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It's too hot to sleep, even at three a.m., even with all the windows open and the box fans blowing full speed, and after the kids are finally passed out in front of the television Lip and Ian sit on the steps behind the house with a joint and a couple of fingers worth of Jim Beam.

It's been a long summer, a long time since it's been just the two of them. That's mostly Lip's fault, and he hadn't realized how much he's missed Ian until now. He passes Ian the joint, tries not to think about all those nights spent outside Karen's house, waiting for that little bitch Jody to leave so that he can sneak in and fuck her. “When do you think Fiona will show? What time is her shift over?”

Ian takes a drag, shrugs. “She hasn't been home much since Steve took off. She's having a hard time with it.”

“With being stuck,” Lip says, twirling the bottle so that the leftover whiskey sloshes. “With us.”

Ian hands the joint back. “She doesn't think of it like that. You know she doesn't.”

“Because she's a saint? Frank and Monica couldn't hack parenthood long term. Why should Fiona be any different? Why should any of us?”

“Is that what this is about? Karen being knocked up?” Lip expects Ian to laugh, but his brother is staring down at the cracked concrete. “Lip--”.

“You're gay,” Lip says savagely. “So it doesn't fucking matter to you. I get that. And even if you weren't, you're not Frank's son, and chances are your dad is only maybe eighty percent as shitty as Frank.”

“Yeah,” Ian snaps, “right. I couldn't possibly understand. For as smart as you are, you can be a dumb asshole sometimes. But I guess you get that from Frank.”

“Seriously, fuck you.”

“You really think you're going to turn into Frank, just like that?”

“At some point, Frank turned into Frank. Genetics aren't really in my favor.”

“It doesn't work that way,” Ian says, and now he does look at Lip. “Frank didn't just turn into Frank. He chose to be Frank.”

Lip snorts. “That is a horrifying thought.” He takes a big sip of the Beam and nudges the bottle at Ian.

Ian took it, but he didn't drink. “I want kids,” he says. “Someday. At least I think I do. As long as they turn out like Liam, and not like Carl. You don't want kids?”

Lip takes the bottle back. “No. Why would I want to fuck up someone else's life? And I will fuck it up, too. It's the Gallagher way.”

“She gave you an out. She married someone else.”

“Yeah,” Lip says. “Well, you might be right about my being a dumb asshole. But just because I don't want to ruin my kid's life, doesn't mean I want to watch fucking Jody fuck it up. I told Karen to have an abortion but she wanted a ring and a chance to play house.”

“Women,” Ian says, in a passable imitation of Frank. “No accounting for 'em.”

“Yeah, well. Not a problem you're likely to have with Mickey Milkovich. Can't see him wanting babies. Staying home, tending the home fires, doing the grocery shopping and joining the P.T.A. while his man is off at the front.”

“Leave Mickey out of it.”

“You were the one who said he wanted kids.”

“I also said, some day. Like, in a really long time, and somehow I don't think that'll be Mick's thing. I'm pretty sure he'll take off as soon as he turns eighteen.”

“Uh, I'm pretty sure he'll be in jail by then,” Lip says.

“Whatever,” Ian says, but he doesn't sound pissed. Lip isn't sure, but he doesn't think Ian is any more serious about Mickey than he was about Kash. Maybe he escaped that Gallagher gene altogether-- the one that made you fall for the Monicas and Steves and Karens of the world, that made you commit an endless string of stupid mistakes and minor felonies for the sake of what Lip doesn't like to call love. Maybe Ian is more like old screw'em and leave'em Monica.

Good for Ian. Lip is pretty sure it's easier to leave than it is to be the one left behind.

“So you tell me, what is it that pisses you off so much about the thought of having a kid? Seriously?”

“I told you, I don't want to fuck someone else's life up. I mean, with me and Karen for parents it'll probably be born an addict and a sociopath, apart from everything else.”

“None of us are that bad, and we had Monica and Frank.”

Lip snorts.

“Okay, it's possible Carl is a sociopath,” Ian clarifies. “And we do smoke a lot of weed, I guess. But there are plenty of people more fucked up than us, admit it.”

Lip thinks of Karen and her daddy issues, slutty Mandy Milkovich and her crazy brothers, the weird kid Carl's always hanging around with. “There are people who are as fucked up as us, maybe,” he admits. “Not more fucked up than us.”

“What if she kept it?”, Ian says softly. “Would that be the worst thing in the world? What if she kept it and we all sort of--.” He makes this gesture with his hands that might mean strangle the baby at birth, and might mean that it takes a village to raise a child, but something about it catches Lip and he starts laughing and can't stop, sagging back against the cool concrete.

“It wasn't that funny,” Ian says.

“Yeah,” Lip agrees. “Sorry.” But he's been telling himself that it wasn't possible, that he wouldn't even think about it, and now he has. “Fuck.”

Beside him, Ian sighs, but he doesn't say anything else, and they pass the joint between them until it's gone.

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February 2015

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