Mickey stood in front of the old Milkovich home, just taking it all in.
The house had already been a shithole when he was growing up there, but now it was completely dilapidated. Boards stood in place of where the windows once were, the stairs were half crumbled and didn’t look like there was any safe place to step. The yard was littered with debris, the grass patchy and brown. He put a hand on the gate, making no effort to open it or to enter. He heard the sound of footfalls approaching, getting louder as they got closer. He looked over and saw his mother walking over, a smile already on her face.
He wasn’t surprised. He’d been waiting for her, after all.
Laura stood at his side, shoulder to shoulder with her youngest son, just looking up at the house.
“Kinda funny to wind up back here after everything,” Mickey commented.
She smiled, her eyes sad. “Life comes full circle.”
He glanced over at her. “So this is it this time, right?”
“Yeah,” Laura confirmed. “This is it.”
Mickey nodded. He could feel the finality of it all. He was okay with it. He missed Ian terribly, but he knew it was only temporary. He could afford to be patient when there was nothing but time. He looked back at the house, thinking about everything. He may have grown up in this house, between those walls, but he hadn’t started to truly live until he had been away from it. Until he had been able to let go of the pain he’d endured there, distance himself from the people who had hurt him most, and taken away their power to ever hurt him again.
“So.” She interrupted his reminiscence. “Was it everything you hoped it would be? Your second chance?”
“No.” Mickey smiled. “It was even better than I could’ve ever fuckin’ imagined.”
Laura beamed and hugged her son around his waist. He wrapped his arms back around her, enveloping her. He’d forgotten how good it was to be able to hug her.
“I wish you could have been there to see it all,” Mickey admitted.
“Oh sweetie, I was.”
That made him happy. He wished that she could have physically been with him and part of his life, his family. He wished they all could have known her, but at least she knew them. Mickey held her tight to make up for all of the wasted opportunities. It had been so many years, and wasn’t something he’d done much of even as a child. Too much anger on his part. But in this place, time gone by and hindsight being 20/20, none of that mattered anymore.
He had a realization. “You couldn’t touch me when I was here before.”
“Because you weren’t really here,” she explained. “And you weren’t staying. It’s different now.”
Mickey kept holding her. She was so small, he was significantly taller than her, a feeling he wasn’t used to. He leaned down into her, the smell of her raspberry body spray bringing him back to the last time they’d reunited. Bringing him back to when he smelled it in Mexico. He knew now that she must have been waiting for him, trying in her own way to tell him that she was ready to see him again. He was glad to have this moment with her here, in front of their old house, a better memory to leave with than the ones he had.
She rubbed his back and pulled away from him. “As much as I don’t want this to end, you have other places to be now. I think you have someone else you’re meant to be waiting for than me.”
“Where do I have to go?” He asked her.
“Wherever you want, love.” She rested a hand on his cheek. “He’ll find you.”
Ian was on a beach.
He was confused and disoriented. He didn’t have any idea why or how he was there, any recollection of how’d he wound up in this place, or where there actually was. He took stock of his surroundings. The sand he was sitting on was a beautiful light tan color, soft and clean. The water was clear and stunningly blue. Facing the water and looking left, the beach seemed to go on as far as he could see, unobstructed. To the right was palm trees and rocky outcroppings. It was peaceful and quiet.
Had something happened? Did he have an episode? Ian wasn’t sure. He stood up, dusting himself off and patting the pockets on his pants, but there were no signs of his wallet or cell phone. He didn’t feel particularly anxious or concerned about showing up there alone without his things. He probably should though. Right?
He weighed his options, trying to figure out where to go. There was nothing to see on the empty side of the beach, and he felt drawn towards the rocks and the trees, so he decided to walk that direction and see what he found. Maybe a house or a store on the other side, somewhere he could get some answers, find a phone. He ambled down the beach, running a hand over the rough surface of the rocks as he walked between them. The water lapped gently against the rocks and over his feet.
He saw a man further up ahead standing at the shoreline facing the water, and there was something so familiar about his presence. He kept his distance at first, just watching the man. Something about him, maybe his vibe or the way he held himself, just seemed like he was waiting. For what, he wasn’t sure. Ian felt drawn to him. He approached slowly, his curiosity piqued. Finally the man turned around, and the ocean had nothing on the blue of his eyes.
Ian felt the strength give out in his legs and he dropped to his knees in the sand. He had to be losing his mind, because this couldn’t be right. The last time he’d seen Mickey was… well, it was the end. And this was not that same person. This was the Mickey he remembered from 30, 40 years ago. The one he married at the courthouse, the one he honeymooned with in a place very reminiscent of where he was now. This one had hair that was still jet black, he was missing the wrinkles and the signs of age, missing the markers of illness and everything that had happened in the end. He looked young and vibrant and healthy.
And so fuckin’ happy.
Mickey came to him, dropped down in front of him and smiled. “About time you showed up.”
The attitude was right though.
He didn’t even think, just grabbed him and embraced him tight, their bodies fitting together perfectly as they always had. He felt whole in a way that he had not felt since the last time that Mickey was in his arms. Mickey’s skin was warm from the sun, he felt sturdy and strong and Ian sunk into him, burying his face in Mickey’s shoulder. He smelled the same, and instantly Ian teared up.
It felt like coming home.
“Have I finally lost my shit?” Ian whispered, a couple of tears rolling down his cheeks. He put his hands on his head, trying to puzzle out what was happening.
“No, you haven’t lost your shit.” Mickey took Ian’s face in his hands. “I told you I’d see you again.” The love on his face was so strong that it was almost overwhelming. He looked Ian over, taking in every inch of him, a look of relief and joy flashing on his face. “And your freckles, they’re back, just like I’d hoped.”
Ian looked down at his own hands. They were covered in spots like they had once been when he was younger, running all the way up his arms as much as he could see. And speaking of younger, there were no more wrinkles on those hands either, no more large knuckles, his skin wasn’t thinned like it had become with age. He remembered Mickey’s insistence that they would be reunited, and the gears in his mind started to turn.
“Am I…?” He couldn’t quite bring himself to finish the question, but there was no need.
Ian nodded. He didn’t know how to feel. He wasn’t really sad, he was still taking it all in and none of it had really processed. He didn’t really know what to make of it all. He couldn’t say that it made sense, because none of this made sense, though it was a start. But there were so many questions.
He sat down in the sand, pulling Mickey forward to sit with him. Their legs tangled together and their hands kept reaching out, touching each other as if to reassure the other was really there.
“How did you know? That we’d see each other again?” Ian asked.
“Because this wasn’t our first rodeo.”
“I don’t understand.”
Mickey sighed. “We had a life together once, and it didn’t end well. This was our second chance.”
“What happened the first time around?”
“We were both in prison together.” He bit his lip before continuing. “I was murdered.”
“Jesus.” Ian shuddered at the thought. He couldn’t even imagine what that life would have been like for him, and he was glad not to know. It had been hard enough losing him after the life they had, and that had been an amazing one. He felt even more grateful for all the years they had shared, all the memories they built, and the love that they made.
Mickey continued. “I was given a chance to go back and make it right for us, give us the chance we deserved.”
He reached across and touched Mickey’s face, stroking his cheek with his thumb. While his other personal effects had disappeared, he noticed his wedding band was still in its rightful place. He leaned in and kissed his husband. “You did fuckin’ good, Mick."
“We did good.”
Ian moved his legs and spread them, pulling Mickey close between them so he leaned back onto him. They stayed there awhile, just happy to be with each other again. Ian wrapped his arms tight around him, holding him close. He never wanted to be apart from him again. Not much time had transpired between when each of them had passed on, but as far as Ian was concerned, any bit of time was too much. He nuzzled into the side of Mickey’s neck, prompting him to turn and kiss him.
“Still think you can do forever with me?” He mumbled against Ian’s lips.
Yeah, he could do eternity with Mickey.