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soldier boy.

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It’s going on three months since Ian's been deployed, three months in which Mickey hopes to wake up to him but is instead met with an empty bed and a growing hole in his chest or his stomach, he can't keep track of the emptiness any longer.

His routine is simple; go to work, come home, do the laundry or clean up- if he’s up for it, then eat whatever he ordered the night before. Or, the food Debbie brings over without a word, she's always been the one to understand him after Ian. He doesn't understand why but he doesn't question it either.

She’ll bring Franny over every now and then and he'll take her out for ice-cream or chase her around the park until it's time to say goodbye, until it's time to go back home. Alone.

The best part of his routine doesn’t happen as often as he wishes but when it does, it’s all he ever wants.

He showers, runs a hand through his hair and gets comfortable in bed. The laptop perched on his thighs as he taps his fingers away, waiting for the grey bubble to turn green.

And then it rings and his heartbeat quickens.

“Hi, Mick.”

Mickey thinks he's stopped breathing. Having to go days without that voice only makes him want to hold on longer. It’s huskier, lower and everything Mickey misses. And then his face comes into view and it’s a bit staticky and blurry but he’s there and he’s beautiful.

“Hey, Gallagher.” He breathes in and out. “Miss me?” Mickey tilts his head, eyes flickering all over his face. Looking at all the new freckles, the scars that weren't there last time and his beard that's apparently grown out.

“I mean, if thinkin about you all day means I miss you then, I suppose?” Ian grins, that dopey, affectionate smile of his and breathes out. The strand of hair falling over his forehead blows at that and he runs his own hand through it.

“Think that just means I’m irresistible, man.” Mickey shrugs and tongues at the insides of his cheek, trying to hold back his smile. The smile only Ian can bring out within moments of seeing him.

Ian hums, leans back in his chair and it's his turn to tilt his head. To look at Mickey, to really look at him. Eyes moving all over his face, his wet hair, the upper half of his body that's in screen. “Yeah, you are, Mickey.” He leans forward again, arms laying over each other. watching.

Mickey can't take that look, not when he can’t be with Ian. To take the pain away, to help the both of them feel better. To touch him and hold him and tell him everything will be okay.

He coughs, runs a hand over his face and then looks back at the screen with a smile. Trying. “You workin' hard or hardly workin' out there, huh?”

“What do you take me for, Mickey? I'm obviously working hard,” Ian says, pauses, a playful smile on his face, “mostly.” And he has the balls to wink at Mickey. Making Mickey think back to the dick pics Ian‘s sent him, the pictures in his uniform and the best, his stupid face.

“Shut the fuck up, man.” Mickey blushes and the longer he looks at Ian, he ends up laughing. Leave it to Ian fucking Gallagher to know how to make him laugh even when he's worrying his ass off about his boyfriend.

“What?” Ian feigns innocence, then, “shouldn't have asked if you didn't want the answer.” He raises his brow, Mickey notices the hairs on it have gone lighter.

Mickey shakes his head and moves the laptop to the side of the bed before laying down on his side. The sheets pulled on top of him as he holds onto a pillow. Ian’s pillow. “Beard looks fucking good. Gonna keep that shit?”

Ian rubs his beard, it's getting full but it doesn’t help with the heat. The only reason it isn't gone yet is because he hasn't had the time. Priorities; Mickey.

“Depends, you into it?”

“Just said I was, fuckhead.”

“So romantic.” Ian puts a hand over his heart before laughing at their stupidity. But more than that, to cover up the pain underneath, from the missed banter and teasing. From missing Mickey.

They watch each other for a few moments in a comfortable silence, long enough to make Ian’s eyes begin to water.

“Hey, Ian. C’mon." Mickey frowns and leans up on his elbow. Concern written over his face as Ian’s face goes from bright to sullen in seconds.

Ian shakes his head, wiping his eyes as he turns his head upwards. Trying to get himself together but it’s difficult once it begins. He wipes his nose and swallows the lump in his throat, the pain in his chest before looking back at Mickey. “You’re sleeping on my side.” Is all he says quietly, like its a secret between the two of them.

Mickey lays back down, not sure what to say. Every time he's talked to Ian through this tour, it's been on the couch or on the phone but this time he's in bed. “Yeah, well,” Mickey’s voice comes out scratchy as he shifts to his back then turns his head back to Ian. “Smells like you, man. The fuck am I supposed to do?”

Another silence. Small smiles being exchanged and warm eyes.

And then a different voice rings out. “Gallagher! Wrap it up!”

Ian looks toward the man and then back at Mickey, a sympathetic look on his face. “My shift is up next. Gotta take care of the guys, make sure they’re good for when we leave.” Ian had taken on medic duties when they weren’t active.

Mickey’s face goes blank, he doesn’t want this to end. Doesn’t know when he’ll get to see Ian again or hear him breathe and laugh or tell a stupid joke.

“I love you. Y’know that?” Ian asks, really asks.

Mickey nods, his eyes go misty but he can’t let it show. “Yeah. Course I do.” He pauses, looks at Ian long and hard but before he can say anything more there’s yelling behind Ian’s screen.

He watches his guys run from behind Ian, hears the word attack and everything starts to go hazy.

Mickey’s never said I love you to Ian over a text or a call, never when he’s on tour. he holds those words near and dear- something to hold onto for when he comes home. Because he’ll make it home. He always comes home. He has to. 

But his heart’s beating fast, he’s sitting up and starting to sweat. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He fucking hates that he can’t protect Ian.

Ian, whose eyes are wide and looking behind the screen, waiting to jump into action. To save people. To help. Because that’s just who he is and damn him for always putting everyone first and himself last.

“Mickey, I gotta-”

“I know.” Mickey says softly, trying his hardest to stay calm but his mind is everywhere. “Ian, I-”

Before he can finish his sentence, Ian cuts him off.

“Don’t, Mickey.” He shakes his head, his eyes are red and his jaw is set. “Don’t say it,” he says because he knows Mickey doesn’t say it over their calls, knows why. So if he says it now, it’ll mean-

“I’m coming back home, to you. You hear me?” He leans forward, the noise is too much in the back but all Mickey can hear is Ian, Ian, Ian.

“Okay,” Mickey croaks out. But he’s afraid, he’s so fucking afraid and he doesn’t know how Ian does it, is doing it. How he’s calm and collected and has to lead these guys day in and day out. 

“Soon.” Ian says. He smiles, beautiful and wide, it takes Mickey’s breath away and if anyone saw it, they’d think everything was okay.

And then the line cuts abruptly and Mickey is left alone with his thoughts. His horrible, dark thoughts.

“Love you, too,” he whispers into Ian’s pillow. His eyes are wet and soaking the sheets, his lip is quivering and his skin is buzzing. 

I'm coming back home to you.

Soon.

He repeats those words in his head, over and over.

Holding on.  

Mickey does not sleep that night.