The Prison Chapter
Ian watches the ceiling, coming out of his prison-induced coma, waking at the exact same time every morning, listening to guard Calhoun walk by. He can tell by the heaviness in his footsteps. This isn’t the way most people wake up in prison every morning, this isn’t the way most people sleep in prison. Hell, nothing about this has been typical prison according to the stories he’s heard from other inmates. But who is he to question Fate? Or Shim? Or the prison system? Or Mickey’s bribes, blackmail, and vast knowledge of how to work the system to get the things he needs while inside.
Mickey. He listens to him breathing. Twenty minutes until the buzzer sounds. And the lights come up to full blast. The light is the thing he can’t quite get used to. The noise, sure, it’s not much different than the Southside in the summer with the windows open or a party going on downstairs in the winter, or anytime all of the Gallaghers are under the same roof really.
But this part. This part where it’s still dim, as dark as it gets in here, this part when the blood is slowly moving back to all the places the hard mattress drained it away from over night, where the sound of Mickey’s quiet, even, sleep-breathing is filtering into his ears. Where the scent of him lingering in the air in their cell, over the scent of prison laundry soap, yeah, he smells that fucking good. This part, where the presence of him calms Ian’s every nerve and rises something else.
The something else that leads him to lean over the bunk. And take a peak. He’s on his side, facing away from the door. Fuck, he’s gorgeous. It’s almost a shame to wake him. But Ian knows, that as much as Mickey would never admit it, he’s been pulling whatever strings he can to keep Ian away from the real side of prison that even exists here in Disneyland block reserved for lower level inmates, ones who are in and out like the system is a revolving door, ones that would be better suited for rehabilitation than prison but since that doesn’t exist anymore, they’re here. Community service isn’t enough to please the court, but a year or two in Level One is. The repeat offenders that have to mark felon on job applications, they don’t get a job so they break parole and end up back here. The cycle of crime. The cycle of poverty. It's pretty fucking hard to break cycles.
Either way, as much as Mickey would never admit it, and maybe Ian doesn’t want to acknowledge it, he’s only in Disneyland because of Mickey’s protections put in place and because, well, probably because of his disorder. A bipolar religious delusion, a life lived under the poverty line, and well, here he is. But it could be much worse. It could be a mental institution like the old days. He’d be straight-jacketed and put through sensory deprivation and electro shock therapy.
Anyway, if he can do for Mickey one thing and one thing only, it’s to start his day off right. Ian’s ready, he’s always ready when he’s this close to Mickey. Being around him in the yard is dangerous, but here, before lights on, before the guard makes another round, before anyone else is making much noise for the day; here, he can slide in behind him. He startles just a little, just enough to know he’s awake, but his eyes remain closed and the muscles that flashed taut awareness of his surroundings are starting to sink into relaxed awareness of the body behind him. A deep breath when Ian’s lips meet his spine, his hands meet his hip and he grumbles a sleep-crusted whisper, “good morning.”
U-UP slides through Ian’s hair, down his arm and he takes his own boxers down as Ian gets to work on kissing that bare shoulder and his hand slides over his asscheek. If Mickey takes his own boxers down, he’s ready for a fuck. If he doesn’t, then he only wants traded jerk sessions. Prison code. Or Mickey code, Ian’s not sure. He thinks he can remember if he tries hard enough but there’s enough, too much, to remember that maybe neither of them should. So he doesn’t.
Ian’s right hand reaches to the head of the bed, tucked in between the books, at an awkward enough angle that he feels Mickey’s head turn, probably wondering if the reach will knock him off the bed, or at the very least, will deter Ian’s left hand from the task of pre-lube warm-ups under the sheet.
“How ‘bout the right pack this time tough guy?”
“Yeah, yeah, that was one time, and who the fuck keeps condiments with lube anyway?”
“The fuck who’s hidin’ your stash of stolen catheter oil, so your ass doesn’t get a shot for it, that’s who.”
“You could try a simple thank you.”
“The fuck would I do that?”
“‘Cause if I wasn’t stealing lube from the infirmary, then we’d actually be fucking with mayo. It’d smell like potato salad in here every morning.”
“If you weren’t stealin’ lube from the infirmary then we wouldn’t be fucking at all. So the fuck would I thank you for somethin’ that’s benefitin’ us both? Especially you, you’d have a coleslaw smellin’ dick.”
“True,” half mumbled through teeth closed around the tear-here, “but really,” smearing it around on his fingers first and heading to the promised land, “fuck,” he loves that feeling under his touch of Mickey, and he loves that breath that exits Mickey’s lips in a little gust of wanting and somehow annoyance too, “who the fuck puts mayo on barbecue chips?”
“The fuck who,” his fist is clamped down on the pillow near his chin, Ian presses another round of kisses on his neck, shoulder, fuck, he wants his mouth, but the fucker is weird about morning kisses. Of all the fucking things in the world to be weird about, that’s where Mickey draws the line. Morning kisses. Fucker, “watches you eat ketchup on plain chips, that’s who,” and now his lip is being tucked into his teeth and the second slippery finger is joining the first.
“Yah, get in me.”
The eyebrows are high when his eyes flicker open and his face turns, “for what?”
Ian steals his lips. Jerk, can’t have it his way all the time. Keeping his mouth, meeting his tongue when he finally pries those perfect lips open, and guides his dick in. And, “fuck,” breaks the kiss anyway and he has to bury his face between Mickey’s shoulder-blades because there is nothing, nothing on this Earth that can even describe how useless this first moment of connection makes the rest of Ian’s body and brain.
Another morning of wake-Mick-up-right accomplished before Calhoun comes by, before the lights come up, and the buzzer goes off. Before another day in prison begins.
Another breakfast. Another shift. Another hour in the yard. Another phone call home, even though no one answers anymore except Fiona and she’s doing great but Ian wonders how long she’ll last that far away from home. He admitted a few weeks back that he was homesick, she almost admitted that she was too, but she’s not quite there yet. He supposes the beach will do that to a person. And he found himself wondering what the beach did to Mickey. No, he’s not wondering that. Because wondering that will make him wonder what else there was, or who else there was. And that's none of his damn business anyway, maybe Mickey found a good lay down there, and if he did, then he found some freedom to enjoy the things he enjoys and maybe that's all that should matter. And obviously if he did, then it's over now anyway. So maybe that part matters too, either way, Ian doesn't need to bombard himself with what-ifs.
Another dinner and back in the cell. Reading a book while Mickey paces and clicks his pen. Flossing while Mickey sits and clicks his pen, and sure, these little fidgety things that he does really get old after this amount of time together, it’s not like at home when they both have jobs or cons or friends or siblings or can just walk out the door when Mickey’s clicking a pen, crushing a can, flicking a lighter, gnawing on his lower lip; those are the things that can’t be, “would you stop that?” avoided.
“Fuckin’ stop that,” in unison. Of course.
“Not again!” comes crashing thorough the vent.
“Mind your business Enzo!”
“Don’t make your business so fucking loud if you want me to mind my own! News flash shitheads, no one likes their cellmate. ‘Least you got the loudest flosser in the world instead of the loudest ball scratcher!”
“Fuck you Enzo. Yo Gallagher, ‘least you got the pen clicker from Hell instead of this dumb fucker who chews off his own fingernails and spits them on the goddamn floor in front of the toilet!”
“Fuck you Little Pete.”
“Fuck you Enzo.”
“Fuck you both!” Mickey finally hollers.
“Fuck you Milkovich!”
His middle finger silently responds for him and Ian feels his face twisting into a smile. A really stupid dopey smile, but he can’t help it as he climbs back into his own bunk and waits for lights out, “could be worse,” he hears Mickey mumble beneath him.
“Could be worse,” he agrees.
“Could you at least wipe the fucking toilet down once a blue fucking moon?”
“The fuck would I do that for when I know you’re going to?”
“Because I’m not your maid, and you’re not a pig.”
“You sure about that?” his brow is high and his eyes are bright, but it doesn’t stop Ian from grumbling about him, in fact, being a pig, and Mickey wondering, “where you think you’d be shittin’ right now if you’d made it to West Point, huh? Either in a fuckin’ colostomy bag after getting blown to fuck in fuckganistan, or you’d be diggin’ a little hole to drop a deuce in, using one little square of toilet paper that you’d have to fold over your index finger,” he’s grabbing a piece of toilet paper and illustrating his narration, “wipe out your rim, bury your shit in the sand, end up with cookie butt, and finish your mission. Or you’d be on a shitty little base with shitty little plywood shitters that you’d have to beat off in too ‘cause there ain’t nowhere else to do it. And you got a problem with a a few piss dribbles on the steel?” now the brows are hairline and his hand with the toilet paper square crinkled around his finger is aimed at Ian’s chest, “now get the fuck outta my way.”
Ian sighs, glancing at the clock. 8:15. Every night, “I don’t know how you stay on schedule on this food.”
“Three meals a fuckin’ day on schedule. ‘Course my ass is on schedule.”
It doesn’t hurt that he’s got cast-iron guts. Ian supposes he should be proud of him, for having a healthy digestive system, “makes my life easier,” he shrugs, keeping his back to the toilet even though Mickey doesn’t give a rat’s ass who sees him shitting.
He hears Mickey’s mouth open, then he bites back whatever sex comment he was going to make, remembering the open ears all over the duct work, and his mouth snaps shut again.
“Gallagher, special delivery,” Calhoun hands him an envelope.
“Parole,” his eyes immediately fog over, darting to find Mickey who is already walking out the cell door, “shit.”
“You busy?” Ian’s lying on his bunk, facing the wall, having had plenty of time to think about parole today. Time to think about what life would be like without Mickey around him twenty-four seven, his eyes mist over and he blinks it back.
“The fuck kind of a stupid fuckin’ question is that?”
It’s 8:15, “can we talk?”
“Uh, you’re about to piss me off, and you think I won’t pinch it off to come over there and beat your ass?”
“No,” he giggles, the one that he knows Mickey thinks is stupid and childlike, but it never ceases to make him smile anyway, “I mean, yeah, but I, um, I could stab Chester.”
“The fuck would you want to stab Chester for?”
“You know, um, parole. I could, if I stab Chester then he gets to stay. He doesn’t want to…”
“Fuckin’ guy is like a million years old and he wants to keep gettin’ his prison sponsored meals and shit. He can find some other dumbass to stab him.”
It suddenly feels like there should be eye contact right now. Craning his head over to look at Mickey, he’s met with a Milkovich glare and the eyebrows for the win, he turns back to face the wall, trying to find the right words to explain this shit without getting too many details forced through the vents, “Chester doesn’t want to be released. I don’t want to be paroled.”
“The fuck would you want to stay in here for?” the toilet flushes.
“Um, because, I, uh, I was planning on at least a year. More like two.”
“You’re not exactly a real criminal Gallagher,” sink, soap, angry scrubbing, “if they want to let you go early, then go. Ain’t rocket science.”
Jesus, he’s thick, “Mick, I…”
“Don’t,” it’s firm and it forces Ian to roll towards him, sit up, hop off the bunk. He watches as Barton takes a few strides past the cell door, then he grabs Mickey’s hips, shoving him against the wall in the corner that’s most hidden from the door, “the fuck’re you doin’,” he snarls it, but it’s lacking the intimidating bite and he’s not shoving Ian off him.
“I don’t want to go,” it’s a desperate whisper, “I don’t want to go because I don’t know how long you’ll still be stuck in here. And I don’t want to be out there without you. I don’t want you to be alone again, I don’t want you to think I’m just going to get out and start banging other people, and I don’t want to be out there wondering if you’re banging other people.”
“The fuck would I bang in here?”
“I’m not blind Mickey. Cox is always staring at your ass.”
“Uh, yah, well Cox ain’t exactly my type shithead,” his hand, still damp from washing and pat-drying on his jumper, lands on Ian’s cheek, slides to the back of his head, “don’t matter what you do when you get out Gallagher. As long as it includes a job, a place to live, and following your probation orders, then it ain’t about me.”
“It is. It is about you,” he feels Mickey’s fingers pulse dents into the back of his neck and, fuck, he wants to rip that stupid jumper off him and fuck him right, “it’s always about you.”
“Well if you want shit to be about me, then get out, get your shit together. Fuckin’ make me proud or some shit. You don’t belong in here Gallagher. Never did.”
“Neither do you!” it’s much louder than he intended. Enough that Mickey flinches a little. A deep breath, “you’re the product of your raising and you aren’t some hardened criminal either. You might have everyone else in here fooled and half the Southside fooled, but I know you.”
“Okay tough guy,” tapping his cheek in the roughly gentle way that only Mickey can, “if you know me so well, then you know I want you to get the fuck out of here and live a fuckin’ life, alright?”
“And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are we, um, are we together?”
He shrugs, trying to act nonchalant about it, “guess that’s up to you. Kind of, uh, threw away my freedom to be here, so…”
“You’ve done a hell of a lot more than that for me throughout the years,” watching as Mickey’s hand rises in the minuscule space between their faces, thumbs and his nose, then lands palm down on Ian’s chest, giving a little shove, “not yet, please. Just let me say this.”
“This some kind of rom-com Gallagher?”
“No, but being out there without you is going to be a horror show unless you tell me, right now, if we’re together or not.”
Mickey’s brows are softening, his lips are softening and Ian’s certain he wants to kiss him. Long and hard and never fucking let go. Or maybe Mickey wants to punch him for even asking, or demanding, whatever he just did, “of course we are, just like always.”
All the breath in Ian’s body leaves in one giant relieved exhale and he dives in. Even though he shouldn’t, and he’s about to get shoved off, but just this right here, just a split second of wordless discussion, is what he needs before he can climb back up to his bunk to the sound of Mickey’s grumbled, “you stab Chester and I’ll stab you. Hear me?”
He can’t fucking sleep. He hasn’t been able to since he got his date. But tonight's different. Because tonight is the last one. He’s leaving tomorrow, he’s walking out that cell door and he’s never coming back. Not through that door anyway, he’ll be in the visitor’s area at least once a week for the rest of the time Mickey is here, even though Mickey told him not to come. Because Mickey probably keeps hearing ‘it was too hard seeing you through the glass’, but Ian keeps thinking of that brash kid that was stabbin’ that fat fuckin’ mick for stealin’ his jello. And even if there is glass between them, it’s still Mickey. And Ian can’t go the rest of his sentence without seeing that face, hearing that voice, and fuck if he’s lucky, like really fucking lucky, maybe he’ll get a visit in the yard.
It’s quiet, as quiet as prison ever gets when he leans over the edge to be immediately met with sparkly blues in the dimness and a cocked head, “c’mere.”
When he wakes and didn’t realize he was asleep, he’s still got Mickey in his grasp, and it’s the normal time, twenty minutes ’til lights' on, and he’s still slotted against Mickey and Mickey’s boxers are still wadded around his thighs and he’s right there. Leaning into his furnace fired skin to press scorching kisses against his neck, his shoulder, waiting for that crusty whispered, “good morning,” before he lets his hands wander. Savoring every single second of that twenty minutes. Nineteen minutes, before they have to get up and put on their prison faces. Eighteen minutes when he’s sliding into Mickey’s heat. Seventeen minutes when he’s kissing his ear and whispering, “I’ll wait.”
Sixteen minutes when Mickey is turning his head and he’s stealing his lips. Fifteen minutes when he’s breathing against his breath and loving the underlying flavor that is unmistakably Mickey. Fourteen minutes when Mickey’s hand is grasped tight on the back of Ian’s head, pulling him deeper into his mouth. Thirteen minutes when his arms tighten around Mickey’s body. Twelve minutes when he thinks he could slip under Mickey’s skin and stay here forever. Eleven minutes when he feels the first tear leave a salt slick down his cheek. Ten minutes when Mickey’s fingers link with his on his belly. Nine minutes when he whispers, “I love you.”
Eight minutes when he whispers back, “I know. I love you too.”
Seven minutes when the world disappears and there’s nothing left in it but Mickey’s lips, tongue, body heat, stifled moan, and heavy breathing. Six minutes when the pace is picking up even though Ian doesn’t want it to. He wants to stay, here, exactly like this. Five minutes when his hand is on Mickey’s jaw, feeling the way it moves through the kiss, memorizing the one thing he always knew but never bothered to memorize before. Four minutes when Mickey’s hand is sliding across Ian’s cheek, smearing away tears and his voice is barely a whisper, “toughen up buttercup.”
Three minutes when his body is zapped by the current running through Mickey’s veins and he remembers, he knows, he is absolutely fucking certain that Mickey is the gas company and Ian’s pilot light was out. Two minutes and he feels himself smiling against Mickey’s mouth as he whispers again, “I love you. And I’ll see you real soon.”
And he means it. He means it this time. He means it when he’s exiting the building and he’s grasping his brother and he’s wondering if he realized that Freddie was too close to Franny and it’s going to be way too easy to call them the wrong names when the beginning sounds so similar. And he means that when he realizes he’s been a shit uncle to Franny and that’s about to change. And he means it when he gets back to the Gallagher house and his first move it to get service back to his old phone number so when Mickey calls, he’ll answer. And he means it when he digs out his last hundred dollars from his stash in the attic and heads down to the pawn shop. And he sure in the fuck means that when he’s the first one standing in line, when he’s the first one through the doors, when he’s the first one sitting at the phone bank with a ring in his pocket and a gigantic idiotic smile on his face when he lays his hand down on the glass.