"So much shit," Mickey said as he wrapped up the diaper he was holding and dumped it into the trash. "How much fucking shit can one baby make? He can't eat that much."
Ian leaned against the doorjamb and watched as Mickey picked Yevgeny up and put him back into his crib. Ever since Mickey had asked Ian to teach him how to take care of Yevgeny, Mickey had been trying. He was still more than happy to dump the kid with Svetlana, but when it was Ian's turn to babysit he helped out without too much complaining. Mickey was never going to win father of the year, but as far as the neighborhood went he was starting to be a stellar example of fatherhood. Of course the neighborhood was full of horrible fathers so the competition wasn't very fierce. Kev was the only real exception.
"So," Ian said, dragging out the vowel hesitantly. "There's something that I've been wanting to talk to you about."
"You always want to talk about something," Mickey muttered. He turned out the light and walked past Ian, heading for the kitchen. "The look on your face tells me I'm going to need a beer for this."
Ian followed behind him and sat down at the kitchen table while Mickey got out two beers. He accepted the beer Mickey offered him and took a small sip while he steeled his nerves. "Are you ever going to divorce Svetlana?"
"Fuck, Gallagher." Mickey took a huge gulp of his beer. "You couldn't warm up to that?"
Ian rolled his eyes. "I'm serious, Mick. The marriage is a sham. Everyone fucking knows that by now."
"Exactly," Mickey replied. "It's a sham and everyone knows it, so why bother?"
Ian looked down at his beer and nervously peeled at the label. "Gay marriage is legal in Illinois now."
"Oh fuck no." Mickey downed the rest of his beer and slammed the bottle down. "We are not fucking having this conversation. I told you once before that marriage is nothing but a stupid sheet of paper. It doesn't mean anything real."
"Marriage does mean something, Mickey," Ian said. "Or at least it should." He took a deep breath and looked up to meet Mickey's eyes. "What if something happens to me? If I have to be hospitalized like Monica—"
"Not going to happen," Mickey interrupted. "No fucking way."
"If something like that happens," Ian continued as if Mickey hadn't spoken. He could tell by the stiff set of Mickey's shoulders that he was pushing this too far, but he couldn't bring himself to stop until he'd laid out his entire argument. "You wouldn't have rights. No matter how much you claim I'm family the law doesn't care. And what if you get arrested? I don't want to be stuck here with my hands tied while you're in jail."
"Cause that'll go over well," Mickey said sarcastically. "My husband showing up for a conjugal visit. No fucking way that'll make me someone's bitch. Did you forget your meds? Because you're acting crazy."
Ian felt tears burn at his eyes, but blinked them back. The last thing he wanted to do was let Mickey see how deep those words cut. He was used to Mickey's insults and usually let them roll off his back, but that one hurt more than he expected. Mickey had never once used Ian's disorder against him before now. Other people could think he was crazy, but not Mickey. He couldn't handle that.
Ian stood up without a word and went straight to their bedroom. He got out his duffle bag and began throwing whatever clothes seemed clean into it.
"What the hell?" Mickey asked, from the doorway. "What do you think you're doing?"
"You're right. I was fucking crazy to try talking to you about this." Ian went into the bathroom and grabbed his meds. He held them up for Mickey to see. "But it has nothing to do with these."
"Fuck, Ian." Mickey threw his arms up in exasperation. "You're talking about hanging a rainbow flag on the front lawn and you're mad I called you crazy?"
Ian tossed the bottles into his bag and zipped it up. He stepped around Mickey, keeping as much distance as possible between them. "I'll be at home."
"This is your fucking home!" Mickey yelled after him, but Ian didn't turn around.
"Fuck," Mickey yelled. He punched the wall next to his door and immediately regretted it as pain radiated up his arm.
Mandy came out of her room and glared at him. She was only wearing a t-shirt that was barely long enough to cover her ass and her hair was tangled. "What the hell is going on? I have the late shift tonight and need to fucking sleep."
Mickey shook out his hand, trying to make it stop hurting. "Nothing is fucking going on."
"Bullshit," Mandy said. "What the fuck did you say to Ian?"
"Is everything always my fault?" Mickey asked.
"Pretty much," Mandy replied. She crossed her arms. "Why'd he leave?"
Mickey sighed. "He was talking crazy and I pointed it out."
"Fuck, you really are stupid," Mandy muttered, exasperated. "You know he's sensitive about that."
"Too fucking sensitive," Mickey complained. "If you'd heard the shit he was saying you'd think he was crazy too."
"No way," Mickey said. "We're not going to paint each other's nails and talk about our boyfriends. I'm not a fucking girl."
"So you're just going to punch things and hope Ian comes back?" Mandy asked. "Smart move."
Mickey clenched his sore hand. "What do you know about relationships anyway?"
"Nothing," Mandy admitted. A haunted look passed over her face that meant she was thinking about either Lip or Kenyatta or both. He fucking hated both of them for the shit they'd put her through. "I fucking suck at them. But I do know Ian."
Mickey sighed. She had a point. Ian was her best friend and she'd been there for both of them when they'd needed it. When it came down to it, Mandy was the only family member he had that accepted him and that meant everything. "Fine."
He gestured towards the kitchen and she joined him at the table. He grabbed Ian's abandoned beer and took a drink. He drank half of it in silence, not sure if he could actually talk about this at all.
Fuck it. He wasn't afraid of a stupid conversation. "Ian wants to get married."
Mandy's jaw dropped. "Fuck."
"See," Mickey said, glad for the validation. "It's crazy talk."
Mandy stared at him for a long moment. "Fuck knows why anyone would want to be tied to you for life—"
Mickey flipped her off.
"But you've got to stop calling him crazy," she finished.
Mickey had seen unshed tears in Ian's eyes when Mickey had made that stupid comment about his meds. It reminded him all too much of the time he'd told Ian that he was nothing but a warm mouth. "I know."
"Mickey," Mandy said her voice softer than usual. "I don't think you know how much your marriage to Svetlana hurts him. He was a mess at the wedding. I'd never seen him that hurt before."
Mickey knew that. Ian had fucking run off to the army to escape it. He'd just thought that coming out would be enough to make it up to Ian. How much more could Ian expect from him?
Mickey looked down at his hands and slowly flexed his rapidly bruising knuckles. The pain was a welcome distraction. "He wants me to divorce her."
"What's stopping you?" Mandy asked.
Mickey shrugged. He really didn't know what was stopping him. It just seemed like an awful lot of hassle when they had a system that was working. The last thing he wanted to do was piss Svetlana off and have her make their life hell again.
"I think Ian talking about marriage is more about that than anything else," Mandy said. "He's not stupid enough to think you'd actually marry him."
Mickey was inexplicably insulted by her words. No he didn't want to get married—not to anybody—but Ian was the only person he could imagine spending his life with. Ian had to realize that…right?
"What are you doing here?" Carl asked as soon as Ian walked into the house. He and Debbie were in the living room watching TV.
"Good to see you too," Ian replied. He tossed his duffle bag next to the couch. "I'm staying here tonight."
"Boyfriend troubles?" Debbie asked.
"Something like that," Ian answered as he sat down next to her.
Debbie patted his thigh. "Boys are more trouble than they're worth. I've decided that I'm never going to lose my virginity. It's not worth it."
Ian smiled despite himself. "Sounds like a good plan."
Debbie tilted her head curiously. "How old were you when you lost yours anyway?"
"Yeah." Carl turned around so that he was facing Ian. "How old?
Ian blinked at his younger siblings. He could have sworn that they had been a lot younger than this when he'd last seen them. "What?"
"Oh come on," Debbie said. "Fiona won't tell us which means she was probably younger than me."
"Fifteen," Ian answered. He figured that wasn't such a bad example to set. Lip had been younger.
Carl smirked. "So were you fucker or fuckhole?"
"Carl!" Fiona yelled from the kitchen. "That's none of your business. Both of you go upstairs and leave Ian alone."
"At least he tells us things," Debbie muttered as she got up and stomped up the stairs, Carl right on her heels.
"Sorry about that." Fiona sat down next to Ian. "Teenagers. I don't remember you or Lip being that difficult."
"It's a good thing," Ian said. "Lip, you, me...we didn't have the chance to just be teenagers. We were too busy having to be parents."
"They're both just so obsessed with sex right now," Fiona complained. "Did you know Carl got into trouble for masturbating during math class? Right there at his desk."
Ian laughed. "Do you want me to talk to him? Maybe at least convince him to take a bathroom break."
"Lip's already tried, but feel free. Lord knows the boy won't listen to me." Fiona pulled her legs up under her and nodded at his duffle bag. "Planning to stay for a while?"
Ian sighed, all the amusement over Carl's antics fading away. "Probably just a day or two."
"You and Mickey have a fight?"
Fiona frowned. "Want to talk about it?"
"Not really," Ian answered. The last thing he wanted to do was open his relationship up for Fiona's criticism. She was just starting to really accept it and he didn't want to give her any reason to hate Mickey again.
"Okay," Fiona said. "I was actually about to go meet Lip at the college. He took Liam today and I need to pick him up, but if you go get him then I could start on dinner?"
Ian felt a surge of love for his sister in that moment. After everything that they'd been through she trusted him with Liam. Maybe this meant that she was finally starting to believe that he could take care of himself and not turn into Monica. He really needed that sort of faith today after the fight with Mickey.
Lip's roommate let Ian in before running off to class and Ian sat down on Lip's bed to wait for his brother. Ian had been so wrapped up in his own world recently that he'd never actually been to Lip's dorm until now. He didn't know what he was expecting, but a giant color-coded schedule on the wall with Lip's life regimented out down to the last bathroom break wasn't it. Lip had never been the sort of person that planned ahead like that and just looking at it drove home how far apart they'd grown over the last year.
He didn't like the realization that he had no real idea what was going on in Lip's life anymore. As a kid, he'd been sure that Lip would always be the one constant in his life. Even more than Fiona, Ian had always relied on his brother to be there for him, but somehow they'd lost that closeness this last year.
"Hey," Lip said as he entered the room a few minutes later. He was awkwardly carrying his backpack, Liam's bag, and Liam, who was sound asleep. "Fiona said you were coming."
Ian pointed at the schedule. "I'm not even sure what half those classes are."
Lip set Liam down on the bed next to Ian. "Busy work mostly."
Ian shook his head. "And here I am dreaming about taking a few business classes at the community college."
"Business?" Lip asked. He sat on the edge of his desk and opened the window before digging out a cigarette. "Gonna work on some of those ideas of yours?"
Ian closed his eyes. That was a loaded question and he was pretty sure that Lip was smart enough to know it. When he was manic, Ian had filled entire notebooks with ideas that he'd been sure would make him millions, but now he knew that they had all been half formed pipe dreams. The fact that Lip was asking about it meant that what he was really trying to do was gage whether or not Ian was manic right now.
"Actually," Ian replied. "Linda is talking about opening another store and stepping back from the Kash and Grab. She said that she'd consider promoting me to full time manager if I proved that I could handle it and was willing to take a few classes. Of course that means taking my GED now instead of going back to high school which Fiona is going to love."
"How is it that even though you fucked her husband she treats you like family?" Lip asked.
"I wouldn't go that far," Ian said. "I've just worked there so long that she knows I'm not going to steal from her."
"She let you back after you skipped out on her," Lip pointed out.
Ian leaned back on the bed, careful not to jostle Liam. "You should have seen the guy she got to replace me. Shoplifting went through the roof while he was there."
Lip laughed. "The Milkoviches are the biggest culprits and they never steal from you."
"Nope." Ian grinned. "And Mickey stops by often enough that everyone else is too scared to try. He made a twelve year old who tried to lift a porn mag cry last week."
Ian smiled at the memory before the reason he was even here came back to him. He fixed his eyes on Lip's schedule to avoid looking at his brother. "I sort of asked him to marry me today."
"What the fuck?" Lip choked on a lungful of smoke and started coughing. It took him a moment to get it under control. "And what do you mean 'sort of'?"
Ian glanced at Liam, but the boy was still sleeping despite Lip's coughing fit. Being able to sleep through anything was a good trait to have in their family. "Well I didn't actually get down on one knee or anything like that, but I was trying to talk about it."
"Isn't he still married to Svetlana?"
"Unfortunately." Ian ran his fingers roughly through his hair, tugging at the ends. "He doesn't even seem to care either. Said it was too much fucking trouble to get a divorce."
"That's fucking idiotic," Lip said. "If he's with you then there's no reason to stay married to her."
"Yes! Thank you," Ian exclaimed. It was nice that somebody understood where he was coming from.
"But marriage?" Lip tossed his cigarette out the window and sat down in his desk chair. "You're only eighteen."
"You would have married Karen if it was your kid," Ian pointed out.
"Okay." Lip held up his pointer finger. "One that would have been a stupid fucking move and you would have been the first to tell me that." He held up a second finger. "And two, neither of you is pregnant unless I'm more out of the loop than I thought."
Ian flipped Lip off. "One you're an asshole."
"Why are you in such a hurry?" Lip asked, ignoring Ian's insult. "Other than Kev and V do you even know any happy marriages? Hell, they aren't even legally married."
"He says we're family, but if that's true why not make it official?" Ian asked. "It's more than just a piece of paper if something happens to one of us."
"What do you think's going to happen?" Lip asked.
"He's a pimp for fuck's sake, he could be sent to jail at any time." Ian dropped his voice to a near whisper." And if something goes wrong and I have to be hospitalized…they wouldn't let him visit…"
"And then there's that new management job," Ian said, speaking over Lip. He didn't want to talk about his fears of hospitalization right now—or ever. "It comes with some benefits that could be extended to Mickey. Not many, but more than he has."
"Ian," Lip repeated. "I think you're getting ahead of yourself. Mickey only came out, what? Three months ago? Let the man have some time to adjust before you start hiring the caterers."
Ian sighed. "I know. It's just, he wouldn't even listen to me. It was like the idea of marrying me was the worst thing he could think of."
"Listen," Lip said. "The very last thing I want to do is defend Mickey, but if the girl I was dating came at me with that conversation I'd probably freak too."
"It's different, though. We live together. I help him raise his kid," Ian tried to explain.
"He's still just twenty years old and has already been forced into one marriage against his will." Lip tilted his head at Ian, his brow furrowed. "You know Mickey better than anybody; I can't believe you actually thought the conversation would go well."
"Maybe not, but I didn't think he'd call me crazy and blame the entire thing on my meds," Ian reluctantly admitted. "He's never used my disorder against me before."
A look of understanding dawned on Lip's face. "And that's why you came home."
"You aren't actually breaking up, though?"
Ian shook his head vigorously. "No. It's not the worst thing he's ever said to me. I just can't deal with him right now."
"The fact that he's said worse doesn't make it better," Lip said. "It just makes me want to punch him."
Ian pointed at the schedule again, hoping to end this conversation before Lip decided to ask too many questions about the other things Mickey had said. "Are there blow job breaks on your schedule?"
Lip looked forlornly at the schedule. "Not anymore. Amanda made the schedule and took the blow jobs with her when she left. I think she's blowing the guy down the hall now."
"That's too bad. I think blow job breaks would really help me study."
"That's between you and Mickey and I never want any details." Lip pulled out his cell phone and glanced at the screen. "Fiona's wondering if you've left yet."
Ian dragged himself off of the bed and grabbed Liam's bag. "I guess that's my cue."
Lip stood up and grabbed a few stray toys that were lying around the room. Once everything was packed up and ready to go, he clasped Ian's shoulder. "Just try not to rush things. You have plenty of time."
Ian nodded because he knew that Lip was right. If Mickey would just agree to divorce Svetlana then he could wait as long as he had to.
Mickey didn't chase after Ian right away. He couldn't since someone had to stay with Yevgeny and Mandy had to work. He knew it was only a matter of time before he did though. Just sitting in his room without Ian there was too damn lonely and he hated it. He hated that he'd become so dependent on Ian that his life felt empty without him.
Sometimes Mickey wondered what his life would have been like if he'd never fucked Ian that first time. Ian had pushed him so far outside of his comfort zone that Mickey was still reeling, but no matter how he looked at it he wouldn't change a thing. Ian was the only good thing in his life. He couldn't give that up.
Fuck, thinking shit like that was really fucking gay. Maybe he should put a damn rainbow flag in his yard.
He'd been trying to sleep unsuccessfully for an hour when he heard the front door open. He got up to see if it was Ian coming home on his own. It wasn't.
"How is the baby?" Svetlana asked.
"Alive," Mickey replied. He joined her in the living room and gripped the back of the couch. There was no reason to delay the inevitable. "I want a divorce."
"Why the hell not?" Mickey asked. "Neither of us are getting anything out of this. You're illegal and a hooker so you can't even get a green card."
"So I should just be tossed into the street so that you can play house with Orange Boy?"
"Don't start with that," Mickey said. "I know you like Ian. He's better with Yevgeny than I'll ever be."
"But he's not the father," Svetlana pointed out. "And the minute the paper work is filed Yevgeny and I will be out of a home."
"Yevgeny will always have a home," Mickey said firmly. "And I'm sure we can work something out for you too."
"You are doing this for him."
Mickey couldn't deny it. "You know I never wanted this marriage."
Svetlana took out a cigarette and lit it. "The three of us will sit down and discuss it. Maybe we can come to an agreement."
"As long as that agreement involves a divorce," Mickey insisted. "And why the fuck does Ian need to be there?"
"He's more reasonable than you," Svetlana answered. "He won't kick me to the curb."
Mickey snorted. "He might babysit for you, but trust me; he hates you a lot more than I do."
"Then he hides it better," Svetlana said with a shrug.
"Whatever." Mickey was done with this conversation. He had more important places to be. "I'm going out."
Ian woke up to someone pounding on the front door. He covered his head with his pillow, hoping to go back to sleep.
"Ian," Fiona whispered from the bedroom door a few minutes later. She didn't have to bother with whispers since the knocking had already woken everybody up. "Mickey's here. Do you want to talk to him?"
Ian took the pillow off of his face and sat up. He rubbed the grit out of his eyes. "I guess. Sorry he woke you up."
"It's not your fault," Fiona said.
"I'm blaming you," Carl interjected. He dragged his blankets over his head. "Can you two shut up already?"
"Sorry," Ian said again as he got up and went downstairs. Mickey was standing just inside the door, his arms crossed defensively. Ian walked past him and sat down on the couch. "It's late."
"I'm sorry," Mickey blurted out, wincing as he said it as if the words physically pained him.
Ian didn't know if the apology was for waking him up or something else. "What for?"
"You aren't crazy," Mickey said. He started to pace back in forth in front of the couch. "I shouldn't have said that."
Ian was surprised to actually get an apology for that. He'd assumed that he'd just have to get over it the same way he'd let Mickey off the hook for all the other shit he'd said. Part of dating Mickey had always been ignoring what Mickey said and focusing on his actions instead.
"But you can't just spring shit like marriage on me," Mickey continued. "I'm not ready for that and I don't know if I ever will be."
Ian's heart fell at the idea that Mickey may never want to get married. The worst part was that he knew it was the "gay" part of gay marriage that bothered Mickey most. If he was straight, Mickey wouldn't be so opposed to getting married. It was the idea of having a husband that was really messing with Mickey's head.
"Okay," Ian whispered. He tried to keep the sadness out of his voice, but he knew he'd failed miserably. "I understand."
"Fuck, Ian." Mickey stopped pacing and looked at Ian with a pained expression on his face. "No you don't. Piece of paper or not, you're fucking it for me," Mickey's voice was thick with emotion and he gestured between himself and Ian. "If this doesn't work, then that's it. If it doesn't work with you then there's nobody else. There never will be. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Ian stared at Mickey in shock. He knew Mickey cared, hell he knew Mickey loved him, but Mickey rarely said anything so openly emotional. "You love me."
"Fuck off." Mickey waved a hand dismissively and Ian almost laughed because that was the Mickey he was used to. "This is about so much more than that. And if you need me to divorce Svetlana before you believe it then I'll fucking do it. I already talked to her."
"You did?" Ian asked in surprise.
"Of course I fucking did," Mickey said as if it should be obvious. He seemed to relax now that he'd made his declaration and he collapsed onto the couch next to Ian.
Ian grabbed Mickey's shirt and pulled him in for a quick kiss. "Thank you."
Mickey pressed their lips together one more time before pulling away and settling back against the arm of the couch. "You do need to get one thing through your head, though."
"This isn't your fucking home. Not anymore."
Ian smiled. His home was wherever Mickey was, but he knew better than to say that. Instead he shifted around until he was lying against Mickey's chest. Mickey let out a soft breath and wrapped his arms around Ian.
Maybe they would get married someday and maybe they wouldn't, but Ian could worry about that later. Right now all that mattered was that Mickey wanted to make a home with him.