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only light can do that. only love can do that.

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Mickey jerked awake, disoriented and dry-mouthed, a crick in his neck from passing out on the couch after work. Again.

Red and blue lights flashed through the windows and off the ceiling, and Mickey closed his eyes, drew in a slow breath through his nose and let it out. When he opened his eyes again, the lights were still there.

Fuckin cops. Maybe it'd been the warning whoop of a siren that woke him, some poor asshole getting hassled, just trying to get home in the cold and dark. There weren't enough people with cars on these couple streets that they got a lot of traffic stops, but if it were anything worse than that, someone would probably have been screaming or shooting or both.

Mickey kept staring up at the ceiling, trying to decide if he cared enough to find out whose day was going to shit just off his porch, red-blue-red-blue bouncing through the glass, off the snow where it drifted up around the fence. He probably ought to get up on the porch roof and knock the snow down, before it melted through the cracked brick in that low corner. He was fucking tired of water all over the goddamned floor, no matter what the season. Maybe in the spring, he could find a bucket of tar to patch with. Or just burn the whole place to the ground.

red-blue-red-blue glittering in a night that was as quiet as could be expected around here, long past the time of year when anyone had the energy to fight out in the streets. red-blue-red-blue even the dogs all hunkered down quiet to keep warm.

Mickey pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, thought about getting up to get a beer, reheat some baked ziti, just move his ass to the bedroom and go back to sleep until...red-blue-red-blue-green-white-red

...Ian got home. "The fuck?" Mickey rubbed his eyes again, wondering if he'd done something to fuck them up, pressing on them, was that a thing? Ian would probably know if that was a thing.

red-blue-red-blue-orange-white-orange-white-red-white-green

He blinked again. Tow truck maybe? Private ambulance?

Boots stomped up the porch steps, and Mickey sighed and braced his hands to shove himself up off the sagging cushions, answer the inevitable knock, resigned to having no say about whether he got involved now. Then the door swung open and Ian walked in, knocking his boots against the frame one last time to try and leave the packed snow behind him.

Ian smiled when he looked up and saw Mickey watching him, grinned wider and pushed the door shut behind him, hard so it’d latch. "Hey,” he cheered, soft indoor voice, always happy to see Mickey at the end of their day. “You're awake!" Ian kicked off his boots in the doorway, dropped the bags in his hand next to them. He shrugged out of his coat on the way past the big chair, and flung himself into the couch next to Mickey, pink-nosed and red-knuckled and chill clinging to his exposed skin, apparently not at all bothered by whatever was going on outside. "So what do you think?"

"About what?" Mickey asked, then cleared his throat before his voice tried to crack in the dry air. "Fuck's going on out there?"

Ian grinned wider and leaned his warm shoulder into Mickey so he could pull his phone out of his pocket. "Christmas lights, Mick. Look at this!"

Ian turned his phone around so Mickey could see the screen. Instead of the rubbernecking street photo Mickey might’ve expected, the screen showed some sort of app. When Ian tapped one of the boxes at the bottom of the screen, the lights outside the window lost their shit, spinning out a kaleidoscope of colors for a few seconds until Ian tapped again and they settled into a soft white twinkle. "See? You can change the color, and set a pattern." He tried to hand Mickey the phone and Mickey just stared at it.

"The fuck would you want to do that for?"

"Kev found them," Ian said instead of answering. "Like forty boxes. He put a bunch up at the Alibi but Vee told him he had to stop, that they're giving her a headache, blinking all wild. Deb took a couple boxes to put some up at the house, too."

Mickey looked up from the phone screen back to Ian’s profile "So you just thought, what, let's turn Mickey's house into a clownshow while we’re at it?"

Ian’s jaw set at that Mickey’s house, finally noticing that Mickey wasn’t turning fucking cartwheels at the prospect of his house glowing a beacon down their shitty street, and Christ, that was not even the point. Mickey was tired, Mickey was something approaching confused, but he wasn’t about to let them skid sideways into another round of whether this was their house or not. "They're lightbulbs, Mickey. It’s Christmas. Not a whole carnival midway.”

Mickey couldn't remember the last time someone on their street had put up new decorations. Maybe balloons for a kids’ birthday? There hadn’t been a little kid on their block since before Mickey dropped out. Anything that went up around here was permanent until it rotted or rusted away, and most of it was older than Mickey was. Who the fuck had time or energy to decorate? Who the fuck wanted to advertise that they had the time or energy or the money to do so all over the outside of their house?

Ian fucking Gallagher did, that's who. Christ.

"Great," Mickey snapped. "Sounds fun. Just some fuckin' lightbulbs. In that case, let's just leave them up all fuckin' year then, why don't we. Valentines, Fourth of July, Halloween, fuckin-" Mickey's rant stumbled as his tired brain ran out of holidays to list, "goddamned Arbor Day, let's be as fuckin' gay about this as we possibly can. Maybe the rest of the year it can just be a big ol' rainbow arrow pointing to the front door, please come fag-bash us." He wasn’t even yelling by the end. He just wanted Ian to get what he was saying. Fuck, he was so tired.

The fight went out of Ian's face at that, still mulish but worried, quieter. "Thought you'd like them," he said. “I didn’t think it’d be a big deal.”

He never did, Mickey thought. They almost never thought the same things were a big deal until it was too late and they were stranded in the middle of them. “Yeah,” Mickey said with a dismissive snort he couldn’t help. “I’m sure you put a whole lot of fuckin' thought into it.”

“Mick, it’s-”

Mickey waved him off; whatever it was Ian was going to say, it didn’t matter, not enough to fight about.

They weren't having this battle anymore; they'd had it out three times in the first month after Mickey got released, when Mickey couldn't stop looking over his shoulder, and Ian wouldn't goddamned start. They’d had it about Mickey moving back into the abandoned Milkovich house instead of in with Ian, because here he knew what danger sounded like, knew that he could spot a stranger from a hundred yards away.

Ian knew, because Mickey had told him, that he still worried that Ian was walking around with a giant Gay Jesus target on his back, even though it'd been months since anyone was so much as rude to him on the sidewalk. Mickey knew that Ian didn't understand the other sort of violence that might still show up on their doorstep, coming for Mickey himself and anyone or anything of value to him. Ian had barely taken it seriously when they'd been locked up, which had been fine, Mickey had handled that shit because at least in prison, that risk was finite.

Now, there was no way to know which one of them was right. There probably wouldn’t be, not until they were either ninety years old or a couple of person-shaped stains on the sidewalk.

Ian tapped his phone one more time, and the lights shut off entirely.

“Okay,” he said. “I get it.”

Mickey snorted, couldn't help himself any time Ian got caught trying to make a home for them. Ian didn’t get it, rarely had. That’s what made him special in Mickey’s life just as much as it drove him crazy. "Like fuck you do, Gallagher," he said.

“I’ll take them down tomorrow,” Ian replied. “ ‘S fucking cold out there tonight, windy as hell.”

Fuck, but Mickey didn’t want that either, anymore. Maybe there was some setting that wouldn’t make the house look like more of a candidate for demolition than it already did. “Nah,” he said. “It’s whatever… I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m sorry,” Ian said.

“Yeah, I know,” Mickey murmured, pulling Ian towards him so he could reach to kiss his jaw. “Me too. Want to start over?”

Ian nodded. “Long as I don’t have to go back outside.”

“Door’s probably frozen stuck again by now anyway,” Mickey said. “C’mere.” He pushed Ian down along the length of the couch, stretched out next to him, trapped Ian’s still-cold fingers between their bodies.

“I brought dinner home,” Ian said, “with pie from the good bakery.” He paused. “And some fancy Christmas lights. I think they’re pretty cool, wanna see?”

"Dunno if you've noticed," Mickey said, and then had to stop to stifle a yawn, "Milkoviches aren't exactly on speaking terms with Santa and his elves. You think this’ll get us something other than coal in our stockings?”

“Couple Christmases where coal would have been nice,” Ian said, and then yawned himself. Dinner could wait. Probably cold enough by that front wall to be a fridge.

“Hmm, maybe,” Mickey said. He closed his eyes, turned his head so could hear the thumping of Ian's heart as much as feel it, soundtrack enough for a whole winter night. “Bet we can keep warm now without it.”