After Debbie storms up the stairs, Sandy at her heels, the rest of the Gallaghers awkwardly take their spots at the kitchen table.
Lip sets about pretending he isn’t upset, shoveling squares of lasagna onto empty plates. Wordlessly hands a plate to Liam to hand to Mickey, who eats leaning against the counter. They’re usually a few chairs short. (Which is fine by Mickey’s standards; he’s a Gallagher by marriage now, but when any of the siblings start squawking at each other, he easily extricates himself from the situation. Sounds like your problem, you know. He didn’t need to get involved.)
“So,” Ian says, the first one brave enough to break the silence. “I, uh, I quit my job today.”
Lip looks up from his plate, chewing slowed.
“The fuck you do that for?” Carl asks.
Ian shrugs, somehow managing to pull off helpless and indignant at once. “Was tired of my boss treating me like a b—” he pauses, gaze flitting towards Mickey for a millisecond. “—like shit.”
“So, what does that mean?” Tami asks. “What did you tell your PO?”
“Oh, trust me, Tams, he ain’t told his PO shit yet.” Mickey says with a huff. “Genius didn’t think that far ahead.”
“Mick.” Ian warns.
“All right, all right.” Mickey sighs, taking another bite of lasagna. He and Ian had made a truce, at Veronica’s behest, not to argue for the rest of the night. Something about having no job maybe still being better than under-the-table jobs or some shit Mickey didn’t bother to wrap his head around. All he knew was that he promised to keep his trap shut.
“Did he just call you ‘Tams’?” Lip asks under his breath.
Tami rests her hand on Lip’s arm, answers just as quietly, “We’re friends now.”
“I’ll talk to my PO in the morning.” Ian says.
“Okay.” Lip says, nodding. “I can make some calls, too. Ask around, see what’s open.”
“What about Grampy Frank?” Franny asks from her spot between Carl and Ian, lips dark red from the marinara sauce.
“What about Frank?” Lip asks.
“Ian could work for him.” She says, nodding confidently, as if she herself were a seasoned employee of Frank’s scam-of-the-day business.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” Ian says gently. “PO says I need, like, a real job.”
“Oh.” Franny says.
“Sounds like you had fun today, though, huh?” Ian says. Franny nods enthusiastically.
From his spot at the table, Liam’s shoulders hunch forward.
Mickey scowls, kicks the leg of Liam’s chair without much force. “Yo, forget Debbie, man.” He says. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Ian and Lip glance at Mickey, surprised, but appreciative.
“Whatever.” Liam says glumly.
“Mick’s right, bud.” Lip says. “She had no right to say that to you, okay?”
“She’s just pissed at herself.” Ian adds.
“Okay, okay.” Liam says. “I get it.”
“I think he gets it.” Tami says, and Liam’s older brothers back off, returning to their food.
Ian finds Mickey in the kitchen after dinner, bag of frozen peas pressed to his side, beer in his other hand.
“No.” Mickey says quickly, tossing the peas aside. “You wish you could hit that hard.”
Ian doesn’t respond right away. He leans against the kitchen sink, accepts the beer Mickey hands him. “Eh, probably not.” He finally says. “Tami just gave me a lecture on ‘domestic violence.’” He uses air quotes.
“Fuck off, man.” Mickey rolls his eyes.
“Hey, she’s just worried about her new friend.”
“We aren’t—” Mickey starts, but thinks about it, then scowls. “Whatever, man. You started it.”
“You and Tami?”
“No, the fight. You fucking headbutted me, dick.”
“You got on my nerves.” Ian says.
“Yeah? That’s bec—”
“Okay, okay.” Ian interrupts. “You really wanna do this again?”
“No.” Mickey says. He takes a swig of beer. “Definitely not.”
“Me either.” Ian says. He sets down his bottle. “Thanks for saying what you said to Liam, by the way.”
Mickey notes the tonal change in their conversation with discomfort. He’s never quite sure what Ian wants from him when he turns serious. When Ian comes on to him, when he flirts and talks dirty, Mickey responds in kind. When Ian fights, when he’s pissed, Mickey knows how to respond to that, too. When Ian’s earnest, when he’s serious, when he’s talking about his family, Mickey doesn’t know how to respond. He’s missing that cog in the conversational machine.
He settles on shrugging, not meeting Ian’s eyes. “Yeah.” He says.
“I think we’re all a little protective of Liam.” Ian continues. “Lip especially.”
“I think you are, too.” Ian says.
Mickey sets down his beer. “What’s your point, man.”
“No point.” Ian says, but he reaches out, fingers skating over a bruise seeping out of Mickey’s shirt, on his collarbone. “It just, it doesn’t go unnoticed, okay?”
"Okay.” Mickey nods, and then when Ian reaches out his other hand, cups Mickey’s cheek, Mickey leans forward and kisses him. Ian’s lips are warm and giving. His jaw slackens easily to accept Mickey’s tongue.
They go to their room soon after that, after Ian deposits Franny in Debbie’s room and Carl and Liam settle into a night a video games and Tami and Lip and Fred head home and the dishes are stacked in the sink and Frank stops by, randomly, saying something about a dress.
“You really wanna switch?” Ian asks, when Mickey emerges from the bathroom in his boxers.
Mickey shrugs. “What, you like doin’ all the work all the time?”
“Thought you were a power bottom.”
Mickey rolls his eyes, settles onto the bed. “So you really wanna do the same thing every time we fuck like boring-ass straight couple?”
“No.” Ian says, mostly objecting to being compared to a straight couple. “‘Course not.”
“Okay, well.” Mickey shrugs. “Think of it as a suggestion.”
“Can we,” Ian sits on the bed on Mickey’s side, so Mickey’s stretched-out body curves around him. “Can we work our way up to that? I just need to get used to the idea.”
“Yeah.” Mickey says. “Okay.”
Ian nods, brows furrowed. He traces the bruises on Mickey’s chest. Shakes his head.
“Don’t get sentimental,” Mickey says, mostly for Ian’s benefit. “This is just how we work through things.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t.” Ian says. “We could just, you know, talk.”
“Gallagher.” Mickey says. “They’re bruises. Bruises heal. Not like we haven’t punched each other before.”
Ian nods. Shrugs. “I guess.”
“‘You guess.’” Mickey scoffs, but he’s smiling, now. “Try not to sound so down, man, that’s Liam’s thing.”
“Do you think I—?”
Mickey tugs Ian down, pulls him into a kiss. He wraps his arm around Ian’s back, mumbles, “Not now, Gallagher,” against his lips, and slowly feels Ian start to relax.