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I don't know where I'm going but I'd like to be by your side

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Mickey Milkovich had never paid much attention to Ian Gallagher when he was a little kid. He’d started off as just Lip’s annoying younger brother who always had to tag along whenever they hung out, and who had an unhealthy attachment to his older sibling. It wasn’t until Lip had become his person, that Ian had become, by proxy, his person too.


Albeit, while Mickey had come to consider Lip the brother he never had (seeing as the ones he did have never gave a shit about him), Ian’s role in his life had never been as clear cut. Begrudgingly though, he’d realised that although Lip was his best friend, Ian was probably always going to outrank him in Lips eyes. So by the age of twelve, he’d given up the resentment or blatant ignorance of Ian’s existence and had instead adopted the role along side Lip of co-protector and friend of Ian Gallagher. 


And dammit did Ian put them to work. If Ian wasn’t getting into fights with the kids at school (started by the other boys, and usually ended by them too), then he was getting lost at parks or at the grocery store. If he wasn’t lost, then he was with Frank, too easily swindled into helping the old bastard run a scam that needed a face with a kindness and vulnerability that his own couldn’t offer. And so Lip and Mickey were tasked with beating up bullies, tracking down a crying and confused nine year old, and threatening Frank to stop stealing Ian from the playground at school.


Mickey would occasionally bring up the fact that maybe it was Fiona’s turn to seek out Ian, or that Frank was their dad after all, so why not let him have some time with the kid? Lip would just send him a long look that always reminded Mickey that Ian was always, one-hundred percent, Lip’s first priority, and that if he wanted to tag along in Lip’s life, that meant taking care of Ian too. 


If Mickey hadn’t known the Gallaghers since he himself was in diapers, he would never have guessed that Ian was Southside born and bred. Ian was anything but Southside material, too calm and compassionate to stand up to anyone, too curious to not follow any adult that talked to him on the street, and much too optimistic for his own good. 

Mickey was certain, that if not for their efforts, Ian would have been killed or kidnapped before he reached his eleventh birthday. 


Alas, he did reach eleven, which meant Mickey had to attend a birthday party at the Gallagher house and pretend like he was actually enjoying himself. Ian had never cared about birthdays, but he’d insisted that year because for the first time, he actually had a couple of friends who weren’t Mickey and Lip. Those friends wouldn’t last beyond Ian’s first year of high school, but Mickey remembered the mild relief of not having to babysit Ian that summer when he and Lip just wanted to get up to something mildly illegal. 

Maybe he’d also been a little bit appreciative of the fact that when Ian had blown out the eleven candles on his birthday cake, barely more than nubs from years and years of re-use, he’d had the biggest smile Mickey had seen on him yet. 


That was the moment, maybe, that Ian had gone from someone he was obliged to protect, to someone he’d wanted to protect. 



As Ian grew older and taller, the things they had to protect him from slowly shifted from external forces that Ian had no control over, to things Ian seemed to actively participate in.


Mickey was loathe to admit it, but by the time Ian was sixteen he was just as physically intimidating as Lip or himself, despite being three years their junior. For this reason, they rarely had to track down anyone who’d made Ian bleed or bruised, because any injuries Ian came home with were always pale in comparison to whoever’d been stupid enough to pick on him that day. And while it had taken them years to convince Ian that sometimes, violence was the answer, Ian had at some point taken that message deeply to heart. The kind and un-confrontational kid was still there, but now instead of curling up into a ball and letting bullies get the best of him, Ian would fight back no matter how high the odds were stacked against him. 


Mickey thought this change in behaviour was in part due to their particular influence and role-modelling, but mostly thanks to goddam JROTC.  Because now Ian wanted to join the army, now Ian spent hours every day working out, now Ian was an even better shot than Mickey (Mickey wouldn’t admit it to his face though).


So Mickey and Lip were tasked with trying to convince Ian not to enrol in the army at eighteen and get himself blown up on foreign soil, and certainly not to try sneak his way in earlier with a fake ID. 


At the same time Ian was considering sneaking into the army, he was also sneaking into the clubs at BoysTown, and turning up in the middle of the night covered in glitter and hickeys, eyes blurred and words slurring. He’d stumble into the dorm room Mickey shared with Lip, startling them as they shared a joint.


Lip would say it was better than him obsessing over the army, Mickey had to fight the revulsion that arose whenever he imagined what Ian had been up to that night. Ian had never officially come out as gay to either of them, one day he’d just told them about his encounter with Rodger Spikey in the boys locker room and Lip had clapped him on the back to show that he was okay with it, and Mickey had held back his scowl to show that he was okay with it too (he really was ok with the gay thing, but the thought of Ian doing things with the school douchebag in a dark and sweaty locker room made him uncomfortable for a reason he couldn’t pinpoint at the time). 


So Mickey, and Lip more reluctantly, were tasked with searching the clubs on Saturday nights and dragging Ian away from his perv of the week. Ian would protest and complain that Lip did the exact same thing when he was sixteen, and that their refusal to let him have fun was a blatant display of homophobia. Lip and Mickey would snort simultaneously at that, but Lip would also give Mickey a sidelong look that seemed to agree with Ian’s protestations, because after all, why not let him have the same fun they used to? Mickey took to looking resolutely ahead and not making eye contact with Lip on those nights. 


But their efforts weren’t in vain, because by the time Ian turned eighteen, his dreams of the army had faded into the background and his new dream of becoming a paramedic led him to enrol at a nearby community college. And while they hadn’t been able to keep Ian out of the grips of every creep that came after him, Ian eventually began dating a guy named Malcom, who went to the same community college and had a face that Mickey distinctly did not like. 


So for a while, the Ian that he and Lip had spent most of their lives protecting, didn’t need their protection anymore. He was stable and happy and safe. In the meantime, Lip graduated with his degree in engineering, and Mickey dropped out of college (which he’d only enrolled in due to Lip’s insistence), and managed to get a job as a mechanic at a fancy car shop in the Northside. 


Lip, with some difficulty, learned to accept that Ian didn’t need his help all the time anymore, and that he was allowed to live his own life. Mickey, with even more difficulty, pretended like he was happy to finally shed the role of guardian angel to Ian Gallagher and move on with his own life too. He also tried to pretend, every Thursday evening at six, when they all gathered at Lip’s small apartment (Malcom, unfortunately, included), that he was perfectly happy with them living mostly seperate lives, and that he didn’t at all avoid looking at Ian and his boyfriend whenever they displayed so much as the slightest bit of affection. 


One Thursday evening, Ian had been cutting carrots when the knife slipped and split the back of his hand open. Years of training had Mickey up and reaching for that freckled hand, ready to clean the cut and dress it, but Malcom’s dark hand was pressing a kitchen towel to the wound before Mickey could even move around the counter, and for a second he was disoriented. Reluctantly though, he’d sat back down next to Lip, and pretended like Ian smiling at Malcom in thanks didn’t disturb him and make him dizzy at the same time. 

That night, he’d stopped at a plant nursery and bought himself a small potted fern. If he no longer had to try keep Ian Gallagher alive, then maybe a stupid plant could occupy his time instead. 



The plant had died five months later. 


This, coincidentally, coincided with the time that Malcom, in all his overdramatic glory, had dumped Ian on the quad of their college campus (over what, Ian refused to say). And, for the first time in over a year, Ian had stumbled into Lip’s living room, where he and Mickey were sharing a joint, and collapsed on the couch in a drunken state. 


Mickey had felt bad to admit it, but hearing the story of the breakup and consequent drunken night following, had unwound something deep inside of him. He’d chosen not to think of it then, and indeed hadn’t revisited the feeling until a few moths later, instead he’d let Ian rest his head on his shoulder and pretended like he couldn’t feel the tears slowly seeping into the sleeve of his shirt. 



Mickey first kissed Ian Gallagher on his twenty-third birthday. 


He’d been smashed off of his face, uncharacteristically so. Maybe it was because he’d finally let Lip talk him into throwing a party, and his apartment had been full of people he only half-knew from his time at college or from work, and he was trying to mitigate his agitation with Jack Daniels. 


Maybe, it was because the week before he’d finally come out to Lip. For the first time in his life saying out loud the fact that he was gay, to the person he arguably held closest to him. He’d already drank enough to cover the stress of that night days ago, but now Lip was nudging him towards random men, or winking at him whenever he saw Mickey in conversation with a guy, and Mickey tried not to make it obvious that absolutely none of these people piqued his fancy. 


In fact, the only thing that had piqued his fancy that night was a tall red-head in a soft green sweater, who’d grinned at him at the door and enveloped him in a tight hug. But then again, Mickey was ready to admit that his fancy had been piqued probably since he was sixteen. 


It was probably more due to the alcohol, than any bravery on Mickey’s part, when he followed Ian into his bedroom later that night. 


Since the age of five, Ian had easily been overwhelmed by overcrowded spaces. Another thing about him that distinctly confused Mickey, because the Southside was defined by overcrowding and noise. He’d watched as Ian, who’d accepted his presence in the room with him, lay down and sighed, big and tired, but still smiling at him anyway. Even overstimulated by his surroundings, Ian wasn’t one to take away from another person’s good time. When Ian had opened his mouth to say something, presumably to wish him a proper happy birthday, Mickey’s mind had gone blank and suddenly he was on the bed next to Ian, tentatively pressing their mouths together.


He wouldn’t forget the way Ian froze. He wouldn’t forget the way Ian’s lips, maybe, just maybe, had started to move against his own. 


But he wouldn’t know for sure, because at that moment, Lip came barrelling through the door and into the small bathroom connected to Mickey’s bedroom. The following heaves and hacks had instantly broken the moment, and neither of them had said anything as they moved into the bathroom to find Lip unconscious on the vomit-covered tiles. 



Lip, it seemed, took after his father. 


While Ian was overly ambitious, and had never been able to settle, Lip was a stubborn motherfucker who refused to acknowledge his need to change. They’d gone through the dilemma years ago of convincing him to enrol in college, only won by Mickey offering to enrol with him. Now, they went through the dilemma of convincing Lip that some things, like his alcoholism, were in his control. They were his responsibility to fix. 


The months following that night saw a strange shift in dynamics, as Ian and Mickey took turns driving Lip to and from AA meetings, sleeping over at his house and lending him money for rent when he’d had to miss work for a couple weeks. Where Mickey had been relieved to have some role in taking care of Ian again after his breakup, he was oppositely unnerved by being in this position with Lip. Ian, similarly, looked gaunt in the months it took to get Lip back up on his feet. 


Neither of them had really noticed the shift in Lip’s behaviour in the year leading up to his drinking problem coming to a head. But Mickey came to believe, over the years following, that maybe it hadn’t been as easy on Lip to move on with life as he’d led them to think. 


Finally though, Lip managed to get to a point where, although he wasn’t completely fine (would he ever be?) they could ease up on their worry and attention. Meanwhile, Mickey had to adjust to being in Ians presence again post-kiss, without the distraction of Lip’s wellbeing hanging between them.


But, just as it had remained through their stressed and rushed encounters surrounding Lip, the topic of that night remained untouched between them. 


Things, slowly, achingly slowly, had gone back to normal between the three of them. Ian had moved in with Lip, mutually deciding that the added supervision would be beneficial and that Ian moving further away from his ex could only be a good thing.


Ian landed a job as an EMT around the time that Lip got promoted at his job. He’d managed to handle his absence relatively well, and had disclosed to his boss of his issues. His boss, it turns out, had attended the same AA meetings years ago. Ian had laughed when he’d heard, congratulating his brother on his well earned stroke of luck, and deflecting the conversation away from his own accomplishment. Ian had never been one to take a compliment.

They’d gone out to dinner a week later, just the three of them. Mickey had been proud, yet found it hard to ignore the niggling sense of inadequacy suddenly taking root in his mind. The three of them had always bonded in their struggle, the struggle of growing up poor and neglected on the Southside. The struggle of only relying on each other for help. That’s how they’d met, Mickey bumping into Lip as a small portion of their neighbourhood raided a meat truck left unattended, and helping him carry home a particularly large set of ribs. 


The first time he knew he could truely rely on the Gallagher brothers had been only a month later, when his father, on a particularly violent rampage, had thrown an ashtray at him, catching him in the side of the head. Not knowing where else to go, he’d stumbled the route to the Gallagher house they’d taken while balancing the chunk of meat between their shoulders. Lip, home alone with a four year old Ian, had quietly sat him down on the couch, cleaned the cut, and handed him the remote for the TV, telling him to put on something appropriate for his brother while he got the pizza out of the oven. 


From then on, it had been struggle onto next struggle. Scam onto next scam. Wounds onto stints in jury onto hiding from angry parents. They’d all suffered it together. 


Sitting at that table in a restaurant on the Northside, laid neatly with three (why three?) forks and three spoons, he’d felt like he was slipping out of place, unable to move forward with himself fast enough to keep ahold of the tether they’d run between the three of them. 


Lip had told him their first year of college that Mickey was addicted to the uncertainty of the Southside. 


Mickey’d realised then, though, that he was just happier when he knew they needed him as much as he needed them


He’d tried to avoid them after that. But it only lasted about three days, before Lip had called him up for pizza at his place, and he’d accepted before even managing to remember that he was trying to distance himself before they could be the ones to cut him off. 

Lip had a pepperoni pizza in the oven, and handed him the remote to his TV which already had Netflix loaded up. Ian would be arriving home soon too, so he made sure not to pick something too gory, because he knew Ian got queasy watching guts spill while he was eating.


He’d felt embarrassed, later. He’d always dubbed Ian the drama queen of the group, but sitting in between the two brothers as they argued back and forth about the movie on the screen, he’d realised how brash he’d been to assume that their growing success meant that they’d never have need for him again. 


It was thanks to that realisation that, that night, he’d kissed Ian for the second time. 


Ian had walked him to his car, so they could finish their conversation about whatever the hell the director had been thinking by adding in such shitty CGI, and Mickey had felt warm and content and normal around Ian for the first time since they’d picked Lip up off of his bathroom floor. So, as naturally as possible, he’d leaned over and wrapped his hand around the back of Ian’s head and he’d pulled him in close, close enough that their noses brushed, but their lips didn’t touch. This time, he’d let Ian decide if this was okay. 

Apparently it had been, because Ian had leaned forward and pressed their lips together, just as tentatively as Mickey had the night of his birthday. 


It was just a few seconds long, and the moment was over before it had even really begun, but Ian had pulled back with a small smile on his face, and squeezed Mickey’s hip where his hand had found purchase. They’d said goodnight, suddenly a little shy of each other, and Mickey had slid into his car and reluctantly driven away, watching Ian grow smaller in his rearview mirror as he stood watching Mickey leave. 



Only a year after realising that Lip had taken after Frank, they learned too, that Ian had taken after Monica. 


They hadn’t seen each other for a week after that second kiss, Ian was suddenly called in to work long hours to cover for a sick colleague. They had neglected to talk over the phone either, Mickey because he didn’t know what he’d say, Ian for reasons he’d realise soon enough.


Lip had called at 4am on a Friday. Ian had been arrested. No, they didn’t need bail money, because Ian was being sent for psychological evaluation. No, he probably wasn’t ok, he’d tried to steal a car. He thought he was being chased by shadows. 



Mickey Milkovich had never noticed much, that when Ian Gallagher was a little kid he’d always looked the most like his mother. Only after Ian had muttered once, high enough that he could barely keep his head up, that Frank hated him most because he reminded him of Monica, did Mickey ever realise they had anything in common at all.


For one, Ian was always present and responsive. While Lip was Mickey’s best friend, he sometimes suffered from bluntness, always seeking out a solution rather than merely providing comfort. So it was often Ian who would sit silently with him after one of his fathers tantrums, it was Ian who would notice when Mickey was particularly quiet, or flinched a bit more than usual, and would calmly find a way to attach his body to Mickey’s in some way so that he’d feel more grounded.


From what he knew from Monica’s rare presence, or more importantly, her regular absence, was that she was rarely around when her children needed her to be. 


Ian was also one of the most consistent people he’d ever met. Yes, his ambitions and goals changed, he’d matured greatly in the time they’d known each other. But Mickey was never left wondering how Ian might react to a situation, how he would feel about certain news. If he would help if Mickey asked him to. Ian Gallagher was consistently loyal and kind and thoughtful.


Monica Gallagher was a different person every time she returned. He supposed, now, that was to do with her illness, the one Ian now shared with her. But for all of him, he couldn’t imagine not recognising Ian day-to-day the way he sometimes couldn’t when Monica was on one of her spins. However, perhaps they did have a lot in common. Monica was soft spoken. She’d given Ian her empathy, her acceptance, her brilliant ability to make almost anyone like her. She had passed onto him many of the qualities that Mickey considered key to Ian’s character.


Unfortunately, now she’d also passed on what her children had often considered her greatest weakness. Two weeks after Ian’s arrest, he was diagnosed as bipolar. 



Ians diagnosis brought back that familiar feeling between him and Lip, the mutual agreement that Ian was someone they had to care for. Unfamiliar though, was that this time, having to take care of Ian made Mickey feel hollow. 


They were back to patching up bruises and cuts, some less physical than others. However, unlike in their childhood, there was no culprit to blame, no kids to crackdown on in order to bring closure to the situation. The only bully present was within Ians head.



Ian almost lost his job. 


He was lucky enough to get off without a mark on his criminal record, however, the mark on his medical record was even more damning. They’d made a case for him, because Ian couldn’t. He was tucked up in bed, unresponsive thanks to his new medications.


Mickey’d had to bite his tongue to avoid screaming at them over their gall to try lay Ian off when he couldn’t even get out of bed to take a piss. Lip had pulled out all the cards he’d heard in TV shows, things he’d read in his books. Discrimination, contracts, lawsuit. They just seemed like random words to Mickey, who hadn’t been able to keep focus since he’d first heard the word bipolar come out of that doctors mouth. 


They’d agreed not to fire Ian— yet. But he’d be back on a probationary basis, under supervision at all times. It was dangerous enough having a diagnosis of bipolar psychosis, the fact that it was so new meant they couldn’t be sure of his stability. Mickey wanted to hit something. Lip hung up before he could do something worse, like open his mouth and speak.


They spent weeks taking turns looking after Ian. Walking with him to the bathroom when he was finally able to get up, practically forcing food down his throat so he wouldn’t starve. Hid the knives, stashed away their money. 


Mickey took to running his hands through Ian’s hair on the nights that he was tasked with staying with him. It was kind of gross, mostly unwashed for the weeks he’d been in bed. Mickey found it hard to care. He’d known it was selfish to be thinking of their kiss at a time like that, but he couldn’t help it. Did it change anything between them? Surely not this, taking care of Ian was built into his DNA by now. But he couldn’t help but imagine what they’d be doing now if Ian hadn’t been inundated.

Would they have kissed again? Would he finally have been able to tell Ian that his possessiveness and protectiveness was anything but brotherly? Would he have been able to say those words yet? The dangerous ones. The ones that’d been running through his head since he was a teenager. I love you. Probably not, he’d thought. It had only been a few weeks. But part of him wasn’t so sure. He wasn’t so sure that if he truely got ahold of Ian in a way that was more than what they had now, that he could help himself from having Ian completely. 


Those thoughts had become too much at that point. Mickey wasn’t one for such big emotions.


So he’d pushed them aside— for the time being. Right then, he had to focus on making sure that they could have Ian back at all. 



Ian got stabilised on his medicine. Ian went back to his job. Ian was back, mostly, just not completely.


Sometimes, Ian would have this empty look in his eyes that made Mickey shiver. Sometimes, he’d have an unnatural spark in them that made Mickey nervous. Most of the time though, he was just Ian. And they got by. They got back to normal, mostly.


Sometimes, at night, Mickey would start to wonder if he’d turn out like one of his parents too.


Would he become his dad? Violent, incapable of love, selfish? Or his mother? Unable to stand up for herself, unable to take responsibility for anyone or anything? 


He wasn’t sure which would be worse, never would be. 



It took more than a year for Mickey to revisit the topic of loving Ian Gallagher. The thought had never left his mind, not really. But he had never let it linger more than a few minutes. The last thing Ian had needed was Mickey demanding his time and energy. Demanding answers when he was so clearly trying to find his own footing. 


But it was New Years Eve. They were visiting the Gallagher house, Fiona had insisted they come. They would set off illegal fireworks and drink themselves (save for Lip) to sleep and wake up the next day with splitting headaches but to the smell of eggs and bacon and pancakes. 


Something about being back had Mickey ruminating more than usual. He was set up in Fiona’s old bedroom, Lip and Ian in their old bedroom down the hall. 


When Mickey was eight, he’d tried to run away. The only reason he hadn’t, was because he couldn’t yet read well enough to understand the bus routes and timetables. So, instead of hopping on a bus headed out of Chicago, like he’d intended, he’d accidentally caught one to the international airport. The trip had cost him six dollars, leaving him with only four left, obviously not enough to catch a flight to anywhere, and not even enough to get a bus home. 


He’d just started walking, in the general direction of the way they’d come, deterred from his mission by the sheer size of the city and his fear of getting lost around every corner. It was the first time in his life, that he’d wished to be back in the Southside. Mickey was sure, as a child, that he would never grow to truely love his hometown, the way people in movies always seemed to do.


The people there were too violent, brash, loud. Everyone pretended to have some sort of shitty-neighbourhood camaraderie that made the Southside better than any rich neighbourhood, but in the end everyone was only really looking out for themselves, and their shitty-neighbourhood was still just shitty. At first, the move to a new neighbourhood had intimidated him because what if he fucked it all up, and was forced to come back? Not only would he have to return to the home he hated, this time he would’ve been alone. 


Being back now, the Southside seemed somewhat… novel, if it could ever be described like that. He just had to think of how much he’d changed, how Lip and Ian had changed, the shit they’d been through, what they’d achieved. And yet, coming back here it was like no time had passed at all. The crappy looking houses were still crappy, the asshole neighbours were still around. The Southside seemed like some ridiculous fairytale town that stood at a standstill while the rest of the world changed around it. How? How could everything be the same here when they’d had to go through so much in the last few years alone?


The Southside had a cruel way of chewing you up and spitting you out, keeping you in its grip and daring to pretend like nothing had ever changed, and that nothing ever would. 


Mickey hated it, just a little bit. He was scared, maybe, that it would try swallow him up now that he was back.


A knock on the door snapped him back to the present. Ian was stood in the hallway, looking as tired as he usually did these days. But still he smiled, stuffed his hands into the pockets of his grey coat and cocked his head towards the end of the hall. 


It was 11:50, the rest of the Gallaghers had exited the house to set up the fireworks, and everything was eerily quiet for a moment. Ian was gazing at him like he was expecting something from him. Mickey had no idea what. He shucked on the coat he’d come upstairs to grab, and smiled back at Ian, allowing him to lead the way down the hall. Instead of turning left onto the stairs though, Ian glanced back before opening the window facing the street where they could see Fiona wrangling Carl away from a large bundle of fireworks.


They crawled over the window’s ledge and onto the slightly sloped roof of the front of the house. Mickey had to be careful not to slide down as soon as he took footing, grabbing onto Ian to stop his fall. Ian paused, looked at his hand. He glanced up again then, expecting something. 


Again, Mickey wasn’t sure what. 


He hadn’t questioned Ian wanting to watch the fireworks from a distance, although Ian wasn’t usually one to get overwhelmed around his own family. Ian was one of those people who was never content to be alone. While he wasn’t the fondest of new people, and had always had difficulty to adjusting new friends, Ian was loyal to those close to him, relied on them to fulfil that need inside him to be surrounded. Mickey thought, sometimes, that Ian was just as scared of being left behind as he was. 


Ian wasn’t looking at him anymore. He was gazing down at the small group below, a tiny content smile on his face. Mickey realised, with a jolt, that while he’d never held much sentimentality for their childhood neighbourhood, maybe the Gallagher brothers had. They did, after all, have a lot more tying them back here. Mickey only had the two of them, really, and they’d all migrated away together. 


Lip started shouting down below, getting ready for the countdown to midnight.





Ian turned back towards him then, gaze resolutely on Mickey, and Mickey couldn’t have broken eye contact with him if he tried. 






Debbie let out a laugh that seemed to launch Ian forward, so that he and Mickey were standing toe to toe. Mickey tried to catch ahold of his breath, because why the hell would Ian be watching him like that right now? 






Ian opened his mouth, about to say something, and Mickey knew that whatever would pass Ian’s lips would change something irreversibly. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but when it came to Ian Gallagher, understanding him was second nature.


1— the words died on Ian’s lips and lights followed by great booms sounded in the sky, but still, Ian didn’t turn to look.  


The fireworks were lighting up Ian’s face and hair, creating a ridiculous halo of purples and reds. Ian wore a strange expression on his face, one that Mickey wasn’t quite sure he’d seen before, it was like he was examining him, but he already knew what he’d find, like he’d searched this way before.

Mickey couldn’t help it really, he reached out a hand and ran it through Ian’s hair. 

Ian’s face became serious for a moment, eyebrows drawn. What could he be thinking, in this moment? Mickey prided himself on being able to read Ian Gallagher no matter what, but it felt like they’d just stepped off the edge of a cliff together, unsure of what lay below them. They were hovering in midair, waiting for the moment they would plummet back to the ground, but that moment wasn’t coming. Maybe, Mickey dared to hope, they’d just keep floating? 



Ian shuffled forward some, and his expression was still serious, still probing, but it was soft too, hopeful. Mickey let his mind wander back to that idea, the one with that dangerous word. When Ian took a breath and didn’t let it go, Mickey resolved it within himself. Someday soon, Mickey would tell Ian Gallagher how much he loved him. Ian leaned forward. 



The third time they kissed, Mickey was finally certain that it wouldn’t be their last.