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Everybody Wants a Taste

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The two boys stood at the front counter, staring up at the menu board, trying to decide what to order. They had been on their way home from one of Ian’s bi-weekly appointments with his therapist when he had spotted the Taco Bell across the street and had given Mickey his puppy dog eyes to convince him to stop at the restaurant for lunch. It was just after the lunch rush so the restaurant wasn't quite so busy.

The girl behind the counter smiled at them, her attention more focused on the taller boy. “How are you guys today?”

“We’re doing just great,” Ian replied with a wide grin. “How are you doing?” he asked earnestly.

She smiled back at the redhead, “Oh, you know, it’s work,” she shrugged. “But my shift’s over soon, so it’s not all bad.”

“I know that feeling well, sometimes you just wanna lie in bed all day and pretend you have no responsibilities, right?" He chuckled. "But you gotta make that money, what can you do?" he said with a shrug.

She looked at him adoringly, Mickey could see it all over her face, the way she was looking at his boyfriend and he felt a surge of jealousy at her, she opened her mouth to reply when Mickey cut her off.

“Can we order or what?” Mickey snapped, his tone clearly annoyed and not at all jealous.

“Oh, right.” The girl’s cheeks reddened slightly, the color apparent against her pale skin. “What can I get you?”

Ian smiled at her again, finding her blush endearing, “Can I get a crunchwrap supreme and a bean burrito?”

“Of course, anything else for you?” she asked him.

Ian turned to Mickey and motioned him forward, “I’m buying.”

“Score,” Mickey said, rubbing his hands together mischievously. “I’m going to have…” he rubbed his chin thoughtfully, looking up at the menu board above, “a 5-Layer Burrito, a chalupa, a cheesy gordita crunch, one of those Doritos taco things. Oh and I want a bean burrito too.”

“Christ, Mickey, where are you gonna put all that food?” Ian muttered under his breath, but loud enough for Mickey to hear.

“Fuck off, I’m hungry.”

Ian breathed out loudly, “And two sodas,” he added, remembering the drinks.

“That all for you guys?” Ian nodded. “Okay so your total comes to $18.74.”

Ian frowned, regretting having offered to pay since the majority of the total was from Mickey’s food, he reached for his wallet from within his interior coat pocket and removed a $20 bill and handed it over.

The girl took the money and handed him back his change, she tore the receipt from the machine and set it down on the counter, “Your order is number 74 and it should be ready in just a few minutes.” She grabbed two cups from the giant stack on the counter and placed them in front of the boys with a shy smile.

“Thanks,” Ian said. Putting his wallet away in his coat pocket, he grabbed the cups and thrust one into Mickey’s chest.

They walked toward the soda fountain, Mickey immediately shoving his cup under the Mountain Dew Baja Blast nozzle, because you can fit more soda in the cup if you don’t put ice in it, Gallagher. The turquoise liquid pouring into the cup, carbonation bubbles fizzing away as it filled, Mickey removed the cup, taking a large sip while the bubbles settled, making more room for the beverage. Ian meanwhile pushed his cup under the ice dispenser before filling his cup with pink lemonade.

They made their way through the nearly empty dining room and picked a table up against a window at the back, Ian grabbing the seat facing the front, forcing Mickey to sit across from him facing the giant window.

A few minutes later they heard the girl shout from up front, “74?” signaling that their order was ready. Mickey raised his eyebrow at Ian and brought his right hand out in a fist shape. Ian rolled his eyes and brought his own hand up, they shook their fists 3 times together, before choosing a shape. Mickey stuck two fingers out from his fist, Ian splayed his hand out flat. "Scissors cuts paper," Mickey said, making a shearing motion with his fingers.

Ian huffed, “Fine,” he said as he stood, walking up towards the front, he noticed that the girl was watching his approach from behind the counter; he scratched at his arm awkwardly.

“Here you go, should be all there,” she said, pushing the tray towards him with a smile.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling back at her. He picked up the black tray, heaping with enough food to feed close to four people, he eyed the items, making sure that everything was all there. It looked to be in order, but since there were so many items he couldn't keep track of everything. Ian set the tray down on the table and took his seat; Mickey immediately grabbed his chalupa and began chowing down, sour cream squeezing out the sides and smearing all around his mouth.

“Hot,” Ian deadpanned.

Mickey flipped him off, hand also covered heavily in sour cream.

Ian took a moment to sort the food, moving his own items closer to himself. “Wait a second,” he said, counting the items on the tray. “There’s an extra thing here.” He counted again, “Yeah, there are 8 here and we only ordered 7.” Ian picked up the extra item, it was a crunchy taco.

He grabbed the receipt from underneath one of the burritos to see if they’d been charged for the taco. On the receipt there was a heart drawn across the top in blue pen, and a phone number written next to it. Ian’s eyes went wide at the piece of paper, which caught Mickey’s attention.

He made grabby hands at the receipt, hand still covered in sour cream. Ian passed it over, looking back down at the taco, “She gave me a free taco,” he said smugly, obviously proud at the spoils his flirting had earned him.

“I bet she’d rather have you eat her taco,” Mickey muttered, crumpling the receipt into a ball and tossing it under the table. Ian paused with the taco halfway to his mouth and gagged, the idea of the crunchy shell taco no longer sounding appetizing. He set it down on the tray and pushed it over to his boyfriend, who was only happy to pick it up and scarf the greasy thing down in two bites.

Ian groaned, “That’s gross, Mickey.” He unwrapped his burrito and took a bite, watching Mickey enjoy the free taco. “So is it only okay to flirt when it benefits you?” Ian asked teasingly.

“Shhh, taco,” Mickey said around the last bite of the taco and held his finger out to silence Ian. He swallowed the mouthful and took a large gulp of his drink and then wiped his hands on his jeans. “How would you like it if I went over there and flirted with Miss ‘Drop-your-load-in-me’?”

Ian wrinkled his nose and groaned in disgust. “C’mon Mickey, you’re so gay your asshole has a lisp.”

Mickey sputtered, coughing up the sip of soda he’d been drinking. “I’m gonna fuck you up, kid,” he said seriously. If anyone else had heard Mickey's threat, they would probably fear for the other boy's life, but because Ian knew his boyfriend better than anyone else, he only chuckled.

“Hmm,” Ian rolled his eyes and said thoughtfully, “where have I seen that before?”

“Fuck you, man, I can flirt. Bet she gives me something better, none of this shitty crunchy taco shit.”

Ian gave him a challenging look, smirking at his boyfriend, “Okay, I dare you.”

Challenge. Motherfucking. Accepted.

Mickey pushed himself back from the table, his chair scraping against the dirty linoleum floor. “Watch and learn, Gallagher.”

He walked over to the front counter confidently, running his hands down his coat and smoothing it out as he moved. The girl was still the lone employee at the register, her fingers pecking at the buttons on the screen in front of her.

He wasn't sure exactly how to start. “Uh, hi,” Mickey said, grabbing her attention from the computer. He could feel his mouth dry up as he tried to come up with something to say to her. He’d never really had to flirt with anyone before, usually a simple ‘wanna fuck’ would do, and in the case of Ian Gallagher, a text message with an eggplant emoji worked just as easily.

“How’s your day?” he asked.

Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “Um… It’s fine?” she said awkwardly, having just had this conversation with the two boys a few minutes earlier.

“Good, good.” He looked her over, her long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail that was sticking out of the back of her black hat with the restaurant name stitched on the front. “I… like your… hair?” He finally said, cursing himself at his comment, even though it had come out more like a question.

Christ, he thought, could I sound any gayer?

“Thank you?” she replied slowly.

He could feel himself choking up as he spoke, “Yeah, it uh… makes your face look… nice,” he said oh so eloquently.

She looked at him a little confused, not understanding what the boy was getting at. “O…kay, can I help you with something?”

“A crunchwrap supreme. I want one.”

She nodded, tapping the screen a few times to enter his order “Anything else for you today?” Mickey shook his head at her. “Okay, that’ll be $2.72”

Mickey looked at her blankly, “But you gave him the taco for free ‘cause he flirted with you,” he pointed his thumb behind him at Ian.

“Oh my god, you were flirting?” Her eyes wide, she brought her hand up to cover her mouth in shock.

He could feel his face heating up, wanting this whole thing to be over already. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he asked, “Look, am I getting it for free or not?”

She shook her head apologetically, “I don’t think so, sorry.”

“But he got his for free,” Mickey repeated, as if that would convince her to change her mind.

“Yeah, but he’s cute,” she said bluntly.

Mickey raised his eyebrows, taken aback by her comment. He was about to ask her what the fuck she meant by that when he heard Ian yell from the dining room behind him.

“The fuck did you just say to my boyfriend!?” He’d already shot up from his chair and was stomping over to the front counter when Mickey cut him off, putting a placating hand on his chest.

“Hey, hey, calm down tough guy. What are you gonna do, hit a girl?” he tried making eye contact with his boyfriend, but Ian wasn’t having it, instead looking murderous at the employee.

Ian glared daggers at the girl behind the register, “I fucking might.”

The girl’s face paled at his angry tone, she backed up slowly, heading towards the kitchen area of the restaurant, “I’m… just… gonna…” she said before she disappeared behind the wall separating the kitchen and register.

Mickey pushed his boyfriend out the front door, feeling the blast of the cold winter air as they stepped outside. “You gonna calm yourself down before you beat down a 16 year old girl?” His hands were still pressed up against Ian’s chest, holding him back from re-entering the restaurant.

“She called you ugly!” Ian whined angrily.

“No, actually she didn't,” Mickey said.

“She implied it!” Ian tried pushing past Mickey to get back inside, but the other boy held his ground.

“Look, I don’t give a shit what other people think about me.” Mickey lowered his hand, sensing that Ian was beginning to calm down. “And I don’t need you to fight my battles for me, okay?” He angled his head down to look up into Ian's face.

"I know," Ian said quietly. He took a step forward, closing the distance between them and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend, burying his face in Mickey’s neck. “I love you,” he said, his lips up against the smaller boy's skin.

Mickey placed his own hands around Ian, one on his waist, the other cupping the back of his head, fingers running through his hair. “I love you too.” He breathed him in, taking in his fading cologne, the lingering cigarette smell, and even the scent of the shampoo he’d used in the shower earlier. He smelled perfect, he smelled like home.

“And for the record, I think you’re really, really beautiful,” Ian said softly into his boyfriend’s neck.

Mickey felt butterflies in his stomach; Ian never failed to make him feel like a 12-year-old girl with his stupid admissions. “Yeah, you too,” he said, burrowing deeper into his boyfriend, knowing there’s no place he’d rather be.

Except maybe inside finishing his food.