mickey’s head pressed against the counter while his other hand slid down Mickey’s back to the waistband of his track pants. “Fuck ‘em,” Ian grunted and yanked Mickey’s pants and underwear down in one fluid movement.

“You can’t…” Mickey eyed the entryway into the kitchen, expecting Sal or Jaime, somebody to stride in and catch them. His voice trailed off into a moan as Ian ran his fingers through the dark hair before abandoning it to trail both hands up the back of Mickey’s bare thighs to his buttocks.

“You want me to stop? I’ll stop,” Ian said as his hands kneaded Mickey’s ass, alternating between squeezing and spreading him.

Mickey moaned again when Ian spread his buttocks and pressed his thumbs into him slightly. “We can’t.”

“Say stop then, and I’ll stop,” Ian’s voice was soft and hypnotic and his hands felt as if they were everywhere. His long fingers brushed over Mickey’s balls and kept going to trail along the underside of Mickey’s erection.

“Please…” Mickey whispered brokenly.

“Please what?”

Mickey licked his parched lips and squeezed his eyes shut as Ian’s thumbs pressed and massaged his perineum. He was hurting for it—it was the only way he could describe it—wanting Ian so badly it hurt.

“Fucking do it,” Mickey gasped and Ian wasn’t about to ask again. Mickey thought he’d fall apart when he heard Ian unzip his jeans. He shuddered when Ian rubbed against him, sliding his cock up and down the crook of Mickey’s ass.

“You’re gonna need to relax,” Ian warned softly as he pulled back. Mickey let his body go limp as Ian spread him apart again. There was a moment of breathless anticipation before Ian thrust forward.

“Jesus, fuck me!” Mickey blurted out as he startled awake. He blinked rapidly, looking around in confusion as he tried to process where he was. It took him a second, but he finally remembered—he was in the basement parking lot of the medical plaza, waiting for Sal to finish getting his stupid teeth cleaned. He groaned and fell back against his seat. He groped his erection through the material of his pants and tried to think deflating thoughts. Sal should be out any minute and that’s the last thing he needed to explain. Thankfully, the thought of explaining his hard-on to Sal turned out to be a very effective dampener. By the time Sal climbed into the car, Mickey had managed to stifle the effects of the dream.

“Huh, what do you think?” Sal asked, baring his teeth at Mickey.

“Dazzling,” Mickey said dryly.

“They better be. That’s what I paid for,” Sal grumped before giving Mickey the once over, “what, you were sleeping?”

“I didn’t know you were gonna take forever and a day,” Mickey said defensively, “I had a late night.”

“Yeah, I bet you did,” Sal sniffed, “what’s her name?”

Mickey looked over at Sal askance, “excuse you?”

“Don’t act fucking coy,” Sal rolled his eyes, “you think I don’t see it? You’ve been moody as a motherfucker lately. One minute you’re all smiley and dreamy and on cloud nine, the next you’re under your own fucking raincloud. Only a woman fucks with you like that.”

“Whatever you say, Sal.”

“You fucking kids act like you invented this shit,” Sal grinned broadly at Mickey, “You haven’t brought Svetlana around to the house in ages, now you’re having late nights? You better be careful; that Russian strega will cut you to ribbons if she ever found out.”

“Why you so convinced I’m stepping out on Svetlana?” Mickey huffed.

“If you’re not, you fucking should be,” Sal said, “keep telling you that you can’t turn no fucking whore into a housewife. You think you love her? Fine, keep her as a goomar, but you find a girl you can fucking take somewhere. Somebody with a name, connections—she should bring you up, not down. You’re understanding me?”

“Yeah,” Mickey sighed. He’d heard this lecture a hundred times before. “Hey, Sal, can I ask you something?”

Sal puffed as he yanked on his seat belt, “I don’t know, can you?”

“Gallagher, you’re not tired of him yet?”

Sal looked at Mickey in surprise. “Tired of him? Have you seen that fucking specimen? I know it’s difficult for you to appreciate him the way I do, so let me see,” Sal sat back and rolled the thought around, “would you get tired of Brigitte Bardot?”

Mickey looked at Sal uncertainly, “I dunno, maybe? Who the fuck is that?”

Sal shook his head and muttered beneath his breath. These fucking zygotes. “I swear to god, sometimes you and Ian make me feel like a hundred.”

“Well, it’s not like you’re far from it.”

Sal whipped off his fedora and started swatting Mickey with it, “you fucking smart ass.” He grumbled and put his hat back on, “short answer is no, I’m not tired of him. I’m as surprised about this as you are. Ian is different, I don’t know. Makes me feel good, feel young.”

Mickey’s smile faded and he looked away from Sal to stare ahead into the dark of the parking garage. “Oh.”

“Heh, if things were just a little different,” Sal mused.

“What, you’d wife him or something?”

“Wife?” Sal asked disdainfully, “it’s like you didn’t hear a fucking word I just said. What did I just say to you about Sveltana? You don’t marry whores.”

Mickey frowned at Sal, confused and angry. Since when was Ian a whore? “Then what was all that bullshit about feeling good and feeling young?”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Sal asked, “look, Ian is like…” Sal searched for an appropriate example, “…Marilyn Munroe. She was a goddess. You just wanted to drape her in furs and jewels and all that fancy shit. Marilyn—there wasn’t a straight man alive who didn’t want to fuck her all night, every night. But she was a whore,” Sal informed Mickey, wagging a finger in his face, “love her all you want, but you don’t marry Marilyn; no, you fuck her, you keep her close, but you marry Jackie,” Sal said with a flourish, pleased with his analogy.

“Didn’t Marilyn Munroe get fucked up and die?” Mickey asked, staring at Sal in affronted disbelief.

“Never said she was stable. I’m trusting Ian is made of sterner stuff,” Sal said and looked in the rear-view mirror, “have they been there the whole goddamned time?”

Mickey glanced into the rear-view mirror, reminded of the federal agents that had been tailing them all afternoon and who were now patiently parked a couple rows back.


“Fuckers. Tony got the don’s approval to make some big moves,” Sal’s mouth twisted unpleasantly. He was taking no pains to hide his displeasure over the fact that his former right hand man had now surpassed him and was still rising rapidly up the ranks. “Stirring up the feds, got them crawling all over our asses again.” Sal neatened his tie and tugged on his sleeves, trying and failing to get perfectly neat. “Let’s go say hello.”

Mickey turned the engine over and within seconds had the Escalade pulled up alongside the agents’ black Lincoln. Sal was surprised to see a familiar face.

“Agent Fowler, now this is a surprise. Mickey, look who it is.”

“Salvatore, Mickey,” Agent Fowler nodded at Sal and dipped his head a little to see Mickey who was on the far side of the car, away from him. Mickey nodded stiffly.

“I thought we sent you into early retirement. How is it you look exactly the same every time I see you?” Sal asked enviously.

“Black don’t crack, they say,” Agent Fowler laughed easily. He had been more or less a constant presence in their lives over the past decade. He had to be in his mid-fifties and the black hair had turned salt-and-pepper, but that was the only change Mickey could see. Agent Fowler always seemed tall, cool and self-contained, even when he was barging in on them with search warrants.

“I guess we’ll be seeing you around then?” Sal asked, the challenge clear in his voice.

“Oh, you can count on it.”

Ian felt around his sheets and beneath his books for his vibrating phone. He stared in disbelief at the number on the screen—Mickey. Mickey never called, he never even texted. This was a modern day miracle. Ian quickly answered the call.


Ian was struck by several things at once. Chief among them was that he was back to being Gallagher, and that Mickey sounded sexy as hell over the phone.


“Oh! Um, yeah, I’m here.”

Mickey didn’t respond right away, and the silence stretched between them. Eventually, he said words that were absolutely music to Ian’s ears. “Wanna go for a ride?”

Ian was no pushover. Mickey had been a jerk to him for the past couple of weeks and Ian fully intended to let him sweat it out a little. Ten seconds seemed about fair.

“Come and get me.”

Chapter Text

Ian Gallagher was an idiot. He realized he was an idiot, because he had finals in a week and he was doing (or rather attempting to do) a large portion of his studying in the home of the world’s biggest distraction. He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face before reading the same paragraph for the seventh time. If his entire Introduction to Business exam was based on those five lines, he would definitely ace it, no problem.

What was worse, Mickey wasn’t even there. He never knew where Mickey was at any given time, apart from their car rides and when Mickey was home. That didn’t lessen Mickey’s ability to distract the hell out of Ian though. The alarming thing for Ian was that he worried when Mickey was out of his sight. What was he doing when he wasn’t hanging around Ian, being torturously sexy? Was he in danger? Was he getting in trouble? The relief Ian felt when Mickey eventually popped up again was indescribable.

After the emotional ringer Mickey put him through on a daily basis, Ian figured the very least Mickey could do was make out with him a little. Instead, their relationship had slipped into a higher gear—a strange place filled with secret car rides, knowing smiles and outrageous flirting, but no pay off. Ian wondered sometimes if this whole thing was just a massive ego trip for Mickey; if he got off on the fact that there was someone who was crazy about him, while having no real intention of following through. Ian sighed at the thought; even if that was the case, it wasn’t going to change anything. Mickey Milkovich was in his skin like a fever.


A heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder, making Ian jump and snapping him out of his reverie. Sal slid onto the stool across from him at the kitchen island.

“Why the hell are you so jumpy?” Sal asked and peeked at Ian’s text book. “Ah, that’s why. Hard at work or hardly working?”

Ian gave Sal a small smile and shrugged. “Finals next week; I’ve got a ton of reading to do.”

Sal nodded, but Ian wasn’t entirely sure he had heard him. He watched the mobster warily, because the man seemed excited and was digging into his jacket pockets.

“I got you something,” Sal beamed and produced a jewellery box. He slid it across to Ian and watched him expectantly.

Ian hesitated and glanced around apprehensively, half-expecting Mickey to materialize next to them. Ever since Mickey’s question about why he was with Sal and the unexpected fallout, Ian had been skittish about Sal’s gifts. The last thing he wanted was Mickey getting it into his head again that he was nothing but another gold-digger.

“Go ahead, open it, ” Sal nodded with barely contained excitement as Ian opened the box to reveal a massive Bulgari watch. “That case? Platinum, and that strap, real alligator! Ain’t it beautiful?”

It certainly was. Sal gave the craziest gifts and Ian had to admit he loved them. He was going to love pawning them even more when things ended with Sal. He couldn’t help but wonder, though, what Mickey was going to think when he saw it.

“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Sal asked, frowning.

“It’s great,” Ian turned the box and the watch glimmered as it caught the light. “I already have a watch though.”

Sal seemed genuinely surprised to hear that and he blinked at the simple watch on Ian’s wrist. “Well now you have a way better one. So what, you like it?”

Ian smiled and nodded, “I love it. Thank you, Sal.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Sal slid off his stool and came around to Ian’s side. He grabbed Ian by the nape of the neck, pulled the young man close and kissed him behind the ear. “I gonna go take care of a couple things upstairs first, but I’ll call you up in a bit, okay?”

Sal’s implication was clear, and Ian suppressed a sigh when he nodded. Well at least it would be quick and he’d be free to try and study for the rest of the day. Sal left the kitchen to head upstairs and Ian tried hunkering down again to get some studying done. He managed all of ten minutes before his concentration was shattered irreparably.

“Hey,” Mickey’s eyes lit up when he saw Ian upon striding into the kitchen. He grinned broadly as Ian gaped at him and came over to stand next to him. Whatever mission he was on could wait a couple minutes. “What’s up?”

Ian could only blink. Mickey was filthy. His blue overalls were greasy, his face was smudged and his hands were blackened with oil and dirt. Mickey was clearly in mechanic mode and Ian thought it was the greatest thing he’d seen since, well, since the last time he’d seen Mickey.

“Uh,” Ian said eloquently.

“What? Oh,” Mickey finally remembered his state and grinned sheepishly, “yeah, I came straight from work, didn’t get a chance to clean up.” He scratched his nose self-consciously, inadvertently spreading an oil smudge across it. It was adorable; Ian might have just fallen in love all over again.


“Yeah, at the garage? Classic car restoration and maintenance?” Mickey reminded him, “you think I can put mobster/pimp on my tax return forms?”

“You do taxes?!” Ian teased, “hot.”

Mickey snorted with amusement, and hid his bashful grin as he rubbed at his nose with his wrist. Mickey’s sudden bursts of pleased shyness never ceased to delight Ian, and the redhead set about teasing him further.

“I also dig the look,” he said and swept Mickey’s body appreciatively, “the dirty mechanic thing works for you.”

“Grime gets you going, Gallagher?” Mickey pushed back.

 Ian raised his eyebrow suggestively, “you’d be surprised at the things I can get into.”

Mickey chewed on his lip as they stared at each other. It was a dangerous game of chicken and Mickey was forced to blink first.

“Well as much as I’d like to hang around and titillate you further, I have to go talk to Sal,” Mickey said, “where is he?”

“In his study.”

Mickey nodded, but hesitated to leave. He then deliberately wiped his thumb across Ian’s knuckles, grinning wickedly as he did so. “Something to remember me by,” he said before he ran off, leaving Ian burning in his wake.

Ian sighed and smacked his head into his textbook. Mickey Milkovich was the worst. He still hadn’t recovered when a short time later, Jaime strolled into the kitchen.

Jaime nodded at him and he nodded back. Of all the Milkovich brothers, Jaime was by far the most reticent with him. Ian didn’t particularly care; he had far bigger Milkovich fish to fry. Jaime spoke as he headed past Ian towards the basement, “where’s Mick?”

“Upstairs with Sal.”

“Tell him I’m here when he comes down, okay?”

Ian nodded as he trailed a finger around the faint smudge on his knuckles. Something had to give soon. At this rate, he and Mickey were going to kill each other.

Mickey knocked once and burst into Sal’s study, and was greeted with a sight that nearly set his eyeballs on fire.

“Jesus, Sal!” Mickey made a hasty about-face as Sal sputtered in shock. “What the fuck are you doing?!”

“What am I doing? What are you doing, busting in here like that,” Sal zipped up his pants and slammed the laptop shut, though it did nothing to mute the sounds of moaning men emanating from it. Sal cursed under his breath and clumsily tried to shut it down. “I was warming up alright? Sometimes a man needs a little head start.”

It took Mickey a second to realize that Sal was referring to getting warmed up for Ian, and that sent him into another round of convulsions. Sal looked around for something to throw at him, but the office was bare but for Sal’s desk and chair, the couple of chairs facing them, and a few filing cabinets.

“What the fuck do you want?”

Mickey looked around cautiously and heaved a sigh of relief that Sal was more or less decent again. “The feds raided Carmine’s chop shop about an hour ago. They hit Johnny Macchione’s and Little Archie’s places too.”

Sal blanched and sat up in his chair. “What for?!”

Mickey looked at him askance, “what do you mean what for? For suspicion of racketeering, what do you think? We can’t be far down the list.”

“Why the fuck am I just hearing about this now?”

“Because I’m just telling you now,” Mickey answered, exasperated. “Not like I could call. They probably have us wired to hell and back. I’m guessing you’ll be getting a call from the big boys any minute now about a meeting.”

As if on cue, Sal’s cell phone rang and he winced at the sound. He answered it and responded only with terse responses to whoever was speaking to him on the other end of the line. Sal’s whole mood soured immediately. He had been summoned to a meeting where he would no doubt spend the next few hours being sneered at and condescended to like some dunce. All this, just because Tony was making his play to be underboss; it made Sal’s gut twist. He hung up the phone and frowned at Mickey.

“Meeting in an hour.”

“You want me to get one of the made boys to drive you?” Mickey offered. Neither he nor his brothers would make a welcome sight at the meeting.

“Nah, I’ll drive myself,” Sal muttered, “Fucking up my night. I need to freshen up to face those fuckers. You, get clean and stop trailing shit all over my house. Call me if anything else comes up.”

Mickey nodded and backed out of the study. He smiled as he headed to his room to wash up, his mind already racing ahead to when Sal would be gone and he and Ian could relax and hang out for a bit. He didn’t dare imagine going any further than that—his responsibilities and loyalty yanking him back from taking the next step like a leash around his neck. He knew Ian was open and he knew he should shut down whatever it was that was happening between them. Fuck if he could do it though. The second he saw Ian, everything just went haywire and all Mickey wanted to do was get as close as circumstances would let him. Fuck it; he’d deal with it next time. Right now all he wanted to do was to get clean and get next to Gallagher.

Ian was still on the same paragraph, but now he had moved into the living room. It hadn’t been a conscious decision, but the thought of Mickey had pulled him from the kitchen. He spent his time glancing back at the stairs with every sound. His heart skipped a beat when he heard footsteps coming down, but was bitterly disappointed when Sal emerged instead. Still, Sal seemed as if he had freshened up and had changed clothes as if to go out, so Ian grew cautiously optimistic. He gave Sal a small smile when he plopped down next to him on the couch.

“Listen, I have to go out for a bit, some unpleasantness has popped up. Please don’t be angry at me, I promise I’ll make it up to you,” Sal said as he rubbed Ian’s thigh. He frowned when he saw the smudge on Ian’s right hand and reached for it, “how the hell did you manage to get that on you here?”

Ian snatched his hand out of reach. “No! I mean, no, it’s fine,” Ian tittered nervously, “you’re all cleaned up, you don’t wanna get messy again.”

“Ah, you’re right,” Sal agreed before his eyes fell on Ian’s textbook once again, “you haven’t moved from the page the whole time I was upstairs?”

“Ah, I guess so,” he shrugged and trailed off lamely.

Sal raised an eyebrow and his voice grew deceptively soft, “heh, you sure this college shit is for you?”

Ian straightened up immediately, “why, what do you mean?”

Sal splayed his hands disarmingly, “I mean—I don’t know—school isn’t for everybody, you know? Not everyone’s got the head for it, and you, you already have that face. That’s an embarrassment of riches already. Can’t have everything…”

Ian frowned, his brow furrowing deeply. “Are you calling me dumb?!”

“Whoa, who said anything about anyone being dumb? Don’t go putting words in my mouth and then getting pissed about it. Maybe you should ask yourself why it’s taking you all freaking day to turn a goddamned page,” Sal said sharply before suddenly softening his tone again. “If it’s too much for you, you know you don’t need to do this shit. A boy like you should be taken care of anyway.” Sal stood and dropped a kiss on the top of Ian’s head and sauntered away, leaving a sullen and deflated Ian in his wake. Ian shut the book in defeat and disgust, and rubbed his eyes tiredly.

“Don’t buy that shit he’s selling,” Mickey said quietly after Sal had left. He dropped down next to a startled Ian, pressing as close to him as he dared. “Sal is ninety percent bullshit and ten percent hot gas. Don’t ever listen to him.”

Ian huffed softly and plucked at the knees of his jeans. He shuffled closer, erasing the already miniscule distance between them, and soaked in the comfort of Mickey’s body heat. He glanced over at Mickey, whose hair was still damp. Fresh from the shower Mickey might be Ian’s favourite itineration yet, where Ian could smell his scent best, even beneath the soap and shampoo.

“I don’t know sometimes,” Ian admitted to himself and to Mickey, “maybe I’m fooling myself with this. I’ve been barely staying afloat all semester and it feels like I’m drowning sometimes. Maybe Sal just sees it.”

Mickey sucked his teeth, “Gallagher, it’s your first semester and you’ve been dealing with a shitload of distractions. Give yourself a break; you’ll find your groove. And as for Sal,” Mickey scoffed, “you wanna hear a story?”

Ian nodded and Mickey wiggled down until his head was resting against the back of the couch and he propped up his foot on the low table.

“Okay so, when I was around fifteen, right, Sal buys a painting off this fence who swears it’s a Monet. It wasn’t a Monet, fake as shit, but Sal believes it. Not for nothing though, it was a beautiful painting, no less than the real thing would be. Sal loved that shit,” Mickey smiled at the memory, “he hung it in the living room in the main house to show off, and he’d spend at least ten minutes just staring at that shit every day for a while, just overwhelmed by it. That was his prized possession for a while,” Mickey said softly.

He shifted, beginning to frown as he recalled what happened next. “Then one day, I remember I was in the living room and he was passing the painting and he just uses his butterfly knife and nicks the frame. Just nicks it, easy as you please and keeps walking. I thought I’d imagined it, except the frame was cut so…” Mickey shrugged, “then about a week later, he does that same shit again and he just keeps doing it until he finally starts doing it to the painting itself. After a while, that shit was in tatters. Linda made me take it down and dump it.”

Mickey shook his head, “I couldn’t understand it. I mean he loved it; he loved that painting, so why would he rip it apart? Even weirder, sometimes I think he didn’t even realize he was doing it. It took me a minute to figure it out.”

“Why’d he do it?” Ian asked.

“Honestly?” Mickey rubbed the back of his neck and looked over at Ian, “I think he figured out it was too good for him. It was just too nice, and he’d shown it off because he couldn’t help it, so now someone was bound to come and take it from him because it’s obvious he shouldn’t have that shit. So he starts destroying it bit by bit, just to bring it down to his level. But then by doing that, he makes it not beautiful anymore and he loses interest. It’s who he is; it’s what he does, to everybody and everything,” Mickey sighed and looked at Ian sincerely, “don’t let him do that shit to you, Gallagher. Don’t let him devalue you.”

Ian’s heart constricted painfully in his chest. He looked down at his fingers in his lap before glancing at Mickey uncertainly. “You honestly think I’m too good for him?” he croaked.

“Got eyes, don’t I?” Mickey said and reached for the cigarettes in his pocket, now desperate for some kind of buffer in another unexpected, raw moment.

Ian tried to recall anyone besides Dr. Lester or Alex telling him he was too good for anything. He didn’t know why it affected him so much coming from Mickey, but the feeling was there, hot and rapidly expanding from his chest to the rest of him. It felt crazy, it was crazy, and for a moment all he could think was that he’d never wanted anyone to hold him as badly as he wanted Mickey to right then. Instead, all he could do was press closer, until a belated realization hit home.

“Does he do that to you?” Ian asked quietly, “the whole cutting down thing?”

Mickey wet his thumb and grabbed Ian’s hand, and absentmindedly wiped away the smudge he’d placed there earlier. “He does it to everybody, Gallagher,” Mickey gave Ian a reassuring smile and reluctantly released his hand, “but I’m a pro; I know how to handle it.”

A million thoughts raced through Ian’s head. Fourteen years of that. Fourteen years of being ripped apart and pieced together; how could someone survive that? How could someone walk away from that whole? The image of Mickey being on the verge of panic as his mustang took him too far away, floated to the surface of Ian’s mind. He had thought Mickey was panicking about leaving his family behind, but now Ian wondered how much of that had really been about Sal. Mickey and Sal’s relationship sounded so messed up. Ian’s thoughts were interrupted by Mickey’s grumpy complaint.

“What the fuck is in your pocket?!”

The friction between them had worked the jewellery box to the top of Ian’s pocket and Mickey went for the offending object before Ian could deflect his attention. Mickey opened the box, revealing the expensive watch within it. Ian’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly, and he braced for Mickey turning cold again.

“You don’t like the watch?” Mickey asked him, “I hauled ass all over the Diamond District looking for this model.”

Ian blinked in surprise, “you bought this for me?”

“Well, my time, Sal’s dime.”

This certainly cast the gift in a different light. “Why this particular watch?”

“You don’t recognise it? It’s the same one I have. I figure we could be watch buddies.”

That was the dorkiest thing Ian had heard all day. He couldn’t fight back his smile. “I have a watch, you know.”  

Mickey rolled his eyes, “that’s not a watch, Gallagher, that is a child’s toy. This is a real watch. If you’re running late, it will teleport you, so make sure you’re dressed.”

“I’ll have you know that my big brother bought me this watch for school!”

Mickey lolled his head against the back of the couch and turned big, blue eyes on Ian. “Look, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or anything, but your brother didn’t buy that watch; he got it out a gumball machine.”

Ian let out a bark of laughter before snickering as he stared down at his hands. “Why do you have to be such a dick to me, Mickey?”

“Mmm, who’s being a dick to you?” Mickey’s voice was a soft caress over Ian’s body and soul, “I’ve been nothing but sweet as sugar to you,” his voice dropped even lower and his hand twitched dangerously close to Ian’s thigh. The charged moment was interrupted by a cough and the sound of shuffling from the kitchen, and Mickey was startled out of the moment.

“Who’s here?” Mickey demanded, immediately on edge.

“Oh, um, Jaime; he came in a while ago.”

Mickey sagged with relief, but didn’t snuggle against Ian as he had been doing before. Instead, he got up and Ian almost mounted a protest.

“Get some studying done,” Mickey instructed and handed the watch to Ian. “I’m going to go see what my brother’s up to.”

Mickey headed into the kitchen to find Jaime putting the finishing touches on his sandwich. He grinned easily and stole his brother’s beer, which earned him a glare. At least that’s what Mickey thought it was about until Jaime corrected his misconception.

“What the fuck was that?” Jaime asked in a harsh whisper.


“You two cuddling on couches now; why the fuck did you tell him you bought the watch?” Jaime had emerged from the basement only to stumble upon the last bit of Ian and Mickey’s conversation and he was not pleased.

“What difference does it make? He knows it’s Sal’s money. We were just talking.”

“Don’t bullshit me,” Jaime scoffed. “You really want to start pulling this shit now? He’s Sal’s fucking problem. We are up to our neck in shit and we got it coming at us from all sides and now you wanna start thinking with your cock? Shut it down.”

Mickey shook his head, “there’s nothing to shut—”

“Don’t even try. Whatever the fuck is happening with you two, shut it down now,” Jaime took another beer from the fridge and picked up his sandwich. “This is not the time, Mickey; and he certainly isn’t the one.”

“Shut it down.”

Mickey rubbed his face anxiously as the phone rang. It took a while, and his heart tripped over itself when the line opened and Ian’s sleep-husked voice greeted him.


Before Ian, Mickey didn’t spend any time wondering if he had a good imagination. What would that have mattered? What difference would it have made? Since Gallagher blew into his life though, he had to admit that his imagination had been running away with him in the worst way. All it took was Ian’s sleepy rasp to have him thinking about tousled red hair, a bare torso, and twisted sheets. Mickey licked his lips and ran his fingers through his hair, completely forgetting that he hadn’t responded yet.


“You were sleeping.” It was a dumb observation; of course Ian was sleeping. He wasn’t the one laying awake at nights, burning and scared of the power and vividness of his dirty dreams. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Ian chuckled softly, “it’s okay, you can wake me up any time.”

Well shit.

“Shut it down.”

Mickey shifted against his pillows and listened to the sound of Ian’s calm, steady breathing. He wondered what it would be like to lie next to him, see him sleep; hear his calming breathing in person. He perversely wondered what it would take to wear Ian Gallagher out. He shifted again and squeezed his rapidly hardening erection through the soft material of his sheets.

“Shut it down.”


Was he imagining it or was Ian’s voice even rougher and deeper now? It was doing crazy things to Mickey—dangerous things.


There was no mistaking the sirens going off and Mickey rubbed his face again. This was impossible.

“It’s Iggy’s birthday tomorrow,” Mickey said at last, putting the brakes on just in time.

“Iggy?” Ian echoed, nonplussed.

“We’re having a party at Sandrini’s, he said to invite you. He really wants you there.”

“Iggy wants me there?” Ian asked, a small sigh in his voice.

“Said it wouldn’t feel like a party without you.”

Ian laughed, “no shit? Well I’ll be there then. I’d never want to disappoint a man on his birthday.”

“I’ll keep that in mind when mine rolls around.”

“Yeah,” Ian whispered, “you do that.” There was another pause and the electricity crackled between them across the line. Ian took a deep, audible breath, “Mickey, I…”

“Get some sleep, Gallagher. I’ll give you a heads up when I’m on my way to get you,” Mickey said and listened to another small defeated sigh.

“Goodnight, Mick.”

“Night, Gallagher.”

“911, what’s your emergency?” Alex asked when Ian flung his door open.

“The boy I liked invited me to a birthday party and he’s going to be here in a few hours and I have nothing to wear!” It came out as one, long, frantic word and Ian yanked her into his apartment.

“And just like that, I’m thirteen years old again. Can you check my braces for broccoli and pass my Clearasil?”

“This is no time for jokes, Alexis!”

Like hell it wasn’t. Alex bounced onto Ian’s bed, folded her legs beneath her and watched as Ian went Tasmanian devil on his closet.

“Help me!”

“I would, but I’m having far too much fun watching your little episode here,” Alex said and flopped down into Ian’s pillows. She took out her tablet to access her course notes while she kept an eye on Ian’s impending meltdown. “But what does one wear to a mobster soirée?  Do you do business casual, semi-formal? Maybe it’s strictly velour tracksuits. Oh, if only they covered these dilemmas in the pages of Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. I don’t think even Cosmo would have any suggestions.” 


Alex rolled her eyes and shuffled off the bed. She shooed him aside and examined his closet before hauling down a green dress shirt and a black blazer. “There, slap on some black pants and bob’s your uncle.”

Ian eyed the outfit critically, “are you sure?”

“You’re a redhead, green is a no brainer, and also don’t ask for my superior expertise if you’re going to second guess me.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good selection, but does it say ‘I’ll blow you in a back alley if you give me a chance?’” Ian asked and frowned at the blazer.

Alex rolled her eyes. “Yeah, pretty sure your mouth will be saying that loud, clear and deep. You should invest in a few articles of tear-away clothing. Nothing says you’re easier than a first grade math problem like the sound of pants unsnapping,” she said dryly, but then looked up to see her friend apparently contemplating it. “Ian, do not buy tear-away clothing. Why not get Lucite heels while you’re at it?”

“Well aren’t you casual,” Ian said with a smile as he took in Mickey’s black dress shirt, pants and red tie. There was no vest or jacket beneath the black trench coat and Ian wondered if this is what really passed for casual with Sal’s crews.

Mickey sniffed and rolled his eyes, “Sal sort of hijacked the proceedings a little bit and now there’s a whole bunch of the old boys showing up. Have to look the part.”

Ian frowned at that little bit of information. He had hoped, futilely, that Sal would have skipped the party and that it would have been mostly family and friends of the Milkoviches. Sal’s presence was an immediate dampener on things; flirting was going to be so much harder now.

“Iggy okay with that?”

“As long as Iggy gets liquor and some head, he’s golden,” Mickey said, “I’ll make sure he gets plenty of both.”

“Such a good brother,” Ian purred and leaned against the door, making Mickey snort and tug cutely at his coat sleeves.

“You look good,” Mickey said spontaneously as his eyes swept down Ian’s body. He then immediately looked away, embarrassed by his admission. “You ready?”

Ian’s smirk hitched higher and he nodded eagerly. He grabbed his coat and followed Mickey out.

They pulled up to Sandrini’s and Ian was surprised at the number of cars there. The place was probably packed. Sal’s interference had made the party far bigger than Ian had anticipated.

“When’s your first exam?” Mickey asked, surprising Ian.

“Um, next Tuesday.”

“So you’re probably going to need to conserve your brain cells. Remember what I said about keeping up with Sal?”

“Last time was a freak occurrence.”

Mickey seemed unconvinced, “sure it was. Am I going to have to keep an eye on you the whole night?”

Ian shrugged, “I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” he said innocently.

Mickey simply shook his head. “Get out of my car.”

It was packed. Iggy’s birthday party had transformed into a full on mobster mash, much to the annoyance of the Milkoviches. There wasn’t much to be done about that other than make the best of it. Mickey had Svetlana send in most of their girls with Tony, while Jaime brought in some new girls from the neighbouring town. With that, the party was in full swing.

Ian realized he was going to spend much of the night feeling frustrated. Sal had glommed onto him almost immediately after he stepped in the bar. Ian wound up on the opposite end of the bar watching Mickey multitask with keeping the higher-ups happy, monitoring his girls and making sure Iggy was plied with a steady supply of alcohol. The only thing he could do for amusement was to keep moving and get his thrill out of watching Mickey’s consternation as he searched for him. Mickey’s evident relief and easy smile when he finally spotted him were more than enough to keep Ian in a good mood despite the lack of contact.

Ian’s mood stayed fairly buoyant until he felt another pair of eyes boring into him. He followed the weird vibe to find Jaime sipping his drink and staring at him impassively and Ian quickly swallowed and looked away. The next time he dared to look over at Jaime again, the eldest Milkovich had corralled one of the new girls, and was whispering intently in her ear. Ian didn’t know why it made him uncomfortable until he saw the way she looked over at Mickey and nodded. Ian watched with growing horror as the young woman wended her way through the crowd, all sex and slink in a tiny lace dress, and she didn’t stop until she had her hands on Mickey’s tie.

She was gorgeous, admittedly, tall and willowy, with olive skin and a cool afro. She brazenly ran her hands up Mickey’s chest until she was rubbing the back of his neck, and bent forward to nip at his earlobe. The men around Mickey hooted lecherously and made their own plays for her.

“Never mind him, baby, he can’t do nothing for ya,” one of the older ones said, “come find out what a real man’s like.”

“Never been with a moulignon before,” another said, “maybe it’s about time.”

The chatter mixed taunting and encouragement, and the men watched Mickey and his new companion expectantly. She pulled back and tugged at his tie before turning away and striding purposefully towards one of the back rooms.

“What the fuck are you waiting for?” one of the older heads clapped Mickey on the back, “you’re not going to get on that, because if you can’t handle it…”

Mickey sent a brief look Ian’s way before squaring his shoulders and following the young woman out of sight.

Ian was left reeling. His jaw slackened as he watched Mickey leave and his first instinct was to get up and drag him back. Shortly after Mickey disappeared into the back, Ian quickly got to his feet, determined to head outside and get some air before his head exploded. He didn’t get far before a heavy hand dropped around his shoulder and spun him in the opposite direction, piloting him towards the back rooms. It wasn’t Sal, much to Ian’s surprise; it was Jaime.

“Want to see something?” Jaime asked, a tinge of glee to his voice.

It didn’t take Ian long to figure out what he was about to see. He let Jaime pull him forward; morbid, masochistic curiosity winning out over self-preservation.  Jaime took him into an empty room, which confused Ian for a bit, until Jaime slid open a small, square panel in the wall, which offered a well-concealed look into the neighbouring room.

“Old mob dudes, man; fucking perverts the lot of them,” Jaime explained, “but you can’t say they’re not creative.”

With the panel open, Ian was able to hear them before he saw them. The girl was loud, showing a very vocal appreciation of Mickey’s efforts. Jaime stepped aside and let Ian step hesitantly before the panel. In the other room, Mickey had the young woman bent and spread over a pool table in the room. He was biting his lip and furrowing his brow in concentration as he gripped the woman’s slim hips and rocked forward.

“Ain’t it beautiful?” Jaime asked softly, watching Ian over the top of his cigarette. The sudden, strong resemblance to Mickey only made the whole thing so much worse. Ian spun away and fled from the room.

Jaime caught up with him outside, where Ian was taking deep gulps of frosty air as he tried to center himself. “So look, I know you and I haven’t established that warm, chummy rapport you managed to get out of my brothers, so let me start off our relationship with a bit of advice,” Jaime’s voice was soft as he leaned forward to get close to Ian’s face. “Stay in your fucking lane. You stick with Sal’s cock and stay away from my brother’s. I’m not going to say it twice. Mickey can’t afford your ass anyway.”

Jaime stepped back and took a cautious glance around before addressing Ian once more. “Pull yourself together, because Sal’s waiting for you in the main room. Gotta work off that shiny new watch, right?”

Jaime headed back inside leaving Ian running his hand over his face and through his hair in agitation. He took a couple more minutes before he headed back inside.

“That was amazing, baby,” the young woman exhaled, and straightened to tug down her dress and fuss with her hair.

Mickey snorted, “yeah, sure, spread the word.”

“Whatever you say, baby,” she turned to face him and frowned when she watched him unroll the condom. “you didn’t come? You want me to handle that for you?”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. We’re good?”

“Golden, baby,” she shrugged, a little confused about the orgasm role reversal, but she wasn’t about to complain. She tidied up and wasted no time heading back out to the party.

Mickey sighed and fought the urge to start throwing billiard balls around the room. Instead, he did just as the young woman had done: tidied up, put his game face on, and waded back into the fray.

He exited the room just as Ian was coming back in from outside. Their eyes met and Ian immediately bolted, taking off for the main room. Mickey stopped short of chasing him and decided to have words with his brother instead. He found Jaime in a corner, on the verge of falling asleep.

“Jaime, what the fuck?” he whispered harshly to his brother.

Jaime raised a tired eyebrow at him. “What the fuck about what, Mickey?”

“What’s with sending the girl over?”

“It didn’t look right.”


“It didn’t look right,” Jaime repeated, “all this hot, new trim walking around, and all you’re doing is schmoozing old bastards and eye-fucking the boss’s side piece. It didn’t look right, so I fixed it. You’re welcome.” Jaime got to his feet and sighed deeply. “I’m going to go see Iggy then I’m heading home. I’m fucking tired.” He trudged past his brother and left him with a parting shot, “I told you to shut that shit down.”

It was almost three in the morning and the party was finally winding down. Mickey found Ian alone and asleep on the couch in the main room. Sal had left him there to continue partying; Ian had had no such inclination. When Mickey shook him awake, he wasn’t exactly welcoming. He woke up, feeling all types of wretched and shrugged Mickey off roughly when the man continued to shake him. Mickey backed off, sensing the sourness in his mood.

“It’s late; I need to take you home,” Mickey said quietly. Ian didn’t respond. Instead he struggled to his feet and lurched for the door, shoving hard against Mickey as he did so. Mickey simply gathered up Ian’s jacket and followed him out.

It was a silent and icy ride away from the club. Mickey kept glancing nervously at Ian, who kept his sullen gaze firmly out the window. A few more minutes of it and Mickey couldn’t take it anymore.

“You want me to get you some coffee? Sober you up a little; probably make you feel better,” Mickey offered.

Ian didn’t respond, rather there was a stubborn lift of his chin and another drop in the temperature of the car. Mickey licked his lips and fidgeted uncomfortably, but didn’t try engaging Ian further. When he came to an all night McDonald’s, he entered the drive-through and purchased two large coffees. Mickey then parked in the deserted lot and gingerly placed Ian’s coffee in his cup holder.

“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to,” Mickey’s voice was barely above a whisper. Then there was silence as they sat in the McDonald’s parking lot on a cold December night—one glaring out the window while the other sipped his coffee and waited. It didn’t take too long for Ian to snap.

“So can you only get it up for whores or…?”

“Watch it,” Mickey warned and Ian scoffed and looked back out the window. Mickey chewed his inner cheek, “what the fuck was I supposed to do, Ian? Why are you acting like I have a choice in this?”

“Don’t you?! What, you’re under some obligation to fuck every whore that comes onto you?!” Ian erupted.

“Yes, yes I am!” Mickey exploded right back. “What the fuck do you think this is?! Where do you think I am, huh? A hot girl comes to me in front of everybody, giving it to me for free—I’m not married, I’m not sick—what the fuck am I saying no to her for? You know how that would make me look?!”

“Like what, Mickey? What would you look like?!”

Mickey looked at Ian incredulously, “like a fag!”

Ian flinched but ploughed on anyway, “well isn’t that what the fuck you are?!” There was a stunned silence after Ian’s outburst , and after a moment, he quieted his voice. “Isn’t it?”

Mickey scratched at his forehead and looked around cautiously; the paranoia deeply instilled in him. “Look, I like women okay? I think they’re beautiful. Girl on girl porn might just be the greatest thing ever. I just don’t want to fuck them.”

“So, you are gay?” Ian asked hesitantly, hope blooming wildly within him.

“Pretty much,” Mickey sighed, “but that doesn’t leave this fucking car, Gallagher.”

“Does Sal know?”

“Fuck no, the less shit Sal has on me, the better. Plus it’s safer if he’s not paranoid about me putting my hand in his cookie jar,” Mickey said, darting a significant look at Ian before focusing again on his coffee cup.

“Do your brothers know at least?” Ian frowned, the image of Jaime sending over that girl was seared into his brain.

“Yeah, they know; they’re fine with it,” Mickey nodded, “but they also know I need to keep my ass covered. Working girls know shit; they have all the secrets and sometimes you don’t know who they’re talking to. I’m just lucky my dick understands the situation and works when it needs to. For all the power Sal has, the second they find out for sure he’s into cock, they will gut him like a fish. I’m nobody, I’m not made, I’m not even Italian; what the fuck do you think they’d do to me? Sal’s my only fucking protection and if they find out what I really am, there’s fuck all he’d be able to do about it.”

Ian was silent and he stared bleakly ahead. Mickey’s life sounded so fraught and exhausting. Why did things have to be like that? Why does everything have to be so fucking hard?

“I like you,” Ian finally admitted in a low voice as he stared down at his hands. “I really like you…so much.”

There was a moment of quiet before Mickey responded, “I like you too.”

Ian’s head shot up and Mickey was smiling at him shyly.

“I do; I’m fucking into you and I’m trying as hard as I can not to be, but I can’t fucking help it, Gallagher,” Mickey said, “your mouth runs nonstop, your jokes are ridiculous and I’ve seen you in gold booty shorts and a ridiculous tiny tie, but I’m here for all of that. I like all of it.”

Ian’s heart was in this throat, and for a moment, he didn’t even trust his voice to speak. He soldiered through the shock though. “So then—”

“No,” Mickey stopped him, shaking his head, “No ‘so then.’ You know it’s not that simple. It’s not about us liking each other. It's fuck all about heat or chemistry or any such shit, Gallagher. You and's just a thing that cannot happen. The sooner we both accept that, the better off we'll be. I really like you, Gallagher, honest to god; but I like breathing just a little bit more.”

Ian stared at Mickey helplessly, the brief hope that had bloomed in his chest now withering away. “So that’s it? Just…nothing?!”

Mickey chewed on his lower lip as he stared at Ian and slowly spun the cooling coffee cup in his hand. He didn’t respond to Ian’s despondent question; what could he say? They both sat silently for a while before Mickey finally started the car.

Ian felt exhausted and defeated. Between the chemicals in his system and the rollercoaster of emotions he’d had just gone through, all he wanted to do was crawl into his bed and never come out. Mickey Milkovich was gay, Mickey Milkovich liked him a lot and Mickey Milkovich had just completely shut him down.

Chapter Text

There was silence for the rest of the ride home; neither one being able to think of anything else to say. Mickey darted nervous and uncertain glances at his passenger the entire time. Ian had fallen silent and sullen again, and stared out the window for the duration of the trip, trying desperately to act as if Mickey Milkovich never existed. When the car parked across from the apartment building, Ian was outside and across the street before Mickey even had a chance to kill the engine.

Mickey made it to the elevator in time to see its doors slide closed in front of Ian, who leaned in the elevator, his eyes downcast. Mickey sighed heavily and hit the button. This was exactly what he had been afraid of; that the minute he was finally forced to say no, that everything would end. He understood the way things were—if you can’t give someone what they want, there really wasn’t much incentive for them to put up with you. He had hoped that somehow it would have been different with Ian; that they could keep something, anything, going once he had made his position clear. Obviously that wasn’t going to be the case. He should have expected it, but it still stung.

He knocked on Ian’s locked door and received no response, so he knocked again. He couldn’t even hear Ian moving around in there, and he imagined Ian sitting on the bed, glaring at the door with that defiant jut of his chin. He knocked again, despite knowing that he should leave, that he should let the chips fall where they may, let sleeping dogs lie, all that trite shit. He should let this thing between them fizzle along with the heavy risk their mutual attraction created. He should let Ian go. Instead, he knocked again.

Mickey jumped back a little, startled by Ian suddenly yanking the door open. The other man filled the doorway and glared at him impassively, and a tense silence stretched between them.

“What?” Ian said tersely, “I’m not in the mood for the safety check shit tonight.”

Mickey’s shoulders slumped a little under the weight of it all. “So that’s it then?” he asked quietly, searching Ian’s face, “we can’t bang so we’re just nothing now? There isn’t anything else here?”

Ian felt like screaming, because of course on what was one of the worst nights of his life, there was always a way for him to feel that much worse. Now he felt like a heel, as if he was a shallow, petulant brat that was throwing a tantrum because he hadn’t gotten what he wanted. But what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to deal with any of this? They couldn’t be together—not in the way either of them wanted—and the realization and fatalism of it all had knocked the wind right out of him.

So what now? How was he supposed to stay close to Mickey, feeling the way he felt and knowing it was hopeless? He had never felt this way about anyone, and every instinct in his body said to chase this feeling, to pursue Mickey until he was completely his. Instead, it was the same old song. Nothing was in his control, not his love life, not his mental health, nothing. This was another prime example of him being unable to seize and shape his own destiny, and Ian didn’t think it had ever felt this devastating.

He turned away from Mickey and went to sit on the bed, leaving the door open. His hangover would be brutal in the morning. He was fucked up and heartbroken and he could find no way out of it. He buried his face in his hands and groaned, but then looked up blearily at the sound of Mickey stepping inside and closing the door behind him.

“I don’t want to be your friend,” Ian admitted, but hastily added to his admission when he saw Mickey’s face fall, “but, yeah, I don’t want to be nothing either.”

“Yeah, same,” Mickey fidgeted uncomfortably, “but we can make it work, right? Maybe we can dial things back for a bit, cool off and ease back into it?”

Ian wasn’t even close to being that optimistic. He had the sinking feeling that if he didn’t distance himself and make a clean break; he’d be suffering under Mickey’s thrall forever. The conflict in his head was intense. A small part of him wanted to accept the reality of the situation, while another part just wanted to cut a run—maybe the Peace Corps this time, since going back to the army was out. The overwhelming feeling though was to figure out this mess, convince Mickey that they had to at least try to make it work somehow. The sad apprehension on Mickey’s face managed to handily defeat all those impulses at once. He couldn’t stay away from Mickey, he couldn’t run away either, and he certainly couldn’t force Mickey’s hand when his fears were so valid. Ian sighed and got to his feet.

“Yeah okay, friends—I think we can manage that,” he tried to pump some lightness into his voice, “you probably suck in bed anyway.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up in mock affront, “excuse me?”

“It’s always better in your head, and then the reality is just disappointing,” Ian shrugged, “maybe it’s best to leave it in fantasy land for real.”

Mickey sniffed, “if that’s how you need to play it to sleep at night, then by all means. But just so you know, I would have been the best lay of your fucking life, bar none.”

It was a stupid thing to joke about and far too soon, but they were desperate to get back on some kind of easy footing. Instead, they found themselves immediately traversing some very dangerous ground. Ian moved closer and closer to Mickey as the latter leaned against the door, pulled by that ever present magnetism.

“Is that right?” Ian challenged, “it’s easy to say shit when you don’t have to back it up.”

“Trust me, I don’t brag, Ian, I state facts,” Mickey grinned at Ian suggestively, not a single alarm bell going off even though Ian was practically on top of him. This had been their new normal lately, always too close for sense, hearts always thundering away and just a slip away falling well over the line. Mickey didn’t realize the danger of the moment until Ian’s hands were sliding up his chest to grip his coat lapels; Ian’s new favourite thing to do.

“Why don’t we try it once then, so you can prove it to me? Quench the curiosity,” Ian whispered.

Mickey bit his bottom lip and tried to think straight. “Wouldn’t be just once, would it? Besides, you know the devil’s at your door, you’re going to open it so you can take a look?”


“Ian, we can’t, Sal would—”

“Forget Sal!” Ian shook Mickey a little, “this isn’t about him, it’s about us. He doesn’t own me!”

“No, he doesn’t,” Mickey agreed as he stared up at Ian earnestly, “but he owns me.”

Mickey gently disentangled himself from Ian’s grip and pushed away from the door so he could open it. “Get some sleep, Ian. I’ll see you.”

With that, Mickey was gone, and Ian was left with his forehead pressed against the door. Sure it would be fine; all they had to do was ease into it.

“You know what, fuck Mickey Milkovich,” Ian ranted to Alex as they sat at a table in a far corner of the cafeteria. “Just fuck him and his friendship and his stupid hair, I’m done!”

It had been two days since “the talk” and Ian had seen Mickey once. It had not gone well for Ian. There had been no alcohol or barbiturates in his system to take the edge and sting off, and when Mickey had nervously tried to make a lame joke, it had taken all of Ian’s willpower not to club the idiot to death with his shoe and then burst into tears. Fuck all of it. He had to respect Mickey’s precarious position and try his best not to exacerbate his plight, but like hell Ian was going to sign up for this kind of torture and pine away in silence.

He had exams in six days and he wasn’t even close to ready. Instead, he was distracted and heartbroken and he needed to sort his shit out. He had told Sal that he needed a few days alone to properly focus on his finals, mostly in a desperate effort to avoid anything Mickey-related. Sal had not been happy about it to say the least, but Sal Boerio’s feelings were literally the last thing in the world Ian gave a flying fuck about. Fuck Sal, Fuck Mickey, fuck everything—Ian hated the world and all its denizens.

“I need to get fucked,” Ian continued growling as he smashed and shredded the shells off Alex’s jar of raw peanuts, “this is what this is all about. All of this shit is nothing but sexual frustration. I haven’t had a decent lay in what, years? Nothing but mediocre sex from fucking geriatric viagroids,” he winced when Mickey’s stupid words found their way into his mouth. “I probably don’t even really like Mickey, or his stupid smile or his dumb blue eyes; I just need to properly blow my load and clear my head.”

“I’m going out tonight,” Ian declared emphatically, while Alex looked on with absolute marvel as her friend demolished her peanuts. She was fairly certain he was going to start shredding his textbook next. “That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go out to a club and find someone young and, like, insanely hot and I’m not going to stop fucking him until my balls are the size of prunes!”

“I volunteer as tribute!”

The joking voice gave Ian and Alex pause and they looked over at the person next to them. It was a young man of Japanese descent, who had been staring at Ian agog for the last twenty minutes, despite the ranting.

“Who the fuck are you?!” Ian snapped and winced when Alex kicked him hard in the ankle.

“Alan, oh my god, hi! When did you get here?” she asked chirpily, as if her best friend hadn’t been carrying on like a homicidal maniac a mere minute before.

“I-I was here the entire time,” Alan blinked at her nonplussed. “I was here when you guys sat down. You invited me to your study group?” he reminded her.

“Oh, huh,” Alex huffed quietly. Admittedly, Alan—sweet, cute and normal as he was in his plain white button down and Harry Potter glasses—might need a little help in the impact department. Already Alex could see Ian’s eyes glazing over as his brain cleared its cache of all Alan-related cookies. She eyed Alan critically; maybe if she gave him a Mohawk or a pompadour. Who doesn’t love a pompadour?

“Yeah,” Ian muttered to himself as he dismissed Alan’s earnest offer in order to obsess over not obsessing over Mickey Milkovich. “That’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Some days Mickey hated his life and this was one of those days. This whole week had been one of those days, actually, but fuck this day in particular. It was close to midnight and he was in Boystown, meeting with one of Sal’s secondary suppliers. At least when he dealt with Dre, he could get some enjoyment out of it, but Dre was out of Sal’s desired poison and Mickey had to deal with the alternates. In any event, he had gotten the stuff and was heading home, only to get distracted by an impossible sight.

There was no way that was Ian in the line to “the Cocktail” with some random jackass hanging over him. It certainly looked a hell of a lot like him though, but before Mickey and his lying eyes could come to an accord, the bouncer had let the redhead and his companion inside. Mickey parked at the next available spot and trotted back to the club, intent on sorting this out.

The Cocktail was packed and the energy was frenetic. It wasn’t a hard guess that most of the patrons were hopped up on something and practically bouncing off the walls. Mickey frowned as he squeezed his way through the crowd of overheated, vibrating bodies and craned his neck to spot who he hoped was merely Ian’s doppelganger. It didn’t take long to find him, despite the crush of people. Ian and his red hair stood out like a homing beacon. Ian was at the bar, laughing away at whatever dumb joke some stupid dude-bro in a pink polo shirt was spitting at him.

Mickey stayed behind Ian and ordered a drink, and watched the mating dance with a baleful eye. He couldn’t see Ian’s face, but the body language was open and dude-bro’s interest was blatant and undeniable. Mickey chugged his beer and kept on glaring. He wondered if this was a regular thing, Ian coming to the clubs looking for more attractive hook-ups, or if this was a result of “the talk.” Either way, it wasn’t his business, Mickey reminded himself. Ian could do whatever the fuck he wanted with whomever he wanted, as long as it wasn’t Mickey and Sal didn’t find out. The reminder left a bitter taste in his mouth and yet he still didn’t leave. He just stayed and glared until dude-bro reached out and ran his hand intimately up Ian’s arm to squeeze his bicep. That was Mickey’s cue to drain his bottle and take it with him when he went to confront the couple.

“What the fuck is this?” Mickey snarled after he came up right behind Ian. He got a small measure of satisfaction out of the way Ian’s body stiffened before the redhead pivoted to face him.

Ian knew it—he fucking knew it. He hadn’t seen Mickey, but he had known he was there. The frissions  of energy coursing through him had told him as much. Ian had been hoping that the goose bumps and the electricity had been from this new guy, but he had known they weren’t. The universe just liked to fuck with him this way, because of course the second time he pledged to solemnly swear off Mickey Milkovich, he and his leather jacket would roll right in to fuck up his resolve once again.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Ian asked, a tinge of exasperation to his voice.

“What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck are you doing here?!” Mickey sputtered, “who the fuck is he?!”

Ian had already forgotten the young man behind him, but he could see the jealousy rearing its head in Mickey. Ian made the snap decision to indulge the feeling for a while. After all, it shouldn’t bother Mickey in the least; weren’t they just “friends?”

“This is Bobby,” Ian said as casually as he could, considering that he was screaming over the pounding music, “we’re going to hang out tonight.”

Bobby’s face lit up at the promise and Mickey looked at Ian incredulously. Taking Ian at his word, Bobby decided it was time to assert his authority.

“Yeah, so maybe you should fuck off, dude. He’s busy right now!”

Mickey’s eyes snapped to Bobby’s with undisguised hostility, “you need to mind your own fucking business, Robert. Me and him are having a conversation right now, but I can make it a me and you situation real quick.”

“He’s right though,” Ian said to Mickey, dragging Mickey’s attention back to him, “I am busy, so maybe you should just leave us to it.”

Mickey’s hostility dissolved and he licked his lips apprehensively. Like fuck he was leaving Ian here. He tried another tack, “if Sal finds out—”

“Don’t tell him,” Ian responded coolly, mirroring Sal’s own words. “He gets to fuck around, why can’t I? I just want to have some fun for once.”

“But you’re not going to have fun with him.”

Ian didn’t know if Mickey meant it as a threat, a plaintive plea or a mere statement of obvious fact. Somehow, Mickey had the ability to make it sound like all three at once. Ian knew he was right, of course. Even if Mickey hadn’t shown up, Ian wasn’t going to enjoy his time with anyone who wasn’t him. Now that Mickey was here, standing in front of him and searching his face, Ian didn’t even have the luxury of deluding himself for a little while longer.

“Look, Ian, let’s just get out of here,” Mickey stepped closer, but stopped short of touching Ian. “We can go back to your place; we can talk—”

“Dude, he’s not going anywhere with you. He said he was staying—”

God-fucking-damn it!” Mickey exploded and stepped around Ian. The lightning fast shift from gentle and beseeching to towering fury had startled Ian, and had left Bobby backpedalling quickly, “what did I just say to you? Didn’t I say that we were having a conversation and that you needed to back the fuck off?!”

Bobby had gone white when Mickey rounded on him, but their little drama was attracting attention and Ian seemed to be waiting to see how the scene would play out. Bobby swallowed; there was no way he was backing down and losing face now.

“You wanna take this outside?” he croaked, mustering some defiance. He was a little taller and had some weight on Mickey, so he really shouldn’t feel so intimidated.

“Outside? You need fresh air to get your ass kicked?” Mickey asked, and a split second later he rammed forward, slamming Bobby with a vicious head butt and dropping his opponent like a ton of bricks. Bobby folded up on the floor, clutching his face while blood gushed from his nose.

“Mickey, that’s enough,” Ian said with alarm and clutched for Mickey’s jacket to yank him off, but Mickey shoved him off. He realized belatedly that he had waited too long to shut it down when Mickey got to his knees to lay into his target.

Ian was about to bodily lift Mickey away when a large shadow swept past Ian and barrelled into Mickey, forcefully shoving him off the crumpled body. Maybe it was security or perhaps one of Bobby’s friends had entered the fray. The man had tackled Mickey against the bar and Ian saw red.

“Get the fuck off of him!” Ian roared and pulled the newcomer to his feet by his collar, before swinging him around and punching him hard in the face. The man was sent spinning, and wound up stumbling into another patron.

Said patron was the wrong one to stumble into. High as a kite and aggressive from whatever drugs were in his system, the affronted man let out a high pitched screech and smashed his drink over the brawler’s head. The domino effect was well underway and the scene rapidly descended into bedlam. As more and more people entered the fracas—most just for the hell of it—Mickey got to his feet and made his way back to the object of his ire, the man still curled on the floor in the fetal position. Mickey didn’t care who he had to fight to get to him.

It was chaos; an all out drug-fuelled brawl in a bar in Boystown, all the while the DJ kept playing. Ian lost sight of Mickey for a while and focused on finding him. Before long, there was the familiar flash of red and blue lighting up the windows from the outside and Ian immediately panicked.

“Oh shit, it’s the cops!”

Not that anyone seemed to care. He found Mickey squaring off with another random  and this time didn’t hesitate to haul him back by his jacket. Mickey almost swung on him in the moment, before realizing that it was Ian.

“Mickey, it’s the cops; come on,” Ian hissed and dragged Mickey through the fray towards the bathrooms. They stumbled inside, and the sudden quiet of their surroundings was shocking. Ian didn’t pause, but hustled to the last stall, climbed onto the toilet tank and shoved the window open. “Mickey, come on!”

Ian squeezed through the window and waited breathlessly for Mickey to wiggle out after him. The second Mickey’s feet hit the ground outside, they were confronted with a scouting policewoman.

“Hey you there, freeze!”

Mickey and Ian did just that…for a second. They then looked at the advancing cop, exchanged a look between the two of them and came to a silent agreement.

“No,” the cop warned, “don’t you do it. Don’t!”

But they were off like a shot, just bolting up the quiet side street while she jogged half-heartedly after them, yelling the whole time. She chased them for about half a block before giving up. What was she going to do, shoot them? She waved her hands in disgust and turned back to pick up slower, easier marks.    

They kept running until they couldn’t hear anything anymore, and wound up stopping in some dark, narrow, empty alleyway to catch their breath. Mickey was laughing out loud. His knuckles were bruised but his blood was up and he felt better than he had in days. Ian, however, didn’t seem as amused with the situation.

“What is wrong with you?!” he yelled at Mickey, and the latter’s smile faded.

“What, you pissed because I beat the shit out of your fairy, douchebag boyfriend?” Mickey snapped back at him.

“It was none of your business. That had fuck all to do with you!”

“The fuck it didn’t! You think I was going to just stand there and watch you fuck up with some loser?!”

Their voices kept climbing, and soon they were screaming in the middle of the alleyway. As it went on, they yelled over each other, each one determined to get the last and loudest word.

“Why were you even there?!” Ian threw his hands up, “since fucking when do you do gay clubs?”

“I can sense you fucking up from miles away, it’s like the Bat signal, or Spidey sense or whatever,” Mickey snarked, “what the fuck were you doing there? If Sal found out—”

“Fuck Sal!” Ian was at the end of his rope, “I just needed one fucking minute away from him; away from you!  You want to snitch on me, go the fuck ahead!”

“I ain’t no snitch!” Mickey said defensively, indignant at the mere thought of it.

“Then leave me alone! Are you that concerned about Sal’s feelings? How is it your fucking business what I do?”

 “How is it not my fucking business?” Mickey shot back, “you got some asshole putting his hands all over you, making me sick!”

“Why is that your fucking problem?!”

“Because nobody touches what’s mine!”

Mickey’s heated declaration shocked them both into silence, and Ian was left gaping at Mickey, wide-eyed. Mickey stammered badly as he tried to take back his damning words.

“That isn’t what—that wasn’t what I was—I meant—”

Whatever Mickey was trying to get out was cut clean off by Ian grabbing him and crushing their lips together. Mickey grunted with surprise and his hands automatically came to bunch into Ian’s jacket to pull him closer. Ian shoved Mickey against the wall and bit and pulled at Mickey’s lips, demanding access, and Mickey wasn’t about to deny him. The kiss was rough and hungry, and grew more demanding as Ian twisted his fingers into Mickey’s hair and plunged his tongue into his mouth.

Ian ground against Mickey instinctively, making them both moan. Mickey arched off the wall, pressing into Ian’s body, desperate to get closer. He fisted one hand into the red hair while the other clawed at the back of Ian’s jacket. Mickey jolted when Ian reached down between them and groped his crotch and Mickey shoved him off, leaving them both struggling for breath.

Ian didn’t speak, but stood panting in the middle of the alley while Mickey looked around, wild-eyed. Mickey ran his hand through his dishevelled hair and stared down the expanse of the empty alleyway before his eyes settled on Ian again. There was a moment and a pause, as they locked eyes, and this time it was Mickey who was on him, pushing him back until he connected with the opposite, and surrendering to the hunger and desperation.

Ian gripped Mickey’s hips as the kiss deepened and pulled their bodies flush together, yearning for more contact and friction. Mickey broke the kiss, eliciting a whine from Ian that turned into a moan when Mickey trailed hot kisses along his jaw line and down to his neck. He shuddered when Mickey nipped at his throat and felt his knees go weak when Mickey latched on to the sweet spot right below his ear. Ian’s body couldn’t decide whether to focus on the tantalizing pressure of Mickey’s increasingly aggressive biting and sucking, or on the thumb tenderly stroking his cheek. He was painfully hard and Mickey was no better, so Ian grabbed Mickey’s ass and jerked against him again, aching for some relief.

“Fucker,” Mickey growled softly against Ian’s throat. He shoved his cold hand under Ian’s shirt, pressed it against Ian’s heated flesh and made the redhead squirm even more.

Ian tilted his head to give Mickey more access. He was going to have the most ridiculous hickey at this rate and the thought turned him on more than anything, until one sober, sane thought fought its way to the surface.

“Mick, no; if Sal sees…”

It was like dumping a tub of cold water in top of Mickey. He immediately broke away from Ian and staggered back and shook his head firmly when Ian tried coming after him.

“No,” Mickey panted, “just no.” He dug his hands into his eyes, slumped over and groaned. Jesus, what a monumental fuck up. He straightened up and looked at Ian blearily. “You need to go home.”

“Mickey, let’s just—”

“Go home,” Mickey said sharply and turned around and took off, literally breaking into a run as he exited the alleyway.

Ian slumped against the wall and tried to pull himself together. This was either the best thing ever or the worst. Either way, he and Mickey were going to figure it out soon.

Mickey wasn’t answering his phone. It was the day after the kiss, and Ian called and texted repeatedly, but Mickey was staying stubbornly silent. Ian flirted with the idea of faking a medical emergency, knowing that Mickey would definitely show up then. He shelved the thought, however, since he was fairly certain that Mickey would show up, put him in the hospital for real and then go on his merry way. Still, the radio silence was unacceptable. He and Mickey had things to sort out, strategies to decide, and more making out to do. As the evening fell, Ian realized there was only one course of action—he carefully applied concealer to the bruise of his neck and then called Sal, claiming to miss him. Mickey was there within the hour.

Ian tried not to grin too triumphantly when he breezed out of his building. The smile faded though, when he went to open the passenger door and found it locked, and random crap piled up on the seat. Mickey jerked his thumb to the back, wordlessly telling Ian he was definitely not riding shotgun today.

“Are you kidding me?” Ian asked, exasperated, and tried the passenger door again. Mickey didn’t budge and Ian begrudgingly climbed into the backseat. “Are you even serious right now?” he groused to Mickey, “the backseat? You scared I’m going to ravish you if I sit up front? Or are you scared you might do it instead?”

Mickey said nothing, refusing to take the bait. He simply turned the engine over and pulled away from the curb.

“We have to talk,” Ian persisted and glared daggers at Mickey’s head when the man refused to answer. “You can’t just act like nothing happened.”

“Nothing did happen,” Mickey said at last.

“Oh, he speaks!”

Mickey snorted and avoided the temptation to look at Ian through the rear view mirror. “Give it a rest, Gallagher.”

Ian scooted forward. “Oh no, you’re not going to bust me back down to ‘Gallagher’ just because you lost your shit and kissed me last night!”

“Fuck off! I did not kiss you, you kissed—” Mickey clamped his mouth shut, cursing how easily he fell into Ian’s dumb trap.

“Can’t we just take a few minutes and discuss this like adults?”

Mickey’s answer to that was to flip on the stereo and flood the car with bone crunching death metal. When Ian tried to talk over it, Mickey just upped the volume and left Ian sputtering and indignant.

“Really?!” Ian yelled, barely audible over the pounding music. “You’re a fucking five year old!”

Between the punishing volume of the music and Mickey’s refusal to engage him, Ian was left getting angrier and more frustrated as they headed into the North side. Mickey was being ridiculous. All Ian wanted to do was have one conversation where they could maybe explore a non-fatalistic possibility for a relationship. Instead, Mickey was being an ass and he was going to suffer partial hearing loss for his efforts. He tried once again to engage Mickey and got nowhere. Aggravated, he did the most mature thing he could think of and kicked Mickey’s seat.

Mickey pursed his lips and gripped the wheel a little tighter. He wasn’t going to do this with Ian. He wasn’t going to do anything with Ian, and the brat would just have to deal. If Ian thought he was going to—kick—Mickey gnawed his lip and counted to ten. If Ian thought he was going to—kick, kick—Jesus, between the music and David Beckham back there, Mickey couldn’t even complete a thought.

“Knock it off!” Mickey yelled back, and Ian looked at him with mock confusion.

“What was that? I can’t hear you!”

Mickey figured he could get away with murdering Ian. If they knew half the shit he had to deal with, mobster or no, there wasn’t a jury in America who would convict him.

By the time they got to Sal, they were both furious and fuming. Each one thought the other one was the most unreasonable person in the universe. Sal wanted to see him, so Mickey followed Ian upstairs at a safe distance, trying and failing not to stare at his ass. When they got to Mandy’s room, Ian stood aside, forcing Mickey to knock for Sal. When Sal opened the door, Ian put on an Oscar-worthy performance.

“Hey,” Ian purred. It was only one little word, but it was so silky and seductive, it made Sal and Mickey’s spines straighten. He gave Sal a vulpine smile and entered the room, making sure to slide against the older man as he did so.

“You wanted to see me?” Mickey asked through gritted teeth and gave Ian a look that would have incinerated a lesser soul while Sal’s back was turned.

“Huh?” Sal muttered, completely distracted by Ian’s presence and mood, “yeah, no, never mind, fuck off,” Sal waved him off and swung the door shut on a purpling Mickey.

“So,” Sal ran a nervous hand over his ever thinning hair. Ian was giving off the most intense vibe, and Sal wasn’t sure of Ian’s stare meant fuck or kill, “couldn’t say away, huh?”

“Ever had your prostate massaged?” Ian asked suddenly, further discombobulating Sal. Ian had no intention of sleeping with him. He didn’t have the tolerance or the focus for it. He did, however, want to wind up Mickey a bit.

“Prostate massage?” Sal asked, bewildered. This abrupt, no nonsense Ian overwhelmed and overawed him even more than usual. “You mean like a prostate exam kind of thing?”

“Something like that.”

“I, um, don’t really recall that being a pleasant experience,” Sal said.

“That’s because your doctor wasn’t trying to get you off, and I’m not your doctor, am I?” Ian stood close to Sal and smirked down at him, increasing the mobster’s fluster. “Take your clothes off and get on all fours on the bed…face the door.”

Sal blinked at Ian’s brusque manner and momentarily forgot how to move. He watched as Ian went for the lube in the nightstand drawer and squirted out a liberal amount onto his fingers. Ian looked over at him and noted that Sal had yet to follow his instructions.

“Now, Sal,” Ian said irritably, and Sal snapped into action.

“Okay…” he did what he was told, and was soon on his knees in the bed while facing the door—beads of sweat dotting his forehead in anticipation and apprehension. He tensed slightly when he heard Ian moving behind him. “Is there anything I need to do or—Jesus fucking god!

Mickey jumped a little at Sal’s muffled outburst coming at him through the door. He had no idea why he had been hovering out there, maybe half hoping that Ian would make some excuse and come back out to him. He scowled and stalked off, pissed and disgusted. Fuck Ian Gallagher, he was a passive aggressive little bitch and Sal could keep him.

It took three minutes before Sal was out like a light and snoring softly into his pillow. Ian washed his hands in the bathroom and came back out to sit in the chair by the window. He was going to wait a while before he got Mickey to take him home, lest Mickey think he was desperately chasing after his pigheaded ass. Outside, Mickey sat chain-smoking in the car, trying to pretend that he wasn’t anxiously watching the front door, waiting for Ian to emerge.  They were both thinking the same thing—that the one thing they wanted was utterly impossible and all they could feel was angry and cheated. Unfortunately, the only place they could think to direct that anger was at each other.

Ian didn’t hold out much longer, too eager to get back to Mickey even if it was to glare at him and get shut down some more. He gathered his things, headed out the bedroom door, and nearly collided right into the object of his aggravated affections, who had also snapped and decided to come get him. They glared at each other for a moment before Mickey broke the silence with a sneer.

“Have a good time getting teabagged?”

“Mmhmm,” Ian nodded with a smile, “in fact, wanna check my breath for me?”

Mickey simply glowered as Ian skipped past him and headed down to the car. Mickey’s coat and god knows what else were still piled on the front passenger seat. Ian didn’t care, who wanted to sit next to that jerk anyway? He climbed into the backseat and fantasized about throwing darts at the back of Mickey’s head. Ian put in his headphones in a pre-emptive move against Mickey’s stereo, and tried ignoring the other man as best he could. When he failed at that, he simply kicked Mickey’s seat again.

Mickey let Ian kick his seat a few more times before he retaliated. He slammed on his brakes abruptly at the next red light and sent Ian tumbling to the ground with a squawk.

“My bad,” Mickey sang out, “maybe you should buckle up back there. Safety first and all that.”

Ian settled back into his seat, brushed himself off, and deliberately turned the volume up on his iPod. When Mickey pulled up across the street from his building, Ian was out the car before Mickey had even parked properly. Mickey considered just leaving and letting them both stay mad. Maybe then the attraction would eventually transform into something easier to navigate. It would be better if they hated each other, so maybe he needed to take this tiff as the gift it was and let it go. That would be the smart thing to do, so of course, Mickey was out of the car and heading after Gallagher like the idiot he was. He didn’t even stop to put his coat on.

Ian smiled sweetly at the elderly woman in the elevator as he slipped inside. He quickly pressed his floor and then slammed the “doors closed” button.

“Oh, hold the elevator,” the woman patted his arm, “there’s another nice, young man coming.”

Of course she’d think he was nice. Mickey might have left his jacket and coat in the car, but the rest of the grey three piece suit must have had him looking like someone out of her Casablanca fantasies. Well she was free to have him, but like hell he was letting him on this elevator.

“Don’t be fooled by the suit,” Ian said dryly, and pressed the button harder.

The elevator doors were almost closed until a hand with a very expensive watch on it was jammed between then. The doors slid open and Mickey strode in. He smiled just as sweetly at the confused old woman, who now found herself standing between two young men who were radiating a whole lot of tension.

This was not sitting well with her. She was already convinced that her granddaughter was going to be murdered on a daily basis, given the state of the building and the town. This weirdly fraught standoff was doing nothing to allay fears, no matter how good looking the young men happened to be. When the doors opened on the fifth floor to reveal a couple waiting for the elevator to come back down, the grandmother gratefully hopped off to escape the tension.

“Weren’t you going to the seventh floor? This is the fifth,” Ian asked, and the woman only tittered nervously and waved her hand dismissively.

“You enjoy freaking out little old ladies?” Mickey teased when the doors closed again, and Ian simply turned up his music volume a little bit louder.

Ian didn’t take his headphones out while he waited Mickey to complete his farce of an inspection. He stood by his bed, ignoring the other man completely. When Mickey came to stand before him, he deliberately focused on his iPod. Mickey stared at Ian impassively for a moment before he lost it. He grabbed Ian’s iPod and headphones and sent them sailing towards the kitchen. Ian would never admit his gratitude, because his brain was about to start leaking out his ears.

“So I had a question,” Mickey sniffed and tugged at his sleeves as he turned back to face Ian.

“Well I’m all ears now,” Ian replied wryly.

“Old man balls, are they an acquired taste or does their flavour improve in proportion to how much money gets left on the nightstand?”

“Oh, so this is where we are now? You’re just going to straight up call me a whore to my face?”

“Just asking a simple question, Gallagher.”

Ian closed the small distance between them and got right into Mickey’s face. “Fuck you, you’re nothing but a fucking lackey, and if you think I’m going to make some Joe Pesci-wannabe look down on me, you’ve got another guess coming.”

“Watch yourself,” Mickey said quietly, “just because you’re flavour of the month right now, don’t think I won’t put you in your fucking place.”

Ian looked amused. “You really think you can? Come on, tough guy, take the shot!”

Mickey went for it without a lick of hesitation. By then, the blood had been thundering in his ears and fuck if all this turmoil and energy didn’t have to go somewhere. Why not expend it all on Ian’s perfect face. He swung, but Ian was ready and went low under Mickey’s arm. Ian got hold of him and judo flipped him over his shoulder, sending Mickey crashing onto the bed, almost making him bounce into the narrow crevice between the bed and the window.

As Mickey felt himself flying through the air, he almost rolled his eyes. Of fucking course Ian would know some fancy fighting shit. But Mickey knew how to play his advantages. He kept hold of Ian’s jacket and dragged Ian with him as he fell on the bed. He sprang up quickly and yanked the jacket over Ian’s head, effectively blinding him and trapping his arms for a moment. He grinned at the sounds of Ian’s furious, muffled swearing, but it got wiped away immediately when Ian rammed forward hard, head butting Mickey in the stomach and knocking the wind out of him. Mickey fell backwards, releasing Ian and giving him the second he needed to struggle out of the constricting jacket and toss it to the side.

Ian was on Mickey in a second, hell-bent on messing him up. He straddled Mickey and was about to let his fist fly, only for Mickey to reach up and slap one hand in Ian’s face and grab his hair with the other. Mickey yanked hard, pulling Ian’s head to the side and rolling with him so that their positions were reversed on the loudly protesting bed. Mickey reached out and grabbed the nearest pain-inducing thing he could get his hands on—a heavy, metal alarm clock—fully intending to brain Ian with it.

Ian couldn’t believe this. What kind of self-respecting man pulls hair? It was painful as fuck. Dirty fighting piece of shit… He should have known Mickey wouldn’t fight fair. There wasn’t a single fair thing about him. Mickey still had the tightest grip on his hair, and Ian could feel Mickey’s weight settling on him, no doubt about to land the finishing blow. Ian squeezed his eyes shut and raised his hands defensively to fend off the blow, but it never came. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up to see Mickey glaring down at him, panting heavily with Carl’s obnoxious alarm clock held aloft in his hand. There was a moment of uncertain silence before Mickey slowly lowered his arm and tossed the clock carelessly back onto the nightstand.

“Okay,” Mickey said simply and left himself wide open.

Ian didn’t question it. He surged up and slammed Mickey hard onto his back, eliciting a sharp grunt from Mickey. Ian stripped off his sweater and T shirt, while Mickey went about undoing the two hundred and fifty buttons of his vest.

“For fuck’s sake, Mick,” Ian hissed and knocked Mickey’s hands away so he could rip the vest open. The sound of tearing fabric and buttons pinging highlighted the ongoing violence of the moment. Ian yanked open Mickey’s shirt and shoved up his tank top so he could nip at the flesh above Mickey’s ribs and run the rough pad of his thumb over Mickey’s nipple.

Mickey groaned and arched as the heat of Ian’s mouth burned over his torso. He twisted his hand into the red hair and pulled hard, dragging Ian’s face to his. Ian eagerly complied and the kiss was rough and demanding; a clash of teeth and tongues as they ground desperately against each other. The bed creaked as Ian shifted downwards again and blazed kisses down Mickey’s chest and over his abdomen. He paused briefly to unbuckle Mickey’s belt and undo his pants.

He locked eyes with Mickey as he yanked everything down just far enough to free Mickey’s erection. He kept staring up at Mickey, getting lost in the heat and depth of the darkening blue eyes even as he stroked him fast and hard. Mickey moaned and fell back against the pile of pillows. He bucked into Ian’s grasp, and Ian took that as his cue to dip his head and suck Mickey down.

Mickey swore and bucked again. Ian’s tongue swirled around the head of his cock and his mouth swallowed Mickey eagerly. He tangled both hands in Ian’s hair and urged him on, loving every excruciating second of it. He protested loudly when Ian pulled away from him with a wet pop of his mouth.

“Shut up already, give me a second,” Ian said breathlessly and tried to make quick work of removing and tossing Mickey’s shoes and socks, and pulling off his pants and underwear completely. He took a moment to revel in the sight. Mickey Milkovich, completely bare from the waist down and deliciously rock hard. Mickey white shirt was wide open, his tie was askew and his tank was shoved up wantonly. It was so much better than in his dreams.

“Ian!” Mickey demanded and Ian grinned openly at the bossiness. He settled properly between Mickey’s legs and took him in his mouth once more. In his fantasies, he had imagined going slowly and savouring everything during their first time together, but they were both too amped up and desperate to slow for anything. He gripped Mickey’s thigh as he deep throated him, and used his free hand to fondle Mickey’s balls. He moved his hand lower, brushing his long fingers over Mickey’s entrance and watching carefully for his reaction. Mickey’s hips lifted and he pushed down against the pressure of Ian’s fingers, demanding more.

“You gonna get in me, or what?”

That was music to Ian’s ears. He rocked up and grabbed the bottle of lube from off the night table. He tossed it on the bed and moved to take off his jeans. While Ian unzipped, Mickey stripped off the rest of his clothes. He had barely managed to pull off his undershirt, before Ian was shoving him back against the pillows. Ian spread Mickey’s legs, shoved his knees up and unceremoniously shoved a lubricated finger into him. Mickey was electrified. Mickey reached up and held on the wrought iron bars with a white knuckled grip while Ian fingered him roughly.

“You like this?” Ian panted as he jacked Mickey off and pushed another finger in to work Mickey open, “you want it like this?”

“Oh, fuck yeah,” Mickey whimpered and clenched around the probing fingers, “get on me already.”

Ian squirted the lube into his palm and slicked his cock with a few quick strokes. He felt as if he was going to die, he was already so close to coming. He grabbed a pillow and shoved it under Mickey’s ass before he spread him open. He pushed in slowly, dragging a ragged moan out of Mickey as he stretched and filled him. He gripped Mickey’s hips tightly and kept moving forward until he was completely buried inside him.

“Ah fuck,” Mickey whispered as they both went still, adjusting to the insane feeling of it all. It didn’t take long for Mickey to reach the end of his patience though. “Fucking move.”

Ian tried to take it slow. He rocked gently, overwhelmed by the sensation of Mickey hot and tight around him. He couldn’t believe how amazing it felt. Why the hell hadn’t they been doing this since the first day they met? He stroked Mickey’s shaking thighs tenderly, before tightening his grips on Mickey’s hips and rocking forward just a little faster, then a little faster, then even faster still. Soon he was lost, fucking Mickey hard and fast until the headboard loosened up and started slamming against the wall.

The battle had resumed its former fury, and Ian fell forward to brace his hands on either side of Mickey’s head. Mickey wrapped his legs around Ian and urged him on, shamelessly moaning Ian’s name over the cacophony of the squeaking bed springs, the banging headboard and Ian’s own shouts. Mickey let go of the bars of the headboard to pull Ian the rest of the way down. They bit and sucked at each other’s lips and Mickey reached down to grope Ian’s ass as the redhead’s hips snapped and bucked into him. Ian grunted with surprise when Mickey shoved him onto his back, rolling with him so Mickey was on top. Mickey gripped the headboard again with both hands for balance, and rocked forward.

“Oh god,” Ian moaned helplessly as Mickey rode him at a blistering pace. He let his hands roam Mickey’s body, skimming over his thighs, up his back and stroking his face. He gripped Mickey’s cock and pumped it, making it slick with Mickey’s pre-come. He was falling apart, and when Mickey’s hand squeezed his throat and his ass clenched around him, Ian lost it completely.

He came hard, arching into Mickey and digging half-moons into his hip, and ultimately dragging Mickey over the edge with him. Mickey came with his own strangled shout and spilled into Ian’s hand and over his chest. He then slid dramatically off to the side and collapsed next to Ian, and they both lay struggling to fight air into their lungs. They had reached a momentary ceasefire.

It was close to midnight and Ian hadn’t gotten around to drawing his heavy curtains. Moonlight filled the room, gently illuminating two stunned, somewhat appalled, red-faced men as they stared dazedly at the ceiling and stole sidelong glances at each other. It was a tossup as to who  would recover the power of speech and mobility first.

It was going to be Mickey, thanks to the post-coital call of nature. It had been ages since he’d had sex without protection and he was immediately reminded of the issues that came with it. He sighed, clenched all he could and shuffled off the bed. He could see Ian’s twitch of panic before the man visibly relaxed upon realizing that Mickey was heading to the bathroom and not making a midnight escape. Mickey simply ignored him and headed to get some relief and avoid making a mess.

Mickey locked the bathroom door, padded to the toilet, took a seat and set about contemplating the turn his life had taken. Was there ever a fuck up as big as this one? It came in layers, it was so bad. He had slept with Ian, he had had sex without protection, and he had most definitely dipped his dick into his boss’s cookie jar. The worst part of it was that Ian had apparently fucked him up so badly, Mickey was still too deeply in shock to panic or feel guilty over any of it…yet. He cleaned himself up as best as he could and headed back to Ian.

When he stepped out, Ian was sitting up in bed apparently waiting for him. Mickey stepped over the clothes strewn on the floor and stood awkwardly next to bed. He eyed Ian, who was staring back at him silently.

“So,” Mickey started hesitantly and scratched his shoulder, “I guess we need to talk about this then?”

“No,” Ian said and crawled over to him. He knelt in the bed in front of Mickey and tenderly stroked his face, “no, we don’t.”

Ian kissed him softly, cradling his head and circling his waist with his hands. Mickey didn’t have an ounce of resistance left him in. When Ian shifted back a little to pull him into bed, Mickey readily followed. It wasn’t long before they were locked together again. Mickey moaned into the crook of Ian’s neck with each slow, measured thrust of Ian’s body. When Ian came, he bit into Mickey’s bicep, and grinned at Mickey’s pleased moan.

“Always wanted to do that,” Ian admitted sheepishly. He stretched out next to Mickey and stroked his stomach, both of them now on the edge of sleep. “If this is another dream, I swear I’ll fucking kill someone.”

Mickey snorted his agreement and felt himself beginning to drift off. He was replete; he didn’t even protest when Ian cautiously snuggled up next to him and promptly fell asleep, breathing softly against Mickey’s face.  Mickey smiled and let sleep take him. Fuck it; he’d deal with it in the morning.

Chapter Text

It was just past dawn when Mickey blinked awake. He stared blearily at the ceiling and tried to get his bearings, finding himself in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar warmth spread across his body. It was Ian’s arm, flung casually across Mickey’s chest while Ian slept the sleep of the innocent. Mickey rubbed his hand over his face and slowly rolled away to sit on the edge of the bed. He looked back at the sound of Ian stirring and watched as Ian flipped onto his back and settled back into sleep.

They had lost their minds last night, and in more ways than one. Mickey was still struggling to wrap his mind around it. Sleeping with Ian had been the absolutely dumbest thing he could have done and obviously it could never happen again…obviously. Mickey kept staring at Ian’s sleeping form. Ian Gallagher had to be the most beautiful man alive, though that was still no excuse.

What the hell had happened to him last night? He had never been rocked like that in his life—wondered if he ever would be again. He replayed the night and his body automatically began responding to the memory, making his brain switch gears. He reached over and trailed a finger down the length of Ian’s torso and smiled as Ian shivered and twitched beneath his touch. He trailed the finger back up again and swiped his thumb across Ian’s nipple. His smile hitched higher as Ian shivered again and softly mumbled Mickey’s name in his sleep.

“Damn straight,” Mickey thought to himself before trying to shake the thought. Ian whispering his name in his sleep wasn’t supposed to be sexy, it was dangerous. Still, it was hard to get his priorities straight. Ian naked and asleep was so hot it was bordering on obscene and Mickey’s hand seemed to have a mind of its own.  He swept his hand over Ian’s chest and down his abdomen, until he was stroking Ian’s hardening cock and hearing Ian stutter his name as he surfaced from sleep.

It was a fuck up, Mickey told himself even as he shifted towards Ian and nipped at his hip. The way Mickey figured it, said fuck up would officially end when he walked out the door, so why not make the most of it? Jesus, something really was wrong with him; Ian had messed him up somehow. He hated kissing, avoided sucking dick as much as it was possible, so what was it about Ian’s lips that had Mickey hanging on to them as if they gave life? Why the fuck did he want to taste Ian so badly? He gave into the temptation and slowly popped the head of Ian’s cock into his mouth, almost experimentally.

Ian’s reaction was immediate, even while half-asleep. His body bowed, arching into Mickey’s mouth and his hand shot out to grab for the closest bit of Mickey he could. Emboldened by Ian’s response, Mickey plunged further down the length of Ian’s shaft, measuring him slowly to see how much he swallow down. He found his limit and slowly pulled back so he could plunge back down again with a little more speed and vigour. Ian was wide awake by then and shaking from the intense pleasure of it.

“Back up,” Mickey ordered hoarsely, and it took Ian a moment to make sense of the instruction. Mickey slapped at his thigh and Ian shuffled backwards against the pillows until he was sitting back against the headboard. With room at the end of the bed, Mickey settled between Ian’s legs and got down to work.

Ian hissed as Mickey sucked him down and he grabbed desperately for Mickey’s hair with both hands. He moaned Mickey’s name as the wet heat engulfed him and the blue eyes flicked up at him, assessing his reaction.

Mickey couldn’t believe how much this was turning him on. Ian was solid, huge and heavy in his mouth and he was fucking loving it. He loved the taste of him, the feel of Ian’s hands tugging insistently in his hair and the broken sound of his name on Ian’s lips. Mickey glanced up and was immediately entranced by Ian’s flushed face, his ragged breathing and the green eyes burning into his. Mickey looked up frequently, even as he sucked harder and faster and flicked his tongue along the rock hard length. He hummed contentedly, and Ian’s resultant shudder was powerful enough to rock him too. He could taste Ian’s pre-come and he pulled back to slowly and deliberately lap at it, all the while keeping his eyes locked with Ian’s.

“Fuck, you’re just so—fuck,” Ian said shakily.

Mickey simply hummed in reply and deep-throated Ian once again. A moment later, Ian was yanking at his hair in warning and coming hard into his mouth at the same time. Mickey sputtered and coughed, and sent Ian a heated glare while the man smiled apologetically. The moment Mickey regained control of himself, Ian was there, pulling him down and pressing him back into the pillows. Then Ian’s lips were on his and he welcomed them, and was shocked to find that he craved them just as much as he had the night before, if not more.

Before he could become alarmed by that, Ian’s tongue was plunging against his, and his hand was skimming down to grasp Mickey’s cock. He groaned into Ian’s mouth and thrust into his grasp as Ian stroked him fast and rough, and pushed him quickly to the edge. He twisted his fingers into the red hair and kissed back fiercely while he came. He fell back against the pillows, spent and breathless, while Ian’s hand slowed and stopped after the last of Mickey’s convulsions subsided.

Ian grabbed some tissues off the side table and quickly cleaned up. He then propped himself up on his elbow next to Mickey and beamed down at him while tenderly stroking his thigh. “So, hey…” he murmured softly and Mickey raised an eyebrow. Ian certainly had a gift for the understatement. Mickey stared up at him, still slowly coming down, and wondered if there was anything more dangerous than Ian Gallagher in all his softly smiling, smitten puppy glory. Mickey muttered a terse “fuck” under his breath and promptly rolled away from Ian and scooted off the bed.

“You’re leaving already?” Ian asked incredulously as he watched Mickey yank on his clothes, “the sun’s barely up.”

“Can’t be too early to leave, because I was never here.”

It didn’t take long for Ian to get Mickey’s implication and he flopped onto his back with a groan and an eye roll. “Seriously, Mick? Why do you have to be so goddamned predictable?” he sighed and rolled back onto his stomach so he could snuggle into Mickey’s pillow. “I need a couple more minutes sleep before I can deal with you.”

Mickey sniffed and buttoned up his shirt. When he peeked over at Ian, the idiot really seemed to have drifted back off to sleep. Mickey was incensed. Here he was getting ready to leave and Ian was actually sleeping. The least Ian could do was mount some sort of mild protest. Mickey grabbed his vest off the floor and realized that the only buttons remaining were the ones he’d managed to undo before Ian got a hold of it. Below them, one button dangled crazily on its thread but the rest were missing, shredded right off the badly ripped garment.

“I can’t believe you did this. Do you know how much this shit costs?” Mickey ranted and tossed the wadded up vest at Ian’s head.

“Sorry,” Ian said in a muffled voice that was decidedly unapologetic. He slowly pulled the vest down over his face to peer at Mickey, but kept his nose buried in it. “I’ll try to be more careful next time.”

“Isn’t going to be a next time,” Mickey grumbled and tried to adjust his tie. A moment later, Ian was standing before him, naked and overwhelming, and leaving Mickey with the dilemma of not knowing where to look.

“Are you seriously going to act as if you want to shut this down? You were sucking my dick not five minutes ago!”

“Yeah, well consider that the long kiss goodnight. Can you put some fucking clothes on please?!”

Ian rolled his eyes again and turned away quickly to find and yank on his boxer-briefs, and then he was back in Mickey’s face once again. “You and I both know this could never be a onetime thing.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shot up. “Why not? You were the one that said we should try it once just to see how it was. Now we know—we had an itch, we scratched it and now we’re done.”

It was Ian’s turn to raise a sceptical eyebrow and in response, he simply grabbed Mickey by the tie and hauled him flush against him. The kiss was immediately burning and desperate, and by the time Ian let him come up for air, Mickey’s head was completely fuzzy.

“Fuck,” Mickey mumbled under his breath.

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Ian squinted one eye shut and appeared to think it over, “feels more than an itch to me.”

“Kiss me again and I’ll cut your fucking—” Mickey was promptly cut off by Ian’s mouth covering his, because Ian, being Ian, registered nothing but the first three words of Mickey’s attempted threat. Mickey’s hands skimmed down the length of Ian’s back to toy with the waistband of his underwear and grope his ass. Ian pulled back before Mickey could go further, and his grin was unholy.

“Definitely more than an itch,” Ian murmured and moved to kiss Mickey again, but the latter pulled back.

“For fuck’s sake, Ian, quit!”

Ian stopped his pursuit but didn’t back off. “Mickey, come on, let’s be real about this,” he said and reached down to grip Mickey’s hips. “I mean, I really like you.”

Mickey eyes widened dramatically. “Oh well that’s just peachy keen, isn’t it? Are you going to let me wear your letterman jacket and your pin to the prom?”

“Jesus…” Ian sighed.

“No wait, but do you just like me, or do you like me, like me? Because that distinction will make a world of difference when Sal is shoving a luger up my ass!”

“Look, it’s not like I’m saying we should fuck in front of him. We can make this work, Mickey. We’ll be careful,” he said softly and leaned forward to nuzzle Mickey’s ear. “We can be smart about this,” he whispered.

“This whole thing is the opposite of smart,” Mickey groused quietly, but his hand was already working its way into Ian’s hair.

“We can make this work,” Ian repeated firmly and pulled back slightly so his face hovered right before Mickey’s. “You said it yourself, it could never be just once.”

Mickey chewed his lower lip in consternation and gazed in Ian’s eyes. There really wasn’t anything more dangerous. He cradled Ian’s cheek and rubbed his thumb over Ian’s stubble.

“I don’t want you getting hurt in this, Ian,” he finally admitted, knowing he was defeated even as he mounted his final weak protest.

Ian understood Mickey’s worry. The last thing in the world he wanted was Mickey getting hurt either. “This isn’t about the fucking, Mick; you know it isn’t. I feel it’s worth taking a risk, but we’ll be careful.”

Mickey nodded slowly and trailed his hand from Ian’s face, down his torso to play with the waistband of Ian’s underwear again. He gave Ian a teasing, lopsided smile, “it’s a little bit about the fucking though.”

Ian grinned back. “I don’t have work for a few hours. Do you really need to head out so early?” Ian asked innocently, even as he was removing Mickey’s tie and unbuttoning his shirt.

“You know you can’t interfere with my business though,” Mickey warned and all that earned him was a huff of laughter as Ian piloted him towards the bed.

“Such a mobster-like thing to say,” Ian said.

Mickey sniffed, but let Ian guide him towards the bed. “We, um, didn’t use anything last night…” he began awkwardly before trailing off and eyeing Ian.

“I’m clean, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Ian quickly assured him, “got a full work up before school and everything. Plus, I always use them with…you know,” Ian demurred, scared to say Sal’s name out loud lest it spook Mickey.

“Always?” Mickey asked with a lift of his brow.

“Always,” Ian said firmly. Sal had a wild streak and Ian was taking no chances.

“I always use them too,” Mickey murmured in his own attempt at reassurance. He scratched his nose self-consciously; he had never had to have this type of conversation before.

“Are you okay with it like this?” Ian asked, “I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want—”

“It’s fine,” Mickey said quickly, before adding sheepishly, “it’s just that, um, things get messy like this.”

“That’s okay; I don’t mind being messy; some of the best things always are,” Ian said simply and shoved Mickey under the covers so he could dive in after him.

It was almost midday by the time Mickey made it to the elevator. He looked the worse for wear, now without his vest, with his shirt rumpled and his tie slightly askew. His hair was a little crazy, despite his best efforts. His lips were bruised, his left eye was a little swollen and there were angry red marks climbing up his neck above his collar. He had never felt better in his life. He lit up a cigarette and leaned against the back of the elevator in contentment.

The doors opened on the seventh floor to reveal the little old lady from the night before and her granddaughter. The young woman glided into the space, but her grandmother stood gaping at Mickey. She probably thought he looked like he’d been through a war. She hustled into the elevator, standing squarely between Mickey and her oblivious granddaughter. The woman couldn’t help peering at him more closely, apparently trying to make sense of his condition.

“You should see the other guy,” Mickey said blithely and pulled on his cigarette.

The old woman stared straight ahead for the rest of the ride.

Alex was staring at Ian wide-eyed as he tucked into the tuna sandwiches she had made for their lunch break. Ian had been floating on air since he came in to work and his good mood showed no signs of abating. The only word she could think of to describe him was beatific, which was even more remarkable since the last time she saw him, he seemed hell-bent on laying waste to Tokyo, Godzilla style.

“This is so freaking good,” he sighed blissfully after taking a huge bite of his sandwich. “It tastes amazing, Alex; what did you put in it?”

“Um, well, you know…mayo?” Alex answered, bewildered.

“God, it’s such a nice day,” Ian glanced out the window of the employee break room appreciatively.

No, it wasn’t. It was overcast and cold as balls and Alex was growing deeply suspicious. “So, uh, did you go through with your plan?”

“What plan?”

“You know, the ‘fuck Mickey Milkovich’ plan?” she blinked when he choked on his sandwich, “so did you find a warm body at the club to help you exorcise your demons?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Did it work? It seems like it worked,” Alex tapped a finger on the tabletop and eyed her friend while Ian took another large bite of his food and made a series of noncommittal nonsense noises. “What, no details?”

“Not much to tell; just the standard hook-up.”

“A few days ago you were almost breathing fire, and then you went out, got some dick, and now you’re practically Mary Poppins. Do you understand the possible implications of this as it concerns mental health and mood management? There could be a dick out there with the cure for dysphoria in it. I demand details…for science!”

“Well, I mean, what do you want to know?” Ian asked nervously.

Alex narrowed her eyes and leaned forward, and suddenly it was on. “What was his name?”

Ian shook his head. “Kept it anonymous.”

“Was he young?”


“How young?”

“My age?”

“So you didn’t exchange names but you swapped ages?”

“I’m ball parking.”

“I bet you ball parked. How tall?”

“I-I don’t know, average?”

“Hair colour?”


“Eye colour?”




“You fucked Mickey, didn’t you?”

“Yes, no, wait!”

“You absolute fuck-twat,” Alex shook her head while Ian sputtered.

“No, I got confused. I mean he might have looked like Mickey,” Ian tried.

Unsurprisingly, Alex was unconvinced. “I can’t believe you. I thought you said you were moving on. Isn’t your life complicated enough right now? Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”

“Okay, but you don’t understand. I was at the club, fully intending to go through with the plan, but then Mickey shows up out of nowhere—like kismet! Then there was the fight and then the police came, then we made out, but then he took off. Then I tried to discuss it, but he was being a dick and we ended up getting into it and it was amazing!”

Alex stared at her bright-eyed, babbling friend and began accepting the fact that Ian was going to give her stress ulcers and that Team Alan might just be doomed.

Mickey’s day was wrecked. He couldn’t go anywhere, he couldn’t do anything except pace his room, worked up and over stimulated as he replayed his time with Ian on a loop. This was how addictions started, doing nothing but surviving until you could get your next hit. He could still feel Ian—his hands, his mouth, his cock—and the memory of it all was making him crazy. The stress of it wasn’t helping either. Now that he was away from Ian and was able to think a bit more clearly, he wondered what the hell he was thinking, giving in like that. Ian’s “smart and careful” plan was laughable at best. The only smart and careful thing they could do was to stay the hell away from each other. The consequences of betraying Sal weighed heavily on him as he kept pacing in front of his bed.

His phone buzzed on his bed and broke into his reverie. He immediately went to check it, hoping it was some effective distraction to save him from his thoughts. “I can still taste you,” the text message read, and it was crazy how quickly Mickey’s flesh warmed at the words. He was going to strangle Ian the next time he saw him, either before or after he’d done a few other things. “Fuck off,” he texted back tersely, but Ian’s words had had the desired effect and then some. His worries about betrayal and caution were overwhelmed by the thoughts of Ian’s mouth on his cock and Ian’s hands stroking his thighs, and Mickey was beginning to truly appreciate how fucked up this was.

He dropped the phone on the bed and headed into his bathroom, He went for the small pile of innocuous magazines next to the toilet and flipped through his Guns & Ammo to retrieve the picture he’d hidden inside it. He wandered back out to his room, smiling softly at Ian’s image, and went to lock his room door securely. He then headed to his closet, worked his way to the far corner and opened the duffel bag he had tucked away there. He rifled though it until he found what he was looking for and pulled it out. He clicked the button and jumped a little at the enthusiastic buzzing as his toy shook to life.

“I really fucking hate you,” he muttered to Ian’s picture as he placed it on the pillow and knelt on the bed before it. He could have sworn Ian’s smirk hitched just a little bit higher.

Mickey sat in the car for a few minutes simply looking up at Ian’s window. It was a little past nightfall and he was there on Sal’s orders. He figured it would be wisest to just text Ian to come down, instead of heading up there, but he already knew he wasn’t going to do that. He didn’t know why it was suddenly so hard to do the smart thing, but he was out the car and across the street without thinking about it further. It was when Ian opened the door that he finally understood why. He was a hopeless addict and his drug of choice already had his hooks deep into him, mind, body and soul. Ian smiled and Mickey’s pulse was off and running.

“Sal wants to see ya.”

Ian didn’t register that in the least. Instead he smiled harder at Mickey and reached up to tug at the collar of his dress shirt. It was navy blue beneath the black pinstripe suit, and an unusual departure from Mickey’s typical black or white shirts.

“Well this is a little different,” Ian said and pulled a little at the knot of Mickey’s black tie. “You trying to look cute for me?”

“Fuck off,” Mickey snorted, but there was the dip of his head and the quick glance away, and Ian knew he was right.

“Good to know I put some colour into your life,” Ian waggled his eyebrows and stepped away from Mickey. He pulled off his sweaty tank top and tossed it aside, then sat on the bed to yank off his sneakers and socks. “Had a late run; I just got back in,” he explained.

Mickey wasn’t complaining. He came into the apartment and stood before Ian, careful to stay out of arm’s reach. “You’re not going to say anything, right?”

Ian let out a sigh of longsuffering, “I’m so sure, Mickey. Yeah, the first thing I intended to do was to run up to Sal and say ‘hey, guess which one of your henchmen I had sex with last night? Here’s a hint: the answer rhymes with hickey!’”

“I’m not a fucking ‘henchman,’” Mickey said testily, “I’m not working for Dr. Doom in his mountain fortress.”

Ian got to his feet and grinned as he did his favourite thing of reaching for Mickey’s coat lapels. “You’re cute when you get all pissy about your job title,” Ian pulled him close, “it gets me kind of hot.”

If Mickey hadn’t known before that he had lost any and all control of the situation, this would have been all the confirmation he needed. Ian had stuck his dick in him and promptly turned into a monster.  Mickey gnawed on his lower lip as his fingers itched to reach out and slide all over Ian’s bare chest.

“Have you been thinking about it?” Ian asked softly and slipped his hands beneath Mickey’s trench coat to slide it off. “I haven’t been able to think about anything else all day.”

“We don’t have time for this, Ian,” Mickey pointed out, but didn’t stop Ian from unbuttoning his jacket.

“I think we do, a little bit. I mean you always take the long way, you don’t usually drive the speed limit; I think that buys us some time,” Ian suggested, “I can be quick,” he said cajolingly.

Mickey smirked at the thought and his eyes focused on Ian’s mouth as he spoke. In the end, it was Mickey who rocked up and locked lips with Ian. When he pulled back, Mickey issued one bit of warning.

“Easy on the suit.”

Ian nodded and made a great show of slowly unbuttoning Mickey’s vest. “I’ll try my best.”

Mickey snorted, shrugged out of the vest and reached up to pull Ian down towards him while the latter worked on getting rid of the rest of his clothes.

“You really do wear too much shit,” Ian murmured against Mickey’s lips. He tugged off Mickey’s tie and managed to get his shirt off without ripping anything—a small miracle in itself—and shoved Mickey backwards so he was left sitting on the bed.

Mickey glanced up as Ian loomed over him, and his eyes swept down the length of Ian’s body to the growing bulge in his sweatpants. Mickey hooked his fingers in Ian’s pants and underwear and yanked them down. He glanced up at Ian again as he swallowed him down and shivered at the way Ian’s eyes darkened and burned into him. He sucked hungrily, making up the shortfall of his mouth with one hand while he reached around and squeezed Ian’s buttock with the other.

“You’re so good,” Ian groaned and massaged the back of Mickey’s neck, keening softly as Mickey took him deeper still. “You’re fucking amazing.”

Mickey hummed contentedly at the praise and released Ian’s ass to squeeze his own erection chafing against the material of his pants. Ian tightened his hand in Mickey’s hair, stopping the man from following him when he pulled away.

“Shove over. Strip,” Ian ordered brusquely and Mickey’s cock throbbed in anticipation.

Mickey kicked off his shoes and shuffled backwards across the bed. He peeled off his tank top as Ian settled between his legs and pulled off his pants, underwear and socks. A second later, Ian was crashing down on top of him, rocking down and grinding hard against Mickey, making them both gasp and moan. Mickey locked his legs around Ian’s thighs and wrapped his arms around the broad shoulders as Ian rutted against him. He threw his head back, panting harshly as Ian’s nails bit into the flesh of hip and his long fingers pulled his hair.

The bed protested as the frottage continued. Ian pulled away and sat up, making the bed groan and creak as he shifted between Mickey’s legs. He sucked on his fingers, coating them liberally, and slowly slipped them inside Mickey. He was surprised by the give of Mickey’s body, but the realization struck him quickly.

“Had some fun without me?” he asked as he scissored his fingers deep inside him. Mickey arched and moaned, and pressed down against the ministration. “Were you thinking about me? About us?” Ian asked lowly as his fingers found Mickey’s prostate.

“Fuck, yes!”Mickey admitted hoarsely, before pushing Ian away a bit so he could flip onto his stomach. “Get on me already!”

Ian grabbed the lube off the nightstand and quickly prepped them both. He straddled the back of Mickey’s thighs, leaned forward and slowly eased into him.

“You want it like this?” Ian whispered as he settled against Mickey’s back.

“Yeah,” Mickey breathed and reached back to stroke and squeeze Ian’s thigh, encouraging him to move. This was the feeling he had been craving since the moment he had left Ian’s apartment that morning. He felt as if he had been chasing the dragon all day and now, finally, he was being reunited with the real thing. He twisted his fingers in the covers of the bed and whimpered into them softly as Ian began thrusting. 

Ian braced his hands on either side of Mickey’s head and rocked forward. Mickey grabbed Ian’s wrist and held on as Ian moved faster—plunging in to the hilt and rocking back to fill Mickey again. Ian settled against Mickey’s back as he picked up speed. He buried his face in Mickey’s neck and licked at his throat.

“You smell so fucking good,” Ian growled against Mickey’s skin, and grunted when Mickey reached back to grab his hair and pull him closer.

Mickey felt as if he was falling apart as Ian fucked him. Ian’s weight driving him into the bed relieved the ache in his cock as he was pounded against the sheets. His hiss melted into a throaty laugh when Ian yanked his head back hard by the hair and bit into the muscles of his shoulder.

“So fucking good,” Ian gasped before they both came hard, shuddering against each other as they rode the wave of their orgasm. They collapsed, spent with Ian sagging atop Mickey’s back, and promptly passed out.

Mickey stirred at the soft buzzing sound floating at him from somewhere in the room. His head and arm lolled off the side of Ian’s bed, and the redhead in question was still sprawled on top of him like a pornographic starfish. Ian was heavy, but Mickey didn’t mind the weight—found that he liked it a lot actually—and he automatically clenched around the soft dick still inside him. Ian moaned softly but went on sleeping. Mickey rubbed at his face and idly wondered how he was going to escape this cocoon, and even if he wanted to until he heard the soft buzzing again. He realized it was his phone and then the rest of the realization hit him like a ton of bricks.

“Fuck!” he yelled and started elbowing Ian off his back. “Get the fuck off me!”

Ian groaned and rolled off and Mickey scrambled off the bed to rifle through his scattered clothes. He found his phone and answered it breathlessly.

“Where the fuck are you?” Sal barked.

Fuck! How long had they been out. He quickly glanced at his phone and saw that they had been sleeping for more than half an hour.

“Engine trouble,” Mickey said as he shook an unresponsive Ian’s leg. “I’m fixing it.”

“Engine trouble? That’s a brand new fucking car!”

“So what, new shit can’t have problems?” Mickey shot back before delivering a swift kick to Ian’s backside. When Ian grumpily looked back at him, Mickey snapped his fingers and jerked his head towards the bathroom, wordlessly ordering him to the shower. Ian seemed to finally remember reality and rolled off the bed to head to the bathroom.

“Well how long is it going to take?” Sal asked petulantly.

“I’ll fix it when I fix it, alright? Just cross your legs and hold it; I’ll get a dick in you as soon as I can,” Mickey hung up on a still grumbling Sal and groaned to the heavens. He headed into the bathroom where Ian was already under the spray of the shower.

“Not even day one of this shit and we’re already fucking up,” he grumbled as he sat on the toilet.

“Growing pains; we’ll get better at it,” Ian chirped and peeked around the curtain at Mickey. “Wanna join me, save some time?”

If looks could kill, Ian’s head would have been severed cleanly from his body. He finished his shower in record time and without further comment. He strode out of the shower wet and dripping, and smirked at Mickey’s gobsmacked expression.

Mickey could only sigh as he jumped into the shower. He had truly created a monster.

They finally made it out the door and Ian couldn’t help smiling at the back of Mickey’s head as they went for the elevator. He knew what Mickey smelt like, he had tasted the nape of Mickey’s neck, and he had been inside him — was going to be inside him again. He was going to be inside Mickey Milkovich so much, he was going to have to declare Mickey as a secondary address.

“What the fuck are you looking at?!” Mickey snapped at him and Ian quickly looked away.


 “Quit looking at me like that,” Mickey ordered as they got on the elevator.

“How am I looking at you? I’m not looking at you—I’m not!”

“Are you going to be cool about this? Tell me if you’re not going to be cool about this, Ian, because I will just kill you myself.”

The elevator doors opened just as Mickey made this threat and revealed a very harassed and nervous old lady.

“I’ll just catch the other one,” she said tiredly and sent them on their way.

Mickey sped early on to make up time, but his speed slackened soon after entering the North side. He grew quieter with each passing mile, leaving Ian sending nervous glances his way and trying fruitlessly to engage him. By the time they hit Sal’s neighbourhood, Mickey was going well below the speed limit. He eventually wound up pulling over a few blocks from their destination and killed the engine. They sat in a tense silence for a moment before Ian spoke hesitantly.

“We’re already pretty late, Mick.”

“You want to do this?” Mickey said suddenly, catching Ian off guard. “You really want to go to him?”

Ian toyed with the zipper of his jacket, wary of Mickey’s growing tension. “No, but there’s not a lot of choice here, right?”

“Why did you get with him in the first place, Ian? if you’re not into him…”

There was that question again, revealing Mickey’s doubts and anxieties and leaving Ian twisting to find an acceptable answer.

“I—I was into Sal, okay? For a while, but that wore off pretty quickly. Even now, I still sort of—I mean, I don’t hate him. I just don’t want to be with him like that,” he said and drew a frustrated hand over his face when Mickey looked at him, sceptical and confused. “Look, I have…issues, okay? Daddy issues, though I fucking hate calling them that because not everything is about fucking Frank. I just have this thing for older guys, like maybe it’s the stability or the confidence or that they know how to listen, I don’t know.”

“I’m not an old man though.”

Ian smiled and tilted his head. “You are, kind of, if we’re being honest here. You’re like a grumpy old man in a hot dude’s body. You’re the best of both worlds. You’re sort of perfect,” he grinned when Mickey snorted and glanced away, embarrassed. Ian  then added, “and I’ll have you know, I did want to break up with Sal before you even showed up. Iggy made it sound like Sal would be eating my liver with Fava beans if I tried it.”

Mickey frowned and flexed his fingers around the steering wheel. “Yeah, it’s better if you let him end it,” Mickey said quietly, “he usually gets bored and antsy by now. I don’t even know where his head is any more,” Mickey said mostly to himself before admitting, “I don’t want him touching you, anywhere… anyhow.”

Ian reached across and stroked Mickey’s thigh. “I doesn’t mean anything, Mick. It’s just…going through the motions. I mean, we don’t even have sex that often, and it’s barely even sex then. He has like zero stamin—”

“Ian!” Mickey yelled, “I really don’t need to hear this.”

“Sorry, it’s just—” Ian paused and squeezed Mickey’s thigh, “don’t worry about it. I have it under control and I can handle Sal. Please don’t freak out about it. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“So you wouldn’t have any problem leaving him then? I mean, if he ends it, or if we figure out something before then?”

Ian undid his seatbelt and stretched across to grab Mickey’s chin and kiss him deeply. When he pulled back, Mickey’s eyes were soft. “Don’t freak out about it. I don’t feel anything for Sal, not like that. We should go. He’s probably climbing the walls by now.”

“It’s about fucking time,” Sal grumbled as Ian walked into the room, “I was starting to think the two of you eloped or some shit.” He was laying in bed, watching TV to pass the time while he waited. He eyed Mickey who was still hovering at the door. “What?”

“Nothing…fixed the car okay.”

Sal grunted in acknowledgement, his eyes never leaving Ian as the young man shed some layers. “Fucking Cadillac, not even a year old and acting up. This is why the goddamned Orientals are running everything now,” he looked over at Mickey again. “What else?”


“Then close the door and fuck off. What do you want, a tip?”

Ian glanced at Mickey anxiously, but after a moment’s hesitation, Mickey finally nodded and closed the door. Ian was left standing awkwardly at the foot of the bed, distracted and worried about Mickey’s mindset and suddenly unsure about just how to deal with the reality of Sal. The man lay in bed, solid, looming and unappealing, and the guilt was already beginning to eat away at Ian and he hadn’t even touched Sal yet.

“What’s the matter? Everything okay?” Sal asked.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just…exams and everything you know? It’s got me a little stressed out,” Ian said.

Sal swung his legs off the bed, stood up and smiled suggestively at Ian. “Well maybe I can help you—”

He was cut off by a loud, rapid knock at the door, and Sal grunted in annoyance and stomped over to answer it. He swung open the door to reveal Mickey once again and there was silence as the young man stared blankly at his boss, apparently at a loss as to what to say.

“What?!” Sal snapped irritably.

“Um…remember some of the boys are doing a run down to New Mexico in the morning,” Mickey blurted out, “I just wanted to know if you had any instructions or…” Mickey trailed off lamely and sent a furtive look over Sal’s shoulder at Ian, who stared back anxiously at him.

“Since fucking when do you ask me anything anymore?” He huffed and then grabbed Mickey by the scruff and squeezed playfully, “you know what needs to be done, so go do it and don’t fucking come back here unless something’s on fire.”

He shut the door on Mickey and shook his head. “Is there a full moon out tonight? Everybody’s acting squirrelly as shit.” He then turned back to Ian and gave Ian a toothsome smile. “So now, where were we?”

It was after midnight and Ian lay in bed, staring at the ceiling; Sal’s arm heavy across his chest. It had been a while since he’s heard Mickey. It might have been his imagination, but he could have sworn he had heard Mickey shuffling around outside the door at times. It had been distracting to say the least. Imagination or not, however, there hadn’t been a sound but for Sal’s snoring for what felt like hours. Was Mickey even still around? Had he gotten disgusted and left? Was he alone? Ian shifted uncomfortably, chafing under Sal’s touch and his own uncomfortable thoughts, and he eventually surrendered to temptation and texted Mickey.

“Where are you?” he fired off the message and waited, though he didn’t really expect Mickey to respond. To his surprise, his phone buzzed a moment later.


Ian’s body sagged with relief and he lay still for a while longer, his brain spinning wildly. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he slowly shifted Sal’s hand away from him and slipped off the bed. Sal didn’t stir, and Ian was out the room and down the stairs in a flash.

He found Mickey playing pool by himself, clad only in a tank top and boxers, just the way Ian was. Mickey looked up at him briefly before taking a deep swig of beer and focusing on the pool table.

“I thought maybe you left,” Ian said nervously and scratched at his arm. Mickey still said nothing, opting instead to drain his bottle and balance it on the edge of the table. Ian glanced around the dark basement, and his eyes fell on a few empty beer bottles on the table before the couches. He eyed Mickey again and saw the unsteadiness in his movements, “are you drunk?”

Mickey snorted rudely, “no. but give me a minute.”

Ian came around the table and reached out to touch him, but Mickey danced out of the way and shook him off.

“Get off me,” Mickey snapped and looked at Ian in disbelief, “you just crawled out from under him and you’re coming to me? What the fuck do you take me for?!”

Ian flinched and paused for a moment. He stared at Mickey, who stared back at him looking lost, angry and bewildered all at once. Ian frowned and his hand shot forward, fisting into Mickey’s tank and yanking him forward. Their lips crashed together and Ian could taste the alcohol on Mickey’s breath and chaos radiating from him. He grabbed Mickey’s ass with both hands and ground against him, and grunted with pleasure when Mickey kissed back fiercely and plunged his hands into his hair.

Ian pushed Mickey to the floor and quickly straddled him. He pulled off Mickey boxers and tossed them aside then grasped his erection firmly and squeezed it gently from root to tip. It was crazy; they were hidden by the pool table but that was hardly any cover at all, but the danger of it seemed to spur them on even more.

“Can’t,” Mickey whimpered before the protest gave way to a moan and he arched into Ian’s warm grasp. Ian stopped to yank off his own boxers and settled to grind against Mickey. He swiftly stifled Mickey’s moans with one hand, while licking the palm of the other and wrapping it around them both. He rocked slowly against Mickey as he pumped their erections in equal rhythm and lost himself completely in the pleasure of it. They locked eyes and Ian uncovered Mickey’s mouth so he could swipe his thumb gently across Mickey’s lips. Mickey captured Ian’s thumb between his lips and sucked lightly as the tension built and soon they were coming together with soft grunts and moans, both spilling into Ian’s hand.

“Stupid,” Mickey huffed after a couple minutes while they slowly came down. Ian didn’t know if Mickey was chastising him, talking about himself or commenting on the whole situation in general.

“Don’t be mad at me,” Ian demanded quietly.

“I’m not,” Mickey sighed and covered his face with his hands. He didn’t know what he was, to be honest. He looked up at Ian and shoved at him, “I’m not mad, but can you just—don’t let him wake up and have to come looking.”

Ian hesitated then nodded and got off of Mickey. He grabbed his boxers and yanked them on, realizing a little just how much of a huge risk he had just taken. He gave Mickey another look before taking off upstairs to clean up and slip back into bed before he was missed.

Sal frowned at the sound of someone stirring in the room. The sun was dawning and the hour was ungodly. He looked around blearily and saw that Ian was up and rifling through his backpack while brushing his teeth.

“You got fire ants in your bed? What the fuck are you doing?” As long as he lived, he would never understand Ian’s boundless energy and unholy waking times. He seemed to get up earlier and earlier every time they spent the night together. He squinted at Ian in puzzlement, “were those the boxers you were wearing last night?”

Ian blinked at him, looked down at his underwear, and nearly had a small heart attack. In the heat of the moment and the dark of the basement, he had grabbed Mickey’s by mistake. He looked Sal dead in the eye and nodded, all the while brushing his teeth nonchalantly and raising a cool eyebrow as if Sal had just asked the weirdest question.

“I mean, I thought they were—never mind,” he sighed and rolled onto his back. He couldn’t even relax before there was an urgent knock on the door. “What?!” he yelled.

Mickey very tentatively stuck his head in and was evidently relieved by what he didn’t see. “I’ve got shit to do today, so I’m heading out. Just checking to see if college boy needed a ride.”

“It’s the ass crack of dawn; he isn’t even—”

“Ready!” Ian chirped, and Sal blinked to see that Ian was already shrugging on his coat. Mickey nodded and left the room.

“Is there a fucking fire I don’t know about?!” Sal groused as Ian edged towards the door. “What, not even a goodbye kiss?”

Ian glanced helplessly at the door and doubled back quickly to give Sal his kiss.

“Gallagher!” Mickey yelled sharply from somewhere outside the door, and Ian dropped a quick kiss on the top of Sal’s head and practically sprinted for the door.

“Goddamned kids, always in a fucking rush,” Sal grumbled and rolled over to go back to sleep until a decent goddamned hour.

Ian found Mickey waiting by the front door. He grinned broadly and shoved past him while Mickey sent him a harassed look. Before long, they were on the road, speeding away and breathing far more easily. Clearly they had to get better at this.

Ian threw his bag down with a happy sigh and shrugged off his coat. He turned and frowned when he saw that Mickey was still just inside the door, coat still on and an apologetic look on his face.

“You weren’t serious about having stuff to do?”

“I’ve got collections today. Gotta hit as many of the places as early as I can before they get too busy.  Less attention and less problems that way.”

Ian pouted but didn’t fight the point. “Well are you going to come back after you’re done? I thought we were going to hang out.”

“Nah, I’m leaving you alone today.”

Ian’s brow knitted and he felt himself go a little cold at Mickey’s words. “I thought you said you weren’t mad. If you’re seriously going to punish me every time I have to—”

“Jesus, who’s punishing you, you fucking drama queen?” Mickey rolled his eyes, “aren’t you the one with exams and shit in about a minute? I’m giving you study time. Get some sleep, hit your books and I’ll see you after.”

Ian chewed his lip, thinking it over, and came over to Mickey to fiddle with his tie. “Fuck that, this semester is fucked six ways from Sunday anyway.”

Mickey smiled up at him gently. “See, that’s just your fear talking. I’m not going to say you can’t bail on the semester, but I’m not going to be a part of that,” Mickey reached up and rubbed the back of Ian’s neck, a habit, Ian noticed, the Milkovich boys probably learnt from Sal to show affection. “Just read what you can, do what you can and make it through the semester. It doesn’t have to be pretty and maybe it won’t be as bad as you think.”

“What’s to stop me from blowing off studying anyway while you’re out ignoring me?”

“The fact that I know you’re not a quitter and you really want to kick this semester’s ass,” Mickey patted Ian’s face before chucking him under his chin. “So go fucking do it; I gotta go.”

“Alright, okay, just wait a minute—one thing,” Ian said, making Mickey pause before he headed out the door.


Ian pulled Mickey back and shoved him roughly against the door, making Mickey grunt in surprise. Despite the manhandling, the kiss began gently and deepened quickly. Ian trailed his hand down Mickey’s body, down his thighs and back up to grasp his crotch. He smiled against Mickey’s mouth as the latter groaned  when Ian groped him, working him up to partial arousal before slowly pulling away.

“Something to remember me by,” Ian whispered, grinning wickedly.

“I fucking hate you so much right now,” Mickey said and flipped Ian off before slipping out the door.

Business Communications had been surprisingly easy. Granted, it was basically just English, and that had always been one of Ian’s strongest subjects, and yes, the true juggernauts of the semester were yet to come. Still, it was a huge confidence boost to feel as if he’d knocked the first one out of the park, and his study sessions now felt far less dire.

He was studying at the pool house, even though Sal had sent Iggy to summon him, since Mickey was working. When Ian had arrived, he immediately clocked that Sal was high on a cocktail of drugs Ian could only guess at. It had left Sal spaced out and malleable, and Ian hadn’t hesitated to talk his way out of sex so he could study instead. Sal sat on the couch, smiling goofily at I love Lucy reruns while Ian sat on the adjacent side—well out of reach—with his nose in his book.

He looked up at the sound of the door opening and fought back his knee jerk reaction at Mickey’s entrance. Mickey clearly had done the same, because Mickey’s dazzler of a smile was brief and disappeared the moment he realized Sal was there. Ian and Mickey nodded coolly to each other, though Ian couldn’t look away for the life of him, and he watched as Mickey prepared to run upstairs. Sal stopped him.

“Hey,” Sal called after Mickey and waved him over with a sluggish hand, “come here a second. Sit down.”

Mickey hesitated, tugging self-consciously at the jacket sleeves and shot Ian a quizzical look. Ian shrugged and Mickey tentatively took a seat next to Sal.

“Guess who I saw today?” Sal asked and clapped Mickey on his knee, “Booker, the old fuck that owns that Model T you fixed up.”

“Yeah?” Mickey relaxed and perked up.

“Said he can’t believe it’s the same car. Runs like a fucking dream; he can’t get over it. If it wasn’t for the obvious limitations, he’d be running that shit as his main car,” Sal grinned, “I swear to god, he was losing his goddamned mind over it. I don’t know why he was so fucking surprised to be honest. I told him from the start that my boy was a fucking magician. ‘Nobody’s better than my Mickey,’ I said. I told him didn’t I? My fucking general,” Sal chortled and rubbed his hand in Mickey’s hair.

Mickey practically glowed from the praise. “That Renault came in today,” Mickey said shyly, “it’s fucking beautiful.”

“Yeah? I need to see it when you get it all fixed up. Take your time with it. Booker has been spreading the gospel to his little fancy car group fuckers, so they’ll be coming. You’re gonna make more money legit than with all our rackets. You’re the only soldier I got that’s worth a damn.”

Ian frowned as he watched the exchange and felt a growing unease with it. He wasn’t sure why it should bother him. Sal was stoned out of his mind, but it had put him in a good, affectionate mood, and Mickey deserved to hear good things from him. Still, the whole thing irritated Ian. Part of it, he realized, was jealousy and apprehension over Mickey’s obvious affection for Sal and desire for his approval and praise. It was a crazy thing to feel jealous about and Ian immediately tried to chide himself out of it, but reason failed him. Mostly what bothered him though was the unsettling familiarity of it—having a surprising, tender moment with someone whose affection you craved, but  who was usually just consistently awful and abusive.

He hated that Mickey was locked in that same sick cycle with Sal. He knew how powerful of a grip it had and how hard it could be to break out of it. The last thing he wanted was for Mickey to keep getting broken down by it and for Mickey to keep prioritizing or choosing Sal out of some misguided sense of loyalty and duty. He tried to push the thoughts away and focus on his book as Sal continued to wax rhapsodic.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I didn’t wish you weren’t mine by blood,” Sal said, frowning a little as he rambled on, “but it doesn’t fucking matter. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. That’s how the saying really goes. I bet even the college boy didn’t know that, huh?” Sal snickered and kicked at Ian’s leg before turning his full attention back to Mickey. “Doesn’t fucking matter. Everything I have is yours. You stick with Sal Boerio, kid. You’re my fucking prince and I take care of my own.”

It was a strange ride back home for Ian. Mickey was mostly silent, barely responding when Ian tried to engage him. Ian spent much of the journey nervously filling the silence and trying to keep his paranoia at bay. When they got to Ian’s apartment, he performed his ritual of dropping his bag and sighing with relief, but when he turned back, Mickey was hovering outside the door, seemingly unable to cross the threshold.

“You’re not coming in?” Ian asked quietly and his heart clenched a little at the obvious conflict on Mickey’s face. Mickey sucked in his lower lip and stared at Ian before darting a look at the elevator.

Ian knew what was happening—that the moment with Sal had messed with Mickey’s head and his already shaky resolve. Ian wondered if he should just tell him that it didn’t matter in the long run, that the moment with Sal was just a small island in an ocean of hurt and manipulation. That Sal wasn’t going to love him the way Ian did; wasn’t going to love him in any way that was right. That the men they had as fathers and father figures weren’t capable of loving them, not even on the best days and with the best intentions—it was simply beyond their capacities.

But Ian understood Mickey’s hesitation, because it really never ended. Even now, knowing everything he knew and after going through everything he had, Ian knew that if Frank reached out, there would be a part of him that would hope and respond, only to be inevitably disappointed. So Ian wasn’t going to tell Mickey any of those painful truths, because on some level, Mickey already knew that, but it was hard as hell not to hope.

So Ian wasn’t going to say anything at all to the man hesitating at his doorway. Instead he went to him, took him by his tie, and pulled him across the threshold. 

Chapter Text

“So Lisa says she thinks we could get serious,” Iggy informed his brothers as they cruised towards the docks.

Tony twisted in the front passenger seat to peer around at his brother. “Lisa from Sandrini’s? Loose Lisa? You’re still banging her?”

“What the fuck do you mean ‘Loose Lisa’?” Iggy frowned at his amused brother.

“Nothing, nothing…it’s just a nickname,” Tony said before asking with faux innocence, “hey, does she still do that thing with her little finger where she shoves it up your ass just before you nut?”

Iggy’s mouth dropped open and before he could even form a response, Joey was chiming in from his seat next to him.

“Yeah, fucking classic. It weirded me out at first, but she knows what she’s doing, man.”

“What the fuck?! The two of you fucked Lisa? My Lisa?!” Iggy asked incredulously. Tony nudged Mickey, whose mind had been split between driving and thinking about a squeaky bed in a crappy apartment and the redhead contained in both.

“Hey, Mick, you hearing this? Iggy’s thinking about getting serious with Loose Lisa.”

Mickey raised an eyebrow, “Lisa from Sandrini’s? That Lisa? She still do that thing with her little finger where she—”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, you too?!” Iggy threw up his hands in disgust, “she said I was the one. She said I was the only one who brought out the animal in her.”

“She did a fucking handstand in the middle of the goddamned bed,” Mickey shook his head as he reminisced, “I didn’t know what the fuck to do. It was like playing late stage Jenga—how the fuck do you move? Where the hell do you put your hands? What the fuck?”

“That’s cause you were trying to keep up with her acrobatic shit,” Tony said, “I just lay back and let her go Romanian gymnast on me.”

“She gave me a Charley Horse,” Joey lamented, “it was my fault though, I probably should have warmed up first.”

“What in the ever loving fuck?!” Iggy demanded.

“Hey now, don’t get salty about it. Maybe she is serious about you. Just because we’ve all smacked her in the face with our dicks doesn’t take away from whatever it is the two of you have,” Tony said wisely.

“Yeah, I mean, so what if we all rode her hard and put her up wet?” Mickey said, “the only things that matter here are the feelings, you know; emotions and shit.”

“Gave me a back spasm too,” Joey murmured, “she made me feel really out of shape.”

Iggy was done and started flipping off each of his brothers. “You know what, fuck you, Colin. Fuck you, Tony, you’re somebody’s father, and fuck you too, Mick. You’re like the worst gay dude in fucking history.”

Mickey blinked at his purpling brother in the rear-view mirror before turning to Tony, both a picture of fraternal affront. “Are you hearing this? After everything we just did to make this little bitch feel better.”

“I’ve never seen such ingratitude,” Tony shook his head sadly. “But what can you do?”

“She scares my dick sometimes,” Joey mumbled under his breath. Iggy said nothing and simply glowered out the window for the rest of the ride.

They parked a short distance away from the rear of their target and watched silently for a while. Mickey finally gave the signal and they all climbed out, only for Tony to walk around the car to get into the driver’s seat.

“You’re not coming?” Mickey asked.

“This is going to involve running and I don’t run, fool, not any more. Just make sure to flush him out this way,” Tony said and turned the engine over.

Mickey, flanked by Joey and Iggy, walked around to the front of the pub. When they stepped inside, Mickey pulled a sawn-off shotgun out of his trench coat and did a quick sweep of the patrons.

“Get out,” he said quietly and not a soul felt the urge to tarry. The pub emptied quickly, leaving the Milkovich brothers alone with the bartender, who was frozen behind the bar. Mickey eyed him coolly, “you got my money?”

The young man shook his head frantically and pointed towards the rear of the store. He wasn’t paid nearly enough to deal with this bullshit. Mickey ordered his brothers to stay with the bartender and keep watch while he went around the back. The moment the owner set eyes on Mickey and his shotgun, he didn’t hesitate. The older man pulled away from his desk and bolted for the back door.

Mickey didn’t chase him, opting instead to grab a fistful of chocolates out of the bowl of sweets on the man’s desk and listen for the sound of screeching tires and a dull thump. When Mickey headed outside, the pub owner was on the ground, moaning before the car.

Mickey stooped to the crumpled man. “Mr. Anthony, this is your last warning. Are you going to have all my money next collection day?”

The man nodded and curled himself into an even tighter ball, clutching painfully at his leg. Mickey felt he’d made his point. He nodded to Tony and texted Iggy and Joey to get out. It was on to the next target.

The brothers were finishing up their last collection for the day when Mickey’s phone rang. He checked the caller ID and glanced around to see where his brothers were. Tony was making the collection while Iggy and Joey were fooling around with the arcade machines in the far corner. Mickey stepped outside the bar into the dying afternoon light and took the call.

“Hey,” he cringed a little at the way his voice softened at its own accord. Fortunately, Ian’s voice was just as bad.


“So how did it go?” Mickey asked and was amused by Ian’s dramatic sigh.

“It was the fucking worst. I feel like I got spanked. This is your fault,” Ian accused.

“What, how?”

“I was going to skip that fucking final, but no, you had to make me go,” Ian sighed again. “Where are you?”


“Out doing what? What are you doing now?”

“What did I say to you about asking me about my business?”

Ian exhaled noisily, making Mickey smile. “You need to come over now. You’re the reason I did the exam, so you’re my reward for sitting through it.”

Mickey’s smile widened, “I am, huh? Like hell I was going to let you skip your last final. So you’re just going to decide on your own that I’m a reward?”

“Yes, I act unilaterally, get used to it. Now how soon can you get here?”

Mickey glanced at his watch and gave another cautious look around. “Give me an hour.”

“Half an hour.”

“I wasn’t opening up negotiations, dickhead. I’m a little constrained by the rules of time and space here.”

Ian grumbled impatiently, “ugh fine, you have an hour. The less you make me wait, the better it will be for you.”

“Yeah?” Mickey pulled at his collar, trying to cool his warming skin, “how’s that?”

Ian’s laugh was husky, and Mickey thought it was the heights of unfairness the way Ian could make his voice so rough and sexy without even trying.

“Your hour starts now; don’t keep me waiting.”

Mickey dumped his brothers and made it to Ian’s in what he thought was record time. He pushed the door open and found Ian in bed in his sweats, eating a bowl of cereal and watching a movie on his laptop.  Ian looked up at his entry, but said nothing. Instead, Mickey looked on as Ian closed his laptop and walked past him silently to head into the kitchen.

Mickey was left standing at the door, his apprehension building a little as Ian ignored him to wash up the dishes. Ian could be fucking weird sometimes, and Mickey couldn’t help but wonder if something had happened within the hour to piss Ian off. When Ian finally finished in the kitchen, he came back out and promptly shoved Mickey against the door—another favourite move of his. The relief Mickey felt when Ian’s lips met his was almost palpable.

“One hour and fourteen minutes,” Ian said when he pulled away. “You’re fourteen minutes late. I almost finished a whole movie.”

“You were seriously timing that shit?” Mickey asked incredulously. “It’s rush hour; I hit traffic.”

“Whatever, you have fourteen minutes to make up to me.”

Mickey looked at Ian as if he was growing a second head. “It’s like you’re speaking Greek right now. How the fuck am I supposed to ‘make up’ fourteen minutes?”

Ian shrugged and backed away to sit on the edge of the bed. He looked at Mickey expectantly, “you’re a smart guy; figure it out.”

Mickey got the hint. He quickly began shedding his clothes while Ian watched him heatedly, and didn’t stop until he was clad only in his boxers. He got to his knees between Ian’s legs and undid the laces of his sweatpants. Ian was already half hard and Mickey grasped Ian’s cock firmly and gave a few slow licks to the head of it.

“You’re not gonna last fourteen minutes,” Mickey teased, “you’re not even gonna last four.”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Ian warned as he fisted his hand in Mickey’s hair and made him plunge his mouth down the length of his cock.

“It wasn’t as bad as you think,” Mickey murmured softly as he lay propped up against the pillows. The room was covered in darkness and Ian was on top of him, sliding against him and pressing kisses along his chest and shoulder as they basked in the afterglow.

“You’re crazy,” Ian sighed softly, “it was amazing; you’re amazing.” And even that was an insane understatement. Ian reached up and pressed a kiss against the pulse point at Mickey’s neck, and revelled in the feel of Mickey’s hands running through his hair, over his shoulders and down his back.

“I know that, asswipe,” Mickey rolled his eyes, “I was talking about your finals. I’m betting it wasn’t nearly as bad as you think.”

They probably weren’t as bad as Ian had thought, but then, everything automatically felt better when Mickey was around. He had answered all the questions, though he hadn’t been confident about them. Still, maybe the semester hadn’t been a complete wash. Like Mickey said, it might not be pretty, but at least he had gotten through it.

“What will you give me if I pass them all?” Ian asked as he finally settled against Mickey’s chest.

“What do you want?”

You. It was remarkable how easy the answer was; it was all over Ian’s brain. If the intensity of it was unsettling to him, he didn’t want to imagine how badly it would spook Mickey. Ian shifted again and stared at Mickey’s face illuminated by the light from the window, and tried to think of a less intimidating response.

“Maybe we can take a road trip into Canada,” Ian suggested softly. He could feel Mickey’s body tense, so he added quickly, “we don’t have to get all the way there or anything, just see how far we get.  It’s mostly about us just hanging out for a while, far from here, you know?” He could feel Mickey’s body relax and he smiled when Mickey nodded.

“Yeah, I can do that.”

Ian nodded back and rested his head on Mickey’s chest. “So I’m on Christmas break now. What do you guys normally do for the holidays?”

“We don’t do shit. Milkoviches aren’t exactly a holly, jolly holiday bunch. Well, Tony and Jaime have kids now, so they hang with their families. The rest of us just kind of fuck around, I don’t know.”

Ian chewed his inner cheek and stroked Mickey’s chest. “So I’m thinking of heading down to see my family for Christmas break,” Ian said and hesitated before adding, “you, um, wanna come with?”

“Can’t, holidays are always busy season for the Outfit. I still have shit to run, can’t go anywhere.”

“Oh,” Ian automatically switched to the next option. “Well, I can stay if you want. We can just hang out…”

He trailed off lamely, hating how needy he sounded. He can’t believe this is what Alex had wished for him—this desperate, grasping, consuming feeling to just swoop in and take over everything. He wanted to play it cool, but he couldn’t and the idea of spending the holidays away from Mickey was already making him crazy. He didn’t trust Mickey’s feelings for him yet, and he couldn’t help the paranoia that he’d be out of sight and out of mind, and Mickey would simply sober up and write him off.

“It’s the holidays with your family though.”

“Nah, it’s not that big a deal. It’s a miracle if everyone actually showed up in the first place. They probably wouldn’t even notice if I did or didn’t make an appearance.”

“Shut up, it’s your family. They probably miss the shit out of you. I’m not going to ask you to skip Christmas with your—”

Ian shifted, cutting Mickey off, and moved to settle on the pillows next to him. He stroked Mickey’s face and shook his head.

“Seriously, it’s not a big deal. They won’t care. Everybody’s caught up in their own shit and the holidays just make it worse. Think about it, I can tell Sal I’m heading home for the holidays, but I stay and we can just hang out here. We can order like a ton of Chinese food and just watch crappy movies or whatever.”

“That does sound kind of nice,” Mickey admitted and slowly smiled at Ian. “You sure about this?”

“I’ve never been surer about anything.”

It was honestly sort of perfect. Two solid weeks of no Sal, no pool house, and no stress about fucking up and getting caught. Two whole weeks in the bubble of Ian’s apartment; two weeks of bad movies and amazing sex and feeling this alien thing between them escalate and take on a life of its own.

Christmas came and went quietly, and Ian made the requisite phone calls to his family to apologise, catch up quickly and express well-wishes. In the end, he’d been a little relieved that his predictions had been mostly right. Lip was stuck at the lab working on his team’s secret project, while Debbie and Carl had bailed to make their own Christmases worthwhile. Ian shuddered at the thought of sitting in the awkward tension of Fiona’s home, wondering what the latest fight or issue with her husband was all about. Still, there was sadness mixed in with the relief. It had been a while and his family was still scattered and he couldn’t help but wonder if any of them considered the same place “home” any more.

“You okay?” Mickey asked as he came through the door, laden with groceries. Ian nodded, smiled and rolled off the bed to follow Mickey into the tiny kitchen. He hugged Mickey from behind, hampering Mickey’s unpacking efforts, but neither of them was about to complain about it.

They had heard before that one should ring in the New Year doing whatever it was one wanted to do for the rest of the year. So that was a no brainer. They skipped the cold and the fireworks, and rang in the year with a few explosions of their own. The stroke of midnight found them both locked together, screaming each other’s names over the noisiness of the bed and the burst of the fireworks outside the window.

Ian had to admit, Mickey really did have a way of making everything feel so much better. So it wasn’t so bad, Ian decided, that he’d been forced to find another home away from his first one. It hadn’t been expected and it was slowly turning Ian inside out, but it was honestly sort of perfect.

The bubble couldn’t last for long and Ian was back at the pool house at Sal’s request once again. To Ian’s relief, Sal had been called away before Ian could even get there. He passed the time playing poker with Iggy, Joey and Tony and ignored the blatant cheating on the part of the brothers.

They were in the middle of the game when Mickey came home from the garage and found them in the basement. Ian focused on his cards, still trying to figure out how to act normally around Mickey. There were responses that were just automatic and it was a constant struggle not to give the game away.

“Douchebags,” Mickey drawled and stomped down the basement stairs. He leaned against the back of the couch, directly behind Ian’s chair, “where’s Sal and Jaime?”

“Mr. Montclair called and asked for a sit-down,” Tony told him, “Sal took Jaime and one of the made boys. Watch it with him, Sal’s been in a weird fucking mood lately; probably because he hasn’t gotten his pipes cleaned in a while.”

Ian snorted gamely at Tony’s tease, but he could feel Mickey’s sudden tension behind him. The brothers continued swapping stories and joking, and Ian sighed with relief when he felt Mickey relax again. Ian managed to ease into it and there was a semblance of familial normalcy to the whole thing. That is until Mickey decided to lean over him and, under the guise of adjusting Ian’s cards, rested his hand on the back of Ian’s neck and stroked him gently with his thumb. The ministration was hidden from the brothers and seemed platonic enough, but it set Ian on fire.

“Don’t let these fuckers cheat you out of anything,” Mickey said lightly and pulled back while his brothers loudly protested the slander.

Ian was trying to keep the heat out of his face. Mickey knew he was weak to shit like that. It was yet another thing Ian had to get used to in this strange relationship—this constant craving to be touched and shown affection. Ian wasn’t sure what he was turning into. He had been in secret relationships ever since he had hit puberty and he’d always understood the constraints that came with them. There weren’t going to be any public displays of affection—no holding hands or hugs or soft kisses, no open acknowledgement—and Ian had been fine with that. Along the way, he had convinced himself that maybe these weren’t things he wanted or needed at all.

What it was about being with Mickey that changed all that, Ian didn’t know. All he knew was that all of a sudden, he wanted everything. He wanted dumb stuff—he wanted to go out to eat, he wanted to roughhouse with Mickey in public, for Mickey to just lean up and kiss the crook of his neck without warning, the way he did when they were alone, he wanted to hold Mickey’s hand, even if his brothers were around. But Ian was trying to be smart and reasonable and practical. It felt impossible at times. Being with Mickey might make everything feel better, but it certainly wasn’t making things easy.

“I’m gonna take a shower,” Mickey declared and shoved away from the couch. “Try not to burn shit down while I’m gone.”

The other men murmured in response and Ian watched Mickey head up the stairs. He managed to wait all of ten minutes before he was calling it quits with the poker game. He told the brothers that he had to check for his grades and check his class availability, not that they were asking, but Ian felt the need to at least try and cover his tracks. He checked behind him constantly as he climbed the stairs to the second floor and headed to Mickey’s bedroom. Mickey’s door was unlocked and Ian made one more cursory check before he quickly stepped inside and closed it behind him.  

Ian could hear the shower running and he headed towards the sound. Mickey’s clothes had been tossed in a pile at the foot of his bed and Ian stepped over them carefully on his way to the bathroom. He slowly and quietly opened the door and leaned inside. Mickey’s glass shower was transparent and Ian was sure there was some very worrying, mob-related reasoning for it, but he chose to focus on the titillating aspects instead. He stood silently for a couple minutes, watching Mickey bathe under the heavy spray of water.

“At least close the fucking door if you’re just going to fucking stand there,” Mickey said, apparently completely aware that Ian had been there the whole time. Ian obediently entered the bathroom and locked the door behind him.

“You’re so fucking weird,” Mickey whispered shakily. He stood before the bathroom door, dripping wet since Ian wouldn’t let him dry anywhere except his hair. He looked down at Ian and shivered again as Ian’s tongue found and followed another rivulet of water that had trailed down his thigh.

Ian only hummed in response. He wasn’t about to deny that. He seemed to be developing all manner of odd kinks lately. He licked at the side of Mickey’s knee and trailed his tongue up the length of his inner thigh. He nipped and sucked at the spot just below the juncture where Mickey’s thigh met his pelvis. He kept at it until an angry red mark bloomed at the spot, and Ian was tempted to leave them everywhere.

He kissed Mickey’s hips and licked at more drops of water, careful only to brush against Mickey’s straining erection to drive him insane. He loved smelling Mickey, felt like he was getting high on the scent of him, and he buried his face in the tight curls of Mickey’s pubic hair and licked and kissed whatever his tongue and lips could reach.  He ran his hands up the back of Mickey’s thighs to squeeze his ass before sliding them back down again.

“Please,” Mickey’s broken plea for relief was soft and his hands were gentle in Ian’s hair. Ian locked eyes with him and slowly and deliberately began swallowing Mickey down. Ian gripped Mickey’s hips to steady and hold him still as he took him in deeply. He could already taste the tang of Mickey’s pre-come and he watched the blue eyes darken and Mickey’s lips part as his breathing grew ragged.

“Mine,” Ian thought to himself. This possessiveness threw him; it was new to him like the rest of it all. He wanted it to be like this all the time, just the two of them. He didn’t want Mickey looking like that at anyone else, he didn’t want anyone else making Mickey feel this way. After all this time being satisfied with being someone’s secret or lesser priority, the need to own and be owned was even more powerful and overwhelming than he had imagined it could be. Still there was nothing he wanted more.

“Yo, Mick!”

They both went stock-still at the sound of Iggy and Joey knocking on the bathroom door. Mickey froze, his face going white and his hand stilling in Ian’s hair.


“Do you know where we left the air rifles? Me and Iggy wanna take them out.”

Mickey sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “Did you check the last fucking place you left them? They’re probably still under the mat in the Chevy.”

Ian could hear the brothers muttering their agreement outside the door. He smiled around Mickey’s cock and resumed his measured pace, making Mickey’s hands clench in his hair once more.

“Now could you give me five fucking minutes to myself please?” Mickey asked testily.

On the other side of the door, the two brothers gave each other knowing looks and grinned. “Stroking it,” they said in unison and Ian almost choked while Mickey rolled his eyes.

“And shut my fucking door,” Mickey yelled after them as he heard them head out the room. He then looked down at Ian and whispered, “you gonna stay down there all day or you wanna get on me?”

Unlike the blow job, what came next was not a slow or gentle affair. They were both trying their best to stay silent and what they lacked in sound, they made up in force. Mickey reached up and gripped the towel rack as Ian slammed into him. He couldn’t stop the whimper that escaped when Ian yanked his hair back with one hand and stroked his leaking cock with the other.  Ian stifled his own sounds by burying his face in Mickey’s neck and for a while, there were only the sounds of their harsh, mingled breathing and the hard slap of their bodies against each other.

Mickey came first with a strangled moan. He then watched with strange fascination and detachment as his ejaculate dripped down the door until he could feel Ian reaching his own climax deep inside him. They were still for a moment, Ian sagging against Mickey’s back, sandwiching him against the door as they caught their breaths. Mickey finally shoved him off and Ian pulled up his pants, grinning like a demon.

“Gonna need to take another fucking shower now,” Mickey grumbled as he flipped around to face Ian. He looked tired and replete, and he raked Ian’s face with his eyes, “don’t look so fucking pleased with yourself.”

The admonishment only made Ian’s smile worse and he promptly swooped forward to kiss Mickey until his legs were jelly beneath him.

“What did I say about doing that?” Mickey said.

“I don’t know, what did you say?”

Mickey gave his idiot a half-hearted glare. “Get the fuck out and look both ways before you cross the passageway.”

Ian had barely made it into the other room and settled into the chair when Sal came back. The man’s face lit up when he saw Ian. He walked over and went to stroke Ian’s face only for Ian to flinch away from the touch before he seemed to remember himself. He smiled weakly at Sal, but Sal’s hand dropped to his side and he peered at Ian closely.

“What’s the matter, not happy to see me?”

Ian snorted derisively, but he slid out of the chair and headed for his school bag, staying awkwardly out of Sal’s reach. “You know I’m happy to see you; don’t get weird, Sal.”

“Weird, huh?” Sal scratched his nose and sat in the abandoned chair, “haven’t seen you for two weeks. I thought you’d be a little more enthusiastic about reuniting.”

“I am,” Ian reassured him hastily and sat on the edge of the bed so he could pat Sal’s knee fondly. “I’m just worried over getting my grades and starting the semester soon, you know?”

Sal nodded, there always seemed to be excuses with Ian lately, they were reasonable, Sal admitted to himself, but suspiciously abundant. The two weeks Ian had been away, it had been as if the young man had fallen off the face of the earth, and Sal’s paranoia had kicked into overdrive.

“How was it—Christmas with your family?” Sal asked.

Ian shrugged and smiled tiredly, “family is weird.”

Sal found himself smiling back, his suspicion subsiding for the moment as he empathized with the sad, sincere note in Ian’s voice. He grabbed Ian’s hand and rubbed it soothingly. “Kid, you don’t know the half.”

The following day, Mickey decided to put in a full work day at the garage. At midday, he took a break and headed to the nearest sandwich shop. While he waited for his food, his phone chirped and he checked it to find a picture of Ian grinning up at him from his bed. “You should be here right now,” Ian had added on, and Mickey sent his usual “fuck off,” saved the picture to a protected folder and then deleted the text. He was still grinning to himself when he headed outside to make his way back to the garage.

“Well don’t you look happy?” An unwelcome voice called out to him. Mickey paused and looked around to find Agent Fowler leaning easily against his parked car. Mickey snorted and resumed his walk back to work. The federal agent fell in step with him, undeterred by the chilly response. “Don’t act like you don’t see me, boy. I know you have better manners than that.”

Mickey rolled his eyes and kept walking. He unrolled his sandwich and began eating, intent on ignoring his unwanted companion.

“You’ve grown a little,” Agent Fowler said fondly, “your rap sheet has grown a lot more. You keep that up and soon the law-biding citizens of this country won’t want anything at all to do with you. What have I always said about running ‘a fowl’ of the law?”

God that was painful, Mickey actually had to pause for a moment and groan out loud to the heavens. Agent Fowler was nonplussed.

“What? You and your sister used to love that joke!”

“Yeah, well, we were like ten, so…”

The agent nodded and raised his hands in mock surrender. “You know, I was transferred out for a while, but I kept up to speed on you kids. Some of this grey hair up here?” Agent Fowler pointed to his head, “courtesy of you and Mandy.”

“Save yourself the grief; we’re good.”

“I made a pledge that I’d see you get out of this life, Mickey, and I’m going to,” Agent Fowler said, all traces of humour now gone, “I just need you to help me make it happen. I need you to give me, Sal.”

Mickey let out a bark of laughter, “please, sir, with all due respect, fuck off.”

“I can protect you; give you a shot at a normal, decent life.”

“You couldn’t protect me from shit,” Mickey snorted, “fuck the Outfit, even if they couldn’t, Sal would never stop until he found me. ‘A normal, decent life,’ get outta here with that bullshit. What kind of life? Holed up in some fucking trailer park in Arizona, looking over my shoulder every day until I finally get a bullet in my head? Thanks, but no thanks.”

Fowler moved ahead and stopped Mickey in his tracks by blocking his way. “We could protect you. This life is leading you nowhere but prison or death, and I’m trying to save you from that. You’re a smart kid, Mickey; you could have a chance, a real chance of making it away from all this mess.”

Mickey shook his head, “I ain’t no snitch and I’ll never give Sal up to any of you fucking pigs. He took us out of the gutter when all you government assholes were looking the other way while we were fucking starving and on our own. If it wasn’t for him, we’d have been six feet under, or fucking fighting through foster care. You know what happens to kids like us in foster care? To girls like Mandy?”

“You don’t think you’ve repaid your debt?” Fowler asked, “as far as I’m concerned, you switched one bad situation for another one. Sal saved you for a minute, Mickey, then he’s been fucking up your life ever since.”

Mickey shook his head in disgust and stepped around the agent to keep walking. Agent Fowler quickly caught up. “You should think about it, Mickey. You need to think about what options you have.”

“I don’t need to think about anything!” Mickey whirled on him, “Everything I know is here, my life is here, my family is here, I just fell—” Mickey stopped himself and sighed deeply, “you need to find some other sucker to commit suicide, because I’m not him. You have a nice day, Agent Fowler; let’s not make this a regular thing.”

Agent Maria Hernandez was late for her briefing. She was new and the building was like a freaking labyrinth. When she finally found the conference room, she took a moment to pat and reign in her curls before she opened the door and strode inside. The rest of the team was already there. Agent Fowler was sticking pictures to the whiteboard, showing the Outfit hierarchy. At the table, the rest of the team—three other agents, sat waiting.

“Agent Hernandez, good of you to join the party,” Fowler greeted.

“I’m so sorry, sir, I thought I knew where to find this room.”

“Don’t worry about it; this place is a freaking labyrinth when you’re new. Have a seat, let’s get this going.”

“I can’t believe the Mob is still a thing,” Hernandez observed as she slid into a seat at the conference table. “It’s like I took a left turn and wound up in Anthropology instead of criminal investigations.”

“As long as people want things and are willing to get them illicitly, the Mob will always have a place. Still, it’s going to be hell when the old guard finally dies out and the kids take over. Tradition is a millstone around their necks in this day and age. Alright, follow along children,” Agent Fowler stepped to the side of the whiteboard and nodded to the pyramid. “At the top of the food chain, John Fischetti, has been the Don since the mid-nineties; his consigliere, Jimmy Lombardo, going strong despite being the ripe old age of eighty-six years old, we should all be so lucky.
Next is the underboss, Nicholas Carlisi. He’s dying of lung cancer and there are plays being made to be the next underboss among the Capos. The front runner is Tony Salerno, practically a sure thing from what my informants tell me. But who I really want to focus on is this guy.”

Fowler tapped on the picture of Sal in the third tier. “Salvatore Boerio, one of the North side Capos. Started climbing the rungs by marrying Fischetti’s favourite niece—first and last good thing he’s done since then.”

“Why are we focusing on him?” Agent Hendricks, a young African-American man chimed in.

“He’s the weakest link of the bunch,” Fowler informed his team as he isolated Sal’s picture and started putting up pictures of his associates around him. “He’s not well-liked or respected within the Outfit. In fact, the powers that be view him with a fair amount of disdain. He has a few proclivities that they’re not quite happy with. Still, he’s high-ranking enough and therefore privy to a whole lot of secrets. We knock him down, stroke his ego a bit, and I see him rolling on the higher-ups.”

“His crew?”

“Sal’s main crew is atypical,” Fowler nodded at a picture of Mickey directly below Sal’s. “Meet his main soldier and unofficial consigliere, Mickey Milkovich.”

“Milkovich,” Hernandez raised an eyebrow, “doesn’t sound like any Italian I’ve ever heard of.”

“Ukrainian, I think, or Russian; Sal doesn’t trust his fellow countrymen. He thinks they’re all out to get him.”

Hernandez peered closer at the picture. “And consigliere, really? He’s twelve.”

“Twenty-two actually,” Fowler corrected and nodded to the tablet in front of her, indicating that she should read up.

“Fine, twenty-two, sir, which is basically just twelve with permission to drink. What the heck could he possibly know about being an adviser to an Outfit Capo?”

“Tread carefully with this one,” Agent Mueller sang out. She was an older woman with a sleek red bob, and the only agent on the team apart from Fowler who wasn’t fresh out of Quantico. “Agent Fowler has a soft spot for him.”

“Sal took in Mickey and his siblings when they were young kids. They never had a real chance and I would like to give them one,” Fowler explained, “as for Mickey, he’s been pretty much running Sal’s operation for years now, so I wouldn’t underestimate his abilities.”

“Can we roll him?” Hendricks asked, stroking his close-shaven goatee, “wouldn’t he be an easier target in order to get to Salvatore?”

“Been there, tried that. We’ll explore all options, but Sal is most likely the weakest link even among his own crew.” Fowler then went on to inform his team about the rest of the Milkoviches. “They’re one of the reasons Salvatore’s on the outs with the rest of the Outfit. They’re not exactly happy that sensitive Mob business might be in the hands of young boys who aren’t even blood. Sal’s use of the Milkoviches is basically an affront to the Mob, but as long as Sal stays in place, no one touches them.”

“What happens when Salvatore gets taken out of play?” Hendricks asked.

“We believe the Outfit will wipe them out as a matter of honour and principle,” Mueller informed the team coolly, “there are a lot of older, loyal made men who’ve been bypassed in favour of Mickey and his brothers, and they’re feeling quite vengeful about it.”

“Well this should make them malleable, right?” Hernandez frowned at her tablet, “I mean, are they aware of this? If Sal dies, they’re dead; if Sal gets taken out some other way, they’re still dead. Clearly they need to cast their lot elsewhere if they want to escape a death penalty. ‘Turn state’s evidence and maybe live to see your forties,’ sounds like an offer they can’t refuse.”

“You’d think so but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Fowler frowned at Mickey’s picture. “They won’t turn on him. The one thing Sal has done well is ingrain loyalty at any expense into them. It’s the weirdest thing with those boys; they know he’s an idiot, but they still think he’s a god.”

Hernadez’s brow furrowed in consternation at this insane brand of loyalty. “That sounds crazy. Are they his soldiers or are they his cult?”

That, in Fowler’s estimation, was a most excellent question.

Chapter Text

It never got easier.

Not that it happened all that often; a one on one meeting with Sal was a rare occurrence. It was Mickey who had the face time with Sal and through Mickey they got their orders. Mickey was the intermediary whose heart didn’t pound when he was summoned and whose palms didn’t sweat. If Mickey’s mind spun with the dizzying number of worst case scenarios when Sal demanded to see him, Mickey never showed it. None of the brothers envied Mickey’s obvious favour from Sal—except when it was gift time—because Sal was a strange and mercurial man, and facing him was truly a nerve-wracking thing.

Outside the door of Sal’s study, Jaime wiped his palms on his trousers and tried to think positively, but it was a hopeless case. When Salvatore called him for a sit-down, it was never a good thing. Far more often than not, it meant pain for someone, and Jaime had strong suspicions about the latest possible target.

He finally gathered up enough courage to knock and Sal’s invitation to enter seemed quiet and even-tempered enough. This only served to ramp up Jaime’s anxiety. He slowly entered and found Sal slumped over his desk, eyes closed as he pressed his glass of bourbon against his head—the open bottle at his elbow. Sal looked up at Jaime’s entry and nodded to the empty seat across his desk.

“You know the mark of a good leader, Jaime?” Sal asked, his voice low and coarse, scraping across Jaime’s nerves as he produced another glass and poured out a couple fingers of bourbon. He plunked the glass in front of his soldier and leaned back. The space between them was smoky, the result of the pungent Cuban cigar still smouldering in the ash tray between them, and Jaime felt the weight of the room bearing down on him. He took a steadying sip of the burning, amber liquor and Sal followed up his question. “Different people have different ideas about what makes a good leader, Jaime, but you know what I think? It’s loyalty. What’s a leader without it, hmm?”

Jaime blinked at his boss, careful not to say a word and trying his best to betray nothing. His mind went straight to Mickey and his palms grew damp once again. “He knows…” But no, Sal would never ask him to do something like that. Not to Mickey, not to his own brother…would he? He licked his lips nervously and waited, the adrenaline building in his veins. His eyes widened in shock when Sal stood and started coming around the desk.

“I’m not perfect, Jaime,” Sal perched on the desk directly next to him, filling Jaime’s field of vision and staring down at him from on high. “I’m not perfect, but I try to do right by my men, don’t I, Jaime? I try to do right by you boys.”

“Yeah, Sal,” Jaime mumbled, prompted by the expectant silence, “you’re good to us.”

“There isn’t a man here who can’t come to me. There isn’t a man here I wouldn’t take a bullet for. I do for my own. Is it too much to ask for a little fucking loyalty in return?!” he swooped down suddenly, grabbing the scruff of Jaime’s neck and forcing the startled man’s face close to his. “What’s worse, huh? The man who can’t keep his men loyal or the trash that turns on him? Just turns around and spits in his fucking face?! Am I trash, Jaime? Don’t I deserve some fucking loyalty?!”

Jaime’s heart was in his throat. There was the anger he feared, but had known would show eventually. He knew what was coming; he knew there would be pain. “You’re good to us, Sal,” Jaime reassured the glowering man with the vise-like grip around his neck. He tried not to squirm, tried to think, tried to find a path out of all of this. “Sometimes…sometimes mistakes get made,” Jaime whispered lowly and quailed as Sal’s eyes went glacial. He had said the wrong thing.

“There were no fucking mistakes. You don’t betray someone like this and call it a fucking mistake,” Sal pulled away, and Jaime wasn’t sure if it was better or worse than having Sal bearing down on him. “Anybody else would have left him in a fucking gutter, would have left any of you in the gutter, but not Salvatore Boerio. I take you in, you’re family; but family breaks your fucking heart!”

Jaime’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly. Mickey would have ferreted out the problem ages ago and would have smoothed Sal’s ruffled feathers. But Mickey’s brain was all ginger lately and that was the trouble. He had the sneaking suspicion that his brother had done the exact opposite of shutting shit down and that was probably why Jaime was sitting in Sal’s study, trying to deal with a problem that he simply couldn’t handle. He froze when Sal’s eyes fell on him again.

“Do you understand loyalty, Jaime? Are you my soldier?” Sal’s hand settled heavily on Jaime’s shoulder and squeezed gently when Jaime nodded. He moved in closer, “sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by nothing but snakes, but I can trust you, can’t I, Jaime?”

“Yeah, Sal, you can.”

“I know, I know, you’re one of the good ones. You’re my good boy, you’re my soldier, yeah?” he patted Jaime’s chest. “The people you call family, they turn around and ruin things, but you’re gonna help me fix it, aren’t you? You always come through for me. You’re my boy, Jaime; my fucking soldier.”

Jaime swallowed and nodded, finding that despite the chaos of it all, he still warmed from Sal’s validation. He was a good soldier; he did the dirty work, he never broke ranks, and he never gave Sal a reason not to trust him, but how far could he possibly be expected to go?

Sal reached back for the decanter and filled Jaime’s glass. “You’re the only one I could turn to for this. You’re the only one I can trust to set this right. It’s not an easy thing to raise a hand against a brother—”

Jaime’s heart fell and the blood froze in his veins at Sal’s words. He looked up at his boss in disbelief, searching the old man’s face as Sal pressed the glass into his hand.

“You’ll fix this for me, won’t you, Jaime?” There was that subtle shift in tone and the moment came when a request became an order. Sal rested a hand in Jaime’s dark hair and looked right at the boy still trapped behind his eyes. “You’re my killer, aren’t you, Jaime? You’re loyal and you’re gonna show what kind of man you are. I know you’re going to come through for me.”

He shouldn’t have come.

At least, he shouldn’t have gotten as high as he did before coming here. Sal stared at his hand as he flexed it. His whole body felt weirdly numb and it was as if he was slipping under water. He tried to remember the particular drug cocktail he had ingested before the call came and couldn’t—Dre’s concoctions were truly things of mind-altering beauty. But shit, how was he supposed to know that Carlisi would take a sudden downward turn? The old fuck had been lingering for years.

“Come now,” they had said, summoning him like a dog, “Carlisi’s on his last legs. We’re gathering to pay respect.”

Fuck Carlisi and fuck all of them; pay respect, his ass. They were gathering to pick Carlisi’s bones like the vultures they were, to take a front row seat to the macabre spectacle that was death and dying. He wanted none of it, he wanted out. The idea of death and disease made his skin crawl and made him want to claw his way through any and everything to escape. In his drug-addled mind, he could almost see the plague oozing out of Carlisi’s room, floating out to where the men were gathered, filling the room, threatening to strangle him. Sal could feel sweat break out over his body and he pulled desperately at his collar.

Every once in a while he caught the looks being sent his way. They could tell he was under the influence, but it wasn’t as if there was fuck all he could do about it. He hated these gatherings, hated the barely concealed hostility and disdain these bastards had for him, like he wasn’t their equal, like he wasn’t somebody. He flexed his hands again and tried to breathe deeply to dispel the rage and frustration coiling in his gut.

“Fucking cancer, huh?” Mike Spano, another Capo, said quietly to the men seated on the couches, silently nursing their drinks. “This goddamned disease is no respecter of persons. My son-in-law’s brother is one of those annoying fitness fuckers; forty years old and gets diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Ain’t that a bitch?”

The men within earshot all murmured their agreement and once again fell into an awkward silence. After a few moments, it was Mike who spoke up again. “So, uh, Big Tony’s still buying up those moving trucks, huh? It’s a good racket; it’s a good racket.”

“He got that idea when he was working under me,” Sal growled, unable to contain his bitterness. “I thought of that shit ages ago, but no one would back it.”

There was a flurry of exchanged looks and more than a little eye rolling before Mike sniffed, “yeah sure, Sal, whatever you say.”

He shouldn’t have come high, but still he wasn’t high enough. Nothing in his system was enough to let this shit slide. Sal felt something inside him boil over as the smug fucks smirked at each other and dismissed him completely.

“What the fuck are you trying to say?” Sal’s voice had climbed enough to have people glancing over. “What, I can’t have good ideas? Don’t I have a fucking brain; like I ain’t a fucking somebody?!”

A heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder and Sal’s head whipped around to see who the fuck dared to touch him. It was Tony—Big Tony—and Sal hated the way he quailed under the authoritative touch and the cold stare. Tony had blue eyes, just like his Mickey’s, which stood out in contrast against his olive skin. Tony’s eyes, though, could leave Sal cold in an instant. It bothered him sometimes, just how alike his former and current princes were, in both looks and attitude, but Sal could overlook it most of the time, because Mickey was his in a way Tony never was.

“Relax, Salvatore. What are you making all this noise for? Always so goddamned noisy; have a little respect for Mr. Carlisi. It’s a sombre time.”

Sal could only stare balefully at his former soldier. Tony Salerno overawed Sal in every way. He towered over everything and everyone, standing well over six feet, and was fit and broad shouldered, his body remaining hard and spare even as he got older. A few silver streaks stood out in stylish contrast to Tony’s dark, glossy hair. He was a presidential looking fucker, Sal always admitted to himself, beautiful to look at, but Tony put the fear of God into him even as an underling. Sal could never forge that connection, or ferret out that loyalty, and in the end, he was forced to hide his true self from his own goddamned subordinate.

Sal tried to keep his face blank as the sycophants in the room all but fell over themselves to rush to greet the newcomer. All that was left was for them to fall to their knees and kiss his fucking ring. Sal squirmed in his seat, feeling the stale envy churn in his gut as he watched Tony navigate the room. Tony wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, but no one questioned his manhood or virility. If anyone whispered dark, scandalous things about Tony Salerno, Sal never heard them. Tony was a man’s man, one of the lesser gods in the Chicago Outfit, and soon he would ascend to underboss.

“Oh Tony, it’s terrible,” Mrs. Carlisi, soon to be the widow Carlisi, fell on Tony’s neck and sobbed, her eyes soon shining gratefully as Tony whispered soothing words to her.

Sal rolled his eyes. “Yeah, kiss his ass now, you wrinkled old bitch. Earn that money.” Her husband wasn’t even dead yet and she was already glomming on to the new blood. Her quality of life would be determined by Tony’s whims soon and she was moving quickly to ingratiate herself. But at the end of the day, who would be the new underboss would be Fischetti’s call and no one else’s. As far as Sal was concerned, the title was still very much in play and he had a trump card in his pocket. It wouldn’t be over until his bitch of a wife sang.

“Shame about Carlisi.”

Sal was stirred out of his reverie by his driver, Jimmy, as they wound their way home. Jimmy was one of his made men, who became his driver whenever the Milkoviches were unavailable or unacceptable. Sal snorted in response and continued staring out the window.

“The Big C, I gotta admit, it fucking scares me. You never know how or when that shit’s gonna pop up,” Jimmy continued.

“You never know when death’s gonna come for you in any form,” Sal grunted, “why fucking worry about it?”

Jimmy shrugged, “well you’re a lot cooler about it than I am, boss, I can say that much.”

“You see Tony today?” Sal asked suddenly; an abrupt change to the topic, “they’re dinging him for underboss. You think he’s a good replacement?”

Jimmy nodded easily, “I mean, it’s Big Tony, you know? Everybody loves Tony, and some new blood couldn’t hurt.”

Sal simply nodded and kept staring out the window.

He leaned back in the sofa and waited for the latest rail of coke to take effect. Nothing happened though and nothing was going to happen. He always left these gatherings feeling small, angry and emasculated and it only seemed to get worse the older he got. Drugs rarely helped when he felt like this. They either numbed him too much or amped him up further.

“Where the hell is everybody?” he grumbled as he stared bleakly around the empty pool house. It was late evening and hardly anyone was there lately, with Mickey turning into a ghost and his brothers only hanging out there when he was home.

Sal frowned and reached for his cell phone. He just needed to feel like a man again. He needed to get the ugly out. He frowned as Ian’s phone rang without answer and his grip turned crushing as he kept trying unsuccessfully. He stopped, dialled another number, and was still annoyed that it took Mickey four rings to pick up. The young man sounded breathless and distracted.

“Finish whatever or whoever the fuck you’re doing and go get Ian,” Sal ordered tersely.

“Does he know I’m coming?”

“What the fuck did I just say to you?” Sal snapped and hung up the phone. Now there was just the wait.

Mickey double-checked that the call had ended before he put his phone back on Ian’s night table. He sighed and pushed his damp hair back from his eyes. Ian’s temperamental radiator had been on scorching for the past few hours, leaving them sweat-soaked as they got tangled up in the sheets and each other.

“What’s up?” Ian asked as he ran his hands up the thighs of the man sitting astride him.

“Sal wants to see ya.”

“No shit?” Ian grabbed his phone off the other night stand, “shit, my phone died. Didn’t even realize.” He tossed the phone back onto the table and gripped Mickey’s hips. “So, you’re gonna come for me?” he asked, his smirk unholy.

Mickey rolled his eyes, “just because you got a monster cock doesn’t give you the right to be this corny.”

“Does that mean I can be a dick though?” Ian waggled his eyebrows and Mickey groaned painfully. Ian just grinned harder and rolled his hips, making Mickey’s breath hitch. “How soon do you have to come get me?”

“He did say I could finish whoever or whatever I was doing first.”

“Ah, well then,” Ian sat up to press his body to Mickey’s, “you should take your time.”

He nuzzled Mickey’s face, intent on a kiss, and frowned when Mickey pulled back. He tried again, only for Mickey to pull back yet again. Ian looked up, a little stung by the rejection, to see Mickey staring back at him playfully, the challenge clear in his eyes. Ian grinned and quickly fisted a hand in Mickey’s hair, moving with him as he yanked him onto his back. Mickey’s pained grunt quickly gave way to pleasure as Ian thrust hard and fast into him before pausing and settling between his legs.

“You like it when I treat you like that?” Ian asked as he loosened the fist in Mickey’s hair and gazed down at him.

“Yeah… sometimes,” Mickey answered shyly before his breath stuttered when Ian rolled his hips slowly against his.

“Do you like it when I treat you like this?” Ian asked lowly with another roll of his hips. He sucked on Mickey’s lower lip as he continued the slow, scorching pace.

Mickey felt like he was melting underneath it all—the heat of the room, the heat of Ian’s body, the burn expanding inside him. He liked it fast and hard and rough, but fuck if he didn’t love this feeling of Ian huge, hot and hard inside him, stretching and filling him and never leaving for a moment. He wrapped his legs tightly around Ian’s hips and arched up; crushing his sweat-slickened body against Ian’s and simply surrendered to the feeling.

Everything was so different here in this bubble with Ian. He wasn’t scared to show his pleasure, to let his lips part and Ian’s name tumble out like a litany. He was surprised by how quickly he was shedding his inhibitions, dropping stronger hints each time about what he liked and what he needed. He loved the way Ian anticipated those needs, or at least figured them out quickly. He loved the way Ian loved him, just slowly and thoroughly, quietly turning him out just the way Ian promised he would.

Ian licked at the notch of Mickey’s throat and almost purred when Mickey stroked the back of his head with one hand and rubbed his back with the other. He wanted to stay like this forever, locked with Mickey in this sweet heat, savouring his scent and touch and taste. He rocked faster, that familiar need overtaking his desire to go slowly. He sucked on the column of Mickey’s throat, loving the vibrations the sound of his name made there. He shuddered when he felt Mickey convulse around him as Mickey found his release and Ian came right after him, spilling deep inside Mickey before slumping on top of him.

Mickey allowed him two minutes before he was forcefully shoving Ian away. “Get off, fuck you and this goddamned sauna you call a room.”

“Heater keeps acting up. What do you expect; it’s a piece of shit apartment.”

Mickey grinned at the peeling ceiling. “I kinda like it though,” he admitted before looking over Ian. “Hey, watch it with Sal later. He sounds like he’s in one of his moods.”

Ian grunted in reply. When wasn’t Sal in one of his moods?

His anger must have peaked and ebbed a dozen times while he waited for Ian’s arrival. Now he was spiralling into rage. They should have been here by now; they should have been here ages ago. They were going to show up eventually with another paper-thin excuse and a mumbled apology and Sal was going to lose it.

Lately, Ian was as much a source of aggravation as he was a source of solace. Maybe it was in Sal’s imagination, but he didn’t like the way Ian looked at him, as if his eyes couldn’t even focus properly or he was merely looking in Sal’s general direction, but wasn’t really seeing him at all. Sal stiffened in his chair as he heard them come in. He could hear their muffled voices as they approached the door, conversing easily and taking their own sweet fucking time. They were still talking outside the door, with no apparent intention of coming in any time soon. When Sal stalked across the room and yanked the door open, he found Mickey with his hand suspended in mid-air, clearly about to knock.

“Where the fuck have you been?!” Sal snarled, his eyes locked on Ian as the redhead shot him a quick smile and slipped past him.

“We hit traffic; it’s rush hour and there’s so much slush out there,” Ian rattled off. He did his ritual of dumping his bag on the floor and shrugging off his coat and hoodie, seemingly oblivious to the angry, agitated man behind him. So he was surprised when Sal grabbed his arm and spun him around, the man gripping hard enough to bruise.

“Why the fuck was your phone off?” Sal demanded, feeling his frustration build from Ian’s lack of desired response. There had been surprise, because Sal had never put his hands on him like that before, but the surprise hadn’t given way to fear or apprehension or any such thing. Instead, there was wariness and a chilling spark of anger and Sal tried not to backpedal in the face of it.

“I went for a run, alright? Used my phone for my music and the battery drained. I just forgot to charge it,” Ian said slowly and clearly, as if dealing with a difficult child. That bit was true at least, about the phone. Only Mickey had shown up just as he had come home and he’d been completely distracted from charging the device.

He hadn’t gotten the response he needed, so Sal tried another more sure-fire tack. “When I call you, I expect you to answer. How fucking hard is it to know how to keep your fucking phone on? Are you stupid? Are you retarded? You don’t have enough fucking brain cells to rub together to know how to keep your fucking phone working?!”

“Why the fuck don’t you just back off him a little?!”

It was hard to say who was more surprised by Mickey’s outburst, Ian or Sal. Ian’s eyes went wide and Sal turned slowly to face the other man. He had been caught up in the heat of the moment with Ian and had forgotten Mickey’s presence entirely. In fact, he was baffled as to why the boy was even still here. He advanced on Mickey slowly, his head cocked to one side and disbelief etched on his face as he wondered if he’d really heard correctly.

“What the fuck did you just say to me?”

Surprisingly, Mickey did not back down despite coming face to face with his pissed off boss. “He went for a fucking run and his battery died. This isn’t some strange, paranormal shit, Sal. It happens to people all the time. Why you gotta be talking to him like that?! Why you gotta be so fucking loud all the time? What are you making all this noise—”

Sal cracked Mickey so hard across the face with the back of his hand that the younger man almost went to his knees.

“Sal, what the fuck?!” Ian exploded behind him.

“No!” Mickey croaked, freezing Ian just before Sal grabbed him by the coat lapels and slammed him against the wall by the still open door.

“You’re mouthing off to me? Is that what I’m hearing right now?” Sal’s voice was deceptively soft, “you trying to fucking scold me, you unbelievable little shit?!”

That was it, there it was, that feeling he had been craving the whole time; the look Sal had been searching for. The fear in those blue eyes, that respect and submission; he should have known Mickey would be the one to give him what he needed. Mickey always knew what to do, and with that Sal would feel that tight ball of ugly that always resided in his gut uncoil even just a little. He pushed further, chasing that strange high that nothing in Dre’s illicit pharmacy could ever replicate.

“Who the fuck do you think you are? What the fuck are you, talking to me like that?”

“Nobody…nothing,” Mickey’s voice was now small and subdued and Sal almost smiled in satisfaction. Mickey always knew the perfect thing to say.

Sal tossed him out the room, almost sending Mickey crashing into his own bedroom door. “You get the fuck out of my sight for the rest of the day. Don’t show your face to me unless I call you.”

Sal slammed the door shut and turned around, only to stop cold. In the heat of the moment with Mickey, he had actually managed to forget Ian’s existence. He was sharply reminded of it now though, and that precious feeling he’d just carefully leeched from Mickey was dashed in the face of Ian’s towering rage. Ian’s face was almost as red as his hair, and he somehow seemed taller and broader and more intimidating than ever. Sal swallowed and took a step back.

“What the fuck was that?!” Ian’s voice shook slightly as his hands curled into fists. Sal blinked and then tried some bravado to fight down his sudden fear and embarrassment.

“He disrespected me,” he tried to thunder, but his own voice sounded weak and pathetic in his own ears.

“He didn’t fucking disrespect you, you were acting like a fucking lunatic!”

Sal’s brow furrowed and he tried to bristle, but it was hard to cow someone who seemed so much bigger and more powerful than he could hope to be. He took a threatening step towards Ian anyway. “Who the fuck—”

Ian closed the distance between them in a second and Sal visibly quailed. “You wanna try it? Go ahead; fucking try it with someone who isn’t under orders not to hit back. I look like one of your fucking punching bags to you?” Ian almost spat with disgust and turned to gather his things.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

“Home; I’m fucking done here,” Ian shrugged on his hoodie, but couldn’t wait to get outside, so he just grabbed his overcoat and bag, and headed for the door.

“You can’t leave, I just called you here. You have to—”

“Have to what? What do I have to do, Sal?” Ian snapped at him, “how about this time, you find your own dick and go fuck yourself with it?”

“Get out of my sight!” Sal yelled after him, but Ian was already gone.

The right side of Mickey’s face felt as if it was on fire. It was snowing again, the flakes raining down on him as if trying to cool down both his burning face and mind. He paced along the length of the Escalade, wearing a path into the snow as rage and humiliation worked through him like yeast and threatened to bubble over.

Stupid…why was he so stupid? What the fuck was he thinking going at Sal like that; of course he was going to get smacked down. He was supposed to know better; shit, he did know better. This was his fault. It had been so long since he’d run afoul of Sal like this. He knew how to circumnavigate Sal’s mercurial, drug-fuelled moods, he knew how to disarm him without passing his place, so why had he messed up so badly this time?

Mickey balled his hand into a fist and ground it into his forehead. Stupid…he had this coming. Fuck, he had probably been overdue for a smack down with the way everything had been going lately. He fretted about Ian, wondering if he’d just fucked up and made everything worse. He gingerly touched the side of his face and winced. He sniffed and dug the heel of his hands into his eyes. He hadn’t felt this crushed and broken down in a while and tears threatened. He fought them back, because crying like a pussy would be all he needed to complete his humiliation.

It would have been fine if Ian hadn’t been there. There was no embarrassment among Mickey and his brothers when Sal let loose on one of them, but there was rarely an audience to highlight the shame of it. He resumed his pacing, vacillating between the urge to go get Ian and the instinct to just get in his car and drive.


He jumped when Ian came barrelling around to the car. “What the fuck are you doing out here? What happened?!”

Ian didn’t immediately answer. Instead, he frowned at the angry red mark covering the right side of Mickey’s face and reached out to touch it. Mickey batted his hand away and glared at him.

“What happened, Ian?!”

“I told him I was going home,” Ian said, “and I might have told him to go fuck himself,” he tacked on sheepishly.

A headache the likes of which he had never felt before descended on Mickey with a thud. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes closed to fight against the pounding in his head. “Get in the car,” he ordered, half expecting to see a furious Sal rounding the corner waving a shotgun at them. Like fuck he was sending Ian back in there, and like hell he was hanging around. He hustled a sputtering Ian into the car and quickly sped away from the property.

“Jesus, Mick, your face,” Ian breathed out. The imprint of Sal’s hand was distinct and vivid, down to the impression of Sal’s sizeable pinkie ring. The full mortification of it all came flooding back in a rush to Mickey and he flashed Ian off and his efforts to soothe him.

It was snowing heavily as they drove; thick, wet drifts making their way down and piling on Mickey’s frustration as he had to go slowly and carefully in the poor visibility. He wanted to scream. Even now he didn’t know what he was doing, if running off with Ian now was only adding fuel to an already volatile situation. When Ian reached for him again, he snapped.

“Mick, please, just let me—”

“No, get the fuck off me!” he yelled into the quiet of the car. “Going through all this shit because of you; getting the crap beat out of me, for what? Sal’s sloppy seconds? You’re not worth this shit; nothing’s worth this.” The moment it was out of his mouth he regretted it, but Mickey wasn’t about to take it back right then. He kept staring ahead; not needing to look at Ian to know the crushed look that would be on the other man’s face.

There was a stretch of heavy silence, but for the swish of the windshield wipers, until Ian spoke up. “Stop the car.”

Mickey closed his eyes briefly and wondered how his life had come to this. “Ian, just—”

“Stop the car,” Ian ordered once again, his voice growing louder. When Mickey didn’t comply, he shouted his demand. “Stop this fucking car!”

“Will you just calm down for a second?!”

Fuck it, Mickey was going slowly enough, Ian could tuck and roll. He undid his seatbelt and went for the door. When Mickey saw what he was about to do, he immediately swerved and slammed the brakes when he climbed the curb. Ian was out of the car in an instant, leaving his bag behind, but shrugging on his overcoat as he started putting distance between them. Mickey got out of the car and chased after him.

“Ian, get back in the car.”

“Fuck you!” Ian yelled over his shoulder and sped up, using his long legs to his full advantage.

“It’s turning into a fucking storm out here,” Mickey persisted from a short distance behind, “can you be reasonable about this right now? We can talk in the car. I don’t need this crazy shit right now.”

Boom, it was as if he had pressed a button somewhere, but Ian was off and running. Mickey paused, stunned into silence for a moment as Ian tore away, before he yelled his frustration into the night and ran back to the car.

Running was definitely not the smartest thing to do right now, but it was the only thing he knew to do when everything got on top of him too fast. He needed to get away from the trigger; he needed that burn in his lungs and the illusory feeling of safety and distance that running gave. He had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t work this time, worse when he heard the familiar car horn behind him. He ducked into a broad alleyway between two buildings only to eventually realize that he had run into a dead-end, with a too-tall wall behind the garbage bins. He sagged, panting, as the headlights fell on his as Mickey turned into the alley.

Mickey slipped out the car, the Escalade almost completely blocking off the entrance to the alley. He came around to the front of the car where Ian stood frozen like a deer in the headlights.

“Please get back in the car,” Mickey said.

The sound of Mickey’s voice roused Ian out of his stupor and he found himself looking around for something to throw. With nothing immediately leaping out at him, he balled up some snow and tossed it hard at Mickey’s head.

“Fuck you, alright! You think I planned any of this shit?” he bellowed and continued pelting Mickey with snowballs. He stopped after he’d expended some energy and when Mickey dropped his hands and let one smack into his face.

“I’m sorry,” Mickey huffed, “look, I’m sorry, alright? I didn’t mean it, fuck, I just…” Mickey wiped his hands over his face, “I’m fucking up, Ian, and my face fucking hurts. I just don’t—”

He trailed off when he felt Ian gently tugging his hands away from his face. When Mickey dropped his hands, Ian gently pressed a handful of snow against Mickey’s reddened skin and stroked the uninjured cheek with his free hand. Ian sighed as Mickey stared up at him with big, watery, blue eyes and finally rested his forehead against Mickey’s. Mickey closed his eyes and reached up to grasp Ian’s wrist.

“You’re so goddamned dramatic,” Mickey said beneath his breath.

“No more than you,” Ian pointed out.

Not as if Mickey could argue against that point at the moment. “Can we at least go back in the car? It’s coming down like a plague out here.”

Ian nodded, his forehead still pressed against Mickey’s. He pulled back and walked around the side of the car, pulling Mickey along with him. He opened the door to the back seat, shoved Mickey in and climbed in after him.

“What are you doing?” Mickey asked softly. A bit of a silly question given the clear intent stamped on Ian’s face. Mickey barely had time to shrug off his heavy coat and suit jacket before Ian was pushing him down against the seat and straddling him.  

Ian dumped his own coat over the passenger seat and leaned in to kiss Mickey, hot and demanding, as he undid Mickey’s belt and pants. Mickey’s toes curled in his shoes as the kiss deepened and he squeezed the back of Ian’s thigh and stroked his hair. The pain from the hit and the emotional upheaval ebbed away as Ian’s hand found his cock and stroked him until his body was arching off the seat.

Ian paused briefly to undo his own belt and pants. He shoved down his pants and underwear enough to free his cock from its constraints. Mickey’s eyes fastened on it and he licked his lips slowly before glancing up at Ian’s face for instruction.

“Touch me,” Ian ordered softly.

He hissed, long and low, when Mickey eagerly reached out and grasped him firmly, and rubbed his thumb over the slit of his cock. They fell into a steady rhythm, their moans and hitched breaths filling the car as the windows fogged up on the inside and the snow blanketed the outside. As their orgasms built, Ian stroked harder, bracing over Mickey as his hand pumped his leaking cock and dragged increasingly louder gasps and groans out of them both.

“Does this feel like sloppy seconds to you?” Ian panted, trying to keep it together for just a little while longer, even as Mickey’s hand blurred on his cock and Mickey panted his name. “You get it all; I give you everything. There’s nothing left when you’re done.”

“Fuck,” Mickey whimpered before coming apart while his hand stuttered on Ian’s cock and the air got knocked out of him.

It was a consuming, cathartic moment following the high drama of the day. So they could be forgiven, perhaps, for not being completely aware of their surroundings and for being ignorant of the fact that they hadn’t been alone ever since leaving Sal’s home. Across the street, seated in an old Lincoln, Jaime and Tony sat watching.

“Jesus fuck,” Tony huffed, having just witnessed Ian shoving his brother into the backseat of his brother’s car. It didn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what was happening now.

“On the side of the goddamned street after that little fucking soap opera,” Jaime sighed and ran an agitated hand over his face. “Even a strung out, fucked up clock like Sal is gonna be right twice a day.”

“Ain’t paranoia if it’s true. Fuck, Mickey, what the hell?” Tony said before turning to his brother. “You knew this was going on?”

“I suspected, wasn’t sure. I could see them being flirty and whatever…I told him to shut this shit down!”

“Well that obviously worked,” Tony said dryly and looked over once again at the still, dark Escalade. “What the fuck are we gonna do?”

“What the fuck else can we do?!”

“Shit, Jay, it’s Mickey though!” Tony said.

“You got a better idea? Fuck, you have any other ideas at all? Because I’m all fucking ears over here,” Jaime said irritably. “Fuck him for putting us in this goddamned position. He’s supposed to be the smart one!”

Tony sighed and patted his pockets. “We gonna do this now?”

“You really want to roll up on that shit? Fuck no,” Jaime shook his head, “let them have the night. Tomorrow, me and Joey will take care of Mickey; you and Iggy deal with the whore.”

Tony sighed and nodded. God-fucking-damn it.

It was bitterly cold the next day and Ian danced around at the bus stop outside of work, waiting for Alex to arrive. He was surprised when a dark car stopped at his feet. The tinted window rolled down to reveal Iggy grinning at him and Tony in the driver’s seat.

“Hey guys,” Ian greeted, a little confused as to what they were doing here. Sal knew he had work and coupled with how things had gone down the night before, he doubted the man was ready to see him yet. He certainly wasn’t ready to see Sal.

“What are you doing out here, man? It’s cold as balls. Hop in, we’ll take you home,” Iggy said.

Ian shook his head, “thanks, but I’m alright. Actually waiting on someone.”

There was an odd moment as Iggy regarded him quietly and an alarm bell went off in the back if Ian’s head. He shifted uncomfortably as Iggy seemed confused about what to do next, and when Iggy looked over at a blank faced Tony, Ian knew for sure something was wrong.

“Ian, maybe you should get in the car,” Iggy said and Ian took a step back.

“Don’t you run, fucker,” Tony said, but he might as well have saved his breath. Ian was gone, just tearing across the parking lot.

“Fuck!” Iggy yelled as he struggled out of the car and took off after him. Tony snorted his annoyance and peeled off.

Ian could hear Iggy yelling behind him for him to stop. He didn’t dare look back. He slipped a little on the patches of black ice but managed to stay upright and keep well ahead. He didn’t know where he was running to, he just knew he needed to get off the main roads, but he hesitated to turn into any deserted places. It was hard to think, but he wondered just how badly they wanted to get their hands on him. He wasn’t far from a commercial area; would they chase him into stores, would they chance it?

He had been focused on Iggy screaming behind him, positive that he had lost Tony in the car at some point. The last thing he expected was Tony screeching out of a side road and almost crashing the car into the fence directly in front of him. He slammed into the side of the car and wound up rolling across the hood to the other side. The wind was knocked out of him, but he struggled to get to his feet only to find that Tony was already there. A hard boot to the mid-section made sure he stayed down.

“No more running,” Tony warned as he loomed over him. Nothing more was said as Tony’s presence kept Ian pinned down while they waited for Iggy. A few minutes later, the other Milkovich brother came huffing and puffing up to them.

“Nice of you to join us, Usain,” Tony rolled his eyes as Iggy doubled over panting.

“He’s so fast,” Iggy wheezed, “he’s the fastest fucker alive.”

Tony simply grunted and hauled Ian to his feet. He checked the area before taking Ian’s coat, bag and phone and handing them to Iggy and in the next moment, Ian was being dumped in the chilly trunk of the car.

Ian shivered as the car sped towards its destination. His brain swam with the possibilities of the why and how of what was about to happen. His thoughts settled on Mickey and the panic quickly set in. By the time the car came to a stop and he was being dragged out into the shock of the cold, it was the only thing he could gasp out.

“Where’s Mickey?!”

A strange look ghosted across the brothers’ faces and Ian’s heart sank into his sneakers.

“He’s being taken care of.”

Mickey groaned in frustration when the door to the basement opened. He was in the middle of counting the cash of that week’s collection and the interruption derailed his thoughts. He looked up at his brothers as Jaime and Joey descended the stairs.

“It’s about time somebody showed up. Which one of you is gonna help me with this shit?”

Any further thought was cut off by Jaime kicking the chair out from under Mickey, sending the man crashing to the floor. Before Mickey could so much as sputter, Jaime used a gloved hand to grasp the collar of Mickey’s button down shirt and was then dragging him bodily along the floor, down the corridor to the rear of the basement. Joey tagged behind, watching fretfully as Jaime dragged a raging, incoherent Mickey to the small room at the back. Jaime opened the door and tossed Mickey across the tarp-covered floor of the bare room and closed the door behind them, leaving Joey to stand guard outside.

Mickey scrambled to his feet, dishevelled, confused and enraged. He whirled on his brother, fighting mad, and was stopped cold by the press of steel against his forehead. Mickey froze, his whole body going quiet, and he looked beyond the gun to look his brother in the eye.

“Jaime, what the fuck?” he asked quietly, still careful not to make any sudden moves. Jaime then said the two words that almost robbed Mickey of his strength and sent him to his knees.

“Sal knows.”

Ian didn’t know if he was shaking so badly from the cold or the fear. Iggy was hanging back, but wouldn’t talk to him and could barely look at him while Tony was just cool, blank and methodical. He pushed himself backwards against the stack of metal containers, ignoring the bite of the cold against his back.  

“Why are you doing this?!” he appealed to Tony as the man came to stand in front of him.

Tony frowned at him and sighed, “you know why.”

He did, of course he did. “Where’s Mickey? What are you doing to him?!”

That cryptic, uncomfortable look ghosted once more across the brothers’ features and the two Milkoviches exchanged a glance. Ian could feel his panic trying to claw its way out of him.

“You can’t; he’s your brother,” Ian said desperately, “none of this is his fault,” he panted. His eyes were wild as they moved back and forth between the brothers, none of his words apparently penetrating. “I forced him!”

“Jesus, save it. You think we don’t blame you for this shit? We do, so you can stop the mea culpas, because they’re not gonna do shit for you, Mickey or anybody right now,” Tony tugged on his gloves before flexing his hands into fists. “I’m not going to kill you though, if you’re worried about that. I have very specific orders to make sure you survive.”

Ian blinked up at him, confused, and not the least bit reassured. “What are you going to do?”

Tony dug into his pockets and produced a wicked looking switchblade. It was long and thin with a black handle, and its sharpness was evident even from where Ian was sitting, huddled on the ground.

Tony shrugged nonchalantly, “I’m gonna rip your fucking face off.”

Mickey’s heart was thundering in his ears as his brother kept the gun trained on his head. He was still struggling to regain the power of speech and his brain spun dizzyingly before it settled on Ian.


Jaime sighed heavily, “what the fuck does that matter now?”

Mickey licked his lips. His whole mouth was dry. “Let me talk to Sal. I’ll apologize, I can make him understand; I’ll get him to change his mind.”

“I can’t do that, Mick.”

Mick took a sharp, shaky breath. Every gear in his head was spinning and nothing was happening. “What’s happening to Ian?”

“That’s all you’re worried about right now? You got nothing else to say?” Jaime asked, “Ian’s not going to be fine, but he’s the one that’s going to get to live. If you ask me, that’s the real bitch of it all,” Jaime said before he raised the gun a hair higher and fired.

Tony gripped Ian by the throat and lifted him easily, not even stopping when Ian was fully upright, but lifting until only the tips of Ian’s toes only brushed the ground. Ian grasped at Tony’s hand desperately, fighting the crushing pressure on his neck while struggling to keep sight of the blade.

“Jesus, Tony…” Iggy whined behind his brother, already looking and sounding nauseated.

A flash of annoyance and exasperation flashed across the older brother’s features. “If you’re going to be a fucking pussy about this then you need to not be here right now. Go fuck off somewhere else and don’t be getting sick and distracting me! Should be used to this shit already instead of acting like a little bitch.”

Iggy fell silent and stared away glumly but didn’t move. Tony looked up at Ian with a slight tilt to his head and an assessing eye, like an artist trying to figure out how to move next.

“You ever heard of this shit called a Glasgow smile, Red? I’ve been thinking about it, you know, like a signature? You got to be so fucking careful if you want it done right,” Tony raised the blade to the corner of Ian’s mouth, “gotta make the cuts at the mouth just right, don’t want them too shallow but you don’t want to saw a fucker’s head off either. Gotta make sure the muscles can contract and make that pretty smile. You know what I’m talking about, right? You saw the Dark Knight? The Joker in that had a Glasgow smile. Such a good fucking movie. What do you think, Red? Think you could make a good Joker?” Tony pressed the blade into the corner and Ian could immediately taste a thin stream of blood.

“Tony, come on, that’s enough; he gets it,” Iggy said plaintively.

Tony heaved a sigh and abruptly dropped Ian, coughing and shaking, to the ground. He pinned his brother with a glare as Iggy sheepishly came over to hand Ian his coat.

“Look, Red, you get one warning and this is it,” Tony began, “Sal knows you’re fucking around, he just doesn’t know with who yet.” Tony snorted when Ian looked up at him with wide eyes, “don’t look so surprised. No one is that stupid. You think Sal saw you onstage grinding on dudes while wearing fucking short-shorts and thought you were going to be some kind of bastion of virtue and fidelity? He expects you to fuck around and when he finds out, he’ll bring the pain and try to whip you back into line. That’s what he does.”

Tony stepped closer and knelt before Ian who squirmed away from him. “That’s what you need to understand. You and Mickey, I know you think you’re coming into this with equal risk and it’s all romantic and hot and you’re in this together, but it doesn’t work that way. Shit might get ugly, you—” Tony lifted the knife and pointed it at Ian’s ashen face, “—might get ugly, but you’ll get to live. Mickey’s not gonna be that lucky. You see what I’m saying?”

“Is he okay?” Ian whispered hoarsely.

“You thought we’d kill our own brother? We’re animals, but we’re not that breed. But there are more than enough people out there to do it at Sal’s request,” Tony said and then shook his head. “What is this hold you have over Mick and Sal, I’ll never know. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you have a great face, congratulations on it, but the reason for obsession escapes me. You shoot bourbon out your dick or something?” Tony sighed and straightened up, “well whatever it is, it’s not worth my brother’s life, and I’ll fucking kill you long before it gets that far.”

Tony pocketed his blade, neatened his clothes and headed back to the car without another word, leaving Iggy standing awkwardly next to a still grounded Ian. Iggy handed back Ian’s phone and bag, all the while shifting from foot to foot.

“You, uh, want a ride back into the city?” Iggy asked and cringed a little under Ian’s incredulous look, “yeah, guess not. Look, man, it’s better this way. Sal’s fucking crazy and Mick…we gotta look out for him any way we can. He looks out for us, you know? Sorry…” Iggy hurriedly walked off and it was long after the sound of the engine had receded that Ian found the strength to stand.

Mickey had squeezed his eyes shut when the gun went off. Then for a moment there was nothing. He slowly opened his eyes to see his brother unloading the blanks from his gun. Mickey slowly lowered his arms and straightened up, confusion buzzing through him.

“The fuck?”

Jaime raised a cartridge, “blanks,” he said simply, “we decided to go for shock and awe.”

Mickey looked at his brother as if he was growing a second head.

“Sal thinks Gallagher is fucking around and figures you might be covering for him because you guys seem to be friends now. Given the current state of affairs, pardon the pun, we decided we had to find a big way to make a point,” Jaime’s voice was low and subdued as he saw the colour rising into Mickey’s face.

“This was a fucking—” Mickey paused, cleared his throat and tried again, “you were making a point?”

“We saw you, you and him, having your little soap opera right in there in the middle of the goddamned road. Supposed someone else had seen you, Mick?”

Mickey chewed on his lower lip and tried to keep from exploding. “Where’s Ian?”

“Tony’s got him.”

That’s all Mickey needed to hear before he shoved past Jaime and stormed to the door. Mickey banged on the locked door for Joey to open it. “You let me out of this motherfucker!”

Joey tentatively opened it, only to nearly get bowled over as Mickey barrelled through it with Jaime close at his heels.

“Mick, we did this for your own good. You need to shut this shit down for real!”

Mickey snatched his phone off the table from the piles of cash and dialled Ian frantically. It rang without answer. He sent his brothers a baleful glare, “dead to me,” he snarled before heading for the stairs.

“Sal had Jimmy Accardo whacked yesterday,” Jaime’s words froze Mickey on the steps. “He thought Jimmy was slipping information about him to Big Tony. Jimmy was good people, Mick; he wasn’t saying shit to Tony or anybody. Sal had a made dude whacked because he’s paranoid as fuck lately and is seeing the Bogeyman around every goddamned corner. He had a loyal, fucking made dude disappear. What the fuck you think he’ll do to you? What we just did, it ain’t nothing on what he would do. You can’t do this shit now, Mick.”

Mickey stood on the stairs for god knows how long just hearing the sound of his own harsh breathing and his heart thudding in his chest. He eventually shook himself and headed up the stairs, leaving his brothers behind and slamming the basement door as he did so.

He had to find Ian.

Ian was on the bus by the time Mickey got through to him. Ian had felt the constant buzzing, but had been too scared to answer, wondering if the brothers had been trying to trap him into messing up. He couldn’t resist any longer. He tentatively answered and put the phone to his ear.


“Jesus fucking Christ, Ian!” The palpable relief that flooded Mickey’s voice swarmed him too and brought a burn to the back of his eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Are you okay?”

Mickey ignored the question. “Where are you? What the fuck did they do? Where are you?! Let me come get you.”

“I’m fine, Mick. I’m on my way home. I’m fine, I just…I just need a minute.”

Mickey was silent for a minute. “Are you sure?”


When Ian got home, he dazedly wandered into the bathroom and cleaned the small cut at the corner of his mouth.  He then stripped off his clothes, crawled into bed beneath the covers and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

“You’re not worth this shit…”

Ian stirred at the sound of his phone ringing. He must have fretted himself to sleep, because the deep darkness of his room surprised him. He searched for his phone from beneath the covers and answered when he saw it was Mickey calling.

“Hey,” he answered.

“Hey,” Mickey responded softly, “you okay?”

“Yeah,” Ian sniffed and rubbed tiredly at his face, “you?”

“I’m downstairs in the car…”

Ian blinked and quickly rolled out of bed to look out the window. The Mustang sat parked across the street.

“Should I come up or do you wanna come down for a little bit?”

Ian was already half-dressed as he tumbled out the door.

Their eyes never left each other the moment Ian emerged from the building. Ian hunched over against the cold and crossed the street, and slipped quickly into the passenger seat of Mickey’s car. They raked each other’s face, looking for signs of injury and Mickey reached to gingerly stroke beneath the cut at the corner of Ian’s mouth.

“Fucking Tony,” Mickey muttered darkly, “I’m going to kill him.”

Ian snorted and grabbed Mickey’s hand, and rubbed it soothingly between his own. “Trust me, it’s nothing. It was kind of like a high school play. Don’t declare war on your brothers, they have you outnumbered,” he joked lamely, but Mickey’s eyes remained dark and serious.

“I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you, Ian; not my brothers, not Sal, not anybody.”

Ian nodded and stared down at Mickey’s hand clasped between his own. It felt weird how huge his hands looked in comparison and his heart constricted painfully.

“It’s not worth my brother’s life…”

Ian thought he had understood the danger of it, that the risks had been clear. The truth of it, he realized, was that until this moment, it was never actually real to him. Nothing had really existed outside the bubble he and Mickey had created, and they had both managed to unconsciously diminish the very real dangers.

“What about you?” Ian asked, “would your brothers…?”

“Hurt me?” Mickey filled in the blanks as he watched Ian carefully, “no, they never would.”

“But you Milkoviches aren’t the only ones taking orders from Sal, are you?” Ian slowly released Mickey’s hand. He balled his fists in his lap and stared out at the road before them, stretching out into the night.


“I don’t think we should do this anymore, Mickey,” Ian said with quiet finality. Then there was nothing but silence as they both sat in the car and stared out ahead of them for what felt like forever.

“Yeah, okay,” Mickey said at last, sounding resigned and muted.

He didn’t try to stop Ian a moment later when the man slipped out the car as quietly as he had come in. Not that he left after Ian went back inside. He sat in his car, staring up at Ian’s window as he chain-smoked, watching the shift of the curtains and knowing that Ian was up there staring back down at him.

Ian couldn’t move away from the window even if he wanted to. He stood behind the curtains, straining to see Mickey and waiting for the other man to drive off and break the spell. He could never imagine just how much it would hurt though when the car finally pulled away from the curb.

Mickey’s brothers had wisely cleared out by the time he got home. He grabbed a six pack from the kitchen and made his way back to the living room. He flung himself down onto the couch and popped open his first can of medicine. He had only started on the second can when he realized he wasn’t alone after all. He didn’t look up as Sal made his way down the stairs and came over to him.

Sal watched him for a moment, “you okay?”

Mickey gave a single nod and kept his eyes downcast. Sal waffled awkwardly before taking a seat next to the brooding young man. He peered at Mickey more closely, “what happened? That girl you were seeing finally break your heart?”

Mickey flinched and snorted, “something like that.”

“Ain’t that just like a woman?” Sal sighed, “but you know what they say, plenty of fish in the sea.” Sal nudged him, “I’ve got something for ya.” Sal handed him a small jewellery box and Mickey opened it to find a pair of diamond cufflinks. “I lost my shit yesterday,” Sal said lightly, by way of explanation. “You know you gotta give me a wide berth after I go to one of those fucking meet-ups; always leaves me fucked me up. But those are beautiful, right?” Sal nudged him again, oblivious to Mickey’s stony silence, “you’re gonna look fucking sharp in those.”

Sal rubbed Mickey’s hair and struggled to his feet, his task done. “I’m heading upstairs; think I’ll stay here tonight. If I slept in the same house as that frigid bitch, I’d probably get frostbite!” Sal climbed the stairs, laughing at his own joke and Mickey was left alone again.

Mickey tossed the box onto the table, grabbed his keys and was soon out the door.

Alex struggled to keep up as she watched Martha Stewart whip up a storm on her tablet. Martha looked breezy and immaculate as she cheerfully tossed out instructions, while Alex was covered in flour and her blond hair was plastered to her forehead. She really needed to learn how to tamp down these sudden domestic urges of hers.

“Oh, and I almost forgot, add a dash of cardamom to help enhance the flavour!” Martha chirped cheerfully, “it’s a good thing!”

“Well damn, Martha! How about you warn a bitch before you fuck up her shit! Where the fuck am I supposed to get cardamom at midnight? Out my ass?!”

Alex jumped at the sound of knocking at her door. She paused the video and listened again and there came the knocking once more. She grabbed a baseball bat and stalked to the door. She might be in a nice North side neighbourhood, but one could never be sure. She peeked through the peephole and familiar red hair loomed up at her. She blinked and quickly opened the door.


“Hey,” Ian gave her a weak smile, “I was in the neighbourhood.”

A likely story, she was sure. Ian’s near Southside college town wasn’t exactly a stone’s throw from her gilded cage in the upscale neighbourhood. She leaned the bat against the door, put her hands on her hips and stared hard at her friend.

“What’s going on?” she asked sternly and watched in horror as Ian’s façade dropped and his face crumpled, “oh no, what’s happening?!” she squeaked and quickly hustled him inside.

Dre’s eyes popped open at the sound of shuffling outside his door. He pulled out his Glock from beneath his pillow and silently rolled out of bed. He could still hear the shuffling as he edged towards the door, careful to stay as much to the side as possible. He paused, surprised, when there was a hesitant knock. He still approached carefully and peeked through the peephole. Familiar gelled hair loomed up at him.

“Mickey, what the fuck?!” he hissed at his visitor after he opened the door. It was far outside the norm for Mickey to simply show up without adequate warning and Dre stared at the man expectantly, waiting for an explanation.

Mickey’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly before his eyes fell on the gun in Dre’s hand. “Shit, I should have called first. I didn’t mean to freak you out, shit.”

Dre raised an eyebrow and cocked his head, completely confused. “You cool?” he asked carefully.

Mickey snorted and nodded, lifting his shirt to show there was no wire. “I was just wondering if I could maybe crash here tonight. I can’t be at my place right now and I didn’t know where else I could go… fuck, you know what, forget it, I shouldn’t have come.” Mickey turned to walk away only to be grabbed by the back of the neck and hauled into Dre’s apartment.

“Get your dumbass in here, fool!” Dre ordered and stuck his head out once more to sweep the passageway before he pulled back and locked the door.

In her quaint apartment in the North side, Alex stroked her best friend’s hair and listened as he talked himself hoarse about being chased and threatened and about the subsequent break up with Mickey. She hugged him close, murmuring much needed sympathies as Ian dredged up the traumas of the past day.

In Dre’s apartment, deep in the Southside, Mickey offered no explanations for his odd behaviour and Dre didn’t ask for any. Instead, he set a six pack of beer between them and sat silently with his friend. A myriad of emotions flickered across Mickey’s face as the man slowly processed everything that had happened.

But in the end it was all the same. When Ian had run out of things to say and Mickey’s throat felt far too tight to swallow, their respective friend had simply gathered them up and tucked them into bed. They then killed the lights, plunging their apartments into darkness, and laid next to them, silently offering their support as they let two heartbroken boys cry.

Chapter Text

“Wake the fuck up!”

Ian groaned loudly as Alex bounced hard on her bed, jerking him awake. She gleefully repeated her homage to his alarm clock while he grumbled beneath his breath and rolled onto his back. His glare at her was sleepy and harassed, and he simply rolled over again and covered his head with one of her pillows.

“Still sleeping!” he protested.

She dropped to her knees, straddled his hip and bounced around while she grabbed at the pillow covering his head. “Wake up, asshole! It’s almost eleven. Your breakfast is getting cold,” she informed him after she finally managed to wrestle the pillow away and swat him a few times.

“It’s Sunday; no school, no work, I can sleep in,” he protested and reached for another of Alex’s numerous pillows to hide under.

Alex sighed and rolled off to lie next to her friend. She pushed away his pillow and this time he didn’t protest, but simply stared back at her, looking as tired and sad as a boy could look.

“I know you want to stay in bed all day and just be sad, but you and I both know why that’s not a good idea.”

Ian sighed, “I just need a little while longer.”

“Yeah, I know, but then it will be two o’clock, and then it will be seven. Then the day will be over and you might as well just stay in bed because it’s nightfall already, then the next thing you know, you can’t face the sunlight at all,” she said and scratched his cheek gently. “Your heart’s broken and you’re allowed to be sad and mope around for as long as you need to, but don’t do it lying down. Be sad but keep it moving.” She then began shoving at him until Ian groaned in defeat and shuffled off the bed.

He freshened up in her bathroom and then wandered out to her dining area. The small table had been set and there were bacon and eggs, toast and some kind of loaf cake. He slid into the chair across from hers and poured out some coffee. He took a sip and eyed the fare sceptically.

“Eat,” she ordered as she cut into the loaf cake. “You know what happens when you take your pills on an empty stomach and I am not dealing with that shit today—pun unintended. I woke up and finished making the vanilla nut bread I had started last night. Here, try it!”

Ian hesitantly broke a small piece of the slice she had dumped on his plate and chewed. Ian tried to be as diplomatic as possible, but cooking was not Alex’s forte. It was as far from her forte as she could possibly get. The nut bread tasted like sweetened sand that was being held together by strong molecular forces. Ian tried to keep his face even as he reached for the orange juice to gulp it, and Alex sighed.

“It’s because I left out the cardamom, wasn’t it?”

Ian wasn’t sure what cardamom was, but he was fairly certain this abomination wasn’t its fault. Even now he was fretting about the rubbery look of those eggs. Things went haywire once Alex attempted anything above a simple tuna sandwich. Ian couldn’t help but notice that Alex hadn’t even attempted her cake, but had been simply waiting to see how he would respond to it, the user.

“Your phone has been blowing up all morning, by the way,” she told him and went to retrieve his phone for him. She smiled at him apologetically when she saw the eager, hopeful look on his face. “Sorry, not Mickey.”

He was crestfallen and his mood wasn’t about to improve when he saw that Sal had been calling him nonstop since dawn. Ian snorted and tossed his phone on the table. “He can go get fucked.”

Alex took a bite of toast and looked at him nervously. “You’re going to have to deal with him eventually. Are you done with him?”

Ian sighed and rubbed both hands over his face. “Ugh, I wish, but how can I be done with him?”

Alex had no arguments there. After the tale Ian told her last night, she had been properly terrified of Sal and his minions. She didn’t want someone that volatile going off on Ian. “I understand; I’m all for the gentle extraction method now. If I were you, I’d want to hang on to that face for as long as humanly possible too.”

Ian blinked at her, slightly confused. “Hmm?”

“I mean, you have to be careful about getting rid of him, Ian. You have to figure out how to get out from under him as quickly as possible without him going all Stanley Kowalski on you.”

“I’m not leaving without Mickey.”

Alex gaped at him.

“Maybe I could probably dump Sal without getting carved up, I don’t know, but if I left now, I know Mickey wouldn’t come with me, and I’m not leaving him with fucking Sal.”

Alex didn’t know where to even begin with this. “Ian, I know you care about Mickey, but he’s been in a fucked up, deeply involved relationship with a psychopath for well over a decade. You can’t exactly just swoop in and Captain-save-a-ho this situation.”


“Sorry, would you prefer ‘White Knight’? Of course you would. You can’t just swoop in and White Knight this situation, Ian. Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others!” Even as she spoke, she could tell that Ian was absorbing none of it. She sighed when he shook his head and stared determinedly out the sunny window by the table.

“I leave now and I’ll lose him completely and he’ll just get sucked in further. Sal’s going to destroy him and I’ll be fucked if I let that happen.”

“So what, are you going to hypnotize him with your magic stick and hope he follows you out in a trance, or are you seriously trying to heal with the power of love?” she asked, her sarcasm dripping from her voice. Ian rolled his eyes and shoved away from the table in a huff, but Alex was unapologetic. “You dudes think you can just wave your dick at people and it’s going to cure all their problems. Well you can’t, Ian! I don’t care how pretty your penis is! So maybe work on your priorities a little?!” She broke off a bit of her vanilla nut bread, popped it in her mouth and immediately gagged. Martha Stewart had so much to answer for.

Mickey couldn’t stay in bed even if he wanted to. Dre turned a simple act of making breakfast into a jam session and pounding, bass heavy music filled the space. Mickey sat in a chair, moodily flicking through the photos of Ian in the protected folder in his phone while Dre bounced, swayed, and pelvic thrust his way around the kitchen. Mickey glanced over at him briefly before returning his attention to one of Ian’s sunset selfies. It was a sad day indeed when he couldn’t even appreciate Dre’s gyrations.

“That song makes no goddamned sense!” he informed Dre testily, “none of his music is any fucking good if you ask me.”

“Nobody asked you, honky!” Dre shot back, but turned the music down in deference to Mickey’s mood. There was some semblance of quiet for the moment, but for the clinks and scrapes as Dre got the food ready. At length, he asked Mickey a pertinent question, “so who’s Ian?”

Mickey jolted a bit and blinked at the question. “What?”

“You can’t go to sleep all types of fucked up and not babble a little bit,” Dre said, “you said his name a couple times. He the dude you’ve been messing with?”

Mickey plucked at the knees of his jeans and his eyes went back to Ian’s picture. “Yeah,” he admitted quietly, “for a minute.”

“Ah, okay,” Dre nodded and began plating up the food. “You see I ask because I’m remembering that back when you were in lockup and Iggy was filling the prescriptions, I could have sworn he said something about Sal getting a shiny, new side-piece. Pretty sure his name was Ian too,” Dre looked over his shoulder as he spoke and Mickey’s subsequent silence and downcast eyes immediately spoke volumes. “Shit, Mickey, man, that’s grimy as hell.”

“It wasn’t…it wasn’t even like that,” Mickey sighed heavily.

“Yeah, I can imagine it wasn’t,” Dre said after a while and shook his head, “so y’all broke up then?”

“Yeah, it was stupid, so we stopped,” Mickey said and it was clear that was all Dre was getting out of him for the moment. Before Dre could bring him his food, Mickey’s phone went off and Mickey snorted. “Sal wants a few more party packs,” Mickey said and slid out of the chair to find his shoes and jacket.

Dre’s phone went off on cue and he nodded at the request from Sal. He got the packs ready and handed them over, all the while eyeing Mickey with evident concern and curiosity. “You don’t wanna eat?”

“Nah, I gotta get back—see what’s going on.”

“Yeah, alright, but look, me and Drew are gonna make a run down to San Antonio in a couple days; wouldn’t hurt to have a white boy tagging along, if you get my drift. You’d be doing me a favour.”

Mickey saw the offer for what it was and it might not be the worst idea to get out of town for a bit and clear his head. He nodded and shrugged on his coat. “I’ll let you know.”

Dr. Lester watched silently as Ian turned over the lump of play dough in his hand. He hadn’t spoken since greeting her as he came in and she waited to see if he would bring up what was bothering him on his own. It soon became clear that this was a vain hope.

“Your joy is gone,” she said. She smiled softly when Ian finally looked up at her, at sea. She clasped her hands and rested her chin on them. “These past few weeks, you’ve been noticeably happier, dare I say ebullient? It was really great to see,” she said and then waved a hand before her face, “but now that light seems to have dimmed a bit. What’s going on?”

Ian hesitated and shifted uncomfortably on his couch, “I met a boy.”

“A boy?” Dr. Lester repeated, her voice climbing a little in surprise. Ian had to grin at her shock.

“Yeah, crazily age appropriate. He’s twenty-two and he’s hot and he’s sweet and he drives a Mustang.”

Dr. Lester couldn’t help her own smile as she was utterly charmed by Ian’s goofy smile and wide-eyed description. She had never heard him describe any of his sexual or romantic interests with that kind of ease and eagerness. Usually his descriptions were automatically defensive, knowing the criticisms that would follow over age discrepancies or power imbalance. This felt like such a huge difference and a monumental breath of fresh air.

“What’s his name?”

“Mickey,” he sighed sweetly and smiled at his hands. He then looked up at her and she could see the discomfort there. “He, um, works for Sal.”

“And I take it you haven’t cut ties with Sal as yet?”

“No,” Ian admitted.

Dr. Lester sighed. Ian was already becoming reticent with information and he had just barely begun sharing.  She prompted him, “but you still became involved with Mickey?”

“It just kind of happened. I mean, I might have pushed it a bit, but it was just so intense, you know? We sort of lost control of everything,” Ian said. “I had to end it,” he confessed, “because it was getting crazy and if Sal found out…I don’t want him getting hurt.”

Dr. Lester leaned back in her chair, her brow furrowed as she sorted through Ian’s short blast of babble. “You know, whenever you speak about Sal, you use certain words and phrases that never cease to alarm me, Ian. What exactly does Sal do, and in what capacity does Mickey work for him? How would Sal hurt him?”

Ian stayed mum for the moment and knocked his knees together in agitation as he weighed how much he should tell her and what her reaction might be. “Sal’s in the Outfit,” he confessed at length, “he’s a Capo in the North side. Mickey’s one of his soldiers, but he’s been with Sal since he was a kid. Sal treats him like crap all the time and—”

“The Oufit…as in the Mafia Outfit?!” she interrupted, “Sal isn’t a garage owner, he’s a Capo, what?!” her voice climbed as her shock set in. She clapped a hand on top of her messy hair and slowly slid it down her face before she pinned Ian with a stare. Her speech was scattered and rapid fire, the way it always was when she became agitated. “Ian, what is this, what is happening, what are you doing?”

Ian said nothing, only stared up at her from beneath his lashes with a hangdog expression. She stared helplessly around her office; as if an answer or explanation would leap out at her from somewhere while her thoughts ping-ponged around in her head.

“I thought you were maintaining, that you were moving beyond this sort of high risk behaviour,” she seemed as if she was addressing Ian whilst talking to herself out loud, “perhaps a reassessment? Now that I understand the context… Ian, none of this—Sal, Mickey, any of it—is exhibiting sound decision making, and could be symptomatic—”

“Please don’t do that,” Ian broke in quietly and the doctor trailed off, “please don’t put that thought in my head. He’s not a symptom,” Ian’s leg bounced as he squeezed the play dough between his fingers. “I’ve been doing everything you’ve told me. I’ve been taking all my pills, I keep to my routine, I reach out when things get on top of me, I do everything that I’m supposed to and I’ve been doing so well,” Ian’s voice broke and he took a moment  to try and collect himself. “I was happy because I met someone and I fell in love and it was amazing, but it’s over now it’s over and I’m sad. I’m not allowed to feel shit anymore? I’m bipolar so I’m just supposed to be numb all the time? I’ll admit I’ve been fucking up with this, but I wasn’t ‘engaging in high risk behaviour.’ It wasn’t like that. I finally saw how risky everything was, so I stopped it for his sake and mine. That’s a good decision, right? I already broke up with him; don’t take him away from me again. Don’t make me think it wasn’t real.”

Dr. Lester was at a loss. “I’m sorry,” she said at length, “I wasn’t trying to devalue or dismiss your relationship. I raced ahead without proper analysis first and I—” she paused and sighed, “of course I want you to have and experience all your emotions, Ian; I was just shocked. This is such a dangerous situation to be in though and while I understand you have complicated feelings for Sal—”

“No, not that complicated. I’ve been over him for a while now.”

“You have?!”

“Yeah, but I was, um, made to understand he doesn’t take rejection very well and that I should just wait for him to dump me instead.”

His doctor wondered if this was what the beginnings of a stroke felt like. “Do you feel as if you are in imminent danger, Ian?”

“From Sal? No,” he hedged and decided learning about Mickey’s brothers and their methods might be a bit too much for Dr. Lester for one session, “if Sal’s a danger to anyone, it’s Mickey. Sal’s had him since he was eight and it’s so fucked up and I just want to get him out.”

“You don’t think Sal’s a danger to you, but you feel he’s a threat to Mickey?” she asked slowly.

Ian expelled a huff of frustration. He had already had this fight with Alex and he had no patience for it now. “I’m going to help him.”

“How?” she asked pointedly and Ian’s brow furrowed. He didn’t have an answer for that yet.

“I don’t know, okay, but I’ll figure it out. I just need some time.”

“Ian, I can’t think of a single instance I would recommend that anyone stay with an abuser, no matter how noble their motive may be.”

“Sal’s not abusing me though!”

“Are you sure? Abusers can be manipulative and insidious. They may start off seeming so normal, then maybe a little controlling and weird and the next thing you know, you’re in an abusive relationship, completely bewildered as to how you got there.”

“I can handle Sal,” Ian insisted, staring at Dr. Lester defiantly. And he was going to save Mickey. He didn’t care what anyone else had to say about it.

“So is it true?”

Alex paused in her price tagging to look over at Ernesto, who had been watching her closely as he stocked the canned goods.

“Is what true?”

“Nate and the other guys say you’re really a dude. Is that for real?”

Alex chewed on her inner cheek and resumed tagging. “Do I look like a dude?”

Ernesto stared harder, making her skin crawl. “I don’t know, I mean Kevin says you’re a trap and all, and your hands and feet are kinda huge.”

Alex closed her eyes briefly and tried to count to ten. She decided to simply ignore him as best she could and continue her work. Yet he continued talking and the barb about her hands and feet had penetrated. She shuffled her feet self-consciously and stared at her hand that held the price tag gun. It had been a few days since she had obsessed about her hands and feet—today had been all about her jaw line—but she knew they would occupy her thoughts until something else came along to dislodge them.

“I think it’s true,” Ernest said, frowning at her as if she had betrayed him somehow, “I kinda see it now, in some of the things you do.”

“What things?!” she wanted to scream at him, but she wasn’t about to give any of them the satisfaction. Nate, Kevin and the rest of the Asshole Patrol probably gave him a list of shit to say to wind her up. She steadfastly ignored him but by then he had abandoned his stocking duties to fix her with his unsettling gaze.

“It’s kind of a shame, you know? I kinda thought you were really hot at first, but I ain’t no fag, you know?”

“Yeah good for you, superstar,” Alex snarked, “and your disgraceful use of the double negative suggests otherwise,” she said before feeling alarm bells go off as he approached her, crowding her space. Her hand closed on a can of soup and the image and temptation of smashing it hard into his temple filled her head.

“It’s so fucking weird though, like I keep thinking about it. What does it look like down there?” his eyes swept down the length of her body, “Kevin thinks it’s probably like a total freak show, like some Cirque du Soleil shit. It’s not that bad, right? I wanna know. How about you show me?”

“I’m curious about your dick too, Ernie,” Ian’s voice made the other man jump in fright. He spun around to find Ian towering over him. “Rumour has it that you have a difficult one that can only come out and work under specific circumstances, like sexually harassing women when they’re trying to work.”

Ernesto backed away, but Ian kept advancing on him. “I wasn’t harassing nobody, we was just talking!”

“Oh that’s how you talk? Why don’t you and I go have a talk out back then? I’ll talk to you as long and hard as you need me to.”

“Yo fuck off, man,” Ernesto snapped before turning away and exiting the aisle quickly.

Ian snorted and headed back to Alex. He gently loosened her grip on the can of soup and put it back on the shelf. “He’s so not worth a can of Campbell’s Chunky.”

Alex took a deep breath and tried to discharge the negative feelings. “I’ll reach for the Progresso Light next time,” she joked and shook off Ian’s concerned look. “You’re here early.”

“Didn’t feel like hanging out on campus. I came straight here from class.”

“How was your session with Dr. Lester this morning?”

“I’m pretty confident you’re well on your way to becoming a licensed mental healthcare professional, because the two of you sound exactly alike. I told her the truth about Sal and Mick…her freak out was epic.”

“Any breakthroughs?”

“There are no breakthroughs to have, Allie. My mind’s made up, I just need time and a plan,” Ian said and pulled up Ernesto’s abandoned stool to sit near Alex as she worked.

Alex rolled her eyes but didn’t force the argument. She knew what it meant when Ian’s jaw was set the way it was. “How’s your accounting class?”

“Fucked—I’m fairly certain he’s not speaking English. I got my worksheet back and it’s like I got everything backwards and the notes he made are even more confusing.”

“Woodbine is the fucking worst. I’ve been hearing warnings about him since freshman orientation, but he’s got tenure. Can’t you change streams?”

“I can’t; he’s the only one that fits into my timetable. If I change, I’ll either clash with another core course, or I’ll lose shifts here. Fuck, barely three weeks into the semester and I already feel like I’m fucking drowning in this class.”

“Maybe you can get a tutor to make up for Woodbine? Maybe Alan…”

“Ugh, Allie, fuck Alan.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” she said and grinned at him impishly. “Dress him up like a gangster if that’s what gets you going. Valentine’s Day is in a couple of weeks and I bet he does the most thoughtful shit,” she trailed off, recognizing the faraway look on Ian’s face. It wasn’t a good sign for Alan’s chances that whenever she brought up his name, Ian’s mind automatically found its way to Mickey.

He seemed to shake himself out of it. “You wanna hear Sal grovel while you work?” he asked as he dialled the voicemail on his phone. Alex couldn’t help but be intrigued. What would this powerful gangster sound like when reaching out to his lover?

As it turns out, he sounded pretty pathetic. If she hadn’t been aware of all his other sins, Alex could almost understand Ian’s dismissiveness of his mobster boyfriend. In a series of increasingly frantic voicemails, Sal went from authoritative and demanding to snivelling and beseeching within minutes. He promised the world for another chance and sobbed his apologies.

“I just need to see you,” Sal pled on the phone, “I can make it right, I swear!”

Somewhere in the middle of the begging was a seemingly random flash of rage that quickly subsided into gross grovelling again, and the only thing more remarkable than the cringe worthy display, was Ian’s utterly blasé attitude towards it.

“Dude is demented,” Alex said dazedly.

“Yeah, he’s on something,” Ian shook his head, “he can sweat for a while longer.”

Alex’s forehead crinkled but she held her tongue. Ian was certain he knew what he was doing. She hoped to hell he was right.

Mickey jiggled his beer can and found it to be empty. He lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to summon the energy and will to head back down to the kitchen. He grunted as he got off the bed and made the long journey downstairs. His brothers were scattered across the kitchen. Iggy and Joey sat at the kitchen island, their eyes glued to their phones, while Tony sat in the breakfast nook by the window. Jaime was at the stove, making them all lunch, and they all looked up at his approach. No one said a word as Mickey went to the fridge and retrieved a six pack, but as Mickey headed back through the entryway to the living room, Joey made a valiant attempt.

“Hey, Mick, remember me and Iggy have that heist over on 63rd soon. You have any instructions?”

Mickey didn’t so much as break his stride or look back over his shoulder. Instead he pulled a beer from the pack and popped it open as he went. He did say one thing to his brother before he disappeared from view. “You want instructions? Go fuck yourself,” he said and went back to his room without a further word.

“Get off his dick for a few minutes already,” Tony told his little brother, “he’ll come around when he’s ready.”

The brothers all murmured softly to themselves and resumed what they had all been doing—staying put, waiting for the storm to pass.

Ian couldn’t believe how nervous he was as he waited for Mickey to arrive. It had been almost a week since they’d seen each other, and Ian had been good. He hadn’t called, or texted or reached out in any way, and going cold turkey had to have been the worst thing imaginable. Mickey hadn’t tried to contact him either, which made the moment feel even more nerve-wracking and uncertain, but Ian felt like he was at his limit. Sal had called to ask to see him in the politest way possible and he had almost chomped at the bit in saying yes.

He had been pacing his apartment, trying to calm down and play out every possible scenario of how this first post-breakup meeting could go. He looked out the window for the umpteenth time and finally there was the Escalade pulling up to the curb. Ian’s hands were instantly clammy. He was already standing by the door when he heard the first knock and he flung it open to find a very startled Iggy pawing at the air.

Iggy waved awkwardly as a look of acute disappointment and apprehension crossed Ian’s features. “Um, hey.”

Ian took a step back. He hadn’t seen any of the brothers either since the elaborate threat and he could have gone on a lot longer that way. The press of the sharp knife against his mouth and the feel of Tony’s hands around his throat rushed back and he flinched automatically.

“Come on, man, don’t be like that,” Iggy sighed. “No one’s trying to hurt you or anything. We’re cool, right? We’re cool.”

“Where’s Mickey?” Ian blurted out before he could stop himself.

Iggy sighed heavily and shrugged, “don’t know. He went on a run, I think, a couple days ago, but he didn’t tell us where. Sal probably knows.”

“Well, when will he be coming back?”

Iggy shook his head, “dude, I don’t know. Probably soon? We’re not exactly his favourite people right now, so he isn’t saying shit to us,” Iggy said and hesitated before adding, “you probably shouldn’t be asking too many questions about him either. I mean, you know…” Iggy said sheepishly, “but yeah, Sal said to come get you.”

Ian nodded reluctantly. Well this had turned into a spectacular failure. Now he would have to deal with Sal and there would be no Mickey to make up for it. The apparent rift between Mickey and his brothers worried him too. If nothing else, it was reassuring to know that in the madness of everything, Mickey’s family had his back at least. Now they weren’t speaking and Mickey was off god knows where, doing god knows what, and Ian felt his anxiety spiking because of it. For the moment, all he could do was grab his coat and follow Iggy out into the quiet, cold evening.

The bedroom had been transformed into gift central. Sal was clearly pulling out all the stops for this apology and Ian found himself a little overwhelmed.

“I don’t need all this shit,” Ian said irritably. His plan had gone awry and his mood had blackened considerably on the ride over. He looked over at the piles of boxes. “What am I supposed to do with all of this?”

“Anything you want,” Sal said eagerly, “they’re yours, they’re yours.”

“Well, I don’t want all this shit,” Ian said and crossed his arms defiantly in front of him. Ian’s shortness with him only seemed to spur Sal further to make amends and become more agreeable. Ian intended to milk that for as long as he could.

“I’m so embarrassed,” Sal moaned, “I was fucked up. I took some shit earlier in the day and then having to go to that fucking wake—”

“It’s not a wake if the guy’s not dead yet,” Ian pointed out peevishly.

“Ah, you know what I mean,” Sal said, “Ian, I’m not that man, you know this.”

Ian tuned out as Sal began explaining away his behaviour. While Sal went on, he took a look around the room, taking inventory as he tried to figure out the gifts piled on the bed and the floor, and what their potential pawn value would be. At the rate things were going, he strongly doubted Sal would be willing or even around to foot his tuition next year, so he needed to start making plans. He squirmed a little contemplating what Mickey’s reaction would be to him keeping all this stuff, then his thoughts turned once again to Mickey’s issue with his brothers. Clearly they were all on Mickey’s shit list, and Ian was left to wonder just how far down that list he currently placed.

Ian was heading into the living room when Mickey returned the next day. They both froze for a moment—Ian by the entryway to the kitchen and Mickey by the front door. Neither of them was remotely prepared for this. Ian didn’t think he’d ever seen Mickey this dressed down—he looked scruffy in his baggy jeans and dirty workman boots, and he was heavily hooded-up against the cold. There was silence as they took each other in and Mickey’s grip on his duffel bag went white. All Ian wanted to know was where he’d been and what he was doing and who he was with.

“Um,” Ian began but Mickey turned and headed up the stairs without so much as a hello.

As if sensing their brother’s return, the older Milkoviches trickled into the pool house one by one over the course of the next hour. Ian made sure to disappear upstairs into the bedroom, unwilling and unprepared to face either Tony or Jaime. He made sure to leave the door wide open, hoping to see Mickey when the man re-emerged from his bedroom and maybe even have some kind of conversation.

When Mickey stepped out again, he was clean shaven and firmly back into mobster-mode, vested with his sleeves rolled up and his hair gelled into place. Ian was glad to see Mickey in any form, but he couldn’t help but lament the early loss of the unkempt, normal looking Mickey that had come in just a few hours before. Much to Ian’s dismay, Mickey only gave him a passing glance and headed straight for Sal’s office.

“Look who’s back,” Sal greeted him warmly, “you get everything okay?”

“Yeah, got something for me to do?” Mickey said, getting right to the point.

Sal was taken aback. “You just came in; you can deal with shit tomorrow. I won’t charge you.”

He had been tired after the long trip and had planned on coming in, showering and getting some sleep. That is until he saw Ian and all Mickey’s nervous, frantic energy came roaring back. The last thing in the world he wanted to do was to stay in the house, knowing Ian was there but no longer with him; not to mention hanging around his brothers. He nodded at Sal.

“I’m good to go. What do you need?”

Sal shrugged, “well since you’re all raring to go, take Jaime or Tony with you and go deal with that fucking Giovanni situation then.”

“I can deal with it on my own,” Mickey said.

Sal looked up before leaning back in his chair and staring at Mickey steadily. “I would prefer if you took a heavy. Since when is it a problem to take one of your brothers with you?”

“Not a problem, I just don’t think I need back up for something like this.”

Sal nodded slowly, his eyes not leaving Mickey. He then picked up his phone and called Jaime. “Get up here.”

A moment later, Jaime was stepping into the office, looking nervously from Sal to Mickey as he came to stand next to his brother. Sal spread his hands and raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“Is there a problem here, boys; something that needs to be arbitrated, perhaps?”

“No, Sal,” the two brothers said in unison.

“Really? Nothing?” Sal asked again and the brothers shook their heads, looking clearly uncomfortable. Sal pointed at Mickey and waved his finger in Jaime’s direction. “Look at your brother.”

Mickey crossed his arms and rocked on his heels before flicking a quick glance somewhere in the vicinity of Jaime’s shoes.

Sal snorted loudly, “Jesus, you fucking kids,” he then jerked his head at Jaime, “fuck off.”

Jaime hesitated before doing just that, leaving Sal alone with his brother. Sal looked at Mickey, whose eyes were downcast.

“So you’re having a fight with your brothers, I can understand that; fucking family, right? You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them, and brothers fight like cats and dogs all the fucking time. It might take a little time to blow over, but I know you boys will sort this out in your own time. I’m not unsympathetic,” Sal said and leaned forward to prop an elbow up on the table and rub at his mouth, “now the issue I do have with this little situation is that your brothers aren’t just your brothers, they’re also your crew. If you start having issues with your crew, then you’re going to start running into problems. If you start running into problems, then I’m going to start having problems, and that’s not an acceptable situation.

You’re going to have to figure this shit out. I’ve made a few concessions for you over the past week to deal with whatever personal shit you have going on, but I’m not inclined to make any more. You can’t fly solo here, so you man up and you handle your fucking crew. You put this petty shit aside and you control them. Don’t make me think I’ve made a mistake here giving you this responsibility. Now put your fraternal shit aside for now, take Jaime, and go handle this fucking business, capisce?”

Mickey bit his tongue and nodded.

“Take him home,” Sal ordered Mickey the following night and the command left two young men hanging in uncertainty.

Mickey had just stepped into the house, hadn’t even moved away from the door yet, when Sal issued the order from the couch. Mickey looked over to see Ian standing stock-still on the stairs, glancing back over at him nervously.

“I have school early in the morning,” he said to Mickey, as if by way of explanation.

Mickey tried to think of a way out of it. He wondered how hard it would be to return Ian’s chauffeuring duties back to Iggy. The point was moot for that moment anyway, since all his brothers were gone, scattered to the wind on various missions.

The tension in the car was close to unbearable and Ian hadn’t even climbed in yet. He buckled in, wondering if there was any safe way to open some kind of dialogue. There wasn’t a safe thought in his head. “I miss you,” was truthful, but probably the worst idea; “I just want to know you’re okay,” sounded trite in his head. 

Mickey stared straight ahead, flexing his hands around the steering wheel as he waited for Ian to close the door and settle down. He refused to look at him, refused to acknowledge he existed in anyway, because of Ian didn’t exist right now, then maybe he could make it through this car ride without screaming.

They drove in silence, feeling the pressure become palpable and the tension stretch and strain to reach a snapping point. The further they went, the more Ian would look over and the longer he would stare despite Mickey’s coldness. Mickey could feel Ian’s eyes on him each time, could see Ian’s mouth open and close wordlessly as he gathered more of his courage each time to speak.

Mickey wasn’t proof against it, he wasn’t proof against anything when it came to Ian and he could feel himself cracking under the strain. There was a tremor in his fingers, concealed by gloves and his white-knuckled grip on the wheel. Ian was making another attempt to cross the breach and Mickey was this close to losing his shit. He pulled in abruptly at the next gas station, surprising Ian and cutting him off before he could speak.

Mickey was out of the car in a flash, leaving Ian inside the car, and went into the store to top up a tank that was already well over half full. After he paid, he stepped back outside to see Ian pumping the gas. He used Ian’s distraction to cut around to the bathroom and try to pull himself together. He splashed cold water on his face and kept his eyes squeezed shut as he stood braced over the sink.

“So this is how it’s going to be now?”

Mickey sighed and slowly opened his eyes and stared at the reflections in the mirror. Ian was standing behind him, staring dejectedly at his back. Mickey straightened up and dried his face.

“I could swear we’ve had this conversation before,” Mickey said as he turned to face Ian.

“I miss you,” Ian said, “I don’t just mean the screwing around either. I miss us, I miss talking to you, I miss hanging out. Why can’t we meet somewhere in the middle; somewhere between the fucking and pretending the other person doesn’t exist?

Mickey searched Ian’s face, undone a little by the earnestness. He wasn’t sure what to say to any of that, not sure what he could say. His hand twitched by his side and he vacillated between the temptation to touch Ian and agree to everything and anything he had to say, and to do the wiser, safer thing and continue shutting him out. In the end, he pulled off his glove and reached up to touch Ian’s face.

They crashed through the stall door in a desperate tangle, both of them struggling to shrug off their heavy jackets while trying to stay connected and not break the burning kiss and the press of their bodies against each other. Ian dumped his jacket first and spun Mickey around to shove him against the door in the tight space of the bathroom cubicle. He fumbled with Mickey’s belt and groaned as Mickey’s fingers found their way under his shirt and their nails bit into the flesh of his back.

“Miss you,” Ian panted into the crook of Mickey’s neck before he sucked there hungrily. It didn’t feel as if it had been a week, it felt like they had been apart forever. Ian couldn’t believe how much he had missed this, the taste of Mickey’s skin and the delicious whines he could draw out of him when he kissed and bit at Mickey’s throat.

He finally managed to slip his hand through Mickey’s undone zipper and groped him until Mickey shuddering against him. Mickey pulled him down until their lips were joined again, and he ground down hard when Mickey hooked a leg around his. He was about to yank Mickey’s pants down and get to his knees when a voice rang out in the bathroom.

“Hey, is the owner of the Escalade in here?”

They both went still, their harsh breathing the only sound between them. Mickey grimaced and shoved Ian away. “Yeah, what?!”

The newcomer sounded flustered and apologetic. “It’s just that you’re holding up the pump.”

“Yeah, alright give me a minute.”

It was sort of amazing just how much damage they could do to each other in such a short amount of time. They tried to straighten up as best as they could as quickly as they could manage in the tight space, all the while stealing glances at the other. Before they could step out of the stall, Mickey paused and Ian looked at him with a mix of hope and trepidation.

“We don’t get a middle ground, you and me,” Mickey said, “it’s either zero or a fucking thousand for us, there’s no in-between. The way I see it, zero’s a whole lot safer for the both of us.” He looked away before he could see Ian’s face fall and he exited the stall cautiously. He chanced a last look back at Ian before they headed back out into the sobering winter air. “Come on, let’s get you home.”   

Chapter Text

The forecast had said four to six inches of snow, but it hadn’t even hit midday yet and over a foot of snow had already fallen. It had been snowing heavily all day and showing no signs of letting up. Despite the blizzard, Preston refused to cancel classes and by the time Ian wrapped up his last one, the outdoors looked impossible. He groaned out loud. The buses, if they were even still running, were going to be slammed, not to mention the trains. It was going to be a freezing hell to get home. He sighed and revved himself up to set off into the white, swirling madness; knowing that he might just have to elbow a few people in the face to get home before nightfall. His phone rang before he could figure out his best way off campus. It was Mickey.

“Hey,” he answered eagerly. He would never know what it was about Mickey’s calls that never failed to make him instantly breathless.

“Hey,” Mickey said softly before clearing his throat self-consciously and speaking up, “you at school?”

“Uh, yeah, just finished with class.”

“I’m by the east gate,” Mickey said, “you need a ride home?”

Ian found Mickey waiting for him in a small, empty kiosk near the gate. Ian shuffled inside with him, grateful that the wind and the cold had already reddened his face. He grinned at Mickey, who was curled in on himself and bundled into a heavy, hooded camo jacket. It was one of his favourite things when Mickey was dressed down away from the formality of Sal’s dictated dress code. During those times, it was easy to imagine that there was no Sal, no Mob, no complications; just Ian the student and Mickey the mechanic.

“What are you doing here?” Ian asked.

“I was in the neighbourhood,” Mickey shrugged awkwardly, sneaking quick glances at Ian’s face before looking away. It made Ian grin harder. It was one of Mickey’s tells that he wasn’t being entirely honest. Mickey peeked up at Ian again, “I know you get out around now and it’s coming down like gangbusters. I figured you might need a ride.”

“How’d you know I was getting out now?!”

“You gave me your timetable, idiot,” Mickey heaved a sigh of exasperation and longsuffering.

Ian blinked at him, “you still have that?”

The question clearly flustered Mickey and he answered gruffly, “why the fuck would I get rid of it?”

Ian could think of a few reasons, but he wasn’t about to question it. He just nodded, feeling stupidly pleased and all a-flutter as they stood huddled together in the empty kiosk while miserable people trudged by them. Mickey nodded and told Ian that they should go before even the Escalade got bogged down. Mickey set off a few feet, only to look back to see Ian lagging a bit behind him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

Ian shook his head. There was no way he could explain to Mickey that he was hanging back, giving his alarm clock time to go off before the dream got really devastating. Waking up after they’d gotten to the point of being intimate was always the worst. He shook his head at Mickey’s concerned look, feeling like a total idiot, and quickly fell into step with the other man.

By the time they got to the car, they looked like a couple of mismatched snowmen. They shook off the snow as best as they could and quickly climbed in. They both sighed happily when Mickey blasted the heater.

“Fucking storms,” Mickey grumbled, “these fucking winters, I swear to god.”

“Just hang in there a little while longer,” Ian began a very familiar tease, “just a little more and before you know it, you’ll be retired in Florida at the ripe old age of thirty.”

Mickey grinned in spite of himself, “can you fuck off with that ‘I’m an old man’ shit, please?”

“Think about it, Mick,” Ian continued heedlessly, “all of your favourite things: warm weather, no kids on your lawn, hard candy just naturally appearing in your pants.”

“Hard candy, huh? Is that a euphemism for something?” Mickey said, making Ian snort and roll his eyes.

“You’re such an idiot,” Ian sniffed before his expression gentled into a smile. They both sat quietly, watching the blanketing snow and grinning dumbly at each other before Mickey remembered why he was there and put the car in drive.

It was slow going getting to Ian’s apartment, but neither of them was about to complain about it. They spoke and joked shyly and hesitantly, feeling out the situation as they crept along the streets. They fell quiet for the last leg of the journey, with Ian sternly telling himself not to invite Mickey upstairs when he got home, while Mickey vowed not to find an excuse to say yes if Ian asked.

It was easier said than done. When Mickey pulled up before his building, Ian looked out at the crazy amount of snow coming down. The storm seemed to be worsening and—less honourable motives aside—he worried about Mickey forging through it alone.

“Are you sure it’s safe to drive through this?” Ian asked and dragged his nails over the thighs of his jeans as his anxiety spiked.

“It’ll be fine,” Mickey reassured him, “just gotta get going before I get trapped.”

Ian said nothing to that. He knew he needed to get out of Mickey’s car and let him get going before any mistakes were made. He didn’t move yet, however, but stole another glance at Mickey while he played with the door handle.

“Thanks for the rescue,” he said and smiled when Mickey grunted at him, caveman-like. He looked out at the snow and then stared down at Mickey’s hand resting casually on the gearshift. “So…are we doing this then?” Ian asked softly, “are we trying to find the middle?”

Mickey couldn’t help but laugh and slump back against the seat. He looked at Ian with fond frustration. “You can never just go with it, can you? It always has to be spelled out.”

Ian shrugged, “I am what I am, alright?”

Mickey sighed and wetted his lower lip as he mulled it over, distracting Ian a little. “Just…call me when you need a ride, okay? Let’s see how it goes.”

It was probably as close to the affirmative as he was going to get and Ian wasn’t about to push it. “Tell me when you get home.”


Ian nodded at the storm, “be careful, and tell me when you get home in this.”

Mickey snorted and nodded, “sure, mom. Now get the fuck out so I can go.”

An excruciating length of time later, Ian’s phone chirped signalling a text from Mickey which simply said “home now.” Ian immediately sent a text back. “Really? Are you sure you’re not actually lying dead in a ditch somewhere and just sent me this text so I won’t freak?” He swore he could hear Mickey’s snort from miles away. A moment later, Ian’s phone buzzed with Mickey’s incoming video call. There was Mickey in all his relaxed glory, evidently in the warmth of his room, wearing that blue and orange tank Ian loved so much. His heart squeezed painfully at the mess of it all.

Mickey swept the room with his phone before turning the camera back to himself. “Happy now?”

Ian grinned and shrugged lightly. “Momentarily satisfied. Thank you.”

Mickey frowned at him, “thanks for what?”

“For letting me know you got home okay, dumbass. I was starting to freak out a little.”

Mickey snorted derisively at Ian’s nonsense, but his fluster was evident and Ian was reminded that a bashful Mickey Milkovich might just be the cutest thing in existence. Jesus, even video calling was dangerous, but neither of them moved to end the call. Instead, Ian watched entranced as Mickey went about getting a cigarette and lighting up before moving to the window to glare out at the snow.

“Look at all that shit I’m going to have to shovel,” he sighed.

“I’ll help you when I come over if you need me to,” Ian volunteered, “but you do have a bunch of brothers if I recall correctly.”

Mickey snorted so hard, Ian was surprised his sinuses didn’t collapse. “Fuck them, I can do it myself.”

“You have to make up with your brothers, Mick,” Ian sighed, “you can’t go this shit alone. They need you and you need them, and it fucking scares me out that you’re not letting them help you.”

Mickey looked away from the phone and Ian’s concerned face guiltily. Ian’s quiet plea had quickly done a number on him in a way Sal hadn’t managed. He sighed and scratched his forehead with his thumb in agitation.

“Yeah, maybe…we’ll see.”

It was a frosty ride into the woods a couple days later and it had nothing to do with the weather outside the car. Iggy tried vainly to dispel the near palpable tension, but had failed miserably. He managed to get a few grunts out of Mickey and that had been it. Jaime even tried a few times from his spot in the backseat and had met with even less success; Mickey choosing to ignore him completely. By the time they found their desired spot, all three brothers were on edge and Jaime felt he had had enough.

“How much longer you plan on acting like a bitch about this?” he challenged Mickey when they went to retrieve their tools from the trunk of the car. Mickey only shot him a baleful look and picked up a shovel. The protracted silent treatment only grated Jaime’s nerves further. “You’re such an ungrateful little prick.”

“Ungrateful?!” Mickey looked taken aback, “here’s the thing, some dumb fuck pulls a gun on me, shoves it in my face and roughs up my boyfriend, I’m not going to be fucking grateful about it. But maybe that’s just me; I’m weird like that.”

“Oh he’s your boyfriend now?” Jaime spat, “I must have missed that update on Facebook, or maybe he was just too busy deep-throating his other boyfriend’s cock to share the happy news!”

“Guys, come on,” Iggy said, trying to calm the two brothers down as they got in each other’s faces.

“No, no, fuck him, are you hearing this?!” Jaime said, shutting Iggy’s efforts down, “we try to look out for him and save his sorry ass, and all he wants to do is cry over his fucking gold digger bitch. It must be such a fucking honour sharing cock with Sal. Let me know how the happily ever after goes when he leaves both your asses high and dry to move on to his next mark, you dumb fuck.”

Jaime rolled his eyes in disgust, grabbed the shovel away from Mickey and turned away from his silently fuming brother. Iggy could have told Jaime that this was a mistake. Mickey might not have a prayer of squaring up with Jaime head to head, but that didn’t mean he was going to let shit slide. Jaime hadn’t gotten more than a few feet away from his furious brother before Mickey marched up behind him, dropped to one knee and executed a crushing low blow, whacking Jaime between the legs with all the upward forced he could manage. Iggy grimaced and crossed his legs in empathy. Jaime dropped to his knees; gasping for air and clutching his abused genitals, only to feel his little brother wrap him in a chokehold from behind.

“You little bitch!” Jaime rasped and struggled to get to his feet.

“He’s not a fucking gold digger and you don’t know shit about him or us or anything!” Mickey raged and clung on for dear life as his brother fought the stranglehold and staggered to his feet.

“Get off me, you fucking hobbit!” Jaime gasped, already beginning to feel lightheaded. He lurched about, trying his best to dislodge Mickey who hung like a monkey from his back. Iggy sighed, closed the trunk of the car and hopped onto it to wait out the epic battle.

Jaime clawed at Mickey’s arm and tried his best to shake him off. Desperate, he found a tree and rammed hard into it backwards, eliciting a pained yelp from Mickey. Jaime still couldn’t manage to shake him.

“Say you’re fucking sorry!” Mickey yelled.

“Fuck you!” Jaime gasped and rammed against the tree again, his knees close to buckling, “tried to fucking save you…you know you were fucking up…did what I had to.”

“Fuck that! Who the fuck asked you to?!” Mickey demanded as Jaime finally stopped trying to crush him and slowly sagged to his knees.

“Nobody has to ask me,” Jaime wheezed, “I’m your big brother, you piece of shit…it’s my job.”

Jaime lost consciousness and slumped forward into the snowy earth, Mickey still clinging to his back for insurance until he was sure the job was done. Afterwards, Mickey rolled off his passed out brother and lay on the ground panting. Iggy came over and looked down on them.

“You want some of this?!” Mickey challenged despite being clearly exhausted. Iggy raised his hands in symbolic surrender before extending a hand to his brother. He dragged Mickey to his feet and they headed over to the car to wait on the trunk until Jaime regained consciousness.

“You couldn’t have waited until we dealt with Giovanni first? He’s fucking heavy,” Iggy murmured.

“Fuck it, the ground’s frozen anyway,” Mickey said. “Sal’s a fucking moron sending us out here. We’ll do it the right way, head down to the plant.”

Iggy offered his brother some of his chips and they both watched to see when Jaime would stir.

“He’s gonna be pissed when he wakes up,” Iggy pointed out, “nice takedown though.”

“Yeah, spread the word.”

The next evening after work, Ian waited at the bus stop for approximately ten seconds before he was on his phone and calling Mickey, who picked up before the second ring.

“Hi, are you busy?” Ian asked.

“Why? What’s up?”

“I just got through with work and I don’t know what’s up with the buses. I haven’t seen any since I’ve been out here,” Ian said. It was true, technically. “Can you give me a ride?”

“Yeah, give me fifteen.”

Neither of them mentioned the bus that had just driven off as Mickey came to a stop at Ian’s feet. Ian also wasn’t going to mention the two other buses that had come and gone while he had waited. Ian climbed into the warm car and wiggled out of his coat to dump it on the backseat, falling back easily into their routine. He stopped short of messing with Mickey’s loosened tie and his hair, or rubbing his thigh, so the process felt incomplete. Still Ian wasn’t about to complain.

“How was work?” Mickey asked.

“Boring and full of morons, but—” Ian opened his backpack and fished out a giant bag of candy. “—they finally got around to dumping the Halloween stuff. These are all good, but they are seasonal and they’re not keeping them around all the way to next Halloween. You want?”

It was as if Mickey had seen the Promised Land. He promptly pulled into the next open parking lot and relieved Ian of the bag of goodies. He went straight for the mini candy bars and quickly stuffed his face.

“You child,” Ian clucked at him.

“Shut up, you’re a child!” Mickey defended staunchly through a mouthful of nougat.

Ian rolled his eyes and fished for some Jolly Ranchers. “So, how are things with your brothers?”

“A day later?” Mickey said dryly, but softened at Ian’s worried face, “better, but I’m still making them sweat a little,” Mickey said before adding with no small hint of pride, “I kicked Jaime’s ass yesterday.”

Ian almost choked on his candy. “You got into it with Jaime? Are you crazy?! Wait, you won?!”

“Fucking right I won.”

Ian paused and regarded Mickey closely. “You beat him fairly?”

It was Mickey’s turn to roll his eyes. “Are you fucking serious? You think I’m going to square up with Jaime? Nah, I used the cunning God gave me and brought his fat ass down. Now the rest of them will know and fall back into fucking line.”

Ian was both intrigued and amused. “Are you brothers or pack animals?”

“What’s the difference?” Mickey asked wryly.

Ian’s grin grew wider as he watched Mickey go in on a full-size Snickers bar. “And you’re the alpha?”

“Fucking A, I’m the alpha. Jaime coordinated this shit and the rest of them followed him, so I made an example of him and the rest of them will know not to fucking test me again.”

“Ah, how very Sun Tzu of you, or is this the gospel according to Sal?”

Mickey sniffed, “they’re my brothers, but they’re also my crew and I couldn’t fall back in with them without meting out some kind of punishment or warning. I need to handle my crew.”

“Definitely the gospel according to Sal then,” Ian said.

“Sal’s rules, prison rules, the law of the jungle, it’s natural law. If you’re a weak leader or you lose control, you lose your crew. You’re gonna tell me that’s not the same thing that went down with your family when Fiona lost her shit?”

Ian rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “I would never have thought about it like that, I guess. I mean things just kind of fell apart all at the same time. It wasn’t just because Fiona wasn’t being ‘alpha’ enough.”

“Definitely a contributing factor from what you’ve been telling me,” Mickey said, “you lose control over your crew and everything goes to shit. You guys didn’t start listening to her again until she got her own ass in order. Same thing happened here; Milkoviches just go about these things a bit more violently.”

Ian sighed and swatted Mickey’s hand when he went for more candy. “Enough, you’re going to make yourself sick at this rate.” He ignored Mickey’s protests and shoved the bag of candy back into his backpack. “They’re yours, but you’re getting them on slow release,” he said. “But you guys are okay now though, right? They have your back?”

“We were always going to be okay again eventually, Ian, and we always have each other’s backs, even if we don’t particularly like each other for a while,” Mickey reassured him. “We’re brothers; we’re good.”

Mickey probably wouldn’t understand how relieved that simple reassurance made Ian feel. He nodded at Mickey and relaxed into his seat.

“They were right, you know; we were fucking up big time,” Ian said and looked over at Mickey who gazed back at him.

“So, you think everyone has learnt their lesson now?” Mickey asked and switched on the ignition.

Ian didn’t answer. He hadn’t been so great at learning some lessons lately, and staring at Mickey’s profile against the dying twilight, Ian felt like the slowest person alive.

He was burning. That was the only way Mickey could think of it. There was something under his skin, seeping into his system, making him itch and catch fire and there was fuck all he could do about it. He paced atop the abandoned Southside building in his agitation and took deep gulps of cold air as he tried to cool his blood. There weren’t words to describe how badly he wanted Ian and all the ways Ian satisfied him. He craved the hard, pounding punishment of Ian’s body into his, the twist of Ian’s fingers, the bite of his teeth, the blistering heat of his body. He missed the softness just as much; the gentle glide of Ian’s lips over his skin, the way the skilled fingers probed and found places Mickey didn’t even know existed until he was shaking from the feel of it all.

He missed Ian, being with him like that. He missed the way Ian would trap him and hold him close and wouldn’t let him squirm away when the quietness and emotions of the moment felt too overwhelming and his instinct to escape threatened to kick in. He missed the way Ian eased him into the whole new world that had opened up and he hated he wasn’t there anymore. He missed that crappy apartment. He missed that dumb heater that was either threatening to melt them or forcing them to crawl into each other for warmth. He missed the bubble.

It was the worst idea—this finding the middle bullshit—because he and Ian were in each other’s spaces again, talking to each other too much, laughing at each other’s stupid jokes again, staring at each other a little too long every single time. But it was worse now than when they first began to sink, because they knew now, knew what was on the other side of the chaste flirting and the lingering looks. Not enough time had passed since they’d been forced to stop to take the edge and the sting away, for Ian’s taste to leave his mouth and the touch of Ian’s skin to fade from his still tingling fingers. So Mickey burned as he once again foolishly committed himself to this strange, sweet kind of hell, and wondered if he’d ever re-emerge alive and in one piece.

“You jonesing?” Dre blew out a puff of smoke and icy breath as he watched his friend pace the roof and periodically flex his neck as he smoked and muttered to himself wordlessly. “I know all the signs; I know many an addict.”

“Maybe,” Mickey sighed and finally stopped pacing to take a seat on the fold-out chair before his friend. “I need something.”

Dre snorted softly in amusement. “I know what you need. I’d offer to help you out, but you’ve got a very specific itch that not even my dick can scratch.”

Mickey slumped down into the chair and dragged his hoodie further down his forehead. “I’m fucking up.”

“What else is new?”

“I’m hanging around Ian again,” Mickey explained. “It’s the last thing in the world I should be doing right now. My brothers know.”

Dre listened with rapt attention as Mickey finally told him what went down with his brothers after he and Ian had been discovered. He told Dre about Jaime’s threats and warnings, and their subsequent fight. He spoke about how Ian had been abducted and thoroughly frightened into breaking up with him, and how they were now trying to find their way to come bullshit center where they tortured each other knowing that nothing could or should ever come of it.

Dre shook his head at the end of Mickey’s tale. “Fucking Jaime, man, I swear to god. He and Drew are the same goddamned thing,” Dre said, mentioning his own forceful older brother. “He would do the same fucking thing, no difference. Fucking psychopaths.”

“Yeah, but they were right though,” Mickey admitted. “I’m supposed to be staying away from him, but…”

Dre looked a Mickey for a moment before breaking into a wide smile and slapping Mickey’s thigh affectionately. “You love this dude!”

Mickey grunted and looked away, “I don’t know,” he sniffed defensively, “maybe. Whatever it is, it’s still stupid.”

Dre only grinned harder and leaned back in his chair. “Nah man, it’s amazing. It’s a wonderful thing.”

“If Sal finds out…”

Dre sucked his teeth loudly, “man, fuck Sal! Fuck Sal with something hard and sandpapery; he ain’t shit. He’s been taking shit away from you since you were kid, man. He shouldn’t be taking this too.”

Mickey blinked at him, unsure how to respond or even how to process that. Dre took a deep drag of his blunt before handing it to Mickey.

“Look, the way I see it, catching feelings for somebody and having them catch feelings for you, that’s a beautiful thing, man. I’m not talking about Sal’s narrow, shallow, bullshit idea of beautiful that he’s always going on about—I’m  talking something real. Guys like us, Mickey; they don’t let us have a lot of beautiful shit in this world, man. We gotta hunt it down, we gotta take it; every once in a while if we’re real lucky, we might stumble across it, but they sure as fuck won’t let us keep it easy. But we deserve beautiful shit too and we shouldn’t be scared into letting it go.”

Mickey’s leg bounced as he contemplated all the possibilities and Dre’s words soaked in. He was starved for a bit of encouragement to go towards Ian as opposed to away and he absorbed it like a sponge. “You saying I should go for it?”

Dre tugged at one of his locks and seemed to think it over. He let out a short laugh. “Fuck, I only know what my dumb ass would do, but I would be keeping mine. Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me though, ‘cause I’m a reckless nigga. You Mob boys still got a decent chance of getting to middle age. If the cops don’t lay me out one day soon, some other cold, young thug will, so carpe fucking diem!”

“Are you busy?” Ian breathed out and waited for Mickey’s answer.

It had become farcical practically overnight. He could easily tell from the tone of Mickey’s voice and the way he answered the phone when Mickey was in Mob mode or whether or not he was busy. He knew that Mickey would pretend to waffle a bit too before he inevitably came. They still clung to the pretence that these calls were anything other than desperate ploys to see each other and spend some time together. The farce provided some comfort that they weren’t being entirely stupid, that they weren’t fucking up again as they slowly went down that familiar slide. Instead they were being friends; friends who helped each other out and spent entirely way too much time in charged silences, stealing glances at each other in the car like dorks.

“You don’t have school or work right now, so what could you need?” Mickey pointed out, playing his part perfectly.

Ian chewed on his lower lip as his hand slipped under his shirt of its volition. He glowed a little at how well Mickey had committed his timetable and work schedule to memory. Granted, after driving him back and forth so often, Mickey might have just naturally figured it out, but Ian clung to the romantic idea of Mickey reading and reading his schedules until they were tattooed on his brain.

“My kitchen is empty,” Ian said airily, “I figure I’d do some major stocking up before the next blizzard. Save me from public transportation?”

It was a little embarrassing how excited he got at the sight of the Mustang pulling up across the street. It gave him the same feeling it did whenever Mickey dressed down and seemed to step out of Gangster Land for a moment. Actually, that care gave him a lot of different feelings, but Ian was trying his best not to dwell too much on the far more dangerous ones.

“Hey,” he said after he got into the car.

“Got your shopping list?” Mickey asked dryly before he returned Ian’s smirk and peeled off towards the furthest supermarket within reason.

It was a sign of how far he’d fallen that he would be pushing a cart, trailing Ian around a supermarket, watching the idiot quibble over the price of one canned good as opposed to another and marvelling over the identity of cardamom. What’s worse, Mickey didn’t mind any of it; he didn’t mind it one bit.

“You like these pizzas?” Ian asked absently, completely absorbed in his task. Ian had to be the most domestic fucker Mickey had ever met outside of Jaime. Mickey found himself weirdly fantasizing about his eldest brother bonding with Ian over cooking and such like things. They had more in common than either of them would imagine.


“Pizzas,” Ian repeated while he checked his lists. “We should get some. Junk food’s great for snow-ins.”

Mickey blinked, “um, yeah sure.”

Ian—apparently forgetting the fact that they weren’t together, let alone cohabiting—dumped a bunch of frozen pizzas in the cart and wandered off to find his next item. Mickey checked the cart as he followed. He hadn’t been paying attention, but he now realized just how much of the groceries there were apparently his: his beer, his favourite chips and bread, a box of his cereal. The butterflies inside him flittered about happily and were strong enough to get him to ignore the nagging reason that told him that they needed to stop feeding the delusion. Fuck it all, couldn’t they just pretend for a few minutes?

With everything loaded up, Mickey pointed the car towards home, much to Ian’s disappointment. He had been hoping that Mickey would have suggested they take a ride, but he knew they weren’t there yet. There was a lull in the conversation and he regarded Mickey within the safety of the dark of the car while Mickey focused on the slushiness of the roads.

It was so strange to find them back in this weird space again, even though he had asked for it. He didn’t want to lose it but it wasn’t nearly enough. He was sitting in Mickey’s Mustang again, feeling his heart pounding in that familiar way while he once again dreamt about reaching out and caressing Mickey’s face, even while knowing he couldn’t. It felt like a step so far back, he could barely handle it.

They stopped at a red light and his eyes followed Mickey’s hand as it slid smoothly to the gearshift. He couldn’t help but sigh. Here he was again, ogling Mickey’s hand, wondering about the touch of it. Except he knew Mickey’s hands now, had felt them all over his body in the best ways. In an unthinking moment, Ian did reach out and trailed a finger lightly over Mickey’s knuckles. He felt Mickey tense slightly, but there was no pulling away or reprimand. Mickey said nothing at all, just looked straight ahead while Ian’s hand glided over his, growing a little bolder with each pass.

An angry blast of a horn shook them both. The light had turned green—must have been green for a while now—and a harried looking woman in a minivan pulled out from behind them and drove past. “Remove head from sphincter, then drive!” she screeched as she flipped them off and sped away into the night. Mickey ran a hand over his face and hurried to get through the light before it could change once again.

Mickey helped Ian bring up the groceries, but knew better than to linger there long. Ian followed him back to the car and as was their norm, they sat in it together, hanging out for far longer than they knew they should. Ian fished out a bunch for sweets from his jacket pocket and held them out to Mickey.

“Thanks for helping me out.”

“Are you thanking me with my own goddamned candy?” Mickey grumbled but quickly snatched the candy, “where’s the rest of it?”

“Slow release, asshole.” It took Ian a moment to realize what he’d said to send Mickey into a giggle fit. He rolled his eyes and laughed at his idiot. “You’re such a dumbass. You give me shit for my humour and then you laugh like a dork at accidental fart jokes.”

Mickey’s phone rang, announcing that Dre was calling. Mickey looked around fruitlessly for a wipe for his sticky fingers before he simply swallowed his sweet and told the phone to answer. Dre’s voice soon filled the car.

“You’re cool?” Dre asked, recognizing he was on speaker phone and wanting to know if it was okay to talk.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”

Dre still hesitated, immediately clocking that Mickey wasn’t alone and that he sounded a little odd. It took him only a moment to realize that Mickey sounded weird because he sounded relaxed and happy—buoyant even—and Mickey never sounded that way. Once he figured it out, it didn’t take a detective to work out just who Mickey was with to have him sounding that way. Dre almost snorted in amusement. Lord, what fools these mortals be indeed.  

“I just filled a prescription for you,” Dre informed him, “pick it up when you’re ready.”

“I’ll be there in about an hour.”

“Okay,” Dre said and suddenly there was a soft, subtle shift in his voice and the intimacy of it had Ian’s spine straightening. “Ay look, I don’t know if you want to slide through later, but I’m out of warming lube shit you like, so pick some up when you’re coming.” Dre then disconnected immediately, leaving two very stunned men staring at the mounted cell phone.

Ian opened his mouth and closed it again, and then he looked around unseeingly as the emotional embodiment of an air raid siren went off throughout his body. He looked at Mickey, who was still staring at the phone as if he was utterly baffled by how Dre’s voice and words could possibly have leaked out of it in that configuration. Ian didn’t feel like asking questions. He got out of the car and slammed the classic Mustang’s door so hard it was a small miracle it hadn’t cracked right off.  

That woke Mickey up immediately and he watched wordlessly as Ian stormed into his building and disappeared out of sight. Mickey sat in the car, completely at sea for the moment and unsure what his next course of action should be. What the hell was Dre playing at, and what the fuck was he supposed to say to Ian about it? It had gone from gentle bliss to a charged and confusing situation, and Mickey knew it was probably best to leave, give it a moment and regroup for later. Yeah, that would probably be the smart thing, so of course in the next moment, he was out the car and going after Ian.

Chapter Text

Something strange happened to Mickey between the second and eighth floors of Ian’s building. He had gotten in the elevator from the lobby, intent on getting to Ian to calm him down and explain that, no, he wasn’t sleeping with Dre, he wasn’t sleeping with anyone else at all, that there wasn’t even space in his brain to think about anyone else let alone fuck around with them. On the slow ride up to Ian’s apartment though, he couldn’t help but to start thinking of everything from the impossibility of their situation to Ian’s ongoing relationship with Sal, to Ian vengefully abusing his innocent car in his rage. By the time he got to the sixth floor, he was starting to get pissed off too, though it was hard for him to pinpoint about what exactly. Still, by the time he got to Ian’s door, his blood was up and Mickey was raring to go.

“What the fuck is your problem?!” he burst through Ian’s door—which had been closed but not locked—into the apartment and startled its lone occupant.

Ian was having none of it. “Get the fuck out! I don’t want to talk to you!”

“Why? What’s the problem? What exactly am I supposed to have done wrong here?!” Mickey challenged and Ian stared at him as if he had lost his mind.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“Am I forgetting something or didn’t your ass break up with me right outside this fucking building?”

Ian closed the distance between them in a couple of steps, getting right into Mickey’s face and jabbing him hard in the chest. “Fuck you, it hasn’t even been two weeks, you piece of—”

“Two weeks isn’t enough? Is that the problem?” Mickey broke in, silencing Ian for the moment, “so how long then? How long am I supposed to wait around sitting shiva for your narrow ass while you get your rocks off with my boss in the room across from mine?”

Ian snorted incredulously, “oh, that isn’t even remotely fair.”

“None of this shit is fair, Ian; I thought we’d come to that realization already. So what am I supposed to do? What is it you want from me now? I’m supposed to sit around eating my fucking heart out, just waiting for the next moment you’re feeling brave enough to run your fingers over my knuckles again? Fuck that and fuck you! You need to get over yourself, you conceited prick!”

Ian had had enough. “Get the fuck out!” he yelled as he forcefully shoved Mickey back outside the still open door and slammed it in Mickey’s face. He locked it only to jump a little at the harsh sound of Mickey’s fist smashing against the door.

“Fuck you, Gallagher!” Mickey hollered back before stalking back to the elevator, not caring about the doors cautiously cracking open behind him so nosy neighbours could listen in.

Ian stood staring at the door, struggling to catch his breath while the Kill Bill sirens slowly faded in his head. He was half expecting—half hoping—Mickey would come back for round two. When the quiet went on too long, he dashed to the window, just in time to see Mickey storming to the Mustang and squealing away a moment later. He angrily batted the curtains away from him. Well fuck Mickey Milkovich too. Fuck him and his faithless ass and his stupid Mustang. Ian didn’t need him anyway.

Mickey found a quiet stretch of road to pull over so he could yell and punch his steering wheel for a minute to stop his head from exploding. For the moment, all that could be heard was Mickey’s graphic swearing punctuated by intermittent blasts of the car horn. When he had vented enough, he paused, caught his breath and dialled a familiar number.

“What it is?” Dre drawled across the line.

“Dre, what the fuck?!” Mickey exploded at his friend, “what the fuck was that?!”

“Relax, baby, you’re going to get granddad’s high blood pressure making all that noise,” Dre said, completely unruffled by Mickey’s rage, “why are you coming at me like that?”

“Why am I com—‘I’m out of lube’?! What the fuck was that shit? Ian heard all of that! He wanted to take my fucking head off! Why would you do this?!”

“Because the middle is bullshit, Mick,” Dre said slowly, “ain’t fuck all happening in the middle. The middle is the doldrums, man; no wind in the sails, no backwards or forwards. You feeling me?”

Mickey pulled the phone from his ear and glared at it, confounded. “Are you high?!”

Dre sighed, “bitch, I might be. Look, this shit was unsustainable from the get-go. Either you two figure out how to be together, or you shut it down completely, because there’s just misery in the middle and you know this. One way or another, you’ll thank me eventually.”

“You seem to be in a mood,” Alex observed as she handed Ian more streamers and another red heart made of construction paper.

“I’m not in a mood,” Ian said sullenly from atop his ladder, before he aggressively stapled the heart and streamers to the ceiling. Alex was quite sure the Valentine decorations were supposed to be hanging artfully from said ceiling as opposed to being skewered to it, but she didn’t feel very safe stating that bit of criticism.

“I don’t know,” she said cautiously, “you really do seem to be in a bit of a mood.”

“Alex, I’m not–” he began sharply before lowering his voice with a jerk, “—in a mood.”

“Oh well then I’m certainly convinced,” Alex said dryly, “wasn’t sure for a minute there, but okay,” she said as she reluctantly sent up another red heart for the slaughter.

While she watched Ian work, Rosa—another cashier—crept up behind Ian to do the same. Her crush on him was as massive as it was hopeless. She stood admiring his tight T-shirt clad form for a while before Alex’s eye roll prompted her to move.   

“Hi, Ian,” she said dreamily as she floated past him towards Alex. She couldn’t help but bat her eyes a little as she went past and give a small toss of her head, shaking her dark bob.

“Hey, Rosa,” Ian said, flashing her a brief stunner of a smile before going back to glaring at a pinned heart and superfluously shooting a bunch more staples into it. Rosa blinked at him before looking at Alex, nonplussed.

“He’s in a mood,” Alex whispered, “what’s up? Is it ogle and objectify Ian time already?” she grinned when Rosa swatted her frantically while glancing over at Ian to see if he had heard. “Oh please, he’s having boy troubles. You could confess to ritualistic murder right now, he won’t register.”

Rosa eyed Ian again. He really seemed brutally focused on his job and she breathed a small sigh of relief. She went back to her task at hand.  “So dig this, a bunch of us single heifers are getting together for a girls’ night on Valentine’s Day. Not exactly sure yet if we’re going out or staying in, but the night will definitely involve an obscene amount of jello shots and some good weed; Leslie has the hook-up and a hookah!”

Alex beamed, pleased to the point of fluster. “Yes, of course, definitely I’m in!”

“Awesome sauce! We’re gonna get together and get white girl wasted!” Rosa squealed before she coughed and added sheepishly, “me and Sara came up with the theme before we got around to actually inviting any white girls.”

Alex couldn’t stop grinning, “no worries at all; I’m the poster child for white girl wasted. I’m here for it.”

Rosa bounced around happily. “Alrighty, prepare to have us bothering you nonstop while we coordinate this shit. Give us any and all ideas of debauchery you get, okay? Ugh, now let me get back to hanging up this ninety-nine cent crap before Simpson chews my ass. Bye Ian!”

“Bye, Rosa,” Ian surfaced from his black mood to respond. He glanced at Alex, “what happened?”

“Having a girls’ night,” Alex bubbled, “I was invited!”

Ian’s smile for his friend and her excitement was broad and genuine, “rock on.”

“Mickey’s seeing someone else,” Ian eventually admitted later that day. He and Alex had met up at the end of classes for their usual study and homework session. He eyed her suspiciously as she stayed quiet. “What?”

Alex shrugged apologetically, “I’m cycling through all my kneejerk responses so I can get to one that won’t make you more upset.” She patted his hand when he sighed, “what happened?”

“He’s fucking Sal’s drug dealer. Can you believe this shit?!”

Alex couldn’t help a little flicker of amusement, “does everyone hook-up in relation to Sal? It’s like he’s this gross, inadvertent cupid. I should go see him. I wonder if I’ll meet the love of my life and/or next sexual conquest because of him.” 


“Right, right, sorry!”

“It hasn’t even been two weeks,” Ian lamented, “that’s not even long enough for a rash to clear up.”

Alex scrunched her nose. “A rather gross analogy, but I’ll allow it. I’ve had some pretty gnarly rashes back in the day.” She then listened raptly as Ian told her about his and Mickey’s fight after the discovery. She raked her fingers through her hair as Ian wound down and fumed. “Alright, so you know I’m one hundred percent, completely on your side…”

“Oh god,” Ian groaned and rested his head on the table.

“It’s just—what’s the plan here, Ian? I know it feels fast, but whether it was two weeks or two months, it was going to hurt the same. You’re not together—”

“He knows I want to be with him.”

“But you’re not? You ended things with him and you’re still with Sal and it sort of makes it hard to determine what the proper breakup protocol should be.”

“You don’t sound like you’re on my side, in case you were wondering,” Ian sniped, “it’s not like I’m having the time of my life with Sal. If I could figure out how to leave with Mickey and without getting my face rearranged, I would.”

“Let me go on record once again to say this plan is as insane as it is vague,” Alex said, “and who knows how long this is going to take? It’s not like Mickey knows you have altruistic purposes for staying with Sal either.”

“I can’t tell him,” Ian sighed, “he’ll freak out and go on one of his ‘we need to get you out’ rants.”

“I love how you both want desperately to save each other, but neither of you has a remote clue as to how to do it,” Alex said and shrugged, “why don’t you just kill Sal?” she added jokingly.

“God, don’t tempt me.”

“I’m by the east gate.”

Ian blinked at the text he’s received after he and Alex had parted ways. He had just made it to the north gate, only for Mickey to tell him he was waiting all the way over at the east one. Ian’s heart thumped painfully in his chest. They hadn’t spoken since their blow up the night before and he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to talk to Mickey, let alone trudge all the way over to the freaking east gate to see him. He shoved the phone back into his pocket without responding to the text and resumed walking.

Ian came into view just as Mickey was getting antsy. Mickey could read the grim set of that jaw from a mile off so he knew that this was not going to start off pleasantly. He waited in their empty kiosk, shifting his weight from foot to foot as Ian got closer, only to see the redheaded child stomp past him without a word. Mickey rolled his eyes and chased after him.

“I didn’t fuck him, alright!” Mickey growled when he was within a discreet distance. Ian’s abrupt halt had Mickey smacking into his broad back and stumbling backwards. Ian eventually turned to eye him sceptically.

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying, asshole,” Mickey said gruffly, “I haven’t fucked anyone else since we started this shit. How could I? You’re a fucking full time job,” he said before stepping around Ian and heading off towards the car. Now it was Ian at his heels instead.

“But he said on the phone—”

“Yeah I was there, I heard it. He was fucking with me. Dre does that from time to time. We do the friends with benefits thing on occasion, but like I said, it’s been a while. Lately, it’s just been friend without those kinds of benefits.” Mickey disarmed the car and got in, only to look back and see Ian hesitating outside. “Will you get in the fucking car?!”

Ian blinked and quickly scampered in. He settled in, carefully turning over all this new information in his head while Mickey adjusted the heat. “Nobody else?”

Mickey leaned back against his seat and regarded Ian seriously, “nobody else.”

“Yet,” Ian accused quietly and Mickey sighed.

“What do you want me to say? What am I supposed to do here? You want me to wait? What am I waiting for, Ian?”

Ian’s hand twisted into the material of his jeans. “I mean I still want us to—I mean after everything’s done…”

“After everything’s done and you get out of this shit, you keep going and you don’t look back. None of this is for you. None of it.”

Ian didn’t answer. Instead he looked out the window as Mickey pulled away from the curb. The car was quiet as they drove, both of them mulling over their dilemma. Eventually, it was Ian who broke the silence.

“I don’t want to know,” he said.

Mickey was confused. “Huh?”

“I still think we can figure this out and that we can make it work somehow,” Ian continued, “but I know we can’t right now and I don’t know how long it will take or when it will happen. I know it’s not fair to ask you to just wait like that. So, it’s fine, I guess, but I don’t want to know about it.”

Mickey wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He wasn’t even sure if there was even an acceptable way to respond. It sounded like one of those psychological traps that would spring no matter how he approached it. It wasn’t as if he would ever discuss anything like that with Ian anyway; he would never be fooled into thinking that they could ever be that platonic. He wondered how long it would be before he felt interested in someone who wasn’t Ian again and for the moment, he couldn’t imagine it. What was even stranger was that the apparent permission didn’t give him any relief. He didn’t want that freedom, he didn’t want Ian’s blessing to wander. In fact, he wanted the exact opposite.

Mickey’s phone chirped just before he pulled up before Ian’s building and he sighed when he saw the text. “I’ve got to go,” he said and then noted Ian’s hesitation. “It’s business,” he added on.

Ian didn’t know why Mickey would think that was any more reassuring. Still, he nodded, gathered his things and got out of the car. “Call me when you get home?”

Mickey nodded, but Ian could see he had already switched modes and the casual Mickey that belonged to him had already disappeared. Ian stepped back and watched as Mickey sped away.

It had been the stupidest decision he had made yet. What he had been thinking telling Mickey it was okay to screw around, he would never know. He didn’t feel better and he certainly didn’t feel in more control of the situation. What he did feel though was paranoid. God knows what—or who—Mickey was doing when he was out of sight. Every phone call was Dre or some loathsome Lothario calling; every whispered conversation was Mickey planning a tryst somewhere.

It had only been a couple days and Ian strongly suspected he was starting to lose it. Right now he sat in the breakfast nook, as opposed to his usual place at the kitchen island, just so he could watch Mickey pacing around the living room having a hushed conversation on his phone. Ian frowned at Mickey’s back as he clicked his pen neurotically, his accounting worksheets scattered and abandoned on the table before him. Mickey laughed (why would he laugh? What’s funny about Mob business?) and told whoever it was he would be there soon. Ian quickly glued his eyes to his papers when Mickey ended his call and came into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Mickey said softly as he neatened the rolled up sleeves of his dress shirt and tugged at his grey vest, “I’m going out for a bit but, uh, I should be back in time to take you home. I’ll let you know if I can’t and I’ll get Iggy to do it. You’re cool with Iggy, right?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Ian nodded, tapping his pen on the table while he stared unseeingly at his homework. He then took a piss poor shot at a nonchalant question. “So where are you going?”

“Down to the Rub and Tug; make collections, sort some shit out, and put in some time there. It’s around now that some of the crazies come out.”

A likely story, Ian was sure. Then again, Mickey had answered easily enough and maybe that had been Svetlana he had been talking to on the phone. While he and Mickey had been together, Ian rarely thought of her, but now he was left wondering about her role as Mickey’s beard. How far did they go to keep up appearances, Ian wondered. His mind then turned Trashy Trish and her apparent hard-on for Mickey and wondered if Mickey ever considered it for curiosity’s sake.

“It’s just to the Rub and Tug and back, probably won’t even take all that long,” Mickey said.

Ian realized Mickey might have been responding to all the crazy forming behind his eyes and tried to take it down a notch. “Yeah sure…have fun,” he tacked on lamely and winced at how tragic he was.

“Have fun doing what?” Sal asked upon entering the kitchen and immediately started fussing with Mickey’s collar and tie until Mickey swatted him away.

“Going to the Rub and Tug for a bit,” Mickey repeated.

“Oh,” Sal said and his lecherous smile made Ian want to wipe it off his face with one of his ten pound text books, “fucking right he’ll have fun.” He waggled his eyebrows before heading over to Ian and kissing the top of his head. “How’s my Rhodes Scholar doing?” he asked as he slid into the chair next to Ian. “What are you going to teach me today?”

Ian tried not to grimace and gave Sal a short, strained smile. At least he managed not to look when Mickey walked away without another word.

“So I told Mickey it was okay to see other people as long as I didn’t know he was seeing other people,” Ian told Alex as she searched the rows of books for her resource materials. “So now I don’t know what he’s doing and it’s driving me insane.”

“Uh huh.”

“He’s probably seeing Dre again because of this whole stupid friends with benefits arrangement. He says it’s just sex and there are no feelings involved, but that has to be bullshit.”

“You don’t say.”

 “I don’t even know anything about this guy except he’s a Southside drug dealer. What kind of name is ‘Dre’ anyway? Sounds so fucking stupid.”

“That’s rough, buddy,” Alex said absently as she tried to match the call numbers on her list to the books in the massive library.

Alex, who was fully aware that her best friend was talking to himself and merely aiming the words in her direction, took the time to delve into her own musings. “Have you seen those new personal shaver commercials? I hate whenever they’re on, they skeeve me out so much.”

“I mean is he taller than me? Is he hot? What do they even see in each other?”

“It’s just that it’s bad enough women have people policing their bodies from the doctor to the congressman, now you’re going to tell me how to control my bush? You have pornography telling the world that a grown woman is supposed to be as smooth and hairless as a newborn—which is so gross and paedophilic I can barely stand it—but if you insist on having hair down there, it better be well-groomed, young lady!”

“I just want to know, you know? What is he like? How much of it is friendship and how much are the benefits? I kind of have an idea where he is, I know the area a bit…how many drug dealers could there be called Dre?”

“And the artistry they want you to show! Landing strips, heart shapes, clovers and blue moons; like fuck off! Who has the time to arrange the good china into fancy shapes? But the worst is when some dude thinks he merits getting his name emblazoned onto your happy place. Could he even appreciate how hard I, Alexis Alden, would have worked for that pussy? What could he possibly have done to deserve getting his dumb name shaved into my precious pubic hair? Does no one appreciate a glorious Amazonian type bush anymore?! Ooh, found the book!” Alex cried and snatched up the text triumphantly.

“I bet I could get the exact address from Iggy,” Ian said with strange finality, “I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna go see him.”

“Wait what?” Alex said when Ian abruptly turned and left. “What just happened?”

“This is a terrible idea, Ian,” Alex moaned.

“You should have that printed on a T-shirt,” Ian mumbled as he shrugged on one of his older hooded coats. Slipping into his Southside skin was much easier than slipping into the Southside frame of mind for Ian lately. He was slowly understanding what Lip had been struggling with when he had first left.

“What are you even going to do? Just confront him?”

“No, I just need to see, that’s all. I’m not confronting anybody,” Ian said and readied to set off.

Alex threw her hands up, “fine, let’s go.”

We aren’t going anywhere; I’m going alone. You’d stick out in the Southside like a WASPy sore thumb.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a chameleon, I can hang!”


“Whatever,” Alex said with a defiant toss of her head, “I’m so not missing this.”

Alex’s bravado took a sharp dip the deeper they went into Dre’s neighbourhood. It was a little past midday and it was bright and sunny, but it did nothing to staunch her growing paranoia. Ian moved with easy, almost heedless, purpose while she kept glancing about, sure they were being watched or followed by shadowy individuals. She slipped her arm into the crook of Ian’s elbow and stuck as close to him as he could manage.

Ian eventually paused, “Iggy said he should be around here somewhere.”

They both looked around. It was a fairly busy neighbourhood with people loitering everywhere and a few young men congregating at the corners. There were mostly stores in that area and people went about their business, apparently not paying any mind to the young couple. All they knew about Dre was that he was a black guy with dreadlocks and at the moment, there seemed to be no shortage of guys fitting that description about.

“It’s going to take a game of Clue to figure out who he is,” Alex grumbled. “This is impossible. We should go back.”

“Dre, what’s happening, baby?!” A man called out as he rode past on a bicycle. He received a loud hoot of response from a tall guy with dreadlocks who was standing on the opposite corner.

Alex cleared her throat when Ian looked down on her. “Yes, well then, there you are. You’re welcome.”

They took a minute to take Dre in as he stood on the corner greeting people and talking easily with the ones who stopped by. It didn’t seem as if he was dealing, since nothing changed hands whenever someone stopped by, which happened frequently. Ian didn’t see anything particularly impressive. Alex wasn’t of a similar mind. Dre laughed at some joke his latest visitor told him and she was just a little dazzled by his smile.

“Wow,” she said appreciatively, but quickly course corrected when Ian glared down at her, “not like wow-wow obviously. I mean clearly he’s hideous.”

Ian rolled his eyes, “come on, we can’t stand here forever.”

Alex squeaked a little as Ian took off towards Dre and she quickly ran to catch up.

Dre, for his part, had been wondering when these two fools were going to make up their minds and do something instead of gawking at him all day. He had received word early about strangers on the block. No one knew them; they didn’t look strung out and desperate like the typical newcomer who came looking for him. They didn’t seem like cops either and for the first time in a long time, Dre was entirely at sea about a new development. He raised an eyebrow at their approach—they seemed so bright and shiny—and waited to see what they had to say. To his surprise, and to the evident surprise of the tall young man with her, it was the girl who spoke up first.

“Hello!” she said cheerfully.

Dre’s eyebrow hitched even higher. “Are you lost?” he asked, “are you looking for a Trader Joe’s?”

“Ooh, is there one around here? I’m out of Specu—oh you were being sardonic, ha got it,” she giggled nervously. She was a mess around hot guys. “Actually, you came highly recommended and we were hoping to purchase some of your finest marijuana.”

The near identical looks of befuddled horror on Ian and Dre’s faces were things of beauty. Dre looked around and then looked to the heavens to see if there were drones flying about. He could not make heads or tails of this. Malibu Ken had done nothing but glare at him since he arrived on the spot and Barbie looked as if she thought she was at the farmers’ market. No way they were law enforcement, Chicago PD was far too savvy to send in some wide-eyed waif and an oversized Chucky doll to trap him. So what the hell was going on?”

“I came highly recommended? On what, Yelp?” Dre asked dryly, “look, not every black dude on a street corner is dealing, alright, and I have to say I resent the implication here a little bit. You have thoroughly offended my delicate sensibilities and I’m disinclined to engage with you any further. Good day.”

“Mickey sent us,” Ian finally spoke up, “said you’d give us a good deal.”

“Mickey?” Dre asked in surprise and cocked his head. He stared at Ian for a moment and suddenly the missing puzzle piece fell into place. A tall redhead, bearing Mickey as a reference, who had been nothing but glaring at him since he showed up? It wasn’t that hard to figure out. “Ian, right?” Dre’s smile spread slowly across his face and he almost burst out laughing when Ian stiffened. “Now then, that’s different. Any friend of Mickey’s…”

Alex did not miss the swift change in the atmosphere. Ian was getting tense and Dre looked as if he was more than willing to have some fun at Ian’s expense. She moved quickly to diffuse the charged situation.

“So your delicate sensibilities are no longer offended?” she asked cheekily.

Dre laughed, completely at ease now that he understood the situation, despite the ominous vibes emanating from the redhead. “Luckily, I get over things as easily as I’m offended. Plus, since I trust Mickey with all my heart,” he said with a smile full of mischief, “I know I can trust you. You really need a hook-up?”

“We’re freshmen in college, we need everything ever!”

“Well I stand by what I said earlier—never stereotype—but I might know someone who can help you out,” he nodded towards the other corner, “you see that corner store, the Grab and Go, go get some coffee in there. You should be able to get what you need,” Dre turned his attention from a confused Alex to a now stone-faced Ian. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No,” Ian ground out and turned away to the store, dragging Alex behind him.

When they entered the empty store, they found a young woman bearing a strong resemblance to Dre sitting behind the counter. She looked up from her magazine and stared at the young couple with deep suspicion.

“Can I help you? Are you looking for the Pottery Barn?” The resemblance was really striking.

“Dre told us to buy some coffee here?” Alex ventured bravely.

Drea raised an eyebrow, then her index finger indicating that they wait a moment so she could dial Dre. When he answered, she did not mince words. “Nigga are you for real?”

“Bitch, give them the got-damn coffee and stop tying up my phone!”

“Who you calling a bitch?! Call me a bitch again and see if I don’t come out there and snatch them raggedy dreads off your big head, fool!” she blasted before she hung up the phone and smiled sweetly at the couple. “One coffee coming up,” Drea sang out as she busied herself beneath the counter.

“So is Dre your brother?” Alex asked and Drea’s head popped up abruptly.

“Brother? What do you mean by that?” she asked, her tone sharp.

“Um, it’s just that you guys look so much alike.”

“Oh so that’s how it is? All black people look alike, is that it?!”

Alex nearly fell apart while Ian rubbed a tired hand over his face. Alex sputtered, “no, oh god, of course not! I was just—”

Drea burst out laughing, “girl chill, I was just messing with you. I swear to god, nervous white people are my personal reparations. Here,” she plopped down a covered coffee cup on the counter, “Big Head says it’s on the house. First time’s always free.”

When they emerged from the store, Dre was across the street waiting for them. Ian walked away, determined to get out of the neighbourhood before he did something monumentally stupid and dangerous because of Dre’s smarmy, knowing grin. He wasn’t about to make a clean escape as Dre fell in step with them.

“Gotta make sure you guys get out safe. This isn’t the best neighbourhood, especially for strangers,” Dre said and searched his jacket pocket for a business card. He presented it to Alex, “once in a while I’ll make an exception and make house calls for special customers; meet you someplace that’s comfortable for both of us.”

The plain white card simply said “the pharmacist” with a number underneath. Alex almost laughed, “I thought only doctors made house calls.”

“I could be a doctor too; depends on what ails you,” Dre’s beamed at her, making her flush red. He then looked over at Ian, “I’d give you a card too but I have a feeling you won’t be using my services after this. Still, you can find me through your friend…”

“Alex,” she filled in.

“Charmed,” he smiled at her again, “you can find me through Alex or Mickey. I don’t want you to worry about him either. I’ll be standing in that gap for you.”

Dre turned back laughing as Alex shoved Ian hard down the road to stop him from turning around and swinging on Dre. How they managed to get out of the neighbourhood in one piece, Alex would never know.

“This weed is ridiculous,” Alex sighed from her kitchen floor. Ian lay beside her, his head right next to hers though he faced the opposite direction.

Ian couldn’t deny that; Dre’s blend was insanely strong. “I think I can see my house from here,” he whispered and they both dissolved into manic giggles. “You think Mickey loves him for his weed?” he asked after their laughter had subsided.

“You’re ridiculous too. People have sex without romantic feelings all the time. You’re doing it now for crying out loud.”

“Don’t remind me,” Ian took another biting hit of the blunt and handed it to Alex, “why is everything so complicated?”

“Oh Avril; says the guy who doesn’t have to deal with being born in an entirely wrong body.”

“You know Frank had thoughts about that. Then again, he has thoughts on everything.”

“Oh god, Frank thoughts…this should be fun,” Alex coughed and wondered if she would ever be able to get up from her floor again.

“He thinks people are looking at it all wrong, that it’s not a case of being born in the wrong body per se.”

“Really now?”

“He says…he says…” Ian trailed off, totally losing his train of thought while the dots on Alex’s ceiling rearranged themselves into constellations and happy animals. Mickey’s face appeared and he smiled goofily at it.

“What’d he say?”

“What did who say?”

“God, I hate you right now,” Alex moaned, “Frank, about transitioning or whatever.”

“Oh, he says it’s like being a tree, but that tree isn’t supposed to just be a tree, it’s destined for other things, like being a really awesome table.”

“Oh my god.”

“But most people,” Ian rallied and continued, “can’t see anything but a tree and want to force it to stay a tree even though the tree and smarter people know that the tree is meant for further development.”

“Did he really compare transitioning to furniture making?” Alex laughed, “holy shit, I’m fucked up and I’m Ikea. I don’t even know if that’s insanely offensive bullshit or weirdly deep.”

“That is Frank’s modus operandi,” Ian snickered, “although, now that I think about it, that might have been his argument for deforestation too.”

“Oh my god,” Alex moaned again before she and Ian erupted into laughter again. Maybe never leaving the kitchen floor wasn’t much a bad idea.

“You’ll never guess who came to see me yesterday.”

Mickey had just come home and changed his clothes. He had groaned when he saw Dre’s name appear on his phone, afraid that he’d have to haul ass out there again to collect Sal’s drugs. But Dre wasn’t bearing news of a filled prescription, much to Mickey’s surprise.


“You should know him,” Dre continued gleefully, “said you recommended him and all. Tall, ginger motherfucker; kept mean mugging me the whole time like I took his.”

Mickey’s blood went cold, “no.”

Dre laughed out loud, “I gave him a pass this time, because he’s your boy and I know you guys are all twisted up and real messy right now, but teach him. I can’t have no skinny white boys stepping to me on my turf, man. You know this. I like drama but not like that.”

Mickey felt like giving up on life. “It won’t happen again; I’ll take care of it.”

The effects of the weed were long gone and Ian had managed to make it off of Alex’s kitchen floor after all. He was back home, just in from his run and still trying to burn off  the adrenaline from his Dre-induced anger. Now he had a face to go with the name and fuel his paranoia. His brain was having a hell of a time interspersing images of Dre’s smug face with those of Mickey and Dre being locked together in the worst way. He couldn’t shake them no matter what he did. He started some push-ups and became so intent on them, he almost ignored the pounding at the door.

“Ian, are you in there?!” Mickey’s voice had him scrambling to his feet to get to the door. He opened it to reveal a furious Mickey Milkovich glaring at him from beneath the hood of his camo jacket. “Are you out of your fucking mind?!”

Ian easily guessed what this visit was about. He snorted and walked away, heading to his kitchen for something to drink. “He certainly was eager to tell you.”

Mickey followed Ian in, closing the door behind him. “I can’t believe I even have to say this to you. Don’t fuck around with Dre. Stay as far away from him as humanly possible!”

Ian glared at Mickey as he chugged his water. “Why? Did I upset your boyfriend?”

“Oh my god, it’s like you’re on a campaign to give me a stroke. Dre is not a nice guy to mess around with—”

“Doesn’t stop you from doing it!”

“Jesus fuck, he’s a dangerous dude who has an image to uphold. You can’t go into his neighbourhood glaring at him like you’re some fucking Mother Superior. Do this again and you and him will have problems, which then means me and him would have problems; a situation I would like to avoid all around.”

“Oh don’t worry,” Ian sniffed, “I’m not bothering him or your little arrangement anymore.”

Mickey ran a hand over his face. “Why are you like this?! You’re the one that said—”

“I know what I fucking said!” Ian snapped, though he understood and shared Mickey’s frustration. It only served to make the whole thing worse.

“Stay out of Dre’s neighbourhood, alright? That’s all I came here to say,” Mickey issued his final warning and made to leave, but Ian stopped him again.

“I have to admit that I’m a little surprised. I mean between your tastes for whores and drug dealers, I can’t believe you managed to see me at all,” Ian needled.

Mickey shook his head slowly, “I swear to god, you’re like a crazy person.”

“There are a few things I don’t like to be called,” Ian erupted, “I’m not a whore, I’m not a gold digger, I’m not dumb and don’t call me fucking crazy!”

Mickey chewed on his lower lip as he regarded Ian and took a few measured breaths. “You wanna fight; I see that. I’m not fighting with you tonight. I said what I came to say.”

Ian watched gobsmacked as Mickey headed for the door. It wasn’t a lie, he did want to fight—he needed to expend this frantic energy somehow. That Mickey would seriously think to walk away from him again while he was still in the height of this passion was inconceivable and, frankly, Ian was having none of it.

Mickey got as far as opening the door before Ian reached from behind him and slammed it shut again. He stared at Ian’s hand as it held the door shut and his own hand fell away from the knob. Behind him, he could feel the heat radiating off Ian’s body and Ian’s short puffs of breath stirring the hair at the back of his neck.  He wetted his lips and cocked his head slightly. “So, not allowed to leave then?”

In the next moment, there was Ian’s hand on his shoulder, spinning him around and shoving him against the door. Mickey practically bounced off it as he grabbed Ian by his neck and rocked up to meet Ian’s lips the same way he’d been dreaming about for what felt like an eternity. He shrugged off his coat, almost getting his hands trapped behind him as Ian pushed forwards, pinning him against the door and pouring all that frantic, paranoid energy into a devouring kiss. Mickey reached up and held Ian’s head with both hands as Ian gripped his hips and ground against him, making Mickey growl with pleasure. It felt like coming up for air, as if they could finally breathe again. It was Ian who broke the kiss and pulled away. He hitched his thumbs into his sweatpants and boxers and shoved them down.

“Get on your knees,” he ordered and Mickey hit the floor so fast, it was as if he’d had lead weights attached to him.

He didn’t hesitate, taking Ian into his mouth as deeply as he could manage the moment he could. He had missed Ian’s taste, had missed the weight and heat of him in his mouth and against his tongue. He sucked on Ian’s cock hungrily and gracelessly, while Ian groaned and shuddered above him. Ian let him suck and swallow for a while, indulging in the feel of Mickey’s mouth around his cock the same way Mickey was indulging in the taste of him. But Ian didn’t want a blow job—at least not like that.

Ian’s hand curled into a tight fist in Mickey’s hair until the latter was held fast, forced to stop his eager bobbing and keep still. Ian took a moment to steady himself before he rocked forward into Mickey’s mouth. He pulled back and thrust in deeper, careful to hold Mickey’s head steady as he started fucking his mouth a little faster each time.

Mickey relaxed his throat as best as he could and let Ian fuck him, feeling himself grow painfully harder with each deep thrust of Ian’s cock into his mouth. He gripped Ian’s ankles, then slid his hands up Ian’s calves to the back of his thighs until he was groping Ian’s ass while Ian’s hips snapped against his face. He moaned and hummed around the throbbing cock, making Ian shake and stutter as he lost himself in the wet heat of Mickey’s mouth and perversely delighted in the occasional gagging noises that floated up to him and the bite of Mickey’s blunted nails into his ass. Mickey freed one hand to reach down and unzip his jeans. His eyes flicked up to Ian’s face as he squeezed his own aching erection.

“Don’t touch yourself,” Ian ordered thickly and Mickey’s hand quickly made its way back to Ian’s ass.

The taste of pre-come against his tongue made Mickey panic. Did Ian intend to finish like this? Mickey loved this, but he wanted more, especially to tide him over for when he stepped outside that door into cold, harsh reality once again. To spur Ian on further, Mickey locked eyes with him and purposely disobeyed Ian’s order by touching himself again. Suddenly Ian, so hot and heavy in his mouth, was gone. Mickey almost pitched forward from the momentum of Ian yanking away. He coughed a little and wiped his mouth as he waited on his knees for Ian’s next move.

“I told you not to touch yourself,” Ian said before peeling off his T-shirt and stepping out of his sweatpants and underwear, “come here.”

Mickey got to his feet and was immediately grabbed by his sweater and tossed unceremoniously onto the bed. He kicked off his shoes quickly and wriggled out of his socks as Ian moved to straddle him. He yanked off his sweater and T-shirt while Ian worked on his pants and underwear. He lost his breath when Ian’s tongue slowly and deliberately trailed over the length of his cock. Mickey squirmed as Ian lapped briefly at the head of it before Ian nipped at his abdomen and quickly glided his lips up the length of Mickey’s body where Mickey was ready and waiting. Mickey wrapped his legs around Ian’s hips and reached for him, pulling him down into a searing kiss as Ian gripped the back of Mickey’s knee and rutted against him. Too soon and Ian was pulling away again, making Mickey whine from the deprivation.

“That’s what you get,” Ian said, throwing one of Mickey’s favourite teases back at him, “now turn over.”

Mickey complied immediately, grinding his cock against Ian’s sheets for relief, and shuddering when he felt Ian’s hands on the back of his thighs. Ian leaned down and kissed the back of Mickey’s knee up the back of his thigh. Ian’s kisses and touch were feather light and gentle, so the hard bite that came next right beneath his buttock caught Mickey by surprise.

“Fuck!” he cried out above the groan of the bed and hissed when Ian shoved his legs further apart and sucked hard below the juncture of Mickey’s thigh. “Fuck,” Mickey exhaled slowly as Ian’s hands kneaded his buttocks and found new places to nip and suck and bruise. He reached back to grip Ian’s hair as Ian roughly spread his buttocks and swiped a firm tongue across his opening.

“You got all prettied up just to come warn me off?” Ian murmured, pulling back to trail kisses up Mickey’s ass to the dip of his lower back. Mickey had been dressed down, far away from Mobster mode, but Ian could smell that special, expensive cologne and the light scent of Mickey’s body wash. He loved all of that, but he loved Mickey’s scent so much more and wished Mickey would believe him when he told him that. He trailed his tongue up the grove of Mickey’s back, following along his spine.

“Just do it,” Mickey begged and arched his hips to grind his ass wantonly against Ian’s erection.

“Do what?” Ian asked innocently, kissing Mickey’s shoulder and rocking forward, rubbing himself into the crook of Mickey’s ass. Mickey glanced over at Ian’s night table, eyeing the lubricant before rocking back against Ian again. Ian almost laughed. He never knew which Mickey would show up during sex sometimes—the one who was all pointed demands and barked orders or the one who seemed too overwhelmed to vocalize exactly what he wanted. Ian grabbed the lube and sat on the back of Mickey’s thighs to keep him still.

There was a brief lull as Ian took his time stroking his cock, slicking himself as he admired the map work of hickeys, bites and bruises stretching across the expanse of Mickey’s back, all over his ass and down the back of his thighs. There was just something both wonderful and ridiculous about it—this big, bad, dangerous mobster, who had skin like milk and bruised like a peach. Ian didn’t want another human being but him leaving marks on that skin, because Mickey’s was his in the same way he was Mickey’s and he was fully intent on reclaiming him.

Mickey’s hands twisted in the sheets when he felt the warming lube drip onto his lower back and then over his ass. He buried his face when Ian spread him with one hand while the other dispensed the lube. Ian loved exposing and admiring him—the weird fucker—and Mickey still hadn’t gotten used to the idea of someone being that intensely into him, physically or otherwise, and being so shamelessly demonstrative about it. He lifted his head when Ian’s fingers pressed into him and his own hand slid towards his cock once again.

“Don’t,” Ian warned him again, freezing Mickey’s actions, “I’ll get you off when I’m ready.”

The preparation was swift even though the ceremony leading up to it hadn’t been. Ian wanted Mickey just loose enough and no more. When Ian then tossed the lube aside and sank into him, there was no period of adjustment before Ian was pulling back and slamming forward again. Clearly Ian’s brand of punishment wasn’t over and Mickey couldn’t have been happier about.

Mickey gripped the sheets in both hands as Ian fucked him hard and fast into the protesting bed, and focused on Ian’s hand bracing next to his face in an effort to control his body a little better and stave off his orgasm. He couldn’t help the pathetic moans and whines that got punched out of him with each thrust of Ian’s body and he couldn’t help gasping Ian’s name. There was no way it had only been two weeks. It felt as if they had been apart forever and had been slowly losing their minds in the eternity they had been apart.

Ian sat up, pulling Mickey back with him until the latter was on all fours in the bed. The sweet relief of the bed against his aching cock was gone, but Ian’s hand was fisting in his hair and there was an iron grip on his hip and Ian was pounding into him like the world was about to end. Fuck, it probably was the way things were going, but Mickey couldn’t bring himself to care. He gasped, then swore when Ian slapped him hard on the ass as he fucked him. Then a moment later there was another stinging slap over the same area, which Ian immediately soothed by massaging it tenderly. Mickey half laughed, half sobbed beneath the onslaught  of it all and went mindless until Ian was tugging him back flush against him and batting his hand away from tugging at his cock again.

“You’re the fucking worst at this,” Ian laughed into the crook of Mickey’s neck and finally obliged in jerking him off. To Ian’s surprise, Mickey stopped him and actually pulled away and off of Ian’s cock, leaving him bereft for the moment. Before Ian could protest, Mickey turned to press against him and kiss him deeply.

“I kind of missed doing that,” Mickey admitted bashfully, and Ian wondered if Mickey had any idea of what a sweet and shy Mickey did to him.

Ian kissed him again, hugging him close before squeezing Mickey’s ass so he could press impossibly closer. He then hooked his hands behind Mickey’s knees and sent him sprawling backwards towards the foot of the bed. He was inside Mickey again in a flash and the ferocity was back, bolstered by the unexpected tender moment.

“You’re mine,” Ian panted and Mickey reached back and gripped the cool metal at the foot of the bed, “…not Dre’s, not fucking Sal’s, not anybody’s but mine.”

“Yes, fuck…” Mickey moaned.

“Say you’re mine,” Ian demanded with his body and his words, and Mickey mewled as his body bowed off the bed.

“Fuck yes; I’m yours,” he confessed and let out a strangled cry when Ian grasped his cock. But Mickey was beyond that. He caught Ian by surprise again when he grabbed Ian’s hand and guided it to his neck. “I’m yours.”

Ian’s rhythm stuttered for a moment before he resumed his pace. He gripped the foot of the bed for leverage and began squeezing Mickey’s throat while their climax built. “You’re mine,” he said brokenly.

Mickey gripped Ian’s arm and tugged frantically at his cock as he grew hypoxic. His eyes rolled back as he came hard, spilling hard into his hand as he clenched and pulsed around Ian’s cock. Ian came with a strangled shout and released Mickey. Ian rolled to the side, panting, while Mickey coughed and sputtered for breath.

“Jesus,” Ian wheezed out, making them both laugh. They spent some time lying quietly, trying to catch their breaths and get their hearts to slow. Ian rolled onto his side to face Mickey and tenderly stroked the side of his face, making the man sigh with contentment. Ian gently rubbed his thumb over the already reddening skin and shuffled closer. Mickey turned his head and stared back at him. “Mick, I know we can’t—”

Mickey climbed on top of him and quieted him with a kiss, “just shut up for a minute,” Mickey murmured against Ian’s lips. Ian sat up and pressed Mickey back into the pillows and kept him there for the rest of the night.

When Ian woke up in the early morning hours, he was alone, tucked into bed with the lights all off. He looked around blearily, though he already knew Mickey was long gone, doing god knows what, god knows where. He sighed and hugged Mickey’s pillow. At least he had that smelling great again.

He spoke to Mickey only briefly that morning. Mickey had answered his third call and Ian could immediately tell that the man was neck deep in gangland business. It made Ian’s blood pressure spike even though Mickey’s voice had gentled for a moment and had assured Ian that he would call him when he got home. Ian had fretted all day, unable to relax until Mickey texted him at three in the morning to say he had gotten back in safely. Ian didn’t think he could ever get used to this.

He finally saw Mickey the following day. Mickey had come in off the street in the late afternoon, clad in suit and heavy trench coat and coming over all business. Clearly he still wasn’t done for the day. Ian tried to focus on his books since they weren’t alone. Iggy and Joey were hanging around and Sal was in the nearby bathroom. Mickey said nothing to him as he came into the kitchen, cognizant of Sal’s closeness. He simply nodded to Ian and retrieved a beer from the fridge.

Ian’s eyes followed Mickey, despite his best efforts to play it completely cool. He could see glimpses of the bruising from his hands peeking out above Mickey’s collar. It sent his mind down a dangerous path. He knew about the bite mark on Mickey’s shoulder, and the ones on his ass and the back of his thighs. There were the imprints of his fingers on Mickey’s hips  and the graphic replay in Ian’s head and the whole thing felt intensely arousing. He shifted uncomfortably on the stool and tore his eyes away to keep his face from burning. Sal was shuffling around in the bathroom, about to come out and Mickey decided to take off before he was forced to see Ian and Sal interacting again.

“I’ve got some more things to take care of,” Mickey said softly as he fussed around with Ian’s books and avoided making eye contact, “but I’ll be back to pick you up later.”

Later that night, Mickey kept his promise to pick him up. They hadn’t even made it out the gate for a minute before Ian blurted out what he had been holding in for the past couple of days.

“Don’t fuck anyone else. Don’t fuck Dre, or Svetlana or any randoms in Boys Town; fucking wait for me! I don’t care how long it takes for us to figure this shit out. Wait.”

Mickey sniffed and rubbed his nose. “Yeah, okay.”

Ian looked at him in disbelief. “‘Yeah, okay’? Why is that all you ever say?! Don’t just say okay when people are making insane demands; Jesus H. Christ, Mickey.”

“So you don’t actually want me to wait?”

“Of course I want you to wait. What did I just fucking say?!”

Mickey glanced over at Ian as he drove and he couldn’t keep back the smile that was blooming on his face. “Jesus, of all the fucking people on this planet,” Mickey shook his head, “you’re going to drive me fucking crazy, you know that?”

“Maybe, but I’ll make it worth your while.”

The sudden surge of activity within Sal’s organization was a worrying thing. Ian wasn’t sure what the norm was but he knew this couldn’t be it. He tried to dig for some information but even Iggy was tight-lipped. As a result, he was left with another restless, sleepless night until Mickey’s text came in. The moment after he heard that familiar buzz, he was on the line.

“Hey,” Mickey greeted him, “why aren’t you sleeping? It’s almost four.”

Ian ignored that ridiculous question. “Where were you?”

“Why don’t you just LoJack me and save us both the time and the grief?”

“Sorry,” Ian said sheepishly. He trusted Mickey to an extent, but it was hard to shake the paranoia. He didn’t know for how long or even if Mickey would obey his ridiculous edict. He wanted to believe that for Mickey, their relationship was far more than just sex, but without the insurance of it, Ian felt the connection was tenuous. For all of his significant relationships so far, sex was the contract that had sealed them and his body was the commodity he had traded upon. They were still gun shy about taking the plunge again, and if he couldn’t offer Mickey the only asset he had, what was holding Mickey to him?

“Why are you calling me, Ian?”

“Just wanted to talk.”

“Fuck you, you just want to talk,” Mickey snorted rudely.

“What, you don’t believe me? Why?”

“Because I don’t just want to talk either.”

That small bit of unexpected honesty made the light bulb went off in Ian’s head. It was the one thing they hadn’t gotten around to doing. Technically it wasn’t sex—sex-adjacent perhaps—and if it wasn’t technically sex, then technically they couldn’t fuck it up and get caught. In Ian’s  grasping mind, it was a totally workable loophole.

“You’re right, I don’t really want to talk right now,” Ian said suddenly, “I just want you.”


“I’m so hard right now.”

“Wait, what is happening?” Mickey asked, genuinely confused by the abrupt shift in tone.

“I’m trying to have phone sex with you, you moron,” Ian huffed, “it gets less sexy the more you have to explain it. Now say something back.”

“Oh,” Mickey said, still at sea. “Um, how hard?”

“So hard I think I’m about to explode,” Ian said, dropping his voice the way Mickey liked. There was nothing but silence at the other end of the line.

“I don’t know what to say to you,” Mickey finally admitted and Ian had to laugh at his bemusement.

“Have you never done this before?”

“No, who the fuck am I supposed to have done this shit with?” Mickey said snippily, “what am I supposed to say?!” This felt like far too much pressure for someone to get their rocks off.

“Whatever you want,” Ian said soothingly, “like if we were together right now, what would you want to do? It doesn’t have to be poetic or anything.”

Mickey thought it over, “well I guess I’d want to be sucking you off…”

“Yeah?” Ian answered, surprised by the candour. “Really?”

“I like blowing you,” Mickey confessed, “I don’t know why, I usually hate doing that shit, but I like it with you. Right now? I don’t know what I want more, you up my ass or down my throat,” Mickey said and laughed at his daring admission. It was the sexiest sound Ian had heard all day.

“I get to choose then,” Ian said, “I like when you blow me first. It gets me going so much. You’re fucking good at it.”

“I am?” Mickey asked, inhaling the praise.

“You’re so fucking good; you’re perfect. You have no idea how good your mouth feels around my cock, Mick,” Ian inhaled deeply as he stuck his hands into his boxers, his mind’s eye working over time. “I could come just from that.” Fuck, he could come just from this.

“But you’ll still fuck me?” Mickey reminded Ian as he gave himself a firm stroke from root to tip, “I need you to fuck me.”

“How do you want it?”

“Any way you want to give it to me,” Mickey said, “I love your cock, Ian. I love what it does to me.”

“My cock loves you,” Ian said without a trace of irony, “and I’ll give it to you, good and hard, the way you love it.”

“Mmm,” Mickey moaned and it sent shivers up Ian’s spine. Mickey needed only to make that sound for the rest of their lives and Ian would be golden.

The conversation fell away as they each focused instead on the other’s harsh breathing and whispered swears. When Mickey came, Ian wasn’t far behind and for the moment, all he could think was that it was the greatest loophole in the world.

Except the next day, Mickey didn’t say a thing about it when he came to collect Ian to take him to the pool house. He had been waiting for Mickey’s cue to know how to play this new turn to their relationship and Mickey was giving him nothing to work with. Ian sat gingerly in the car, uncertain about what was at play. He wasn’t sure if Mickey was regretting it, simply worried about Mob issues or was compartmentalizing their phone sex into a neat little box somewhere to be opened at a time he deemed appropriate. Ian took a breath and prepared to launch an investigation only for Mickey to shoot him a warning look. He clammed up immediately.

So late that night when Mickey texted that he was home, Ian merely said “thank you” and put the phone back on the night table. A few minutes later, his phone rang.

“You didn’t call me,” a tired sounding Mickey accused.

“I wasn’t sure you wanted me to.”

“How are you not always exhausted the way you over think shit all the time?” Mickey snorted. “Of course, I want you to call…when it’s time for it.” Mickey tacked on and Ian grinned at his ceiling in relief. Compartmentalizing, he should have known.  He was pulled back to the present by Mickey clearing his throat self consciously. “So…can we talk?”

Chapter Text

The club was packed, bodies bouncing off the walls as was the norm. It was hard for Mickey to focus his eyes on any one thing as the colours flashed and the music blared, making him antsy and uncomfortable. It had been a different experience when he had been there for Ian; there had been nowhere else for him to look but up at the gyrating redhead on stage. The universe had shrunk to an Ian-sized entity the way it always did when Gallagher was around, but Ian wasn’t here, and Mickey was on an entirely different mission.

It took a while before Mickey saw him. He was tall, lean and graceful—fully aware of his body and the power it held. He had a shock of red hair too. That helped a little, Mickey supposed, though it was obvious it wasn’t natural and was several shades too orange for Mickey’s exact taste. Still, that was neither here nor there. He wasn’t going to find a perfect Ian replica and this guy was the closest Mickey suspected he would come for the night. When the man came off stage, Mickey quickly wended his way through the crowd to get to him.

“Hey!” Mickey yelled above the music. The guy must have spotted Mickey making his way to him because he turned immediately, sultry smirk already in place.

“Hey,” the man purred back and took Mickey in from head to toe. He shifted closer, stopping just short of pressing his bare skin against Mickey’s black button down shirt. “I’m Tom.”

Mickey wasn’t interested in names or pleasantries. “How much?” he asked and Tom seemed a little taken aback by his forwardness.  There was a brief interplay of expressions on Tom’s face as he contemplated how to play it, whether or not to play coy and feign ignorance about the nature of Mickey’s indecent proposal. He could see Mickey’s eyes wandering already, so he quickly decided to skip the games.

“Two-fifty,” Tom said before he trailed a hand up the front of Mickey’s shirt, “I’m giving you a special deal.”

It was Mickey’s turn to look surprised. He swatted Tom’s hand away as if it was radioactive. “What, no, not me, him!” Mickey said and nodded to a couch at the near corner of the club where Sal sat sipping his drink and gawking at the scantily clad dancers.

“You could have mentioned that a little earlier,” Tom grumbled and squinted hard at Sal. He immediately made a revision. “Six hundred.”

“Six hun—what the fuck? I want you to fuck him not take him on a world tour! It was two hundred and fifty thirty seconds ago.”

“He looks sweaty. I don’t normally do sweaty,” Tom said.

“You’re covered in body glitter; you’re in no position to judge,” Mickey huffed but finally nodded and led the go-go dancer over to Sal.

Sal’s eyes lit up as Tom approached and Mickey saw no need to make introductions. Mickey sat on the far end of the couch, watching closely as Tom tossed the cheap lei around Sal’s neck and introduced himself. Sal looked delighted as Tom began his lap dance and Mickey crossed his fingers that this might be the one. He had been taking Sal out and throwing all the warm bodies he could at him, hoping something would stick. He had been praying that he could replicate whatever it was that was binding Sal to Ian and that his boss would make that rainbow connection with someone new.

For the life of him, Mickey just couldn’t figure out why Sal was clinging so hard to Ian. Sal had never stayed with a lover this long. He didn’t know if it was Ian’s looks or youth, his attitude—what was it? Mickey was left having to explore every parameter as he sought a sacrificial lamb to take Ian’s place. So far, it had been a bust. Sal indulged sometimes, but in the end, everything still led right back to Ian.

“My prince, he’s so good to me,” Sal informed Tom about Mickey, “I’d share the wealth, but this isn’t his scene.”

Tom cast an eye over at the fidgeting Mickey who was momentarily distracted by another dancer passing by. Not his scene…right. “Whatever you say,” Tom said airily before he leaned down to whisper into Sal’s ear about the Champagne room. Sal readily accepted and Mickey was left alone on the couch, crossing his fingers and anxiously waiting for the outcome.

Tom was not going to be the new love of Sal’s life and Mickey was the only one left bitterly disappointed. He poured Sal into the front passenger seat of the Escalade and started the drive home, tamping down the irritation and frustration he felt. How long was this going to take? Was he going to find replacement first or would Sal get bored and cut Ian loose on his own? Mickey was at a loss as to how to hurry it along. He just knew he wanted Ian out, especially now.

There was too much going on and things were quickly getting crazier. Fowler and his agents had been leaning on the Outfit hard lately, making things uncomfortable and suffocating all the way up the chain of command. The feds would sweep in, arresting everyone they could on pettiest of charges. It didn’t matter how low on the totem pole they were; if they were within six degrees of separation from the Outfit, it was open season. Sometimes the charges would stick; most times it appeared to be catch-and-release.

Mickey didn’t know if it was some kind of fucked Machiavellian scheme on Fowler’s part, but the quick releases of some of the associates and mobsters were breeding doubt amongst the Mob. A quick release meant a deal had probably been cut, and if a deal had been cut, then someone was snitching. Fowler had been hitting closer to home with more and more accuracy lately which meant someone was singing. Sal was more paranoid than ever and he was running the Milkoviches and the made men ragged, hunting down rats and meting out punishment. But then it wasn’t just Sal, it was the whole Mob freaking out and Mickey just wanted Ian as far away from this mess as possible.

“Sal,” Mickey said softly, rousing the groggy man.


“You really not tired of Gallagher yet?”

“Is it the drugs, or did we not already have this conversation?” Sal groaned and rubbed at his eyes.

“Yeah,” Mickey began cautiously, “and it was a little weird then, but it’s really fucking weird now. I mean, you’re never with someone this long.”

Sal let out a small huff of laughter. “What can I tell you? It’s that old black magic that’s got me, maybe. It’s the thunderbolt, you know. That’s what the old guys call it.”

“You really think he’s into you?” Mickey asked suddenly before hastily adding, “I don’t mean any disrespect or anything. I mean, don’t you ever wonder if he feels the same way?”

Sal’s laugh was short and humourless. “You don’t think I own a mirror?” he asked Mickey, “you don’t think I know what I am? I know where my appeal lies for boys like him and it’s not in my face or my sparkling personality, I can tell you much. If I had to rely on genuine affection to blow my load, I’d have to learn to suck my own dick,” he chuckled again, dark and soft, and fished in his jacket for a cigarette. “My mother loved me,” he continued and then shrugged, “after her, who the fuck knows…maybe no one.”

“So if you don’t think he’s into you, why stick with him so long? Why not move on to something new?”

“I like seeing you with that Mustang of yours,” Sal said, seemingly veering off tangent, “you look good in it; very James Dean. I like the way you love your cars too. You spend so much goddamned time and energy on them; I couldn’t do it. Then you just get in a drive. It’s a beautiful thing,” Sal mused as he watched the dark scenery slip by. “You ever stop to wonder if those cars want to take your ass anywhere? Maybe they don’t feel like going wherever the fuck you decide you want to go that day. But you don’t think about that, do you? Because it doesn’t fucking matter what a car thinks or wants; it’s about the feeling you get out of it. As long as it gives you that feeling, serves its purpose, you don’t mind keeping it. You don’t mind spending time, energy and money on it. You get what I’m saying?”

“Gallagher’s the car?” Mickey shook his head. “The way you talk about him sometimes, I swear to god. It’s like you don’t think he’s a person. He’s not a thing, Sal.”

Sal was amused, “you’re offended? Sensitive little shit all of a sudden, aren’t you? Wait until you have to start buying affection, then everything and everyone is a thing, a commodity. Everybody is just a walking dollar sign, some are just a lot bigger than others.”

“So you’re still getting what you need out of Gallagher?”

“I am and it’s a rare fucking feeling. So I’m going to wring it dry, and maybe then I’ll move along.”

“Sal wants to see ya.”

Mickey could tell from the way Ian’s lips hitched upwards and his eyes softened that he hadn’t registered a thing Mickey had said. His heart sped up and he licked his lower lip nervously, pulling Ian’s attention to them and making the green eyes darken. It had only been a few days since the start of their new arrangement and it already felt like they were due for a fuck up. Phone sex was a whole new world for Mickey and he loved it the same way he loved everything Ian brought to him. Still, it was getting him more worked up rather than taking the edge off and he was craving Ian’s touch. Given the way Ian was looking at him now, he could tell Ian was in the same boat.

“You want to come in for a minute?”

As always, could there be a worse idea? Mickey shifted uncertainly and didn’t step across the threshold. He didn’t say no either, which was Ian’s cue to reach for his tie.

“I thought we agreed we weren’t doing this,” Mickey inhaled sharply as Ian pulled them flush together so he could close the door behind  him. Ian pushed him against the door and leaned into him.

“We didn’t actually make an agreement about anything,” Ian said as he ghosted his lips over Mickey’s, along his jaw line to his earlobe.

“The phone thing…”

“Is hot, but I figure we need something a little more tactile,” Ian said against the column of Mickey’s throat as his hand massage Mickey’s crotch. His lips found Mickey’s again and they both sighed in contentment as they surrendered to the pull. The kiss deepened and Ian contemplated the task of working through the fifty layers of Mickey’s suit and decided to just squeeze his ass instead. Clearly the action triggered something perilous, because the next moment, there were sirens going off and Ian jumped back in fright. “What the fuck?!”

“Oh,” Mickey croaked hoarsely and searched for his phone. He turned off the alarm, “that’s my signal that I’ve officially been up here too long. We need to go.”

Ian looked at him in stupefaction. “You…that was a—that was an alarm for us? You set a sex alarm?!” Ian burst out laughing, “you dork, oh my fucking god! How are you even real?!”

Mickey chewed his inner cheek and watched with narrowed eyes as his idiot doubled over, laughing so hard he was wheezing. “Can we just go please?”

Ian was still laughing long after they had left his apartment and Mickey had been slowly reddening the entire time. “Are you going to laugh at me all the way to the fucking house?”

“I’m going to laugh at you forever. You are the most ridiculous person alive.”

“I’m just trying to keep this shit together,” Mickey grumbled, though he knew he should have just stayed in the car and texted if he had really wanted to avoid trouble.

“I know, I know, I’m just kind of really horny,” Ian sheepishly admitted, echoing Mickey’s own thoughts. They paused at a light and he reached over and rested a hand on Mickey’s thigh. “Like stupidly, crazily, ridiculously horny,” he said as his hand hitched higher with each word, “kind of makes it hard to think, you know?”

Mickey swallowed convulsively as Ian’s hand burned through the material of his pants. He hadn’t set an alarm for this. They found an empty cul-de-sac, parked, climbed into the backseat and spent a few fast, furious minutes getting each other off with their hands. There wasn’t time or patience for much else.

“You’re an asshole,” Mickey panted when he made his way back to the driver’s seat and tried to straighten his askew tie and smooth out his suit. Ian had an easier time of it, with his jeans and T-shirt, and simply ran his fingers through his hair to undo the damage.

“I know,” Ian agreed and grinned at Mickey, just relieved that a little of the edge was off. Mickey glared at him before giving up the battle with both his tie and Ian, and slowly grinned back. They really had been overdue for a fuck up.

“What the fuck were you doing, pushing the car here?” Sal asked Mickey as he took in the rumpled young man.

“Had to change a tire,” Mickey lied and squirmed as Sal attempted to smooth him out. “Will you stop that shit? I’m home for the night anyway.”

Sal sighed over the folly of youth, “respect the goddamned suits. Now get the fuck out of here.” He closed the door behind him and turned to find Ian lounging in the armchair by the window. “You in a good mood today?”

“When am I not in a good mood?” Ian asked pointedly.

Sal shrugged and took a seat on the edge of the bed closest to Ian. “I don’t know. Feels like you haven’t been so nice to the old man lately.”

“You’re imagining things. I’m as nice to you as I can possibly be.”

Sal remained unconvinced but decided to move on. “Look, about Valentine’s Day, I need a rain check on it. Linda’s hospital is having some kind of benefit and she’s co-chairing. I’ve got to do my husbandly  duties. Gotta put on my face and play the part every once in a while, you know? But I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ian said, “I don’t really do the Valentine’s thing. It’s another dumb, over-commercialized holiday. We can skip it.”

“Alright,” Sal rubbed his bottom lip and contemplated Ian silently for a minute.

“What?” Ian asked suspiciously.

“Let me ask you something, what do you even see in a ruin of a man like me? Why would you even give me a second look?”

Ian was surprised by the question and straightened up in his chair. He looked at Sal for a moment, wondering if the man was serious or if there was some kind of trap in the words. In the end, Ian decided on a little honesty.

“I have a thing for older guys,” he confessed, “I can’t really explain it beyond that. A friend of mine thinks I’m full to the brim with daddy issues.”

Sal laughed, weirdly comforted by the frankness. “Well, that would explain a lot, I guess.”

Ian frowned at him, “I don’t think it does. I reject that theory completely, though to be honest, I do tend to ignore reality sometimes until I have no choice,” Ian scrunched his face, “but I can’t accept that it’s that simple, that whatever issues I have are that reductive. I refuse to give my piece of shit father that much power over my life.”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s not such a bunk theory after all. Maybe we’re all just little boys chasing after our daddies, who knows? When I saw you up on that stage, I swear to the Holy Mother that the last thing I was thinking of was my dearly departed father, but now? You remind me of him more and more every day.”

Ian’s raised an eyebrow, “I remind you of your dad? That’s fucked up, Sal. How do I remind you of him?”

It was the eyes, Sal had realized fairly early on. In truth, Ian looked nothing like his father, who had been a burly bear of a man—the template on which his own body was built. But his father had had the most expressive eyes, and when Sal had been a child, they had been filled with hope and pride over Sal’s limitless potential. His father had loved him then, Sal was sure. The older Sal got, however, the more rapidly that potential dwindled. He wasn’t a scholar, he wasn’t an athlete, he wasn't magnetic or personable enough to pull people to him and become a natural leader. Sal Boerio hadn’t been much of anything and that proud, hopeful look in his father’s eye had bled away so quickly.

It had been devastating for a boy who had worshipped his father, and the more those eyes hardened with bitterness and disappointment, the more desperately Sal had worked to restore himself. It had the effect of a bull in a china shop. The harder he toiled, the more he highlighted his own shortcomings and the more disappointed and disinterested his father became. In the end, the elder Boerio had died leaving behind a son trapped in his own inadequacy, with a desperate need to prove himself more than he was.

It wasn’t until Linda that he had seen that look again—that shining hope, that foolish belief that he was better than his reality. He had approached her with a plan; woo Linda Fischetti, the favoured niece of the powerful Outfit Don and leverage their relationship to catapult up the mafia ranks. He would be someone then. And she had loved him for a minute because he had an odd sort of charm that was short-lived, but effective in the moment. He had made her promises of normalcy, respectability and a safe distance from the scandal and shame of her name. She had looked at him like a white knight and Sal hadn’t realized until then just how much he craved that look, that expansive feeling, how hard he would work to have someone look at him like that forever. So he had proposed, not just because he had ambitions of power and worth, but because that look in her eyes had ensnared him and had buoyed him long enough for him to be a good husband and father—for a minute.

But he couldn’t hide what he was, and what he was at the end of the day was a disappointment. He couldn’t maintain the façade of a loving husband and father, couldn’t remain faithful or discreet, and couldn’t stop that precious look from fading. He hadn’t kept a single of his promises and instead of taking her away from this life, he had pushed her further into it. She had had to claw and scramble for her own brand of independence and respectability. Now, just like with his father, only bitterness and resentment existed between them, and just like with his father, he couldn’t let her go until he had restored himself in her eyes and proven himself a good choice.

Now there was Ian. The last thing he had expected to find in a glaring lights of a stifling gay club was that look. Still something had made Ian look at him like there was that old potential in him and in that moment he had felt as if he was more than what he was once again. Ian’s look had faded so much more quickly than his father’s or Linda’s, and Sal was at a loss as to why. It seemed every time he was around Ian, he did something to hasten the annoyance and hardness in those lovely green eyes. It made Sal’s compulsive need for approval and acceptance kick into an even higher gear.

Ian, he figured, should have been easy to maintain. Gifts, money and attention should have been enough to keep the stars in Ian’s eyes, but that hadn’t been the case. Instead, Ian was now in the same boat with Linda, trapped by Sal’s pathological need to be restored, respected and revered. His father had managed to permanently abandon and escape him. Ian and Linda would not be so lucky.

“It’s the jaw, I think,” Sal said at last and chucked Ian under the chin. “I never realized it before.”

Ian still looked at him sceptically, but honestly didn’t care enough to probe any further.

There was one other thing that Ian could do for him that his father, Linda or even Mickey couldn’t. As he lay prostrate in bed, feeling his orgasm ripple through his body, he knew he could never willingly relinquish this feeling. Even at his most detached and mechanical, Ian was good, so insanely good and Sal was always left shaken and overawed by it. The moment he shouted his pleasure and his entire body sagged, Ian and the warmth of his body were gone. Sal looked over sleepily to see Ian dumping the condom and pulling on his boxers and jeans.

“Did you get off?” Sal asked, though there was fuck all he could do about it now if Ian said no. Still, he knew from experience what Ian would say.

“Yeah, I’m good; don’t worry about it,” Ian said shortly and quickly started pulling books and papers out of his bag.

“You’re gonna do that shit now? It’s the middle of the night.”

“It’s ten o’ clock and this shit is due tomorrow,” Ian said, “I’ll go downstairs so I don’t bother you.”

“No, stay,” Sal insisted. “I like looking at you sitting there.”

Ian hesitated, but eventually sat down on the bed and scattered his materials around him—forming a literal intellectual barrier—and got to work. It wasn’t much later when there was a hesitant knock on the door.

“What?!” Sal bellowed.

“I need to get something out of Mandy’s drawer!” Mickey yelled back through the door and Ian quickly scrambled off the bed and into the armchair.

“This shit can’t wait until tomorrow?” Sal asked. Why these kids were in such an everlasting hurry, he could never understand.

“You think I’d be knocking if it could wait until—look, can I come in or not?!”

Sal told him to come in and the door opened with comical slowness. Mickey cautiously stuck his head in and peeked, and there was an audible sigh of relief when he saw Ian in the chair and Sal covered up in bed. He stepped in and made a beeline for the chest of drawers in the room, clearly uncomfortable.

Ian tried to focus on his work and went about adding up the two columns of his trial balance. He was off by miles and he groaned out loud in frustration. “Why isn’t this balancing?!”

“Because you need to be a Jew to do that shit,” Sal suggested.

Mickey looked at his paper. “Your accounts receivable is on the wrong side, for starters, and your depreciation…and your revenue.”

Ian was slack jawed. “You know this stuff?!”

Mickey scratched the back of his neck and shrugged uncertainly, “yeah, a little bit I guess.”

“Where the fuck would you learn about that?” Sal laughed.

“Saul taught me,” Mickey retorted, automatically defensive against Sal’s ready ridicule. “Somebody has to maintain the books and stay on top of things until he comes in to check.”

“Better call Saul then,” Sal said, “I told you you’re going to need a Jew.”

Ian ignored Sal and kicked at Mickey’s foot. “Help me, please? I’m drowning here. I don’t understand any of this.”

Mickey faltered at the thought of it, “I-I don’t really know that much. I don’t know the technical terms for shit.”

“Ha, listen to this Mensa meeting over here,” Sal chortled into his pillow, “you know if the blind leads the blind, they’ll both fall into a ditch, right?”

Both young men frowned at the back of Sal’s head, each one monumentally offended on behalf of the other. Ian flipped Sal off before appealing to Mickey again. “Please? Anything you can tell me will help me out.”

Mickey scratched his arm and nodded, “yeah, okay, just give me a few minutes to take care of this for Mandy and I’ll meet you in the basement.”

Ian grinned, nodded and immediately started gathering his things. He looked over at Sal to see if the old man had anything else to say, but thankfully, he was finally out cold.

“You’re looking at a lot of this stuff backwards,” Mickey explained a couple hours later as they slowly worked through Ian’s homework and tutorials, “okay, this, you would debit debtors, because they’re an asset.”

“But they owe you money; isn’t that bad?”

“Nah, you can’t look it at like you’re just a regular dude on the street. You have to think like a business, and in a business, the rules are a little different. Someone being in debt to you is like having money in the bank, you know? It’s your money, it belongs to you. It’s out there waiting to be collected within the time and regulations you set. If they don’t comply, you’re within your rights to start busting kneecaps…or whatever the legit equivalent of that is.”

“Oh,” Ian breathed and made the corrections. He couldn’t believe how much sense this was making. Mickey and his organized crime analogies were making this seem all so simple and he couldn’t understand how his teacher had made such an absolute mess of things. “So then I’d credit creditors then, which seems obvious now in retrospect.”

“Yeah, because you owe those fuckers; it’s your kneecaps on the line there,” Mickey said, “so yeah, try adding everything up now. On your balance sheet, your liabilities and your capital together should always add up to your assets. If that doesn’t happen, something’s gone wonky somewhere.”

Ian took a breath and started totalling his figures. A minute later he tossed down his pen and raised his hands in exultant triumph. “It fucking balanced! I can’t believe this shit!”

Mickey laughed out loud. “See, the numbers are your friends.”

“Oh my fucking god, you’re the most amazing person alive. I can’t believe I’m understanding this mess! Why didn’t you tell me sooner? You heard me ranting about Woodbine!”

“Yeah, I didn’t know it was this kind of shit,” Mickey admitted, “I thought it was all Wall Street and bonds and Gordon Gekko, I don’t know.”

“That’s the stuff I’m dying to get to. This nickel-and-dime bullshit is killing me. I’ll probably be better at that stuff and I can forget this.”

“You can’t think like that. It’s the nickels and dimes that are literally your money. You got to stay on top of it. If you only focus on the high concept stuff, then some low level shmuck in the trenches will start moving those nickels and dimes from right under your nose. Then by the time it hits you, he’s already in the Bahamas and you’re neck deep in shit.”

“Hmm, I’ll just get someone I trust implicitly,” Ian knocked Mickey’s knee with his, “you can come work for me; you can be my Saul.”

“If you think I won’t rob you blind, you are out of your mind,” Mickey smirked and made Ian’s grin widen.

“No, you wouldn’t,” Ian said and gathered everything together. “You made it look so easy. Why the fuck does Woodbine have tenure when he makes one plus one look so fucking impossible?”

“Had the same problem with my third grade science teacher. They know their shit, they just can’t get it out in a way that you can get it. It’s the fucking worst.”

“Well this has been the most productive study session I’ve had since Suzie Henderson invited me over to try and seduce me. The seduction was a bust, but I learnt so much about amphibian biology.”

Mickey was amused by the thought. “How’d she try?”

“Lots of thigh stroking and accidental cleavage.”

“Ah, so that’s where you got your game,” Mickey teased. “Little Suzie Henderson didn’t know shit. I’d have hit every base and slid home before your bag had hit the floor.”

Ian leaned back and toyed with his beer bottle, “yeah true, but you already know I’m easy for the right person, so…” Ian said suggestively, making Mickey’s face warm. “So Saul, huh? This would explain the random Yiddish.”

“Gotta learn everything you can from everyone you can. You’re less dispensable that way,” Mickey said and immediately regretted it when Ian’s smile dimmed. He quickly tried to wave the unpleasant implication away. “Wanna know what else I can do?”


“Read palms. I can tell you your future.”

Ian snorted rudely, “you’re so full of shit.”

“No seriously. Linda’s aunt taught me and Mandy before she went blind for being a ‘strega’,” Mickey said, complete with air quotes, “well she taught Mandy the whole shebang but I know enough.”

“So it was a racket?”

Mickey shrugged, “maybe, maybe not.”

Ian put down his beer bottle, turned to face Mickey and held out his outstretched hand. “Do me.”

Mickey chewed on his lower lip and let that deliberate double entendre slide. He put away his own beer, turned to face Ian and took the proffered hand in his.

“These fucking catcher’s mitts you call hands, I swear to god,” Mickey murmured.

“Well you can’t say you can’t see my future clearly then, can you?”

Mickey rolled his eyes and stroked his thumbs over Ian’s palm. “Alright so, what we have here is your life, love and money lines,” Mickey said, referencing the dark grooves in Ian’s palm.

“Oh for god’s sake.”

“Different readers call them different things, but let’s face it, people only care about how long they’ll live, if they’ll find someone to bang, and if they’ll have enough money to maintain the first two, so that’s what we’re dealing with here.”

Ian propped up his chin with his free hand and continued to look unimpressed.

“So, life line—you had a rough start in life—”

“No! Really? That’s amazing! I bet this will be just as if I had lain in bed and told my life story.”

“Interrupt me again and I’m going to hock a loogie right into the palm of your hand,” Mickey warned.

“My tongue’s been in your ass,” Ian whispered, “just putting that out there, but by all means, threaten me with your spit.”

Mickey sighed heavily and shot Ian a baleful look and decided to go for his own version of shock and awe. “Something major happened when you were a teenager,” Mickey said, taking a stab in the dark. He watched Ian’s expression carefully. Ian’s brow lifted sceptically, but there was no derision forthcoming, so Mickey figured he had hit pay dirt. He squinted at Ian’s hand dramatically. “Maybe the death of a loved one, a financial issue, maybe a medical diagnosis or some kind of trauma?” he said the options softly and slowly as if feeling them out and felt Ian’s hand twitch at the third option. “Yeah, definitely a medical thing.”

Mickey’s cold reading was clearly hitting home, but he could feel Ian tensing and the humour ebbing out of him. Mickey decided to move on. “Good news is, you’re in for a change.”

“I am?” Ian asked, frowning.

“Yeah, you’re getting your life on track. Things will straighten up and improve if you stay out of trouble and on the path for self-improvement.”

“Uh huh…” Ian said slowly, his lips hitching back into a knowing smirk.

“Yes, stay in school, join the grind and you should live a long, fulfilling life.”

“As long as I keep my nose clean and stay away from things like, say, organized crime?”

“Exactly! Same for your money line; not the best starts but you’re due for an improvement,” Mickey said, “you might not end up being stinking rich, but you should be comfortable.”

“I do like being comfortable,” Ian nodded.

“There is a caveat, however. No easy or dirty money; the only money you’ll keep is the money you legitimately earn.”

“You’re starting to sound like an after school special,” Ian said dryly. Mickey made a disgusting hocking noise at the back of his throat and gripped Ian’s hand tightly, and the latter quickly backed down. “Okay, okay!”

“Your love line up until now has been a fucking mess. So many losers,” Mickey moaned, “so many wrinkled, old dicks. SOOO many geriatric viagr—”

“Yes, yes, move on to the part where my luck changes as long as I do something vanilla and non-taboo.”

“Huh, turns out you’re right; maybe you have a touch of the gift.”

“Maybe the gift is sexually transmitted. Tell me what happens,” Ian demanded, a little annoyed with himself for getting sucked into this obvious scam. Mickey simply waggled his eyebrows and went back to consulting Ian’s tingling palm.

“You’ll find a guy. I don’t know if ‘the one’ shit exists, but he’ll do. You’ll do whatever it is out and proud queens do and settle down. It’ll be nice. Maybe you’ll get some dogs and put them in sweaters and shit.”

“What’s he like?” Ian asked quietly.

Mickey hesitated, not looking up to meet Ian’s eyes. His hands squeezed Ian’s slightly before he shrugged one shoulder awkwardly. “I don’t know, nice enough? He’ll be a pretty boy, decent, upstanding, a bit of a preppy douchebag. Maybe you’ll meet him on campus.”

Ian snorted softly, “preppy? I don’t really do preppy… No mechanics in there by any chance?’

“None that I can see.” Mickey shook his head before playfully slapping Ian’s hand up and away from him. “But it’s not bad, right? Sounds like a pretty good life if you can get it.”

While Ian appreciated Mickey’s vision of the ideal life for him, Ian felt it could stand for a few improvements, and when the smile Mickey gave him didn’t quite reach his eyes, Ian could only think of one way to start course correcting. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Mickey’s. One hand snaked around the back of Mickey’s neck while the other slid up his thigh, and Mickey responded immediately and ferociously.

He shoved Ian back until Ian’s head was on the armrest of the couch and Mickey was climbing over him to resume their kiss. Ian pulled him down and slid his hands under Mickey’s tank top to stroke his back before jamming them into Mickey’s pyjamas to cup his ass and press him closer. Mickey sighed against Ian’s mouth and pulled back so he could unzip Ian’s jeans and slip his hand inside. He watched as Ian arched beneath him and felt him grow hot and hard as he stroked him. Mickey’s eyes flicked towards the closed basement door and Ian panicked for a moment, thinking Mickey was about to stop. They both knew they should. Instead, Mickey looked back down on him, the blue eyes intense.

“Be quiet for me,” Mickey whispered and shuffled down to free Ian’s erection and suck him in deep.

Ian bit down so hard on his lip, he could taste the metallic tang of his blood as the warmth of Mickey’s mouth engulfed him. His hands plunged into Mickey’s hair and he too kept glancing towards the door as he fought to keep quiet. He didn’t last long, erupting into Mickey’s mouth with a strangled groan and little warning. Mickey pulled back coughing and Ian murmured apologetically.

“That had to be some kind of record,” Mickey teased and wiped his mouth while Ian buttoned his pants.

“Shut up,” Ian pouted. “Do you need me to—”

“Are you still down here?!”

The door banged open and Ian and Mickey almost had massive coronaries. Sal trudged down the stairs, still groggy from his interrupted sleep while the two young men quickly edged further apart.

“How much fucking homework can one person have?”

“I just finished,” Ian said with shocking ease.

Mickey shot him a sidelong glance before he was on his feet and getting the hell out of the basement. “I’m going to hit the hay,” he sang on the way out and skilfully sidestepping Sal.

“Um, thanks for everything,” Ian yelled after him. “I need to leave really early in the morning; are you okay to take me?”

“Yeah sure, no problem,” Mickey said before he and his still visible problem were out the door.

Sal stuck a finger in his ear as he yawned and tried to clear his sinuses. “So how was it? He any good?”

Ian bit his tongue, at least having the good sense to only nod at Sal’s question.

By the time Ian got home from school  and work, he still had energy to burn. He went for his usual run and returned to his apartment, out of breath and sweaty beneath his thermals, but still no closer to being cooled down. He knew exactly why.

“Who stops at third base?!” he yelled into his phone when Mickey answered.


“You said you could have slid home before I even knew what hit me.  You stopped at third even though home plate is wide open.”

Mickey was quiet for a moment, “are you seriously trying to bait me with baseball analogies?”

“Just saying, to stop there when you clearly still have a job to finish is just—” Ian groped for an appropriate word, “—un-American.”

Mickey let out a short laugh. “Jesus, you’re such an idiot.” There was a moment of loaded silence between them before Mickey spoke again. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Ian blinked; he couldn’t believe that actually worked. “Wait, what?”

“You heard me,” Mickey said and the line went dead.

Ian bounced in place, his adrenaline building again. He looked out the window, half-hoping Mickey’s ten minutes actually meant immediately and the Escalade would have been parking. No such luck. Ian sniffed and he was sharply reminded that there was still something to take care of before Mickey showed up, because he reeked.

“Fuck!” he yelled into the quiet of his apartment and starting shedding his clothes as he made a beeline for his bathroom. Now he hoped Mickey’s ten minutes were a little more generous.

He showered as quickly as he could and towelled himself off roughly as he stepped out of the bathroom. He was halfway to his underwear drawer when there was a knock at his door. Mickey’s ten minutes, as it turned out, were literally ten minutes. Ian decided underwear was a pointless endeavour anyway, wrapped the towel around his waist and went to answer the door.

There was no question as to which version of Mickey had shown up to his apartment. All Ian wanted was to have Mickey safe and normal and as far away from this madness as possible, but that wasn’t to say he didn’t have a massive weakness for Mickey in his mobster skin. It wasn’t just the suits, there was an entire persona involved and it was always fascinating to see Mickey and his brothers slip in and out of character. He certainly wasn’t going to complain when Mickey showed up still in that mood. It put Ian in mind of the day they met.

Mickey blew out a plume of smoke and aimed a lopsided smile at Ian’s towel. “That’s how you dress for baseball?” he asked as he stepped inside. He ground out his cigarette in the ashtray on Ian’s night table and shrugged off his coat. He had left his suit jacket in the car, but the vest remained.

“You could have ditched the vest too. The only thing I really need you to keep is the tie,” Ian suggested.

“Fuck you, it’s like two degrees outside. I’m not getting ass naked in the car and freezing my nuts off just  for your lazy convenience.” He did oblige by swiftly unbuttoning and discarding the vest before he came over to Ian and divested him of his towel with a sharp yank. He stared down appreciatively at Ian’s erection. “I could make a few baseball analogies myself right now.”

“Dork,” Ian said, rolling his eyes as he fisted his hands into Mickey’s shirt and piloted the smirking man to sit on the bed. He got to his knees and settled between Mickey’s legs. “I figure I owe you one.”

“Fucking right you do,” Mickey sniffed. The blow job from the previous night might just have been the riskiest one in the world. He kept losing his mind whenever Ian was around and it was turning into a serious problem. But now Ian’s tongue was slowly trailing up the underside of his cock and he knew he wasn’t going to find a solution to that problem tonight.

Ian efficiently stripped him naked from the waist down while he sucked him off and a delicately raised eyebrow told Mickey he should be working on his shirt and tie before they got damaged. Mickey quickly complied so he could settle his hands in the red hair while Ian worked on his cock and the large, hot hands spread his thighs. Mickey fell back, propping himself up on one elbow and keeping an encouraging hand in Ian’s hair as the latter grew more aggressive in sucking Mickey off. Ian hummed contentedly, making Mickey moan as the shudder radiated from his core to his extremities.

Ian pulled off with a wet pop and moved to explore Mickey’s testicles and perineum with his tongue and lips until Mickey was writhing against his face. He pressed a wet, open mouth kiss into Mickey’s inner thigh before he pulled back. “Turn over,” he said tersely and Mickey throbbed with anticipation.

Mickey gasped as the wet heat of Ian’s tongue pressed into him and he automatically reached back to grip Ian’s hair again. The sounds choked in his throat as Ian’s tongue grew more persistent, teasing Mickey’s opening before pushing in, insisting that Mickey open up for him. Ian would stop long enough to leave soft bites and suck hot marks all over Mickey’s buttocks and thighs before coming back to probe him deeper.

“Fuck,” Mickey moaned long and low into the sheets before he panted, “fuck you, you’re going to get me turned out on this shit.”

Ian would ask what would be so wrong about that, but he had more pressing issues to attend to. He squeezed the globes of Mickey’s ass while he spread him as far as he dared and revelled in the feeling of Mickey clenching around his tongue. The hand tugging urgently in his hair told him it was time to pull back.

“Get on me now,” Mickey demanded hoarsely and Ian chuckled before dropping one more affectionate kiss on Mickey’s ass before he slapped it and stood up. Ian walked around to the other side of the bed to get the lube, while Mickey crawled into the bed and settled on his stomach, nestling his face into the pillows. He watched Ian as the man stood framed against the windows, naked, beautiful and achingly hard. “Hurry the fuck up already; no teasing.”

“Who’s teasing you?” Ian asked as he squirted a little lube into his palm and slowly stroked himself, making no moves towards the bed. If he didn’t know that Mickey would kill him, he would get himself off right there, just watching Mickey lying naked in his bed, just perfect and waiting for him.

“Ian!” Mickey demanded impatiently and actually wriggled, which was hands down the best thing Ian had seen all day.

He crawled into bed and knelt behind Mickey. He used his knee to nudge Mickey’s legs apart and was soon pressing well-lubricated fingers into his boyfriend. Mickey babbled unintelligibly into the pillows and Ian’s fingers scissored deep inside him, occasionally tapping against his prostate like he was sending Mickey a message in Morse code. By the time Ian rocked into Mickey, they were both almost gone already.

Fucking each other had to be the best kind of meditation as they lost themselves to it, nothing but the burning sensation and the sounds of the bed creaking and the headboard smacking into the wall. It took them a while to realize that there was another unfamiliar sound infiltrating—that of the pissed off neighbour.

“Fucking Christ! Knock it off assholes! People are trying to sleep over here!” came the muffled man’s voice from the other side of the wall. His neighbour, Gabriela, had never raised and issue before, but Ian guessed this was her boyfriend. More blistering invectives quickly followed.

The issue with Mickey in gangster mode was that he was always ready and spoiling for a fight; never mind the fact that his boyfriend was currently balls deep in him. Mickey’s head shot up from the pillows like an angry Rottweiler before Ian could placate him. “You got a fucking problem, Sleeping Beauty?! Come say it to my fucking f—mmph!”

Ian clapped a hand over Mickey’s mouth and quickly dragged him backwards. On the other side of the wall, Ian could just make out the muffled sounds of Gabriela telling her boyfriend to chill out. Ian and Mickey lay across the bed, but Mickey was still boring holes into the wall. Ian had to grab his face to force him to break imaginary, aggressive eye contact with his new nemesis. If Mickey thought Ian was going to let him abandon their lovemaking so he could brawl with some sleep deprived loudmouth, he was sadly mistaken.

“Let it go,” Ian told him.

“Did you hear the shit he was—mmph!” Mickey’s tirade was cut off by Ian’s lips covering his.

“Let it go,” Ian repeated and ended all discussion by pushing in Mickey until the latter’s body bowed off the bed.

Ian buried his face in Mickey’s neck and slipped his hands into Mickey’s. All thoughts of the interruption burned away as they rocked together again. The bed still creaked but the headboard was silent and there were no further complaints for the rest of the evening. Compromise had won the night.

“Don’t leave.”

Mickey paused on the edge of the bed as Ian’s sleep husked voice floated up to him. It was around three in the morning and Mickey always hesitated to stay overnight, as if it was a step too far. Ian spoke again, seemingly reading Mickey’s mind.

“This isn’t wrong, Mick—this, us, none of it is wrong. Maybe the timing is fucked up or the place, but what we have isn’t wrong,” Ian said softly, “I’ve done so much shit, you can’t imagine. I’ve been out of control and fucked up so bad and I know what every type of wrong feels like, but this is the furthest thing from any of that. Why shouldn’t we have this? We’re going to keep fucking up until we just accept it and be together, because that’s what feels right. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of; we’ve got nothing to feel guilty about.”

Mickey reached back and stroked Ian’s face. There was still so much to consider and so much to worry about going wrong. What had been weighing the most heavily on Mickey lately was just how much Sal didn’t know Ian. Sal had never even met the person Mickey knew. Sal didn’t know about Ian’s lame jokes, he didn’t understand why Ian ran as fast and as far as he did, he barely thought of Ian as a person. Yet, it was Sal who had and abused all this access while Mickey fretted in the shadows, twisted up with guilt and uncertainty and always on the cusp of quitting everything. Sal didn’t know Ian, had no business even being near him, and he certainly didn’t love him—not in any way that was right, not the way Mickey did. So why was he the one giving up? He and Ian deserved beautiful things too.

“What do you want me to do?” Mickey asked.

“Come back to bed.”

Mickey hesitated for a moment more before he slipped beneath the sheets and let Ian climb all over him and burrow into his skin in a way the old him would have hated. Ian could do that, Ian could do anything he wanted. Ian was allowed. He stroked Ian’s back and sighed happily when Ian stroked his face and snuggled against him.

“So,” Ian said, “what are we doing for Valentine’s day?”

Chapter Text

Mickey awoke the next morning to the strange sensation of someone’s head resting between his shoulder blades and a large, warm hand caressing his ass. He quickly got his bearings, relaxed, and grinned into the pillow.

“What is it; what are you doing now, weirdo?” he huffed at Ian.

“I have really strong feelings about your ass, Mick,” Ian said so solemnly, Mickey almost burst out laughing. “There was a time when your ass wasn’t in my life, isn’t that crazy? I was just going about my business, not knowing your ass existed, and it was just out there in the big, wide world, on its own alone…without me.”

“You’re such an idiot, Jesus Christ.”

Ian trailed his finger over the curves of Mickey’s buttocks. “I’m just so sad about it. I mean, who was taking care of you, baby?” Ian said, addressing Mickey’s ass directly. “No one was there to worship you and treat you properly. No one to even eat you right.”

“Actually, there was this one guy in juvie who—”   

“NO ONE AT ALL,” Ian said firmly and Mickey grinned harder. “But it’s okay, because daddy’s here now.”

Mickey flipped onto his back. “Don’t you start that shit. I get enough of that daddy crap at the Rub and Tug, thanks to Trish. You know I’m starting to think you’re only into me for my ass.”

“Oh, I’m deep into your ass,” Ian confessed, grinning shamelessly as he rested a hand on Mickey’s bare hip. “But I’m really into your cock too and your mouth,” he said and nuzzled the side of Mickey’s face. “And your legs; you’ve got really nice legs, Mickey.” Ian watched delighted as Mickey unsuccessfully fought his blush. “You’re getting so red, this is amazing. Let me tell you about what other parts I’m super into.”  

Ian went for Mickey’s stomach, making Mickey laugh and eagerly retaliate until they were rolling about in bed, laughing like loons.

When Mickey left a short while later, Ian got dressed and went to knock hesitantly on his neighbour’s door. It opened and he was greeted by a shock of blue hair.

“Hey, Ian,” Gabriela greeted cheerfully and drifted back into her apartment, leaving the door open as an invitation. “What’s up?”

Ian stepped inside and marvelled, as he always did, at the way the young woman had transformed the small, crappy apartment with murals, photographs and string lights. With her elfin features, the electric blue hair and her hippie, free spirited vibe, Ian and Alex had immediately dinged her as one of Preston’s liberal arts students. So when she revealed her pre-law major, they had both been thrown.

“I just wanted to apologise for last night—”

“Oh my god, no, if anything I’m the one who’s sorry. Victor can be such a total dick sometimes, I can’t even deal. He gets so fucking cranky over nothing. I hope he didn’t break your flow or anything.”

Ian scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, “ah, no, it was—it was okay. I’ll pull the bed off the wall. I should have done that so much sooner. I don’t know why I didn’t think it would be bothering you.”

“Passion is a heavy thing, dude. Everything else can get fucked, pardon the pun,” she giggled as she grabbed her acoustic guitar and climbed onto her kitchen counter. “But fuck, don’t pull your bed away. For one, that thing has to be heavy as fuck, but more importantly, I love the way you love. You guys fuck like champions, man. It’s fucking awesome to hear it. Shit, I probably get more excited than you do when that fucking Escalade pulls up.”

Ian choked on air and sputtered, and Gabriela paused mid-strum.

“Shit, over-share? I need to really work on that. I’m a pervert with zero filter. That probably won’t come in so handy when I’m fighting the man.”

Ian coughed self-consciously. “I just don’t want to disturb you.”

“Trust me, you’re not. You guys get me where I need to go far more often than Victor does,” she smiled impishly and played a flourish on her guitar. She observed Ian’s reddening face and sang out another “sorry.”

Ian wasn’t very inclined to believe her. “Um, how much can you hear?”

“Oh, only when you guys are on the bed and pretty close to the wall. Don’t worry, the walls aren’t that thin, but you guys do get pretty loud once you get going.”

“Sorry,” Ian mumbled automatically.

“Once again, don’t apologise. You’re providing a service,” she said and raised her eyebrows suggestively. “So you guys are steady and settled now?” she asked, recalling their blow-up that had the whole floor peeking out their doors.

“Yeah,” Ian smiled softly, “I think we’re good now.”

“Awesome, because I don’t have Showtime or HBO and the last time I tried to download porn, my computer almost exploded from the viruses.”

Ian couldn’t help his scandalized giggle. “I could recommend some streaming sites for when Mickey and I aren’t around to entertain you.”

“Ooh, if you would be so kind.”

That afternoon, Mickey waited until all his brothers were present and accounted for in the basement before he did what he had planned. He rolled up his sleeves and smoothed his vest and tie, opting to stay in all but the jacket when he addressed them. For this, he needed all the visible authority he could muster and if Sal taught them anything, it was to respect the suit. He opened the basement door and headed down to where his brothers lounged about, Jaime and Tony watching TV while Iggy and Joey played pool. They all greeted him as he came down and he grunted back at them.

“Turn that shit off,” he instructed his oldest brothers, “I need to talk to you guys about something.”

Tony grunted in turn and flicked the TV off, and Iggy and Joey came over to settle on the couches as well. When all his brothers were seated and waiting, Mickey dove straight into it, not mincing his words.

“Me and Ian are back on,” he said simply.

A deathly silence fell over the basement, then three pairs of eyes slowly slid from Mickey to Jaime, who sat staring at his brother in disbelief.

“What?” Jaime asked and sat up straighter in his seat. The three pairs of eyes went back to Mickey.

“You heard what I said,” Mickey sighed, “me and Ian are doing this again, but I’m letting you guys know up front this time.”

“When are you telling Sal?” Jaime snarked.

“Don’t  be an ass; you know exactly how it is. So Ian’s off-limits—no more scares, no more lessons, no more threats. You fuck with him and I’m going to regard it as you having a problem with me.”

Jaime laughed incredulously. “So that’s how it is now? We’re your brothers; you’ve known him for a minute. You’d go to war with your own fucking family over that?!”

Mickey squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Who wants a fucking war? I’m not even trying to say that shit. Since when are you so fucking dramatic? I’m just telling you how it’s going to be, so the way I see it, you have three options here: you can back me up, you can snitch me out or you can just fuck off and mind your own business. Let us deal with our own shit. I just want to know what it’s going to be.”

Jaime chewed his lip while he regarded his youngest brother. He then turned to the other three who had been sitting silently watching the interchange. “What are you, fucking deaf-mutes now? You aren’t hearing this? You got nothing to say?”

It was Iggy who spoke first, his eyes downcast as he shuffled a deck of cards to keep his hands occupied. “I think they’re kind of cool together,” Iggy said and Jaime was gobsmacked. “Just saying…I don’t have a problem or anything.”

“Just be careful and shit?” Joey added, nodding profusely and following Iggy’s lead. “I’ve always got your back.”

Jaime looked to Tony as his last line of appeal for sense, but Tony shrugged apologetically. “He’s a grown man, Jay. He’s gonna fucking do it whether we give our blessings or not. Let’s just roll with it. They’re going to need the help; they’re fucking terrible at this.”

Mickey hid his relief well and turned to Jaime with raised, expectant eyebrows. Jaime glared back silently before he sniffed loudly.

“I ain’t no fucking snitch,” he said acidly before he finally backed down. “I’m your brother and I’ll back you up no matter what stupid shit you choose to do, but I’m still putting my objection on the record.”

“Your objection is noted,” Mickey said lightly before he released his pent up breath and grinned happily at his brothers. “So, what are we doing?”

The tension broke and the silence dissolved into conversational babble as the brothers returned to their down time.

Ian fished for his phone when it vibrated and grinned at the message. He quickly changed directions and headed for the east gate, double time. He found Mickey in his full mobster regalia, leaning easily against the Escalade as he lit up a cigarette. He cut quite the figure and Ian dinged immediately that Mickey was putting on a little show. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. Across the street from him a small gaggle of girls stood giggling in the bus shelter as they shot admiring glances at Mickey and whispered amongst themselves. Ian rolled his eyes and went to park himself directly before his boyfriend, blocking the view in both directions. He gripped Mickey’s trench coat. He didn’t go full French the way he wanted to, but the small act of possession was enough. The girls wandered off and he had Mickey’s undivided attention.

“Having fun?” Ian asked with a lift of a brow.


“Sal wants to see me?” Ian asked, rubbing his thumb over Mickey’s heavy, woollen trench coat.

“Nah, I do.” Mickey said and that was music to Ian’s ears. As they made their way clear of the campus and headed for Ian’s apartment, Mickey raised the one other topic that had been weighing on him all day apart from the confrontation with this brothers. “So is this Valentine’s Day thing really a big deal for you?”

“We don’t have to do anything major if you’re not comfortable with it,” Ian assured him quickly. “We can just hang out and do the same thing we did for Christmas and New Year’s if that’s what you want.”

Mickey looked over at Ian before focusing on the road again. None of that was a proper answer to his question, but that was fine. Valentine’s Day must be like the Super Bowl to romantic saps like Ian. Romance was a mystifying concept for Mickey. It was never something he had needed or even wanted before. Still, he wanted to make Ian happy, but he couldn’t imagine having a cosy little dinner anywhere. Not only was that dangerous, but Mickey was sure he would sweat through his suit due to being so uncomfortable. He would have to think of something himself.

“Want me to surprise you?” he suggested to Ian, and the green eyes went wide as dinner plates.

“Um, yeah, I mean if you want,” Ian stammered and suddenly all he could do was try to imagine what a Mickey-driven date would be like. He half expected Mickey to show up at his door with pizza and a Valentine’s Day branded six pack before calling it a day. To Ian’s surprise, the idea of that made him smile. He would honestly be fine with anything. “Surprise me.”

They pulled up to the apartment building only to hear Ian’s least favourite sound in the world—Mickey’s phone going off. “Shit, I have to go,” Mickey said after checking his phone. “I have to go,” he repeated firmly, cutting off any chance of Ian protesting or being inquisitive. Mickey softened the blow by tugging Ian to him by his jacket and kissing him softly. “I’m sorry,” he said when he pulled back. “I’ll check in with you later.”

“Come over when you’re done,” Ian ordered, “I don’t care how late.”

Night had already fallen and Mickey wasn’t sure how long his sudden assignment would take. “Are you sure? You have school in the morning and I might be really—”

“I don’t care how late.”

Mickey nodded, already drawing into himself. “Alright, I’ll see you later then. Now get out.”

Ian reluctantly climbed out of the vehicle and watched Mickey take off.

Soon, he was pushing into the darkness of his room and tossing his bag onto the floor. He was about to fall into bed for a few minutes but wound up almost jumping out of his skin instead.

“Self-preservation isn’t a real strong point for you is it?” Jaime’s voice boomed out at him from the dark of the kitchen and it was a small wonder Ian didn’t piss himself. He backed up close to his door and flicked on the light. There was Jaime leaning against the counter of his kitchen, apparently waiting for him. “Relax,” Jaime said and it was truly laughable since Ian was getting ready to run for his life, “if I was going to hurt you, I would have done it already.”

Ian didn’t move from the ready escape of the front door. He still wasn’t over the trauma of the abduction and the threats, and Jaime and Tony still frightened him no matter how much he struggled to get past it.

“I can’t believe I actually gave you more credit than you deserved,” Jaime began, “you see the way I figured it, we’d shake you up, explain how this could end up being real bad for Mick, and you’d get the hint and fuck off. I was wrong, wasn’t I? You got me good. You don’t give a shit about any of that; you just want what you want.”

“You don’t understand what we have,” Ian said as he took an impulsive step away from the wall. “I love Mick—”

“No, no,” Jaime laughed and shook his head, “don’t say that. That’s only going to piss me off and I can’t afford to make a mistake here. I love my brother, that’s why I’m trying to keep him alive and in one piece. I don’t know what the fuck you think you have going here, but it’s warped and it ain’t right, because if I tell you that fucking around with someone could get them killed, wouldn’t stepping the fuck back be the decent thing to do?” Jaime asked, “but no, that doesn’t work for you because you’re not getting what you want, so fuck everything else right? No wonder Sal’s into you.”

“It’s not like that,” Ian said softly.

Jaime said nothing and pushed away from the counter to move towards Ian. Ian shrank back against the door, watching Jaime’s movements carefully as he tried to gauge what the man was going to do. Ian was ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.

Jaime smirked at Ian’s obvious discomfort and fear. “Nah, you don’t have to do that anymore. You’re bulletproof now. Mickey says we can’t touch you and what Mickey says goes. He runs shit; he controls our crew. I can’t be scrapping with him over this stupid shit or things will fall apart, so you ain’t got shit to worry about from me until Mickey wises up, or Sal gets tired of you,” Jaime sniffed. “I’m betting Sal cuts you loose first; your je ne sais quoi has got to wear off sooner or later, right? Mickey doesn’t do the gaga shit often, so he’ll probably take a minute to see you for what you are. But one day one of them is gonna give the order and I’ll be the one to carry it out. Mickey will get over you; it’s inevitable. You’ll be nothing but an unpleasant memory one day.”

Ian swallowed convulsively but said nothing as he tried to focus on not shaking from the force and fatalism of Jaime’s words. His blunted fingernails scraped over his jean clad thighs and he centred his gaze on a spot just above and beyond Jaime’s head and tried to block out as much as he could. There was no ignoring Jaime’s next act, however, which was to spit at his feet.

“Enjoy this little détente while it lasts, because it’s bound to end. Don’t get it confused; you’ll never be family.”

With that, Jaime was gone and Ian released a shaky breath and slumped against the wall.

It was barely a couple hours later when Mickey showed up, clad in his jeans and heavy camo jacket. Ian almost sobbed from the joy and relief of it. He stood awkwardly in the kitchen as Mickey shrugged off some layers, still not yet at ease in his apartment after Jaime’s unexpected visit. He wasn’t even sure how to approach Mickey as the man walked over.

“I didn’t think you’d come back so fast,” Ian laughed nervously and tried to rid the tension from his shoulders by rotating them and flexing his neck.

Mickey came over to him and automatically reached up with both hands to massage the back of Ian’s neck. “It was a fucking false alarm. I don’t even know what the fuck people are playing at half the time. I just made sure everything was nailed down for the night before I showered and changed and came back here,” Mickey explained and eyed Ian carefully, “everything okay?”

Ian nodded and pulled Mickey to him, hugging him tightly and burying his nose into the crook of his neck. Mickey froze for a moment, surprised by the unanticipated action, but eventually relaxed and affectionately stroked the back of Ian’s head as the man squeezed him even more tightly.

“What’s happening?” Mickey asked.

“I’m holding you,” Ian said into Mickey’s T-shirt, his voice muffled by the soft material, “because I want to.”

“Okay,” Mickey murmured and Ian almost started laughing, endlessly amused and amazed by how Mickey just went with it, despite how clearly confused he was by whatever Ian was doing.

They stood quietly in the tiny kitchen, swaying slightly as Ian drew comfort from Mickey’s smell and warmth, and the feel of Mickey’s hand tenderly stroking his hair. Eventually, Mickey tried again.

“Ian, did something happen?” Mickey asked and the creeping menace in his voice chilled Ian and had him shaking his head firmly. “So what’s up; what’s going on, huh?”

“You’re not free,” Ian finally said and he could tell that Mickey was thrown by the odd statement. “You’re not free and everything is crazy and I don’t want to make things harder for you.”

“Oh,” Mickey whispered, slowly processing the surprise confession. He pulled back and cupped Ian’s face as he looked up into the green eyes. “You know what makes my life harder? Anti-racketeering and corruption laws—those are a bitch. Sal’s insane drug tolerance makes my life harder. Joey confusing the Semtex for the C-4 makes my life harder. You don’t make my life harder. Ian, what you and I have makes me free. So don’t worry about any of that other shit,” Mickey said and head butted Ian gently, “we’re in this; we’re fine.”

Ian rested his forehead against Mickey’s and relaxed his grip on him to settle his hands on Mickey’s hips. “It’s just been kind of a long day,” Ian said.

“Yeah? Let’s take care of that then,” Mickey said, aiming a lop-sided grin at Ian and tugging him towards the bed.

The next afternoon when Mickey picked Ian up from school, it was at Sal’s behest, much to their disappointment. They managed to make the ride to the pool house without making any unscheduled stops, any grabby hands or rumpled clothing. They would have been proud of their self-control were it not for the fact that Ian was being carted off to see Sal. The thought always tended to put a dampener on their mood. Still, Ian had a game plan when it came to dealing with Sal—no dawdling, finish him quickly and thoroughly, and put him out of his hair for the rest of the day. Ian guessed the drugs were taking a hard toll on Sal in more ways than one. Sal had never been a stallion, but his endurance had been appalling as of late. Not that Ian was complaining; not that anyone was complaining. Ian wished the man would just fall into a coma.

The gods were kind, as it would turn out. When they got to the pool house, Sal seemed to be in a tizzy. He greeted Ian with a quick peck on the cheek and shooed him off before Sal dragged Mickey into the far end of the kitchen to have a hushed conversation. Ian squinted from his seat in the living room while he unpacked his bag, trying his best to suss out whatever was going on; no luck there. When Sal and Mickey ended their conversation and headed towards him, Ian quickly looked at his textbook and pretended he had been minding his own business. Sal sat next to him and rested a hand on his knee. Mickey fidgeted with his tie and looked everywhere but at them.

“I’m sorry to always do this to you, but some unpleasant business has come up that demands my attention,” Sal said apologetically. “I’m hoping it won’t take more than a couple hours, so maybe you can wait for me here?”

Ian shrugged noncommittally and fought the urge to look to Mickey for some kind of cue.

“Hang around, do your never-ending pile of homework. If you’re seeing that it’s getting too late, get one of the other boys to take you home,” Sal suggested.

Ian couldn’t help but look at Mickey then. “You and Mickey are going out?”

“Mickey has other things to take care of, which makes me wonder why he’s still standing here,” Sal said, looking pointedly at Mickey.

“You didn’t say how you wanted me to handle it,” Mickey replied, covering the fact he had been waiting in hopes to talk to Ian himself.

“Use your discretion. Go pick up Jaime and have him help you.”

Mickey nodded and was out the door without a second look, leaving Ian crestfallen. When Sal had finally left to see to his “unpleasant business,” Ian wandered to his usual spot at the kitchen island. It hadn’t occurred to ask who else was in the pool house since he knew Jaime wasn’t there. When Tony emerged from the basement and took a seat on the stool across from his, Ian flinched and his heart sank. He really wasn’t prepared for another round of this shit.

“You’re scared of me,” Tony said and Ian wondered if he wanted an award for stating the fucking obvious. “Yeah, makes sense. I’d be scared of me too if I pulled the shit I did. I regret it a little. We kinda went overboard.”

Ian stared at him dubiously, suspicious of Tony’s motives. Tony smiled contritely and there was that little flash of Mickey that there was in all the brothers that always served to disarm him a bit.

“We were trying to make a point and shake you and Mickey up a bit,” Tony continued, “I guess we went too far, but that’s kind of our method, you know? Still, probably shouldn’t have done it. I’m gonna apologize because I realize you’ll be sticking around for a while and if you’re important to Mickey, then we gotta look out for you too and that would be kinda difficult with you being scared of me. So I’m sorry for freaking you out and I hope we can get past this,” Tony said and extended his hand to Ian.

Ian was thrown by the whole thing, especially in contrast to the tense, teeming hostility he’d encountered with Jaime. He stared at Tony’s proffered hand and took it carefully, still wary of any possible traps.

“Um, thanks,” Ian said and nervously scratched at his neck with his free hand, “this might take a minute.”

“Understandable, I did threaten to slice you to your ears.” Tony was magnanimous. Despite the olive branch offering, Ian couldn’t help a tinge of alarm; Tony’s grip was like iron and the elder Milkovich showed no signs of letting go, “all that being said,” Tony continued, “I do recommend you tread carefully. It’s amazing how fast shit can go sideways here and you want to make this work for as long as possible, I guessing.”

This really wasn’t helping Tony’s “no fear; let’s all get past this” initiative, but Ian kept his face as placid as possible while he nodded. Tony abruptly released his hand—much to Ian’s relief—and checked his watch.

“I gotta go pick up my kid,” Tony explained and slid off the stool. He clapped Ian on the back—hard, “to new beginnings, huh?” he said and left Ian to his studies.

Clearly all the brothers had something to say to him that day. While he sat unmoving an hour later, still reeling and recovering from Tony’s possibly friendly overture, Iggy emerged from the basement. He greeted Ian warmly and went to the fridge to retrieve a six-pack.

“Man, you’re always either fucking or studying; no in between?” Iggy teased as he came to peer over Ian’s shoulder at his reading assignment. “You need to take a break and get some other hobbies. Me and Joey just racked up downstairs; come be the third.”

Ian simply obeyed, not knowing if Iggy’s invitation was genuinely friendly or a means of getting to issue more threats. Either way, Ian figured he might as well get the whole thing over with, lest he went home to find Iggy, Joey or both stationed in his kitchen with baseball bats. After the two eldest Milkoviches, he hadn’t the vaguest idea which direction this would go. He simply tried to brace himself for anything.

Joey nodded at him and handed him a pool cue, and Ian found himself grateful for a potential weapon. This whole situation was beyond nerve-wracking. He figured that if Jaime or Tony hadn’t hurt him and had essentially called a ceasefire, then it was unlikely Iggy or Joey would do anything, still he readied to head for the stairs just in case.

Iggy went first and sent the billiard balls scattering about the table with a thwack of the pool cue. “Jaime and Tony work you over yet?” Iggy asked, smiling a little around his cigarette.

“Yeah,” Ian admitted carefully, “a little bit; nothing fatal.”

“Don’t even worry about it,” Iggy flexed a shoulder dismissively, “they gotta act hard all the time, but they’re not gonna do shit to you; they can’t. Mickey would have them for lunch and he’s the most vindictive motherfucker alive. Nobody fucks with Mickey, not even us,” Iggy said with a hint of pride in his voice. “You’re good, you’re golden. Don’t let them make you nervous or shit.”

“Yeah,” Joey said simply as he took his turn.

Ian looked from one to another, trying to gauge where this was going. “So you guys aren’t going to try and intimidate me or anything?”

“Are you kidding?” Iggy snorted and Joey laughed with him, “after Jaime and Tony went at you, what the fuck kind of effect could we have?”

“Besides, we’ve always been cool with you and Mick,” Joey chimed in, “we think you’re pretty good for him. It sucks you gotta fuck around with Sal and shit, and I know Mickey doesn’t take it so good, but the benefits outweigh the risks, right, Ig?”

“Fuck yeah,” Iggy said and nodded at Ian to take his shot.

“You don’t think I’m sending Mick on a fast track to an early grave?” Ian asked quietly and to his surprise, the brothers snorted in amusement again.

“Mick? Nah, nothing gets over on a Milkovich. Sal wishes he was good enough to take one of us out. Nuclear holocaust goes down, it’ll be just a bunch of Milkoviches and the roaches.”

“Fuck yeah,” Joey chortled and the brothers grinned at each other.

“As long as you’re careful and don’t do anything too dumb, you’ll be alright,” Iggy reassured him. “We aren’t worried about you guys like that. We’re survivors and Mickey’s been surviving his whole life until now, but he knows fuck all about living,” Iggy shrugged, “So I think it’s cool you’re here. He needs all this mess you’re bringing in.”

“Jaime and Tony might give you a hard time, but you don’t have to worry about them. If Mickey says you’re family, you’re family, and Milkoviches look out for our own.”

“To family, huh?” Iggy grunted before raising his can and taking a deep swig of his beer. Joey grunted in response.

It was a little crazy how much the easy reassurance and affability moved and reassured Ian. He relaxed in swift increments until he was talking, laughing and moving easily amongst the two brothers.

“Oh,” Iggy exclaimed, apparently suddenly remembering he still had one more thing to add, “just take care of him, okay? Don’t fuck around on him or fuck him up more than he already is,” Iggy said.

“Yeah,” Joey nodded, “because it would be a real shame if we ended up having to mess you up after everything,” he said with a surprising and impressive amount of menace.

Ian sighed and nodded; Milkoviches just couldn’t help themselves.

Agent Hernandez knocked on Fowler’s door and burst in before he could even finish granting her permission. He was reclining in his chair, his legs propped up on the table as he read his paper, existing in stark contrast to the flushed, young agent barging into his office.

“Carlisi’s dead,” she declared, sounding almost excited by the prospect.

“Finally?” Fowler was genuinely surprised. Carlisi had been on his deathbed for what felt like years. The Outfit had had so many gatherings at his house, thinking the man was about to pass in a minute, and he’d always managed to persist. “I thought I was going to die before him at this rate,” the agent mused. “And so it begins.”

“What happens now?” Hernandez asked eagerly. Between the continued raids on the mansions and business, and scooping up and shaking down the ne’er-do-wells, she was starting to feel like one of the Untouchables. She was raring for the next major development.

“What happens now? Silly season,” Fowler sighed, “the underboss chair is now open and the ambitious are going to make their play for it. Hopefully it won’t get too messy.”

She was practically vibrating at the thought. She centred herself and tried to play out the scenarios. “I thought Big Tony Salerno was the only real candidate,” she said to her boss.

“He is from what our intel says, and this transition should be an uneventful and peaceful one, but still, we have to be prepared for any contingencies.”

“Carlisi’s dead,” Sal said quietly as he stood framed in the doorway of the master bedroom. His wife looked at his reflection in the mirror, not deigning to turn and face him. She continued applying lotion to her hands and fixing her makeup as she regarded her awkward husband.

“You came all the way here to tell me something I already know?” she asked, “surely even you can find something better to do with your time. I’m getting ready to visit with the Widow Carlisi now. Why do you think I’m in here putting on my face?”

Sal shuffled into the room and gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, close to where Linda sat at her vanity table. “I never know why anyone would gild the lily.”

Linda snorted rudely at the sugary sentiment, but Sal wasn’t being disingenuous even though he wasn’t without guile. Linda had always been a beautiful woman; would be until the day she died. She kept her long, black hair devoid of any grey, and her features were pale and delicate even while the grey eyes were hard—at least to him. She looked like a woman in her thirties as opposed to her fifties. She kept herself impeccably and everything seemed to fall into place with easy grace in a way Sal envied terribly. No matter how hard he tried and how expensive and lavish his suits and tastes, he simply could not pull it off. He always seemed unkempt, laboured and off-kilter despite his best efforts, and walking in with someone as exquisite and flawless as Linda—or even Ian—on his arm was both a source of immense pride and intense humiliation.

“What do you want, Salvatore?” Linda sighed, the impatience and irritation in her voice plain in her voice. “You should be getting ready to go over and pay your respects instead of annoying me.”

“Carlisi’s gone and there’s a need for a new underboss,” Sal began slowly.

Linda rolled her eyes, “you came to that conclusion all on your own, did you?” she said acidly, “there will be a new underboss. Tony will take over soon enough, just let Carlisi’s body get cold in the ground before we drink to the ascension.”

“Why does it have to be Tony?”

Linda frowned with exasperated incredulity into her mirror. “Who else would it be? There’s no one else even remotely half as qualified. He’s the biggest earner out of all the Capos, he’s the most respected out of you bunch of yahoos and he has the firm hand it’s going to take to keep the rest of you in check.”

Sal shook his head, blocking out Linda’s ringing endorsement, and finally said what he had come to say, “why not me? I can run the Outfit as well as anybody. I could be the underboss.”

There was a moment of stunned silence and Linda actually twisted on her stool to stare at her husband. Her mouth worked wordlessly for a moment before she broke down into peals of laughter. Her voice was high, ringing and musical, and it grated so much against Sal’s nerves he thought his ears would bleed.

“You?!” Linda spat, “you, the walking embodiment of a punch line, you want to become the underboss of one of the biggest crime syndicates in America? You couldn’t lead your way out of a wet paper bag if the exit was glowing. I’m surprised you can find your ass with both hands, but you want to be the underboss. Smell you!”

Sal glowered at her, each barb landing with stinging accuracy. “Tony isn’t better than me! None of them is better than me! I could do as good a job if not better than any of those condescending, limp dick fuckers! I’m a man, ain’t I?!”

“You’re a vague approximation of a man,” Linda sneered, “like whoever assembled you had the general concept but somehow entirely missed the point. You’re a disgrace as a Capo as it is, but you want to be underboss. You want to challenge Big Tony?! Tony’s a real man! Even you should be able to recognize one, given your interests and proclivities,” Linda sniffed and picked up a brush to smooth out her hair. “What could possess you to think you even had a chance?”

Sal’s hands were fisted so tightly, his nails were cutting into his palms. Linda’s last question reminded him of why he has talking to her in the first place and he tamped his burgeoning rage to try cajoling her. “You have Fischetti’s ear,” he said, “he listens to you; you’re still his favourite niece; maybe even his favourite person outside his wife and kids.”


“You can tell him” Sal urged her, “tell him there’s a choice; that I could be a good pick; maybe a great one.”

“Is it your age or the drugs that’s making you this slow on the uptake?” Linda sighed, “my uncle listens to me because I don’t tell him nonsense. You think he doesn’t know what you are? I ask him to give you Carlisi’s seat and he’d have me committed,” Linda shook her head wryly, “eleven years of medical school, trying everything and anything to escape this shit and here I am, little more than a glorified mob doctor and wife. The looks I get,” she hissed into the mirror, her bitterness evident. “Even if you weren’t a completely incompetent buffoon, I’d never recommend you just so you can drag me deeper into this muck. You want to be underboss so badly, sack up and go challenge Tony. Who knows, maybe he’ll die pissing from the laughter.”

“I’m your husband, you’re my wife,” Sal seethed, “you’re supposed to support me!”

Linda wasn’t the least bit cowed. Instead she idly walked her fingers about her jewellery box and selected a bauble. “oh, Salvatore,” she said almost pityingly, “go fuck yourself.”

It was after ten in the evening on Valentine’s day and Ian was already standing outside at the curb when the Mustang growled to a stop at his feet. Mickey grinned at Ian’s excitement and eagerness, and tried to contain his own exhilaration.

“I was gonna come upstairs and get you, you know?” Mickey said teasingly.

“You think I was waiting for you? Get over yourself,” Ian grinned through his blatant lie, “I was just getting some fresh air.”

“Sure, you ready then?” Mickey’s grin widened as Ian nodded, “you need me to open the door for you, princess?”

“Fuck off,” Ian growled, and he was seated and buckled up in the next instant. “so where are we going?”

Mickey glanced over at him and shook his head, “how is it a surprise if I tell you upfront?”

Ian gave Mickey the once over and got a little nervous at the sight of the black dress shirt tucked neatly into the dark jeans and the scent of that special cologne.

“Was I supposed to dress up?”

“No, what the fuck for?” Mickey frowned at him briefly, “you look fine; you look good.”

Ian beamed and tugged at the side of Mickey’s shirt, “You dressed up just for me then?”

Mickey scoffed but his fluster was evident, “fuck off, I dress how I want.”

Ian didn’t respond at all. He simply trailed his hand down to Mickey’s thigh and left it there for the remainder of the journey.

The ride didn’t take all that long, though it felt like an eternity to the person in the dark. They turned off the Campus Drive onto the narrow isthmus connecting to Northerly Island and Ian was doubly confused about what could be out there of all places. He raised a brow when Mickey pulled into the empty parking lot of the planetarium and reached behind the seat for his coat.

“Let’s go!” Mickey ordered and got out of the car. Ian obediently got out with him and looked on in mild consternation as Mickey retrieved a large duffel bag from the trunk and then whipped out his cell phone to send off a text. A second later, Mickey’s phone buzzed. “Okay, south entrance,” he said simply and took off. Ian trotted after him.

Ian was surprised to see a face peeking out of one of the side entrances as they approached the door and the man greeted Mickey. The stranger held the door open and Mickey and Ian hustled inside. Mickey made swift introductions.

“Jimmy, Ian; Ian, Jimmy.”

Ian and Jimmy nodded to each other and Ian trailed after the two men as they headed at a brisk pace deeper into the planetarium. Ian lagged behind a little as he gawked at the elaborate set-ups and displays, and longed to see what the various sections had to offer, totally sucked in by the exciting promises of the banners and the direction arrows. He almost lost sight of Mickey and Jimmy entirely, until Mickey yelled back to him, his voice bouncing threateningly about the huge space.

“Gallagher, come on!”

Ian quickly took off after them and caught up.

“So it’s good?” Mickey asked Jimmy as the young man led them into a massive, domed theatre.

“Yeah, I got the shows lined up for you. I’ll go start them and take off,” Jimmy nodded, “you got until four then you have to clear out before maintenance shows up. Try to clean after yourselves as best as you can so no one—meaning me—catches hell for letting people in.

“No problem, Ian’s a boy scout,” Mickey said, waggling his eyebrows at Ian, “you’ll never know we were here.” Mickey stooped down and retrieved a paper bag out of the duffel bag and tossed it to Jimmy, “with thanks.”

Jimmy looked into the bag and beamed, “nice doing business with you. I’ll go start it up. Remember, four o’clock!”

The planetarium worker disappeared for a moment into the control booth before reemerging with a thumbs-up to Mickey. Ian watched him head out, clutching his precious paper bag tightly, until he disappeared out the door.

“How do you know him?” Ian asked Mickey, who was focused on unzipping and unpacking the duffel bag.

“Jail,” came the succinct answer, “society knocks it, but you really meet the most interesting and useful cross-section of people.”

“You guys never—” Ian stopped abruptly as a massive planet came into unbelievable focus overhead. Ian gasped audibly at the vividness and detail of the image and how amazingly real and close it seemed. “Holy shit!”

Mickey was not admiring the beginning of the show, but was instead struggling to free the blanket he had stuffed into the bag amongst the other things. He yanked it out with a grunt and spread it in the passageway. He grinned at Ian’s gobsmacked expression with pride.

“You said you wanted to look for shooting stars, right?” Mickey said, “I was going to take you outside the city, but it’s fucking two degrees out so—” he shrugged sheepishly and flopped down onto the blanket, “—next best thing.”

Ian sank to the floor and stretched out next to his boyfriend, and tugged Mickey closer until the man was resting his head on Ian’s shoulder and draping a booted foot casually over his. They watched enraptured as the voiceover began, introducing them to the wonders and mysteries of the universe. The dome around them came alive and transported them into the depths of space. They were left oohing, aahing and giggling at the wonder of it all. Mickey occasionally reached back to fish out food and beer from his bag, and Ian was left wondering just how much stuff Mickey had packed in there.

One show bled into another and the voice of the universe explained things like the birth and death of stars and the perpetual expansion of the universe. Ian was completely caught up in it all and barely blinked as he idly stroked Mickey’s hair and sipped the beer Mickey had brought, always aware of the heat and presence of the man snuggled against him. The time bled away quickly and soon the shows began looping to the beginning. Ian didn’t mind, especially when Mickey flipped onto his side towards him and nuzzled his cheek.

Mickey, as a rule, was not a slow or gentle initiator. That kind of stuff he usually left to Ian and his moods. When Mickey wanted it, he would shake Ian awake or grab his dick; whatever it took to get his point across quickly. But it was Valentine’s Day and he figured he’d give soft and slow a try for a change, even though he wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

Ian let him fumble around for a while, charmed by the effort. Mickey tried his best to mimic the things Ian usually did—slipping a hand beneath Ian’s shirt and nibbling on his earlobe—and hoped for good results. Ian turned towards Mickey and trailed his thumb over Mickey’s lower lip.

“We’re really alone?” Ian asked.

“Yeah,” Mickey murmured and pushed Ian so he was flat on his back again. “Hang on a bit,” Mickey said and reached into the magical duffel bag for the lube and rested it next to Ian’s head. Mickey then went about kicking off his shoes and working off his pants and underwear while Ian watched with great interest. “The one drawback with liking to take it all the time is that you’re the one that always has to ditch your shit.”

“Don’t have to,” Ian pointed out, “we could do it sideways, for example. You don’t have to take your pants off all the way then if you don’t want to.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” Mickey stuck his tongue out gleefully and tossed his pants and boxer-briefs aside. “I want you on your back for this.” Mickey grabbed the lube and shuffled down to settle between Ian’s legs. “Keep watching your show.”

It was a little hard to focus on the vagaries of the cosmos when Mickey’s tongue was slowly trailing its way up the underside of his cock. Ian glimpsed down to see that Mickey had paused briefly to lubricate his fingers and had reached back to prepare himself.

“You don’t want me to do that for you?” Ian asked hoarsely.

“It’s all good; I’m a professional,” Mickey said as he sank his fingers in a little deeper and sucked lightly on the head of Ian’s cock. He looked up at Ian cheekily, “mind your business.”

Ian lay back and groaned as Mickey lapped at his cock and sucked him down with a moan. Ian opened his eyes and watched as stars and their solar systems sailed by at dizzying speeds while his heart pounded and Mickey licked at him as if he was a melting Popsicle. The whole thing was surreal and bordering on overwhelming, and the massive dome—so built to immerse him and encapsulate the feeling of floating through space—was threatening to swallow him.

Things like this didn’t happen to him, at least not all at once. He was so used to either/or situations. He could have the romantic date, but with someone he didn’t really care for romantically, like Sal. He could have a crush on someone, but deep down know there was something not quite right about it, like it had been with Kash. He was a poor, crazy, fuck up of a kid from the crap side of Chicago, and perfect dates with the boy he loved, while the universe bloomed above him, just didn’t happen. He covered his face with his hands and tried to keep himself from spiralling, but he was overcome and he could feel that tinge of mania in his chest, threatening to bubble over into hysterical laughter.

He needed to keep it together, because there could not have been a worse time to freak out. Before the feeling could take hold and drag him down, he felt Mickey crawling over him to sit just above his hips and pull Ian’s hands away from his face. Mickey grinned down at him and Ian’s erratic heartbeat and breathing began to even out a little.

“All warmed up for you,” Mickey murmured and rocked forward so he could grip Ian’s cock and slowly ease onto it.

Ian exhaled slowly and gripped Mickey’s hips to steady them both. The fraught, uncertain moment dissipated and everything was immediately infinitely better. Ian’s universe wasn’t too big, surreal, or terrifying anymore, not as long as Mickey was at the center of it. His heart still pounding and his breathing was still laboured, but it was  good; it was all good. He focused on Mickey’s face as his boyfriend rode him, mildly cognizant of the series of stars going supernova behind Mickey’s head. It was too perfect, but at least now it wasn’t threatening to engulf him whole. He cupped Mickey’s ass and thrust upwards as Mickey’s speed built.

Mickey’s hands fisted in Ian’s T-shirt as he braced against Ian’s chest and rocked hard on top of him. The voiceover was soon drowned out as their voices filled the room while they built towards their crescendo. Ian pumped Mickey’s cock, trying his best to keep time with the pace of their hips, and revelled in every expression on Mickey’s face.

“Please,” Mickey begged him, “please, Ian.”

It took only a moment for Ian to figure out what Mickey needed. He kept stroking Mickey’s cock, but let go of his ass in order to reach up and wrap his hand around Mickey’s neck, and almost climaxed at the satisfying gasp Mickey made and the way the blue eyes rolled back as the pleasure overtook him.

“I love you,” Ian gasped brokenly as Mickey erupted into his hand and gripped Ian’s wrist tightly through his orgasm, “I love you,” he repeated as he released Mickey’s throat when he too went over the edge. Mickey fell off him gracelessly and lay next to him coughing and sputtering to catch his breath. Ian wasn’t much better.

“Holy shit,” Mickey croaked and eventually burst out laughing. “I think I might be into Valentine’s Day!”

They didn’t speak for a while, still trying to recover, and Mickey lazily groped around for his pants and underwear and tugged them on. He eventually turned to Ian. “This was good, right?”

Ian knew what he was after. Mickey wanted some reassurance that he had done well with the date and was blatantly fishing for compliments. Ian was more than willing to give them to him, but he still needed another minute, so he simply nodded. They both jumped a little when a familiar alarm went off.

“Sex alarm?” Ian asked.

“Stop calling it that, asshole,” Mickey laughed, “that’s the sign that we need to clean up and get the fuck out of Dodge.”

“In a minute,” Ian said and rolled over to trap Mickey beneath him. “This was fucking amazing; you’re fucking amazing,” he said as he peppered kisses all over Mickey’s face.

Mickey laughed and squirmed beneath him, obviously delighted that he had pulled it off and Ian was happy. “Well, whatever,” Mickey said, his eyes bright and his face reddening, “don’t be expecting this sappy shit every day.”

“No, not every day,” Ian said reasonably before managing to fill at least one Milkovich with a little bit of dread for a change, “but man, I can’t wait to see what you do for my birthday.”

Chapter Text

It was Monday morning, two days after the Valentine’s date and yet Ian still felt so high, he could barely keep himself on the ground. It took a concerted effort not to walk around grinning like an idiot as he headed onto the campus grounds. He floated about until he eventually found Alex, who was seated in the cafeteria, chatting to Martin and DeeDee, two other members of the Trans community on Preston.

“Hey guys,” Ian greeted them and slid into the seat when Martin shuffled over. “What’s good?”

They all greeted him warmly and Alex rested her feet on his lap. “DeeDee’s contemplating taking the plunge and changing her name legally.”

“Yep,” DeeDee sang out, “goodbye, Dexter Kahananui; hello, DeeDee Kahananui.” She bounced slightly and swept her long brown hair into a ponytail before compulsively letting it back down again. “I’ve finally been living long enough in Illinois to do it here. The process is a total hassle, but imagine getting junk mail in my real name!”

Ian couldn’t help but grin. “Your name was Dexter and you’re changing it to DeeDee?”

Martin snorted, “I know right? She got her name from a freaking cartoon.”

“Rude,” DeeDee frowned at her friend, “just because it was a cartoon doesn’t mean it wasn’t a huge deal for me,” she said before turning and nodding to Ian, “I was so psyched about a cartoon where the star had the same name as me, you can’t even imagine. But even back then, there was just nothing about Dexter I could identify with at all. DeeDee, on the other hand, was my jam. She was vivacious and silly, just a total train wreck—isn’t that me in a nutshell?” she asked the table. They all murmured in agreement. The train wreck part at least was spot on.

“Were you trying to call me yesterday?” Alex asked Ian, “I got so fucking wasted, I was hung over all day. I couldn’t even find my phone until my alarm went off this morning. It was in the laundry basket, in case you were wondering.”

“Good girls’ night out?” Ian said.

“God, I think so. The last thing I remember is me and Rosa on her dining room table scream-singing ‘Chandelier.’ It’s all a blur after that.” She focused more closely on Ian’s grinning face and soon the other two were staring at him as well.

“What?” Ian asked, looking from one to the other.

“What’s your deal?” Martin asked on behalf of the group, “the last time I saw someone glowing like that, she was three months pregnant and my dad was looking for a shotgun.”

“Yeah, how was your Valentine’s Day,” Alex chimed in, raising a delicate eyebrow as she watched Ian’s grin almost explode from his face.

“It was epic,” Ian sighed and everyone immediately did away with the pretence of studying or anything productive and leaned towards Ian, eager for the juicy details. He did not disappoint. He spent the few minutes regaling them with the story of Mickey’s secretly planned Valentine perfection. The group listened, mouths agape, as Ian waxed rhapsodic with hearts in his eyes.

“Motherfucker!” Alex exclaimed when a moony Ian sighed to a close, “a planetarium; are you fucking kidding me?! I think Rosa might have grabbed my tit by accident to steady herself at one point. THAT’S the most action I think I’ve gotten for months and you get a goddamned planetarium?!”

“Josh gave me wild flowers and one of those cards made from one hundred percent recycled paper,” DeeDee shook her head in bewilderment, “I thought it was so sweet and environmentally conscious of him. Now, obviously, I’m going to have to go home and dropkick him in the face!”

“I bought my girl a couple deep dish pizzas and a six pack,” Martin said nervously and the table looked at him askance, “she said anything was fine! She just wanted to chill and hang out.”

“That was a lie,” DeeDee said with a roll of her eyes, “and when I tell her about star-fucker over there, you’re going to get dropkicked in the face too.”

“Did I mention what an amazing backdrop a supernova makes?” Ian chirped and wasn’t the least bit bothered by all the death glares sent his way.

His mood wasn’t even dampened when Iggy texted him to meet him at the main gate. Mickey was handling business at the Rub and Tug, he was told, and Sal was feeling down and wanted his company. Ian took it all in stride; the residual euphoria blanketing everything in a soft glow of positivity and acceptance. Even Iggy was looking at him sideways. He wondered if seeing Sal would be enough to bring down his mood.

To his surprise, he wasn’t even annoyed at Sal when he finally saw him. Being high on love was the most ridiculous thing. Besides, Sal seemed stressed out and downbeat, which perversely only helped to improve Ian’s own mood. He grinned sunnily at Sal as he tossed his bag on the floor and the old man looked at him askance.

“You’re in a good mood,” Sal murmured, watching with interest as Ian slipped off his jacket before the warm light of the window. The boy really was art in motion and Sal was ever in awe of him.

“When am I not in a good mood?” Ian replied. “It’s a beautiful day and I got an A on one of my tests,” Ian beamed, “what’s to be mad about?”

Encouraged by Ian’s good mood, Sal came over to him and rubbed his hands up the young man’s arms. “I’m glad you’re having a good run,” he told Ian, “here’s hoping it rubs off on me because I feel like my luck has turned to shit lately. Everything’s stressing me out and I’m fucking sore…”

Ian had carefully honed his pseudo listening skills since meeting Sal. The mobster had a tendency to go off on rants and long complaining jags and Ian simply could not bring himself to care, from even before the downturn of his feelings for Sal. Instead, he simply listened for key words and phrases and “sore” was one of them.

“Want me to take care of you?” Ian suggested, offering what he knew Sal was asking for from his babble. Sal nodded eagerly and Ian indicated to him to go lie down so they could begin their typical routine.

Ian planned to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. He shed his clothes in a rush—a move Sal usually mistook for eagerness—and grabbed the massage oil from the table and a condom from his backpack. He tossed both on the bed next to Sal’s nude, prone body and knelt beside him. Ian didn’t mind giving the massages. Sometimes if he was particularly adept at it, Sal would fall asleep just from that. He grabbed the oil and got to work.

It wasn’t until Sal started squirming impatiently beneath his touch that Ian realized that this was not a typical meeting. He had been toiling for what felt like ages now and still he wasn’t hard. He frowned a little and tugged a few times at his dick. It usually didn’t take him even half this long to get going; Sal should be snoring by now. His body usually understood how to respond once he was in a sexual situation, and this lack of cooperation was jarring to say the least. He tried again to stir some kind of response and still nothing happened. When Sal began to flip over, Ian panicked.

“I need to use the bathroom,” he said quickly and scuttled off the bed to flee. He closed the bathroom door, leaned against it and stared down at his penis, obviously feeling betrayed. “What the fuck?!” he growled at the stubbornly flaccid organ and tried to get his bearings.

He figured he just needed to calm down and think of some genuinely arousing thoughts. His mind automatically reached for Mickey and Ian balked at it. He could never bring Mickey into this, not with Sal. It just made him feel dirty, guilty, and distracted, not exactly the best emotions to get his dick hard. He tried to think of another erotic image only for his mind to blank completely and his panic grew in earnest.


“Give me a minute,” he yelled, “I, uh, I think I ate something weird.”

He shoved away from the door to frantically rifle through the medicine cabinet, not even sure what he was looking for, but searching anyway. He squatted down to open the cabinet beneath the sink and poked through the towels. To his amazement he found something. Tucked out of sight beneath the towels was a magazine. Ian could already guess the nature of it before he even pulled it out.

Mandate, what the fuck?” Ian couldn’t help a twinge of amusement. He strongly doubted it was Mandy’s, not that he couldn’t imagine her being into that kind of thing, but the magazine dated back to the eighties and almost all the men in it were unrepentantly hairy. Who even still used magazines in this day and age? It was one thing when you were a poor gay kid with little privacy and no ready internet access, Ian had needed his magazines, but Sal had zero excuse to still have these relics hanging about. Still, right now he was desperate and in no position to judge. Besides, page nineteen looked a little like early Van Damme and was one of the few not completely covered in a downy pelt. Beggars could not be choosers.

Sal was waiting patiently for Ian to re-emerge only to get startled by frantic pounding on his door. Before he could even gather his wits to answer, Mickey was bursting in, making Sal scramble to cover himself.

“What the fuck do you think you’re—” he began before Mickey cut him off with bone chilling news.

“We’re getting raided. The Feds are on their way right now,” Mickey said as his eyes swept the room.

“What?” Sal croaked weakly.

“Now, Sal; put some fucking clothes on and get your shit together! Where’s Gallagher?!” Mickey demanded and Sal automatically looked at the bathroom door. Just as he had done before, Mickey pounded frantically on the door before simply barging inside where Ian sat naked on the toilet, desperately trying to get something going with Van Damme-lite. Ian cringed and reflexively tried to cover himself while Mickey’s eyebrows snapped together. “Ian, what the fuck?” Mickey whispered.

“No, it’s not what it—I was just trying to—” Ian stammered.

Mickey waved his arms to stop the flustered chatter. “Doesn’t matter, I don’t care. Get your clothes on, we’re leaving now.” Mickey stomped back out of the bathroom and Ian stumbled out after him. Sal still sat on the bed, seemingly in a daze and Mickey almost took his head off. “Didn’t you hear a word I just said?!” Mickey snapped and tossed Sal’s clothes at him, “Jesus fucking Christ, this isn’t your first time at the rodeo. Get your fucking face on and make sure your house is clean. Flush whatever shit you got. I need to get Gallagher out of here.”

“You’re leaving?!” Sal’s voice climbed while he and Ian yanked on their clothes as Mickey cracked the whip. “Why the fuck are you leaving?!”

“I need to get him out of here,” Mickey said in exasperation as if Sal was the slowest creature on the planet. He was still working with the hopes that the Feds hadn’t sniffed out Ian yet, and Mickey would be fucked if he was going to let Ian become another Polaroid on Fowler’s wall. “You really want Fowler meeting the gay go-go you’ve been banging on the side? Is that really a card you want to hand him?”

Sal nodded as he buttoned his shirt. Of course Mickey was right; Mickey was always right, always thinking ahead—his own chess master. “Yeah, okay…what about the pool house?”

“It’s clean; I always keep my shit clean. Just call me if anything goes down,” Mickey said before snapping at Ian again, “Gallagher!”

“Jesus fuck, alright!” Ian tugged on his boots and hurriedly grabbed his coat and bag. He was about to give Sal his usual goodbye kiss only for Mickey to drag him bodily away before he could.

“Nobody has time for that shit; let’s go,” Mickey grumbled and hauled Ian by the sleeve like a wayward child until they were outside. Ian headed towards the Escalade, but Mickey shook his head and went to the unassuming grey Camry that was also parked in the massive garage. When they got into the car, Ian automatically put his hood up, but Mickey yanked it back down. “If you look like you’re hiding, you’re only going to draw suspicion. You’re fine, they don’t know you; just play it cool.”

Ian had to stop himself from asking a very embarrassing follow up question to that bit of instruction. He buckled up and settled in his seat as Mickey pulled away from the grounds. They hadn’t been driving for five minutes when they saw an uncomfortably familiar flash of lights coming towards them.

“Holy shit,” Ian breathed out at the cavalcade of law enforcement bearing down on them. Ian had seen a few raids in his neighbourhood and had even seen cop cars swarming his own family, but never anything of this magnitude. Cruisers, black vans, unmarked cars all whizzed by in a seemingly never-ending line, all flashing and wailing away. Ian knew it wasn’t simply a case of him being uninitiated because Mickey was next to him quietly losing his shit.

“What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?!” Mickey whispered as the vehicles went by. “They know something. They gotta know something. No fucking way they’re coming this hard without knowing something. What the fuck?!”

The last of the raid disappeared behind them and Mickey still fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat and his nervous energy was seeping into Ian’s bones. A moment later, Mickey’s phone rang and it was Jaime with more ill tidings.

“They’re hitting Lombardo, they’re hitting Spano and Cerone, they’re hitting fucking everybody,” Jaime’s voice boomed across the line, “what is this shit? It’s a literal Bay of fucking Pigs!”

“At the same time?! Are there really this many pigs in Chicago?” Mickey mused out loud, “are they outsourcing this shit? Are they using fucking day labourers from Home Depot? How are they doing this?!”

Mickey hung up on his brother and his fingers tightened around the wheel as his mind spun. Ian could see that familiar tightening around Mickey’s eyes and mouth. It was the same look he got every time he ventured too far outside his comfort zone when they took their rides. The same look Mickey got when he was feeling that near irresistible pull to fall back and return to Sal and the insane quagmire. Ian knew he was right when Mickey finally spoke.

“Maybe I should drop you off at the next bus stop,” Mickey said. “You can get home from—”

“No!” Ian said sharply, surprising Mickey, “take me home,” he demanded. He’d be fucked if he was letting Mickey head back into that shit. Sal would just have to manage on his own. Mickey glanced at the rear-view mirror uncertainly, as if expecting to still see the cruisers behind him. He finally nodded and kept on the path to Ian’s apartment.

When they got there, it was another task and a half for Ian just to get Mickey out of the car and up to his apartment. Once inside, Mickey was clearly agitated and antsy, hovering near the door as Ian tossed down his bag and shrugged off his coat. Mickey eyed his phone and glanced up helplessly at Ian.

“I should get out of here,” Mickey said, but of course Ian was having none of that.

“Why? Why would you go back there right now?” Ian asked, “this has nothing to do with you!”

Mickey looked at him as if he were crazy. “You got amnesia? This has everything to do with me. Somebody has to wrangle Sal. Sometimes his mouth gets away with him.”

“Sometimes your mouth gets away with you too!” Ian said in exasperation. “You told me the last time you went to juvie it was for punching a cop, for fuck sake! Mickey, you’re still on probation. Do you really think it’s the smartest thing to be hanging around a fuck-ton of police and Feds when you don’t even know what kind of shit Sal has lying about in the main house?” Ian pointed out before pressing home as Mickey looked at him uncertainly, “it’s Sal’s property; they’re raiding Sal. He’s the Capo and this is his shit. It’s his responsibility to deal with it, so let him.”

Mickey glanced at his phone again while the dizzying and upsetting possibilities played in his mind. He shook his head and moved for the door. “You don’t understand,” he murmured, “I have to at least see what’s going on—keep a handle on things.”

“Mick, if you leave now…” Ian said, the desperation clear in his voice before he trailed off significantly. It certainly worked to freeze Mickey in his tracks.

“What?” Mickey asked quietly, “if I leave now what, Ian?”

Ian hesitated and decided to back down from the unspoken threat. Instead he tried another tack and went to cup Mickey’s face. “Mick, this is crazy; I am freaking out right now,” Ian said, deciding to be honest about the panic burgeoning inside him. All he could see was Mickey getting tossed back into the jail the moment the Feds set eyes on him. “You can’t leave me here to freak out like this.” He rested his head against Mickey’s and gripped the man’s jacket tightly. “Just stay, please. You told Sal to call if he needed you and he hasn’t. You don’t need to be there right now, but I need you here. Please…”

Mickey’s head still buzzed, but he reached up and stroked Ian’s face and Ian didn’t miss the opportunity to move in for the kiss. He relaxed when Mickey eagerly kissed back and he hugged Mickey close as the kiss deepened. When they broke apart, they were out of breath and their eyes were glazed, and when Ian pulled Mickey towards the bed, the latter did not resist.

Sal was watching his stash of coke and pills swirl down the toilet when the knock came. He panicked briefly about whether or not he had dumped everything, but there simply was no more time. He stumbled down the spiral staircase, wiping his damp palms on his shirt, and opened the door to find Agent Fowler and what appeared to be every federal agent in Chicago at his back.

“Top of the evening to you, Salvatore,” Fowler beamed at him and held the search warrant aloft, “have a warrant here to search your premises on the suspicion of racketeering and a veritable host of other naughty things. Do us a solid and let us in.”

Sal grabbed the warrant to scan it even as Fowler stepped past him, leading the four hundred horsemen of the apocalypse inside with him. Hernandez was right behind her boss, trying not to grin too gleefully while feeling like a kid in a candy store. She pulled her gloves a little more tightly and made a beeline for the stairs and the master bedroom. They were soon swarming his home like cockroaches, touching everything and getting everywhere and Sal’s hand crushed the warrant as beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.

“This is fucking harassment,” Sal growled, “what the fuck am I supposed to be under investigation about this time?”

Fowler clicked his tongue, “come on, Salvatore, are you really going to make me do the whole song-and-dance? You should have memorized the routine by now,” he said with irritating airiness. “Besides, it’s all there in the warrant. You know who I’ve been missing lately? Jimmy Accardo—how’s he been? Seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. He’s one of your drivers right?”

Sal was stone faced, “I don’t know nothing ‘bout Jimmy. He took off weeks ago; figured you fuckers had him.”

“Huh, not to my knowledge,” Fowler shrugged as his agents ripped Sal’s mansion apart, “and Giovanni Talerico, where is that guy?” the agent continued, “wasn’t he one of your small time bookies? What happened there—skimming a little off the top?” Fowler raised a questioning eyebrow as Sal stared at him balefully, but kept his mouth shut. “I don’t know, Salvatore, I don’t know. Your people are just disappearing around you left and right… Maybe you need to run this ship of yours a little tighter, hmm? Just a suggestion.”

Further conversation was cut off by Linda storming into the house, wild-eyed at the scandalous scene of law enforcement vehicles littering her front yard. A small crowd of nosy neighbours and passers-by were milling about, which was utterly remarkable in a community so asocial and private, one could walk the streets screaming for help for hours without notice.

“Linda, it’s been a while,” Fowler greeted her warmly, “you remain a vision.”

“What is the meaning of this?!” she demanded as she took in the chaos of her home with growing horror.

Fowler nodded to the crumpled warrant in Sal’s sweaty hand. “We have been authorized to conduct a search on the suspicion of racket—”

“Was this…spectacle really necessary?!” she raged, “why are there so many of you? This is my home and I want you to stop destroying it!”

“You’re not really in a position to make demands, Mrs. Boerio,” Fowler pointed out to the irate woman and watched her bristle as he delicately used her title, “there’s a saying about lying with dogs and catching the fleas, so I guess what’s happening here is a flea infestation. However, since you asked so nicely,” Fowler raised his voice and addressed his agents as he walked away from Sal and Linda to supervise the raid, “please be thorough and respectful, boys and girls. Remember this is still someone’s home, people.” The moment he said that, there was the sound of a crash from one of the upper rooms. “but accidents will happen,” he called back before disappearing towards the kitchen.

“You,” Linda spat at Sal once most of the agents were out of earshot, “what did you do?!”

“They’re fishing,” Sal grumbled, “they got nothing.”

“You have them in my home ripping everything apart!” Linda accused, “you fucking fix this; prove yourself good for something!” she said before storming up the stairs to investigate the crash.

Agent Hernandez pouted a little as she sorted through the main bedroom. The little hidey-holes she found had already been stripped clean, though she was having a blast tossing the place. The whole house reeked of ill-gotten gains, now only if she could find some solid proof.

“What are you doing?!” Hernandez and the team in the bedroom paused at the furious screech. The wife had come home apparently and Linda was beside herself, “that was a Ming vase!”

“Lady, you wish,” Hernandez scoffed, “that vase was definitely made in China, but it was far more recently. Besides, it was an accident—sorry about that.”

“I wouldn’t expect someone like you to know about these things,” Linda sniped before she went to pick up the pieces of the broken vase. It had been a while since she’d had to deal with this upheaval, though she knew she should have expected it with the current shake-up within the Outfit. As she scooped up the pieces, she was horrified to feel burning tears prickling behind her eyes. She fought them back.

“Someone like me? You mean the federal agent that’s currently crawling up your two-bit criminal husband’s ass?” Hernandez said, deliberately stepping on the piece of vase Linda was about to pick up, “I would really appreciate it if you spoke to me just a little more respectfully, Mrs. Boerio—not every Latina is a member of the help. Now please stop being in the way before you find yourself run in on an obstruction of justice charge vis-à-vis the obstruction of the execution of search warrant. Do you understand that?”

Linda bit her tongue and retreated from her bedroom, wondering when they would finally hit bottom and how she could possibly survive it.

He had worn Mickey out. Mickey had responded to Ian’s desperate fervour with matching passion, clearly just as desperate for a distraction from the current circus. Mickey had finally fallen asleep, depleted, his hand still stretched towards the phone, ready to grab it at the first sound. Ian tried to stay awake to watch him, half-afraid Mickey would creep out the moment he fell asleep. It was one of the times he missed the superpower of his mania, when he could fuck all night and still have the energy to run a marathon.

He rested his head on Mickey’s back and glanced anxiously at the phone lying on the night table, hoping to god it wouldn’t ring. He toyed with the idea of silencing the ringer or turning it off completely, but he knew Mickey wouldn’t forgive him if he did that, especially if Sal or his brothers ended up calling, so he left it alone. He could feel sleep taking over and he cuddled closer to Mickey before he surrendered to it. He blinked slowly and when he opened his eyes again, it was the middle of the night and Mickey was long gone.

Sal had managed to escape arrest this time around, though a couple of his fellow Capos had not been as lucky. It was close to midnight and he sat chain-smoking and drinking at Sandrini’s, unable to face his ransacked house and Linda’s rage. He glanced up when Mickey pulled the chair back from the table to sit with him and poured himself a drink.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Sal sniffed, “where the fuck have you been?”

“Not violating my probation,” Mickey said drily. “Heard they got Cerone and Lombardo, and scooped up a whole bunch of the lower-downs.”

“They’ll get out soon,” Sal said quietly and sipped his drink. Mickey figured he must have popped a downer or two to be this muted. “They’ll get out; business goes back to normal for the most part. Somebody’s singing, Mickey; Fowler was practically throwing it in my fucking face. About Jimmy, Giovanni…somebody’s ratting me out.”

“You shouldn’t have whacked Jimmy Accardo, Sal; now you got the made men squirrelly and pissed off. Why didn’t you run that by me before you ordered the hit?”

“Are you the fucking Capo?” Sal asked him, “since when do I need you to sanction shit? Are you my boss?”

Mickey rolled his eyes. “You didn’t tell me because you knew I’d talk you out of it.”

“He was snitching on me to Tony.”

“Fuck that, he was snitching to Big Tony. What the fuck’s Tony keeping tabs on you for? You think you got something he wants? That was all in your fucking head. You’re the one who taught me the rules, Sal. Not even a Capo can touch a made man without a legit enough reason. Now at least one of your made boys is nervous and singing to the Feds.”

Sal sighed and rubbed his temple with a tired hand. “Don’t lecture me, Mickey. I get enough of that shit at home from my bitch of a wife. I don’t need it from you. What I do need you to do is to find that fucking rat fink. You find him, you flush him out, and you bring him to me. I’ll handle it personally. I’ll shove a fat fucking rat down his throat myself. Can you do that for me?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

“Good,” Sal said and refilled his and Mickey’s glasses, “loyalty seems like the fucking rarest thing lately, but I’ll have it completely and won’t stop cleaning house until I do.”

It was late the following afternoon before Mickey could get all his brothers together to take stock and come up with a game plan. They met at Sandrini’s, not trusting to meet anywhere on Sal’s property so soon after the raid.

“They definitely bugged the place,” Mickey said as he tapped the table top. “No way they came with all that heat just to toss the place and leave empty handed.”

“I saw tech vans in Lombardo’s raid,” Joey nodded.

“We’re going to have to get the place swept and cleaned before we can relax in our own fucking basement again. You get in contact with your geek buddy yet?” Mickey asked Joey.

“Yeah, he said he’ll come tomorrow and sweep for us, but he did say his rates have gone up.”

“Of fucking course they have,” Mickey snorted, not that he minded; it was Sal that was footing that bill. “He better be worth it at the end of the day.” Mickey moved on to the next item of business. “It’s only a matter of time before they hit Sandrini’s and the garages too. We gotta unload all the hot shit we have stashed around here. Dre hooked me up contacts willing to buy our pieces and we can pick up some more ghost guns in Arizona to restock. We gotta do it soon.”

“How soon?” Jaime asked.

“Tomorrow and it’s gonna take about a week on the road. I need one heavy, so which one of you fuckers is coming with me?” Mickey asked his brothers and Tony and Jaime looked at each other.

“I have my kid’s recital in a few days,” Tony began.

“Oh you don’t wanna play that game. You know how much shit I have lined up?” Jaime shot back, “I have PTA and a sit-down with Jayne’s teacher and—”

“Will you two please?!” Mickey snapped and the eldest brothers sighed and decided to play rock-paper-scissors to decide. Tony was rock; Jaime was paper and, thus, the victor.

“Best two out of three?” Tony asked hopefully.

“Fuck you,” Jaime said and then turned to Mickey, “Tony will be happy to go with you. Anything else?”

“Sal wants to handle the stool pigeon himself,” Mickey sighed.

“Yeah, we just gotta find him, bag him and hand deliver him, right?” Iggy sniffed. “You know who it is?”

“Louis ‘Lucky’ Caruso,” Mickey answered, “got his name the same time I got the tip-off about the raid. Didn’t want to tell Sal yet and have him go ape-shit.”

“I always knew Lucky was fucking shady,” Jaime grunted, “well he ain’t so lucky anymore.”

“God, you just couldn’t resist could you?” Tony groaned.

“I am who I am; I make no apologies,” Jaime said, “how soon are we making this happen?”

“As soon as you can without getting caught or jammed up. The longer he’s out there, the more he blabs.”

The brothers finally disbanded and Mickey was left alone at the bar. He covered his face with his hands, once again feeling that ever present noose tightening while he kept sinking deeper into the mess of the mob and Sal and everything that went along with them. He sighed tiredly before he picked up his phone and dialled, craving a little peace and desperate for a taste of freedom and release.

“Hey,” Ian said after he picked up after the first ring, “is everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Mickey said and he wasn’t sure any more whether or not that was a lie. “Wanna go for a ride?”

“Will you hurry up? My ass is freezing,” Mickey griped as Ian took his own sweet time preparing him. The hood of the Mustang was warm from the engine and he pressed the side of his face against it, but his pants and underwear had been shoved down to his thighs and his buttocks were reddening from the cold.

“Don’t be such a baby, you wuss,” Ian said, admiring the sight of Mickey bent over the hood of the car and stroking his ass appreciatively, “I’ll make you hot in a minute.”

“Easy for you to say; I don’t see you with your cock out.”

“Are you crazy? It’s like five degrees out here,” Ian grinned at the back of Mickey’s head.

They had made it back to Milwaukee, to their little hill overlooking the sports field. They used a small copse of trees as a means of cover, but that it was the middle of the night in the dead of winter seemed like insurance enough. Mickey gasped then groaned when Ian eased a couple well-lubricated fingers into him, slowly probing and stretching until Mickey was clenching around his fingers and writhing with impatience.

“Can you do the voyeur shit when we’re somewhere warm, please?” Mickey growled, “just get on me already.”

“Hardly a voyeur when I’m right here in the middle of it,” Ian said as he unzipped his jeans.

“Whatever fucking word you’d use, just haa—” Mickey trailed off into a sharp moan as Ian thrust into him. He bit his lip to keep his voice down and pressed his forehead against the hood of the car as large, warm hands groped his ass and Ian’s hips snapped against him in a quick tempo.

“Fuck me hard,” Mickey begged and he didn’t have to ask twice. He gripped the edge of the hood tightly while the world shrank to just him, Ian and the Mustang on that small hill. When Ian’s hand snaked into his hair to grip it tightly and yank his head back, Mickey marvelled at how perfect it all was and how amazing it felt. There was nothing better than the moment when the bubble formed and they were safe inside it and everything and everyone else were locked outside.

Ian came first, groaning long and low before slumping against Mickey’s back. “Did you come?” he asked huskily and raised an eyebrow when Mickey shook his head. He pulled back and flipped Mickey around to face him. He smirked a little at Mickey’s straining erection and idly trailed his finger up the underside of it from root to tip, making Mickey whine from the sensation and climb onto his tiptoes to follow the feeling.

“Why not?” Ian asked, “you must have been dying to come.”

“I’m not spurting all over my car!” Mickey replied, sounding offended.

Ian rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. “What, you got acid jizz or something? What would it have done to the paint job?”

“Goddamn it, just—” he yanked down hard on Ian’s jacket, forcing the redhead to his knees. Ian laughed as he knelt, teasing his boyfriend just a little bit longer before taking him into his mouth and sucking him off.

Mickey came almost immediately, spilling into Ian’s mouth and sagging with repletion against the hood of his car. Ian got to his feet, grinning irrepressibly at Mickey while he pulled up his pants and zipped them.

“That was alright,” Mickey grinned and licked at the corner of his mouth as he hopped up onto the car and ran a hand through his hair. He hooked his leg behind Ian’s knee and pulled him forward so Ian was standing between his legs and leaning into him.

“I just fucked you on top of the Mustang,” Ian said gleefully, “I can die happy and fulfilled now.”

Mickey snorted, “that’s all you have on your bucket list? I haven’t even shown you the Impala yet and that actually has a backseat.”

“God, you’re right. I’ve been looking at this all wrong. Now I can’t die until I’ve fucked you on and in every make and model of car in existence. How long do you think that should take?”

“A while,” Mickey said, “but a health nut like you should be around forever, with the amount of vitamins and supplements you shotgun every day,” Mickey said, careful to keep his tone light. He glanced up at Ian and saw the easy smile dim.

“Uh, yeah, when you work out a lot and live on a college student’s diet, you gotta make sure you fill in the gaps, you know?” Ian laughed a little awkwardly and Mickey knew a distracting kiss would be coming next. He let Ian kiss him and he let the subject go for now. Whatever the issue was, Ian wasn’t ready to share it and Mickey wasn’t about to push. He just wished he knew if it was something to freak out about.

By the time Ian pulled back, his discomfiture had dissipated; perhaps confident he’d derailed Mickey’s thoughts for the time being. He ran his thumb along Mickey’s lower lip and smiled softly in that way that never failed to make Mickey weak and flustered. Sometimes Ian looked at him as if he was everything, like he was the only thing that mattered in the universe, as if he was whole and clean. It made Mickey’s heart pound and his palms sweat and he squirmed a bit under the look.

“What? What is it now, weirdo?” Mickey huffed.

“I can’t believe you’re actually real sometimes, I swear to god, and you’re here!” Ian laughed and tugged the hood of Mickey’s camo jacket down over his eyes. “Alex told me you were out there and I didn’t really believe her. Now I’m just so mad. Why didn’t you show up from the very beginning? Why weren’t you here from day one?”

“Sorry,” Mickey said, making Ian laugh again at the way Mickey willing enabled his absurdity. “I’m here now though and maybe it was best I didn’t know you from the start. We’d have just ended up being buddies or some shit. Maybe I’d just rob you every day.”

“Nah, we could never be platonic, ever,” Ian said as he head butted Mickey gently, “you’d see me and know immediately that you just had to have me.”

“Please, you looked like a fucking puppy back then; you’d have been too cute to fuck. You probably had fuzzy ears and a tail and shit.” Mickey reached up and tickled Ian’s ears, “I can’t believe you lost it at thirteen; cold fucker who took it should have PETA on his ass.”

“Fuck you, I should have never shown you those pictures. I’ll have you know I was a fucking stallion at thirteen.”

“Gross, you child.”

“Because losing it at fifteen is such a huge improvement?” Ian said against the column of Mickey’s throat.

“Fuck yeah, it is! I was a man at fifteen. You know how much shit I’d done by then? Plus, I never had a cute period.”

“Oh I’m sure—you were born looking exactly like this,” Ian said drily.

“I was.”

“I believe you; your height sure stayed the same.”

“Oh fuck you—” Mickey laughed and was cut off by Ian’s lips covering his again. He kissed back eagerly and gripped Ian’s jacket for balance as Ian pushed against him. They quickly got lost in the moment until Ian heard his least favourite sound in the world—Mickey’s phone going off.

“Are you kidding me?” Ian sighed heavily as Mickey pulled back and retrieved his phone to read the text. He could tell from Mickey’s sigh that their evening was effectively over; the bubble had popped once again.

“I gotta get back to Chicago,” Mickey sighed again.

“Why? Why do you have to go back right this minute?” Ian demanded, “what’s happening back in Chicago?”

“What did I say about asking me about that shit?”

Ian let out a howl of frustration. “I fucking hate that rule! Why can’t I ask you a simple fucking question?! This ‘shit’—” Ian said, pointing at Mickey’s phone, “—is such a huge part of your life. Sometimes I feel it’s your whole life and I’m not supposed to be privy to any of that?”

“I told you before that none of this has anything to do with you and it’s gonna stay that way.”

“But it has to do with me,” Ian yelled back, exasperated, “it’s about you, so it matters to me; ergo, that shit matters to me. There’s this whole side of you I’m not allowed to know at all, that I’m just supposed to ignore? I tell you all my shit—”

“Do you?!” Mickey snapped and Ian faltered a bit.

“Everything that matters,” Ian said far more quietly.

“Well it’s the same with this,” Mickey said and pocketed his phone. “Everything about the business is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know. We just need to figure out how to get you out of this mess with your skin intact and you can put this soul-suck behind you and not look back.”

“And where will you be?” Ian asked pointedly, making Mickey blink at him nonplussed, “when I’m putting this all behind me and leaving this far, far behind…where exactly are you supposed to be? You keep saying that but you never say what will happen to us.”

Mickey rubbed at his lower lip with his thumb in agitation. “Ian, I’m not having this conversation right now. Jesus, can I just deal with this stupid shit before I deal with your stupid shit, because I can’t right now, alright?” Mickey said and got in the car, “so are you coming or would you rather find your own way back home?”

Ian looked to the heavens and counted to ten before he eventually got in the car.

It was a silent ride back—Mickey keeping his eyes on the road and Ian staring wordlessly out the window. After a while, Mickey started glancing over at his passenger, unused to and uncomfortable with Ian staying quiet for so long. There wasn’t even the stubborn jut of his chin that Ian always had when he was pissed off. His boyfriend just looked tired and deflated, and perhaps simply out of things to say.

Mickey wasn’t about to apologize. How could he? What would he be apologizing for—reality? He wanted Ian far away from the deadly quicksand that was the mob life. It was a life he was stuck in and from which there was no viable escape. The only people who were happy and content in this mess were the wise guys at the top and even for them, the power and the plusses were temporary. Prison or the grave—that’s what the life boiled down to for most of them and he wouldn’t wish this mess on his worst enemy, let alone Ian. At some point, they would come to a fork in the road and Mickey knew it was coming and he’d deal with it then, but for now, he just wanted the bubble. He couldn’t bring himself to apologize for that either.

It was both the longest car ride and the shortest, but eventually they pulled up in front of Ian’s building. Mickey glanced at Ian nervously as the engine idled and ran his fingers through his hair. “Do you want me to call you when I get ba—” Mickey trailed off as Ian exited the car mid-sentence, still without saying a word. He swiped a hand across his face and waited until the lights came on in Ian’s apartment before he pulled away.

Mickey changed cars and coats before he set off to one of the empty warehouses down by the docks. He pulled up to the dimly lit building where Jaime was waiting for him outside. He could already hear the dull thuds and smack of flesh laying into flesh as he neared the door, and his brother immediately handed him a pair of gloves.

“How the fuck did you get him so fast?” Mickey asked as he slipped on the gloves.

“Trailed him after he left Sandrini’s tonight… He had come on his own, the dumb fuck. Told you he wasn’t so lucky anymore.”

Tony was already inside, leaning against the wall next to the door as he took in the macabre show that was Sal working someone over.  Lucky Caruso was a bloody mess in the middle of the massive, empty warehouse. There was just the lights and Sal and Lucky’s battered form handcuffed to a chair, whimpering after each blow landed.

It was a rare thing now for Sal to get his hands this dirty, the expert delegator that he had become. So it was easy for Mickey to forget just what a juggernaut he could be when his blood was up. Mickey didn’t know if it was because of, or in spite of the drugs, booze and vice, but once Sal got going he seemed impossible to stop. The gangster was panting hard, but his next blow landed with a sickening crunch and both the chair and Lucky were sent crashing over.

“We were family,” Sal said quietly as he stood over the fallen man. “I sponsored you myself, told Carlisi you were golden. Yet after all this time, you do this?”

Lucky sobbed, whether it was from fear, or pain, or shame, Mickey could only guess. “They had me jammed up, Sal,” the man garbled through a mouth full of blood and broken teeth. He cried pitifully, “I didn’t have a choice, Sal. I didn’t have a choice.”

Sal grabbed the back of the chair and dragged it and its occupant upright with a hard heave. He turned to Tony and held out his hand, and Tony pulled out his gun with its attached silencer. “There’s always a choice, Lucky; you just made the wrong one.”

The brothers knew it was coming, but they all still jolted a bit when the gun went off. It was never like in the movies with the gentle -thwp- of a bullet suppressed by a Hollywood silencer. Death rarely came quietly for people like them and the pop of the gunshot still reverberated through the warehouse. Lucky had been hit squarely in the chest, his mouth gaping open conveniently.

“Where is it?” Sal asked.

Jaime glanced at Mickey before handing Sal the plastic bag that had been resting on the floor, and Sal methodically retrieved its contents and completed his task. A couple days later, Louis ‘Lucky’ Caruso would be found miles away from his murder scene, washed clean, bound and gagged, with a filthy rat shoved into his mouth.

Ian stirred at the sound of the lock on his front door being opened. He twisted to look behind him, not taking it for granted that it had to be Mickey. His boyfriend was surprised to find that he was still awake and their eyes held for a moment before Ian went back to facing the window. He listened as Mickey moved around his apartment, helplessly pleased and soothed by those small, familiar noises—Mickey’s keys and watch falling onto the night table, the slide of fabric as Mickey shed his clothes and the creak of the bed as Mickey climbed into it.

He held out for a while and just kept staring at his shifting curtains, even as Mickey hesitantly edged closer and reached out. When Mickey curled against his back and kissed his shoulder, his resolve melted and he finally flipped over. They stared at each other for what felt like forever and Ian sighed in defeat as he slipped his hand around Mickey’s waist and tugged him closer.

“Long night?” Ian asked, “and don’t worry, that was a rhetorical question.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you,” Mickey said after a while, “it’s just…I need to keep you clean, Ian. I made a promise that I wouldn’t let this shit touch you.” Mickey continued and Ian frowned at how tired and downbeat he sounded. “But I’m not—I’m not clean.”

Clearly something major had gone down that night and he knew Mickey wasn’t at the place to trust him with it yet. Still, there were other parts that could be addressed.

“What does that even mean? I’m not clean, Mick, believe me, that’s the last word anyone should use to describe me. I don’t want you to hold on to this image that I’m something I’m not. Whatever you’re doing is no worse than the shit I’ve done.” Ian frowned when Mickey snorted loudly at his highly dubious claim and squeezed Mickey’s hip. “Don’t use that bullshit to lock me out. I’m not interested in ‘clean,’ I just want to be with you and know you’re okay.”

Mickey didn’t have the slightest clue how to respond to that, so he stayed quiet, shuffled closer and let Ian take care of him.

There was obviously a lot on Mickey’s mind, Ian realized, because the man’s eyebrows had woken up long before he had. Indeed, the first thing Mickey did when he blearily opened his eyes was to run down his insane to-do list. He had to rally his brothers to help him gather all the hot pieces from the stash houses and get them packed up in one of the cars with a large enough hidden compartment. He had to pick up the contact list from Dre and get on Tony’s ass so they could leave by a decent time…

“I love you.”

Shit, there were still collections to do. He’d have to coordinate Iggy, Joey and Jaime to cover all the collections and drop-offs. He wondered if he should gas up the car now or wait until they were on their way. He had to pack some shit and get the cash to cover the ghost gun purchases and trip expenses. He was not sharing a bed with Tony while on the road—not after the last time.

Ian tapped his fingers on Mickey’s chest as the man gazed sleepily at the ceiling. He had been waiting patiently since dawn for Mickey to wake up so he could tell him. He wanted Mickey awake, so there was no mistaking his confession, but not too awake lest he freak out. Maybe he hadn’t gotten the balance right, because it didn’t even seem as if Mickey had heard him.

“I love you,” he tried again, a little louder and more forcefully this time. Mickey merely grunted in what may or may not have been a response. Mickey’s phone then went off, jangling Ian’s nerves even further because when Sal sneezed, it was Mickey who caught the cold. Mickey was up and yanking on his clothes in a flash. Before Ian could even gather his wits, Mickey was climbing back into bed to give him a quick kiss goodbye and was out the door a minute later.

That put Ian’s mood on a steep, downward slide from that moment out. It certainly didn’t improve when Iggy came to get him on Sal’s orders while Mickey and the rest ran about like headless chickens. Sal took one look at the dark look on Ian’s face, smelled the brimstone, and decided to leave him be for a while. Mickey appeared not long afterwards and approached him at his usual spot at the kitchen island after double checking that the coast was clear.

“Hey,” Mickey said softly and let his fingers ghost over Ian’s hand. “I got so distracted earlier that I didn’t even get to talk to you this morning.”

Ian had never felt more pathetic than he did right then, because his black mood evaporated instantly and he could not help the hopeful puppy look on his face. Maybe his confession hadn’t been a bust after all.

“I’m going on a run tonight. Me and Tony will be gone for about a week. I just needed you to know so you don’t form a search party.”

There was a moment of silence as Ian’s expectant look crumbled. “Is that it?” he asked sharply.

“Uh yeah, I guess, um…you want me to bring you back something?”

Ian’s black mood came back with a fury, “no,” he snapped at Mickey as he stood up and gathered his books. “I don’t want anything from you.”

Mickey was left confused and off balance by the venom. “Ian?!” he called after his pissed off boyfriend, but backed off when Sal came trudging downstairs. An hour later, he left with Tony to go on the run without further word with Ian.

Ian ignored Mickey’s texts and calls for the rest of that night and for much of the following day. He was still smarting from the perceived rejection and it didn’t help that he was still having marked difficulty performing with Sal. He ended up claiming an upset stomach and fortunately a half-hearted hand-job was enough to earn him a pass for the rest of the night. He stayed awake in the chair while Sal slept, forced to spend the night while the remaining Milkoviches covered their brothers’ absence. Near midnight, his phone buzzed softly and this time he slipped off to the bathroom to answer it.

“What?” he answered brusquely.

“What did I say about interfering with my business?” Mickey asked, calling from god knows where while he did god knows what.

“I’m not even allowed to ask about it, how the fuck am I interfering with it?”

“I was distracted today,” Mickey told him, “I almost made a mistake. I can’t have that.”

The twinge of alarm and concern he felt was annoying. “Why were you distracted then?”

“Because you’re mad at me for some reason, asshole. I don’t like it when you’re mad; that’s what’s distracting. So what did I do now?”

Ian peeped through the tiny slit he left between the bathroom door and the jamb to check that Sal was still out. He then turned his attention back to Mickey and spoke in a harsh whisper. “How could you not know what you did?!”

“Oh god, can we please not play that game?! It’s hard enough for me to keep up with you as it is. Just tell me, Ian.”

“It’s about what I said to you?”


“I mean, I don’t expect you to say anything back if you don’t want to or if—or if,” Ian faltered a little, “—or if you’re not feeling it or whatever, but it’s a pretty fucking major thing to admit to someone, so the least you could do is acknowledge it a little bit.”

“What are you on about?”

Ian sighed heavily and looked through the slit again, though he could hear Sal snoring defiantly from where he stood. He hesitated to say it again, feeling as if he’d be casting his net into empty waters and he wasn’t sure if he could take the rejection another time.

“I told you I loved you,” he mumbled hurriedly, “and you didn’t say—you didn’t respond.”

“When, which time?”

“What do you mean which time?”

“Ian, you say that shit all the time.”

“…no, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do,” Mickey laughed, “usually right before you come, or right after you come, or during. You never say anything afterwards so I just figured it’s a thing you do. To be fair, you do come off as the type of guy who’d say ‘I love you’ to his dinner.”

“Well I’m not,” Ian murmured, thoroughly confused and suspicious of this revelation. “And even if that were the case, I said it to you yesterday morning and I was most definitely not coming, so…”

“Ah really, fuck, I’m sorry. I was just thinking about a million things; it didn’t even register like that,” Mickey said earnestly, “in my defence, I kinda thought it was pretty fucking obvious. You’re the talker, Ian, you’re comfortable doing that, but not everyone gets to blurt out how they feel every minute or knows how to.”

It was the absolute worst the way his emotions could be changed on a dime like that. He both loved and hated that Mickey had this kind of power. “So…are you saying you do?” he asked tentatively.

“Of course I do,” Mickey said easily, “Ian, I l—”


“Jesus fuck what?”

Ian buried his face in his hand, feeling absolutely ridiculous even while his heart was racing. “Not—not over the phone.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I know, I know, just indulge me okay. I want you to say it in person.”

Mickey sighed, “you nutcase.”

Ian only grinned into the phone as he rocked on the balls of his feet. The word hadn’t stung in the slightest. For the moment, he was bulletproof.

“But you know that I do though?”

“Yes,” Ian said and did his Sal check before he continued, “how long until you come back?”

“Still about a week.”

“Okay, don’t touch yourself until then.”

That came straight out of left field for Mickey. “What?”

“You heard me,” he said, employing Mickey’s phrase, “hands off until I see you.”

“It’s for a whole week though!”

“Don’t be such a baby,” Ian chastised, “you know I’ll make it worth your while.”

This promised to be an awkward conversation, but Ian had to know. He knocked on Gabriela’s door and smiled winningly when the young woman answered her door. They greeted each other warmly before she floated away from her open door as was her wont and he stepped in after her. He decided to get right to it.

“So, um ok, this is going to be kind of a weird question to say the least,” he began and she was clearly all ears. “But, um, when you hear me and Mickey, uh, together, have you ever heard me say ‘I love you’?”

“Oh yeah, you say it all the time,” she responded “usually right around the time you’re sharing your essence with him.”


“Don’t tell me he’s freaked out by it?” she asked, concerned, “because, and don’t get me wrong, you seem like the kind of guy who’d say I love you to a really good burger.”

“Oh okay, I’m really not though,” Ian sighed, “and it’s fine, he’s not freaking out. I just wasn’t aware that I was doing it.”

“That’s not so strange at all,” she said airily, “Victor yells out football plays.”

“So that’s what’s happening. I was wondering how you were playing touch football in an apartment this small.”

“It’s just the raw emotion and purity of the moment, it just overwhelms all sense of restraint and your true thoughts come tumbling out.”

“Like sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much?” Ian asked drily.

“That’s beautiful. You should write that down,” she said and Ian was almost positive half her personality was created just to fuck with people.

“I need to go. Um, thank you, Gabby, for the info.”

“It’s my ongoing pleasure, Ian; nurture nature!”

Now he was positive she was fucking with him.

Four days later, Ian answered a knock at his door to find Mickey leaning tiredly against the opposite wall. He stared at him in shock for a moment, having received no warning that Mickey was coming.

“What are you doing back already?!” Ian asked, immediately reaching for him, “you’re not supposed to be back for another two days.”

“No stopovers, no hotels, barely any pit stops on the way back,” Mickey explained as he was pulled away from the wall by his jacket. “Me and Tony tag team drove all the way home. He’d drive and I’d sleep, then I’d drive and he try to blow the roof off the car,” Mickey yawned, “the way we saw it, if we pushed it hard enough, he’d make it back in time for AJ’s recital and I’d make it back to you.” Mickey smiled and it was honestly the best thing Ian had seen in his life. “Sal doesn’t know we’re back in town, so I figure that buys me a couple days downtime,” he said suggestively. “We’re pretty much running on fumes now, but we’re here. The things we do for love, right?”

Ian only smiled and yanked Mickey the rest of the way inside.

Chapter Text

It was surreal. For weeks his mind had been racing nonstop, almost out of control, and now he was struggling just to get it going. He felt as if he was sinking, somehow still breathing as he went further down into the murky depths. He could feel the water closing over his head as he was submerged and he raised his hand, reaching upwards in a vain attempt to breach the surface.

“Meds doing a real number on you, huh?”

The voice surprised him, floating over to him out of nowhere. He slowly turned his head to see who else was there with him underwater. Ian finally found her, the only other person sitting with him in the tiny waiting area. He didn’t know how he had missed her before. Had she been there when he came in, or had she joined him as he sat zoned out in the shrink’s rundown waiting room? Either way, he was clearly out of it because the girl was hard to miss. Jet black hair in long pigtails, heavy kohled eyes, black lipstick and nail polish; black leather jacket atop a fluffy black tutu with fishnets and tall, heavy, thick-soled boots—the girl was the whole nine yards of Hot Topic and then some.

“I’m Alex, clinically depressed,” she said to him and waved awkwardly, “who are you and what’s your malfunction?”

Malfunction—that was certainly a heck of a way to put it. Maybe that’s what was really happening to him, he was now a malfunctioning human being. For some reason it almost made him laugh. It would have been the first time he’d done that since the involuntary commitment. He’d been out of control, they had told him; he’d been acting like a fucking psychopath, they had said. To him, that was debatable. He had only been defending himself after all.

He had just needed a little money to get out of Chicago—head down to Florida maybe—and he had bartered some of his time and company for the cash. The jackass had gone too far, suddenly demanding way more than Ian had been willing to give. So Ian had dropped him—he honestly hadn’t realized how hard he’d been hitting—had taken the man’s keys, jumped in his car, and was out of there like a bat out of hell.  

He had felt as if they were after him the second his foot touched the gas, and suddenly they were all coming: the cops, the army, demons, everyone and everything. He had floored it, determined to never look back, never let them catch him, escape all this shit somehow. It wasn’t until he heard the piercing cries that he even realized there was a baby in the backseat. Somehow he had missed the infant completely, just as how he had missed the young woman now.

“I’m Ian and they say I’m bipolar,” he said thickly and stared up at the ceiling, weighed down under the heavy blanket of calming and stabilizing medication. All he could think about was whether or not he would ever surface again.

“‘They say,’ huh? Yeah, it’s going to be hell for a while accepting that shit,” Alex said and stared down at the shiny buckles on her boots, “me, it’s depression and dysphoria and maybe even a personality disorder or two, because why the fuck not?”

Ian let his head loll to the side so he could stare at her for a moment, “dysphoria?”

“Oh, it’s like there’s something about your body you really hate and it kinda fucks with your head,” she informed him.

He looked at her some more and felt slightly perplexed, “but you’re really pretty.”

She giggle-snorted, much to her mortification and quickly looked away. She was—as ever—a complete mess around attractive men. As stoned and jaded as Ian was at the moment, he was as attractive as they come.

“Yeah well, thanks, but it’s not so much my face that’s bothering me as it is my dick.”

It was amazing how uniform the reaction to that reveal could be across the board. Ian, evidently dosed up to his hair and tripping balls, still did the squint and lean she’d come to expect from the uninitiated, as if they were searching for some sort of clue or confirmation.

“You’re a dude?”

Alex let out an exasperated, pained laugh. “No, I’m not, so that’s kind of the problem.”

“Oh, sorry,” Ian said and went back to slumping tiredly in his chair.

“She’s pretty good, you know, Dr. Lester,” Alex offered up again, feeling weirdly chatty and eager to engage this barely conscious individual. “She’s tough, but she’s sweet and cool, and she’ll tweak the meds so you don’t feel like a freaking zombie all the time.”

Ian shrugged at the endorsement for it was neither here nor there. Dr. Lester accepted Medicaid and met the requirements of his conditional release, and that’s all he cared about. Still, it would be nice to re-emerge from Zombie land and maybe somehow manage to breach the surface again.

It always felt like coming up for air when they were together like this. He braced over Mickey and squeezed his thigh before he dipped his head and brushed his lips over Mickey’s ribcage. Mickey gasped and arched up towards him, straining against the tie binding his hands to the headboard.

“Keep that up, idiot, and you’re going to rub your wrists raw,” Ian warned as he pushed Mickey back down into the bed. He dragged his tongue over Mickey’s nipple, then nipped down along his ribcage as he worked his way towards his boyfriend’s pelvis.

“When are you going to let me go?” Mickey whined, instinctively thrusting upwards as Ian’s chest brushed against his cock.

“Never,” Ian thought to himself and planted a kiss right above Mickey’s happy trail.

“Why won’t you untie this shit already?” Mickey said again as he tugged against the tie. It was one of his that Ian had pilfered one early morning when Mickey had been running too late and was far too replete to reclaim it. He had left Ian with the tie, never once imagining the plans Ian had in mind.

Ian wasn’t about to untie Mickey any time soon if he could help it. He wanted to be slow and thorough and Mickey would soon become self-conscious about the intense attention Ian was paying to his body and grow impatient. The minute Mickey’s hands were free, he’d try to shift things into overdrive and Ian would give in too easily. Right now all he wanted to do was worship, so Mickey would remain bound.

“You don’t like it?” Ian asked, looking up at Mickey after nipping at his hip.

Mickey squirmed, his face reddening under Ian’s heated gaze. He made the hottest picture to Ian, from the flush of his face to the bulge of his biceps and the way his chest heaved from arousal. “I didn’t say that,” he murmured.

Ian smirked and surged over Mickey until their faces were only a breath apart. “Do you like it then?”

Mickey didn’t answer out loud, but rather arched to press his body against Ian’s, licking his lower lip languidly and looking at him softly. It was as clear an answer as any. Ian slipped his hand between Mickey’s thighs and gently massaged his testes and rubbed his thumb over Mickey’s perineum. He teased Mickey a little by pushing his middle finger inside him, where he was warm, slick and loose, and waiting. Ian quickly pulled his finger back out.

“Tell me how you want it,” Ian whispered as his hand brushed the root of Mickey’s cock and the blue eyes fluttered closed. “You want it hard and fast?” Ian asked and Mickey bit his lip hard as he thrust into Ian’s grasp. He nodded eagerly and moaned as Ian slowly pumped his erection. Still, Ian made no immediate move to mount him. Instead, Ian jerked him off slowly and firmly while lying alongside him and bit gently into Mickey’s bicep before nuzzling his ear. “You always say you want it hard and fast, but when I take you nice and slow, you come just as hard. Be honest, how do you want it?”

“Any way you want to give it to me,” Mickey moaned and he could feel Ian’s smile against his cheek. In the next moment, Ian was on top of him and between his thighs and pushing into him, leaving them both breathless.

“That’s so good,” Ian gasped and grasped the headboard as he rocked into Mickey, “that was the perfect answer. You’re so good; so perfect,” he stroked Mickey’s face with his free hand, and Mickey captured his thumb to suck on it. He groaned when Mickey wrapped his legs around his hips and his pace quickened. “I always want it to be good for you,” he told Mickey and pulled his hand away from Mickey’s face so he could grip his hip. Their breathing grew harsher and heavier, and soon the familiar protest from the bed started up again.

Ian gripped the headboard as he rode Mickey hard, relishing Mickey’s loud cries and groans of pleasure. “Don’t come,” he ordered Mickey and gripped the base of Mickey’s cock, “not until you’re in my mouth,” he said. He wasn’t even sure if Mickey heard him. The man’s eyes were closed and his head was thrown back and he was as lost as Ian was to the overwhelming sensation of it all. Ian came with a harsh grunt of Mickey’s name and collapsed in a heap on top of him.

Mickey gave him a second to rest before an impatient squirm reminded Ian that he still had a job to do. Ian shuffled backwards and gave Mickey’s leaking erection an appreciative lick before sucking lightly on the head of it and ultimately sucking Mickey down entirely. He watched Mickey closely as he sucked him off and when Mickey’s bruised lips parted and his body tensed, Ian was more than ready for what came next.

“Seems about right,” Ian said after he swallowed, “guess you were obedient after all.”

“Oh fuck off, you can’t tell like that,” Mickey snorted as Ian crawled up to him. “I mean yeah I was, but you can’t tell like that.”

Ian simply wiggled his eyebrows, “some people can read palms, some people can gauge volumes of bodily emissions. Don’t question my talents.”

“You’re so gross,” Mickey said softly and watched the dissipation of Ian the dominant, and the return of the eager, smitten puppy. Mickey honestly didn’t know which one he loved more. Ian undid the knots in the tie and freed Mickey before settling on his chest and gazing up at him, grinning dopily the whole time. Mickey flexed his wrists and arms a little and promptly grabbed Ian by the hair and hauled him up for a kiss. Ian readily complied and by the time he pulled back, they were both buzzing.

“Hi,” Ian sighed happily and Mickey had to roll his eyes as he laughed.

“How are you this lame? You’re too hot to be this lame.”

“I’m lame, but you love me,” Ian said as he settled beside Mickey and cuddled him close.

“Yeah,” Mickey murmured, “yes I do, asswipe.”

Ian was still fast asleep when Mickey was sitting up in bed examining his deeply wrinkled tie. If anyone had told him a few months ago that he would willingly let someone tie him to a bed for whatever reason, he would say they were insane. Now, his cock twitched at the sight and feel of the silk and he glanced at Ian who was still flat on his back, sleeping the sleep of the innocent. Mickey ran his fingers over the tie and went through a quick mental checklist of all the things he had done with Ian that he would have thought unimaginable before. It was a pretty long list and getting longer and more extreme each day. He glanced over at Ian again and kicked him awake.

“The fuck?” Ian grumbled and Mickey unceremoniously dropped the tie onto his face. Ian picked it up and looked questioningly at Mickey.

“I wasn’t sure if I liked it,” Mickey lied blatantly, bringing out Ian’s knowing smirk, “let’s try it again to make sure.”

It wasn’t long before Ian was inside Mickey again, thrusting in deep, measured strokes while Mickey babbled his name beneath him. He sat back and hooked his arms under the back of Mickey’s knees, almost lifting the man clear off the bed at times. He took his time and rocked forwards, burying himself to the hilt with each thrust.

“Oh fuck…oh fuck,” Ian gasped as the tension built. As he continued, something caught his attention from the corner of his eye, a slight movement through the curtains on the street below. Distracted, he turned his head a little to make out what it was and his heartbeat quickened at the sight because he was just as conditioned to the Escalade as he was to the Mustang. It took him a second to realize the problem, because there was no way Mickey could be parking that car downstairs when he was tied to Ian’s bed. Mickey didn’t even have a car at the moment; Tony had simply dropped him off. His rhythm stuttered and stalled as he watched the Escalade park, and when the doors opened, he immediately lost his shit. “Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh FUCK!” he said frantically as pulled out of Mickey and tumbled off the bed.

“Wha—What’s happening?” Mickey said dazedly, slowly surfacing from the fog of arousal.

“Sal!” with Jaime as his driver to boot.

Mickey blinked uncomprehendingly, but it soon hit him like a ton of bricks as he watched Ian haphazardly tugging on clothes. “What?! Here?! Now?!” Mickey tried to get up but nearly ended up pulling his arms out of socket. “What the fuck are you doing? Get this shit off me!”

“Oh shit, fuck!” Ian said and dived back onto the bed. In his haste and nervousness, he fumbled terribly with the knots. What was worse, every time he loosened one, Mickey in his own panic would tug hard and tighten them again. “Jesus, Sal must be in the elevator by now!”

Sal was indeed in the elevator and on his way up, though somewhat hampered by Jaime inexplicably hitting all the buttons up to Ian’s eighth floor. Sal was nonplussed.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” he asked Jaime.

“Huh?” Jaime said and followed Sal’s pointed stare to all the lit numbers, “oh shit, didn’t even realize that I did that. It’s a thing I do with Jayne, you know, press all the buttons when the elevator is empty,” Jaime said, laughing awkwardly.

“Oh,” Sal grunted and scratched the back of his neck, “kids can be fucking weird. Uh, how are your kids?”

“They’re good, they-they’re real good, Sal. JJ’s starting preschool and Jayne’s deep into her princess phase.”

“Heh, prepare yourself because the princess phase never fucking ends. It might evolve, but it never ends.”

When they finally made it to the correct floor, Jaime let out a colossal, door-rattling sneeze as they stepped off the elevator. Sal immediately shied away from him, startled and fearing germs. “The hell?”

“Allergies,” Jaime explained, “something on this floor just got to me.”

Ian had just managed to free Mickey when the cannon blast of a sneeze froze them. “Shit, Jaime, they’re on the floor!” Mickey said and scrambled off the bed. He hustled to gather up his clothes and belongings, but Ian ended up shoving him into the bathroom and tossing his things in after him.

Ian dove to cover his bed with his comforter, concealing the sweaty, rumpled sheets from view. He opened the window and welcomed the blast of chilly air to hopefully flush out the scent and heat of sex, and shock him into calming down. He jumped at the heavy knock on the door and he decided to quickly light some incense just in case.

“Uh, who is it?” he asked as his head whipped around, looking frantically for any signs of Mickey he may have missed.

“It’s the plumber, I’ve come to fix the sink,” Sal sang out.

Ian gave one last nervous look towards the bathroom before he took a steadying breath and went to open the door. Opening it to find Sal and Jaime filling his doorway and boring holes into him would have probably killed him if he hadn’t been ready. “Jesus, Sal, what the fuck are you doing here?”

“I’m over the moon to see you too, sunshine,” Sal said, rolling his eyes, “am I allowed to come in?”

Ian backed up and Jaime surprised Sal by quickly stepping inside first. “Why the fuck are you even here right now?” Sal asked, growing exasperated with his driver. Mickey needed to haul his ass back from wherever the fuck he was before Sal ended up murdering his moron brothers out of sheer annoyance. Jaime winced a little but did a quick sweep of the tiny studio.

“I’m just making sure it’s all clear, Sal,” Jaime said as he used his body to block Sal’s view of the nightstand where Mickey’s watch lay exposed while Ian’s matching one rested on the other stand. “Times are crazy, you know? Mickey said to sweep everywhere—can’t be too careful.”

Sal rolled his eyes and went over to Ian while Jaime stealthily tucked away the lingering signs of his brother. “Some family of mine is here from the Old Country, couple neighborhoods over. Honestly, I’d rather go to them than have them come to me. I swear to god, it’s like they stepped out of the eighteen hundreds; fucking goat herders,” Sal sighed, “coming so close, I thought I’d come see you, and then it occurred to me, I’ve never seen the inside of this place.”

“Ah well nothing much to see,” Ian shoved his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants and looked around. Sal grunted his agreement and it was obvious the apartment was not to his taste. The older man did a poor job of hiding his disdain and despite the peril of the situation, Ian couldn’t help but bristle defensively. “This is as good as it gets for a Southside college kid with no money.”

“Nah, you’re meant for far better things,” Sal said and patted Ian on the cheek, “it’s freezing in here. Why the fuck would you have the window open?”

“Uh, Sal, we should probably get going, you still have that meeting later—” Jaime began hesitantly.

“Why the fuck are you still in here?! Get out!” Sal roared and Jaime clapped his mouth shut. He slowly drifted towards the door, still not quite making it to the other side when Sal turned his attention back to Ian.

“Unfortunately, Curly the Stooge over there is right. I can only drop in on you for a second; got so much shit to do before the day’s done,” Sal said distractedly as he ran his hand up Ian’s forearms. He seemed to be saying goodbye and Ian was on the cusp of relief when Sal made his heart stop. “That your bathroom? I need to take a piss before I get outta here.”

Ian sputtered incoherently as Sal walked over to the bathroom, opened the door and stepped inside. He could only stare, horrified, as Sal locked the door behind him, and Ian fisted both his hands in his hair. Jaime caught on to the dilemma immediately.

“He’s in there?” Jaime whispered harshly and Ian’s ashen face was answer enough. They both stared helplessly at the door, at a total loss as they waited for the explosion. Jaime’s hand hovered over his concealed gun, wondering just what the fuck he was going to have to do within the next few seconds.

Mickey’s heart plummeted into his guts when he heard the door open and the all too familiar plod of Sal’s footsteps coming inside. He was clad only in his boxer-briefs, gripping his belongings for dear life as the cold of the small bathtub bit into his bare soles. He was hidden from detection only by the sad shower curtain and when Sal’s arm brushed against it, he honestly didn’t know how his knees didn’t give out. He held his breath and prayed to every god he’d ever heard about that nothing slipped from his grasp or his stomach didn’t growl or any such shit. His heart thundered so hard in his chest, it had to be a miracle that Sal had yet to hear it.

Sal cleared his sinuses loudly and tried to make himself as small as possible in the confined space. He hated places like this: cramped, grimy, rundown; it made his skin crawl. There seemed almost no way to make these places seem clean, even though he knew Ian kept himself and his surroundings as spotless as possible. Still, everything looked and felt gross to him and the closeness of the quarters made him hyperaware of his own bulk and awkwardness as he moved. He didn’t want to come in contact with anything, didn’t want to inhale the air. Now he remembered why he’d never made the trip up here to see Ian, it was obvious from the neighbourhood and the rundown façade that this apartment would be a piece of shit. He was doing Ian a favour every time he summoned him to the pool house. He used his knuckle to flush the toilet and tried to figure out the best way to manoeuvre out of the bathroom untouched.

Mickey bit his inner cheek as he listened to Sal unzip and relieve himself, cringing a little as the man obnoxiously passed gas and muttered unintelligibly to himself. He heard the toilet flush, and between holding his breath and his nerves fraying under the tension, Mickey could feel himself vibrating. He waited in exasperation for his boss to simply leave, but the man was making a slow and deliberate effort to back out of the bathroom and Mickey was close to losing it. Sal brushed the curtain hard, coming millimetres from coming in contact with Mickey and the mobster swore at his clumsiness while Mickey’s heart stopped. After what felt like an eternity, Mickey heard the bathroom door open and Sal finally exit.

Sal wiped his hands on his coat as he came out of the bathroom and looked up to see Ian and Jaime staring at him as if he had emerged from another dimension. “What? I washed my hands,” he said defensively. Those pipes were probably the worst harbingers of germs. His cashmere coat was definitely the cleaner alternative. He walked over to Ian and grabbed his chin, “I’ll see you in a day or two, alright?” he said softly and pulled Ian in for a kiss.

Ian looked over Sal’s shoulder to the bathroom door while the man kissed him. He wondered if Mickey was still alive in there. He also wondered, somewhat perversely, just how much of Mickey Sal was tasting on his lips right now. He gave Sal a small smile when the man pulled back and Sal affectionately rubbed his thumb along Ian’s jaw line.

“I’ll see you, kid,” Sal said.

Ian watched breathlessly as the two men exited the apartment. Ian paused for a second before he ran to the door and quickly locked and latched it before deflating in a dramatic heap. He then ran to the window and watched unblinking until Sal and Jaime got into the car and finally drove away. Even then, he didn’t trust himself to move, and stood staring out the window for a few minutes more until he was fairly certain they wouldn’t suddenly double back. He finally went to the bathroom, half wondering if Mickey had flushed himself down the toilet, and knocked on the door.

“Mick, they’re gone,” his voice came out in a croak. About a minute later, the door slowly opened and Mickey came out, still clutching his clothes against his chest. They stared at each other wordlessly until Mickey finally spoke.

“Holy shit,” Mickey whispered and Ian nodded slowly in agreement before he cracked—snickering as the adrenaline from the terror and tension coursed through his veins. Soon, Ian was full on laughing and Mickey stared at him incredulously until his own lips began twitching and before long, he was howling right along with Ian.

“Oh god,” Ian said as he came down and rubbed his hands over his face in disbelief, “that was so fucking close. He came this close…we came this close.”

“Yeah” Mickey said, panting from the exertion and realization. He stared at Ian wide-eyed, “yeah.”

Ian stared back and when Mickey finally released his viselike grip on his clothes and came towards him, Ian already had the same idea. They lunged for each other and met in a clash of tongues and teeth, and hands fisting desperately into each other’s hair. Ian let go of Mickey’s hair long enough to grab the back of his thighs and tackle him to the floor. They crashed to earth with a shared grunt and spent the rest of the afternoon getting rid of the residual nervous energy.

On the morning of the second and last of his stolen days, Mickey awoke to the smell of bacon and to the sight of pills—lots of pills—prescribed ones from the look of them. He rubbed his eyes and curiously reached for one of the bottles. From what he could see, they were all prescribed to Ian and Mickey briefly wondered if Ian had a small prescription pill racket the way Iggy did, but he’d never heard of anyone getting high off lithium.

“You’re awake,” Ian said when Mickey sat up in bed, and he could already hear the nerves in Ian’s voice. Ian turned the stove off and set the last batch of bacon to drain. He quickly covered up the massive breakfast he’d made as he anxiously waited for Mickey to wake up, and went to sit on the bed.

“What’s all this?” Mickey asked as he examined another bottle.

“They’re, uh, they’re my medications for my, um, my bipolar disorder,” Ian cleared his throat and fidgeted when Mickey looked up at him. “Those are some of the vitamins you saw me taking. I used to pour them into some empty supplement bottles I had, but I figure it’s time I stopped doing that.”

“Bipolar?” Mickey asked slowly, sussing the word out, “bipolar? Is that like that manic-depressive shit?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s exactly that, only they don’t call it that anymore,” Ian replied, “it’s bipolar now.”

Mickey frowned at Ian then back down at the pills, trying to process this new information. “What does that mean exactly?”

“Uh, like before I started taking my meds properly, I’d have some pretty extreme mood swings. I’d just get really high sometimes, do some truly crazy shit, or I’d get pretty depressed the other times, might not get out of bed for weeks,” Ian said. He kept his eyes trained on his hands in his lap, but could still see Mickey’s eyes widen in alarm and that triggered Ian’s torrent. Once the babble started, it was impossible to stop. “I should have told you earlier, but it’s just—it’s a pretty major thing to lay on somebody and it never felt like the right time to do it and I didn’t want you to freak out or think that I was damaged goods or something. I’m even now…these last couple years, I’ve been really good. I’ve been taking my meds and going to therapy and I’ve been holding it together really well. It’s not—” Ian faltered briefly, “you don’t have to worry about me going nuts or anything.”

Mickey didn’t say anything. He slowly rolled the bottle of pills in his hands as he took his time unpacking and examining each piece of the information dump. Of all the things he had been imagining, this hadn’t been anywhere on the list. The closest he’d come to meeting anyone who had issues like that had been in jail, and most of them had been in the middle of bouncing off the concrete walls or walking around like zombies.

“I’m even,” Ian said, the desperation growing in his voice as Mickey’s silence persisted, “it’s under control. I mean, I’m not going to lie, I still have off days, you know? Even on the meds I can have days when I’m a little too hyper or I’m dragging a bit, and there are some side effects,” Ian said as his fingernails dug  into his thigh, “my concentration is kinda fucked sometimes and things can get a little random, but you’ve already been through all of that with me without even knowing. I mean this is me, this is-this is how I really am now. I just wanted to be honest with you; I’m not going to suddenly go Jekyll and Hyde or anything.”

“How long will you have to deal with this?” Mickey asked, finally breaking his silence.

To Ian, it was possibly the worst first question Mickey could toss at him, because there was no way to present the answer in a way that didn’t sound incredibly fatalistic. “My doctor says I probably won’t have to deal with it as aggressively after about thirty, forty years,” Ian said mutedly. The silence that fell next was crushing. Ian could hear the faint rattle of the pills as Mickey shifted and chanced glancing at his boyfriend to see him wipe a hand over his face and stare unseeingly out the window, clearly overwhelmed. Ian chewed his lower lip and stared back down at his hands and felt that burning sting behind his eyes. “I should have told you earlier.”

“Are there things I’d have to do?” Mickey asked, “like when you’re having those off days?”

Ian looked at Mickey for a moment, trying to gauge what he was thinking. “I don’t know. I’ve never really had anyone there like that to notice when I’m having those days. I guess we’d just go with it. But, um, if the off days go on too long, then it maybe means it’s time for me to get my meds adjusted. It’s kind of a trial and error thing.”

“Trial and error?” Mickey echoed, “why is it trial and error? They don’t know the right way to treat this shit? You’re not a fucking lab rat!”

“It’s just how it is,” Ian said quietly, “can’t be helped—any of it. It’s just the way it is.”

Mickey stared at the pills in his hand for a while longer and then carefully put them back on the nightstand. “Yeah, okay,” Mickey said after a moment and ran his fingers through his messy hair. Now he would have to add bipolar disorder to the top of the list of things he had to research, but for now, he was starving. “What did you make for breakfast?”

Ian could only stare. “‘Yeah, okay?’ You’re really going to ‘yeah, okay’ this?” Ian said shakily, nodding to his pills, “are you fucking serious right now?”

Mickey looked at the pills then back at Ian, “what do you want me to say? It’s heavy but we’ll deal, right? Besides, after dealing with Sal’s prescriptions and his mood swings, I think I can get a handle on your shit real quick,” Mickey said, rubbing his hand in his hair before he smiled at Ian, “Bipolar or whatever, you’re still the most stable fucker in my life right now. So if it gets a little dicey, I can handle it.”

Ian nodded wordlessly and turned back to stare down at his hands again. It wasn’t until Mickey grabbed him by the neck and pulled him down into the bed, that Ian realized he had started to crumple. He stared at the ceiling and tried to steady his breathing to calm down while Mickey lay close to him and stroked his face. He closed his eyes and began to relax as Mickey’s thumb swiped soothingly across his cheek.

“What’s going on?” Mickey asked.

“I’ve wanted to tell you for a while,” Ian said after a while, “but I was so fucking scared you’d freak out about it. It hasn’t always gone so well when I had to tell people. So I’ve been kind of stressed out about hiding it and how you’d react, but you said ‘yeah, okay.’” Ian said and laughed at the wonder of it all.

Mickey sighed. “Alright look, I’m not gonna tell you that this isn’t freaking me out a little. It’s pretty fucking major, but then I also spent the last few weeks wondering if you had secret cancer or something like that,” Mickey shrugged when Ian looked at him askance, “Carlisi dying had me a little spooked. He used to chew pills like candy too before he went down for the count. But come on, it’s you,” Mickey told him, “doesn’t really matter to me what you’ve got going on, I’ll always say ‘yeah, okay.’”

Ian snorted softly and wriggled closer, “you’re such a dumbass,” he sniffed at Mickey.

“Yeah well, what I really am is starving. That shit must be ice cold by now. Are you feeding me or what?”

“Jesus, okay,” Ian huffed and rolled off the bed to reheat their breakfast.

A young woman got on the elevator with her laundry cart at the seventh floor and regarded Mickey closely as she entered. She was a little surprised to see him so dressed down. She usually only saw him in two modes: looking sharp and pristine in his suits as he headed up in the elevator, and looking rumpled but sated as he made his way back down. He was smiling a little to himself and looked as if he was a million miles away, but if she had to guess, his mind was probably just back on the eighth floor. The college student pushed back her massive headphones and swept a hand through her messy hair.

“So you’re one of the guys freaking out my grandma,” she said.


“You and the redhead. Bubbe thinks you guys are in some sort of fight club.”

Mickey’s lips twitched, “a fight club, really?”

The girl shrugged and grinned, “she just saw the movie and she’s freaking out. I guess you guys give her Brad Pitt/Edward Norton vibes, but ‘oy gevalt! It’s just the worst thing!’ I told her you guys are probably just fucking or whatever, but I don’t think that’s terrifying enough for her and her rampant paranoia.”

“Ah, okay…”

“So which is it?” the young woman asked pointedly, “are you in a fight club or are you just fucking?” she said while staring pointedly at the redness around Mickey’s neck. She had to admit, it could easily go either way.

“Are those my only two options?” Mickey said wryly and the girl shrugged.

“Pretty much.”

The elevator doors finally opened on the first floor and Mickey simply clicked his tongue before he stepped off. “Can’t talk about it.”

The girl laughed and slipped her headphones back on as she headed to the laundry in the basement. She should have guessed. After all, the first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.

Jaime was at the corner waiting to pick up his brother and glared half-heartedly at Mickey when he finally climbed in. Mickey caught the look and rolled his eyes.

“Don’t look at me like I made a fucked up decision. He never comes there—ever! I don’t know what the fuck possessed him to now.”

“Well for what it’s worth, I don’t think he’ll be returning any time soon,” Jaime admitted, “he was a little antsy about seeing his relatives, I think. I guess he figured Gallagher could settle him down a bit. The power this ginger dick has over the two of you, I’ll never understand.”

Mickey snorted softly, “yeah, wish I could explain it to you, but I can’t.”

Jaime only grunted as he piloted the car back to the North side. He soon gave Mickey a sidelong glance. “So…shit yourself?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, holy shit, if I hadn’t been giving my sphincter muscles Olympic level training all these years…”

Jaime burst out laughing and Mickey immediately joined him. They spent much of the journey comparing notes, trying to determine just who had been closer to hearing the brown note.

“I begged off for today, but I know Sal’s going to want to see me tomorrow and I am just not ready,” Ian moaned to Alex when they met after class to head to work together.

“Still having difficulties?”

“It is the fucking worst. I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. Nothing like this has happened to me since I first started taking my meds. Plus, I pretty much stayed hard for the entirety of the past two days, so something is fucked up somewhere!”

“Nothing is wrong with you, idiot,” Alex laughed, “I know a lot of your identity and self-esteem are tied up in your sexuality and sexual prowess, but this is not a dysfunction and you’ll feel better if you stopped viewing it that way.”

“If it’s not a dysfunction, then what the fuck’s going on?!”

Alex looked at her friend askance, “I would think it’s kinda obvious. The days of auto-erecting to bang dudes for whom you have little or no physical attraction are over, babe. For my money, your dick has finally caught up with the rest of you and is now officially monogamous.”

Ian groaned aloud to the heavens. “It was the fucking planetarium, I know that’s it. Fucking supernovas and Big Bangs; I’m starting to think he did this on purpose in some kind of Machiavellian dick sabotage!”

“‘Dick Sabotage’ is going to be the name of my misandrist, heavy metal garage band. Or maybe it should be my superhero name. You could be my sidekick, ‘Cock Blocker.’”

Ian snorted derisively and got his card ready for the approaching bus.

“Since it seems like Sal gets off on you being mean to him, have you considered being really nice instead? Alex suggested. “Maybe that would put him off.”

“You don’t think I tried that? It just agitates my gag reflex.”

“You still have your gag reflex?” Alex raised her eyebrows in comical surprise as they boarded the bus.

Ian grinned, “believe me, I’m just as surprised as you are. I thought Roger Spikey destroyed that shit.”

They were both on cashiering duty and Ian waited until there was a lull in the stream of customers to fill Alex in on the rest of his news.

“So I came clean to Mickey about being bipolar,” he said, keeping his voice as low as possible.

Alex was thrown for a loop. “You did?!” she exclaimed. She knew how fiercely guarded Ian was about his condition and how he much he still struggled with the guilt and shame over the consequences. “Well, uh, how did he react?”

“He didn’t run screaming for the hills which was already way more than I was hoping for,” Ian said, his smile luminous, “but he was actually pretty great. He was amazing actually. We spent the whole day talking about it after he’d stopped whining about breakfast. I answered all his questions as best as I could and I pretty much told him everything. At some points I kept thinking he’d bolt, but he never did.”

“Wow,” Alex muttered, still stunned by the development, “I guess I never realized just how far along you were with trusting him like that.”

“Yeah well, I felt it was time. He knew something was up and I was getting really paranoid about not keeping my pills in the correct bottles. Besides, I figured I’d take a shot on trusting him. He did say he loves me.”

Alex was flat-out gaping at Ian. If she had thought his smile couldn’t get any bigger or brighter, she would have been mistaken. “He told you he loved you? Just out of the blue?”

“I said it first,” Ian confessed, “apparently I’d been saying it for a while now. When I did it on purpose though, he didn’t say anything at first. He told me he thought it was obvious, like sure. The whole thing was a fucking mess, but it was amazing.”

Alex shook her head slowly. “So naturally, you’re even more invested than ever. Jesus, Ian.”

Ian’s brow knotted, confused by her strange reaction. “What?”

“I just—” Alex sighed and tried to arrange her thoughts. “You just keep doing the most and digging yourself deeper and deeper into this! You know I support you and I want you to be happy, but this! Every day I keep hoping that maybe this will be the day you realize the totality of your situation and maybe try and take a step back and shield yourself a little, maybe create a little distance. Jesus, why would you tell him you love him?!”

“Because I do?” Ian said slowly, “what’s the problem if he loves me back?!” His spine straightened as Alex groaned in exasperation.

“It’s just a word, Ian, and not everyone holds it in the regard you do. What are the odds he just said it to avoid problems and make his life a little easier?”

“Oh wow,” Ian huffed softly.

“I’m not trying to be hurtful, but Jesus, Ian, I just want you to take a step back and see the forest for the trees a little. I don’t doubt Mickey cares about you, but I’m scared you’re investing way too much and the returns simply won’t be there. Of course he’s okay with the fact that you’re bipolar, he probably won’t be around long enough to ever see it surface. Yes, he’ll say he loves you because you can tie his dick in knots and you’d be pissed off and distant if he left you hanging,” she said, “he’s told you himself that the moment there’s a way to get you out, it’s going to be sayonara Salvatore and Mickey, and yet there’s this cognitive dissonance that persists where you just pretend as if you haven’t heard or processed any of that and it’s bordering on delusional. And now you’re going to commit yourself even further just because he parroted some emotional bullshit back to you and love and feelings, really?  I just wish you’d wake up!”

A customer appeared and an awkward silence quickly fell. Ian plastered on a plastic smile and welcomed the dubious man into the palpable tension. Ian cashed his goods and thanked him for shopping, and the silence reigned for a while after the man had left.

“I know that you’re cynical about the whole emotional thing because people have been disappointing you your whole life and I get that, people have been disappointing me too. You said you wanted me to have heat and passion, well I don’t think I can have that without the rest of it. I’m really into that ‘emotional bullshit,’ it’s just how I am. You can separate it better than I can, but still maybe one day you’ll meet someone who’ll make you feel all this shit and all you’ll want is for them to acknowledge it and maybe tell you they feel the same way about you. Maybe if and when they do, it really will be all emotional bullshit, but it’ll still make you happy because all you want to do is believe them. Hopefully, if and when it happens, your best friend won’t be there to shit all over it.”

“Ian, I’m just saying—”

“I need to take a break,” Ian said and walked away from the register and from Alex.

The man grunted painfully when Mickey ran him hard into the bathroom wall. He slid down and sagged to the floor, bloodied and exhausted, and Mickey readjusted his rolled up sleeves. Outside the bathroom door, Iggy stood guard while his brother attempted to collect on the man’s debt.

“Twenty-five large you’re into me,” Mickey informed his debtor, “and you’ve made no attempt at all to square it. Now you have me working you over in a fucking gross bathroom, you think that’s right?” Mickey asked and cocked his head as the man mumbled incoherently. “You know what I think? I don’t think you’re going to pay me and I can’t be doing this with you every week, because quite frankly, I think this is beneath both our dignities,” Mickey said before giving the beaten man a critical look, “well my dignity at least.” He pulled out his gun and unlocked the safety, making the man perk up considerably “so I’m just going to kill you and shift your debt to the next in line—brother, wife, I don’t give a fuck—okay? Okay,” Mickey said and raised his weapon. The sound of Mickey’s phone going off took them both by surprise and Mickey gave the man an apologetic shrug. “Give me a minute, just going to take this real quick. Don’t go anywhere,” he said and drifted to the opposite end of the bathroom near the door, giving the man no hopes for escape. “Yeah?”

“Hey,” Ian said, “can you talk?”

“Not a good time.”

“Right, sorry,” Ian said and abruptly hung up.

Mickey took two steps back towards his debtor before he paused and whipped out his phone again, “what?” he asked when Ian answered.

“You said you were busy.”

“What did I say about distracting me? You sound weird, I don’t know why you sound weird, and that shit is distracting. So what’s going on? Are you drunk?”

“No—I had a few beers.”

“I think it’s time you accepted that you might be a little more of a lightweight now than before you started knocking back whole pharmacy shelves.”

Ian hesitated briefly before he spoke. “You were asking me all those questions about me being sick and about things you might need to do…it sort of sounded like you were trying to visualize our future. But then, you also keep saying that when things end with Sal, I’m supposed to leave and forget him and you, so I feel like the messages are conflicting and I’m a little confused,” Ian said thickly, “so what’s the plan then? When Sal’s no longer an issue, would you really just end things like that?”

This was not a conversation for which Mickey was in any way, shape or form prepared. He tapped his gun against his thigh and cast a quelling eye at the battered man stirring in the corner. He sighed as he turned Ian’s question over in his head. “I can’t talk about this right now. Can this wait until we’re face to face?” Mickey hung up after Ian relented with a sigh and returned to finish his task.

“I can get the money!” the man panted desperately.

“How?” Mickey asked.

“C-College fund. I can…I can get it.”

Mickey shook his head and holstered his weapon. “Have it by tomorrow and look into therapy or something, because you’re a gambling addict and you absolutely suck at it.”

Mickey didn’t make it back to the apartment to talk, and Ian spent the following day replaying Alex’s words in his head even while he avoided her and her attempts to contact him. When Iggy texted him to meet at the main gate, Ian was glad for it. That is until he got to the pool house to find that Mickey wasn’t there, while Sal was very much present. It was tantamount to looking at a pill he knew he was going to choke on but had to down anyway. Ian also knew that he was in no better shape to engage Sal sexually, which meant the man would be that much closer to knowing something was wrong. Despite Ian’s trepidation, Sal actually managed to pleasantly surprise him.

“Mickey has ordered me down to the garage to straighten up some paperwork in case any unwelcome visitors drop in,” Sal said with a sigh of longsuffering, “you want to come with me, take a look at the old place and see some impressive toys of the idle rich?” Sal smiled indulgently when Ian lit up. At that moment, nothing could have made Ian happier. “Boys and cars,” Sal thought to himself. Ian might be just as bad as Mickey.

The garage was massive–a sprawling, open structure crawling with activity. Ian followed Sal and Iggy as they entered the first section, where several classic cars sat in various states of undress, waiting for attention. It was hard to estimate how large the garage was, as the further in he went, the more sections and space seemed to open up. He asked Sal if it was okay to look around and the man waved him off, eager to get the tedium of paperwork over with as quickly as possible. When Sal disappeared into a back office, Iggy pointed him towards one of the far sections, and after a bit of walking, he spotted a familiar pair of legs sticking out from under an enormous, cherry-red car. Apparently Mickey Milkovich could whistle while he worked. Ian kicked the sole of one of Mickey’s booted feet and grinned at the angry sputtering.

“What the fu—oh,” Mickey’s eyes widened as he slid out from under the vehicle and sat up on the creeper. He was greasy and smudged to high heaven and Ian thought it was brilliant. “What are you doing here?”

“Came with Sal; he figured I’d want to see some cars,” Ian said before glancing around and then asking quietly, “so what happened last night?”

“Didn’t get in until four. You had school and I had a full day here, so decided to crash instead,” Mickey explained and then kicked at Ian’s feet, “can you ditch him? Get Sal to leave you and I’ll give you a personal tour after we lock up. Just a couple more hours.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

By the time Sal found him wandering the garage, Ian had fallen significantly under the weather. Ian chose the exact moment the older man opened his mouth to say “let’s go,” to unleash a foghorn of a sneeze before sniffling daintily afterwards. Sal almost had a heart attack.

“What the hell was that?!”

“It was just a sneeze, will you relax?” Ian laughed, “ugh, I’m probably getting a mild cold.”

At his age, and in his estimation, Sal didn’t believe in such a thing as a “mild” cold and started backing away as discreetly as he could. When Ian made what sounded suspiciously like a phlegm-laden snort, Sal was as done as one could be. “Maybe you should go home and get some rest. The weather’s starting to change, it’s probably messing with you.”

“Aw, but I haven’t even gotten a good look around yet,” Ian pouted.

“It’s okay,” Iggy chimed in, “you can hang for a bit and check things out. I’ll come back for you after I take Sal home. That okay, boss?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sal said, already a good twenty feet away and moving rather rapidly. “Call me when you get home!”

Iggy looked at Ian and grinned, “I won’t be coming back for ya,” he said and winked before jogging after Sal.

The car had only just driven off when Mickey came up next to Ian. “Ditched him, huh?”

Ian regarded Mickey closely, “you should take a break,” he told Mickey, “you look a little tired.”

Mickey bit back a smile and focused on wiping his hands with a rag, “it’s only a couple more hours.”

“Still, you know, for your health…”

The moment Mickey closed the door to the back office, Ian was on him, turned on by the mess and motor oil and the blue-collared normalcy of it all. He felt like devouring Mickey and he did his best to do just that, pressing against him eagerly as he bit at Mickey’s lips. Mickey was just as eager, but he kept his hands firmly at his side, even as he pressed back. Ian caught on quickly.

“Why aren’t you touching me?” he asked and laughed when Mickey raised his hands and showed him his blackened palms. “I don’t care.”

“How’s it going to look if we’re in here then someone sees you covered in schmutz?” Mickey pointed out.

Once again Ian was reminded that the guy he wanted to spend his life with was still deep in the closet. He could almost hear another bullet point in Alex’s argument forming and he stubbornly pushed the thought away. “When I don’t want you touching me, I’ll tie your hands to something. If you’re so worried about people seeing something, get creative about where you put your hands then.”

Mickey glanced around hesitantly, as if afraid that one of the other mechanics would pop out of nowhere. He looked up at Ian as he slowly and tentatively slipped his hands under Ian’s shirt and pressed his fingers into Ian’s skin. His hands roved freely over Ian’s back as they kissed, now as eager to leave his marks as Ian was to receive them. But when Ian grabbed his ass and ground against him so hard he saw stars, he quickly shut everything down.

“Hey, hey, this is supposed to be a ten minute break and I still have a couple of hours to work. You think I’m going to be out there working on some old fart’s car while I have your jizz leaking out of my ass?!”

“God, you should write poetry.”

“Get the fuck off me,” Mickey sighed, “do some homework or something. Everybody will clear off soon enough.”

Not fast enough in Ian’s estimation. It was another three hours before Mickey stuck his head back inside the office. He had cleaned up, much to Ian’s fleeting disappointment.

“Ready for your tour?”

It was nothing short of amazing to see the way Mickey lit up as he talked about all the cars and the business. He spoke freely and easily as he pulled Ian along, pointing out various projects and explaining the various challenges. “They’re three things I’m working on right now,” Mickey said as he led Ian back to the cherry-red car under which Ian had found him. “This is a 1950 Studebaker Commander. It’s been sitting on its ass for a while and the chassis got rusted, but look at it.”

“It’s fucking huge,” Ian said appreciatively. He was impressed with the car, but was more charmed by Mickey’s boundless enthusiasm for it.

“Yeah,” Mickey grinned and patted the hood affectionately, “subtlety and minimalism weren’t really big buzzwords back then. The owner went to a storage auction, paid like six grand blind for the container, opened it up and found this—lucky fuck. Wants to flip it at one of those fancy, classic car auctions. He’s going to make a fucking mint.” Mickey led him to another section and pulled the sheet off a black sports car. “This is a 1968 Ferrari GTC –this one’s pretty much done—heading out in a couple of days. Lady tracked it down and is getting it restored for her husband. Apparently this is the car they fell in love in or had a kid in or some shit like that.”



“Says the guy who rolls up on me in his classic black Mustang just because,” Ian teased as he helped cover the car again. Mickey didn’t answer, just smiled shyly and ducked his head. He followed Mickey to yet another section of the garage to his third project and apparently the pièce de résistance. When Ian helped Mickey roll back the cover of the car tucked in the corner there was no doubt in Ian’s mind that the car was insanely old. It was a few steps removed from being a horse-drawn carriage.

“1912 Renault Town Car,” Mickey said, beaming at Ian’s gobsmacked reaction to the black and red car. “restoring this is my long term project right now. She’s not in the best shape and needs a shit-ton of work, but does it look familiar? Think movies.”

It took Ian a moment and his eyes narrowed as he tried to place it. When he finally did, his jaw dropped. “Is this the car from the Titanic?!”

“Same make and model, not the same car; just pointing that out. I haven’t gotten her full story yet, but I will and it’s gotta be a doozy.”

“Oh my god,” Ian breathed as he circled the car, thrilling Mickey to no end. “Holy shit, you work in Wonderland.”

“I know right?” Mickey sighed contentedly as he looked around the garage. He looked at Ian suggestively, “so pick one.”


“You heard me,” Mickey said.

Ian eyed the Renault before looking at Mickey questioningly, “why?”

“You know why.”

Ian chewed his lower lip and stepped into the clearing. In the next room over was the Ferrari, and beyond that was the Studebaker. In the end, it wasn’t that hard a choice. Ian looked at the Renault then to Mickey, then back to the Renault again.

Mickey didn’t hold back his knowing smile. “Of fucking course,” he said as he unzipped his coveralls. “No rough stuff; she’s fragile.”

True to form, the windows fogged up quickly. Mickey tried to split his attention among the man thrusting away on top of him, listening to any sounds of distress from the antique car and watching the condensation form on the windows. Ultimately, he had given up on the last two. Fortunately, when Ian broke their kiss to suck on his neck, Mickey noticed that the windows had fogged up perfectly. Not missing a beat, he slapped his hand against the back window and let his hand slide down dramatically.

Ian paused when he heard the slap and squeak against the window, and looked up to see Mickey’s handprint framed in the mist. He then looked down at Mickey whose expression dared him to say something. So of course he immediately burst out laughing, for he was an ass with little regard for his personal welfare. “Why are you such a dork?!”

“Shut up, you thought the exact same thing when you saw this car!”

“I can’t fucking deal with you, Jesus, Mickey!”

“Shut up, you know you want to do it too!”

Ian looked up at Mickey’s handprint and his lips twitched again. Suddenly inspired, he slapped his hand next to Mickey’s impression and mirrored the slide. He grinned down at Mickey triumphantly, “good things your hands are so comically tiny; plenty of space for me to—ack!”

“How small are my hands now, fucker?!” Mickey cried after grabbing Ian into a headlock.

Ian surrendered immediately just so they could get back to gently rocking the Renault.

“We should do it in the Studebaker next,” Ian suggested as they sat in the Renault, trying to cool down and catch their breath.

“I said one,” Mickey reminded him.

“Yeah, but the Studebaker though. I mean its name is practically a call to arms to fuck in it. ‘Stud,’ ‘baker,’” Ian said, “‘…tude.”

“God, why haven’t I killed you yet?” Mickey laughed.

“Don’t know. The night’s still young.” The silence grew as their hearts slowed and the air around them shifted. Ian looked out the window at the expensive cars littering the space outside—each one with so much potential, everyone a chance to escape. Instead they sat stalled for a moment in an uncertain future. “Would you really let me go?”

“I’d try,” Mickey said.

“You’d fail.”

“Probably…most likely,” Mickey sighed, “I can’t have you staying in this shit just for me, Ian. I couldn’t live with that if it sucked you in.”

“So we’ll leave it then, when we can.”

“I can’t leave,” Mickey said with such grim finality that Ian knew better than to challenge it at that moment. He’d change Mickey’s mind eventually. Somehow he would get Mickey to that point of possibility.

“So we meet outside it then.”

“You think that could work? It gets harder to change from one thing to another and keep them cleanly separate. It’s like osmosis; things just bleed across the line until it’s all the same,” Mickey shook his head.

“Sometimes you and Sal talk like you’re both from the Twilight Zone,” Ian laughed shortly. “Did you mean it when you said you loved me? You weren’t just trying to get me off your ass?”

“Why would I ever want you off my ass?” Mickey grinned impishly before he sobered. “I meant what I said—I don’t say shit I don’t mean, unless I’m threatening people, then it’s an intimidation thing. Don’t tell anybody.”

“Well then you’re stuck,” Ian said, “this is us, stuck on each other, so we’ll have to figure it out whenever shit starts going down.”

“You hate feeling stuck,” Mickey reminded him.

“Not like this; not when it’s you,” Ian said and that was that, “can we go check out the Studebaker now?”

Mickey snorted but obediently and carefully followed Ian out of the Renault. He would have to figure it out as he went along. He was in love with a force of nature, and he’d either be swept up and transported, or torn to pieces.

“Special delivery,” Dre sang out as he approached the park bench where Alex sat waiting by the edge of the pond. “Damn girl, when I told you not to come back into the hood and to choose another spot, I was expecting you to a find a locale that was a little less murder-y. This place looks like something out of Dateline.”

“It’s pretty safe and we’re not alone. Make the right series of noises and gay guys will just pop out like a Disney woodland creature.”

“Oh, it’s like that?” Dre said as he viewed the surroundings with a new eye. He handed over the bag to Alex and accepted her cash. He watched with interest as she went about awkwardly rolling her joint. “Single smoker cuts a lonely figure by the water’s edge. How many Law and Order episodes have started this way?”

“Smoking partner’s mad at me; I talked shit about his boyfriend, so I’m living la vida solo right now.”

“Ah…you want me to do that for you?” Dre asked, offering to roll her joints. “No extra charge.”

Alex nodded—feeling too jittery to do a decent job—and watched in amazement as Dre expertly rolled her joints at lightning speed, periodically looking around to make sure no one was sneaking up on them.

“Did you know Mickey told Ian he loved him?” she asked suddenly.

Dre did a double take. “Mickey? Mickey Milkovich?” he said with disbelief, “are you sure you have the right guy? Dude’s around yea high, got blue eyes, walks like he’s got ten pound balls between his legs; that Mickey?”

“I take it you’re surprised.”

Dre looked beside himself with delight. “Shit, well what do you know, fucker took an arrow to the knee,” Dre threw his head back and laughed. “Not even six months ago I told him he was gonna slip and get caught but he didn’t believe me. I think he performed the full body equivalent of a ‘bah, humbug.’ Catch him next week writing sonnets and shit.”

“I’ve been telling Ian that I don’t think a serious relationship with Mickey is a good idea,” Alex confessed quietly.

“Why’s that?”

“Because,” Alex sighed, flustered “Ian’s been struggling for so long to find a way out of the Southside, and to escape all that shit and all those issues of not feeling special or worthy.”

“I’m seeing your point. Being in love has never made anyone feel special or worthwhile,” Dre muttered with a lift of his brow.

“God, that’s not it. He’s finally figuring things out, you know, he’s moving forward and he’s creating that path he’s been looking for and I’m just scared he’s going to get caught up in Mickey’s life and completely forget himself and everything he’s dreamed about for something that’s ultimately unsustainable.”

“Man, I should have brought you some stronger weed,” Dre observed with a cocked eyebrow. “Look, I understand your concern. He’s your boy and you care deeply, but he’s a man that rolled up into my hood looking like he wanted to lay me out. If you’re going to stress over a wild dude like that, you’re going to be stressed for the rest of your stress-abbreviated life. That’s his mama’s job.”

“Yeah, well she doesn’t want it.”

“Still doesn’t make it yours,” Dre replied, “He’s a grown man, he’s gonna do whatever he feels he needs to do. Plus he’s in love. You could be right as hell, you still can’t try and counsel people in the throes of a hot romance. Can’t nobody tell them nothing right now.”

Alex took a drag off her joint. “I just can’t believe he’s fallen this hard. This time last year, I was trying so hard to get him to loosen up and take a chance to just date someone he found attractive, now it’s planetariums and taking on mob bosses for love, and it’s confessions in the dark and I’m just here, trying to wrap my mind around it all.”

“Well it’s the same thing with Mickey too. It’s always the staunchest unbelievers who have the wildest conversions,” Dre laughed, “and then we who have been in the trenches for so long, fighting that good fight, spreading that gospel, we’re left trying to play catch up. WHY WON’T YOU SEND ME SOMEBODY, JESUS?!” Dre yelled suddenly into the night air only for guy to randomly pop out from behind a tree, much to Dre’s astonishment. “Oh no, no, my dude, I was just making a dramatic point, sorry about that! Or you know, maybe later.”

Alex choked and her laughter came out in puffs of smoke. “I told you.”

Dre grinned broadly at her, “yeah, I can see you weren’t exaggerating,” he chuckled and leaned back. “You gotta let them have it; you gotta let them try at least. It might all fall to shit tomorrow but fuck, it’s love, you gotta let them try. Besides, you say Ian’s been doing well and making all this progress, well maybe Mickey’s a part of that. Maybe he’s part of the step forward rather than being a regression.”

“And if he isn’t and it all falls apart?”

“Then fuck, let it. You’ll help put him back together as best you can and get him ready to try again, if you’re willing. But it’s his life and you gotta let him have it. In the mean time, do you: relax, let it go, and smoke a lot of ganja.”

At a loss, Alex sighed and took another deep drag of her joint and tried doing just that.

Chapter Text

Mickey Milkovich looked quite different when he was awake. Up until that moment, Alex had only seen him in the pictures on Ian’s phone—just stolen snaps of her friend’s sleeping boyfriend. In those pictures, Mickey had looked so peaceful, innocent even, and Alex had struggled to reconcile those pictures to her image of an unrepentant mobster. The man that swaggered into the supermarket now was much closer to the constructed image she kept in her head, though still quite off. He still didn’t look like a gangster; what he looked like was a mechanic, dressed in clean coveralls and workman boots.

She watched with keen interest from the international foods aisle where she was doing inventory. She had been sneaking glances at Ian, who had been steadily ignoring her while he cashed and bagged groceries, and was consequently alerted to Mickey’s arrival by Ian’s head snapping up in surprise. She had to admit, it was certainly a different vibe from when Sal had made his supermarket debut. Where Sal had been awkward and unsure, Mickey swanned in, secure in his magnetism. Where Ian had been self-assured to the point of smugness when Sal showed up, now he simply looked…smitten. Alex didn’t have much experience with a besotted Ian and she had to admit, it was just fascinating to see.

Just as his boss had done, Mickey made eye-contact with Ian before disappearing into an aisle. Ian’s evident anxiety and impatience over Mickey’s disappearance was actually sort of funny. He kept trying to figure out from what point Mickey would re-emerge, as if genuinely concerned that he might never see the man again. Alex made sure to look away before she rolled her eyes. Was everyone in their honeymoon period this patently ridiculous? Despite Ian’s concerns, Mickey eventually reappeared with a hand basket containing sandwiches, chips and drinks.

“You gonna eat all this by yourself?” Ian asked as he swiped the wrapped sandwiches across the sensor.

“I don’t know, am I?” Mickey replied, drawing a coy smile out of Ian. “You look tired; you should take a break.”

“Don’t really feel tired though,” Ian said and held his hand out for Mickey’s cash.

“Still, you should take a break,” Mickey murmured as fingers slid tantalizingly over Ian’s now burning hand, “you know, for your health.” With that, Mickey picked up the bag of goods, shot Ian another inviting smile and exited the supermarket without so much as another backward glance. Ian was off and searching for a supervisor before the automatic doors even had a chance to close.

Alex watched with a pang as Ian left to take his break and find his boyfriend. They always took their breaks together when they had the same shift and now there was not even a nod to say he was taking off for a while. She must have been deeper in the doghouse than she thought. What was worse, as she would find out, was that she wasn’t the only one who had noticed.

“Separate lunch breaks now?” Nate purred, materializing behind her to restock the shelves. “What’s the matter, you two no longer simpatico? He find out your dick is bigger than his?”

“Jesus, fuck off you weeping pus wound,” Alex snapped at him before stalking out of the aisle.

That evening she sat on her bed staring at her phone in apprehension. Alex knew she need to make the call, but reaching out was always the worst thing for her to do. She picked up the phone, was poised to dial but hesitated, her nerves working on her. She sighed and decided to just rip the Band-Aid off; she didn’t want to delay this any longer. The phone rang three times before a warm voice with a Russian accent picked up.


The housekeeper gasped, “Miss Alex?! Oh, it’s been so long!”

“Yeah, I know…it’s been kind of crazy,” Alex laughed awkwardly. They spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries and catching up, until Alex finally asked the dreaded question. “Are my parents at home?”

The older woman hesitated briefly, cluing Alex in on the potential difficulties to come. “I’ll get your mother.”

There were a couple nerve-wracking minutes before her mother’s low, smooth voice filled her ears. Her mother sounded so pleasant, but then Joan Alden always sounded pleasant. “Alex?”

“Hi mom.”

“Darling, this is a surprise; you so rarely call. Is everything alright? Whatever’s the matter?”

Alex squirmed uncomfortably, “I’m f—I’m just…how are you and dad?”

“Your father got his clock cleaned by your uncle at golf earlier and now he’s upstairs pouting in his sleep, I imagine. I’m readying the house for spring and you care about none of these things, so how about you skip the faux interest and simply tell me what this rarity of a call portends.”

Alex sighed and stared down at the information packets littering her bed. “I was hoping you and dad could put me back on your insurance.”

There was a small pause and Alex could almost hear the gears spinning in her mother’s head. “Why? I’m sure Preston’s student insurance is more than sufficient for all your needs.”

“No, mom, it really isn’t. Look, there has been a lot of new legislation put in and I’m trying to work it out and it’s confusing as hell, but I think if I’m back on your insurance, I might be able to, um, I could go a lot further in my transition. Insurance companies can’t legally discriminate against Trans—“

“Is this from the Obamacare nonsense?” Joan sighed irritably, “of course, the country’s falling apart and this is what they shove down our throats. Your school insurance is more than sufficient for your needs, Alex. I see no need to have you back on ours.”

“Mom,” Alex sighed and her voice thickened as she felt the angry and frustrated tears fighting to the surface already. Her mother had the amazing power of turning her into a tongue-tied child in no time flat, “I’m just trying to fix what’s wrong. I’m not doing great.”

“Then come home, Alexander. There is nothing really wrong with you, darling,” Joan’s voice softened to a caress, “I’ve told you over and over that you’re perfect. The day you were born, you were the most beautiful baby boy I’d ever seen. This is just—” Joan groped for the word, “—an illness in your head. Take a leave of absence and come home so we can get you the help you need, baby. We’ve found real doctors who can take these thoughts away instead of encouraging them like this quack you’re seeing now. You can’t know how painful it is for me to hear you say you’re anything but perfect—”

“Well this isn’t about how you feel!” Alex snapped, shocking her mother into silence. She immediately backed off and tried to get herself under control. “I don’t know how to explain this to you any more, mom; you might never understand, but I need to do this. This is about me, my body, how I’m feeling and this is a mistake I need to fix or I’ll never feel right.”

Her mother’s silence stretched on for a while, and Alex knew that whatever would come next would probably not be pleasant. “You’ve always been so selfish,” Joan’s voice was cold and remote, and chilled any small hope Alex had left in her. “Do you know how much you upset your father the last time you came here? How much you upset me? What did I do to make you like this? We give you everything.”

“Mommy, I just need you to help me.”

“Alexander, we’ve enabled this nonsense long enough. Our current arrangement stands: we’ll pay your tuition, pay your rent and give you a stipend to cover basic expenses, and nothing more. We can’t control what you choose to do with your education once you’re done, but that we honour that commitment. We will not help you mutilate yourself and if you go through with this…” Joan let the threat hang in the air between them. “Is there anything else?”

“No,” Alex said thickly, “that was all, mother.”

“Goodnight, darling,” Joan said airily, her social graces fully restored, “we’ll speak again soon. I love you, baby.”

Alex listened as the line went dead. She sat frozen with her phone for a moment before she sent it spinning through the air while she screamed in its wake.

Ian sighed deeply as Mickey rocked on top of him. He ran his hands up Mickey’s thighs to grip his hips to keep him steady as he thrust upwards into the tight heat.  “Mine,” he growled, making Mickey smile, and the man leaned down to kiss Ian softly.

“Fucking bitch thinks she can talk to me however she likes,” Sal grumbled as he barged into the room. Ian jerked, his heart stopping as Sal walked in on them. Mickey sat up, but paid Sal no mind as his eyes fluttered closed as he resumed his grind on top of Ian. “I’m a fucking man, ain’t I?” Sal said aloud to the room and Ian looked frantically from Mickey to Sal with his heart hammering painfully in his chest. Ian was frozen beneath Mickey, completely at sea as to what to do. Sal simply continued his rant and, to Ian’s horror, began shedding his clothes. “Fucking harpy is what she is,” Sal grumbled as he dropped his pants and pulled off his underwear. “Whatever happened to a man being the king of his fucking castle?!”

Ian was terrified and gobsmacked as Sal turned and walked over to the bed. He looked up at a seemingly oblivious Mickey desperately as Sal actually slid into the bed, a vulpine smile spreading across his face.

“Now this is what I need,” Sal sighed, “this does an old man’s heart good. This is beautiful,” Sal murmured as his eyes swept over Mickey’s body and he reached out as if to stroke Mickey’s thigh in the same way Ian had just done.

Ian’s hand struck out with lightning speed, gripping Sal’s wrist and gripping so hard, the old man winced painfully. “Don’t you fucking touch him!”

Sal scowled at Ian for a tense moment before the man started laughing. To Ian’s deepening confusion, Mickey laughed with him. “This fucking guy, huh?” Sal said to Mickey, shaking his head in amusement. He pulled his hand out of Ian’s grip and tutted patiently. “What you getting all worked up for? Mickey’s man enough for both of us, aren’t you, baby?”

“Whatever you say, Sal,” Mickey sighed, his head lolling back in pleasure.

Sal grinned at the sight Mickey made before turning back to see Ian still glaring at him, angry and confused. “Why are you looking at me in that tone of voice? He’s mine, I thought we established this already, I just loaned him to you for a little bit. You’re mine too; well no, you I have on consignment. When I’m done, I’ll send back whatever’s left. But Mick, he’s just flat out mine. Ain’t that right, Mickey?”

“Whatever you say, Sal.”

“Beautiful, my fucking prince,” Sal said as he ran a knuckle up the length of Mickey’s body, making the young man shiver. “So get with the fucking program,” Sal said to Ian, “and this will be a far more pleasant experience for all involved. Mickey, tell him.”

Mickey leaned down again to nibble on Ian’s earlobe and whisper, “just relax and go with it. This can work; it could be fun.”

“Mick, no,” Ian growled back, but Mickey had already pulled away.

“Tell you what,” Sal said lightly, “since you’re already so engaged with the bottom half, how about I take the top half—make a Mickey rotisserie, huh?” Sal laughed obscenely at his own joke and slapped Mickey’s thigh, “come show me what else that mouth is good for.” Sal said and Ian watched in horror as Mickey started to shift, clearly intent on accommodating them both.


Mickey startled awake at the screaming and immediately reached for his gun beneath Ian’s bed to start blasting away at the intruders. There was, however, no zombie invasion or godless murderers. Instead, there was just his spastic boyfriend having some sort of full-body fit at the foot of the bed. Mickey put the gun back and covered his head with a pillow as Ian danced around, gibbering with disgust. One day he was going to end up shooting the red-headed moron and it might not even be an accident.

“I can’t believe you’re being so blasé about this,” Ian fumed at Mickey when his boyfriend finally deigned to wake up. Ian paced at the foot of the bed, trying to rid himself of the awful remnants of his nightmare.

“I can’t believe you’re freaking out this badly,” Mickey yawned and reached for his pack of cigarettes, “I mean you’re fucking Sal and you’re fucking me. Maybe this is your brain offering you a far more efficient solution to a fucked up love triangle.”

“You’re not funny; you’re never funny. And this isn’t a love triangle; this is a love line, not a triangle. If anything, it’s a sex triangle. It’s not even an equilateral triangle either, more like an isosceles. Definitely an isosceles triangle; like we’re up here and he’s down there in a basement somewhere.”

“I hated geometry or is that trig? Hated that too,” Mickey said blithely, “but yeah, it’s gross, but it’s just your garden variety anxiety dream, right? Don’t dwell on it.”

“Garden variety? I swear to god, you and Alex are the same fucking thing. I’m sorry my dreams aren’t deep enough and cryptic enough for the two of you. I’m a simple man with a simple mind, apparently. We can’t all have dreams that require the freaking Rosetta stone to decipher them.”

Mickey lit up his cigarette and snuggled back against the pillows. “I’m not saying your Psych 101 dream wasn’t fucked up, but it’s not that shocking. Try being a twelve year old kid realizing that he’s gay in one of the most hostile anti-gay establishments there is, while trying to figure out his fucked up relationship with his boss/father-figure/whatever.”

“Slash abuser,” Ian tacked on under his breath.

“For the last time, I wasn’t fucking abused, so please drop that shit. All I’m saying is that was fertile ground for some fucked up Freudian dreamscapes.”

Ian sighed and eyed Mickey suspiciously. “You don’t,” he paused in hesitation, “you’re not conflicted about Sal that way, are you? I mean you don’t have…feelings for him?”

“You mean of the romantic and/or sexual type?” Mickey had to fight back laughter, “nah. Ian, I was a fucked up, confused kid. That all resolved itself pretty damn quick; you only need to see Sal once in his underwear passed out next to a pool of his own vomit for any possible attraction to shrivel up pretty damn quick.”

“Well good,” Ian nodded, “and we’re never having a threesome; not with Sal, not with anybody ever.”

“Hey, whoa, whoa, let’s not be hasty here,” Mickey said mischievously while Ian bristled, “obviously Sal is out of the running, but maybe we can have a discussion or two about who could be at the other end of the Mickey rotisserie. Maybe when you get to know Dre a little better?” He joked, but then it took one look at Ian’s face for Mickey to realize that he had taken the joke a step or two too far. “Shit, Ian, it was a joke,” Mickey said quickly and stubbed out his cigarette so he could crawl over to Ian, who was still standing at the foot of the bed. When Mickey reached for him, Ian shrugged him off, but Mickey grabbed him, hugged him close and buried his face in Ian’s neck. “It was a dumb joke,” Mickey murmured against Ian’s throat as he knelt in bed and tried to cajole his boyfriend back to a better mood. “Come on, don’t be mad,” Mickey said as he kissed along Ian’s tense jaw, “Ian, you know I was just kidding.”

“You’re not funny,” Ian groused quietly, but tilted his neck a bit so Mickey could suck beneath his ear.

Mickey pulled back to look him in the eyes, “I’m a little funny,” he said and slowly slipped his hand into Ian’s boxers to stroke him. “I’m sorry, alright? I was fucking with you. Why would I need a threesome when you’re already packing enough for two?” Mickey wiggled his eyebrows and squeezed Ian a little tighter.

Ian rolled his eyes but was clearly relenting. “I don’t like to share,” he murmured and Mickey grunted his agreement while he kissed Ian’s earlobe. “No threesomes, not even in your head,” he ordered and again Mickey grunted his compliance. “And don’t go along with weird shit in my dreams.”

Now that gave Mickey pause. He pulled back to look at Ian askance. “How the fuck am I supposed to control how I act in your dreams?!”

“I don’t know, figure it out.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re nuttier than a fucking fruitcake,” Mickey said and Ian laughed out loud despite himself. Why it didn’t raise his hackles when Mickey teased him like that now was hard to fathom. Mickey returned his attention to Ian’s neck and murmured, “thank god for your superior hot to crazy ratio.”

Ian snorted and his eyes drifted over to his clock. “By the time you finish sucking my dick, I’m going to be running a little late. You’re going to have to take me to work.”

“Who said anything about sucking your dick? Plus, that kind of sounds like the whole running late thing is completely avoidable,” Mickey pointed out.

Ian stared down at his boxers that still had Mickey’s hand stuck down them. “It really isn’t.”

Mickey grinned and accepted his penance without complaint. “Fine, I’ll suck it in the shower; maybe that will save you a few minutes.”

Alex had been standing at the bus stop for fifteen minutes before it occurred to her that it might be in vain. She and Ian always met up for the early shifts and walked in together, but since he wasn’t speaking to her, she doubted he was going to show up sooner than he had to just to give her the cold shoulder. She decided to wait on the next bus, for nothing else but the audacity of hope, but Ian wasn’t on that one either. She could swear she saw the now familiar black low rider coming over the horizon filled with annoying guys to give her a hard time. That was the last push she needed and she turned to cross the parking lot to the supermarket.

She was halfway there when she heard a voice that made her heart sink into her shoes. Ernesto was coming in for the start of his shift as well and quickly sidled up next to her. She wasn’t anywhere close to being in the mindset to deal with him or any of the Asshole Patrol. She was immediately reminded of one major benefit of an Ian escort—he put the fear of God into them and they tended to give her a much wider berth when he was around. At least Ernesto seemed to be on his own; more than one of them would probably send her into hysterics.

“Hey girlie,” he said with a laugh, clearly cracking himself up with his rapier-like wit. “How’s it going?”

She didn’t bother answering, choosing to hug herself a little tighter, walk a little faster and block him out as best as she could. He tried engaging her again and whether he was being taunting or friendly, Alex honestly couldn’t say. She had grown adept to blocking out verbal harassment and Ernesto faded into little more than a buzzing noise at her ear. Unfortunately, the continued slight had only being riling him up, and buoyed by Ian’s absence, Ernesto did something she couldn’t ignore. She yelped when he grabbed her by her arm and yanked her back, forcing her to turn towards him. She was taken aback by how enraged he looked.

“Don’t you hear me talking to you, joto?!” he spat at her. She glanced around, alarmed, but they still weren’t close enough to the supermarket entrance and it was far too early for many people to be about. They were in the middle of a parking lot, but at the moment for Alex, it might as well be the middle of the Amazon. Ernesto still held her fast, gripping her elbow painfully, “you bitches are all alike; you think because you look the way you do you can treat a guy like shit?” he demanded, shaking her a little, “Vete a la verga, culero; you ain’t a bitch though, are you? You’re just a freak acting like a bitch. You gotta dick like a man, so you can square up like one.”

Alex stared at him, her face deadpan. “You want me to square up?”

The vicious right cross took Ernesto by surprise and there was the satisfying crunch of a nose being shattered. Ernesto staggered back, shocked and shaken to his core while blood poured from his nose. He didn’t have a chance to get his bearings before a hard fist to the mid-section doubled him over and an uppercut sent him crashing to the ground.

“What are you waiting for?!” Alex taunted him as Ernesto lay wailing on the ground. “Square up, motherfucker, this is what you wanted right?! Ten years of this shit; you think I haven’t had my ass beat a thousand times by better than the likes of you?!”

There had been no one for rescue earlier, but something about violence and the scent of blood in the air drew people out like sharks. Soon, a small crowd of workers and early morning shoppers—attracted by Alex’s and Ernesto’s screaming—was emerging. Nate and his group finally appeared on the scene and rushed to their fallen comrade’s aid.

“What the fuck are you doing, you crazy bitch?!” Kevin yelled as he came towards her.

Alex was so amped up, she was about to go for him, but a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and yanked her back.  Ian pulled her away from the fray and tried to calm her down, telling her that none of her tormentors were worth the trouble. Alex could not be placated.

“You wanna know about my dick so bad?!” she screamed as Ian hauled her off to the Escalade, “come over here so I can fuck you with it!”

Kevin and Nate moved to go after her only to be stopped by Mickey and his baseball bat standing squarely between them and their targets.  While his boyfriend hustled a now incoherently shouting Alex into the car, Mickey raised his eyebrow and his bat, keeping the men frozen. Nate seemed to contemplate charging past him, but was swiftly cowed into backing down.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going, Hagrid? Back the fuck up,” Mickey warned as he walked backwards towards the car. Before long, he was back in the driver’s seat and peeling out the parking lot.

“Why am I so stupid?!” Alex groaned into her pillow.

“You weren’t stupid,” Ian said as he lay next to her and rubbed her back soothingly. “He has been harassing you for weeks and he flat out threatened you. You were totally in your rights to drop him.”

“It doesn’t matter; I’m going to get fired,” Alex sighed heavily and sat up, “I just handed my dismissal to Simpson on a fucking silver platter.”

“Fuck, I’m sorry; I should have been there,” Ian said, “Simpson wouldn’t though. None of this is your fault.”

“Are you kidding? He’s wanted to get rid of me for ages and what better reason than ‘roided up tranny goes on a rampage?’ I’m so fucked and the messed up thing is I actually liked this job, you know? Asshole Patrol aside, of course. It’s the first independent thing I’ve done and the first thing my parents didn’t have their tentacles in.” Their conversation was interrupted by Alex’s phone chiming and just as she suspected, her job had been unceremoniously terminated. “Is getting fired by text better or worse than getting dumped by text?”

Ian took the phone and stared dumbfounded at the text from their boss. “That unbelievable piece of shit! He knows what went down!”

“Doesn’t matter,” Alex shook her head in defeat. “Nothing matters—the trend of shit continues.” She lay back on the bed, her blonde hair spreading out in a halo, and looked at her friend bleakly, “what am I going to do, Ian? I’m fucking useless. I’m not qualified for anything and everybody shies away from someone who looks like Alexis when her driver’s license says Alexander. I needed this job.”

“And you’ll get it back,” Ian reassured her firmly, “Simpson made a mistake. Someone just needs to show him that.”

“It’s just so unfair, you know?” Ian told Mickey as he sat on the floor next to his bed and typed up his essay. “Alex has been harassed since day one and Simpson let those assholes get away with it. He wouldn’t even let Alex use the ladies’ room—that’s the kind of fucked up shit she’s been dealing with this whole time!”

Mickey grunted in response as he lay on the bed, listening to Ian and rubbing his head. When he stopped the caress and let his hand hang off the bed, Ian simply grabbed it and plopped it back onto his head again, wordlessly telling Mickey he wasn’t allowed to stop. Mickey huffed in amusement and resumed running his fingers through Ian’s hair.

“You never said she was a tranny,” Mickey said, “shit, I wouldn’t have known just seeing her on the street. She can pass easy.”

“Don’t say ‘tranny,’ she’s a transwoman, or you know, just a woman,” Ian chastised gently, “and she just got fired because a bunch of losers can’t deal with all their confused dicks. She’s my best friend and now she’s out of a job. I just wish there was something that could be done, you know?” Ian said quietly.

Mickey was silent for a while as he played with Ian’s ears. “Yeah…okay,” he said under his breath, and Ian released his pent-up breath and smiled.

The following afternoon, Mickey finished up his tasks for the day and headed back to the pool house. The place seemed quiet and empty, but for Jaime fussing around in the kitchen.

“Iggy pick up Ian from school?” Mickey asked his brother while he grabbed a drink from the fridge. His brother nodded. “Where is he?”

“I think Sal lured him upstairs with something shiny,” Jaime responded automatically and sighed when he saw his brother visibly flinch and deflate a little, “I’m sorry, alright? I’m still working on that shit.”

Mickey cleared his throat and tugged at the sleeves of his suit jacket. “I need a heavy right now.”

“I just put the soup on!” Jaime complained and nodded to the huge pot on the stove, “will any heavy do? Tony’s in the basement watching Dora the Explorer; go take him.”

Mickey and Tony were already gone by the time Ian showered and made his escape downstairs. Since Jaime was in the kitchen, he stuck to the living room to work on his essay. He read and typed steadily for a while, but could not shake the feeling that he was being watched. He glanced up and a small figure disappeared in a blur behind the partition to the kitchen. Ian blinked and resumed his work, only for the feeling of surveillance to overtake him again. When he looked up suddenly, the small figure squeaked and disappeared again. Despite his trepidation about being around Jaime, Ian’s curiosity got the better of him.  He took a break and headed into the kitchen.

The mystery was solved immediately. He entered the kitchen to see Jaime at the stove and a little girl in a princess costume clinging to his leg as she hid from Ian.

“Jaynie, what did I tell you about doing that when daddy’s near the stove, baby?”

The child ignored her father and tried to hide better as she peeked out to stare at Ian. Jaime glanced over his shoulder to see Ian slowly rifling through the fridge and sighed when he couldn’t dislodge his gawking daughter. He backed away from the stove and picked her up. “What’s going on?” he asked her, and she only looked at Ian again and hid her face in her father’s shoulder as Ian looked on curiously. “What, you scared of him?” Jaime asked and she shook her head silently. “You’re acting like a punk,” he teased and grinned when she glared up at him. “I have to finish dinner, so you need to tell me what’s going on here,” he said. She sidled closer to her father’s ear, whispered her secret, and she glared when her dad snorted rudely and immediately betrayed her royal confidence. “You look like one of her princes,” Jaime informed Ian. “Fuck if I know which one. I don’t know what kind of princess has a prince turn up and all she does is hide from him. How would that fairytale go?” he set her down and nudged her towards Ian. “Go be a good hostess and let me finish dinner.”

“Your highness,” Ian said courteously and gave her a bow. Jayne shuffled her feet awkwardly but then curtsied and grinned shyly at Ian—this dude was alright.

It took all of fifteen minutes for her to completely take over Ian’s life as she held him captive at the kitchen island. She outlined his royal lineage and responsibilities with impressive detail and even went so far as to commission a royal portrait while she informed him of his marriage prospects.

“You’ll marry Auntie Mandy,” she decided magnanimously. Ian was handsome and dashing and all, but she had already decided upon another. She did, however, reserve the right to change her mind and flip everyone’s shit if her intended displeased her. She set about sketching Mandy next to her drawing of Ian.

“I think Prince Ian might be happier with another prince, baby,” Jaime said with a yawn, surprising the hell out of Ian and making him wonder if there was a dig in there somewhere.

Jayne blinked at her father then looked to Ian. “Really?”

Ian hesitated but then nodded slowly, shooting sidelong glances at Jaime’s back. Jayne frowned at her drawing. Well shoot, why hadn’t he said something sooner? Luckily she hadn’t filled in the long, flowing dark hair yet.

“Fine, Uncle Mickey then,” she declared imperiously, since it didn’t take much to transform the rough outline of her aunt into her closely resembling uncle.

“Thanks,” Ian said with a smile, “I’m totally okay with that.”

“So Nina’s all pissed off at me,” Tony informed his brother as they waited in the supermarket parking lot.

“What did you do?”

“It’s more what I didn’t do. She wants me to call her a bitch and all that kind of shit in the bedroom. I don’t know.”

“So call her a bitch in the bedroom; that seems like a particularly low level of difficulty. Fuck, you want me to do it? We can Cyrano de Bergerac that shit.”

Tony remained unconvinced, “it’s all these books she’s been reading; now she wants to try all this new nonsense. It feels like a trap. I can’t even give her a nickname on a normal day, now she wants me to call her a whore?”

“Eh, it’s sex. The rules are different; up is down, black is white. It’s like your dick gets hard and turns into a key to a whole other dimension.”

Tony was impressed, “that’s beautiful; you should be a poet.”

“That’s the second time I’ve heard that lately. I should consider it. Okay, there he is,” Mickey said and nodded to the car pulling into the lot. Mr. Simpson was right on schedule and Mickey and Tony went over to meet him as the man got out of his car. “Mr. Simpson,” Mickey greeted and the man gave them a harassed look.

“I already know the love of Jesus,” he said shortly.

Mickey and Tony exchanged a look and eyed each other up and down. Mickey sniffed, “we’re not Jehovah Witnesses; we’re wearing Burberry for god’s sake. We’re here to talk about Alexis Alden.”

“Ah, let me guess,” Simpson said as he slammed his car door shut, “UCLA?”

“I think you mean ACLU,” Tony said after a moment’s confusion. “And no, we’re more…independent contractors.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t give a damn who you guys are. I was well within my rights to fire that patchwork nightmare. If you’ll excuse me.” He tried to step past them to head into work, but he didn’t make it far before Tony grabbed and slammed his head onto the hood of his car.

“Here’s the thing,” Mickey began, “we feel you’ve made an error here and should reconsider. It is our understanding that Ms. Alden has been subjected to a hostile and unsafe working environment, which would make the most even tempered person snap. We don’t think she should be punished for that.”

“How would you feel if every time you showed up to work there were some assholes there threatening you and making you feel unsafe?” Tony said and ground Simpson’s head painfully against the warm metal. “That’s unacceptable.”

“The worst,” Mickey agreed, “you should give the lady back her job, Mr. Simpson. It’s a small thing to avoid a lot of trouble down the line. You want to keep your knees and I know you don’t want your fine establishment here to start having problems, right?” Mickey could see the realization dawn on the man’s face as he finally grasped with whom he was dealing. He nodded as much as Tony’s crushing hand would allow. “Oh, and she gets to use the ladies’ room. Don’t be an animal.”

“I have to protect my customers,” the man wheezed, “after she has the surgery—”

“That’s unacceptable too and you know that. I can personally guarantee that she’s not going to be whipping it out at anyone.”

“Is there a problem, Mr. Simpson?!” Kevin called out as he, Nate and a severely battered Ernesto made their way over. They paused when they saw Mickey straighten up and turn to face them.

“Are you blind or just retarded?” Mickey asked, “He’s having a whole lot of fucking problems. What you wanna do about them?”

The young men realized belatedly that it was perhaps best not to tangle with a couple of guys in expensive suits who were brazenly working a man over in broad daylight. They deeply regretted their decision to come over and sheepishly backed away, unsure how to make a graceful exit. It didn’t help when Mickey fanned them off, but they tried to take their leave as quickly as possible.

“Don’t go too far though, especially you, Ernie. We all need to have a talk,” Mickey called after them. “Don’t make me have to look too long and hard for you either.” He then turned back to the man still bent over the hood, now sweating profusely beneath Tony’s palm. “So what do you say, Mr. Simpson? Give the lady her job back, let her use the ladies' room, and we can make like this whole thing never happened.”

Simpson nodded again. It was an offer he could hardly refuse.

Ian sat on the edge of his bed that night waiting for Mickey to come through the door. He couldn’t stop his grin from exploding the second Mickey stepped inside. Mickey took him in and rolled his eyes as he dropped his keys on the night table and shrugged out of his coat.

“So I take it you got the news already?” Mickey said as he quickly stripped down to his boxers and tank, and carefully hung up his suit. He retrieved his sweatpants from the closet and pulled them on.

“He called Alex a couple hours ago, apologizing to her for all her pain and suffering and offering her job back,” Ian said, effervescent as Mickey snorted and lit up his cigarette. “He sounded rattled as fuck. He even gave her some paid days off,” he laughed, “thanks, you didn’t have to do that, but we're sure as fuck glad you did.”

Mickey blew out a plume of smoke. “I didn’t have to do that? Is that right?”

Ian finally picked up on the weird mood and stared at Mickey uncertainly before he got up and went over to him. “Wait, what’s the matter? Are you—are you mad at me?”

Mickey took another deep drag of his cigarette and regarded Ian silently for the moment. “I’m not saying you can’t manipulate me,” he eventually said, “but I’d appreciate if you were a little more subtle about it.”

Ian sputtered in surprise, “what, I wasn’t—”

“You wanted me lean on your boss, yes or no? But did you say that?”

“Well okay, yes, this is what I was hoping for, but it felt too weird to just ask you to do that, so I just kind of put it out there in the hopes you wouldn’t mind doing it. I wasn’t trying to manipulate you! Jesus fucking Christ, why would you make it sound like that?!”

“You felt weird asking because you know it’s a fucked up thing to do. Normal, law-biding, respectable people don’t send gangsters out to lean on people,” Mickey argued, “and this is the slippery slope shit I’m afraid of; catch you this time next year flat out telling me to whack a dude because he pissed you off!”

Ian’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a moment before he paused and observed Mickey with a raised eyebrow and the beginnings of a smirk. He edged closer until his crossed arms were bumping Mickey’s chest. “Are you saying you’d kill for me?”

Mickey let Ian crowd him and push him back against the wall as he smoked and stared up into Ian’s face. “The things I would do,” he whispered softly, prompting Ian to smile and lower his arms so he would grip Mickey’s hips. “That wasn’t the takeaway of what I was saying, Ian. This is the osmosis I was talking about.”

“This isn’t a slippery slope issue,” Ian told him, “I asked you because if I had put a brick through Simpson’s rear window like I wanted, then I would have lost the job I needed and Alex would still be fired. This isn’t you bleeding into me. This is just me, because I’m a vengeful, at times, violent person who is just trying to be a little smarter about it. I keep telling you this Boy Scout you’re trying to protect exists only in your head,” Ian said before he softened, “is that what you want from me? Because I don’t know how long I could keep that image from shattering.”

Mickey sighed and scratched the bridge of his nose with his thumb. “I don’t need you to be anything,” he said before he looked up at Ian again and made the conscious effort to let go of his fear, at least for the moment. “You know it wasn’t just about you; because you asked me.”

“Really now?” Ian said sceptically.

“The ego on you,” Mickey grunted, “the whole thing reminded me of Molly—my half-sister. She’s got a dick too.”

Ian gaped, “really? How am I just hearing this? She’s Trans?”

“We’re not really all that close. She was a baby when Terry disappeared and her mom was smart; kept her the fuck away from us. I don’t know if she’s Trans or whatever; she’s just Molly. I think she’s super into her dick though, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to use the goddamned ladies’ room.”

“Oh, so this was also a stand for Molly?” Ian asked with a smile, “well I’m sure both Molly and Alex are grateful.”

Mickey fidgeted impatiently when Ian made no move to get closer or said anything else. “Well how about you?” he asked, fishing for his compliments.

“Oh, so you get mad at me, tell me it wasn’t really because I asked, but now you want me to kiss your ass?” Ian said softly and slipped his hands into Mickey’s sweatpants and underwear to cup his boyfriend’s ass. “Yeah, don’t worry, I’ll definitely kiss your ass,” he said before adding with soft determination as he pressed against Mickey, “the things I will do.”

“Where’s Sal?” Mickey asked a couple days later when he entered the pool house to find Ian alone on the couch.

Ian shrugged, “fuck if I know. He was getting calls from his wife, I think. Next thing he was outta here like a bat out of hell. I don’t think he’s coming back, so I was just waiting on you.”

“Huh,” Mickey said, nonplussed, and checked his phone for any calls or messages from Sal, but saw none. “You ready to go?”

“Ah, just hang on a sec,” Ian said and nodded to his laptop, “let me finish up this section.”

Mickey threw his coat over the back of the couch and went to sit next to Ian. To his surprise, Ian fished out some tutorials and dumped them on Mickey’s lap. “Do those; this essay is kicking my ass.”

Mickey gave Ian a harassed look and grabbed a pen. “I didn’t even finish high school; why the fuck do you think I can do this shit?”

“Because you’ve done them indirectly a dozen times before when you were teaching me, and because you’re amazing and your mind is beautiful and sexy, and doing my homework for me totally gets me going,” Ian rattled off.

“Whatever,” Mickey muttered with a roll of his eyes and a smile. He quickly scratched down the first answer. They worked silently for a while, both completely immersed in their tasks. When the door crashed open and shattered the peace and quiet, they were both jolted.

“Where is he?!” Linda demanded as she stormed into the pool house, her heels clicking against the marble tile as she marched in like a drill sergeant. “Where is that fat, fucking failure who calls himself my husband?!” At the sound of her voice, Mickey scrambled to his feet as Linda stomped to a halt just beyond the couch. She looked around, eagle-eyed, and her gaze flicked to Mickey, then Ian before she stalked into the kitchen.

“He’s not here.”

“Bullshit,” she hissed after checking the kitchen. Ian could only stare open-mouthed as she whipped around. So that was the wife, he mused. She was a beautiful woman, a Sophia Loren type of classic beauty. She was crisp, clean and statuesque in her navy blue Dior suit. The pencil skirt and towering stilettos were doing absolutely nothing to hamper her. “Is he up there?” she said as she headed for the stairs.

Ian and Mickey could hear the thuds as she searched the top floor, and Ian could already easily imagine her karate kicking doors in while clad immaculately in her expensive suit. Sal had done her no justice at all, but then again, Sal was a man singularly lacking in poetry and imagination. Soon, she had completed her search and having found Sal absent, directed her pique towards Mickey.

“Where is he?!”

“I don’t know.”

“Bullshit, he can’t wipe his ass without you!”

Mickey held up his hands and tried to placate her. “I swear to god, Linda; I don’t know. What’s the problem though?”

“I’ll tell you what the…” she trailed off and slowly turned to Ian, as if her fevered brain had finally registered him. “I’m sorry, but who the fuck are you?”

Ian scrambled to his feet as well and faced her with great trepidation. “Um, I’m Ian, ma’am.”

Linda’s eyes narrowed as she took him in and she slowly came around the couch, advancing on the nervous young man. “Ian ma’am, is it? And what exactly are you doing in my pool house, Ian ma’am?” she asked. Ian swallowed and his brain stalled before Mickey swooped in for the rescue.

“He’s a cousin; he’s hanging with me today.”

“Dear God in heaven, there’s more of you? Are the women in your family human beings or clown cars? How many of you do they pop out at once?” she sneered and her eyes fell on the schoolwork scattered over the table. She picked up a tutorial and skimmed it. “So Ian ma’am is actually Ian Gallagher? You’re Milkovich adjacent?”

“Cousin by marriage,” Mickey supplied helpfully.

“What’s the matter, Ian? Mickey’s got your tongue?” she asked with a delicate arch of an eyebrow. She read the heading of the paper. “Preston? That’s moderately impressive. Does the lack of ambition gene skip the Milkovich-adjacents?”

Ian didn’t miss the dig at Mickey and his family,  and that served to clear up his nerves immediately. “I think you’re confusing lack of ambition with lack of opportunity, Mrs. Boerio,” Ian said acidly and he wouldn’t think it possible for the cool grey eyes to get harder and narrower, but they did. Ian didn’t care; fuck her and the couture high horse she rode in on.

Mickey decided it was best to intervene before there was bloodshed. “You’re clearly upset and I don’t know why, Linda. What’s going on? I’ll probably be able to help you out better than Sal could.”

“Normally I’d agree with you,” Linda said as she dropped Ian’s paper, leaving it to flutter to rest where it may. She wiped her hands together and made her way back to Mickey. “Unfortunately, this issue is squarely in his wheelhouse. Unless, of course, you knew about this.”

“About what?”

“Two hundred thousand dollars is missing from my account—well, the joint account; withdrawn in increments over a few months,” Linda’s voice started out evenly, but grew tighter and higher as her anger re-emerged. “I was wondering why I hadn’t received any notifications in a while. No doubt he’s been spending it on his vices and his cheap, gold-digging whores—”

Ian shoved his hand with his expensive watch into his pocket as nonchalantly as he could.

“I said it before and I’ll say it again—no one touches what’s mine. I don’t give a fuck what he does with his blood money, but that money is mine. His name is there as decoration only. I’ve been calling him all afternoon, but I guess he’s slunk off to hide like the gutless pig he is to formulate some laughable plan.”

“Two hundred grand?” Mickey echoed hollowly.

“When he finally slithers back out into the sunlight, tell him this: I want my money back in my account. The longer he takes, the more likely I am to take my scalpel, slice open his scrotal sac and twist those useless, shrivelled up prunes he calls testicles until they pop right off. You tell him that for me,” Linda said before shooting Ian another glare and marching out of the pool house without a further word.

Ian was the first to recover from the onslaught. “Well, she seems nice,” Ian said and noticed how shell-shocked and confused Mickey looked. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Mickey’s brow furrowed. “I need you to give me an inventory of everything Sal’s given you since you guys started up,” Mickey said quietly, “everything; including the shit you hide from me.”

Ian twisted his hands into his jeans, suddenly apprehensive, but nodded when Mickey looked at him. Jesus, what now?

It was Alex’s first day back to work. It sucked that Ian’s shift was ending while hers began since they were just settling back into talking again. When she rounded the corner into the parking lot, she paused when she saw the mythical Mustang parked and its owner leaning easily against it, obviously waiting on Ian to finish his shift. She hesitated briefly before she took a deep breath and walked over.


He pushed away from the car to face her and Alex had to admit, he was very easy on the eyes. She could see now how Ian could go on and on about the hair and the jacket and the blue eyes, and the bad boy image worked for him. The car certainly didn’t hurt the image. If only the bad boy persona was just a look and not his actual way of life.

“We’ve never been formerly introduced,” she said lightly and gave a small awkward wave, “hi, I’m Alex.”

“Mickey; nice right hook,” he complimented her and she hitched a shoulder sheepishly.

“So a little birdie told me I had you to thank for getting my job back and for sending Ernesto on early retirement, so…thanks.”

Mickey nodded and fidgeted a bit, uncomfortable and unsure about how to deal with Alex and impatient to get Ian and get going. “Don’t worry about it,” he muttered offhandedly, “it wasn’t a big deal.”

The dismissiveness grated on Alex’s nerves badly. “Of course it isn’t,” she said wryly, “because this was really about flexing your muscles for your boyfriend and not much else.”

That certainly earned his full attention and he stared at her, somewhat amused. “Maybe I’m reading the mood wrong, but you don’t seem to like me very much.”

Alex shook her head, zipped her lips and took a step back. “Nope, staying out of it, not offering an opinion. I just got out of the doghouse. Thanks for the muscle and see you around.” She made a quick about face and headed towards the supermarket, only to make it about five steps before she paused, heaved a sigh to the heavens and turned back. “Nope, gotta say it; it will give me nightmares and heartburn if I don’t,” she said to Mickey, who only cocked his eyebrow. “I think you’re cruel.”


“Yes, cruel and this—” she said, waving her arms to encompass Mickey’s whole being, including the car, “—is all part of it. He has plans, you know? To finish college and escape the Southside for good, and maybe get to travel around Europe…”

“Who the fuck’s stopping him?”

“You, you ‘the fuck’ are going to stop him. He’s in love with you—which apparently makes you the center of the Ian universe—and you are a criminal. At your current trajectory, you have no positive future.”

“Wow, you WASP bitches don’t mince words, do ya?”

Alex cleared her throat, “it’s unpleasant but it doesn’t make it less true.” The statement made her wince for a bit because she did sound a lot like Joan in that moment. She pushed the thought away and soldiered on. “You’re a closeted mobster who is going to be in and out of prison until you die—probably in spectacular fashion admittedly—what’s Ian supposed to get out of this? Sitting around waiting for you to make parole so you can take clandestine car rides and have secret planetarium shows?”

Mickey scratched his cheek thoughtfully, “you must have way bigger problems than I imagined if you gotta ride my dick this hard to avoid them.”

Alex sputtered, “excuse me?!”

“Lady, I don’t give a flying fuck what you think about me and my prospects. I don’t even know you, you know fuck all about me, and I’ve gotten more than enough grief from people whose opinions I actually give a shit about. I don’t have the time or the space up here for you,” Mickey said, pointing to his head. “All I got from what you just said was that you don’t give your own friend enough credit to care about someone and still have a life, so, fuck you for that. I suggest you take your analysis and concerns and fix this mess you’ve got going on right here,” Mickey waved his arm at Alex, encompassing her entire being and shrugged when she glared at him, “it’s unpleasant but it doesn’t make it less true.”

Alex was rendered speechless. She turned and stormed off, almost bowling over Ian as he came out of the supermarket.

“Oh god, what now?” Ian groaned, “what happened? Who did what to whom?”

“She has a lot of opinions,” Mickey offered simply.

“Oh,” Ian said, understanding in an instant. “Mick…”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Mickey shrugged it off. If they had a crisis every time someone challenged them, they’d be fighting and going back and forth forever. “Doesn’t matter to me if it doesn’t matter to you. Wanna go for a ride?”

It was trickier in the Mustang, but there was nothing Ian loved more. They had found a perfect lookout spot and he had reclined his seat until it was almost flat. He then lay back and let Mickey take it from there. He moaned breathily as Mickey sank down onto him and he leaned up to push one side of Mickey’s open shirt off his shoulder so he could nip at the muscle there and make Mickey groan. Mickey kept riding him slowly and the Mustang’s windows fogged up as easily as the Renault’s, blocking out everything as the bubble reformed.

An automated voice popped it. “This call will be recorded and monitored. You have a collect call from ‘Mandy motherfucker!’ an inmate at the Cook County Jail. Do you accept this—”

“Jesus, fuck!” Mickey quickly rifled through the pile of clothes on the driver’s seat to find his phone. He accepted the call and Ian was introduced a hurricane-force Mandy Milkovich at full blast.

“When am I coming home, assface?!” she crackled across the line.

Mickey covered Ian’s mouth and rolled off him so he could settle on his seat with a groan. “Are you seriously calling me with this shit now?”

“I’m not getting left at the fucking bus stop, Mickey!”

“Relax, god, I’m coming to get you myself. You don’t have to worry about it.”

That appeared to mollify her and the angry edge to her voice softened a bit. “Ugh, I can’t wait to get out. I fucking hate it here.”

“Are you saying jail isn’t the breezy summer camp I left behind? If you can’t do the time…”

“I’m going to knee you so hard in the nuts when I see you,” she snarled. “What the fuck were you doing? You sound out of breath.”

“I was training for the half-marathon,” Mickey  said, “you’ve only got a couple more days. Keep your head down and stay clear of everybody. Last thing you need to someone jamming you up and getting more time added.”

“Don’t worry about it; I’m practically wallpaper right now. Just don’t be late, fucker,” she warned. “Is the mouth breather next to you hot at least?”

Mickey smiled at Ian’s affront and quickly covered his mouth before he could fire off a retort. Mickey was taking no chances with monitored phone calls. “Just go will your shit out and chill for the couple days. I’m coming to get you.”

When the call disconnected, Mickey tossed his phone on the dashboard with a smile. “She’s going to love your pretty ass,” he reassured Ian. “Now where was I?”

“On my dick.”

“Of course,” Mickey said and climbed back into Ian’s lap, “who would want to be anywhere else?”

They actually beat the transport van to the drop off site two days later. Ian and Mickey sat in latter’s ’67 Impala, yawning up a storm as they waited for his sister in the cold, early morning hours.  Ian wasn’t about to admit it, but he was nervous. The way how Mickey talked about his sister, Ian figured she might be the only one who could actually convince Mickey that he needed to call everything off between them. he just wanted to make a good impression.

“They’re here,” Mickey said and they watched as the corrections officer unloaded the women, made sure they had their money and bus passes, and sent them on their way. Even without seeing pictures of her, it wouldn’t have been hard to guess which of the newly released women was the Milkovich sister. Her etched-in sneer was unholy, and Ian realized that for all Mickey’s talk of being alpha and such boasts, his boyfriend might only be the fourth most intimidating Milkovich he’s met.

Mickey whistled and Mandy finally spotted him. The scowl transformed instantly into the sweetest smile and the resemblance was really stunning to see. She ran over to her brother, who promptly enveloped her in a hug and let her bury her face in his neck.

“You smell like barbeque sauce,” Mickey told his sister when they pulled apart.

“Yeah, well it’s the closest thing to perfume you can get in that bitch,” she joked before she spotted Ian smiling happily at the family reunion. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously and the hardness was back. “What’s so fucking funny, Opie?” she said sharply, immediately putting Ian on the defensive, “what the fuck are you looking at?!”

Well so much for making a good first impression.     

Chapter Text

For a fraught moment, Ian thought Mandy was really going to attack him going by the suddenness with which she came at him. Before she could take a full step towards Ian though, Mickey yanked her back and planted her on the other side of him, putting himself between her and his startled boyfriend.

“Fresh out the clink,” Mickey said to Ian as an apology and explanation, “she’s a little jumpy.” He then turned to his sneering sister, “will you relax? He came here with me to pick up your aggro ass. Ian, Mandy; Mandy, Ian Gallagher,” he said and hesitated a little when Mandy looked at him pointedly; the question clear in her eyes. “He’s, uh, he’s Sal’s new side piece.”

Wow, that stung. Ian had been bracing for that introduction, knowing how uncomfortable Mickey was about explicitly admitting to their relationship to anyone not already in the know. Neither he nor Mickey was looking forward to whatever objections Mandy might have about their situation. They had been fighting for their relationship and defending it from day one, and it was an exhausting, frustrating process. Still, Ian had dared to hope for better, and for Mickey to still refer to him as “Sal’s” hurt worse than he thought it would.

Mickey shot him an uncomfortable, apologetic look before dipping his head and looking away. Mandy, on the other hand, was staring at him with undisguised curiosity and bafflement. Ian tried to shake off the sting and plastered on a brittle smile for Mandy. “Yep, that’s me.”

Mandy was flabbergasted. She eyed Ian from head to toe. “You’re fucking Sal?” she asked, her voice squeaking a bit in disbelief. “Jesus, you’re the living embodiment of a midlife crisis, or whatever shit Sal’s doing,” she mused before turning to her brother, “I guess this is as close as a guy can get to sticking his dick in a red corvette.”

Mickey couldn’t help but snort at that. He had more or less thought the same thing after he’d first met Ian and managed to stuff his tongue back into his mouth. Mandy also had a very similar line of thinking and questioning.

“What happened to Victor/Victoria?” she asked.

“Got dumped,” Mickey said succinctly and jerked his head towards Ian. Mandy couldn’t find fault with that upgrade.

“Since when does Sal  date…that?” she asked after groping about for an appropriate word and failing. Fortunately, Mickey had been in the exact spot she was and knew exactly what his sister meant.

“Since him.”

“But he’s so yo—”

“I know.”

“And he’s really—” she said again, waving a hand before her face.

“I know,” Mickey said with a small sigh and Ian fought the urge to point out that he was a living, breathing person who was standing right fucking there and not a conversation piece.

Mandy stared at Ian hard before levelling a gaze at her brother. “And since when do we take side pieces on field trips?”

Mickey scratched the back of his head self-consciously. “Gallagher’s okay, alright? You wanna chitchat all day or you want to get out of here? The other parolees must be halfway to California by now!”

Mandy snorted but let it slide for the moment as she shot them both suspicious glances before deliberately heading for the front passenger seat. Ian wasn’t about to protest. He was back down to “Gallagher” and by the time they got Mandy home, Mickey would probably wonder who Ian was and why he stowed away in the back seat.

“You hungry?” Mickey asked his sister after they’d finally set off towards home. “What do you want?”

“Every goddamned thing on the McDonald’s breakfast menu and maybe a pizza,” Mandy said with a yawn and pushed her seat back so she could stretch and prop up her legs on the dash board.

Mickey glanced nervously in his rear-view mirror to see Ian sitting subdued in the backseat. “What about you? You want anything?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Ian said far too quietly for Mickey’s nerves. A muted Ian was so much worse to him than a pouty, pissed-off one.

Mickey felt like crap. He had come with the intention of just ripping off the Band-Aid and telling his sister exactly who Ian was and about their relationship, only for his brain to scramble and wind up chickening out at the last moment. He had yet to say it out loud; his brothers had found him out, so had Dre and he was sure Mandy would too, eventually. He didn’t know what his hang-up was. Sure, he’d never been in a relationship before and he had never had to “claim” anyone, but he had never been surer of anything in his life than loving Ian. Still, the idea of stepping outside that bubble just made his brain stall.

“Nah, I’ll get you something,” Mickey said as he pulled into the next McDonald’s drive-thru. “You’re going to feel hungry once you start smelling all the crap she ordered.”

Mandy glanced back at Ian as well as her brother pulled up to the speaker. Ian had certainly deflated a bit since she’d first set eyes on him. The contrast between him and Sal’s usual sort was still flooring her. Maybe it was because she had been locked up a while, but she was having trouble remembering the last time she had seen a guy this dreamy. This was saying something because “dreamy” was not a word she was fond of using, but it was more than applicable in this instance. She was distracted from her thoughts by Mickey collecting the massive breakfast order and pulling off to park at the quiet end of the lot. She raised an eyebrow as Mickey gingerly handed Ian his coffee and food before taking his own and unceremoniously dumping the rest in her lap. She was starting to feel that she wasn’t the guest of honour in the car.

“So, what were you in for?” Ian asked in an attempt to shake off his disappointment. He had forgotten how taboo questions were with Milkoviches and clapped his mouth shut when Mandy looked back at him with an incredulous sneer. She then looked up at her brother who was grinning at his boyfriend’s haplessness.

“Is he for real?”

“That was like the third question he asked me when we met,” Mickey told her, “it’s a thing with him; just tell him.”

Mandy gave Ian another dubious eye, “they got me on promoting prostitution,” she said begrudgingly since Mickey gave her the go ahead, “assface here got locked up and somebody had to help with the Rub and Tug—”

“No, no…” Mickey interrupted, “don’t be misleading, like you fell on your sword or some shit. Say what actually happened.”

Mandy rolled her eyes and huffed, “I was looking for some fresh blood, okay? But I ended up propositioning an off duty officer—” she glared at Ian when he choked on his coffee laughing, “she looked like an easy mark!”

“Not every hot girl in a slutty dress is viable; I keep telling you this,” Mickey said to his sister, “I also keep telling you to leave procuring alone because you have zero fucking instincts when it comes to that shit,” Mickey chastised and glared at his sister when Mandy flipped him off and huffily bit into her McGriddle.

Ian couldn’t help his grin; he couldn’t imagine two more adorably grumpy people. The shocking ease with which they discussed outrageous crimes only made the whole thing weirdly funnier. He kicked the back of Mickey’s seat to get his attention. “So procuring is your job alone?”

“Me and Svetlana’s,” Mickey replied, grinning back at Ian through the rear-view mirror, “because Svetlana, at least, doesn’t immediately hone in on the nearest cop and I always know a good thing when I see it,” he said meaningfully, making Ian’s face warm. The moment was broken by Mandy punching her brother in the arm… hard. “Ow! What the—”

“You stupid mother—” Mandy began before she gave in and hit Mickey again.

“What the fuck is your—ow!—stop hitting me!”

“Really?! Really, Mickey?” Mandy yelled and tossed some wadded wrappers at Mickey. “The first motherfucker Sal gets that’s not the crypt keeper and you get your dick out?”

“Don’t get shit all over my car, Mandy! What the fuck is your problem?!”

Ian sighed and took a literal backseat as the squabbling siblings squared off. This had certainly escalated quickly and this time, he knew well enough to keep his mouth shut and to stay well out of it until absolutely necessary.

“Are you two fucking?!” Mandy demanded as she looked from one man to the other. “You’re fucking aren’t you?! Tell me you’re not fucking!”

Silence reigned for a moment as Mandy waited for an answer. Mickey said nothing, but rubbed beneath his lower lip with his thumb while he looked everywhere but at his sister. Mandy was neither charmed nor amused. She punched him in the bicep again and seemed ready to start wailing on him.

“Jesus, alright! Yes, okay? We’re—We’re together,” Mickey admitted. Mandy’s head whipped around to Ian who simply waved at her feebly.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?! If Sal—”

“There isn’t an outcome that hasn’t been extensively covered and explained to us, believe me,” Mickey said, exasperated. “It is what it is, alright? You were in lockup, so you missed all the drama. But we’ve already done it all. We tried to stay away from each other; that didn’t work. Jaime worked us over; it’s still happening. We’re trying to figure out how to deal with Sal, but in the mean time, we’re doing this. That’s it.”

Mandy stared at her brother slack jawed, at a total loss as to what to say. Ian decided it was as good a time as any to chime in to crack the tense, awkward silence. “If it helps any, we’ve even done the ‘I love you’ thing. So, you know, pretty serious.”

Mandy did seem surprised at that and blinked at her reddening brother. “You told him you loved him?!” she asked and let out a shocked laugh when he eventually nodded. “Are you fucking serious? What the hell happened while I was locked up?” she mused aloud, “Is Obama still president? Are the Chinese running shit now?”

“Yes,” Ian supplied helpfully, “and sort of if you analyze it from an economic standpoint.”

“He goes to Preston,” Mickey said with an alien note of pride in his voice that was doing Mandy in, “he’s going to be a business major.”

“Business major?” Mandy turned a critical eye on Ian, “you’re a college boy? I thought you were some go-go gold-digger from Boys Town,” she said before squeezing her eyes shut in realization that she had just given the game away. Mickey had caught on immediately.

“How the fuck did you know that?” Mickey said, rounding on her, “who the fuck told? Was it Iggy?”

“Hmm, ‘go-go gold-digger’ smells a lot more like Jaime,” Ian said drily.

Mandy sighed in defeat, “they all told me, alright? Each of the idiots wrote me or came to see me at least once at some point, freaking out about it.”

“You were blabbing my fucking business all over Cook County?!”

“We used code!” Mandy said, now flustered by her brother’s ire. “We’re not idiots.”

“What code? What fucking code? What kind of code did you space cadets actually use?!”

“Well…” Mandy cleared her throat and then nodded to Ian, “he was ‘Gingersnap,’ Sal was ‘Cookie Monster’ and—”

“God, just stop,” Mickey groaned. It didn’t need Hercule Poirot to work out that Jaime and Tony had concocted the cookie code. Kids had ruined his brothers. Mickey rested his head against the steering wheel and sighed while his sister looked on.

Mandy’s whole stance finally softened. She had had to piece together bits and snatches of the story and it had been aggravating as hell. It was surreal to be in the thick of it and realizing that Mickey had really committed to this and was now neck deep in a secret relationship. “So you’re serious about this then?”

Mickey sat up and wiped a tired hand over his face. “Yeah…because, you know, love or whatever.”

“I’m bookmarking this moment,” Ian said, “and I’m making sure our wedding invitations simply say ‘because, you know, love or whatever,’” he teased and Mickey rolled his eyes before snorting with laughter and reaching for a cigarette. When Mandy sent Ian another critical look, he gave her his most winsome “please love me and don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be” smile.

“He’s a dumb puppy, you know that?” Mandy muttered and bummed one of her brother’s cigarettes.

“The dumbest,” Mickey agreed, “but I’m keeping him.”

Mandy grunted softly and smoked for a while in quiet contemplation. She then surprised Ian by suddenly shoving herself into the backseat and settling next to him, stretching her legs across his lap and reclining easily against the door. “Wanted to see if you were a Monet,” she said. “So tell me the full story, dumb puppy,” she ordered, “starting from when you thought sweaty Salvatore was a good fucking choice to when you figured hooking up with a Milkovich would be an upgrade. Because I gotta say, this smells like terrible decision making.”

Mickey smiled to himself, dumped all the garbage from the car and pulled out of the parking lot. He’d leave the two of them to it.

Mandy, much to her annoyance, was getting the pants charmed off her by her brother’s cute, goofy boyfriend. She tried her best not to show it though and tried to remain gruff as Mickey drove them home. She had the sneaking, equally annoying suspicion that Ian knew he had already won. His hand rested easily on her legs, he chatted to her breezily and he had even hazarded teasing her a few times. He seemed like a guy who could probably charm anyone and was used to people naturally liking him. Her father would have loathed him to the bone. From what she remembered, charismatic, pretty boys set Terry’s teeth on edge. Her thoughts derailed when she felt Ian tense and she realized he was reacting to Mickey’s phone ringing.

“Tony wants me to see something,” Mickey explained after he hung up, “gonna make a little detour for a few minutes.”

It was down at the docks again—never a good sign in Ian’s opinion. He was still tense when Mickey parked outside an apparently unused warehouse and barked at them to stay in the car. He watched, grim faced, as Mickey disappeared inside, much to Mandy’s amusement and curiosity.

“You worry about him all the time?” she asked lightly and gazed at him over her cigarette in the same way her brother would, with a hint of mocking and genuine bemusement in their tone.

“Well yeah, don’t you?” Ian replied as he fidgeted uncomfortably; his eyes and ears straining for any sign of trouble.

Mandy shrugged, “Sometimes? It can get dicey, but I’m used to this mess—we all are. If I got my panties in a twist every time shit when down, I’d be a walking ulcer. They can handle their shit most of the time. Does it freak Mickey out, you getting worked up over him like this?”

Ian frowned at the odd question. “I guess he doesn’t want me to worry and he usually just doesn’t want me to think about it. But worrying about all of this would be natural, wouldn’t it? Why would it freak him out?”

 “It would freak me the fuck out,” Mandy confessed, “it’s always weird when anyone outside the family acts like they give a shit. Usually means they want something or they’re working some kind of angle. We don’t really know what to do with people acting all concerned.”

Ian didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, he gently tested the waters on a sore topic. “Is Sal expecting to see you soon?”

Mandy’s answering snort was loud and rude. “Fuck Sal. As far as he’s concerned, I and my frightening vagina dentata could rot in prison. He can’t live without Mickey so he sends him the best and gets him out in two months with probation and counselling. Meanwhile, my ass gets one step above a public defender. I’m just lucky my charge was non-violent and they were short on beds,” she said before she stretched and straightened up. When she opened the door to get out, Ian tried to stop her.

“He said to stay in the car!”

“Aw, you’re going to worry about me too?” Mandy laughed as she got out. She closed the car door and leaned in the window. “He told you to stay in the car, princess. He’s keeping you nice and clean but the bloom’s well off my rose. Just reach over and honk if you see anything weird!” she called back and skipped off into the warehouse.

She found her brothers at the far end of the warehouse peering studiously into the back of a car. She received no warning glares or marching orders so she ran over to pounce on Tony.

“Hey, there’s the jailbird,” Tony greeted her as he swept her off her feet. “Good to have you back, kid.”

He set her down and she immediately checked out the back of the trunk. Blue, sightless eyes stared up at her and she immediately wrinkled her nose. “God, I haven’t even been out of jail for two hours yet and you’ve got me looking at dead bodies?” she sighed. Only her brothers proudly showed each other corpses the way cats presented dead mice to their owners.

“But no, check him out right?” Tony nudged her, “who does he look like?” he prompted. He waited for Mandy to sing out the answer, but she was unforthcoming. “He looks just like you and Mick, I swear to god; it’s so freaky! It actually messed me up a little. I couldn’t even carve him up like I planned to.”

“Ugh, you psychopath.”

“It’s a signature, Mandy!” Tony said defensively, “but Mick, seriously, don’t you think he could be an unknown Milkovich?”

Mickey had to admit, there was a resemblance that was somewhat striking. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to find out that there were more of them out there of a range of ages. For all they know, Terry had probably set up shop with a whole new set somewhere else. Although, he doubted Terry would willingly give them up just to change families. Terry Milkovich would want them all together; he wouldn’t let a single one of them go easily. Every so often he wondered what would happen if his father were to reappear to reclaim them. It wasn’t a scenario his brain could handle.

“Who was he?” Mandy asked.

“One of Lucky’s guys,” Tony informed her, “gotta clean shop.” He then turned to Mickey, “what do you think, take him down to the plant?”

“Too much heat’s on; concrete’s better. They’re going to be laying the foundation soon over at that new mini-mall. He can be part of it. Or you know what else you could do…”

Mandy tuned out of the conversation and headed back to keep Ian company and harass him a little. Her new brother-in-law was far more interesting than dead body disposal.

The Milkovich house was something to behold and Ian was struck by the familiarity of it all. It was the day after Mandy’s release and her brothers were throwing her a party at their childhood home. So Ian found himself back in the Southside, surprisingly only a couple L stops from his own neighbourhood, and Mickey’s old house could have easily belonged to one of his neighbours. He wasn’t sure if it was unsettling or comforting.

He helped Mickey unload the liquor and supplies from the Impala and followed him inside. The differences between his childhood home and Mickey’s became more obvious upon entering. There was more junk, for one—random accoutrements scattered and stacked everywhere. It was untidier and, inexplicably, felt far more oppressive. The energy felt off and Ian wondered if it was any better at all when Mickey and his siblings were kids living there.

“Who lives here now?” Ian asked as they descended into the basement. Mandy’s demands had been clear—family and close friends only and no chance of Sal crashing in on them. That had ruled out the pool house and Sandrini’s.

“Well officially we all do,” Mickey said, wiping his hands on his jeans and heading back up the stairs. “This is still my primary address in case anyone comes looking, but, uh, some cousins are staying here.”

Mickey led him to a room at the rear of the house and it was obvious to Ian from the moment the door swung open that this was Mickey’s room. Either the room stayed empty while Mickey was away, or whoever stayed in the house was careful not to touch anything. Dark posters and juvenile scrawling covered the walls and small slivers of sunlight fell onto the tiny, single bed shoved into the corner. It was an odd sort of organized chaos and Ian tried to visualize an eight year old Mickey sitting in this room on the small couch across from the bed, on the brink of desperation.

“This was my room—is my room, I mean,” Mickey said and kicked a deflated football out of the way. “It’s a piece of shit, but you know.”

“It’s not so bad; at least it was just yours. Imagine having to share with all your brothers. Plus, at least you can fit on your bed,” Ian teased and laughed when Mickey flipped him off. “You come back here often?”

“Nah,” Mickey shook his head and glanced bleakly around the small room. “I check in once in a while, make sure it’s still standing, and sometimes if I need to get away from the pool house and have nowhere else to go. But I don’t just come here for the hell of it. Not a lot of great memories here to come back to.”

Ian picked up the sombre tone and he instinctively reached for Mickey to comfort him. The bedroom door was still open, so Mickey flinched away before Ian could touch him as a babble of voices came floating from the front of the house. Ian dropped his hand in resignation and stepped back.

“We need to get things started,” Mickey murmured and stepped past Ian. “Let’s go.”

Ian knew this was a different sort of affair when he saw Mickey slamming back his first shot. The party was already well underway and there was a crush of bodies in the basement which served as the hub. It was just family and close friends, but as Ian was realizing, the Milkoviches were a very large, extended brood and weirdly bonded in spite of their number and varied lifestyles.

It was like nothing he’d seen at Sandrini’s. They were in the heart of the Southside and a world away from the North side mob scene. There were no gangsters to schmooze or coddle, there was no responsibility to oversee every detail and to make sure things ran smoothly; it was a different kind of safe place and Mickey and his siblings were making full use of it and cutting loose.

Ian accepted a beer from Joey, who was stationed behind the makeshift bar, and made sure to give Mickey a wide berth. The Southside might be freeing in one way, but it still came with its own harsh restrictions. He had no fond memories of being closeted and fearful as he manoeuvred through his teens and he was sure Mickey didn’t have any either. He took a sip of his beer and watched longingly as Mickey downed more shots with his sister and brothers.


The first thing that sprung to Ian’s mind was “hipster Jesus.” The young man before him had gauged ears, a messy man-bun and a carefully unkempt beard.

“Crazy, huh?” the man persisted when Ian only blinked at him and Ian remembered himself and nodded.

“Yeah,” he responded with a short laugh.

“Not having fun? You’ve been pretty quiet but you don’t really strike me as the wallflower type,” the guy asked, smiling coyly at Ian.

“Oh no, yeah, I just… I don’t know a lot of people here.”

“Same, buddy of mine behind the bar—,” he said nodding to Joey, “—his sister got sprung from the clink; told me to come on down and celebrate. I’m Eric, by the way,” the man said and extended his hand.

Ian took it, “Ian.”

Eric didn’t immediately release it, but seemed to have a brain blast. “This is gonna sound like a total line, but I swear I know you from somewhere. Don’t be offended, but, uh, Boys Town? White Swallow?”

“I’m not offended and yeah, that was probably me.”

“Oh fuck, I knew it,” Eric said gleefully and finally released Ian’s hand. “I was trying so hard to place you; I think all the clothes were throwing me off,” Eric grinned broadly and Ian couldn’t help but laugh at that. “So are you here with anyone or—”

“Ian,” Mickey said sharply from a few feet away, clearly not happy.

Ian gave Eric an awkward smile and began to mumble his apologies as he drifted towards Mickey. Eric returned an awkward smile of his own and backed away. He guessed that answered his question.

“What’s up?” Ian asked his boyfriend, who was busy glaring at a retreating Eric.

“What was that?”

“That was someone mingling at a party and possibly hitting on me,” Ian said easily, “it happens every so often; it’s not a crime. What else do you need cleared up?”

Mickey sighed but lowered his hackles. He glanced at Ian sheepishly before nodding to the beer in Ian’s hand, “is that all you’re drinking?”

“Yeah,” Ian said, choosing to ignore Mickey’s underlying questions. Giving how uninhibited everyone was acting, Ian figured someone had to stay fairly sober. Besides, Mickey and Alex were right, his drug and alcohol tolerance had taken a dive since he’d been on his meds. The last few times he’d seriously indulged, he’d gotten knocked on his ass.

Mickey sighed again as he looked at Ian, and the conflict was evident on his face. He then looked out around the crowded basement and Ian followed his eyes, trying to see what Mickey saw. There were friends and family, all getting wasted and having a chaotic good time. Ian doubted that any more than a handful of people knew about Mickey’s sexual orientation and there was no telling how the rest would respond. It wasn’t necessarily a safe place and each person was a variable that was ultimately beyond Mickey’s control. While this Southside was a world removed from the Outfit, worlds collided all the time and damaging information could be advertently or inadvertently exchanged. Ian could see Mickey’s mind spinning as he stared out at the partiers.

“It’s okay,” Ian said as softly as the blaring music would allow. Mickey looked up at him, surprised and uncertain. “It’s fine, Mick; it really is. You don’t need to do this to prove anything. If you’re not ready—”

Mickey cut him off by pressing close and pulling Ian down for their kiss, taking the latter briefly by surprise. Ian surrendered to it completely, cradling Mickey’s head with his free hand and circling his waist with the other.  They got lost in the moment easily as the revelry of the party continued around them, unabated and uninterrupted. No one paid attention to their moment, no one even cared, and for the first time in his life, Ian figured that being invisible might just have some benefits.

By the time Mickey grabbed Ian to head upstairs, he was falling down drunk. He made it up the stairs, with Ian’s laughing assistance, and weaved his way towards his old bedroom. When he shoved the bedroom door open, he an