It started with "I want the gun back Mickey". He knows that. He can pinpoint that as the exact moment that everything changed. By the time that the words, "You got any slim-jims in this shit hole," were spoken he knew that not only was everything changed, but it was also fucked.

And everything proceeded to prove his point with phrases like, "I need to see you" and "I don't know where else to go." Phrases that made him burn inside. Phrases like that made him feel like he was choking from the heat of everything, that he was dying and screaming but nobody could hear a single word he said. And if they did, well then they just didn't care. Because nobody cared about Mickey, he didn't need anybody to, he didn't want anyone too. Except then there were the words like, "I miss you" and even shit as innocent as, "hey Mick" that just fucked up the whole point of it. It was words like that that made him want to lash out, that made him feel so conflicted inside of his own body. It was like fire meeting ice, his own anger, his own denial colliding with the force of Gallagher's love.

Maybe if it had just been love though, he could have accepted that. He could have dealt with that, broken Gallagher's heart and moved on. But it was the acceptance that came with that love. It was the way that Ian looked at him, the slow smiles, the trust that burnt in his eyes. That was what did Mickey in. That was where the whole problem lay, because Mickey couldn't deal with shit like that, but there was something inside of him that forced him to. It forced him to keep on wading through all the shit he didn't understand because he clung to the thoughts that maybe when he finally broke through onto the other side it was going to be better somehow. He thought that maybe, just maybe everything was going to be better for him when he reached that point.

He didn't know how, but he thought maybe it would be better.

He didn't hope, because hope always made him feel like he was giving a part of himself away. Hope always made him feel like everything was out of his hands and Mickey couldn't cope with that if he couldn't control it. Except, really, what did Mickey have control over anymore? The answer: fuck all.

His lack of control was revealed in questions like, "the army?" but then even more so in answers like, "Well I want to be an officer." Because if Mickey was in control of that situation Gallagher would be wanting to stay. He would be wanting to never leave Mickey's side, to forgive him for everything and anything, to stick around just because. Except Mickey didn't know how to say that, he didn't know how to ask Ian to stay. So he just kept on screaming on the inside and throwing out phrases like, "Don't officers get shot first?" to try and make him understand that leaving would be bad and that staying would be good, because he'd be with Mickey and Mickey could protect him. Mickey could look after him. He knew he could.

But Ian didn't understand that. He didn't understand the question there. Mickey knew he didn't see it. Hated that he didn't. Hated that Ian could see the affection behind "Say that again and I'll rip your tongue out your head" but that he couldn't see the need and the questions that were written all over Mickey's face. He hated that Ian couldn't taste the lies on his tongue like Mickey could when he said those words that cut them both down deeper, past the bone, "You're nothing but a warm mouth to me."

That had been a lie. Mickey was good at lying. He didn't know what he'd ever said that hadn't been a lie. He didn't know how to pinpoint the truth in his words, because maybe there was never any of it there. Not completely anyway. Mickey could lie, just as well as he could be selfish, except he'd never lied to Ian seriously like he had done that day and he'd never been selfish with Ian. That was the part that always freaked him out. Because when Mickey wanted something and actually acknowledged to himself that he wanted something, he was stubborn, he didn't let it go. He was downright selfish about it.

Yet he wasn't with Gallagher. No, Gallagher announced that he wanted to run off to WestPoint and Mickey didn't do the selfish thing and tell him to fucking stay because he wasn't allowed to break Mickey apart like that. No, Mickey didn't say anything of the sort. Because as much as Mickey wanted Ian to stay, as much as he wanted to lock him away somewhere and erase all thoughts of joining the army, Mickey wasn't quite selfish enough to do it. He wasn't quite selfish enough to disregard the weight of Ian's dream or the need he had to get out.

He was selfish enough to be pissed though when he found out someone else had said the words he'd never let himself say. He was selfish enough to get angry and as mad as hell when he got out of Juvie to find Ian was still in Chicago, still working at the Kash-and-Grab, still forcing ends to meet with his family that were never ever going to. He didn't know if he was pissed off because someone else had Ian now, some guy who's name he didn't even know was fucking his Gallagher and making Mickey see red and taste bile. He didn't know if that was the reason, if Mickey was pissed because he was selfish enough to want Ian back even though he'd hurt him and hadn't spoken to him in a year and a half.

But he also didn't know whether maybe he was pissed because Ian had actually been stupid enough to give up everything he'd wanted for some guy. Some guy who wasn't him, but maybe that part didn't matter. He thought he was probably mad about the fact that someone had been selfish enough to make Ian stay, when even Mickey hadn't done that. And Mickey not doing that had meant something.

And that was why he tracked down that shitty icecream truck that Lip and Kev ran in the summer and that was why he hauled Lip out through the open back door and slammed him against the side. That was why he got right up into the guy's face and ignored the fact Kev was jumping out after them.

"How the fuck could you let him stay?" Mickey snarled out, too pissed off and too confused with himself to even worry what anyone could be thinking at that moment. He didn't even care that he could get arrested again, because if a cop caught him this would probably classify as violating his parole.

He just didn't care. Not even about the fact that Lip seemed to catch on to what the fuck he was talking about immediately and his face even softened a little bit when he said, "Trust me, I tried."

But no, Mickey wasn't having that. He wasn't going to take that bullshit. "Trust me, I tried." He wanted to scream, but instead he just slammed Lip against the van again with enough force to make it rock a little. "No you fucking didn't," he growled out, baring his teeth slightly, "Not fucking hard enough."

And Lip sounded resigned when he admittedly, "I know."

Mickey let him go, falling back a few steps and dragging his hands through his hair and wanting to scream, but he didn't. Instead he kicked at the floor and said nothing in reply to Lip telling him, "It's your fault too though." He didn't say anything because probably chances were that in some fucked up way it probably was.

Things just seemed to happen after that, like a chain reaction. It started with Kev offering him a free joint and Mickey accepting and then suddenly he was in the back of the truck a little bit high and a tad drunk, but selling icecream and other more illegal shit to people with Lip. Kev had fucked off, saying he had places to see and people to fuck, which meant his wife, but Mickey didn't say that. He just sneered and told Kev that he was fucking paying Mickey for this shit.

And he did. And it wasn't such a bad job actually. Sitting in the back of the van sweating his ass off was the only uncomfortable bit, but he begrudgingly admitted to the fact that Lip wasn't such bad company – they'd even been friends once – and Lip seemed fine about smoking as much of the shit as they sold. So that was all fine too.

Since Kev had the baby to deal with now, something Mickey didn't need to know but had found out from Lip anyway, Mickey sort of landed himself a permanent job for the summer. It definitely beat the Kash-and-Grab and satisfied his probation skank, so that was all fine. He also managed to get almost to the end of summer without there being an incident.

An incident in the form of a certain redhead.

Mickey wasn't high at the time, which would have helped in hindsight and instead he was lying back with his feet up in the van, casually sucking on one of the rocket pop things because it was far too hot to be where they were, but that didn't matter. Mickey was used to feeling uncomfortable and like his skin was on fire.

"The talent you have for doing that come from you liking to suck something else?" Lip asked as he watched Mickey suck on the rocket pop without using his hands, just sucking it in and out of his mouth casually.

He scowled and took it out of his mouth, deliberating punching the guy but then deciding that he couldn't be bothered to move. So he just kept scowling. "Fuck off," he muttered back, his voice not as dangerous as it could be, because he won't admit it, but he kind of liked that Lip never really seemed to judge him or look down on him at all for being gay. He treated him the same, so Mickey let it slide.

He guessed that Ian had told Lip, probably a while ago.

Ian arrived when Mickey had his head tipped back, laughing at something that he can't really remember, but all he knows is that it feels good to be laughing. He hadn't done that in a while. Lip is laughing right along with him, sucking on a cigarette and blowing smoke out haphazardly as he laughs. The smile fell from his face and the sound died in his throat though when he saw Ian standing there watching him, his eyes wide and startled.

Obviously Lip hadn't told his dear baby brother that Mickey was working with him. Or maybe he had and it was just the fact that Mickey was laughing that had Ian freaked.

Mickey felt his features mash up into a scowl when he spotted the guy hovering by Ian's side, the one who was so obviously Ian's boyfriend even if they weren't actually doing anything that was gay. They weren't even touching.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Ian asked, always the first one to find his voice. He stared at Mickey almost like he was seeing a ghost; and maybe he was, because they hadn't so much as looked at each other since the day Mickey walked out of the Kash-and-Grab.

He snorted, "Fuck off, at least I'm supposed to be here."

And that made Ian frown, which to be honest Mickey was hoping wouldn't happen. He'd sort of wished that Ian would just ignore the words that had come out of his mouth as soon as he'd said them. As usual, Mickey's luck didn't seem like it was set to hold out.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ian asked, staring at him and Mickey decided that if he'd already dug his own grave he might as well jump into it with both feet.

He climbed out of the back of the van, the door already being open to try and let in what little breeze there was. He rubbed at his bottom lip for a second and then felt his features twisting into a sneer. He couldn't help it and didn't particularly want to stop himself. The boyfriend looked like he wanted to try and protect Ian from Mickey, which was fucking stupid.

"It means that you're not supposed to be here," Mickey sneered at him, "It means you're not supposed to talk all of our ears off about wanting to go to WestPoint and then not going just because some dickhead asks you not to."

He waved vaguely in the direction of the boyfriend but didn't really give too much of a shit at the offended expression he got in return.

Ian stared at him, looking sort of dumbfounded for a second. "So what, would you rather I stayed for you?" he scoffed, "Would that make you happier Mickey?"

And he'd known that Gallagher would play that card. Fuck, why wouldn't he?

Mickey rolled his eyes and before he knew it had slammed his hands into Ian's pecks, forcing him back a step. "It doesn't fucking matter what would make me happy," he growled out, because that was true, that was definitely true. It had never been about what would make Mickey happy, it had always been about Gallagher. "You're not supposed to be here, you're supposed to have gone off to join the fucking army and gotten out of shitty Chicago." He bared his teeth a little and knew he probably looked like he was hanging onto the very slithers of insanity; but he couldn't help it. Ian had gotten under his skin a long time ago and he still hadn't been able to shake him off. "All this," he motioned to all around them, "This is supposed to be nothing but a fucking blip in your memory, you were supposed to get out, to realise that you're fucking better than this."

He pulled a face, not liking how the truth tasted and definitely not liking the way that Ian was staring at him. Except maybe he did.

"Why the fuck do you think I never asked you to stay?" Mickey asked, taking a step back and then another, "Jesus Christ Firecrotch, use your fucking head for once." And then Mickey had said all he needed to say, because he could tell from Ian's expression that he understood. That for once he completely understood what Mickey meant when he actually said words.

He knew that Ian understood that that was about as close as Mickey was ever going to come to a love confession. As far as Mickey was concerned though, it was a weight off of him. Because he'd finally said something completely truthful. It was practically a first.

The ball was in Gallagher's court now.