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Standing Up To Him

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Ian’s four the first time Frank hits him. Lip’s sick, really sick, and neither Monica nor Frank seem to give a shit at all. He’s been throwing up for three days straight and no matter how hard Fiona tries to hide it, he can tell she’s absolutely terrified. She’s only a kid herself, she shouldn’t have to be doing this alone. There’s only so much a nine year old can do before she has to admit defeat.

Fiona’s in their bedroom trying to get Lip to eat something, anything at all, but everything she hands to him he refuses to take. Ian’s only four but he understands everything that is going on. Fiona’s always told Ian he’s smarter than most kids his age, that he understands more than he probably should. He doesn’t really have a choice though, understanding is the only way he’s going to survive.

After almost thirty minutes of her trying to no avail, Ian figures he has to do something. Lip needs help, a grown up’s help, and the only people he can turn to are their parents, even if they’re usually too high to help them. He goes downstairs, searching the house for Monica. Though she isn’t always in her right mind, she’s always been easier to deal with than Frank when it comes to asking for stuff. After searching every room for her, he realizes she’s not here and he has no choice but to go to Frank.

He finds Frank passed out on the couch, empty beer bottle clutched tightly in his hand. Ian stands in front of him for a few seconds, watching him sleep, before he gets up the courage to wake him up. He knows it’s not a good idea but Lip needs help, help that he and Fiona can’t give him, and the only way he’s going to get that is if Ian asks Frank for it. He’s scared, Frank’s always scary when he’s drunk, but he cares about his big brother a lot and he knows he doesn’t have any other choice.

“Daddy,” he says softly, pushing at his arm. Frank doesn’t wake up so Ian pushes harder, calls louder, anything to get the man up. He needs him to wake up so he can help his big brother. “Daddy, wake up.” Ian takes the beer bottle from his hand and not surprisingly, that’s the exact thing that wakes him up. It’s like Frank’s sixth sense, he knows the second someone tries to take alcohol away from him.

“What the fuck?” Frank yells, taking the beer bottle from Ian before he pushes him back and stands up. He holds the bottle up to his lips, frowns when he realizes it’s empty, and tosses it aside before he heads into the kitchen.

“Daddy, Lip’s sick. He needs medicine,” Ian says as he stands up, desperately wringing his hands together, following Frank into the kitchen.

“Fuck off,” Frank says, pulling another beer bottle from the fridge. He opens it up and chugs half the bottle in one go before he searches through the fridge looking for something to eat. “I’m busy.”

“But-” Ian says, instantly regretting it when he sees the flash of anger in Frank’s eyes. He tries to scramble away from Frank’s clenched fists but he’s not fast enough.

Frank lashes out, slapping Ian so hard he falls backwards and lands heavily on his arm. Ian’s arm hurts and his face stings, but he doesn’t cry out. That would only make it worse. “I said I’m fucking busy, now go.”

Frank kicks out at Ian but he manages to avoid the flailing limbs. He rushes back upstairs, absolutely terrified, and slams the door to the bedroom the three kids share, probably four once Monica has her new baby. Fiona looks up at the sudden noise, terror crossing her face, slamming doors usually means trouble and she needs to be on constant alert. She relaxes slightly once she realizes it’s just Ian.

Ian steps further into the room and Fiona catches sight of his face, the terror she had just felt changing to rage in a matter of seconds. She’s always been protective of her brothers and seeing them with signs of abuse only makes her angry. Fiona jumps up, Ian can tell she’s about to go yell at Frank, when Lip cries out in his sleep. She looks down at Lip in bed beside her, worrying her lip between her teeth, trying to decide which she should deal with right now.

“It’s okay,” Ian says when he sees that Fiona’s torn. Lip needs her more than he needs her and he doesn’t want her to leave him alone right now. “He needs you.”

Fiona sighs and brushes a hand through Lip’s sweaty hair, trying to soothe him. Once he settles back down into a fit-less sleep, Fiona lays down next to him and pats the bed next to her. Ian crawls in bed, squeezing his body into the small space between Fiona and Lip. They’re small but it’s still a tight fight for all three of them.

Fiona pulls him closer to her, letting him bury his head in her chest. It’s the only place he’s ever felt safe and soon enough Ian’s sobbing, crying harder than he has in a long time. Fiona does her best to calm him down, she and Lip are the only ones able to calm him down nowadays, but Ian’s too scared.

“It’s okay,” she whispers softly. “I won’t let him hurt you again and don’t worry about Lip, we’ll take him to the doctor tomorrow. He’ll be fine.”

They both know it’s a lie, she’d try her best but she can’t always be there when Ian is alone with Frank and it’d be foolish to think it’s not going to happen again. Frank’s never been that violent, not even when he's completely hammered, but everyone has their moments. He doesn’t know how they’ll get Lip to the doctor, but he does know one thing. He’ll never call Frank Daddy again. Any man who’d do this to their kids, leave their oldest to try and fix everything by herself, doesn’t deserve the name.

Ian’s seven when Fiona asks him to make a run to the corner store for milk and diapers, two things they’re in desperate need of. They’re in desperate need of a lot of things if Ian’s being honest with himself, but there’s only so much cash and they need the milk and diapers for the babies. They always come first, no matter what.

Monica and Frank disappeared on some kind of bender three days ago, not that they would have gone shopping anyway, and Fiona needs to be home to watch after Carl and Debbie. Ian’s almost there when he catches sight of Frank, crawling out behind some dumpster in the nearest alley. He tries to dodge him, the last thing he needs right now is Frank badgering him for money, but he’s not quick enough.

Frank’s in front of Ian in a second, smiling at him like he hadn’t left six kids at home by themselves for three days without any kind of support. “Son,” Frank says, reaching out to place a hand on Ian’s shoulder. Funny, he wasn’t calling him son a few days ago when he’d screamed at him for no reason at all. “Give me some money.”

“Don’t have any,” Ian says, shrugging away from his father’s grip. He doesn’t have time for Frank, he has to get home to help Fiona with the kids. Besides, all he’s got on him is a ten dollar bill. He’s got to use what’s left after he buys what he needs for lunch money tomorrow, every penny counts right now.

“I bet you’re going to the store right now,” Frank persists, stepping in front of Ian once again. “Come on, share with your father. It’s the least you could do after all these years of me taking care of you.”

“Go away,” Ian says, stepping around Frank once again. He really doesn’t have time for this, Fiona’s only going to worry every second he’s gone and he hates it when she worries about him. He walks faster now, hoping Frank’s too drunk to keep up with his brisk pace.

“Why are all my kids ungrateful?” Frank asks, voice rising as he gets angry, and Ian can tell he wasn’t really expecting an answer. “The fuckers can’t even spare a few dollars for their starving father. Let’s just see if I do anything for them.”

Frank pushes past Ian roughly, shoving him into the nearest wall. Ian’s face rams against the brick, scratching up his face and causing his nose to bleed. Frank shows no sign of caring, just keeps walking away like he has no relation to the kid in front of him whatsoever, and Ian’s not even sure he’s sober enough to realize what he’s just done.

Ian watches him go, wiping at the blood that drips down from his nose. He’s sure he looks like a mess but he doesn’t really care right now, he’s got bigger things to worry about. It’s not the first time his dad’s made his nose bleed and Ian doesn’t think for a second that it’s going to be the last.

Ian holds his shirt up to his nose, trying to soak up as much blood as he can, as he walks the rest of the way to the store. He catches sight of himself in the window of the store and winces. He looks worse than he’d thought, he’s lip is fat and swollen, his cheek is scratched, and his nose has a cut on the tip. Fiona’s definitely going to know something had happened and she won't be happy when he tells her it was Frank. He shakes his head and slips his hand in his pocket, making sure the ten is still there, before he walks into the store so he can get what he came for.

Ian’s twelve when Monica leaves for good. At first, they don’t even realize she’s never coming back. She’s been gone for almost a week, but that’s nothing unusual. She often disappears for days at a time, especially when she’s off her meds, but she always ends up coming home. How were they supposed to know this time would be different?

Ian’s on the couch, Carl curled up and sleeping with his head resting on his thigh, and Lip’s in the kitchen doing homework. There’s some crappy kids show on the TV that Carl had been watching before he fell asleep that Ian’s not interested in but he doesn’t bother to change the channel. It’s just the three of them, Fiona had taken Debbie and Liam to the store for a few minutes to do some shopping.

Ian’s just about to fall asleep when the door opens and slams closed. He doesn’t have to turn around to know that it’s Frank, he can smell the stench of alcohol on his breath from where he’s sitting and Fiona would have been quieter. Carl groans in his sleep and Ian runs a hand through his hair, trying to sooth him. Carl hasn’t been sleeping well these past few weeks, nightmares keep him awake most of the night, and he’s gotten maybe ten hours of sleep in the past three days. If Frank wakes him up Ian’s going to be pissed.

“It’s your fault,” Frank says, stopping in front of Ian. His words are so slurred it takes a second for Ian to even understand what he’s trying to say. His eyes are red rimmed, like he’s been crying, and he smells like alcohol so bad it hurts Ian’s head. “She’s gone and it’s all your fault. You always ruin everything.”

Lip comes out from the kitchen when he hears Frank start talking to Ian, ready to jump in if he needs to protect his brothers. He stops in the doorway, glaring over at Frank, and folds his arms across his chest. “What are you talking about?” he says, leaning up against the doorway.

“Monica’s gone,” Frank says, turning to look at his oldest son. His voice is shaky and it sounds like he hasn’t used it in days but Ian can tell he’s telling the truth. Frank lies about a lot of things, but he’d never lie about something like this. “She’s not coming back this time, she’s gone and it’s all Ian’s fault.”

“Shut the hell up,” Lip says, glaring at Frank. “That’s not true.”

Despite what Lip says Ian has this sickening feeling that Frank means what he says. Monica is gone, she isn’t coming back, and it’s all his fault.

“What do you mean Mommy isn’t coming home?” Carl says, sitting up next to Ian. His eyes are red rimmed, his voice is scratchy, and Ian can practically feel just how exhausted he is. Ian’s so pissed off that Carl’s been woken up, especially to a conversation like this, and all he wants to do is deck Frank.

Frank ignores Carl, doesn’t even glance in his direction, and focuses his attention on Ian. “It’s your fault,” he sees pulling Ian up by the collar of his shirt. “She left because of you.”

Lip steps forward the second he sees Frank put his hands on Ian. Frank’s manages to hit Ian before Lip can get there, sending him tumbling to the ground. Lip gets between them and pushes Frank so hard he goes flying back into the bookshelf. “You don’t touch him,” Lip says, spit flying from the force of his words. “You don’t fucking put your hands on him.”

Carl jumps up, ready to protect Ian as well, but Ian pulls him down. The last thing he wants is for Carl to get hurt because he feels like he needs to protect him. Carl wraps his arms around Ian’s waist, hiding his face in his neck, and Ian wraps an arm protectively around Carl. “I’m okay,” he says softly, trying to reassure him, and maybe himself, that everything’s okay. “It’s okay.”

It’s at that moment Fiona walks in, Debbie by her side and Liam in her arms. The second she sees what’s going on in front of her she carefully hands Liam to Debbie and steps in front of Lip. “What the fuck happened?” she says, looking between Frank and Lip.

“He hit Ian,” Lip says, glaring at Frank as he struggles to get up. Ian’s sure that fall had to hurt, their bookshelf is in pieces on the floor, but he can’t find the energy to care right now, not after everything he’s done today.

“Monica left because of that little shit!” Frank screams, pointing at Ian. “It’s his fault she’s gone.”

“Get out,” Fiona says, not caring what Frank has to say. “Get the fuck out.”

“But-” Frank tries to defend himself, only for Fiona to cut him off.

“I don’t care what you think he did, you don’t fucking touch these kids,” Fiona says. Ian’s never seen her this mad before. “Out, now. I don’t care what you have to say, I want you out.”

Frank seems like he’s about to argue, maybe try and plead his case, but he thinks better of it and shakes his head. “Whatever,” he says, glaring at Ian. “He ain’t worth the effort.” Frank staggers out of the house, slamming the door hard enough to shake the walls when he leaves.

Fiona falls to the ground in front of Ian once he’s gone, checking out all the damage Frank had done to him. “You okay?” she asks softly, resting a hand on the side of his face. “Jesus, you need some ice.”

Debbie lays Liam down in his play pen before she comes to sit by Fiona. Lip comes out of the kitchen as Fiona’s talking, handing Ian a bag of frozen peas. “Here,” he says softly, handing the peas over to him. “It’s all we have.”

He smiles up at Lip and takes the food from him. Ian’s eye hurts, he can already feel it starting to swell shut, but otherwise he’s fine. “I’m fine,” he says, pushing tentatively at his eye before he puts the ice up against it. “Yeah, I’ll be okay.”

“Did Mom really leave?” Carl asks, pulling away from Ian slightly. Debbie looks up at the three of them, expecting an honest answer, and Ian’s heart breaks for them. They didn’t deserve this.

“Of course not,” Fiona says, wrapping an arm around Carl’s shoulders. She smoothes her fingers through Carl’s hair, trying to get him to relax again. “She’ll be home soon, she always is. You’ll see.”

Lip and Ian share a look. They can tell by Fiona’s face that she doesn’t mean a word of what she’s saying, but they’re not going to say that in front of Debbie and Carl. All three of them know there’s a chance they’ll never see her again, but how are they supposed to tell a six and eight year old their Mom isn’t coming back?

Ian’s fifteen when everyone’s piled into the living room, watching the newest episode of Deadliest Catch. It’s the one show everyone likes, the one thing that everyone has in common, and they always try and make it into a family affair. Everyone’s here, besides Kev because he’s at the Albi, and everyone’s excited for tonight. Steve and Fiona are sitting next to Vee and Carl on the couch, Debbie’s on the floor next to them, and Lip and Karen are sharing the chair next to Ian’s.

The door slams open not even halfway into the show and Frank steps into the house, dried blood covering the lower half his face and the top of the blue t-shirt he’s wearing. Ian figures he should probably wonder what happened but whatever it was he’s sure Frank deserved it, he always deserves everything he gets.

“Whoa, you okay there Frank?” Steve asks. Ian wonders why he even cares, it’s not like anyone else does. Frank ignores him and continues on his way into the kitchen. That’s when Ian realizes the shirt Frank’s wearing is his, one of his favorite shirts, and it’s currently stained with his blood. He’ll probably never be able to wear that shirt again.

“Hey,” Ian says, standing up. He steps towards his father, examining the shirt more closely. “Is that my shirt?”

“Yeah,” Frank says, stopping before he gets to the kitchen door and takes a few steps back towards Ian. Ian’s eyes go wide and he starts back peddling instantly. He didn’t want to start a fight, not really, and he can’t help the fear that spreads through him as his father starts stepping towards him.

“Uh, just asking,” Ian says, stepping back quicker now. He’s almost to the coffee table, trying his damnedest to avoid getting hit, when Frank lashes out at him. Ian figures it’s his fault for even saying anything, he should have just kept his mouth shut and none of this would have happened.

Frank head-butts Ian in the face, causing his nose to explode into pain as blood starts dripping down his jaw, and Ian falls back onto the coffee table. He lands hard on his ass and he’s partially surprised he hadn’t broken the table. The house explodes into action right away and everyone starts yelling.

Debbie jumps up and heads into the kitchen as Steve jumps up and pushes Frank. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Frank?” he screams, getting in his face. Ian’s not even sure why Steve’s reacting like this, it’s not like he’s known them for very long and he doesn’t owe them anything.

Vee holds Carl against her, trying to calm him down, and Ian’s just glad someone’s taking care of him. Lip’s by him in a second, helping him hold his head back to stop the blood flow, and Fiona kneels down next to him. “Jesus Christ, Dad,” she yells, looking up at the man.

Debbie comes back from the kitchen with a frying pan and Lip jumps up to stop her from doing something she’ll regret while Fiona stays next to Ian. There’s so much yelling and Ian’s face hurts so bad he finds it hard to pay attention to everything that’s going on. “Don’t do this to your kids Frank,” Steve says, standing between Ian and his father.

“What are you, a tough guy Steve?” Frank asks, stepping up to Steve “Because you look like a premenstrual Filipino.” Ian’s only half listening to Frank and Steve, too focused on the blood dripping down his face to care about their argument, but he can tell it’s starting to get heated.

Fiona steps between Steve and Frank, preventing them from going at it, and begs him to just leave. His presence, while obviously meant as a good thing, is only going to cause even more problems and Fiona knows it.

Now that both Lip and Fiona are trying to deal with Frank, Vee’s next to Ian helping him keep his head tilted back to stop the bleeding. Debbie takes a hold of Steve’s hand and tries to lead him out of the house, even as he and Frank continue to yell at each other.

“You’re pathetic,” Steve yells as Debbie pushes him towards the door and Ian can’t help but agree. Debbie’s still carrying the frying pan in her hands, acting like it’s the only thing keeping her sane right now, and everyone in the room knows she’ll use it if she has to.

Ian’s head hurts now, he feels lightheaded and dizzy, and really, all he wants to do is go upstairs and lay down. He should have just kept his mouth shut, none of this would have happened and they’d still would be watching Deadliest Catch like the normal family they pretend to be.

Steve’s finally outside and Debbie closes the door after him, turning around to glare at her father. Fiona’s back by Ian’s side, helping Vee to stop the bleeding, and Ian can do nothing but look at the man who’s supposed to love him unconditionally. “It’s a bloody nose, he’s not dying,” Frank says, but nobody seems to see it the way he does.

Fiona will put up with a lot of shit from Frank but she won’t let him touch her kids. It’s clear that Frank’s crossed a line by the way she looks up at him, everyone in the room can see it. She may not have been able to do anything before, but she sure as hell can now and she’s not going to let Frank put her hands on any of them.

“Really, Frank?” Vee asks, looking up at him with content in his eyes.

Frank shakes his head. “Anybody notice that I’m bleeding?” he asks, extending his arms like that’s supposed to justify his actions, before he retreats back into the kitchen with a hung head.

Ian can sense Debbie behind him and he’s just glad she’s nowhere near Frank right now. Once Frank’s in the kitchen and far enough away from Ian to settle his nerves, Lip makes his way back to where Ian’s at. He tries to help but suddenly Ian realizes everyone, except for Fiona who’s confronting Frank right now, is around him and he can’t take it. He brushes everyone’s hands off of him and storms up the stairs, if he doesn’t he think he just might kill Frank.

Ian’s seventeen when shit really hits the fan. He comes home after spending time with Mickey at the Kash and Grab, expecting to see the kids camped out on the couch in the living room. He knows Fiona’s at work and Lip’s staying at the dorms tonight so it should just be Debbie, Carl, and Liam. When he walks through the front door and doesn’t see anyone right away he doesn’t worry too much, just because the kids aren’t watching TV doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. But then he hears yelling coming from the kitchen and he knows all is not as it seems.

“You can’t take it, that’s all we have,” Carl yells. Ian can see Carl trying to keep Frank from taking off and he runs towards them. He can’t really see what’s going on from where he’s at but he hears a crash and Liam start screaming, causing Ian to run faster. What he sees makes the blood boil inside of him and every protective instinct he has goes off.

Carl’s on the ground by the table, Liam on the floor beside him, rubbing his head. He looks disoriented, like he’d hit his head or something, and Ian feels instant fear rise up inside of him. Debbie’s in front of them when he steps into the kitchen, screaming at Frank at the top of her lungs, and that’s when Ian realizes Frank’s got the squirrel fund stashed under his arm.

Frank raises his hand towards Debbie and Ian reacts instantly. He jumps in front of his sister, stopping Frank’s fist with his hand, and growls low in his throat. “What the hell happened?” he asks, not taking his eyes off of Frank or moving out from in front of his siblings.

“Carl tried to stop him from taking the squirrel fund and Frank hit him. Carl jumped up, went after the money again, and Frank pushed him,” Debbie says, bending down to pick up Liam who is still crying. She continues her story about what had happened as she checks Liam over, making sure there’s not blood or broken bones. “He fell on top of Liam and hit his head on the chair.”

“What the fuck, Frank?” Ian yells, bending down to check on Carl. His lip is split and there’s a bruise starting to form on his cheek, but otherwise he looks like he’s okay. Ian gently prods at the back of Carl’s head where he had hit the chair, making sure he hadn’t done any damage to his head. When his hand comes away with blood on the fingertips he sees red, all rational thought leaving him at the sight of his brother’s blood.

“He’s fucking bleeding,” Ian says, jumping up and getting in Frank’s face. Frank’s made him bleed multiple times, but this is different, this is one of his younger siblings, and he’s not going to let something like this go without any consequences. “What the hell is wrong with you? You could have killed him, you could have hurt Liam!”

“He’ll be fine,” Frank says, trying to slowly step away from Ian. Ian’s tall now, much taller than Frank is, and he’s bulked up in the last couple of months. He’s also not afraid anymore, not when he has his family to protect. Maybe if he would have hit him he would have just brushed it off, but nobody fucked with his siblings, not even their father. “Just rub some dirt into it and let him sleep it off.”

“You want to hit me?” Ian says, stepping closer to Frank. He’d like to say he didn’t enjoy the fear that lit up in Frank’s eyes but he’d be lying. “I don’t care, but you don’t fucking touch them. They’re off limits.” Ian keeps walking, backing Frank up against the wall of the kitchen, before he throws the first punch, knocking Frank on his ass.

After that Ian loses all control, pounding into Frank without stopping. Seeing Carl’s blood, hearing Liam cry, and seeing the fear and anger on Debbie’s face brought out Ian’s primal instincts. The only thing he cares about right now is making sure Frank never puts a hand on one of his siblings again.

Ian’s not sure how long he sits there, hitting Frank, but he’s drawn out of his blinded haze by a hand on his shoulder. Ian turns around to see Debbie behind him, Liam still in her arms but with his face turned towards her chest so he can’t see what’s happening. She doesn’t look mad, only worried, as she starts talking. “Ian, Carl needs your help.”

Ian looks down at Frank, looks at his blood soaked face, and stands up. Frank coughs, trying to roll over onto his side but failing. Ian doesn't bother helping him, he's not sure he could prevent himself from killing the man if he puts his hands on him again. “If you ever touch one of them again, I swear I’ll kill you. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise.”

He lets the message set in for a few seconds. Once he’s satisfied that Frank knows he’s serious he spits on him before turning back around. He bends down and picks up their jar of cash, handing it over to Debbie. He knows she’ll keep it safe.

“Ian,” Carl says, voice slurring, as he stands up, “my head hurts.” The words aren’t even out of Carl’s mouth when he starts to sway, if it hadn’t been for Ian he would have fallen over. Carl’s eyes are glassy and he can’t seem to focus on anything, Ian’s instantly worried.

“Come on,” Ian says, scooping his brother into his arms like he’s nothing. “We gotta get him to Vee’s, she can drive us to the hospital.” He’s sure all Carl has is a concussion, but head injuries are tricky and he’d never forgive himself if something worse is going on and he doesn’t take him to the hospital.

Ian carries Carl out of the house, he knows Carl’s in bad shape when he doesn’t even protest being carried, and Debbie follows after him with Liam in her arms. Neither one of them cares about Frank who’s still trying to get to his feet in their kitchen, all they care about is getting Carl help.

The reach Vee’s house in a matter of seconds and thunder up the steps. They don’t bother to knock, hoping Vee’s home and not at the Alibi with Kev. The four of them burst through the door, crying out for her. Vee comes running down their spiral staircase when she hears screaming, running full sprints once she sees the four of them in the doorway.

Vee takes one look at Carl and ushers them outside and into Kev’s truck. “He needs a CT scan now,” she says as they all get inside. “Call Fiona and Lip, tell them to meet us at the hospital.”

Carl sits next to Ian, dazed and confused, and Ian tries his hardest to get him to stay awake. He doesn’t know much about head injuries but he knows he can’t let him sleep right now, Carl may never wake up if he does. Once he’s sure Liam and Carl are comfortable, he pulls out his cellphone and calls Lip while Debbie does the same thing and calls Fiona.

They both agree to meet them at the hospital and Ian leans his head back against the seat. Debbie’s trying to calm Liam down, he’s not screaming anymore but he’s still freaking out, and Ian wraps an arm around Carl’s shoulders. This isn’t the first time Frank has hit his kids, but Ian is going to make sure it’s the last. No one touches his siblings.