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i built a house for love to grow

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“Jesus Christ, what’s the problem with instant mashed potatoes, Ian?” Mickey huffed at Ian as he stared over the overwhelmingly large row of fruits and vegetables. The grocery store was humid, crowded, and loud, and Mickey was at his wit’s end.

“I want to do this right, Mick. It’s our first real Thanksgiving since COVID got the last one and we’re hosting.” Ian was practically shouting over the volume of the store, but Mickey got the point. He wasn’t happy about it, but he got it. He also knows that Thanksgiving is rough on the Gallaghers, Ian in particular. He decides not to push.

Hosting a Gallagher invasion at their apartment was by no means first on Mickey’s want-to-do list, but he loves Ian more than he hates having company. And, he’ll get to see Franny, his little best friend— not that he would admit that to anyone. Especially Debbie. He’s also heard that Tammi makes a mean apple pie, and he’s not about to turn that down.

“Mick, can you come help me with this?” Ian’s voice snapped Mickey out of the apple pie scented reverie he was slowly slipping into.

“What do you need, firecrotch?” Mickey asked, hoping it was nothing that involved elbowing through a shit-ton of people to get something on the other side of the store.

“This dumb fucking mashed potato recipe measures everything in grams and I have no idea what it means in ounces and shit. Help?” Ian looks at him with pleading eyes, seemingly getting overwhelmed by the environment of the store.

That makes two of us, Mickey thinks to himself.

“What makes you think I know any of that shit?” Mickey asks, knowing fully well why Ian asked.

“Do you really want to have that conversation now? I seem to remember you running a business that had to deal with-“

Mickey doesn’t let his husband finish. “Fine, Jesus, gimme the paper.”

They deftly make their way through the aisles, picking up what they need (and a few things they don’t, Ian can't turn down sour ropes and Mickey has never been known for leaving the cereal aisle empty handed).

After paying and hauling everything back to the car (yes, car, business was booming under the watchful eye of COVID-19 and riding around in an ambulance for day-to-day errands is a bit unnecessary), it’s back to the apartment to hunker down and prepare for the Gallagher tornado that will make its way in tomorrow.

Ian is flitting about the apartment like a combination of a bumblebee and a mad man.

“Do we have the gravy?” Ian starts.

“Yes”

“What about the yams?”

“Ew. Yes.”

“The green beans?”

“Yep.”

“Oh, the-“

Mickey can tell that Ian is one itemized list of Thanksgiving sides away from a meltdown and has no choice but to intervene.

“Ian, hey, look at me,” Mickey says, walking up to his adorably frazzled husband.

“It’s going to be fine, okay? We’re in charge of sides, cheap beer, and hosting. If everyone else fucks up, that’s on them. I don’t need to tell you that you’ve had some pretty shitty Thanksgivings. Hell, you all tried to eat a bald eagle once. Think! Anything will be better than that. We went to way too fucking many grocery stores, got all of the ingredients for mac and cheese we could’ve bought premade at Costco and even bought decorations for this. Ian. You dragged me to Trader Joes-“

“Their wine is cheap-“

“Aye, I’m not done, Red. What I’m saying is, we checked off all the boxes. Crossed all the t’s, dotted all the fuckin’ i’s. We’re good. Your family is going to come barreling in that door tomorrow, turkey and apple pie in hand, and we’re going to sit around watching football and bitching at Debbie. Got it?”

Mickey slides his hands from Ian’s shoulders, down his arms to hold his hands. Ian visibly relaxes at the touch.

“…They’re your family too, y’know. Have been for a long time,” Ian says, quietly, toying with Mickey’s ring.

Mickey’s heart kicks at that. He knows that they’re legally family since being married, but in his heart he knows that it’s more than that. The Gallagher’s house always felt a bit like the land of misfit toys, with people coming and going as they pleased. Mickey never felt unwelcomed once they saw that everything he did, he did for Ian. Getting all the fuckin’ B’s. Searching grimy alleys in Boystown. Taking him to the clinic for meds.

Even Lip has come around on Mickey. Lets him babysit Fred, thanks him for dropping Tammi off safely on the doorstep after their nights out together.

“Yeah… yeah.” Mickey is a little bit misty eyed. He never felt particularly at home anywhere until recently and being reminded of it always gets to him.

Ian always seems to know when Mickey is feeling emotional, he always has. Ian pulls his husband’s hands around his waist and just holds him for a little while.

They both need it.

Breaking apart after a few minutes, Mickey looks up at his husband. “Let’s go to bed, Red. Wanna watch some of those cinnamon challenge videos.”

“Really?”

Mickey winks, smirks a sly thing with the corner of his teeth showing. “Sure.”

——————

They had told everyone to start arriving at 3 p.m., meaning Lip, Tammi, Liam, and Fred would get there at 2:30, and Debbie and Franny would get there at 4. Carl was a wildcard but has never been known to miss a meal he didn’t have to pay for.

Ian has been running around the apartment all morning, setting tables, making mashed potatoes, and making sure any unmentionables were out of reach of tiny wandering hands, especially now that Fred is walking.

Mickey, on the other hand, is fighting the masculine urge to say “smells good in here” while contributing nothing to the cooking.

From the couch, beer in hand, Mickey asks “Anything I can help with in there, lover?”

Ian’s head pokes out from around the corner. He’s wearing the goofiest apron Mickey has ever seen, but he’s positively glowing, and happy Ian means happy Mickey. “Just make sure to- oh, well I was going to ask you to just sit there and look pretty but it seems like you beat me to the punch,” he says with a wink.

Mickey feels his cheeks heat. “Always have, Gallagher”.

It’s roughly 2:15, meaning Lip, Tammi, Liam, and Freddy will be there any minute.

“Everything going okay in there? Sure there’s nothing I can help with?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. All I have left to do is mash the potatoes and grab the cranberry sauce out of the fridge.”

It’s at this moment that the doorbell rings.

Guess it’s off to the races, Mickey thinks to himself.

To his surprise, it’s not Lip and family at the door, but Debbie, Franny, and Carl.

Franny practically knocks Mickey to the floor with the sheer force that she uses to barrel into his shins.

“Hey Little Red! What’s goin’ on?” He asks, bending down to rub Franny’s head, but giving Debbie a confused look.

Someone has been bugging the shit out of me about playing with you and Ian for three days and I couldn’t take it anymore,” Debbie says, eyes closed, rubbing her temples like she’s nursing a headache.

“Got it. Beer and two buck chuck wine in the fridge. Make sure to take a look at Ian’s dumb ass apron when you get a second.”

Carl walks in behind her and Mickey lets him get in an awkward half side hug.

“Hey Mick. Everything good?”

“Yeah, thanks for asking, kid.”

Franny was still basically standing on Mickey’s feet. “C’mon Little Red, let’s go say hi to Uncle Ian.”

That was all the convincing it took for Franny to go running off in the direction of the kitchen. Mickey leaned back against the doorframe. This was going to be a long night.

Walking back toward the kitchen, Mickey couldn’t help but smile at the sight in front of him. Ian, holding Franny and listening, enraptured as she talks about her day and asks about his apron. Debbie and Carl on the couch, wine and beer in hand, clearly catching up despite living together.

He takes this moment to walk over to Ian and Franny and slide a hand over Ian’s lower back. “What’s goin’ on, Reds?”

“Unca Mickey! Do you know what Unca Ian’s “apurn” says?” Franny asks, eyes alight.

Mickey obviously knows, but indulges her anyway. “No, what’s it say?”

“It says ‘hot stuffing coming through’”! Franny says, falling into a fit of laughter in Ian’s arms.

Mickey can't help but chuckle at that. He doesn’t even know if she knows what stuffing is, but seems to think it’s the funniest thing in the world.

“Alright Fran, I gotta put you down and finish the potatoes, Uncle Mickey has some coloring books and board games out on the coffee table for you, do you want to go play with him for a little?” Ian asks, grabbing Franny by the armpits to put her down.

“Okay! Let’s go Unca Mickey!” Franny says, and she’s off like a shot to the living room.

Ian wraps an arm around Mickey’s waist and presses a kiss to his temple. “Thanks for playing with Fran, don’t want her to get into something hot in the kitchen,” he says.

He set himself up for that one, Mickey thinks to himself. “Well she was already all over you, should we check her for burns?” He says with a wink.

Ian lights up like a Christmas tree. “Fuck off, go play with our niece.”

He’s still blushing when Mickey heads for the living room.

Just as Mickey is about to sit down and start playing Chutes and Ladders with Franny, the doorbell rings again.

“Just a second kid, gotta go get the door. Think it’s your Uncle Lip and Liam.”

“Can you give me a piggyback ride?” Franny asks.

“Sure thing, Little Red. Hop on.” Mickey crouches down, letting Franny get on and thanking God that she only weighs, like, 40 pounds.

They answer the door like that, a small head of red hair next to a bigger head of black hair.

The first face Mickey sees is Liam’s.

“Hey, Liam. Where’s Lip and Tammi?”

“Getting Fred out of the car. He dropped a bunch of shi- stuff down his shirt on the way here and now they have to get it all out,” Liam says, looking a little embarrassed at almost being caught cursing.

Mickey remembers when Liam was a little kid in diapers. He guesses he really is growing up. “You know I don’t care if you curse around me, kid. Maybe watch it with Ian, though,” he says, rubbing the back of Liam’s head and pulling him in the door. Franny chooses this moment to jump off his back and follow Liam to the living room.

“Soda and stuff in the fridge. Coloring books on the table if you’re interested,” Mickey says in a joking tone.

“Aye, Mick, hold the door!”

There’s Lip.

“Yeah, yeah. Hurry it up Philip. Lettin’ all the heat out,” Mickey doesn’t actually care, but he’ll never pass up an opportunity to rib Lip about nothing.

When they make it up to the door, Lip is holding what Mickey assumes is a turkey in a large, covered dish with both hands. Tammi has the hand of a toddling Fred in one hand and an apple pie in the other.

“Hey Lip. Ian is in the kitchen slaving over a pot of mashed potatoes, I’m sure he’ll tell you where to put the bird. Non-alcoholic beer in the fridge if you want. Soda too.”

“Thanks, Mick,” Lip says, headed for the kitchen.

Fred takes off behind his Dad into the house, nearly tripping over Mickey’s socked feet on the way in.

“Be careful!!” Tammi calls after him.

“Hey Mickey, happy Thanksgiving” Tammi says, pulling him into a hug.

Mickey has grown to like her quite a bit over the last couple years. Hell, she’s the only other non-Gallager in all this chaos. They even go out around once a month when Lip and Ian get together. He and Tammi are starting to think Lip and Ian have separation anxiety.

“Ready for another night of Gallagher mayhem?” Mickey asks, lips turning up at the corners.

“You know it. I’m actually counting down the seconds until we get to watch Lip butcher the turkey and claim he’s carving it.”

Mickey gives a loud laugh at that. “Can’t wait. C’mon, I told a certain five year old I’d play Chutes and Ladders with her.”

“They’ll make a dad out of you yet, Milkovich,” Tammi says, light, obviously not knowing that he already is. Mickey doesn’t really like to talk about that time in his life. Isn’t going to offer that information today.

He decides to move past it. Shuts the door behind him. “Yeah, one of these days.” Walks back into the apartment.

-------------

A few hours pass, loud conversations punctuated by football nobody is watching on the TV above the fireplace. Mickey played about 15 games of Chutes and Ladders before Franny got bored and moved on to coloring. Fred tried his best to color in the lines of the paper turkey, but ended up flipping the paper over and scribbling all over it. Liam, ever the little adult, has been sitting on the opposite side of the coffee table and handing back all the crayons they drop as a result of furious scribbling.

Lip and Ian, like usual, are attached at the hip, puttering around the kitchen, Ian occasionally stopping by the couch to drop a kiss on Mickey’s head.

Carl and Mickey talk about what’s going on in the cop (pig) world, the Alibi and if he’s going to end up buying it, and so on. Debbie chimes in, saying that he should do it and that they “can’t afford to lose the Alibi to another hot yoga studio. Whatever that is.” Mickey just nods and will never admit that Ian dragged him to a hot yoga class a month ago.

“Did someone say hot yoga?” Ian calls from the kitchen.

Oh, god.

“Mickey and I went to a class down the road about a month ago-- it was great!” He says, clearly not aware of the daggers Mickey is staring at him from the couch.

The room falls silent.

“YOU GOT MICKEY TO GO TO HOT YOGA?” Tammi all but screeches.

“And why didn’t I know about this?!” She adds, exasperated.

Mickey is at a loss. He will never admit that he actually had a good time and the view of Ian afterward wasn’t so bad, either.

“Because it fuckin’ sucked! Was sore for three days.”

“He’s lying, Tammi! He loved it!!” Ian calls again, seemingly wanting to sleep on the couch tonight.

“Shut the fuck up, Gallagher! Nobody’s business!” Mickey knows he’s beet red.

“You can admit you like things, you know,” Tammi says.

“Yeah, yeah, fuck you,” he says, fighting the corners of his lips from turning up.

There’s a beat, and then the room is back to the way it was before.

-------

Twenty minutes later, they have what appears to be a more butchered than carved turkey on the table, and they’re all going around the kitchen filling their plates buffet-style. Tammi grabs the plastic kids plates and utensils they keep in the apartment for Franny and Fred and starts putting food on the plates for them.

“Need any help?” Mickey asks.

“Nah, I’ve got it. Go sit with your husband.” She says, tilting her head toward the round table just outside the kitchen.

Mickey turns to see Ian at the table with an arm over the chair to his right, clearly saving it for him. Mickey’s heart gives a little kick. He loves his husband so much it catches him off guard sometimes.

Some people will end up sitting on the couch or on the barstools by the kitchen counter, but they’re together.

“Hey, Red,” Mickey says, sitting down next to Ian.

“Hey, baby,” Ian says, placing a hand on Mickey’s knee under the table.

Mickey goes red again.

After everyone is settled with plates and drinks, Ian pats Mickey’s thigh and stands up.

“Hey, uh, I know we aren’t really a speech family, or even a holiday family, really, but I wanted to say a few things. I know we’ve had a shitty run with holidays. Thanksgiving, specifically. But, uh, I think we’re in a place to make them better for ourselves now.”

Mickey puts his hand on the back of Ian’s leg.

“We spent a long time scraping together whatever we could to make holidays memorable. Carl shot an eagle once-”

“Hell yeah I did!” Carl shouts from the couch.

“Still a federal crime, dingus,” Debbie says next to him.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

“Moving on… some of us worked on the holidays, but we always made it home eventually. I know we didn’t really get to celebrate last year because, like, half of us had COVID. But I’m happy we get to this year. And I’m happy we get to host. Sorry if any of you saw the dog in the diaper on the way in here, by the way.”

“Fuckin’ West Side bullshit,” Mickey mutters under his breath.

“Exactly. Anyway, uh, I just wanted to say that I love all of you, and I’m more thankful for you than you know. I’m lucky to call you family, and I wouldn’t be who I am without you. Any of you.”

Ian puts his hand on the back of Mickey’s neck at this.

He seems to realize he’s still standing and slowly sits down, putting his hand back on Mickey’s knee.

“Uh, yeah. You Gallaghers have always made me feel welcome. So thanks, or whatever,” comes out of Mickey next, surprising literally everyone at the table.

“Feeling okay, Mick?” Lip asks from across the table.

“Yeah, yeah, fuck you Philip.”

Laughter erupts around the table, and dinner starts in earnest.

--------

By the time the night winds down, Franny and Fred are out cold on the couch, Ian is pleasantly tipsy from his two beers with Mickey sitting across his thighs on the chair next to the couch, Lip and Liam are playing Mario Kart on Liam’s Switch that they’ve somehow connected to the TV, and Debbie, Carl, and Tammi aren’t far behind the kids. All is well.

This feeling of peace is relatively new to Mickey, but not unwelcome. They didn’t do stuff like this growing up, ever. The Gallaghers always did, and even when it was riddled with suicide attempts and dead eagles, they had each other. Mickey is starting to see himself as one of them, now, he realizes. This realization knocks the wind out of him. Instead of voicing it, he just leans his head towards Ian’s and presses a kiss to the side of his head. Ian lets out a little puff of air and Mickey sees a smile on his face. He’s happy.

“Alright, Liam. Help me get Tammi and Fred to the car?” Lip says after losing yet another race to the kid.

“Sure. You’re still a sore loser, though.” Liam says, standing up from his cross-legged position on the floor.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Grab the bag of leftovers?”

“On it.”

Debbie and Carl take this as their cue to start shuffling about, Debbie grabbing her leftovers and Carl grabbing a sleeping Franny off the couch.

Lip, Tammi, Liam, and Fred are out the door first.

“Thanks guys, we had a great time. You’re totally hosting again next year,” Tammi says with a tired smile, empty apple pie dish in one hand, a “drawing” Fred made in the other.

She gives everyone a hug and takes off toward the elevators.

“Thanks guys,” Liam says, bag of leftovers in hand.

He’s silent for a beat.

“Can I come over and hang out soon? I miss you guys.” Liam asks, shy.

Ian crumbles, crouching down a little bit. Liam is getting tall, he won’t have to crouch much longer.

“Anytime. Day or night. You know that,” Ian says, hugging his little brother.

“Yeah, kid. We’re happy to have you. Couch always has your name on it,” Mickey adds, patting his shoulder.

“Love you guys,” Liam says, a soft smile on his face.

“We love you, Liam. Go get some sleep and text us in the morning. We’ll get something figured out. Take you for ice cream or something,” Ian says, standing back up.

Liam nods and walks down the hall after Tammi.

“Thanks guys, it was great,” Lip says, giving Ian an awkward half-hug as he’s holding Fred and a polite nod to Mickey.

Ian pats the back of Fred’s head and tells Lip to get home safe on his way out.

For the second time that night, Mickey is almost knocked over by a surprisingly strong five year old barreling herself at his shins. He has no idea when she went from out-cold on the couch to using her full strength to assault his knees again, but doesn’t question it.

Mickey picks her up instantly. “Hey, Little Red. You have a good night? Was the food good?”

“So good Unca Mickey! Mama made me eat green beans but I’m a big girl so I did. And you played Chutes and Ladders with me!” She says, self-satisfied and smiling with tired eyes.

“Great job, kid. I’m happy you had a good time,” Mickey says, pressing a kiss to the side of her head.

Ian follows suit, and Mickey puts her down, watching as she takes off behind Debbie, who said her goodbyes while Franny and Mickey were talking.

Carl is last out the door, giving Ian and Mickey short hugs and doing the short two-finger salute as he walks backward down the hall after Debbie and Franny.

Ian shuts the door behind him and leans on it after it shuts.

“Ready to do this again at Christmas?” Ian asks with a joking smile on his face.

“Hell no, that shit is Lip’s job,” Mickey replies with no real heat behind it.

In reality, he wouldn’t mind hosting again. He had a really, really good time. Maybe that will come up before Christmas, maybe it won’t.

“We should probably clean up…” Ian says, looking into the kitchen, clearly daunted by the state of it.

To be fair, it does look like a bomb went off in there.

“Nope, that’s tomorrow’s problem. We’re going to bed, Red. I’m fuckin’ exhausted.”

“...Same.”

They take turns brushing their teeth at the sink and sink into bed ten minutes later.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Mickey.” Ian says, pulling his husband closer to his chest.

“Yeah, yeah. Happy Thanksgiving, you goof. Love you.” Mickey says, the smile evident in his voice.

“Love you more.”