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love is patient, love is kind

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Mickey’s sitting at his kitchen table, going through bills on a Saturday morning because this is what he does now. He’s got a real job, a home and a family to call his own. 

If you’d told him ten years ago that this is what his life would be, he would’ve laughed at you but today he can’t find it in himself to complain. Somewhere along the way, this became everything he never knew he wanted. 

The best thing of all, his sweet baby Penelope, currently sitting in front of him and entirely too concentrated on the drawing in front of her. 

He takes his glasses off, just about to rub his eyes when he hears a noise from the bedroom. Mickey’s up and walking toward the bedroom before he knows it. On any other day he wouldn’t pay it any mind but after a long week of Ian laid up in bed, it’s different. 

When he steps inside, the sheets are empty and before he has a chance to panic, he sees the bathroom light on. Ian’s sitting on the edge of the bathtub, head ducked down. 

Mickey walks until he’s standing in between Ian’s legs and instinctively curls a hand around his neck. “Morning, sleepyhead.”

Ian hums, low and throaty, leaning forward to press his forehead against Mickey's stomach. “Thanks, Mick.”

Mickey doesn’t need to ask what Ian’s thanking him for; being patient with him, taking care of him, of their family when he can’t and above all, just being there. It’s nothing Ian hasn’t said time and time again, but neither is it something Mickey wants to hear. He vowed in sickness and in health and he fucking meant it. 

“Don’t be stupid, Ian.” Mickey tilts his chin up, smiling as Ian’s eyes flutter open and meet his gaze. “Hey.”

Ian’s lip tugs upward, faint but there. “Hi.”

Mickey runs a hand through Ian’s hair, gentle. It’s greasy and grown out, objectively disgusting but Mickey can’t find it in himself to care. “You wanna shower before or after you eat something?” 

“Before,” Ian says, shifting back as he circles his fingers around Mickey’s wrist still wrapped around him. He tilts his head to the side when Mickey doesn’t say anything more. “What?”

Suddenly Mickey can see how much older Ian looks, how much older they’re getting. His beard is thick and full, a little rough around the edges, hair overgrown and curling around his ears. He looks good, he always has but there’s something about this moment that Mickey wants to savor. 

He doesn’t mean to blurt it out, but he doesn’t deny it either when he ends up saying, “you look good.” 

Ian huffs out a breath, as if Mickey’s joking which is fucking stupid because Mickey doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut when he’s talking about Ian. “You’re fucking with me.”

“Nah.” Mickey slides the same hand wrapped around Ian’s neck to his jaw. “I like the rugged look. Always been a stud, Gallagher.”

This time when Ian ducks his head, Mickey doesn’t miss the smile that spreads over his lips. He lets his thumb run over Ian’s bottom lip, slowly tilting his chin back up and seeing the smile for himself. 

Ian rests both his hands on the edge of the tub, looking up at Mickey with tired eyes but a clear smile. It’s stupid how something so simple can make him feel so much but then again, he’s always been a little stupid for Ian. 

“I could clean it up,” Mickey says. As much as he loves the rugged look, he also knows cleaning it up would give Ian a sense of change, feeling refreshed. 

It’s something he wrote in his journal years ago after coming home from seeing his therapist, a list of things that might help me feel better about myself.

Mickey loves that list because all it means is that he gets a chance to love on Ian and take care of him. 

Ian nods, easy, and Mickey knows he’s thinking of the list too. He slips his shirt off, back muscles cracking in the process as he throws it toward the hamper. 

Mickey takes out the trimmer from the drawer and rolls his eyes before grabbing the straight razor too. 

“What?” Ian asked, looking at Mickey through the mirror. “You gonna give me shit again?”

“Fuck off.”

“Don’t act like you don’t fucking love my beard. Just easier to clean it up this way,” he said before going back to lining his beard with the straight razor, the fancy fucker. 

Mickey had watched, mesmerized for a moment as Ian swiped the razor down his cheek and came away with a clean line. He walked away but couldn’t deny that it looked good. 

He’s running the faucet, warm water filling the sink when he hears Penelope’s voice.  

“Daddy, can I watch— oh.”

Mickey turns just in time to watch as her eyes flicker toward Ian, she hesitates for only a second before walking into the space between his legs. 

Ian smiles, looking sleepy but warm as he hauls her onto his lap. She immediately wraps her arms around him, tucking her face into his chest and all Mickey can see is her bottom lip, quivering. 

“Hey, baby. I’m okay,” Ian murmurs, rubbing a hand over her back soothingly. He looks down and tilts her chin up, smiling. “Daddy made me feel all better.”

Mickey gives Ian a comforting smile as he crouches in front of them. “Did my hug get lost on the train this morning?” 

Penelope looks toward Mickey; she doesn’t laugh like she usually would at his jokes, but she does give him a smile. “You said when someone’s sick they need extra hugs, I was saving it for Dad.”

He does remember telling her that, he just hadn’t expected her to remember. When he looks up at Ian, just as he thought, his eyes are wet. 

“My perfect Penny,” Ian murmurs, kissing her hair and pulling her into a hug. 

She always looks extra small in Ian’s arms, has since the day he held her for the first but seeing it will never get old. Their Penny is perfect, his family is too. 

“What about me?” Mickey asks. 

“Daddy says you’re perfect all the time,” she says seriously before looking between them proudly. 

“He is,” Ian tells her. “He takes care of me when I’m sick, feeds me when I’m too tired even though I’m really old. He does that for you too, right?”

Penelope nods, a furrow between her brows as she listens to Ian intently and this time it’s Mickey's eyes that gloss over. He doesn’t know what he did to deserve the most perfect red head and now he has two he calls his own. 

It’s a sweet moment, one they haven’t had all together in a while and he should’ve known it wouldn't last too long. 

“Like--like when Daddy let me have ice cream before bed last night?”

Ian shoots him a questioning look and Mickey looks away, helping Penelope stand. “That was a secret,” he whispers to her. “You wanna show your Dad what you made for him?” Trying to change the subject instead. 

Penelope’s eyes light up and then she’s making a beeline for the living room. 

“You’re gonna spoil her,” Ian says once she’s gone but he’s got a soft smile on his face that tells Mickey he doesn’t mind it one bit. 

“I gotta do what I can for my red heads, man. You try telling that face no.” 

Penelope comes back seconds later, handing a piece of paper over to Ian.

“Oh,” is all Ian says. 

She’s been working on it all week, up until a few moments ago. Three figures drawn better than your normal five year old and each of their names written underneath. At the top in pink letters are the words Get Well Soon, Dad!!! 

Mickey leans against the counter, watching as the two of them talk in hushed tones and smiling. 

Ian’s only had an episode a handful of times, all brief since she was born and even less that she can remember. But they’ve never shied away from telling her that sometimes Ian gets sick and that we have to be quiet when someone’s sick right? So, we have to give them extra love so they get better sooner.

Ian always gets better but every time she sees him come out from a low, it’s like she’s seeing him for the first time all over again. Sometimes there are tears and other times it’s all wide smiles but every time, it’s special. 

Penelope goes to watch her cartoons, leaving the two of them in the bathroom as Mickey soaks a towel in warm water and dabs it over Ian’s face. Each stroke of the razor is gentle and sure along his neck, stopping as he reaches the thick of his beard. His eyes catch Ian’s momentarily and he’s already looking back at him. 

Mickey raises a brow. 

“I love you, a lot,” Ian mumbles, eyes wet once again.

Throat suddenly dry, Mickey huffs out a breath, biting down on the inside of his cheek from letting too much spill out. It never ceases to amaze him all the ways Ian has and is able to crack him open. 

“Good to know.” He taps out the razor in the sink before grabbing the straight razor. Mickey swipes a thumb over the thin skin under Ian’s eye, hoping his eyes hold more love than he’ll ever know how to say. “I fucking love you, too.”

Ian’s eyes flutter shut, face smoothing out; looking completely content.

He holds Ian’s skin taut as the other hand glides the razor down smoothly and gets rid of the stubble along his cheek, leaving behind a clean line. 

Mickey finishes one side, washing the razor under the tap, then starts the other side. Repeating the same steps with short, clean strokes until the stubble is gone, leaving behind soft pale skin. 

It’s at this moment that the vulnerability of it all hits Mickey. Ian has his head angled up, eyes closed and face pliant, nothing but absolute trust in the gesture. An act of intimacy that holds so much more love than Mickey could’ve ever imagined. Allowing Mickey to more or less shave his beard for him. 

Overcome by it all, Mickey leans down to kiss Ian’s forehead. As he pulls away, Ian eyes flicker open, heavy lidded and unsure as though he can’t understand what he did to deserve the sudden burst of affection. 

Ian gets that look sometimes, even all these years later, unsure and surprised when Mickey does something out of the blue for him. Even if it’s as small as holding his hand, Ian will look at him as though he’s offered the world to him. 

Mickey smiles. “Press your lips together,” he says quietly and watches as Ian does so easily, trusting. He glides the razor downwards, just above his mustache until it’s all perfectly groomed.

Ian’s eyes don’t open as he taps the razor out into the sink and grabs the electric trimmer, running it through his beard until it’s even once again but thinner. He sets the trimmer down before wiping the stray hairs off Ian’s face with the same washcloth. 

Ian’s shoulders sag, his face relaxes. 

“You really trust me, eh?” Mickey asks, it’s rhetorical, mostly. Of course he knows Ian trusts him; it’s been a two way street for as long as he can remember now. But there’s something about the unbridled trust Ian has in him, in this moment, letting Mickey hold a blade to his skin in means to shave his beard even with how he’s feeling right now. 

Ian looks up at him, confused. “You really asking me that?” He pauses, bringing a hand up to settle on Mickey’s hip and squeezes, gentle. “With my life,” he says, easy and sure.

Mickey's heart clenches as he brushes his knuckles over the now smooth skin of Ian’s cheek. So many years later and some things never change, good thing. 

“You want help?” Mickey asks, cleaning up the sink as he gestures toward the shower.

He knows every episode looks different for Ian. Some days when he reaches the end of a depressive episode the last thing on his mind is showering, some days he’ll make it to the bathroom on his own and days like today, when he can shower on his own but without the added steps. 

Ian shakes his head and Mickey goes to grab him a towel instead. Mickey doesn’t hover, but he does stay close in case Ian needs something.

--

He’s standing behind the couch, braiding the last of Penelope’s hair when he sees Ian from his peripheral, walking down the small hallway. He turns to him, Ian’s wearing a soft henley and sweatpants, hair mused. 

Mickey’s just about to say something but Penny beats him to it as she turns from where she’s standing on the couch, now facing Ian. “Hi, stud,” she says.

Ian’s brows lift in surprise and then he’s laughing, a low throaty thing but real and it makes everything in Mickey light up. He can’t help but smile before turning back to Penny. “You know what that means, Pens?” 

Penny shrugs, hands resting on the back of the couch and leaning forward. “I hear you say it to dad all the time.”

“Just means he’s good looking.” Mickey's eyes flicker toward Ian who’s looking between the two of them with more colour in his eyes than Mickey has seen in a while. It makes his heart ache sometimes, even though he knows this is something that Ian just has to live with– is a part of him, doesn’t mean Mickey has to hate it any less when Ian’s in pain. 

Before Ian has a chance to say anything about the look on his face, he makes his way to the kitchen. Feels more than anything when Ian steps in next to him and reaches into the cabinet above him. He doesn’t need to look up from where he’s scrambling eggs to know Ian’s grabbing his pills, it’s a routine ingrained in the back of Mickey’s skull. 

Ian takes his spot at the kitchen island, head bowed as Mickey slides a plate of eggs and berries in front of him. He makes himself a plate, too, another thing that's more or less become a routine over the years. On days when Ian can’t quite get out of bed, Mickey will eat half his breakfast with Penelope and the rest, with Ian. 

Mickey sits at the end of the island, an eye on Penelope at the same time before taking a bite of his own food. They eat in a comfortable silence, the sound of the TV a steady thrum in the background. When he looks up, he finds Ian looking back at him, warmth in his eyes.

“Don’t say it,” Mickey says, cutting off the words he knows Ian wants to say, the ones he always does. 

Ian curls his hand around Mickey’s neck, thumb swiping over his ear and leans in, Mickey doesn’t hesitate as he closes the rest of the distance. His eyes slip shut and all he can see, feel, hear and everything in between, is Ian. The most captivating, steady presence in his life. Mickey runs a hand through Ian's hair, delicate, until it rests at his nape as they part.

“Thanks anyway, Mick,” Ian murmurs, like he always does when they make it out from the other side of the tunnel. 

They’re words Mickey’s heard more than he’d ever care to from Ian, but he guess that’s routine too and as long as it means Ian’s still right in front of him, next to him, he can’t bring himself to complain. 

When they finish breakfast, Ian swallowing his pills with less wincing than the past week, Mickey feels something mellow out in his chest. It’s never been easy, and it doesn’t exactly get easier with time either but along the way Mickey’s found to appreciate the little things. 

Like watching Ian sit up against the headboard or turn over in bed until he’s curled into Mickey and even just watching him finish a plate of food. They’re small feats but important ones, something Mickey’s never taken for granted.

“You know I’d do anything for you,” Mickey brushes his fingers over Ian's jaw, his stubble and then after a moment adds, “for my husband.”  

Ian's eyes clear and it reminds Mickey of the sun on a gloomy day, brightening and warming everything beneath in an instant, just like Ian. 

Ian’s lip twitches, the semblance of a smile seeping through as his head dips meekly.

--

They move onto the couch eventually, Ian laying down with his head in Mickey's lap, Penelope lulled to sleep where she’s tucked into Ian's chest. It’s a perfect picture to him as he runs his hand through Ian's hair, watches Penelope shuffle impossibly closer into Ian having missed being near him the past week. 

His eyes catch Ian's hand when it moves to curl around Penelope's head.

“Hey,” he whispers, watching Ian shift onto his back slowly without disturbing their daughter until he’s looking up at him. “Missing something?”

Ian’s brows furrow and then everything smooths out. “You?”

Mickey shakes his head, huffing out a breath. He unclasps the chain that stays tucked under his shirt and slides out the silver band that adorns it when it can't Ian's finger, when the slightest touch can feel suffocating or irritating to him. 

Ian’s eyes are crinkled at the corners, kind, as they watch Mickey slide the ring back where it belongs. Watches Ian flex his hand once, twice and breathe a steadying breath, in more ways than one, something slots together.

Time moves slowly but more importantly Mickey has realized, it moves and some days, that’s all that really matters.