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How do you measure a year?

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He stares at you, those puppy brown eyes burning into your soul like they had for months now. He’s waiting. He’s been waiting for days now; the days you were gone with Mickey, the days since you returned and had to deal with the aftermath of Monica’s death; just so many days. And finally you’re here, to tell him the truth, and you can't find any words.

“I get it,” He says softly. “He was your first love. That kinda stuff never really goes away.”

“I love him. I always will.” You admit. To him. To yourself. To where ever Mickey is burying his feet in warm sand.

Trevor just nods.

“But I’m here. And...I know no matter how much I love him, that's not who I am anymore. That's not the kind of life I have worked so hard to have. He gets that.” You’re cemented where you stand. Trevor just sits on the edge of his bed, looking at his hands with those eyes.

“I get that, too.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not mad, Ian. Hurt a little, but not mad. I understand.”

“Do you still want to be with me?” You ask gently. He looks up at you. You should be used to these eyes. You aren't. They aren't blue.

“Do you?”

You nod.

And it's that simple. For the both of you. And that's what you need. Simple.

At 2:07am you get a text.

Miss me yet?

You smile and type back.

Every second.

********************************

After Monica dies and everyone mourns in their own way, and you scrape Lip off the road and decide the best thing for the both of you is to get your own place, together, since the last thing you two wanna do is stay in that house one second more than needed and Fiona is making more than enough money to keep that house afloat with all her apartment flipping. So you move out. You get an apartment in between the south side and-and the not so south side and Lip keeps going to meetings and starts waiting at the diner and you’ve become a trainer now at the station and before you know it it's been almost 4 months since you left Mickey at the border.

And the only reason you realize it is because you get a picture of Mickey’s feet in white sand one afternoon while on your lunch break. The text under the picture reads:

U would love it here. Miss u.

You smile like you always do when you think of him and text back almost immediately.

I’m sure I would.

He doesn't answer back and you slide your phone into your pocket when you see Trevor waving at you from across the street.

**********************

When Trevor suggests you go with him to California when a youth center out there wants to meet with him about getting additional funding for the shelter here in Chicago, you want to say yes. But the idea of being at the beach with anyone but Mickey just seems...wrong.

So you decline. You tell him there is no way you can get that kind of time off work.

Those 4 days Trevor is gone all you do is text with Mickey.

You text him first and you find out he’s been working as a bartender on the beach where he’s been making great tips and he didn’t even have to change his name. Everyone calls him Mickey and he lives in a small cabana not far from the bar and his life is simple. More simple than he ever expected and he admits there have been guys, but you knows it's nothing serious and you never reveal and Mickey never asks about anyone in your life.

You finally tell Mickey about Monica and all Mickey replies with is a simple ‘fuck’ and asks if you're okay. When you admit you will probably never be ok, with any of it, Mickey doesn't press. Not like Trevor did and still does like it will make everything better if you just TALK about it. No, Mickey never gets too deep into it, because you know Mickey gets it when it comes to shitty families and sometimes it's just best to deal with that shit internally.

You realize how time has turned Mickey into a softer version of the trash he was in Chicago. Yeah, he's still harsh and vulgar, but softer around the edges. Time and the sun and the ocean have done wonders for Mickey, more than you ever did and could have.

Mickey was free.

In so many ways.

And so were you.

But it's never felt that way.

The last text you gets from Mickey before Trevor comes back from California is Mickey smiling and squinting into the shitty flip phone camera, his hair long and pulled back into a small little ponytail. His skin is tan, almost black and for a second you don't recognize him. But the eyes are the same; so blue, so clear but so clouded with pain still hiding behind them.

And you cry until you see Trevor walking through the terminal toward you.

******************************

Trevor asks you if you think you two should live together on a Tuesday.

You never answer him.

*******************************

Frank Gallagher dies on a Sunday morning.

Trevor knows better now than to push.

*****************************

Mickey asks you if you want him to come there when you tell him about Frank.

You just reply no.

You don't hear from him for 3 months.

*************************

It's almost a year to the day that you left Mickey at the border when Trevor is standing in your kitchen stirring pasta around in boiling water and going on about the renovations for the new LGBT center he’s had his hands in for months now. As he talks all you can do it stand there and stare at his back and think his body is all wrong, and his hair isn't the right color and when he finally turns and looks at you with brown eyes instead of blue, he stops mid-sentence and drops his hands to his sides.

There are those puppy eyes again.

“This is it, isn't it?”

You nod.

“How long?”

You blink, knowing what he’s asking, but not knowing all in the same way.

“How long have you been talking to him?”

You get it now. Not how long will you be gone. Trevor knows when you go it’ll be for good.

“Since I got back.”

You watch Trevor’s hand grip the edge of the counter and you feel guilty for a moment.

“It's my fault.” Trevor whispers. “I should have known. You never stopped loving him.”

“No,” You whisper back. “No, I didn't.”

“Did you ever love me?”

You swallow. “Not like I love him.”

He nods, and swallows back the tears you know he wants to cry so desperately. “Then you should go.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know. But I should have known I never stood a chance. You were just...waiting for the right time to go back to him. Took you longer than I thought it would.”

“You are very important to me.” You admit, because it's the truth. He just smiles through his tears.

“I know. Thank you.”

You leave Lip a note and enough money to cover your half of the rent for 2 months. The note doesn't say much but you know somehow Lip will just know.

They’ve always just known.

Just like you have.

*****************************

You take a lot of pictures on the way down. You want to send some of them to Mickey, but you think the element of surprise has always worked best when it came to the two of you.

His ponytail is longer and his smile is brighter and he doesn't see you until the couple at the bar move away and he begins to wipe the small counter down in front of him. He has that same look; the look you saw just over a year ago behind a chain link fence. A look of awe. Wonder. Surprise. And joy. And when he smiles at you; a smile you’ve never seen before because Mickey Milkovich wasn’t able to smile like that before; you just shrug your shoulders and smile back.

You drop your bag at your feet on the sand and lean against the bar across from him. He leans into you, lips parted and you don't think he’s ever looked so sexy.

And free.

“Knew you’d come.”

And you both just keep smiling.