Chapter 6 – Circling the Wagons

Mickey made his way into the Kash-n-Grab just before closing. He knew that Kash’s little fem nazi wife had taken their two brats for an ‘extended vacation’ to her mother’s house. Which he knew was just fancy bullshit talk for the bitch left him after their little talk this morning. For now at least, he knew she’d be back soon enough, she had too much invested in this marriage to just let it drop now, not after they had already come to an understanding.

“Hey, Kash, how have you been? Long time no punch buddy.” Watching the older man flinch just from his words was a mood boost he really needed just then. It made him smile. He wasn’t sure how much Linda had told him but he had to know enough to know the position he was in now. He had no power at all here, he was the one on the wrong side of the law here and had to toe the line if he wanted to keep his freedom and his family.

“Mickey, what are you doing here? Ian doesn’t work today.” He said that like Mickey didn’t have Ian’s work schedule memorized, like he hadn’t brought him by this morning for a little visit, when they both knew he did. He always knew where to find Ian. It was kind of fun watching him try to squirm out of this conversation and fail at it like he failed at everything else in his life.

“I know that dumbass, I’m here to see you. I don’t know if the little wifey told you but I’m your new security guard for the store. I start tomorrow, she and I already came to terms about pay, all I need now is for you to put me on the schedule right alongside Ian. If he works, I work, you understand me?” The dark skinned man got paler and paler with every word he spoke. By the end of it he was pretty much as pale as someone of his color could get.

“I see you do. See you tomorrow, boss.”

Kash opened up his store the next morning with the worst feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. He had of course done what Mickey had asked of him the night before, after a very heated call with his wife, but he was also certain that there was more to the story than what he knew. When he looked up at the sound of the bell and saw Ian’s older brother and sister standing there looking at him with determination lighting their faces his certainty turned into a dead weight in his chest.

“Can I help you?” He hoped the answer was no, he hoped they were here to tell him that Ian was quitting and they needed his last paycheck. He hoped for the impossible. In this neighborhood you didn’t give up employment unless you knew of a scam that would make you more money and even then it was less giving up the job and more putting it on hold until you knew if the scam would pay out or not.

“We hope so. We’re here about Ian… and Mickey.”

“I’m sorry I don’t know what you’re-” He tried to deflect, to not be caught giving away information about Mickey, but he knew it wouldn’t work. Honestly he didn’t know why he even tried anymore, everyone seemed to know everything about his business these days.

“Save it pervo, we already know about you and Ian, and we know about Mickey and Ian, and frankly I am fighting a very strong urge to just deck you on principle. Good news for you though is that no matter how fucked up your thing with my brother was it has nothing on his new thing with that grimey thug so you’re being cut some slack.” What was it with everyone threatening him with bodily harm lately. He’d known when he and Ian had begun their little arrangement that there was always the possibility that someone would find out and violence would be a factor in that revelation but he was beginning to understand just how severely he’d underestimated everyone’s reactions. He’d thought that because of Ian’s age people would overlook it for the most part, he wasn’t a child not really he had the responsibilities, the mind and the physique of a man, he had been wrong.

“Look Kash, we didn’t come here to give you a hard time, we came here to let you know a few things and then to ask you a favor. Not for us, but for Ian.” He could tell from the look in Fiona’s eyes that while she hated him almost as much as her brother, and she found him disgusting in that way that it seemed only women could, she was trying to be civil in the hopes of getting what she wanted.

He nodded his head for them to continue but he had a feeling that whatever their favor was Mickey’s request last night had already countered it. For a street rat Mickey was surprisingly smart when it came to out maneuvering people.

By the time the Gallaghers left with his assurances ringing in their ears he felt like he was going to be sick. Ian had managed to find the will to pull himself away from Mickey, and now he was going to be a part of helping to shove him back towards his abuser. 

Again he thought about how if he was a better man, a more courageous man, he would have told Mickey to go to hell and taken his chances. He was a grown man after all and Ian was still so very young, it would be the right thing to do, for him to stand up to Mickey and help keep Ian safe and protected. For the second time though, he knew that what he should do and what he would do would not be the same.

Picking up the phone he made a second call to his wife, she was as much in this as he was and she needed to know the facts. They both knew she would be coming back with the boys sooner rather than later and he couldn’t let her walk into this blind. It was bad enough he was getting it from all sides, she didn’t need to experience this as well.

Ian made it to Kash’s store without incident and with his older brother standing across the street waiting for him to get inside before he would leave, like he was Carl’s age or something. He understood their reasoning and he was even thankful for all the protection but he had a bad feeling deep inside that none of it would do any good.

His family thought that they knew Mickey and what he was capable of, hell they even had a back up plan, a last resort which involved going to Terry about the whole thing. That just proved to him how unprepared his family was. He hadn’t spent a lot of time with the entire Milkovich family, he mainly split his time between hanging out with Mandy who still tried to be his friend and doing everything he could to keep Mickey happy, but there were times when he would see the others and what he saw didn’t add up to what he’d thought he’d known before his thing with Mickey had started.

Mickey was the one in control over at the Milkovich house, he was the one giving out the orders even to Terry, all the others were just as afraid of him as he was. He hadn’t understood it at first until one night when he’d come out of Mickey’s room on his way home after Mickey was done with him to find Mickey and Terry fighting. Mickey had Terry pinned to the floor and was punching him in the face repeatedly, Terry had tried to fight back, to at least block some of the blows but Mickey had countered every move he made and had beaten him easily.

When Mickey had gotten up off the very bloody man on the floor he’d yelled about people not doing as they’re told. When Mickey had turned and saw him there in the doorway he’d pushed him back into the bedroom and he hadn’t been able to limp back home until well into the night. Fighting really did get Mickey’s blood up, he supposed he should have remembered that before giving in to his family’s demands that he leave him. 

What his family had wanted had seemed reasonable, right up until he remembered exactly who Mickey Milkovich was. It would have been less painful to just stick it out with Mickey and wait for him to grow tired of him like he had all the others, but instead he had pushed back and now it was a fight. Mickey never lost a fight.

“Hey firecrotch.” Spinning around he found Mickey leaning against the magazine rack by the door dressed in the security jacket that the store kept for the few times a year they could afford to hire someone to stand guard over their merchandise.


“Looks like we’re working together.”

Kash knew that Mickey wanting a job at the store had been a bad idea from the start, but telling him no hadn’t really been an option, not if he wanted to still have a store. He knows what’s going to happen next, and if the look of terror flashing across Ian’s face was any indication he does as well. He has tried to lie to himself all day waiting for Ian to begin his shift, to tell himself that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen after he does what Mickey wants him to, but the lie falls flat even when he’s only telling it to himself. Hell he’d even tried to tell himself that Ian simply wouldn’t show up, that he’d somehow know that Mickey was waiting for him and just not come. 

Bowing his head in shame he does what Mickey told him to do, something he’s beginning to see everyone does in the end, there is no fighting Mickey, not really. He’ll find your weak spot every time and aim for it.

“Ian you’re doing inventory in the back today, I’ll run the front.” The look of betrayal Ian shoots him as he shuffles past towards the stockroom is the only sign that he knows exactly what’s happening. That he knows that he is a lowly coward, who never deserved him in the first place.

Mickey smirks that damned infuriating smirk of his as he follows right behind him. He tries not to think about the sound of the lock sliding into place as the door closes behind them both.

Keeping his eyes trained on the front door he resolutely ignores the back of the store. He will focus on his customers and nothing else, he knows it’s the easy way out, but it’s all he can think to do.

There’s nothing he can do, nothing he’s willing to do, to help Ian so he’ll focus on everything else and leave Ian to help himself. If there’s a way out he’s sure Ian will find it, he’s smart like that. As the bell above the door rings he plasters on his best fake smile and gets to work.

Ian stands in the corner facing a rack of beer, he refuses to look at Mickey he can’t yet. Not until he can hear something besides the rush of blood in his ears, or feel something besides his heart pounding under his skin.

“Mickey-” He tried to explain, to say something, anything to calm him down.

“Shut up Ian. I don’t want to hear it right now! Now I got a gaggle of Gallaghers all up in my personal business, Lip was bad enough but now you’ve gone and blabbed to everyone else. What am I supposed to do now Ian, hmmm? You tell me!” He could almost feel the heat of his anger rolling off his skin. Not only had he gone against him, but he’d tried to leave him too, all in the same day. He would be lucky if he was still breathing at the end of his shift.

Part of him wanted to defend himself, to tell Mickey that he hadn’t been the one to talk, to tell him that Lip was the one who had gone to Fiona. He couldn’t do that though, not to his brother.

“I’m sorry Mickey-” He had to try even though he knew he wouldn’t listen. Not this time, not after what he’d already done.

I’m sorry Mickey. I won’t do it again Mickey. I didn’t mean to Mickey. Save it Ian, I’ve heard it all from you before, after you went and opened your big mouth the first time. I let you off easy then, and look where that’s gotten us. So now you tell me, no more excuses and apologies, what am I supposed to do now? Huh? You obviously think that I’m just full of hot air that I’m all talk, right?” Mickey was still standing near the door across the room from him, but that did nothing to ease the fear he was drowning in.

“No.” He really didn’t think that, he knew for a fact that Mickey had all kinds of follow through.

“Well you must otherwise you wouldn’t have done this, you would have thought twice about it all and come to the right conclusion. If I do this I’m gonna be in a world of hurt, but no you came to a different ending didn’t you. You thought if I do this I can just walk away, because Mickey is such a pussy he won’t do anything. All I have to do is tell him that it’s over and that will be the end of it. Is that what you thought?”

He couldn’t answer, he knew no matter what he said Mickey would just get angrier, so he tried to keep silent. Even though he knew that wouldn’t work either.

“Is it?” He had to say something, but there was nothing to say, nothing that would make any difference.

“No.” In fact he had known that simply telling Mickey that they were over was pretty much the worst thing he could do, but it was also the only option. Especially now, with his whole family finding out about the two of them.

“You keep saying this shit Ian. I didn’t think it. I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. I’m tired of hearing this shit from you. Time to put some fucking actions behind those words. Prove you mean what you say. Come on Ian prove it to me. If you don’t really wanna leave me, show me.”

He knew what Mickey was asking for, what he was demanding. Now he just had to decide, and quickly, what he was going to do. He could fight him, keep his word to his family, try to prove that he really did want out. Or, he could give in to what he knew was inevitable, because as much as he loved his family they really didn’t know Mickey. They knew what he used to know, before he finally saw the truth. They thought that there was a way around Mickey, a way out, he knew there really wasn’t.

Closing his eyes in defeat, he moved towards Mickey rather than farther away. The smirk tugging at Mickey’s lips told him more than anything that he’d also known there had really been no choice at all. Choice implied options, and really when it came to Mickey and what he wanted there were no other options, you simply did what he said. When he was finally within arm’s reach of his former boyfriend he did the only thing he could do and still call himself a Gallagher. He punched him right in the face. When he thought about it, it truly had been the only option left to him.

Lip stood on the sidewalk and waited for Ian to get off work. His shift should have ended about ten minutes ago, but that wasn’t unusual really, so he decided to just stand back and wait for a few more minutes before he went in to drag Ian out.

He looked around as he finished his cigarette, still no sign of Ian, the worry he felt was beginning to grow to new heights. While in theory Ian should be safe inside the store, with each passing second without so much as a glimpse of his brother that theory became less and less sound. Taking one last puff he started towards the building set on putting his own mind at ease, maybe Ian was just caught up finishing something for Kash and didn’t notice the time, it wouldn’t be the first time that happened, though it hadn’t happened since the two had stopped hooking up.

Opening the door the bell sounded deafening as he saw Mickey leaning against the counter reading a magazine and looking completely and utterly bored. He had a fresh split in his lip that he kept touching with his tongue and a shit eating grin that he wanted to smack right off his smug little face. Kash sat at the register behind him with his eyes downcast, never looking up from his own hands like the coward he is. Taking all this in there was only one question echoing in his mind.

“Where’s Ian?” He didn’t know what he expected, for Kash to finally man up after a lifetime of cowardice and tell him that Ian was safe locked away in his office just waiting for Lip to come and take him home. Or for Mickey to do a total one eighty and say he’d given up on tormenting his little brother and wanted to turn over a new leaf. All he got was deafening silence ringing in his ears, until Mickeys voice finally filled the void left by his question.

“Gallagher’s in the back. Inventory right Kash?” The bastard actually paused for an answer, an answer that spineless Kash actually gave. Like a fucking loyal dog barking on command.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Even while speaking to them the man’s eyes never left his hands.

“Been back there all shift.” Oh god.

Rushing towards the store room he ignored Mickey’s snarky remarks about Ians work ethic as the door swung open and revealed his brother bleeding and broken on the sticky linoleum floor. 

Oh god.

Part of him, a large part, wanted to turn around and beat the shit out of Mickey and Kash both. To make them hurt as much as Ian obviously was. He could practically feel Mickey’s breath on the back of his neck, just waiting for him to make the stupid choice, the obvious choice. The Gallagher choice. If he did that though, there was a greater than average chance he would lose, that he would end up beside his brother their blood mixing together on the sticky floor, and Ian would still be at the mercy of that abusive son of a bitch until someone at the house got suspicious enough to come here looking for them. Hell with their luck the gutless wonder at the front of the store would lie about them having left already, and Fiona would believe him like they both believed that he would look after Ian.

Moving forward he bent down to help his brother to his feet, he would get him home even if he had to drag him there.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk he could barely hear Mickey’s parting words over the rushing winds.

“See you tomorrow Ian.” Like hell.

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