“You’re the ginger boy Michael is seeing, yes?”
The sound of Mickey’s name, although in its entirety and scarcely used by anyone, tugged at something in Ian’s stomach. A hint of jealously quickly coursed through his veins at the thought of Mickey actually allowing Svetlana to call him that. It did not sit well with him and was a stupid thought, but it irked Ian nonetheless. He rolled his eyes at her comment. He tried his best not to be rude in his response, because the fact that her tense was off caused Ian to feel off. He badly wished the things in his past would stay there, but as usual, they came back to haunt him, the ghosts disturbing more than his thoughts – they ruined his rhythms. Ian quickly reminded himself that English was not her first language and decided to nicely correct her.
“Was,” Ian started, his voice scratchy. “I’m the boy your husband was seeing.” He coughed violently after finishing his sentence, the word ‘husband’ dry as it exited his mouth, upsetting his bronchitis and laboring his breathing. He didn’t know why he chose to say that; perhaps verbalizing the actual word would pull him out of denial.
“You need medicine for that,” Svetlana said to Ian as she pointed to his throat and chest.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Come, I have just the thing.” Was she serious? Ian looked at her suspiciously. First she follows him after he was obviously spotted by her, now she’s offering him medicine like she fucking knows him. He shook his head, denying her request.
“I said I’m fine.” Ian fixed his scarf again, and began to walk off, only to be stopped by her bony fingers gripping his forearm.
“Wait, please,” she pleaded. She then reached for something in her pocket, and pulled it out, motioning for Ian to take it. “At least put this on your head.” He looked down at the Chicago White Sox skullcap she had in her hand.
“You just randomly walk around with hats in your pocket?” Ian asked as he took the hat. A small smile spread across Svetlana’s lips. Ian never found her particularly appealing, but for some reason, she didn’t seem that bad to him now. She had less makeup on her face, and her eyes actually had some sort of life in them. He credited her son for that.
“Sort of. It’s Michael’s. He refuses to wear hat, but I always carry it with me in case he gets some sense in that head of his one day. He wears it maybe two times.” Despite his inner protests, he took the hat. “He won’t notice it’s gone.”
“Thanks,” Ian said plainly. He held up the hat to place it on his head. Although Svetlana said he rarely wore the hat, Ian’s fingertips couldn’t help but recognize the residual traces of his former lover, as impossible as that seemed. And God did it smell like him. Despite not seeing, touching or smelling Mickey for well over a year, that scent was just as recognizable and strong – an intoxicating mixture of cigarette smoke and cheap, strawberry scented shampoo. Ian could tell he was still using the same one he always complained about.
“He misses you.” Ian frowned at Svetlana’s comment. It was a fast ball out of left field, and it hit Ian, hard.
“How do you know that? Has he said that to you?”
“Thought so.” Ian began to turn and walk away again. He was so done with this. He still didn’t even know why the whore that raped Mickey in front of him even came after him.
“But I know because he says your name in his sleep.” Ian stopped dead in his tracks. “Ian, yes?” Mickey never called him by his first name, but hearing that he unconsciously vocalized the one thing Ian wanted almost more than anything to hear leave his lips, made the hairs on his arms stand at attention. He quickly shook the fuzzy feelings and steeled himself. He wouldn’t let the one guy he worked so hard at getting over get back under his skin, not even inadvertently through his so called wife. He slowly turned to face Svetlana.
“He never called me that.”
“But it is your name? Mandy talks to me about you. She misses you too.” Ian dropped his head at the sound of his best friend’s name. Even Mandy didn’t know he was home after being kicked out of the Army.
“Yes, that’s my name. He says it in his sleep?” Svetlana smiled, wider this time, revealing her teeth. It was kind of creepy to Ian given her expressionless face was all he had etched in his mind. He actually thought the woman was void of any emotion.
“Take walk with me? I give you medicine for your cough.” Ian didn’t know why, but he nodded his head in agreement. He could have been walking into major shit, given he didn’t know where they were going; for all he knew, they could have been going to the Milkovich house. But something in Ian told him that Svetlana knew better.
On the way to wherever they were going, Svetlana stopped outside of a Bodega. Ian’s chest was sore from all of the coughing, probably more from the memories. “Wait here,” she said as she went inside. A few minutes later she came out with a small bag. She pulled out a pack of Halls cough drops and handed it to him.
“This your medicine?” Ian asked. She shook her head, implying a ‘no.’
“This is cough drop. To hold you over until we get to real medicine.” Ian was somewhat taken aback by how nice she was being to him. They continued walking, the streets familiar to Ian. He was beginning to recognize where they were headed. His heart sank as they passed the stairwell where he once hid for over an hour, waiting for her to exit Garden Springs Spa. He got nauseous at the thought of how sick he was back then for someone who clearly didn’t want him as much as he wanted him. When they walked up to the door of the place, Ian froze. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go in. He looked Svetlana in her face, her eyes honest and unthreatening. A question danced in his mouth.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked. His voice was almost pleading.
“Like I said before. He misses you,” she answered so matter of fact. Ian’s heart skipped a beat. What was she implying? Instead of trying to decode what wasn’t clear yet, he just cracked a small smile. She held out her hand and motioned for Ian to follow her. Without hesitation, he grabbed it and went inside.
“I’m still not sure why we’re here for medicine,” Ian said looking around. The place was dimly lit, and had the appearance of a spa, except for the bad lighting. There was a blonde female with her hair in a high bun sitting at the front desk. She looked up at them, her teal eyes sparkling as she smiled. Svetlana went behind the desk as the girl stood up, and kissed both of her cheeks. They began speaking in Russian, the blonde looking over at Ian with the widest grin as they spoke. Feeling uncomfortable, he put his hands in his pockets. The girl then made her way towards Ian, extending her hands. Ian hesitated, but took them as she leaned in and kissed both of his cheeks.
“So handsome,” she said in a heavy Russian accent. “I am Nadia. Follow me.” Still confused, he followed her and Svetlana down a hallway of rooms to the one all the way in the back. It was an office.
“This is Oswald’s office,” Svetlana said to Ian as she made her way to a cabinet in the back of the room. “He’s the owner.” The office was tackily decorated with red shaggy looking carpet, animal print chairs and gaudy lights and other fixtures. There was a cigar holder in the shape of a lion’s mouth on the cherry wood desk. Svetlana chuckled at Ian’s obvious disgust for the man’s taste as she walked towards him holding a bottle and a box she retrieved from the cabinet. “He likes the animal things.”
Ian looked at the contents in her hands; a box, tea it looked like, and a bottle that was obviously alcohol of some sort, both with Russian writing on them. “This the medicine you were talking about?”
“Da,” she responded in Russian. “It’s Russian tea, and Russian whiskey. Drink tea with shot of whiskey and poof, no more cough.” She handed the tea and whiskey to Nadia, saying something to her in Russian. She nodded, and walked out of the office, probably to go make the concoction. Svetlana turned back to Ian. “Come, follow me.” Ian walked behind her as they made their way back down the hallway. A few rooms down, they stopped in front of one of the doors. “This is where I work,” she said as she opened the door. Once again, Ian hesitated before walking in, but fought his inner protests and went inside.
The room was surprisingly comfortable, given what he knew went down in the confines. It actually had the makings of where a massage therapist would work, with a massage table in the middle of the room, a coffee table to the right in front of a few chairs with the same animal print as the ones in Oswald’s office, and everything someone who was actually doing massages would need from oils, to lotions, all on a counter to the left. Svetlana smirked at Ian, knowing the boy was curious, really curious. She walked over to the counter with the oils, and opened a locked compartment beneath it, revealing lube, condoms, toys, and everything someone working in a brothel would need.
“We keep that stuff hidden, in case raid happens,” she said to Ian. “Come, sit.” She sat at the small coffee table, motioning for Ian to take a seat. Nadia then came walking in with a cup of hot tea. She placed the cup in front of Ian, subsequently placing the whiskey next to it.
“In case you want straight,” Nadia said to Ian. She then winked at Svetlana then left the room.
Ian sniffed the hot tea as held brought it close to his mouth. He could smell the alcohol coming from the cup and began wondering to himself if Nadia got the proportion of tea to whiskey backwards. Nevertheless he took a gulp of the tea, the burn in his mouth from both the tea being too hot and the sting of the alcohol. The taste wasn’t that great, but he welcomed the warmth of the whiskey going down his throat – it was much needed.
“Thanks,” Ian said after taking another sip.
“You’re welcome. Give it twenty four hours and no more cough.” Ian smiled into the mug as he took another sip. They sat in silence for the next few minutes, his body becoming warmer with each swallow of tea and whiskey. Svetlana studied his face as he drank, so many questions in her eyes. Ian knew it would be any moment before she began to speak, or spill what’s probably been building inside her for the past year. He finished his tea then opened the whiskey bottle, pouring a good amount straight into the mug. He took too big of a gulp, not expecting it to be so harsh. He twisted his face as the burn set fire to his throat.
“Strong isn’t it?” she asked. Ian shook his head ‘yes’ as he coughed a few times. “That for big Russian men. Even Michael has problem drinking it.” Ian cringed at the sound of Mickey’s name. They were doing do good not talking about him. Svetlana must have taken note of the look on Ian’s face. Her smile dwindled, and there was a sudden sadness in her eyes.
“About what happened that day,” she began as she looked down at the table. Ian’s face got hot as he listened to her voice, each word seeming to slow down, seconds turning to minutes allowing the past to catch up to the present time. That day meant that day. He closed his eyes because he knew where she was going. “I never wanted that to happen.”
“You don’t owe me an explanation,” Ian responded.
“But I want to say I’m sorry.”
“Why? I’m pretty sure you were doing it out of fear for your life as much as me and Mickey feared for ours. Terry, he’s – “ Ian cut himself off not wanting to recall the events of that day in the Milkovich living room. All he could see was red, black and blue – blood and bruises. “Just…look, we don’t have to talk about it, k?”
“But I saw it,” she continued, ignoring Ian’s request to end the conversation.
“Saw what?” Svetlana’s gaze deepened as she looked at Ian.
“The way Michael looked at you while it happened. He hurt for you more than he hurt for himself.”
Ian didn’t respond. He couldn’t. Svetlana was picking at raw nerve right now, and if he reciprocated it any way, he was certain he would break down. He had to steel himself. Fucking steel himself.
“And now,” Svetlana continued, “the way he looks when Mandy talks about you, it’s – “ she stopped not being able to find the words.
“Like he’s lost, then found at sound of your name.” And with that, Ian took another gulp of whiskey. Mickey’s name had the opposite effect on him. It was as if he was in a labyrinth, just beginning to make his way to the center, until the walls decided to shift and change, forming a maze. So at the sound of Mickey fucking Milkovich, he once again finds himself guessing each turn because unlike the labyrinth that’s one path meant to lead to the center, a maze is meant to confuse and send you the wrong way. “But he’s been a little better since Sebastian.”
“Oh,” Ian responded dryly as he furrowed his eyebrows. The enthusiasm couldn’t have been further away. “That’s a great name.” And it was. He threw in a compliment, trying not to seem insulting to Svetlana, given she was his mother. If only he would have kept his mouth shut, because saying one thing clears a path for another to be said. He wasn’t sure if it was possible to wince at something not yet spoken, but he found himself wanting hysterical deafness for what was to come – there was hysterical blindness, so it could be possible. Svetlana’s face lit up as she spoke about her son.
“Yes, Michael named him. Sebastian Clayton Milkovich.” Ian thought he was hearing things, but the sound of his own heart beating relentlessly in his ears reassured him what he just heard was real. Mickey had given his son his middle name.
“How did he come up with the name?”
“Don’t know. Just said it was cool name.” Typical Mickey to be ambiguous. But Ian knew.
“Are you gonna tell him I’m back?” Ian asked. He hoped she would say yes and no at the same time. He didn’t know if it was the alcohol starting to take effect, or his heart warring with his head, but he didn’t know what he wanted. There was too much information digested in such a small amount of time, so Ian was in overload.
“When time is right.”
“I still don’t know why you’re really doing this.” Svetlana continued to look at Ian, a knowing look spreading across her face. Her next words were straight to the point and spoken without hesitation.
“Because I believe in true love.”
I am my own beta, and barely did it for this. Hopefully there aren’t any mistakes, lol. Once again, thank you for reading. :) The next chapter will be forthcoming in the next day or so (I am hardly home tomorrow). I hope you’re still enjoying!
This is also on AO3.