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Just After New Years 2021

 

Ian rolled over and stretched, itching his belly as he stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes while his brain and body slowly woke up.  It was late morning; it might even be after noon.  His body felt a little leaden but not as bad as it had been earlier in the week.  He knew he was in the downward part of his cycling moods, although the dip seemed to slowly, so goddamn slowly, be lifting.  He dreaded the post-holiday blues each year.  He had learned enough about himself and his bipolar to know that he almost always had a depressive dip in early January, some years more than others.  It had been such a good Christmas with Mickey's thoughtful gift and then Fiona being in town.

 

He'd hoped this would be the year it would be better, or he would get to skip a downwards swing all together.  But no.  He'd woken up in the new year, after an awesome evening of setting off fireworks in the street at midnight to ring in the New Year, and he'd known.  Could feel it even before his eyes cracked open.  Just like now, laying in their bed, he could tell it was easing up.

 

He reminded himself that while this wasn't great, it also wasn't nearly as bad as it could be.

 

This wasn't like before when he was unmedicated.  That had been awful, and the fear of that deep, ugly darkness and the wild behavior he could only kinda-sorta remember in a hazy way was enough to keep him on his meds.  The prescriptions he refilled monthly and took daily helped shorten the depressive episodes and made the overall range of ups and downs less marked.  Didn't fix it, though.  Maybe in forty years, his brain would be better, but he tried not to focus on that black hole thought process.  When he felt this way, he had such a small allotment of energy each day, and that would suck it dry in a heartbeat. 

 

Even if he needed to get a job sometime soon, he was glad he wasn't working at the warehouse anymore.  Fuck his boss wanting him to work through lunch or overtime without pay.  He wasn't a fucking pushover.  He was pretty sure it would have all fallen apart anyway when he'd been unable to get out of bed for a week or more and go to work.  It was hard to feel like a strong alpha male when he was flat on his back.  His brain was windmilling, struggling to focus.  He couldn't even really hold onto his anger at how that job had ended when he was like this.  Sometimes the only thing he could focus on was how much of a burden he must be, to his family, to his future employers but most importantly to Mickey.  Mickey was always the most important.

 

Sitting up, he shook his head.  Nope, he wasn't going there either.  He knew thinking about what impact his disease had on those he loved went nowhere good and that it was worth using his microscopic reserve of fortitude to push the negative bullshit away. 

 

Getting out of bed to take a piss, he tossed back the extra meds for when he was in this kind of a bleak state.  He had been taking these extra pills for a week now.  It wasn't perfect, but it helped elevate his mood slightly.  He had to consciously remind himself it was worth it as he stood there looking at himself in the mirror in nothing but his boxer shorts.  All of the hassles were worth it, and the answer wasn't to flush his pills and slit his wrists.  He wasn't really that depressed but the thoughts still floated by.  He let it continue to float on, determined that wasn't the thing his borked brain would latch onto when he was just edging out of the darkness. 

 

Sometimes, this part of the cycle was more difficult than the deeper depression when he could barely muster the energy to walk to the bathroom to take care of business. As he came out of a low low, ironically at the beginning of getting back to whatever was considered an acceptable normal range of emotions, his brain generally chose that moment to offer only extremely tragic and unhelpful solutions.  Fuck.  Thanks, brain. 

 

Leaning over the sink, he looked more closely at his face, trying to find the person he used to be before the onset of his disease.  He felt different, and he looked different.  He'd been a skinny beanpole back then, and the drug-fueled partying had kept him lean for a long while.  Now he was thicker; his metabolism had changed.  He couldn't eat pop tarts every day anymore, when he actually had an appetite that is, but it wasn't all bad.  He reminded himself he was stronger now, physically, and, maybe more importantly, emotionally.  Even when it didn't feel that way. 

 

He had resources available to him that he was willing to use and helped when he got scrambled.  He had a regular doctor, a counselor he saw frequently enough to feel supported, and a psychiatrist who closely monitored his medications and symptoms.  He and Lip had always been close, but they had both grown, been through some shit, and Ian had come to value him as both a brother and a friend on a whole new level.  Mickey didn't always say the right words, but he was a steady presence, and he tried.  He tried a lot harder than most people realized or gave him credit for.

 

He thought about the evening walks they now took, and how tonight was the first night he might feel up to it after more than a week in bed.  He'd given Mickey the Five Love Languages book at Christmas, thinking it was another way to work on their communication. Still, he'd been resigned to the likely reality that he would probably knock the whole concept and dismiss it.  And he complained.  A lot.  Like constantly.  The man would bitch if he was hung with a new rope.  Ian knew most of it was bluster because Mick was actually a very soft and tender person.  The person Ian got to enjoy behind closed doors had moments of being sappy and affectionate.  Not that he couldn't be a giant dick and irritate the shit out of Ian, but like a moth to a flame, Ian never wanted to be far away.  His complaining sometimes kind of lulled him, gave him a strange sense of security. 

 

Stretching back a decade of being together off and on meant Ian intrinsically knew Mickey was sensitive, but that book.  He'd given it to him, and then it had disappeared, Mickey claiming he didn't know where it had gone.  Even accusing Sandy and Debs of maybe borrowing it so they could work on their issues.  Ian had rolled his eyes and dropped it.  He'd known damn well what had happened; Mickey had either gotten rid of it or hidden it to avoid talking about their relationship.  He always struggled extra hard against those conversations. 

 

Fine, Ian had been willing to let it go, didn't want to fight about it in the week between Christmas and New Year's.  Especially when things were going so well.  His dip hadn't hit yet; he'd been holding out hope it wasn't going to be a thing.  Mickey had been on cloud nine about the prospect of working at the bike shop with Lip, and they had even set up a side gig arrangement with Kev and V to provide them security with their growing weed business.  Or weed growing business.  Ian couldn't remember precisely what Mickey had relayed to him in the last week. Still, it sounded like it had turned into additional side work to transport goods and money between the dispensaries and the warehouses.  His brain hadn't been able to effectively take in the information when he shared it, and he'd have to ask him to explain it again when he was functioning correctly, or at least better than he had been.

 

Whatever, either way, things had been looking up, and he hadn't been trying to rock the boat.  The minor skirmish at the Alabi before Christmas when V had all but literally knocked their heads together and told them to figure it out had been what had prompted him to include it in his gift.  But he had let it go, figuring they would work on their communication some other way because he wasn't going to nag the shit out of Mickey, something he already got accused of, about a fucking book.

 

But then he'd caught him.

 

A few days after Christmas, he'd gone to Lips house down the street to help him prep the walls for painting.  It was really a thinly veiled excuse to have some brotherly hangout time, and Micky had been more than happy to send him on his way, saying he was going to jerk off and take a nap.

 

When he returned twenty minutes later to get his tool belt he'd forgotten, kept in their room to avoid any of the other Gallagher's from borrowing his few essentials, he'd thought he might find Mick mid wank.  He'd kind of expected it and had opened the accordion door dramatically, smirk already in place.  Only to startle the shit out of Mickey, who, sure, was on the bed, but not dicks out.  No, he'd been chewing on his thumbnail, reading intently and already about a third of the way through the book.  After he recovered from being startled, he immediately went to the defensive, "Ay, what the fuck Gallagher, why are you here?  I thought you were going to Lips." As he said it, he nonchalantly tucked the book under his pillow and got up, obviously intent on distracting him.

 

But Ian had spent time in the bookstore, reading the back of the book and finding a corner chair to sit in and read the first chapter.  He'd already done the online quiz on his phone.  Had suspicions about what Mickey's love language was.  He knew that purple cover. 

 

"Came to get my tool belt. I forgot it here; what are you doing, Mick?"  Now he was just leaning against the door jamb.  Casually blocking Mickey from escaping, preventing him from using his favorite nonverbal way of ending conversations. 

 

Mickey saw what he did, had swallowed, and then clearly decided to go full bore ahead with creating a fake cover story.  He was the worst about deciding to double down on his deceptions when he felt caught out about something he perceived as too pansy.  He literally just started running off at the mouth; Ian was pretty sure he didn't even know what half the shit was that was coming out of his mouth.  He'd gotten a little better, but not when his back was up, he defaulted back to old coping mechanisms.  Be on the offensive. 

 

"Nothing.  Was just reading some stupid gay novel Sandy left behind." Now he crossed his arms too.  "I do know how to read, ya know?"

 

Oh, extra defensive Mick meant he had some deep feelings about the topic at hand. 

 

"Hm, I know."  Settling a bit more comfortably against the door jamb, Ian was prepared to handle this shit right here, right now, not letting it fester.  Lip could wait.  "I know how good you are with numbers, and how resourceful you are, and that you finished your GED in prison even though you tried to keep me from knowing," He raised his brow and waited for Mickey to roll his eyes and look away. 

 

Because yeah, Mickey had some weird hang-ups about thinking he was dumb but became extra hostile if he thought someone else thought he was dumb.  So, he just didn't share certain things, except sharing a cell had meant Ian knew when he had finished his laundry duties for the day and when he should have been back.  So when he routinely started showing up an hour late, sliding in the door just before dinner roll call, he'd questioned him.  The more cagey and avoidant the responses Mickey had given, the more Ian had been relentless.  As was his way, for better or for worse. 

 

It had taken nearly three weeks of hounding before Mickey had admitted he was trying to get his GED, so it was taken care of by the time he was released.  Ian had sighed at the silliness of him trying to keep that from him and then blown him.  Because frankly, Ian thought he was cute when he was trying to be nefarious over shit he was doing to improve his odds of breaking the recidivism cycle.  Like Mickey thinking about their future in and of itself wasn't a whole fucking kink of Ian's.  Seemed old habits died hard. 

 

"I know you're getting ready to put your smarts to work at Lips bike shop in the new year, and you secured us a side gig to make money while also helping Kev and V."  Watching Mick's face, he could see many of his emotions parade across his face.  A little bit of shy pride and also an instinctive rejection of the praise. 

 

Quieter now but still trying to squirm out of admitting what he had been doing, "Whatever, man," carrying the charade forward, he unzipped his jeans and climbed back on the bed, "I was just reading something to get me revved up."  He lay back on the pillow with the book under it.  Convenient.  He defiantly stuck his hand down the opening of his jeans and just waited to see what Ian would do now.  A single brow raised in challenge.  Ian had noticed he wasn't hard; he was just bluffing, not that he couldn't work with this. 

 

He continued on, keeping it mellow.  "You are very smart," Ian ignored Mickey's scoff at that label, "smart enough to know I'm not going to buy the bullshit you're selling."  Ian shut the accordion door behind him and moved over to the bed, looking down at Mickey.

 

Mickey's hand had stilled halfway inside his unzipped pants, Ian made a rolling motioning with his hand, "Keep going about your business, and we can keep discussing all the ways I know you're smart."  Climbing on the bed and forcing Mickey to part his legs to bracket Ian's hips, he kneeled but kept his hands in his lap.  He wanted to see Mickey do the work for this. 

 

Mickey made an audible gulp but slowly started stroking himself, focusing on his hand, not looking at Ian.  That was okay for now.

 

"Who learned about my bipolar even before I was ready to do the hard work to get stable?"  He could see Mickey starting to get hard as the head of his cock poked out of the opening of his jeans.

 

Mickey bit his lip but didn't respond, managing to pant through his nose.

 

"Mickey," staring at him intently.

 

"I did, but it was just reading stupid shit on the web, didn't mean anything."

 

"Nope, you know that's not how this works."  Ian pulled Mickey's jeans down slightly to expose him but just barely.  Reaching in, he pulled his balls out to rest on the band of his boxers.  He was on obscene display.  "Restate it."

 

Now fully huffing with attitude even while he continued to stroke his fully exposed and fully hard thick dick, which was leaking steadily just below his belly button.  "Goodamnit, Ian, this is stupid." The increasing size of the come puddle said otherwise, "Go bug Lip and leave me alone to jerk off and take a nap in peace."  The hand not gripping his dick was twisted in the sheets beside him.

 

"Restate it," Ian just slow blinked at him.  He had all fuckin' day if that's what it took.

 

"Fine, I figured shit out about your bipolar when you first got sick," then, releasing the sheet, he pushed his shirt up to keep from getting the hem stained. 

 

"Good job Mick," and he scooched closer, forced Mickey's legs even wider, which in turn tightened the waistband around his lower hips.  The illusion of being restrained.  No option to hide.  "One more time, fewer modifiers and without the attitude."  The maximum number of rounds Mickey had taken to say it right in the past was six; he wondered if they would break the record today.

 

Mickey closed his eyes, took a deep breath in, and let it out, not breaking that record today.  He was trying.  Ian knew this was hard for him.  He swallowed and started tentatively, "I was," pause, licking his lips, "smart enough to learn about your bipolar when you were first diagnosed."

 

"Fuck Mick, good job." Ian watched as Mickey shuddered at the praise and closed his eyes.  Soaking up what Ian said to him.  "That's right.  You have always been so knowledgeable.  Sometimes you track better than I do what medications I am on, what supplements and vitamins.  That takes a lot of intelligence to keep track of it all."

 

Mick just nodded and kept stroking; he was squeezing Ian's hips and sides with his thighs.  The hand not stroking his dick was under his shirt, rubbing his own abdomen and chest. 

 

Ian took the opportunity to squeeze on Mickeys' thighs, and hips still encased in jeans, keeping the connection going.  "Now, you give me one."

 

"Ian," said plaintively.  Eyes that had been squeezed closed popped open, and he scowled at him.  Mickey wanted to be done with this little exercise, and that's fine.  Ian was going to wrap it soon.

 

"C'mon, just one."  He was so hard in his own jeans as he watched the erotic sight of Mickey pleasuring himself, he undid his button and zipper and shimmied them down, giving a sigh of relief.  Stroking himself just a little, not wanting to get there too soon, and at this point, it wouldn't take much. 

 

"I…I…um, I…," Mickey always struggled with this part, even though they had gone over multiple times when he had been smart, had been resourceful, had been able to make opportunities for himself and others.  It didn't help that he was obviously turned on and having difficulty focusing.  Arching into his hand, clearly close now, he grasped at the most recent example, "Iggy and I figured out how to fix Lip's bike."

 

Hearing him claim his own accomplishment was such a turn on.  Oh fuck, Ian hoped he could hold off just a little bit more, "Yeah, you did, Mick."  Looking down at both of their flushed cocks it was a sight to behold as they each stroked themselves.  "And what did that take?"

 

"Jesus fucking christ, smarts."  Mickey was getting so close, "It took smarts, okay?"

 

Ian could see Mickey's balls drawing up, "Fuck, so smart."  His own hands were shaking a little, being so close to the end, "Come for me, Mick," finally given approval, it only took a few more thrusts into his hand before he came.  The hem of his shirt got ruined in the end anyway.  Two hard spurts up his stomach and shirt as he crunched forward with the force of his orgasm.  Then Mickey relaxed, slumped back, shook his head, and rolled his eyes at Ian.  He was always shy after having to praise himself.

 

It turned out that while it was a massive turn on for Mickey, it really did something for Ian as well, and he was about to come like a freight train, "Where do you want it, Mick?"  Sometimes he wanted it on his face, but other times he wanted it on his genitals; Ian was willing to accommodate either option at the moment.  Both lewd and hot in equal measure.  

 

Laying there, breath slowing down, blush still high on his cheeks or maybe even getting higher at the requirement that he participate in his own debauchery, he looked like an erotic painting.  Reaching down, he combed his fingers through his pubes, tugging his balls and arching at what had to have been a zing after having just come, before he moved his hand away, "Crotch."

 

And so he did; he painted Mickey's cock and balls with his hot load.  He hadn't been waiting to come for very long, but you couldn't tell by how much come he shot all over Mickey, the whole time feeling the grip of Mickey's thighs on his own hips and the sides of his torso.  Leaning on an arm over Mickey, catching his breath and watching as he shivered and gripped his own soaked shirt hem to refrain from reaching down after he was covered.  Taking one more steadying breath, Ian touched the trails of come, and when he was done playing with it, he rubbed it into Mickey's groin area.  It was ostensibly gross, but they both found it satisfying on some deeply primal level.  So fuck 'em, nobody else was in their bedroom. 

 

Groaning deeply, Ian lay down for a minute next to Mickey, butt and dick hanging out since he hadn't bothered to hitch up his pants.  Laying his head on Mickey's shoulder, he used the already ruined shirt to clean his hand off.  Then he just rested that hand on his chest, letting his fingers beat a soft rhythm into Mickey's sternum.  Mickey had wrapped his arm around Ian's back, and they snuggled for a few minutes without talking.  Mickey rubbed his back gently. 

 

"Now," and before he could even continue, Mickey's chest vibrated with a groan, causing Ian to chuckle before continuing, "Wanna tell me what you were doing when I came in since I think we can both agree it wasn't jerking off or napping.

 

"God, you are nosey, firecrotch," his tone was defeated as he reached under his pillow.  "Fine, fuck, I was reading that fairy ass book you gave me for Christmas."  Pulling it out, he realized he really had no place to put it, given he was a little crusty right now. 

 

Ian relented from teasing him further and just took the book and set it beside his hip as he finally pulled his jeans up, turning on his back.  Mickey took the opportunity to stand up and strip out of his dirty shirt and jeans, putting them in the laundry basket that had appeared in their room in the last two days to use instead of just tossing their soiled clothes on the floor.

 

"I'm taking a shower, and then I am taking a nap when I get back," and with that, he grabbed his towel and paraded out after getting the accordion door unstuck like it sometimes got and went down the hall to the bathroom.  Buck ass naked.  Ian really hoped nobody was on the upper floor, or they were in for a surprise. 

 

Looking at the book, he verified his first assessment was accurate; Mickey was about a third of the way through.  Huh, it was an exciting development.  Pulling out his phone and shooting off a text to Lip, he let him know he'd been delayed but would be over in an hour or two.  He just got a thumbs up emoji response.

 

Resting back on the pillows, he dozed off but felt it when Mickey got in bed beside him.  Ian's eyes were too heavy to keep open; he was well and truly on his way to a nap.  The last thing he registered was Mickey easing over to his side and laying his head, complete with slightly damp hair, on his chest.  He tightened his arm around Mickey's back and zonked out. 

 

They both slept deeply for a little more than an hour, and then Ian woke up with Mickey as the small spoon and Ian's arm wrapped around his chest from behind.  Ian kissed the back of his shoulder and then rolled onto his back and stretched.  He hadn't been aware he had needed a nap, but he felt better.  Mickey slowly woke up beside him and stretched as well. 

 

"Have you taken the test yet to find out what your love language is?"  Ian had been dying to know.

 

"Fuck no, didn't want to mark up the book." Micky threw an arm over his eyes, but he didn't really seem on the defensive, just slow to fully wake.  "Besides, I am sure banging is mine," gesturing with his other hand as he tried to remember the label, "physical touch, or whatever."

 

Eh, Ian actually doubted that.  Not that either of them didn't obviously enjoy the physical aspects of their relationship.  "Well, there's an online test you can take in about five minutes."

 

"No, their fuckin ain't," Now he sounded wide awake and annoyed as fuck.  "Is there?"

 

Laughing at his response, Ian pawed around on the bed for his phone, and when he finally found it, he did a quick google search and brought up the link.  Showing it to Mickey, who grabbed his phone and started scrolling about.

 

"What the fuck did you get the book for then?"  Mickey sounded indignant like he thought Ian had tricked him, all things Ian would have explained had Mickey not been reading it in secret

 

Still laughing, "Mickey, they go together.  You take the test, figure out how to show your partner…"

 

Mickey cut him off, "husband," insistent.

 

"…right, how to show your husband, caring and love in a way he can receive."  Ian went to take his phone back, but Mickey dodged away, and when Ian looked at the screen, he realized Mickey was already taking the online test.

 

"That's fuckin' dumb; you love me just fine," he said distractedly.

 

And Ian's heart had constricted a little.  He knew Mickey hadn't always felt that way.  Sometimes still didn't feel that way.  The fact that he could say it casually really was huge progress.

 

"We still irritate each other; I thought this might help some of that," Ian thought Mickey had to know in his heart of hearts they still had some issues to work out.

 

"Stop nagging me and things would be better," Mickey was clearly only partially paying attention to the conversation, and then he tossed the phone back on the bed, "What the fuck, that's fucking gay."

 

He obviously wasn't happy with his results.  Curious, since Ian had predicted what he thought Mickey's type was, he picked up the phone.  And his suspicions were confirmed; Mickey's love language was Quality Time with Words of Affirmation a close second.  He had figured those two would vie for top spots. 

 

"Awe, Mick," rolling over and trying to kiss him, which he initially evaded but finally gave a long-suffering sigh and gave in.  Like Ian knew he would.  Taking a moment just to explore his mouth, he slowly pulled back.  "You know there is nothing wrong with those as a primary and secondary language, right?"

 

Mickey just shrugged, but the blush meant he felt exposed.  Gesturing at the phone, "What about you, what are your results?"

 

Ian quickly did a screen capture of Mickey's scores, labeled it, and then pulled up his own to show him, and he took the phone to study it.  Ian's primary language had been Acts of Service, and his second one was the same as Mickey's; Words of Affirmation.  He'd shrugged and acknowledged to himself at the time that it was probably accurate when he really thought about it.  It was likely that nearly every impoverished South Side kid had grown up with a lack of positive reinforcement. 

 

Chortling, Mickey's good mood seemed to be restored, "Oh, your primary language is even gayer than mine."  He seemed to find that so amusing. 

 

"That literally makes no sense; none of them are gay," Now Ian was exasperated, but it was nice to see Mickey so relaxed.

 

"Alright, alright, we gonna do this shit?"  Indicating the books and the results on the phone.

 

"Yeah, I'd like to."  He wasn't going to pass up the opportunity for Mickey to be bought in, and considering he'd started reading the book, he was feeling hopeful.

 

"Okay, I'm in."  Peking him on the cheek and then rolling back over, "Get outta here and go see your brother.  I'm going back to sleep."

 

Shaking his head thinking about that whole sequence of events just a week ago, he felt that familiar affectionate warmth in his chest for Mickey.  He was the love of his life and now husband.  However, today, with his face looking somehow both gaunt and puffy, it was the only thing that felt much.  Glancing down his abdomen to his flaccid dick, he just shook his head.  Fucking broke dick because of his broken brain.  Drowning out the affection he had just been feeling was a crushing wave of exhaustion.  Lifting his arm, he took a sniff; before he could lay down to sleep away the afternoon, he desperately needed a shower.  He had told Mickey he would do his best today to get that done.

 

He didn't want to, wanted to just wander back in their room and sleep, but he was rank, and he also knew he needed to push through.  The day was basically a total loss, but not showering another day would contribute to the defeated feeling riding him hard.  So he pulled off his boxers, turned the knob to where he knew it was a barely tolerable level.  He brushed his teeth while waiting for it to heat up, and then he got under the spray. 

 

He entered a trance-like state as he relaxed under the hot water, and muscles he hadn't realized were tense finally released.  Time warped a bit, and he wasn't sure how long he stood there until the water started to chill just enough to clue him in; he had about three minutes before it went ice cold.  Moving as quickly as a body that felt like it was slogging through mud could, he scrubbed down and turned off the water just as it went tepid.  He'd avoided an ice shower by mere seconds.  His bar was so low right now that it felt like a win. 

 

Doing a cursory towel off, he got most of the water droplets off and his hair as dry as he had the patience for before wrapping it around his waist.  Leaving the bathroom, he walked the short distance down the hall and into their room, bracing along the wall.  The shower had zapped any energy reserve he'd had.  He didn't even bother to close the door as he pulled the sheets and blanket back and slipped in, naked.  He was more than half-asleep when he registered the scent of clean sheets.  They had been changed while he was in the shower.  Which was so nice, like being cocooned in caring.  The other ones, after a week of him sleeping in them nonstop, had been funky.  He was clean, the bedding was clean, and he was sure his sneaky husband, who knew he felt most cared for through acts of service, had facilitated it somehow.  He'd figure it out when he woke back up. 

 

***

 

When he rolled back over again, he felt marginally better than he had when he woke up earlier.  He still felt like he had batting around his emotions, insulated from feeling any excitement, but he was very distantly aware he was happy to start feeling better.  Reaching up, he did a full-body stretch, his muscles ready for a little movement after a week of atrophying and then his earlier shower.  Which jogged his memory about the new sheets, and he smiled a little at the thought.  He had some questions to get answers to. 

 

He was not ready to be up and about, but he was parched.  He rolled over to start mustering the energy to get out of bed and go downstairs, which felt like it must be miles away, and paused.  Next to the bedside table was a tall glass of water and two KIND bars.  His eyes got a little moist.  How the fuck was he so blessed? 

 

He reached for the glass and drank most of it in one go, the liquid soothing his scratchy throat.  He hadn't eaten much in the past week other than when Mick had brought him cup of noodle soup or a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, occasional cheese sticks and bananas.  It all tasted like ash in his mouth, and it was only at Mickey's instance that he had consumed anything.  The slight return of his appetite was another sign his depressive episode was easing. 

 

He knew dang well the corner store didn't have the KIND bars he liked, so Mickey'd had to go to some swanky North Side place, or more likely, some recently transplanted store in one of the newly gentrified South Side strip malls to get this treat.  He grabbed the one with chocolate and lay back against the pillows; stared out the window at the sky as he ate it slowly.  He wasn't really able to register much, and even the taste wasn't as good as usual, but it was still satisfying.  Plus, he knew Mickey would be happy he had already eaten something before he got home.  Judging by the light coming through the window, he figured it was still a few hours before he showed up.  

 

After he finished the last bite, he decided to keep the second one for later.  One would have to be enough for now because it turned out chewing was draining, and he wasn't hungry anymore.  Getting ready to set the wrapper on the bedside table, he checked that and leaned over on Mickey's side of the bed where he had put a little trash can.  The room had been filled up with dollar store baskets for organizing their clutter.  It was still cluttered, but it was now organized clutter.  Each evening as Mickey disrobed for bed, he buzzed around the room, shifting things back into place, throwing out scraps of paper or garbage that mysteriously appeared or were in pockets.  He never commented on it, but it had started after the book.  It was nice, though, because the room felt less chaotic than it had before.  Ian tried to at least consciously do his part and not make it worse. 

 

He tossed the wrapper toward the basket, and it flopped right in front of it instead of inside.  Goddamnit.  Rolling to the edge of the bed, he reached as far as he could, because god forbid he be forced to get out of bed, and just barely caught the edge of the wrapper with his fingers and was able to get it in hand and toss it out.  Unfortunately, he overbalanced and nearly fell out of bed and onto the floor.  Sighing at his foolishness, he was about to roll back up when he saw something in the basket occupying the shelf under Mickey's nightstand. 

 

Jammed haphazardly in the back of the basket, it looked nearly bent in half, he was fairly certain was the spiral notebook Mickey had taken exacting notes in as he coordinated for their wedding day.  Which, sure, hadn't worked out as he had planned thanks to Terry, but had still managed to be beautiful.  He swallowed the emotion that welled up just thinking about saying his vows to Mickey and how dapper he had looked in his little white jacket.  Ian had special moments from that day he harbored close to his heart despite Terry's efforts to ruin every special thing that brought Mickey joy.   

 

Ian knew he'd been uninvolved in planning the weddings finer details, kind of shocked honestly about just how many pieces there were to even consider.  Mickey had taken the bull by the horns, which had been great.  Until, of course, someone fucked with his vision.  Poor Brooks of the gold, not white, Chiavari chairs incident.  Oof.  The rage-induced destruction of the offensive chair as he ranted about just wanting one day that didn't suck had been over the top and would be a good story to tell Freddie and Frannie when they were a little older.  Right now, nearly a full year later, the more or less ruined wedding day was still a little too raw to be funny. 

 

Their wedding had been very different than what Mickey had planned, but with a little Gallagher ingenuity and quick work by Debs and V, it had gone forward.  The special touches Mickey had painstakingly chosen had been relocated and rearranged at the Polish Doll.  And at the end of the day, despite all the drama and stress, they had made it official.  They were husbands now.  No matter how much Ian got frustrated with Mickey or was certain his stupid messed up brain wasn't what Mickey deserved, he wasn't letting go.  This time.  As Mickey had recently pointed out, he'd done it too often before, and he was determined this time would be different.  They were together for life this round. 

 

Unbending the notebook, he tried to get it to some semblance of flattened out.  The pages seemed to be extra thick and like it had more than the ninety pages the cover claimed. 

 

For many reasons, Ian figured, including his own waffling about actually getting married, the time between proposal and wedding day had been very short.  Mickey had been eager to put a ring on it once Ian had committed.  For six weeks, Mickey had marched around with the notebook, cajoling, arguing, or outright threatening the various vendors he was making arrangements with for their wedding day.  Not surprisingly, all local vendors complied with his requests, including the custom made cake topper.  Complete with the appropriate ginger and black hair.  The topper now sat on the bookshelf, and he frequently saw Mickey look at it and snicker.  He had been so pleased with himself on that particular selection.               

 

Ian had never really seen much of the inside of the notebook where all plans were contained, helpfully labeled in black sharpie "Terry's Nightmare" on the cover.  Which was how it had started out, making a big gay statement to rub in Terry's homophobic face.  At some point, Ian had clued in that it had become more for Mickey.  Mickey had become invested.  He wanted a special day, one that didn't suck, and if that had meant he had to be a little groomzilla to get what he wanted, then he was willing, even eager, to do it.  His enthusiasm, let alone maniacal focus, had been intense.   

 

Swallowing some misplaced anxiety, he cautiously opened the cover, somehow filled with reverence and the chilling feeling he was cracking Mickey's diary.  Which was absurd.  This wasn't like a diary at all, and he had never been banned from looking inside or even the indication that Mickey wanted to keep it private.  It was just that Ian had lacked any enthusiasm for the planning, and Mickey had eventually brought in Sandy for assistance.  His low mood, simmering below his increasing curiosity, really helped him realize precisely what a flop of a fiancé he had been in helping to plan their wedding.

 

The first page was blank.

 

The second page was where the real gold started.  Lists, in Mickey's nearly illegible chicken scratch but still neatly contained within the lines and margins.  Organized chaos was frequently how Ian thought of him.  The first three pages appeared to be brainstorming pages with different sections broken out for Floral, Catering & Cake, Music, Venues, Attire, Wedding Party, and Honeymoon.  Some of the writing was also clearly done by Sandy, most of it in the margins providing snarky commentary and the occasional doodle.  It was an impressively comprehensive brainstorm.

 

Moving past the first section, he could see Mickey had created subsections for each of those topics he had brainstormed.  In each section, he had attached a tab for easy access.  Ian could see all of the subsections but did note that the honeymoon section appeared to be missing. 

 

As he casually flipped through, Ian understood why the journal had been extra crinkly when he was trying to straighten it out.  There were cutouts glued into the pages from wedding magazines.  Ian vaguely recalled coming home one afternoon to see Debbie, Franny, and Sandy along with Mickey pouring over and destroying whole stacks of wedding magazines they had claimed to have gotten free from somewhere.  Everyone was vague on the details.  It appeared Mickey had taken those cutouts and pasted various ideas and things he liked in their relevant sections in his planner.  It may not have been an official book, but it was clear a ton of time and energy had gone into coordinating it all, and everything appeared to have been planned with extreme care.  

 

The floral section was filled with images of huge sprays, boutonnieres, centerpieces, and even a few masculine bouquets.  A bottom corner had a picture of a centerpiece with a blue stargazer lily and a small gold star sticker next to it.  Now that he was paying attention, there were various color star stickers throughout the pages he had looked at so far.  He had no idea if they held any meaning.  Ian recalled they had both really liked the blue stargazer, but Mickey was put off those particular flowers after the run-in with the geriatric Qtip who refused to do business with the gays.  He had gone with cream flower centerpieces along with uncomplicated rose boutonnieres on their lapels.  Simple and classic, somewhat understated from what would have been the splashy blue. 

 

Spending some time reading the details in the other sections and skimming over things like the Wedding Party section, which included several options for different flower girl dresses.  The Venues section included a list of local options and their phone numbers and a few sketches about designing the rented tables' layout once they had selected the Bamboo Lotus and knew the floorplan they had to work with.  In the end, all of that had been haphazardly re-coordinated the day of the wedding, given the last-minute venue change.  V and Debs had managed to fit everyone in without too much crowding, and there had still been a generous space for a dance floor. 

 

He mostly skipped over the music section but chuckled when he saw in big block letters, crossing two ruled lines, LIVING ON A PRAYER (ACOUSTIC).  Ian mentally patted himself on the back; yeah, he'd helped.  He'd handled the music. 

 

The catering section seemed to be larger than any others, with pictures of everything from elaborate charcuterie tables to simple taco bars.  Mickey had cut out and pasted in dozens of images of elaborately decorated cakes and simple cakes, some with fondant, others with buttercream frosting, and some that looked like the decorator had run out of icing before they even began.  He wasn't sure what those atrocities were, but he had been happy enough with the four-tiered white cake with buttercream Mickey had gone with.  There was a note by one that looked similar to what Mickey had selected that indicated it was the most commonly enjoyed cake.  There were a few silver stars on other cakes and one gold star next to a chocolate ganache cake that looked divine even to Ian's suppressed appetite. 

 

He flipped to the final tab; he could see more notes and pasted pictures of tuxes and shoes along with a list of places to rent suits.  There was everything from traditional black like he had ended up wearing to dove gray, blue and even some wild pinstripe options.  He could see a model who looked similar enough to Mickey for him to look closer.  Upon further inspection, he didn't look all that similar other than coloring and stature.  Mickey's blue eyes and expressive brows automatically making him much more attractive than the rather plain model in the suit.  However, the man was wearing a white jacket and white shoes, nearly identical to what Mickey had worn on their wedding day.  There was also a gold star by that particular ensemble.  Ian was going to have to confirm what he suspected the star code was. 

 

He flipped a few pages; further, everything came up blank, and Ian assumed he had reached an end of the virtual tour of Mickey's preparations.  As he went to tuck the notebook back into the nightstand basket, a pamphlet fluttered out.  He grabbed it and sat back on the bed again to pull it open.  It was to the Chicago's Field Museum.  Ian dimly remembered going there when he was in grade school.  It was one of those field trips they made sure the impoverished districts all got to go to because it was local and yet not a place their families were likely to be able to take them.  He didn't remember a lot except some giant fossil displays of prehistoric creatures.  He wondered if Mickey had just come across the pamphlet and jammed it in out of convenience?  He shrugged and went to tuck it back into the notebook where it had been, but it wouldn't slide in because of all of the glued magazine cutouts, so he opened the planner once more, put it between the pages, and was about to close it when he realized what he had found.  It was the honeymoon section. Way at the back, but as he flipped through the last half of the journal, he realized there were at least twenty pages on either side of this section.  It was a secret section.

 

Ian actually looked around like he would get caught snooping in this section in particular; he shivered slightly when the reverent feeling returned only stronger.  The accordion door was mostly open, but he couldn't hear anyone on the upper floor.  He wasn't sure if anyone was downstairs, but it's not like he wouldn't know someone was approaching.  Carefully he began slowly flipping through the pages and looking at all of the notes and the images.  There appeared to be two different sections.  One section had everything a person could do as a tourist in Chicago on a Honeymoon, and then there was an international section.  Mickey had labeled pages for Mexico, Spain, Fiji, Italy, and Greece within the international section.  Ian had never heard that Mickey wanted to travel internationally.  That had always been his dream, part of the many reasons he had wanted to join the service initially before his brain fucked him.

 

Going back to rereview the Chicago section, Ian could see there were several nicer hotels listed.  All likely outside of their price range, certainly a year ago they had been.  Mickey had gone so far as to cut out pics of the inside of hotel rooms, and all of them had a jacuzzi somewhere in the room.  Ian wondered if that was intentional because when he had tried to get Mickey to take a bath with him recently he'd acted deeply disturbed.  Shrugging, he recalled the hot fucking after and figured it had been worth it.  He felt a throb in his groin, it wasn't much, but it was encouraging after having a lackluster dick for more than a week. 

 

While he enjoyed the very low-level desire, he also could feel himself getting a bit melancholy when he realized in spectacular fashion how fucked their wedding day and honeymoon had been for Mickey.  How much he had really ended up wanting something beautiful and perfect for both of them, and despite all of his hard work, it had been ruined.  Not that the day wasn't special regardless, but it had all been thrown together on a wing and a promise after Terry's destruction.  Although he would be forever glad he had stopped Mickey from murdering Terry on their wedding day, he could appreciate the desire.  He felt mildly murderous now; if he was in a normal headspace, he might still be going after Terry.

 

He needed to step away from this for a bit before he slipped back further into his depression, possibly even more profound than the one he had been trying to shake for a week.  He put the planner back and forced himself out of bed.  Into new boxers and sweatpant bottoms.  Itching his chest, he contemplated going without a shirt because he was already worn out but decided not to be such a fucking whiney bitch and put on a shirt, which he did.  And a zip-up hoodie because it was January and actually cold.  Slowly, he made his way downstairs.  He knew it was good for him to just get out of their room where he had been cooped up and sleeping for days on end.  Even if it was just to sit on the couch and stare aimlessly at the tv. 

 

Gawd, the bottom of the stairs and the couch couldn't come fast enough.  He was a goddamn zombie.  Flopping down on the green couch when he got there, he tried really hard not to think about what might be in the cushions or the random pillow on the couch he had just laid his head on.  Hmm.  The pillow smelled clean like the bedding had.  He was pretty sure he had Mickey to thank for it, but he would have to ask.

 

He wasn't sure how long he lay there before he heard someone come in the back door to the kitchen.  He figured he'd just wait until whoever it was entered his eyesight.  He wasn’t interested in sitting up and looking.  He could smell bread being toasted and heard the fridge open and shut.  He hadn't even turned on the TV, he was just staring at the blank screen.  Eventually, a glass of Sunny D and peanut butter toast appeared in front of his vision on the coffee table.  Looking up, he could see Sandy standing over him.  Arms on hips looking disappointed and annoyed before they had even spoken.  Fuck, he didn't have any patience to deal with Sandy's jabs today.   

 

"You should drink that and have some toast."  She kept looking at him.  She was waiting for a response.

 

"Nah, I'm good.  Had a granola bar."  Sitting up would take too much effort.

 

"You really are fucking dramatic," pulled her phone out of her back pocket, "that's fine, I'll just text Mickey."

 

Oh, Fuck.  He didn't need to freak Mickey out. "Fine, fine.  Don't text Mickey. I'll drink it in a minute and eat a few bites."

 

He thought that might get rid of her.  No such luck.  She just waited.  Proving her right by giving a dramatic sigh as he hoisted himself into a sitting position.  He didn't have to ask or lean forward though, she just handed him the orange juice and the plate with the toast, which he set in his lap.  Then she went and sat in the old brown recliner, leaned forward with elbows on knees.  She waited to make sure he drank and ate something.  Ian could feel his irritation rise at being monitored.  He also didn’t need to have her text Mickey and have him come home to hover and worry.  He hated how much Mickey worried.  He didn't need two Milkovich's up his ass.

 

He only wanted one Milkovich up his ass. 

 

Oh, that thought sent one more, stronger, pulse of desire.  They hadn't done that for a while.  Sounded kinda nice.  Ian wasn't sure why, but sometimes when he couldn't get hard because his body was being stupid and his dick was uncooperative as part of a downward swing, he enjoyed bottoming.  Not always, he had to be in a particular headspace, but there were times when he needed Mickey as close as possible.  Needed him so close he was literally inside him.  He occasionally bottomed when he was feeling entirely mentally healthy, but it also wasn't often.  Zoning out for a minute, he thought about that first hot slide of feeling Mickey entering him.  Yeah, he hoped Mick was up for that after the dry spell they'd had for the past week while he was out of commission.    

 

Sandy snapped her fingers.  Literally snapped them twice to get his attention.

 

"What the fuck, Sandy," he had momentarily been in a happy place. On top of that, he hated having someone watch him, let alone be condescending.

 

"Drink the OJ and take a few bites, c'mon.  I got things to do."  She sounded impatient, but she settled back into the chair like she was prepared to wait.

 

"I don't need a fucking babysitter; you can leave." He wasn't even sure why she was here.  Other than really, Sandy was always here now.  He was unclear on her living arrangement, but he was pretty sure she basically lived in the house.  Which was fine; they weren't close and rubbed each other the wrong way but mostly stayed out of each other's business.  Apparently, that wasn't the case today.

 

"Nah, stop being a bitch, drink the juice, eat a few bites, and then I can leave you alone." She settled back even farther, clearly not moving.

 

Ugh, it was just easier to acquiesce.  He tipped the juice up and drank half of it.  It occurred to him Sandy may have been the one that changed the sheets on his bed, and he might want to be a little less of a dick.  Consciously trying to lower his defensive barriers, "Um, are you the one that changed the sheets?"

 

"Yeah, man, needed to be done," she said dismissively while tucking hair back behind her ears.

 

"Well, thanks, you didn't have to do that."  He heard her scoff but continued, "It was nice to get back into clean sheets after the shower."

 

Sandy just nodded her head in acknowledgment.  Seeming to choose her words carefully, "I hope it helped you feel better."  Said as a statement but with an underlying questioning tone.

 

Sandy was trying to be sensitive, not a side the Milkovich's found easy to show.  It was well known he hated people asking if he was feeling better as he was climbing out of a depression.  He hated having to explain that he still felt like shit but was just more conscious of it, or giving a dismissive response and then having a family member ask a million follow up questions about the state of his mental health.  Poor.  His mental state was generally poor at that point.  And goddamn irritated.  But he could also appreciate the effort and try to chill the fuck out. 

 

Experimenting with a small smile to see if he felt it or if it just felt fake, he responded, "It did actually."  It felt real enough for now.  "Still tired and not right, but I think I'm coming out of this one."

 

She just nodded her head and pursed her lips, then said, "Mickey will be happy to see that."

 

The guilt started to seep into his gut, thinking about worrying him, "Yeah.  I know he worries."

 

One-shoulder shrug, "He loves you, so it makes sense."

 

He would not cry.  He knew Mickey loved him but hearing it stated so matter of factly was a little overwhelming.  "Yeah."  And then, a thought occurred, "you leave the KIND bars up there too?" Before she could nag him more, he took a bite of the toast with a thick coating of peanut butter; it stuck to the inside of his mouth unpleasantly.  He could at least recognize the taste, though, so his sensory experiences were returning, thank god.  Not being able to feel or taste anything was it's own kind of madness and increased the feeling of being disconnected and spacy.   

 

"Yeah, it was on my list, so I waited until I heard you get up and go into the bathroom and then changed the sheets, left the water and the granola bars at the same time.  Sheets went into the washer."  Now that she said it, he could hear the dryer tumbling, likely already switched over.  "Worked out you took a shower at the same time." She gave a small smile like she was happy he had taken care of basic hygiene.  Such an impressive accomplishment for the day. 

 

He finished the juice and leaned forward to set it on the coffee table along with the toast after he took one final bite.  He was pretty sure that was all he was going to eat for a bit.  "Well, thanks." He lay back down, and the fresh pillow was like laying on a cloud after having to hold up his head on his own for the past twenty minutes.  "What else have you been up to today?" He figured he should make some effort at polite conversation.  It was gonna be short-lived; he could feel himself fading out. 

 

She got up and went into the kitchen, and he could hear her open the fridge.  She kept talking as she moved about and then came back in, "Did some grocery shopping, picked up Franny from kindergarten, and dropped her at a friend's house for the afternoon."  Returning she refilled his glass to half full with more Sunny D, then poured herself a glass she had brought from the kitchen.  She sat back in the chair, and it didn't seem like she planned on leaving.

 

Ian was not going to drink that, certainly not right now.  He figured he'd just ignore it on the assumption Sandy had poured it for him aspirationally. 

 

They stared at each other a moment before Ian thought of what she said earlier, his brain missing so much right now but latching onto strange things, "What list?"

 

"Huh?" She looked confused.

 

"What list was changing the sheets on?" Watching her face, he could see when she got what he was asking.

 

"Oh, just a list of things to do for the household today." Her voice had a strange tone.  She was evasive.

 

"There's a household list of chores for the day?" He'd never seen a list, and he'd lived there most of his life.  Although, to be fair, Debs was a bossy bitch, and it'd be just like her to orchestrate a chore chart.

 

"Sometimes."  Sandy seemed to be clamming up for no reason.  Now his curiosity was piqued.  What the fuck was with this list?

 

"What list, Sandy?" He literally had nothing better to do than lay here like a sloth asking questions until he got to the bottom of this list mystery.  Plus, with something new to ruminate on, his brain was momentarily awake. 

 

She must have caught his resolve because she rolled her eyes and got back up to get a green notebook tucked up on the mantel he had never noticed.  It was very similar to the blue wedding planner notebook he had just gone through.  She tossed it on the coffee table, none too close, clearly hoping to keep him from pursuing it.  She obviously didn't know him that well.  He reached with the tips of his fingers until he could snag it, pick it up and open it. 

 

As he did, Sandy began jabbering, deflecting, "It's no big deal; we just work to make sure someone is here with you when you aren't feeling well."  She made a grimace like she was trying to balance being direct with being sensitive on the topic at hand.  "It's just a tool to keep us coordinated."

 

The notebook was filled with dated notes, mostly in Mickey's handwriting.  It was a little Deja Vu after looking through a similar notebook less than an hour before.  The notes started the day after Mickey got out of prison and showed up unexpectedly at the house a year and a half ago all the way to this morning.  Some days were literally a date and a note about it being a good day.  Some days had more in-depth notes, although still written with Mickey's cryptic commentary.  Med changes were noted, dates he went in to see his therapist, events or interactions Mickey thought might destabilize him, even if they involved Mickey himself.  It was a strange hodgepodge of daily journal entries of Mickey's observation and clinical style notes. 

 

Flipping to the last two pages filled out in the notebook spanning this depressive spiral, there was a mix of notes and directions to various people; it was apparent everyone knew about the journal.  The notes were similar to other days, but the directions were addressed to whoever had been identified to be the Ian Monitor for the day.  Most family members appeared to have taken a rotation after Mickey had been with him night and day for the first three days solid before he had to return to work.  Apparently, even Kev had spent a day here watching his stupid ass.  He was mildly embarrassed to realize he'd had a daily sitter and no recollection really of any of the comings and goings, mostly just sleeping and feeling zoned out. 

 

Today's note:  Sandy – Be prepared for him to be a fussy asshole; he's going to start coming out of it today.  Probably.  Get him out of the room but if he's sleeping, let him sleep.  Make him eat something.  Don't take no for an answer, even if he's a bitch about it.  Push the liquids; he's probably dehydrated.  Change the sheets; they are gross.  Call immediately if he gets worse.

 

There was a note to Carl, Debbie, Kev, and Liam for the days they had covered, and all ended with directions to call Mickey immediately if Ian got worse.  Not only was it an impressive chronology of his disease over the past year and a half, as observed by Mickey, but it was also basically a whole journal chronology of caring. 

 

He got a little choked up and couldn't help the tears that began to spill over.  He hated having his emotions run loose, but at the same time, this felt pure, and it came from the bottomless well of affection and fondness he had for Mickey, who was such a secret caretaker.  He had been orchestrating care for him on more than one occasion, observing him to ensure he was as stable as he could be.  All done with no fanfare in order to preserve his dignity.  Yeah, it was mildly humiliating that others had to help monitor him when he was depressed, but it was hard not to feel loved simultaneously.  There were even notes about what to do differently next year to help avoid or mitigate the seasonal dip.  Seriously, how did a piece of South Side trash like him get so fortunate?

 

"Oh shit," he looked up to see Sandy setting her glass of OJ on the side table and grabbing for her phone again, "I didn't mean to upset you."

 

Realizing she was worried he was worse, and she needed to make the call, he clarified quickly, "No, don’t call Mickey." She looked up, skeptically, "Really."  Wiping his leaky eyes, he explained, "It's just overwhelming how soft and caring he is sometimes." He didn’t miss the little gentle smile she had for that characterization of Mickey, "my emotions are stupidly close to the surface, which is why the fucking tears, but I'm just feeling really lucky."

 

Sandy snorted dismissively but also confirmed, "Yeah.  You are."

 

Ian laughed softly in response because it was true.  And it felt good, cleansing in a way he was desperate for.  In a way that gave him hope that he would feel normal soon.  That he and Mickey were going to be husbands for life.  Which reminded him of the honeymoon section. 

 

Figuring she could help with the star sticker decoding mystery since she had been Mickeys' best person and helped plan the wedding, he asked, "So I was just looking at the wedding planner from nearly a year ago."

 

"That's timely of you," she teased him.

 

Snorting and ignoring the shot, "what the fuck do the stars mean?"

 

Sandy visibly relaxed and slouched in the recliner, even kicking up the footrest like she was for sure going to sit awhile.  "Oh, Franny had tons of stickers, so after we got done looking at options, we went through and tagged what we preferred in our color."

 

He waited for a beat, thinking she would clarify but no.  Sighing, "and Mickey's star color?"

 

"Oh, he was gold, I was silver, and all the other random colors were just us letting Franny participate." She flipped up her hands like she'd had no choice.  And frankly, Ian had been on the receiving end of Franny's insistence and could appreciate letting her just put random star stickers everywhere. 

 

Made sense, kind of.  "Why are there gold stars by things he didn't select, like the cake."

 

"Because he was trying to think about what you would want too."  She said it like it should be obvious.

 

Breathing through the swelling emotions, he just nodded his head.  Thought about what he had seen on the super-secret honeymoon section.  Sandy was always going to be in Mickey's corner.  Even though they got on each other's nerves, he really liked that.  Mickey needed to have people supporting him.  Mickey knew he could count on Sandy, and he had also had formed a unique little friendship with Tami after the mall elf fiasco as well, complete with semi-frequent coffee chats.  Sometimes Ian desperately wanted to know what they talked about, and other times he was glad not to know.  "What do you know about the honeymoon?"

 

"Other than Terry shot up the joint?" She just shook her head at Terry's violent antics.  None of that was new to the Milkovich family.

 

"Yeah, other than that."  Turning on his side so he could look at her more comfortably, he pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, so he was cozy and clarified, "Like what his original plan was?  I found some notes in the back of the notebook that made it look like he wanted to do something more elaborate."

 

"Yeah, he did; money didn't go as far as he had hoped with all of the fees for last-minute arrangements.  Who knew, but apparently weddings normally take much longer than six weeks to pull together?"  She looked baffled by the whole thing. 

 

He was pretty sure courthouse commitment ceremonies, and shotgun weddings were the only thing in the Milkovich oral traditions.  Ian figured Sandy had even less exposure to what wedding planning looked like than he did.  He was aware they typically took longer, but he hadn't realized it would increase the expense.  "So what did he want to do, what did he talk about?"

 

"He didn't talk about it much, but he mentioned a few times someday wanting to take you to the places you have talked about wanting to travel to."  Shrug, "he was talking about doing all the shit poor kids from the South Side never get to do."  She just kinda rolled her eyes at that lofty goal.  "Some museum with those dead bones," she snapped her fingers a few times while she tried to jog her memory, "fossils.  Skating, nice hotel, steak dinner.  The whole nine yards."

 

It was so simple.  At the root of it, he'd just wanted time together.  And even that Terry had fucked up, but he felt, as much as he could feel right now, a strong need to make it right.

 

"I wanna do the honeymoon over."  His mind was sluggishly trying to get online mentally to try and plan.  It was useless right now.  "I wanna go through the planner and give him a bunch of the gold star experiences…."  He was losing the train of their conversation, but he had to ask, ""Will you help me?" He hoped she would because he didn't feel like he could do much on his own right now. 

 

He rested his eyes for a few and then blinked open to see a surprised look on Sandy's face at being asked, but she responded softly, "Um, yeah, probably."

 

The excitement caught up with him; his eyes were too heavy to hold open, so he pulled the blanket up a little higher around his neck and let his eyes close.  "Thanks, Sandy; Mickey is lucky to have you too."  He didn’t remember if she responded as he dozed off.  

 

He woke slowly and could hear people softly murmuring in the kitchen and moving about.  Still laying on the couch under the blanket, he could see Liam and Franny playing Mario Party together on silent, the screen lit up with bright colors.  Franny won a mini-game and cheered silently while Liam gave her a thumbs up.  Looking past the couch's arm and into the kitchen, he could see Debbie, Sandy, and Mickey in there whispering as they made dinner and set the table.  Somehow, it wasn't uncommon that Sandy cooked something for dinner, and Mickey had taken over setting the table.  It wasn't every night, but it was often enough to be familiar and comforting.  When Ian had asked him about it, he just blew it off with a whatever.  Seemed to be a very typical Milkivich response. 

 

Ian didn't need to decide to get off the couch and join them yet or not because suddenly, at the top of her lungs, Franny yelled into the hush, "He's awake!"  Everyone winced, including Ian. 

 

Debbie came into the living room quickly, "Frannie, remember we talked about using quiet voices this week," she got down to speak with Frannie face to face.  Ian could see the exaggerated cringe Frannie made as she was reminded.

 

Turning to Ian, she came over, patting him lightly on the cheek, "Sorry, uncle Ian, I forgot to be quiet."

 

The surge of love for his little ginger niece was so good to feel.  He had a few days to go, but he could already tell he felt so much better.  Smiling at her, "That's okay, you've done a good job of keeping it down."  She gave him the cheesiest grin and a double thumbs-up.  Debbie ushered her into the kitchen, and Liam trailed after them. 

 

He stretched and was thinking about getting up when Mickey came in and sat on the edge of the couch, looking down at him.  He was smiling a little, but he also had a slight frown between his brows, stress etched into his face.  He reached up and scratched Ian's scalp lightly, "How ya feeling, sleepy face?"

 

Ian curled his arms around Mickey's middle and twisted himself into a noodle to rest his head on Mickey's lap.  This position was going to get uncomfortable real quick, but for now, it was close to Mickey, and that's all that mattered.  It allowed Mickey to use both hands to stroke through his hair and scratch his scalp.  He could breathe in his scent, which was a mix of Irish Spring, cigarette smoke, and some other undefinable scent that had brought Ian back for literal years.  "Better, much better.  Today is a better day."  He felt the twinge in his back at the position, and so he stretched back out.  Mickey rested a hand on his chest and scrutinized his face like he was trying to confirm for himself Ian was doing better.

 

"Good, hate seeing you struggle."  He leaned down and kissed his forehead.

 

Ian felt that familiar feeling of guilt again. He knew Mickey stressed about him.  He closed his eyes as he felt the kiss on his forehead.  Reaching up, he brought Mickey down for a proper kiss.  He seemed surprised for a moment, but then he got on board.  It didn't go deep, just getting reacquainted with each other's mouth since it had been awhile.  Ian knew it would reassure Mickey more than words.  And it did; once he pulled back, Mickey took a moment and rested his forehead on Ian's chest; breathed him in.  Ian could feel Mickey's shoulders relax, and Ian pet his hand through Mickey's hair, giving occasional scratches to his scalp for a few minutes.  Just being.

 

Then Mickey decided it was time to get on with the evening, "aight, aight, aight, enough of this mushy bullshit, dinner is ready."  Mickey got up and tugged Ian up to a standing position, not giving him a choice or a chance to protest.  Coming out of a slump meant joining family time and dinners even when he wasn't particularly hungry or interested in chaos.  Mickey knew this and helped him navigate being there while also not being the center of attention.  Mickey dished him up a small bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce and a slice of cheesy bread.  Most everyone left him alone so he could just sit, eat a few bites and listen to the chatter around him.  Carl hadn't returned from work yet, and Tami and Lip ate dinners at their house most nights, so it was actually pretty low-key.

 

Things were still fuzzy, but sitting next to Mickey, who was all manspread out with a thigh pressed up against his leg, was comforting.  He didn't contribute anything to the conversation, but it was good to be up and sitting in the kitchen.  Mickey didn't dither about; when he was done with his own meal and could see Ian had finished his whopping four bites and had devolved into pushing the leftovers around in the bowl, he got up and gathered their dishes.  He dumped them in the sink, and Ian somewhat recalled Debbie saying she would do the dishes.  He wanted to be by Mickey, so he got up and moved into the kitchen to stand behind him while he fiddled at the stove.  Ian knew what he was doing.

 

"I don't think a walk is going to happen tonight, but maybe we can sit on the porch with a blanket?" Mickey suggested to him.

 

He had to agree, he had hoped he would be up for a walk tonight, but that's not what he wanted to use his little stamina for.  "Yeah, that sounds nice."  He rested his chin on Mickey's shoulder as he placed his hands on Mickey's hips.  He could remember a time when he hadn't been able to touch Mickey if anyone was watching, but now he could stand in the kitchen with his husband in front of family and hold onto him when he needed it, when he was feeling clingy.  It was amazing how far they had come.  How far, Mickey had come. 

 

Watching from over his shoulder, he could see Mickey crack the Ensure bottle and put it in the small saucepan.  He flipped on the electric kettle filled with water.  He then pulled down mugs for everyone and put a packet of instant hot cocoa in all of them except one.  Glancing back, "can you get the can of whipped cream in the fridge?"

 

Ian knew this was his small effort not to hover and do everything for Ian when he started feeling better.  Although he would rather stay pasted against Mickey's back, he turned and got the can of whipped topping.  He had just set it on the counter when Franny was at their side, looking up at both of them.  Ian's brain was still not at full working capacity, so he just stared back down at her.

 

Mickey was clearly in tune with her silent request, "Alright, Franny, you can put the whipped cream in, but then your Uncle Ian and I are going to go sit on the back porch, Okay?"

 

"Yeah!" she was still several decibels too loud.

 

"Franny, keep it down, honey," Debbie said with a raised voice across the dining room. 

 

Mickey just chuckled and lifted Franny on the counter as he started pouring hot water and stirring the cocoa in each cup.  After he was done, he pushed it over to where Franny was sitting and she, with extreme concentration and her tongue sticking out to the side, squirted whipped cream on top of each one.  Most of them ended with some amount down the side of the mug instead of inside the mug. 

 

Taking the hot Ensure off the stove, Mickey carefully poured it into a mug, "This is the special one for Ian, remember what I told you last time before you put the whipped cream on his."

 

Franny faithfully closed her eyes, and her lips moved in silence as she thought something really hard, and then she put the whipped cream on top.  Mickey turned and handed Ian his special, nutritionally dense, hot chocolate.  "Can you get the blanket on the dryer?"  Motioning with his chin.

 

Holding his mug, he went and got the blanket they kept there for the cold months and then stood awkwardly by the door, waiting.

 

Mickey helped Franny off the counter and then took the other mugs to the table where Liam was deep into scrolling on his phone, and Sandy and Debbie were caught up in kissing each other.  "Eh, eh, we don't need to see that lesbionic shit." He knocked Sandy on the shoulder to get her to stop smooching on Debbie, "Ian and I are stepping out back."  Sandy rolled her eyes, and Debbie gave a haughty glare, all of which Mickey ignored as he brought over Franny's mug of hot chocolate. 

 

"Yeah, Mickey, like we haven't seen way more x-rated shit between you and Ian."  Which was true; they had been caught by various family members fucking a time or two, or ten.  They had an abysmal track record.  Mickey just rolled his eyes and waved away Sandy's response.

 

Mickey set Franny's mug at the head of the table and advised, "Careful, it's hot.  Blow on it before you drink it."

 

"Okay, Mickey!"  She seemed to say everything enthusiastically tonight.  Ian figured it was good she was so dang cute, or she'd be extra irritating. 

 

Once Mickey was sure she was going to be careful, he tugged Ian behind him and out the back door with his own mug in hand. 

 

Closing the door, they made their way over to the back porch bench that overlooked the backyard.  Many things had happened in that yard over the years, some of it even in the dilapidated red van.  They sat on the bench, and Ian helped Mickey arrange the blanket over their legs, it really was chilly, and the blanket helped.  Mickey bumped their shoulder together as he tucked it in on his side.

 

When the blanket was adequately tucked in, Mickey fished out a cigarette, lit up, and inhaled.  He took one more drag and passed the smoke to Ian.  Mickey took a drink of his hot chocolate and then set it on the railing before putting his arm around Ian's back, rubbing in slow circles.

 

Ian loved the soothing circles almost as much as the head scritches.  He took a drag and handed the smoke back to Mickey, then sipped on his warmed Ensure.  It really wasn't bad, and he knew it would help him feel better overall.  Being nutritionally deficient or dehydrated was a challenge during his deep depressions. 

 

"You move a bunch of product today?"  Mickey was in his regular street clothes now, but he knew he'd spent the afternoon moving cash and weed in various forms between the warehouse and the greater Chicago area's dispensaries.  He had a sweet little set up working at the bike shop in the morning and doing security in the afternoon.  At least he'd convinced Mickey to dress the part, and he looked forward to working alongside him when he felt better.  Still wasn't sure they could work together without killing each other.  For now, it pulled in some serious cash and was keeping them afloat.  He was grateful that was one less thing to worry about.

 

"Yeah, had six different deliveries to pick up and three cash drops." Mickey passed the smoke back, "At some point, we are going to have to get our own truck but for now, using Kevin's works out pretty slick." Luckily, Kevin didn't need his truck very often and had been happy enough to let Mickey drive it in exchange for not paying the cut for safe transportation of the Alabi weed cash.  Ian couldn't keep track of who was likely making out better on the deal, but at least both of them were getting their needs met. 

 

"That's great, Mick," chuckling a little, "You went from having no job to two, and now I don't have any."  It was funny and ironic and also made him a little embarrassed.  He was already working on trying not to feel like a burden.

 

"You have a job; we're gonna work together when you feel better." Ian noticed Mickey strategically didn't phrase it as Ian working for Mickey, "you're just taking a break right now until you're ready."  It was an emphatic statement.  Brooking no arguments.

 

Humming his acceptance with the way he was choosing to state it, he leaned over and rested his head on Mickey's shoulder.  He felt needy right now like he craved Mickey's validation and attention.  Mickey knew how he got, had unfortunately seen it enough to know.  Mickey slipped his hand up to the nape of Ian's neck and squeezed before moving on to massage his scalp.

 

"Drink your cocoa," Mickey insisted as he turned and kissed his head as he encouraged him and Ian complied without complaint. 

 

"What was the thing with Franny?"  He took a sip, he was half way through his mug, not sure he would drink much more.  The night was cold and the beverage was now almost tepid, but it warmed him a little. 

 

"Oh, it's stupid," Mickey just sort of laughed and shook his head.

 

"Tell me," Ian wanted to hear all the stupid, goofy things right now.

 

"I told her when she puts whipped cream on your" using air quotes with his free hand, "special, hot chocolate, to wish for you to get better."  Mickey made a dismissive motion with his free hand.

 

That was so unbearably sweet, Ian just buried his face deeper in Mickey's neck and gripped the thigh nearest to him.  He didn't think he could speak; he had to just sit and breathe through the emotions.  Mickey didn't try to get him to say anything.  He only had the Ensure hot chocolate when Mickey was trying to be sure he'd had enough calories because he hadn't been interested in food due to depression.  The thought of Mickey and Franny both thinking healing thoughts over his hot chocolate before giving it to him touched him deeply when he was already feeling a little overwrought.  

 

They just sit quietly for a while; at some point, Mickey lit another smoke for them to share.  It was intimate and comforting.  He wanted to ask Mickey to fuck him tonight, to take care of him in that way too, but he didn't want to have it be one more thing Mickey had to do for him.  Had to try to make it better for him because he knew Mickey would turn himself inside out trying to make him happy.  He knew Mickey preferred to bottom, and that definitely wasn't happening tonight or anytime soon.  Maybe he could blow Mickey instead, that was still being close to him.  He would just do that.  He didn't need Mickey doing more for him. 

 

"What?"  Mickey asked into the silence.

 

Ian was pretty sure he hadn't said anything out loud.  "What?" he repeated back.  Not sure what Mickey was asking.

 

"What are you thinking so loudly?" Mickey tugged his hair gently, and it felt pleasant.

 

"Oh nothing," he wasn't sure why he was always reticent on this topic; coupled with his low mood, it was hard to get anything out even remotely related to a request.  Especially something that felt selfish.

 

"Ian, what is it?" Said so softly, pleadingly.  Mickey knew sometimes he had a hard time asking for help.  Had to be pressed.

 

"I want," and he had to lean up and say it into Mickey's ear directly, "I want you inside me tonight."

 

"Okay," was Mickey's answer.  That simple.

 

"It's okay if you don't want to or you aren't in the mood," he knew he had started to ramble, but he wanted to make sure Mickey knew he wasn't obligated.  He already did so much for him.  Even more than usual when he felt this wretched. 

 

Chuckling softly, Mickey turned to him, gave him a soft, slow sucking kiss on the lips, "I wanna."

 

"Do you?" He barely pulled back but gave a little cringe.

 

"Firecrotch, I want you any way I can get you." Slightly deeper kiss, Mickey's tongue in his mouth now.  So warm compared to the outside weather, "Tonight I top, that works for me."

 

The nickname made him laugh quietly, he hadn't heard it for a while. 

 

Pulling back, Mickey stood up, "Let's head up." He picked up the blanket on Ian's lap and their mugs and went to the door.  Ian felt a little kick of energy as he got up and followed his husband in the house.  Mickey put the blanket back on the top of the dryer and the mugs in the sink.  The lights in the kitchen were off, and the ones in the living room were dimmed.  Franny, Debbie, and Sandy were in the living room watching a show.  Or, from what Ian caught as he followed Mickey up the back stairs, Franny appeared to be asleep, and Debbie and Sandy were making out while the tv played in the background.  Liam had disappeared, likely to his room. 

 

Both of them went about getting ready for bed with their own little routines.  Mickey went to the bathroom and brushed his teeth first, jeans unzipped and unbuttoned, which Ian found intensely attractive.  Knowing Mickey was going to take the lead tonight, he felt a gentle warmth in his pelvis.  He wasn't exactly aroused, but he felt open and eager.  His skin felt touch starved.  When Mickey came back into the room, he unloaded his pockets, tossed a few wrappers and scraps of paper in the little trash bin, and looked around the room for anything else that should be thrown out.  Then he took off his pants and shirt, flipped on the space heater so they could get naked without freezing their gonads off, and slid into bed in only his tank top and boxers.

 

Ian had been distracted enough he hadn't gone to the bathroom yet, so he stepped out and moved as quickly as his molasses-slow limbs and brain would go.  Coming back to their room, he closed the accordion door after himself, stripped down to his boxers and undershirt as well, and slid between the sheets.   The bedside lamp cast a soft glow on the room as Ian looked at Mickey, visually tracing the lines of his face as he leaned in for a kiss. 

 

Mickey began by kissing his eyelids, which Ian closed.  He rubbed his thumb along Ian's cheekbone, which he found incredibly soothing; it settled the little nerves inside that were still pinging.  Then he kissed Ian's lips, slipping his tongue inside, exploring his mouth.  Mickey moved his hand down Ian's chest, rubbing it and then up under his tank.  Combing his fingers through Ian's chest hair, it was a little ticklish but also relaxing.  The return of sensation was overwhelming after a week of feeling virtually nothing. 

 

It created a burning need for more sensation, more contact.  Pulling back from the kiss a little, he encouraged Mickey to lay on top of him, opening his thighs in invitation.  Mickey settled on top of him with his full weight, making no effort to hold himself up, and it was the best-weighted blanket Ian could imagine. 

 

Mickey picked back up, kissing him at a languid pace, and Ian could settle into it now that he was mostly surrounded, squeezing Mickey's hips between his thighs, relishing the contact.  Their chests and groins pressed together.  He could feel Mickey was hard, his thick dick rubbing alongside his limp one, and he had a sudden wave of shame that he wasn't hard, knew he wouldn't get hard tonight. "M'sorry, m'sorry," he whispered as he pulled back and tucked his face into Mickey's neck; wrapped his arms around his shoulders.  He felt himself getting choked up, he didn't want to ruin this for either of them, but he felt so raw and vulnerable he wasn't even sure how to process all of the emotions flooding him. 

 

Mickey squeezed him back in a hug and sat up as Ian dropped his knees, unsure if Mickey was pulling back or wasn't interested now that he was an emotional wet blanket.  He could feel the darkness creep up on him that he was trying so hard to get away from.  Mickey straddled his pelvis; there was absolutely no way Mickey was unaware Ian wasn't hard now.  He kept his hands on Ian's chest and sat heavily on his lap, ensuring Ian could feel his weight holding him down, holding him together.  "Ian, look at me."  Ian opened his eyes; things were a little blurry because they were wet, and he blinked a few times.  "What do you want?"

 

Taking a deep, shuddery breath, he asked for what he wanted, what he needed, "Want you to fuck me, want you to make me yours, want you to keep me."  He wanted that so much, despite what an energy suck he knew his disease could be, he wanted Mickey to keep him.  Needed to be reminded that he would.

 

"Okay then, I want that too."  He rocked his hips across Ian's soft dick, and despite not being hard, the pressure felt so good, he arched into the sensation a little.  "Always keeping you Ian, that was always my plan."  He rocked a little harder, giving more.  

 

"I can't get hard, not gonna be hard, though." His body failed him in this simple way.  This wasn't the first time they had been through this, but he felt like he was failing Mickey every time.

 

"So?" Mickey just said it like it was no big deal, like it wasn't the most embarrassing thing to not get his body to function correctly.  "I understand your dick doesn't always cooperate, doesn't mean you don't want me or this."  Gesturing between them, eyebrow raised, waiting for him to confirm.

 

"I do, I do.  I want you so much." And he did; it might not be exactly the same when everything was working correctly, but his skin felt too tight, his emotions felt like they were bouncing around wildly, and all of it would be better if he just reconnected with Mickey.  If Mickey became the center of his universe for just a little while. 

 

"Then, I trust you.  If you tell me you want this, then I'm good.  I want it too," Mickey leaned down and bussed a light kiss on Ian's lips.  Ian tried to follow when Mickey pulled back until Mickey pushed him back down again to be able to make serious eye contact, "If it changes, and you want to stop, you know you only have to say so." Hovering from just above, staring intently down into his face, into his eyes, "got it?"

 

He nodded his head; he did get it.  All of this was built on trust, trust that he was being honest about his needs and wants.  Mickey didn't want to hurt him or do anything he didn’t like.  Now that they had cleared the air, he could lean back and enjoy.  Be the embarrassing pillow princess he always seemed to turn into at times like this.  Let his mind and body enjoy the sensations and experience without stressing about performance since there really wasn't going to be a performance tonight.  Certainly not by him.

 

The room had heated up enough that Mickey helped Ian out of his undershirt and boxers and then just sat between Ian's bent legs; he touched Ian's knobby knees and then down his thick thighs.  Massaging and rubbing, getting his body used to touch again after such a long absence outside of perfunctory caresses.  When he was at the depths of his depression, he could barely tolerate touch, and although it was apparent it pained Mickey, he did his best to respect it.  During those times, Mickey kept touch minimal and light.  

 

"God, you are so fucking gorgeous," said with such awe.  Mickey always seemed so attracted, and it didn't hurt Ian's ego even while he sometimes wondered what Mickey saw.  When he was low like this, he just had to believe the words, believe Mickey, because right now, he didn't feel beautiful or useful or worthy. 

 

He didn't have to wait long; Mickey leaned down and began kissing his chest, sucking his nipples and gnawing at his pecs.  All the while, he alternated between rubbing his abdomen, clutching his thighs, and squeezing his hips.  It kept Ian grounded, in the moment, anticipating what Mickey would do next.  Eventually, Mickey moved down and took his soft cock in his mouth, and he plumped up a little but nothing significant.  Having Mickey's warm mouth on him still felt good, his nerve endings receptive to the warm wet heat.  Ian just combed his hands through Mickey's hair, another touchpoint.

 

Ian looked down, mildly afraid he would see Mickey blowing him while looking bored or put out, but that wasn't it at all.  Mickey's eyes were closed, his cheeks were red with arousal, and he appeared to be in some sort of zen peaceful place as he sucked on him.  Using his other hand to fondle Ian's balls, he didn't look put out at all.  Seeing Mickey at peace let Ian relax and enjoy what was an emotionally intense experience, being this vulnerable, being this open. 

 

Time once again became hazy, and Ian wasn't sure how long Mickey sucked him, and he never even got semi-hard. Eventually, Mickey pulled off him and moved to grab the lube out of the bedside table.  When Mickey topped, he wasn't generally very vocal, and so it startled Ian a little when Mickey began talking, "Love sucking you, hard or not." He wasn't making eye contact, focusing instead on slicking up his fingers, "love how you smell and the feel of you in my mouth, your cock on my tongue."  His cheekbones had even higher color than they had before, "It took me a long time to admit how much I loved sucking you off, but you always knew," he said with deep appreciation and awe.

 

Ian knew what Mickey was referring to.  When he'd come back from his short failed stint in the army, dealing with the upward swing of his disease where he was manic and bursting with energy and ideas.  They had gone over this before; there had been no magic eight ball moment when he set the expectation that Mickey would suck his dick whenever Ian wanted.  However, Mickey clung to the idea that Ian had just been finding a way to give Mickey what he wanted, an excuse, and an obligation that meant he got to do something he already desired to do without having to justify it.  It worked for Mickey, and so Ian no longer tried to set the record straight; if he wanted to see it through the prism of Ian knowing him, seeing him, and caring for him, he was going to let him have that. 

 

And maybe it also wasn't so wrong; he had known Mickey loved it, had watched his face numerous times as he went down on him, but only after his bravado compelled him to complain and protest that he wasn't really interested in sucking dick.  Nobody got as into it as Mickey had if they found the act genuinely distasteful.  Perhaps two things could be true at the same time, he was loopy out of his mind when he ordered on-demand head, but it had also allowed Mickey to relax into sucking him off regularly, which he had secretly already wanted to do. 

 

"You knew, and you helped me see it."  Mickey probed around his rim, ensuring he had enough lube.  "Even when you aren't hard, it's so goddamn hot sucking you,."  Ian watched as Mickey closed his eyes and shuddered, obviously turned on by what he was saying, "hard, soft, somewhere in between you never have to question it.  I always want my mouth on your dick."

 

Hearing him articulate his desire so graphically while helping him to loosen up was was so fucking hot.  Ian felt his heart thump hard, and his stomach trembled and constricted; his cock jerked a little but remained stubbornly soft.  "Mickey, Mickey, Mickey," He moaned his name, liking the feel of his name in his mouth and the sound in his ears.  He threw a hand over his eyes as he felt the first finger breach him, slow and steady in and out, "Please."  He didn't even really know what he needed or was asking for, "want you to be happy."  Feeling him inside, finally, "Want to be better for you."  He arched his hips; the sensation was unusual but not unwelcome.  He had bottomed enough to know it always took him a few minutes to adjust, and then he craved more. 

 

When he started to get impatient, Mickey knew it was time and carefully slipped another lubed finger inside; despite the lack of physical feeling for most of the week, he definitely felt that burn.  He moved his hand to watch Mickey's face as he concentrated on taking care of him.  The stretch made his toes and fists curl as his arms lay useless above his head, his shoulders lifting a little as he adjusted to the fullness.  Yes, this is just what he needed. 

 

Mickey kept his fingers inside, occasionally brushing his prostate, making him shiver, and he then leaned over him.  Bent down to kiss him, occupy space inside him in another way as his tongue slipped inside his mouth.  Mickey slowly ended the kiss but stayed close and whispered in his ear, a secret for him to hold near to his heart, "You're so good, Ian, what we have makes me so happy.  I love you when you are healthy and well, but I also I love you when you are sick."

 

The sob shouldn't have taken Ian by surprise, but it did, and he curled his arms around Mickey's shoulders, keeping him close, rubbing his face in his neck.  Smelling him and feeling him, and being comforted by him all at once.  Mickey slipped in a third finger, and he knew it wouldn't be long now.  He let Mickey go when he pulled back.  His arms fell again above his head; he didn't even make an effort to wipe his face.  Mickey had seen him in so many ways, had seen all of his ugly and sick sides, had loved him through all of it.  There was nothing to hide here.

 

"You ready, Ian?" He always checked in, mostly when Ian was like this, making sure he still wanted what they had started.

 

He nodded and gave him the words, "Yes," and he felt Mickey right there, pushing into him, and much like Mickey's name, all he could do was chant, "yes, yes, yes, yes" repeatedly.  Stuck in a loop, overwhelmed. After Mickey had spent the time to stretch him, there was a minimal amount of getting used to the sensation, and although a dick was way different than fingers, by the time Mickey bottomed out, he was good.  Feeling Mickey's dark pubic hair pressed against his ass and that hot cock wedged deep inside him, he was focused and in the moment. Mickey lifted one leg over the arm he had braced on the bed, and his other leg was curled around Mickey's hips, keeping him open and allowing that extra inch.

 

Mickey started a little slow, watching Ian's face intently as he fucked into him, checking in to make sure he was okay, and Ian nodded.  Letting him know he could go faster, fuck harder, he was ready for it.  His pace steadily increased, and with most thrusts, he hit Ian's prostate; looking down, they could both see he was leaking a steady stream out of his flaccid cock, and it didn't matter.  It felt good, physically but even more importantly, emotionally.  Mickey, the love of his life, the man who had tried to take care of him when he first got sick, the man who had gone to prison to be with him, was inside of him, filling him up in a way only he was allowed.  He was finding pleasure in his body.  Was intimately connected to him.  Was his husband.

 

That thought alone made him clench; he wanted to make this perfect for Mickey, which would, in turn, make it perfect for him.  The groan Mickey let out made it clear he was enjoying it. 

 

"God, Ian, why don't we do this more often?" Mickey was winded as he snapped his hips, fucking Ian in earnest, "You feel so good on my dick."  Ian was pretty sure Mickey wasn't even registering what he was saying at this point.  "M'close." 

 

Out of habit, Mickey reached down for Ian's dick and found it still soft.  Instead of stroking him like he would have in other circumstances, he just cupped his dick and balls, massaging and giving light friction.  It made Ian's whole groin warm, made him shiver.  It didn't take much longer, and Mickey was twisting his face up and coming. Pressed as far into Ian as he could go.  Ian felt it, felt Mickey fill him up, but this time, without his own orgasm to distract him, he found the experience even more deeply satisfying than typical.  Mickey stayed inside of him as he slumped down and rested his head on his chest.  Ian wrapped his arms around Mickey's shoulders and legs around his hips and continued to clench around him, using his body to milk the last of his come from him.  He felt a little desperate to be filled up.  Each time he used his body to grip Mickey's over-sensitive dick, it caused a corresponding shiver and groan.

 

When the last of the shivers had stopped, and Mickey had caught his breath, he picked back up kissing Ian.  He combed his hands through his hair, gave sweet and soft kisses on the lips and nuzzled into Ian's neck.  He shifted as he softened and pulled out and snaked a hand down to tenderly reenter Ian with two fingers.  He massaged Ian's sensitive prostate, which kept the good feelings going, helping Ian come down from all the heightened sensations.  Sometimes Ian could come this way, sometimes not.  When it became clear that it wasn't going to happen tonight, he just shook his head, words weren't needed, and Mickey understood.  Mickey stayed inside Ian for just a little longer, gentling him all the way back down until he was boneless. 

 

His eyes wouldn't stay open; he was so tired, so relaxed, felt so connected to Mickey.  A sense of hope hummed below his skin; tomorrow would be a better day.  He was distantly aware of Mickey moving about the room, cleaning them both up with a warm wet rag and then tucking him under the covers.  When Mickey returned and slid between the sheets, he was gathered close to Mickey's chest, and he curled around him, no space between them.  He sunk into a restful sleep with a kiss on his forehead and Mickey's steady heartbeat drumming in his ear.   

 

 

January 26, 2021 – 1st Anniversary

 

Ian didn't know why he was nervous.  It was their first anniversary, but they were keeping it simple for the actual day.  It had been a hectic month with him being sick for the first few weeks.  The depression hadn't been as bad as some bouts, but it sure stuck around longer than Ian had hoped.  The first week he had little memory about and the second week was day by day, incremental improvements, but it was exhausting.  For himself, for Mickey, and for the Gallagher's.  Everyone did their best, and there hadn't been too many skirmishes, but he got irritable with feeling sick, Mickey got sick with worry, and the Gallaghers weren't exactly quiet, tiptoe around kind of people by nature.  Every once in a while, it was a bad combo, but it was fine now; it was behind them.  Ian tried not to worry about the next time his mental state went off the rails, he didn't want to give that any more energy than it already took.

 

As Ian had slowly climbed out of his depression, he had dedicated time between napping, therapy, and doctor appointments to research all of the touristy activities they could do together on their makeup honeymoon.  He had gone all out when he put in a hotel reservation.  He had found something in the heart of downtown with a great view and an in-room jacuzzi.  Four days over Valentine's day weekend for them to hang out and be a couple with no distractions doing all the stupid shit their chaotic relationship hadn't ever allowed for.  He kinda thought Mickey, away from the South Side and the daily pressure, might enjoy it despite his protests that he wasn't into romance.

 

For a boy who protested romance, given half the opportunity for them to have a common language about their relationship and a rubric about how to make Ian happy and he had dove in head first.  Almost obsessively, he'd had to remind Mick a few times that it wasn't a checklist, wasn't a test of his worthiness as a husband.  Their evening walks had picked back up and it turned out that was a good time for them to talk about their day and plans.  It had quickly become an important part of their routine for both of them. 

 

Putting a little gel in his hair, he stared at himself in the mirror like he had almost a month ago.  Trying to really see himself.  Today he felt good; he felt stable.  The mirror reflected back his health, no circles under his eyes, no slump in his shoulders.  No crushing depression making him look at the razors as anything other than a tool to remove facial hair.  He felt…good?  Yeah, he did; he felt optimistic for their future, something he hadn't thought he would ever have with Mickey. 

 

Now that he was sure his brain and body were going to cooperate, he was dying to tell him.  Had almost spilled the news a few times in the past few days, but he really wanted to do it right.  Over a nice dinner together, just the two of them celebrating that they had made it. One year down and many more ahead. 

 

Working with Mickey was touch and go; they bickered a bunch and still had a lot to figure out there, but the money was good.  Better than either of them could have imagined.  It was what was going to allow them to take the extravagant Chicago tourist honeymoon Mickey had secretly hoped for.  It made Ian gooey just thinking about Mickey taking the time to paste all those dreams into the back of his wedding planning notebook.  He deserved this.  They deserved this.   

 

For tonight though, they weren't even leaving the South Side.  Mickey was already ready and waiting for him downstairs; the Uber should be there in a few.  He verified the envelope with the hotel confirmation printed out was in his jacket pocket.  They had three weeks to plan their little staycation.  He knew Mickey would roll his eyes at Ian's choice to do it over the most romantic weekend of the year, but he didn't care. He also thought Mickey might secretly be titillated. 

 

He turned to see Sandy standing in the doorway, arms crossed, watching him.  "You excited?"

 

She knew about his plan and had helped him compile the full list of activities he had researched along with a few she had found.  She had been a real trooper, and he had been grateful for her assistance, especially when his brain hadn't been firing on all cylinders.  He had titled the list "Gold Star Activities" in a notebook of his own.  There might be a list in that notebook, way at the back, hidden between pages like the honeymoon section had been, of other Glod Star Activities he wanted to do to and with Mickey.  Sandy didn't need to know about that list. 

 

He couldn't help it, he smiled, "Yeah, yeah, I am." It might be corny, but he really was.  It felt good to be looking forward to something.

 

He had a hard time reading Sandy sometimes, but things had been better.  He'd tried to be less prickly with her, and he realized how much she was actually doing for him when he was ill and even more than that for the household.  She was good to Debbie and Franny; she helped around the house and was reliable.  She was actually a lot like Mickey.  He now knew despite some of her gruff and borderline greasy appearance and demeanor, she also had a soft side.  Now that he was paying attention, he saw it often. 

 

She just smiled and rolled her eyes at his nerves, "He's going to be excited."  Then she made a perfect impression of Mickey and did air-quotes, making it obvious she had been listening to him over the last month, "It's important to spend quality time together; you and Debs should read the book." Then with eyebrows raised just like Mickey, "If you don't know Debs love language, you could be spending all of your time trying to show her you care, but it's like," Sandy giving a Mickey shrug for effect, "in the wrong language or some shit, total wasted effort."

 

Ian cracked up laughing.  He had no idea Mickey was out proselytizing the Five Love Languages.  He could think of all the ways Mickey now tried to intentionally perform acts of service for him or actually verbalize words of affirmation.  The words of affirmation didn't come easily for Mickey, especially outside of the bedroom.  Ian knew the tells; Mickey would stop, lick his lips, and try to say a direct and positive thing he was thinking about Ian, without being flippant or dismissive.  It was sometimes painful to see Mickey struggle with something that should be relatively simple.  But it also warmed his heart so much he sometimes could barely stand it.  Ian knew he had experienced far less positive reinforcement growing up.  Ian had all sorts of fucked up baggage from his childhood, but he had heard kind and loving words from Fiona, Lip, and even Monica and Frank on occasion.    

 

She stepped back as he moved out of the bathroom and they headed down the hall together.  He socked her lightly on the shoulder, "Don't let Mick's enthusiasm throw you off; it's actually pretty cool.  You should check it out."

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know."  They headed down the stairs at the front of the house, "Mickey already made us take the test over breakfast the other day."  Sandy coughed, "Debs primary language was Gifts."

 

Ian nodded his head while laughing softly, "That kinda fits." He thought about Franny's awkward birthday party with the princess theme that had been all about Debbie.  His sister was desperate to be shown affection through trinkets and gifts.

 

"Yup," Sandy said with a pop.  She headed into the Kitchen, casually flipping Mickey off, who did the same in response.  He was looking up from the couch where he had been fiddling on his phone.  Debbie had just come in the door from her last handywoman gig and Sandy had clearly shifted focus to her. 

 

Ian watched as Mickey stood up, nervously smoothing his button-down plaid shirt and smiling shyly.  They had gone out for meals at restaurants and had done the occasional date night, but it was infrequent enough to still be new.  When Mickey looked at Ian, he made no effort to hide his emotions; he let Ian see his eagerness and nervousness.  Ian found himself being swept up in the moment, and he moved in and leaned down.  He kissed Mickey for all he was worth, got momentarily lost in it.  He felt his phone vibrate, letting him know the Uber driver was close by.  Pulling back, still keeping Mickey wrapped up in his arms for a moment longer, "Ready?"

 

There was no mistaking the blush high on Mickey's cheeks; he just nodded and leaned up for one more kiss before he moved to grab their coats.  Mickey put on the new green coat and gloves he got for Christmas, and Ian didn't think he could look any more handsome.  He was excited to show him off when they went on the town tonight and in a few weeks. 

 

Ian hadn't realized he'd stopped just to gaze at his husband with a goofy smile on his face until Mickey turned around, brow quirked, "What's with you, Gallagher?"

 

His face hurt he smiled so wide, "Nothing, just thinking how lucky I am."  Pulling him in for a final time by the coat he had just put on he kissed him hard and deep, "You're a keeper for sure." And it might have been silly to say but Mickey's pleased little smile and hum meant it was worth it.  "Now, let's go celebrate!"

 

Ian felt carefree in a way he hadn't in years as they tromped down the steps towards the waiting car.

 

(Note: I took the test as both Ian and Mickey before I started writing this fic and in case you are a nerd like me, I have included the results below just for fun!  I also have some additional information and links in the end notes.)