“Guys! Stand down!” Ian yelled through the dust and fog, ducking as he ran towards one of the armoured vehicles. He was whirling his hand in the air, signalling to his troops to get to one of the vehicles in the caravan. His other arm tucking his Colt M4 carbine into his side. Lifting his kerchief over his mouth, he grabbed the side of one of the trucks and hopped onto the footboard, watching to make sure his crew were loaded up and safe.
Once getting the all clear on his hand radio, Ian pulled himself into the passenger seat of the armoured humvee, heaving a sigh of relief and wiping his forehead. He pulled his kerchief off and graciously reached out to grab the bottle of water the Private who was driving handed him.
“Thanks.” Ian tipped the bottle in acknowledgement towards Private Fisher, his driver.
“No worries. Close call?” Private Fisher was dodging debris in the road, following the convoy of vehicles, looking through his windows and mirrors and listening to the radio that blasted through the vehicle.
“Yeah, a bit, wasn't expecting an explosion in this area. Our sources had us expecting a calmer day." Ian sat back and dropped his head back against his seat, looking out of his window, watching the sand coloured buildings and terrain go by. Finally closing his eyes for a moment, knowing he would be back on their base in a couple of hours.
Ian was a First Lieutenant in the US Army. He graduated from West Point only two years ago, and this was his second six month stint in Iraq since. Both times as the officer in charge of his crew. Despite the US pulling out of Iraq in 2011, they were sent back in 2014 to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It was early December and all Ian could think about was staying safe until the end of January so that he could get back home to Chicago to be with Mickey.
Ian and Mickey had been together now for over ten years. Mickey was a math teacher at the same high school in the Southside that they attended as teenagers and thoroughly enjoyed his job. He took no bullshit. He was one of those kids once, he knew how they thought, how they lived, and most importantly he knew how they needed someone to believe in them. Ian smiled thinking about his boyfriend. He'd come so far since they were kids, they both had. Ian was thankful he was able to live out his dream of becoming an officer in the US Army. He was doubly as thankful that Mickey turned his own life around and was inspired to become a teacher. Mickey figured that the best 'fuck you' to his father, was to become something his father never could; successful, educated. Mickey enrolled in the University of Chicago the same year Ian was accepted to West Point. Apparently universities love the 'boy grows up with nothing, spends time in juvie, destined for nothing' story, because they awarded him a full scholarship. It got Mickey the education he worked hard for in his last few years of high school and Ian couldn't be prouder of him.
Nodding his head and coming out of his daze, Ian realized they were just about back to their home base. He stretched his legs out in front of him and took another swig of water from his bottle, setting it back in the cup holder. Radioing his 2IC in the vehicle at the back of the convoy, he was relieved to know they were arriving safe once again. Every day he watched his men and women go back to their tents unscathed was a good day. He'd done his job. He'd made sure that his crew would go home in one piece, and he meant that in every sense of the phrase.
Private Fisher pulled their humvee over once getting through the gates of their base, Ian already opening the door before he fully parked. Hopping out, he ran out a few feet waiting for his crew to unload from their respective convoy vehicles and gather in front of him.
"Alright guys, been a tough day. Based on our intelligence we weren't expecting the surveillance to be quite as rocky as what we experienced today. You all did exactly what was expected of you and ensured the safety of the whole team. Thank you." Ian respected his troupe greatly. It was comprised of dedicated and passionate men and women.
"Go clean up and enjoy your evening!" Ian smiled at them, releasing them to their own time and with a chorus of "Yes sir!" floating around, he turned and walked towards his own officers quarters.
Walking through the doorway, Ian unstrapped his helmet and hung it on the hook next to the door. He started unbuttoning his field jacket and toed off his combat boots. Unbuttoning his pants and changing into a pair of US ARMY sweats, he sat down on his bed, grabbing his MacBook from his nightstand. He hadn't heard from Mickey in a couple of days and was anxious to see if he'd gotten any new emails.
Powering the laptop on Ian watched as it booted up to a wallpaper of himself and Mickey, arms around each other and Ian pressing a kiss to Mickey's temple. The photo was taken the night before his deployment began. Naturally, in the true Gallagher fashion, a huge party had taken place. God, how he missed him. He knew he was surrounded by lots of support; Ian's family made sure of it. They invited Mickey over for their usual Gallagher-style Sunday evening dinners and made sure to check up on him, seeing if he needed anything. Even if it was just company to pass the time.
Ian opened his iCloud seeing that he did have a new message from his boyfriend.
Hope everything is going okay over there, I worry about you, man. I watch the news everyday while I eat dinner and no matter how much I tell myself you're good, I can't help but worry that one day I'm going to turn this on and see you.
Anyway, work is good. I'm looking forward to having the two weeks off for Christmas. I wish I could've gotten the time off when you get home so that we could celebrate ourselves. Its cool though, we'll do Christmas on one of the weekends, maybe invite your family over and do a proper Christmas dinner? I'm sure Fiona would be all over that shit.
Love you, Gallagher. Stay safe, kick ass, and I'll see you in a month.
Ian wiped his eyes clear of the tears threatening to spill. Despite technology making it easier to stay in contact, it just never got easier.
Finishing the last few messages from his siblings and scrolling through photos of his niece and nephew, he set his laptop aside and decided to roll over for a nap before dinner time. He pulled his blanket up over himself, rolled onto his side and tucked his knees up towards his chest. Thinking of Mickey, he let himself shed a couple of quiet tears.
Mickey got up from his desk and grabbed his backpack. His ears were ringing from another day in the classroom. Thankfully this year the kids in his classes seemed pretty respectful, minus a small handful. He could handle those ones. He used to be one of them.
He checked his back pocket for his wallet and grabbed his keys and iphone from his desk, checking to make sure everything was powered off before leaving his classroom. Satisfied that everything was in order, he walked to the door, locking up after himself.
Walking down the hallway of the school he reminisced over the years he and Ian were here as students. He could never pass certain areas without remembering times he shared with Ian, in front of their lockers, the cafeteria, the changing rooms... he chuckled quietly to himself.
"Good night, Mr. Milkovich! Thanks for the extra help at lunch, it really helped" one of his student was leaning against her locker, animatedly chatting with her friend.
"No worries, Liz, glad I could help." Mickey never imagined this would be his life. I mean, he knew he was good at math. The regular drug running helped with that. No one could do quick mental math and fractions like Mickey. But more importantly he never imagined that he would have the opportunity to go to university and actually become something. The years he and Ian had been apart during their studies were difficult, but they kept in touch via FaceTime and visited each other pretty often. It helped knowing Ian was still on US soil. Not like now. Mickey never went to sleep well at night. Ian was serving his second six month term in Iraq since his graduation and although the first one went well, he just never allowed himself the luxury of feeling too confident.
Mickey pulled his car into their driveway, shifting it into park and pulling the e-break up. He reached to the backseat and grabbed his backpack and got out of the car, walking towards their house. He unlocked the door and walked in. The house felt so empty with Ian gone.
Sighing and setting his backpack down, he tossed his keys in the bowl on the entryway table and kicked off his shoes. Without Ian being around, he had little desire to make much for dinner. He never ate well when Ian wasn’t home and he always got shit when he got home about how he’d lost weight. It wasn’t a conscious thing.. he just had no desire. Maybe it’d get easier over the years, who knows.
He opened the freezer door and grabbed another no name frozen dinner out, not even looking at which kind he was having tonight. Ripping the box open and peeling the plastic back he tossed it in the microwave. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and took his dinner out of the microwave when the timer went off.
Walking towards the living room, he resigned himself to follow his evening routine: get home, make “dinner”, drink beer, watch the news, hope that he doesn’t see Ian on there. Every night it seemed there was some new development from the Middle East and he was one hundred percent convinced that someday, down the road, he’d be watching a story about Ian’s platoon. The thought of witnessing that made his dinner threaten to come back up and he set it down on the coffee table. Beer never failed him. He took another mouthful.
The next day was December 21st. It was one month to the day that Ian was set to arrive back home. Four weeks. They could do this. They had agreed before his deployment that they would delay their own Christmas celebrations until he was back home, although Mickey would still go over and spend the day with the Gallagher clan. This was their first Christmas away from each other. Mickey was never the sentimental, overly romantic type, but it was hard to deny the fact that this time of the year was literally built around being with family. Ian was his family. Ian was his everything. He didn’t allow himself the opportunity to feel sorry for himself a lot. He knew this was the life they signed on for and Ian was living his dream. And he was damn good at it. Both tours he was in charge of his troupe and not one soldier on his last tour even so much as sprained an ankle.
Getting out of bed, he started his morning routine. He shaved and showered, made his coffee and threw it in a travel mug, realizing he was running late. Locking his door and jogging to his car, he tossed his backpack into the backseat and started the car. The car started rumbling and sputtering, not rolling over.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me!” Mickey slammed his hands on the wheel, quickly trying again to get the car started. Looking at the clock he saw he had to be to work in less than a half hour, which was pushing it considering the traffic. The car continued its sputtering and spitting, Mickey starting to seethe with frustration. On his last go, the car just refrained from doing anything at all. Mickey whipped the door open, slammed it shut and kicked the door.
“FUCK YOU, you piece of FUCKING SHIT!” He kicked it one more on the tire rim, hopping around on one foot when he realized it probably hadn’t been the smartest idea. Taking out his iPhone, he called for Iggy to come tow it to his shop and ordered for an Uber to take him to work.
Car successfully towed, he got into the Uber looking at his phone screen. Ten minutes. He had ten fucking minutes before he needed to be in class, ready to teach. He wiped his face with his hand, sighing heavily, resigning himself to the fact that he was inevitably going to be late. He was never late. He never even called in sick.
Mickey thanked his driver as he got out of the car in front of the high school. Checking his phone again, scrolling through an email with his head down, he started to open one of the front doors when it opened quickly from the inside. The door hit Mickey in the forehead, hard, and the person came rushing through the doorway, immediately flustered when she discovered she’d taken him out. Mickey yelped and brought his hands to his head, dropping his travel mug.
“OH my gosh, I am SO sorry, sir!” The woman was floundering, trying to grab Mickey’s bag and travel mug off the ground, one arm outstretched touching his elbow.
“Are you okay? Oh my God, your forehead! It’s bleeding!”
“Fuck me” Mickey groaned, bringing his hand down looking at the blooding tricking between his fingers.
“Here, please let me help you get to the school nurse” The woman was already pulling him by his elbow through the doors, his backpack and coffee in hand.
“Its okay, its fine, really.. I just really need to get to class”
“No, really, please let me help. I’ll let them know at the office where you are, but you really need to have that looked at!” She was cringing just looking at his face.
He apparently didn’t have a choice, he was already being pushed through the office door at the school clinic. He swore to fuck, if ONE more bad thing happened today...
And then his phone rang. As he was being shuffled into the clinic, he swiped his iPhone and answered. "Yeah?" Mickey barely acknowledged the caller.
"Hey Mick, it's Igg. Sorry man, we ran the diagnostics on your car and the tranny's toast. She's gone, man."
Mickey slapped his forehead with his free hand, cursing and wincing when he realized what he'd just done, a fresh wave of blood now leaking from his cut.
"Great. Thats just great. The fuck am I going to do now?" It was three days before Christmas and the last thing he wanted to be doing was car shopping.
"Don't worry bro, I'll hook you up. I've got a couple beaters hanging around here. I'll get one up and running for you today."
Mickey thanked him and hung up as the nurse walked out of her office calling his name. Turns out he needed stitches. Because why wouldn't he?
Mickey was having a no good, very bad day.
December 21st. Just a few days until Christmas, and the base would have some downtime. Ian's troupe was out on the road again today. Their intel had caught wind of a potential uprising in a remote town, and his group was sent to monitor the situation, hoping to mitigate any potential danger.
Ian and one of his guys were sitting against the brick wall on the roof of a building, keeping watch on the street below. His men and women were spread around the town in various places, five of them in this particular building. Himself and Sergeant Monaghan were each inhaling their cigarettes, quietly listening to their radios as everyone from their troupe checked in and reported on their current situations. His troops on the main level of the building they were in reported all clear.
"So, how's the man of the house doing?" Monaghan asked, exhaling another plume of smoke.
"I'm right next to you, bro."
"Nah, no, you know I'm talking about Mickey. That dude runs shit, you know that." Ian looked over at the sergeant who was smirking at him.
"Fuck off. But yeah, he's doing well. Enjoying his work at the high school. I think being apart from each other like this will get easier over time." Ian, always the optimist.
"Nah, not for my wife and I. Not easier. Just more manageable. This is my eighth deployment. She's got good support with the kids and all, from the other wives on the base an' shit. Does Mickey go to any of the socials?"
Ian burst out laughing at that. "Have you met Mickey? Fuck no. Mickey's not a... social... kind of guy. He hangs out with my family when I'm gone but thats the extent of his social life. We do what we can over FaceTime and email though."
"Makes it easier for screen-sex" Monaghan joked, slapping Ian on the shoulder.
"You joke man, but.."
"Hey! WHOA, no! Don't need to hear about how you two beat off to your fucking MacBooks" Monaghan was groaning, trying to wipe the image from his mind.
Ian and his Sergeant were just about to take a sandwich each out of their packs when a blast went off, and a sudden call came over their radios. The call was nearly overtaken by static.
"...explosion....two down....help, FUCK!" and the call cut out.
Ian scrambled to turn around and crouch behind the wall he'd been leaning on, looking over the edge and across the town to see that one of the buildings his troupe had been posted at was now a smoking mess. One of the walls collapsing as he watched.
As he was reaching for his radio to send out a command for support, he watched as another building was blown up.
"Fucking hell, Gallagher, what the fuck is going on?!" Sergeant Monaghan grasped his M4, looking out over the two burning buildings.
"Operation Black Bird, please take immediate cover, we have sent for back up. Please report your units and send your immediate head counts. We need to know where to send medics!" Ian was calmly speaking out over his radio, Monaghan radioing their home base getting the convoy dispatched.
Ian was just putting his radio back on the clip on the front of his field jacket, when they felt their building rock and a loud blast. The next thing Ian knew, he heard Monaghan screaming, followed by shouts below. The air was thick with dust and smoke and large brick debris was everywhere. In every direction he looked, flames were jutting up.
He ran over to his Sergeant, who was laying on the ground, wheezing, writhing and grasping at his blood soaked side.
"Monaghan, its okay man, it's just me, breathe with me, in, out, good. Good. Keep going, I need to look at your side." Ian was already ripping at the man's jacket when he saw exactly what had happened. A short length of rebar must have blown up in the the explosion and was now lodged into the Sergeant's side, pinning him to the ground below.
"Gallagher, I can't man. I can't breathe. I can't-" The sergeant was beginning to panic. Ian could hear other explosions happening in the distance, the sky was becoming black with the smoke and fog of the apparent attack. His radio had cut out long ago, nothing coming over the system but quiet.
He turned his attention back to his partner. Monaghan had stopped twisting and turning, his eyes wide open, stillness creeping through his body.
"No, NO!" Panic ran through Ian's body, he jumped into action unbuttoning Monaghan's field jacket and pounding on his chest. "Come ON! You can't... you can't! Breathe, damn it!" Nothing was working, Monaghan's body was limp. He was gone.
Ian got himself together as well as he could, recognizing the immediate need to check on his men below. As he started down the stairs, their building shook again, more brick and debris falling around him. He covered his face with his kerchief and proceeded to where he knew his guys were on the lower level. He could barely see through the smoke and flames. He saw MacLean in the corner, bent over two bodies.
"MacLean!" Ian got his attention, jumping over chunks of brick to get to the Private.
"Lieutenant Gallagher. They're.... they're gone. They just... it exploded... and they just..." Private Maclean looked at Ian, face wrecked and distraught. Fuck, Ian thought. This kid is like, 19, and just watched two of his buddies die in front of him.
Ian was about to reach out and console the young soldier when again, their building shook. This time the blast knocking Ian backwards. He was briefly knocked out and when he came to, he saw three men of the opposing ISIL force standing in the corner with Private MacLeod, the young soldier pleading with them.
"NO! Leave him, you want something you come to me!" Ian tried to yell out to get their attention. His voice barely came out above a whisper, pain wracking through his body from being blown onto his back. His head was pounding inside his helmet.
He never took his eyes off the kid, and when the enemies noticed Ian's existence, he watched as one of them raise their rifle, shooting MacLean instantly, the other two men now leaning over Ian himself. Terror rolled through his body, unable to process watching the 19 year old killed before him and having at least three of his men dead in the earlier blasts.
Ian heard a muffled crack, followed by a searing pain in his side before everything went black.
Once again, Mickey walked to his doorstep, taking his keys from his pocket and unlocking the door. Walking through, he took his coat off and hung it up, tossing his keys into the bowl. Same routine, different day.
He walked to the kitchen, pulled out a beer and another frozen dinner popping it into the microwave. He’d follow his usual evening routine of sitting down and watching the news, thanking whatever deity out there that Ian was safe another day.
He plunked himself down on the couch, taking a long swig of his beer. HIs forehead was still throbbing from the earlier accident and stitches. Turning on the tv, he changed the channel to the local news station just in time to see yet another story about the current situation Iraq.
“Another explosion today, this time in a remote town that had been under surveillance by a local unit from Chicago. We are hearing current reports of eight casualties, potentially more, several injured but no names released yet”
Mickey suddenly looked up at the tv, setting his dinner down on the table in front of him. There was only one unit out right now from Chicago, Ian’s-
“We are told that the unit affected by the blasts is under the command of local Lieutenant Ian Gallagher. No word yet on the rescue mission as their radio communication had cut out during the blasts. We have been notified that they are doing everything they can to pull the unit and get them back to thee safety of their home base” the reporter had a sullen look on her face as she continued the story.
Mickey sat frozen in his spot on the couch, unable to move. It was like he was watching himself from outside of his own body as he threw his beer bottle across the living room and ran to the bathroom to bring up what little bit of his frozen dinner he’d actually consumed.
Mickey sat back against the vanity, wiping his mouth with a towel, finally able to stop throwing up. He had to find out what was going on. He had to call Fiona. He took his iPhone out of his jeans pocket, dialling her number.
“Mickey- I just saw the news, did you?!” Fiona sounded panicked and distraught.
“Um. Yeah. Yeah, I did Fi. I uh, fuck. Do you think he’s alright?” Mickey’s voice cracked and a greasy wave of tears started to well up in his eyes.
“Yeah Mick, I do. You know Ian. He’s got this. This is what he was meant to do.” Mickey wasn’t sure if Fiona was trying to convince herself or him. He wiped his eyes.
“I’m gonna call the support line, see if I can’t get some information. If I find anything out I’ll let you know, Fi.”
“Yeah, thanks. Take care Mick. He’s good. We’ll get through this.”
They hung up their call and Mickey immediately called the support line he was given by Ian before he left.
“Good Evening, this is the Chicago Area Army Family Support Line, how may I assist you?” A woman’s voice came over the line.
“Uh yeah, hi, my boyfriend’s unit was involved in the attacks today in Iraq. I was calling to see if I could get an update on his well-being. He’s the unit commander, Lieutenant Ian Gallagher.”
“I’m sorry sir, what is your familial relation to the Lieutenant?”
“He’s my boyfriend. We live together.” Mickey was starting to get impatient, panic beginning to rise again.
“Sir, I can only release that information to immediate family or spouses.” The woman’s voice sounded tired and robotic.
“Ian IS my family, we’ve been together for over a decade. They said there were casualties and I just need to know if Ian is safe. Please HELP me!” Mickey pleaded, his voice cracking.
“I’m sorry sir, I wish I could help.”
“You’re sorry? You’re sorr- Y’know what? FUCK YOU!” Mickey threw his phone to the floor, kneeling down and bringing his head down to his arms in frustration. He brought his fists to his eyes, willing the tears to stay at bay.
He caught his breathe and texted Fiona.
Mickey: They won’t tell me shit. I’m not immediate family or a spouse
Fiona: wtf?! Omg Mick, I’m so sorry. I’ll try right now and let you know if I hear anything.
It was an hour later, around 7:00pm that Mickey heard from Fiona again. The official word was eight dead, five men, three women. Seventeen troops accounted for, many were injured, some life threatening, some minor. One man was missing: Lieutenant Ian Gallagher.
December 22, Iraq
Ian was finally able to open his eyes. The area around him was dark and there were pieces of rock and brick laying on top of him. His right side hurt badly, but when he tried to lift an arm to it, he discovered his left arm was pinned to the ground by a large chunk of fallen wall. His right arm was free, he brought it to his side where he felt the searing pain, bringing his hand back up and seeing it covered in blood. He'd been shot.
His head was woozy and he was sure he'd feel nauseous if he could feel his torso at all. He tried to move his legs, panicking when he realized he couldn't feel them either.
He willed himself to stay calm, but fear was completely overriding his ability to keep himself in check. He tried to shift himself even a little bit but was so overtaken by pain he started seeing white spots in his eyes.
He screamed, thrashing his one good arm on the ground next to him. It was dark in this building. Crumbled bits of walls and furniture laid around him. He couldn't hear any voices. He could only move one limb. He was in so much pain, now watching the blood seep from his gunshot wound onto the cold, dirt floor where he lay. He was going to die here.
He thought of Mickey, and cried.
He thought about their last night together before he left for his deployment. He thought of the party his family had thrown, the gag gifts everyone had given him to "survive" his time away. He remembered the stolen kisses and touches he and Mickey shared through the evening, trying to memorize each other's feel for the last time in six months.
Ian started to cough, feeling what tasted like blood rising up his throat. His vision started to go black again, head falling to the side.
"Corporal, in here! These were the coordinates for Gallagher's last location!" One of the soldiers yelled, a K-9 at his side who was sniffing out the debris. "Go on, Chief, go sniff it out, bud" The solider bent down, unclipping the dog's leash.
"Three men dead on the other side, one of the roof. No sign of Gallagher." The corporal said, lifting his legs over another chunk of brick, climbing over to his partner and watching the malinois sniffing around the room.
The dog started whining and pawing at a pile of rubble, licking at something.
"Whatcha got, boy?" Chief's handler walked over, feet rocking unsteadily on the fallen rock. The sergeant bent down, immediately removing rock and brick from where his malinois was licking at something, realizing what he'd been licking at.
"Corporal! I've got him! Call the medics!"
December 22, Chicago
The day following the news of the attack, Mickey was barely fully functional. He’d retreated into himself, not answering any calls or texts. He hadn't even made it to his bed last night, opting instead to stay on their couch, a thin blanket wrapped around himself. At some point in the night he'd managed to get to the kitchen long enough to raid their liquor cabinet and had an array of alcohol bottles lined up in front of him on the coffee table. He'd been scrolling through various news sources on his phone, waiting for any new news from the attack.
It went without saying that he didn't go to work today. Tomorrow being the last day before the holidays anyway, but he'd called the school and mumbled out some sort of string of words resembling the reason he wasn't there. Why he couldn't be there.
It was shortly after 9:00am and he heard a light knocking on his front door. He couldn't bring himself to answer it. He didn't want to see anyone anyway. He'd had dreams the few times he had fallen asleep of two soldiers showing up at his house, folded American flag presented to him. Every time, he woke up shouting and crying. He just wanted his Ian back.
"Mick, c'mon, open up!" he heard a muffled voice calling from outside the heavy door. "I know you can hear me!"
Grasping the blanket around himself, God, it even smelled like Ian, he laboriously got up off the couch and stumbled towards the door. Opening it up, Fiona walked in slowly with a sad smile.
"Oh, Mick" She pulled him into a hug. He couldn't even bring his arms around her.
"I'm so sorry. Have you eaten? You look awful." She started pulling her mittens and hat off, hanging up her scarf.
Mickey stood on the spot, staring at her with unbelieving eyes. This was Ian's sister. Fiona basically raised him and she was here asking how Mickey was?
"Fi.. how are you even-" His voice rasped and caught, he cleared his throat.
"Its going to be okay. He's going to be fine. So I thought I'd come over and see how you are, y'know, help you out." She started towards the kitchen, pulling out a loaf of bread and a pan. "Grilled cheese okay?"
Mickey slowly turned around, still moving as if his legs were encase in concrete.
"Fiona, you shouldn't be here. You should be at home with your family."
"Mickey, you are family. Ian would want to know that you're okay, that you're being taken care of." She stood with her hands on her hips, big doe eyes looking at him sadly.
Mickey shuffled to the counter and crawled up onto one of the bar stools watching Fiona make two grilled cheese sandwiches.
Her iPhone started blaring out. Fiona and Mickey looked at each other for a moment before she answered.
"Hello? Yes, this is Fiona Gallagher.... REALLY?" Her eyes widened, a hand coming up to her mouth.
"Oh... okay. Yes. Ummm, wow. Sure, sure, that makes sense. And you'll update me? Thanks, thank you. Thank you so much."
Mickey stared at her with scared, but hopeful eyes.
"Umm. They found Ian." Her hand started to shake as she put the phone down.
Mickey's breathe caught.
"He uhh.. he was badly wounded when they found him. the other four guys in the building with him didn't make it."
Mickey started to panic, warm, fat tears starting to roll down his cheeks.
"Mick, he's alive, but he was shot"
"NO!" Mickey shouted, getting up off his seat so fast it fell backwards.
"Mickey!" Fiona ran towards him, grabbing his arm and pulling him into a hug. "He's in surgery right now. They don't know if he's going to make it." Fiona started crying too.
Mickey slumped out of Fiona's arms, falling to the floor, wailing, fucking wailing. He couldn't breathe, tunnel vision setting in. All he could feel was his arms grasping Fiona as if he'd fade away if he let go. Fiona hugging him, crying, and rocking them both back and forth.
The TV was still on in the background with the local news network playing. They were playing those Hometown Heroes Christmas clips; the ones where soldiers who are away say “Hi” to their families.
A new clip started, a redheaded soldier standing next to a tank, desert in the background. “Hi, my name is Lieutenant Ian Gallagher and I just wanted to say Hi to my family and my boyfriend, Mickey. I’m sorry I can’t be home for Christmas this year, but I’ll be home in a month! I love you all. Merry Christmas!”
Ian opened his eyes slowly, throat feeling sore and scratchy. His head was throbbing. Although come to think of it, everything was throbbing. He heard beeping and quiet voices around him, realizing through a haze that he was in a hospital. He tried to shuffle himself up a bit, crying out when he felt the pain jolt through him.
“Mr. Gallagher, please try to relax. You’ve been through a fairly major surgery” A nurse walked in, putting a soothing hand on his arm and pulling his blanket up with the other one. She started looking at his charts and adjusted his drip.
“Where am I?” Ian was only barely starting to comprehend his surroundings.
“You’re at the US Army mobile hospital, still in Iraq. However now that you’re awake and stable we are hoping to start the transport stateside tomorrow. You should be home on Christmas Day, Lieutenant!” The nurse smiled at him, hanging his chart back on the end of his bed.
“I’m done my tour? What about my unit? Can’t I just go back for the last month?” Ian tried sitting up again.
“Son, if I may be candid here, you’ve been severely wounded. You sustained a close range shot wound to you right side. Your liver had to be repaired during surgery and your gall bladder removed. Your legs are badly bruised. You nearly died on the table, honey. Go home. Be with your family.” She was sitting on the side of his bed now, looking at him sadly.
Fiona hung up her phone and turned to Mickey, who was balled up on the couch again, still in the same blanket that smelled of Ian. They’d been waiting for this phone call, to hear how Ian made it out of surgery.
“He made it, Mickey. He’s okay.” She threw herself at Mickey, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks. Mickey threw the blanket off of himself and hugged her back.
“They almost lost him during surgery but he’s stable now, and awake. They’re keeping him quite sedated so that they can transport him to a hospital here starting tomorrow. He’ll be home on Christmas Day!” Fiona relayed the news, both of them feeling relieved.
With the news that Ian was coming home, Mickey started cleaning the place up, starting with the empty bottles of booze strewn about. He set about getting their room ready for when he would be able to come home. God, how he wanted him home. He knew he was okay, that he was alive, but until he felt him and held him he wouldn’t be fully convinced.
Mickey finally resigned himself to showering, something he hadn’t done since he’d seen the news two days ago. Fuck. That was only 48 hours ago. The worst 48 hours of his life, and he’d grown up with Terry as a father.
Stripping his clothes off and stepping into the hot water, he let the steam and pressure of the water release his tension. He knew he was going to have to be strong for Ian when he got home. Although he had survived the attack, he had still suffered the loss of eight of his troops. He’d been shot. His Ian was damaged.
Reaching for the shampoo, he flicked the shower radio on to give him something else to fill his mind with, rather than his current thoughts. The music came blaring through as he started scrubbing his head.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
Mickey stood stalk still, a tear sliding down his cheek.
December 24, Chicago
It didn't feel anything like Christmas to Mickey. Knowing that Ian was going to be away for the holidays this year, they'd planned to have Christmas in January when he got home. Mickey hadn't even bothered putting up the tree or any decorations, wanting to wait until they could do it together.
But, here he was. Christmas Eve and they'd just gotten the call that Ian had arrived early this morning, a day earlier than planned, and was now checked into the military hospital on base in Chicago. Mickey was just getting his coat and boots on, waiting for Fiona to pick him up.
When Fiona pulled into his driveway, he climbed into the car acknowledging Lip who'd just arrived in town yesterday, and buckled his seatbelt. The entire drive to the hospital was quiet on all of their parts, not knowing how to react.
"You may only go in one at a time. Although he is stable, Lieutenant Gallagher needs a lot of rest. His body has gone through a lot over the last few days, especially with the transport. He was sedated for the duration of the trip so he won't remember that, but he needs as little stimulation as possible right now." The nurse was informing the three of them, while they filled out visitor forms and received passes.
"Who would like to see him first?"
"Mickey, you should go first. He'll want to see you." Fiona put her hand on the small of his back, encouraging him with a small smile. Mickey nodded and followed the nurse down the hall and into a small single room.
"Lieutenant, you have a visitor" The nurse said quietly, peeling back the curtain by his bed.
"Mick..." Ian sat up painfully, his eyes immediately welling up.
"Ian-" Mickey quickly walked over to the side of Ian's bed, resting one knee on the edge and pulling his boyfriend into a hug, tears streaming down his face again. Fuck, he'd never cried so much in his God damn life.
The two of them held onto each other, just taking a moment to remember their touch, smell.
"Mickey, I thought I was going to die. I thought I was never going to see you again" Ian pulled away, wiping his nose and eyes with the hand not attached to his drip.
Mickey wasn't sure how long they sat there quietly just holding each other, but it didn't matter. He was holding his Ian.
"Watch your step, ginger snap, there you go." Mickey was helping Ian up the stairs to their house, arm slung around Ian's waist, his boyfriend leaning most of his weight into him for support.
"Fuck, this hurts." Ian grunted as he walked slowly into their home. Looking around, he felt relief to finally be in his own house.
"I know, man. Let's get you set up in the bedroom. I'll help you get comfortable and then get your meds all set and get you some lunch." Mickey started guiding him to their bedroom.
Setting Ian's bags down on their floor, he turned to his boyfriend. He looked worn. His eyes were downcast, dull. He was pale. HIs hair was floppy. He looked like that vulnerable 16 year old kid again, not his 27 year old built, tough, Army boyfriend.
Ian started peeling his hoodie off, wincing as he started lifting it over his head. "FUCK!" He yelled, realizing he was stuck when the pain tore through his side, where his bullet wound was still healing.
"Whoa., whoa, Ian, let me help with that. Just... just stop! Here" Mickey rushed over to him, arms already reaching for the hoodie.
"No! Mick, I can take my own fucking hoodie off, I'm not some God damned invalid." Ian barked out, continuing his attempt at getting his sweater off.
"Ian, I know that. I just don't want you to hurt yourself anymore than you already-""Mick, just stop. I'm fine. Just... could you grab my lunch? I can get myself into bed. It's fine. I'm fine."
Mickey sighed, but turned around and walked out of the bedroom and towards to kitchen. He fixed Ian a grilled cheese sandwich and a tomato soup, figuring the warm meal would help soothe his boyfriend.
Walking into their bedroom, he saw Ian still sitting on the bed, hoodie stuck around his neck, his head bowed down.
"Ian, what's wrong?" He quickly set the lunch tray on Ian's night table, kneeling in front of him on the floor.
"I couldn't do it. It hurts too much. I'm fucking useless, Mickey." Ian whispered, head still looking down, not making eye contact with Mickey.
"Ian, you're not useless. You were shot. You were buried under fucking debris. You've been through a lot and it's okay to need some help, yeah?" He pulled Ian's hoodie off and helped ease him onto their bed, Ian still sniffling. He looked like such a child in this state.
Ian had finally eaten some of his lunch and had fallen asleep shortly after. Mickey decided to curl up next to him, enjoying having him back and feeling his warmth. He was flicking through the menu on Netflix when he heard Ian whimpering next to him. Looking over, he saw Ian throwing his head side to side.
“No! Don’t…. don’t do it…. please” He was mumbling and crying in his sleep.
“Ian,” Mickey shook him gently, trying to get him to wake up. “Ian, it’s okay. Wake up.”
Ian jolted awake, forehead soaked with sweat. He tried to sit up, grimacing at the pain, and grabbing his side with his hand.
“You okay?” Mickey looked at his boyfriend, concerned.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bad dream is all.” Ian wiped his face with his hand.
Ian settled back on his pillows again, putting his hand reassuringly on Mickey’s knee as they both turned their attention back to the tv.
“I dunno, Fi. It’s been weeks now since he got home and he’s barely up and around. The doctor said he should be going for short runs now to start getting active again.” Mickey was worried about Ian. It’d been eight weeks since arriving home and still Ian was moping around, not even trying to be physically active. It was extremely out of character for his boyfriend. Usually Ian ran several miles every morning, priding himself in the care he took with his body. He had barely been eating and had lost weight.
“Mickey, maybe it’s time to reach out to a therapist? What if he’s dealing with PTSD?”
Fiona was right. Given the fact that Ian had watched a couple of his troops die, watching one of them get shot point blank, and being shot himself.. there was no doubt that would fuck a person up.
“Yeah, maybe. I’ll see what I can do. He’s not going to want to.” Mickey sighed.
“I know, but he’s got to try to get some sense of normalcy back.”
Mickey hung up his phone and walked back into the living room where Ian was sitting on the couch. He’d lost enough weight that his Army sweats looked big on him, making the man inside of them look even more fragile.
A car outside on the street backfired emitting a loud popping noise. Ian immediately jumped off the couch, crouching on the ground with his hands over his head.
“NO! NO, DON’T SHOOT!” he started crying and shaking, trembling on the floor of their living room.
Mickey ran over to him, falling to the ground next to him, wrapping his arms around his frail body.
“Ian, its okay. You’re safe. It was just a car outside.” Mickey leaned back, petting a hand over Ian’s head, running his fingers through his hair.
Ian looked up at him, eyes red from crying still trembling.
“Mickey. They died. They just died in front of me. Monaghan… he had kids. And MacLean… fuck, he was just a kid, and they fucking shot him, Mick. They fucking shot him in front of me and he was 19. They shot him. THEY FUCKING SHOT HIM! It should have been me, Mick. I WAS HIS COMMANDER, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!” Ian started screaming out. He sat back on his heels, holding his arms around himself, wailing and sobbing uncontrollably.
Mickey leaned forward again, pulling his boyfriend into a hug. They’d been doing this too often lately.
“Ian, I think it’s time to consider therapy.” Mickey blew the steam coming off of his cup of coffee, setting it down and shifting on the couch to look at Ian.
“Therapy, why? I’m not fucking crazy, Mick. I’m fine. I just got home from war. I just need some time.” Ian didn’t lift his head from his iPhone, scrolling through something on the screen.
Mickey sighed, “Ian, you broke down after that car backfired outside. You’ve been having sleep terrors. You’ve lost so much weight, I barely even recognize you.”
“Oh, so that’s what this is about then? I don’t look good to you anymore? That’s all you want, right? Your big, tall, ripped, Army guy? Fuck you, Mickey. I’m sore because I was fucking shot. At war. Remember that?” Ian’s voice started raising.
“Yes, Ian, I remember quite well. And that’s why you need help. You went through a lot, man. No one should have to deal with what you saw and dealt with. And no, I don’t care what you look like but I want you to be healthy again!”
“You’re just upset because I haven’t banged you since I got home.” Ian barked furiously at him.
“What the fuck, Ian? No! I’m not fucking-“
“You know what, just shut up. Just. Shut the fuck up, Mick. You have no idea what I went through.” Ian got up and walked to their bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him.
Mickey sat back against the couch. “I’m sorry, Ian” He whispered to himself, lowering his head.
Thank you to everyone who’s encouraged me to start writing! And to Rumblefish14 for this one, for pre-reading and helping with ideas when I needed it.
The days following were tense, to say the least. Mickey felt like he was walking on eggshells around Ian. Ian kept insisting he was fine. His night terrors and sensitivity to loud noises said otherwise. So did the weight loss. And the lack of eating.
Mickey laid in bed, scrolling through his phone. It was 9:00am and Ian was still asleep. He'd had another terror in the night so Mickey wasn't overly concerned about waking him up anytime soon. Mickey was back to work now after taking a few weeks off to help Ian while he healed. Ian was off for six months. Although it was the weekend and he should be happy, Mickey almost felt it was easier to be at school these days. He felt needed there. He knew what to do there. He was at a loss for how to help Ian right now.
As he was laying there, he felt Ian roll over. The covers slid back a bit, and Ian's hand started caressing his shoulder, down his back, and to his groin. Ian started kissing his neck.
"Ohhh, I see how it is, Red. Feeling good this morning?" Mickey turned to look back at Ian, smirking.
"Mmmhmmmm. Slept better last night. I think I'm getting better. Want you, Mick. Need you." Ian pulled Mickey onto his back, rolling on top of him and taking the kiss further. Mickey reached up, putting one hand on Ian's back, the other grasping at the hair on the back of Ian's neck, Ian groaning.
Taking the slight upper hand, Mickey rolled them over quickly, tossing the sheets up over his head and slinking down to pull Ian's boxers off under the covers. Taking his cock with one hand, he started pumping lightly.
"Ian, you sure you're ready for this?" Mickey popped his head up outside of the blankets a couple minutes later, Ian not hard yet. "Your voice says one thing, but your.... well, your body is saying another here."
"Guess you just gotta suck harder, Mick." Ian's tone sounding annoyed and frustrated.
"I need to just- what? Ian.." Mickey looked at Ian, cheeks turning red.
"Y'know what, never mind." Ian pulled his boxers up, while rolling out of bed, throwing his Army hoodie on.
"Ian, we need to talk about this, man. It's completely normal with someone who's suffering from PTSD to-" Mickey followed him out to the kitchen.
Ian stopped dead in his tracks, whipping around and pointing a finger at Mickey.
"I. DO. NOT. HAVE. FUCKING PTSD MICK." Ian roared, eyes wild.
"Ian, please calm down. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you.. I just. I just want you to be happy again. I miss US." Mickey pulled out a chair from the dining room table and sat down.
"There was never anything wrong with us Mickey. Hell, maybe there is, apparently I can't get my fucking dick up for you anymore." Ian barked, closing the cupboard door and looking at Mickey. "You know what, fuck this conversation. I'm going the fuck out. I can't handle you babying me all the God damn time."
With that, Ian marched off to their bedroom, getting dressed into clean clothing.
"Ian, wait, where are you going?" Mickey followed him into the bedroom, trying but not succeeding to grab Ian's arm, flabbergasted by Ian’s outburst.
"I'm going OUT, Mickey. Can I do that? Do i need your fucking permission to go out?" Ian stomped off.
"No, you don't." Mickey sat on the bed, listening as the front door slammed shut.
Ian spent hours just walking around the city. He was furious with Mickey. Seriously, he tried to do something nice, finally feeling good, and as seems to be the norm lately, Mickey had to go and baby him again. Fuck that. Ian was in the Army. He’d graduated from West Point, for fucks sake. He could handle this. Mickey just needed to get over whatever he was going through. And maybe remember how to give a decent blow job.
Seeing that he’d hit Boystown, he walked into an old favourite of his, the Fairytail. He felt soothed as soon as the loud music hit him, watching everyone around him dancing to the rhythm and loud bass pumping in their chests.
He walked over to the bar and had a seat, waiting until the bartender acknowledged him.
“What’ll it be, man?” The good looking bartender walked over, wiping his hands on a towel.
“Whiskey, neat” Ian ordered, turning in his seat to watch the dancers on the nearby podiums.
Moments later, Ian was on his third drink. Who needed to to pace themselves when they were off work for no reason?
A dancer on a podium in front of him kept giving him looks. Ian picked up his drink, leaning against the counter and watching the black haired man roll his chest, giving him a sultry look. The dancer maintained eye contact with Ian as he slid a hand from his bare chest down his abs, grabbing at his groin. Ian groaned and took a sip of his drink. Watching the dancer he brought his hand to his own groin, feeling it twitch at the sight. The dancer smirked, dipping his body low and spreading his legs shamelessly.
He turned back around to order another one when someone was whispering in his ear.
“Wanna take this somewhere more private?”
Ian turn his stool seat around to see that the dancer was standing next to him. He was close enough that Ian could feel the heat radiating off of him.
“Depends what you have in mind?” Ian leaned his elbows back on the bar top, cocking his head to the side.
The dancer reached a hand inside his tiny gold shorts, bringing out a small baggy. “Red, I got you covered. You look like you need to relax.” The dancer turned and started to walk towards a room down a private hallway.
Ian thought for a split second, knowing this was wrong. But fuck if he didn’t need a good time. Just one night to forget. He needed to forget the visions of Monaghan dying. Of MacLean being shot. Of eight people in his care killed. The screams, the shouts, MacLeans mom crying on his shoulder during a memorial on base. He needed to forget the sight of staring down the barrel of a rifle before it shot him in the side.
He downed the rest of his drink, following the dancer.
Ian was pushed to sit on the red crushed velvet couch. The dancer instantly sitting in his lap. He pulled the baggy out, taking Ian’s keys from his pocket and dipping the end of one into the powder.
“Here, Baby. Take a bump, loosen up!” The dancer held the key out.
Ian leaned forward, snorting the powder. Tipping his head back he felt himself start to swim, mind finally giving way to a more pleasurable feeling.
The dancer turned on music and started grinding on Ian’s lap, arms held around Ian’s shoulders. His hands started working their way down Ian’s chest, slowly unbuttoning his shirt.
“Fuuuuuuck, this chest! Honey, you were holding out on me! What do you do for a living?”
“US Army. An officer. Just finished a tour in Iraq.” Ian stared into the dancer’s eyes, feeling his head pulsing deliciously. For the first time in months he could feel, really feel.
“Ohh, army guy, huh? I better thank you for your service!” The dancer winked, sliding off of his lap and kneeling on the floor. He popped the button on Ian’s jeans, sliding the zipper down. He reached in and pulled Ian’s length out.
Ian sat back and watched as the dancer continued his work, finally feeling the freedom from his own mind.
Hours later, Ian opened his eyes, not sure where he was. He looked at his watched to see that it was well beyond midnight. He’d been gone since this morning. Fuck. He stood up, stumbling to grasp onto the brick wall next to him, heaving and gagging. Flashbacks of earlier in the evening started going through his mind. He remembered the dancer. The coke. The blowjob. He remembered turning the dancer over on the couch and pounding into him relentlessly.
He threw up again and slid down the wall, tipping his head back and closing his eyes. Fuck. What did he do? Why did he do this? Where was Mickey? God, he needed Mickey. He took his iPhone out of his pocket, powering it back on to see a barrage of text messages and missed calls from his boyfriend and family.
Alone and afraid, he called his boyfriend.
“IAN, Ian where ARE you?! Are you okay?!” Mickey answered in a panic.
“Yeah, Mick. Yeah, I’m okay. Can you come get me? I don’t know where I am, Mick.” Ian started to panic and cry, the weight of everything hitting him all at once. “Mickey.. I don’t know where I am! Mick!” He started sobbing.
“It’s okay Ian. Just wait right there. I can see your location on phone. Just stay there. I’ll be right there.”
Moments later, an Uber pulled up and Mickey slammed the door, running over to Ian.
“Ian!” He fell to his knees, pulling Ian into a hug.
“Mick. I fucked up.. I fucked up so bad.” Ian cried into his boyfriends shoulder.
“Ian, it’s okay. Just breathe.” Mickey ran a hand up and down Ian’s back, soothing him.
Ian pulled away looking Mickey in the eyes.
“Mick. I need help.” He started sobbing again, uncontrollably. “I need help Mickey, I can’t do this alone and I need you. Please help me Mickey!” Ian was clinging to his boyfriend as though his life depended on it.
Mickey rocked his boyfriend in his arms, the two of them sitting in the dark alleyway in Boystown, the ground cold and wet from rain.
“I know, Ian. I know. I’ll help you. I love you.”