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love, let your hands be tender

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From a young age, Mickey knows he’s bound to learn a thing or two about violence, a prize he’s won by having been born a Milkovich.

One of the first lessons he’s taught, by his family of thugs and criminals, by his hulking persecutor of a father, by the unforgiving South Side, is that love and violence always go hand in hand.

His dad tells him that you can only ever trust family, family means you have each other’s backs in a fight, family means you never rat each other out, you’re always there to pick each other up from the drunk tank, or prison, or juvie. Mickey’s pretty sure that’s love. Being there for each other.

There are many other things love means, though, ones his dad doesn’t tell him about. Mickey doesn’t begin to understand until he’s five, and first witnesses his dad hitting his brother.

It’s Iggy, that first time, three years older than Mickey, and already tough as shit, a hero in Mickey’s eyes. It’s probably partly why it scares Mickey so much.

Mickey’s in the kitchen, on his tiptoes with his head in the fridge, trying to reach the tub of butter shoved too far in the back. He doesn’t know when his mom will be home, and his dad has never made a sandwich to anyone, but Mickey’s hungry, so he’s taking matters into his own hands.

Iggy’s been out playing soccer with his friends the whole afternoon, and he’s just come home, dumped his bag and an old, torn up soccer ball on the living room floor. He’s sprawled on the couch, reading a comic book, when Terry barges into the room and stumbles on the stuff Iggy’s left in the doorway. He curses harshly but keeps his balance.

“This your shit?” he spits at Iggy, the only possible culprit in his sight right now.

Iggy looks scared, pale and wide-eyed, which, in hindsight, clues Mickey in on that it isn’t the first time their dad has hit one of his kids.

Iggy only has time to stammer out the beginnings of an apology before Terry has him by the collar of his shirt.

“I thought I told you to clean up after yourself, you little shit”, he snarls as he’s pulling Iggy over the back of the couch.

Terry doesn’t seem to want an answer, because he back-hands Iggy across the face as soon as the sentence is out. It’s a sharp sound, like it hurts. Mickey recoils, and the fridge door swings shut.

Iggy crumples, or he would, if Terry wasn’t still holding him up by his shirt. He shakes his son a little bit.

“That’s the last time you leave your shit all over the place, understood?” he asks.

The words are low, a threat rather than a question. Iggy nods fervently, hands covering his face, little shivers wracking his body.

“Clean it up”, Terry snarls before letting Iggy slump on the floor behind the couch. He leaves the room, muttering angrily as he goes. “Someone’s gotta teach some lessons around here.”

Iggy doesn’t get up, just continues shivering on the floor as Mickey stands frozen in the kitchen. It takes a while for Mickey to realize that Iggy’s crying. And that’s nearly as scary as seeing his dad hit him, because Iggy’s braver than anyone Mickey knows, and he never cries, not even when he’d fallen off the neighbors’ kid’s skateboard and skinned both his hands and knees.

Mickey doesn’t move at all until Iggy stands up, wipes his nose on his sleeve. His face is hard and blotchy when he locks eyes with Mickey.

“What are you looking at, little shit?” he screams, recycling their father’s words either deliberately or instinctively. It’s nowhere near as effective out of Iggy’s mouth.

Mickey startles anyway, stutters out “nothing”, and bolts to his room. He stays locked up there for the rest of the day, hunger forgotten.

Mickey’s never had a reason to suspect that their dad doesn’t love them. Terry’s never said he does, of course, but he buys them food, he makes sure they know how to defend themselves against bigger kids, he takes them all to trips sometimes. He takes care of them, and that means love, right?

As much as seeing Iggy get hurt scares Mickey, it makes him realize that he’d had it wrong. Love also means teaching lessons. He’s sure that being hit feels bad, but if it has to do with love, it must be necessary.

                                                             


 

It’s not long until Mickey finds out. Being slapped on the wrist and shoved roughly out of the way evolves naturally into black eyes and bruised ribs.

Mickey spills a bowl of cereal onto the carpet. In panic, he tries to mop up the mess with paper towels before his dad sees. It’s useless, and when he’s kneeling on the floor, Terry kicks him in the face so hard he hears a crack. When Mickey’s nose stops bleeding, Mandy wipes his face and helps him clean up the milk-soaked carpet.

Mandy steals a tube of lipstick from the older girls at school. She only tells Mickey, giggling, asks him how she looks after attempting to put it on. She puts on too much, and paints way over the shape of her lips, so Mickey tells her she looks stupid. She only giggles harder, insists that Mickey would look just as stupid, so Mickey lets her put some on him, too. Their dad, of course, walks in and sees. Mickey knows immediately that he’s done something wrong, but isn’t sure what, exactly. Terry slams his head against a wall. It’s the first time Mickey hears the word “faggot”.

It’s anything. Mickey shuts the door too hard, doesn’t put the milk back in the fridge, sounds disrespectful while talking to Terry.

They’re all lessons, and Mickey learns to love his father more when he does something right for once and gets a pat on the shoulder instead of a fist in the face.

                                                               


 

Terry hits their mom, too, sometimes. When Mickey’s younger, he isn’t sure what she does to deserve it, because she doesn’t spill cereal or leave things laying around. He grows up, watches his dad knock his mom across the room, then later kiss the shiner on her cheek. Mickey’s never been in love, but he’s sure that loving your family is different from loving your wife or your girlfriend. His father’s fists seem to be the one constant.

Mickey wonders what it’ll be like when he has a wife of his own, tries to imagine loving her and wanting to beat her at the same time. He starts shoving around the girls at school during recess, just to see what it feels like. It’s not very satisfying, but eventually some kid two grades above him comes to their defense. Mickey socks him out of pure annoyance, and it feels good enough that he does it again, does it as many times as he can before a teacher runs over to separate them. As Mickey sits in detention, he stares at his knuckles, still jittery with adrenaline, and thinks it’s the best thing he’s felt in a while. The other kid hadn’t even gotten one punch in, and he tells this to Terry, who looks proud. Mickey doesn’t get in trouble, so he continues getting in fights.

                                                               


 

His brothers’ hands aren’t gentle, either. Them, at least, Mickey can hit back, though most of the time their fighting isn’t serious. When they’re on good terms they wrestle, slap each other on the back with more force than necessary, smack each other with hockey sticks or baseball bats or whatever equipment happens to be available. They leave bruises, sometimes, but they all know not to be pussies about it. They’ve wanted to really hurt each other only a handful of times.

And here’s the flipside. They’re always ready to kick the shit out of other people, too. When Terry needs backup on a drug run, every single Milkovich is willing to defend the family. It feels important, it feels safe, it’s the thing Terry always repeats when he talks about family. Mickey only has to say the word, and his brothers are grabbing their guns and getting ready to rough up whatever fuckhead Mickey thinks needs a lesson. No one questions it when Iggy tells his siblings he needs a getaway driver. If Mandy wants some asshole guy beaten up, nobody asks why.

                                                               


 

Mickey often thinks that out of his entire family, Mandy is the easiest one to love. Maybe it’s because she’s younger, which means she’s always been present in Mickey’s life in a different way than his brothers, who have had their own things going on for as long as Mickey can remember. Maybe it’s because, even though she’s a girl, she twists Mickey’s arm almost as hard as his brothers, but she’s also the only one of his siblings who sometimes just wants to hang out with him. Doing nothing is never as boring with Mandy. Mickey would never say anything like that to her, but maybe she gets it.

Terry doesn’t hit Mandy, at least not that Mickey knows of. He doesn’t usually act violent towards her at all. This means, naturally, that she’s all the more shaken when something happens.

It’s right after Mandy’s tenth birthday when she brings a boy home, proudly tells her siblings that they’re a couple, boyfriend and girlfriend. At this point, Mickey’s twelve and he’s never had a girlfriend. He thinks he maybe knows why, and Mandy’s seemingly sudden romance makes his stomach turn in anger and jealousy.

He never gets to voice his thoughts, because Terry gets livid upon seeing them. Apparently, Mandy’s too young to have a boyfriend, which is bullshit, because Colin had his first girlfriend when he was, like, eight. Even if Mickey doesn’t have any experience in dating, he’s pretty sure that for a ten-year-old, boyfriends and girlfriends don’t mean the same thing they do for Iggy, who’s fifteen, already in high school.

The way Terry’s screaming when he throws the boy out, Mickey gets the impression he’s angry rather at him than at Mandy but can’t exactly beat up some fifth grader he doesn’t know. So what he does is grab Mandy’s shoulders, lift her all the way up in the air, shake her while calling her names Mickey remembers hearing him call their mom before.

When Terry leaves, there isn’t a bruise on Mandy, but she’s shaking like a leaf, sitting on the floor with her knees pulled to her chest. Mickey sits beside her, because he doesn’t know what else to do. She isn’t crying, which is a relief, but also makes Mickey feel strangely respectful of his little sister.

Mandy doesn’t say anything, doesn’t do anything, and Mickey’s stomach tightens with anxiety. He knows he’s supposed to help, somehow, but his hands don’t know what to do when there’s nothing to punch. He can’t touch Mandy, because he feels like he’d mess it up if he tried. Instead, he sits there with his fingers clenching uselessly on top of his thighs.

After a while, Mickey gets up, runs to snatch a box of powdered donuts he’d been hiding from his brothers in a desk drawer in his room. He returns to the living room, offers Mandy one. She stares for a long moment before taking it. It feels empty, but it’s the best Mickey can do.

“Sorry”, Mickey says eventually, after they’ve both eaten, and Mandy has stopped shaking. He doesn’t know why he says it or what he’s sorry about. Mandy just shrugs and takes another donut.

                                                               


 

It’s easier when Mandy’s older. She’s twelve and becoming a woman in her own eyes, because she puts on mascara and gets attention from boys. As much as she says she likes it, Mickey suspects that it also scares her sometimes.

One day she comes home from school, not quite crying but face all twisted up when she stomps into the living room and throws her bag down angrily. Mickey’s on the couch, skipping class and playing video games. To his surprise, Mandy doesn’t go to her room, but sits beside him, arms crossed and eyes cast down until Mickey hands her the other controller. She’s too young to be any good, so usually Mickey doesn’t like playing with her, but maybe it’ll make her feel better.

After a while of Mandy punching the buttons and twisting the sticks so hard they’re about to come off, Mickey asks: “What the fuck’s up with you?”

Mandy throws the controller down and doesn’t look at Mickey as she explains that she let a boy in her class put his hands up under her shirt, and it was supposed to be a secret, but the boy told about it to everyone, and now they’re all acting like Mandy did something wrong. They call her a slut, she says, even her friends.

Mickey’s known that word ever since he was little, because it’s one of his dad’s favorites. He knows what it means and he’s sure as hell it doesn’t apply to his little sister. Mickey corners the asshole the next day on his way to school, thinks about the shame in Mandy’s eyes as he pounds the guy’s face in until his knuckles split open. He hopes it’s enough of a message to her other classmates. This is the love Mickey knows how to give.

                                                               


 

Mickey’s fifteen when he lets another guy touch him. He’s already tried being with a few girls, felt their breasts a couple of times, because it doesn’t require any skill or enthusiasm, and the girls always seem to like it. The furthest he’s gone is a hand job, with Chrissy Ivers in the school’s supply closet. It had been terrible and awkward, Chrissy sticking a hand down his pants, Mickey squeezing his eyes shut and gripping her narrow shoulders too hard. It’d been difficult enough to maintain a hard-on then, and Mickey doesn’t know how he’d do it if he attempted actual sex with a girl.

It’s different now, the guy is a year older than Mickey, clearly more experienced. His name might be Nate, but Mickey isn’t sure, or interested, for that matter. They’re in a stall in the boys’ bathroom, this time, and Nate is backing him up against the wall, tugging Mickey’s jeans open and pulling his dick out without hesitation. Mickey knows he should be cautious about this, maybe do it someplace not public, but Nate is wrapping a rough hand around him and it already feels so much better than Mickey imagined it would. Nate jerks him off quietly, and Mickey pants harshly into the space between them, twists his hands in Nate’s shirt, keeps his eyes carefully cast down.

To Mickey’s relief, Nate doesn’t ask him to return the favor, but rather pulls his own underwear aside to stroke himself at the same time. Mickey watches it, stomach turning with arousal and nerves. When they’re done, he nearly runs out and all the way home, where he sits on his bed until his breathing has evened out and his hands have stopped sweating.

                                                               


 

Nate corners him a couple of days later, under the bleachers where Mickey’s having a smoke.

“The fuck do you want?” Mickey asks him.

Nate just smiles, comes closer until Mickey feels claustrophobic despite the open space they’re in.

“I was thinking maybe you’d want another round”, he says, voice low and flirtatious. Mickey doesn’t want to hear him talk. Just his presence is too much of a remainder of what they’ve done.

“No, fuck off before I knock your teeth out.”

Nate doesn’t get the message, thinks he’s playing hard to get or what the fuck ever.

“Sure? You could try blowing me”, he says and pulls Mickey’s hand straight to his crotch.

That’s it. Mickey takes a swing at him, like a reflex, and hits him square in the jaw. Nate goes down immediately, hands covering his face, which just fuels Mickey’s anger. He kicks him in the ribs, once, twice, and when Nate doesn’t try to get up, doesn’t try to fight back, Mickey kneels down on top of him, slams his head against the ground, hits him until he can’t properly make out the his features under the blood.

Vision blurry, legs shaking, Mickey stands up.

“Stay the fuck away from me, fucking fag”, he spits, and leaves Nate curled up on the ground. He’s not sure if he feels better.

                                                               


 

Their mom dies the same year. Mickey’s old enough to know that she’d been a junkie, a full-blown addict unlike him and his brothers, who smoke weed when they have it at hand but do shit like coke or molly only on occasion. In fact, many of Mickey’s recent and last memories of his mom revolve around drugs. Colin tells him that she’d overdosed, some pills or shit, not her usual thing. Mickey doesn’t ask how Colin knows this, but to him it sounds like it might not have been an accident. Mickey doesn’t blame her. Their dad’s variety of love must be fucking exhausting to receive.

                                                               


 

Mickey knows nothing about Ian Gallagher, and when he does, he fully means to beat him up, too, for what he’d done to Mickey’s sister. Except that, Mandy tells him and his brothers, Ian doesn’t need to be beaten up, because he’s Mandy’s boyfriend. Which, okay, is fucking weird, but none of Mickey’s business if Mandy says it isn’t.

After that, though, Ian Gallagher is on his radar, and Mickey tells himself he needs to keep an eye on the guy for the sake of his sister. He starts to steal exclusively from the store Gallagher works at. The owner is the biggest pussy Mickey knows, so threatening him is always funny, but lately he’s been more interested in what Gallagher has to say to him. The kid’s got more fight in him than Kash ‘N’ Grab, that’s for sure, and he’s fucking annoying, whiny and self-righteous. Mickey has no idea what Mandy sees in him.

                                                               


 

It starts as a fight, of course. Gallagher barges into his room, brandishing a tire iron, demanding back the gun, and something in Mickey jolts at the fucking guts of this kid.

He wants to wipe the confidence and determination off Gallagher’s face, feel his flesh bruise beneath Mickey’s fists, make him fucking respect him, know that you don’t fuck with Mickey Milkovich.

Gallagher is surprisingly strong, his arms all wiry muscle beneath Mickey’s hands when he grabs them to throw him across the room. It’s been too long since Mickey’s been in a proper fight, and Gallagher isn’t the type to just roll over and take it.

Instead, he meets Mickey’s eyes when he’s pinned between his knees, looks up at him like he’s going to ask for something, face open and innocent. Mickey doesn’t know why it gets him going so fast, but the next thing he knows is that they’re ripping each other’s clothes off with the same intensity, a natural continuation for their fistfight.

In a few seconds, Mickey’s on his knees for Gallagher, face pressed into the sweaty crook of his elbow. He’s never been fucked before, hasn’t ever had actual sex with a guy, but he’s used his fingers enough to know what he wants.

Gallagher seems to know what he’s doing, holds Mickey’s hips in place and pushes into him after Mickey hastily presses a condom into his hand. It hurts, kind of, at first, but Mickey likes it. It makes the whole thing feel more like a fight.

It’s really fucking good. There’s nothing shy or innocent about the way Gallagher fucks him, punches the breath right out of Mickey with every thrust until he has to bite down on his lip to keep quiet. It’s nearing too much when Mickey reaches between his legs to wrap a shaky hand around his dick.

Gallagher’s quiet, too, thank fuck, ragged breaths punctuating the drag of his cock in and out of Mickey. When he comes, a little after Mickey, he makes this little high-pitched sound that Mickey feels right in his gut.

It’s not long until Gallagher pulls out and away. Mickey collapses onto the bed, takes a moment to catch his breath. Gallagher doesn’t try to cuddle, which is good, because even though Mickey’s exhausted, he’d still have to kick his ass for that.

He isn’t sure why, but as he’s leaving, Mickey gives him the gun. Gallagher’s sporting an impressive shiner around his left eye. Later, Mickey notices the bruises Gallagher’s pressed over his hipbones. He goes to sleep more satisfied than he’s been in ages.

                                                               


 

It keeps happening.

They start fucking more and more, in increasingly risqué locations, and Mickey feels out of control in his own body.

It’s Mickey walking straight into Kash and Grab, Gallagher locking the front door behind them. They stumble into the freezer in the back, stripping each other frantically like they’re fucking dying for it. Or Gallagher sneaking into Mickey’s room when he’s supposed to be hanging out with Mandy, Mickey pushing him roughly onto his knees to suck him off fast and dirty.

It’s always like a fight, the way they shove at each other, grab too tight and scratch too hard.

Sometimes, though, Gallagher gets too close, brings his lips right to Mickey’s cheek or tries to put his hand into Mickey’s hair. Mickey pushes him away, fists itching to punch something, tells Gallagher to take that faggoty-ass shit elsewhere.

Gallagher always lays off, and Mickey doesn’t have to bash his face in, which is good, because now he’s used to being fucked on the regular, and it’d be a goddamn pain to find someone else with a nine-inch dick and the skills to use it.

And Mickey knows it’s stupid as shit to fuck the same person for too long, because there are always complications, someone gets too attached, someone sees them together and figures out there’s something going on. It’s especially stupid if the someone you’re fucking is anything like Gallagher, who Mickey can’t seem to intimidate. He’s shitty at following his own advice, apparently. He just hopes it doesn’t blow up in his face.

                                         



Gallagher turns up on his doorstep, which is definitely not okay with Mickey.

He looks fucking sad, voice shaking like he’s near tears, and Mickey has no idea what’s going on. His first instinct is to tell him to go cry to Mandy, because you’re supposed to do all this feelings-shit with chicks.

But fuck. Instead, Mickey tells him that he’ll be at the store in twenty.

When Mickey slips into the freezer, Gallagher’s sitting on the floor, arms curled around his knees. He doesn’t look like he’s going to cry anymore, but he doesn’t look completely okay, either. Mickey has no idea what to do with it.

“It’s my mom”, Gallagher tells him.

“What?” Mickey asks, as patient as he’s capable of being. “You mean, like, she died or something?”

That’s probably not the right thing to ask, but Gallagher meets his eyes.

“No, she came back. I’m…It’s a long story.”

He sounds like he’s not going to elaborate, probably because he knows that Mickey doesn’t care to listen. But they’re here, aren’t they?

“So”, Mickey says, takes a step closer. “You want a distraction or what? ‘Cause I ain’t your fucking therapist.”

Gallagher’s down, of course. He strips and pushes Mickey against the shelves, solid chest on Mickey’s sweater-covered back like he wants to get as close as possible. Mickey’s undone his belt already, pulled his pants over his ass, and Gallagher wastes no time. He works two slick fingers into Mickey, who pushes back, breathes shakily, just wants Gallagher to hurry up and fuck him.

It’s different than usual, probably because Gallagher’s in a weird mood about his mom. He slows down, curls his fingers in a way that makes Mickey squirm, presses his face into Mickey’s neck, just breathes hot air against his skin. It’s too close to kissing.

“Fucking”, Mickey snarls, even though he tries to be careful about talking during sex. “Stop, get in me, Jesus.”

Frustrated, he reaches back, tries to grab Gallagher’s wrist to guide his fingers out of him. Gallagher swats his hand away.

“Alright, calm the fuck down.”

Gallagher pulls away to roll on a condom, nudges Mickey’s feet further apart, and sinks in, fills Mickey up until he’s gritting his teeth.

Gallagher’s louder today, breathy little moans that echo in the freezer rip out of his throat as he fucks into Mickey. Honestly, Mickey always expected to be annoyed by loud partners, but it sounds kind of fucking hot. Besides, they’re alone, so what’s the big deal?

As Gallagher drives in harder, deeper, Mickey curls a fist around the rickety shelf post. Soon, Gallagher’s hand follows, molds itself tightly over Mickey’s fingers. It’s some fucking soft porn shit, veering too far in the territory of romantic for Mickey’s tastes. He waits a second too long to shove Gallagher away, tell him to stop being such a fucking girl, maybe just to see what it feels like.

He never gets a chance to do any of that, because Kash opens the freezer door.

                                                               


 

After he gets back from juvie, Mickey’s job hunting goes smoother than he’d expected. Honestly, he’d imagined Linda letting him work at the store he used to rob regularly would be a considerably more far-fetched idea.

He’s not complaining, mainly because it opens lots of opportunities for him and Gallagher to bang during business hours.

It also means that they spend time together nearly every day, which isn’t something Mickey initially planned.

“The fuck is that?”

“The fuck is what, Mickey?”

Mickey scowls harder, points at the page of the book Gallagher has open on the store’s register. He doesn’t give a shit what it is, but he’s pissed that Gallagher has passed up an opportunity to fuck and is instead studying math.

Gallagher sighs. “It’s trigonometry.”

“Looks fucking pointless”, Mickey scoffs, leans on the register. He doesn’t understand why Gallagher’s so hung up on getting to West Point. He’d have plenty of opportunities to get shot if he stayed on the South Side.

“It’s not pointless if you have fucking aspirations”, Gallagher says. “You wanna be a corner store security guard for the rest of your life?”

Mickey doesn’t, but he isn’t sure if there’s anything else he could amount to. Instead of answering the question, he glares at a kid who’s just come in and is now hovering suspiciously at the candy aisle.

“Ey”, he calls out. “You wanna keep your face looking like it does now, you’re gonna think twice about stealing.”

The kid startles so badly he drops a chocolate bar and bolts out of the store. It’s hilarious.

When Mickey turns back to the register, Gallagher’s looking at him with a smile.

“Though”, he says. “You do really seem to enjoy that.”

It’s true. That’s probably how it’s going to be, anyway. Mickey’s best qualities are his right hook and his quick temper.

                                                               


 

The summer’s hot as balls, but that doesn’t stop them from hanging out at the dugouts every other day. If he was fucking lame, Mickey would say it’s their spot.

Mickey’s brought a six pack of beer, and now he’s chugging down his second one, watching Ian – Gallagher – doing pull-ups, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen

The most vicious summer in fucking human history, but he wants to work out.

Gallagher’s grunting with the effort, Mickey squints against the sun, presses the cold can on his forehead, but doesn’t look away. The front of Gallagher’s blue t-shirt is soaked, exposed skin shiny with sweat. His hair looks like it’s catching fire. Mickey watches his muscles work, arousal burning in his gut despite his whole body feeling lethargic with the heat.

It’s nearly too hot for fucking. But shit, Gallagher doesn’t make it easy to not think about fucking. Mickey wants to pull him down here, feel the slick skin of his toned arms under his palms, curl a hand in the damp hair at the base of Gallagher’s neck, get him as close as possible, put his mouth on him, everywhere.

Except, no.

Mickey physically reels back. He isn’t going to do any of that. He doesn’t want to consider how much the thought scares him, either, so he knocks back his beer.

“Get the fuck down here”, he snaps, harsher than he means to, whips around to check there’s no one else around.

Ian – Gallagher, fuck – gives him a weird look, but drops down and stretches his shoulders.

Mickey is on him in a second, tugging at his belt with shaking fingers.

“Okay”, Gallagher laughs and starts undoing Mickey’s pants, nudges him backwards to guide them into a shadowy corner.

Mickey’s back is pressed into the concrete wall, and Gallagher presses a strong thigh between his legs. Mickey groans, grinds against it even though beads of sweat start forming on his forehead immediately.

“C’mon, fuck”, he breathes, clutches Gallagher’s arms harder than he needs to.

“Yeah, yeah”, Gallagher agrees and yanks both their jeans down far enough that they’re able to tug their dicks out.

Impatiently, Mickey shoves his hands out of the way to wrap his own fingers around Gallagher’s cock, warm and heavy, already filling out. It’s fucking gorgeous.

Gallagher moans, fucks into the tight circle of Mickey’s hand, the sweat making the slide easy. It’s kind of gross, but not enough to put either of them off.

Soon Gallagher’s doing the same, stroking Mickey sure and perfect, dragging a thumb over the head of his cock in a way he knows makes his hips twitch.

Mickey rotates his wrist, watches Gallagher’s abs flex, his knuckles nearly grazing them with the movement.

“Fuck, like that”, Ian – shit, shit, Gallagher – says, and his voice is wrecked. It sends a shiver down Mickey’s spine.

It doesn’t take long until Mickey’s panting like he’s running a fucking marathon, his shirt sticking to his skin, head dizzy like he might pass out. He has Gallagher’s arm in a bruising grip, while Gallagher’s fingers dig sharply into his stomach just below his ribs, pushing Mickey back against the rough concrete so that the exposed skin between his shirt and his boxers feels like it’s getting scraped raw. It feels good, normal.

When they’re done, Mickey doesn’t linger, but pushes Gallagher off him, tells him he’s got shit to do, ignores the open confusion on Gallagher’s face.

                                                               


 

“What happened?” Ian asks, passes a cigarette to Mickey. Because it’s fucking Ian, now. Christ.

“Mm?”

“Your face”, Ian gestures vaguely. “Some fourth grader finally tired of your shitty weed?”

Right. The huge-ass bruise on the side of Mickey’s face. His ribs are blotched purple, too, but Ian can’t see that.

Mickey snorts. “My weed is prime fucking quality, thank you very much”, he says and takes a drag. “Nah, man. My dad.”

Ian’s smile falters fast. “What? Your dad hit you?”

The look on Ian’s face is genuinely surprised and concerned, and for some reason, it irritates Mickey immensely. He shrugs, raises his eyebrows at Ian. Better get to the fucking point.

“Why?”

This time, Mickey laughs, incredulous. “The fuck you mean, why? I don’t fucking ask him.”

It’s pretty simple. You do what Terry expects you to do, you get his respect (Mickey stopped calling it “love” a long time ago), you mess up, you get a lesson. Terry doesn’t really bother with explanations anymore, probably because he thinks that they’re old enough to figure it out themselves.

Mickey’s the main target nowadays, as far as he knows, and he suspects it’s because Terry still holds some expectations for him, wants him to grow up right. Sometimes, though, he fears it might be because Terry’s onto him, knows why he hangs around Ian Gallagher all the time.

“Mickey, that’s-”, Ian says, expression morphing from sad to angry. “He shouldn’t.”

“Shut the fuck up”, Mickey says, doesn’t know why he suddenly feels defensive. “You saying Frank’s never knocked you around?”

Mickey’s always thought that Frank was a pussy, but he can be kind of nasty when he’s drunk. He finds he doesn’t like that thought at all.

It’s Ian’s turn to shrug. “He’s only been violent a couple of times. He’s usually too drunk to even throw a punch. We protect each other.”

“Right”, Mickey scoffs, puts the cigarette out forcefully. “I forgot all you Gallaghers do is hug and cry. At least I grew a fucking spine.”

At that, Ian looks a little offended.

“Fuck you, Mickey. Keep telling yourself that.”

Mickey gets up and leaves.

                                                               


 

It’s a mistake, fucking face to face.

Ian’s got his arms hooked under Mickey’s legs, and each thrust of his hips makes the rickety table bang against the wall. It’s too narrow, and Mickey puts his own arms around Ian’s neck to keep from slipping off.

Ian’s head snaps up, immediately, and he meets Mickey’s eyes.

It’s uncomfortable, intense in an entirely wrong way, the way Ian’s looking at him, mouth soft and slack, brow furrowed like he’s concentrating.

“Fucking, get-” Mickey grunts, sharply, because he feels too open and he wants things he’s not allowed to want. He doesn’t know how to make it right, so he fixes his gaze on Ian’s chest. “Harder, Jesus, fucking give it to me.”

Ian does pick up the pace but pushes his forehead into Mickey’s shoulder. His sweaty hair tickles Mickey’s cheek. Mickey doesn’t want to pull away. He doesn’t want to punch Ian over it, either.

                                                               


 

Frank Gallagher is a dead man. If he isn’t, then Mickey is.

It’s like a bucket of cold water has been dumped over his head. He’s been so fucking dumb, thinking doing shit like this with Ian was fine, that nobody would find out, and now he’s paying the price for it.

“Where the fuck is he?” Mickey demands, hands numb with panic, willing his voice not to break mid-sentence.

Ian’s calmness is only making Mickey angrier, because the naïve little shit knows nothing about the real world, where nobody cares about what you want, about what you think you deserve to have. He knows nothing about Mickey’s father.

Mickey does. He has a pretty clear fucking idea about what’s waiting for him. He also knows what he can do about it, the one thing he knows how to do to fix everything.

He’d regret breaking Ian’s face, so Mickey tells him they’re done, done, done.

He goes to his brothers. They don’t kill Frank. Mickey only throws one punch and goes back to juvie.

                                                               


 

Mickey returns with a newfound self-assurance and crashes back into his sort of-relationship with Ian.

He’d known they’d both be fucking other people in their time apart, but he’s surprised by how his temper flares when he realizes Ian’s been with a dude who looks like he belongs in a nursing home.

It’s fucking creepy. Mickey isn’t sure what the hell Ian thinks he’s doing, because it’s hard to imagine a gay guy who wouldn’t want Ian, and he’s still choosing to bang a senior citizen.

Maybe it’s a self-worth thing, being with an old, rich guy, feeling all mature and important. Getting gifts and affection.

He knows that Ian can fuck whoever he wants, he knows that Ian thinks Mickey’s fucking Angie (one blowjob, extremely unenthusiastic on Mickey’s part), but he’s goddamn pissed. At the guy, yeah, definitely, but also at himself, for being such a goddamn coward he can’t give Ian what he wants. And he knows Ian well enough to tell that he’s a stupid fucking romantic who wants a real relationship, complete with crap like dinner dates and handholding.

Mickey has no idea how to tell Ian any of this, tell him that he’s worried Ian might wake the fuck up and ditch Mickey, so he beats up the grandpa.

                                                               


 

“We should celebrate”, Ian suggests.

“Celebrate what?”

“You getting out again”, Ian says, like it’s obvious. “And staying out.” He adds the last part pointedly.

Mickey rolls his eyes.

                                                               


 

They do celebrate, sit on the edge of the soccer field after sundown, bring beer and two boxes of pizza. It’s easier to breathe than it’s been in months.

“I fucking mean it, Mickey”, Ian says. “You gonna stay out this time?”

“What’s it to you?” Mickey asks, wipes grease off his mouth with the back of his hand.

Ian’s face is framed by the harsh glow of the floodlights. He looks at Mickey, shrugs.

“I’d miss you.”

It tugs at something in Mickey’s chest, and he masks it by snorting.

“Fucking gay.”

“Yeah”, Ian agrees after a moment of silence, like he’s considering. “Missing the ass you usually stick your dick in is pretty gay.”

That actually makes Mickey laugh. “Fuck off”, he says and punches Ian’s shoulder.

Ian grins at him, digs his hand into the rain-damp dirt, and attacks.

He knocks Mickey down, scrambles on top of him. Mickey’s still laughing, smacking Ian’s hands away, cursing him out half-heartedly. Ian, all lean muscle and ROTC training, pins Mickey’s shoulders on the ground relatively easily. He drags a thumb down Mickey’s face, from his cheekbone all the way to the corner of his mouth, leaves a trail of wet mud behind.

“Get the fuck off me”, Mickey yelps. He spits, tries to squirm away, but can’t stop smiling.

Ian lets Mickey twist out of his grip, push him backwards into the grass and clamber on top of him. Ian looks up at him with bright eyes, and Mickey’s heart is beating too wildly against his ribs.

It shifts naturally into Mickey pulling Ian’s jeans down, mouthing at the shape of his hipbones, palming him into full hardness through his boxers.

Ian is panting by the time Mickey gets his underwear off, strokes him lazily just to feel the weight in his hand.

“Mick, c’mon, fuck”, Ian breathes, arches off the ground.

Grinning, Mickey wraps his lips around Ian’s cock, sucks him down as far as possible. Mickey’s not practiced enough to take all of him, but he defies his gag reflex and tries to relax. Ian makes a low noise above him and Mickey closes his hand around the base of his cock, strokes what he can’t fit into his mouth.

Mickey tries to find a rhythm, though it’s easy to get distracted doing this, forget everything but the way Ian fills his mouth. Mickey isn’t sure if he likes giving head, or if he just likes Ian.

Ian’s thighs flex next to Mickey’s head. “Uhh, fuck, that’s good.”

Mickey’s fingers are already slick with his own spit that’s escaping past his lips. Like this, with Ian under him, the way his cock stretches Mickey’s mouth, it’s fucking impossible to control it, no matter how much he swallows. It’s filthy, and Mickey loves it so much it makes his neck burn.

Suddenly Ian’s reaching down to tangle his hand into Mickey’s hair. Mickey expects him to pull it, guide his cock down Mickey’s throat, but he doesn’t. Instead, he fucking pets him, strokes Mickey’s hair back so fucking gently Mickey stops sucking him off.

He looks up, finds Ian already staring at him with an unreadable expression, eyes half-closed. His hand doesn’t still in Mickey’s hair, but it tightens a little bit, like an encouragement.

Mickey doesn’t know how to feel, except light-headed and strange, but he swallows Ian back down. He squeezes his eyes shut, focuses on Ian’s fingers against his scalp. After a while, Mickey brings his free hand to Ian’s stomach, draws little patterns into his skin with his thumb.

I’s a response. Ian seems to know it, because he gasps and speaks softly, tells Mickey how good it feels.

                                                               


 

Mickey still needs a push. Ian gives it, and Mickey kisses another person for the first time in his entire life.

                                                               


 

They don’t get proper alone time until Ian comes over. Mickey knows that something’s shifted, and he’s restless and jittery until Ian pulls him into a kiss in the cramped kitchen.

When they start, Mickey doesn’t want to stop. It’s one of the best things he’s ever done, and he feels like he could kiss Ian until his lips go numb or he passes out from the lack of oxygen.

They pause long enough to eat the pizza rolls and watch Under Siege for thirty whole minutes before Mickey puts his hand between Ian’s legs and Ian gets with the program, pushes Mickey into the couch and climbs on top of him.

Ian kisses him like he’s afraid Mickey will change his mind, shove him away any second. One hand is digging into the cushions to keep him upright, one is in Mickey’s hair, guiding him towards the kiss. Ian licks into his mouth, breathes harshly against Mickey’s cheek. Their teeth clink together when Mickey twists under him to grip Ian’s head between his palms. He strokes Ian’s neck, shoulders, back, grinds his hips against Ian’s until they’re both hard. They stumble off the couch and into Mickey’s room.

                                                               


 

“Fucking, yeah”, Mickey grunts, and Ian swallows up the sound, his mouth still on Mickey’s. “Right there, shit.”

His body is folded nearly in half under Ian, who’s fucking him rough and deep, rhythm stuttering when Mickey pulls his bottom lip between his teeth. Mickey feels fucking raw and split open, fingers trembling on Ian’s biceps at the too-slow drag of Ian’s cock.

Mickey arches upwards, the mattress creaks loudly. Ian breaks the kiss to push his nose against Mickey’s temple, mouth to Mickey’s ear.

“Yeah?”, he asks, voice low.

Mickey has to swallow to keep from saying Ian’s name. “Yeah.”

Ian doesn’t stop, doesn’t relent, but grabs Mickey’s hand, presses it into the sheets beside his head. He squeezes, mouths at Mickey’s neck.

“Fuck, you’re good”, he breathes, and Mickey doesn’t know what’s happening.

It’s a bold fucking move, kissing and almost-handholding, considering how Mickey is. Still, Ian’s making it, giving his body to Mickey’s hands like he doesn’t think they will hurt him, touching Mickey in return like he wants to keep him intact.

It’s fucking scary. It’s not what Mickey’s been taught. He doesn’t know how to do this, doesn’t know how to be anything else than what he’s supposed to be, and maybe Ian senses it, because he captures Mickey’s lips again.

Mickey’s stomach twists, but it might be a new kind of fear. He lets himself think, for a moment, that he could learn.