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Per Aspera Ad Astra

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„I fucked up Mick. I fucked up so bad.“

He doesn’t know how he manages to actually say something, doesn’t know how he is able to form coherent words between the sobs that make his whole body shake.

“I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t want to hurt her or hurt you or hurt anybody.”

If he weren’t so exhausted, he surely wouldn’t cry. But he is. He is exhausted to the core and yet he can’t sleep, hasn’t slept for days.

“Last time I knew you were waiting for me at home. Now I – I don’t know anything, I just know that I fucked up. You probably don’t even want to talk to me. I didn’t show up for your arraignment hearing – I hurt you so bad. It’s all my fault.”

The car comes to a halt and Ian knows that his time is running out. Fiona looks at him, with a pleading smile.

“I’m not gonna be allowed to keep my phone and I – I don’t know how long I’ll be there. So it’s – I don’t know. You can’t really reach me, I guess. Maybe you could call Fi and – and tell her if it’s ok that I called? And maybe I could call you again. I don’t know. I just – I don’t know. I’m so sorry.”

 


 

Thanks to a pretty heavy cocktail of medication the next hours disappear behind a thick fog. Fiona doesn’t go in with him, she watches him, standing in the visitation area. She’s alone, Sean waited in the car. Ian wishes his siblings would have come with them, but Debbie’s still in the emergency room, so they’re staying with her.

“I’m gonna come by tomorrow, yeah? It’s gonna be okay, Ian. You’re doing the right thing.”

Fi’s eyes have been so incredibly sad, so desperate, and somehow Ian felt guilty for leaving her behind. Guilt is one of the last things he feels before the medication kicks in.

 


 

“So you’re here for crisis stabilization, assessment and treatment coordination. You signed on your intake form that you’re not suicidal, is that still correct?”

The nurse, or is she a psychiatrist? He doesn’t remember. She wears a dark blue shirt and looks at him with alert brown eyes. When he woke up this morning, in the lower bunk bed surrounded by five roommates, the sedative had worn off slightly. His surroundings still feel distant and he’s unnaturally calm, but it doesn’t feel like he’s floating through mush anymore. Maybe they will keep it that way and not sedate him again. Hopefully. He needs to be able to think properly; otherwise they’ll probably look him up for weeks.

He shakes his head. “I’m not. I don’t want to kill myself.” Slit my wrists over thanksgiving dinner. He’s not her and yet he’s sitting in a psychiatrist’s (nurse’s?) office in a psych ward, for the second time within six months.

“You’ve been diagnosed with bipolar type one with psychotic features before and have been prescribed medication. Is that correct?”

He nods and the woman starts rattling off the different types of medication that are listed in his file.

“You stated on your intake form that you’re not on any type of medication at the moment. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

They make me feel awful, Debs. Like life is not worth living.

“It also states here that you shoved your younger sister down the stairs because you were under the impression she was going to attack you. Did this lead to your admission?”

He doesn’t look her in the eyes, tries to shake the image of Debbie crashing down the stairs and hitting her head at one of them out of his head.

“Yes,” his voice is barely audible.

The woman starts to talk about a treatment plan, names a few different types of medication she wants to start him on (so she has to be a doctor) and the importance of coping mechanisms.

Ian tries to take it all in but it’s so much. So much noise and information and he just seems to drown under it. He’s exhausted, again, more exhausted than he was when he woke up this morning.

“How long?”

“Excuse me?”

“How long will I have to stay here?”

“It usually takes a few weeks until the medication starts working but we can discuss the possibility of an outpatient treatment in a few days.”

The woman waits for an answer but he stays silent.

“I think that’s enough for today. It’s almost time for lunch. We’ll run a few more tests in the afternoon and set up a meeting with a behavioural therapist for tomorrow. They’ll discuss your non medication treatment plan with you.”

 


 

Fiona and Lip are waiting for him in the rec room after lunch. They both hug him tightly before sitting down.

“How’s Debbie?”

“She’s okay,” Fiona places her hand on his knee, “It’s a slight concussion, she’s at home, but she’s okay. How are you doing?”

He shrugs. He should feel relieved that Debbie’s alright but he doesn’t. He doesn’t feel much at all.

His siblings look at each other, before Fiona clears her throat.

“Mickey called. He said that, uh, that it was fine that you called. He’s glad you did. And he also said that you can keep babbling onto his voicemail.”

“Okay,” still no relief, but at least no crushing devastation, either.

“But he also said that you two need to have a real conversation as soon as you’re better. He doesn’t want to be your, quote, emotional garbage dump.”

“Okay.”

Silence.

“Did they say anything about how long you’ll have to stay here, buddy?” Lip asks eventually.

“Not really. Three weeks, maybe.”

Ian watches the clock as the minutes tick by. Eventually Fiona and Lip get up.

“Wait,” Ian has a realisation when they turn to leave, “I need coins. For the payphone.” For Mickey.

“Sure,” Lip digs into the pockets of his jeans and drops a couple of quarters into Ian’s hand. Fiona does the same.

“Anything else?” she asks.

Ian shakes his head.

“We’ll try and come back soon, yeah? Take care.”

They leave.

 


 

He makes a habit of calling Mickey’s prison voicemail every night after dinner, while the other patients watch TV in the rec room or at least pretend to do so.

“The therapist is nice. He’s like, thirty? And has a huge ass tattoo of a snake on his left arm. I think you’d like him. He’s not nice nice, you know? He doesn’t treat me like I’m gonna break down any minute, like I’m fragile. He said that I need to start handling my shit. I guess he’s right. I don’t know. I don’t know anything, Mick. The food’s real nasty in here but I bet prison food’s not any better. I’m sorry.”

“It’s like they turned the volume of the world down. I can still hear the noises but it’s like it’s real far off. It’s like… I know that I’m scared but I can’t really feel it. That doesn’t make any sense, does it? Shit, I must sound like … well, technically I’m crazy so, whatever… But these one-way conversations feel weird. I realized today that I don’t even know what they’re charging you with. I think a lot about you. There’s not much to do, besides thinking about shit. And sleeping. I sleep a lot, though you’re not supposed to. Thinking about you hurts. I shouldn’t … I’m really sorry, Mick. I really am.”

He isn’t able to cry, but he wishes he were. Maybe it would make it hurt less.

“I got the shakes real bad. And I’m nauseated like all the time. I hate this. I hate this and I hate me and I hate Monica. I miss you. Debbie visited today. She says she doesn’t blame for anything. I don’t believe her. There’s a guy in group who’s here for the fourth time in six years. I’m so scared. I don’t wanna be like him. I don’t wanna be me anymore.”

“I’m journaling now. Do you even listen to these? I could be speaking into the void for all I know. Anyway, it’s supposed to be helping with tracking my mood and shit.”

“Sorry I couldn’t call yesterday. Spent the night throwing up everything I ate. I feel like shit, Mickey. Isn’t it supposed to get better? I can’t stop thinking about Debbie. How I shoved her down the stairs. I thought that – Fuck, that’s so fucked up. I’m so fucked up. I only feel okay when I’m speaking to you. Dr. Young said that it’s not healthy. Co-dependency and shit. But what do I care if it’s the only thing that keeps me from offing myself.”

He spends the next 48 hours on suicide watch, this time, they don’t hesitate to sedate him heavily. It takes time until it wears off and he isn’t able to call Mickey for four nights in a row.

“Hey, Mick. If you really listen to my ramblings … Sorry if I scared you. I’m still alive. Suicide watch and shit. The first week’s over and … I still don’t feel that much. They say it will change, they say it needs time. I wished I could stop shaking. At least I’m not puking my guts out anymore. I’m so tired, Mick.”

“Fiona brought by some old comics. Like The Avengers and shit. I can’t really focus. But it’s nice to at least look at the pictures. Better than watching some telenovela on the shitty TV anyway. I wish we could play Tony Hawk’s Underground like we used to.”

“Dr. Young says he’ll recommend me for the outpatient programme if I don’t pull any shit until the second week is over. It’d still be a lot, group three times a week, sessions with him two times but at least I would be able to sleep at home. The food at home’s better. I wish I could know what you think about it.”

 


 

“Mickey called me,” Fiona tells him when she visits him the next day, “he says that you should do it. Tell him he has to get his shit together. And I’m supposed to tell you that he’s proud, but in an ex-boyfriend kind of way.”

Ian blushes while the words sting at the same time. He’s able to read in between the words.

I’m not gonna be over the shit you pulled, Ian. Not just like that. You gotta earn it.

“Thanks, Fi.”

“We miss you, kiddo.”

 


 

“So Dr. Young recommended me and they’re gonna talk about it in the staff meeting tomorrow. By the way, they have all seven Harry Potter books in the book shelf here. I never finished the third one, so I picked it up. It’s real good. I’m able to focus a little more. Maybe things are getting better.”

“They had to switch the meds. It’s back to puking my guts out, again and the shaking is getting worse. They say that I have to stay until the meds are balanced. At least another five days.”

“I finished Prisoner of Azkaban after group today. I’m gonna ask if we can watch the movie when I get home. We haven’t had a movie night in ages. The only guy in group that isn’t over thirty got discharged today. I feel so alone in here. Everyone’s like fifteen years older. Did I mention that the food sucks?”

“I miss you. I tried to paint a portrait of you in art therapy today. But I sucked and I ended up doing a abstract with. Just a lot of red and blue. Us, you know.”

“I’m gonna come visit you as soon as they let me go, okay? I need to see your face, Mick. I need to see you. Hear you. I need you.”

“Meds seem to be okay. I’m not as exhausted as before. And I’m getting out of bed, so that’s good I guess? They’re gonna make a decision about the outpatient programme tomorrow. I really need to get out of here.”

“So, I’m leaving tomorrow. Finally. 19 days man. 19 fucking days. Thanks for … letting me do this. I guess it means you don’t hate me, huh? I’d hate me if I were you. I hate me and I’m myself … so… Anyway. Thanks. I’m gonna come visit you as soon as I can. Bye, Mick.”

 

Chapter Text

Home.

There are so many different things Ian associates with his home; it’s hard to single one out. The house is quiet now and the quiet feels wrong. Chaotic, loud, loving, are words he would use to talk about his family, but quiet isn’t one of them.

He’s sitting cross-legged on the bed in Lip’s room. Lip’s at college, Carl’s in Juvie and for the first time since Ian can remember every one of the remaining Gallaghers has their own room. Fiona made lasagna and Lip was there when Ian came home from the psych ward, which was nice enough. He mostly listened to whatever his siblings where talking about, without actually paying attention to them. But he remembered to ask them about watching Harry Potter together, but they didn’t seem too thrilled about it.

Lip and Fiona both had to leave after the meal to get to college/work and Ian ended up watching Paw Patrol with Liam until Debbie said it was bedtime for the little guy.

And now it’s barely past eight o’clock, he already changed and is supposed to journal about his day before going to bed.

“If you don’t know how to start, write something down your grateful for or something you’re proud of,” Dr. Young suggested when he gave him the journal.

I didn’t hurt anyone today. He flinches at the thought, but writes it down anyway. No censorship.
It’s good to be home. But it doesn’t feel like home anymore.

The house is quiet.

The house is never quiet.

It feels foreign.

He tosses and turns for over an hour before he surrenders and plods across the corridor to his old bedroom. Liam is snoring lightly in his bed. The room is only lit by his old nightstand lamp but he notices the book on the desk anyway.

He grabs the paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and sits down on his old bed, the one he’s been sleeping in since they moved into the house, when a note falls out.

Remember when I snatched this from the library? We spent three weeks reading it together. Let me know if I can snatch something else for you.

For the first time in weeks, Ian feels a sense of belonging.

 


 

The fluorescent light is harsh; everything in here makes Ian feel queasy. To his left, there’s an old woman with shaggy, grey hair, to his right sits a girl with a toddler in her lap. He tries to calm his nerves with a breathing exercise, slowly inhaling through his nose, exhaling through his mouth, but his breath stocks when the first few men come through into the room on the other side of the glass.

Mickey’s pale, he looks like he hasn’t slept properly in days, but at least Ian can’t see any bruises.

His heart flutters when the man behind the glass smiles at him. It’s barely noticeable, but it happened.

“Didn’t think you’d actually come.”

Ian tries his best not to show his hurt. He’s the one who dumped Mickey and didn’t care about him when he was chased by Sammi.

“Are you doing okay in there? You need anything? Money?”

Mickey shakes his head.

“I’m good, Gallagher.”

“How long, uh, I mean, what -?”

“They’re charging me with aggravated battery. Could serve up to five years. Don’t know when’s the court date gonna be though. Shit takes time.”

Mickey’s expression doesn’t change; his emotionless mask doesn’t have a single crack. Five years. Five years for – what? Defending him, revenging him.

“You doin’ ok with your outpatient program?”

Ian’s stomach clenches, while he tries to read the undertone of the question. Worried? Or is it just small talk? When did he stop being able to read Mickey’s undertones? It feels like they are shouting at each other from two different shores.

“It’s only been one week. But yeah. It’s good to be back home. Thanks for …,” he trails off, making a vague gesture with his free hand, unsure how to phrase it.

“I wouldn’t let you hanging like that. But – listen,” Mickey shifts and suddenly Ian’s aware that they’re running out of time, “I can’t be the fire brigade for your emotional shit. That’s not my job. You made that pretty clear. Besides, it’s fucking impossible from inhere. So, you can’t keep doing that. Talk to your siblings or your shrink, or whatever. But you can’t push me away like that and then -. I get that you’re sick, and that you need help. I can’t give you what you need right now. I gotta handle my own shit.”

“Are you saying you don’t wanna see me anymore?” It’s not an accusation; he just can’t really make sense of the words he just heard.

“Nah, man. I’m just,” Mickey chews his bottom lip and the sight makes Ian tear up, because for the first time since the beginning of this conversation he actually sees Mickey in front of him, “For fuck’s sake, you dumped me.”

“Yeah, I know – I didn’t mean it, Mick. I was just-“

“Save it. It’s not like it would work right now anyway. I’m saying that we need to take a step back. A huge step. We both need to figure some shit out and that doesn’t work if you keep unloading all your stuff on me while I’m not sure how much I can trust you.”

“But you still wanna see me?” It doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s because his mind still isn’t working like it used to be, because he still feels a bit off from time to time. Or it’s because it just doesn’t make any fucking sense.

“We could be, like,” Mickey hesitates, his eyes darting, “friends. Talking about neutral stuff. You know what I mean?”

“Yu mean like a restart?”

“Something like that. It’s not like we can sort out any of the real stuff on a time limit, anyway.”

As if on cue, the sound of the buzzer makes Ian jump.

“Time to wrap it up, folks!”

“Yeah, okay.” Ian’s pretty sure he would agree to anything right now just to keep Mickey in his life. That might be the whole problem.

“Alright, Gallagher.”

“So I can come back, yeah? Or you gonna call me?”

“Come back. Take care of yourself, Ian.”

“You, too.”

 


 

His mind doesn’t stop spinning, not on the bus ride home, not while eating leftovers from the lunch he missed, not while staring at the ceiling in his bedroom.

The truth is, he broke up with Mickey because he didn’t want to hurt him. He doesn’t remember much. But he does remember being convinced that he’d end up hurting Mickey (even more) if he’d let him stick around. Back then, it had felt like damage control.

When he crashed back into reality by the sound of Debbie falling down the stairs, the only thing he really wanted was someone who didn’t look at him like he just confirmed all their fears – and that someone was Mickey. Mickey has been the only one who didn’t constantly compare him to the person he unfortunately shared a gene pool with. Mickey has been the only one who just was there without these expectations and the constant Just like her written on his face. That’s why he called him that day, when he agreed to commit himself to the psych ward, so he could get adjusted to the medication that would keep him from thinking that his sister was about to attack him.

Back then, the breakup felt like damage control, but now it feels like one of the worst decisions he’s ever made.

Ian glances at the clock on his phone. It’s not even four yet and there’s still time until it gets dark outside. Before he can think it through and talk himself out of it again, he throws on some running clothes, puts on a beanie and heads outside. He hasn’t been running since before everything spiralled out of control. It’s cold as fuck outside and his body isn’t used to it anymore but his thoughts calm down as soon as his heartrate speeds up.

A restart sounds like a peace offering and if he’s honest with himself it’s the best he can hope for. The conditions they’re in could hardly be worse and Mickey’s right: It’s not like they can sort through the deep shit while constantly being pressed for time. If Mickey’s willing to do that at all, it has to wait until he’s on parole.

Mending his relationship with Mickey shouldn’t even be his first priority right now. He should deal with his personal shit called bipolar disorder first. Just because he’s not inpatient anymore and is actually taking his meds doesn’t mean he’s stable.

Ian scoffs at the thought and slows down, his lungs burning.

He’s pretty far from being stable, even though being medicated doesn’t feel worse than being un medicated anymore. The feeling of numbness has subsided and his hands don’t shake as much anymore but he can’t help but wonder if he’s ever going to feel like before again.

Friends.

Shouldn’t that be the foundation of romantic any relationship anyway? He picks up the pace again.

Friends.

Suddenly, his mind’s flooded with memories: Roughhousing, the obstacle course, the self-made shooting range in one of the abandoned buildings solving cross-word puzzles together while working at the Kash’n’Grab, playing video games.

Before.

By the time the blue house on Homan Avenue comes back into his sight, he doesn’t feel like a wounded animal anymore.

“Look at you, Ryan Hall!” Fiona’s sitting on the steps to the front porch, a cig between thumb and index finger, beaming at him like a child on Christmas.

Ian manages a snort even though he’s panting like hell and he might faint any second.

“Don’t think so. Ran barely three miles and calling it running is a huge exaggeration. More like speed walking.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a start. You could sign up for the 10k in April if you keep it up.”

He shrugs and tries to ignore the rising frustration in the pit of his stomach. She just means well, he knows that, but she’s hopefully not going to pressure him into actually signing up. There has been a time when the sole mention of the 10k run would have made him sign up, just to show her that he’s capable of doing it. There has been a time when a 10k wasn’t even a challenge. Before.

“How was work?” He asks, hoping she doesn’t mind the change of subject.

“Same old. Sean told me that your position’s still open if you want it back.”

Ian cringes internally. Is she trying to tell him that he’s supposed to pitch in?

“I’ll think about it. Thanks.”

“Yeah, no rush. It’s more important that you get back on your feet. Don’t worry about the money.”

“Since when can we afford not to worry about money, Fi?” He frowns.

She throws the remains of her smoke to the ground and gets up.

“Carl isn’t here, Lip is at college, I’m assistant manager,” she shrugs, “Seriously, don’t worry about it, Ian. I got it covered.”

It isn’t convincing, but he’s not in the mood to argue. He’s freezing anyway so he follows her into the house without another word.

Chapter Text

It wouldn’t take more than five minutes to just walk over there and knock, yet it feels like he’s trying to cross the Berlin Wall.

“Who’s part of your support system, except your immediate family?,” Dr. Young asked him in their session yesterday.

He’d wanted to say Mickey but he isn’t sure about that, not anymore. It’s been a week since the conversation and Ian’s been debating when he should visit him again. So, not Mickey. Who else? There’s been a time where he had a second family, a family consisting of Mick, Svetlana, Yevgeny and Mandy, but that’s over.

Somehow he started talking about their little family, about Yevgeny.

That’s why he’s now standing on the porch, talking himself into going over.

“Just let them know you care. Don’t expect anything,” his therapist’s voice echoes in his head.

There is a possibility that Svetlana is going to chase after him with a claw hammer, but he casts the thought aside as he walks up the stairs to the Ball-Fisher-Milkovich house and knocks at the door.

Kev opens.

“Ian, my man! How’s it going?” He pulls him into the house and chatters away.

“Uh,” Ian awkwardly shifts his weight, “Is Svetlana here?”

“Oh, yeah. She’s upstairs.”

A yell and a minute later, one of the few people Ian’s honestly terrified of walks down the stairs into the living room. She narrows her eyes when she sees him.

“Orange boy. What do you want?”

“I – uh.” She’s gonna skin him alive. Fuck it.

“IwonderedifIcouldspendtimewithYevgeny. Under your supervision, of course. I mean. I know you don’t really trust me anymore and I can’t really blame you but I’m better now, I’m taking my meds and I just – I really miss him.”

Svetlana musters him stone faced as ever.

“Piece of shit husband told me that you were back in nuthouse, yeah?”

Ian winces, both at the mention of Mickey and at the nuthouse part.

“I’ve been home for two weeks. As I said, I’m better.”

To his surprise, Kev rushes to his help.

“I could use some help with the kids when you and Vee are at the bar.”

She crosses her arms in front of her chest.

“I need to think about it. I will tell you.”

“Okay. Uh, good. Then, uh, I guess bye?”

That could have gone worse.


 

Blond girl is whining about her mean friends again and Ian keeps wondering what he’s trying to accomplish here. How exactly is sitting in a fucking circle and listening to a group of strangers whine about their crappy life going to help him? For a few weeks, it’s been bearable. But he’s had enough. His sessions with Dr. Young don’t feel like a complete waste of time, but group therapy does, so he decides that he won’t come back here.

 

Fiona is not amused about his decision.

“The outpatient programme is your job right now, Ian. Lip’s in college, I’m working and your job is your recovery. You can’t just quit that.”

“I didn’t quit, I’m still going to see Dr. Young once a week.”

 

It didn’t take long until word got around to the therapist that Ian wasn’t attending group anymore. To his surprise, Dr. Young told him that the programme wasn’t mandatory and that he couldn’t force him to attend. But with quitting group, the programme was official over for him, which meant he had to transfer from the outpatient programme to weekly counselling sessions along with monthly psychiatrist appointments until his meds were totally balanced.

 

“You were supposed to finish the programme the way it’s supposed to be finished and not just do what you please.”

“Jesus, Fiona, what’s your problem? I’m still doing therapy, I’m taking my meds, I just don’t want to waste my time sitting around.”

His sister glares at him from behind the kitchen counter.

“Fine. Whatever, Ian. Are you gonna go back to school instead?”

No one has suggested going back to school so far and if he’s honest, he doesn’t want to go back to sitting in a crowded classroom seven hours a day.

“No, I’m not.”

“So you don’t have a plan? You’re just gonna sit around the house?” She scoffs. “Thought so. I’m gonna tell Sean you’ll go back to work next week, since you have more free-time now.”

“You wish. I’m not going back there to be bossed around by you.”

Fiona throws her hand up in frustration.

“Then get another job, I don’t care. But your time of favour is over. I expect you to contribute to rent and groceries as of now, except you’ll go back to school. For Christ’s sake Ian I really thought you’d pull through.”

Ian watches her as she storms through the living room and out of the front door.

 


 

Finding a job that doesn’t put him at risk of losing a limp without having finished high school turns out to be pretty difficult. But Lip pulls some strings and gets him a job as a janitor on campus and Ian figures it’s better than living on the streets in case Fiona kicks him out for not paying rent. He starts his new job a day after Carl gets out of Juvie.

And maybe it would have been bearable if he didn’t feel so stupid listening to Lip and his friend talking about quantum physics. Maybe it would have been okay if Lip’s prof hadn’t told him that he’s too smart to be a high school dropout. Maybe it would have been okay if Lip would have let him crash at his dorm room for more than one night, if they hadn’t gotten into a fight over how Ian’s living in Lip’s shadow again, how he had to drop out of High School because the universe and psychotic pricks and his genes all wanted to fucking destroy his life and all the dreams he’s ever had.

But all of this happened, and it happened in less than 24 hours and Ian’s fucking done. The river rushes by under the bridge in front of him and he can’t help but ask himself if that’s it. If that’s going to be how his life will be for the next forty years. He’s got nothing. No education, a shitty job and a broken mind. Congratulations.

He hears a crash behind him and swirls around to see two cars crashed into each other. He sees a man run away and shouts after him, but the man doesn’t stop. One of the cars burst up in flames and Ian doesn’t think twice before lurching forward to try to get the other person out of the car. There’s pure adrenalin rushing through his veins while he yanks the body out, coughing from the smoke. The last thought he has before tumbling to the street and losing consciousness is that he hasn’t felt so alive since his fistfight with Mickey on the baseball field.

 

The house is empty when he gets home hours later, after an EMT checked his vitals and said that he’s okay. It feels like he’s dreaming, he’s moving without realizing it. All he can think about is the adrenaline rush and that he, probably, saved a life. He, Ian Gallagher, the boy without education or a future saved a life. He tosses his clothes into the hamper and takes a shower, still not able to think clearly and goes straight to bed afterwards. His dreams don’t make any sense.

 


 

Dr. Young taps his pen against the clipboard while Ian tells him about the events of the other day.

“It just felt … good,” Ian finishes, “Like the right thing to do. I could’ve just called 911. But … I didn’t.”

“I’m not trying to be another person that bugs you about your future but let’s go back to that feeling of hopelessness and your frustration with your current job.”

When Ian went back to emptying trash cans this morning, it felt even less satisfying than the day before.

“You could look into emergency services. Maybe that field of work sparks your interest.”

“You mean like a paramedic?”

Dr. Young nods.

“You certainly would have to take classes and you told me that you don’t want to get back to school, but learning’s easier if you’re actually interested in the subject.”

“Huh,” it seems like the most obvious thing now that Dr. Young said it and Ian wonders why he didn’t think of it before, “Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.”

He takes the GED placement test as soon as he’s home.

 


 

Even though the meds seem to do what they are supposed to do (he doesn’t bash anyone’s head in, leaves the bed et cetera et cetera) he still doesn’t feel himself and he’s still getting exhausted pretty fast. That’s why the rapping against the front door wakes him up from a nap on the sofa.

“Misha asked about you,” Svetlana starts without greeting, “He told you that you can come back and you don’t. He whined. I hate it. He bothers me with that. Go back, make him stop whining.”

Ian blinks. Once. Twice. Three times. “Um.”

Misha?? His mind supplies, which is not helping, Since when does Svetlana have pet names for Mickey that aren’t insults?

“So you go back, yeah?” She asks.

“Yeah?”

“Good,” she smiles, “And I made decision. You can see Zhenya. Tomorrow afternoon, together with Kev.”

Her smile disappears and she bores her index finger into his chest.

“You will hurt my son I will kill you. You understand?”

Ian gulps.

“I would never – I mean not intentionally-”

She holds up her hand.

“Save it. You hurt him nobody will ever find your body.”

“Understood. Thank you for…”

She doesn’t wait until he finished his sentence, just turns around and leaves without another word.

His heart doesn’t slow down for another few minutes and Ian finds himself leaning against the doorframe trying to understand what just happened.

Mickey more or less asked about him and Ian is going to spend time with Yevgeny tomorrow. It takes a moment for him to register that he’s actually smiling.

 


 

“I didn’t think I would have to wait longer than a week to see your ass in here again,” Mickey’s grin makes Ian’s heartbeat stop for a second but when the brunette turns his face, Ian wants to throw up. There’s a giant yellow-blue bruise on his forehead.

“What the fuck happened to you?” His voice is more jarring than he likes, but whatever.

Mickey sighs. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

“You’re obviously not.”

“Drop it, Gallagher. There’s nothing you can do anyway.”

The truth behind that hurts. He can’t do shit. Ian lowers his gaze guiltily.

“So what you`ve been up to that made you too fucking busy to come back here?”

He doesn’t know where to start so he says the first thing that comes into his mind.

“I spent some time with Yevgeny yesterday.”

“I know.”

Ian frowns.

“Svetlana actually asked me for permission. I always think my life can’t get any fucking more weird but then Mother Russia actually asks me if I’d be okay if you spent time with –,” he stops, his gaze everywhere but meeting Ian’s, “him.”

“Oh.”

He wants to ask so many questions Does that mean that you want me in his life and you think we have a chance as soon as you’re out? Why did you say yes? But instead he tells Mickey about his afternoon with Yevgeny. He tells him that he felt uncomfortable at first, felt guilty that Yevgeny has learned to walk in his absence, that he wasn’t there to witness his first step, until Kev told him that Yevgeny wouldn’t die if he’d interacted with him. So he grabbed one of the toys, crouched down on the floor and let himself be flooded by his love for him. (Because he does actually feel things by now. Six weeks after going back on meds, he’s able to feel again.)

“Thanks – for letting me see him.”

“You always loved that little fucker. He can use some love.”

Mickey smiles and Ian feels a blush work its way up his neck.

“What about you?”

“If I can use some love? Isn’t there a fucking song about that? Everybody needs somebody to love or some shit? We’re not going there, Gallagher, I told you.”

“No! Shit. Fuck, I didn’t mean that,” his face is burning hot, “I meant what you’ve been up to.”

Mickey’s eyes flash as he laughs.

“Bastard,” Ian cries out, but starts laughing to, “Why would you do that.”

He wants to touch his face so fucking bad; just cup it and kiss it and drink in his laughter. But there’s a glass wall between them – and so much more.

“You look like a tomato,” Mickey snickers.

Ian chooses not to answer that.

“Same old. I’m actually using the time and getting my GED.”

Ian forgets that he should be pouting.

“Oh yeah?”

Mickey shrugs.

“It’s better than sitting on my ass all day or some nasty cleaning job. And it’s probably gonna look good in court.”

“Sounds good.”

He wants to tell him that he’s going back to school, too, but Mickey interrupts him.

“They set the court date. Next week.”

Ian lets out a shaky breath.

“’kay.”

“I’m gonna get transferred after.”

He nods. He knows. What if they send him to Lawrence Correctional or somewhere else even farther away? There’s no way Ian will be able to travel across state once a week when he starts taking classes again. Not to mention that he doesn’t have a fucking car. His vision gets blurry and he notices that he stopped breathing.

“Don’t look so fucking worried, man. I’ll be fine.”

It should be the other way round, Ian should reassure Mickey – but when has anything about them been the way it’s supposed to be? Still, he needs to get his act together. Mickey shouldn’t worry about him. He straightens his back and forces a smile.

“Yeah. You will. It’s gonna be fine.”

Fine is such a weird word in relation to prison.

The buzzer startles them both this time.

“See ya, tough guy. Don’t do anything stupid.”

Mickey nods one last time and gets up. Moments later, he’s out of sight.

Chapter Text

Ian’s second GED exam-day is on the same day as Mickey’s court date. He suffers through several hours of Science and Social Studies, trying his best to not let his mind wander. This, his education, has nothing to do with Mickey’s verdict. It doesn’t change anything if he bombs it just because he’d a rather be in a court room to hear how long they’re going to haul Mickey away.

As soon as he leaves the room though, he lets his mind go there and his heart beat way to fast. He makes his way to the Alibi in record time, hoping to find Svetlana there. The Alibi is empty except for the regulars and Ian’s heart skips a beat when he sees Svetlana pouring a beer.

“How’d go?” He’s out of breath. He doesn’t care.

Svetlana eyes him warily, as if she’s not sure if she should tell him.

“Svetlana! Weren’t you there? How! Did! It! Go!” Is he shaking? He is shaking.

“Two years and nine months. Western Illinois Correctional,” is all that she says before disappearing into the backroom.

His ears start ringing and he grips the bar to steady himself.

“Ian, you ok?” He didn’t notice that Kev’s appeared, but the bear-like man is looking at him.

“Vodka shot, please.” His voice doesn’t sound like his own.

“Hey aren’t you supposed to be careful with alcohol and your meds…?”

“Jesus Christ! Are you a bartender or my fucking babysitter? Give me a shot or I’ll pour it myself.”

The alcohol burns in his throat.

Two years and nine months.

He doesn’t know what he expected.

His phone buzzes in his pocket.

[Lip – 4:17 pm] Dorm party 2nite 9pm. Wanna celebrate finishing your exams?

[Ian – 4:18 pm] You’re my favorite brother.

 


 

The warmth feels good. He didn’t realize how much he craved this: Sleeping and waking up next to someone.

His mind needs a second to catch up. Why is he waking up next to someone? He opens his eyes. Why is he in a fucking dorm room, only wearing his boxers? Why does his mouth feel like a fucking squirrel is living in there? After a few more confused blinks, his memory trickles back in.

The dorm party. Beer pong. And Brian. Or Brad? The Asian guy lying next to him is still asleep. Ian remembers the way he shoved the guy against the back of the door and sucked on his earlobe. He also remembers a lot more. The sex has been satisfying, but nothing more. And, to be honest, Ian’s kind of glad his sex drive has finally decided to come back. He gets up and collects his clothes from the floor, before putting them on. When he glances at his phone, he curses under his breath. It’s already eight thirty. There’s an emergency dosage of meds in his bag, for scenarios like this. He digs them out and tiptoes to the bathroom, to wash them down with some faucet-water.

 

Brian/Brad is smiling at him when he comes back.

“Gonna give me a goodbye kiss, at least?” He asks.

Jesus.

“Believe me, you don’t wanna kiss me right now.” Ian puts on his sneakers and brushes his fingers through his hair. He needs to get his hands on some food as soon as possible or else he will pay dearly. “So… Was nice to meet you and all. See you around.”

Or not. He doesn’t really care.

 

His thoughts go back to Mickey while he walks to the on-campus coffee shop and his stomach clenches. Two years and nine months is a bit longer than Mickey’s previous stints to Juvie. Getting more and more nauseated, Ian remembers that he’s played a role in two of those Juvie visits, too. The cheese-bagel he buys doesn’t taste like anything, but it’ll get the job done, so whatever. He’s looking up directions to Western Illinois Correctional when his phone buzzes with an incoming message.

[Lip 8:56 am] Did you have a good night? ;)

[Ian 8:59 am] 6/10

Not as good as Mickey. Not nearly as good as Mickey.

 


 

“What the fuck is going on?” When he comes home from therapy later that day, it seems like there’s a family assembly going on in the kitchen, that no one bothered inviting him to.

Carl wordlessly shoves the eviction note over the table towards him.

“We’re losing the house, man,” Lip explains, “Patrick’s selling us out.”

Ian drops his back bag and slumps down next to Debbie, who clings to her mug of coffee like it’s a lifeline.

“We’re not losing anything yet, Lip,” Fiona counters, but her voice is shaking, “The house is sold at an auction. We could buy it back. Sean knows a guy at the bank; I could apply for a loan. But we need a down payment of $3,500.”

“Shit,” Ian breathes out. There’s no way they can get their hands on three and a half grand in time.

To his surprise, Carl produces a wad of cash from his jeans pocket.

“Sure thing. I got you covered. Big or small bills?”

“No! No way, we’re not buying this house with drug money – or whatever this is. How the hell have you so much money?” Fiona shakes her head.

Carl shrugs. “It’s not drugs, it’s-“

“I don’t want to know!”

“You got a better idea, Fi?” Ian leans back and looks at her expectantly. “All my savings are for tuition, I can’t help you.”

“We could pawn the TV.”

“That’ll get you 50 bucks,” Sean scoffs.

“I’m gonna figure something out. But I don’t want the state seizing our house because we bought with drug money. Don’t look at me like that, Ian. That ain’t happening. We’ll figure something out, period.”

The invisible ring around his chest keeps tightening and it gets harder and harder to breathe. But there’s no way he’s going to have an anxiety attack in front of his whole family. So instead, he pushes his chair back, hisses “Great talk Fiona, thanks for valuing everyone’s opinion on this.” and heads upstairs.

Since Carl’s friend is occupying his bed, Ian’s got Lip’s old room for himself again. He throws himself on the bed and tries to ignore the rising panic.

The last forty-eight hours have been more than exciting and in retrospect, Ian wonders why he didn’t crumble earlier. First the stress about his exams, then Mickey’s verdict, the dorm party and now impending homelessness. Isn’t he supposed to avoid stress?

He closes his eyes as he tries to take deep breaths. Counts to five, breathes out. There’s no need to panic, not yet. They’ll figure something out. They always did. They’re like cockroaches, able to live everywhere and feed of everything. They’re survivors. Survivors. His pulse starts to even out and his mind jumps to the next thing that keeps worrying him.

Mickey.

It’s been thirty hours since his verdict and Ian knows that processing and shit takes time, but he wishes Mickey would contact him. What if Mickey jumped to conclusions himself and decided that Ian wouldn’t be in for the long haul; wouldn’t wait almost three years?

“For fuck’s sake,” Ian curses at himself while wiping his hands over his face. He’s 95% sure that Mickey hasn’t gotten his phone privileges yet and that he’s overthinking this. The remaining 5% are pretty convincing, though.

His phone buzzes and he actually feels a sense of relief when he sees the reminder on screen. It’s already eight-thirty and he should get a grip if he doesn’t wants to lay awake all night, worrying without any outcome. The kitchen has cleared out when he comes downstairs to fix himself dinner. The fridge is almost empty so he opts for a peanut butter sandwich. He sits down at the counter and takes in the dimly light room. So many memories.  Ned removed the bullet from Mickey’s ass on this counter. Ian laughs softly at the memory. Before. It feels like they robbed the house in another lifetime. Lip tried to teach him trig at this kitchen table, so he’d have a chance at getting into West Point. They made posters for Carl’s games, sitting at that table. His smile dies down and his stomach turns. They just can’t lose the house. The house is what holds them all together; it’s their anchor, their home base. He’d always known that he can come back here, even though it took him some time to actually do it. Fiona will figure something out. She always does.

The alarm clock on his night-stand shows nine-thirty by the time he slams his journal shut. The routine and jotting down his thoughts actually helped calming him down and the drowsiness he always has to deal with after taking his antipsychotic does the rest. He falls asleep within minutes.

 


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

It’s been forty-three hours since Svetlana told him about the verdict (not that he’s been counting) and Ian would be embarrassed about the amount of relief that’s rushing through him if he weren’t so busy being anxious. The auction is tomorrow evening and, although Fiona has been able to pay the down-payment, Ian doesn’t allow himself to be completely hopeful.

The prison-message ends and Ian accepts the call, but for a moment all he hears is signal noise.

“You sure you wanna talk to a dangerous, dangerous, felon, Firecrotch?”

It feels like balm to his racing mind and Ian instantly relaxes.

“Hey Mick. You ok?”

“Don’t worry about me, I’m good. Milkoviches got a certain reputation, y’know?”

“Yeah, I can imagine,” he chuckles.

“You ok? You sound a bit drained.”

How the fuck is he able to hear that through the shitty connection? Ian bites his lip.

I can’t be the fire brigade for your emotional shit.

“Spit it out, Gallagher.”

“We’re losing the house.”

“What? How? I thought your cousin’s renting it to you.”

Ian frowns. How does Mickey even know that?

“I – He took a mortgage on it or something? I don’t know. There’s an auction tomorrow, we’re gonna try to buy it back, but…”

“Shit, that sucks. Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah,” Ian runs a hand through his hair, before remembering who he’s talking to. “You put me on your visitation list? I can ask if Carl gives me his car, I could make it over there tomorrow by noon.”

“Nah. I’m not nearly number one on your priority list right now. Remember what I said about figuring our own shit out first? Sort the house stuff out first. I’m gonna check in with you the day after tomorrow, kay?”

“But-“ That’s so contradictory, man.

“Just-“

“No, listen to me Mickey. What exactly are we doing here? I can’t put my life on hold for three years without knowing where I’m at. I can’t drive eight hours once a week when I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me for – I don’t even know, dumping you, running away with Monica…”

“You want me to forgive you?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have called you – I love you, Mick.”

Shit. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Not like that. But if there’s one thing he realized in the last few weeks, then it’s this.

“And what? Now you just gonna run again, because things don’t work out the way you hoped to? What were you hoping for? That they throw me in MCC for a few months?”

“I don’t know. But I gotta pick my battles. I can’t keep doing this if you don’t have any intentions of forgiving me and – and getting back together. I need to know where I’m at.”

You can’t keep – doing what? You’re not the one in the fucking can, Ian. I never said I wouldn’t forgive you. Hell, I never said there’s something that needs to be forgiven. It’s about trust. It’s about you running of as soon as shit gets hard. I’m not asking you to come here every week and chit-chat with me. Fuck, I’m not asking you to do anything.”

He can hear Mickey’s heavy breathing and hates himself for starting this conversation over the phone.

“If that’s too much for you Gallagher, talking to me every once in a while over the phone – If you need to move on from me, because shit got harder than you expected just fucking say it and move on. I’m not gonna come crawl back to you like some bitch when I’m out. Stick around through the hard shit for once, man. Show me that you fucking mean it and that I’m not some – some convenience. I stuck around when shit hit the fan. Nobody would have blamed me if I had left, everybody expected me to; you know that right? But I stayed put, because I somehow fell for your ginger ass and my sense of self-preservation got lost along the way. I thought we were over and then you started calling me and – You wanna know where we at? Don’t fucking leave for once. I meant what I said, Ian. Thick and thin, good times, bad. The question is, do you mean it, too?”

Their time is running out, they both know it. The answer to that question should come more easily. But Mickey’s right, Ian’s a runner. I stuck around when shit hit the fan. Yeah. He did. And he’s been the only thing that’s been okay in a confusing and painful time. Ian always wanted more commitment from Mickey and when he got it, he dumped him. He cringes at the hazy memory of that day on the porch. He didn’t mean it. The pill bottles on Ian’s night-stand are enough of a reminder of how much has changed since that day.

“So we got a chance? After this? You’re not done with me yet?”

“I wouldn’t be calling if I were done with you, Jesus.”

“Okay. I’m in. I’m gonna stick around.”

“Okay.”

“Wait a second. Sticking around doesn’t mean I can’t fuck anybody else while you’re in there right? Because if so, I already fucked up.”

Mickey’s snort cracks his chest open. How can something be so beautiful and painful at the same time?

“Nah, Firecrotch. We’re good. I gotta go. I’m gonna call on Saturday, yeah? Your family will figure something out. You always do. Fucking Irish.”

“Saturday. Yeah. I –“

“Take care, man.”

The line clicks.

Chapter Text

Gallaghers don’t just buy a house. Gallaghers aren’t that lucky. Gallaghers lose their childhood home to some yuppy family who want to move into an upcoming neighbourhood.

 

Thanks to Carl’s drug-or-whatever money, homelessness means staying in a hotel room with him, while Debbie, Liam, and Fiona crash at Sean’s. Last time they didn’t have a place to stay, they slept in a van, so this is much better. It’s warm and the water pressure is a lot better than at home. Ian passes his GED and starts EMT classes and things could seriously be worse. The fact that there aren’t any affordable flats that aren’t total shitholes scares the shit out of him, but he tries to focus on the things he can influence. He studies, he journals, he works out. It keeps the anxiety somewhat at bay.

“Who’s that handsome guy on your lock screen? He single?”

He didn’t notice the girl slipping into the seat next to him. It’s almost eight-thirty and the class is about to start.

“That?” He waves his phone.

The girl nods.

“Sorry, not single.”

“Oh shit, did I just try to steal your boyfriend?”

Ian shrugs. “Kinda. Can’t steal him, though.”

“You know, a wise man once said that you don’t need a picture of the people you love, because if you really love them you won’t forget what they look like.”

Ian quirks an eyebrow. “Really? What if you haven’t seen them in days, because they’re in prison?”

She shrugs. “That’s an exception, I guess. You miss him?”

“A lot.”

He should go visit him. He should’ve visited him days ago.

“I’m Fabiola, by the way.”

“Ian. Hi.”

He should totally visit him.

[To Carl 8:27 am] Can I borrow your car today?

 


 

The drive isn’t so bad, with the right playlist and a shit ton of snacks. It takes him a bit more than four hours to get out there but he arrives in time before the visiting hours end.

He expected another no-contact visit, but it’s a regular room with a bunch of tables. While he’s waiting for Mickey, he gets a snickers bar for him.

“Hi.”

“Hey.”

“Are we allowed to hug or something?”

His skin prickles at the touch, even though there’s fabric between them.

“Hi,” Ian repeats when they sit down.

“Don’t you have school or something?”

“Came here right after, only have class until 11.30 on Tuesdays. How are you?”

He looks okay; Ian can’t stop staring at him. There’s no glass between them. Ian could reach out and touch Mickey’s hand, but he isn’t supposed to. But he could.

“I’m good. Auto technician shit is going okay, I didn’t get shived in my sleep yet, so, yeah, I’m fine. Any news with the house?”

“No, not really. We keep looking at flats, but you know… It’s hard. I’ve been thinking about getting my own place, but that would have to wait until I start working as an EMT… The money I make with the janitorial hours are only just enough for my meds.”

Mickey nods slowly.

“Still staying in that hotel?”

“Yeah,” Ian laughs, “It’s nice, actually. I just don’t know how long Carl can keep it up. But I’m doing okay, Mick. No need to worry. School’s going good, meds are okay… There’s gonna be a solution.”

There must be.

“I got you snickers,” he adds and shoves the candy bar over the table.

“Thanks, man.” He fiddles with the bar without opening it. “I got news.”

“Yeah?”

“I talked to this counsellor guy. Said I can file for parole after a year.”

Mickey holds his gaze, there’s a hint of a smile.

“Holy fuck. That’s –“ He’s too surprised to do the math.

“Eight months. I could be out in eight months.”

“Holy shit, Mick! That’s awesome. We survived eight months before, right?” He grins.

Mickey winces, Ian almost misses it. Almost.

“What?” Ian wants to reach out for his hand, but he isn’t that naïve.

“It’s different than Juvie in here.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re all right, though, right?”

He probably wouldn’t tell him if he weren’t, because there’s nothing he can do anyway.

“I’m glad you came. You know, out here. You didn’t have to.”

“That’s – Mick.” It’s pleading.

“I’m ok, Ian. Gonna survive eight more months. It’s ok. No need to worry.”

The air is thick with unsaid things when the CO tells them to wrap it up ten minutes later. The goodbye hug is to short.

 

By the time he switches his phone back on, Ian has three missed calls and several text messages.

[Lip 3:53 pm] Fiona got the house back!

[Fiona 4:27pm] Went to the hotel to get your stuff. Where r u?

[Fiona 4:56pm] Carl told me you got his car. Where did you go?

[Fiona 5:24pm] Dr. Young called me. You missed your appointment? WHERE ARE YOU? CALL ME BACK

[Lip 5:37pm] We’re at home. U ok? Call me.

[Fiona 5:48pm] CALL ME

One of the missed calls is by Dr. Young. Ian bits his lip when he realizes that he had an appointment an hour ago. He finishes his smoke and calls his brother.

“What’s the matter with Madame Mother Hen?”

“Yo, where the hell are you?”

“I’m at WICC, visited Mickey. Fiona got the house back?”

“Yeah, Carl helped out. We’re all back home now. Celebrating, there’s pizza. You ok?”

“Sure. I’m fine.”

“Fiona’s freaking out.”

“I noticed, she kinda blew up my phone,” he scoffs.

“I’ll tell her you’re ok. Just get your ass home, yeah?”

“Yeah. See you there.”

At home.

 


 

 

It’s night time when he parks Carl’s car outside their house. The light that shimmers through the window fills his chest with warmth.

“Where THE FUCK have you been?” Fiona scrambles down the stairs and stares at him, hands flying up.

“Didn’t Lip tell you? I went to visit Mick at WICC.” Ian frowns, while shrugging out of his jacket. Where’s the problem?

“Yeah, he told me. But that was after I have been trying to reach you for several hours. Why didn’t you tell any of us about it?”

“What am I, five? I don’t have to tell you anything, Fiona,” Ian scoffs. His siblings are sitting at the kitchen table, silently watching while chewing pizza. He grabs a slice for himself.

“You had an appointment today.”

“Yeah, I missed it. Shit happens. It’s not the end of the world. Seriously, what’s the big deal?”

“Oh I don’t know?! Last time you went on a spontaneous road trip you ended up in an arrest cell!”

He was about to take a bite of the pizza, but halts to turn to her. Fiona stares at him like he did something truly outrageous. He opens his mouth, closes it again. It feels like she shoved him down a cliff and he’s falling.

“Are you…? I’m not – I’m taking my meds.”

He’s okay. He’s fine. He’s taking his meds, he’s journaling, he … He’s not feeling too good. He isn’t. It’s normal. It’s – He’s not.

Fiona’s voice is getting softer. It’s her mom voice. Her I only want what’s best for you-voice.

“It’s been a hard couple of days, for all of us. Meds can get out of balance when you’re going through a lot of stress. Losing the house, starting school, the stuff with Mickey… It’s a lot. How about you check in with your psychiatrist, just to be sure?”

“Just because I spontaneously decided to visit Mick? Am I not allowed to be spontaneous anymore, just because I have a history of mental illness? I’m okay. I’m not manic. I’m taking my meds. I’m fine.

He’s not manic. He isn’t. He isn’t. He isn’t.

“Ian,” Lip interjects, “We’re not – We’re not saying you aren’t. Just – Let’s go to the clinic for a check-up, okay?”

The pizza slice dangles from his hand, but his appetite is gone. It was a spontaneous decision to drive out to WICC, but spontaneity doesn’t equal mania. What if they are right? He doesn’t actually feel manic when he’s manic, he just feels great. But he hasn’t been feeling extraordinarily good the last few days; he’s sleeping regularly and enough. But what if they are right?

He didn’t realize that Fiona has sat down next to him and is rubbing his shoulder.

“It’s probably nothing. Just to be sure, okay?”

 


 

He should feel relieved, because he was right and his siblings were wrong, because his journal and his sleep-log and a checklist and Dr. Kapoor agree with his guts.

But there’s no relief. Instead there’s anger.

“The possibility of a relapse will always stay, but you’ll learn to recognize triggers.”

It’s not news - but it’s been shoved into the last corner of his mind. He’s okay; he’s good, for now.

“It’s about management. It’s about recognizing triggers and monitoring. It’s about taking care of yourself.”

It’s raining outside the psychiatrist’s office, but he walks home anyway, telling himself that the fresh air will help him to calm down. His phone rings by the time he’s two blocks away from home.

“What’s up? I had class.”

Ian doesn’t ask for help. He doesn’t rely on anyone. He’s always been able to do shit alone.

“I talked to Dr. K. I’m fine.”

“Great. Is that why you—“

“A good support system is helpful for managing bipolar disorder. Someone you’re close to, - someone you trust -, could help you recognize symptoms.”

“There’s this checklist thing. A list with symptoms and questions how much I slept and shit,” Ian interrupts him. His voice is as factual as he can manage.

“And?”

“Can you … Can you do me favour?”

Can it even be called a favour?

“Yeah?”

“Next time you feel like I might be – off or something… Can you go through this list with me?”

“Even if you’re kicking and screaming? Sure. I love torturing you.” Lip chuckles.

“Fuck off.”

“You sure I’m the best person for this task, though? I’m not around that much.”

He wants to say: Yes, because I may be so angry at you that I punch you and you won’t hate me. He wants to say: You told me I got this without telling me that I’m just like her. He wants to say: You’re my brother. You’re my best friend. You never let me down. There’s no one who’s better.

“Mickey’s even less around, so…”

“Oh, fuck you. I’m the second choice? You considered him first?”

He wants to say: No, I didn’t, because it would destroy us. He wants to say: He’s gonna hate me one day because of this anyway and I don’t want to accelerate the process.

“See, that’s how it feels like to be second best.”

The laughter lifts the weight on his chest a little.

“I gotta get to my next class, man. At college.”

“You mean you gotta get to your fancy professor lady.”

“Fuck off.”

“Yeah, whatever. Thanks, man.”

“Hey, Ian?”

“Huh?”

“You got this.”

Chapter Text

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“You ready for your big exam next week?”

“I think so. Fabiola and I studied the whole week. I’m a bit worried about the practical, though.”

“Yeah, you’re probably only gonna get ninety percent or something,” Mickey snorts.

“I’m gonna fail.” He doesn’t mean it. Not entirely.

“Shut it, Gallagher. You’ll do fine.”

“How’s your day been?”

“I had the most fucking exciting day, of course. Like every day, in prison.”

“So everything’s good?”

“Food’s nasty.”

“6 months to go.”

“I’m gonna eat burgers and pizza for weeks when I get outta here, I swear.”

“You’ll die of malnutrition.”

“See, you know everything you need to know. Stop worrying about it.”

 


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“Perfect score on both the written and the practical.”

“I can’t believe you’re such a fucking nerd.”

“Thanks.”

“I told you.”

“I know.”

“What now?”

“Dr. Young wrote me a statement, vouching for my ability to work as an EMT. I’ll start the ambulance hours next week.”

“You’re fucking legit. I can’t believe it.”

“Not yet, though.”

“Fuck off.”

There’s a pause.

“I miss you.”

Say that again and I’ll rip your tongue out of your head.

“5 months, two weeks to go, man. That’s nothing.”

 


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“How was the wedding?”

“Didn’t happen.”

“What?”

“Sean’s using again, Fiona didn’t know, Frank’s an asshole…whatever.”

“She ok, though?”

“She’s a fucking rock, she’ll pull through.”

“You doing ok?”

“Because of Fiona’s wedding? Yeah, Mick I’m fine.” He’s half asleep after his first 24-hour shift, but he’s fine.

“No, not that, smartass. Working and shit. You finished your ambulance hours, right?”

“You keeping track?” Ian laughs.

“I’m fucking bored, man.”

“How’s the mechanic course going?”

“’s fine. Stop avoiding my question.”

“Just came home from my first double. Fucking wrecked.”

“Saw anything shocking?”

“Two shot wounds, a woman in labour, one domestic, two car accidents, … nothing fatal.” He yawns.

“Go to sleep. I’ll call tomorrow.”


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“Fucking hell, Ian. Why didn’t you pick up the last three times I called?”

“I couldn’t.”

“What do you mean? You were at work for 72 hours or something? What the fuck?”

“No, Mick … I … We lost someone on the rig a few days ago. A teenager. Abdominal shot wound. I tried everything…” His voice cracks.

“Fuck.”

“I was kinda under the weather after. Not, like, extremely depressed. But,” he sighs, “Apparently losing your first patient is one of the triggers Dr. K warned me about. I didn’t really talk to anyone, got my meds adjusted. Won’t be back at work until Monday.”

“Someone looking out for you?”

“It’s fine, Mick. I’m just … a bit exhausted, I guess.”

“It’s fucking not.”

“Lip’s here. He’s looking after me or whatever. It’s fine.”

The silence between them is heavy.

“Hey at least I managed almost ten months without a relapse. I guess that’s good.”

“Fuck, Ian.”

“I shouldn’t have told you.”

“What the fuck?! Of course you should have!”

“What are you gonna do? Worry from afar? There’s nothing you can do and now you’re worried and it doesn’t help any of us.”

“I can check on you.”

“You know what would help? You being here. Lying next to me. But you’re not. You’re locked up, for fuck’s sake, so there’s nothing you can do to help me, so I shouldn’t have told you.”

 

It’s a cruel power imbalance, Ian knows that. He ignores Mickey’s first three attempts to call him after their fight anyway. It’s an extreme version of the Chin. Except there’s no yelling to be ignored.

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“You’re a fucking asshole and I fucking hate you.”

“You called to tell me that? I figured that already.”

“Fuck you! Fuck you for acting like I chose to be here.”

“You chose to torture Sammi, so –“

“Are you fucking serious? That bitch had it coming. She tried to get you locked up.”

“You have zero impulse control, Mick.”

“Ex-fucking-cuse me? I’m the bad one for revenging you? One second I’m to caring, then I’m too much Southside for you? Get your fucking facts straight, Gallagher.”

“I’m not getting anything straight.”

Mickey groans and seconds later, they’re both laughing.

“Fucking asshole.”

“You done with insulting me, now?” The laughter dies, but the smile stays. “It doesn’t work as good as throwing punches. Dr. Young says that’s an unhealthy coping mechanism, though.”

“What does he want us to do? Light a light of piece and sing a stupid song?

“Light of peace? What – Never mind. More like communicate our feelings in a respectful way.”

He can hear Mickey snort.

“Your shrink’s not a Southie, is he?”

“Hell no. But maybe he’s got a point.”

“So? You wanna communicate your feelings now?”

Ian sighs, looking up at the ceiling. Who would have thought that talking can be such an hard thing to do?

“You gonna be respectful?”

“What the fuck, Gallagher?” I’m not the one –“

“Mick.”

“Yeah, okay. I’m gonna be fucking respectful or whatever.”

“I’m sorry that I hung up on you and didn’t take your calls until now. And I’m sorry that I went off on you like that. I was just … Fuck, I was pissed about so many things. Like, the fact that I couldn’t save this boy. And that my brain doesn’t work the way a normal brain does. And then I felt guilty for putting you in a position where you couldn’t really help me. So I took it out on you.”

“Did you practise your little speech with your shrink?”

“Isn’t that kinda what he’s getting paid for?”

“I guess.”

“So?”

“It sucks that that boy died. But that’s not your fault, you know that, right?”

“But –“

“Nah, Ian. It’s not your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the shooter’s. You tried your best but you’re not a fucking miracle worker or something.”

Ian swallows. He did try his best. That’s all he can do. Sue told him the same thing, but it didn’t click until now.

“I wish I could, like, physically be there. I hate knowing that you have to go through this shit but I would hate it even more if you shut me out or if you were lying to me.”

“Oh, wow.”

“Shut up. There’s this mandatory group thing for violent offenders. I may have picked up a thing or two.”

“I’m not trying to shut you out. I just don’t want you to worry.”

“I’ll worry anyway. You planning on insulting me for worrying again?”

Ian winces. “No, I’m – I’m not. I’m sorry, Mick.”

“Are we done with the touchy feely shit now? We good?”

“Yeah. Yeah. We’re good.”

“Fuck you for ignoring me like that.”

“I missed you.”

“Me, too.”


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“The funniest thing happened to me today.”

“Yeah?” Ian winces. He knows what’s coming.

“There was a lady here. A lady, claiming to be my lawyer. For the parole hearing. Funny right?”

“Listen, Mick-“

“Since when do you have money for a lawyer?”

“I’ve been working for four months; I’ve got insurance; I’ve got it covered. Just accept it, all right? It’s not some fancy lawyer.”

“I don’t need your fucking charity.”

“Oh come on. You’re in there because of me, that’s the least I can do.”

“I’m not. It was –“

“You can pay me back, if that makes you happy. Okay?”

“Not the fucking point, but whatever.”

“Good. You got a date yet?”

“In two weeks. The release date would be a month from now.”

“One month. Holy shit. Can’t believe we actually pulled through.”


 

“An inmate of Western Illinois Correction Centre is trying to contact you…”

“So you got anything planned for the 21th of October?”

“Holy shit! Shit! Yes! I mean, no! I’m gonna greet you with a fucking bouquet like all those prison wives.”

“Fuck off,” Mickey’s laughter is lighter than ever.

“Gonna take Kev’s truck … Fuck, Mick. I miss you so much.”


 

Ian wakes up ten minutes before his alarm is supposed to go off. At first, he claims it on the nerves. Mickey’s being released today. But then he sees Fiona standing in the doorframe.

“Morning,” he mumbles, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“You might want to come downstairs,” Fiona’s voice is shaking and suddenly Ian is wide awake.

“What’s going on?” He slips into his jeans and follows her downstairs, without getting an answer. There’s none needed once he reaches the last step.

“Ian! My sweet boy. It’s so good to see you. I missed you so much. You’re even taller than last time I saw you. Debbie’s telling me you’re an EMT now? I always knew you’re destined for something great.”

Chapter Text

Ian’s got four hours to think about whether it was the right decision to storm off like that or not. He’s got four hours to ask himself what the fuck his mother is doing back home. He’s got four hours to think about the last time he saw her and what happened after. He’s got four hours to yell in frustration and pull himself together. He’s got four hours to decide to hide his inner turmoil from Mickey. It’s supposed to be his day, their day. It’s not supposed to be destroyed by Hurricane Monica.

It’s noon by the time he parks Kev’s truck in front of the prison entrance and it only has stopped raining minutes ago. Ian gets out of the car and lights a smoke, hoping the nicotine is going to calm his nerves. It doesn’t take long until the front door opens and his heart contracts in his chest at the sight.

Mickey’s wearing the clothes Ian sent him a week ago; a grey, faded jeans and a black sweatshirt, whose hood he’s pulled over his head. He lingers by the door for a moment, until his gaze finds Ian’s and he strides towards him.

“There he is,” Ian throws the remains of the smoke on the ground and crushes it with his heel. He doesn’t even try to hide his smile.

Mickey’s in front of him in seconds.

“Here I am.”

His arms still fit around the older man’s waist and Ian’s hands rest on the small of his back like that’s where they are supposed to be. He can feel Mickey’s thumb caressing the back of his neck and his breath against his skin.

“It’s not a dream, right?” Ian asks, despite himself.

Mickey pulls back, his hand still resting on Ian’s neck. Suddenly, Ian feels pain jolt though him.

“Did you just fucking scratch me?”

“Gotta mark my territory,” Mickey smirks, “And now you know that you’re not sleeping.”

They get in the car.

“Though I’m disappointed that your dreams of me aren’t even R-rated.”

“Oh yeah? I didn’t say that.” Ian grins.

“C’mere.”

If hugging Mickey felt like the default position for his body, kissing him feels like coming home. It’s starts slow, gentle even but soon feels like he’s going to suffocate if he pulls back. The touch of Mickey’s lips against his, the feeling of his tongue, is like oxygen. Ian doesn’t know how he’s been able to life without it for twelve months.

“Okay, stop.”

Eventually he does pull back, though, breathing heavily. His lips feel swollen and if Mickey’s are any indication, they’re bright red by now.

“We’re not going to fuck for the first time in a year in the back of Kev’s car. I’ve got an actual bed now, not my old twin.”

“Ay, no one said anything about fucking, you’re getting ahead of yourself here, Gallagher. Just a little welcome back making out.” Mickey’s eyes are sparkling with a mixture of lust and excitement; and the way he’s licking his lips makes Ian want to get on him right now.

“Like that would work. I’ve got other plans for you.”

“Oh, you do? You’re pretty confident that you’re getting some tonight.”

“The way you just kissed me pretty much confirmed my suspicions.”

“Cocky bastard.”

Ian laughs and takes a deep breath to refocus.

“So. You want pizza or burgers?”

 

Ian lets Mickey pick out the music from his phone that’s plugged in, that’s how they end up listening to Aerosmith and Guns N’Roses. They decided to get as many miles between them and the prison as possible before stopping for lunch.

“All right, pull over.” Mickey hasn’t said anything in over twenty minutes and his demanding tone is startling Ian.

“What’s going on?”

“Pull over, Ian. I’m not gonna do this while you’re driving, so stop the car.”

His heart is threatening to jump out his chest when he stops at the side of the road.

“Tell me what’s going on.” Mickey glares at him with a mixture of determination and worry.

“What do you mean?”

Apparently he’s not as good as he thought at banning Monica from his mind.

“Listen, if you have doubts about us already fucking tell me. Your face fucking falls every time you think I’m not looking. Something’s going on behind that handsome forehead of yours and I want to know what because I’m not gonna ignore that shit for another three hours.”

“Monica’s back.”

“Fuck.”

The silence that follows is almost deafening.

Ian can see Mickey eyeing him out of the corner of his eye. He feels like he’s a frightened animal, about to shy away.

“Since when?”

“I don’t know. Saw her this morning,” Ian swallows, “I didn’t really talk to her. She … She just started jabbering like – like nothing ever happened and I kinda stormed off. I just told her that I don’t have time for this shit and that I need to pick you up.”

“You think she’s still gonna be there when we get back?”

He shrugs. “Who the fuck knows.”

“Do you want her to be?”

The question catches him off guard. Ian leans his head against the seat and blinks, taking a deep breath.

“I hate that she thinks it’s okay to just waltz into our lives like that. She stays for a few days, maybe a few weeks and then she fucks off again. She comes, creates chaos and leaves again. She’s even able to destroy this.”

“Ay, I’m not that easily destroyable and neither are you.”

He feels Mickey’s hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t want to have to deal with the aftermath. There are always huge aftermaths she isn’t even aware of, because she pisses off eventually,” he shakes his head, “What the fuck is she even doing here?”

“Best way to find that out would be to ask her, y’know?”

“Fuck her for being able to fuck me up like that.” He slams the steering wheel.

“All right, easy, though guy. Let’s get those burgers and then I’m gonna drive the rest of the way.”

Ian doesn’t protest.


 

A thunderstorm is brewing once they reach the Southside. Mickey parks the truck in Kev’s driveway and the men just look at each other for a while.

“You really don’t have to come in with me –“

“Not gonna let you go in there alone and let her screw with your fucking head again. Didn’t turn out that good for me last time.”

Ian winces and lowers his gaze.

“Didn’t you say something about a new bed? Can’t make promises like that and not follow through, Firecrotch.” Mickey smirks at him and Ian lets out a shaky laugh.

“Let’s get this going.”

 

“Ian! There you are! We were wondering when you might be back. You’re right in time. Frankie and I want to hit the Alibi after dinner. You hungry? I made chicken casserole and chocolate pudding for dessert.”

Of fucking course she did.

Monica and Frank are in the kitchen, Monica smiling brightly at Ian while rummaging around the kitchen drawers. Ian can sense Mickey’s tensed presence right behind him.

“We already ate.”

It seems like his mother didn’t notice Mickey before but now she steps away from the kitchen counter, after taking the casserole out of the oven, to be able to look at him.

“You’re Mickey, right? Ian told me so much about you! Sure you aren’t hungry?”

It breaks their heart just to look at you…Yeah…even Mickey now…That’s your boyfriend right?

Ian winces at the memory; Mickey comes a step closer, but Frank beats him to an answer.

“Right out of the slammer, a true Milkovich. Let’s celebrate your newfound freedom at the Alibi, huh, Mick?”

“Shut the fuck up, Frank,” Mickey snorts.

Ian wipes a hand down his face. This wasn’t how he planned all this. Not at all. A part of him wants them to just leave, leave them alone, but another part wants answers.

“Why are you here, mom?”

“I made dinner. I want to spend time with you.”

“Oh, yeah? You want to spend some time with your kids? How long this time? A few days? A week? Or even a month? How long is it gonna take this time until you leave?”

He didn’t mean to yell, but all the hurt and confusion seem to burst out at once.

“No, I’m gonna stick around, hon. I … I want to make it right. I’m sorry-“ Her face falls and she’s clasping her hands in front of her chest.

“You always say that. You never stuck around before, so why the sudden change of mind, after over five years? We’re fine without you. I could have used a mom when I smashed my collarbone when I was twelve or when DCFS took us for the billionth time. You don’t get to choose when to be a mom and then disappear again. That’s not how this works.”

Mickey’s shoulder is pressed against his. It’s a silent I’m right next to you.

“Don’t talk to your mother like that. You don’t have to endure this, Mon. Let him have his tantrum on his own.” Frank gets up from the kitchen table and takes Monica’s hand.

“He’s not throwing a tantrum; he just gets a bit wound up sometimes. Just like his mom.” Her smile makes everything even worse.

I’m not Monica.

“Just leave, okay? Go get drunk or high or whatever – just leave me alone.” He doesn’t know how he manages to say it as calmly as he does.

“But,” Monica wants to protest, her gaze is pleading and desperate, but when Frank starts dragging her out of the room, she doesn’t stop him.

Ian closes his eyes and waits for his breath to even out again, for his heart to calm down. When he opens them again, his gaze hits blue eyes.

“You ok?”

His first instinct is to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Instead he shakes his head weakly and mutters a soft “Fuck”.

Mickey pulls him close, a hand cradling his neck and Ian doesn’t hesitate before burying his face into the soft fabric of Mickey’s sweater, inhaling deeply. The mixture of sweat, a faint smell of soap and the smell Ian can only describe as Mickey starts to soothe him immediately. After a few deep breaths he starts nuzzling the side of Mickey’s neck with his nose, before planting small kisses on his skin. It doesn’t take long until their lips find each other.

“Upstairs,” Ian eventually moans, while Mickey’s hand slips under the layers of fabric that cover his chest, his fingers sending electric shocks trough Ian’s whole body.

“So what do you have planned for me, though guy?” Mickey pants, once Ian presses him against the inside of the slammed shut bedroom door, sucking on his collarbone.

Ian looks at him with dark, lust filled eyes.

“You’d like to find out, huh?”

Mickey grins, his eyes sparkling. He licks his lips. “Yeah.”

Ian kisses his smirk, whispering, “I missed you so much. So fucking much” and pushes him towards the bed.

Chapter Text

When Ian opens his eyes the next morning, he silently enjoys the view for a while. Mickey’s already awake, leaning against the wall, smoking. Ian expects him to disappear every time he blinks, but Mickey stays.

“Hey,” he eventually says; his voice hoarse. “Slept okay?”

“Hey. Yeah. Gotta get going though, need to get the house ready for the PO.”

Ian starts running his fingers over Mickey’s stomach.

“Whatcha gonna do with all the guns?”

“Think Iggs took them when he moved in with his chick.”

“Mmhm…,” Ian starts planting kisses on his boyfriend’s skin, “Sure you can’t stay for another half an hour? I don’t have to get to the station until eight-thirty; we could have breakfast first…”

“Breakfast, huh?” Mickey’s breath hitches as Ian’s hand travels south.

 


 

The kitchen’s full of people when they make their way downstairs twenty minutes later. Monica’s flipping pancakes; Debbie and Liam are munching away, sitting at the kitchen table.

“You’re up already! I made pancakes. Want some?”

Monica’s already shovelling a pile on a plate before Ian has the chance to answer.

“Don’t you two have school in, like, ten minutes?” Ian raises his eyebrows at his siblings, who start groaning simultaneously.

“I told them they could call in sick. We could go to the Aquarium, spend some time together. Or maybe the zoo. What do you say Liam?” she squeezes the boy’s cheek, before looking at Ian and Mickey, “You two could come, too.”

Liam nods enthusiastically. “Are we gonna see sharks?”

“You’re going to school. Both of you. Now!”

“What about lunch?” Debbie asks, while getting up.

“You’re sixteen, go figure something out.”

“I can make you lunch! Leftover pancakes are a great lunch, right?”

Ian sighs and decides to focus on his breakfast, while Monica’s whirling around in the kitchen, looking for lunchboxes. Mickey steals a pancake from his plate and gives his tight a short squeeze.

“You want some coffee?” Monica brings the coffee pot and two mugs to the table once Debbie and Liam have left.

“No.”

“You sure sweetie? You look pretty tired.”

His jaw is going to be sore tomorrow if he keeps tensing it like that.

Mickey hadn’t said anything while Ian had downed his meds with Gatorade after getting dressed earlier. He just sat there, watching him, biting his lip, so Ian pulled him in for a short kiss after swallowing the last pill, trying to break the awkward situation. They have a lot of figuring out to do and that doesn’t have to happen in the first 24 hours.

“I’ll take some,” Mickey says and Monica stops bugging Ian.

“I almost forgot,” she exclaims after pouring herself a cup, “Your father and I want to renew our vows, Ian! Tomorrow night. Here, in the living room. He proposed to me, isn’t that romantic?”

Ian shrugs. “I guess. That’d be wedding number four, right?” He turns to Mickey. “Once they puked all over the poor pastor. Another time they beat each other up before they even were able to say the vows.”

Mickey scoffs. “Sounds like one dream wedding after another.”

“You gonna come right? You can maybe say a few words. That would mean a lot.”

“Don’t know yet. Maybe I gotta work late.” He doesn’t. “Speaking of, I gotta go.” He dumps the plate in the sink, takes his back bag and nudges Mickey. “Walk me to the El?”

 

Ian lets out a long, agonizing groan, as soon as the front door slams shut behind him.

“You a werewolf now?” Mickey quirks an eyebrow at him, while lighting a smoke.

Ian snorts. “Maybe.”

Ian feels the bubble which surrounded them the last 24 hours threaten to burst while they walk towards the El stop. As much as he wishes to, he can’t pretend that their relationship has been fairy tale-like, it never has been but it feels like things shifted even more that day when the word “sick” was uttered the first time. For the last twelve months, they could pretend that things were working out okay, that their relationship was as good as it could be considering the circumstances. But now the circumstances had changed once again. Mickey was here now, walking next to him, his shoulder occasionally bumping into his. But they couldn’t just pick up where they left off, because they left off on that porch, Ian yelling at him that he wasn’t broken, Ian yelling that Mickey didn’t owe him anything, Ian basically telling him to leave him alone. That wasn’t the point he’d choose to start over, because that wasn’t him, not anymore. And even though Mickey knew that Ian’s med-compliant (on the list of words he hates this is in the top five), that he has a steady job and is doing a lot better than back then, he doesn’t know what that meant for them, their relationship. Ian doesn’t either. They have to figure it out together, find a balance between acknowledging the fact that his disorder is a part of Ian’s life that he has to deal with on a daily basis and keeping the boundary between boyfriend and caretaker. They have to talk about it and even though Dr. Young gave him leaflets with titles like Twelve Things To Do If Your Loved One Has Bipolar or Supporting A Loved One with Bipolar Disorder it still feels like being asked to jump into the ocean without being able to swim. It terrifies him. They can’t just ease into the before – before the MP took Ian away, before Monica, before the porch, because too much has happened since then. They both changed and it’s for the better if their relationship does, too.

He wants to start with the easy stuff - Are you sleeping over again tonight? or something like that, but suddenly he’s fifteen again, hesitant, afraid to scare Mickey off with the wrong kind of question. Instead he asks:

“Anything else planned for today? I mean except cleaning the house.”

“Gotta start looking for a job.”

“What about your classes? You’re almost done, right?”

“Work’s priority, maybe I’ll do night classes, dunno.” Mickey shrugs.

“You could ask Fiona about a job. They’re always looking for busboys.”

Mickey raises an eyebrow but the expected retort doesn’t come. “Maybe I’ll do that.”

They reach the platform; Ian’s train will arrive in less than a minute.

“When are you getting off?” Mickey’s hands are shoved into the pockets of his sweater.

“Only have a 9 hour shift today, so I’m gonna be home around six thirty.”

The train approaches.

Mickey nods. Ian gets on the train.


 

[Mickey 2:17pm] Guess my phone’s still working. You feeling like takeaway tonight? Wasn’t joking when I said I’m gonna live off pizza and burgers for two weeks.

“What’s got you smiling like that?” Sue tries to peek at his screen.

Ian shakes his head, still smiling. “Just … Mick.”

“Ah, the boyfriend,” she sighs.

[Ian 2:30 pm] I’m in

He pauses, deletes the text and types:

[Ian 2:31 pm] Still have leftover casserole. That good enough for you?

[Mickey 2:32 pm] Right. Shouldn’t go to waste. Casserole it is.

Ian doesn’t stop smiling until they get their next call.


 

He should be happy about another night with his boyfriend, whom he hasn’t seen in 12 twelve months. And he is. He really is. He is also terrified, because they have to talk eventually. He’s also anxious about the state he’s going to find the house in after leaving his mother there ten hours ago. Debbie would have texted after coming home from school if something major had happened but Ian’s still nervous when he opens the front door. To his surprise, the house is empty, the kitchen table in the same state as it was when Ian left this morning. He texts Debbie asking about her whereabouts and starts cleaning the kitchen.

Mickey walks in by the time Ian cleaned the last plate and it feels like all the anger Ian has built up since finding the chaos in the kitchen and envisioning the ways Monica was enjoying life while her kids were left to pick up the pieces fades at once. Knowing what it’s like to jump from one idea to another, what it’s like to want to chase life like that, to never truly be able to hold still or see things through doesn’t exactly make things better.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he lets out a slow, shaky breath and looks at Mickey, who’s standing next to him, drying the plates with a towel.

Mickey frowns. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Just. Hi.” Ian leans in and his lips instantly start tingling by the sensation. “Hi,” he whispers.

He can feel Mickey against his lips.

“Hi. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m fucking starving, man.”

They reheat the casserole and eat in front of the TV while watching some comedy show with an annoying laugh track. Mickey bitches about his PO’s visit in the commercial breaks. Ian laughs at the show and scowls at Mickey’s PO, but first and foremost he absorbs the feeling of comfort and normalcy that comes from it all. That is, until his phone beeps and he sees the well-known reminder. For a moment, he just wants to ignore it, wants to stay here, his arm touching Mickey’s until he falls asleep. The voice of reason in his head (that sounds a lot like Dr. Young) promptly gives him a long list of reasons why that’s not the brightest idea he’s ever had.

“So, uh, what are your plans for tonight?”

“Plans? The fuck you talking about?”

Ian squirms. He has to start this conversation if he doesn’t want it to build up and explode someday. And it’s not getting better by putting it off. The Dr. Young-like voice makes a sound of approval. He’d prefer to die in a hole.

“See this?” He shows Mickey is phone screen, where the reminder is still shown.

“’Get it going.’ Yeah. So?” Mickey frowns in confusion.

It’s just Mickey. He knows you. He knows fragments about this. For fuck’s sake it’s just Mickey. He needs to get a grip.

“There’s this thing. I mean – Like – They say routine is supposed to help with managing bipolar, that it’s a really important part of it, other than medication. So I … have routines? And that’s,” he gestures towards the phone, “is the reminder to, like, start winding down, so I get enough sleep.”

Ian Gallagher isn’t vulnerable. At least he wishes he wasn't.

“What does it look like?”

Mickey doesn’t look like he’s going to run, because there’s more to staying healthy than just a few pills. He doesn’t look spooked or disgusted or taken aback. His brows are slightly furrowed and Ian’s heart threatens to drop when he feels Mickey’s hand on his.

So he talks. He talks about journaling, sleep- tracking and mood scales. Eventually they move up to the bedroom and Ian shows Mickey the leaflets Dr. Young gave him. They go through them together and it feels weird and intimate, right and wrong at the same time. Ian keeps checking Mickey’s facial expression in the dim light of the nightstand lamp, waiting for him to snap, for him to decide that this is too much.

“What do you need me to do? In all of this?” Mickey asks instead.

They sit across from each other on the bed, the leaflets between them.

The question feels like a reminder that they have failed this before. But it also makes Ian realize that Mickey has changed in those twelve months, too. It still tastes like bile acid, burning away his throat.

“Don’t stay because you feel like you owe me anything.”

Ian startles when Mickey gets on his knees and cups his face in his hand.

“I want you to listen to me very carefully Ian. Shit’s gonna be hard. I know that. I’m not thinking it won’t. And we’re gonna fight. A lot. We’re gonna hate each other sometimes. But this is it for me, Ian. I want you. With all of this. And it’s gonna take time to figure it all out. Maybe we never will. But I’m gonna sure as hell go down in a fucking fight.”

They’ve never been good with words and Ian feels like there aren’t any left inside of him, so he takes Mickey’s hand away from his face instead, intertwines their fingers and cups the back of Mickey’s head with his right hand. He lets the kiss speak for himself, tries to make it a Thank you, a I trust you, a I’m scared, a I love you.

When he opens his eyes and lets himself get lost in Mickey’s blue gaze, he knows that Mickey understands. And that’s enough.

Chapter Text

Ian would love to be able to say that the last hour has been the weirdest in his life. Or at least in the TOP 5. Sadly, that’s not the case. Or funnily. Who knows. Monica’s wearing Fiona’s wedding dress, Frank’s wearing a tux and they’re both trying to get their children to drink alcohol. The fact that everyone except Debbie refuses gets Frank going and soon enough he’s delivering a speech about the cruelty of sobriety. Ian’s sitting next to Mickey on the couch and clutching a can of soda, asking himself why he’s even here about every ten minutes.

“What’s up with college boy? Since when does he have the whole sobriety thing going?”

Mickey asks him, while Frank and Monica argue at the top of their voices if they are going to start the ceremony without Fiona or if they are going to wait for her.

Lip and Mickey put up an impressive staring match when Mickey got here half an hour ago and Ian isn’t sure what exactly he missed, but eventually they both nodded and moved on to ignoring each other.

“He was on the brink of expulsion, woke up in the ER one day, lost his housing, had to do counselling… Shit like that. Had to kick his ass and basically drag him to his first AA meeting… But he’s in his junior year now, moved home to save on housing. I think he’s pretty pissed off by the commute but I will kill him myself if he drops out.”

“Yeah?” Mickey smirks. “Do you even know how to kill someone, though guy?”

“Excuse me? I was trained to kill. Don’t underestimate me.”

They’re distracted by Monica and Frank simultaneously exclaiming “Fiona!” at the sight of their oldest daughter. Fiona, who’s appeared in the door to the mudroom, looks like she’s debating turning on her heels and leaving again. Instead she takes a deep breath, smiles and enters the room. If she’s surprised to see Mickey, she doesn’t show it, just gives a short nod, which he returns. Ian wonders if the interactions between his siblings and his boyfriend could get any weirder.

“Since finally everybody’s here,” Monica starts, with a bright smile, standing in front of the fireplace, but Frank interrupts her by muttering.

“Well, it was supposed to be a family only event.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Ian’s half out of his seat before even finishing his sentence, but a tattooed hand holds him back.

“You got something to say you fucking say it to my face, Frank.” Mickey snarls.

“Frankie, please,” Monica touches Frank’s chest soothingly and bats her eyelashes at him, which makes Ian and his siblings collectively roll their eyes, “Don’t start a fight. We’re to celebrate love, right? Love’s what makes a family, right?”

Ian snorts and catches Lip doing the same.

“Okay, okay, all right.”

“Awesome! I wrote my vows down, so…” Monica unfolds a piece of paper and starts reading and Ian can’t help but mutter towards Mickey “Let’s see if they get through them this time.”

They don’t. They start screaming at each other halfway through Monica’s vows and Monica ends up barricading herself in Frank’s room.

“Well, that was fun,” Fiona sighs, “I got some work to do, so...” She follows Monica and Frank upstairs.

“You wanna listen to them yelling at each other, and eventually fucking each other, or you wanna get out of here?” Ian looks at Mickey expectantly, who gets up and gets his stuff, Ian does the same.

 


 

“What was that mysterious nodding with Fiona about?” Ian asks when they’re walking down the sidewalk, without knowing where their feet will take them.

“Went to Patsy’s today. Svetlana’s on my ass for child support. Didn’t have any luck looking for jobs yesterday, so I talked to your sister. Busboy’s not gonna pay a fortune but it’s gonna be enough until I finished classes and find a garage that hires me.”

Ian needs a second to process all the information he just got.

“You talked to Svetlana?”

“Yeah. Went to the Alibi after talking to a guy at Malcolm X earlier.” Mickey takes a drag of his cigarette, it glows in the dark.

“Yev still obsessed with dogs?”

Mickey nods and hands Ian the cigarette.

“He was ecstatic when we went to the dog park a few weeks ago,” Ian smiles.

“Yeah. I think he told me something like that. Hard to understand his gibberish. Maybe I’ll take him there, too, someday.”

They finish up the cig in silence, both lost in thought.

“I’ve got a day off tomorrow. Got any plans?”

“Gotta finish up that enrolment shit but otherwise we can hang, yeah.”

They turn the last corner and Ian can’t help but smile.

“Aw, look where we ended up, Mick. What a nice coincidence,” he coos, ignoring Mickey’s exaggerated sigh.

“You are such a nerd,” the older one mutters, before climbing over the fence to the baseball field.

 


 

It’s probably too cold to be laying on the ground of the baseball field and pretending to gaze at a starless sky like that, but Ian couldn’t care less.

“I just realized something,” he turns his head to look at Mickey, “You’ve never actually met her until three days ago, right?”

Mickey keeps looking at the sky.

“I’ve heard stories, though.”

“What kind of stories? I mean, except that one time … I didn’t tell you much about her.”

Ian isn’t sure he wants to hear the answer to his question. He can imagine the kind of stories Mickey heard.

Mickey’s adam apple moves visibly as he swallows; now he turns his head, too. Their eyes lock.

“Carl … When you took Yevgeny, he visited me. Told me about that time she thought she was a fucking bird or something. The others only dropped hints, when they tried to persuade me to get you to a shrink.”

Ian averts his gaze. There’s too much to see in Mickey’s eyes. He only looks up again when he feels a hand caressing his cheek.

“You’re not her. I never believed that. I never believed the stories they told. You’re bipolar, yes. But that doesn’t automatically turn you into a drug-addict egomaniac who keeps abandoning the people that she claims to love.”

“She does love us, though.” Ian can’t help it. Can’t help but defend her, because, in the end, she’s his mother.

Mickey takes his hand away and sighs.

“Then why doesn’t she take her meds to be able to take care of her children?”

“Why didn’t your dad stay out of prison so his children wouldn’t almost starve to death because there wasn’t any money?”

“Aye don’t talk about shit you don’t understand.”

“Fucking exactly.”

They both pretend to look at the stars again for a while.

“So what do you think of her? Except the drug-addict egomaniac part, I mean.”

“What do you care what I think of your mom?”

“I feel kinda bad that you got dragged into the whole wedding-mess. You didn’t have to come tonight.”

Mickey snorts.

“Not your fucking fault, though guy.”

“So?”

“For fuck’s sake, I think she should’ve tried harder, but she didn’t seem as crazy as everything told me she’d be.”

“What did you expect?” Ian looks at Mickey, again, who’s furrowing his brows.

“I thought she’d try to convince you to come with her. Live with her on a fucking alpaca farm or something. Or she’d do the whole bird thing again. I don’t know.”

“Alpaca farm … Sounds promising. Maybe I should do that.”

“Fuck off,” Mickey boxes his shoulder, smirking.

“You brought it up!”

“Whatever.”

“I’d never go with her, though. I’ve got everything I want right here,” Ian smiles.

“Oh, yeah?” Mickey rolls his eyes and snorts again, but kisses him anyway.

They make it out until Ian’s buzzing phone brings them back into reality.

Get it going.

He groans and debates throwing his phone away for moment, but settles for dropping it next to him in the grass instead. His back bag sits abandoned on the bench of the dugout, only feet away, but it feels like miles.

“Just a sec, don’t move. We’ll continue where we left off in no time.” He gets up and hurries to get to the bag, frowning when he notices Mickey’s also moving.

“It’s freezing, Ian. I’d rather pick up where we left off somewhere with a blanket.”

Ian wants to counter with something witty or cocky or seducing or what-the-fuck ever but his mind loves to betray him, so he mumbles:

“I should eat something before taking these, anyway.”

“I stocked up the freezer. Want some pizza rolls?”

“It’s okay if you’re mad, you know.” Jesus, what is it with his mind and blurting things out.

“Shut the fuck up and get moving, Ian. I want those pizza rolls.”

Chapter Text

The words taste like acid in Ian’s mouth, though he never said them himself. He only heard them, said by a doctor. Said to him and his siblings. He wonders what he’s supposed to feel like. What sons feel like when their mother dies. He wonders if he should be breaking down, crying, pleading to no one. He wonders if he should go with the doctor to see Monica, see her maybe for the last time. He doesn’t. He goes back into the waiting room, sits down and stares at the TV.

He’d woken up pressed against Mickey this morning with a smile on his lips. The bed and Mickey’s body have been radiating warmth and he’s been sure that he could spend the whole day just lying there, watching Mickey sleep. But then he made the mistake of checking his phone for the time and saw a handful of text messages, asking him to come to the hospital. Woken up by Ian’s movement, Mickey offered to come with him, but Ian told him to go to his appointment at Malcolm X instead. “She’s probably fine. She’s always fine in the end.”

“He hasn’t moved an inch in the last ten minutes.”

“Ian. Hey, sweetheart? Are you okay?”

Fiona’s face appears in his field of view, she’s crouching down in front of him.

He blinks.

“What? Yeah. Sorry. I’m -,” he wipes his face. There aren’t any tears. “I’m okay. Just … zoned out for a sec, I guess.”

What is he supposed to feel? He doesn’t feel a thing. Isn’t he supposed to cry or something? His mother is dead.

But maybe she isn’t. Maybe they made a mistake. Maybe he’s still dreaming.

“I’m not dreaming, right?” He blurts out.

Fiona shakes her head.

“No, you’re not,” she gets up again.

There’s a new voice, a voice that doesn’t belong to Lip, Fi, Debbie, Liam, Kev or Vee. Ian looks up.

“Why are you all staring at him like that? He’s not a fucking zoo animal or some shit.”

Blue eyes hit green.

“Mick,” it’s a choking sound, it feels like his lungs are getting crushed, “Mick. She’s dead.”

“I heard. Your brother told me.”

Now it’s Mickey who’s crouching in front of him, hands on his shoulders.

“She’s dead.”

“Yeah.”

That’s all Mickey says - but it’s enough. It’s enough to make Ian bury his face in the crook of Mickey’s neck. It’s safe there. It’s like nothing happened. He’s just going to stay there forever and pretend nothing happened.

 


 

He doesn’t remember much about the time following that morning in the hospital. It’s a haze of pain, confusion, relief and guilt about feeling relieved. He remembers not being able to get out of bed the day after the service. He remembers Mickey sitting next to his curled up body, absentmindedly stroking his shoulder without saying anything. Hours are getting lost in the abyss of his mind, feeling numb, feeling nothing at all, feeling too much at once.

He remembers violently shaking and sobbing on the verge of throwing up one night. He remembers She’s gone she’s gone she’s gone. He remembers Mickey holding him tightly. The realization that Mickey has been through this on his own, years ago, hits Ian like a sucker punch that night.

He remembers a visit to Dr. Kapoor after ten (or twenty?) days of drowning. He doesn’t remember a single word that was spoken, sitting there, Mickey next to him. He remembers a new prescription and the feeling of denying himself the right to grieve. He takes them anyway.

With the ability to leave his room the ability to remember comes back, too. By the time Dr. Kapoor’s cleared him to go back to work fulltime Christmas and New Year has passed.

 


 

The kitchen light is the only one that’s on when Ian opens the gate to his home. The house is often empty these days. Lip’s at college, Carl’s at school, Liam and Debbie are with friends and Fiona’s busy with her apartment building. Mickey’s sitting at the kitchen table, going through a stack of paper, barely looking up when Ian enters the room.

“I brought leftover donuts from Javier’s birthday. Want some?”

That catches Mickey’s attention.

“Sure.”

“So, I talked to Dr. Young yesterday,” Ian starts, after handing Mickey a donut with chocolate frosting, “and I, uh, I voiced some concerns.”

Mickey’s eyebrows shoot up while he’s biting into the donut.

“What kind of concerns?”

“About us. Where we’re at.”

“The fuck are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the fact that you don’t deserve a boyfriend who isn’t able to get out of bed for weeks because his brain’s fucked up.” He balls his hands to fists.

“So what? You’re doing better now.”

“And I feel like shit for putting you through it.”

“You didn’t put me through anything, Jesus Christ. What the fuck are you trying to say?”

Ian takes a deep breath.

“Dr. Young suggested a couple session. To talk through this. With a, uh, neutral third party.”

“What’s there to talk through, Ian?” Mickey groans.

“A lot. Are you just going to pretend I didn’t have a depressive episode?”

Mickey sighs and rubs his forehead.

“No,” suddenly, he sounds incredibly tired, “No, I am not. Okay. Does your insurance at least cover this shit?”

“They have a LGBT fund. Dr. Young says he can cover it through that. We just have to pay $5 each.”

“Of fucking course they have,” Mickey mutters, “Now, can I keep dealing with this stupid shit or is there some more of your stupid shit?” He gestures towards the stack of paper.

“What’s all of this?” Ian asks, thankful for the distraction.

“Divorce papers.”

“What?”

“Yeah. Mother Russia is eligible to apply for citizenship, so why keep doing this, right?”

“That’s all divorce papers? That’s like, nearly a whole forest.”

“Nah, it’s also stuff for joined custody.”

“Oh.”

“What the fuck do you wanna say with Oh?” Mickey glares at him.

“Nothing, just – That’s great, Mick.” Ian smiles.

“Yeah, whatever.”

 


 

Mickey seems out of place in the waiting area of the mental health centre and judging from his juggling leg, he also feels this way.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Ian reassures him, placing his hand on the other one’s knee.

Mickey looks at his hand like Ian burnt him with it. Ian takes it away and supresses a sigh. Even though his mood is balanced out again and he doesn’t feel like there’s a gaping hole in his chest anymore, things aren’t quite as smooth as he wishes them to be with Mickey. They are at each other’s throats for the stupidest, little things or barely talk to each other for days and Ian just keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just keeps waiting for Mickey to be too fed up with his shit. So even if he said otherwise, they need to do this. The door to Dr. Young’s office opens and the therapist, wearing a plain blue pullover that covers his tattoo sleeve, and chino pants, calls them into his office.

“I’d like to go over some rules before we start. We have one hour and everything I learn here today is subject to professional secrecy. General rules are no yelling, no degrading language, no violence. I’d like to ask you to try to only discuss only one topic at the time and to try and focus on your own feelings. Any questions before we start?”

Ian shakes his head, looking at the hardwood floor.

“Excellent. Do you want to start, Ian?”

Ian doesn’t look up. Maybe it’s easier this way.

“You don’t owe me anything.”

“Oh my god not again,” Mickey groans, “What are you trying to say? Do you want me to leave?”

“No! But I feel like you do.”

He does look up now and sees Mickey’s face fall.

“Why would you think that?!”

“You’re barely talking to me on some days.”

“I’m trying to give you space! I don’t want to hoover over you like some weirdo. I’m just trying to figure out how to help you best.”

“I don’t need your fucking help, I need my boyfriend back. Who are you decide if I need help or not?” Ian clenches his fist. He’s not a child.

“Well excuse me that I missed the memo announcing the change from you wanting me to help you with this to you becoming Mr. Super independent once again.”

Ian is actually surprised that Dr. Young waited this long to interfere.

“Maybe try to rephrase this, Mickey?”

Mickey touches his upper lip with his thumb. That’s it. He’s going to get up and leave. Instead the brunette inhales deeply.

“It’s really fucking hard to know in what mood you’re in. When you crashed, you’d cling to me every fucking night. Then you got better and I figured that you need space, because I don’t know? You really hate it when I hoover. So I tried to give it to you. But apparently that’s wrong too. So what, exactly, is it that you need Ian? I’m trying. I really am. But somehow you keep expecting me to leave, so I’m doing something wrong.”

“Just be you. Stop trying so hard. Trying to give me space That’s bullshit. If you want something from me, just ask me or whatever. Don’t be so...,” he pauses, looking for the right word, “considerate.”

Mickey scoffs.

Fuck me for giving a shit.

Ian shakes his head.

“Sorry, that came out wrong. I meant to say… Ask me what I need. Don’t just make assumptions.”

“You hate talking about that shit,” Mickey exclaims, “We both do.”

“Yeah well, tough shit. Maybe we both need to suck it up, then.”

That’s one of the hardest lessons he learned in the past year: The right thing isn’t the easiest one in most cases.

“So? What do you need? What do you want to do?”

“I want to make up for those two months I basically stole from you. But I can’t.”

“You didn’t steal anything from me, Ian.”

“But you spent a lot of time just … I don’t know. Sitting next to me. Taking care of me. Whatever.”

“I didn’t. At first, yeah. But Fiona basically dragged me out of there after a few days. Had a whole speech prepared about how I have to take care of myself to be able to take care of you. So I tried. Studied for my exams. Finished school.”

“What? You finished school and I – I didn’t.”

Ian knew that Mickey has been working at a garage but he’d thought that was still part of his working experience for school. He fucking missed it.

Mickey leans forward and touches his arm. The touch grounds him a bit.

“Your mom died, Ian. I didn’t expect you to do anything.”

“Yeah, my mom, who wasn’t there half of my life anyway,” Ian scoffs, “And who’s death certainly shouldn’t have make me react like that.

“We talked about how the trauma of death might trigger a severe depressive episode,” Dr. Young interrupts gently, “And your mother’s death was a sudden and traumatic experience for you, no matter how present she’s been in your life. We also talked about how symptoms of grief and depression overlap and how hard it is to figure out how much of your behaviour was due to grieve and how much due to the depressive episode. We can talk about that some more later; but let’s go back these weeks after your mother’s death.”

Ian lets out a shaky breath and examines his shoes intensively.

“What else … What else did you do?”

“You were never really on your own. We made sure that someone was at the house at all times. But you slept a lot, or pretended to…”

Mickey leans back and Ian immediately craves his touch. The older one squints, as if he has difficulties to remember what happened during those weeks, too.

“Mostly work and school…Caught up on the Sons Of Anarchy episodes I missed while I was in the slammer. Debbie gave me your family laptop so I could watch them and be with you. Spent some time with Yev, brought him up to you once when you just started the new prescription.”

“That’s your son, right?” Dr. Young asks and Mickey startles, as if he’s forgotten that the therapist’s still there.

“Yeah.”

“You did?” Ian asks, looking up, smiling softly.

“You were sleeping. We just …,” there’s a blush working its way up Mickey’s neck, “We just laid there with you for a while. He chewed my ear of, babbling about god knows what.”

“That sounds nice. I miss him.”

 

“Is there anything you want to say to each other before we finish up?”

“You don’t have to be sorry for anything. Shit like that’s tough, with or without being bipolar.”

“I’m glad that you … Didn’t forget about your own life. It’s not your job to be my fucking nurse or whatever and I’m … I’m glad that you remembered that, too.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Ian.”

“Me neither.”

“Okay, good,” Dr. Young clasps his hands, “I’m afraid we have to end it here. But I think we made quite a bit of progress, don’t you? And there’s always the possibility to do another session.”

Mickey snorts and Ian can’t help but giggle like a fifteen year old teenager at an inappropriate joke.

 


 

“You feeling better now?”

It’s always easier to talk in the dark, at least that’s what Ian knows to be true for Mickey. He turns around to face his boyfriend, one arm placed under his head. He can barely make out Mickey’s features, but it’s enough.

“Yeah… You know… I guess I just thought that know you know that the meds don’t entirely fix me you’d run.”

“I know that there’s no magical cure, Ian. But you gotta stop acting like all you are is just some burden to me.”

Ian doesn’t answer instantly; he takes his time, his fingers tracing the outlines of Mickey’s face.

“I’m scared that this will destroy us someday. That everything that makes us us will be swallowed by this. I know I’m more than stupid symptoms. When I’m good I’m so much more than that. But when I’m not I feel like everything that makes me myself gets swallowed up. “

“I already told you: We’re not easily to destroy.” Mickey takes his hand and intertwines their fingers.

Ian smiles.

“I missed that smile.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“So you got everything out of your system now? We done with the touchy feely shit?”

“You mean talking openly about our emotions? Yeah, I guess. Not so sure about the actual touchy feely shit, though,” he grins.

“Why do I put up with your corny shit, man?”

“Hm… Would you like a reminder? I need to make up for the missed graduation celebration.”

Mickey smirks.

“Yeah, Firecrotch. Fucking remind me.”

Ian feels a million times lighter when their lips finally brush. It’s okay. They’re okay. They’re okay.

“I love you,” Mickey’s voice is coarse with lust, “I’m not going anywhere, Ian.”

“I love you. I love you so much.”

They’re more than okay.

Chapter Text

They don’t do stuff like official date nights. Or anniversaries. They don’t even have an anniversary. (Although Ian likes to think of October 21th as their day, the day he picked up Mickey from WICC.) But since they don’t do anniversaries and therefore don’t spend the little money they can spare on presents or movie tickets or overpriced food, Mickey won’t be allowed to be mad if Ian spends more than either of them would deem appropriate on his You finished your apprenticeship and started a legit job and I didn’t even notice because I was to fucked up-surprise. It’s not going to be a four-course meal or a night at the Ritz-Carlton – but it’s more than Ian was ever able to spend on a present for anyone – though his childhood was mostly self-made presents like a mixtape or the promise to sneak into a sox game together.

Ian just slammed the laptop shut after booking the tickets when his phone starts ringing.

“Hey stranger.”

The connection isn’t the best, but Ian would be able to recognize this voice under any circumstances.

“Mandy! You got a new number.”

“Yeah, lost my phone. Or it got stolen. I like to think about it as lost, though. Nobody is able to steal from a Milkovich.”

“At least they wouldn’t live to tell the tale.”

Her laugh spreads warmth in Ian’s chest. He didn’t realize how much he missed it.

“I heard about Monica.”

The warmth dissolves.

“You did?”

“Mickey called me … Around Christmas.”

Christmas. Christmas was better. Christmas was being able to get dressed and take a shower and spend the morning with his family and eat and laugh. Just to sleep through the afternoon until the next morning.

“How are you?”

Her voice is soft, softer than usual. And again it feels like a sucker punch to realise that Mandy has lost her mother, too.

“I’m better. Better than what Mickey has probably told you.”

“He didn’t say much.”

“Of course he didn’t,” Ian chuckles softly, “But he said enough, didn’t he?”

“Sometimes I think aliens abducted my real brother. He really loves you, you know that, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do. I love him, too.”

“So you’re hanging in there?” Her tone changes and it makes Ian chuckle again. It’s the same tone Mickey uses when he’s complaining about touchy-feely shit.

“I am. Been back to work for about a month now. Some days I still miss her, which is weird, because she’s barely been around… Some days I forget she’s dead, which is weird, too… But most days I’m good. What about you?”

“Me? Oh, I’m in San Diego, getting a tan, doing fine.” She laughs.

“How the hell did you end up in San Diego?”

“Needed a change. Just picked a random spot at the West Coast and packed my shit. I’m working at a tattoo parlour, mostly reception shit but they teach me how to ink after hours. I got really lucky, you know?”

“You deserve every bit of it, Mands. I’m so happy for you. Tell me about the beach. And the people at the parlour. Everything.”


 

Ian has to take the L to the outskirts of Chicago to get to the garage where Mickey works. It takes him almost an hour and he has to change trains three times. He passes a car-hire company and a caravan camp ground before he reaches the building with the bright red neon-lamp Ed’s car repair. The garage door is open and Ian can see several cars with their hoods open before he even enters the place.

“Can I help you, Sir? Our shop is two buildings down.” A petite red haired woman who’s wearing a grey oil-stained overall comes seemingly out of nowhere. (Or maybe she was just crouched on the other side of the black SUV she’s standing next to.)

“Uh, hi! I’m looking for Mickey. Mickey Milkovich.”

The woman wipes her hands at a cloth, nods and walks into the back of the workshop. Ian decides to follow her, passing two more cars, before they reach the door to a backroom that looks like a storage room.

“Mikhailo,” she yells, “There’s someone who wants to see you.”

Ian tries to supress a laugh, but it bursts out when Mickey, also wearing a grey overall, though this one is clean, appears behind a shelve that’s stacked with spray cans muttering: “For the billionth time it’s Mickey, Liz. Mick-ey!” But the woman already left.

His eyebrows rise when he discovers Ian, who’s full on cracking up by now.

“The fuck are you laughing at. What are you even doing here?”

“Aw, shit. What I’m doing here, Mikhailo, is picking you up to make sure you don’t get side-tracked before coming home. We’ve got plans.”

“I’ll show you side-tracked if you use that name one more time, Clayton.” He flips him off, the corners of his mouth dangerously twitching.

Ian takes a deep breath, trying to calm down, while pressing a hand to his hurting side.

“What plans?”

“It’s a surprise.”

Mickey groans.

“Should I be scared?”

“Didn’t know I could scare you, Mick,” Ian smiles. There’s still at least two feet space between them and Ian surely isn’t about to change that at a garage he knows pretty much nothing about except that they hire felons. Doesn’t mean he wish he could, though.

“I’m gonna ask Liz if I can go twenty minutes early, aight?”

Ian nods, looking after him as Mickey walks back into the workshop to talk to his boss.


 

“I gotta say, I’m disappointed.”

They’re sitting next to each other on the L ten minutes later, Mickey wearing jeans and a sweater under his parker.

“About what?”

“Thought you’d be all oily and greasy. You always go straight to the shower when you come home, I barely get a glimpse of it. So I thought, I’m gonna go surprise him and see him in all his glory. But nada.”

Mickey smirks. “I was doing inventory, smartass. Shit out of luck.”

Ian sighs. “We’re on a tight schedule anyway. Got tickets for 8pm and it’s almost seven and I guess you’d still wanna shower.”

Mickey leans towards him and whispers into his ear: “Shower’s big enough for two, though.”

“You got a point there.”

 


 

“You’re still not gonna tell me right? I fucking hate surprises.”

Ian closes his eyes for a second. It seems like his boyfriend has been replaced by a whiny five-year old.

“You promised to stop asking. You said,” Ian lowers his voice, so the lady two seats in front of them doesn’t hear him, “Please Ian, fuck me, and I’ll do anything you want. I delivered, so now it’s your turn to shut up.”

Mickey whines one last time, but he doesn’t ask anymore.

They’re on the pick-up spot five minutes early and Ian can’t help but grin in excitement.

“I think it’s time I tell you what it is.”

“Fucking finally. What’s this even all about? Did I miss Valentine’s day or some shit?”

Ian shakes his head.

“Not Valentine’s day. It’s your graduation gift.”

Mickey frowns. “I didn’t graduate anything.”

“You did!” Ian exclaims. “Community college.”

“I did a fucking mechanic course Ian, that’s not-“

“Shut the fuck up and enjoy your surprise, all right?”

“Whatever. What is it?”

“A crime tour,” Ian beams, “This bus,” he points at the bus that pulls up right on time, “is going to take us to famous crime scenes all over the city. Al Capone, The Untouchables … shit like that.”

Mickey musters the bus, eyebrows nearly touching his hairline. He’s still not talking when they enter the bus but when they sit down and their tour guide starts talking Mickey squeezes his hand for a moment. The pure excitement on his face when they reach their first stop is answer enough, anyway.

 


 

“Al Capone’s a fucking legend, man. Jamie showed me The Untouchables when I was like seven or something. Fucking masterpiece…” Mickey’s been rambling like this since the tour ended and Ian soaks up his excitement while they walk home.

“So I guess you liked it,” he summarises when they take of their jackets in the mudroom of the Gallagher house.

“It was all right,” Mickey grins. “Must’ve cost a fortune though.”

“Anything to see you smile.”

Mickey cringes. “That was gay.”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Ian smiles before pulling him closer, to make their foreheads touch.

“Anything, huh?”

“Yeah.” He can feel Mickey’s smile against his lips.

“I would smile really big if you’d admit that Seagal’s better than Van Damme,” Mickey whispers once they pull apart.

“What?” Ian blinks in confusion.

Mickey grins.

“You just ruined the moment! What the fuck is wrong with you,” Ian cries, causing Mickey to crack up.

“M’sorry.”

“You’re not.”

“It just kinda slipped out,” he’s still laughing, pecking Ian’s lips in between.

“Pff.” Ian hides his face in the crook of Mickey’s neck, pretending to be pissed but it doesn’t take long until he’s smiling, too.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” he mumbles, lifting his head again, “My idiot, though.”

“Yours alone.” They smile at each other in silence until Ian stifles a yawn and they make their way upstairs.

Chapter Text

Ian could swear that Yevgeny gets bigger every time he sees him. The toddler still barely reaches higher than Ian’s thighs but it feels like he’s going to outgrow him soon. (Given Yevgeny’s gene pool that’s highly unlikely, but anyway.)

“Een!” The boy runs towards him and hugs his legs, as soon as he discovered him entering the bar.

“Hey munchkin,” Ian picks him up, “You’re my favourite Milkovich. But don’t tell your dad, all right?”

“Dad?” The toddler looks around searching for Mickey.

“We’re gonna meet him at the playground later. He’s still at work,” Ian explains.

“Dad work cars.” Yevgeny nods, “We visit?”

“No, we’re going to the playground. He’ll be there.”

Svetlana hands Ian a small Ninja turtles back bag.

“You bring him tomorrow at three, yes? No chocolate, no sugar, pshik. Understood?”

“Understood,” Ian nods.


 

How, exactly, did he manage to get this lucky? Yevgeny’s sitting on the swing, giggling overjoyed. Mickey and Ian take turns pushing him. It’s spring, it’s getting warmer and they aren’t the only ones on the playground. There are mostly women with children. A group of middle-schoolers is occupying the jungle gym.

“Dad! Now the slide, yes?”

Mickey rolls his eyes, but lifts Yevgeny out of the swing anyway. It’s been like that for the last half hour. Swing-Slide-Sandbox-Slide-Swing.

“A really cute boy you got there,” the woman who’s pushing the girl on the swing next to theirs says while Mickey and Yevgeny walk towards the slide, “How old is he?”

Ian beams. “Turned two last month.”

“He looks exactly like his dad,” the woman adds, when Mickey turns around to dart a questioning glance at him.

“Yeah, he does. It was nice to meet you.” Ian nods and makes his way towards the slide.

 


 

“Little fucker,” Mickey mutters when he comes down the stairs after tucking Yevgeny in in Liam’s old bed in the boys’ bedroom, “Wanted to hear another story and then fell asleep after three sentences.” He goes to the fridge to get a beer. “The divorce came through, by the way.”

“Say that again, please.” Ian’s sitting at the kitchen table, his journal open in front of him. He used the time while Mickey was upstairs with Yevgeny to get it out of the way.

His voice isn’t cracking. It totally isn’t. He isn’t about to cry, because he isn’t a wuss. He has cried way too much about this.

Mickey frowns and sits down next to him.

“I said the divorce came through.”

“Fuck,” Ian presses his hands to his eyes. He’s not going to cry.

“What the fuck is going on, Ian?” Mickey asks softly, a hand on the younger one’s wrist.

“I was just thinking, this afternoon, how I got this lucky. I got you, and there’s this beautiful little boy who looks exactly like you sleeping upstairs right now and … I never would have thought that it would be like this… I thought it was over. I thought I’d lost you forever that day. And maybe I would have. If you hadn’t found me. Maybe it would have been over – just like that. Maybe in another universe we didn’t find each other again.”

“The fuck are you talking about parallel universes right now?”

“I don’t know,” Ian chuckles, “You’re free now. I mean – Having Yevgeny still in your life is your choice, right? A choice you made.”

Mickey nods, his hand still caressing Ian’s wrist.

“And holy fuck you’re basically living with me. And you came out and – and,” Ian laughs, “Imagine telling your eighteen-year-old self that you’re living with me. And that you’re divorced. You’re divorced and you survived this,” the laugh dies when he sees the tears in Mickey’s eyes. He pulls him into a hug, his hand rubbing soothing circles over Mickey’s back, “You survived Mick. It’s over.

“Fuck,” Mickey yanks himself out of Ian’s grip and jumps up, the heels of his hands pressed to his eyes. “Fuck!”

He turns his back to Ian, who’s still sitting at the kitchen table, hesitating.

“What the fuck am I crying about?”

It’s like that’s his cue. Ian pushes his chair back, gets up and gently touches his shoulder.

“It’s okay to cry, you know?”

“I don’t need your fucking permission,” Mickey hisses, voice shaking.

“I know. I just – It’s okay. It’s not weak or anything. And even if it were, you’re allowed to show weakness, Mick.”

It’s like Ian’s words tore down a wall, Mickey stares at him with pain-filled eyes and seconds later Ian’s arms are wrapped around his shaking shoulders. Mickey cries silently. The kitchen is only filled with the sound of sharp gasps for air and Ian’s voice.

“It’s over, Mickey. It’s over.”

He lets the tears that sting in his eyes fall, too. Because they both survived it. They’re both here, in this kitchen, holding each other.

“Ah fuck,” Mickey eventually pulls back, his voice hoarse, wiping tears away.

“I think I don’t want to know how long that’s been bottled up,” Ian whispers, swallowing the remaining tears down, while caressing Mickey’s neck.

Mickey huffs, averting his gaze, so Ian cups his face.

“Look at me. You don’t get to hate yourself over this, all right? There’s nothing to be hated. It’s just a chemical regulation thing. It’s fucking human.”

Mickey bits his lip before pulling Ian into a deep, passionate kiss that says everything that Mickey can’t put into words.


 

“The whole child support thing’s fucking annoying, though. How expensive can a two year-old be?” Mickey mutters later, squeezing Ian’s arm that’s wrapped around his torso. Ian laughs.

“That’s not fucking funny.”

“Remember when you wanted to kill Kev for stealing money from you that you stole from him? That money was for Yev, right? I just remembered that.”

“That wasn’t funny either,” Mickey growls.

“Back then, no. Now it is though.”

Mickey shakes his head.

“Whatever.”

“You’re smiling. I hear it.”

“Fuck off.”

“I love you.”

Mickey turns around without letting go. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Everything. Everything has got to do with the fact that I fucking love you.”

Mickey shakes his head before muttering “Yeah, same, asshole.”

 


 

Fiona’s barely at home during the day, so when she is it’s for a reason most of the time. When Ian comes home from an after-work run, she’s rummaging through the kitchen drawers.

“Hey,” he decides to put off the shower for a moment and sits down at the kitchen table, watching her whirl around and smile at him.

“Hey Ian. Home from work already?”

He nods. “What are you doing home? Got a day off?”

Fiona seems to have found what she was looking for and puts two frozen waffles in the toaster, while laughing at his suggestion of having free time.

“I needed some stuff. You want the second waffle?”

“Sure.”

“How are you doing?” She asks when they both start to eat their waffles.

“’m good,” Ian munches, “Everything’s fine. No need to worry.”

Fiona sighs. “I’m not worrying, Ian. I just wanted to catch up what’s going on in your life. I feel like I barely see you. Debbie told me Yevgeny stayed the night last week.”

“Yeah, he did,” he smiles, “Where are you all the time, anyway?”

“Ah, you know, Patsy’s, the apartment building, George… It’s busy.”

“Wait what? George? Who’s George? What happened to I’m an independent woman and don’t need a man – only one night stands?”

“Yeah, well… Turns out dating can be nice if the guy isn’t a lying car thief or a lying drug-addict.”

“Sounds boring,” Ian grins, “What does he do?”

“He’s a journalist. Works freelance, writes mostly at Patsy’s…”

“Going well?”

“Yeah,” she sighs dreamily. “So, what about you? Any news?”

“Actually yes. I finally picked up Karate again and,” he pauses, trying to hide his smile, “Rita asked if I’m interested in doing the EMT-I certificate.”

“Are you?”

“I’m looking into it, yeah.”

“Sounds good,” Fiona pats his arm, pausing for a moment, “I know I haven’t been around much. But I’m glad you’re doing great, and that things are working out with Mickey… I just … I’m really proud of you, Ian. You turned your life around. You can be really proud of yourself.”

Ian picks up the last crumbs of his waffle. “Yeah, I know. Thanks, Fi. That means a lot.”

“All right,” she gets up, “Gotta get back to Patsy’s. Why don’t you two come there tomorrow for dinner?”

“I have a late shift tomorrow. But next week for sure.”

Fiona nods and turns to leave.

It’s weird, not having his big sister around all the time anymore. She’s always been the one they could lean on. But maybe that’s part of growing-up, too. Ian’s never been one to lean on much on other people, but he knew that he could if he wanted to. Now it seems like Fiona’s trying to build her own life, away from her siblings, even though Carl, Debbie and Liam are still minors. She isn’t abandoning them, but at some point in the last year she decided that it wasn’t her only life purpose to take care of them. Debbie is able to care for herself, Carl’s at military school and the responsibility for Liam is divided between Debbie, Ian and Fiona, while Lip’s at college. It’s not the Gallaghers united against the rest of the world anymore, with two of them not even living in the house anymore but it’s still family. It’s annoying, nerve-wrecking and beautiful and Ian knows that it’s always going to be this way.

“Hey Fi?” Ian calls out when his sister is almost at the front door.

She turns around.

“Mickey told me about your little speech. Self-care and all that.”

Fiona tilts her head. “Yeah?”

“I know you didn’t always approve of him… Thanks for coming around. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Mickey’s a good guy. I – I shouldn’t have acted the way I did… I was worried about you. We all were, back then. And when you crashed after Monica’s funeral… I realised it wasn’t a battle of us against him. And I also realised that I couldn’t expect him to know the stuff I knew. He hasn’t been living with this for over two decades when you got diagnosed. It was all new for him. It still is I guess. But he’s a good guy and I know he’s trying. So I decided to teach him the stuff he doesn’t know yet, so he doesn’t have to learn it the hard way.”

“Yeah, he really is,” Ian smiles, "Thanks."

Chapter Text

16 months later

“Did you remember to buy snacks? I swear to god, Ian, if you forgot to buy chocolate I’m gonna turn into Hulk after three hours. You won’t survive it.”

“What’s he so nervous about?”

Carl’s home for summer break before heading back for his last year of High School and is half-asleep leaning against the railing of the porch steps next to Ian. The sun is barely up.

“First proper road trip,” Ian explains.

The idea came up when they were watching a travel documentary about Australia one night and Mickey said that he’d always wanted to see the ocean, always wanted to go somewhere warm. Ian had laughed, like Chicago wasn’t a fucking oven in the summer but he understood the sentiment. They made plans that weren’t entirely serious, but skyped Mandy the next day anyway, asking her if she would put up with them for a few days. Mickey’s been off parole two weeks and here they are, about to head to San Diego.

“It’s in the glove compartment,” Ian calls towards Mickey, who’s loading a duffel bag into the trunk of Lip’s car.

“Get your ass down here so we can get going,” Mickey yells back.

Ian chuckles and turns towards Carl.

“See you next week. Don’t set the house on fire or anything.”

“Me? Never!” Carl smirks and gives a mock salute. “Have fun.”

Ian ruffles his brother’s hair before skipping down the steps towards the car.

The first night they stop in a crappy motel near Oklahoma City. Their room smells like rat piss and there’s a brownish stain in the bathroom Ian doesn’t want to inspect to closely but it has a bed and after twelve hours of sitting in Lip’s not so shitty but still not most comfortable car it does the trick. They eat breakfast in the 24 hour diner next to the motel, sending Mandy a selfie with the caption Halfway there! Ian feels like he’s twelve and on the way to summer camp even though he’s never been to summer camp. The playlist he spent hours to compile is on its fourth run when Mickey starts complaining about ZZ Ward and “your annoying club music” so they listen to the Harry Potter and the deathly hallows audiobook instead. Mickey falls asleep ten minutes in while Ian feels weirdly connected to the Golden Trio aimlessly wandering around on the hunt for horcruxes.

The second stop hasn’t been planned from the beginning but since they save money for an actual hotel room once they’re in San Diego and sleeping in a car isn’t the most restful kind of sleep they stop again near Phoenix. The motel is barely better than the first one, at least there’s no stain to be seen. The bed doesn’t squeak as much as the one the night before. Or maybe they just don’t notice.


 

They arrive in San Diego around midday, Mickey cursing his phone’s navigation system.

“It can’t be that hard to find one shitty tattoo parlour?” He asks for the tenth time as they circle the same block for the third time.

Ian doesn’t mind the impromptu city tour as much as Mickey does, but he’s relieved anyway when he spots a neon sign Dragon & Ink.

Mandy’s in front of the car before Mickey’s even turned off the engine.

“Look who it is. My two favourite cock-suckers! Welcome to San Diego losers!”

Ian is out of the car and in her arms in seconds.

“You look amazing!”

Mandy beams at him, she’s basically gleaming, her hair up in a messy bun. Ian’s gaze is automatically drawn to the tattoo on her left shoulder, that’s seen under the stripes of her black top. It’s a mix of red, black and golden and it takes Ian a moment to figure it out.

“Born again out of ashes, huh?,” he asks, pointing at the phoenix tattoo.

Mandy smiles at touches her shoulder. “Yeah. Joe did that. It’s great, right?”

“You two fucking done now or you not gonna say hi to your brother?”

 

Mandy takes them to a snack bar a few streets down and before Ian is able to process any of it he’s walking down a fucking beach, his feet touching the sand while he’s holding his shoes in one hand and a burrito in the other. He can’t stop smiling at the sight of the ocean and when he catches a glimpse of Mickey, he sees his face mirrored.

“I gotta go back to work. The apartment is, like, twenty minutes from here. Get your stuff down there. And please don’t fuck on the counter top or something,” she grimaces, “I’m off around six. And we’re gonna hit Hillcrest tonight. I need to have a good night of dancing without being groped.”

“We’re not going to a fucking club,” Mickey grumbles immediately.

“Come on Mickey, have some fun.”

“You’re maybe not gonna get groped but he is and I really don’t wanna spend my night being a fucking guard dog.”

“Relax, there are bars there, too. A gay bar all right for your mighty ass?”

Mickey looks like he’s about to protest again but Ian gives him a look so he just shrugs instead.

“Oh my god, you’re so whipped,” Mandy laughs, before turning around and walking towards the street, “Later, losers!”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Ian rests his head on Mickey’s shoulder and for a while they just stand there, looking at the ocean, while the water washes around their feet.

They end up in a bar that night and even though Ian knows Mickey would never admit it, he’s having fun. They play dart and when Ian wins he steals a victory kiss from his boyfriend, which turns into the start of make-out session until Mandy hits both of shoulders in protest. Ian gets drunk after two cocktails even though he’s sharing with Mandy and he doesn’t protest when Mickey suggests switching to soda. They sing songs from the eighties on the way home and even though it’s awfully off-key, Ian feels like he’s never been happier.


 

And that feeling doesn’t change during the next few days. Mandy has to work, so the apartment is empty when the boys wake up eventually, cuddled together on Mandy’s pull out sofa. They have breakfast and go to the beach until it’s time to meet up with Mandy for lunch. It’s careless and free and fun. In the evening, they either hit a bar or just walk along the beach. It’s heaven. It’s pressing Mickey against the tiles of Mandy’s bathroom one morning, trying to kiss every inch of his skin. It’s holding Mickey’s hand while watching the sunset, whispering I love you into each other’s ears and asking themselves if they really aren’t dreaming.

 

It’s over way to fast. The last night is ordering pizza and watching Rogue One and pretending they’re not heading back to Chicago the next day.

“What is it like? Being on the meds?” Mandy asks Ian when he returns from the bathroom, that last night. The ending credits are still playing on the TV, Mickey’s asleep with his head leaned back.

He considers her question for a moment, while wedging himself back between his boyfriend and his best friend.

“Regulated. They balance everything out and it’s … flat, most of the time. Not to happy. Not to sad. But not to flat, either. Hard to explain. Okay. The way it’s supposed to be, I guess. Maybe I wouldn’t consider it as flat if I didn’t know what it feels like to be manic.”

He hasn’t had a relapse since his mom died. Eighteen months and counting. Sometimes he feels an episode coming, feels himself getting higher or lower but he hasn’t had an full-blown episode since, managed to catch the warning signs early enough, get to Dr. Kapoor and get his meds adjusted before a few days of feeling lower or a few days of racing thoughts or feeling out of sync turned into something more serious.

Mandy’s looking at him like she’s waiting for him to go on, so he does.

“Some days I hate it,” he chuckles humourlessly, “I hate that I’m dependent on all this shit. It’s always in the back of my mind, even now I catch myself asking if I’m too happy. There are still good and bad days; it’s not all unicorns and sunshine just because of some pills.”

Mandy rubs his shoulder, frowning, so Ian hastily adds:

“I’m better than I ever thought I’d be once I started to realise that I’m bipolar, Mands. I got a job I really, really love. I’ve got him,” he nudges Mickey, who’s still sleeping. “I’m happy. It’s all good.”

“How’s he doing?”

“He’s got a savings account,” Ian whispers in mock-offence. Mandy laughs.

“He’s good,” he smiles, “He loves his cars. Like, seriously loves them. It’s annoying sometimes.”

“Aye, I heard that. You’re annoying with your EMT shit, too. It’s fucking gross.”

 

It’s not some honeymoon-phase always happy kind of shit. They fight. They fight about whether or not to go to Ian’s work BBQ. They fight when Mickey stays late at the garage for days on end. They fight about things they wouldn’t have to fight about if Ian wasn’t bipolar, too. Mickey’s the one with the checklist now that Lip’s living with his girlfriend and her daughter. There wasn’t a point were Ian just magically accepted that he’s mentally ill. Like he said to Mandy: There are good and bad days. There are days when he wants to flush the pills down the toilet, because feeling dizzy every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes after he took them just isn’t it. Or when he misses the highs. There are nights when he yells at Mickey for reminding him to get enough sleep. There are weeks when he doesn’t track his moods, because that shit is annoying and he’s twenty-one and he shouldn’t need to do it. But there’s also so much more than that: His paramedic course, Karate training, movie nights with the whole Gallagher clan. It’s fighting about whether or not they should turn Debbie’s old room into a bedroom for Yevgeny, now that she’s going to college. It’s deciding to get their own flat instead. For the first time, there aren’t any outside forces trying to tear them apart. For the first time since Ian pressed a tire iron against Mickey’s back they get to be themselves without having to fight against some major shit they can’t control.

“I can hear you thinking, Freckles,” Mickey mutters, his hand squeezing Ian’s.

Ian smiles and presses a kiss to Mickey’s neck.

“What is it with you and pretending to be asleep tonight, huh?”

“Whatcha thinking about?”

“Nothing. Just … how happy I am.”

“Oh yeah? Hm…me too.” Mickey cranes his neck to press a kiss to his lips. “Now stop thinking so loud I gotta get some fucking sleep.”


 

“I’m not sure I want this anymore,” Mickey stares at the buzzing tattoo gun in Mandy’s gloved hand.

His sister rolls her eyes. “Come on, Mick. I’ve been working for almost a year, you’ve seen my portfolio, aight? Don’t be a fucking pussy.”

“She’s right,” Ian squeezes his hand and earns a death glare, “It’s gonna be fucking perfect. It’s a reminder for the last week, right?”

Mickey growls. “Yeah, fuck it.”

“Fuck yeah,” Mandy grins and starts working on her brother’s chest.

She’s almost done with the outline (and Ian’s hand is nearly getting crushed, though Mickey would never admit to that) when Ian’s phone rings.

“It’s Fiona,” he mutters, eyebrows shooting up in worry, before stepping out of the parlour to get away from the noise.

“Hey Ian.”

“What’s going on?”

“You and Mickey still looking for a flat?”

“Yeah. It’s pretty hard with all the convicted felon stuff… I’m not planning to move into a dump.” Ian rubs his neck, watching the people walking down the seafront. He really doesn’t want to leave, but there’s his family, his job, his life waiting for him.

“One of my tenants just terminated their lease. It’s a two bedroom, $900 a month.”

“Wow, Fi…”

He hears his sister chuckle.

“You two wanna take a look first before you thank me? You’d probably have to do a lot of renovating, that guy’s a hoarder.”

“Totally. Sure.”

“Great. When will you be back?”

“Sunday evening.”

“I’m gonna let you know when you can take a look, okay?”

“Thanks.”

“Sure, kiddo. Say hi to the Mikoviches from me. Have a safe trip back.”

 

“What’s got you grinning like that while I’m here in pain?”

“Jeez, Mick, stop whining,” Mandy shakes her head, “But really, what’s going on?”

“Fiona just offered us to move into one of her apartments. “

It’s hard to make out the smile in the grimace that is Mickey’s face right now, but it’s there.

“Don’t forget to moisturize, yeah? You gotta be real nice to your wolf.”

Mickey doesn’t answer; he just stares into the mirror Mandy’s holding up, admiring the wolf head that decorates his chest.

“Fucking badass,” Ian grins, “Just like you.”

“Fuck, that actually looks good.”

“Shithead,” Mandy hits him, “of course it does! I made it!”

“Thanks, sis.”

 

There aren’t any tears when they hug each other goodbye half an hour later. There are just hugs that are bit longer than average.

“Next time is your turn under the needle. Promise me.”

“Yeah, I promise,” Ian lifts her up a little, “Promise to take care of yourself. I wish I could here to babysit you.”

“Like I need a fucking bodyguard,” she flips him of as soon as he lets her go, “I’m a big girl, Ian. Take care of my bro.”

“Like I need a fucking babysitter,” Mickey scoffs before hugging his sister, “Lemme know if there’s any trouble.”

“All right, losers, get this shit show on the road or I might cry and I have reputation to uphold.”

 

“Ready?” Mickey smiles at him, on hand on the key in the ignition, about to start the car.

Ian smiles back, leans towards him and kisses him softly.

“Yeah, I’m ready.”