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Like the Ocean

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When he opens his eyes, he realizes he was dreaming about the ocean, even though he’s never been to the fuckin ocean. He was in this little wood boat by himself, and the whole thing had splinters all over one side, so he couldn’t grab it and get out. There was water coming in the bottom, getting his feet wet. He was wearing his boots, but he could still feel it. He’s never been in a boat. Never seen the ocean.

He’s seen Lake Michigan, because he’s robbed the shit out of all those Lake Forest fucks with his uncles, his brothers, his dad if he was around.

That time with Ian, when he told him to come. Not told him, really. But wanted him to come. When he’d talked Mickey into going. Mickey shooting at him from a platform, Ian jumping through tires, his weighted wood training gun straight and strong above his head. He didn’t expect him to answer when he asked him about that old guy. But he did. Bought him stuff, ordered room service. The handle of the gun sweaty in his hand, thick metal weight grounding him, anchoring him in the sea of Gallagher bullshit. He fired again. Once. Twice. Shut. Up. Then he’d said it. He isn’t afraid to kiss me. If there was another bullet left, he would have fired it into one of those tires, made Ian jump again.


That time with Ian, that time he slid the van door open with a thick drag. When he turned back, fingers gripping the van’s door frame, to kiss that stupid fuck. He was afraid. Not of opening the house door and going in, looking for anything they could grab. He was scared of going back there, to that van, after. Sliding the door shut behind him, climbing into the front seat, and looking at Gallagher’s face. He’d be smiling, mouth crooked, so excited his hands shook on the wheel. He’d be so fucking happy. Because of him.

Mickey had it timed out as he searched the house. They’d offload the stuff, drop Mickey’s cousins off, give the shit to that old goddamn viagroid faggot, ditch the van. Hopefully it would be dark by then.

By then, they’d be sweaty, arms tired. But the sweat would do that magic shit it does, like there’s a bowl of warm water resting in Mickey’s belly, waiting to boil as he smelled the smell of Ian rising like steam from his shoulders, his arms, his back, his neck. He’d want to reach for Ian as they walked, have to fight it, walking faster against the concrete, against grass, against dirt. They’d barely get to the dugout before Ian would be grabbing at him, pulling him tight to him, probably trying to make Mickey fucking kiss him again. Maybe Mickey would.

Ian would yank his own shirt off, and Mickey would be hit with that smell that made him close his eyes. Ian would crowd him back against the fence, his mammoth hands damp and firm. And Mickey would let his pants be pulled off. Mickey’s eyes would close and his pulse would race, he’d squirm against Ian’s hands as he placed him just where he wanted him. He’d let him tell him where to go, he always did. Hold on, Ian would whisper, and Mickey wouldn’t know for a minute what he meant. But soon he’d be sighing, grabbing the fence, the chain link thin and uncertain in his grip. He’d feel a rough edge now and then, rust and wear from years of foul ball pitches, banging against it, over and over. Ian would press into him hard, without missing, and Mickey’s head would rest against the metal, scraping just a little. It was like that fuckin gun. He’d press himself against it, grounding himself, brought back into his body, an anchor dropping deep as Ian swept him further and further out.

That shit didn’t happen, though. The only metal he got that day was a bullet in the ass and then the same metal pulled out. By that same fucking old guy. His fucking wife. What the fuck. Out there in Lake Forest, right by Lake Michigan. Right there on the counter in Chicago. wet gauze pressed all around him.

He’s back in his body. Anchor dropped. In that tiny bed of Ian’s. He has to piss, is what it is. Dreaming about water 'cause he has to fuckin piss.

Plus, if he has to hear any more of the stuff that Carl one is talking to Ian about, the rising boner will win and he’s got shit to do.


It wasn’t really all that warm back at the house, but it wasn’t as cold as this. Plus, he has to walk quick because for a while he dawdled at the front door, trying to figure if he had enough time to run back upstairs and fuck around with Ian quick. Being slammed against the wall was good, but slamming Ian up against that busted plaster wall was better. Being firmly turned around by the hips was better. Pinning Ian down against the bed was better. Shoulda stuck with that shit. It’s not like he should fuckin hurry for this shitshow. It’s workin’ out so far so good. What a fucking lie. He spits on the ground, waiting for cars to pass before saying fuck it and walking anyway. Spits again, just for kicks, into the snow.


The church is all glass and thick heavy doors and all the benches that smell like wood polish and stupid fucking candles and a heavy sharp incense smell and there’s the dude with the pube beard and a bowl of water and his stupid fucking wife.

He needs to get out of here as fast as fucking possible.

But then. Then there’s the heavy door, slamming shut, and there he is. If he couldn’t see a glint of his hair, he’d still be able to tell by his walk.

“What is he doing here,” Svetlana says.

He wants to get out of here so fucking bad. He just needs to get from place to place as fast as fucking possible today. Standing here waiting with all the whores and his uncle and his cousin and Ian at the end of the bench and his dad in a car somewhere on the freeway, coming toward him faster and faster. He needs to get out of here. Get this shit over with.

He just doesn’t get why the kid has to be naked. He looks fucking cold and his legs are so goddam small. He’s naked and probably cold because it’s cold out and the water is splashing over the side of that big water thing and get him the fuck out of here. Get the baby out of the water. Get Mickey out of this church. He needs out. Now.


Corned beef and cabbage because it’s cheap just after St. Patrick’s day, and in some fucked up way he thought it would make him feel like some of the Gallaghers were there. But he doesn’t need this plate getting all soggy and bent to remind him of Ian Fucking Gallagher. He’s sitting on the end of the bar, crushing peanuts, drinking a beer.

God. Looks good. He just does. Even now, scared as fuck, waiting for that drafty door to open and his dad to barge in, he wishes he could just go over, press against him. Kiss the salt from his lips, be dragged further and further out, see the ocean. He wishes Ian could lift him onto the bar, in the quiet, in the dark. Hold him like an anchor. Feel the bar's wood slide smooth against his back as Ian positioned him, raising a leg over his shoulder. Wishes he could feel his fingers grip just below the length of the bar, finding the curled edge perfectly slipping into his hands. He wishes he could be there, just here, with Ian.

That will never fucking happen. Like how the night of the rich crap stealing never happened. Would never fucking happen. Not like that.

“Svetlana wants you to go.” God he’s a pussy.

Crush, crush, crush. “D’you want me to go?”

Don’t. Don’t. “No, I don’t want you to go. But the whole thing’s gonna go a lot easier if you do.”

Crush, crush, low chuckle he doesn’t mean, “For you maybe. What about me?”

“This really where you want to spend your day off?” Isn’t safe, maybe. I don’t know where that car is, Ian. It’s coming. It’s crashing in here, through the door. Wind and snow in the wheels.

Those fucking eyes. The lashes that flutter against Mickey’s cheek as they move, the smell of them strong and beautiful. Safe. Safe. Ian’s eyes always turning to find him, slowly, the way they have always found him. Challenged him. Dared him. Held him when the tide is too strong, when he feels like he should be swept under, terrified, drowning. You okay, Mick? Still in there? I’m here, I gotcha. You still in there? Knowing it was hard, really hard for Mickey, to stay there, stay like that. Hard to actually not have it be some quick fuck. It had taken Mickey a long goddam fucking time to not shove Ian off afterward, yell at him, grab for his pants, punch the door open.

Ian’s eyes, all the time, looking hard into him until he found him there. It was so goddamn hard. Hard to let the dam burst, the water flooding all over the place, sweeping him out and out and out. But it had burst. It had been barely holding it back all this time, and now there was always water everywhere. Mickey floating on it, letting it swipe his shoulders like Ian’s tongue. His eyes watering and closing. Mick, you still in there? And he was, he always was, now.

Ian’s eyes, finding him. “You’re here.”

Find me, please. After he gets back, I think you’re gonna need to make sure I’m still in there, sometimes. “Gimme a couple of hours, I’ll meet you back at your place.” That car. That car is coming, Ian.

“You make me leave, don’t come over.” He’s brushing all the crushed shit off his hands, hands folded, too calm.

“Why the fuck you actin’ like a girl, huh?” Don’t. Don’t.

“Sick of living a lie, aren’t you?”

“I’m not lying to you.”

Those long hands. “Everyone else?”

“Who gives a shit about everybody else? What fuckin’ difference does it make if I lie to them?” I’m not lying to you. Please.

Those hands, the hands that roam over Mickey’s body under a blanket in the cold, the light coming through that big window in that tiny bedroom. The kids out. House quiet. Hands over him. Voice whispering “I know everything on your body. I feel like I know everything. I touch everything and can see it, just without looking anymore. It feels, like, I don’t know. Just feel like I know it. Mickey shuddering, feeling Ian roll over him, taking his face in his hands, Mickey catching Ian's thumb in his mouth, eyes rising to catch his. Ian staring into him. Find me.

Those long hands punch the bar, once, before he is staring at Mickey hard. “Because. Because you’re not free.”

Mickey looks for him. Ian, you still in there? Sometimes, now, he’s just not sure. He wants to say things like, There’s no way you know it all yet. I haven’t let you touch everything. Still stuff shoved inside. There’s that bowl of warm water about to tip over all the fucking time. Then ugly stuff. There’s that padlock, that splintered up fucking boat with the water coming in. I’m in it, Ian. Look harder, asshole. I’m trying to show you. Been trying to show you for years. I’m not lying to you.

Steadier. Steadier than he’s ever been. “Ian. What you and I have makes me free. Not what these assholes know.”

There he is. He’s still in there. And so is Ian. There’s Ian, his lips about to open, Mickey’s arm beginning to fall on his shoulder.

The car crashes in. The wind comes in, dirty snow smeared all over the floor.

The car crashes in.


Mickey watches his dad hold the baby. The fucked up thing about his dad is he really likes babies. He loves babies. Babies love him, too. Little kids, kids who can’t even walk yet, have always done that baby wave at him. His dad knows how to talk to little kids. Kids at the bus stop. Tells em jokes. Makes em laugh. Smiles.

There’s something that Mickey liked, handing over that baby. It’s the only time he’s touched the baby, giving it to his dad. Because he knows his dad would smile and be happy. He’s the only one who has made his dad look like this. The only one to give his dad this.

“Look at scared little boy, running to daddy,” Svetlana had sneered as Mickey took the baby out of her arms.

Mickey keeps sneaking looks at Ian, sometimes catches him looking back. He keeps feeling that look, that look on him, feeling Ian’s look on him like he had That Day, blood on his head. Long hands in fists, unable to fall. He feels the pounding in his head, feels the tiny scar on his forehead from the thick metal cracking him open. Sees Svetlanta, sitting there, drinking a beer. Fuck her for smiling at him.

His dad has a girl on his lap and a fagbash story in his mouth, and Svetlana has the fucking goddamn nerve to bring that shit up. “Speaking of queers…”

There’s the blood, the gun, the sour taste in his mouth as he started to open his eyes. It’s there, all over again.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing.”

Couldn’t find Ian. Couldn’t find him. But there he was in a chair, waiting, Terry’s gun pointed. Svetlana. No coat. Room cold. Confused. Small.

“I thought your father should know he didn’t beat all the queer out of you. He’s really going to kill you this time.”

Ian’s fingers find his arm, quick and careful. Mickey follows, because he needs to. Needs to reminded that all this stupid shit isn’t everything in his whole fucking life.

"I just wanted to let you know that I’m leaving.”

“Okay. See you back at the place.” One hand, quick, falling on his back

“No. Don’t. We’re done.” Ian’s eyes are sad and still.

“The fuck are you talking about.”

“I don’t have any interest in being a mistress anymore.” His voice wavers, just a second.

“Jesus Christ, when did you get so dramatic?” He needs to be closer, he’s too far away. Can’t smell him. Don’t know what he really means. Can’t hear with all this shit going on.

“When I realized what a pussy you are.” Mandy. That day. That other day. Really? That’s all you’re going to say to him? You’re a fucking pussy. It’s true. It feels true. Scared. The bowl of water in his belly full of ice, rattling around.

“Say it again and I’ll kick your fuckin ass”

There he is, Ian’s toes almost stepping on his. Not backing down. You love me, and you’re gay. Mickey afraid, then, broken, still so afraid, body so sore, full of ice. Kicking, shoving, punching away. Can’t keep you safe. Never can. “C’mon big guy, you think you’re a man? you’re not. you’re a coward.”

Afraid. Ian says it. Says he’s afraid, over and over. He can’t stop saying it. And Mickey’s swinging out to him the best he can. Small. Afraid. Goddamn it fucking shit goddamn it. He shouts after Ian, dumb words popping into his mouth, like he’s back pushing that metal door open at the Kash and Grab, letting it swing on the hinge, pants still undone, the smell of Ian still on his skin. Fuck. Fuck. That won’t happen again. That won’t happen. Not ever again. We’re done. We’re done.


Don't. Ian. Wait. But he doesn’t turn. He's really going to kill you this time. It’s fucking happening. He has his coat. He isn’t looking back. I didn’t come here for you.

“Fuck,” he whispers. The word is sour. There is something in his throat. Something in him lurches fast. His stomach. His body. The floor is made of wood. He tries to hold it beneath him.

Don’t. Don’t.

His hand slams on the bar. Slams hard and the space between his knuckles is numb, immediately. He hardly feels it. Slams again. “Hey! Excuse me!”

He doesn’t know he’s said it. Not really. It’s like everything else he’s learned to do. Punch first, punch hard, take nothing back. The words are out of his mouth, over everyone, a thick wave breaking from the dam in his chest, sweeping toward Ian. Ian. Please. Don’t.

“Can I get everybody’s attention please?” He knows it now. He knows he is saying this. It’s too late. It’s splinters in his hands. Please, Ian. Please turn. Find me.

He does. Ian turns. He’s so beautiful. Fuck. He is. Just standing there, watching him. Mickey’s knees wobble. He walks toward a chair. His dad is there, watching him. Mickey isn’t looking for him. He needs Ian to hear him. Stay. Would you at least look at me? And he is. Oh god, he is. Everyone is.

“I just wanted everybody here to know, I’m fucking gay.”

Ian closes the door. Mickey hears it close so quietly. God it’s quiet. But Ian’s shut the door. He’s here. His lips are parted, he’s watching him. He’s holding him with eyes. He only sees him. Fuck. Fuck. His eyes hurt, the thing in his throat gets bigger, grows bigger, but he can’t stop talking. He talks past it. “A big old mo. Just thought everyone should know that.”

Ian’s staying, he’s standing there and staying. He didn’t lose him. He hasn’t lost him. Mickey’s hands clap to his sides. Fists down. Not running. His voice is not steady. His body is. His eyes. What more do you fucking want, Gallagher. “You happy now?”

Mickey doesn’t know how old he was the first time his dad punched him in the face.

He remembers being able to put his elbows on the table, his forearms flat, but he had to lean forward, a lot, to reach the center of the table.

There was a stack of soft white bread piled there, and he was still hungry. His dad yelled something, stood up, yanked his arm away. Mickey’s mom stood up and put her arm in front of Mickey, fist gripping the edge of the table in front of him. There was a sound, and a cry, and then his dad’s arms lifted Mickey out of the chair, and Mickey was on the ground, and Mickey looked up.

He knew it was going to happen. He had seen it, over and over, seen the blood and the crying and the bruises and the limps and broken wrists and the screaming. He knew it was going to happen. And then it did. And when it did, he realized the waiting was the worst part. Worse than bleeding, worse that the pain of the punch, the slap, the grab and the breath knocked out of him. It was the waiting.

The seconds between him staring at Ian in the doorway and him getting repeatedly punched and thrown around should probably have felt like fucking ever, but Mickey realizes he was ready all along.

His hand finding a bottle, blood, breath pushed out of him as he smacks on the floor. Mouth moving with no sound. Metal taste in his mouth. Iron in his mouth, hot and wet. His ear buzzes, his neck twisted. At one point, he sees Ian yank Terry off of him. Get the fuck off him! Everywhere there are chairs breaking and blood and Mickey sees blood on the floor and doesn’t know whose it is and then there are people yelling and shouting and a bunch of shit in russian and there is his dad’s voice yelling and there is cold wind rushing through the bar. There are cops in cold clothes that pull him up by the arms, and Mickey’s head spins.

One cop cuffs his hands, and the cold metal is familiar, grounding. He starts to focus. Handcuffs. Cold. Metal. God, he can’t hold his mind to them. He twitches his hands so he can feel them scrape against his hands. The cop’s grip tightens behind his back. Fine.


The cold is a slap he can hardly feel. The open air is terrifying. He doesn’t know where his body is. He is nowhere. He can hear his dad screaming. Screaming queer ass digger fucking cocksuckers fucking faggot and everything else that scrape against Mickey’s ears, something true, but twisted. ugly. One ear still buzzing. Mickey realizes that he and Terry both dragged their feet out the door, leaning their shoulders back and then twisting forward. Just shy of resistance, just shy of giving a shit.

Terry is slammed first, and then Mickey. The cop has him pressed. God the cuffs feel good, finally he can feel them. He can feel the cold metal of the car against his chest, his belly. He can feel the snow brushing into him, cold. Something to focus on. Cold. Part of it seeps in.

“Fucking faggot! Get the fuck out of my house!”

He can barely breathe. His stomach pressed so hard. He can’t draw a breath. Not a breath deep enough. He’s crushed. Crush crush crush. His mouth is so cold, his head pounds. He has enough breath. Enough for this.

“Fuck you! Don’t worry about it! I’ve been staying at Ian’s since you been in the can, bitch! Guess what we’ve been doing, Daddy?” Daddy. He was Daddy, once.

Terry squirms. He knows. He feels the punch coming. The waiting. It comes.

Mickey’s body flails. He’s a wave, over and over, smashing against rocks. Ian pounding on the door at his house. I need to see you. He is screaming things. Things that were secret, shoved deep, deep in that metal box with the thick lock, underwater. Mickey is screaming things, true things, things he holds so close, against his chest, his hands, heart pounding. He is barely breathing, pushing against metal. Holding on to the splintered edge, feeling the cold that scrapes against his waist.

His mind spins. He slowly begins to breathe. The metal is slipped from his wrists. The snow is brushed all over him. He’s free to go? He’s free to go. He stands there. He stands.


His first memory is of his dad’s arms, his dad’s hands. Christmas. He was smoking. He was talking over his head, and ash fell, but Mickey didn’t want to move. Didn’t want it to fall off. It wasn’t that he was afraid. He was too little to be afraid. He just wanted to feel it all. Feel happy, looking at lights on the tree, hearing his dad laugh. Ash on his head was nothing. He could hold still. He could hold so still. Still enough to keep his dad happy. It wasn’t enough.


Ian’s there with his coat. He’s saying his name over and over. Mickey can’t stop looking at the car tracks, the cop car tire tracks. The one that held his body a while, the one that took Terry away again. His eyes trace them over and over, gliding up and around. His ear buzzes. “My ear,” he says, quietly. Ian drapes the coat around his shoulders. Mickey flinches.

“S’okay,” Ian whispers. “Don’t have to put it on all the way, just put it on a little. It’s cold. You’ll feel it later.”

Mickey’s chest is cold. Snow melting. He nods.

Ian looks at him, long. Mickey tries to smile. His eyes break a little. Fuck, not this shit again. He sniffs hard, looks down. Nothing to cry about. I’ll show you something to cry about, faggot. A belt. A fist. Blood on the floor. His. Wasn’t the first time. His breath shakes so bad. He tries to move his jaw. He tilts his head back. His right eye hurts so fucking bad. His nose feels his tears trying to push out. Hurts so fucking bad.

“S’okay,” Ian whispers. Let’s just find a place to sit. Got a flask.”


It’s not too far, walking back. But they’re slow. They take turns saying, “Fuck. Stop. Fuck. Ow.”

They both don’t say it, but they need to go to Mickey’s. Not on purpose. But they don’t have enough left for all the questions, for everyone’s hands and yelling and sharing space so close. Mickey doesn’t say it, but he knows Ian knows he can’t fucking deal with that shit. No one can touch him. Not a fucking hand. Not a “what happened?” not another “Ian! What the fuck?” Not people trying to make him feel better with more wet gauze. No sounds. No hands. Nothing but Ian’s. They both know it can’t be anything but Ian’s.


There’s no key. Never is. Ian opens the door. It swings open like it always has. Always stale in there, full of a bunch of crap they intend on maybe selling, or whatever. Everything thinks its going somewhere else. In the end, it doesn’t. It stays.

Mickey sits on the couch. That awful fucking couch that will never mean anything to him other than That. It’s seeped into the cloth, down to the broken springs underneath. Something in it still clenching its teeth, waiting for the punch.

He leans his head back. He hears Ian shuffling around. “Y’guys got towels somewhere?”

Mickey points. “There, somewhere.” He tilts his head back.

“Hey, hey,” Ian says. “Don’t fall asleep.”

Mickey doesn’t. He won’t. He waits. He stares at the windows, covered with sheets. The cold still comes in. Drafty. The frost, sometimes, so delicate you can see the crystals, rising up at the bottom, trying to cover it.

“Hey, hey,” Ian says, and he crouches down to Mickey’s level, wincing as his legs bend. “Hey, let’s clean this up.” God, Ian’s so bloody. Mickey’s stomach lurches. “Fuck,” Ian says, drawing back. “Not going to throw up, are you?” Mickey drops his eyes, tries to shake his head without moving much.

Ian goes, “Could have a concussion, Mick.”

“Don’t have a concussion.”
“The fuck would you know? You can’t see you.” Ian’s arms are strong when they pull him to this feet. God he’s so fucking strong. All the time. “C’mon. Let’s get cleaned up.”


The water is warm, but not hot enough. Ian’s long hand reaches for it, over and over, swishing around.

Mickey’s mouth is dry. “Takes a bit.” He swallows. “Sometimes just takes a minute.”

“Sit down a sec, then,” Ian says. He puts the toilet seat down. Mickey sits. He looks at his hands. He clenches and unclenches them. God they hurt. Ian’s hands look like that too, but not as bad as Mickey’s. Ian has a towel, threadbare and the size of a fuckin t-shirt. He swipes it under the water. It’s still not hot enough, but it’s close. He dabs at Mickey’s forehead. Mickey’s breath is a wet stutter. Ian’s hands are soft behind the towel, dabbing so slowly. “You think you can get in? Your legs okay?”

Mickey nods, swallows past that same thing in his throat. “Sure.” He lets Ian pull off his clothes. He’s not even hit everywhere. He just can’t move. He’s just there. Waiting.


The water is perfect. It’s hot, but not too hot. The showerhead goes all directions. It doesn’t cover both of them. But Ian’s hands hold him. Everything is so quiet. He still has that towel and his arm comes up sometimes to block the showerhead spray so it won’t fall too hard against Mickey. God, Mickey still feels like he’s going to cry any second. Shove it back. Shove it back. But there’s nowhere left to shove it.

“Mick,” Ian begins, but there Mickey is. Crying. Crying so goddamn hard. He is saying words but he doesn’t know what they even mean. Ian’s holding him up. He’s crying into his chest. He feels like he’s going to fall down.

>Gonna fuckin fall down he keeps saying, punching the words out like he’s got a hand still clenched on his throat.

Ian keeps whispering Shh, shh, shh. No. No, you won’t, Mick, I promise. And Ian keeps whispering Gotcha, I gotcha. Don’t worry, I gotcha which is the kind of thing he fucking says during sex all the time. Its what he says when Mickey's about to come but is scared to. Scared because the dam is holding the water back, and Mickey’s arms are tired from holding the water back. Mickey cries harder and harder and harder and the shower is hot and thank fucking christ it is. He can’t fucking breathe. He’s crying so fucking bad he can’t breathe. Feels like he’s on the hood of that cop car. Fuck you, don’t worry about it. "Ian, I'm gonna fuckin fall down, I swear."

Ian’s breath against his shoulder, his head, his cheek, his arms strong, holding him. Going Shh. I gotcha. I really do, Mick. I promise.

The sheets are cool against his skin. His head still feels like it’s going to split open if he moves too fast, but Ian taped it up pretty good. Still, everything hurts. God, he wants to just pass out, but he can’t quite relax. But Ian’s there, his skin slipping on his, curling close around him, hand against his thigh.

“Turn over,” Ian says.

Mickey is almost unable to smile, but he kind of does. “You cannot be fucking serious, man. There’s no way.”

Ian chuckles. “Not that. Jesus.” His hand slides up Mickey’s hip, side, shoulder, back. He knows him. Everywhere. He slides his arm over Mickey’s, gently pulls him onto his back. “I need to look in your eyes. You could have a fucking concussion. You still seem pretty out of it.”

Mickey closes his eyes. “Not out of it. Just a big fucking day, man.” He opens his eyes, slowly. Find me, find me

Ian’s eyes. Finds him. There. “It was. It was a big fuckin day.”

Mickey’s chin wobbles. “Fuck, man.” He covers his eyes.

Ian’s breath. “Mick, it’s okay.” He finds his eyes. Finds him.

Mickey rolls on his side. “Hey, you ever seen the ocean?”

Ian rolls on his side, smiles, a soft breath. “No. You?”

Mickey shakes his head. “Had a dream last night I was in the ocean.” He tries to laugh, but those tears are coming back, hot in his eyes. "This stupid fucking boat." He shuts his eyes, but he can feel Ian finding him again and again, sweeping fingers under his eyes, brushing softly against his lips, brushing everything up and away.

Ian breaths deep, then winces against his sore ribs. “Sometimes I think you taste like the ocean.”

“Yeah, sure,” he says, breath so shaky, all that shit still coming up like a wave covering them. He reaches over, holds onto Ian's shoulder, shaking so goddamn hard he could break. Ian slowly presses his lips, so gently, against his. He swallows, lets out a breath that hurts. He opens his eyes. “I guess. How the fuck would you know?”

Ian's fingers trace the wrinkles starting to form on Mickey's forehead. The tape over the wound pulls. "I just know," Ian says, wincing as he turns, slides an arm over Mickey. "Some things you just know."

Mickey stares into his eyes. Ian's keep drooping, then shooting open, arm tightening against Mickey. "It's okay," Mickey says. "You need some sleep, man."

Mickey tries to think of something, anything else. His chest heaves. "Ian. Ian."

Ian pulls closer. "Shh shh. I'm right here."

"Don't…just don't…"

"Shhh. I'm not."

Outside there is a siren. Another. Another, far away.

"You do too," Mickey says, quietly. "You probably taste like that, too, I think."

Ian's breath is heavy. He's already asleep. Mickey stares at the ceiling. God, it's so quiet. It's never felt this quiet. He closes his eyes. He pictures that wide water, wider than anything he could imagine, just spreading forever on both sides of him. Cold. Full of fish and weeds and dark places, sharp things, smooth things. Maybe busted pieces of that boat, that padlock, some garbage, a broken bottle with his blood on it. Maybe he'll go, someday. Probably not, but maybe. Figure out what kind of things washed up. Figure out what stayed.