"Would you like to help me carry a couple of these over to the house?"
"Sure, which ones?"
"The Cuatro and the Gitsit; hang on, I have cases for them up here."
Liam crawled up a ladder to a ledge over the small powder room and retrieved two guitar cases.
"I saved this one for Tristan’s instrument and this is for the Cuatro."
Liam locked the door and pulled it closed, it gave a slight beep as it armed itself. "Careful with the stairs, Babe, I don’t want you falling."
"Babe? Moi? Cool, I’m somebody’s Babe."
"You know it mate, I love you and that’s just the start."
"Okay Lover, you know I love you too. Have you ever thought of being out at school?"
"What? You and me; the youngest seventh graders in the school? Everybody there seems pretty cool, but do you want to have to fight every day and take all the shite they would throw at us?"
"They might be nice about it too. You know, tolerant."
"I don’t know, I would worry a lot about you getting trapped in a bathroom with a bunch of hateful eedjits and what they might do. And then there’s what I would have to do to them if they hurt you."
"I can fight my own battles you know."
"Can you? Really, are you willin’ ta do what’s necessary to keep yerself safe?"
"Well, maybe not like you, but it would most likely just be guys saying stupid shit."
"I’d still worry, but that’s what you do when you love someone I guess. Let’s talk to Cheri about it; she’s pretty sharp on that sort of thing."
"That’s a good idea Liam, and I’d sure like to be able to kiss you during the day at school."
"And me as well."
They entered the house by way of the deck and Danny walked toward the stairs.
"Oh not that way, Danny, let’s put these in the practice room."
Liam led Danny to what used to be a sunroom which nobody used because it didn’t get any sun due to the garage addition.
"Oh man, what is this?" Danny exclaimed.
"It’s our music room, do you like it."
It was a well-equipped music room with primarily high quality vintage instruments. A lot of which were gleaned from yard sales, pawn shops and estate sales. In addition, there were two complete drum kits from Slingerland with Ziljian high hats and other cymbals. There were several Conga drums of varying sizes as well. It was a nice place to be a drummer.
There were older, but very nice amps, for guitars or anything else that plugs in.
"This is fantastic, is that a real Steinway?"
"Yeah, we bought it at a moving sale. They just wanted shed of it and it needed a bit of work, but we stole the bloody thing. They weren’t very nice people either. Da said, if they’re going to be like that, I won’t explain what a Steinway is, he had four guys and a truck there in half an hour."
"I used to play piano or at least I was taking lessons."
"So give it a try, let’s see how much you remember."
Danny sat and took a moment to become familiar with the feel of the piano. First, he ran a few scales and smiled broadly. He tried some major chords and was satisfied. "Well, here goes," and Danny began playing Mozart’s twelve variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" or Twinkle Little Star," and with very few mistakes. Danny played it through quite well.
"That was wonderful Danny, how long has it been since you played?"
"About two years, maybe more. I really missed it."
"Well, when you guys find a home, maybe you can get another. I know a couple of people who deal in used pianos."
"I’d have to talk to Mom, we rent so she might not want something like that if we have to move again."
"I overheard your Mam telling Da that you never ask for anything. Don’t you think you rate something special occasionally?"
"Maybe, but if she can’t afford it, why make her feel bad because she can’t get me what I want. I can do without most stuff. She asked me once if I wanted a bike and I said no. Sure, I’d like one and now maybe I can get one, but in that place, if it didn’t get stolen from me immediately, there was no safe way to ride it to school. No bike lanes and people drive so crazy I would be asking for it. So I took the bus; I don’t know where we’re moving to, but I hope it’s better. Mom works so hard just to feed us and keep a roof over us. I would hear her cry when she thought I was asleep. I couldn’t add to her misery by asking for stuff I really don’t need."
Liam sniffed and wiped his eyes, he pulled Danny to him and held him as tight as he could manage. "I’m sorry your life has been so hard, but I think you have a chance to change all that and it’s time to think about yourself."
"My life’s not hard Liam, we just don’t have a lot of money. Lots of people don’t have anything; they live in boxes or tents outside. Mom always made sure I had food and clothes and whatever I needed for school. If I wanted anything else, I worked wherever they would pay me; and do almost anything.
I met an old man one day on the way home from school; he was pulling weeds from his overgrown front yard. He offered me money to help and I was all over it. He paid me really well, probably too much. Anyway, I saved up enough to buy a guitar so I could take lessons at school. I kept working for him and helped him plant flowers and all sorts of stuff, but one day it was done and there wasn’t anything left to do. I still stopped by to see Hal, but one day I saw a realtor sign in front and the lady next door told me that Hal had died suddenly and his kids were selling the house. I sat at the curb and cried and when I was done, I walked home and played something pretty on my guitar. I was sad that he died but glad we had been friends. Now when I think of him, I remember how happy I was to help him and every time I played my guitar, I remembered him. That guitar got stolen, but whenever I play any guitar I remember him."
"I feel kind of bad now, I’ve been waving all this in front of you and you and your Mom were struggling just to hang on," Liam lamented.
"No, don’t do that. Don’t feel bad because you have a nicer house or stuff. You’re not a spoiled brat that has tantrums if you don’t get the new I-phone the day it comes out. And you give so much back, you care about people, you’re even nice to people who threaten to kick your ass."
"I hadn’t thought about it that way, I just do that stuff because it seems the right thing and the guitars and all, well that’s just something that started a while back and sort of grew. Now I have daycare people and teachers keeping an eye out for potential players who lack the money to buy an instrument."
"But that’s what I mean Liam; you do so much for others so you shouldn’t feel bad about having a nice life. Look at how you’ve helped me. I could never make myself known to the others as a good guitar player and I didn’t do well with people staring at me while I played. But you made me feel so good about my abilities and talent; I’ve always kept to myself to keep others from knowing how we live. I’m only at McAuliffe because I’m smart and we lived near some line on a map and this was the nearest advanced learning school."
"You know Cheri loves you too don’t you, like a little brother, but still it’s love. She warned me not to hurt you before I even realized how wonderful you are. I love you, Danny, and I can’t see the world without you in it by my side and me by yours."
"I love you too Liam and I like you as well. If we weren’t gay, I think we’d be best friends.
"Can you read music, I mean for piano?"
"Sure, what do you want me to play?"
"Stand up and I’ll show you."
Danny stood and Liam retrieved a book of music, opened it to a page, and pointed, “If you play it, I’ll sing it.”
"Really, I’ve only heard it sung once, and that was bad."
Danny played and Liam sang. The song was Danny Boy, an Irish standard. Liam had found a way to sing in his available range and still do the song justice. He had to finish it on his own because Danny was crying and couldn’t see the music, let alone play it.
"That was beautiful," Danny sniffed.
"You’re beautiful," Liam said clearly.
The boys sat on a small couch half gazing out the French doors at the darkening sky. Danny’s stomach rumbled. "Are you hungry, Babe," Liam asked.
"Yeah a bit… okay I’m starving, what can we have?"
"We have some great chicken breasts that Da made; I could chop a salad together."
"That sounds good, can I help?"
"Sure, do you like fruit with dinner?"
"Mmm yeah, I’m a fruit hog."
"You could slice up a pear or two and maybe a peach."
Once well fed the boys decided to try again to watch the movie they had slept through the previous evening. They were watching another when Connor entered the front door.
"Hello lads, are you having a nice night?"
Connor circled behind the sofa where Liam and Danny were snuggled up under a blanket. He kissed their foreheads, watched the movie for a few seconds, and went to find a coke and something on which to snack.
He sat down and watched the movie while the boys giggled.
"How can you watch this dreck, it’s bloody horrible."
"Yas can’t take it serious Da, we’ve been ragging it all the way through. We didn’t even have the sound up until the big battle scene. We’ve been making our own dialogue up."
"That’s what we used to do as well, All the chickflicks had basically the same plot and we’d say terrible things in birds voices. Or some of the American TV shows that they showed back home, we found them hilarious."
The movie ended and Liam shut off the TV. "How did it go with Mike then, Da?"
"We did a lot more talking than drinking, but we’re all caught up. He said you boys put up quite a show today!"
"It was pretty cool and we had a great time."
"The janitor came up and played along with us on harmonica and Kelly played slide and I played rhythm and… oh sorry, I’m doing it again, but it was exciting."
"No need to be sorry, I like your enthusiasm, do you find now that you've a taste for performing?"
"Oh yeah, I’m going to go busking with Liam next time he goes and I’ll play anytime I get a chance."
"That sounds grand Danny; I bet you’ll do well at it."
"I’m sure he will and my friends will love him and the way he plays."
"I’m sure they will son, he’s a treasure."
"Yas hear that? Me Da says you’re a treasure and he’s seldom wrong."
Danny giggled and squeezed Liam under the blanket.
Eventually the boys could fight it no longer and went up to bed, hand in hand, not really caring if they were seen.
Liam was up with the birds, but Danny took a bit more convincing and finally came around when Liam mentioned breakfast.
Danny came fully alert and then realized that this was the day the men from Martin would assess his guitar and give them a value. Now he wasn’t sure eating was such a good idea.
"Well you’ve got to eat; I could make oatmeal if you don’t want bacon."
"That sounds good, and maybe some toast?"
"We have poppy seed bagels and whole wheat bread to toast, would you like some strawberries for your oats?"
"Um no, I’m allergic to strawberries, but thanks."
"How about blueberries?"
"Oh yeah, those are great and they don’t make me sick."
“How allergic are you to strawberries? I mean if I kiss you after I eat one will you get sick?"
"No, I have to actually swallow them to get sick, it’s not pretty, I warn you."
"Do you just get hives or do you swell up or what?"
"Well, if you really want to know, I get a little swollen and I get red bumps, I guess that’s hives, but the worst part is I have to sit on the toilet a lot and I worry about not making it, you know."
"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, but I don’t want to accidentally cause you to eat them and I wanted to know the symptoms if you did."
"It’s okay Liam; I appreciate you worrying about me. Do you have any food allergies or like bee stings and stuff?"
"Shrimp, well shell fish in general, I get all puffy and my throat closes up and I can’t breathe. But I don’t have a reaction to bee stings except yelling and cursing."
"Hey, I just noticed your accent isn’t as strong today. Does it come and go?"
“Yeah, I was fine until Da met Uncle Mike at the school and that’s the trigger; he reverts and then I do and it takes a while to shake off. But Da was in Ireland until he was an adult; I came over at six years old so it was easier for me to shake the accent most of the time. It comes out strong if I’m tired but the dialect and vocabulary I never quite shook loose. Like saying Da instead of Dad and Shan instead of Gramma, things like that. I had to relearn some of my spelling.”
"I notice it comes out when you’re angry too, not so much the words, but the way you say them. But the message came across really clear and Brian got it no problem with a little help."
"Your thumb and finger, I tried it on myself later and it really hurts, and I was just testing. At full strength it must be excruciating."
"That’s a good word for it; I know it hurts, our instructor tried it on me and I wailed like a little girl. You have to be careful with that or you can damage somebody badly, that collarbone is surprisingly fragile. There’s a trick with the elbow that can leave your arms rubbery all day."
"Where do you learn that stuff?"
"Da and I go to a studio; it’s basically a school for street fighting. As Da says, it’s not for the faint of heart. You can get bruised up while learning a new move, but it’s a mixture of different martial arts techniques and it’s run by another Irishman. Gavin is from Leitrim, but he was raised in Belfast in the north, He’s Orange and the Catholic kids gave him some knocks until he learned to hand it back to them. He came here and somebody suggested he open a school. He doesn’t usually teach kids but Da’s an old mate and they go back awhile. Dublin can be a pretty mean town as well and you have to mind which area you get yourself into. My Shan taught me a few things as well. I saw her put a huge man on the ground and beg for her to let him go. She held him down til’ the Garda pulled up and handcuffed him."
"What did he do?"
"I’ve no idea, but he sure was glad to see the Garda show up."
"Garda, is that the cops?"
"That’s right, a single officer is a Gardai and the whole lot is called the Garda."
"Cool, I guess we better eat and get dressed though, your Da will want to leave soon I bet."
"It’s nearly ready, can you find the bowls?"
With breakfast consumed and everyone dressed, it was time to get on the road.
The three piled in to the Landcruiser and Connor drove to the office. They were the first ones there so Connor made coffee and told the boys to relax and went to buy doughnuts.
"Liam, what do you mean when you say someone is orange? Is it like jaundice or something like that?"
No, Green represents the Catholics. but the Protestants are called Orangemen, it’s more to do with British treatment of Catholics in the North you know, Belfast and that? But, it started with William of Orange and the Battle of the Boyne. There’s really more to it than that, but you can read up on it if you like. It’s not as big a deal in the rest of Ireland, but Catholics were subject to a lot of oppression from Protestants in the past."
"It’s cool that you know all that, a lot of American kids think Leprechauns are real, but then they also think George Washington won World War II."
Liam laughed at that, it was painfully true.
"Good morning Liam, who’s your friend?" Duane asked as he entered the lobby.
"Oh hi, Duane, this is Danny. He’s Terri's son and he’s my boyfriend."
"Well alright there, Danny; nice to meet you." Duane put his hand out and they shook hands.
"Hi, nice to meet you, Sir."
"Just call me Duane; Connor and I are partners in this business."
"Do you mean he’s your boyfriend?"
"No buddy, I mean that in the traditional sense, I’m actually the junior partner to be exact, but I’m married to a guy named Jason."
"Really?! I never met someone that was in a gay marriage, that’s so cool."
"So, are you guys out to the world?"
"No not yet, Liam and I are talking about it, at least for at school."
"Well it will depend greatly on your school and the level of maturity of the other students. Do you both go to the same school?"
"Yes, we’re the youngest guys there but, except for one incident, I haven’t seen any bullying or anti-gay talk."
"Are you both certain you’re gay?"
"Yeah for me anyway, Da told me about adolescent androgyny and all that but I’m sure."
"Me too, Mom said she knew a long time ago."
"Well it’s your choice, but it can be dangerous. Some people don’t show their true colors until they run into something they hate. And hate makes people do stupid things. Think it over really hard before you do it; it’s something you can’t undo."
"Thanks Duane, how is Jason doing with your little Arthur."
"Artie’s fine, he’s growing like crazy and running everywhere, we’re thinking of having another so they won’t be too far apart. Finding a good surrogate is the key of course. With DNA research being what it is, we can screen for certain genes to prevent a bad combination and to make sure we’re not relatives."
"It sounds complicated but I hope it works out. I hope you’ll bring Artie to the party for Terri."
"We wouldn’t miss it. Sorry guys, I have to call a guy in Guangzhou before he leaves for a trip. Um, where’s your Dad?"
"He went to get donuts, we’re waiting for the Martin guys to call and then we’ll get the guitar out of the vault."
"Well Wendell should be here soon and he’ll retrieve it for you and we have a room set up for you guys to use and of course any inspection equipment can be rolled in as needed."
"Thanks Duane, we appreciate it."
The door chimed and swung open; Terri stepped through and swung the door shut with Rick on the other side."
"Mom you just shut the door on that guy!"
"She’s not being rude, it’s a security protocol, the system can only scan one I.D. at a time. Da’s working on the software but until he’s satisfied, it’s one at a time."
"Oh okay, that explains that, I didn’t think Mom would be rude on purpose."
"Good morning, baby boy; hello Liam, it’s nice to see you boys. How was your evening?"
"Just great Mom, I managed to get some sleep, I almost didn’t make it through Thursday. Liam and I had a great time and he let me use their piano and sang Danny Boy to me while I played."
"Oh how sweet, come give me a kiss, baby."
Danny kissed his Mom and Terri looked at Liam, "Well? What are you waiting for?"
Liam gave Terri a kiss and a hug just as the door swung open again allowing Rick to enter.
"Hey hey, can anybody get in on this?" Rick asked in his Bender persona.
"Sure Bender, anybody who doesn’t need to shave is welcome."
"Rick did the Bender laugh and with his own voice said, "Hey you’re quick, it’s gonna be fun having you around. I can only presume this other bruiser is your son Danny, right?"
"That’s me, Liam told me about you, but your Bender is better than I expected, it’s dead on."
"Nice to meet you Danny, don’t let me be a bad influence on you, chump."
Danny giggled and Rick picked his gear up and passed through to the workrooms.
"That was so cool, does he do other voices too?"
"Oh yeah, he’s a great mimic and he’s been helping me learn a couple. But we just started so they're not ready."
Terri emerged from her office and asked, "Liam, where’s your Dad?"
"He went for doughnuts, he should be back soon."
Liam’s phone chirped and a message from Jim indicated that he and Leander were on their way over from their hotel. He sent back an "Okay" and pocketed his phone.
The door swung open again and Connor backed through, carrying two large flat boxes.
"Good Lord, Connor, did you buy the place out?" Terri asked.
"Not quite, although there were some unhappy regulars at Skiffy’s, but I called in yesterday and I have two more boxes with Bagels and rolls if anyone’s still hungry. Would you escort these two pack mules to my car so they can do my bidding and retrieve the other two boxes?"
"Sure Connor, we’re on our way," Terri chuckled.
"How can all these guys eat like this and look so healthy?" Terri asked.
Liam only chuckled while Danny looked confused.
With all the treats set up on the two break tables, the Coffee machine was working overtime keeping up with demand. It was one of those machines that use the little pods and it made tea and hot cocoa as well. Liam opted for tea while Danny picked a caramel macchiato flavored pod.
"There’s whipped cream for that in the fridge Danny," Liam said.
Danny grinned and squirted a surfeit of aerosol whipped cream into his mug.
A chime told them that the two men from Nazareth were arriving and Liam followed his Dad out to welcome them.
Wendell and Anders had been summoned from their respective labs to enjoy the morning feast and had Danny engage them in a discussion of inorganic chemistry as it relates to fusion.