Me after a friend cancelled our dinner: “Oh you can’t make it tonight? That’s alright. Just text me if your schedule’s cleared up so we can hang out”
Inner me: “This is fine… I stood him up the first time (for legit reasons). This is nothing…”
Also inner me: “How dare he forgot that we have plans tonight? He promised to clear up his schedules today so we could go out. Why did i have to text him to remind him that we’re having a meal tonight? Makes it sound like I’m the one overly eager about this when I’m not - I’m just paying back my dues. And i wanted to talk with him and listen because he seemed depressed these days. But i’m not even important for him to remember to eat out with. Things are complicated enough with the fact that I used to have feelings for him. Why is he making this more complicated?”
//so yeah this is really long but yeah here you go!//
‘What do you think it is?’
Ian looked away from the sonogram for a moment and considered Mickey’s question. ‘How am I supposed to know? Not as if I’m the one carrying it,’ he said.
Mickey rolled his eyes. ‘Fine, fine. What do you want it to be?’
'Can’t exactly answer that either. Another Carl or another Debbie…neither exactly sounds appealing. I love them, but…you know what I mean.’
'Yeah. I don’t really want a mini Mandy running around either,’ Mickey said, smiling at Ian. They were both quiet for a moment, returning their attention to the sonogram. Six weeks already. 'You know it’s going to be nothing like our siblings, right?’ he asked seriously.
'I know. And we’re going to be nothing like our fathers,’ Ian said, clasping Mickey’s hand meaningfully. He was talking mainly about Terry. Frank was a liar and a drunk, sure, but compared to Terry, he was practically a saint.
'I hope it’s a boy,’ Mickey said suddenly.
'Yeah. If we have a girl, she’ll be bringing boys home to fuck every five minutes. And I’d have to be protective and shit, put them in their places, scare them off. Dad stuff,’ Mickey explained. Ian burst out laughing.
'Are you planning on parenting like you’re in a nineties sitcom?’ he joked. 'She’ll just fuck them somewhere else, Mick. God knows we did it in some weird places,’ he reminded him.
'If it’s a girl, I won’t know the first thing to say,’ Mickey said quietly. Now Ian saw through his facade. He was insecure. 'I don’t know anything about girls, and neither do you because we’re both guys, and we’re both gay so it’s not like we know about women from fucking them like straight dads do,’ he said all in a rush.
'Well you used to -’
'Shut the fuck up, Ian, I’m serious,’ Mickey cut him off.
'Sorry. I was trying to lighten the mood. I shouldn’t have bought that up,’ he told Mickey apologetically.
'It’s fine. But don’t you agree?’
'No. Sure we’re maybe better equipped to deal with a son, but just because we’re not women and we’re not into women doesn’t mean we’re incapable of having a daughter. Ok? Don’t ever feel like you’re not enough. Don’t ever feel like you’re incapable of doing something because of who you are. If anything, everything we’ve been through is just going to make us better parents.’ Ian told him, kissing him firmly. 'There’s no-one else I would rather have a kid with.’
Mickey smiled a little. He still found it hard to do that, even after all this time. Show emotions that weren’t anger. Feel happiness. He had to let himself, it never came naturally.
Mickey slid into Ian’s shoulder and looked back at the sonogram. They were quiet, and he just listened to Ian’s heartbeat and felt Ian’s hands gently running through his dark hair. ‘Ian?’
'Do you know anything about periods and shit?’
Ian chuckled. ‘Well one time we shoved a tampon up Lip’s nose to stop it bleeding,’ he told him, grinning. Mickey looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘Look, we’ll just figure it out if and when it happens. Yeah?’
'Shit shit shit,’ Mickey muttered, pacing the hospital corridor for the umpteenth time.
'You need to calm down man,’ Lip said from behind, taking him by the shoulders and steering him to the seats by the wall.
'Why won’t they let me in?’
'State laws, hospital protocols, cunt doctors. I’m sure you’re familiar,’ Lip said, causing a pair of passing nurses to flinch nervously.
'I’m the fucking dad too.’ Mickey whispered.
'Yes you are,’ Lip stated in agreement. 'I know that and Ian knows that. And the kid’s going to know it too,’ he told him.
Mickey looked at him, his eyes heavy with tears that Lip knew he was too proud to cry. ‘After everything…after getting shot, getting raped, getting the shit beat out of me…this is the worst. This shit is regulated, I can’t control it, I can’t do anything. I’m missing the birth of my child,’ he trailed off.
'You know I’ve never been worried about you and Ian?’
'What are you talking about? The fuck does that have to do with anything?’
'Never. Because with you two, the stakes have always been higher. You’ve always had to go through more and be more for each other. Maybe you more than him. When he told me you two were fucking, I was surprised, sure. But I wasn’t worried. When he told me he was fucking Kash - well, when I figured it out - I was worried, I was pissed. But with you? I knew from that first moment that you must really give a damn if you were risking it all to be with him. And time went on and you stayed together - for the most part - and I barely even thought about it anymore. If I was put through even half the shit you’ve been through, Mickey, I’d have given up. But you never did, did you? You destroyed yourself, you kissed him with a broken face, you searched for him, you literally carried him. When he got diagnosed, you were there with him and you’ve never left his side since. What I’m trying to say here is that I wasn’t worried when he was sixteen and I’m not worried now. You will be able to get through this because I don’t think there’s anything this world could throw at you that you couldn’t handle. You’re Mickey fucking Milkovich.’
Mickey hugged Lip on instinct, before he could stop himself. ‘Thanks,’ he said gruffly, masking tears. ‘And I’m sorry I beat you up that one time,’ he added.
Lip laughed. ‘Shit, I’d forgotten about that,’ he remarked, breaking off the hug and clapping Mickey on the shoulder. ‘Ian?’ he called out, seeing his brother at the other end of the hall. Mickey was on his feet in a second.
'What’s happening? Is everything ok? Has it popped out yet? Boy? Girl? Ian why aren’t you saying anything? Shit did we lose it? Shit we did, didn’t we? Ian talk to me!’ Mickey spluttered frantically.
Ian was smiling, smiling so wide and with so much love. ‘No. No Mick, we didn’t lose her,’ he told him gently.
'Her?’ Mickey gasped.
Ian nodded. ‘You’re going to have to learn about periods,’ he said, right before kissing Mickey with possibly more passion than ever before.
'What’s she like?’
'She’s amazing. Come and meet her,’ he grabbed Mickey’s hand and led him inside, casting a glance back at Lip and silently thanking him for being there, for waiting with Mickey. Lip grinned back.
'I love you but shut up,’ Mickey said to the howling baby in his arms.
'Mick, don’t tell our daughter to shut up,’ Ian said in mock disapproval, smiling at them. They were side by side in bed, Mickey holding Rose.
'Our daughter,’ Mickey echoed.
They’d lost count of how many nights had been like this. Just laying there at 2am in the dark, half wishing they were sleeping and half wishing to never leave that moment. It didn’t matter that Rose was crying, that Ian had baby vomit on his arm or that Mickey had a headache. They’d honestly never felt closer. And the love they had for that tiny six month old bundle that Mickey clutched in his arms was a love neither had been prepared to feel and neither could understand yet.
Ian turned on his side and placed his hand on Mickey’s arm. ‘I love you so much,’ he told him. Mickey looked at him, the corners of his mouth twitching.
'I love you Ian,’ he returned after a pause. It still took him a moment sometimes. Ian knew why and he didn’t mind.
'Rose, why have we been called in today?’ Ian asked his daughter.
'I don’t know Daddy,’ she said truthfully.
'What have you done? You hit someone? You mouth off?’ Mickey fired the questions at her.
'I don’t think so,’ their six year old replied.
'How can you not know? Has your fist been in someone’s face or not?’ Mickey demanded.
Ian took his hand to calm him down. ‘Rose, whatever it is, we won’t be mad. You can tell us anything. We’ll work through it, as a family,’ he told her. Mickey made an odd sound from next to him. ‘You ok?’ he murmured. Mickey nodded, not looking at him.
She thought for a moment. ‘I really can’t think what I’ve done, I promise,’ she told Ian, her eyes wide with worry.
'Ah, you must be Rose’s parents?’ came a cheerful voice from behind them.
'Yes. I’m Ian,’ he said, extending his hand, smiling brightly. He knew they had to get off on the right foot before facing whatever it was that Rose had done.
'Mickey,’ he said, also shaking the woman’s hand.
'Pleasure. I’m Miss Cooper, Rose’s teacher,’ she introduced herself, 'thank you for taking the time to come here today,’ she said, sitting behind her desk.
'Of course, it’s no trouble,’ Mickey said carefully, trying not to curse.
'Well let’s get right to it, shall we? Rose is doing so well. I’m thrilled with the progress she’s been making,’ she told them. Ian and Mickey were stunned.
'She’s not in trouble?’ Ian asked uncertainly.
'Of course not! Gosh is that what you thought this was? No, not at all!’ the teacher reassured them.
Rose was grinning up at her fathers, triumphant.
'Here is a story she wrote, it’s just wonderful…and they’ve been building robots in art class, hers is that purple one on the table behind you. And these are her workbooks - almost perfect scores in math quizzes and spelling tests. And Rose, tell your dads what you did in history yesterday!’
'I recited all the Presidents, in order,’ she said proudly.
'You make them learn that?’ Ian asked incredulously.
'No, not when they’re six! She just knew. Must have learned it of her own free will,’ Miss Cooper explained, smiling at Rose.
Ian read what his daughter had written, carefully and neatly in soft pencil, telling the story six children living in a house with no parents. On the last page she’d drawn them. A tall girl in shorts with messy dark hair, two boys of equal height, one in jeans, the other with a solid crayoned block of orange hair, a girl with a ponytail and red lipstick, a boy with no hair holding a baseball bat, and on the floor at the end was a toddler wearing a nappy. His fingers traced the red haired figure. He looked at her, a lump in his throat. ‘This is great,’ he told her softly. Rose smiled and silently pointed to the corner of the page. She’d drawn a little house with one window. A girl with a nose ring and pink streaked hair was what first caught his eye. Next to her was a shorter figure, a boy with a shock of black hair in a tank top. They were staring longingly at the big family above them. Ian felt his eyes tearing up and then he just hugged his little girl as hard as he could. ‘I love you,’ he told her.
'Ok,’ she said. The adults all laughed.
'Did you hear that?’ Mickey said, putting down his coffee mug.
'Hear what?’ Ian asked. Another scream.
'That,’ Mickey told him.
'Shit,’ said Ian, running upstairs, Mickey behind. 'Rose? What happened?’
The bathroom door unlocked and Rose came out, still in her pyjamas. She looked pretty shaken. ‘Um. Nothing,’ she said, averting her eyes.
'You were screaming. I thought you were six weeks old again, never mind sixteen,’ Ian said her. He still couldn’t believe how long it had been.
'I said it’s nothing. Please let me go to my room. Please,’ she said quietly.
'Fine. Go. You can tell us whenever you’re ready?’ Mickey called after her. She shook her head and shuffled off. He turned to Ian. 'You think she’s pregnant?’ he whispered. Ian hadn’t even thought of that. But Mickey had grown up with Mandy. He shrugged, glancing after his daughter. Then he saw. He nudged Mickey. There was blood streaked on her pyjamas. As soon as she was in her room, Mickey groaned, looking terrified. This had been his worst fear sixteen years ago and it still lingered.
'Ian I can’t. What the fuck do we do? I don’t - what are you doing?’ Ian was going into their bedroom and opening the closet.
'Fiona gave me these back when Rose was thirteen or so. I put them away and forgot about them…I figured she had to have started by now, you know? Just figured it out on her own and not told us. We should’ve done something. How could we have been so fucking careless?’
'We kept putting it off. And I think we were in denial that she was growing up. But yeah. We should've…I don’t know, something.’
'I’m doing something now,’ Ian said, heading towards Rose’s bedroom. He knocked. 'Can I come in? You decent?’ he asked gently. Mickey was trying to pull him away furiously. 'We can’t avoid this anymore Mick,’ Ian told him as they entered. She was sitting on her bed, laptop open. Ian gently closed the lid and sat beside her. But before he could say anything, Mickey began.
'Rose. What’s happening is totally normal. It happens every month. You can use these, they’re called tampons, or there’s towels. If these aren’t right, here’s twenty dollars, you can buy whichever kind you need. I’m sorry we didn’t talk about this sooner. We love you,’ he said, speaking very quickly to a stunned Rose, and then got up to leave.
'Oh my god! Oh my god, no!’ Rose shrieked from the bed. 'That’s not why - you guys thought - oh my god!’ she said, laughing uncontrollably.
'Your - pyjamas,’ Mickey said, confused and awkward. She blushed.
'Shit, sorry,’ she muttered. Her turn to be embarrassed. 'I was screaming because…I can’t say,’ she told them.
'Rose, are you pregnant?’ Ian asked her, automatically returning to their earlier assumption. She laughed.
'Seriously?’ she asked, gesturing to the boxes of tampons. Ian sighed at his stupidity. 'Besides, I’m seeing a girl right now,’ she said casually.
Her fathers stared at each other.
'Why didn’t you tell us before?’ Ian asked.
'I wasn’t sure. I’m still not,’ she explained. She shrugged. 'It was a…surprise, when it all happened. I like her a lot. I don’t know if it’s just her or if it’s girls. I like guys a lot too. I’m trying not to get too caught up in it,’ she told them.
Mickey stared at his daughter. This girl who reminded him of himself in so many ways. But she had accepted herself and she was more certain of her heart at sixteen than he had been back then, and later. And she had better parents than him. He’d prove it, he knew, as he went to hold her.
'I’m so proud of you,’ he said.
Rose hugged her father back. She knew his life had not been easy, but she didn’t know the full story. There were questions she’d asked over the years that had been met with awkward attempts to shy away from the truth until eventually she’d just stopped asking. She knew they were both covered in scars. She knew she only had one set of grandparents. The picture she had in her head of her parents’ lives was in bits and pieces. Maybe one day they’d tell her everything, maybe they wouldn’t. Ultimately she didn’t care. She knew they loved her, she knew they did. Nothing was ever faked in their house and nothing was ever hidden. Well. She was going to hide their surprise anniversary party that Lip had just told her about on the phone. But nothing else.
'Is something burning?’ she asked after a moment.
'The pancakes!’ Mickey exclaimed, bounding out of the bedroom and thundering down the stairs to save their breakfast.
Ian laughed. ‘Breakfast foods,’ he said simply. ‘Are you ok?’ he asked her seriously.
'Yeah. I’m good,’ she told her father, smiling.
He ruffled her hair. ‘It really is ok, you know? To be confused, I mean. You have the right parents for it,’ he said, smiling. She nodded. Ian kissed the top of her head and turned to leave.
'I really love you guys a lot, ok?’ she called out. Ian smiled. She didn’t say it often. She was like Mickey that way.
He nodded. ‘I know. Love you too,’ he said, closing the door.
'Thanks for the twenty bucks!’ she yelled as he walked downstairs. Ian grinned to himself as he entered the kitchen to see Mickey scraping black discs from the hot plate.
'Gonna have to start a new batch,’ he said.
Ian went up behind him and snaked his hands around his waist, kissing his neck. ‘I know it wasn’t needed, but what you said up there was amazing.’
Mickey leaned into his touch. ‘It felt really…parent-y, you know? I never - I never thought I’d get to have that,’ he murmured.
'I can’t believe the boy who wouldn’t let me kiss him twenty years ago is still with me now,’ Ian said. 'Hell, has a kid with me.’
'Not so much of a kid anymore though, is she,’ Mickey said. 'And I still can’t believe I ever stopped myself from doing this,’ he turned around and kissed Ian. They were familiar with each others lips now, but their hearts still jolted like they did when they shared their first kiss in that driver’s seat.
'I love you, Gallagher’ Mickey told him. Ian smiled. No hesitation now.