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been blossoming alone over you

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Ian hadn't realized what was wrong at first.

Well, in his defense, he's done a lot of stupid shit in his lifetime – all of which he had truly realized the weight of some time later, when it was entirely too late. He had fucked his married boss, which seemed like the best idea at the time, he had contemplated almost dropping everything to go join the army – that was a classic now that he thinks about it – and he was in a porno for fuck's sake. The weight of that one hasn't fully sunk in quite yet, but it's on its merry way.

The point is: Ian is daft, to say the least. He does a lot of shit before he thinks, and that's the fucking root of most of his problems. So, yeah, he hadn't realized exactly what the fuck was wrong at first.

The only thing he knows is that they were really, truly going at it. Ian hasn't seen Mickey in what almost became close to a week – which they normally fight tooth and nail to prevent – and he attributes it to Mickey's dad being fresh out of jail and dragging the lot of them over to those ridiculous parties his friends keep throwing for him every single month when he gets out of the can, with hookers and Ukrainian music and drugs. Tons of drugs. So many drugs, in fact, that Ian has started to become worried Mickey's gonna be involved in the hard shit sooner or later – “I'm a big boy, Red. I know how to take care of myself.”

But today– Terry had been nowhere to be seen, disappeared for some drug run out of town with Mickey's brothers, and Mandy – who knows about Ian and Mickey's little arrangement, bless her heart – had seemingly been terrorized by her brother into spending the day out somewhere. And Mickey had obviously called him up, told him the house was empty, and Ian was on his merry way – getting jumped as soon as they were in the safety – as safe as you could be, at least – of Mickey's home.

Ian is proud to say he and Mickey have had sex loads of times. Countless times. So many times that Ian briefly wonders if he knows every crevice of Mickey's body better than he knows his own, knows how to make him melt and how to make him preen and how to make him tickle. Ian knows. But this– Mickey had missed him, and that much was obvious, because Ian had barely any time to prepare himself before he was being practically tackled onto the bed, in what would precede the definite best fuck of his life.

He hates to be repetitive, but they were really, truly going at it. Mickey had been straddling him, pressing his palm into the wall behind Ian's head for leverage, the creaking of the poster beneath his fingers intensifying with every one of his thrusts downward. Ian had tried to accommodate him, had tried to thrust upwards in time for Mickey to do that pretty little keen he did whenever Ian really hit the spot – but he was so slack-jawed, such a victim to Mickey's need to please him and show him what he had been missing the whole week… He could only lie there, listening to the rhythmic slap of Mickey's skin hitting his own, trying to soothe Mickey's aching thighs with massaging fingers.

And, fuck him– he had been so gone. So utterly gone by the way Mickey looked, all flush and pretty and panting on top of him, smiling down at him with that dirty little grin of his whenever he knew he was driving Ian crazy, murmuring little taunts in Ian's ear as if Ian falling apart had been part of the plan all along. He could only watch, and touch, and leave his mouth hanging open for Mickey to kiss wetly every so often – dirty and open-mouthed as he took a break to rest his aching legs.

And, like. Ian was in no state of mind to fucking breathe, let alone think – think of anything other except Mickey's eyes, confined in hooded lids, looking down at him all drunk with attraction, and Mickey's mouth, plush from the making out and the biting and the stretch. Ian was a gone man, no room in his brain for anything other than Mickey Mickey Mickey– and he had been close, so close it made his mind foggy with it, and next thing he knew, he was sitting up, helping Mickey jump up and down with his arms around his middle, connecting his mouth with the pulse point of Mickey's neck – unpredictably murmuring, "I love you," right before he spilled into the condom, biting down on Mickey's skin.

Mickey's movements stilled.

Not that Ian noticed, what with his post-orgasm glow and all that shit everybody talks about – which he knows to be true now, by the way – and his mouth latching onto Mickey's neck, arms now coming up to wrap around his upper back, holding him there so Mickey can fuck himself down onto Ian and chase his own orgasm, as he does usually. He doesn't this time.

Mickey's awfully still, and awfully quiet, and Ian still doesn't know what the issue is because he doesn't remember, because he's fucking sex drunk, and he can barely spot an issue at all, for crying out loud.

He's a bit more clear-headed once he's gone soft, Mickey having climbed down from on top of him and sitting up on the bed next to him, arms crossed over his chest tightly, thinking. Ian's just now noticing the hard-on in Mickey's lap, or more like a semi by now – he lifts his head off the pillow, and lays a hand on Mickey's thigh, finding it utterly cold despite the full body workout it just underwent. "Need me to help you with that?"

"Huh?" Mickey grumbles, grumpy, and Ian raises an eyebrow at him. "Nah. I'm good."

"You're good," Ian repeats, amusement lacing his tone. He smiles at Mickey, settling down on his side, starting to kiss up a line across Mickey's ribs. "Mickey Milkovich turning down head? Am I awake?"

Mickey doesn't respond. He's not even looking at Ian, opting to glue his eyes on a faded poster on the opposite wall, worrying his lip between his teeth. And Ian's mellow with the afterglow, wants to kiss and cuddle and all that good stuff, but he doesn't get to, because Mickey leaves the bed and walks into the toilet, locking the door for the first time that Ian's ever been around.

Ian stares at the closed door. The jizz is starting to itch inside the condom, so he pulls it off, skeptically cleaning himself up with the baby wipes Mickey keeps in his bedside drawer, and he thinks – he lies back down, staring at the ceiling, trying to pinpoint Mickey's sour mood.

They had been having sex. Good sex. The best sex. Mickey had been kissing him. Biting him. Running his hands through his hair – demanding that Ian run his hands over his entire body, in that special way that he does. Ian had obliged, like he can't help but do in Mickey's presence. Ian had said I love you. Ian had come, hard and sweet and–

Ian had said I love you.

His whole body tenses up with the realization, his eyes all but bursting out of their sockets. Slowly, he checks the bathroom door – locked, very much locked, as it will probably remain until Ian decides to fuck off – and scrubs both hands down his face, groaning loudly at his own stupidity.

And, well– It's not like he hasn't thought about it. It's not like it came entirely off base. Ian has been thinking about it, is the thing, has been finding himself smiling for entirely too long after Mickey's cracked a joke or been irrevocably Mickey, grinning softly at the side of Mickey's head until he remembers to look down. Finds himself being a lot softer during sex, to the point where it's barely even fucking anymore, as had been their original deal – Ian finds himself making love to Mickey, holding him close and tender and coaxing out soft, mellow sounds out of him, not animalistic and rough groans, his fingers lingering a little too long on the little bit of extra skin on Mickey's hips. Finds himself unable to stop thinking about him, to the point where everything he does boils down to oh, Mickey would like this and oh, Mickey would laugh at this. Oh, I wish Mickey was here to do this with me.

And he knows Mickey thinks about him, too. Sometimes, Mickey will call him before bed, tell him about some dumb shit one of his brothers said – or he'll come over and hang out with Ian in his room, bring him a snack that he says he knew Ian would like – little things like that. Ian knows he's not crazy. He doesn't know if it's love, but if the shoe fits…

With all of that being said, never in a million years would he say that to Mickey's face.

He wants to. God fucking knows he wants to, as he proved mere minutes ago, but he knows that Mickey has an issue with love and affection. Mickey's never been loved unconditionally like he deserves to, he doesn't know what it's like to be told he's loved, and he doesn’t know how it feels to love and to be loved, all at the same time. Ian knows. And he wants to change that.

Mickey's jerking off in the toilet. Ian can hear the noises, but he can't find it in himself to be aroused, and waits until after the flush of the toilet to sit up on the bed, staring at the door in expectation.

The door unlocks, and Mickey steps out, sparing him a single look before sniffing and bending down to pick up his boxers, stepping into them wordlessly. Ian watches him until the silence becomes unbearable.

"Mick…" he begins, sitting up more on the bed. Mickey doesn't turn around; he merely hums in acknowledgment, back towards the bed as he shuffles through his laundry for an undershirt. "I didn't…"

"You didn't what?" Mickey snaps when Ian trails off, glancing at him briefly.

Ian was gonna say he didn't mean it, but realized last minute that he couldn't, even if he tried.

"Come to bed," he says instead, fingers digging into Mickey's white sheets when Mickey scoffs. "Please. Come on."

"I'm not– I've got somewhere to be," Mickey says, pulling on his undershirt and shrugging under Ian's stare.

"Like fuck you've got somewhere to be."

"Ain't you got somewhere to be?" Mickey looks at him. "Terry's gonna be here soon."

He knows he looks as betrayed as he feels – he can feel it in the slump of his shoulders, the slope of his eyebrows, the working of his jaw. He lies back down on the bed, sighing heavily once his head hits the pillow. “So, this is how you’re gonna go about this? You’re gonna act like a fuckin’ child?”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, Gallagher,” Mickey murmurs, and there it is. Gallagher. Mickey hasn’t called him Gallagher in a very, very long time, and Ian feels like kicking himself when it slowly registers they might as well be on square one all over again.

“If this is about what I said–"

“Can’t you just drop it?” Mickey snaps, pushing his closet shut and regarding him with raised eyebrows, an irritated tone. “Learn when to be quiet, for fuck’s sake.”

“We can’t just–"

“Drop it!”

Ian looks at him for a beat longer before he gets out of bed, dragging a hand through his hair as he steps into his pants – discarded somewhere near Mickey’s bedroom door, when they were still on talking terms. Ian and his fucking big mouth.

He pauses to look at Mickey, or rather the back of his head, and finds him with his hands on the windowsill, staring out of the window, thoughtful. Ian carefully creeps up behind him, wrapping both arms around his torso – Mickey’s tense, and cold, and unfamiliar.

“Gonna see you tonight?” Ian murmurs against the back of his neck, leaving tiny little kisses on Mickey’s skin, trying to coax him out of his shell. It’s easier said than done, apparently, even though Ian’s done it millions of times before – Mickey subtly moves away, putting an inch of distance between their pressed bodies.

“Don’t know,” he murmurs, barely loud enough to be heard. “We’ll see.”

Ian stares at the side of his face. “We’ll see? Weren’t we gonna sneak into the movies tonight?”

“Why did you ask me in the first place if you don’t care about my answer?” Mickey says, all clipped and annoyed, angrily ripping a cigarette out of the box on the windowsill. Ian’s shocked, to say the least, but he knows trying to calm Mickey is futile when he gets like this, so he opts to give him what he wants, no questions asked.

“I’m gonna go,” he mutters, but not before leaning in for a kiss on Mickey’s mouth – all pouty and soft and so inviting.

Mickey senses Ian’s face so close to his and he dodges the kiss, leaning his head away with an irritated murmur of: “Jesus Christ…” and occupying his mouth with the cigarette, lest Ian tries again.

Ian unwraps his arms from around his middle after a shocked beat and leaves, slamming the door behind himself.

It’s been a week.

A week and no sign of Mickey; no call, no text, no fuckin’ signs that he’s alive. Nothing. Ian’s been on edge for seven consecutive days, staring at his phone and jumping at the tiniest vibration, burying his face into his arms when he finds out it’s not Mickey every single time. Lip keeps giving him shit for it, and Fiona looks like she wants to ask, and Ian wants the Earth to open up and swallow him whole.

He and Mandy have been hanging out, but his pride prevents him from asking about Mickey, just in case she mentions that Ian cares – of fucking course Ian cares, and he would happily show Mickey if he knew it would be reciprocated at the moment, but it’s one of those periods in their relationship – and he uses the word relationship on loose fucking terms, for future reference – where communication via emotion is out of the question. Sooner or later, Mickey’s gonna come up with some top-notch excuse to see him again – be it that he’s horny, be it that he’s bored, anything other than the truth.

Until then, Ian is planning on losing his mind a bit more with each passing day.

He misses Mickey. He misses wrapping his arms around his body, he misses hugging him from behind and being tall enough to rest his chin on top of Mickey’s head with barely any stretch, he misses Mickey’s smile and Mickey’s laugh and the sparkles in his eyes when he looks at Ian, the ones he’s probably blissfully unaware of, the ones Ian has never mentioned in fear of Mickey trying to conceal them. He misses his jokes, and his stubbornness, and he misses him griping about how he doesn’t like it when Ian presses his chest against his back in bed – only for him to start nudging at him after he moves away, pulling him back flush against his body, Mickey’s nose buried in Ian’s neck, filling his senses with Ian’s scent.

Ian hasn’t even thought about the sex. If they were on talking terms, Mickey would call him a gay virgin loser or some shit, and would have promptly kissed the life out of him. Ian is not projecting.

It all becomes too much, to make a long story short. Ian is lying on his bed one night, trying to sleep, Lip snoring irritably a few feet away – it becomes too much, and he’s getting up and sneaking out in the middle of the night before he can even think about mulling it over.

He’s under Mickey’s window in no time, grabbing a bunch of little stones from the gravel and launching them on the glass, pretending it’s Mickey’s dumb fucking face. Okay – that might be a lie, because he’s fucking in love with Mickey after all, and there it is, he’s said it for the first time ever, even in his own head, a non-hypothetical statement, a definitive answer. I’m in love with Mickey Milkovich, and I know it’s not gonna come back to bite me in the ass.

Ian listens to the rhythmic tap, tap, tap – his gut twists with every passing second the window doesn’t open, and in a brief moment of inexplicable paranoia, he can’t help but wonder whether he somehow fucked up and this is Terry’s window, or one of his brothers’ windows. He figures if he had to choose to take an ass-kicking for anything in the world, Mickey Milkovich would be a strong contender.

The window opens, and one of the stones gets Mickey on the cheek.

“Shit!” Ian hisses, as loud as he can without running the risk of getting beaten the fuck up, watching in horror as Mickey cradles his cheek and stares down at him, bleary and sleep-ridden eyes wide in disbelief. “Sorry! You okay, baby?”

Mickey pointedly ignores the term of affection. “Ian?” he whispers, briefly checking to see if he’s still alone in his room. Ian shouldn’t preen as much as he does at the sound of his first name instead of Gallagher. “The hell are you doing here? You fuckin’ insane or some shit?”

He sounds so incredulous that Ian would laugh under any other circumstances. Instead, he gulps, worrying his lip between his teeth as he looks at Mickey’s face, illuminated by the streetlamp. “I needed to see you. I fuckin’– I wanna see you, Mick.”

Mickey stares, dumbfounded and conflicted and God, his lip’s between his teeth, too, but it’s so much better when he does it. “You manic?” he says, reluctant to even utter it. “You been takin’ your meds?”

The way he says it makes Ian think he’s been worrying about it, been thinking about whether or not Ian has been taking care of himself, if he’s okay, and he’s so sure about this that it should almost hurt, but it doesn’t.

“Been taking my meds,” he confirms, bright beaming smile and all that sappy shit. “Can I come up?”

“Fuck, Ian,” Mickey pulls at his own hair, gnawing at his lip in that way of his, looking like he knows he should say no – but he doesn’t. He stares at Ian, and his eyes take on that sparkly quality of theirs whenever he truly stares at Ian, and he pauses, sighing at the ultimatum he’s presented with. To let Ian in or not to let Ian in. “My dad’s asleep in the other room.”

Ian stares back. “I’ll be quiet.”

The standoff is brief, but it’s there; Mickey watches him, and Ian watches back, and Mickey eventually sighs before opening up the window further, walking away from it without even checking to see if Ian’s trying to climb through. Ian is, in fact, trying to climb through, which proves a lot more difficult to do without assistance; but he manages, stumbling into the room and almost breaking his neck in the process, huffing at Mickey’s harsh shush before he pointedly shuts the window.

Mickey’s not even watching him as he turns around, merely stares at the floor with one arm folded over his stomach and supporting his other elbow, the side of his index finger rubbing along his bottom lip. That’s another thing Ian missed; the little mannerisms of his, the ones that give away his nerves, or his excitement, or his happiness. His love.

“What the fuck are you doing, Ian?” he eventually sighs, looking at him with the slope of his eyebrows creating shadows under his eyes; he doesn’t kiss him, doesn’t hug him. It’s not what are you doing here, it’s what are you doing, and Ian can’t help but think it makes a difference. “It’s two in the fuckin’ morning. You some kinda crazy?”

Ian chews on the inside of his cheek. “You could say that.”

Mickey watches him for a beat, sighing heavily before he walks over to the door, locking it in precaution. Slowly, he turns back around, finding Ian’s eyes on him.

“Well, what?” Mickey begins. “What is it? You wanna fuck or some shit? ‘Cause I ain’t in the mood.”

“Is that a real fucking question?” Ian hisses, reminding himself to be quiet in spite of it all. As much as Mickey’s hurting him at the moment, he really doesn’t want to be the reason Mickey gets his ass kicked in the morning. “You fucking– You know why I’m here. Not a single call? Or a text? It’s been a week.”

“Did I miss the memo that we were boyfriend and girlfriend here?” Mickey’s eyebrows raise, and it makes Ian so much angrier. “Get it fuckin’ together, Red. You’re not my goddamn mother– I don’t need to tell you where I am every second of every day.”

“How can you fucking say that? Am I really crazy for thinking–"

“For thinking what?” Mickey snaps, but it’s urgent, and it’s like he’s begging for Ian not to say it, even though it could easily prompt the dreadful answer. “Do you even think at all, Gallagher? You ever take a moment to live outside your little bubble and see how the real world fucking works?”

“Don’t call me Gallagher,” says Ian, holding Mickey’s eyes in his. “You know that shit pisses me off.”

Mickey keeps eye contact for a second before he has to look down, crossing his arms over his chest defensively, teeth shiny and sharp over his lip. Ian faintly hopes it’ll start bleeding with the way he’s gnawing at it, so he can kiss it better. “What do you want?” Mickey murmurs, defeated.

It’s sobering. Ian takes a few steps forward until he’s right in front of Mickey, not quite backing him up on the door, and waits until Mickey looks up at him uncertainly through hooded eyelids. “Missed you,” he says simply, fingers carefully touching the outside of Mickey’s bare elbow. He’s in his undershirt and boxers, an attire of his that sends warmth rushing down Ian’s spine, just because of its connotations and everything that he’s used to. Mickey lets him, although his skin is burning hot with it. “Kept thinking about you. You ever think of me?”

Mickey focuses on his mouth, and Ian would let him if he took a chance and did it. Mickey just gulps, and then, barely audible: “Thought about you…” he scoffs, but it’s light, the gush of air barely able to ruffle a feather. “Don’t even gotta ask.”

Ian smiles, so fucking soft he feels like punching himself, and promptly leans in, so slow it hurts – Mickey softly dodges it, turning his cheek towards Ian’s face, eyes glued on a random poster on the wall to their right.

Ian lets him, sighing a breath on the side of Mickey’s face. He lowers his head, giving him his space, and Mickey paces away, rubbing both of his hands over his eyes.

Ian crosses his own arms over his chest. “Been thinking about it?”

“About what?” He knows.

“If I say it, you’re gonna deck me in the fucking mouth,” Ian smiles bitterly, finally regarding him. For once, Mickey is looking. “What I said. You know.”

Mickey purses his mouth, and Ian knows it’s because his lip is wobbling. He watches as Mickey sits on the edge of his bed, choosing not to follow him just yet; he gives him his space, holding his arms close to his chest to prevent himself from reaching out.

“Don’t know what the fuck I’ve been thinking about,” he laments, shoulders slumped, hand trying to hide the wobble of his lip by pressing against it; Ian’s seen this enough times to know what it is. “Been thinking about you, for one. You know that.”

“Is that enough?”

Mickey buries his face back into his hands, letting out a shaky, uneven breath – a futile attempt at calming himself. Slowly, Ian takes a few steps forward so that he’s closer, but still not quite there, watching Mickey push his fingers into his skin, push the heels of his palms into his eye sockets, push himself over the edge to speak.

“Why did you have to go and do that?” Mickey breathes, trying to let out a wet laugh with it, but it sounds pathetic. It tugs at Ian’s heartstrings. “We were so good… It was so good.”

“I didn’t say it to– to ruin it, I said it because–" Ian stops himself, forcing a few breaths into his body. He’s being too loud. “I said it because I meant it.”

Mickey flinches, and it’s like a bullet goes through Ian’s stomach. “Don’t fucking say that.”

“I can’t exactly take it back, can I, Mick?” Ian says, his own voice starting to shake all over the place. “That’s not how it fucking works.”

“Since when do you know how it fucking works?”

“You taught me!” Ian hisses, as loud as he’s granted. “I learned because of you! Mickey, I lo–"

“God!” Mickey groans into his hands, his shoulders tense with it. “Can’t you take a fucking hint, Gallagher?”

Ian sits down next to him, slumping his weight forward onto his knees, staring straight ahead. Mickey’s head’s still in his hands, unmoving. Slowly, he swallows, observing his palms. “So. This is it?”

Mickey sniffs, his voice stuffy and wet when he speaks. “I don’t want this to be it.”

Ian digs his nails into his own hand, the need to wrap Mickey up in his arms getting the best of him. He sounds so small, so desperate. Ian doesn’t like it. “It doesn’t have to be it,” he says, as soothing as he can manage with all this distance between them. They’ve never had any distance between them. “I just don’t know if this is enough anymore.”

Mickey doesn’t speak.

“Can you give me more?”

Something about it hits home, because Mickey’s sighing out a tremulous breath, his shoulders shaking with it, some extra wetness covering the bags under his eyes. It’s miniscule, but it’s there. “I don’t know,” Mickey whispers, and Ian figures it doesn’t have anything to do with the potential murderer that’s sleeping soundly in the other room. “I want it to go back to how it was.”

“What? No communication? Not me opening my big dumb fucking mouth?” Ian says, reaching out to softly wipe his thumb under Mickey’s eye. “Don’t cry, baby.”

“Baby,” Mickey scoffs, but his fingers loosely wrap around Ian’s wrist, trapping his hand on his face. Slowly, Mickey sniffs and shuffles closer, letting Ian put the same careful hand on the back of his head, stroke his hair, rub a thumb into his scalp. “Since when do you call me baby?”

Ian contemplates giving him an answer, but Mickey’s looking at him, and his thoughts get all twisted up. “You want me to tell you?”

Mickey gulps, but he says nothing. He looks at Ian – at his eyes, his mouth, his nose, the bobbing of his throat – and Ian looks back, and all he sees is Mickey, the love of his life, his baby, his sweetheart– And if it wasn’t a definite way to earn himself a kick in the balls, he’d say it all a million times over.

When Mickey speaks, it comes as a surprise. “Why?”

“What’s that?”

“Why do you…” he trails off, his throat sounding constricted beyond belief. Ian watches him carefully, thumb stroking over Mickey’s cheekbone, feeling it wet and rough under his fingertips. He doesn’t elaborate, but Ian knows.

“You kidding me?” he laughs, sweet and tender, and Mickey worries his lip between his teeth again – nervous. “That's why you’ve been freaking out? You want a list?”

Mickey doesn’t laugh.

“Well,” Ian begins, soft, clearing his throat and everything, “I love how stubborn you are, for one. Makes me wanna deck you in the fuckin’ teeth half the time, but…” he pauses as Mickey laughs, a wet little thing under his breath. Ian’s heart fills with sunshine. “I love it. Love when you get all shy on me and try to hide your face so I don’t notice.”

“Fuck you is what I get,” Mickey mumbles, but the dusty pink of the tip of his nose says otherwise.

“God, I love…” Ian tries to think, but he can’t. There’s one glaring thing now that he notices. “I love your eyes. I think you’ve got the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen. The nicest fuckin’ eyes.”

Mickey looks away at that, lips sucked into his mouth.

“I love–" Ian begins, but doesn’t finish, because Mickey’s planting both of his hands flat on Ian’s cheeks and kissing him, sweet and open-mouthed and tender – and Ian fucking sighs because he’s missed it, because it’s been a fucking week and it’s all he’s been able to think about, how time stops when he kisses Mickey, how an electric current passes through him whenever Mickey’s tongue shyly swipes along his bottom lip.

When he pulls back, Mickey rests his forehead on the side of Ian’s head, warm tears passing onto Ian’s skin like they’re one, and Ian truly believes it. He swipes his thumb under Mickey’s eyes again, letting him unload, letting him get used to the feeling.

And then, quiet, ever so quiet: “Say it again.”

Ian watches him – watches him look up through heavy eyelids, the tiniest gap between his lips as he waits, eyebrows furrowed as if he’s waiting for rejection. How could he ever get it? The concept of not loving Mickey with everything he has makes Ian go a little crazy, if he’s completely honest – it’s absurd, it’s comical.

Mickey senses his shock, and he puts a hand over the one Ian has on his cheekbone, sniffing quietly. “Say it again.”

Ian does. “I love you,” he says, watching as Mickey’s eyes close with it. “I love you,” he says again, quiet, because it’s only for Mickey to hear; it’s only for Mickey to internalize, for Mickey to believe and blossom over. “I’m crazy about you,” he says for good measure, and Mickey laughs against his skin, hushed and noiseless – Ian can’t help but kiss him again, closed-mouthed and slow. Again, he whispers, “I love you,” and he could say it a million times over, because words mean nothing; Ian knows what he feels in his chest in the morning when he wakes up next to Mickey and sees him all bleary and grumpy, bathing in sunlight, and he knows what he feels when he sees him out in public and, despite not being able to touch him, is so stupidly and utterly proud, it fills his whole body with it. He could say that and a million things more, but if he can’t ever make Mickey see what he does to his heart, to his brain, to his stomach – Ian figures it might as well be pointless.

But Mickey lies down with him, face burrowed close into his neck, asking him to say it again all throughout the night – and Ian thinks he sees it in him, too.