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Mickey recognizes him. At first he’s not sure from what, isn’t sure why that specific tint of red hair combined with the eyes that are too big for that head make him think of the smell of grass and leather. Until something clicks and the name Gallagher pops into the forefront of his mind. The one with the face full of freckles. At least it used to be. 

There are a few of them, Gallaghers, and he never had a reason to know which one was which, except for Frank who made himself known every once in a while and Lip who he remembers from high school. Maybe Mickey would have left if he had realized it sooner, but this particular Gallagher has already locked eyes with him now, and he’s looking at Mickey like he’s trying to make a point. 

So Mickey stays and he watches. Watches rippling muscles, watches him roll his body and allow for bills to be slipped into his shorts. As soon as the fat ugly fucks backup, he turns back to face Mickey, cock first and with a not so subtle smirk.

Mickey thinks he’s hot, maybe the hottest guy in here tonight, but there is something about the glitter splattered across his perfectly smooth chest and the shaved legs that irks him. He’s wearing tight black bike shorts that make up for a lot, if he hasn’t stuffed the front with a sock or something, but the perfectly preened look just isn’t for Mickey. 

Mickey orders a second drink right when the song ends and another starts up. When he looks away from the bartender, Gallagher is standing at his elbow, inches away.  He is taller than Mickey thought he’d be. 

“You want a private dance?” Gallagher asks, leaning his back up against the bar. His biceps flex. 

“I can barely pay for this drink,” Mickey tells him, without looking him in the eye. 

“I can get you a discount,” Gallagher says lightly. “We go way back after all.” 

“Might be hard for you to believe, but I’ve managed to get laid out here without paying for it,” Mickey says. 

“Not hard to believe,” Gallagher says without missing a beat. Mickey does look at him this time, and that was a mistake. The kid is all perfect white teeth and a smile that does something to Mickey’s stomach that he doesn’t like. His jaw is perfect and the green eyes remind him of a redheaded runt in a baseball uniform with a mess of red curls. But he’s wearing eyeliner for god’s sake. “I feel like you were interested in me this time around and I happen to have a price.” 

This time around? Mickey thinks. “Do you take coupons to Shake Shack? ‘Cause that’s all I have in my back pocket today.”

Gallagher’s smile doesn’t disappear completely, but something does change in his demeanor. “Look,” he says, leaning in a little closer. “If it was any other night I’d l fuck you for free, but I really need the money.” 

“I don’t have it,” Mickey shrugs. “Maybe you can ask that guy. He’s been trying to get your attention.” 

Gallagher looks into the direction Mickey is nodding at and watches the sweaty middle aged man pat a napkin over his forehead nervously. He waves at them. 

Mickey looks at Gallagher and smirks at the redhead’s tight, uncomfortable smile. “I know he’s not as cute as me, but you’re a professional, right?” 

“You’re a dick,” Gallagher tells him with no real heat behind it and pushes himself off the bar. “I’m off at one if you still want to hit up Shake Shack tonight.” 

“Don’t think you’re going to have much of an appetite after what you’re about to do,” Mickey says. 

“I’m a professional,” Gallagher says. 

“How much you charge anyway?” Mickey asks, curiously

“For you or him?” Gallagher smirks. 

“Your flat rate, Mister Professional,” Mickey returns. 

“Three hundred for a fuck, a hundred for a blowie,” Gallagher says as he inches away backwards. “Fifty percent off, if we went to the same elementary school.” 

“If three hundred bucks is all you need, it’s easier just to rob the guy,” Mickey says.

“You got your talents and I’ve got mine,” Gallagher shrugs. 

Mickey doesn’t watch him walk away, but he does see him reappear at the other side of the round bar where the sweaty old guy is seated. The guy scrambles to his feet as soon as Gallagher opens his mouth. 

Mickey feels something, an annoyance at the loss of an amusing conversation to some fat ugly fuck with full pockets and not a chance in this fucking world to ever get laid by someone like Gallagher if he didn’t have full pockets. Mickey downs his drink and finally makes eye contact with the Ken Doll that’s been ogling his hand tattoos for the last half an hour. The guy comes around the bar soon after; Nice tattoos, What’s your name? Can you host? What do you like? 

 

“Got any money tonight?” Gallagher asks about a week later. Mickey hadn’t seen him around until then, not that he had been actively looking. He swivels around in his barstool and faces a glittery chest, puffy nipples and… a golden necktie. 

“Last I checked this was a fucking night club and not a whorehouse,” Mickey retorts. “What’s with the fucking costume?” 

“Friday night is for the office crowd,” Gallagher explains with plenty of humor in his voice. “Last week you were here on Saturday. That’s a completely different outfit.” 

“Completely different,” Mickey rolls his eyes.

“So,” Gallagher says, leaning in with a smirk. “Money?” 

“I’m never going to pay three hundred bucks to bust a nut,” Mickey tells him. 

“Who’d you leave with the other night?” Gallagher then asks, leaning up against the bar. “The blond guy that was thirsting for you?” 

Mickey shrugs. “Lousy lay. Should have known; guy was wearing a polo shirt.” 

“I could have told you that. He was way too thirsty.” 

“Unlike you. You’ve been chill.” 

“A hundred and fifty,” Gallagher then says. “I’ll make it good for you. My shift just ended.” 

Mickey hesitates. He got paid for a project today. He has the money, but it’s money he should be saving and not blowing on a hooker. He believes Gallagher when he says that he’ll make it good, but Mickey can’t do it.  Every time he looks at his eyes, images of the baseball uniform pop up. “Nah, man. I’m not paying you shit. Find someone else and charge full price.”

Gallagher licks his lips; he looks annoyed. Mickey doesn’t give a shit, really.

“Lap dance for twenty five?” Gallagher offers.

“So you can rub your fucking reptile legs on me? No thanks,” Mickey snorts. “That shit is wild.” 

“You don’t like shaved legs?” Gallagher asks, face suddenly open and smiling again. 

“It’s like fucking a chick. What’s the point?” 

“It’s part of the look. I’m not into it either, if I’m honest,” Gallagher admits. He opens his mouth to say something else, when a short, greasy looking bald guy taps him on the shoulder. 

“Hey, Jerry,” Gallagher says with a tight smile. “I’m off the clock.” 

The little gremlin wordlessly holds up a wad of cash. 

Gallagher’s eyes flick towards Mickey’s and then back to the money. 

Mickey hides his mouth behind his glass. The guy looks disgusting and Mickey can barely imagine the two getting naked together. 

“Guess I’ll see you later,” Gallagher says and disappears with the troll. 

It takes a while for Mickey to find what he wants that night - tall, dark skin and big brown eyes that have more in them than just a lust for cock. He makes Mickey laugh once, and that will do.

Mickey gets convinced to leave the club and go to the man’s apartment with the promise of a rough fuck. He sees Gallagher again, outside of the club. He barely recognizes him with all those clothes on, but the red hair shines in the nearby streetlight. Gallagher looks up from his phone to watch them pass by. He frowns. 

Mickey winks at him, because he’s a dick like that.

 

“That one wants you,” Ian tells Mickey two weeks later, nodding towards a faceless guy at the other side of the bar. Mickey barely glances at him. 

“Don’t need your help pointing ‘em out to me,” Mickey says. 

“He’s pretty cute, though. Are you really that picky? You didn’t leave with anyone last week either,” Ian says. “Or do you want to wait until I’m off? I can be done by one thirty.”

“I’m broke,” Mickey says. 

“You’re full of shit,” Ian laughs. “I’m not after your money tonight.” 

“Free trial, huh?” Mickey smirks at him. “Is that pimp approved?” 

“Don’t have a pimp. What, I can’t have sex because I want to?” Ian says, leaning in so close that Mickey can smell the sweet scent of his glittery body lotion. 

“You can do whatever you want, kid. I’m not banging you for money or for free,” Mickey says, turning a quarter way on his stool, so that he’s not facing Ian anymore. “You want to hang out, that's fine, but I don’t think that’s very lucrative for you.”

“I can hang out for a while,” Ian shrugs and takes the stool next to him and motions for the bartender. “You’re a customer after all. Andrew, can you get him another beer?”  

“I’m not paying for that one,” Mickey says. 

“It’s on me, Jesus,” Ian says, accepting the beer from the bartender and putting it in front of Mickey. “What type of work do you do anyway? They used to say you’d be dead or in prison by now.” 

“Been to prison and been nearly dead,” Mickey shrugs. 

“And now?”

“Painter,” Mickey lies. 

“Huh,” Ian says. “That’s anticlimactic.” 

“We can’t all be whores covered in glitter, can we?”  Mickey says. Ian smiles at him, sweet and mischievous and from up close he looks too young to be in here. There is a splash of pale skin and freckles on his neck that isn’t covered with makeup. Mickey’s eyes are drawn to it during the rest of their conversation. 

 

“Why don’t you want to fuck me?” Gallagher is back in the black shorts, but there is more glitter on his face and chest than there has been in the last two months. 

“Did someone bust a sparkling load on you?” Mickey asks rather than answering his question. 

“I used the last bit in the bottle. It was more than I thought,” Gallagher says so quickly that Mickey barely understands him, and then demands: “Well?”

He is talking faster than he usually does and his pupils are dilated. It’s the first time Mickey sees him drugged out. Up until then, Mickey hasn’t even seen him have a drink. He is about to ask him what he’s on, when Gallagher puts an arm around Mickey’s shoulder. 

Mickey shrugs him off and slides off the stool. “I’m going,” he says and motions for the bartender. “Keep an eye on this one. He’s on something.” 

Gallagher is talking, but Mickey doesn’t hear him. It was a mistake coming. He has gotten fond of their conversations. Mickey had been coming to the club almost every week on either Friday or Saturday night and Ian Gallagher would come to find him without fail. Their conversations would last between twenty minutes up to an hour, mostly about home and the people they knew from back then; they kept it superficial, but Mickey got s dangerous kick out of making Gallagher laugh out loud, he got a kick out of watching Ian drop the seductive whore act and talk to him in that Southside drawl that Mickey only hears when he’s with family these days.  

In the last month Gallagher - Ian-  had stopped propositioning him, but he never stopped flirting. Something in Mickey told him that it was a long con, because at this point Ian has been flirting with him pretty heavily and the only reason Mickey doesn’t go straight for his cock is because he knows there might still be a price tag attached to it. The last thing he wants is to be hard and ready to go and to hear; “Before we move on, that'll be three hundred dollars.”

He feels like a pussy for fleeing at the sight of the drugged out hooker, but he’s really not in the mood for a messy night. He makes it out of the club, but just barely. Right as he pushes past the bouncer and breathes in the cold night air, he hears his name. “Mickey,” Ian calls after him. “Mickey!” 

He turns around and balks at the sight of the practically naked man following him down the street in forty degree weather. So much for avoiding a messy night. 

“What the fuck are you doing?” Mickey snaps at him, bounding back his way. “You’re going to fucking freeze to death. Go back inside.” 

There is still a line by the entrance of the club, trying to get in and distracting the bouncer. Useless.

“I just wanted to talk to you. I just want to know why you won’t fuck me,” Ian says, angry. “Why the fuck did you leave?” 

“Hey,” Mickey calls over to the bouncer and walks up to him  smacks his shoulder when he doesn’t react. “Call your fucking security to come get this idiot.” 

“If he’s fucked up, he has to go home,” the bouncer says as if that is a fucking answer at all. Mickey decides not to waste his own time any longer. He shoves Ian back into the club harshly and ignores the indignant look in his eyes. “Either stay here or get dressed and I’ll take you home,” Mickey tells him. “Do you want to go home?” 

 

Ian Gallagher passes out before he can tell Mickey where to take him, so Mickey has two options. He knows where the old Gallagher house is, but he has no fucking clue if Ian still lives there, at the age of twenty four. He also doesn’t know if his family knows where he works or how they’d react to Mickey dropping him off on their doorstep so fucked up. 

The other option is to bring Ian to Mickey’s apartment. Mickey really doesn't want to. He has no interest in being Captain Save a Ho. It’s only going to get messier from there. 

So what does he do? Possibly expose this stupid gay whore to his family or undergo the inconvenience of having him crash at his place for a night and endure the awkwardness in the morning? 

“Fuck you, you fucking whore,” Mickey mutters and drives towards his apartment. 

With some serious dread, Mickey realizes that Ian is really out of it, more than he would be from some E or cocaine, even when mixed with alcohol. He doesn’t react at all when Mickey tries to get him out of the backseat of his car. Mickey has to carry the heavy motherfucker on his shoulders, into the elevator and down the hallway to his apartment. He throws Ian onto the couch and decides that he is not going to touch him anymore. He leaves the guy’s coat and shoes on, figures that if he was roofied, he’d only be more freaked out if he woke up in a stranger’s bed. 

Mickey drinks a beer and smokes a cigarette in his bed, before closing his eyes.

 

Mickey’s apartment isn’t big or fancy, but he made sure it is the way he likes it. He bought everything new, because he could. He forced Mandy to help him paint the walls a light gray and made Iggy help him put in a light grey hardwood floor. The living room is bright, with half the east wall being windows and a door that leads to a balcony. The dark grey couch is big enough for his siblings to come over and watch a UFC fight every now and then and Mandy and Jamie have crashed on the thing for weeks at a time. The most expensive thing in the apartment is the dark green Persian rug. Mandy had told him that his gay was showing when he took her to the retailer out of town to pick it up and disclosed that it was for him and not for a client. Mickey didn't give a shit anymore. He liked it, he bought it. His home was his, and his alone. He could be as gay as he wanted to be there. 

He has a bedroom and an office. He kept both as simple as possible; greys, dark blues, and pale yellows, no knickknacks. A place to sleep or fuck and a place to work.

Mickey’s silent hobby are the plants. Different shades of green pop up all over the apartment near the windows. He started taking care if a marijuana plant he got as a gag gift from Jamie when he moved out of their old house, and he had added a couple more different types of plants after he figuring out how to take care of them. He doesn’t know why he likes it, but he does. He likes how they look, likes taking care of them and watching them grow and leaf. As gay as he wants to be. 

The kitchen is small and secluded. He managed to fit a small table and two chairs in there, with the fridge in arm’s reach. The apartment came with appliances when he moved in about a year ago. 

His name is on the lease, he’s never late on rent; it’s a true Milkovich Miracle. 

 

Ian stirs awake around noon the next day. Mickey hears a muffled what the fuck coming from the living room. Mickey closes his laptop and gets up from his office desk. He takes his mug of coffee with him and pays Ian a visit. He feels kind of guilty for dumping him on the couch wearing a coat, shoes and all, but reminds himself that the alternative would probably have been more panic inducing. He had also not drawn the curtains closed, because he figured that the sooner Ian woke up, the better. 

The first thing Mickey thinks when he peeks at the man now looking around the apartment, confused and frumpled, is that the red in his hair looks gorgeous in contrast with the specs of green in Mickey’s apartment. It’s not a color combination he’s ever going to be able to sell, it’s just one of those things that is going to exist in nature and won’t ever make him any money. Fuck. 

“You survived,” Mickey notes and Ian snaps his head around to look at him. His eyeliner is smudged under his eyes, his hair has lost it’s straight and slick quality and is now a mess of curls. 

“What the fuck,” Ian sighs, defeated,  and buries his face into his hands. “How the fuck did this happen?” 

“You tell me, pal,” Mickey tries for light. The last thing he wants is to invoke a hooker’s crisis on his four thousand dollar couch. He got it with a discount, but still. 

“I… I’m so sorry, Mickey. The last thing I remember was doing some E and then I saw you.” 

“E doesn’t do that to you,” Mickey says. 

“No, I know,” Ian says, rubbing at his eyes. “I haven’t done any drugs in like a year. It fucks with my meds like crazy. I’m so sorry for this.” 

“Why’d you do E last night then?” Mickey asks. 

“Relationship issues,” Ian smiles at him weakly. 

Mickey decides not to react to that. “You can go wash your face in there,” Mickey says, pointing his thumb towards his office with a connecting bathroom. 

“I should leave,” Ian says and gets off the couch. 

“Alright,” Mickey says. Ian takes one step, staggers and sits back down. “Whenever you’re ready,” Mickey snorts and returns to looking over some designs in the kitchen. At least he attempts to. He’s worried. Fuck. 

Long con or not, Mickey had started to consider Ian… someone he knows. Maybe not a friend, but he was part of Mickey’s life nonetheless. He’s become part of his week during the last two months. Mickey doesn’t want the kid to have an aneurysm on his couch, is all. 

He is relieved when he hears the sink running in the bathroom. A few minutes later, Ian shuffles into the kitchen and takes the seat across from Mickey.

It’s the first time Mickey sees him without the makeup. He has far more freckles than Mickey thought. His eyes are big and wet rather than hooded and sultry. He has circles under his eyes, but Mickey figures that’s the hangover. His lips are still the same full lips with the sharp cupid’s bow. Either way, he is still one of the most beautiful men Mickey has ever seen. 

But mostly Mickey has never seen him looking this… insecure. He is wearing a plain black crew neck and dark jeans. His shoulders are hunched over, like he’s trying to make himself smaller than he is, like he wants to disappear. Mickey wonders why he came in here and sat directly in front of Mickey, only to attempt to become invisible. 

“You want coffee?” Mickey asks. 

“Yeah,” Ian says. Mickey gets up and Ian starts looking around. “This place is really nice,” he comments. “Do you have a girlfriend?” 

Mickey turns to look at him at that. “You got brain damage? Do you remember where we fucking met?” 

“Yeah, but you never know. It’s not like you ever told me anything about your life. Usually that means someone’s not out or at least hiding something,” Ian says, finding his voice a little bit more. 

Mickey pours him a mug of coffee. “Milk? Sugar?”

“Sugar,” Ian says. 

“It’s my job,” Mickey discloses. He opens a cabinet and takes out a pot of sugar cubes. He puts it down on the table with Ian’s mug: “Interior design, all that shit.” 

Ian stares at him for a long time and Mickey wonders about the brain damage again. “I didn’t know that,” he finally says. He puts two sugar cubes into his coffee, takes the spoon out of Mickey’s mug and starts stirring. “You never told me that. You said you were a painter.”

“Do you want to know what happened last night?” Mickey asks, leaning against the counter. 

“I don’t think so,” Ian says without missing a beat. 

“It could have been a lot worse,” Mickey shrugs.

“Fine. What happened?”

“You followed me out of the club in your little fucking shorts,” Mickey recalls amusedly. “Desperate to know why I didn’t want to fuck you.” 

“Oh, cool,” Ian nods and his ears are visibly turning red.

“I took you back inside and told them you were fucked up. Those idiots who worked there said you had to go home. No suggestion on how to get there. They just let me take you.” 

“Yeah… thanks.” 

“No, no thanks,” Mickey snaps, unable to help himself. “Some other fuck could have gotten to you first, Ian. You were completely fucked and no one gave a shit. You think that’s safe?” 

“I can’t really think at all right now,” Ian says, eyes on the liquid in his mug. “I’m sorry you had to deal with this bullshit.” 

Mickey doesn’t know what else to say. He has said the one thing he needed Ian to know - that the club did not give a shit about him - and now he has to drop it. He sits back down at the table and feels Ian’s eyes on him again. “Interior design, huh.” There’s a small smile playing around his lips. “Didn’t see anything about that when I googled you.”

“Don’t have a website yet,” Mickey says. 

“How do people find you?” 

“Word of mouth.” 

“I remember you used to be good at coloring stuff in when we were in elementary school,” Ian says. 

“My greatest talent has stayed the same since kindergarten,” Mickey snorts. “How’d you remember that anyway? I barely remember anything about you from back then.” 

“Yeah, I know,” Is all Ian says. “It’s just not something I thought you’d be doing.” 

“Dead or in prison?” 

“You used to sell drugs in middle school. For some reason I just assumed you were still doing that,” Ian says. 

Mickey shrugs. He doesn’t feel like getting into the whole shtick. He gets it, everyone and their fucking mother thought Mickey would be a fuck up. He was, for a long time. He’s got the criminal record to prove it. But he got lucky after that. 

“So when you said you didn’t have any money to spend on sex, you were just saying that to get me to back off?” Ian suddenly asks and it catches Mickey off guard, the hint of aggression in Ian’s tone. 

“I don’t fuck whores,” Mickey matches his tone and doesn’t give a shit when Ian flinches. “Even if I did, it’s not like I’m swimming in fucking cash to be giving a whore three hundred bucks for a plow when I can get it for free.” 

“Ah, it’s all economical for you, then,” Ian says wryly. “Even though I’ve offered it to you for free like five times.”

“Get over it,” Mickey says. “You’re acting like this is the first time someone's not jumped on your dick the first chance they get.” And to be fair, in another life, Mickey would have been on that dick immediately. He might even have been dumb and impulsive enough to pay for it, with whatever cash he’d scraped together. He didn’t give a shit about money back then, he’d spend it just as quickly as he’d made it; getting off, getting drunk, getting high. 

Mickey has too much to lose now. He used to think he’d never have anything worth anything. But now he does; his mind is clear, his bank account is comfortable and his siblings have peace of mind and no reason left to resent him. 

He’s not letting a redheaded whore ruin it. 

“I didn’t think you were looking for anything serious, is all,” Ian says, eyes traveling all over the kitchen. “It’s not like all those guys you picked up were so much hotter than me. You don’t seem to have a specific type either. So how’s a guy supposed to feel, getting passed up like that?” 

“You shouldn't give a shit. You’re not missing out on anything,” Mickey snorts. “One fuck isn’t going to boost your ego.” 

“You saying you’re bad in bed?” Ian asks. 

“The worst you’ll ever have.” 

“You have a lot to compete with if you want to be the worst I’ve ever had. You already smell better than anyone I’ve ever been with.”

“I don’t know how you even get it up with those gremlins,” Mickey says. 

“I don’t. It’s like ninety percent handjobs,” Ian shrugs. “Blowies sometimes.”

“That’s not what you promised me,” Mickey reminds him. 

“I make exceptions.” 

“You don’t have a pimp, do you? Because there is no way you’d be giving out discounts if you did.” 

“No, I don’t have a pimp,” Ian rolls his eyes. “It’s not like that. I can’t survive off twenty bucks an hour for three nights a week. Gotta supplement somehow.”

“I’m not knocking your hustle,” Mickey shrugs. It’s true and it isn’t. If Mickey didn’t have such a soft spot for the guy, he really wouldn’t give a shit about how he made his money. 

But Mickey likes him. He might even have a crush on him, and the last thing Mickey Milkovich wants is to be in a relationship with someone who he has to share. It’s not for him; he’s too protective, too jealous, too rough and tightly wound to ever be okay with that. It would end in a disaster, so Mickey doesn’t start. He’s too smart for that now. “Are you going back to the club?” he asks.

“I have a shift tonight,” Ian says. 

“They didn’t give a shit about you last night,” Mickey reminds him. “You can find a job at another club. That place isn’t safe.”

“I’ve been working there for over five years. Last night was my own fault. I shouldn’t have taken anything,” Ian says, tightly. “And they know we’re friends. It’s not like they sent me home with some creep.”

Ian leaves about an hour later. He tells Mickey that he lives in an apartment in the Southside with a couple of roommates. Mickey doesn’t care, not really. The less he knows about Ian Gallagher, the better.

Ian thanks him again and straggles by the front door, like he’s trying to make a decision. “Just fucking go,” Mickey says. 

Ian rolls his eyes and leaves. 

 

Mickey has dinner with Mandy the next Friday night. They leave the restaurant around eleven, and Mickey considers hitting up the club afterwards, but decides against it. They pick a case of beer up from a corner store instead and head for the apartment. 

 

On Saturday evening, Mickey has an appointment with a new client. The appointment is at five o’clock over drinks and it’s only seven o’clock when he leaves the lounge. He gets a text from Iggy inviting him and the rest of the Milkoviches over to watch the UFC fight, so he goes. 

He feels guilty, sort of. He feels like he should at least check if Ian is okay or not after what happened last week, but then again, why exactly? 

 

Mickey doesn’t go to the club the next week either, as a test of self control. 

He should probably be surprised by the knock in his front door on Sunday afternoon, but he isn’t. He sort of sees it coming from a mile away. There’s a bizarre mix of excitement and dread running through his body when he answers the door to find Ian Gallagher standing there with his hands deep in his pockets. 

He looks good. Much better than the last time Mickey saw him, but also better than the slick twink Mickey talks to in the club. He is so effortlessly beautiful, it’s unfair. 

“Hey,” Ian says. “I know this is a crazy move, but I didn’t know how else to contact you.” 

“Contact me for what?” Mickey asks. 

“Uh, just to see how you’re doing,” Ian says. “You haven’t been at the club. Maybe you were just sick of it, but I figured… I don’t know, that you would have told me if you were going to a new place.”

“I was busy,” Mickey shrugs. “It’s not like we have a standing appointment. You barely have time to hang out when we’re there anyway.” 

“Yeah, so about that. I was kind of wondering if I could crash on your couch for a couple of nights.” 

“Gallagher,” Mickey warns. 

“I swear I won’t be weird,” Ian says holding both hands up. “I won’t try to come on to you or anything. I just need a place to stay until Wednesday. My brother will be back from out of town and he has an apartment lined up, but we can’t get in there until Wednesday.”

“I thought you said you had a place,” Mickey says.

“Got into it with one of the roommates.” 

“What makes you think you’re not going to get into it with me?” 

“You’re not a little bitch,” Ian says.

No. The correct answer is no and fuck off and don’t ever come here again. Mickey rubs at his lips. This is bullshit. 

 

The redheaded whore now lives on his couch for three days. To Ian’s credit, he does not try to come on to Mickey. He lingers around in the kitchen when Mickey is in there, he pokes his head through the office door before he leaves the apartment to say goodbye and when he comes back home. But Mickey is always busy during the day. He gets the new project and visits the luxury apartment to take measurements and to get a feel of the space, he works on a few design boards and Ian hovers around him every now and then and points out things he does or doesn’t like - as if Mickey fucking asks. Ian is gone during the day. Classes, he says and Mickey doesn’t ask what kind. The less he knows, right?

In the late afternoon of the second day is when Mickey gets weak. Ian hangs out on the couch, casual and absolutely beautiful all on his own. With a book on his crossed legs and a mug of coffee in his hands. The colors of the apartment and plants seem to pop so much more around his orange head in the afternoon light coming in through the window, that Mickey’s fingers are itching for a couple of pictures. It is like something out of a magazine; life in a lifeless space makes it look bigger and more personal. It goes from a nice house to a nice home, just like that. 

Mickey lets him be. He doesn’t want Ian to think he wants anything from him, and asking if he can take pictures of him for inspiration is a real creep move.

 

They do have dinner together each night. Ian has some vague complaints about how ordering in salty and greasy food is going to ruin his diet, which Mickey rips on him for until he stops complaining by the second night. They spend the evenings smoking on the balcony, side by side wearing their coats and hanging out on the dark wooden lawn chairs. 

Ian has a lot of questions about Mickey’s job and Mickey cracks a little; he doesn’t talk about it much. It’s still a thing, how fucking gay it is to be comparing throw pillows, and to be testing ten light bulbs to see which one of them will bring out the colors in a rug the best. 

Mickey can see from the way Ian talks to him and sits across from him that he is trying not to make it weird. He avoids talking about the club or about the fact that he is literally a whore. When Mickey brings it up (makes fun of him, how can he not), Ian lets him, but the smiles don’t reach his eyes anymore. Mickey manages to be funny enough to pull a genuine laugh out of him about the whole whore thing, which he considers to be a silent victory.

Because there is more, he knows there’s more. Ian is dealing with something that he’s not talking about and Mickey can’t really do anything but try to cheer him up when he notices he is getting into his own head. 

On Wednesday night, Mickey gets home around eight, after dropping off some supplies at his storage space. Mandy has been completely useless this week; the kid is loyal and a better assistant than Mickey could have ever asked for, but she’s a stressful fucking bitch when a project coincides with her midterms or finals or some school bullshit that Mickey will never understand the significance of. So he told her to fuck off for a week.

When he gets home, he is still going over everything he needs to do for the rest of the week, before he notices the neatly packed bag lying by the door and the smell of something that makes his stomach rumble. 

He is still processing it when an orange head pops out if the kitchen. “Hey,” Ian says with a painfully bright smile. “I was afraid you wouldn’t be back tonight. I made you dinner.” 

“Why would you do that?” Mickey questions, kicking his shoes off at the door. 

The rest of Ian’s body appears; he looks different. He’s wearing jeans instead of track pants. He’s wearing a fitted t-shirt that stretches over his chest and around his biceps, instead of sloppy sweatshirts and hoodies that look like they’ve been worn by generations before him. His hair is back to being sleek and shiny, and while Mickey gets that he looks gorgeous, he misses the messy curls. 

He is standing there in the kitchen doorway, tall and handsome with his hands in his back pockets. Having cooked dinner. Mickey is going to lose his mind. 

“To thank you for letting me crash here,” Ian says, like Mickey should have been able to guess that one. “Come on, I bet you’re starving.”

 

It’s a whole thing, Mickey finds out, when he steps into the kitchen. There’s pasta, there’s warm bread, there’s a salad and even ice cold beer. It’s good, really good, but Mickey feels weird throughout the whole meal. He feels like an asshole for feeling weird - and eventually just decides to stop thinking about it. They’ve known each other for about three months. Ian’s been staying here for three nights. Mickey made it clear that he’s not into hookers. This is just a meal. He has to try to believe that. 

“So, I was thinking,” Ian starts as he takes a dish of tiramisu out of the fridge. Mickey pretends to be distracted. “Maybe, uh, I can get your number before I leave. To hang out, you know.” 

“We hang out at the club,” Mickey says. Ian’s face hardens. He sits down, puts the glass dish in the middle of the table and hands Mickey a spoon. 

“I thought you weren’t coming to the club anymore,” Ian says, digging into the dessert without looking at Mickey. Mickey doesn’t miss the frown.

“Was just busy,” Mickey says. “Probably going to be busy this week, too. But next week I’ll probably be there.” 

“To talk to me for twenty minutes and then go home with some other guy?” 

Mickey rubs at his lip and goes through his options in his head. He picks up his spoon and scoops up a bite. “You were doing good up until now,” he says. 

Ian glares at him. Mickey continues: “If you want to hang out, that’s fine. But I’m never going to date someone who’s fucking other guys. Whether it’s for a living or not.” 

It’s a horrible look, big intense eyes going from aggressive to sad in an instance, all pretense gone. “But can’t you try?” Ian asks, painfully genuine. “You can stay out of the club. We won’t talk about it. It’s just three nights a week-”

“No,” Mickey cuts him off. “I can’t do it, Ian. I’m not a chill guy. I’m not patient. I’m not open minded or whatever. I’m never going to stop talking about it or ignore the fact that you’re screwing some ugly troll two nights a week.” 

“Okay, Jesus,” Ian snaps. “It’s not like I’m going to be doing this forever. You show me a job where I can make a grand a night, and I’ll fucking switch over right now.”

“I’m not doing this. I’m not asking you to fucking stop-”

“No, you’re just saying that if I wasn’t a filthy whore you’d be dating me right now. You’re saying I’m not worth the fucking trouble-”

“Don’t put words in my fucking mouth. You don’t think I wish I could get the fuck over this shit? It’s just not happening. I’m not going to sit around and wait for you like some bitch.” 

“My tuition is fifty grand a year,” Ian grinds out. “I can’t just fucking quit-”

“I never fucking asked you to.” 

“Whatever. It’s fine,” Ian huffs loudly. “I’m sorry I brought it up again.” 

“Then shut up about it and eat the fucking dessert. I’ll give you my number and I’ll stay away from the club if that’s what you want. I don’t know what else I can fucking do.” 

Ian shrugs. He’s not satisfied, not happy. Upset, even. Mickey doesn’t think there’s a long con anymore. He doesn’t know what this is at all, he just knows that he doesn’t like the look on Ian’s face. 

“You leaving tonight?” Mickey asks. 

“Yeah,” Ian says. “Moved my shit from the old place to the new one this afternoon after class.”  

“Where’s the new place?” 

“Close. Just a couple of blocks away from here.” Ian stabs the tiramisu aggressively. “I thought maybe we could hang out sometimes. Have dinner. Smoke on the balcony. Fuck until our balls fall off.”

“Sure,” Mickey says. “We can do two out of three.” 

“So you want to date me, but you don’t want to fuck me?” Ian asks incredulously. 

“I thought you were going to drop this.” 

Ian shakes his head at him and pulls his phone out of his pocket. He unlocks it and slides it over the table. “Number.” 

Mickey dutifully types in his number and leaves the name blank. Ian can do with that whatever he wants. “I might call in a favor this week. Need some heavy lifting done. My bitch assistant has this week off.”

“Didn’t know you had an assistant,” Ian says. “How much do you pay them?” 

“Definitely nowhere near a grand for a day’s work,” Mickey snorts. “And I’m not paying you for anything. Either show up as a friend or don’t show up.” 

Ian looks at him again, the first time in a few minutes. He doesn’t look as sad as he did minutes ago, but Mickey knows this isn’t over yet. 

 

Ian leaves that night after spending another hour on the balcony. They don’t talk about it anymore. Mickey asks a couple of questions instead and learns that Ian’s working on a theology and a philosophy degree of all fucking things. He’s got exams, too, just like Mandy, but he doesn’t seem all that worried about it. He has other things to worry about, he explains, with a pointed look in Mickey’s direction. Mickey has never wanted to fuck anyone so badly. 

 

Mickey gets out of the shower that night after a pretty intense jerk off session, gets dressed and into bed before he checks his phone. 

There’s a text from Ian. Of course, why not. 

Mickey opens the texts and yeah. He knew this shit wasn’t over. 

It’s a mirror selfie. Ian’s face is mostly blocked by his phone and by a strand of wet, red hair. He’s naked, all pale freckled torso, and rippling abs, but that’s nothing Mickey hasn’t seen before. It’s the dip of his hips, the V cradling the the base of his cock. It’s only the base, the tuft of red hair at the top. The rest is cut off by the bathroom counter. The caption reads: What’s your professional opinion on round bathroom mirrors? 

 

Mickey decides not to call in Ian’s help after all. On Saturday, he ropes in Iggy and Jamie instead. They’re annoying and everything takes twice as long as it would have if Mandy was there, but they finish on time, at least. 

Sunday is assembly day - the apartment he’s working on is small, so he should be able to figure it out in two days on his own, but god how fucking boring is that?

He does it anyway, because the last thing he wants to be doing is to be stuck in this strange apartment with the redheaded whore while doing manual labor on a Sunday afternoon. 

Mickey stays there until ten p.m on Sunday and when he finally leaves he’s fucking starving and his knees are aching. One day he’ll have a team to do this shit for him, hopefully, but at least the aching muscles make him feel like he has a real job, and that it’s not all color matching and zen creation, or whatever the fuck that last lady wanted. 

He picks up a burger on the way home, eats it with one hand on the wheel and when he finally gets back to his apartment he heads for the shower immediately. 

There is a text from Ian when he gets back. 

I’m free this week if you need any work done. 

The picture that accompanies it is another mirror selfie one of Ian sitting on a bench in a gym, with his elbows on his knees, a sweat drenched grey t-shirt and a pair of black shorts. He has a white towel around his neck and earbuds in. His face is mostly blocked again. 

Mickey’s cock tells him to invite Ian over now. Just get it over with. He’s not going to want you afterwards anyway. Just let him fuck you once. 

Instead, Mickey texts; assembling furniture tomorrow 8:00 am don't know when I’ll be done. 

Ian responds: address? 

 

Mickey is getting ready the next morning when he shoots Ian another text: My assistant gets me coffee in the morning. Caramel Frappuccino with two extra shots of espresso, no whipped cream. EXTRA SHOTS. On top of the ones that are already in there. TELL THEM THAT. 

 

Ian shows up at 8:05 am. Mickey has gotten used to seeing him fully clothed, but he’s layered up today with a hoodie under his black winter coat. An expensive coat, Mickey notes. One of those things that Mandy’s been trying to pry out of him. He hands Mickey his coffee. “Here’s your milkshake,” he says. “If I’m going to be running errands, you need to start paying me.” 

“Let’s see how today goes,” Mickey says and takes a sip of his drink. “Perfect.” 

“Glad you’re satisfied, boss,” Ian rolls his eyes. “Is this the place? They got penthouses in here.” 

“We’re not doing a penthouse, but the building is ridiculous. Pool, gym, all that shit,” Mickey says. “You been in the penthouse?” 

“Private party,” Ian admits. “They had me dancing in a cage all night. Threw money at me through the bars.”

“Like a poppin’ prison cell?” Mickey asks and the smile that creeps onto Ian’s face is worth the huge mistake Mickey is making by inviting him here. 

 

Mickey had left all the biggest pieces of furniture for today, because he definitely needs more than two hands to put them together. 

Mickey knows he can be a dick when he’s working. Mandy reminds him of that fact as often as she can. Mickey knows that he couldn’t have another assistant, because there is no way anyone would put up with his shit for long. 

Clients dislike him, but they seem to like his work enough to keep recommending him. He used to try to be nice when he just started out, but Mickey quickly realized that rich people weren’t exactly nice to him either. He gave up the pretense after his third client kept following him around her house while he was working on her bedroom, like he was going to rob her blind after giving her his business card. 

He never really liked the rich and now that he’s gotten to know them, he likes them even less. Mandy isn’t exactly made for customer service either, and together they look like two burglars who come into your house to redecorate. 

So Mickey bosses Ian around that whole morning, because the kid is looking around too much; looking out of the window at the view, wandering into the freshly finished kitchen and touching the colorful tiles, not to mention him staring at Mickey for minutes on end. So Mickey is snappy and bossy - that’s just how he is when he’s working and if Ian doesn’t like it, he can fucking leave. 

To his credit, all Ian says is say: “Okay, Jesus, calm your tits,” and “I heard you the first ten times, I’m going to do it,” and “I’m working as fast as I can. If you yell at me again, it’s emotional abuse,” and “What are we doing for lunch?” 

 

They step out of the dusty apartment to grab a bite to eat at a cafe down the street from the high rise. Ian orders a salad, which is insane, and then eats half the fries that come with Mickey’s burger. 

“So your assistant puts up with this shit every day?” Ian asks, leaning back in his chair. “Or are you just extra mean to me for some reason?”

“I’ve been extra nice to you, actually. If I ever catch her staring out a fucking window, like she’s in some fucking fairy tale, she’s getting a wrench to the back of the head,” Mickey says.

“Oh, well thank you for your patience with me then,” Ian says, rolling his eyes. “When is she coming back?” 

“Saturday.” 

“I can help out until then,” Ian says. “But you can’t keep yelling at me anymore.”

“Then I don’t want your help,” Mickey says, even though he needs help. Ian being there saved him a lot of time that morning and he needs that time to focus on the designs for his next project. “I yell even when nobody's around. It’s not personal,” Mickey adds. 

“You called me a ‘stupid whore’,” Ian reminds him. 

“Are you not a whore? Is not knowing the difference between left and right not kind of fucking stupid?” 

“You know at my other job people worship me,” Ian tells him. 

“Yeah, you’re helping me build some furniture for a couple of days. I wouldn’t consider this a career switch. You’ll be back to getting old man balls smacked against your asscheeks in no time.”

 

They finish the job for the day. It’s almost completely done, but Mickey foregoes doing the accessories for now. He’ll do a better job with it in the morning anyway. 

They leave the apartment around eight and Mickey takes Ian to his favorite Mexican restaurant, one that definitely does not have salads on the menu. He drives Ian home after and tells him to be back at the high rise at eight the next morning. 

 

Ian works hard. He is prone to rolling his eyes and making annoying suggestions, but he does what Mickey tells him to do; unpacking accessories, putting lamps in ten different places until Mickey is satisfied, taking pictures of certain parts of the living room from six different angles. 

“No wonder my place always looks like shit,” Ian tells him once the apartment is completely done on Tuesday. “This is way more work than I’d ever put into making my room look nice. I feel like I’m being a fancy bitch when I change my sheets.” 

 

Mickey has been sharing pictures with the client all week, but she still looks surprised when she shows up that afternoon. Mickey doesn’t mind this lady. Ms Adler. She’s young, early thirties and a lawyer at some firm Mickey should probably be impressed if the jewelry she wears is anything to go by. She lives alone, moved here from out of town and when Mickey met with her for the first time, she had been nervous and kind of embarrassed to admit that she had no idea what to do after she bought a bed and a mattress. 

She’s happy and excited, Mickey can see that, but he really fucking hates this part. He knows he should like it; Mandy loves it and Ian seems to light up at all the compliments the woman showers them with, but Mickey has always felt uncomfortable when finally showing the client the end result. He’d rather finish the job, leave and let the client take all if it in, in private. Cashing the check is all the recognition he needs.

“No, I know, he’s amazing,” he hears Ian babbling to the lady excitedly, while Mickey grabs their coats. “He has a full roster this month, but I think he has one more spot next month. I’d suggest your friends call before the end of the week to make an appointment.” 

“I’ll let them know. Their home is beautiful, you know, but they’ve been struggling to make everything fit together,” Ms Adler. “I think Mickey would be a great help.”

“Of course. We’re more than happy to take them on.” 

“Would you guys like to sit down for a cup of coffee? I’ll be back in a second.”

Mickey opens his mouth to say they need to leave, but Ian somehow beats him. “Sure, thank you.”

Mickey glares at the back of his head and Ian seems to feel it, because he swivels around as soon as Ms Adler disappears into the kitchen. 

He has a huge smile on his face, which quickly fades when he looks at Mickey. “What are you so grumpy about?” He asks quietly. “This was a huge success. She is so happy.” 

“Yeah, but we don’t have to fucking celebrate with her,” Mickey snaps. 

“Why not? You have to shmooze a little bit, give her a reason to recommend you to her friends, right?”

“The fucking apartment should be reason enough,” Mickey says. 

Ian squints his eyes at him, looks at him for a weirdly long time. 

“What?” Mickey snaps. 

“You’re shy,” Ian says, wide grin creeping back onto his face. “You’re embarrassed because she likes it so much. Oh my god, that is so cute.” 

“Are you out of your mind? Shy? Cute?” 

“I can’t even look at you right now. I want to squeeze your fucking face, that’s how cute you are. Look, we’ll do the coffee, make sure she recommends you to her friends and I’ll do the errands this afternoon so that you can work on the next project. Best assistant you’ve ever had.” 

Mickey growls at him and gets a pat on the head for it.

 

Ian does help him a lot the rest of the week. He hangs out at Mickey’s apartment, picks up deliveries, gets the coffee that Mickey wants, orders lunch and picks up the work phone from the moment Mickey says he hates doing it and he usually lets Mandy deal with every phone call. He schedules appointments in the work phone calendar and gives Mickey a judgmental look when Mickey says he can do appointments on any day between 8 a.m and ten p.m, unless he has something else scheduled.

“When are your days off?” Ian asks on Friday afternoon. He has taken up a permanent spot in the lounge chair by the west window of Mickey’s office, right next to Mickey’s desk. There’s another desk in the office, but Mandy preferred staying in the living room or even staying at her own apartment, depending on what is on the schedule.

“When I don’t have an appointment,” Mickey says, adding two side tables to his virtual shopping basket.

“When you don’t have appointments, you work on designs or on homes. You don’t have one day a week that you just keep free?” Ian asks. 

“Do I look like Kim Kardashian to you? I can’t exactly afford to sit on my fat ass and see the money roll in. Which reminds me,” Mickey says. “You need to give me your Venmo or Paypal or something. Or do you want it in cash?” 

“Want what in cash? I thought you said I wasn’t getting paid,” Ian says. 

“Yeah, when I thought you’d be helping me out for a couple of hours. You’ve been here all fucking week doing actual work.”

“I was free and I liked hanging out with you,” Ian shrugs.

“I need to pay you, because if Mandy can’t do it for whatever reason at some point in the future I might call you to fill in. So cash, Paypal or Venmo?” Mickey asks.

“Venmo,” Ian says. “Are you saying I did a good job this week?” 

“I would never say that to your face,” Mickey says. 

“I had fun,” Ian says. “You’re definitely the most psychotic boss I’ve ever had, but I’d do it again.” 

“It gets better when you actually get paid for it. That’s what Mandy says,” Mickey tells him.

 

Mickey pays him exactly Mandy’s weekly salary, because he has no interest in getting nitpicky. It’s a grand. Mickey had always thought it was pretty good money. If he made a grand a week when he was working for a boss, he’d have had the best salary out of everyone in his family. He pays Mandy about as much as he pays himself, and the rest goes into the pot for future investments. 

But Ian apparently makes up to a grand a night, so he’s not sure how attractive it is for him to help Mickey out more often. 

 

Ian leaves later that evening, but not before turning to Mickey at the door and asking: “Did you like the picture?”

“What picture?” Mickey asks, confused. 

Ian licks his lips. “The one I sent you last week. You never… you didn’t respond or say anything about it.”

“Oh, that picture,” Mickey says. That picture. The one Mickey has jacked off to practically every night since Ian sent it. “What’s not to like?”

“I thought maybe you found it inappropriate or something. You didn’t respond, so…”

Mickey pulls his shoulders up. He can’t say that he liked it. A lot. It would defeat the point. “Was I supposed to respond with a full review?”

“Just… does no response mean that I shouldn’t do it again or what?” Ian asks nervously.

“You can do whatever you want, alright? Free country,” Mickey shrugs again. 

Ian smirks at that and Mickey knows he’s going to regret it. And well, probably enjoy it, too.

 

Mandy calls him on Saturday morning. “Any shit I need to get ready for Monday?” She asks. “I checked the emails. Seems like you were on top of it for once.” 

“I had some help. He can probably tell you what you need to know better than I can,” Mickey says. “I’ll text you his number. He’s been picking up your slack all week.” 

“What the fuck? Where’d you find a replacement so fast? Let alone someone who managed to deal with you for a whole week?” 

“He’s a friend from the neighborhood. Thick skin, kind off.”

“All your friends are criminals, Mickey. You better not have brought in some piece of shit.”

“He’s fine. Talk to him,” Mickey says and tries not to think too much about how that’s going to go.

 

Mandy shows up with lunch that afternoon. She calls him out of the office and into the kitchen where she holds out a sandwich for him. Mickey reaches for it. She pulls it away. “Who’s the guy?” she asks. 

“You talked to him, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. He was nice and funny and very professional. Absolutely no one you’ve ever been anything close to friends with.” 

“Met him a few months ago,” Mickey says and snatches the wrapped sandwich out of her hands. 

“He likes you,” Mandy teases. 

“He say that?” Mickey snorts. 

“Not exactly, but it’s fucking obvious. Couldn’t shut up about how talented and inspirational you are.”

“Inspirational?” 

“Are you fucking him?” Mandy then asks curiously. “You know it’s not smart to have him working for you, right?”

“Not fucking him,” Mickey says.

“Why not? He ugly?” 

“A real troll,” Mickey lies, already excited for Mandy to meet Ian and be confused. “Seems like we can trust him, so if you need help or a day off, you can call him.” 

“No, I’m back and ready to go. Finals were just a one time thing.” 

“Come on, Mands. I know you don't want to be working all day every day.”

“You work every day,” Mandy shrugs. “Some extra hands would be nice sometimes, though. I was wondering when you’d crack and realize business is way too poppin’ to be doing anything on your own. Ian said Ms. Adler’s place was a huge success.” 

“She was happy, got a referral out of it. Got an appointment next month,” Mickey shrugs. 

“Yeah, he gave me the rundown already. Just trying to say good job.” 

Mickey takes a bite of his sandwich so he doesn’t have to respond to that. 

 

Mickey gets a text on Sunday morning; it’s a shot from above of Ian’s bare stomach and his legs covered by dark blue sheets. Ian has one freckled hand wrapped around his covered cock, showing the outline of his hard-on through the sheets. There is no caption, no text at all, just the picture.

Mickey hasn’t had sex in over three weeks, so it doesn’t take much at all to get him to shove his hand down his pants and fervently jack off. He is too lazy to finger himself and when he busts, it’s not nearly as satisfying as he needs it to be. He still thinks of Ian’s long fingers, still thinks of his heavy weight on top of him, of their cocks grinding together. He thinks of it for the rest of the day. But more disconcerting is the fact that every now and then, Mickey catches himself thinking of kissing Ian, long and slow. 

 

On Monday afternoon Mickey sends Ian a picture back. He’s sure Ian will he startled for a second before he opens the text and sees that it’s a box of cookies from Ms. Adler that got delivered to Mickey’s doorstep that morning. The card reads: To Mickey and Ian, thanks for giving me a home away from home. It’s truly perfect. 

Mickey has gotten thank you gifts before; usually in the form of flowers, bottles of booze or - Mickey’s favorite - a tip. But cookies are a pretty good gift. They’re fancy too, box wrapped in a bow and with a card for the flavor of each individual cookie. 

Can I come get my share tonight? Ian texts back about half an hour later. 

Yeah, whenever, Mickey responds. 

 

Ian shows up late. Mickey sort of wanted Mandy to still be there, but she left right after dinner and when Ian knocks on the front door, it’s already ten p.m. Mickey had figured Ian wouldn’t show and he’d already been settled on the balcony with his laptop in his lap working on some designs. It’s a cold night, and Mickey had shoved a fleece hoodie on with sleeves that are too long and pulled the hood up to cover his ears. 

When he hears the rapid knock on the front door, Mickey puts his laptop on the side table and goes to answer it.

“Hey,” Ian smiles at him when Mickey opens the door. “Hanging out outside? It’s freezing.” 

“Can’t smoke near the plants,” Mickey shrugs and lets Ian pass him to step into the apartment.

“Can I warm up inside for a little bit at least? I’ve been walking in this shit for almost an hour.”

“What, you want me to make you a cup of tea?” Mickey snorts.

“I know you don’t have tea, dickhead. Being inside for a second is good enough.” 

“I got beer,” Mickey offers, stepping back into the kitchen. He gathers his things off the balcony and drops them on the kitchen counter. He grabs two beers out if the fridge and the box of cookies before he heads back to the living room where Ian has already settled into the middle of the couch. He has taken his coat off and is just putting his phone down on the table. Mickey puts the cookies down on the table, cracks open a beer and hands it to Ian.

“Mandy’s been going back and forth to the box all day,” Mickey discloses and sits down next to him. 

“I’ve never gotten thank you cookies before,” Ian says, taking a sip of his beer. 

“Those trolls never buy you shit?” Mickey can’t help but ask, because avoiding the topic hasn’t been working for him. It makes his skin itchy, the fact that Ian thinks he can’t talk to him about his job. Mickey hates hearing about it, but he hates the discomfort on Ian’s face more. 

“Never for wholesome reasons like this,” Ian sighs. “It’s always a ‘don’t tell my wife’ type situation.” 

Mickey leans back. “Why don’t you get more money out of them?” 

“I don’t want those guys to be in my life like that,” Ian explains simply. “That sugardaddy shit makes me sick. That’s all I’m going to say about it tonight.” 

“You can say whatever you want,” Mickey says.

“I don’t want to think about it either. That’s a Thursday through Saturday topic exclusively from now on.”

“Tell me what the Thursday outfit is and I’ll drop it.” 

“Army fatigue.” 

Mickey cackles. 

 

It’s ridiculous and there is the threat of Mickey forgetting what is really going on. Because sometimes it feels like they’re just two grown men, obviously attracted to each other - it feels like there is nothing stopping Mickey from grabbing Ian’s face and kissing him. And really, there is nothing. Only the consequence, the terrifying sliding scale; there is no point in Mickey denying to himself that he has feelings for the guy. All he can do is deny it to everyone else if it ever comes up and try his hardest not to fucking forget that Ian Gallagher fucks other guys for a living and that Mickey Milkovich can’t afford to go to prison because he killed some pathetic John out of jealousy.

 

So when Ian sends him a picture of himself in the army fatigue shorts and some fake dogtags on Thursday night clearly taken in the mirror of some back room at the club, Mickey decides to go out. He is going to get laid and he’s not going to think about red hair or pale skin of freckles. 

 

He fails on Thursday. Well, he does get laid, but he thinks of ginger pubes and big hands on his hips the entire time. 

 

He tries again on Friday night, fails again, but in a more spectacular manner. 

The guy stays the night, which is annoying but also a distraction. He’s hot. Probably in Mickey’s top three. He’s got olive skin, bright green eyes and a mop of light brown hair. A model, probably. He is all muscle and powerfuck and Mickey lets him go again, because he knows what he’s doing. It feels good, feels cathartic for the night. 

The next morning the guy proves to be practically brain dead as he points out three different plants to ask if they’re real. He opens his mouth, pointing at the fourth plant when Mickey cuts him off. “If the first three are real, how fucking big is the chance that I’ve hidden one fake one between them? How many of these are you prepared to fucking point out until you find it?” 

“So… there is a fake one?” the Himbo asks. 

Mickey is nice enough to make him a cup off coffee before he leaves, since the sex was good enough and the guy’s face is perfectly symmetrical. He is even kind of excited when he hears the knock on the front door. Mandy is never going to believe Mickey could pull a guy like this - no matter how stupid he is. 

The problem with that is that it’s not Mandy at the door ready to hit up a few vintage furniture stores. Instead it’s Ian Gallagher, smiling brightly and holding up Mickey’s Starbucks order. 

“Morning, boss,” he says cheerfully and steps into the apartment. He hands Mickey the drink, takes two more steps into the apartment, scans the living room casually and then freezes when he finally sees the stranger sitting on the couch. 

“Alright, I guess I’ll be waiting outside,” Ian exhales and disappears through the open front door as quickly as he appeared. 

“Was that your boyfriend?” The Himbo asks. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Mickey sighs. 

“Your brother?” He guesses. 

“I’m going to go take a piss. If I come back and you’re still here, we’re fighting,” Mickey tells him. 

 

Ian was early. It shouldn’t have mattered,  of course. Ian and Mandy can be as early as they want, they just can’t be late. But Mandy had said she’d be at his place around eleven and Ian got there at ten-fifteen. In any other situation, Mickey would have been glad to see him, glad to hear he’d be taking over Mandy’s duties for today. 

All Mickey feels when he joins Ian in the parking lot twenty minutes later - he had to take a shower - all he feels is ice cold. The weather is cold, his blood seems to have frozen in his veins and the way Ian looks at him when he walks up to the car is ice, ice cold.

Mickey knows he doesn’t deserve that. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and being judged for having sex is a sore spot for him and getting caught is one of his recurring nightmares. If any of this was rational, Ian would have no right to be angry. But he is angry and Mickey understands better than anyone that sometimes you don’t really have a choice but to be angry. 

So Ian is angry and Mickey feels shame clawing at his throat for reasons that have less to do with Ian and more to do with himself.

Ian pushes himself off the car and throws his cigarette away. “Mandy said I should drive and let you go over the list on the way to the first store,” Ian says.

Mickey pulls out his car keys and hands them over without a word. 

 

“It’s okay, you know,” Ian finally says when they hit a busy traffic light. “I was just surprised. Hadn’t expected it. Which is stupid. I should have known you might have company. Should have called first. I was just… surprised. Sorry if I overreacted.”

“Alright,” Mickey says. “We never talk about it again.” 

“He was hot,” Ian says, ignoring Mickey completely. “Where did you find him?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” 

“Why not? If he’s just some stranger, who cares? Or are you going to see him again? How long have you been seeing him?” 

“Shut the fuck about it,” Mickey snaps. “We’re not fucking doing this. If you can’t shut up, you can get out of the fucking car and walk back home.” 

Ian glares at him, aggressively, grabs the pack of cigarettes off the dashboard and rolls his window down before lighting one up. 

Mickey tries to go back to his notes, tries to make sense of the list he made - but he can barely process what he has written down. Fucking Ian Gallagher. 

“You’re a fucking asshole,” Mickey grinds out, because it’s too late now. Too late to go back. Ian snaps his head around to look at him. 

“I’m the asshole?” He asks. His orange eyebrows look like they’re on fire. “You ever fucking hear yourself talk?” 

“Loud and fucking clear. You ever stop and think about what the fuck you’re doing? What’s the fucking plan, huh? I just wait around until you decide to stop? If you ever do?” 

“I never said that. I already said I was sorry about how I reacted. I get it, okay? It’s my fault. I’m the fucking whore. The universe has switched it around on me and now it’s my turn to be angry and jealous and miserable.” Ian started out calm, but by the end he is yelling over the cars honking at them. The light has turned green. 

 

Mickey is still fuming by the time they get to the first vintage furniture store. He decides to work fast. No looking around, no improvisation. He had seen a few things the last he was there that would work great for his new project. He asks Ellen, the owner to look over his list and make a price estimate for him as soon as they step foot in the store. 

“Mickey,” she smiles widely. “How are things? I got some new things in the other week. I don’t think you’ve seen ‘em yet. Thought you might want to take a look before I put ‘em online.” 

“Not today. I need this shit,” he says slamming the list on the counter. 

“In a mood, huh,” she tsks. “Where’s Mandy? She can take a few pictures of the newer stuff and you can look over it on your own time.” 

“She’s not here-”

“I’ll do it,” Ian pipes up. “Could you show me where to go, please?” 

Mickey feels like there is fucking steam coming out of his ears. This fucking asshole. How is it possible that even though Mickey decided not to fuck him, Ian still manages to ruin Mickey’s life?

 

They leave the store about thirty minutes later. Mickey wants to tell Ian to go home. He has four more places to visit and he doesn’t want to rush through all of it. He should just go alone. But Ian isn’t budging. He ignores Mickey’s suggestion to fuck off and refuses to give Mickey the car keys. 

This is Mickey’s personal hell. 

Any satisfaction he had gotten from the sex the night before has completely been washed away. Mickey is used to being tense and he is constantly grinding his teeth just in his everyday life, but it’s been a while since he had felt like actually throwing punches. 

“Stop it already,” Ian chides in annoyance when Mickey breaks the plastic pen he’s holding in half. “We’ll fight later if you want, but you have fucking work to do now.” 

To his credit, Ian shuts up after that and only speaks up to say something about the job every once in a while. Mickey still ignores him most of the time, because he knows that if he opens his mouth, he’s not going to be able to control what comes out of it. 

It’s almost two p.m when Ian pulls into a Portillo’s drive thru. They’ve been to three furniture stores already and Mickey managed to almost do his normal rounds in the last two. He knows that Ian is bored; following him around silently and taking pictures of pieces without Mickey making any comment must be excruciating, but it fucking is what it is. 

Ian opens his mouth while they’re waiting in line at the drive thru. “Was he any good?” 

“Yeah,” Mickey says without missing a beat. If Ian wants to play the game, Mickey will play the game. 

“Do you like him?” 

“I don’t know. He couldn’t really talk much with my cock in his mouth.” 

“Okay,” Ian snaps at him, annoyed. “I’m just trying to figure this out, alright?” 

“Shit’s been figured out. You live life the way you want and I live mine the way I want. It’s not that complicated.”

“Then what is this? Why are you avoiding the club and why did I almost kill that guy in your apartment? Why do we give a shit?” 

“Doesn’t fucking matter. I’m not going to change my mind and neither are you.” 

“You never even gave me a chance, Mickey. I’ve had boyfriends. They understood-”

“I don’t give a shit, dickhead. I don’t want to be with someone who’s fucking other people. I don’t care if you’ve had boyfriends who were okay with it or if the entire world is more fucking woke than me. Don’t care if it’s just a job or that you don’t have feelings for the trolls. Don’t care that it’s just handjobs or blowjobs. I don’t give a shit.”

“Yeah, no, I fucking got it the first hundred times you said it,” Ian sighs and rubs both his hands over his face. “And I want to respect it. You deserve to get what you want, but I can’t help how I feel about you. Sometimes it just… comes out. I can’t not flirt with you and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve never felt like this before.”

“You don’t have to help me or Mandy,” Mickey reminds him. 

“The job isn’t the problem. I like it a lot, not just because I like you. It’s fun and it’s different and it feels like I’m actually doing something useful for once in my life. I don’t want to stop. If I ever want to get a real job, I should probably have something other than ‘gogo dancer’ and ‘whore’ on my resumé.” 

“I can’t give you a full time job, right now.” 

“I know. I’m not fishing for one. I’m just trying to say… I also don’t want to stop seeing you, is all. I know that’s probably what we should do, and if you want to cut all ties with me-“

Welcome to Portillo’s. Can I get your order please?” The drive thru voice cracks through, startling both of them. 

“If you order a salad I’m cutting all ties with you,” Mickey warns him. 

“I’ve gained five pounds since I started working with you,” Ian says with a roll of his eyes as he leans towards the window. “Can we get one cheeseburger and one charbroiled chicken sandwich without mayo?” 

“Fucking pussy,” Mickey scoffs. 

Anything to drink with that?” 

“Yeah, I’ll have an iced tea. Mick?” 

“Chocolate milkshake. Large.” 

“And a small chocolate milkshake. That’s all, thanks,” Ian orders. 

Alright, you can pick up your order at the next window.” 

The large has like nine hundred calories. You’re going to have a heart attack if you drink that,” Ian says unapologetically as he drives up to the next window.

“So fucking what? I got health insurance,” Mickey says.

“Maybe I can convince Mandy to get you on a meal plan,” Ian says. “You either don’t eat at all or you eat some wildly greasy shit-”

“Oh, fuck off. We’re not all trying to fit into gold thongs or whatever,” Mickey says.

“Maybe not, but you gotta take care of your health, too. You eat trash, you barely sleep, all your drink is milkshakes, coffee and beer-”

“Alright, okay, remember how we made it pretty fucking clear that you’re not my boyfriend? You can keep your fucking health tips to yourself.”

“Mandy says that the biggest part of being your assistant is making sure you’re not ruining every other part of your life.” 

“I hate that bitch,” Mickey says. 

“Seems pretty cool to me.” 

The mood has shifted significantly and Mickey doesn’t dwell on it for too long. He’s glad that he can unclench his jaw now, even if it’s probably just for a little while. 

 

The rest of the day isn’t as tense. Ian doesn’t bring up the guy again and he is back to giving his unwanted opinion on the things he knows nothing about. 

The last store they visit is a larger one with a corner dedicated to handmade silk flowers for permanent bouquet centerpieces. Mickey doesn’t need any of it at the moment, but a string of pale yellow roses with pink tips catches his eye as he walks past it. He picks it up absently and has taken a few steps when he realizes that the flowers are held together by a black rubber band. 

“Oh,” Mickey says and turns around to Ian who is looking at him curiously. Mickey reaches up and places the flower crown on Ian’s mop of red curls. 

“How do I look?” Ian asks, eyes wrinkled in an amused smile. 

“Like the king of all faggots,” Mickey says and turns around because it kind of hurts to look at him. 

 

Mickey drives them home and drops Ian off at his apartment first. “Mandy is going to be busy tomorrow, too,” Ian says. “I know you’re going to be working from home, but I can come over to deal with the phone and emails and stuff.” 

“People don’t care if I don’t answer the phone or emails on Sundays,” Mickey says. “Don’t need you watching me eat or whatever the fuck.” 

“Do you want Starbucks in the morning?” 

“You’re not coming over just to bring me coffee, asshole.” 

“I don’t mind. Are you going out tonight?” 

“Fuck off already,” Mickey says.

Ian rolls his eyes and pushes the car door open. “Call me tomorrow if you need anything. Or later tonight. My shift starts at ten.” 

“Better start shaving those legs then,” Mickey says. Ian gives him one last long suffering sigh before he leaves. 

 

Things are quiet on Sunday. No Mandy and no redheaded whore to distract him. Just Mickey and the creative side of the project for a full day. 

 

Mandy comes over on Monday morning complaining about her new class schedule. “How badly do you hate the idea of having Ian take over a couple of days a week?” She asks. “I’ll still deal with all the finances and budgeting, but he can take over the errands and set up. I have all afternoon classes-”

“Can we pay him for that?” Mickey asks. 

“Yeah, Mick, we can pay him for that. We have plenty of room these days,” Mandy tells him. “I can take a pay cut, if you’re worried.” 

“If you say we’ve got enough, I believe you. You can talk to him. He might not want to. He’s getting pretty sick of me,” Mickey shrugs. 

“I’ll call him later today,” Mandy says. “Thanks, Mick.” 

“For what?” Mickey asks, confused. 

“For being a better boss than my boss at Waffle House could ever be,” she smiles.

“Because I don’t force you to work when you’re supposed to be in class? I pay for your tuition, too, you know. I lose either way.”

“Ian is in college, too, right? You think he’ll have the time?” 

“Yeah, a degree in Philosophy,” Mickey snorts. “He has plenty of time. Like I said, if he doesn’t want to, don’t push him. We’ll figure something else out.”

“He seemed pretty excited when I called him on Sunday. I showed him how to upload the picture to your cloud. He said he’d be happy to help any time,” Mandy says. “He’s got a soft spot for you. God knows why.”

 

 

Mickey has an appointment with a client that afternoon and when he is driving back to his apartment around seven, Mandy calls him fuming. “You said he was a troll,” she growls through the speakers.

“You met up with him in person?” Mickey laughs to himself. 

“How the hell did you find this guy? Such a sweetheart. And smart, too.”

“So is he going to do it?”

“Yeah, of course. He was excited. He gets five hundred a week for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Another hundred to be on call during the week and any overtime, of course. I’ll send you the budgeting report so you can sign off on it. Hey, Mick, I’m serious. He likes you a lot.” 

“Yeah, well.” 

“If it’s a bad idea, let me know, okay?” 

“I’ll let you know.” 

It is a bad idea, Mickey already knows that, but oh fucking well. 

 

Ian shows up with Mickey’s Starbucks order at ten on Tuesday morning. “So no packed schedule filled with philosophy and Jesus-classes, huh?” Mickey asks, accepting his drink and letting Ian pass. 

“Not a lot of classes left this semester,” Ian shrugs. “Dissertation time for Jesus-classes.”

“Finally, the payoff for selling your ass and cock to go to college.” 

“I just got here, Mickey,” Ian says. “Can you wait with the roasts until I take my coat off, at least?” 

“No,” Mickey says. 

 

Ian takes off his sweater around noon and sits around in a white t-shirt. It’s not tight, but it has a v-neck and it’s not even very translucent, but when he sits in the chair by the window and the sunlight beams in, Mickey knows for a fact that he can see… orange chest hair. Mickey stares at him while Ian is on the phone. He can’t really hear a thing, just sees his lips moving, curling up in a smile every now and then. Sees his long freckled fingers wrapped around the phone. 

Mickey tears his eyes away and leaves the office. He steps onto the balcony for a cigarette break, hopes that the cold November air will help him get his mind out of the gutter. He still has a lot to do before his measurement appointment at three. He is just lighting up his second cigarette when Ian joins him on the balcony. He takes the cigarette out from between Mickey’s lips and takes a drag. “What do you want for lunch?” he asks, leaning back against the steel railing. His nipples are poking through his t-shirt now.

Jesus Christ. 

“Whatever you want. I’m not really hungry,” Mickey says and lights another cigarette up for himself. 

“Really? Something going on?” Ian asks, blinking at him in surprise. “You okay?” 

“I’m fine, Jesus,” Mickey says. “You’re going to freeze to death out here.” 

“You seem kind of stressed, is all. You don’t usually smoke two cigarettes back to back,” Ian notes. 

“You some kind of detective or something?” Mickey says and takes a long drag. 

Ian exhales and rolls his eyes. “If it’s something I can help you with, you need to tell me. I can reschedule something or try to push a deadline. Maybe give you a massage.” He says the last part with a smirk that he hides by taking another drag of his cigarette. 

“Mandy doesn’t give me massages,” Mickey tells him. 

“Would be kind of weird if she did,” Ian says.

“Would be kind of weird if you did, too,” Mickey says. “Pretty sure there are laws against making your employee give you a massage.” 

“Friendly favor,” Ian shrugs. “We can wait until I’m off the clock, if you're afraid OSHA is going to bust down the door.” 

“Remember that you started this,” Mickey says and then asks: “What’s with the chest hair?” 

“Oh,” Ian says and puts a hand on his chest. “I don’t know. I just… stopped shaving it a couple of weeks ago.” 

“They let you do that at the club?” 

“Not really. I’ve had several stern warnings,” Ian rolls his eyes. “It’s kind of bullshit, though. I’m not some seventeen year old twink anymore.” 

“You been working there that long?”

Ian’s face flushes at that question, like he’s been caught. Mickey doesn’t get it. “Off and on,” Ian then admits. “Not always at the same club. I’ve also done other things in between.” 

“Like what?” 

“Got an EMT-certification. I worked as an EMT for two years.” 

“No, you didn’t.” 

“I did.”

“Then why the hell did you stop?” Mickey asks, maybe a bit too aggressively. 

“Lots of reasons,” Ian says and he looks uncomfortable, upset even. It reminds Mickey of that morning, after the extacy mishap. 

“You don’t want to talk about it?” Mickey asks. 

“Not really. It’s a lot to get into in the middle of a workday,” Ian says and seems to shake the discomfort off of him. He pushes his cigarette out in the ashtray on the table. “I’m ordering you a caesar salad.” He goes back inside. 

 

Mickey is intrigued to say the least. He always had the feeling that the redheaded whore was leaving a lot unsaid and Mickey never had a problem with it. Mickey has known a few whores in his lifetime and the ones he’s met rarely have an empowering reason to be doing what they’re doing. That’s just not how it goes in the Southside. Ian seemed confident enough when Mickey spoke to him at the club, but outside of the club there has always been something - an insecurity that made Mickey uncomfortable. Ian Gallagher shouldn’t be insecure. He is gorgeous from head to toe. He is smart and proactive. His jokes could use some work, but at least he gets Mickey’s hilarious humor, no matter how crass or rude he is. Ian Gallagher is pretty much a god among men. An EMT? It fits. Ian is responsible, cares more than most people, has the attitude to run towards danger rather than away from it. 

So Mickey is intrigued. By more than the chest hair and the nipples and the perfect teeth. 

He lets it go for the day. If Ian doesn’t want to get into it at work, that’s smart. They go to the measurement appointment after lunch and the clients rope Mickey into a whole conversation that is pretty much a word for word repetition of what they told him the first time they met. Mickey still has a lot of work to do when they leave the client’s house at five. 

“Did you leave anything at my place you need to pick up or should I drop you off at your place?” Mickey asks Ian when they’re nearing the apartment. 

“No, I think I have everything,” Ian says. “I can leave my laptop there, right? Since I’ll be back in the morning?” 

“Yeah,” Mickey says. He hesitates for a moment and then asks; “You want to come up for a beer anyway?” 

Ian seems surprised by the question, but doesn’t miss a beat. “Okay,” he says, and then visibly backtracks. “You’re not going to be asking me about the EMT shit, are you?”

“‘Course I am,” Mickey says. “I finally learned something interesting about you, Gallagher.” 

 

Mickey is shooting himself in the foot with this. He is definitely going to have to perform a miracle to make up for the time he spends sitting on his balcony with Ian Gallagher that evening, but he can’t get himself to consider it wasted time. 

They sit side by side in the lawn chairs, each under their own blanket, and they don’t get up for anything but more beer, more cigarettes, to take a piss or to answer the door when the pizza arrives.

Mickey doesn’t bring it up until the pizza is gone and they’ve finished all the beer in the fridge - two each, very wild. 

And actually, it’s Ian who brings it up himself. Mickey just finishes a story about one of his first clients asking him if he minded covering up his tattoos when he was in her house, even when nobody was around, because she had a bunch of Jesus paintings hanging on the walls. 

“Jesus, what did you say?” Ian laughs. 

“That she could fuck off and that her paintings were ugly anyway.” 

“Did you get the job?” 

“Fuck no. Pretty sure she thought I was the antichrist,” Mickey snorts. 

“God, you could be,” Ian sighs. “You can ask, you know.” 

“Just tell me,” Mickey says. 

“I was an EMT for two year. From eighteen to twenty. Then they found out I’m insane, and I got fired.” 

“Insane how?” Mickey asks. 

“I’m bipolar. Got diagnosed early, when I was sixteen. Had a rough time back then, but… I don’t know. I felt a lot better when I got certified. Felt like I got to do something useful despite everything. But I got fired as soon as they found out. Didn’t kill anyone, didn’t hurt anyone. I made mistakes, like everyone does, but… it was a reality check, I guess. I looked for another job, but the club took me back as soon as I walked in. My brother and sister practically forced me to go to college at the time and guess who was fucking desperate to understand what this shithole of an earth was really about?”

“So you spent fifty grand a year to figure it out? You didn’t want to do anything else?” 

Ian smiles at that and shrugs. “I actually like it a lot. Way more than I thought I would. A useless major for a useless mental patient who can’t get out of his own fucking head.” 

“You’re not useless,” Mickey says, stupidly. 

“I know. Just feels like that sometimes. Feels like all I’m good for is jerking old man dick. If someone’s going to get paid for it, it might as well be me.”

“Hm.” 

“So?” Ian then asks. “What’s the verdict?” 

“Oh, you’re definitely fired,” Mickey says. 

Ian reaches over to smack him on the arm. Mickey laughs and shakes his head. “It’s a hell of a story,” Mickey shrugs. “Bipolar, huh?” 

“Real bad.” 

“How bad?” 

“Like get committed to a psych ward - bad. Like take three types of crazy pills twice a day - bad.” 

“You don’t seem that bad.” 

“Been taking crazy pills without fucking up for over two years now. Been on and off it before that.” 

“Why would you go off it?” Mickey asks. 

“Because I’m a nutjob. I get it into my head that I can achieve enlightenment better if I’m off the meds. Or study better or fuck better. A bunch of reasons that don’t make sense to anyone but me at that moment.” 

Mickey’s hand moves without him thinking much about it. He drags his arm out from under his blanket and puts his hand over Ian’s where it’s sitting on the armrest of his chair. 

Ian snaps his eyes up at him, painfully earnest. Mickey threads their fingers together.

“You made the right choice, you know,” Ian then says, softer than before. “The fact that I’m a whore is just the fucking start of this whole mess.” 

Mickey keeps his eyes on him and shakes his head. “I’ve done way worse things than fuck some troll for extra cash,” he says. 

“Like what?” 

“Lots of stuff. Between the two of us, you’re a fucking angel.”

“How did you turn all of it around?” Ian asks earnestly. 

“I got lucky,” Mickey says. “Worked construction after I got out of prison, three years ago. Was working on the kitchen of a new house. The owner was walking around the place the entire time, pulling her hair out. I told her she was distracting the crew and she had to get the fuck out-”

“Of course you did.”

“She said she couldn’t figure out where to start with decorating the place. She needed it to be done within a week, and she was losing her mind.” 

“You helped her?”

“Sort of. Told her to fix the kids bedrooms first then her own, then move on from there. The next thing I know I’m taking this bitch to IKEA, Crate and Barrel and Bed, Bath and Beyond everyday that week. She cut me a fat check at the end of the week and recommended me to her friend. Shit started rolling from there.”

“Jesus,” Ian laughs. “That’s fucking incredible. But you clearly had talent already. You knew what you were doing.”

“I used to hide those decor magazines under my mattress as a kid. Might as well have been hardcore gay porn as far as my dad was concerned. My mom used to get them and when she ran off, I’d steal them from gas stations,” Mickey admits out loud for the first time in his life. His siblings knew, but they had never talked about it. There was really no reason to discuss the origin of what would become Mickey’s entire career. His entire life.

“And look at you now,” Ian smiles at him. “Not a horny housewife in this city who doesn’t swoon at the thought of Mickey Milkovich picking out her curtains.” 

“You haven’t seen a horny housewife yet,” Mickey snorts. “Some of them are fucking shameless.” 

“I bet. You ever have sex with a woman?” Ian asks. 

“Long time ago,” Mickey answers, tries not to go there in his mind. It was a long time ago. “You?” 

“Once. Just to try it out.” 

“Can’t picture it,” Mickey says.

“Me neither. It was some of the worst sex I’ve ever had. You ever eat a pus-”

“Stop, I’m going to fucking gag.”

Ian’s laughter rings through the night and Mickey is reminded that their hands are still connected when Ian gives his fingers a squeeze.

 

Mickey gets up at six the next morning to finish the work he had shoved aside to flirt with the redheaded mentally ill whore all night. He really is losing control, but he’ll try to reign it back in somehow. 

When Ian shows up at ten, looking like he has had a full night’s sleep, Mickey already has half a workday behind him. 

“Morning,” Ian says, and hands him his coffee. “I’m pretty sure she fucked it up this time. She just refused to understand that I know there are already two shots in there,” Ian says. “Can I get your car keys? I have to go pick up the paint samples.” 

“They’re in my jacket. Can you pick up two cans of white paint while you’re there? I’ll text you a picture of the brand,” Mickey says and takes a sip of his coffee. “This is bullshit.” 

“Paint samples, white paint and a new Starbucks drink,” Ian says with a smile as he digs through the pockets of Mickey’s jacket for his keys. “Anything else?” 

“Take the phone with you,” Mickey says and slips the phone out of his back pocket and hands it over.

“‘Course. Did you have breakfast yet?” Ian asks.

“Get the fuck out.” 

Ian is only gone for a little over an hour and when he comes back he has breakfast sandwiches and new coffee. And all the paint, whatever. 

They eat there at the kitchen table, while Ian scrolls through the email on the work phone. 

“Someone is asking if you do… what the fuck? Christmas trees?” 

“Uhuh.” 

“You decorate people’s Christmas trees?”

“And Thanksgiving dining rooms. And fucking easter gardens. Rich people don’t want to deal with that shit. They just want it to look perfect.” 

“Thanksgiving dining rooms? Are we doing that? That’s like next week, isn’t it?” 

“We have three. I already got all the shit for it in storage. I do them the night before. It’s just accessories and centerpieces. Setting a table basically.” 

“People pay you to set tables for them?” 

“Yeah, and you don’t want to fucking know what I charge them,” Mickey smirks. 

“Rich people are crazy. So I should keep next Wednesday night free,” Ian says. 

“They’re not big jobs. I can do it myself.”

“I don’t mind. We need more pictures for Instagram, anyway. Mandy says I should try posting twice a week, because she keeps forgetting.” 

“I don’t really care about all that,” Mickey shrugs. 

“It’s good for business, Mick. Housewives go wild on this shit on Instagram. Especially if the designer is a hot guy.” 

“You want to pretend to be the designer on Instagram?” Mickey asks. 

“What the fuck?” Ian laughs. “No, I’m talking about you. There is not a single picture of you on there. It’s a waste of thirst followers. Mandy says brands are more inclined to sponsor a post if there’s a person in the picture and if the engagement is better.” 

“Mandy was talking about you, dickhead.”

“No, she was pretty clear about how you’ve refused to show your face in any type of advertisement and that my ‘special project’ is to get the Instagram popping off.” 

Mickey rolls his eyes at him. “If it’s your ‘special project’ then I don’t need to know about it.” 

“You gotta trust me on this, Mick. The sensitive bad boy look is going to get you bags and bags of cash.” 

“Don’t use your weird stripper logic on me,” Mickey warns. “But if you can make bags of cash appear, I’m not stopping you.”

“Come on, if anyone knows how to cash in on thirsty middle aged people, it’s me.”

 

Ian sticks around for dinner again that night. There is no weirdly intimate hand holding, but Mickey does notice that Ian moves his lawn chair closer, that when he turns his head to talk to him, their faces are closer than they probably should be and that Ian has gone from being vague about his life and family to completely oversharing. Mickey doesn’t mind; Ian looks relaxed, looks like he wants to talk, like he trusts Mickey. 

Mickey catches himself returning the favor; Ian is easy to talk to, he’s been through enough not to be shocked by much, but still seems to get a kick out of stories from Mickey’s life before he started the business. 

And when Ian leaves that night, Mickey feels empty. 

 

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving they finish the last house around midnight. Ian, of course, left all of his shit at Mickey’s apartment. 

They go upstairs, Ian gathers his shit in less than a minute and while he’s shoving his things in his bag, he says: “You never told me what you’ll be doing tomorrow.” 

“Huh?” Mickey asks, already more interested in stripping out of his clothes and crawling into bed, than anything else. 

“On Thanksgiving. Are you visiting family?” 

“Oh, they’re coming here,” Mickey says. 

“But you don’t have a big fancy table,” Ian accuses. 

“I’m not a middle aged white lady with pearl earrings,” Mickey reminds him. “Mandy invited everyone over here. It’s her thing, I just happen to live here.” 

“Is your dad coming?” Ian then asks, eyes intent on Mickey.

Mickey shrugs. He didn’t ask and he doesn’t care. If he shows up, Mickey leaves after an hour and doesn’t return until everyone has left. That way no one dies.

“Well, if he does and you want to do something, you can call me,” Ian says, eyes back on his bag. 

“Like what?” Mickey asks, quirking up an eyebrow. 

“I don’t know. Go for a drive or something,” Ian shrugs. 

“What about your family?” 

“I see them all the time. Way too often, some would say,” Ian smiles. “I don’t know. I can’t imagine spending Thanksgiving with your homophobic dad being fun.” 

“Yeah, well, if I don’t see him long enough, I forget why I’m doing any of this in the first place. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m fueled by hate and revenge. It’s the only thing putting money in my bank account.” 

“I know you’re fueled by hate and revenge, but you also deserve to take a break. A real break, where you can relax and not be angry for a little while, instead of spending it with the one person you hate the most,” Ian says.  

“Instead you want me to spend it with you?” Mickey asks, raking his hand through his hair, frustration rising. He hates the discomfort that takes over Ian’s expression as soon as the words leave Mickey’s mouth. 

“I didn’t mean - Mick, I know you said we can’t. I get that. I’m sorry if I come on too strong sometimes. We’re friends either way and I still don’t know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.” 

“Asking me on a fucking date on Thanksgiving is kind weird, I’d say,” Mickey says. He leaves Ian alone in the office, and heads for his bedroom. He doesn’t wait and starts getting undressed. He’s just so fucking sick of this shit. 

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Ian says, appearing in the doorway. “Mickey, I can’t change how I feel about you, but I get that you don’t want to be with me. I understand, okay?” 

“I don’t want to be with you?” Mickey spits out. “Is that how you see this? I’m the fucking problem?” 

“No. No, I didn’t say that,” Ian shakes his head. “I’m sorry I fucking said anything.” 

“Just fuck off already,” Mickey tells him, too tired to keep this going. 

Ian leaves without another word. 

 

Mickey doesn’t hear from him at all over the weekend. The only reason he knows that Ian didn’t actually quit the job, is because Mandy updates him over the weekend and sends the pictures over that Ian took earlier that week. As long as he’s still talking to Mandy, Mickey can get over himself. 

He’s been feeling like absolute dogshit all weekend. He’s sure he deserves it. He’s sure he’s doing something wrong somewhere and that this is all his fault, but there is no way for him to fix it. It just is what it is and he has to deal with it. 

When Ian shows up on Tuesday morning, he’s got Mickey’s coffee and two breakfast sandwiches. “Mrs. Wilson asked if we could start an hour later today,” Ian says, handing over Mickey’s drink and a sandwich. “I said we’d have to stay an hour later, too. She was fine with that.” 

“You have a key,” Mickey says. “You don’t have to knock every time you come here.” 

“Mandy said the key was for emergencies,” Ian blinks. 

“Well, from now on the key is so that I don’t have to get off my ass whenever you show up,” Mickey tells him and heads for his office.

“Oh, okay,” Ian says, right behind him. “Do you need anything else or do you want me to start on the emails before we leave?” 

“You fucking know what to do,” Mickey says. “If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

“Can we talk first?” Ian finally asks.  

Mickey doesn’t turn around. “About?”

“About last week. About us.” 

“Not now,” Mickey says. “We have a whole fucking day ahead of us. I don’t want to be thinking of ways to murder you while I’m supposed to be working.”

“Okay, that’s fair, but can we please talk when we’re done?” 

Mickey grunts a reply and eats his sandwhich while he’s looking over the designs for Mrs. Wilson.

 

Mrs. Wilson’s house is a huge project. It’s fun, Mickey has to admit. Three bedrooms, a living room and two bathrooms. Mickey finished the bathroom designs and sent them over to the contracter two weeks ago. The bare bones of the bedrooms are done, too. Today they’re finishing the master bedroom and they’ll be working on the living room over the next three days. It’s a huge space with exposed brick and wooden beams, with an open kitchen in front of a huge garden. “Jesus,” Ian says, looking around the place. “What do you gotta do to end up in a place like this?” 

“Dentist,” Mickey says, unable to hide his disgust. “Both husband and wife.” 

Ian laughs at that. “You don’t like dentists?” 

“These ones talk like they were built in a lab,” Mickey says. “Wife has good taste, though. Husband keeps staring at my mouth like he wants to shove his hand in there.” 

“You think he’s gay?” 

“Maybe. Guess we’ll find out when he sees you, tonight,” Mickey shrugs. 

They manage to get through the day without murdering each other. They’re done around eight, and Mickey is covered in dried sweat from hauling boxed furniture up a flight of stairs all morning and building it all afternoon and fucking with accessories all evening. He wants to go home, take a shower, have beer and go to bed. 

But of course, right when Mickey thinks the couple isn’t going to show up for a reveal, he hears the front door creak open. “Fuck,” he curses. 

“Ha,” Ian smirks. “Get to watch you blush again.” 

“Oh shut the fuck up. Maybe we can leave through the window.” 

“We’re on the second floor,” Ian says.

“What, you’re a pussy now?” 

“Don’t be ridiculous, Mick. They’re going to love it.” 

“Then you take credit for it. I’m fine with just the check,” Mickey grunts. 

As expected, there is a lot of gushing by Mrs. Wilson. She has a huge smile on her face which Ian mirrors at her brightly as he follows her around the room.

Mr. Wilson is staring at Mickey’s mouth again. Mickey just wants to leave. 

 

They finally get back in the car at almost nine o’clock. “You want to go to Lou Malnati’s?” Ian suggests.

“I’ll make a scene wherever we go,” Mickey says. 

“I just want pizza,” Ian claims. Mickey grunts. He’d really rather go home and into a hot shower as soon as possible, but eating something first isn’t a horrible idea either. Mickey drives them to the restaurant, and wonders what Ian wants to talk about. About last week. About us. You know how I feel about you, but- 

The restaurant is pretty busy, but their drinks come out quickly. Ian sips on his coke through a straw and fiddles with his napkin. “You really did a great job with the bedroom,” Ian then says. “It looked like some kind of paradise.” 

“She wanted to feel like she was waking up near the beach every day,” Mickey snorts. “She’s from LA.” 

“You nailed it,” Ian says. “But I don’t think anything compares to your bedroom.” 

“When the fuck did you see my bedroom?” Mickey frowns. He’d been careful. He keeps that door closed when Ian is around. And his bedroom is nothing special. He left it simple on purpose; a place to fuck and sleep. The colors are softer than in the rest of the apartment, dark blues and pale yellows with a light grey wooden bed frame. 

“I caught a glimpse when we uh, were fighting,” Ian says, looking at the table top. Mickey remembers. He remembers trying to escape and Ian following him. “I didn’t see a lot. Just the bed and the colors.” 

“Whatever,” Mickey mutters, but he is kind of miffed anyway. “It’s not that special.”

“I liked it,” Ian shrugs. “I don’t know why you’re so secretive about it. You obviously bring guys back there all the time.” 

“Doesn’t mean it’s free game for anyone else,” Mickey says. “And I make them sleep on the couch.”

“No, you don’t,” Ian says. 

“I definitely fucking do. They either fuck off or sleep on the couch. The smart ones get the fucking hint.” 

“You make your partners sleep on the couch?” Ian asks incredulously. “What kind of crazy power move is that?” 

“I can literally do whatever I want,” Mickey says. “They don’t really ever come back, in case you’re wondering. Only the ones who like to get tortured.” He catches Ian’s eye as he says that. Ian blinks a couple of times, rapidly. 

“Do you let them come back?”

“Depends.”

“On the sex?” 

“You really are some kind of genius, aren’t you?” 

“Do you think it’s that different?” Ian then asks. “Me fucking for money and you fucking randoms every week and shoving them out the door?” 

“The difference is that if someone comes along who I actually like, I stop fucking around with anyone else,” Mickey explains. He’s tired.

“It just doesn’t seem that important to you,” Ian says. “You told me you haven’t really been in any long term relationships. You don’t go out on dates or anything.” 

“You see any time in my schedule for dates?” 

“If you care about someone, wouldn’t you make time?” Ian asks. 

“What’s your fucking point?” Mickey finally sighs. 

“My therapist-”

“Jesus Christ.” 

“-said that I should try and be as clear as possible about my wants and needs-”

“I’m going to fire you.” 

“-but I don’t really know what I want. Or I do, but what I want and what I need are pretty much opposites of each other.”

“I’m going to hurl.”

“I just want to know how you feel, Mickey.” 

“No,” Mickey says. “It’s not that deep. It’s not some outrageous idea to want someone you’re seeing to stop fucking other guys. Or maybe it is and I’m a piece of shit for it, but that ain’t going to change.”

“You’re not a piece of shit for it. I just…” Ian rakes a hand through his hair in frustration. “Why don’t you ask me to stop, then? Why don’t you ever say that you want me to quit my job at the club and find something else?” 

“Because I don’t know why you’re working there in the first place,” Mickey says seriously. Like he hasn’t been thinking about it every fucking day since they met. “I can’t tell you what the fuck to do.” 

“I told you, it’s just about the-”

“Money, got it. I’m the first to tell you to go for the cash every time, Ian. I told you, I’ve done way worse shit for money than suck a couple of dicks. But you can’t fucking sit here and tell me you enjoy that shit. Every Thursday you’re stomping around like the world’s about to end. Why?” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ian lies. 

“Alright then. You want me to ask you to stop working there? I’m asking you right now. Stop sucking dick for money. Stop dancing.” 

“I can’t just-”

“Okay, then stop bringing it up,” Mickey says, fucking exhausted. He knows he’s being a dick. The way Ian is squirming on the other side of the table is enough to tell him that. He’s too tired to give a shit.

Ian quietly fiddles with his napkin for a couple of minutes and then asks: “Do you want me to quit as your assistant?” 

“Why would I want that?” Mickey asks. “You want to quit?” 

“No, but if we’re going to be fighting about this all the time… it can’t be good.” 

“All you gotta do is stop bringing it up.” 

“You mean we can’t hang out anymore,” Ian then says, with an edge in his voice.

“I didn’t say that.” 

“You flirt with me too, you know,” Ian accuses. 

“Jesus, where is that fucking pizza,” Mickey sighs. 

The conversation stops there. Mickey doesn’t know how often they can go over this, before one of them snaps. He can feel his resolve weakening every time it comes up, and all he can do is remind himself that it will blow up in his face as soon as it starts. He doesn’t want to do that to Ian, doesn’t want to give in, give him hope and then explode the next time he goes back to the club, because he can’t control his emotions. 

The meal is good and Ian manages to switch to teasing Mickey about being embarrassed during the viewing and it’s all fucking fine. 

 

On Friday night, about two hours after Mandy leaves, Mickey hears a key scratching the lock of his front door. He is in his bedroom, just out of the shower. He only just pulls on a sweatshirt when the door creaks open completely. He checks the time on his phone; ten o’clock and notes that Mandy didn’t text him that she’d be coming back for anything. 

He steps out of the bedroom and sees that it’s not Mandy. It’s Ian. 

“The fuck are you doing here?” Mickey asks. “Mandy send you?” 

“Uh, no,” Ian says and closes the door behind him. “I’m glad you’re here. Figured you might be out. I, uh, called in sick.” 

“From what? From the club?” Mickey asks, confused. “If you’re sick you gotta stay the fuck away from me. I’ve got way too much work to do, to deal with that.” 

“I’m not actually sick, dickhead,” Ian says and starts taking his coat off. “I just didn’t feel like going.” 

“You’re missing out on a lot of tips,” Mickey says. 

“You want to watch a movie or something?” Ian asks, ignoring Mickey’s comment and holds up the paper bag in his hand. “Beer’s cold.” 

 

So they watch a movie and another one. Ian falls asleep halfway through the second one, head knocking back against the backrest of the couch. Mickey turns off the TV and pushes the redhead down onto the couch with a pillow under his head. He grabs a blanket out of his bedroom closet and drapes it over him, before heading to his own bed. 

He is barely lying down, when there is a knock on his bedroom door. “The fuck do you want?” Mickey asks and Ian pushes the door open, like an asshole, instead of answering the question. He is standing there in the dark, silhouetted by the light coming through the living room windows.

“I don’t want to sleep where your other whores sleep,” Ian says. He whines it, really.

“You going home? It’s like three a.m,” Mickey tells him. 

Ian hesitates in the doorway for a second and then steps into the bedroom and closes the door behind him. “Move over.” 

“Jesus Christ.” 

“I’m not going to touch you, just move over,” Ian says, as he is taking off his jeans. Mickey, because he is a fucking bitch, moves over. 

“Mandy is going to be here at ten,” Mickey tells him. 

“I’ll be gone,” Ian says softly. The bed dips and the covers shift and Mickey already feels Ian’s body heat, his arm touching his own, his bare legs sliding against his own. “Sorry,” Ian whispers. 

“You stopped shaving your legs,” Mickey says, like a fucking idiot.

“Yeah.” 

Shut the fuck up already. “Are you going back there?” 

“Not this week,” Ian murmurs. “I don’t know.” 

Mickey turns to look at him, and feels like Ian’s green eyes are glowing in the dark. He turns onto his side and doesn’t say anything anymore when Ian touches his hand, curls his long fingers through his own and holds them there between their bodies, on the mattress. 

 

Mickey startles awake the next morning and stares at the pale redhead sleeping on the other side of the bed for a few moments, before he takes his hand out of the steel grip the man has on it. Ian doesn’t react and Mickey checks his phone.  It’s a little past eight a.m and he has a text from Mandy Working from home, took phone with me yesterday. Text me if you need anything. 

He puts his phone away and picks it back up, because his eyes drag right back to Ian’s sleeping face. He’s close enough to count all the freckles on his nose and under his eyes, even in the dimmed lighting of his bedroom. His lips are slightly parted and Mickey can feel Ian’s breath on his face.

“Wake up,” Mickey says. Ian doesn’t react. Mickey reaches over and shoves at his shoulder. “Wake up, asshole.”

Ian startles awake, eyes wild for a second or two before he relaxes and closes his eyes again. “Fuck you, what time is it?” he asks hoarsely. 

“Eight fifteen.” 

“’s too early,” Ian says and pulls the covers back over his shoulder. “You said Mandy’s gonna be here at ten.” 

“She’s not coming, today,” Mickey says. 

“Then shut the fuck up and let me sleep,” Ian mutters, last words trailing off. 

Mickey sighs and turns onto his back. He tried, at least. Maybe he should have lied and said that Mandy was coming. Maybe he should have put more of an effort into getting this man out of his bed, out of his room and out of the apartment. Maybe even out of his life. He just… doesn’t fucking know how. Doesn’t really want to.

He glances back over at him, red hair a stark contrast on Mickey’s dark blue pillow case. He wants to reach over, wants to touch it, wants to know what that hair feels like on his fingers. He wants a lot of things.  

He gives himself a few minutes. Ian has fallen completely back asleep, and Mickey finds it almost impossible to tear his eyes away from him. He gets up after a few minutes and shuffles through the cold apartment towards the kitchen. He turns the heat on, though he usually likes it on the colder side. Mandy tells him he’s a freak for it and that she nearly freezes her nipples off when she wakes up there in the morning. Ian had complained about it, too, when he stayed on the couch for a couple of days. Mickey gave him the finger back then. 

He makes a pot of coffee and doesn’t even look through his kitchen to see if there is anything to eat. There isn’t. It’s a bad habit, he knows it is, but the one thing Mickey has splurged on since he started making money was food. He’d order in or eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner. He has the money, he hates cooking so why the fuck should he give a shit? 

He orders two servings of french toast with a side of bacon and eggs, and a fruit salad, just in case Ian really wants to be a fucking bitch about it. 

The food arrives half an hour later, still piping hot. Ian is still dead to the world, but Mickey isn’t having it anymore. 

“Hey, get up,” he says, shoving at him hard. When Ian doesn’t do anything but groan in annoyance, Mickey grabs the pillow from under his head. “Get the fuck up, Cinderella. We got food to eat.” 

Ian takes that moment to snatch Mickey by the wrist and yanks him down onto the bed beside him. “Why can’t we just sleep? We didn’t go to bed until three a.m last night.”

Mickey tries to fight his way loose, but Ian is relentless. He curls an arm around Mickey’s chest and pulls him down, bodies flush together. Mickey’s heart does a backflip and the solid, warm mass of Ian’s body stills under him. They’re separated by the bedcovers, but Mickey can still feel the curve of his hip, the bones in his knees and something prodding right between his legs. 

Mickey takes his free hand and shoves Ian’s face to the side with it. They’ve barely ever had any physical contact before, Mickey made sure of that, and now they’re practically fucking each other. “I can feel your fucking boner, idiot,” Mickey tells him and feels the grip on his wrist and torso release. 

“You never felt a man’s boner before?” Ian muses, not at all embarrassed. 

“Oh fuck off,” Mickey says and pushes himself off the bed and to the other side of the room. 

“Can you bring me breakfast in bed?” Ian asks with a teasing smile and Mickey, well. He brings him breakfast in bed. 

Ian sits up, bedcovers long discarded on the floor and the take out tray balancing on his impossibly long, folded legs. His boxers are thin and Mickey knows his dick can start poking out of it at any moment, but at this point Mickey thinks it fucking might as well. What would it matter if Ian’s now flaccid dick was just out while they’re having breakfast?

“Damn, this is really good,” Ian says, around a mouth of french toast. “You don’t do this for all the boys who stay the night, do you?” 

“The fuck do you think?” Mickey snorts. 

“I think I’m pretty special,” Ian says. “I get why you’d want to sleep on this bed by yourself. It’s without a doubt the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on. The sheets are so soft, too.” 

“Company that makes ‘em sent them to me for free,” Mickey says, ignoring the comment about how special Ian is. “They’re nice, but I don’t think I’d spend three hundred dollars on fucking sheets.” 

“Jesus, you better not.” 

Mickey is barely listening, really. His body is still warm from when he was lying on top of Ian. He can still feel the ghost of that boner pressing against his hip. He wanted it to last longer. He wanted Ian to hold on to him, not let him go. 

“What are you working on today?” Ian asks when there is nothing left of their huge trays of food. 

Mickey wracks his brain for a second. Because he knows there was something - “Fuck,” he sighs. “Driving up to fucking Milwaukee. Christmas ornament heaven, they say. I’m going to gag just thinking about it.”

An amused smile spreads across Ian’s face. “You want me to come with you?” 

“You’re not working today,” Mickey says, grabbing their trays and mugs, before getting off the bed. Ian follows him out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. 

“I don’t mind,” Ian says. “You don’t want some company on the drive over?” 

Mickey throws the trays in the trash and puts the mugs on the counter. Back the fuck off, we’re not doing this. Nothing has changed. Stop this. “Yeah, alright,” Mickey says and he hates the smile that breaks out on Ian’s face. He looks surprised. Maybe he had expected Mickey to do what he should have done and that is to tell him to fuck off. 

“Okay, you want to go now or can I go home for a shower and a change of clothes first?” Ian asks. 

“I’ll pick you up at your building in an hour,” Mickey tells him. 

 

It’s a two hour drive. Mickey has spent plenty of time with Ian, in the car or otherwise, for it to feel normal. The only difference now really, is that Ian is not getting paid to go with him. Maybe there is one more difference. Mickey is pretty sure that Ian had told him the night before that he might be quitting at the club. He might have dreamt it; strong legs rubbing up against his own and Ian saying ‘not this week, I don’t know’.

Mickey knows this is his own fault. He’s letting himself get bamboozled by a redheaded whore into going on another weird date where no one is going to get laid in the end. He’s letting his cock lead the way, even though he’s not going to get where he wants to be. It’s a special kind of torture. He wonders what Ian’s therapist would say about it. 

“This is insane,” Ian says when they get to Ornament Heaven, as Mandy put it. It is definitely more like Ornament Hell, and Ian seems to agree. It is a massive warehouse, stacked from floor to ceiling with ornaments; rows and rows of shit. From actual Christmas trees to lawn ornaments and thousands of different stars. 

“Still seem fun to you?” Mickey asks, yanking a shopping cart out from the chain. 

“I think this is where I kill myself,” Ian says. 

“You want to take the bus back home?”  Mickey snorts. “If not, grab another cart. Shit’s about to get real fucking gay.” 

 

Ian takes advantage of technically not being on the clock and wanders off every now and then and shows up with the most ridiculous thing he can find; from naked Mrs. Claus to a ceramic statue of dick and balls wearing a Santa hat. He also takes advantage of how boring Mickey finds the process of gathering thematic Christmas ornaments for rich people who are just going to tear all of it down after two weeks, by pulling conversations out of him. 

Well, maybe he’s not exactly pulling it out of him. Maybe Mickey is the one who likes making Ian wheeze with laughter. The store is filled with a mix of families with young kids and retirees. An old lady asks Ian if he can grab something off a high shelf for her and thanks him with her whole body twice. When Ian finally untangles himself out of her grasp and forces Mickey to go down the other aisle, Mickey says: “So it’s just old guys you’re into. Not old ladies.” 

“Shut up.”

“You think…” Mickey is already laughing. “You think she could make you cum?” 

Ian covers Mickey’s mouth with his hand, shocked, muffling the last word. “You think she could make you cum?” He shoots back. 

Mickey pushes his hand away and says: “Yeah, I’d probably bust.”  

Ian’s mouth falls open comically, before he turns around and leaves the aisle. Mickey can still hear his laughter ringing through the entire store. 

 

It’s already the late afternoon when they eventually roll three full carts of shit back to the car, before driving to a hipstery burger restaurant Ian finds on Yelp. The food is good, the company is great and Mickey pretends that it’s not a date. Pretends that he doesn’t want to kiss the goofy smile off Ian’s face. Pretends that Ian’s arm around his shoulder as they walk back to the car after their meal doesn't warm his whole body. Pretends he’s not on the verge of cracking. It’s already dark when they get in the car and head back for Chicago with a trunk full of Christmas junk. The upcoming two weeks are going to be all Christmas all day. He has eight homes to decorate. His next real home redesign won’t be until the start of January, but January and February are booked solid and they have a few projects for March, too. 

The drive back is nice, too. Ian tells him about what he remembers of Mickey from when they were younger. Little league, sharing pencils, walking home from school together with a few other people once or twice. Mickey doesn’t remember much of it, but he remembers enough to know that it’s true. He wonders why he can’t remember Ian specifically in all those scenarios. Probably because he was two years younger and Mickey used to hang around with people who were at least three years older. He was way too busy stealing, fighting and pretending not to be gay. 

They drive into the neighborhood around nine p.m and Mickey figures there is no point in pretending now. “You coming up?” he asks Ian. 

“Sure,” Ian says easily. “Need me to help you bring all that shit up?” 

“Nah, Mandy’ll sort through it on Monday.”

There are still two beers left, which they crack open on the balcony with a couple of cigarettes, before going back inside to finally warm up. “We can order more beer, if you want,” Mickey offers. 

“Can’t drink that much anyway. I’m good. You can go ahead, if you want to start on the hard stuff,” Ian says, nodding at the bottle of Jack on the kitchen counter. It’s been there since Iggy brought it over for Thanksiving. 

“Nah, not letting you get me drunk on my own,” Mickey smirks at him and revels in the blush that spreads over the redhead’s cheeks. “Come on, let’s finish the movie we started last night.”

Ian asks him this time if he can stay over. “It might sound stupid, but my brother has been seeing this girl and she stays over during the weekend. I usually don’t have to deal with her, because of work…” 

“You don’t like her?” Mickey asks. 

“She doesn’t like me, I think,” Ian says, scratiching his temple.

“How does that happen?” Mickey asks, genuinely. “I mean, you can be annoying but what’s not to like?” 

“That’s nice of you, but I called her a rebound slut and she heard me. Not exactly the best first impression, you know? They’ve been dating for like a month, which is way longer than he usually manages to keep anyone around.” 

“Did you explain to her that you’re the biggest slut of all and that you’ve reclaimed the word?” Mickey snorts. 

“Didn’t get that far. Been mostly avoiding her when she’s around.” 

“Is that why you’re here?” Mickey then asks. “Avoiding the girl your brother is dating?” 

“I mean, it’s one reason. Another reason is that our apartment looks like absolute shit and this place is literally like a five star hotel compared to it. And you’re here.” 

So Ian Gallagher gets into bed with him again that night. It’s different than the night before. It’s earlier, only just past midnight, and despite the long day they’ve had, Mickey is not nearly as tired as he probably should be. The night before, Ian had gotten into bed half asleep already, and he'd fallen asleep again minutes after getting into bed. Tonight, he is sitting up against the headboard when Mickey comes out of the bathroom. Ian got ready in the office bathroom, and he’s wearing one of Mickey’s plain black pullover hoodies and a pair of grey sweat shorts. He is definitely not wearing any underwear under it, if his dick imprint is anything to go by. His hair is still a little damp, but Mickey can tell that he ran a towel through it pretty aggressively. 

Mickey runs a hand through his own damp hair and suddenly regrets not jacking off in the shower. He hadn’t thought about it, too preoccupied by the idea of having Ian sleeping next to him that night to even think of the possibility of sex. And now that he’s looking at Ian Gallagher sitting on top of his bedsheets, it’s all he can think about. Ian’s warm body.  You can still tell him to leave. You can still tell him to sleep on the couch. He’ll think you’re an asshole, but so what? You can do whatever you want. He knows the deal. Mickey walks around the bed and tries not to look at Ian’s dick imprint too intensely. He isn’t wondering what it looks like. He isn’t wondering what it tastes like or what that cock feels like in his ass. That last thing mostly. He really wants that last thing. 

Mickey gets into bed in a t-shirt and track pants, under the covers. He leans up against the headboard, too.

 “You smell really good,” Ian comments, the covers pulling on the side he’s sitting on. 

“Same soap in the other bathroom,” Mickey tells him. 

“It smells different on you,” Ian says. “Really good.” 

“You said that already.” Mickey is dying for a smoke. He gets off the bed, cracks the window open and goes to get his pack of cigarettes and ashtray out of the kitchen. He tries not to smoke in his bedroom these days, but desperate times and all that. 

“I’m feeling a lot of pressure not to burn any holes in these sheets,” Ian tells him after Mickey lights the cigarettes between their lips one after the other and Ian takes the first drag. 

“You better not,” Mickey says, letting out a puff. He puts the ashtray on his knee. 

“You say that, but I can’t really imagine you getting pissed about something like that,” Ian says. 

“Try me,” Mickey says, rolling his eyes. 

“You’re pretty sweet, Mick,” Ian teases. “When it’s just the two of us and I’m not technically on the clock? You’re practically prince Charming.” 

Mickey laughs. “I can assure you that you are the only person in this universe who thinks that.” 

“I doubt it,” Ian smiles. “But even if it’s true, there only needs to be one person, right? Guess it kinda sucks for you that it happens to be me.” 

“Could have been worse,” Mickey says. 

“How? I’m a bipolar whore with a useless education,” Ian says with plenty of humor in his voice.

“So? You’re dumb and sexy. Could have been dumb and ugly,” Mickey shrugs. 

“See?” Ian smiles at him. “That’s pretty sweet, Mick.” 

“Is it?” Mickey asks. Ian’s lips look soft as they close around the cigarette. His eyes are too big for his head, glistening a dark green in the warm light of the bedroom. Mickey looks away from his face and focuses on the splash of freckles on his long fingers instead. 

“I mean, the ‘dumb’ part kind of hurts, but I can appreciate the sentiment,” Ian says. “We can’t all be talented and successful artists who worked themselves out of nightmarish childhood.” 

“Is that what you want to be? An artist?” Mickey asks, interested. 

“No, I’m talking about you,” Ian says. 

“I’m not an artist,” Mickey says, confused. “Not even close. I go to IKEA for a living.” 

“Oh fuck off. I’m standing two feet away from you while you work almost every day. People don’t pay you ten grand to make a trip to IKEA. They want Mickey Milkovich to use his big gay brain to turn their space into a piece of art.” 

“My gay brain ain’t that big,” Mickey says. “I only have two things in there; and that’s work and dick.” 

“Specific dick or general dick?” Ian asks.

“Right now? Pretty specific.” 

Ian takes another drag and exhales out of his nose, looking in the opposite direction of where Mickey is sitting. “I shouldn’t have asked.” 

“You wanted to know, right?” 

“Yeah. It’s nice, knowing that you’re thinking about me the way I’m thinking about you. Makes me feel a little less guilty about the things I do to you in my head.” 

“Remind me to google whether or not an employee can sexually harass their boss and for how much I can sue,” Mickey says. 

“I’ll put it in your schedule,” Ian says with a smirk, pressing his cigarette out carefully in the ashtray balancing on Mickey’s knee. Mickey finishes his cigarette too; it hasn’t done much to calm his nerves or to repress the urge to slide a hand up one of the legs of Ian’s shorts. 

“How long have you been going to therapy?” Mickey then asks, surprising himself, but surprising Ian even more. 

“Oh, uh. I’ve been seeing shrinks on and off since I was sixteen, but I only started going regularly - like once a week - about two years ago.” 

“So the philosophy and theology classes weren’t enough?” Mickey teases. 

Ian smiles at that. “Got some very specific issues that Kant forgot to mention in his Critique of Pure Reason,” he says. 

“Yeah? Nothing in there about being a faggot with a mental illness growing up in the Southside with junkie parents? He doesn’t provide a step by step on how to get through life for someone like that?”  

“He’d just tell me to stop being gay,” Ian says. “Lots of philosophers and theologists give that advice, actually.”

“Maybe you should try it,” Mickey says. “They’re smart guys, right?” 

“I guess,” Ian laughs. “Therapy can only do so much, right? Can’t just keep rehashing traumatic events until the end of time. At some point something has to change, no?” 

“I don’t know if it’s got to be your sexuality, but who knows?”

“She, uh, she thinks I should quit working at the club,” Ian then admits, looking at his hands. “She says that it’s stunting progress. She thinks I’m… Jesus, it sounds so dramatic when I say it out loud. She thinks I’m punishing myself by staying there.”

“Are you?” Mickey asks.

“I don’t know. I used to like it. When I was seventeen, eighteen. It felt good, you know. Could party for days. People wanted me, wanted to look at me and fuck me and at the time I really thought it was…real. I was manic for most of it and when I wasn’t, I hated it. And then I’d feel guilty for hating it, because who the fuck am I to think I’m better than this? Not like I can do anything else. Sexy and dumb, like you said.” 

“What about right now?” Mickey asks, lighting a second cigarette. “Do you like it or do you hate it?”

“I… Even before I met you, I was so sick of it. I used to not care who it was, you know? I didn’t remember their faces or their bodies or anything about them. I’d fuck ‘em one night and have no memory of it the next. Now I’m off the drugs and you’re right. They’re all ugly trolls. Thinking about them makes my fucking skin crawl.”

“But you didn’t stop because what?” Mickey asks, passing the cigarette over. “You’re punishing yourself for what?” 

“I don’t know. For being sick, maybe. For putting my family through all that shit. For spending thousands and thousands of dollars on an education that is never going to help anyone. For being all around useless,” Ian says with a long suffering sigh and a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes this time. 

Mickey doesn’t know what to say. He should probably tell Ian that he’s not useless, but Ian knows that. It’s too general of a statement. So Mickey tries something else. “It’s okay to be useless sometimes. And the education helped you, didn’t it? You said you liked it,” he says. “It’s not like anyone comes out of their mom’s pussy being useful. You can just be dumb and sexy until you figure it out.” 

“You think I should quit?”

“If it makes you miserable,” Mickey says. “Money might be tight. I don’t know what your situation is.” 

Ian pulls his knees up and wraps his arms around them. “I have one...client. I see him like once every two weeks or once a month. He does the hotel room and the gifts and all that shit. A grand for a night.” 

Mickey feels like he has rocks in his stomach. Heavy, weighing him down, pulling his shoulders down. “I thought you said you didn’t like sugardaddy shit,” he says. 

“I don’t. It’s not… he pays me to fuck for a night. Sometimes he buys me shit. A coat or something. It’s extra. He’s nice. Met him about six months ago, at the club. Better looking than the trolls, as you like to call them.” 

“Married?” Mickey asks. 

Ian doesn’t answer that question, just stares at Mickey’s hands and shrugs. 

“So what, he’s like your boyfriend or something?” Mickey then asks, because he doesn’t understand. Doesn’t understand why Ian would bring it up. 

“No, he’s not my fucking boyfriend,” Ian says, angrier than necessary. “I just thought you should know. Even if I quit working at the club, he’s practically paying for my tuition.” 

“You mean you’re going to keep fucking him,” Mickey says and it feels like those rocks in his stomach have turned to lead. He wants to get angry, feels fury rush up his throat and dissipate before he can open his mouth and turn this into something about him. It’s not about him. About Mickey. Mickey is a bystander who happened to wander into Ian’s life. Ian doesn’t owe him anything. 

“I think so,” Ian says. “It doesn’t feel so bad when I’m with him.” 

“You in love with him?” Mickey asks, because it’s over now. He might as well know all of it. 

“No,” Ian says, brows furrowed and he looks like he wants to get angry again. “No, it’s nothing like that.” 

“Alright,” Mickey says and he goes from feeling like there is lead in his stomach to feeling completely empty. His excitement and arousal of just minutes earlier are completely gone. It’s cold, too cold, and he gets up to close the window he had opened earlier. Ian watches him until he comes back to bed. “I’m going to turn off the lights,” Mickey says and Ian nods. 

They settle into the mattress and pillows, Mickey on his side with his back turned to Ian. “Mickey,” Ian says softly. “You know how I feel about you. There is no one else like that.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Mickey responds. 

 

Next Tuesday after dinner at Mickey’s apartment, Ian tells Mickey that he quit at the club. Mickey says good: “Good,” and leaves it at that. 

But Ian traps him, goads Mickey against the kitchen counter and traps him there with one hand on each side of his body. Mickey feels the heat radiating off his body and if it was anyone else, he would have shoved him, swung at him, who the fuck do you think you are?

But Ian tries to kiss him that night and all Mickey does is turn his head. “Not while you’re fucking that guy,” he tells him, annoyed that Ian would even try. 

Ian looks startled, like Mickey punched him in the gut, like this is unexpected. He doesn’t move away immediately and when he does it’s not fast enough. All he says is: “Sorry.” He grabs his coat and his phone and leaves the apartment without saying goodbye. Mickey doesn’t feel sorry for him. He’s done. Ian made a choice. Mickey made one too.

 

Mickey becomes pretty good at pretending like he’s not in love with the redheaded whore. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays become just as mundane as when Mandy is around. He sees a little less of Ian that month, because of the holidays and because the next physical appointment they have with a client isn’t until the first week of january. He becomes pretty good at pretending that Ian Gallagher isn’t staring at him every chance he gets. It just doesn’t matter. They still have dinner together sometimes, but Mickey doesn’t push work aside to indulge him anymore. It’s hard to pull away from beautiful smiles and sweet laughter, much harder and much more painful than he likes to admit. 

And because Mickey becomes so good at pretending, Ian seems to take it upon himself to make Mickey crack. 

On Christmas day while he is having breakfast with his sister, Mickey receives a picture of Ian fully naked. He is standing in front of a mirror, one arm up leaning against a cabinet. His cock is soft, but his muscles aren’t. Both of his biceps are bulging and there’s chest hair and armpit hair. 

Mickey should probably completely ignore it. Pretend like he’s never seen it. But instead, he does something he personally thinks is better. He replies to Ian with an emoji of a clown. Alright, clown dick. Ian sends him back a middle finger and asks; You want to see it hard? 

Mickey doesn’t reply to that. He can tell him to stop. From now on, we’re nothing but a boss and an employee and if you send me one more picture of your stupid cock, you’re fired. But Mickey doesn’t go that far. The nudes are just nudes, and just to prove a point to himself he texts the Himbo he slept with weeks ago and asks him to send a picture of his cock. The Himbo replies within ten minutes with a full hard-on, no message. 

Mickey asks the Himbo to come over a couple of times for a fuck between Christmas and New Years Eve, during the day so that there is no chance of him staying over. 

 

Mandy convinces Mickey to go to a New Year’s Party at the Sky Lounge in the city. He wants to agree initially, until she tells him that they’re invited by a client they’ve worked with a few months ago and who is now hosting the part. He doesn’t want to spend the night thirty floors up among a bunch of suits and sparkly dresses and conversations about kitchen tile or the housing crisis. 

He almost convinces Mandy that they don’t need to go. They’ll have more fun going back to the old house, smoking a bunch of weed and watching Jamie blow his face off with illegal fireworks.

“This isn’t about fun,” Mandy eventually says. “We’ve had a great year. Next year can be even better. We have to schmooze these rich fucks. It’s just one night.” 

So here they are. Mandy is wearing a tight black dress down to her knees and heels that she is not going to be able to get home in. She put her hair up and Mickey makes fun of her fancy hairdo and pulls out one of her one hundred bobby pins while they’re in the elevator. 

“We look like we’re going to a funeral,” Mandy says in the elevator, running a hand down Mickey’s arm to feel his black cashmere sweater. Hugo Boss. One of the three nice pieces of clothing he has. 

“That’s what you get when you come up with the most original theme any party has ever had,” Mickey says, looking at the three of them in the mirrored wall in the elevator. Ian catches his eye. “Black and gold for New Year’s.” 

“We look hot,” Ian says, with a shrug. 

“We look like spies,” Mandy says. 

“Or like those people who work backstage at theaters,” Mickey says. 

“You think they’ll have a smoking area up there?” Ian asks. 

“I think we’re going to freeze our ass off on the deck all night,” Mandy says. “We probably shouldn’t smoke too much, actually. I don’t think rich people like that. They’re all pretending to be healthy and shit.” 

“We’re eccentric creative minds,” Ian says. “Or at least Mickey is. Artists can get away with anything.” 

“Watch me get away with drinking a tray of champagne and then going home,” Mickey says. 

“No getting drunk,” Mandy says, immediately. “I mean it. We’re here for work, essentially. Don’t be giving out business cards or anything, but we want these assholes to know who we are and that the host was so impressed with us that they invited us to a private party.” 

“This is going to be really fun, huh,” Mickey mutters as the elevator dings and the doors open. 

 

There are a lot of people there, but the hosts somehow find Mickey within the first fifteen minutes of them arriving. The woman, Mrs. Sommerson, hugs him which causes both Mandy and Ian to make a face behind her back. She gushes about the home for a while with the occasional approving nod from her husband. They manage to fill twenty minutes with small talk - mostly thanks to Ian who seems to know what questions to ask to fill the time. 

“I deserve a drink for that one,” Mickey decides and leaves for the bar before Ian or Mandy can say anything. They do follow him and when Mickey orders a beer, Mandy orders a Jack and Coke and Ian orders a beer, too. They seem to have simultaneously decided to make this fun after all. 

The three of them have never hung out together. There have been meetings over lunch or dinner, but nothing that doesn’t have to do with work. This technically still has to do with work, but it’s different. It’s fun to see Mandy and Ian both dressed up. It’s kind of cute to see that they’re both kind of nervous in this environment. It helps Mickey relax, in fact. They’re here for him: to help his business and to support him. So Mickey stops being annoyed. They hang out at a table far away from the bar, because Mandy is afraid they’ll keep heading towards it all night. They take a table near the door to the deck instead. It is one of the best views in the city, they say. It is impressive, beautiful, of course, but Mickey finds himself looking at Ian while Ian is looking at the view. 

When they come back out of the freezing night air, Mandy says she’s getting some more drinks. 

“Beer,” Mickey tells her. 

“Coke,” Ian says and Mandy leaves them alone at the table. As soon as she’s three feet away Ian turns to Mickey and says: “You really do look great.” 

Mickey pulls up an eyebrow, wonders what the hell Ian sees when he looks at him. Mickey doesn’t really look any different than he usually does. “Alright,” Mickey says and Ian smirks. 

“And I look great, too,” Ian then says.

“Go fuck yourself,” Mickey tells him, but doesn’t fight the smile that creeps onto his face. Ian caught him staring, of course. Mickey wasn’t really hiding it.

“Ian?” 

They both look up to see where that voice is coming from. All Mickey can trace it back to is an older man with grey, styled hair in an expensive looking black suit. Mickey turns to look at Ian who is staring, completely still. Shocked. Oh. 

“Hey,” Ian finally says and gets out of his chair to stand in between the man and Mickey. All Mickey can see is Ian’s broad back. But he can hear everything. 

“What are you doing here?” The man asks, with a hint of amusement in his tone. 

“I’m here for work,” Ian explains.

“With another client?” The man asks and Mickey feels his blood run cold. Jesus fucking Christ. 

“No, I have another job,” Ian says, sounding annoyed. “Ned, I can’t-”

“Who’s that?” The man then asks, taking a step to the side and looking Mickey straight in the eye. Mickey looks right back at him as he drinks the last of his beer. 

“Mickey, he’s my-”

“Boyfriend?” The man cuts in with a grin. Mickey stands up and brushes past them, heads for the bar to join Mandy there. He hears Ian stumble on his words behind him.

“Where’s Ian?” Mandy asks when Mickey leans against the bar next to her. 

“Saw someone he knows,” Mickey says and snatches the beer the bartender puts down in front of Mandy, together with two Cokes. 

“Who the hell does he know running with this crowd?” Mandy snorts and doesn’t wait for Mickey to answer. “Give me a second, I’ll bring him his drink. Don’t talk to anyone.” She leaves and Mickey looks at the time. It’s not even eleven. Mickey orders two shots and downs them before Mandy returns with Ian in tow. Mandy puts her full glass down on the bar and says: “Watch my drink. I’m going to go piss,” and disappears again.

Ian stands next to him, brushes up against him, exhales and does a bunch of annoying things that make Mickey want to yell at him. “If you bang someone for money at this party, you’re fired,” Mickey says instead. 

Ian rolls his eyes, but he clutches his drink tightly, knuckles whitening. 

“What?” Mickey blurts. “What did he say to you?”

“Nothing. It’s none of your business,” Ian says tightly. 

“Fine, Jesus,” Mickey says. “You can go fuck him. Just don’t tell him you work for me.” 

“So which one is it? Am I or am I not fired if I bang him?” 

“You’re fired if anyone starts thinking that the Mickey Milkovich brand does interior design and blowjobs on the side,” Mickey tells him. 

“I would never do that to you,” Ian says and he looks… hurt. “I didn’t know he’d be here. His wife is here, too.” 

“You can leave,” Mickey says. 

“You want me to?” 

“No, I want to leave, but there’s people Mandy wants me to talk to. You don’t need to be here if you don’t feel like it. If you don’t feel like getting to know your boyfriend’s wife or whatever.”

“Don’t call him that,” Ian says. “And you’re way more uncomfortable than I am.” 

“Yeah, I fucking know that, dickhead,” Mickey says.

“So? Does me being here make it better or worse?” Ian asks. 

“Always worse,” Mickey lies. Well, it’s only half a lie. He could definitely do without the feeling of emptiness every time Ian touches him, even on accident. He could do without feeling like he’s heartbroken, even though they were never ever together. He could do without feeling like he failed somehow by wanting Ian, or anyone, as much as he does. You fuck men, you have fun, you don’t fall for a guy. Mickey never thought he had it in him.

When Mandy comes back, she has the lady who is hosting the party with her and another woman wearing a golden dress that goes down all the way to the floor walks alongside them. And that’s how it starts. The endless, mindless, annoying conversation. He’s glad he took the shots, but he feels like he could easily take two more and not be anywhere near drunk enough for this to be amusing. These people are not funny, not even in the slightest. But they have the money and that’s all he needs to really focus on. Shmooze, get them interested, let Ian do most of the talking and let Mandy give out their Instagram. It feels like he’s been there for hours when the countdown starts. Mandy kisses him and Ian on the cheek. Mickey doesn’t push Ian away when he smashes his lips against Mickey’s cheek right after. 

They leave not long after midnight, back to Mickey’s apartment, so that Mickey and Mandy can properly get drunk and Ian can watch them.

 

Mickey bangs the Himbo all through January. His name is Arturo, apparently, and he is always ready to bang. Mickey has a feeling that it’s what he’s best at, probably and when Mickey tells him to shut up when he tries dirty talk, he shuts up immediately. Arturo is kind of nice, too, tougher than Mickey gave him credit for at first. But definitely still one of the dumbest people Mickey has ever met. 

It doesn’t erase Ian, not at all, but Mickey at the very least doesn’t feel like his balls are about to explode every time he sees a sliver of his stomach or something. 

Ian still sends him pictures sometimes. Of him in bed and of him coming out of the shower or in the gym. Mickey doesn’t reply to those. He doesn’t delete them. He doesn’t tell him to stop. 

They’re booked solid for the next three months, which is great. And yet. 

“Oh, fuck no,” Ian curses one Wednesday morning, staring at his laptop screen. “No, no, absolutely fucking not.” 

“What’s your problem?” Mickey asks, half his attention still on the fabrics on his desk. 

“Who put the Lishman’s in for next week?” Ian asks. “I thought we were completely full until at least the end of March.” 

“Mandy got a premium out of them for short notice,” Mickey shrugs. “It’s just two bedrooms.” 

“Mickey, you can’t,” Ian then says, sounding desperate. “Why would you do this?” 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Mickey asks, now worried. “Why would I do what?” 

“You’re going to redo Ned’s bedroom?” he almost yells.

“Who the fuck is Ned?” Mickey matches his tone. 

Ian stares at him then, for a long time. “I… Jesus, I can’t believe this. The guy at the party,” he then exhales. “I guess you wouldn’t know. Gloria Lishman is his wife.”

“Oh, the guy you’re banging?” Mickey asks, a bit too casual, maybe, because Ian glares at him. 

“I can’t go with you on those days,” Ian then says. 

“Why? You scared that geriatric viagroid is going to be too fucking irresistible for you and his wife is going to walk in on it?” Mickey snorts. “Fine. Then ask Mandy. But if she can’t do it, you’re working those days.” 

“What am I supposed to tell her? ‘Can you please take over for me this week, because the house belongs to the man who pays me to have sex with him and his wife doesn’t know about it.’?” 

“That’s what you’re fucking telling me, isn’t it?” Mickey says. 

“Yeah, but Mandy thinks I’m a good person,” Ian says and he almost pouts. Mickey wants to slap him in the face. 

“Jesus Christ, what do you want me to do? Just tell her you have school shit or something,” Mickey suggest. “Or do you want me to call the whole job off for you?” 

“I didn’t fucking say that,” Ian snaps. 

“You kind of did, just now.” 

Ian is quiet for a moment and then sighs. “Mandy has classes at that time. She can’t miss any of those.” 

“Did you ask her?” 

“No, but-” 

“But fucking what?” This time it’s Mickey’s turn to snap at him. “I’ll do it alone. Stop fucking whining about it already.” 

“You can’t do it alone,” Ian says. 

“I said stop whining about it,” Mickey tells him harshly. 

Ian clamps his mouth shut, glares at Mickey with an intensity that tells him that in any other situation this might be a physical fight. If they weren’t working. If they weren’t Ian and Mickey. 

Ian gets up and leaves, taking his laptop and work phone with him. Mickey doesn’t see him for the rest of the morning. 

 

Because Gloria Lishman wanted the work to be done as soon as possible and Mickey refuses to postpone other projects that have been on the books longer, it means he has to work late. He finishes another project with Ian that afternoon and fully intends to drive Ian home before going to the Lishman’s. 

“I’ll go,” Ian then says. 

“No, you’re going to be fucking weird about it,” Mickey says. 

“I won’t. If you do it alone, you’ll be here all fucking night.” 

“I’d rather be here all night than hear you whine about it even once,” Mickey warns him. 

“I won’t,” Ian promises. 

And he doesn’t. Gloria Lishman is home when they arrive and Ian stays in the car while Mickey takes the keys from her. She tells Mickey that she and her husband will be spending the next two nights at a hotel, and that they won’t be back to the house until the reveal. Ian doesn’t get out of the car until the woman has left the drive way in her Range Rover. 

“You’re a fucking pussy,” Mickey tells him when Ian finally gets out of the car and walks up to the front door. 

“Whatever, asshole,” Ian grunts at him. 

 

It’s a nice house. A mansion, really. All the rooms are spacious and all the ceilings are high, and Mickey can think of a million things he would like to do with the living room as he walks through it. Ian isn’t looking at anything. He usually takes his sweet time to stroll through the houses and look at all the little knickknacks and pictures in living rooms, hands firmly in his pockets, always. 

Today, he hauls the boxes and bags of accessories up the stairs one by one, bypassing the living room as Mickey wanders around it. He doesn’t get it. Ian said that this man doesn’t make him feel like shit. If Mickey wasn’t in love with Ian and the thought of Ian banging some old fucking guy for money didn’t make him sick to his stomach, he would have thought that this whole situation was hilarious. He still thinks it’s pretty funny, honestly, but Ian clearly doesn’t. 

Because when Mickey stops him in the hallway to show him a family picture of a husband, wife and kid smiling at the camera, he is practically seething. The picture is clearly taken years ago, maybe over twenty years ago, by the dark streaks the husband still has in his hair, but somehow it still triggers something in Ian. 

“Come on,” Mickey says. “What are you afraid of exactly? That he’s going to drop you as his little boytoy when he finds out you’ve been to his house?” 

“I’m not afraid of anything, alright? I just didn’t think this would ever happen. I never wanted you to meet him or see him, let alone be in his fucking house,” Ian says. 

“This is about me? Not the lady who has no clue you’re screwing her husband?” Mickey muses. “You don’t owe me shit, Gallagher.” 

Ian shakes his head at him. “You don’t know how messed up this is, Mickey. I tried - I really tried to have a normal fucking life for once. Quitting at the club was the best decision I could have ever made and working for you was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But now it’s back to being a fucking mess and I just hate it. I hate that everything always has to suck.” 

Mickey puts the picture down on a dresser in the hallway. “I hear a lot of whining.” 

“Let’s just start working, please,” Ian sighs. 

 

While they’re working, Mickey thinks about how he would have done anything to be with Ian, just a few years ago. Before Mickey realized that he was worth something too. Before he understood that what he wants is as important as what other people want. Before he understood that being in pain all the time is no way to fucking live. He would have taken Ian in any way he could. He’d have taken him if he was tenth in fucking line. 

And Mickey still wants him. Fights the urge to tell him to stay every night. Fights the urge to tell him that he hasn’t stopped thinking about Ian sleeping next to him, in his bed. He wants to tell Ian that he loves him, no matter what, but that he has always had a hard time feeling loved. Because the people who were supposed to love him, never did. His mother never cared enough about any of them to either stay or take them with her when she left. His father has no concept of what loving a child even means. 

Mickey doesn’t want to settle for scraps. He doesn’t want to be in pain all the time. But what is the point of telling Ian all of this? What is the point of trying to convince Ian to love him? That Mickey is worth something? 

Because no matter how often Ian tells him that Mickey should know how Ian feels about him, Mickey doesn’t feel it, not really. He mostly feels the sting of rejection, of not being good enough.

 

They finish the job on the second night, around two a.m. Cleaning takes another hour and by the time they get on the road it’s three-thirty and Ian is falling asleep in the passenger’s seat. 

Mickey drives Ian to his own building, though his entire being wants to take him home and step into bed with him. Ian blinks his eyes open as Mickey slows down and stops fully. “Don’t come in tomorrow,” Mickey tells him. 

“What about the Lee-project?” Ian asks hoarsely. 

“I’ll finish it alone,” Mickey says. 

“No, I’ll be there,” Ian says, rubbing at his eyes. “See you tomorrow.” 

“Alright, sleepyface,” Mickey says. He watches him until he’s inside and out of view, before taking off. 

 

Gloria and Ned Lishman are both at the house when Mickey shows up for the reveal at ten the next morning. He’s tired, wrecked really, but he still has a long day ahead of him, so he is ready to get this over with. 

Ned looks at him with a strange hint of recognition. It tells Mickey that Ned didn’t expect it to be him. It tells Mickey that Ian didn’t talk to Ned about the job. Mickey gets to look at Ned a little longer and he hates him. He introduces himself as ‘Doctor Ned Lishman, call me Ned’ which makes Mickey fucking cringe. 

He is also even older than Mickey initially thought. He is not just an adult. He is at the very least in his fifties and Mickey just can’t see it. He can’t see Ian spending a whole night with him. He can’t see Ian laughing at his jokes or talking to him about his family. 

Mickey doesn’t know why he even tries to. This man pays Ian for his time and body. But still. He’s nice to me. He doesn’t make me feel so bad. 

Gloria is over the moon, great. Ned is unreadable, but he has a smarmy smile on his face the whole time. Mickey announces that he has another appointment and Ned offers to walk him to the door, so Mickey knows that it’s coming. 

Don’t kill him, he has to tell himself. Don’t put your hands on him. Don’t ruin your life. You don’t want to go back to prison. 

“Is Ian Gallagher a friend of yours?” Ned asks him at the door, shameless. 

Mickey puts his hands in his pockets and doesn’t answer, but he doesn’t look away either. 

“You should come with him next time,” Ned then says, giving Mickey a once over. 

Mickey can feel his face harden, his whole body tenses. He wants to attack. To choke. “Watch yourself,” Mickey tells him and starts walking down the front steps to his car in the driveway. He turns around at the end of the steps. Far enough so that Mickey can’t spontaneously choke the life out of the man. “Not every guy you come across is a fag for sale. You keep this up and you’ll find yourself without teeth sooner than you fucking thought.” 

 

When Mickey arrives at the Lee-house a little before noon; Ian is already there getting accessories ready. “Hey,” he greets Mickey cheerfully. “I put an iced coffee for you in the fridge.” So Mickey heads straight to these people’s fridge and grabs the coffee off the top shelf. 

“So,” Ian then says, with a nervous smile. following him into the kitchen and leaning against the counter. “How did it go?” 

“Your boyfriend is a fucking creep,” Mickey says. 

Ian’s face falls immediately. “He was there? What did he say?” 

“Whatever,” Mickey says, not in the mood to rehash it all. “I don’t know how that guy doesn’t make you feel gross.” 

Mickey tries to walk past him, ready to get back to work, but Ian grabs his arm. He looks angry again. Great. “What did he say to you?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Mickey says, releasing himself. “You can ask him on your next date.”

Ian’s jaw tightens and he shakes his head. “You’re an asshole.” 

“Yeah.” 

“He asked me about you during the party,” Ian then says. “Asked if you were - if you would - and I told him to fuck off and not to mention it again. So if he did, I’d like to know.” 

“You scared I’m going to steal your grandpa from you?” Mickey jokes. 

“He did, didn’t he? He had the fucking nerve to ask you to fuck him?” 

“Not just me. Both of us. That’s kind of sweet of him, right?”

“Are you fucking serious?” Ian explodes. “He can’t talk to you like that. While you were working, too? I’ll talk to him.”

“You’ll talk to him?” Mickey retorts. “What are you going to say to him?”

“That he can’t proposition my friends for sex at random. Especially not while they’re doing their fucking job. That’s insane,” Ian says. 

“You’re not going to say a fucking word that could hurt my business,” Mickey tells him seriously. “I already threatened to knock that bitch’s teeth out. Don’t think we’re getting any referrals out of him, so that’s fucking bad enough.” 

“I would never try to hurt the business, but this is about you. I can’t just let him talk to you like that,” Ian says, so intensely that Mickey has to put a hand on his chest. 

“Calm down,” Mickey orders. “He’s an old closeted faggot who pays to cheat on his fucking wife. You think he’s got any actual decency in him just because he buys you some nice things? What’s you getting on your high horse going to accomplish?” 

“This isn’t fucking about him. Aren’t you listening? He can’t talk to you like you’re some cheap whore,” he seethes. 

“Oh, defending my honour, huh? That’s a good one,” Mickey says. “Let’s get to fucking work before I pass out. My back is fucking killing me. The sooner this is done, the sooner I can go lie down.” 

This seems to shut Ian up, but the tight set of his jaw doesn’t loosen at all for the rest of the day. They’re not finished until around eight, and Mickey orders them a pizza to arrive at his apartment around the same time they get there. The pizza guy knocks on the door right as they’ve stripped out of their jackets. 

“I can give you a massage, you know,” Ian says around a bite, after the second time Mickey rolls his aching shoulder. He swallows and adds: “As a friend.” 

“Thought you were done trying to get me naked around you,” Mickey says. 

“You don’t need to get naked. I mean, yes, I can oil you up and all that, but I can also just try to get the knots out of your shoulders. Over your clothes. No oils. A massage from a homie.”

“I can pay for a massage from a professional.” 

“Waste of money,” Ian says. “That’s like paying for sex, isn’t it? Why would you do that if you have willing people who would do it for free?” 

“I’ve never had a professional massage, but I hear it’s better than having a homie squeeze your shoulders,” Mickey smiles at him. “What about whores? You got some special tricks to make a guy cum or something?” 

“Yeah, the big trick is to touch their cock. And then they cum,” Ian says. 

“Gotta try that sometime.” 

“I can show you how to do it,” Ian offers lamely. 

“Sounds pretty fucking simple to me,”  Mickey says. “You ever get any weirdo’s?” 

“Not a lot of room to get into fetishes in the back of the club, Mick,” Ian says with a wry smile. “And Ned never asked for anything other than just boring sex. The weirdest he gets is that he calls me a ‘good boy’ sometimes, which is… awful.” 

“He’s imagining his grandson sucking his dick the whole time, I guarantee it.” 

“Jesus, Mick.”

“Do you have some weird whore-client confidentiality thing? Even I’ve been with some weird fucks. Trying to suck on my toes and shit,” Mickey snorts. 

Ian laughs at that. “No one has ever tried to suck on my toes. Did you like it?” 

“Fuck no. There is no weirder feeling than a tongue between your toes. God forbid someone asks you to suck on theirs,” Mickey says. 

“I’d kill myself, I think.”

“What if that’s what I want?” Mickey teases. “Before you get access to this ass, you gotta suck some toes.” 

Ian stares at him for a second and then says: “Yeah, I’d do it.”

“You just said you’d rather kill yourself.” 

“That’s before I knew for sure you bottom. I’d suck your toes a hundred times to get to your ass. Are you kidding me? I’d suck a stranger’s toes to get to your ass.” 

“All that, huh?”  Mickey snorts. But you won’t give up fucking for money, he doesn’t say. “And you don’t know for sure I bottom. I just know for sure you top.” 

“How do you know that for sure?”

“The five hundred dick pics and zero ass pics gave you away, man,” Mickey says. 

Ian bites away a smile and looks away. “You want ass pics?” 

“I want to stop talking about this.” 

“You’re the one who brought up the weird kinks,” Ian shrugs. “But I guess I should stop offering you a massage. I can schedule one for you with an actual masseuse, if you want. Might be nice.” 

“I’m fine,” Mickey says. 

“I think I might need one myself. Who fucking knew assembling furniture was such a fucking work out?” 

“Hm.” 

“...You did a great job again today. I mean you always do a great job, but I really liked what you did with the Lee-house. That place is fucking huge, but you made it feel cozy and shit.”

“It’s what she wanted,” Mickey shrugs. “Look, you don’t have to keep saying that stuff. I get it.”

“You know, my therapist says that not being able to take a compliment might be a sign of distrust.” 

“Did she say that about you or about me?”

“Are you kidding? I thrive off compliments. In fact, I have a crippling need for approval, according to my therapist.” 

“So you talk to her about me,” Mickey states. 

Ian shrugs. “A lot.” 

“What does she say?” 

“She doesn’t know you, of course, but… she thinks I should respect your choice of not wanting to be with me. She thinks I’m boycotting myself by staying with Ned, because I’m afraid to be with you, you know, for real.”

“The fuck does that mean?” 

“It means that I’ve got a mental illness that has ruined so many relationships, that I have a problem committing to any new ones that are meaningful. Friends, boyfriends, family. I’ve fucked all of it up, more than once.” 

“What does that have to do with you staying with that old sack of shit?” 

Ian hesitates for a moment and then says; “If I stay with him, you won’t want me. As long as you don’t want me because of Ned, you can’t reject me because of my mental illness. Because of who I am as a person. That’s what my therapist says.” 

“Do you think she’s right?” Mickey asks. 

“She usually is,” Ian shrugs. “I know I flirt with you a lot and I… I have feelings for you, obviously. But you’re you and I’m me. At the end of the day I have nothing to offer you. You’d get tired of me eventually.” 

“How often do you see this therapist?” 

“Once a week.” 

“You might want to crank it up to twice a week,” Mickey suggests. 

“Is that it?” Ian asks with a small smile. “That’s all you got to say on that?” 

“What else do you want to hear? Can’t tell you to drop him, because you need the cash. Can’t tell you I don’t care about your mental illness, because I don’t really know anything about it. I just know that I wouldn’t reject you because of who you are as a person. Regardless of whatever feelings you have or I have, I don’t think we’re getting rid of each other anytime soon.” 

“Why? Because we’re best friends?” 

“Yup, just like in some fucking Nickelodeon show,” Mickey snorts. 

“Oh yeah, that Nickelodeon show where a whore finds his childhood crush in a gay club one night and they become BFF’s,” Ian says. 

 

Stupidly, Mickey lets Ian stay the night. He takes a shower in the office bathroom and joins Mickey in bed a few minutes after he gets out of the shower himself. 

“Mandy is going to be here at ten,” Mickey warns him, turning off the lamp on his bedside table. 

“I have class at nine,” Ian says in the dark.

Mickey doesn’t respond, just settles into his pillow and tries not to think of the hard, solid, warm body next to him. It doesn’t work, and when he feels long, strong fingers wrap around his wrist, he isn’t surprised. 

Ian turns from on his back to on his side, so that their faces are only a couple of inches apart. “Mick,” he breathes against his lips. 

“Hm.” 

“Can I?” 

Mickey doesn’t know. He wants it. He wants Ian Gallagher on him, inside of him. He wants to taste him. He just doesn’t know if he can. He feels Ian move closer, is certain that he is going to kiss him, but instead Ian carefully knocks their foreheads together.

“You smell good,” Ian says. 

Mickey knows that the right course of action would be to turn around and take a deep breath. He should resist. He’s been resisting for six months now, but Ian smells good, too. He smells like the promise of sex. The hand on his wrist, feels like the promise of sex and Mickey want its, wants him, wants him, wants him. 

“Yeah,” Mickey says. 

“Yeah?” Ian asks and Mickey nods. Barely a second later, Ian has his lips pressed against the corner of Mickey’s mouth. Mickey opens his mouth, gets a proper taste of Ian Gallagher, finally. It’s exactly how Mickey always knew it would be; warm, addictive and tooth achingly sweet. He can taste it through the toothpaste, the distinct taste of Ian Gallagher. It’s just lips and breathing and it makes Mickey dizzy with want. 

“Is that okay?” Ian asks. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Mickey sighs. 

“One more time?” 

Mickey hums his agreement into Ian’s mouth. Ian lets go of Mickey’s wrist and puts his hand on Mickey’s face instead. It’s a painfully gentle touch, the type of touch that has always made Mickey’s skin crawl, but it makes him move forward, it makes him want to be touched with those soft fingers forever, and all over his body. 

He grabs Ian by the waist, hard and slender. Ian opens his mouth wider, tongue brushing against Mickey’s lips and all Mickey can do is take him in, and feel his groin get ready for more. Ian deepens the kiss, scoots even closer so that their bodies are pressed together completely and God knows that there is no turning back for Mickey anymore. He slides his hand under Ian’s t-shirt, slides it all the way up his back and down again. 

He doesn’t know how long they’re lying there like that, he just knows that when Ian finally pulls away, breathing hard out of his nose, he doesn’t remove his hand off Mickey’s face, and Mickey doesn’t remove his hand off Ian’s back. 

Mickey can practically hear the gears turning in Ian’s head. His nose is poking at Mickey’s cheek and it is kind of surreal. Mickey wishes he could see him, that the lights were on and he could read what’s going on behind green eyes. 

But then again, if the lights were on, Ian might not have mustered the nerve to nudge Mickey flat onto his back and he might not have had the nerve to get on top of him, align their hips and press his mouth against Mickey’s neck. 

“You can tell me to fuck off,” Ian whispers. “I’ll go ho-”

Mickey catches his mouth pointedly. “I thought I told you to shut the fuck up.” 

“I just don’t want you to get mad at me,” Ian whispers back, still breathing hard and talking fast. “You won’t be?” 

Mickey shakes his head. He’s not going to be mad at Ian. He might be mad at himself later, but not at Ian. He puts his hands on Ian’s hips, spreads his legs a little bit and immediately feels Ian’s hard cock press into the dip of his hipbone. Mickey kisses him again, when he realizes that Ian is waiting for more confirmation. And as soon as he gets it, he grinds down. The gentle touches become firm and rough, the soft kisses become hard and hungry and exactly what Mickey wants and it only takes two seconds of Ian grinding his hard on into Mickey’s hip, for him to be fully hard himself. Ian feels it, shifts his hips just enough for their cocks to align through underwear and shorts. 

“I want you to put it in,” Mickey hears himself say. Ian stills on top of him and Mickey thinks it might be too much, but it’s what he wants. 

“Really?” Ian breathes out. 

“Yeah,” Mickey says, catching his lips again and sliding his hands down Ian’s back. He hooks his fingers in the waistband of his shorts and pushes them down, just a little bit, just to make a point. Ian licks at his mouth, and finally, fucking finally, Mickey feels those hands on his ass. Ian has both of his hands inside Mickey’s boxers, kneads his ass, his breathing getting heavier with every second. 

“There,” Mickey tells him. “In the nightstand.” 

Ian lifts off of him for a second and only far enough so that he can reach into the night stand and fish out a bottle of lube and a condom.

“Take these off,” Ian says, tugging on Mickey’s underwear. 

“You got to get off me first.” 

“No fucking way, just shove ‘em down.”

“I’m not going to fucking run away, dickhead,” Mickey says, but shoves his underwear down as he’s told and lets Ian drag them down his legs and discard them off the bed. It's still too dark to see exactly what’s going on, but only seconds later, Mickey can feel more bare skin than he did before. Ian is fully naked. Jesus Christ. His hard cock drags along Mickey’s thigh as he takes his place back between Mickey’s legs. Mickey reaches for it without thinking, curls his fingers around the warm, long cock and strokes it. “Give me the lube,” he says. 

Ian puts the bottle down on Mickey’s stomach. Mickey lets go of Ian’s cock, opens the cap of the bottle and squeezes a liberal amount on his fingers.

“Don’t just fucking sit there. Put on the condom,” he says, reaching down between his legs and slicking up his hole. 

“Oh my fucking god,” Ian breathes out and fumbles with the wrapper. Mickey plays with himself for just a few seconds, but quickly decides that he doesn't care if it hurts a little bit. He wants Ian to fucking put it in. 

He coats Ian’s cock with lube too and then slides down lower on the bed, legs spread and bent at the knees. “Come here,” he says. 

Ian covers his whole body and kisses him hungrily. Their cocks frot against each other for a little bit, slippery and messy, before Ian starts poking at his perineum. Mickey reaches down, guides Ian’s cock to his hole and lets out a breathy grunt as the tip slides into him. 

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Ian curses, face buried in Mickey’s neck, mouth open and wet. He slides his cock in further, and it aches more than Mickey thought it would, but Ian’s heavy breathing in his ear relaxes him. This is Ian. Ian, Ian, Ian. 

Mickey forces his face up so that he can kiss the boy he’s been wanting to kiss for months. “Does it feel good?” Mickey asks, into his mouth. 

Ian lets out a little laugh. “Yeah.” 

“Then stop being a pussy and fuck me,” Mickey says. 

“If you make me laugh, I’m going to bust,” Ian warns him, but Mickey can feel him moving, can feel more of Ian’s cock pressing into him and being dragged back out slowly. 

“That all it takes?” Mickey muses. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian pants and fucks into him in a steadier rhythm. Mickey closes his eyes and grabs his own throbbing cock, the ache in his ass only making him harder, together with the taste of Ian Gallagher on his lips, he’s practically living his own shameful wet dream. He grabs the back of Ian’s head with his other hand.

There is nothing special about it, just sex in missionary in the dark, under the covers. Mickey still has his shirt on and Ian’s thrusts are steady and shallow. But there is something about the fact that this is him, beautiful, redheaded, pale, sweet as fucking sugar Ian Gallagher breathing into his mouth and against his skin, this is Ian Gallagher, his Ian Gallagher that is fucking into him on this Thursday night in January, that somehow makes Mickey feel like he is winning something. Like he is winning everything. 

“Mick,” Ian pants softly. 

“Yeah,” Mickey responds. 

“Does it feel good?” 

Mickey doesn’t respond to that. Instead, he does something he has wanted to do since the very first time Mickey saw him back at the club. He buries his hands into Ian’s hair. It is still damp from his shower and it’s not what he’s fantasized about, but it will have to do for now. 

“Tell me,” Ian says, strained. “Does it feel good?” 

“Yeah,” Mickey says. “You can go deeper.” 

“I’m going to explode.” 

“Do it,” Mickey presses and Ian pushes into him further, finally and Mickey tells him: “Again,” until he finally reaches Mickey’s prostate. Mickey grabs a fistful of Ian’s hair and keeps holding on to it as Ian fucks him deep and slow, fucks the breath out of him in a steady rhythm. Ian comes with a silent shudder and a long sloppy kiss. 

He stays there between Mickey’s legs until he is back to his senses, before he pulls out completely. He moves off of him, and Mickey feels the cold air in his bedroom spread between their bodies as he lazily strokes his own cock - and then Ian pushes his hand away and replaces it with his mouth. 

“Ah, fuck,” Mickey curses at the new heat and softness of Ian’s tongue. Ian clearly has a skill, Mickey realizes as Ian sucks him down without hesitation and massages his balls with one hand. “Fuck, Ian, I’m cumming.” 

But Ian doesn’t move away, just flicks his tongue against the slit of Mickey’s cock and swallows Mickey’s cum seemingly without a second thought.  Mickey’s head is still spinning when Ian comes back up and lies down next to him, both of them breathing heavy and staring into the darkness  of Mickey’s bedroom.  

“I can do better than that,” Ian says. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Mickey sighs. 

“Just don’t want you to think that this is all I got. I can do more than five minutes. It just… it felt really good. Being close to you.” 

“It felt good,” Mickey says.

Ian turns onto his side, his chest pushing up against Mickey’s arm. He puts his hand on Mickey’s stomach, under his shirt and presses his lips against Mickey’s cheek. 

“You’re a fucking soft bitch,” Mickey sighs and turns his head to return his kiss. 

 

Mickey wakes up with a tall man plastered against his back and with one heavy leg draped over his own. He has enough space to reach for his phone and check the time. Seven-thirty. 

“Hey,” he says and smacks at Ian’s hands. “Get up.” 

The grunt that Ian emits buzzes through Mickey’s body. 

Mickey tries to untangle himself, but there is absolutely no give. Ian has a steel grip in Mickey’s waist which he clamps down on.

“You’re going to shove your cock back up my ass, man,” Mickey complains. Ian’s cock is soft, but Mickey can feel it rubbing up his ass regardless. 

“You don’t want to?” Ian then finally asks, voice deep and dipped in sleep. 

Mickey doesn’t really have to think about it. He grinds back against him, but Ian grabs onto his hips and holds him still and shoves his clothed cock against his ass in slow thrusts. 

Mickey puts his hand down his own underwear and strokes the chub he woke up with. 

“Can I really put it in?” Ian asks softly and Mickey nods, grabbing at the bottle of lube discarded next to his pillow and throwing it back at Ian. 

Ian slips his hands into the waistband of Mickey’s underwear and pulls it down. “Did I tell you how much I like your ass?” 

“I got the gist,” Mickey says and feels Ian’s slicked up fingers slide up his crack.

“It’s all I think about,” Ian continues. “Fucking you. Blowing you. Eating you out.” 

“Prove it, asshole,” Mickey grunts. “Don’t need the fucking speech.” 

Ian pushes a finger into him. “You don’t like the talking?” 

“No,” Mickey sighs, pushing back. “Do you?” 

“Nah, but you make me nervous. I say dumb shit.”

“You being a dumbass ain’t my fault. Put your cock in me already.” 

“You’re still way too tight, Mick,” Ian says. 

“I know what the fuck I’m about,” Mickey huffs, and digs into his nightstand for a condom. 

When Ian finally pushes his cock into him, he braces himself with a hand on Mickey’s hip and his mouth on Mickey’s shoulder. Mickey enjoys the breach. He enjoys the sting that is still familiar from the night before and he enjoys the way he can feel himself be stretched to his limits around Ian’s cock. Ian’s cock. 

The slut in him wishes Ian had shoved it into him without a condom. He wants to feel the heat and skin of that cock inside of him- 

Ian thrusts into him, slow at first and then faster, faster than he went the night before and all Mickey can do is close his eyes, jack himself off and enjoy it.  an’s breath on the back of his neck is hot and ticklish. Ian. 

Mickey’s heart skips a beat. Again, it feels good. It’s simple and really fucking nice. It’s Ian Gallagher. 

“Am I getting there?” Ian asks him softly.

Mickey shakes his head. He lifts his leg and bends it at the knee, hooking Ian’s hand under it to keep it up. It gives Ian more room to fuck into him at different angles and to find where he needs to be.

“Now you’re getting there,” Mickey says and rolls his head back, landing on Ian's shoulder. 

 “Ah, fuck, Mick,” Ian sighs. “I’m going to cum again.”

“Yeah, that’s the fucking point, moron,” Mickey exhales absently. 

“It’s too fast. I gotta pull out for a second-”

“Don’t be fucking stupid. Just… just do what feels good, idiot,” Mickey tells him and he can’t believe he has to tell the man this. That he has to tell the man to enjoy the sex they are currently having. 

Ian mouths at his neck and his thrusts slow down for a moment, before they speed up again to a steady rhythm. Mickey has no clue how long they’ve been going and he could not possibly care less. His cock is throbbing in his hand and Ian grazes his prostate with his cock every few thrusts and the body heat coming off Ian’s body is enough to make him feel blissed out. 

Ian bites at his shoulder and digs his nails into the back of Mickey’s thigh as he cums with a deep grunt and then a sated sigh. 

Mickey has to keep himself from pushing back into the softening cock, and instead he speeds up stroking his cock. He nuts into his hand and gets half of it on the bed sheets anyway, so he wipes his soiled hand on the sheets as well. He is still catching his breath when Ian pulls out of him and catches Mickey’s chin with two fingers. Ian leans up on his elbow and Mickey blinks up at him, realizing that this is the first time they’ve looked at each other that morning. It’s still mostly dark in the room, but the sun is already coming up and enough light seeps in from around the curtains that Ian’s red hair is glowing a little bit around the edges. Enough for Mickey to see that it’s a roaring curly mess. It makes Mickey want to fuck him again soon, with the lights on. 

Ian kisses him, a rough touch of dry lips, but it does something with Mickey’s heart that treads the line between pain and something else. 

 

Ian gets dressed in a pair of Mickey’s track pants and one of his bigger sweatshirts. He eats a nasty granola bar that he keeps at the apartment and slips another one into the pocket of his hoodie. He washes his meds down with some coffee and is then already rushing out of the door while Mickey is still waking up in the kitchen. 

“Mick,” Ian then calls out to him from the front door. 

Mickey gets out of his chair and stands in the doorway of the kitchen. Ian stares back at him from the front door. “Yeah?” Mickey asks.

“I’ll call you tonight?” Ian asks. 

Mickey pulls up one shoulder. “Alright.” 

 

Mandy shows up less than an hour later, while Mickey is shoving his sheets into the washing machine.

“Did you have someone over?” She teases. “On a weekday? Well, look at you.”

“Ian stayed the night. He left for class right before you came,” Mickey explains. 

“Ian stayed the night,” Mandy repeats. “Thought you said you weren’t into him.” 

“I didn’t say I fucked him. Just said he stayed the night,” Mickey lies right to his sister’s face. 

“He is in love with you, Mickey. You can’t play around with him like that.” 

“In love? He said that?”

“Got eyes in my head, don’t I?”

“It’s not like that.” 

“Still don’t get why. You really think you’re going to find anyone better than him out there?” 

“I’m not looking for anyone at all. Besides, you just said I’m not supposed to bang him. So which one is it?” 

“Mick, it’s not that fucking complicated. Don’t bang him if you’re not actually into him. That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, though I doubt Ian would take that route anyway. Think he’s more of a direct revenge type of guy. But if you do like him, it’s worth a shot, isn’t it? Doesn’t have to be a whole serious scary thing. Having a boyfriend should be fun, you know.”  

“Sounds kind of gay, if you ask me,” Mickey says and smiles as Mandy rolls her eyes at him. 

For the rest of the day, Mickey fights the urge to tell Mandy that he, in fact, had sex with Ian twice. It’s all he can think about. It feels surreal, almost like a wet dream he had. Except there are definitely two condoms in the trash can in his bathroom and he definitely still feels the dull ache of Ian’s cock pushing into him.

Mandy leaves around seven and Ian calls him less than ten minutes after the door closes behind her. Mickey has only just started to get in an actual workflow in the last two hours. When Mickey’s phone buzzes on the desk next to his hand and Ian’s name is blasted across the screen, he becomes nervous. He has never really been nervous to talk to Ian before. But this is it; this is where he needs to be… a responsible adult. This is where he is supposed to… show emotional intelligence. 

“Hey,” Mickey answers the call. 

“Hey,” Ian’s voice floods through the phone. “How’s your day going?”

Mickey leans back into his chair. “How’s my fucking day going?”

“Just say good or bad.”

“You never asked me that before.”

“Mine was kind of shitty. I mean, it started pretty great, but then I was late for class. Forgot to bring my laptop which had my assignments on it.” 

“Yeah, you left it here.” 

“Together with my whole fucking head, it seems.” 

“Don’t blame me for your shitty organizational skills, man.” 

“My organizational skills are the whole reason you hired me,” Ian argues. “This is your fault.” 

“So what do you want me to do? Call your teacher and tell him you were late and forgot your shit, because you were balls deep in me this morning? You think they’ll lay off you then?” 

“I mean, if you send them a picture of your ass, they might understand my struggle a bit more.” 

“Damn, Gallagher. Have you even seen my ass? It was pretty fucking dark.” 

“It was dark, but I got to put my hands on it, Mick.”

“Hands?” 

“God, I’m just… I’m trying to say I had a good time.”

“I got it.” 

“Did you have a good time?” 

Mickey twirls a pen between his fingers and taps it down on the wooden desk. Ask him. Just fucking ask him. You did this to yourself. You need to know. 

“Sure thing, formal.” 

“Can I - do you want to hang out tonight?” 

Mickey rubs a hand over his face, rubs at his eyes. “Are you going to keep seeing the old guy?” Mickey finally asks, voice steadier and more confident than he feels. 

Ian is silent for a moment. “Look, Mick-”

“I’m looking.” 

“I don’t know yet,” he then says softly. “I know we got carried away last night, and I’m sorry if you thought-”

Sorry if you thought I actually cared enough about you for it to make a difference. “Don’t be sorry. I didn’t think anything,” Mickey says. “I’ll see you next week.”

“Mick, come on. You’re going to pretend it never happened?”

“No. It happened. We fucked. Got carried away, like you said. Now we move on.” 

Ian is quiet again, longer this time. “I know how you feel about me,” he finally says. “And I feel like that about you, too. Can’t we try? I’m not going to keep seeing Ned forever… I just… I got to sort some things out.”

“Sort it out, then.”

“No. Mickey, no. I don’t want to wait anymore. I love you, okay? And I’m not crazy. I know you love me too.” The rough accusatory tone makes Mickey’s blood boil. It makes him hot, and not in a fucking good way. 

“Hey, Ian,” he seethes. “You can go fuck yourself. If you come to my door this weekend, we’re fighting. See you on fucking Tuesday.” 

“Mick-”

Mickey hangs up, silences his phone completely and turns his phone over on the table, screen facing down. There it is. Everything he has been trying to avoid for half a fucking year. 

Resentment. Jealousy. Pain. He hates Ian for a moment, but he hates himself more than anything. He let himself want what he knew he couldn’t have and he went for it anyway. There is no one to blame but himself. 

Is he surprised that Ian shows up at his door thirty minutes later despite Mickey’s clear threats? No. 

Is he surprised that Ian has the balls to let himself in with his fucking key and to barge all the way into Mickey’s office, slamming doors? No.

“You got a fucking deathwish or something?” Mickey is first to speak. He doesn’t get out of his chair. He sits back and watches Ian’s rage spike. 

“Who the fuck do you think you are, huh? I tell you I love you and you tell me to go fuck myself? I knew you were a fucking asshole, but I didn’t think you could be this cruel,” Ian says, raising his voice and leaning over the desk, like maybe if it wasn’t separating them, he’d have a hand around Mickey’s neck already. 

Mickey loses it. He pushes himself out of his chair, leans over the desk so they’re face to face. “You can still go fuck yourself. Or better yet, go fuck Ned Lishman and fuck his wife too, while you’re at it. What? You thought you’d get your way because you stuck your cock in me? Maybe that’s how it works with the other trolls you fuck, but not here.” 

“This is unbelievable. Last night you promised you wouldn’t be mad at me. You really are a cruel bastard,” Ian spits at him. 

“Takes one to know one, bitch.”

“Why, Mickey? He means nothing to me and you know that-”

“I’m not doing this with you again,” Mickey explodes. “I don’t give a fuck, alright? As long as you’re banging other people, so will I. I’m not sitting around waiting for you like some bitch. That’s no fucking relationship, so you can save the fucking speech.” 

“Ain’t that better than nothing at all?” Ian then asks, softer. The rage in his eyes has dimmed a little bit and all that’s left is pain and frustration. 

“Is it?” Mickey asks. “You found a guy in here once, and you said you wanted to kill him.” 

“Well, you don’t have to tell me about them. I can - I can get over that. People do it all the time. Open relationships. How do you know you won’t like it? You’ve never seriously dated anyone.”

“You don’t want that,” Mickey says. 

“I want you, it doesn’t matter how.” 

“Fine. Stop seeing the old guy.” 

“I’m fucking working on it!” 

“What the fuck does that mean?” 

“It means I’m fucked in the head, alright? I’m trying to fix it, but I’m - I’m scared I’m going to lose everything and you’re going to drop me eventually and I’m going to be left with nothing. Nobody. I just… I can’t make that decision right now, but I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to hate me for this-” 

“Everybody’s got shit to lose, asshole. You’re not fucking special for having doubts or being scared. You’re not the only one losing, if this shit goes bad. If that money means that much to you, I’m keeping my mouth shut about it, but this is not fucking happening.” 

“It’s not just about the fucking money. Don’t say it like that. Like I’m picking the money over you.”

“I fucking wish it was that simple,” Mickey says and he means it. He wishes that Ian wasn’t standing across from him, clearly struggling and upset. He wishes the choice was as simple as ‘money or Mickey’, but Ian’s problem goes deeper than that. Mickey knows that. He just doesn’t have the solution. He can’t do shit about it. “But I’m not doing it the way you want to do it, Ian.”

“So what do you want then?” Ian asks, aggravated. 

“Just figure out what’s going on with you.” 

“I have a mental illness, Mickey. That’s not going to change-”

“When did having fucking Stockholm syndrome for old man dick become a symptom of bipolar disorder?” Mickey cuts him off. “Pretty sure that’s an Ian Gallagher thing.” 

Ian looks hurt at that, looks away from Mickey and hangs his head. “What if I say that I won’t see him anymore?”

“Then you’re lying,” Mickey says. 

“Fine,” Ian then says and straightens his back and takes a step towards the door. “Guess I’ll fucking see you Tuesday then.” 

“Bye.” 

“You’re an asshole, Mick.” 

“We’re the same person, fuckface.” 

Ian’s face inexplicably softens at that. He takes a step back into the office. With two large steps around the desk, he had Mickey crowded against the window with his hands on Mickey’s face. Mickey shoves his hands away and pushes at Ian’s chest, hard. He takes a moment, takes a breath and takes in Ian’s shocked expression, before he lunges forward for a rough kiss. He grabs Ian by the back of the head and by the front of his coat, opens his mouth and holds back a groan as he gets to taste Ian on his tongue again. He’s been thinking about it all day, but it’s so much better than a fucking fantasy. Ian’s hands work on getting his coat off, so when Mickey realizes that Ian isn’t planning on going anywhere, he ushers him out of the office and into the bedroom: 

He’d have bent over the desk if there was lube anywhere near them, really. 

“This doesn’t change anything,” Mickey pants as Ian’s coat drops to the floor. Ian grabs the hem of Mickey’s shirt and yanks it up, over his head. 

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian tells him and starts on the buttons of Mickey’s jeans. 

 

It’s different this time. Ian forgets to be nervous and Mickey forgets to be careful and instead they shove and yank at each other hard. They bite and scratch and Ian’s nails eventually di g into Mickey’s hips as he fucks into him as Mickey is bent over the edge of the bed. Ian rams into him at an angle that has Mickey squeeze his eyes shut and bite into the sheets to keep himself from treating Ian to a constant string of moans. Well, he tries to hold out at the beginning. The pressure on his cock becomes too much to ignore and he pushes back a little to give himself enough space off the bed to jerk off, but Ian beats him to it. He grabs Mickey’s hard cock as soon as he lifts off the bed a little bit, curls his fingers around it firmly and jerks him off. He loses the rhythm in his hips a little bit, but Mickey is willing to forgive him because when he starts rocking into him in the same rhythm as he pumps Mickey’s cock. 

 But Ian’s mouth doesn’t leave the back of Mickey’s neck, not even for one second. He kisses him, bites at him until it hurts and sucks on the same spot until it’s tender. 

“Deeper,” Mickey breathes out and spreads his legs further, “as deep as you can, come on.”

Ian finally lifts up, leaving a cold wet spot in Mickey’s neck. “I need two hands for that,” He grunts. 

“Fucking multitask, you bitch,” Mickey grumbles back, but Ian lets go of Mickey’s cock anyway. Both his hands travel up and down Mickey’s back as he pulls out of him completely and then plunges back into him until he bottoms out. It forces a moan out of Mickey’s chest. He does it again, and then one more time and then plasters himself against Mickey’s back again, and reattaches himself to Mickey’s neck and continues with more shallow thrusts. “I’m going to fucking bust,” he pants right under Mickey’s ear. Mickey nods, and fists his own cock. It only takes a couple of more pumps for Ian to stutter through his orgasms. He bottoms out again, and stays like that for quite some time while Mickey is still stroking himself. It feels amazing, until Ian eventually starts getting softer and slips out of him. 

“Turn around,” Ian demands and Mickey obliges. Mickey is taken aback for a moment, at the sight of Ian, red in the face, neck and chest and by a long shot he is the most beautiful man Mickey has ever seen. Especially as he gets onto his knees, opens his mouth and takes Mickey’s cock into it, eyes darting up to meet Mickey’s. Massive, green eyes, hazy with lust and the clear and eager need to please. Fuck. 

Mickey tries to make it last, wouldn't mind if it lasted forever, really. He could watch Ian’s mouth stretch around his cock until the end of time. He realizes that he can finally do it now, that this is his real chance. He buries both his hands in Ian’s orange curls. He is pulled down, almost like a magnet, and plants a messy kiss onto Ian’s mouth before letting him get back to sucking his cock. Mickey drags his fingers over Ian’s scalp and fists a clump at the back of his head as a warning. Ian nods lightly and Mickey cums just like that. Hard and pulling on Ian’s hair, but he has the wherewithal to let go when he sits down on the bed. 

Ian pushes himself up on Mickey’s knees, right as Mickey lets himself lie down and closes his eyes. The bed dips next to him moments later. He hears the clicking of a lighter and immediately holds his hand up. Ian plants the cigarette between his lips instead. “Don’t burn yourself,” he warns, and lights another cigarette. The dip in the bed disappears and Mickey takes a long drag. Ian leaves the room and returns again. Ashtray clanking in the bedside table. 

Mickey drags himself upright and finds himself naked shoulder to naked shoulder with Ian Gallagher. “Should get you pissed off more often,” Mickey says, leaning over him and tapping the ash off his cigarette. 

Ian looks a little smug and then pulls a shoulder up. “It’s bad for the heart,” he says. “Felt like it was going to jump out of my chest the whole fucking time.” 

“Not a bad way to go,” Mickey shrugs. They probably shouldn’t have done this. Mickey is already craving to touch Ian’s body more. To curl his arms around his chest and hold him. He is already craving that mouth again, craving the terrifying intimacy of kissing him, just because. 

They’ve just made it ten times harder than it needs to be. 

“I got to see your ass this time,” Ian then says lightly. 

“Yeah, how’d you like it?” Mickey snorts. 

“I have to admit that I saw it once before.”

“When?”

“It was a long time ago. We were like eight or nine years old, in Little League. You dropped your pants all the way to the ground and took a piss on third base. I’m pretty fucking sure that turned me gay.” 

“I remember pissing on third. Don’t remember a redheaded dweeb staring at my ass.”

“I get it, alright. I was completely forgettable to you.”

“You made a pretty good impression just now,” Mickey says. 

Ian doesn’t look at him and to be fair Mickey finds it increasingly hard to look at Ian, too, but Ian is much prettier than Mickey - so while his heart aches, Mickey can’t really take his eyes off the pale, freckled, naked boy sitting next to him, dusted in orange body hair and topped with a messy mop of curls. He is truly beautiful. Mickey wonders silently how this boy must have felt for years.

Under all the glitter and makeup has always been an insecure mentally ill boy. Smart and beautiful and capable, but sick nonetheless. “I do love you,” Mickey hears himself admit, pulling Ian’s eyes up to his face with those words. “We are best friends, after all.” 

Ian smiles at him. “Like brothers, almost.” He puts a hand in Mickey’s neck and pulls him in closer, presses a kiss to Mickey’s temple before resting his heavy arm around Mickey’s shoulders. “I love you a lot, Mickey,” he then says earnestly. “I don’t want to do anything that will make you hate me.” 

“You still want to work for me?” Mickey feels the need to ask. 

“Yeah, of course,” Ian says without hesitation. “Why wouldn’t I?” 

“I don’t know. Don’t want you to feel weird because I’m paying you,” Mickey shrugs. 

“It’s different.” 

“I know it is, but you’re the headcase here. If it makes you feel some type of way, you don’t have to feel bad for quitting.” 

“This job is the only thing that doesn’t make me feel like shit. And it’s not just because of you.” 

“But you should probably leave right now.” 

“Figured you’d ask me to stay for dinner actually. I know you haven’t eaten yet.” 

“You thought I’d ask you to stay for dinner.”

“Okay, maybe I didn’t think that, but it would be nice.” 

“No.” 

It takes a moment before Ian moves away. He retracts his arm off Mickey’s shoulder and gets up. All long legs, narrow hips, broad freckled shoulders. He has a bunch of small moles on his right butt cheek, Mickey notices when Ian bends down to grab his boxers off the floor and slips them on. He gets dressed while Mickey lights another cigarette. 

“So, Tuesday,” Ian finally says as he ties his shoelaces. “If you need any help with anything this weekend, let me know.” 

“Hm.” 

“Or if you just want to hang out, I’ve got time.” 

Mickey doesn’t respond to that. What’s the fucking point?

“And for the record,” Ian continues, “I don’t know if it matters to you or not, but I wasn’t actually planning on seeing Ned again after what he said to you at his house. I just didn’t want to promise you anything, while I’m still figuring all this shit out for myself.” 

“Okay,” Mickey says. 

“Does it?” 

“Hm?” 

“Does it matter to you or not?” 

“I don’t fucking know,” Mickey sighs. “Ask me again when you’ve figured it out.” 

Ian snorts at that, raking a hand through his hair. “Could be years.” 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Mickey assures him.