“You think I screwed up, didn't you?”, asked Ian staring at the ceiling. Lip had entered the boys room and closed the door, giving them privacy.
“I don't think, I know. You keep saying there's nothing wrong with you, but do you really believe that?”
“No, really, you think that going off yours meds and following Monica's advice is the way to go? What the fuck did she ever do for you? What did she do that compares to what Mickey’s been doing for you?”
Ian covered his head with the pillow. He didn't want to hear his brother anymore, the realization that he had fucked things up big time just adding to his general shittiness.
But he knew Lip was right. He had left Monica and her meth head boyfriend because he knew that wasn't a life a life he wanted for him. He knew all his fuck ups, they were permanently branded in his defective brain, he remembered all the shit he had pulled up and also remembered thinking none of that was wrong. Like it was of little consequence that he had cheated on Mickey and kidnapped his son. Like it was nothing. But he still resented Mickey for coddling him. He didn’t want to take his meds, didn't want to admit he needed them in the first place.
“I don't want him to keep taking care of me like I'm a child!”
“Them start doing it yourself! It's not his responsibility to watch out for you, it's yours! We're your family, Ian! But we can't force you to want to get better. All we can do is to try to get you through your worst days, like Mickey did. But until you actually decide to get your shit together, we'll have to treat you like this. What's the alternative?”
“You could just leave me be…” answered Ian, choked up. Lip shook his head.
“I will.” He walked up to the bed and pulled the pillow from Ian’s face. “As soon as you start to think for yourself, I'll let you decide what's best for you.”
“What you mean?”
“I heard a lot of Monica's shit coming out of your mouth. She got into your head and convinced you that you don't need to get your disease under control. But she's wrong.”
“Is she? She supported me! She believed in me! Everyone keeps telling that I need medication to be myself but how can this be truth? How can a person need pills to be themselves? I am who I am!”
“This is who you are, Ian? Really? Almost taking a baseball bat to Debbie's face? Ignoring Carl, who always looked up to you, more than to anyone? Taking off to nowhere without letting us know that your stupid fuckin’ ass isn't dead on a ditch somewhere? Are you sure that's who you are?”
Ian stared at his brother wide eyed. He knew he had done all that, but hearing Lip saying so matter of factly felt like a punch.
“Dude, I've been with you more than I've been with any of the others. We grew up together.” Lip sat at the foot of Ian’s bed, looking tired. “I know we've all been caught up in our own shit lately but we're still brothers. I know you and as someone who spent way more time with you than Monica, believe when I say that this is not you!”
Ian felt tears welling up his eyes and let his head fall back on the bed. He didn't want to scare or hurt anyone else, specially his family. Lip was right, that wasn't him. But he could still hear Monica's voice saying he was perfect and didn't need any doctors or meds. But Monica also lived going in and out of people's lives and causing more damage than good.
“Who do you wanna be, Ian? I can't make decisions for you. I wished I could drag your lanky ass to a doctor and shove your pills down your throat but I can't. And you don't deserve to be treated that way. It has to come from you. You must know she's wrong, Ian. You have to.”
Lip got up and kissed his brother’s forehead, something Ian had a habit to do. He felt a short laughter bubbling up and couldn't stop it from coming out. He brought both of his arms around Lip and held him close. Lip hugged him back, sitting back on bed. Ian hid his face against his neck and shuddered. He started crying against Lip’s skin and his brother held him through it. He had missed this, the closeness, the companionship. He and Lip were closer than the rest of their siblings and burning that bridge was another thing he had done that he regretted. But this was his chance of rebuilding everything he had torn down. Not only with Lip, but his other siblings and Mickey.
When they dropped their arms, Ian nodded. “I want to get better, Lip. But I wasn't feeling better when I was taking my meds. I wasn't feeling anything.”
“Then we get the doctor to make adjustments. I don't think it's gonna be easy, but I'll be there with you. We all will be. And if you need help, you can ask for. We're family, man. You can always count on me.” Lip looked uncomfortable for a second, looking around and sighing. “And you can count on Mickey too.”
Ian ran a hand through his hair. “After what I said to him?”
“Look, I wouldn't believe if anyone told me back when you guys started doing it, but you two are the longest somewhat healthy somewhat stable couple this family ever saw.” Ian gave a short laugh at that. “I'm serious. You guys have been together for, what? Almost three years now?”
“Didn't Fiona date Steve for longer?”
“His name wasn't even Steve, he lied since the beginning. I wouldn't call that healthy.”
Ian nodded. He and Mickey had been together for a considerable amount of time now. Even if they weren't an actual couple since the beginning, they were still together. When Monica showed up with her girlfriend Roberta, disrupting their lives, wanting to take Liam away, he ran after Mickey, needing to see him, to be close to him. Back then, the only way they did that was through sex, but it worked.
“Never thought I'd see you defend him… You were the one that said that a good thing about falling for Mick is that I could always find someone better.”
“In my defense, I didn't know he had it in him, I didn't really thought he cared so much about you. But, as the many virtuous men that came before me, I admit I was wrong. He does care. A lot.” Ian smiled and nodded again but said nothing. Lip took a deep breath. “Look, no judgement, but if you don't want to be with Mickey anymore, you should talk to him again once you have have a clear head. Try to end things in a better note, maybe.” He said, hesitant. When Ian spoke again, his voice was hesitant.
“I love Mick. I just want things to be simple, easy like they used to be.”
“And what if that's not an option?”
“What you mean?”
“We're grown ups now, Ian. Time for things to be simple is gone.” He shrugged and Ian realized he wasn't just talking about his bipolar disorder. He thought of Lip, bringing Liam with him while in college when Fiona got arrested. Stepping up, filling in when their older sister wasn't in condition. He thought of Debbie, running the day care practically by herself since she was nine to raise money for their family. He thought of himself working shifts at the Kash-and-Grab everyday after school, helping with the bills and being an example for his younger siblings. When did he stop being there for them?
Lip got up again and gave him a friendly slap on the thigh. “Take a shower, eat something and then go to sleep. I'll tell the others to give you some space. But be prepared for at least one hug attack from Debbie tomorrow.” Ian chuckled and sat up, turning slowly, so his feet were on the floor.
“And the hugs will be before or after we go see a doctor?”
Ian could see Lip fighting to not leave a huge smile break on his face. He probably wanted to keep things cool, to not add more pressure to Ian's decision.
“I can try hold her off long enough for you to escape through the kitchen door.”, he joked and Ian gave another short laughter as he got up and grabbed some clean clothes. Lip was already out of the door when he heard his brother, Ian’s voice small and vulnerable.
“You think Mickey would want to come along too?”
Lip smiled, his eyes soft. He shrugged, downplaying the situation, trying to ease Ian’s anxiety.
“Hm, it's not like he has a busy schedule, right? But if he can't make it, I'm sure you can set up a date for later.”
Ian swallowed around the knot in his throat and nodded. He understood what Lip meant: after what he had said, maybe it was too early for him to be bringing Mickey back into his mess.
He went into the shower and let the water fall on his shoulders, allowing himself to relax. He had made a decision and wouldn't go back on it. He'd work on getting better. For himself and his family and Mickey. He wasn't Monica. He'd be there for them.
Later, when he was lying on Lip’s bed (his brother had traded with him for the night to give him some privacy; as raw as he was still feeling, he was thankful), he texted Mickey.
[20:19] I'm sorry. I love you.
[20:24] You need to make up your mind, man. I can't live like that .
Ian smiled despite everything. If Mickey wasn't giving him the cold shoulder, it meant he could still have a chance. He started typing a response, but Mickey, impatient as always, called him. He hesitated just for a second before accepting the call.
“Look, I don't know what to think anymore. I told you I love you, I've been doing everything I can but you have to work with me here, Ian!”
“I know, I will. I'll go to the doctor tomorrow and this time, I'll make it work.”
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. And then he heard Mickey’s exhale.
“ Okay. And where does that leave me ?”
“Do you still wanna be with me?”
“ Fuck, Ian… ”
“Because if you want, I think we should start over and take things slowly this time.”
“You think ?”
“Yeah. I don't wanna lose you but I want to make sure I'm not a burden to you either.”
“ Ian- ”
“No, Mick. I'm not putting anyone through that again. Not you or my brothers or sisters. So, what about we start with that date. Sizzler, right?”
Another long silence, broken by Mickey’s laugh.
“Friday, Fire crotch? At seven?”
Ian smiled and had to suppress a chuckle.
“It's a date.”
“Okay. See you, then .” And by his voice, Ian could tell he was smiling. He smiled too. They talked a bit more, just enjoying each other's voices (and Ian was sure if he said that out loud, Mickey would call him a pussy) before hanging up. He relaxed on the bed, feeling tired, but knowing he would feel at least a little better in the morning.
Just before he fell asleep, he remembered Lip’s words: the time for simple things was gone. Yeah, that was about right. Nothing would be easy as it were back in the days. But he would be okay. He had his family and Mickey. He would be okay.