Mirror Image...
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Abbott, Paul, prod. "Shameless (US)." Shameless. Showtime. SHO, 27 Mar. 2011. Television. The Decemberists. "The King Is Dead.". Capitol, 2011.

Summary: Jimmy badly needs a shave. Steve could use a little more growth under his left ear, it'd help to cover the carnage. A shield in so many ways.

Timeline: Post-'Father Frank, Full of Grace'.

Notes - First: I was listening to 'Dear Avery' by The Decemberists on repeat this morning to calmly get myself through something and now that I'm writing, it's just coming to me as exactly what I want said between these two people as these events unfold. All is not lost.

Notes - Second: Since we don't and might not ever know Steve's family's names or real ones or whatever will unfold, I'm giving Jimmy Lishman's brother one for now, possibly always.

Notes - Third: A tiny little bit of fun (or is it mockery at this point?) is had with, while it is no longer my favorite show (or rather, the show I know and loved no longer exists, a sad caricature, doppelgänger in its place), what will always be my favorite fandom because the characters' original selves are rather like watching the reverse of Jimmy becoming 'Steve'. A sad, lonely wasting away and a loss of potential. Funny how there's a James on both shows. Anyway.

Notes - Fourth: Because I couldn't resist, I am a Michigander, we call the university 'U of M', so it's a real stretch for me to call it 'UMich'. I concede for realism and because, since I know better, I wouldn't force my senses on anyone who reads this. Finally, on with the show.

Part I: Raised By Wolves, Weaned on Blood - James

Oh, Avery...To think of you lonely, would I could just grab you by the nape of your neck...

To hear the whole story, Thom had to hear it right there, then, deep in the night (though he resisted the urge to smack Jimmy for wanting to crawl into bed and just sleep, the wounds, both visible and not, that he already sported were punishment well enough, he believed) and consistently shook and tapped at Jimmy's shoulders - he wouldn't touch his face, his lip had split twice already and being an older brother and playing a role, he couldn't bring himself to inflict more damage, more pain on the brother he'd lost already, loved so much.

He will stay awake, mustering consciousness from his brother every few hours for the next day or so, ask him neuro questions, because he'll be damned if Jimmy hemorrhages to death in his sleep in the house of doctors, crazed ones or no.

He rinsed out the white washcloth over and over, wincing every time at the dark brown flakes, the bright sirens of the new spillage, and hated the man who did this to his baby brother.

But he had to get everything out of Jimmy if they were going to try to fix this and to do that, Thom had to keep him awake. Force he couldn't muster any other time, it seemed.

Once it was all there in the air, breathed in like so much smog (or was it simply steam, the sheer love and relief despite everything?) and Jimmy had dropped into a dead sleep, blood again leaking from an irritated scrape on his cheek into his pillow, ignored by them both for the time being.

Thom wiped at Jimmy's face again and again, sitting back as he still stared at the hastily packed bags Jimmy had brought home with him.

Baggage that clearly said 'Steve', no last name, no ties to anything but this mysterious Fionawhose entire being was sung in his little brother's lovelorn tears. Thom couldn't help but think of clichés such as Romeo and Juliet and other endlessly trod-out literature as he watched Jimmy sleep.

Thom sat back against his brother's bureau, the handles scraping him and keeping him awake even if his thoughts hadn't, and thought about this new person he'd carved out for himself, this Steve.

It was like, it seemed, a costume Jimmy could put on and take off when needed, to be who...this family now drifting on the edges of his consciousness (oddly enough, he now recalled little Debbie, though everything in him wanted to call her something like 'Snack Cake' except that she was far too straight-forward, only a little too 'kiss my ass' for anything so maudlin as that)...needed him to be.

He thinks now that Jimmy, his little brother Jimmy who'd tailed after him, trying to be everything he was, but never good enough for size or age or just wanting a different direction in life...had always wanted to be needed, but no one had ever needed him. Not the way every Lishman expected. Patients and charts and diseases and cures and surgeries and...and this wasn't House, or E.R. This was a twisted St. Elsewhere, this dark Underland they stepped into every time they entered this house or any hospital.

There is no magic in medicine for Jimmy or even their father, he knows, anymore.

Rote and habit, going to work, riding the rails, coming home, drifting through life...Thom knows now, without a doubt, that it's the last thing he truly wants for his brother.

Knows now, without a doubt, given time to think.

Thom spent the night on Jimmy-Steve's polished bedroom floor, watching his baby brother sleep and at times reaching for the luggage tag and reading the hastily scribbled moniker, black on the white.

He remembered that, at some point, Steve mentioned a paternity test had been run for Fiona's little brothers (four of them, he almost can't believe it) and, ostensibly, herself and Debbie, and finding that their 'mysteriously' brown littlest brother, Liam - Steve talked about feeding Liam with a bottle once before taking him to a rather nutty, but undeniably lovable woman the family knew named Sheila Jackson, who was like another version of their mother, but hadn't needed the same drugs to be less demanding, more...well, now far too loving for either of their comfort.

But while Jimmy ran away, simply and with ease, Thom felt the walls of this house press in on him and the heaviness of shackles he couldn't see, let alone remove, no matter how hard he looked or tried.

He felt for this Fiona and he's never seen her face outside of an electronic photograph, never heard her voice.

...There are times life will rattle your bones and will bend your limbs, but you're still far and away the boy you've ever been, so you bend back and shake at the frame, of the frame you made (but don't you shake alone)...Please, Avery, come home...

Thom was getting away with himself.

Liam Gallagher was a little brown question mark-turned-period in a family of pink periods-turned-exclamation marks. Fiona was Irish, they'd all been and always knew that, still were. That they were Black, that One-Drop Rule he'd read about in his American History class at UMich. They hadn't known that. When they did, life still went on. Deals made, food stole away onto the table.

Thom honestly wonders what their father would say if he knew. But Jimmy had pulled out a picture he and Fiona had taken on a 'down the middle of the road' date they'd managed to come up with, after the guy Kev told Jimmy he was embarrassing himself, talking about massages with a 'hood girl'.

Jimmy had taken her to a Barnes and Noble and told her to pick out any books she really wanted, anything on the menu at the food bar, and taken pictures with his camera phone of her 'not looking like a lady'. The smile Thom had seen blossom through the bloody, smashed mess that had been made of Jimmy's face told him that had been one of the best evenings of his life.

He'd said she'd said that a week earlier when he'd snuck them both into the honeymoon suite of the Hilton and presented her with her favorite hot sandwich and French fries.

"I'm not gonna look like a lady."

Thom could see she'd never stopped, not to Jimmy.

A recounting of the first time he'd ever seen her in photographic detail. Watching her later wield a baseball bat on the way up the stairs of her house the day that the missing Casey Casden (he remembers he'd seen the boy on an Amber Alert) turned up in her only sister and baby brother's bedroom with all the power of a major-league player.

Neither had any illusion she couldn't knock their teeth out with that bat and keep on going without breaking stride.

But 'Steve' had given into temptation and taken the bat from her, giving Liam to her, needing again to be needed, to protect. To be everything.

Thom doesn't think hisbaby boy, there, realized when 'Steve' became the real Jimmy and 'Jimmy' became the fake Steve. Or when Jimmy stopped being a 'baby brother'.

But to know this cop, this tyrant Officer Tony Markovitch, obsessed with Fiona to the point of breaking not only the law, but his metamorphosis of a brother's face, is taking away everything Steveworked for, that Jimmy worked for to give Fiona a world outside what her parents consigned her to, to help her escape the way he has.

The way Thom still wishes he had the balls to do, himself, instead of cowering yet and still before their father, even through a broken leg later proven to be late-stage leukemia that the old bastard thankfully refuses chemotherapy for ('a waste of my time and my fucking money, just give me my goddamned cast and let me go the fuck home!')...it makes Thom sick to his stomach and he's surprised when he doesn't vomit as he again takes in the purpling, swollen dark redness all over Jimmy's face that he couldn't even show Fiona.

Seeing too much, not hiding enough. It doesn't comfort him that even as this superhero, Jimmy still can't bring himself to throw off every bind. He, too, sat aside as Frank Gallagher lay out cold on the kitchen floor, even as he made Little Miss Snack Cake (well, maybe in Thom's own head) and her family a pilfered breakfast.

There was mention of therapy for Little Miss Snack Cake, but not for Killer Carl, who sounds like Thom wouldn't want to meet him in an alley and the kid's only eight...or is he nine, now? Holy shit.

Certainly no rehab for Frank, but Steve would still snatch him again and put him in Canada the second he touched any of Steve's little brothers or sister-in-law (in his not a baby brother's own head, he knows this for certain) ever again, completely willing to lose Fiona if it meant her safety and theirs.

Watching their mother dive face-first into sedatives and tranqulizers and not having the fucking ballsto hide the damned things, to force her into rehab...but knowing that the alternative is a return to the cold, stone hardness of before.

A return from Too Much Mother to Not Mother, But A Heartless Bitch. He shakes as he thinks of it and resolves to take the pills another day, yet again.

("Yeah, 'cause he's got a family that he doesn't give a shit about!" "What my family is, what my father is, has fuck all to do with you!")

Frank sober, however, seems to be a human carnival ride, and Thom thinks the man is bipolar, but his degree isn't in Psychology, so he'd be forced merely to refer to someone else (thankfully) if he ever met the man. He hopes he never does, in his heart of hearts, but if he's going to be brave for the first time in his life and do for his brother what Debbie and Lip and Fiona all do for theirs, then he just might.

Thom clenches his fists and tries to prepare. He cannot go running in the other direction. Certainly not when he meets Markovitch. And hewillmeet the son of a bitch who stole his brother's house and spilled his blood, Thom's blood. The only that he truly has.

He now knows that Candace is but a façade and the thought does little to bother him. She's a vapid, hollow covergirl, the Denise to Fiona's...Fiona ("So I told her, 'You're not fake, you don't need saving...'"). Hell, he needs better metaphors, but he gives himself a little mercy for working a sixteen-hour shift and then coming home to this...situation, but refuses to blame Jimmy for any of it. This was all Thom's choice. He couldn't make any different.

Jimmy badly needs a shave. Steve could use a little more growth under his left ear, it'd help to cover the carnage. A shield in so many ways.

Thom ran his hands through his hair and wipes his bare mouth again, knowing the lipstick is gone, but still feeling it on his skin where his own mother practically made out with him when he came home. Thom was disgusted, repulsed, mortified, but too afraid of this new situation to do anything.

He thinks of Steve's words to Markovitch ("How long have you been stealing cars?" "As long as I've been fucking Fiona!") thinks of Jimmy talking about telling Debbie that the animals they were raised by weren't dragged in by the cops, drunk and raving, their pants covered in piss and vomit...no, theirs went to Harvard.

They didn't get drunk, they got tipsy. They didn't hit their children, but they still managed to scare them shitless just by existing.

Jimmy told Thom that Little Miss Snack Cake leaves coffee next to her father's head for when he awakens from his nightly coma in the morning.

Jimmy told Thom that Frank has left them before and left them again, to go live with the Jackson woman and her daughter, whom his son is fucking even though they insist they're only best friends. Jimmy told Thom 'Lip' and Karen are clearly in love and Thom thought, look who's talking, wiseass. Then again, Jimmy and Fiona definitelyaren't friends.

For some weird reason, it reminds him of that show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and some guy saying, "You're not friends, you'll never be friends! You'll be in love until it kills you both!"

But love hasn't killed Jimmy. This is the most alive Thom's seen his brother in years, if ever. If that love is for a woman and another family, then so be it.

Not that Thom knows much about love, himself, he thinks. He realizes there's something Little Jim Jims has finally shown him up in. Their father always said that a man becomes one when he falls in love for the first time. And Jimmy beat him to it by miles. A grown man at twenty-three when Thom's nearly thirty and truly still a damned boy.

He doesn't know these Gallaghers, Debbie still included, but they saved his brother, even if they don't know it. And they certainly don't know any of Thom's 'family', not really. Thom doesn't think Jimmy counts as a Lishman anymore.

He's a Steve, No Last Name. He's freer than Thom will ever be, no longer a Lishman. No longer enslaved. If they get married one day, Thom hopes Jimmy - no, Stevetakes Fiona's name. It would only be right, in his mind. Fiona and Steve Gallagher.

He's thinking too much.

But Debbie's the only Gallagher any Lishman aside from Jimmy has met. Thom has a feeling she thinks they're all crazy. Thom has a feeling she's perfectly correct.

He thinks Debbie's too young for what she's seen, but then what does that make them? Make Thomas and James Lishman?

Thom can't deny in his heart that he's more glad to see Jimmy than words can properly express but, at the same time, wants nothing more than to send Jimmy back out into the world to be Super!Steve and never come back.

Thom sits until well past noon, knowing their parents won't find them, won't look, watches Stevesleep in the mandated shifts, and plots.

He knows first and foremost, he needs to meet this Phillip Gallagher. No, not Phillip. Lip. Lip Gallagher, whom Jimmy would give anything to see go to UChicago because he's never seen a kid so smart deserve it more.

Lip first. Everything would fold out from there.

But you were my Avery and when you needed saving, I could just grab you by the nape of your neck...