Mandy loves the way that Ian smiles when he sees her. She loves the way he actually listens to what she says instead of staring at her tits like every other male on the planet. She loves the way he cares, loves the way he loves the stupidest things. She loves his long eyelashes as they fall across his cheeks when he tips his head back up towards the sky, eyes closed and smoke blowing out from between his lips.
She loves the way that he wants to spend time with her, the way he defends her when she asks him to, the way he pulls a face when she kisses him. She loves the way he'll kiss her back, just slightly if she squeezes his fingers really hard. Mandy decided a long time ago that she loved Ian, it was just inconvenient that he was gay.
She thought maybe if she persevered, if she did things to show him how great she was. She got undressed in front of him, changing clothes for no reason, making those clothes smaller, more flesh showing. But he never even batted an eyelid, he just said she looked fine whatever she was wearing and that made her love him even more.
She loved the way he wanted to protect her, the way he'd tolerate Mickey's company to come to pick him up from Juvie with her. She loves the way his arm drops around her shoulders and he even tries to be nice to Mickey to, to make him feel included. She loves that he cares so much about everything and is willing to care for anyone at all.
Mandy loves a lot of things about Ian. The only thing she doesn't love is the fact he's gay.
Ian doesn't come with her the second time she goes to pick Mickey up from Juvie and for a second, she thinks her brother misses Ian's presence as well. But that's stupid, because Mickey doesn't miss anyone. They don't really talk on the way back, just sit side by side on the shitty bus back home and glare out of the window. Mandy doesn't know what Mickey's glaring for, maybe because he'd just perpetually angry; but she's glaring because she misses Ian and knows how stupid that is because she's starting to accept he's never going to feel the same.
Maybe she's only missing him because she's starting to think that.
Ian doesn't come over for a few days, says he's busy, but she thinks that maybe he's avoiding her because he knows how she feels. She doesn't know how he couldn't possibly know, everybody seems to know, but then maybe Ian just doesn't want to see it.
He tells her that he'll come around on Friday and Mandy thinks she'll go and get him some popcorn so that they can watch a movie and she'll have an excuse to cuddle up to him on the couch. She doesn't tell Mickey where she's going or how long she'll be, because he wouldn't fucking care. She just tells him that she's going out.
Mandy knows she never would have found out if she hadn't gone through the back door. She didn't know even why she did it, if she'd given a shit about that sort of thing, she would have said it was fate.
"What the fuck do you want?" Mickey's voice made her stop, because she thought for a second he was talking to her. He wasn't, she should have known by the tone. Mickey never talked to her like that.
It was Ian, Ian was at the door and Mandy wanted to rush out and say that, "Yes, here I am, love me now Ian!" but she didn't, she didn't move. Maybe it was because the air seemed pregnant, or maybe it was because she couldn't work out exactly what she heard in her brother's tone. Especially when he spoke next.
"Still following her around then?"
"Fuck off, Mickey," Ian replied and she'd never heard him use that tone either before. It sounded hurt and angry all at once, but she didn't know what the hell he would be hurt about. Maybe Monica had turned up again. Maybe he needed her.
So why didn't she move? Why couldn't she move?
It felt like her feet were glued to the floor.
"Mandy in or not?" Ian asked, since Mickey hadn't actually answered that question.
"No," her brother replied, bluntly, almost cruelly, "She went out."
She could hear Ian take a step, could hear him coming into the house, moving past Mickey. "Gallagher, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" Mickey asked and his anger was irrational, "Get the fuck out of my house."
Ian snorted. "Calm down, I'm just going to wait for Mandy," Ian said and she could hear him take another few steps. She stayed in the kitchen. "She told me to come over, she probably won't be long."
There was this long, heavy pause and Mandy didn't know why she was holding her breath.
"You never came to visit me," Mickey said eventually and his voice was dead sounding, like he was forcing himself not to show any emotion whatsoever. Mandy wondered why the hell he was surprised Ian hadn't visited him. Mandy had hardly visited him, didn't like the dyke guards that tried to feel her up every time, Mickey hadn't been surprised about that, so why should he think Ian would go.
She'd made a passing comment about it once, why didn't he go, but he'd refused. They were hardly even friends anyway, they just worked together, it didn't really matter.
"Jesus, fucking Christ, Mick!" Ian was practically shouting, sounding exasperated and desperate all at the same time, "You didn't fucking want me to, you made that pretty damn clear that you didn't want me around before you punched that cop."
Mandy could hear in Ian's voice how stupid he thought that decision was. She thought it was stupid too, but she couldn't help but think that Ian understood why he'd done it. She didn't, she didn't have a clue.
"Gallagher, I –"
Mandy had never heard her brother sound like that either, like the world was crumbling underneath his feet and he didn't know how to stop it from doing so. She wondered what he was going to say, but he trailed off and didn't say anything else.
"You what, Mickey?" Ian snapped, "You going to change your fucking mind now you're out, cause what the fuck makes you think I'd forgive you for saying that?"
Mandy had this horrible moment where she thought Mickey must have found out that Ian was gay. But then, if he had, Ian would be dead. Being gay was the sort of thing people in this neighbourhood would kill you for. Her brothers were no different, her Dad definitely wasn't.
"You know I didn't mean it," Mickey said and he still sounding desperate, like he was begging for something, "I was just fucking scared alright, because it was never supposed to be that, you were never supposed to get under my skin and make me give a shit. I was supposed to be able to put fucking bullet in the back of Frank's head, but I was too much of a fucking pussy to even do that."
She edged closer, to look around the side of the door, because she wanted to see her brother's face. She wanted to try and work out what he was talking about. They were both standing by the couch, facing each other, so busy staring each other down that they didn't notice her standing there. Ian had his arms crossed over his chest like Mickey normally does and Mickey was fidgeting around like Ian normally does and Mandy thought that the scene was really strange.
"And are you scared now?" Ian asked and his voice was softer and not as angry, "Now that he's in prison doing life, are you still going to be so scared now?"
Mickey looked up at Ian in a way that Mandy didn't understand, but the look was loaded and Ian seemed to understand every single word that Mickey was not saying. Ian took a step closer until he was definitely in Mickey's 'space' and Mickey normally would have hit anyone who wasn't blood for being that close, but Mickey wasn't hitting Ian. He didn't even look like he wanted to.
"Did you miss me?" Ian asked and Mandy thought that was such a stupid question, because Mickey didn't miss anyone. And he certainly never missed anyone that wasn't blood.
"Fuck you," Mickey retorted, which surprises Mandy because it isn't a punch. Mandy sort of wishes that her brother would punch Ian, because he's looking at Mickey now like Mandy wishes he'd look at her.
And she doesn't like it, because she's jealous and she doesn't like it because she's suddenly praying that Mickey doesn't feel the same way. But how could he? Mickey wasn't gay. Was he?
"Did you miss me?" Ian repeated and it sounded like an ultimatum even to Mandy who didn't have any fucking clue what was going on.
She understood a little bit more when Mickey suddenly jerked forwards, almost erratically and grabbed Ian by his head and for half a second, she expected him to head butt Ian, like Mickey sometimes did when fighting. But it definitely wasn't a head butt.
It was a kiss.
Mickey's fingers slid into the back of Ian's hair and Ian unfolded his arms to clutch at Mickey's waist, slipping around to claw at his lower back, like they were trying to melt inside of each other. It was sort of horribly amazing, the way that they kissed. It was all passion and emotion and pain and it made Mandy die inside. They both had their eyes closed and Ian's eyelashes were fanned out on his cheeks in the way that Mandy loved and she wondered what Mickey loved about him.
If Mickey loved anything at all; because sometimes Mandy thought that her brother didn't have a heart. She thought that he was just empty inside. But maybe, maybe he was filled up with all of Ian's gazes too, the way that Mandy was.
When they pulled away, they panted hard, foreheads pressed together and fingers still clutching.
"I knew you loved me," Ian said, his grin cocky, like he now owned the world or something.
"Fuck off," Mickey said, but Ian wasn't offended. Mickey walked away towards his room and Ian laughed and followed him and neither of them even thought to notice Mandy's heart lying there broken on the floor.
Mandy sat in the kitchen and tried not to hear the sounds of their lovemaking in the other room. She pretended not to hear the creak of bedsprings, the groans and the gasps, the way Mickey screamed Ian's name and the way that when that sound cut off, she could hear Ian whispering Mickey's name like a prayer.
She slammed the kitchen door and pretended to mill about in there for a few minutes, pretended she didn't hear them scrambling around, didn't see Ian running out of Mickey's room and throwing himself down on the couch. She pretended he'd been sitting there the entire time.
Mickey came out halfway through the movie, his usual greeting of, "Move over, faggots," making Mandy want to cry as he forced his way down onto the couch next to Ian. She felt like she was going to be sick because she understood the looks passing between them now.
When Mandy cried, she pretended it was because of the movie.