A/N: true life: my life has been taken over by gay television show characters

"What are you so scared of?"

Ian's fingers brush gently down Mickey's arm, leaving tiny bumps in their wake, sending something warm crawling in Mickey's stomach. Ian smells like cigarettes and cologne, and something else, something dumb and flowery in his hair. Mickey can just see his face through a slice of moonlight coming in from his crooked blinds. It makes him look ethereal and untouchable, like some kind of fucking mirage.

Mickey doesn't answer him right way, just watches him. Sometimes he does that when he thinks no one is looking, his own quiet secret, appreciating the way Ian looks when he's blissfully unaware.

"I'm not scared of shit," he lies, catching Ian's fingers before they can continue their slow ministrations. "Nothing fucking scares me."

In the crack of silver light, Ian searches his face for another answer, and Mickey lowers his head a little and mutters, "What are you so fucking scared of, then?"

Like it's so simple, just to ask.

Ian curls his fingers into the spaces between Mickey's, and they fit just fine, like they were crafted for one another. Mickey brushes a thumb along Ian's palm and doesn't let go. Like he's too fucking scared.

The truth is, they're brave in all the wrong ways. Ian has a smile that lights up the room and Mickey never shows his teeth.

Mickey's truck (which is really his imprisoned dad's truck, but whatever) is old and rusty and has more than a few dents in it, but sometimes he takes Ian with him behind the Dollar Store — it's the quietest part of town, home to the stray cats and with the stench of week-old garbage. But it's small, and secluded, and Mickey parks there with Ian and feels absolutely free.

They lay side-by-side on the cold cement, not saying a word.

The secret is that Ian is too scared to admit that he fucks guys because he doesn't want to get the shit beat out of him by the assholes at school.

And Mickey keeps thinking about Mandy, about the way her eyes light up when she talks about Ian and how he used to sneak into the living room when she was still in her crib and watch her sleep. He keeps thinking about his dad grumbling about the faggots ruining the country and his brothers boasting about kicking the shit out of some dumbass fudge-packer. Mickey thinks about how his family would hate him.

So he says, quietly, "I'm scared that they'll never look at me again."

Ian rolls over on his side, and they're not really good with words, neither of them. He doesn't smile at all. In the darkness Mickey can't only see the glittering of his eyes.

"I know," he says, like he knows everything. Maybe he does. Mickey listens to his heartbeat in the silence, thump-thump-thump, and he forgets what it's like to be afraid for just a moment.

"Why are you so fucking fearless?"

Ian shakes his head, presses his face into Mickey's shoulder, so warm and real and solid beside him that Mickey has to push his hands against Ian's chest. It's a reminder that he's still there, and not going anywhere (for now).

"I'm always fucking scared," Ian says, his voice muffled against the fabric, and Mickey believes him.

The fucked-up thing is that the hospital doesn't even call him. He's not worthy enough to be on Ian's emergency call list or whatever, and the only ones who know about their thing are too concerned about his well-being to let him know. It's his brothers, Mike and Josh, their mouths full of soggy Cheerios, that say, "Guess what?"

Mickey mentally counts the days until Mandy gets home from summer camp. "What?"

Josh grins wide, lips full of teeth and something sour and ugly. "Beat the shit out of that Gallagher kid last night." Milk dribbles down his chin. "Fucking faggot never saw it coming."

Mickey chokes on his Poptart and Mike claps him twice on the back, and Mickey can hear Ian's heartbeat in his ears, thump-thump-thump, like he carries it with him everywhere. The truth is, Ian does look like a faggot most of the time, but the only person who gets to call him that is Mickey, like it's a secret language. Like it means something else entirely.

He calls up Lip, whose number he really only has because of a midterm he needed to ace, and instead gets Fiona.

He doesn't know what to say. I've been fucking your brother and my brothers just fucking beat the shit out of him is he okay can I come see him and do you mind not telling anyone about the first part?

He doesn't say anything at all and Fiona keeps whispering "Hello? Hello?" into empty nothingness.

Mickey does visit Ian. It seems only fair.

The truth is, he's going to be fine; some cuts and bruises and a burning hatred for the Brothers Milkovich, maybe, but it was Fiona's overreaction that really put him on the hospital bed. He's still just as happy to see Mickey, doesn't even seem to care that it was his brothers that put him there.

There's a swollen welt on Ian's face and a bandage around his head, but he'll be out soon, and it's really fucking pointless to even be here. But even a few days without Ian seems like an eternity after six months of juvie.

"You look like shit," Mickey says, as a conversation-starter.

Ian grins at him like he's just called him beautiful. "Should've seen the other guys."

Mickey did; he noticed bruises where there weren't before, a cut above Josh's left eye, a split in Mike's lip. But it was an unfair match and Ian is too thin for his own good.

"Is this what you're scared of?" Mickey doesn't know what he's asking about. The bruises, the cuts, the scars? The white hospital sheets, the sickly smell of death in the air? Is he scared of the entire world watching him die? Is he scared of newspaper headline, 'Hate Crime Against Local Gay Teen?' Mickey is scared of it all. He's terrified of everything. He remembers what it feels like to feel brave, invincible, and then Ian Gallagher ruined everything.

Ian is silent, which is an answer all in itself.

Mickey shoves his hands into his pockets and sits down at the chair beside Ian's bed. He wonders what it looks like to onlookers, bystanders — a friend visiting another? A concerned brother? He wonders if one of the nurses pities the poor gay boy on the bed and his closeted lover sitting vigil. Wonders if the doctors are calling them faggots behind the curtains.

Ian smiles at him, a slow grin that stretches taut on his lips, and Mickey forgets everything else.

"That does not kill me will only make me stronger," Ian says, like a prophecy.

Mickey snorts. "Shut the fuck up, Kanye."

He can feel the pressure lift off his shoulders and for a split second imagines that he's floating. For once, he smiles back.