Chapter Eleven: Everything
Linda had let Ian off work early because Kash was coming in. Ian was really glad because he had no desire to see that fucker's face. It was twenty minutes until eight o'clock, when Mandy's favorite television show came on. For once, Ian figured he would watch it with her and not poke fun when she got entirely to involved in the story. He grinned to himself, thinking about Mandy's quick obsessions over ridiculous television programs. When he stepped into his living room, Ian spotted Lip coming in through the back door. Lip looked up at Ian and smirked.
"Linda fire you finally?" Lip teased, meeting Ian in front of the living room stair case.
Ian snorted. "Why are you getting home so late, is the better question," the redhead pointed out.
Shrugging, Lip started trotting up the stairs. Ian kind of figured he might know where Lip had been. He could practically smell Karen all over him. Craning his neck up the stairs, Ian knew Mandy would catch wind of that smell immediately. But when he heard the shower kick on, Ian sighed. Lip was going to get away with cheating yet again. Just because Ian now thought he might understand why Lip still went around with Karen didn't mean that he agreed with it. The girl was a total bitch. Mandy could be kind of a bitch too, but at least she was a decent person. So far as Ian was concerned, anyway. Others would probably say none of the Milkovichs were decent people.
He sighed and took off his t-shirt, then tugged down the tank top he was wearing underneath. The house was burning up. Probably why no one else was home. They were more than likely down at the Alibi. Where Kevin had installed the coldest air conditioning unit this side of Chicago. Ian guessed the fans had shit out in the house again. Sweat already forming on his brow, Ian made his way to the freezer to stick his head in. He did just that. Then drank down a full glass of water. Then rubbed ice over his neck. Finally somewhat cooled down, Ian cracked open the back door, hoping to let some cool night air in. Lip's water cut off. As Ian stood there, relishing in the breeze, Lip came barreling down the stairs. Ian turned around, furrowed his brow. Lip's eyes were wide and he was only wearing a pair of boxers.
"Where's Mandy?" Lip blurted, screamed almost.
Ian shook his head, confused and suddenly afraid even though he had no idea what was even going on.
"Fuck!" Lip bellowed, shaking his head in panic, water flying about. "Fuck! Her house is on fire! I can see it from the upstairs window!"
A chill hit Ian's spine full force. In seconds, the brothers were running outside, Lip leading the way. Ian froze in the middle of the street. His lungs empty, like he'd been kicked. He looked up at the smoke clouding the sky in a thick stream. The flames licking the Milkovich house were wild. Plenty of neighbors were crowding the streets, trying to get a closer look. Sirens. Ear splitting. Two fire trucks, an ambulance, and two police cars formed a convoy, approaching the Milkovich house fast from the opposite end of the street.
Lip turned back to Ian, glaring. "Come on! Move it!" Lip bellowed. "Ian!" When Ian didn't move, just kept staring, unable to tear his eyes away from the burning house, Lip came back to him and pulled him by the arm.
Ian stumbled along after him, eyes still on the fire. He only pulled his eyes away when Lip broke through the crowd and a police office threw his hand out against Lip's chest, halting the brothers.
"I can't let you through," the officer said, pointing behind the brothers. "Turn around and go stand behind the line, please, boys."
Lip bared his teeth, frantic. "My fucking girlfriend lives there!" he screamed in the officer's face. Ian tugged on Lip's wrist before the conversation escalated.
The officer apologized, but stood his ground. And then Ian lost his grip on Lip's wrist. Lip jerked free and dived past the officer, where he stood in a clusters of red and blue lights cast on the street. Ian went after him, also jerking free of the officer's sudden grip on the back of Ian's collar. Once through, it was clear that the crown of paramedics, firemen, and officers had no more interest in either Ian or Lip. Probably the women and men were far more interested in keeping others back and putting out the fire. In the distance, as he watched Lip spot Mandy sitting on the sidewalk, a blanket over her shoulders, Ian heard a few voices shouting out praise that the Milkovich house was going to hell. He ignored this in favor of marching over to a crying Mandy. Lip was already by Mandy's side, squatting down and gripping her mascara stained face. Or maybe it was soot. Ian thought it looked kind of like both makeup and soot. He approached, breathing fast and crazed. "Are you okay?" Ian asked, heart racing, hands shaking slightly. "What happened?"
Mandy growled, glaring at her burning house. "Someone burned my fucking house down!" Mandy screamed. "And My dad and Mickey are in there!"
Lip wrapped his arms around her, cast and all, face drawn as he stared up at Ian with wide eyes.
Ian's stomach sank. He flung his eyes in the direction of the men hosing down the home. It was useless. Clearly. There was so much fire. So much. Heart beating in his ears, Ian placed a hand on his sickened chest and looked the flames over again and again.
"You said Mickey's in there too?" Lip asked, holding Mandy's face and looking into her watery eyes. She nodded, lips pursed. Lip turned his attention to Ian.
Ian glanced back down at his brother, aware that his eyes were tearing up. Quickly Ian looked back at the house. Mandy claimed someone had burned the house down. She seemed to think it was an outside source. But Ian thought he might know just who was the guilty party. Except Mickey wasn't suicidal. And even though Ian didn't have all of the pieces for this puzzle, he decided at once that Mandy had to be wrong. Mickey was not in that fire. Images of Mickey at the fuel station flashed through Ian's mind. Images of the red gas can. Images of matches and rocks and the lake. Images of Mickey's hard exterior crumbling like the sand caked to his legs. His guts churned and he looked back at Lip and Mandy only briefly before he took off running. Mandy frowned as Lip jumped to his feet, calling after Ian. Without looking back or stopping, Ian ran. His feet pounded the pavement. Pounded until each spring caused sharp pains in his arches. Ran until his lungs burned. Until the tears on his face dried up and he was left with a red nose and stained face. Until he reached the shoreline. Ian ran through the sand. It invaded his shoes, scratched against his feet through his socks. He stopped near the water, spinning around, frantic. Looking in every direction.
"Mickey!" Ian bellowed. He knew he probably looked crazed. It was a little windy tonight, so his voice carried away from him. He spun more, eyes searching the darkness. Ian knew he could possibly be wrong. So many different scenarios ran through his mind. Ian pulled at his short hair, breathing erratic. And his breath caught in his lungs.
Mickey Milkovich was jogging toward the shoreline from behind a cluster of parked activity buses. He looked like he had been running non-stop. And probably he had. Ian darted toward Mickey. Mickey, who hadn't seen Ian and was running in another direction, his back to Ian. He called out finally, as Mickey rounded a corner, under a pier, headed toward what looked like a barrel of burning brush and his sleeping bag and other things. But no gas container. No matches. Mickey halted, startled, and turned around, eyes wide, mouth agape, breathing hard. His chest racked and he bent over to grip his knees.
"Ian?" Mickey asked, confused, out of breath. His voice was not only airy, but shaken. In fact, Mickey was shaking. Yet still he frowned, brow knitted.
Ian stared at Mickey, unsure where to go from here. Panic had cause him to more than likely make a fool of himself. His heart rate slowed only a little. Mickey stood straight, coughed a few times into his fist, his own blue eyes glued to Ian. Ian spotted the blood and bruising on Mickey's knuckles. His eyes followed the guilty hand as Mickey dropped it. It took a minute for Ian to gather himself. When he had, Ian looked Mickey over. Took in the bruise across Mickey's left cheek. The cut on the side of his neck that looked deliberate and extremely precise, albeit unfinished. Saw how distressed Mickey's white top was beneath the unzipped black vest; how smeared with blood that the shirt was.
The wind blew while the two stood there looking at one another. It blew, and Ian caught a whiff of Mickey. Who smelled strongly of gasoline. Ian figured he needed no more proof to confirm his suspicions. He took in a deep breath, holding Mickey's intense yet shrouded look of terror.
"Do you ever get sick of it?" Mickey suddenly asked. His eyes didn't waver. Yet Ian heard the edge to Mickey's tone. The desperation. His eyes clung to Ian's.
"Sick of what, Mickey?" Ian asked, forcing himself to stay in place. Trying his damnedest not to reach out and grab hold of the boy before him.
When Mickey finally responded, his tone was even but full of sadness. "Everything," Mickey said.
Ian nodded. Yeah. He did get sick of everything. Quite often. But apparently not as sick of it all as Mickey, who had just burned his own home to the ground, with his father in it. Obviously planned, calculated, and on purpose. Ian didn't know whether to run far away or stick close by his once unstable lover. "Did you burn your house down?" Ian asked, feeling a need to clear the air. Obviously Mickey had.
Mickey's gaze finally faltered. He looked down at the burning brush in the barrel beside him. Stared at it a little too long. Ian watched him. In this lighting, Ian could see the slight shake to Mickey's breathing. Saw how Mickey breathed in and out of his mouth, no longer out of breath, just shocked it seemed. Shocked at his own actions. "Yeah," Mickey finally confessed, still looking into the small fire.
Chills ran down Ian's body. He actually shook, so he crossed his arms to cover up the reaction. But Mickey had already looked back at Ian, now daring Ian to condemn him, having seen the reaction. Daring Ian to say anything against Mickey's actions. And Ian stared back, knowing he wouldn't dare say anything. For one reason, he had no idea what he really thought. For two, Mickey may not have even realized it himself, but the youngest Milkovich son looked fragile. Ian could practically see the figurative little cracks spread all over Mickey's exposed flesh. Like a snake shedding its skin. So instead of speaking, Ian gathered up what was left of his bravery and reached out. The two stood barely a foot from one another, so the reach was short. Ian's fingers touched Mickey's bloody knuckles softly. Mickey jerked, but not fully away. Ian saw the scowl threatening to form on Mickey's face. Ian stilled his hand on Mickey's testing the waters. He would either be punched or accepted. Ian was prepared for either. It wouldn't be his first rejection by Mickey Milkovich. It would, however, be the last. Ian wouldn't try again. Not ever.
Mickey looked between Ian and their hands, then back to Ian. His face looked torn. His adam's apple bobbed hard. Sighing, Ian clenched his jaw and finished what he'd started. He slid his long fingers up to Mickey's wrist and took hold. Ian pulled, slowly walking backwards. Mickey stood firmly to the ground at first, unmoving, face scrunched in anger and turmoil. But he gave gave in. Gave in and walked the short distance to the lake's tide-line. When Ian let go and sat down, looking up at Mickey, expectantly, he figured it was then that Mickey would run. And the decision would be made.
The water washed over Ian's feet and wetted his sneakers. The sand dug into his bottoms. The wind gave Ian a chill as it blew about his tank-top. And he stared up at Mickey for only a second more before turning his face toward the water, just listening to the silence. Wondering if maybe silence had been around more often in Mickey's life, things would have turned out differently. Ian wasn't stupid. Mickey was eighteen now. Juvie wasn't where the courts would send Mickey when they found out what he'd done this time. And a year wouldn't be half the sentencing. Ian knew Mickey wasn't stupid either, and had probably already thought about the fact himself. Had probably been contemplating it while tossing rocks the other night. Ian stared into the darkness, listening to only Mickey's uneven breathing. Moments passed and Mickey hadn't ran. Hadn't sat down, either. Ian didn't look back at Mickey fully, though, for fear of jinxing whatever the hell was going on. Finally, Mickey slowly lowered himself crossed legged beside of Ian. And so they sat for moments more, not touching but only inches away. Not speaking, but saying more with actions than could have been said. Especially when Ian grew brave once more. He kept his eyes trained on the dark water. Took a deep breath, then quickly rested his hand on Mickey's shoulder, reassuringly. Because he kind of figured Mickey needed that, whether the asshole was going to ask for it or not. Would accept it or not. Mickey fucking needed a friend. Someone. And even though Ian didn't fully understand the way Mickey ticked, the reasons for burning his house and father, Ian wanted to be that someone. Thought maybe he might be the only person willing to give it one last shot.
Ian felt Mickey tense at his touch, and from the corner of his eyes, saw Mickey knit his brow, this time without anger. Mickey worried his busted lip. Stared ahead, just as Ian pretended to. Then brought his own hand up to lay atop Ian's. Ian's eyes widened and he found himself not breathing. Then exhaled quietly for a long while. Eventually Ian turned his face to get a good look at Mickey. Mickey's eyes were red-rimmed and watery, but no tears fell from them. His face was a perfect mask of indifference, save for his bright blue eyes.
Opening his mouth a few times, trying to say something, Mickey turned his neck to look back at Ian. "They won't know," Mickey finally said. "That I did it."
Ian searched Mickey's face, the other boy's words ringing through his hazy head.
"Too many people wanted him dead anyway," Mickey finished.
Unable to tare his eyes away from Mickey's face, Ian asked, "And if someone does find out it was you?"
Mickey shrugged, shifting their hands a little. "Then I guess they just will," Mickey said calmly. "Guess I'll be fucked." He smoothed his face out and his eyes slowly cleared up. Breathing somewhat normally now, Mickey looked Ian over. "What does murder earn a person?" he asked, rhetorically. "Life, I think."
Ian felt his throat closing up. Fought to rein in his racing heart. He shook his head, blinking a few times to stop the stinging in his eyes. "No," he whispered, not trusting his voice. "Thirty years or so," he corrected, "not life."
Mickey shrugged again. "Not like I had a shot at much, anyway" he said, eyes searching Ian's.
Ian felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. He felt his features twisting. "Shut up!" he hissed at Mickey. "You're so full of shit! Every thing you say is crazy!"
Facing remaining placid, Mickey watched Ian and said nothing.
Ian knew he was crying and hoped Mickey couldn't tell in the darkness. Though he probably could, given that Ian himself could see Mickey quite well, thanks to the burning barrel only about ten feet behind them. He tightened his grip on Mickey's shoulder. Mickey visibly winced and groaned, shifting his shoulder. Ian wondered that Mickey had probably fought with his father. Thus the cut neck, the black cheek, and probably a dislocated shoulder. He hadn't realized the latter until now, and started lifting his hand because Ian knew this was probably hurting Mickey. But as he lifted it a little, Mickey's grip on his hand tightened. Ian saw Mickey clench his jaw. He swallowed hard, forcing down the ball in his throat.
They were sitting close enough that Ian felt Mickey's hot breath graze his face. Mickey looked down between them. "Was he dead?" Mickey asked.
His breath was shaky as he inhaled. "I don't know," Ian said, staring at Mickey's hand. "Probably."
For while, Mickey didn't speak. And neither did Ian. The redhead just kept looking at the smaller boy, chest aching and stomach sick. He saw Mickey looked down at their hands, felt Mickey's shoulder twitch. Mickey squinted, grimacing. Ian tried to lift his hand again.
"Stop," Mickey said firmly, his grip on Ian's hand almost painful.
"It's keeping me grounded."
And Ian didn't know how Mickey meant that. Honestly, he didn't much care. It felt good in some twisted way to be needed by Mickey Milkovich. Openly needed. So he kept his hand on Mickey's should, in Mickey's loosening grasp. Kept his eyes on Mickey's until Mickey was the first to look away. Mickey looked down and knitted his brow. Ian saw the left side of the other boy's mouth turn down. Twitch. Saw Mickey's nostrils flare. Saw Mickey's chest heave one good time. And knew Mickey was going to be sick. Ian had seen Mickey's tell-tale signs of nausea enough times; was very familiar. His own eyes widened and quickly Ian brought his other hand up to grab Mickey's chin and lift his face.
"Are you okay?" Ian asked, wary.
Scowling, Mickey breathed hard for a minute, swallowing repeatedly and shaking his head. Yet he didn't jerk away from Ian's hand. Staring at Ian hard, Mickey bit, "Does it fucking seem like I'm okay, Gallagher?"
And Ian kind of figured that was the most honest sentence to ever fall from Mickey's lips. A question to answer a question, but truthful nonetheless. "No," Ian said, frowning.
Mickey closed his eyes, breathing slowly and deep. Obviously trying to calm his stomach. He shifted his whole body so that he was fully facing Ian. This went on for a while. When Mickey finally opened his eyes, Ian wasn't sure what he expected. Not what he got. Definitely not that. "Hit me," Mickey said, deadpan.
Confused, Ian stared at Mickey, wordless. He'd also turned to a full face.
Patience wasn't a quality Mickey had much of. "I said hit me, god damn it, you fuck!" Mickey growled, fisting Ian's collar faster than Ian could catch his breathing.
Ian gasped, eyes wide, and looked at Mickey. Slowly he lowered his hand from Mickey's neck, only just realizing it hadn't left Mickey's body completely upon Mickey's sudden change in attitude.
"What?" Ian asked, breathless almost. "I'm not going to hit you," he continued, sounding as confused at he probably looked. "Why?"
Mickey bared his teeth. His grip on Ian's shirt was tight enough now to rip the collar. Face only an inch from Ian's now, Mickey laughed bitterly. "Please hit me," he said sarcastically. A word Ian hadn't heard Mickey utter ever hung tensely in the air. "Fuck's sake," Mickey growled. "Just hit me, Ian! I need you to hit me now!" He was practically screaming, eyes crazed. Now both of his hands were around Ian's neck.
Quite frankly, given Mickey's quick temper and what had gone on at the Milkovich house tonight, Ian was a little terrified of the boy against him. And Ian hadn't been afraid of Mickey since before the two of them started fucking. After that, Ian had found it difficult to take any of Mickey's threats seriously. Except for once. But those words hadn't been threats. Those words had been a hurtful declaration. So, being as he was scared, Ian swallowed hard and let go of Mickey's shoulder. He balled up that fist, digging into the sand with his other hand. Suddenly feeling ill. His eyes trailed down to his own fist, and he winced. Shook his head as he looked back to the bruise on Mickey's cheek. The slice on his pale neck. "I can't, Mickey," Ian said quietly.
And Mickey slapped him. Hard. Then went back to twisting Ian's top. His eyes were determined as he sated into Ian's wide ones.
Holding his breath, Ian did as he was asked. Punched Mickey once square in the chin. But he hadn't used a lot of force. Hadn't used much at all really. Which could have been because of lack of momentum, given their closeness. But really it was purposeful. Ian had no fucking idea what was up and down anymore.
Mickey's head had turned a little at the pussy punch. He scrunched up his face and looked back at Ian. "The hell was that, even?" Mickey asked, shocked, then roared, "Come on! Like you mean it!"
Ian swallowed hard. His face still stung. He knew a hand print was probably forming on his cheek. Mickey's eyes squinted shut hard as he prepared himself. Waiting. Ian looked at his fist again, then back at Mickey's smoothed over face. "This is crazy," Ian whispered, more to himself. But nevertheless, he exhaled loud and long. Brought his fist up once more, and put his back into it. And honestly, it felt good. The punch felt amazing. Best one he'd ever thrown. He felt a release inside of him. Like he'd been dying to hit Mickey for forever. And maybe he had. Even though Ian's need for revenge hadn't been the reasons for Mickey's strange request, Ian felt a strange sense of closure.
Having fallen back a little, Mickey lost his grip on Ian. But only one hand. The other remained. Instead of fisting the shirt, though, Mickey's hand laid flat against Ian's chest. Because it had been jerked mostly loose. Mickey licked the reopened wound on his lip. Spat blood. Twisted his neck, grabbed his unhinged shoulder, and looked back at Ian. His eyes were calmer somehow. "Again," he said, searching Ian as if the redhead held some answer for Mickey's inner turmoil.
This time, Ian didn't argue. He hit Mickey hard. Then hit him again. By the third punch, Mickey was actually calling out and had fallen to his back, legs sprawling out awkwardly. Ian rose up, barely aware of his own actions. It happened so fast: Ian's heart racing away. His mind buzzing a million different thoughts and emotions at once. Hitting. Cussing Mickey. Suddenly Ian was straddling Mickey, continuing his assault. And finally Mickey seemed to get his fill. He brought his arms up, trying to fen Ian off of him. Ian punched a couple more times, hitting Mickey in the forearms and once in the chest. Yelling at Ian indiscernible, Mickey managed to wrangle Ian's flying wrists. Someone in the midst of the punches, Mickey's shoulder must had popped back into place. He seemed freer to move as he pulled Ian down at the same time he sat up a little. Still mostly laying back, Mickey held onto Ian. Both of them panted. Mickey's eyes were wide. Ian's were squinted and furious.
"Enough," Mickey panted, "Stop. Christ, fucking stop it!"
"What's wrong with you?" Ian moaned, holding Mickey's stare. "I hate you," he finished, voice breaking.
Mickey's eyes moved over Ian's face fast. Flicked to the small space between their chests. And as Ian shifted, ready to pull himself off of Mickey, Mickey pulled the redhead down completely, let go of one wrist, and tangled his hand on the back of Ian's shirt. Grasping the back of Ian's neck. Because of this, Ian's top came up in the back. The wind gave him goosebumps against his suddenly exposed flesh. Yet Ian hardly had time to focus on that because Mickey's tongue threatened to choke the life from him. At this point, Mickey was clearly having a hard time holding his torso up with his one sore arm, and fell flat into the sand with a quiet thud. His wind knocked out of him only momentarily, one quick gust shooting into Ian's stunned mouth. They lost contact and Ian rushed to gain it back. He fell flat with Mickey, his hands going out to the ground, splaying out in the sand. Mickey's fingers clawed at Ian's neck when their lips met again. Hard, painful, and needy. All teeth and a little blood from Mickey' busted lip. Sloppy and wet. Too much slobber on Mickey's end. Yet Ian lost himself in that kiss. In Mickey's groping hands. Finally they pulled apart, desperate for air. Ian dropped his forehead against Mickey's, their sweat mingling. And honestly, it wasn't even hot enough near the water to be sweating. Ian supposed it was their nerves. Cold, clammy sweat. Scared sweat.
Mickey looked up at Ian through his lashes and Ian's breath caught in his throat. Really, he did hate Mickey. But it was true. Had to be. To hate someone as much as Ian did Mickey Milkovich, Ian knew he must love the guy. In some sense of the word. But he was only sixteen; what did Ian really know of love? Was love a quick fuck in the cooler? A blow job in the dugouts? A screaming match over the last beer? A first makeout session after murder? The smell of gasoline and blood? Hateful words? Soft glances when no one was looking? Lies? Brutal honestly? Coming back again and again?
Ian remained still, waiting for Mickey to push him off. It never came. Mickey's hand eventually slid from Ian's neck and plopped into the sand. From beneath Ian, Mickey shifted for a more comfortable position, never once losing eye contact.
"I'm not sorry," Mickey finally said softly his breath ghosting Ian's lips. The statement could have been taken many ways. And Ian knew that Mickey knew it. He wasn't sorry for what? Killing his father? Being a fuck up? Breaking it off with Ian a year ago in the cruelest way possible? For kissing Ian just now? Ian wished Mickey would clarify, but knew the guy never would.
Mickey was toxic. He was poison. And Ian was practically already dead.
A/N: If you're thinking this was one of the stranger Mickey and Ian stories you've read, I agree. My excuse is, I've been watching a lot of bleak stuff lately. And the most recent being American Beauty, which was kind of what inspired this fic. I wanted it to be weird and almost cryptic in parts. To make sense but at the same time leave a void. Hope I pulled it off and didn't disappoint. Thanks for reading!