Fiona was tired, having just worked a long night shift at the club. She was looking forwards to getting home and grabbing a few hours sleep before needing to get up and get the kids to school in the morning. Sometimes she felt so much older than she actually was, but that was what came with being a substitute parent she supposed.
Her plan was ruined though when she almost tripped over a set of legs poking out of the shadows by a house just down from hers. She only stopped because there was a possibility it could be Frank and she only didn't walk off because the state the person was in. Some would call it stupidity, but she called it her conscience.
"Mickey," she nudged at his shoulder, wincing when he groaned.
The guy was a mess, his lip swollen and split, his eye and cheekbone sporting a rapidly darkening bruise. And that was just what she could see in the shadows. He was also unconscious, which was the bit that concerned Fiona, but the fact he was making noises was positive.
She crouched beside him, shivering because of the cold and reached out to touch his face. His skin was smeared with blood and it was pitiful to see him like that, because Mickey had never been weak. She was almost glad to see the blood smeared across his knuckles, the bruises there, he'd fought back.
"Mickey," she shook him slightly, tilting his head up with her hands.
His eyelids flickered and she exhaled loudly. He blinked, only half seeming to register that she was there. Picking up one of his arms, she manoeuvred them so that it was slung around her shoulders. "Mickey, you need to help me out here," she said to him, considering running and fetching Lip or Steve – Jimmy, whatever – to help her out, but she didn't want to leave him. Knowing him, he'd probably do a runner if she did and he wouldn't make it two blocks before he passed out. "I can't carry you on my own, Mickey."
She hoped that if she kept saying his name that maybe he'd respond, or at least come back to consciousness a little more. He muttered something under his breath, but the words weren't discernable and the minute she pulled him onto his feet he was oh-so-charmingly spitting out a mouthful of blood onto the pavement.
It was a bit difficult getting him up the steps to the front door, unlocking it and practically carrying him inside, but she managed it. Maybe it was all the practice she had lugging around an only semi-conscious Frank. She sat him down on the couch, not caring in the slightest that he was bleeding on it. Worse stuff had been spilt on that couch.
"Mickey, what happened?" she asked him as she pressed a bag of frozen peas against the side of his face. He looked completely out of it, but she figured this was going to be the only opportunity she had to get any sort of answers out of him.
In the morning he'd no doubt be up and bolting out the door.
He shied away from the pressure of the cold bag, wincing. "Where is he?" he asked, his voice rough and broken and now that they were in the light she could see some bruising around his throat. That probably explained it.
"Where's who, Mickey?" she asked, confused even though she tried not to show it. He was shaking his head at her now, his eyes darting around, but it was more like he was looking for something in particular.
"Firecrotch," Mickey muttered and she could smell the alcohol on his breath now that she was this close. That probably also contributed to his chattiness. "You can't let my Dad find him, if he knows, he'll kill him."
His words were becoming slurred and she could see him fading back into unconsciousness, but now she had to talk to him. Trying not to think too much about the fact Mickey was calling Ian, Firecrotch, she slapped the cold bag onto the side of his face none to gently to get his attention. "Mickey, why would your Dad want to hurt Ian?" she asked, glaring at him, taking in all of his injuries, "Are you telling me your Dad did this to you?" And then because the boy was still looking as her with wide eyes, practically begging for some sort of positive news she said, "Ian's not here anyway, Mickey, he's at an ROTC camp for the next month."
Mickey nodded, looking pleased at this news but nevertheless wincing as he did so. "Because he knows," he said, sounding terrified as he answered her question and it was heartbreaking, "But I don't know if he knows."
Yeah, because that clears it all up, she thought, but didn't say that.
"What does he know Mickey?"
He shook his head, surprisingly adamant. "I knew he'd try to kill me if he found out," he was saying, the words coming out in one big, drunken rush, "I told Ian he would, but he wouldn't believe me, he wouldn't let me shut Frank up, he wouldn't understand that it was to protect him." Mickey moaned, his expression full of anguish. "But now he knows, my Dad knows," he was close to being hysterical, "He'll kill me for it, I know he will, but I can't let him get Ian."
His eyes were slipping closed and as he tipped forwards she gently moved him from his sitting position to lying down. He curled in on himself, his hands cradling his battered head and Fiona thought he was going to cry for a moment. He didn't.
The boy was dirty and the tattoos across his knuckles had always been a little bit worrying, just like he'd always been rude and harsh and more than slightly cruel, but in that moment, he looked helpless. It was a strange look for Mickey Milkovich.
"Why'd he try to kill you, Mickey?" she asked, crouching down right in front of him, her face close to his. She could see that he was just seconds away from falling asleep. "Why would he want to kill Ian?"
She could have been wrong, but Mickey's features seemed only to twist into a pained expression at the mention of something happening to Ian. She didn't understand that, but she had a feeling she was going to.
"Because," he muttered quietly, so quietly she had to strain to hear him, "Because we're the same."
She didn't say so, but she thought that she could see absolutely no similarity between her brother and the neighbourhood thug. "How are you the same?" It was impossible not to ask that question and she just hoped it didn't come out sounding rude.
Then again, he was too far gone to really register anything.
She didn't think he was going to say anything for a minute, in fact she thought he was unconscious. But it was only with his eyes screwed tight and his mind obviously somewhere else entirely that he managed to whisper, "Because I'm gay."
And Fiona couldn't explain how angry that made her. Terry Milkovich had tried to beat his own son to death because he was gay. She didn't understand for a moment why that would mean Mickey would instantly know about Ian, but the fact he was only a few doors down from their house when he'd passed out, the way he'd asked for Ian instantly and how his face had twisted into one of pain at the idea of Ian being hurt gave her a pretty good idea.
She never would have pegged Mickey as being gay and even though she'd known about Ian for a long time, probably for longer than Ian had known, she couldn't quite picture him and Mickey together. They had worked together before Mickey had got put in Juvie again, she vaguely remembered, but other than that she'd never seen them hanging out. Sure, Ian had hung out with Mickey's sister Mandy and she even claimed to be his 'girlfriend'.
Fiona wondered if Mandy knew about Mickey. And if she did, did she know about Mickey and Ian.
The more she thought about it though, it did actually explain why Ian was always over at the Milkovich's when Mickey was out of Juvie, but how he seemed so withdrawn and depressed when he was in there.
Ian being with Mickey could explain a lot of things actually.
And if the ex-con had cared enough to come over here to try and check up on/protect her brother and even if that hadn't been his intention, Fiona still felt the need to look after him. She wondered if the boy had ever been properly cared for in his life?
He didn't even stir as she eased his jacket off his shoulders and pulled his t-shirt over his head. They were both stained with blood, she was guessing from the nosebleed Mickey had obviously had judging by the blood on his face. While he slept, she cleaned as much of the blood off of his face as she could and kept the bag of peas awkwardly positioned on the worse side to try and keep the swelling down.
It made her feel sick when she saw the bruises littering Mickey's torso. Most of them were fresh, those ones large and angry-coloured, but she'd seen enough bruises to be able to tell that there were a few that weren't new at all. They looked several days old if she had to guess.
At the same time though, she couldn't help but notice that even though he had a layer of dirt clinging to his pale flesh like a second-skin, he was in good shape. Sure, he didn't have the best personality and he was grimy and could be disgusting, but it made her thing that Ian's tastes weren't as bad as they first seemed. That was, if Mickey was in fact getting it on with her baby brother.
Actually, she didn't want to think about it even if they were.
Since Mickey was gay anyway and because his trousers were actually in a disgusting state, she eased them off his hips once she removed his shoes. Putting all of his clothes sans his boxers – she even took off his socks – into the wash, she covered him up with a blanket and checked that he was as comfortable as anybody could possibly be when battered and asleep on a couch.
Her last order of business before she headed upstairs to grab a handful of hours sleep was to put a bottle of water and some painkillers beside him, in case he woke up in the night and for when he woke up in the morning.
After that, there wasn't much else to do.
"Why the hell is Mickey Milkovich asleep on our couch?" Lip asked, frowning at the still unconscious ex-con before looking up at Fiona expectantly.
She motioned for him to keep his voice down, as she'd told everybody else to do and he moved out of the lounge into the kitchen to talk to her. "Did you know about him and Ian?" she asked him first before answering his question. She knew it wasn't really her business to go telling people about it in case he didn't, but Lip always seemed to know about everything that went on in Ian's life, so she was guessing he'd know.
She was right if the way he stared at her was any indication.
"Yeah," he said after a minute, "But how'd you know? Did he tell you?" He jerked his head back towards the other room.
"He told me he was gay," she explained, "I worked the bit about Ian out on my own though." And then she asked, because she simply had to know, "How long's that been going on?"
Lip shrugged, taking a swig of orange juice from a glass Debbie handed him. "Well, he was in Juvie when Ian left, so they haven't done anything recently, obviously," he muttered, trying to keep the kids from overhearing, which was easy since they were too tired to even attempt to listen in, "But do you remember when Kash shot Mickey?"
"That was because he and Ian were fucking," Lip shrugged, "So from since before that I guess." He looked over his shoulder again into the other room, as though expecting Mickey to charge in and punch him. "So how come he's here anyway?"
She chewed her bottom lip and followed his line of sight. Mickey didn't seem to have woken up at all in the night, but he had pulled the blanket around himself until it looked like he was wrapped in a cocoon.
"His Dad found out about him being gay," she said eventually, "I found him outside, he's in pretty bad shape, says his Dad tried to kill him." She winced at the memory of the bruises over Mickey's ribs and at the idea of him being killed simply for something he couldn't help. Then again, in this neighbourhood, that was a common reaction.
"Damn," Lip muttered, before frowning, "So why was he outside?"
"He wanted to warn Ian that his Dad knew," she said, "I got the feeling that he wanted to protect him." Not that that would have been in any way possible given the state that Mickey was in, but it was still a nice sentiment.
Lip looked nonplussed and gave the figure on the couch a perplexed look. "Well, it does have a heart after all," he muttered, shoving in a piece of toast practically whole, "So what are you going to do now?" The unspoken question hung in the air between them: Is he going to stay?
"I can't kick him out," she said, pushing a hand through her hair and sighing, "I doubt he has anywhere else to go, and if he's gone to the trouble of staggering over here in that condition to try and protect Ian, I think we at least have to try and help it out."
Lip didn't seem bothered about the idea of Mickey sticking around, but he did snort and say, "Yeah well, good luck getting him to accept your help."
And Fiona did think he had a point there. Mickey was still a Milkovich at the end of the day and they meant trouble, whether or not the guy had a little bit of a soft spot for Ian, it didn't necessarily mean that Mickey was going to take kindly to their help.
She pulled his clothes out of the dryer and moved about trying to get to the iron. She wanted him to be able to actually put some clothes on when he woke up.
"Does Ian care about him?" she asked, "Would he want us to at least try and help him?"
Lip looked a little resigned when he nodded, "Yeah he cares, sometimes I think too much." And Fiona could see why he thought that when you considered Mickey's reputation. But the evidence that the other boy cared back was there, whether or not he would admit it.
"So we help him out," Fiona said simply, in her mind it was all black and white, "Did you know he calls Ian, Firecrotch?" She still couldn't quite get over that particular piece of information.
Lip pulled a face, looking disgusted. "I did not need to know that," he muttered before starting to shoo Debbie and Carl out the door and get them to school. They were walking today, Jimmy – Steve – was out of town.
Finishing up ironing Mickey's jeans, she figured she would grab a quick shower while the ex-con guest they'd gained was still down for the count.