"If love can be called a mistake."

Mickey thinks about fingerprints against the glass and the cold receiver on his cheek, a gun in his hand, Ian's palm pushing against his thigh, the way the sunlight came in through a dirty window back at juvie. He thinks about the way Ian's shoulders hunch over when he's thinking a lot or when he's tired and sore from ROTC. He glances at Ian and Ian doesn't look at him at all and he thinks about how he never thought this was a mistake.

All the same, all the same.

Mickey doesn't want Ian to fuck anybody else. He doesn't want to say it, he won't ever fuckin' say it, but he kinda wanted Ian to be celibate, and that didn't happen, and Mickey knows better. He liked to take Ian in his hands and push and pull at 'em like silly putty but the silly putty has started to dry out, been left out too long, now it's all tough and hard and Ian is doin' things on his own now. Mickey was too used to 'em being a scared fuckin' faggot, a nice dick but not sure where to put it. Now he's got a pretty good hold on it. Knows what he wants.

It's fuckin' stupid, but Mickey wishes Ian never fucked anybody else. It was easier. If love can be called a mistake, Mickey thinks Ian is the biggest mistake he ever made, but he knows better than to call it love when it isn't even lust. It's convenience, nothing else; his dad'll fucking skin him like the fairy he is if it ever comes close to love.

But he thinks about it, sometimes. Mickey likes Ian enough to pretend that he could ever love anyone but himself.

"Did you miss me?" Ian's back is turned and he's pulling on his boxers in a rushed urgency, and Mickey looks at him funny, stares at his shoulders and the way they hunch over, making him look old and tired.

Mickey shoves him a bit. "I already told you." He lights a cigarette in his hand, sucks in deep and shudders out a breath. "Why you gotta ask so many goddamn questions, Gallagher?"

"Yeah," Ian says, and he's pulling on his boots now, and Mickey wishes he'd stop wearing so much camo all the time, "but you were just saying that. You were joking."

Mickey can't stop staring at the back of Ian's head. There's a tiny scar there and Mickey wonders where it's from, but doesn't have the obligation to ask, so he won't. ROTC training or somethin' gay like that. Maybe he fell trying to break in to some old bat's house, maybe Fiona cut 'em accidentally when she buzzed his hair again. Mickey keeps looking but there's nothing new to see.

"Keep your words out of my mouth, bitch." Mickey stubs his half-gone cigarette out on the wall beside him, lets it fall behind his bed lazily. "You wouldn't know a fucking joke if it came up behind you and reamed your ass."

Ian laughs and doesn't ask another question. Mickey missed him so goddamn much, every single fuckin' day, thought about Ian fucking other people while Mickey was fucking other people, and he thought about them fucking other people all the time and never seeing each other again. It seemed like a good idea for the zero-point-five seconds he considered it, and then he was back to jerking off under the sandpaper covers, thinkin' about red hair and freckles like a fuckin' cunt.

"I missed givin' you shit, Gallagher," Mickey says, and it's close enough to what he means, and Ian gives him a side-glance and Mickey can tell he wants to say something gay and emotional, but he closes his mouth before he does. Mickey exhales his relief. He can't do that shit. Not now or anytime soon or in a million fuckin' years.

Mickey swears he doesn't fuckin' think about it, but even seeing that chubby Asian kid getting plowed by a cock that Mickey always felt possessive over makes him feel kinda ill, and he hates himself for that. Ian doesn't need to promise that he won't see the little fuck again, because Mickey knows better, tries to keep him close enough to where he won't want to run away again.

It's fucking selfish. Mickey is the most selfish fucker in the world. He wants to tie Ian up and keep 'em in his closet and let him out when he feels like it, when he feels like he can handle the looks Ian gives him when he thinks he can't see 'em. Mickey pays too much fuckin' attention to that kid. He notices everything.

"I gotta go," Ian says, and it's not like Mickey fucking cares where he goes, or when; Ian could leave any time he wants and Mickey knows he'd come back. "I'll see ya."

Ian is halfway out the door before Mickey shouts back, "You still fuckin' the fluffy little chink?" He knows he shouldn't have said a goddamn word but he wants to settle the shit in his stomach before he fuckin' pukes.

Ian pauses and makes a face and says, "He's scared of getting caught," very slowly, enunciating like Mickey is five years old and Ian is a goddamn preschool teacher. Mickey feels something hot in his stomach and he doesn't know what it means, but he thinks that's what love feels like, kinda like kidney stones. Mickey loves having Ian to himself. He doesn't know what else it is.

"Fuckin' fag," Mickey snorts, and Ian makes a small noise that sounds like laughter, and then he's gone, and Mickey is staring at the space he occupied, and suddenly he feels sick and alone.

If love can be called a mistake, Mickey fucks up every time he opens his mouth.

Mickey likes to suck on a bunch of sour candies until the roof of his mouth starts gettin' sores on it, and his tongue starts bleeding, and Mandy calls him a fucking idiot but he likes it anyways. Somethin' about his mouth hurting makes him feel invincible. Like he can take on the world and never has to use his words like a good little boy, 'cause all that blood in his mouth won't let him say a thing.

Ian makes a welt on Mickey's skin where his hands have been, and they leave a perfect handprint of blue and purple on his pale skin, and Ian says he's sorry, he didn't mean to, but it felt so fuckin' good and can he do it again? Mickey bites his tongue and tastes blood.

Mickey touches a scab on Ian's elbow with two fingers and Ian winces in pain but doesn't say anything. Mickey doesn't wanna check his knees for scabs but he's sure they're there, too. Mickey thinks too fuckin' much about Ian being a warm mouth for anybody else but him.

"Hey, you stupid fuck."

Ian turns around and grunts at him, and Mickey's whole body turns to silly putty, and maybe Ian has been pushin' and pullin' at him this whole time. Maybe Mickey was the joke all along. "What?"

Mickey hesitates and pushes Ian's face away with the whole palm of his hand, grinning like a stupid fuck. "I missed you."

Ian doesn't say anything but he smiles, slowly, like in one of those chick films. Mickey's breath is coming out in silent gasps and he feels like he's going to explode, but he doesn't. It's all in his head. It's always all in his goddamn head. Fear ain't nothin' but a state of mind, and it's the only state of mind Mickey knows. He's scared of his dad and he's scared of his brothers and he's scared of makin' too many fuckin' mistakes, ending up dead or dying in prison like his Uncle Dave.

If love can be called a mistake, Mickey's the biggest fuck-up in the whole world.