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Melánia

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The first thing Mickey says when he opens the door is, “No fucking way.”

He goes to close it again straight away, but Tony’s fist shoots out and holds it open.  Mickey hasn’t seen his brother in a year, and he had in no way been cut up about that fact.  He’d, in fact, considered it a pretty fucking lucky break.  But now Tony’s here, stood on the doorstep of the home they used to share, and he’s holding something in his arms that Mickey just knows is gonna mean trouble.

“Ey, yo, Mickey,” Tony says, “I need a favour.”

“When the fuck did you have a kid?” Mickey asks.  Because that’s what Tony’s holding, he’s holding a wriggling little baby, who’s sucking on a broken pacifier and wearing a pair of little pink overalls with about five different stains down the front.  And Mickey knows this means trouble because he has a horrible feeling he knows what the favour’s gonna be, and he does not want to find out if he’s right.

Tony pauses at the question.  Actually fucking pauses, like he’s having to think about it, and Mickey could just groan because his brothers are all such pieces of shit.  Then, Tony says;

“Like, six months ago?  Listen, dude, I need you to hold her for a while.  I gotta go on a run with Iggy.”

“Fuck that shit,” Mickey says, eyeing the kid warily as she squirms in Tony’s arms.  “Why can’t she stay with her mom?”

Tony shakes his head, no, “Bitch fucked off,” like that makes Mickey the only option. 

“Mandy?” Mickey suggests right after that.

“You tell me where she is and I’ll fucking take the kid to her.”

Of course, Mickey’s stumped there; bar a couple of three-word texts, he hasn’t heard from Mandy in a year and a half, none of them have.  He wracks his brains - there’s their aunt Rande that they used to foist Mandy off on when Terry was in prison.  Only before he can even suggest it he remembers, she’s in a fucking home now or some shit, ‘cus of her MS.  And that’s it; that’s the end of the list.  There is not a single other eligible babysitter in the Milkovich family.  And the thing is Tony’s arms is literally just a baby, a few months old; it’s not like the kid’s two or three and could be left on its own for a night (Mickey knows that’s considered bad to some people, but as far as he’s concerned, if you can wipe your own ass and open the fridge, you can look after yourself).  He can actually kinda see how he might be considered the best option here.

“You don’t got no friends?  Her mom didn’t have any fucking friends?”

Tony just stares at him.

“Jesus fucking christ, Tony,” Mickey says, thumbing at his lip and eyeing the squirming kid again, trusting her less and less every second.  “How long?”

“Just a night,” Tony says, quick, like he can’t risk Mickey having another moment to think about it and changing his mind.  “Maybe less, I break the speed limit there and back.  Just a quick run, it’s Termite’s guys, you know they always do a fast deal.”

Mickey hesitates.  That’s his fatal mistake.  He hesitates, for just a second, but then before he can open his mouth to tell Tony he’ll have to find someone else, that Mickey isn’t eligible – he’s suddenly having a baby pressed into his arms, no idea how it happened.

“Here’s her shit,” Tony says as he shoves a plastic bag at Mickey as well, and then he’s walking away, and Mickey can’t even really process what’s happening, except that the kid’s got her little fingernails dug into his arm and it hurts a surprising amount.  So.  Apparently, this is happening.  He’s looking after a kid, for a whole night.  Stranger things have happened, probably, but he can’t really fucking think of any just then.  He sighs as he resigns himself to a miserable twenty four hours.

“Ay, Tony!” he calls out suddenly, remembering just when Tony’s almost to the curb.  “What the fuck’s her name?”

But Tony’s already getting in his car, and he doesn’t hear, just speeds off without even looking back at Mickey once.

Mickey looks down at the still-squirming bundle of snot who’s been piled awkwardly into his arms.  No mom, no name, fucking Tony for a dad, and now she’s stuck with him as her babysitter.  Poor kid’s not getting off to a great start.

She chooses that moment to spit up on his shirt.

It’s gonna be a long night.

--

The kid’s cute.  Her mom must have been black or something because she’s got dark skin, and her hair - though she doesn’t have much yet - is frizzy and wound into tight curls, badly tied up on the top of her head with a couple of pink rubber bands .  Really, it would be impossible to tell she was Tony’s kid at all, except for her grubbiness, and the fact that her eyes are the classic Milkovich ice-blue.

If the dirt and stained clothes and broken pacifier are anything to go by, she doesn’t seem to have been especially well taken care of, but at the same time she’s not starved, crying or obviously injured, so that’s already surpassed his expectations of Tony’s parenting.  And she’s chubby and wriggly and oddly silent, and yeah, beneath the dirt and spit, she’s cute.  He can admit that.

Of course, her fucking cuteness doesn’t actually help Mickey at all in the looking after her fiasco.

As soon as he’s shut the door behind Tony, the kid still wriggling in his arms, Mickey looks around.  And realises - okay, he’d known this was a bad idea and hadn’t wanted to do it, but once he actually has the kid inside he actually realises how bad it is.  There’s not a single safe corner in the Milkovich house to put her.

He wonders if she can sit up by herself, and shit like that.  He doesn’t have a fucking clue what ages babies can start to do what stuff, but he figures if she can wriggle as much as she is, she clearly control her own body to some extent.  Manoeuvring around a knife that’s lying on the floor (and why the fuck is there a knife on their floor?  He’s gonna kill Iggy), he makes his way to the couch, figures it’s his best bet.  He dumps the bag of stuff Tony’d given him onto the floor next to it, and then, carefully and with no amount of certainty, lowers the kid down too.

He tries to set her in a sitting position but she tumbles over to the side straight away.  She doesn’t seem to mind, though, just wriggles onto her stomach and kicks her little socked feet.  He notices that there’s a lighter laying on the cushion just behind her, and quickly knocks it to the ground.

Then he stares at her for a moment.  She’s not really… doing anything.  Just lying there, looking happy enough to kick her feet and suck her broken pacifier and wriggle about a little.  He doesn’t really know what else he’s supposed to do.  He takes some cushions off a chair and lays them on the ground by the couch.  She doesn’t look that interested in going anywhere but she’s rolled over once so he figures if she decides to do it again, she’ll go crashing to the ground, and that can’t be good.  At least the cushions will break her fall.

After he’s done that, he just stands there again.

His plans for the rest of the day before Tony’d shown up had included taking a shower, doing some coke, going out to break a few kneecaps and maybe get in a fuck with the weed dealer he’s recently figured out is a fag.  Somehow, none of that seems super compatible with babysitting.  He can’t even really leave her alone to go take a shower.  God knows what kind of trouble she’d get up to, and yeah, Mickey’s far from an angel, but he also doesn’t exactly want to add killing a cute little baby to his record of misdeeds.

And yeah, okay, maybe Mickey’s daily routine isn’t actually that thrilling, these days.  He works a couple days a week at the Kash and Grab, but it’s not the same since – well, the last couple of years, it’s not been as fun as it used to.  He only really stays because he can’t be fucked to find another job, and it’s nice having a steady source of income even if it’s small, and, if he’s honest, he’s kind of reluctantly grown fond of Linda, who is one of the only people he’s ever met with balls bigger than his.  He works in slightly less legal ways too, breaking kneecaps for this low-level dealer Iggy knows, but that’s not exactly on a schedule.  And recently, his recreational activities are even more depleted than his employment.  Sometimes he does drugs to amuse himself, but not too much – he doesn’t wanna become a fucking addict on top of everything else.  He hangs out with Svetlana a little, every couple of weeks maybe, but she’s living and working on the other side of town now, and they’re hardly close.  Apart from her, Iggy and his crew of meth-head pseudo-friends are the only people Mickey actually interacts with.  Spelled out, his life is pretty sad.

So maybe it’s not actually that big of a deal to write off his tentative plans for the day and babysit instead.  It’s not like he’ll be having much fucking fun either way.

With a sigh, he sits down next to the kid on the couch.  Picks up the television remote.

At least this’ll give him a chance to catch up on Ice Road Truckers.

-- 

He watches TV with the kid for a couple of hours.  She seems to get bored after a little while, but he takes the batteries out of the remote and lets her play around with the buttons, and that amuses her for far longer than it probably should.  Every few seconds, he takes his eyes off the screen and glances down at her, insanely paranoid that she will have done something while he’s not looking and he’ll have to perform emergency first aid or something.

As it is, she doesn’t even make a sound until he’s starting the third episode.  That’s when she spits out her pacifier, and starts to cry.

“Shit,” he says, jumping slightly as he fumbles to mute the television and turns to see what’s wrong with her.  He figures jamming the pacifier back in her mouth will shut her up, but she won’t let him do that, struggles against it.  Her face is all screwed up and red, and she’s making this high pitched, whiny fucking cry, and it’s annoying but he’s also kind of super worried.

For the first time, he thinks to look inside the plastic bag Tony’d left him, hoping for any sort of clue as to what she might want.  As far as Mickey’s concerned there’s no way Tony can be a model parent, but if he’s had the kid for six months he might know something about her.  In the bag there turns out to be a few diapers, a bottle, and a dented container full of baby formula that reminds him of the protein powder Nicky used to juice when he was obsessed with bodybuilding for a while.  He really doesn’t want to change a diaper, so he decides to assume she’s hungry, and grabs the bottle and formula out of the bag.

Of course, then he realises he can’t go into the kitchen without leaving her alone, crying on the couch.  Swearing under his breath, he scoops her up in his arms as he stands.  Still crying, she snuggles into his neck, little hands resting against his shoulders.

He tries not to think that it’s adorable.  He usually feels pretty fucking uncomfortable when people touch him with anything resembling affection, but, well - this is a baby.  He can’t mind too much.

He takes her, and the formula, into the shitty kitchen adjoined to their living room.  It’s not exactly great to prepare baby formula on the same table where Iggy’d been making meth last week, he decides, so he does a strange one-handed wipe down of the surfaces and then lays a cloth down over the top of the grubby table.  He’d feel worse about all of it, except that if the kid’s survived six months of Tony’s parenting, he figures she has to be pretty resilient.

Making the formula is a fucking performance.  The kid won’t sit still in his arms, her little feet kicking against his stomach and her fists twisting in his shirt and hair, and she’s still crying, albeit quieter, this whiny sort of drone right next to his ear the whole time he’s boiling the water and trying to figure out how the fuck he’s supposed to prepare the weird powder.  Thankfully, there are instructions on the back of the dented box, but they’re complicated as fuck and he skips half the steps, figuring that if he’s gonna mess it up either way, she’d probably rather have her food sooner than later.  The instructions also don’t stop him from nearly pouring boiling hot water all over himself when the kid decides to yank his hair just as he picks up the pan. 

Still, a few minutes later they’re both still alive, and she’s propped up in his arms sucking happily at her bottle, no longer crying, and Mickey’s feeling like he just won a war.

He puts Ice Road Truckers back on and doesn’t think about the fact that it’s kind of nice to have another human being curled up in his arms.

--

At seven O’clock, her eyes begin to droop.

The whole time she’s been there she’s been wriggling like crazy, so her sudden tiredness is easy to spot.  She’s back lying on the couch, by then, and the relentless kicking of her little feet stills, and she makes a snuffling noise against the pacifier he’d managed to convince her to put back in her mouth, and her eyes wait longer and longer before opening after every blink, and it’s pretty obvious that she’s about ready for bed.

This, of course, because Mickey’s life could never be goddamn easy, creates a whole new set of problems.

She’s been happy enough on the couch but he can hardly let her sleep there.  When and if he himself drops off, she could totally roll off without him realising, hurt herself or something.  He assumes she can’t crawl but if she even managed to drop to the floor unharmed she’d be able to reach a fair few of the dangerous objects that litter the Milkovich carpet.  Plus, he doesn’t really want to sit up on the couch with her all night.  He’d been bored of watching TV hours ago, but couldn’t really think of anything else to do with her in tow.

So Mickey does what he’s always done best; he improvises.  He scoops her up and takes her to his bedroom, pulls out the drawer full of guns and ammo that rests in the middle of his dresser and empties its contents into the drawer below, then sets it, empty, on the ground.  He puts the baby on his bed for a moment, grabs a spare blanket, and folds it up carefully inside the drawer.  It’s padded enough that she won’t hurt herself if she rolls over inside and hits the edge.  It’s hardly a crib but it’s the best she’s gonna fucking get here.

When he turns around, she’s asleep on his bed.  He thumbs at his lip, feeling awkward, not wanting to wake her.  Her dark eyelashes are fluttering slightly against her cheeks, her little hands flung up above her head.  She looks so fucking peaceful; he wonders if he ever looked like that, or if he was always teetering on the edge of nerves and adrenaline, ready to fight from the moment he was born.

Holding his breath, he picks her up as slowly and carefully as she can, and sets her down in the makeshift crib.  She doesn’t wake up at all.

Then he crosses the room and opens his window.  Sits on the ledge, half leaning out into the crisp air, and smokes three cigarettes in a row.  He’s careful to blow the smoke out, away from the baby.  Almost laughs at himself for caring - knowing Tony’s standards her mom was probably on meth the whole time she was pregnant anyway, and he’s worried about smoking a fucking cigarette in the same room as her - but does it anyway.  If she’s a Milkovich, after all, she’s not gonna need any extra help getting fucked up.

When he glances back at her, he thinks it’s a shame that something so precious can be born into a family so screwed.  She doesn’t stand a chance.