Mickey burps loudly and groans as Mandy readjusts his limp weight on her shoulder, and she grimaces, warning him as they approach their house.
“Mickey, you better not fucking puke on me. I swear. I’m already covered in your nasty sweat”.
Ian is about to defend his boyfriend by saying they are both just as sweaty, it’s hot as balls out, but Mickey is already opening his mouth, presumably to argue back.
Instead of arguing back, he hurls onto the sidewalk in front of the Milkovich house, with the splashback hitting both Ian and Mandy, who cringe but continue to support him.
“Oh for fuck’s sake” his sister grumbles, dragging him over to and then dumping him on the front steps of their house, “That’s disgusting Mick”.
She turns to Ian and shudders dramatically, “He’s your fucking problem now”.
Ian scratches the back of his head, observing Mickey who is now leaning back against the steps and closing his eyes.
“He doesn’t usually get this drunk”.
Mandy shrugs, “Not with you maybe. This is Mickey trying-to-act-like-he’s-not-scared-about-something drunk. You get used to it, living with our dad. I’ve seen him like this more times than I can count”.
Ian nods, “I get it. Terry won’t find out, I promise”.
As much as Mickey’s bravery in coming out to Ian’s family and encouraging him to do the same meant to him, he was under no illusion that it would all be sunshine and rainbows for them going forward.
They’d still have to watch themselves in public, and he would have to try and avoid being around while Terry was home. But still…it was worth it for the moments they now could share.
Mandy looks back at her older brother and her expression softens slightly, “I hope not. I’ll do my best to help you guys. And Ian? Thanks for helping take care of him”.
Ian just grins at her, “It’s what we do”.
It was true, growing up with a houseful of siblings, he was always helping take care of someone or another. Mandy laughs and heads inside, and Ian smiles down at his passed-out boyfriend.
What’s a little puke from the love of your life?
He crouches down beside Mickey and grunts as he picks him up, finding his solid weight significantly more taxing while he’s unconscious.
Ian straightens up slowly, and kicking opening the door as he steadies himself, brings Mickey inside the house, all of his arm muscles straining as he carries him into his room.
He puts Mickey down on his bed as gently as he can, stretches, and then pulls off Mickey’s shoes and his dirty shirt before he heads into the bathroom to get a bucket and a washcloth. That was exactly what Fiona had done for him the first time he was hungover.
Ian gently wipes Mickey’s face clean with the cloth, paying extra care around his mouth before he pushes the bucket over to the floor in front of him, and quietly leaves him there to sleep for a while.
Noticing that Mandy had already gone to bed, but not feeling tired himself, Ian wanders around the house for a bit, hoping he’ll feel tired soon.
There’s not much for him to do. He could make a field day of cleaning the place, but he’d rather not, and it would probably piss Mickey off anyways.
Curiosity grabs him when he reaches Terry’s bedroom door, and he stands there for a moment, thinking.
What made him such a hateful bastard? How could Ian hate someone so much he had barely even spoken to?
He hesitates at first, almost completely walking away, but then curiosity gets the better of him and he pushes open the bedroom door, looking around the mostly dark room with inquisitive eyes as some light spills in from the hallway.
Ian doesn’t leave what feels like the safety of the doorway as he scans over the bedroom, his breath shallow.
It’s pretty plain.
A mess mostly, is his first impression.
There are a few posters of half naked women taped onto the walls, including a pinup calendar that’s five years out of date, some clothes are strewn around on the floor, and there’s a collection of handguns resting casually on top of the dresser. He spots at least two ashtrays too, and a lot of empty bottles.
The interesting thing is the mess is it’s almost entirely on just one side of the room.
Even the bed is a mess on one side, and neatly made up on the other.
What the fuck is that about? Ian leaves the doorway, switching on the bedroom light to get a better look. Seeing some picture frames on the walls, he heads towards them first.
Ian moves closer to them, touching the dusty frames gently with his fingertips.
The first one is a lineup Terry and all his kids, but the second one catches his interest more.
It’s one of those generic family photos that you get taken at the photo studio in the mall, where you all pose together and smile, and it’s clearly well over a decade old, because Mickey and Mandy don’t look any older than four or so in it.
Ian zooms in in on the little boy in the photo. Mickey. He’s got a big toothy grin on his face, and his freckles are much more prominent than they are now.
His blue eyes look more happy than piercing at that age, but there’s still a hint of his stubbornness in them that Ian recognizes now. He was a cute kid.
Terry, Mickey, Mandy, and the beautiful dark-haired woman.
Mickey’s mom. She had to be.
Ian can see the resemblance. With her arching eyebrows, her dark and shiny hair, and her deep blue eyes, it’s not hard. Frankly, she’s stunning.
She could be a model, Ian thinks. But she also looks kind, and he notices she’s resting one delicate hand on each of her two children sitting in front of her.
Mickey looks so different, so innocent… but it’s still him.
Ian looks at the little boy in the photograph and wonders what happened between the time the photo was taken and the time that he really started getting to know Mickey, almost a year ago now.
The room is a strange parallel of loss, Ian realizes, as he steps away from the photo and looks around himself again.
One side showing the departed, all of her things reverently kept just how she had left them. And the other side careless… angry and abandoned.
Ian shakes his head, some realizations dawning on him.
He’d almost feel sorry for Terry if he didn’t know what a psychotic prick he was.
And he’d always been that way, even when he had a beautiful family that he should have appreciated. He was the one that had pushed his wife to her breaking point, no doubt.
No. The only people Ian feels sorry for are Mickey and Mandy. Sorry for the father they were given, and sorry for the mother that couldn’t hang on for them.
They deserved better than they got.
Ian lets out a shaky sigh as he leaves the room.
He closes the door quietly behind himself and goes out to the front porch, badly in need of a cigarette. He feels a little guilty for snooping through Terry’s room, even though he hadn’t learned much he couldn’t have guessed on his own.
He just feels like he stumbled onto something private, something he wasn’t supposed to see.
The secret of the Milkovich house.
Loss, and loneliness. Etched into all it’s walls, trapping each of them here.
Ian’s own parents deserved no awards, they were cowards, and cared next to nothing about their children. But Frank and Monica never went after them the way Terry Milkovich went after his kids, using them as his punching bags to let out his deep-set anger and grief.
The Gallagher home was warm, and filled with love, even without a set of perfect parents. And even though Ian had hidden who he was from his family for so long, he knows now that he didn’t need to.
Because they would always be there for him, no matter what.
He was lucky to have that, luckier than he had realized.
Ian butts out his cigarette and heads back inside, quietly locking the front door behind himself before he heads into the kitchen to get a glass of water for Mickey to grab in the morning.
He closes Mickey’s bedroom door behind himself too, and turns around to take off his puke sprayed shoes, and leave them at the door before he goes over to the bed.
Ian turns at the soft sound of Mickey’s groggy voice, surprised to see him awake.
Mickey still looks a little out of it, but a lot better than he was before. He’s laying on his side against the edge of his bed, and he smiles gently at the sight of Ian as he stands by his bedroom door.
“Hey” Ian says back quietly.
Seeing Mickey laying there like that makes him involuntarily think of the little boy in the picture, and he feels a little lump form in his throat.
Ian always had Fiona and even Lip to help take care of him when he was growing up.
But who had taken care of Mickey when he was younger, and actually sick? Who made sure he went to bed on time? Or that he got to school safely, ate his dinner, or did his homework?
It might be hard to imagine Mickey Milkovich, tough as he had become and making a name for himself in the South Side in the process, as ever being just a lost and scared little kid.
But who had made sure that little boy went to bed at night, knowing that someone, anyone, loved and cared about him?
Mickey speaks again, pulling Ian away from his troubled thoughts and into the present moment, too out of it to notice anything different.
“Will you stay with me tonight?”
Ian lets out his breath, “Of course”.
He carries the glass of water over to his boyfriend and presses it into his hand.
Mickey sips from it as Ian crawls over him onto the bed to lay beside him, and once he’s finished drinking he shoves it onto the bedside table and turns to look at him apologetically.
“Sorry I fuckin puked on you”.
Ian smiles, “It’s okay”.
“And thanks for staying”.
Ian leans forward to kiss Mickey’s forehead, but as he pulls away he sees Mickey’s already fading again.
“Thanks for letting me love you” he whispers, right as Mickey closes his eyes, and gives in to sleep.