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Troubled youth

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„A fucking restaurant. Still can`t believe you made me do that. You owe me, Gallagher.“

Ian turns his head to face Mickey who`s grimly staring at the ceiling of the Gallagher boys` bedroom.

„Didn`t force you to do anything. You`re a free man, could`ve said no.“ He smiles. „But it was kinda nice, wasn`t it?“

Mickey eyes him.

„You have a weird definition of nice. Sitting in a crowd full of rich-ass people who think they`re better isn`t nice, it`s fucking infuriating.“

„We went to a fucking diner, Mickey. They weren`t rich.“

But the people there weren`t poor either and it was a slightly fancier diner than Patsy`s, so Ian get’s his point.

„Whatever,“ Mickey growls and gets up. „You going to get up or …?“

Ian sighs and closes his eyes for a moment. His shift at Patsy`s starts in less than an hour and he can`t think of anything more boring than collecting and washing dishes for hours, not to mention the medicine induced fog that was back as soon as he opened his eyes this morning and realized that he`s sobered up. For a split second he considers getting drunk before leaving the house. It wouldn`t take much and it may make things less gray but he doesn`t want to end up like Frank. It`s bad enough that everyone seems to think his diagnosis automatically turns him into Monica. He isn`t his mother. He`s still himself and fucking things up again and again wouldn`t help to convince his siblings that that`s the case.

Mickey`s still standing in front of his bed, waiting for an answer so he gets up, grabs Mickey`s shirt and presses a kiss on his lips, before leaving the room and heading tot he shower.

Fiona`s standing in the kitchen, pouring coffee into a mug and her eyes flicker up nervously as Ian walks down the stairs.

„Morning“, he yawns.

Mickey already left, looking fo work as he said and Ian just hopes that he won`t get caught doing whatever he does.

Fiona`s voice is coarse. „Morning.“

There`s a woman sitting at their kitchen table. A woman in a costum with a clip board in front of her. Ian frowns, looks at his sister as his stomach turns. People in fancy clothes don`t belong here and if they have a clipboard with them that`s bad news nine times out of ten.

The woman gets up and shakes Ian`s hand.

„My name is Suzie Carlisle. You must be Ian, the second oldest brother. I`m from DFCS.“

His first thought is RUN but he can`t move.

Suzie sits back down and Fiona places a mug in front of her.

„As I already told your sister, we got a call from someone expressing their concerns. The caller worries about the wellbeing of you and your younger siblings, Debbie and Liam. With Carl being in a youth correctional facility and your sisters criminal record we have doubts that this household is the fitting environment for you.“

Ian swallows hard still not sure about what the fuck is actually going on. Someone called DFCS on them – and they want to take them again despite Fiona being their guardian and shit? Didn`t she become their guardian so that wouldn`t happen anymore? And isnt`t he to old for the system?

The woman looks at her paperwork.

„I gather that you were recently diagnosed bipolar and that you don`t attend school at the moment?“

„I work.“

„I see.“ She scribbles something down.

„So what`s the plan? Are you going to monitor us and make surprise visits and stuff to make sure that this actually is a good environment?“ Fiona looks so lost.

„The thing is, Miss Gallagher, that we have reports from Deborah`s teachers that she showed some violent behavior at school in the last few months.“

Where is Debbie anyway? Why is she talking about her while his sister is at school?

„And adding things up,“ Suzie continues, „we don`t think that you are able to cope at the moment. I think that you are unfit to care for your siblings at the moment and the various challenges they have.“

Fiona gasps.

„No! I`m sober, I didn`t break my parole, I keep attending those bull- sorry, the NA meetings. Why would you say that?“

Ian just stares at the two women. That`s not really happening, is it?

„Please, calm down. We are going to schedule a meeting in the next few days working out what you can do to take better care of them. I`m thinking of a parenting group for raising teenagers, maybe a support group for guardians of mentally ill youth.“

Ian feels a sting. Mentally ill, that`s him.

„Your siblings need stability which they apparently don`t have. Until we worked out a plan and until we think you can handle it, Deborah, Liam, and Ian are going to be placed into foster care.“

Mrs. Carlisle gives them half an hour. 30 minutes to pack his bags. 30 minutes to realize what just happened. She is going to pick up Debbie from school in this time and maybe he should just run away. But that would probably just cause more trouble than help any of them.
Fiona follows him into the bedroom to collect some of Liam`s clothes and toys. She cries and keeps apologizing and Ian keeps reassuring her that it isn`t her fault. Mostly it`s his, for being a fuck-up, for kidnapping Yev and for not helping Fiona enough. With Lip being away at college he`s the one who should have helped Fiona, he should`ve talked to Debbie to find out why she`s lashing out.

„Don`t be stupid. You are in no condition to do this and I didn`t expect any of it.“

Fiona hugs him tightly. But Ian fills in the gaps. I stopped expecting stuff like this from Monica so I never even started expecting it from you after you came back. He hopes it`s just his mind playing tricks on him, Fiona would never say that but the thought lingers.

Debbie burts into the living room crying and screaming twenty minutes later, followed by a not-happy looking Mrs. Carlisle.
Ian keeps up stairs, his phone in his hand. He needs to call Mickey, tell him what happened but he can`t say it out loud.

„What`s up Firecrotch?“

He wants to turn back time to yesterday. They could have run away.

„Someone called DFCS on us.“

That`s all it need to send Mickey into a long stream of cussing.

„Listen, I don`t have much time. But they say it won`t be for long. I`m eighteen in a few months anyway and Fiona will do anything do get me out. If I`m not allowed to keep my phone-“

„You`re still gonna go to work. They let you work most of the time. They let you work last time.“

He can almost hear Mickey tense up as they both remember what happened last time Ian and his siblings were in foster care. They never really talked about it and probably never will and it`s a weird moment to bring it up.

„Right. So we`re gonna meet at Patsy`s tomorrow afternoon.“

„It`s gonna be allright. I`m gonna break you out if I have to.“

It sounds like Ian`s going to prison, but remembering the last group home he was placed in, this might not be so much different.