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The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

Chapter Text

 

 

If there’s one thing worse than being that kid with cancer, it’s being the kid that everyone knows has cancer.

 

I mean it’s kind of hard to hide when you’re at school. Popping a dozen pills a day doesn’t go unnoticed, and the other kids sort of form a giant circle around you – a five-foot radius because if they get to close they might fucking catch it. It doesn’t really help the fact that I got that before the cancer because I’m a ginger, and everyone knows that you can catch the ginger if you get to close to it.

 

So now I’m that ginger kid with cancer and home-schooling is where it’s at.

 

Sure you get all the cancer perks, free shit, priority entry to movies and theme parks and hell, sometimes even celebrities come down to the fucking South Side to visit you, but the perks don’t really outweigh the rest of it.

 

So here it is: Ian’s Big Fat Cancer Story.

I was diagnosed when I was twelve, Leukaemia. That’s a pretty common one for a kid my age. Only thing was, being on the South Side we had no idea how we were going to afford treatment. I mean, obviously we figured something out, I’m still here. Basically I just got too weak to play baseball, I passed out on the field twice and then Fiona took me to the clinic to check me out.

 

She wasn’t even an adult yet, seventeen and a baby on her hip – not hers, my mom had just bailed out on us for the fiftieth fucking time – taking her twelve year old brother to the doctors because our dad was too wasted to do it.

 

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

 

5-year survival rate is good, not bad anyway. I was slightly older than most of the kids who had this kind of cancer, but that didn't mean crap. It was cancer, I have fucking cancer.

 

I needed a whole bunch of crap done, I was in hospital a lot and a lot of the time I was alone. Fiona couldn’t be with me all the time, she had a home to look after. My other siblings were too young to be hanging around a hospital all day. Lip came to see me the most, he was thirteen when they first started my treatments.

 

Anyway, it spread to my lungs. I had a rough couple of months where they didn't think I would make it. I remember Fiona just sitting by my hospital bed and resting her head on my arm, crying and pleading with me to get better and that she would do better for everyone. I started wishing that I didn't have cancer not because I wanted to be better, but so she wouldn’t feel like she had failed us.

 

So there was a while there where no one thought I would pull through, I even asked if I could write down my last words. I was thirteen at that point and you have no idea how fast time can skim by when you’re sick. I think I made it through nearly two months not knowing that it had been more than a week. But I pulled through.

 

Sure, then I became that previously ginger, currently bald, oxygenated cancer kid, but I never liked any of the other kids in school anyway. So now some money-throwing foundation funds my education at home by sending a tutor in a couple times a week. I’m not complaining, hell, without that fucking foundation I would cease to exist, except in the memories of my family.

 

Yeah, sixteen and currently living with cancer is my gig, and I’m rocking it.

 

I’ll be seventeen in a few weeks, coming up on five years since diagnosis. The whole prognosis still isn’t good, but for now I’m holding steady.

 

Oh, and I might have forgotten to mention that on my last visit to the doctor I was diagnosed with Bipolar. Apparently constant sleeping and a crushing pain that refuses to lift from your chest is not a side effect of cancer or dying, but a side effect of my already tainted genetics.

 

Lip tells me I should start buying lottery tickets.

 

In some sick kind of way, I find that idea pretty amusing.

 

So the Bipolar was the last straw in this hay bale hell bent on bringing me down. Fiona tells me that I need to start dealing with all my shit with other people, not just our shit-show of a family.

 

She’s tracked down this sad little cancer support group for teenagers at one of the churches in our neighbourhood. When she told me about it I pulled a face. ‘You’re going,’ she had said.

 

No options about it, and she was going to take me there and watch me go in and wait outside to make sure I didn’t try to escape.

 

“My land speed record is equal to about that of a fucking two-legged cat Fiona, and I’m not so great for distance either,” I said as we sat in the car outside the place on the day of the first meeting.

 

She chuckled a little, “Ian, just do it. The doctors say it’ll be good to interact with other kids in your situation. Hell, you might even make a friend.”

 

“Well, at least they won't be afraid to catch cancer, even the ones who have it in their brains will be smarter than the idiots at that bullshit public school,” I said with a sigh.

 

“Would you just do this, please? Give me some kind of reason to believe you’re okay,” she sighed.

 

Fuck, how was I going to argue with that?

 

“Don’t expect me to come back singing fucking bible songs,” I said, opening the door and taking out my oxygen tank.

 

“Oh believe me, if you do, I’m locking the doors. Cancer or no cancer,” she grinned and pulled me in for a kiss, knocking the tube off my ear and then readjusting it as she pulled away. “Just, play nice.”

 

“Don’t I always?” I grinned.

 

It’s basically what you would expect it to be, cancer kids support group. A bunch of really unhealthy looking teenagers sitting in a circle while some survivor tells us their story and encourages us to do the same.

 

Same old, same old really. Leukaemia, tumours, mets in their livers, bones and brains. One kid even had a glass eye. If anything, the whole experience only made mine even worse, but Fiona seemed to think it was doing me good so I kept it up.

 

The cast rotated every week. Sure there were regulars, but then there were those who went from regulars to regular no-shows and every week Patrick, the brave survivor he was, would read us another name or two. They were the ones who weren’t coming back.

 

On about my eighth session I was sitting in the foyer with a book in my hand just waiting until the last minute to go in so that I could avoid talking to Patrick alone. I heard someone let out a loud swear from the door and looked up because that didn't happen often.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ! Would you just get your cancer-warped ass in here?!” her voice sounded angry and I hid half my face behind my book as I watched her walk in and fold her arms tightly over her chest.

 

“You know we’re in a fucking church right?” said a male voice, still obstructed by the wall.

 

“Shut up asshole, we’re going to be late,” she said, walking in without him and as I watched her go the guy she was talking to – yelling at – came into view.

 

He shook his head with an angry look on his face. “One of these fucking days…” he grumbled.

 

He seemed kind of short from where I stood, but definitely older than me, or at least the same age. His hair was jet black and his eyebrows were just the same, the defining feature of his face. At least they were from what I could see.

 

He had a pretty strong build for someone in a cancer support group. He was probably going to be the healthiest one here. He certainly looked it. He was very attractive, and not in an obvious kind of way. I mean, not everyone would see him on the street and just turn to look at him because of his radiant sexuality, but something about him just appealed to me.

 

He just looked so… something, I don’t know what. But I kind of want to find out.

 

He looked around a little and caught me staring. He leered at me, his eyebrows shooting up and his head tilting to the side as if to say ‘the fuck are you looking at’. I broke my gaze quickly and hid behind my book again.

 

You were not just staring at him. Rephrase that, he did not just catch you staring at him. Jesus fucking Christ Ian.

 

I heard him scoff to himself and then the scuffling of his feet, and when I looked up he was gone. It was almost time for the stupid session anyway so I got up and shoved my book in my bag.

 

As I wheeled my oxygen tank towards the main hall I made a mental note to sit anywhere but next to – damn, I didn't even catch his fucking name.

Chapter Text

So the room was full of regulars, plus the two newcomers. Patrick opened up by telling us about Sandy, she’d been coming ever since I’ve been here and now she had finally finished her journey.

 

Fuck I hate that expression.

 

‘Journey,’ like we’re on some magical spiritual quest or something. Well, we’re not. We get stuck in this cancer void where time stands still because we are so limited in what we can do. Doctor’s appointments and chemo and being so sick you can't even move some days and so a week feels like forever, or having a good few days where you can walk around and maybe feel like you did before your diagnosis, and it only feels like a few hours.

 

So yeah, maybe it is a fucking journey, but I feel like that word was meant for greater things.

 

I wasn’t really sad for Sandy, the girl knew it was coming and so did we, I think she was kind of ready for it in some really sad way. She was in a lot of pain and on a lot of meds – I mean I’m on a lot of meds but she basically lived on the things.

 

Patrick had us bow our heads for a moment to ‘wish her well on her next chapter in heaven’ and I had to close my eyes so that I wouldn’t roll them with the exasperation of it all.

 

After that was done, we moved on to how the rest of us were doing.

 

I hate that expression too.

 

‘So how are you doing?’ Well, I’m a sixteen – almost seventeen – year old kid with terminal fucking cancer. Yeah, I’m doing fucking peachy.

 

I had resisted the urge to look over at the new guy until now, and I really have no self-control anyway so even that was a stretch. I was sat back in my chair, my arms folded over my chest, and I turned my head only just to the side to look.

 

He was hunched over, elbows resting on his knees and tapping one of his feet. He looked like he really didn't want to be there. The girl he came with seemed to really be listening to Patrick, clearly she hasn’t heard all this shit a million times over. The two of them had the same pale skin and dark hair, probably siblings.

 

He had a sweet face, albeit rough around the edges, he looked like he could probably kill me if he wanted to. Then again, most people do, but you get the gist. His shoulders sloped downwards and he had a strong frame, I kind of wish I’d watched him as he walked away before.

 

He let out a big sigh and looked up, catching my eye and doing a double take. He narrowed his eyes at me and for a second I didn't break, but I lost my nerve and stared down at my hands. How long after someone catches you staring at them – for the second time – is it acceptable to look up again?

 

Screw it, I thought as I looked back up again. His eyes were still on me and this time he cocked an eyebrow.

 

‘What?’ he seemed to say.

 

I opened my mouth as if to reply, even though Patrick was still giving us some kind of spiel about Jesus and how all he wants is for us all to be – whatever, I don’t care. I opened my mouth and closed it again quickly, turning away and pulling my beanie further down over my forehead.

 

What is it that compels me to do this kind of shit?

 

I turned my head again and he seemed to chuckle to himself, turning away and shaking his head a little, so I kept staring at him. The whole thing was becoming a game. He was still chuckling to himself. I don’t know how it is that people can feel someone’s eyes but they can, and when I looked away I felt his eyes scorching me like they were fucking laser beams.

 

I almost missed Patrick asking me the dreaded question.

 

“So Ian, how are you doing?”

 

I looked over at him and sighed, getting to my feet and clearing my throat. “Well I still have cancer,” I said.

 

“But you’re holding steady?”

 

I shrugged, “when I can breathe, yeah, but so what else is new.”

 

“You hang in there,” Patrick said with a smile and a sympathetic nod and I just inhaled to stop myself from saying something sarcastic as I sat back down. “We have two new faces today everyone, would either of you like to stand up and let us meet you?”

 

The guy rolled his eyes a little but the girl stood up tentatively. “Uh, hi, I’m Mandy, this is my brother Mickey. I don’t actually have cancer but someone had to drag him along to this thing so…”

 

“Well we welcome anyone who needs our support… we’re here for you Mandy,” I just groaned and closed my eyes at the mantra which some of the others said along with him.

 

I looked up at Mandy who seemed like she was a little off-put by the whole thing but she kept going anyway. “Uh… yeah, thanks. Well Mickey never came to one of these things last time and now he’s in recovery so I just thought it might be good idea for him to have some form of human contact.”

 

She coughed a little to herself and then sat back down.

 

“Mickey, do you have anything to add?” Patrick asked.

 

He looked like he would rather be anywhere else. Patrick was smiling like a fucking idiot. You would think that after having cancer he would know that those of us with it really don’t need people giving us looks like that.

 

Mickey stood up reluctantly and huffed out a great sigh. “What’re you all expecting me to say?”

 

“Tell us about you; about your journey, your thoughts, fears, anything,” Patrick said.

 

“My journey huh? I had cancer, kicked it, came back and now I’m back in remission.”

 

“And how are you doing?”

 

“How’m I doing? I don’t even―” Mandy kicked him in the ankle and he rolled his eyes.

 

“Are you worried about the cancer coming back a third time?” Patrick asked.

 

He shrugged. “Third time’s the charm right?” So he’s kind of morbid, I like that. “Not like it matters, I’m fucked for life anyway.”

 

“Oh, we try not to use that kind of language in here, some of us are only young,” Patrick said and Mickey cocked an eyebrow.

 

“Half of ‘em are from the South Side, you think they haven’t heard it before?” Mickey said.

 

“Well we like to try to keep things age appropriate.”

 

At that I couldn’t help but let out a snort of laughter, a smile brimming on my face. Mickey looked over at me, they all did.

 

“Ian, did you want to share?” Patrick asked.

 

“I was just thinking about the irony of what you just said. I mean, you want them to keep their childhood innocence or whatever by keeping the swearing to a minimum, but these are kids who spend half their lives in hospitals getting poked and prodded and shit, we live just trying to deal with the fact that half of the people in this room right now won't be here in six months’ time. You really think that keeping us away from swearing is more ‘age appropriate’ than telling us that we have terminal cancer and that our deaths are coming before we even get to do anything worthwhile? I can say pretty safely that the levels of innocence in this room don’t really exist,” I said, and I saw Mickey grinning over at me from the corner of my eye.

 

Patrick didn't have much to say to that.

 

After the meeting I went and stood outside, waiting for Fiona. She had to stop off at the grocery store first so I sort of expected her to be late.

 

I saw Mandy come out of the building and run into the arms of some guy who was leaning against his car. Then began the visual onslaught of ridiculous and grotesque making out that was impossible to turn away from.

 

I thought there were rules about dry-humping in public.

 

“You really like to fucking stare, don’t you?” I turned my head quickly to see Mickey walking towards me. “What? You checking out my sister?” he said with a grin.

 

“No, I was actually just wondering what the laws on indecent exposure extended to,” I said.

 

He laughed a little and stood by my side.

 

“What was your name again?”

 

“Uh, Ian, Ian Gallagher,” he nodded to himself a little. “And you’re Mickey?”

 

“That’s the one.”

 

“So I guess your sister dragged you here, huh?”

 

“Yeah, I owe her one and she won't let me fucking forget it,” he grumbled. “Seems like you wanna be anywhere else, the fuck would you choose to come here?”

 

My sister thinks it’s doing me some good,” I shrugged.

 

“Is it?”

 

“Kind of the opposite.”

 

He laughed again. I like the sound of his laugh, it’s the kind of laugh that you know he comes out with at inappropriate times. He seems like the kind of guy who would use the cancer excuse to laugh at shit that to most people just isn’t funny.

 

“You trying to hide something with that stupid thing or you just like it?” he asked, nodding to my beanie.

 

I reached up and pulled it off, revealing my short buzz-cut of red hair and his eyes grew wide.

 

“That’s some bright fucking hair, Jesus, you have that before or did radiation fuck you up?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty red, I get it,” I said as I ran my fingers through it.

 

“That just ain’t natural Firecrotch,” he said and I smiled to myself at the name he gave me.

 

I looked up and he was pulling a spliff out of his pocket.

 

“So you’ve had two lots of cancer and you’re still willing to light one of those things up?” I said.

 

He rolled his eyes. “It’s medicinal.”

 

I smirked a little, “yeah, maybe, but do you have a prescription for it?”

 

He grinned and gave me the finger. “I got more if you want some.”

 

“This is all the high I need,” I said sarcastically, tapping my oxygen tube. “All I have to do to get light headed is take it off.”

 

“I got other shit, and good places to get high.”

 

“Yeah, probably not the best to mix that stuff with the cocktail of shit that I’m on.”

 

He shrugged, “suit yourself.”

 

Wait, was he asking me to hang out? I mean you don’t just offer your drugs and hangouts to someone you don’t intend on spending time with, right?

 

“We could watch a movie or something if you wanted, my brother just downloaded a bunch of new shoot-em-ups,” I suggested quickly.

 

He turned his nose up a little, his eyes wandering over to where his sister was still being mauled by her boyfriend. They kept repeating the word ‘always’ to one another.

 

“How long have they been together?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know, two weeks maybe. I wish they’d shut the fuck up though, all I ever hear is fucking always,” he rolled his eyes and put the joint behind his ear.

 

“What does it mean?”

 

“Don’t know, don’t care.”

 

“Fair enough I guess.”

 

It was at that point that Fiona pulled up in front of the curb. “Hey kiddo, you ready to go? You’ll have to kick Carl out of the front seat,” she smiled.

 

“I don’t want to sit in the back with Debbie and Liam!” Carl groaned.

 

Mickey raised an eyebrow, “this is your fucking family?” he asked.

 

“Some of them,” I grinned.

 

“Jesus,” he mumbled. “My brother’s heading out on a run tonight and Mandy’s off with that jack-hole if you want to watch some real shoot-em-ups at my place.”

 

I tried not to look so thrilled as I turned back to Fiona. “I think I’m going to go with Mickey for a while if that’s cool.”

 

She looked him up and down and then back to me with an ‘are you serious’ look and I just glared at her with wide eyes for a moment until she sighed.

 

“You better be back tonight, and call me if you need me to pick you up because you know I’ll―”

 

“I know Fiona, thanks.”

 

She pointed her finger at me and I rolled my eyes. “Be good,” she said as she drove away.

 

“You do have a car, right? I kind of suck at walking long distance.”

 

He laughed in that totally inappropriate kind of way and I smiled.

 

“Yes I have a fucking car,” he said and started walking into the car park. “You ever watch On Deadly Ground?”

 

I shook my head and followed him. I don’t know how, but something half decent actually managed to come out of this fucking support group. Who knew?

Chapter Text

Gallavich AU: The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

Chapter Three

“You are out of your mind,” he said as he walked in with a tray of food he had thrown in the oven from the freezer. “Have you seen that fuckin’ ponytail? That’s a powerful ponytail man, that’s bullshit. Seagal could totally kick Van Damme’s ass.”

 

“Unless, unless… It’s double impact Van Damme,” I said as I put the disc for the second movie, Under Siege, in the player. “Cause that’s some Van-double-Damme.”

 

He laughed and fell back into the couch, taking a sip from his beer. “Fuck Van Damme,” he said and I joined him, sitting on the opposite end.

 

The movies weren’t too bad, but if I’m honest I’m enjoying it more because he’s sitting here with me. I mean sure, he’s kind of a dick, and he tells me to fuck off a lot, but he’s willing to sit within my five-foot cancer radius which is more than most people are willing to do.

 

“You want a beer?” he asked, looking over at me for a second.

 

“Uh, yeah, sure I guess.”

 

“You do drink right, I mean it’s not like your liver is as fucked up as your lungs?” he said and I laughed.

 

“Yeah I drink, just not a lot. Didn't anyone ever tell you not to mix alcohol with your meds?” I raised an eyebrow.

 

“Doctors maybe,” he mumbled, pushing himself slowly up and walking into the kitchen to get me a beer.

 

To be fair, he hasn’t yet smoked that joint that’s still sitting behind his ear.

 

When he came back in he went to squeeze in between the coffee table and couch, slamming his right shin against the corner. He didn't even flinch as he handed me the cold bottle.

 

“Shit, didn't that hurt?” I asked and he just smirked at me as he sat down.

 

He reached down to lift up the hem of his jeans, revealing a sturdy metal pole where his leg should have been.

 

“I’m part cyborg man, fucking invincible,” he said.

 

“Clearly only after you got the leg then,” I smiled and he just laughed.

 

“Not really, I’m going for the half a man record. Only got one leg and one kidney, just waiting to see what comes next.”

 

We haven’t really talked about his cancer, just that he had it, and now I was curious.

 

“So when did you…?”

 

“You asking me when they cut off my leg?” He raised an eyebrow and I shrugged.

 

“I guess so,” I said.

 

“When I was fifteen, fucking, Osteosarcoma or some shit. Be thankful you can fucking walk man, seriously,” he said, taking a sip of his beer and sighing a little.

 

“Be thankful you can breathe,” I said, adjusting my cannula over my ear.

 

“At least your body knows how to do that even with that thing. Try learning to walk on a metal pole you can’t control. That’s some tough shit.”

 

“So, you had cancer, lost a leg, then what… picked it up again in your kidneys?” he nodded. “Then you lost one of them, and you still smoke, and drink, possibly get high off other shit too… aren’t you worried about you know… dying this time? I mean like you said, third time’s the charm.”

 

He pushed his tongue into his cheek and gave me a look that I couldn’t quite read. “Are you?”

 

“Am I what?”

 

“Worried about dying?”

 

“Well, kind of, I guess,” I said.

 

“Everyone dies, one way or another. You want to be afraid? Be afraid of everything else because you’re going to die eventually,” he turned back to the TV and I held my gaze on him for a moment.

 

He looked back and did a double take before shaking his head.

 

“So if you’re not afraid of dying then what are you afraid of?” I asked.

 

The look on his face softened, almost like he was afraid of just answering that question. Maybe he was. He didn’t get the chance to tell me to fuck off though because it was at that point that Mandy came crashing through the door.

 

“You know how fucking loud that is?” she yelled as she walked in through the front door.

 

“Yep,” he said, taking a swig of his beer.

 

She walked past him and snatched it out of his hand before realising that I was even there.

 

“Hey, Mandy!” Mickey complained.

 

“Hi, uh, who are you?” she asked, completely ignoring her brother.

 

“Ian, Gallagher… from the support group?” I said.

 

She nodded like a switch just tripped in her brain. “Right, yeah, no I remember. You’re the guy fighting for the right to swear in front of cancer kids.”

 

I grinned and looked down at the bottle in my hand. “Yeah, that’d be me.”

 

“Okay… cool, well, nice meeting you,” she said with a friendly smile before turning to solid stone while she glared at Mickey. “Can I talk to you in the kitchen?” she asked with a little upturn of her lip.

 

“You can talk to me here,” he said, staring at the TV.

 

“Get your ass into the kitchen douchebag,” she said as she stormed off in that direction.

 

“What the fuck do you want Mandy?” he called, getting up from the couch and following her in.

 

I didn’t really want to pry, well, that’s a lie. I really wanted to pry, but I didn’t because I’m a South Side kid with a half decent sense of morality. They were arguing about something though, that I could tell.

 

After a couple of minutes Mickey came back in, crashing on the couch with a huff.

 

“Missed the best fucking scene,” he grumbled, grabbing the remote to rewind the movie.

 

“Siblings huh?” I said as I held out the beer to him.

 

He just grinned and took it from me, taking a long swig.

 

I didn’t bother asking him about it. I gathered that he wasn’t much of a talker early on, so we sat and watched the rest of the movie in silence.

 

By the time it had finished it was getting late and I already had four texts from Fiona.

 

“So, why do you like those movies so much?” I asked.

 

“What? You telling me you don’t think that was a classic?”

 

“Classic action maybe,” I said, checking my phone as it buzzed again.

 

“That your sister?” he asked and I nodded. “Need a ride or what?”

 

“Yeah, it’s only about ten blocks but uh…” I tapped the bag with my oxygen tank in and he chuckled.

 

“You got yours, I got mine,” he said, kicking his shin out and into the coffee table again and I laughed. “Yo Mandy! I’m going out, you hungry?”

 

“Already ate!” she yelled back.

 

“Well come on then,” he said to me and headed for the door.

 

We argued on the drive back. He tried convincing me why all those damn Seagal movies were classic and I gave him reasons why they totally weren’t. I even believed some of them. When we pulled up outside my place I knew I had to think of a reason to talk to him again, and it was way too pathetic to use the support group excuse.

 

“Look, look,” I said, stealing him away from some point he was making. “I will watch every fucking Seagal movie you recommended right now to try and find some logic in the shit you're saying, if you watch just one movie that I consider a classic.”

 

“Oh really? Just one movie huh?” he said, cocking his eyebrow. “Well lay it on me Firecrotch, what’s your fucking classic that beats some Seagal, huh?”

 

“Dead Poets Society,” I said.

 

He scoffed, “the fuck is that about?”

 

“Watch it and you’ll find out. Trust me, it’s a classic. If you disagree you can hang it over my head for the rest of my existence, but you won't.”

 

“That a bet is it? Alright Gallagher, you got a deal. When I’m done watching your faggy-ass movie, I’ll call you to thank you for wasting two hours of my fucking life,” he said.

 

I held out my hand and he just eyed it with confusion. “Your phone dumbass, so that when you realise you were wrong about my movie you can call me and tell me about my awesome taste.”

 

He handed it over and shook his head, “awesome taste huh?”

 

I don’t know if he meant for that to be a double entendre. I don’t know if my face has ever been as red as it was in that moment either.

Chapter Text

Gallavich AU: The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

Chapter Four

Six days.

 

Six whole days since we met and he has said nothing.

 

Not a text, not a missed call – not that I would miss it if he called, I’ve been almost physically attached to the thing since then.

 

I know it’s stupid to expect him to reply soon, or even at all. He didn’t really seem like the ‘keep in contact’ type. Hell, he didn’t really seem like much of a social person at all, and still I wanted him to talk to me again.

 

I can’t explain why. I’m always attracted to the things with sharp edges.

 

I sat downstairs in front of the TV with some really crappy show on as Lip walked into the room.

 

“Another day of productive thinking?” he said with a grin.

 

“Fuck you, I’ve done all my studying. When you have nothing better to do all day it’s kind of easy to get stuff done. Do you have any idea how many books I’ve read since I got diagnosed?” I said.

 

“About as many as the rest of us combined?” Lip asked.

 

“And then some,” I said.

 

My phone vibrated loudly on the table and it’s possible that I reached for it a little too quickly, only for it to be a warning about my low battery. I grunted a little and put it back down.

 

“Waiting for something?” Lip asked, his eyebrow raised.

 

“What? No, nothing, just someone from support group,” I said.

 

“Wait, what? You actually made a friend at support group?” he sat himself down on the edge of the couch and I grumbled a little.

 

“I wouldn’t really call him a friend,” I said. “We hung out after last week’s meeting but uh, that’s about it.”

 

“You think he’s hot?” he asked with a stupid grin and I rolled my eyes.

 

“Telling you that I’m gay was probably the biggest mistake I ever made.”

 

“You didn’t tell me, remember? I found out for myself.”

 

“Yeah, I remember, trying to forget actually.”

 

“But that’s why you’re waiting for a text right? I mean I’ve never seen you move that fast in my life, let alone the last five years.”

 

“You know cancer severely limits the amount of people who want to be in my close proximity, excuse me if I’m happy to take whatever form of company I can get.”

 

“I take that as a yes,” Lip grinned and I rolled my eyes again. “Well, it’s support night tomorrow right? Just wait until then, or you could, you know, text him.”

 

“Yeah, I’m not going to do that.”

 

“Suit yourself, have fun watching… you know what I don’t even know what that is.”

 

“Yeah, me either,” I sighed and Lip left with a smile, heading out the door to wherever the hell he fancied.

 

Sometimes he doesn’t even know how easy he has it, but I’m not going to complain. People who have never had cancer had a hard time understanding what it’s like for those of us that do and I don’t begrudge them that. I’m envious of that. I wish I was one of those people just standing by and thinking about how bad those cancer kids have it before going out for a jog, or playing a sport.

 

I was about to start junior ROTC before I got diagnosed, that was sort of shot to hell pretty quickly. You can’t really do an obstacle course or run drills with and oxygen tank and a pair of shitty lungs.

 

You can’t really do much of anything with that.

 

So he didn’t text me the rest of the day, not that it really surprised me. It’s amazing that after everything I still have hope for good things. It hasn’t done me any good so far.

 

The only thing I had to hold onto was that it was support group the following night, and this time I was a little less reluctant to go.

 

“I might have been a bit firm about you getting home late last week but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want you to go out, make friends. You know that you can do that any time right? I’m sure Jimmy can get you another car,” Fiona said as we pulled up outside the church.

 

“Fiona, I know that I can probably get off the charge of grand theft auto because of the whole cancer thing, and the fact that Tony is still pining for you,” she rolled her eyes, “But it’s fine, I’m fine, okay?”

 

“We could get you a piece of shit car, legally I mean. The guys at the garage could probably do something up for you, make it run alright.”

 

“It’s okay Fiona, I know we spend all our money on me anyway, don’t start dipping into whatever Jimmy’s making for me. I’m happy, I’m taking my meds, all of them, I’m holding steady, learning stuff, I have you guys. That’s all I need.”

 

She sighed a little as she pulled into the parking lot. I saw her look over at me with her big mothering eyes and I reached out to put my hand over hers. I know that look, I know why she’s happy to offer me everything.

 

“All you gotta do is ask,” she said with a smile.

 

“I know,” I said with a smile before climbing out.

 

“If you wanna stay out―”

 

“I know, call you,” I said.

 

“Have fun!”

 

I turned around and just raised my eyebrow at her. Fun? Really?

 

I’m beginning to hate this place, it just gives me one more way to recognise that I’m one of life’s side effects. The only saving grace was when I saw Mandy standing outside with her boyfriend. It gave me hope that Mickey would be there. It also gave me ridiculously sweaty palms.

 

I walked in and took my place in the circle, looking around but there was no Mickey. It was right before Patrick started his spiel that Mandy came in, alone and adjusting her slightly dishevelled clothing. She seemed to look around the circle too, catching my eye and giving me a small smile.

 

So Patrick went on and on, the usual drone. Good news was that no one had died since last week; bad news was that I wasn’t including Patrick’s uninspiring speeches in that. Sometimes I wish he would just come up with some new material for those of us who stick it out week after week.

 

When the meeting was finally over I got up and headed outside but as I was leaving the lobby I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Mandy standing there with a tentative smile on her face.

 

“Hey, Ian right?” she asked.

 

“Yeah, hey,” I said.

 

“Not sure if you remember me from last week, I’m Mandy.”

 

“Yeah, I remember,” I nodded, “You’re Mickey’s sister.”

 

She rolled her eyes a little. “Yeah, lucky me right? I told him to get his ass down here today but clearly he doesn’t give a shit what I say.”

 

“Yeah I kind of got that,” I smiled.

 

She sent me one in return and bit her lip. “Look, about him, he’s never really been much of a people person. I only got him to come here last week because I wouldn’t get off his ass about it, and I kind of told him that I’d stop hounding him if he found a way to play nice.”

 

I saw where she was going with that. I could see it coming but I was half hoping it wasn’t really true.

 

“I’m sorry he dragged you into it, you seem really nice. Just… the thing you need to know about Mickey is that he’s a douchebag, and he probably thought if he hung out with you it would make me stop bugging him. So sorry if you thought he was… I don’t know, just don’t expect much of him because he’ll probably let you down.”

 

I shrugged and smiled weakly. “It’s alright, he seemed like a douchebag.” She laughed, and loudly.

 

“Yeah, I wish I could say it was the cancer, you know, that it got in and turned him into an asshole but he was always like that. Not surprising though, growing up in my house.”

 

“Shitty parents?”

 

“The worst,” she groaned.

 

“Yeah, I know that feeling.”

 

“See now you’re just making me feel bad for unleashing my brother on you. He should just be kept out of the general population. I’m starting to wish I never gave him that stupid kidney.”

 

You gave him your kidney?” I asked.

 

She shrugged. “Yeah, and I know it’s not technically legal for someone underage to do it, but you really don’t want to ask how we got around that. But he’s my brother and it’s not like I want him to die or anything. He’s an asshole but he’s still my brother.”

 

“Know that feeling too,” I said.

 

“So seeing as my brother is lord of the douchebags, would you be so disappointed with me as a replacement? I mean someone has to go around patching all the freaking holes he leaves.”

 

“Is that what this is? You wanna be my cancer-pity friend?” I chuckled.

 

“It is not cancer-pity!” She grinned.

 

“It so is, you think I don’t have enough of those?” I shook my head and made a ‘tsk’ sound between my lips and she just laughed.

 

“Do you?”

 

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m sort of immune to that apparently.”

 

“Okay so how about we just pretend we didn’t meet through my brother? Hey, I’m Mandy.”

 

“I’m Ian,” I said, holding out my hand for her to shake.

 

“You wanna hang out or something? We can go and watch some crappy TV.”

 

“That’s basically what all my days consist of, I could tell you exactly what’s happening on The Bold and the Beautiful right now and that frightens me.” She just laughed again and instead asked if I wanted to go get a pizza or something because her boyfriend had work until later that night.

 

So I figured why not? I mean, sure I’m disappointed. Really disappointed actually, I can’t believe how attached I had gotten to the thought of seeing Mickey again until I realised that it probably wasn’t going to happen. And it’s not like I had a bad time, Mandy’s funny and kind, a complete bad-ass if I’m honest and she sort of scares me, but she’s been around cancer long enough that it doesn’t even seem to faze her that I have a tube feeding me oxygen.

 

So maybe this support group thing wasn’t a total bust.

 

It wasn’t until four days later that things got even better.

 

My phone buzzed on the coffee table after another day watching Jerry Springer re-runs and I picked it up lazily, expecting it to be Lip or Fiona.

 

From Mickey: U got some srsly dpressin taste in movies

 

From Mickey: the fuck u wanna watch smthin like that 4

 

I just grinned down at the screen as I typed in my reply.

 

To Mickey: so you watched it? At least admit it’s a classic

 

From Mickey: classic my ass

 

To Mickey: beats any of your Seagal movies

 

From Mickey: now I know that’s bullshit

 

From Mickey: U busy?

 

I read the words twice, trying to make sure they didn’t just say what I wanted them to say. I tried to think of something clever to respond with but clearly I took too long because after a minute and a half of nothing my phone was buzzing with Mickey’s name above a red and green button.

 

In my ridiculous haste I almost swiped the wrong one.

 

“Hey,” I said casually.

 

“Seriously though, what the fuck is it with you and dying?” he said straight out and I just laughed.

 

“It’s not about dying, it’s about living.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, still depressing as shit,” he said. “So you busy or are you just taking your damn time to send a one word message?”

 

“No, no, I’m not busy. Opposite in fact.”

 

“You want to come over? Mandy’s havin’ a fucking meltdown over here. Apparently you’d make it better and not worse.”

 

It was only after he said it that I realised that someone in the background was yelling out profanities and ranting loudly.

 

“Is she okay? What happened?”

 

“Dumped by her jack-hole boyfriend. Ouch! Mandy what the fuck? Well he is a fucking asshole you’re the one who fucking said it! Hey shut the fuck up I’m trying to help you here! Fucking sisters man,” he said after yelling loudly at her.

 

“Well, I don’t have a car and my sister’s out with hers so I don’t think I can,” I said, almost thinking about calling her to take her up on that car offer.

 

“I’ll subdue Mandy and we’ll come and get you. See you in fifteen,” he said before hanging up the phone.

 

I smiled at the handset and looked down at my grey slacks and stained T-shirt. I think I need to change.

 

I headed upstairs – slowly because that’s all I can manage – and changed my clothes before leaving a note on the kitchen bench for Fiona.

 

It wasn’t long before I heard a car honking obnoxiously from out the front and I grinned to myself as I headed for the door, I couldn’t keep the damn thing off my face if I tried.

Chapter Text

I locked up behind me and saw a beat up old Buick waiting on the verge. Mickey had the driver’s side window down with his arm resting on the door frame. I couldn’t see Mandy but he just let his eyebrows shoot right up.

 

“You comin’ or you just gonna stand there all day Gallagher?” he asked with a grin.

 

I sent him one in return and walked over to the car. When I got closer I saw that Mandy was lying across the back seat with headphones in and Mickey leaned across the passenger side to open up the door.

 

I climbed in beside him and just looked back at Mandy whose lips were moving to the lyrics. Mickey must have seen me giving her a strange look and he chuckled.

 

“Subdued,” he said.

 

“I can see that, but for how long?”

 

“Not long enough,” he said and I took the first opportunity I’ve had in a week to look at him again.

 

I smiled, he did the same, raising an eyebrow and shaking his head before turning back to the road. He looked up again out of the corner of his eye and bit down on his lip to stop from laughing. That was when I finally looked away.

 

I didn’t want to be too weird.

 

“So where exactly are we―” I began.

 

“Nobody said it was easy…” Mandy sang in the backseat and Mickey laughed.

 

“Is she okay?” I asked.

 

“She’s fine, give it ten minutes and she’ll be back to swearing like a fuckin’ maniac,” he said.

 

I nodded a little. “So where are we going then?”

 

He grinned. “Somewhere she can let out her frustrations.”

 

We drove a little further, down to a patch of shrouded land under the L, parking at the side and out of sight. Mickey yelled back to Mandy who rolled her eyes and tossed the iPod against the seat.

 

Mickey rounded the car and opened up the trunk. He pulled out a handgun and loaded it up with some bullets from the box and I looked over to Mandy who gave me a sarcastic smile. Mickey turned to face me and rolled his eyes.

 

“Relax,” he said. “If she shoots up a brick wall maybe she won't get the urge to shoot whats-his-face.”

 

“You really think I was gonna shoot him?” Mandy said, smacking Mickey on the arm.

 

“I was thinking maybe you’d stab him first,” he grinned, handing her the gun. “Be careful, alright? You might be able to take a bullet or two but between me and him we’re kind of on our last legs as it is.”

 

I supressed a smile and leaned in a little closer, “leg,” I said.

 

Mandy was laughing and Mickey just raised an eyebrow and looked at me incredulously. “Hey, between the two of us we got three, alright?”

 

“Yeah but you…”

 

“Alright wise-guy, you know how to shoot?” he asked.

 

“I thought I was the one doing the shooting?” Mandy said, walking over to square up to the wall.

 

“Hey, be careful with that thing,” Mickey said.

 

“I know how to shoot,” Ian said. “I just don’t think we should get in the way of her with that thing.”

 

Mickey laughed and then the both of them flinched as the gun went off. Mandy seemed to like it, lining up and taking another shot.

 

“Easy up, wait for the train before shootin’ anymore or someone’ll call the cops,” Mickey said.

 

She rolled her eyes but did as he said, knowing he was right.

 

“You could always throw some of the old debris around while you wait,” I suggested and she shrugged, doing just that.

 

“You might want to get out of the smash zone,” Mickey said, grabbing a couple of beers out and walking over to sit by one of the pillars.

 

He slid down, holding out one of the beers for me as I went and sat beside him. We watched her walk over to some of the wooden scraps under the tracks, pick one up and scream as she tossed it against the wall. She was cursing and swearing at someone named ‘Kyle’ who I assume was her ex-boyfriend.

 

“She’s got a lot of anger,” I said.

 

“She just gets screwed over more than she’d like,” Mickey said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cigarette.

 

I looked down at the beer in my hand and when I looked back it was sitting behind his ear.

 

“So… you really watched the movie huh?” I asked.

 

“Yeah, wish I could get those two hours back,” he said, taking a sip.

 

“Oh come on, it’s a great story.”

 

“Kid gets straight A’s and goes to an expensive as private boarding school away from his shitty parents, then thinks there’s what? Something more out there? And when his parents say he can’t fuckin’ do it he offs himself?” he shrugged a little. “What the hell was the point of workin’ so hard?”

 

“That’s exactly the point though,” I said. “He was never going to be what he wanted, he knew how it felt to be free you know, to feel alive… he couldn’t go back to what he had before,” he raised an eyebrow at me. “It’s about finding something worth dying for, because you can’t bear to live without it.”

 

He nodded, chewing on his lip as he watched Mandy aim the gun, waiting until the train passed overhead before firing two more shots.

 

“Can’t be a whole movie about dyin’, that’s just depressing.”

 

“Hey, you’re the one who said we’re all going to die in the end,” I said.

 

“Yeah but that’s life, that’s the fucking truth of it,” he said.

 

“Well… okay, maybe it’s not about finding something worth dying for, maybe it’s about living, I just… I can relate to the first thing more than I can to the whole ‘living life to the fullest’ thing. I can’t do that,” I shrugged a little, looking down at my hands again as I peeled back the label on the beer.

 

“If you think about it like that you’ll just end up offing yourself somewhere in the future,” he said. “You wanna live? Drink your fuckin’ beer and I’ll load up the pistol again, then we’ll find you something to fuckin’ live for okay?”

 

I smiled a little and looked up, “You really mean that?” I gave him a goofy smile and he rolled his eyes.

 

“Fuck off,” he said.

 

We watched Mandy a little more, eventually she calmed down and grabbed a beer for herself, coming to sit down with us.

 

“I swear to god, if I have to date one more asshole…” she said.

 

“No one’s forcin’ you,” Mickey said.

 

“I just… why the fuck would you tell a person you always wanted to be with them if you were going to fuck someone else?” she took a long swig of her beer and I thought about that for a moment.

 

“Sometimes people don’t realise the promises they’re making when they make them, it’s only after that they know they never really intended to keep them, or that they even mattered at all,” I said.

 

They both stared over at me and I looked from one sibling to the other.

 

“He says shit like that,” Mickey said, taking a swig.

 

“I’ve noticed,” Mandy said.

 

We stayed out later than I had intended. I was meant to get home before it started to get dark but I’d never really done this before, and I didn’t want to be that sick kid that called it quits because his oxygen was running low or something stupid like that. Once the sun had gone down Mandy said they had better get back or their dad would go out of his mind, not with worry, but because there would be no dinner if she didn’t go home and get it done.

 

“I get the part about the asshole parents,” Mickey said as we were driving back, Mandy with the headphones in again. “From the movie,” he clarified.

 

“Yeah, that part was relatable, just… kind of in the opposite way. I mean my dad has never once told me that I needed to get a good education and do something like be a doctor,” I said, the thought of that was bordering on ridiculous.

 

Mickey snorted with laughter, “Yeah, mine would tell me how much of an idiot I was just for thinking about shit like that. Jesus Christ, I don’t think anyone from my family has even made it through high school without dropping out or getting knocked up.”

 

“You never finished school?”

 

He shook his head, “Nah, no time for that shit man, if I went back now I’d still be a fucking freshman,” he said. “You’d be what, a junior?”

 

“Actually I got my GED, thought about taking a class in something at the community college but… money’s a little tight, what with medical bills and stuff.”

 

“They really punch you in the guts with that huh,” he said. “Why would you finish school early? Shit, there has got to be some better stuff on TV.”

 

“Hey, if I finish it now then I don’t have to do any of it for the next two years… here’s hoping I last that long.”

 

“You know for someone who has a whole lot of spiritual bullshit comin’ out of him you sure are gloomy about everything.”

 

“It’s the nature of the thing I guess,” I shrugged.

 

After a few moments of silence – and me gazing gloomily out the window – he cleared his throat again.

 

“So what you doing later?” he asked.

 

“Well I have an entire evening of not-fucking-much planned, but I’m thinking I might throw in some quiet suffering and maybe even some self-pity.”

 

He laughed, “You’re a fuckin’ dork, you know that?”

 

“Yeah, I know,” I said, our eyes locked for a moment and we may have even shared a smile before he turned back to the road.

 

I couldn’t wipe mine off my face as I walked back up the porch steps of my house and through the front door. Fiona was calling my name the moment she heard it click.

 

“Ian? Ian is that you? Are you home?” she came walking in from the kitchen and pulled me into an unexpected hug.

 

“I left you a note…” I said.

 

“You know I worry when you’re out on your own,” she said, letting me go and we walked back into the kitchen.

 

“I wasn’t on my own mom,” she glared at me and I just smiled. “I was out with Mickey… and Mandy, both of them.”

 

“Wait, Mickey and Mandy Milkovich?” she asked.

 

I shrugged, “Maybe, I mean I think so, why?”

 

“I knew that kid looked familiar, I just haven’t seen him in years,” she said.

 

“Who, Mickey?”

 

“Yeah, he was I think in Lip’s class at school one year,” she said. “I don’t like you hanging around with those two.”

 

“Are you serious? Why not?” I asked.

 

“Who are these kids?” Jimmy asked from the table where he was feeding Liam.

 

“Bad news,” Fiona said.

 

“They are not bad news,” I said.

 

“Well their father is a piece of shit, in and out of prison all the fucking time, and the rest of the family are a bunch of criminals.”

 

“You realise our father is a piece of shit,” I said.

 

“Not in the same way. Look, they’ll just end up causing you trouble, and you’re not exactly healthy Ian.”

 

“I don’t feel like I’m not healthy when I’m with Mickey, he gets the whole cancer thing,” I said. “And Mandy’s great, she’s fun and friendly… I haven’t actually had friends since before I got diagnosed, you realise that right?” She looked at me with a sigh.

 

“I’m not saying you can’t see them, just… be careful, okay? You never know what kind of shit they’ll drag you into.”

 

It was hard to be mad at her, I wanted to be, but I know that she was just trying to protect me. It was the same thing that she always did, and I could never be mad at her for that.

 

She just doesn’t understand what it feels like to spend time with someone like Mickey, someone who knows what it feels like to be dying, to have life cut short and to know that the inevitable is coming, you just don’t know when. Sure, he’s in remission, but he’s stood in my shoes before.

 

And I don’t feel sick when I’m with him, he makes me forget that I’m that kid who permanently breathes through a fucking tube and has trouble getting up stairs, he can relate.

 

It also kind of helps that he’s pretty easy on the eyes, and it’s been forever since someone I found attractive has taken an interest in me, even if it is just platonic.

 

I mean, I could be wrong, it seems like there could be a spark there, but I’m not naïve enough to think that something is definitely there. I’m going to have to read the signs a lot more closely.

 

I’m also going to have to find a way to keep from texting him for the next twenty-four hours.

 

I think I need professional help.

Chapter Text

It turns out I didn’t have to find a way to stop myself because it was only two hours later that my phone buzzed with a message from him. I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face as I dropped my book and opened the text.

 

From Mickey: U got any other boring ass movies to recommend?

 

From Mickey: watched all mine like 40 times

 

To Mickey: perks of a stay at home cancer life huh?

 

I could practically hear him scoffing at me from his place.

 

From Mickey: U always got some smart ass thing to say dont U?

 

To Mickey: It’s a talent of mine

 

From Mickey: U gonna recommend a movie or do I have to do it myself?

 

To Mickey: hmm, classic movies…

 

From Mickey: that tube thing is just for show isnt it? Cancers really in your brain huh?

 

To Mickey: that was overly harsh!

 

From Mickey: fucks sake…

 

I was in the middle of typing a reply when the screen lit up, he was calling me. I answered it quickly, still smiling like a fucking lunatic.

 

“You know it’s not nice to say someone has brain cancer,” I teased.

 

“Yeah well you’re actin’ like it,” he grumbled and I just laughed.

 

“So why the need for new movies?”

 

“Told you, I finished all ours,” he said.

 

“Thought you could watch Seagal movies all year round?”

 

“Even I’ve got a limit man,” he said. “You know any good ones?”

 

“Are you going to bitch about them for eternity like you are with Dead Poets?”

 

“Probably,” he said. “If you give me a shitty movie to watch.”

 

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad!”

 

“Have you even seen it?” he quipped.

 

“Hey, could have been worse. I’m sure my younger sister has some real sappy shit on the hard drive.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, so what you got for me?”

 

I started reeling off a couple of movie titles but he was so fucking fussy. Nothing would do, and in a way it was a little aggravating, but he was still on the phone and that had to be a good sign right?

 

“Alright! Okay! No Groundhog Day, how about Legends of the Fall?” he scoffed at my selection and I grunted loudly, and now he’s laughing, like hilariously chuckling down the phone line. “What is so funny?”

 

“You’re gettin’ so worked up man. Fine, I’ll give that one a shot, eventually.”

 

“How have you not seen half these movies? They’re notoriously amazing,” I said.

 

“My dad likes Seagal movies, doesn’t really watch any of that other shit.”

 

“Just shoot-em-ups and movies with plots that could be solved in about twenty minutes but are filled with so much ridiculous violence that they drag on for at least two hours?” I asked.

 

The line was silent for a moment before I heard him shuffle in his seat. “Yeah, that’s about it.”

 

“Well you have to have at least seen Shawshank,” I said and there was more silence on his end. “Please tell me you have seen Shawshank Redemption?”

 

“What’s it about?”

 

“Holy shit, when the fuck are you free? I’m going to sit you down and make you watch that movie,” he chuckled again. “Jesus, it’s like not having seen the Green Mile.”

 

“How do you watch so much crap? I mean even with fucking cancer, how is there time to watch it all?” he said, which I take to mean ‘well, I have also not seen that one either’.

 

“It’s been like five years,” I said. “Five years of nothing but sitting in my living room on the couch with a TV in front of me. It’s not like I can do much else.”

 

“You can’t get any job or something?”

 

“I had a job for a while, down at the Kash ‘n Grab,” I said.

 

“Oh yeah, I used to steal from that joint.”

 

I laughed because of course he did. “Yeah, well, they couldn’t keep me on because I couldn’t do half of the stocktake stuff. Too many heavy boxes, bad lungs… you know the drill.”

 

“Sucks,” he said.

 

“Yeah.”

 

And we were at a crossroads again, silence – and white noise – the only things hanging on the line. I looked down at the time on the screen and it surprised me.

 

“Shit, it’s past midnight,” I said.

 

He made a grunting sound, “too late to start a fucking movie now. Damn it Gallagher.”

 

I smiled, “I’m sorry, am I keeping you from a good night’s sleep before your big board meeting tomorrow?”

 

“You’re a fucking dick,” he said, but I could hear him laughing behind it.

 

“I know,” I said. “I guess I better go, get some sleep.”

 

“Yeah, whatever,” he said.

 

I was about ready to hang up when I heard him say something else.

 

“You busy tomorrow? No doctors’ appointments or shit?” he asked.

 

“No, no, I mean yeah I’m not busy,” I stammered, scrunching up my eyes and mentally chastising myself at how stupidly available I made myself sound.

 

“I’ll come pick you up after lunch, you can give me your fucking hard drive with all the essential movies on it,” he said.

 

“Okay, they’re in a folder labelled ‘100 movies to watch before you die’,” I said and he laughed louder than I had heard all night.

 

“You really are a morbid fucker aren’t you?” he asked.

 

“I guess I am.”

 

So we hung up the phone and I dropped it on the bed beside me. I couldn’t stop smiling. Tomorrow, all I have to do is wait until tomorrow, no waiting a week for him to maybe call, no, tomorrow

 

The only problem is that instead of doing what I should be doing, namely accepting that he wants to spend time with me as a friend and leave it at that, I’m doing almost the opposite. I’m getting my hopes up for something more. If there’s one thing that having cancer teaches you, it’s that hope is more toxic than the drugs they pump into you, because if they don’t work then they don’t work, you try something else. If hope fails, then there’s nothing left.

 

If you start out without hope you can’t be disappointed. Hope is the last fucking option and it’s that one stupid thing that will make or break you. It keeps you hanging on the edge and waiting to fall back or fall over it and you never know which one it’ll be.

 

I thought I’d given up on hope but it’s not something you decide to do and then stick to, hope is that thing that creeps up on you until you give up. Believe me, I know how it feels to have no hope, to be filled with something so empty and dark that you have no idea how you move past it and keep breathing. I’ve spent days locked in that dark place with no hope.

 

The only thing that breaks through that void is finding it again.

 

Hope it toxic, because you can't have it or be without it. Either way is a fucking nightmare.

 

So I have hope, and lots of it, because Mickey is so unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He’s rough and sharp around the edges, but it’s like he’s only showing me that side of him because there’s something much softer on the inside.

 

It’s just a guess though, I might just be falling for a complete and utter jerk. The worst part is that I don’t even care, I’m just sort of invested now.

 

 

So by the time the next morning came around I was waiting until noon, and it seemed to take forever. I’d managed to weasel the hard drive out of Lip’s clutches and when I mumbled something about Mickey he’d just laughed and given in.

 

Fiona was still hanging around at about one, she didn’t start her shift until that night and she didn’t seem too impressed about me going out again. Told me that I shouldn’t be trying to do too much too fast.

 

She might be right, maybe I’m pushing myself but I know my limits. I know how far I can go, and today is a good day as far as I can tell. I actually feel half-way to normal.

 

When Mickey pulled up he just honked the horn again and I kissed Fiona on the cheek. She yelled from the kitchen for me to be back before eight and that she’d have Jimmy text her the minute I walked in.

 

I just rolled my eyes and headed out with Mickey.

 

He drove down to this old abandoned building not far from our houses and we just headed in and up to the roof. It took me a little longer, at least he could get used to his leg, learn how to use the damn thing like a semi-normal human being. My lungs were just perma-shite.

 

We took a seat in the warm afternoon sun, he took a small netbook out of his backpack and told me to shove anything good on there. I had a sneaking suspicion that the computer was probably stolen but I said nothing, we haven’t bought milk or bread in years.

 

We just sat back talking, me spouting ideas about movies and him rebutting with stupid points that actually made some sense and annoyed me because I couldn’t argue them. He seemed to find that amusing, and I like his smart-ass smile, so I let him one-up me.

 

“So how’s Mandy dealing with her break-up?” I asked as the sun got lower in the sky.

 

He shrugged, handing me another bottle. Relax, it’s a soda.

 

“Usual,” he said. “She’s pissed.”

 

“What, anger? That’s it?” I asked.

 

“See, with Mandy, she gets pissed off, but half the time that’s just her way of pretending it don’t fucking hurt. She’s either angry, or fucking depressed, and she just acts pissed no matter which one of those it is,” he said. “It’s easier to be angry than it is to be sad, more to be angry about and more people to take it out on. No one wants to listen to anyone crying but they’ll fight you ‘til they can’t fucking speak anymore. Just what it’s like at my house.”

 

He lay back against the warm concrete and I did the same, looking over at him as he stretched out, his shirt pulling up a little at his waist and I tried not to let the sight of his bare skin distract me, but it did.

 

“She’s always in a mood about somethin’ though,” he said with another shrug. “Just the nature of it all, huh?”

 

“That’s the thing about pain,” I said quietly. “It demands to be felt.”

 

“Demands to be felt, huh?” he said with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Yeah, I mean you can hide from it, take different paths or try and avoid it but in the end it always finds you. It demands that you feel it, it’s one of life’s great inevitabilities. You will feel pain, and it will fucking hurt, no matter how tough or strong you are. You can’t hide from pain forever, just makes it worse, you know?”

 

“You spend a lot of time thinking about shit like this don’t you?”

 

I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess I do. It’s just a hopeless way of trying to understand why I’m the one with cancer while everyone else gets to live their lives like they were meant to. It sucks, and it’s not fair, and while they all have to feel the pain of my cancer, none of them understand it like I do.”

 

He nodded, “Mandy’s like that,” he said. “I mean sure it affects her more than my fucking dad, even my brothers sometimes, but she doesn’t know shit about what it means to be fucking dying.”

 

“They try to understand, but shit I hate it when they say that. ‘I understand what you’re going through,’” I scoffed. “I know they’re only trying to be supportive but you’re right, they don’t know shit. I’m an almost seventeen year old kid who’s gonna die.” I swallowed hard. “I’m going to die before I do anything worth doing before you die, and I can't even do half the shit I want to because we can't afford it or I physically can’t do it with my shitty lungs.”

 

“My shitty leg…” he added and I smiled.

 

“Your shitty leg,” I said and then I sighed. “Makes it worse when the people around you waste the good fucking lives they have been stubborn jerks. My brother is like genius smart, he could get a full ride into the college of his choice but he’d rather piss up his life down here in the South Side.”

 

“My stupid fucking sister, she always looks for the fucking douchebags to bring home and then she gets fucking stomped on. Afraid she’s gonna get left in this shit-hole if she doesn’t find someone soon,” he said, putting both hands behind his head and stretching out. “She’s got the fucking chance to do something but she’s too busy screwing herself over to realise it.”

 

“We’re just the unlucky ones I guess.”

 

“What’s luck got to do with it?” he scoffed.

 

“Everything in the whole fucking world is just random selection. We got cancer and we were born on the South Side, some people get born to fucking movie stars. And then if that’s not enough, where we get stuck shapes us into being something else entirely. Side effects of life.”

 

“What the fuck does that mean?”

 

“We’re all side effects of something Mickey,” I said. “Whether it’s the piece of shit town we live in or the varied process of human genetic mutation, we are, and that is more the truth than anything else.”

 

He gave a snort of laughter. “Yeah well if that’s the truth then I’m a side effect of shitty contraception.”

 

I snorted even louder and we both laughed.

 

“Not true Mick… you’re a side effect of no contraception.”

 

I laughed harder and he shook his head.

 

“Yeah well if that’s mine then we can be fucking side effects together,” he said.

 

“Together?” I asked and he nodded.

 

“Together.”

 

I laughed a little more, softer this time and closed my eyes.

 

“Maybe ‘together’ will be our always,” I said without thinking.

 

Holy fuck, did that really just come out of my mouth?

 

“What did you just say?” Mickey asked, turning his head to look over at me with a cocked eyebrow. I just bit down on my lip to stop anything worse slipping out as I shook my head. “How about ‘fuck you’? How’s that?”

 

“Fuck you?” I said, almost as a question.

 

“Yeah, fuck you,” he said it as though he meant it to be harsh or spiteful, but it seemed to come out in more of a playful way.

 

I turned to face him too, my eyes scanning his face. “Sounds good to me,” I said with a small shrug and for a moment he just stared at me.

 

Then a grin seemed to wash over him and he shook his head in his usual ‘fucking Gallagher’ way.

 

“Fuck you,” he said, a little softer this time as he lay back again and closed his eyes, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

Chapter Text

Gallavich AU: The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

Chapter 7: Unexpected Events

We sat around talking some more, arguing I think you would call it, bickering maybe. It was starting to get late and I know that Fiona worries when I’m out, but I told her where I was going or at least who I was going with.

 

Mickey kept taking out his rolled cigarette and holding it between his lips, pretending to smoke it but never once going for a lighter. By the time the sun was setting he was laid back on the floor, cigarette in mouth and going on about some video game that I’ve never heard of.

 

I just watched him as he talked, his shirt pulling up at his waist and his shorts already hanging low on his hips. He seemed pretty fit for a guy that’s limited in the physical exercise sense, and the way his muscles flexed had me mesmerised.

 

I might have cancer but shit, I’m still a fucking teenager.

 

Took me a moment to realise that he was still talking.

 

“… but I mean it’s pretty new. Nothin’ like fuckin’ GTA where you can run over whores if they won't suck you off but it’s got some interesting shit,” he said with a chuckle.

 

“Is that what GTA is like? I’ve never played,” I said.

 

He laughed, “Played with my cousin, all he did was go around fuckin’ the prostitutes and then killing them to get his money back. He’s in prison now though,” I couldn’t help but laugh at that sentence.

 

I don’t know what came over me after that, I just… I had to try something, just to see if my instincts have been wrong about him, and maybe he’ll just tell me to fuck off like normal, but I had to try.

 

“So aside from the virtual world…” I began, fiddling with my hands in my lap as I looked down at him. “You ever uh…”

 

He opened his eyes and looked up at me, propping himself up on his elbows. “I ever what?”

 

“You ever fuck anyone?” I asked and god do I wish I could just take it back because this feels awkward as shit.

 

He raised an eyebrow before scoffing a little, “Nah, no one digs a guy with one leg man. It’s like I’m right in the middle of the ‘not getting’ any’ circle.”

 

“Well how about a uh, I mean what about―”

 

“You askin’ if I’ve ever got a hummer?” he said and I just shrugged. “I got one leg and fucking cancer man, ain’t no one wants to suck on a cancer pop.”

 

I laughed because that is the strangest way I’ve ever heard anyone describe it. “Fair enough,” I said, going back to fiddling with my hands.

 

I could feel his eyes on me but I couldn’t look up. After a few moments he asked a tentative question. “How ‘bout you?”

 

I shrugged before shaking my head, “No, I never got one.” I said and he turned away, looking out and away from the bright setting sun. “Given a few though,” I added and his head snapped over to me.

 

I saw him look me up and down a moment before he spoke.

 

“Given huh? You mean like to a girl…?” he asked slowly.

 

“You know what I mean,” I said, looking up and our eyes locked and then I could feel something different to before.

 

There was some kind of heat there, hanging in the air between us. His tongue slowly grazed his bottom lip and I know he saw my eyes drop as I watched him do it. He was just looking at me still, this unreadable expression on his face.

 

He knew, he knew exactly what I had meant and his eyes were running down my body and back up again until he met my gaze and what the hell, I’m trying something here.

 

I reached out slowly, like I was about to pet a wild animal and not run my hand over Mickey’s thigh. I made contact and felt him flinch but he didn’t stop me as I put my hand flat against his leg, swallowing hard at the needy look on his face.

 

And then it turned to shit.

 

My phone started ringing loudly, making both of us jump back and I grunted a little in frustration as I fished around in my pocket for the damn thing.

 

“Sorry,” I mumbled as I pressed the answer button and held the phone to my ear.

 

“Yeah?” I said.

 

“You are going to be home for dinner aren’t you? I’m leaving soon and Jimmy’s making food I just wanted to make sure,” Fiona’s voice came ringing through and I just sighed.

 

“Yeah Fiona, I’ll be home, I did tell you that,” I said.

 

“I know you did Ian but it’s getting later, I’m just making sure you’re coming home.”

 

“Of course I am Fiona, what else would I be doing?” I asked and the phone went silent on her end. “Okay, okay, look do I need to send you texts every few hours to let you know what I’m going to be doing? Will that help?” I said in an exasperated tone.

 

“I’d appreciate it, yeah,” she said.

 

“Okay, I will, and I promise I’ll be home soon, alright? And tell Jimmy that I’ll text you when I get there so he doesn’t have to.”

 

“Thanks Ian, love you,” she said.

 

“You too,” I said as I hung up and sighed.

 

“Your sister?” Mickey asked, looking away from me and fiddling with the joint behind his ear.

 

“Yeah, she’s a little paranoid.”

 

“About?” he asked.

 

I shrugged a little, biting my tongue. “Just about me running out of oxygen or you know, getting too tired, or fainting or something like that.”

 

“Mandy does that, I mean she waits until it’s past ten to call but whatever,” he said, his body turning away and I just sighed.

 

He rolled onto his front and pushed himself up until he was standing, I just sat there looking at him.

 

“Come on, I’ll drive you home,” he said, grabbing his backpack without looking at me.

 

“She can wait, it’s fine. I told her I’d text when I got home,”

 

“Gotta get back anyway,” he said, giving no reason, though I’m afraid that I already know what it is.

 

“You sure?” I asked.

 

“Get your ass up Gallagher, I ain’t gonna wait all day,” he said, rubbing his thumb across his bottom lip before starting to walk towards the stairs.

 

I watched him walk away and sighed, getting myself up and dragging my oxygen along behind me as I followed.

 

The car ride was mostly silent, except for the trashy music playing through the speakers. I sat there staring straight out the windscreen, sometimes I turned to look at him but he was as stony faced as ever and I swear he was trying to do anything but look over at me.

 

What the fuck were you thinking??

 

We pulled up out front of my house and I looked over at him. He was biting his lip and staring down at the steering wheel. I just sat there for a moment, like an idiot. He didn’t ask me to leave, he didn’t actually say anything.

 

So, like the idiot I am, I nodded a little and opened the door to get out. I grabbed the oxygen tank and stepped out onto the pavement. I opened my mouth to say something – anything – and he just adjusted the gears.

 

“See ya,” he said as he put his foot down on the gas and sped off up the road.

 

“Bye,” I said after him and sighed, heading up the porch and inside.

 

As I walked into the kitchen Carl and Debbie were yelling at one another about Carl eating her fucking potatoes or something. Lip was eating his dinner and trying not to laugh, and Jimmy is trying to get Liam to eat. I think Jimmy has some kind of meat in his hair.

 

“Welcome home,” Lip said with one of his trademark grins.

 

“What the hell happened?” I asked.

 

He ate the best bit of my dinner off my plate and he won't even apologise for it!” Debbie yelled, giving Carl a death glare.

 

He just laughed, his mouth full and he may have even been drooling.

 

“Well Debs, they say don’t get mad, get even,” I said, heading off up the stairs.

 

“Hey! Ian, wait! Text Fiona!” Jimmy called and I just rolled my eyes because all I feel like doing right now is getting into bed.

 

Sometimes everything around me distracts me from the fact that I’m actually so exhausted all the time. Usually I’m thankful for that.

 

It was a few minutes after I got into bed that I sent Fiona a message saying I was home. She sent one back with a smiley face and I just put the phone down on the table and rolled onto my back with a sigh.

 

I heard a knock at the door and Lip poked his head through, “Hey, you okay?” he asked and I just let out a groan.

 

“Really wish people would stop asking me that,” I said, sitting up a little.

 

He smiled, “I’ll remember that next time.”

 

“No you won't,” I scoffed and he shook his head as he sat down on the end of the bed.

 

“You’re probably right, so how about you answer the question?”

 

“Lip, I’m good, just had to walk a whole bunch of stairs today and I’m tired. Also I don’t want to be falling asleep down there so that Jimmy can tell Fiona that I don’t look so good. Last thing I need is her taking time out from working so she can watch me. I already drain the squirrel fund as it is,” I said with a sigh.

 

“Hey, no one cares about that. You do know that right? Pretty sure paying for your meds is more important than anything else we could spend it on,” Lip said.

 

“Yeah well, so long as Frank stops dropping babies on the doorstep I think we’ll manage,” I said with a roll of my eyes because it was only half sarcasm.

 

Lip chuckled a little. “Yeah, guess so.”

 

“Can you do me a favour?” I asked and Lip just looked up at me. “Can you tell Mandy at school tomorrow that I can held her with her English paper? Her phone’s kind of broken.”

 

“Milkovich? That Mandy?”

 

“Yes, that Mandy, you know which Mandy,” I said.

 

“How’d she break her phone?”

 

“Pretty sure she threw it at her ex-boyfriend’s head,” I said.

 

He nodded, “Right, sure. Why don’t you get her brother to tell her? Weren’t you just with him?”

 

I shrugged. “We don’t really talk about her.”

 

“Oh, well what is it that you do talk about?” he asked with his smug face.

 

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t you have something better to do that to bother me?”

 

He just grinned and tapped my foot twice before he got up to leave. It didn’t take long to fall asleep after that, I just wish that I could focus on something other than my royal fuck up with Mickey.

 

 

 

The next day was like any other to start with. I watched some TV, ate about three bowls of cereal and had Fiona faff all over me in between her two jobs. It was just me alone, Jimmy had taken Liam out to some pre-school thing and the house was quiet.

 

It was actually sort of bizarre.

 

It was just after lunch when I had got up for my fourth bowl of cereal when I heard a knock on the door. It was strange, usually it was either someone we knew, in which case they just barged right in, or someone we didn’t, in which case Carl or Fiona went straight for the bat, but a knock?

 

I walked towards the door and opened it, surprised to see Mickey standing on the porch steps.

 

“Mickey?” I asked and he just bit his lip a little before shoving past me and walking inside.

 

I just shrugged and shut the door, following him into the kitchen.

 

He seemed agitated and I’m afraid to ask why, I’m afraid to ask him anything. I just walked over to lean on the bench and watched as he paced about a little.

 

“Mickey?” I asked again and he turned to face me.

 

He walked over, breathing heavily as he did and for a second I thought he was going to punch me. His eyes scanned mine, dropping to take in my face, my chest, and then looking back up at me with an eager gaze.

 

His hands reached out to brace against the counter on either side of me and – holy shit is this actually happening?

 

I swallowed hard and my breathing got shallow as he pressed his hips against mine and let me feel the heat inside them.

 

Holy fucking shit.

 

I must have just stood there for a few seconds in shock because he gave me this look like ‘come the fuck on Gallagher’ and my shaking hands lifted to rest on his hips as I pulled him in closer – if that was even possible.

 

He let out a small groan and licked his bottom lip. I leant in for a moment, trying to catch his lips between mine but his forearm was pressed firmly across my chest in an instant and his hips had stilled.

 

He looked at me menacingly and just breathed in a few times before he said anything.

 

“Kiss me and I’ll cut your fucking tongue out,” he said and I just nodded.

 

His arm slipped down, his fist balling up my shirt as he gave another roll of his hips and I gasped a little as I pushed back.  His other hand reached up to hold my neck and I closed my eyes. He felt so good pressed up against me and I was just praying that my shitty lungs didn’t screw up this moment for me.

 

I shoved him backwards, turning him so I could be the one pinning him to the bench, adjusting my cannula and hooking my finger into the band of his jeans. I pulled him closer as I thrust against him and it felt like seconds before his hand was slipping into my sweats and stroking around my length.

 

It took me by surprise and my movements hitched before I held back, letting him jerk me off. He was watching my reaction, I could see that, and holy fucking shit this is like a fucking dream.

 

He grabbed one of my hands and pressed it against his crotch and I pulled back, looking down before fumbling with his buckle. He rested his hands against the bench to give me better access and to be honest, I was pretty slow and I fumbled a lot but I got down on my knees as I pulled down the zip.

 

I inched his jeans down over his thighs but before I could get any further he grabbed my wrist roughly.

 

“Far enough,” he panted, “just go.”

 

I lifted the hem of his shirt a little before doing just that.

 

Come on lungs, keep your shit together for like ten minutes.

 

His head fell back and his knuckles went white as they gripped the counter. His mouth dropped open and the sound that came out just made me want to keep going. So I did, and I was probably focussing too much on making sure I wasn’t going to pass out but then I would hear him groan low in his throat and it brought me back.

 

I had to stop for a moment to catch my breath and one of his hands reached out to touch my hair and I thought he was going to pull me back in.

 

“You good?” he asked.

 

I just nodded, getting to my feet and wrapping my hand around him. He did the same and we were only stood there a minute, if that, before I felt him getting close. His hand became erratic in its movements as he came into my fist and I wasn’t long to follow.

 

I had to steady myself, my head was starting to feel dizzy but I felt his hand on my hip keeping me still as we both tried to recover.

 

He grinned and laughed a little. “Damn, fuck you Gallagher,” he said and took the paper towel that I offered him.

 

“Fuck me?” I asked with a smile and a raised eyebrow.

 

He nodded, his smile a little softer this time. “Fuck you,” he said.

 

“Fuck you too,” I said.

 

Our eyes locked for a moment and I almost thought about leaning in and trying to kiss him again. Only it was then, when we were still partially undressed that the back door swung open and Jimmy came in holding Liam at arm’s length and yelling as he ran to the downstairs bathroom.

 

“No Liam! Wait just five more seconds!” he yelled before they both disappeared behind the door.

 

Mickey and I just stared at the door for a second and then at each other before quickly pulling back on and straightening out any scruffy clothing.

 

Mickey looked totally freaked but when Jimmy came out with a big sigh he just gave us a look of confusion.

 

“What? We’re in the middle of a potty-training cycle. We really can’t risk breaking it,” he said, nodding seriously and I saw Mickey raise an eyebrow.

 

“Your shirt’s covered in toddler piss,” he said.

 

“Oh I know,” Jimmy said. “It’s better than the alternative.”

 

Mickey thought about it for a second and then shrugged. “Gotta get going,” he said.

 

“Really? I mean you don’t want to stay and watch a movie or something?” I asked hopefully.

 

“Nah, gotta take my brothers on a beer run anyway,” he said.

 

“Okay,” I nodded.

 

“I’ll text you or somethin’ next time I’m comin’,” he said with a smirk and I shook my head a little as he shrugged again. “You know, instead of just showing up.”

 

“Yeah Mick I know,” I said and he headed off, back out the way he came and shut the door behind him.

 

I was still watching the spot where he had just been when Jimmy started talking to me.

 

“You okay Ian?” he asked and I grunted a little as I turned to him and nodded.

 

Well, that definitely proves that this wasn’t a dream, just that it was the best unexpected afternoon I’ve ever had.

Chapter Text

Gallavich AU: The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

Chapter Eight: Decoding Delinquents

That night I sat in my usual spot at our perfectly ordinary Gallagher dinner table with people shouting and Carl flicking his peas and Liam smashing his hands in his mashed potatoes. I couldn’t help staring at that spot in the kitchen, imagining the way his white knuckles had gripped the bench top while I was on my knees in front of him, remembering the sounds that had come out of his mouth.

I mean sure, we almost got caught by Jimmy but he’s mostly oblivious to anything that doesn’t involve Fiona, or lately, Liam.

But my lungs didn’t crap out on me and that’s probably the only decent thing they’ve ever done for me since diagnosis.

I must have been just picking at my food because when I snapped back to reality I caught Fiona’s worried gaze.

“Not hungry?” she asked over the general rumble of dinner conversation – if you could call it that.

“Oh, just, taking it slow, you know,” I said and she gave me a smile.

“I can make you something else?” she offered but I shook my head.

“No, Fiona, don’t worry about it. I’m just slow tonight, okay?”

She sighed a little and nodded.

It doesn’t matter how many times I say ‘don’t worry’ because she always will, just like it doesn’t matter how many times people ask if I’m okay because ultimately, I’m not.

I offered to clean up after dinner and Lip just grinned, pretending that he couldn’t hear Fiona when she yelled at him to help so she enlisted Carl to dry. He wasn’t too happy but he wiped the dishes with a scowl on his face anyway.

I scrubbed down the mashed potato pot, trying to get the blackened bits off the side. I have no idea what happened in this pot but I’m not sure I want to either.

Carl sighed loudly as he dried one of the dinner plates and I looked over at him with a smile.

“You got something on your mind Carl?” I asked.

“Got detention the rest of the week and I have to tell Fiona,” he grumbled.

“Ouch,” I said. “What did you do?”

“Punched a kid in the face,” he said, grinning a little.

“Okay, why?”

“Because he’s a douche,” he said and I laughed.

“That’s not a reason to deck someone Carl,” I said.

“You sound like my teacher,” he said.

“Yeah probably, but you know you should probably do that outside of school, then they can’t punish you.”

“They can’t?”

“I don’t think so, just find out which way they walk home and do it then. You know, so long as you’re a faster runner.”

“Cool,” he said, a plan clearly formulating in his head and I really hope Fiona doesn’t find out that I just told him that.

We finished up and I made my way to my room to finish reading a chapter of my latest book. I’m not usually a reader but these last five years I’ve needed something to do for hours at a time and we’re not exactly in the right socio-economic state to afford an iPad or some bullshit like that. Instead, Carl’s been stealing books from the library for me since this whole thing started.

See, Carl is one of those kids that people look at and see the next big loser with his life going nowhere, probably going to end up in prison for one thing or another. That’s not him at all. I mean, he does some stupid shit, really stupid shit, but he would do anything for his family.

He feels kind of guilty about my cancer, that’s why he steals me books every chance he gets.

I should probably explain that.

Back before I was diagnosed, Frank made up this story to Carl about how he caught cancer from grandma Gallagher. We didn’t know about it at the time, it was only after it happened that we realised what he’d done.

He saw this story on the news about how a kid got some sweet shit for being sick with cancer and at that point none of his kids were dying, well not that we knew of, so he picked Carl to make up this whole elaborate scheme to.

Of course he believed it, he was only a kid, still is. Frank went all out, shaved his head and told him it was to let the sun’s rays in, healing powers and all. He even took him down to try and get him to a basketball game to get some merchandise but it was too late in the season.

In the end, Carl ended up going to some cancer camp and Fiona lost her shit at Frank. He didn’t live with us for a while after that, but he came back. He always does.

Anyway, when I got diagnosed not long later, Carl thought I had caught it from him. He felt so bad that I lived with a permanent buzz-cut for years because he thought it would help to heal me like it healed him. I didn’t even mind, I just hated that Frank had made him feel like my cancer was his fault.

I’m pretty sure Fiona’s talked to Carl about it, told him that he never really had cancer and that Frank is just a liar and a drunk, but still, I get a book every few weeks because he wants to do something.

He doesn’t understand that you can’t just punch your classmates in the face when you feel like it, but compassion? When it comes to his family he would do anything. Even for Frank.

As I was finishing off my chapter I heard a knock at the door and Lip opened it up without waiting for my reply.

“You know, when you knock you’re supposed to wait for the person to say ‘come in’ or something like that, otherwise the whole act of knocking is kind of pointless,” I said with a grin.

“Oh come on, it’s not like you were jacking off or anything,” he said.

“How would you know? Can you see through doors now?”

“Nope, but the walls are like paper,” he said.

“I know, you realise I was in this house, in this very room, for almost the entire time you were dating Karen?” I said with a raised eyebrow. “I know the walls are like paper.”

“So what had you all weird at dinner?” he asked and I rolled my eyes.

“Why you asking me that? Did Fiona send you in here?”

“No, not this time,” he said. “You were just off in fantasy land is all.”

“It’s better there than in this shithole,” I said and he laughed.

“Not wrong.”

“You given any more thought to going to college yet?” I asked and he just scoffed.

“How many times do I gotta say I’m not going to college?” he said. “I’ll just get a job and help pay for some of the shit around here, help Fiona out a little.”

I dropped my gaze, he would never say it but I know that one of the reasons he’s being a stubborn ass about college is because he knows we could be even slightly better off if he just found a steady labour job to help pay some medical bills. We’d be fine without it, and it would mean he could do something with his intellect, but like I said, he’s a stubborn ass.

“Don’t be an idiot,” I said. “If I was as smart as you I’d sure as hell get myself into a scholarship. I wouldn’t be wasting my time around here bitching and moaning.”

“Yeah, but you’re not as smart as me, or else you might have figured it was a good idea to stay away from that Milkovich kid.”

“What did Jimmy tell you?” I asked.

Lip shrugged, “Not much, said he was around here today. You know his dad’s a fucking psycho right?”

“Fiona said exactly the same thing,” I said. “Mickey’s not psycho, he’s just…”

“An angry asshole with a Napoleon complex?” Lip said.

I shook my head, “Okay now I know Fiona sent you in here.”

“She’s just worried about you man, doesn’t want you to take unnecessary risks,” he said, leaning against the wall.

“Getting kind of sick of being told what risks I can and can’t take,” I sighed.

“She wants you to have fun, just…”

“Not the kind of fun the rest of you get to have?” I asked and he raised an eyebrow at me.

“What does that mean? What kind of fun are we having that you aren’t?” he said with a smirk and I just rolled my eyes, flopping down onto my side with a groan.

“You’re an asshole Lip!” I grumbled and he just chuckled.

“Hey, I don’t want to know what kind of fun you’re having anyway, so long as you’re using a raincoat!” he said as he headed out the door.

He’s full of laughs my brother.

 

 

It wasn’t until two days later that I heard from Mickey again, this time via Mandy. She called me up, clearly bored of Mickey’s shit.

She invited me over and I heard Mickey shouting belligerently in the background, and that was probably the biggest selling point of the call.

“You busy? Shit, I mean, you’re probably not,” she said and Mickey made a scoffing sound.

“Dumbass what the fuck do you think he does all day?” he shouted.

Shut the fuck up asshole!” Mandy yelled and I held the phone away from my ear.

“No, I’m not busy,” I chuckled. “Why what’s up?”

“Latest season of the Walking Dead, Iggy stole it and it’s all high def and shit,” she said.

“Yeah, sure, I’ll be over soon,” I said.

“Tell him to bring food,” Mickey yelled.

“I said shut up asshole! Ignore my brother, I do.”

I was up and on my way as soon as I’d hung up the phone, and though that sounds like I could get there in about ten minutes it actually took me over half an hour and that was even with Jimmy lending me the car.

When I knocked on the door Mandy yelled from inside and I just let myself in. She was sitting on the floor with a beer in her hand and Mickey was stretched out over the couch.

“We started without you,” she said. “We’re only about ten minutes in, you’ll just have to kick Mickey’s ass off the couch.”

“My ass ain’t going anywhere,” he said, taking his eyes off the screen to look up at me.

Our gaze locked for a moment before I smiled a little and he rolled his eyes, turning back to the TV.

“I can just sit near your feet,” I said and he watched me carefully as I walked over to the other end of the couch.

“It’s okay you can just sit on his right foot,” Mandy said with a grin and Mickey reached out to tap the back of her head.

“I’m good with the couch cushion, looks less painful,” I said and Mickey bit his lip, looking over at me with a smug grin.

“What, you not into that?” Mickey said and I flipped him off.

I’m beginning to wonder if anything can come out of Mickey’s mouth that isn’t a profanity or a dirty pun. I’m also wondering what he’s willing to put into it, but that’s a whole other train of thought that I’m not going to get into. At least not right now.

We made it through two and a half more episodes before Mickey got restless.

“Yo Mandy, thought you said you were going to make pizza bagels,” he said.

“You ate like an hour ago,” Mandy groaned. “What the fuck do you do with your food?”

“It was like four hours ago dipshit, we got through all these fucking episodes since I ate, plus Gallagher might fade away without it,” he said, jabbing his thumb in my direction.

Mandy turned around to look at me. “You hungry Ian?”

I was about to open my mouth when Mickey cut me off. “He’s hungry,” he said.

“I’m not your fucking slave asshole,” she snapped.

“I could go make something,” I offered with a small smile because from the look of these two anyone would think that they hated each other.

“No,” they both said in unison.

I raised an eyebrow and they looked at one another before Mandy rolled her eyes and stood up. “I’m only doing this because I’m starving not because you’re a bossy douchebag.”

As she headed into the kitchen my eyes followed her until they settled on Mickey, sat on the opposite end of the couch and looking right back at me.

Don’t be awkward, don’t be weird… don’t get a half chub from the fact that his eyes are basically tearing your clothes off…

That last part wasn’t working, quite the opposite really.

He lifted his legs – sorry, leg – off the couch and stretched out, his back cracking in about four different places. He stood up and walked over to the door at the front of the hallway, stopping to turn back and look at me.

He didn’t say anything but he gave a suggestive nod of his head in the direction of the door and I was up in about half a second – which is actually more impressive than it sounds for me.

I followed him into the room behind the door with the words ‘stay the fuck out’ scrawled onto a sign on the front. He looked around the corner to see that Mandy was on her phone at the same time as she was putting things onto a tray and then shut the door behind us.

My heart was practically audible as it pumped inside my chest and when he turned around to look at me I just kind of froze. I could see him breathing heavily and his tongue darted out to run over his bottom lip as his hands reached for his belt and he began to unbuckle.

My hands were quick to my own belt as he was easing his jeans over his hips, I fumbled and he reached out to grab me by the shirt, yanking me in closer. The oxygen at my side nearly fell over and I had to let go of my stubborn belt buckle to catch it but it didn’t seem to deter Mickey.

His hands were at my belt in an instant and I bit down on my lip so I wouldn’t make a sound. His hand reached into my boxers and he wrapped his fingers around my stiffening cock, giving it a squeeze and a quick few pumps as I tried to reach for him too.

His jeans had slipped down his thighs and I could see him parting his legs to stop them from going any further. I slipped my fingers under the band of his boxers and changed my tactic, I let my hand slide around his hip bone and down over his ass, giving it a squeeze, and he pulled his hand out of my boxers so he could do the same, pulling me into him and grinding with his hips.

My spare hand braced the door and I could feel his hot breath on my face before I looked up at him. He gave me a look that said ‘don’t even fucking try to kiss me’ and I just closed my eyes instead as he rolled his hips.

I could feel his chest against mine and his fingernails digging into my skin, and the only bad thing about it was that I had to keep reminding myself to breathe evenly.

There is nothing sexy about turning blue and passing out.

He took one hand away from me and I opened my eyes to see him put one finger in his mouth, suck it down a little and then slip his hand into the back of my boxers. His wet finger rubbed against my entrance and the gasp that came from my lips was definitely louder than it should have been.

As he slid his finger around the tight ring of muscle I saw him smirk.

“See, I knew you’d be into that…” he panted, and I just bit down harder on my lip.

With his other hand he grabbed my wrist, pulling it away from him and I knew what he wanted before he had the chance to say anything.

I took my middle finger into my mouth, swirling my tongue around it a few times before taking it out. Mickey pulled away from me, holding up his jeans and turning so his back was to me. He pulled the boxers down so they sat mid-thigh with his jeans and I think I might have spent too long staring at his ass, which, I have to say, looked completely perfect.

“The fuck are you waiting for,” he said.

I grabbed his hip with one hand, the other I slipped my finger between his ass cheeks and circled his hole slowly, making him ball up his fists against the door. I pushed just the tip of my finger inside him and the sound he made was exquisite.

Spit didn’t exactly do much good as lube, but for one finger it would do, and as tight as Mickey was, it wasn’t hard to figure out that this wasn’t the first time he’s done this. Though I imagine the other times he’d done it himself.

I pushed in a little further, curling the tip a little and making him push back against me.

“Seems like you’re sort of into it too,” I said, careful not to use too much breath.

“Shut up,” he said hoarsely. “Go faster.”

I pushed my finger in all the way to the hilt, curling it a little more as I pushed back and forward. His head leant against the door and I could see him holding back so that he didn’t make a sound. The only sound that came from the room was from our heavy breathing.

I reached down to wrap my fingers around my own length, the way Mickey was pushing back against my other hand was enough that I needed to do something.

Fuck,” Mickey hissed, letting me curl my finger a few more times before pulling away, turning around and swatting at my hand.

I used one hand to hold firmly to his ass while I pumped the other quickly around his cock and his hand was doing the same on mine.

Breathe, just fucking breathe, don’t forget how to fucking do that!

Mickey’s jaw went slack and he dropped his head, his hand working faster around me and it didn’t matter how close he was because I was right there with him.

A strangled groan escaped my lips and that was when I felt him come undone in my hand, and I followed only a few seconds after. My spare hand lifted to the door to balance myself and I felt one of Mickey’s hands wrap around my waist, holding me up as my dizziness took over for a moment.

As the aftershocks passed by I felt him pull away, chuckling a little to himself as he reached over to the bedside table to grab a handful off tissues. I did the same and he just stared at me a little before buckling up his pants and walking past me and out the door.

I don’t know if he’s going to get easier to understand, but as long as he gives me the chance I guess I can learn to live with that.

I cleaned myself up and buckled up, taking a moment to catch my already shaky breath before walking out of the room. Mickey was back on the couch and Mandy was still in the kitchen, sitting on the bench with her phone in her hands.

I don’t know how long we were in that bedroom but clearly she didn’t notice.

I took my seat on the end of the couch and turned my head to look at Mickey who had his eyes firmly glued to the TV.

No, I don’t think he’s going to get any easier to decipher.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks followed in a similar kind of pattern. I saw Mickey every few days, maybe a little more spread out when I had doctor’s appointments.

It was always the same, we’d chat a little, act like we had the first few times we’d hung out, and then it would progress to frantic pawing at each other and ultimately my lips around his cock.

I’m not saying Mickey’s selfish in the orgasm department, I always get mine, but he seems almost scared of doing anything other than using his hands.

And not scared like the rest of the population, not scared of ‘catching the cancer’ from the sick kid, but I think he was scared that doing anything else would mean he was actually into guys.

Though I have to say, being that eager to have another guy on his knees in front of you and taking two fingers up the ass as well as he did… sort of exceptionally gay.

I didn’t push it though, as much as I would love to do more with him, as much as I wish he wouldn’t look at me like he was about to kill me when I even looked at his lips for too long, he has his boundaries.

I mean, I am not complaining, not in the slightest. This is the first time in a long time that anyone has even looked at me twice – in a good way.

It’s been going well enough that I didn’t want things to change. I wanted things to stay on a level playing field, no bumps, no ditches, nothing. That’s why I didn’t say a word about my birthday.

Seventeen, finally.

We’re having some kind of family celebration in the evening, mostly drinking and dancing and the likes. Not for me obviously, like Fiona would let me do too much of that, even on my birthday, but Debbie did promise to make a cake when she got home from school.

I think Carl said he could steal some candles, and I know Fiona had a problem with that, last thing anyone needed was Carl having quick access to candles and lighters or anything even remotely flammable.

Anyway, birthdays make things weird. I’ve always found them weird and I can’t explain it. Maybe for me it’s because everyone acts like it’s such a huge feat to have made it through another year. I guess it kind of is, but I don’t really want to be reminded that no one expected me to achieve it.

I was hanging out with Mickey and Mandy in the morning, shooting up some cardboard cut-outs under the tracks again. It was nothing special, and I had done everything possible to keep my birthday a secret, until Lip had to go and ruin it all.

He was riding a bike past the tracks when he saw us and thought it would be an awesome idea to come over and say hello, which was his way of making sure I was keeping out of trouble, namely of the Milkovich variety.

“You don’t always have to check up on me Lip,” I said as he dropped the bike and walked over. “What are you doing down here, don’t you have school?”

He shrugged, “Make up test for all the douchebags who don’t know shit about basic algebraic equations, English quiz, chemistry lab report that I already turned in… I think I’ll be fine. You worry about me too much little brother,” he grinned and I just rolled my eyes.

“Lip, yeah?” Mickey said, looking him over.

Lip nodded and did the same, the two seeming to size each other up and it seemed clear that while neither of them had anything against one another necessarily, they would probably argue over anything that came up in conversation.

“So what are you doing down here?” I asked again.

“Looking for Frank,” he said. “Got a call from Tony this morning, something about drunk and disorderly… I don’t know, the usual shit.”

“Right,” I said. “Did you need any help?”

“Nah, you know you just slow me down,” he said with a playful smile and I shook my head. “Besides I’m not going to make you look for that asshole on your birthday.”

And there he goes, with his big mouth.

“It’s your birthday?” Mandy asked, walking over to stand by my side.

I sighed and Lip just looked over at Mandy. “He didn’t tell you?”

“I don’t want to make a fuss,” I said.

“You’re seventeen little bro,” Lip said. “Make all the fuss you want.”

“You mean you made it to seventeen,” I said and Mickey chuckled.

“No dick breath,” he said. “I did not mean that. You better be back by the time Fiona’s done with work or she’ll kill you.”

“I will be, okay? Go back to looking for Frank,” I said.

He smiled, “You know I’m only doing it to get Debbie off my back.”

“Well she won't be very forgiving if you fail,” I said, folding my arms and giving him a look that I know he understood.

“Not wrong,” he said. “See you tonight.”

He gave Mandy a smile before turning and going back to the stolen bicycle.

“Why didn’t you say it was your birthday, we totally would have done something better than this,” Mandy said with a nudge to my side and Mickey just scoffed.

“We would not have, what are we going to do, watch more fucking TV shows and play video games?” he said.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” I said.

“Bullshit,” Mandy said. “I will totally think of something. Here…” she reached into her pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill.

“What, no, why are you giving me that?” I asked as she tried to hand it to me.

She rolled her eyes, “Go with Mickey down to the convenience store and buy some shit, I don’t care, pork rinds or fucking pringles or something. I’ll figure something out.”

“Oh what, I gotta drive his ass around now?” Mickey said.

“Just do it asswipe,” she said. “You owe me, remember?”

“It was one fucking kidney, you can’t keep calling that!” he said, pulling out his keys and shaking his head.

“I told you I would before I fucking gave it to you,” she said with a grin. “Just go.”

He grunted but started walking towards the car anyway. I followed him a little slowly, but when I got there I climbed into the passenger seat and we headed up the road.

We didn’t say much, never really do. We just pulled up on the side of the road by – well, by just about the last place I want to revisit. Kash-N-Grab, my old workplace. I remember Mickey said he used to steal from them too. Hopefully they don’t recognise him.

I know they’ll recognise me.

We walked through the doors and headed down to the back.

“So why the big secret about your birthday?” he asked, looking over to me as we looked over the items lazily.

I shrugged. “I’m sick of people being so thrilled that I lasted this long,” I said and he snorted. “I mean sure, wish me a happy birthday but could you look a little less amazed that I haven’t dropped dead yet?”

“You get a lot of ‘never thought you’d make it this far’ and ‘shit, you’ll be dead before next birthday for sure’?” he asked and I just laughed.

“The first one maybe, who the fuck said the other one to you?” I asked incredulously.

“One of my brothers,” he said and I just scoffed. “All good, crushed his fucking pinky toe by stepping on it with this fucking thing,” he said, pointing to his leg.

“Nice,” I said.

He looked up with a grin and I smiled back, our eyes locking together for a moment before he looked away.

We gathered a cartful of terrible food, definitely not what the doctor prescribed and probably more than what Mandy’s ten dollars would get us, but hey, I can indulge on my birthday.

When we got up to the register I finally realised that it wasn’t just a generic shop keeper working like I had, it was Kash.

Our eyes met and we both sort of had an awkward moment before he cleared his throat.

“Ian, good, uh, good to see you,” he said.

“You too, how… how’s business?” I asked.

He shrugged, “Not too bad, a little crime but that’s just the South Side I guess.”

I smiled a little, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“What, are you two like old buddies or something?” Mickey cut in. “Come on, let’s go.”

Kash seemed to give him a critical look and I’m sure he recognises him. He started to put the things through the register, glancing up at me a few times as he did.

I’m not going to say it wasn’t awkward, because it was, and not just because he was looking at me but because I could see Mickey trying to figure out why.

“It’s good to see you, you look better,” he said as he handed over the box.

I smiled again and gave him a nod as we started to leave. “See you.”

As we headed to the car I saw Mickey eyeing me.

“What?” I asked.

“So he was your boss huh?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said because technically it wasn’t a lie.

“Uh huh,” he said as we climbed into the car. “That was too fucking weird.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes. “You know how I said I’d given someone a hummer before?”

It took him a second, but he eyes grew wide and then he looked at me with his best ‘what the fuck’ look to date.

“That old mother fucker?” he asked.

“He’s not that old Mick,” I shrugged.

And I might be wrong, but I might have been seeing … jealousy on his face.

I mean I could be really wrong, no one’s ever really been jealous of someone with me before so how am I supposed to know what that looks like?

He didn’t say much else on the way back. It wasn’t until he was pulling up by the L that he said anything else.

“Still don’t get what the fuck you see in some old guy like that,” he asked.

“He bought me stuff, liked the same shit that I did,” I heard Mickey scoff as he got out of the car and as I did the same I looked over at him. “He was never afraid to kiss me.”

He didn’t say anything to that, and I didn’t look at him long enough to see his reaction, but I smiled as I walked back over to where Mandy was sitting and he slowly followed.

“So, what other mischief are we getting up to?” I asked and she grinned with a shrug.

“When do you have to be back at your place?” she asked.

“Not for a few hours,” I said. “Fiona won't be back at least until it’s dark.”

“Awesome, Mickey, get your ass back in the car,” she said and he glared at her as she walked over to the vehicle.

“You know one day, I’m gonna kick your ass, and it’ll fucking hurt,” he said.

“Yeah, yeah, you have to catch me first,” she said as she climbed into the back seat.

We ended up driving down to the movie theatre and when we parked both Mickey and I turned to raise an eyebrow at her. She was still smiling as she got out, motioning for us to follow her.

“What the fuck’s she up to?” Mickey asked.

“Hey, she’s your sister,” I said as we followed her in.

“Mandy!” Mickey hissed as they headed through the doors. “What the fuck we doin’ here?”

She rolled her eyes, “Going for a swim, the fuck you think?”

I smiled as I watched the two of them bickering and Mandy slapped Mickey on the chest.

“Shut up! Don’t say anything, just keep your mouth shut, okay?” she said as we walked over to the door.

“Hi, can I see your tickets please?” said the chirpy girl in the cinema uniform.

“Oh, we had a private invitation,” Mandy said, her voice suddenly losing its edge.

She almost sounded… sweet.

“I’m sorry?” said the girl, looking a little confused.

“Oh it’s his birthday,” she said, pointing to me and turning to give me a sickly sweet smile. “I was told it was all taken care of.”

I could see Mickey struggling to keep a straight face but I think I see what she’s going for here.

“What was your name?” she said.

“Sandy Atherton,” Mickey snorted a little, masking it pretty well with a fake fit of coughing.

“There’s nothing here about a booking for anyone of that name,” she said.

Mandy nodded, “I was told we could have a private screening, we never get to come to movies anymore.”

“I… I don’t know what―”

“It’s okay, it’s fine,” Mandy said.

I have to say, she’s a better actress than I ever would have thought.

“We must have got the information wrong,” she said and put her hand on my shoulder. “Come on, do you need to rest before we go back to the car?”

Just as I was about to begin my Oscar winning performance, a tall guy with dark hair came jogging over.

“Hold it Abby, they’re all good, I forgot to write it down for you,” he said.

Abby looked almost relieved not to have to turn us away, it was sort of mean to guilt her like that, but sometimes it has to be done.

“This way guys,” said the guy, leading us back to one of the cinemas.

Once we were out of earshot of any of the other staff Mandy’s sweet, innocent act dropped and she smirked over at Mickey and me.

“Nice going Aiden, thought you weren’t going to show for a minute there,” she said.

“Now would I do that to you?” he said with a chuckle. “You got the stuff for me?”

“Sure,” she said, waiting until he had closed the doors of the cinema behind him to reach into her pocket and pull out a small zip lock bag. “As promised.”

“You jackin’ the stash again?” Mickey asked as he walked out into the empty space, looking a little impressed.

“This is my portion and I’ll do what I want with it, and that’s bribing my way into a private theatre session so maybe you should just thank me,” she grinned.

Aiden laughed and gave her a once over look, “What do you guys wanna watch then? You name it, I’ll hook it up to the projector.”

“Up to you Ian,” Mandy said with a smile.

“Unless you pick something shit and then I’m picking!” Mickey called from a seat in the middle of the room.

We settled on one of the new release action thrillers, mostly a lot of boom bang guns and probably a sex scene or two. It didn’t matter, I was in an actual cinema with two people I could actually call friends, and it didn’t cost anyone a cent.

Sure, Mandy had to give up some of her stash, but she didn’t seem to worry about that.

“If you wanna go bang the guy no one’s stopping you,” Mickey said, breaking out the chips from her bag.

“Or blaming you, he was pretty easy on the eyes,” I said.

I told Mandy about my preference not too long ago, I knew I could trust her and that she wouldn’t judge. Well, I’d hoped.

I didn’t look up at Mickey but I could feel his eyes watching me and it made me smile, hell, I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since we left. I never really had friends outside the family, and I don’t know if I could really classify Mickey as a friend, but for now whatever this is, works.

Mandy did head out to meet the guy who let us in, and that meant Mickey and I had a few minutes alone and that’s all we really needed.

So far, the day has been better than I ever expected.

Fiona was already there when Mickey and Mandy dropped me home. I gave her a smile and reached my arm around to pull her in as I kissed her cheek.

“You’re late,” she said, a grin on her face as she mashed the potatoes in the pot. “Go wash up.”

We have this rule you see, on my birthday, no one is allowed to ask me if I’m okay, even if I look a little worse for wear. One of the only wishes they’ve ever really been able to help out with.

“Ian!” Debbie called as I neared the top of the stairs.

“Hey Debs!” I said.

“I made you a cake, I think Carl put his face in it already, but the rest of it should be good,” she smiled.

“Awesome, I’ll be down for dinner soon.”

“Cool, Vee and Lip scored us some food from the delivery guy down the road. I mean, I don’t think it was legal but it’s gonna be awesome,” she grinned.

I decided to shower before heading back down, it gave me some time to just sit and relax, taking in deep steady breaths and gaining back some energy. Fiona was probably itching to ask me how I was feeling but she would hold her tongue today, at least until a minute past midnight.

I honestly don’t know how she does it.

When I got back downstairs Kev and Vee were there, yelling when I walked into the room and Vee was already dancing around the place.

“All of you shut up so we can eat!” Fiona yelled over the commotion and we finally sat down for a decent meal.

As usual, I couldn’t eat all that much of it, but everyone else made up for that. As we were stacking dishes in the sink Carl hopped up on the counter with a plastic bag in his hand and Fiona just gave him a look.

“What you got there Carl?” she asked.

“I didn’t buy you anything,” he said and I just gave him a smile.

“That’s okay Carl, when do I ever expect anyone to?”

“But, I did get some fireworks from this guy down the street,” he said quietly, pulling out a box of small fireworks and trying to hide it from Fiona.

“You know she is going to kill you,” I said with a grin. “Nice job.”

He smiled and I put my hand on his shoulder. I looked up at Fiona and we locked eyes, I could tell she was about three seconds from taking the bag away from the kid but I just shrugged at her and the corners of her mouth turned upwards as she turned away.

“Maybe she’ll wait until tomorrow to do it,” I said. “She wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.”

She turned back and laughed, shaking her head. “Okay, no more guilt trips from you, even if it is your birthday. Carl,” he looked up like he was about to get a verbal beat down. “You got a lighter in there?”

His eyes lit up and I grinned. “You’re actually going to let him set off fireworks?”

“Well not in the house,” she said. “But he’s got them so we might as well use them, back yard?”

Carl was sliding off the counter and running through the living room towards the door.

“Ten bucks says he’s got a lighter in his pocket,” I said and Fiona grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed my temple.

“It’s Carl, he’s got ‘em hidden all over the house,” she said. “Come on everybody! Out front!”

“Ooh so we get dinner and a show, Ian it should be your birthday every day,” Vee said as she danced towards the door with the rest of them.

I couldn’t stop smiling as Lip clapped a hand on my shoulder and led me outside. The look of joy on Carl’s face as Kev helped him set up one of the bigger ones on the lawn was priceless and Debbie was bouncing Liam on her hip as he laughed.

A few seconds later and the sky was alight and the loud claps like thunder were filling the air around us. Everyone was smiling and happy and for a moment, it felt the way it used to, easy and fun and carefree.

All in all, this tops my list of birthdays, by far.

But, like everything in my life, the highest of highs seem to be followed by the lowest of lows, and there’s no exception to that rule.

My heart was pounding fast and I was elated, for ten minutes, everything was perfect.

And then we had to go inside.

“Frank?” Fiona said as we made our way to the kitchen. “What the hell?”

He was sitting at the table, his fork buried in the cake Debbie had made and he smelled like the back alley behind a bar.

“My house, I’m eating in my house,” he said, taking another bite.

“No!” Debbie shouted as she came in. “No dad I made that for Ian, it’s his birthday!”

“And I’m hungry, I’m ― I never got cake for my birthday and I ― I made the lot of you,” he said and Fiona was glaring at him like she was about to go over there and throw him out of the house.

“Frank, don’t,” she warned. “Not today.”

“What’s so special, about this day anyway?” he slurred.

“You’re drunk Frank,” Lip said. “Why don’t you just go back to the gutter you came from?”

“Don’t you speak to me like that I’m your father,” he said, looking up at us. “I ― I deserve some respect.”

“What makes you think that?” Fiona asked. “You acted like a father maybe once in my entire life and even then it was because you wanted something.”

He scoffed and stood up from the chair, lifting the cake in one hand and digging his fork in again.

“I mean it Frank, not today!” she said.

“He gets it so good because he’s got a little bit of cancer,” Frank said and I just sighed a little. “Every day is all about him, where’s my day?” he asked, swinging the plate a little too much and the cake slid off and onto the floor.

Debbie looked like she was about to cry and Vee was shaking her head. Fiona was enraged; I could see it in her eyes.

“Oh shit,” Frank huffed, shrugging it off and dumping the plate on the table.

I started to walk over to him and Fiona went to grab my arm but I slipped out of her grip.

“You need to apologise,” I said and he just looked at me with one eyebrow up in the air like I’d just asked him to perform some kind of magic trick. “To Debbie. She worked hard on that cake.”

“You just think you can do whatever and say whatever because you’re dying well ― well I’ve, well maybe she wouldn’t have to work so hard if she didn’t have to attend to your every need and desire,” he slurred.

Frank!” Fiona shouted.

I just stared at him, any affection I had for my father long gone and in its place there was nothing but resentment towards him.

“Apologise to her,” I said quietly, stepping a little closer.

“Get out of my face,” he growled but I just stood my ground, stepping to the side as he tried to pass me.

He rolled his eyes, stumbling a little.

“You ungrateful little―”

“You’re the ungrateful one! You come in here and take whatever you want and then you still complain about it! No! You should apologise to―”

“And how― how much do you give to this family?” His eyebrows shot up again and he threw his hands up. “You with your ‘illness’ and all your fancy drugs who― who’s on your case about giving back?”

“Frank you do not get to say anything about that,” Fiona said.

He just grumbled, rolling his head from side to side before muttering a low ‘move’ and throwing his elbow into my chest to push me aside. Maybe if I was stronger, maybe if my lungs hadn’t been my weakness it would have just been a shove, rough as it was, but Frank was right.

His hit knocked the wind out of me and for a moment I couldn’t breathe, which is a lot worse for someone like me than it sounds. He had knocked my cannula off and it was hanging around my neck and I tried to suck the air into my lungs but it just wasn’t working. I stumbled back into the wall as everyone started yelling simultaneously.

Lip was yelling at Frank and calling for Jimmy and Kev to help grab him, Fiona and Debbie had terror in their eyes as they rushed towards me and Vee was holding Liam in one arm and holding Carl back with the other.

Everything was starting to go fuzzy but I could feel Fiona’s hands on my face, holding the tube closer to my nose and trying to keep Debbie from crying. I think for a moment I may have blacked out.

“Ian, Ian?” Fiona said when things finally became clear. “Ian are you alright?”

I took a few heavy breaths and nodded.

“Frank’s out where he belongs,” Lip added as he leant against the bench and looked down at me. “We should’ve had the doors locked to start, the way he sneaks in.”

“I’m fine,” I said quietly.

“Look Ian you don’t―” Fiona started.

“I’m tired,” I said. “I just… can I just have some time without… I need… I’m tired.”

I could see the tears in Fiona’s eyes, and she made the face that she always made when she was about to cry but she bit down on her lip and nodded quickly, helping me to my feet.

I used the wall to steady myself before turning towards the back door.

“Ian where―”

“I’m just going to spend some time in the van if that’s okay,” I said.

“No, Ian you should really―”

“Fiona…” Lip said, putting a hand on her arm and nodding.

“Just call it my birthday wish, please?” I said and Fiona slowly let me go.

I knew that as soon as I was out of earshot she was going to break down and cry, and I also knew that I should probably blame Frank for it, but I couldn’t. I blamed myself.

I like the van, it’s cold and cramped but it’s quiet. I used to go there even before the cancer, when I needed some time or a moment alone. Right about now, I need that.

I don’t know how long I spent out there; I do know that it was just getting later and later and I was just sitting in the front seat staring out the windscreen. It must have been a few hours at least.

However long it was, my self-pity party was broken when I heard a knocking on the window.

I was about to tell Fiona or Lip to just leave me alone when I saw Mickey grinning in at me.

“What? You just gonna sit in there or you gonna open the door?” I smiled a little at his muffled voice and reached over to open the door.

He put his hands on the frame and leant in, raising his eyebrow at me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

He shrugged and I just chuckled a little.

“Can’t believe Fiona let you out here to see me before she’s even tried,” I said.

He grinned again. “Told me it ‘wasn’t a good time’ and that I should ‘let you have your space’, whatever the fuck that means. Had to sneak round the back.”

“Probably should have listened to her,” I said.

“Fuck off,” he scoffed and it actually made me laugh. “Why you in here mopin’ around like a girl, huh?”

“Nothing, just… my dad’s a dick… I mean I should probably forget all the shit he says and does…” I said, staring down at my hands.

“Eh, join the club,” he said with a shrug. “Come on.”

“Come on and what?” I asked. “It’s nearly tomorrow.”

“Pussy,” he said, hopping down onto the ground and I really couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off my face.

“Come on and what?” I called before rolling my eyes and opening up my door to climb out. “Mickey?”

“Beer run with me and my brothers,” he said, walking around to my side. “Get you out of this sad fuckin’ van you’re all holed up in.”

“Fiona’s not going to―”

“Don’t fuckin’ ask her, tell her,” he said. “Last minute birthday wish or something, play the ‘I’m dying’ card, just come on.”

“Why do you want me to come so badly?” I asked and he turned to face me with a smug little smile on his mouth.

“Quit crying and come with me,” he said. “Tell your sister you’ll be back in like an hour.”

I sighed but lifted my oxygen tank to carry it over the grass and towards the house. “Why am I listening to you?”

“Because I’m right, hurry up we gotta go,” he said.

I opened the back door and headed inside and Fiona was waiting at the table with Lip, both of them standing as I walked in. When I held it open for Mickey to walk through they both gave him a look. I knew that look, that was the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look.

“I’m gonna go out with Mickey for a bit,” I said and Fiona just glared at him.

“Uh, it’s pretty late and Fiona already told him that―” Lip said.

“I want to go, I’m okay, really,” I said, edging my way through the kitchen.

“Ian you need to rest you―”

“Fiona, I’m fine,” I said. “We’re just going for a drive, no excessive walking or lung using.”

“He’s got a cigarette behind his ear,” Lip said.

Fiona folded her arms and Lip gave Mickey a stern look.

“I ain’t smokin’ that,” he said. “It’s just for show.”

“Like… a metaphor,” I said.

“Yeah, like a metaphor or whatever,” he shrugged.

Lip and Fiona gave one another a look and I sighed. “One hour, you can kick my ass if I get back late just, let me be a god damn teenager on my seventeenth birthday, please?”

“You’re literally about to drop dead aren’t you?” Mickey asked as we walked to the car, Fiona and Lip finally and begrudgingly letting me leave.

Of course I had to promise them I’d be back by midnight under pain of permanent grounding, but I was out, I was finally out.

“If I was, one of them would have punched you and the other would have cried, and I’m not even sure which one would have done which,” I said and he laughed as we got in. “This isn’t your car.”

He shrugged. “Borrowed it from my brother now hurry up, we’re gonna be late.”

I’m not sure I believed him but I got in anyway and we started driving.

“So it’s a bit late to go for beer isn’t it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “There’s plenty of twenty-four-hour liquor stores around, once we pick them up they’ll be in and out real quick.”

“And you needed me for that?” I asked with a smile.

He just returned it and shook his head. “When we get back to my place climb back in behind me,” he said. “They’ll bitch otherwise.”

Once he pulled up outside his place I did as he asked, opting to get out and walk around rather than climb because my coordination is somewhat lacklustre and I’m trying not to look like a complete idiot in front of Mickey.

He was watching the door and I was watching him, wondering why he felt compelled to bring me along. Every now and then his eyes darted back to me and I just smiled each time. Finally his brothers emerged from the front door and Mickey grunted in annoyance.

“Hurry the fuck up assholes!” he yelled as they slowly made their way over to the car.

“Jesus calm down would you?” said the dark haired one.

They opened the doors and slid into the seats, both eyeing me with suspicion.

“Who’s this kid?” asked the blonde one.

“Gallagher, I’m doin’ him a favour alright?” Mickey said impatiently as he started the car. “That one’s Iggy, that one’s Colin.”

They seemed to shrug off the fact that I was there and just sat back and stared out the windows while we drove to one of the stores. Something was up, I could tell that much just from being in the car with them, only I couldn’t figure out what it was.

We pulled up a few doors down from a liquor store, the lights from the signs and the window lighting up the dim street.

“Back in a few little bro,” Iggy said and they hopped out of the car and shut the doors.

“Why do you look weird?” I asked.

Mickey scoffed. “Why do you look weird?”

“Oh I’m sorry I didn’t realise we were fourteen year-olds,” I said and he flipped me off.

I reached around to poke him in the side and he slapped at my hand. I smiled as I looked out the window… only to see Iggy and Colin holding handguns up to the man behind the register.

“Holy shit!” I said.

“Shut up,” Mickey said.

“What the hell did you drag me into? Beer run?”

“Euphemism,” he said, starting up the car again as the attendant filled up their backpacks with cash and they started to come running out.

“Jesus Mickey!” I shouted..

“Shut up!” he said. “Oh shit!”

The store attendant had a shotgun in his hand and opened the door just as they were climbing into the car. The first shot hit the passenger door as it was closing.

“Drive Mickey fucking drive!” Iggy shouted as the second shot hit the pavement on my side .

“What do you fucking think I’m doing?!” he yelled as the tyres screeched on the road and they were all propelled back as the car lurched forward.

I heard another shot hit the back of the car while we sped off, turning corners and weaving through the streets at high speed.

My heart was racing, probably faster than it should have been and Iggy was in the front giving Mickey directions.

Finally we stopped outside a house not far from Mickey’s and the boys got out, but not before Iggy handed Mickey a decent sized wad of cash.

“Thanks for the service bro,” he said. “You know where you’re going?”

“I know where I’m going, get the fuck out,” he said and Iggy slapped him on the shoulder.

“Later!” he called as he and Colin climbed out and ran up to the gate and into the house.

Mickey drove off again, this time at a decent speed and pace. Why the fuck did he bring me along for this?

I didn’t say anything and neither did he while we drove through the streets. Before long we came to a stop on a quiet street. He turned around to look at me and I glared at him.

“What?” he shrugged.

“What the hell was that?” I asked.

He shrugged again, flipping through the cash in his hand and tossing some back to me.

“No, no, I don’t want― why are you giving this to me?” I asked.

“Your share,” he said. “You came along, you can take part of the damn profit.”

“You robbed a fucking liquor store,” I said.

“No, they did. I just drove the getaway car.”

“You know the guy in the car is just as much a part of the crime as the actual thieves right?”

“Yeah but I can’t run with this thing, besides, I get pulled over I just give ‘em the old last hurrah thing,” he said. “They’d let me off with a warning. No one wants to arrest a fucking cripple.”

I put a hand to my forehead and sighed but I could feel his smile just burning into me.

“Was fun though, right?” he asked and I laughed.

“You need to get a hobby,” I said, looking back at him as he started to climb awkwardly into the backseat. “What are you doing?”

“Shut up,” he grunted, his back crashing into my arm as he tried to lift his leg in through the gap and I just laughed.

When he was finally on the seat he looked at me with a grin and I was still shaking my head at him, only this time I couldn’t hide my own smile.

“You are a fucking idiot,” I said, no malice in my voice whatsoever.

For a moment we just stared at one another and I could feel my heart pounding again, it’s funny how many different things can spark you up and get the adrenaline pumping.

Mickey does this thing when he’s about to try something with me. His tongue slips out and runs over his lip and his breathing makes his chest rise and fall heavily, then he’ll bite his bottom lip and it’s only a matter of time before he’s making a move. This time it was his hands reaching for the zipper on my jeans.

“Wait…” I said. “Hang on wait…”

“What?” he asked impatiently. “You want me to stop?”

I smiled and shook my head, “No,” I said as I pulled my oxygen tank from next to Mickey and shoved it down by the door.

He grinned and went back to tugging at my zip and I awkwardly lifted my hips to let him hook his fingers under the waistband on my jeans and tugged them down and over my ass. I lifted my arm to put a hand on his shoulder, there was not enough room in the car for all of our combined limbs, even if Mickey was short one of those.

“Move a little more,” he grunted and I made the shift, bunching my shoulders a little and looking down at him.

Then he was biting his lip again, eyes doing that darting thing before he dipped his head down and ran his tongue along my semi-hard cock.

My mouth dropped open and a sound came out of it that I’ll deny if ever anyone asks. His hand reached up to hold the base of my cock and to give it a few pumps as he took the head into his mouth.

The heat was nothing like anything I’d ever felt and I knew my fingers were tightening on his shoulder but I couldn’t even control them anymore. I looked down at him, his eyes closed and his lips wet as they slid up and down my length.

Some people might be confused as to how having someone suck your dick could look so sexy, but those people clearly have never been looking down at their own cock with Mickey Milkovich’s lips wrapped around it. Now that is a fucking vision.

Jesusfuck Mickey…” I breathed.

He just responded with some kind of mumbled retaliation that came out as more of a hum and that… well that made my hips buck upwards a little and he pulled back, raising an eyebrow at me.

“Sorry, sorry, just don’t say anything while you’re doing that,” I said.

He grinned in that arrogant way that he always did and then his lips were back on me, the tight heat of his mouth almost too much for me to take. With my spare hand I held my cannula firmly in place so I could get as much oxygen as possible as I tried to concentrate on not releasing my load right in that moment.

I took a risk, my fingers sliding up his neck to tangle my fingers in his hair. His own hand reached up and covered mine and I thought he was going to pull my hand away but he just tightened his grip on my hand.

I looked down at him and his lips slipped off my dick with a wet popping sound.

“Don’t hold back on me Gallagher,” he said in a rough voice. “I ain’t afraid of a little pain.”

In a moment his mouth was taking me in deeper than before and I pulled harder on his hair, making him groan around me. It was sloppy and frantic and various muscles in my body were cramping from being in the small backseat but nothing has ever felt like this.

I threw my head back as he pumped his hand along with his lips and winced at the hard impact with the window and felt him chuckle a little, the vibrations making my toes tingle.

“Shit, shitMickey…” I said and he pulled his lips back, pumping his fist furiously until my grip in his hair must have become more than just a little painful and I was coming into his hand.

I took in a few deep breaths, long breaths, trying to keep my breathing under control. I passed out once tonight the last thing I need is to do it right then and there.

“That was… holy shit,” I said with a grin as he sat up in the seat and ran a hand through his hair, wiping the other hand on my shirt. “Why do you― oh forget it,” I said with a blissed out sigh.

I looked over at his red lips, still wet with a thin sheen of saliva and probably pre-come too. It was a beautiful sight that I honestly never thought I’d see.

“You need me to…” I started and trailed off as he shook his head.

“I’m good,” he said and my eyes dropped to his crotch where a dark blue mark was staining his jeans and I’ll be damned if I didn’t admit that seeing that alone had me thinking about a round two.

“I’m still pissed you took me to an armed robbery,” I said and he grinned.

“Yeah, yeah, that won't last long,” he said, opening the door on his side and getting out.

I pulled up my jeans, doing up the buckle and just sitting back in the seat, still trying to recover.

He’s ridiculous, completely fucking ridiculous. He can't help himself and he wants it all just as much as he doesn’t and if it weren’t so fucking charming it might not be worth it. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want him exactly the way he is, flaws and ridiculousness and all.

I jumped a little at a tapping on the window and I looked out to see him leaning on the door. I shook my head and wound down the window.

“Yes?” I asked.

He was fiddling with his fingernails as he shrugged. “Forgot somethin’.”

A smile spread across my lips and I nearly laughed as I went to ask him what the hell he was going on about. He cut me off before I had the chance.

He was leaning into the car, his hand cupping my cheeks and his lips pressing against mine, hard. I was stunned for a second and then his lips were moving clumsily, like he’d never done it before and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t.

I had barely enough time to brush my fingers over the side of his cheek before he was pulling away and out of the window.

“Are you gonna sit in the drop car all night or are you comin’ with me?” he called and I was just smiling like a lunatic.

“You’re going to make a guy with shitty lungs walk home?” I asked.

“Car’s around the corner you asshole!” he yelled and I laughed, opening the door and climbing out to follow him.

I’ve got to say, as mind blowing as a hummer from Mickey was, that kiss somehow managed to top it.