Liam sat in the corner of adjoining walls on his bed with Danny dozing between his legs. He amused himself by playing with Danny’s hair until he woke and stretched.
"How long did we sleep?"
"Oh, I’d say a couple of hours, given where the Sun is hitting the window now,” replied Liam.
"I guess I was tired with all that stuff about the guitar, I didn’t sleep too good last night."
"I understand, I lost a bit meself. Um… Danny, can I ask you a favor?"
"Sure I guess. What do you want me to do?"
"Oh, um… I really can’t sing well. What do you want me to sing?"
"Any old thing you like, I’d just like to hear your voice."
Danny sang a couple of verses of You Are My Sunshine and he didn’t sound good. Liam recognized the problem immediately.
"I’ll bet you could sing a year ago, right?"
"Yeah, but I can’t anymore, I sound terrible."
"That’s because your voice is changing and you are still trying to sing in your old range. You might get some of it back when your voice stabilizes, but right now you are singing way too high for your vocal chords," Liam offered.
"So what do I do? I like to sing but I don’t want to look like an idiot. I know I sound bad."
"I had to change my range when it happened to me and I sometimes have to go down an octave to sing with others. So sing the same note after me, okay? I’ll sing an A and then you do the same.
Liam sang an A, and then told Danny to copy him.
Danny sang the same note and looked shocked. "I didn’t screech, all this time I’ve been singing too high."
"Okay then, let’s establish your high note."
Danny made it to B♩ and faltered at C, Liam had him try C an octave lower and he was able to hold the note.
"Cool, you have a whole octave to play with. But, you can substitute a lower note for a high one if you’re singing harmony. You’ll get a feel for it as you get used to your new range. Every once in a while, you should try and stretch higher so you can get some of your old range back."
"Um… Liam, are you trying to fix me?"
"Why… are you broken?"
"I’m serious; do you see me like I need improvement before you can love me?"
"No, of course not, I already love you Danny, why would you think that."
"It just seems like you’re not happy with the way I am and you want me to be better or different or something."
"Well that’s not true; I was pretty well mad for you after our first day together. If I see you struggling with something I want to help, I’m just wired that way. I don’t mean to say there’s anything wrong with you. You just looked unhappy when everyone else was singing and it was like you wanted to but you couldn’t or were afraid. If Da hadn’t spotted my problem, I wouldn’t be singing now either."
"Maybe I’m making more of it than there really is then, I was worried that I didn’t meet your standards and it worried me. I’m never going to be as confident as you and you’ve helped me with that; but we’re different. You can talk to anybody and you know so much stuff about all sorts of stuff. I guess I worry that I’m not enough and you’ll get tired of me.
"Well that’s just shite Danny. I know I seem confident, but I get the shakes every time I perform just like anybody else. I had to take crap from older classmates all my life. In Dublin I had to take crap because I was American and here because I’m Irish and I talk funny. What you see as confidence is mostly bravado and balls. We’re both growing into who we’re gonna be but our paths have been different. But, never think for a minute that I think you’re not good enough the way you are. I love you Danny Sullivan and that’s not gonna change."
"Even if I didn’t love you?"
"Oh, Danny," Liam shuddered, his face crumpled and it was as if all the bones had been snatched from his body. Tears poured from his eyes."
"No Liam, I didn’t mean I don’t love you, really I do! More than anything please don’t cry," Danny grabbed Liam and pulled him tight.
"You do love me?" Liam croaked.
"Yes, I do, I just meant… oh fuck it." He kissed Liam as deeply and tenderly as he could manage. "I never meant to hurt you, I’m really sorry."
"It’s okay, I’m fine I just heard you wrong I guess. I’d be gutted if you didn’t love me back. My heart is yours, Danny."
"Mine belongs to you, Liam, I’m sorry it went a little sideways just now."
"I’ll live, but if I’m being pushy or you don’t like something I’m trying to get you to do, just tell me ta feck off. I’ll get the message."
"You’ll have to teach me the accent then," Danny beseeched.
"Anytime you’re ready."
"Um… Liam, how do you feel about being out at school, I think it would be cool if we could just kiss whenever we wanted to instead of needing to find someplace private."
"I think so too, but like I said earlier, I’d like to talk to Cheri and Amber and maybe Sean and I know a couple of other people. None of them are out but I’d like to know their reasons."
That makes sense, I’m not ashamed of being gay you know, and I’m not going to take a bunch of shit from haters either. I know I look small and vulnerable but I’ve defended myself before.
"What do you think about talking to me Da about it this evening?"
"He might have some good advice Liam, I think it would help. It would make me feel better about it. I just don’t want to have to hide my love for you."
"Me either, I like the idea of being out and not living a secret life."
Now sitting on the floor, Danny retook his position between Liam’s legs and leaned back against him. The weather was changing and strong winds were blowing, a sudden gust slammed a door downstairs and made both boys jump.
"I better get up and shut some windows, it’s getting all dark and nasty looking outside."
Liam looked strange to Danny, suddenly he was nearly manic going from room to room and shutting windows and interior doors.
There was a sudden brilliant flash of lightning followed by an immediate clap of thunder; a storm cell appeared to be right on top of them. Liam stood frozen as though stunned.
Danny grabbed Liam and guided him to the cozy little den near the center of the ground floor. He pulled cushions off the sofa and helped his love to settle on them. There were lap blankets folded and stacked near the sofa, Danny grabbed several of them, and he and Liam cuddled together on the floor. The storm cell passed over and Liam began to relax until his phone rang, startling the life out of him. But it was his father’s ring tone and he answered quickly. His hands trembled so much he couldn’t hold the phone properly. Danny took the phone and put it on speaker.
"Liam darlin’ are you there, are you safe?!"
"Yes Da, Danny’s here with me, I was really scared, it just came from nowhere."
"Terri and I are on the way there so stay where you are and we’ll be there soon. There may be more thunder son so be ready."
"Okay Da,” Liam said in a pathetic childlike voice.
"Danny, how are you doing?"
"I’m fine Connor, We’re in the den away from the windows. I think we’re safe."
"Okay boys, we’ll be home soon as possible, but power is out all over town and that includes the traffic lights. Stay put and we’ll be there soon."
Connor disconnected and Danny looked at Liam. He didn’t even look like the same boy. He was still shaking with terror but it seemed to be easing off.
"I have to pee, I have to go now. Please come with me," Liam pleaded.
He got to his feet and pulled Danny along to the small powder room a few steps away.
The process of relieving himself and then washing his hands seemed to have a stabilizing effect on Liam.
"Are you feeling better now?" Danny asked.
Liam wrapped his arms around Danny and held him tight, "Thank you so much for helping me, Danny. Let me get back to normal and I’ll try to explain."
"That’s fine, Baby, just relax, there’s no hurry."
Once Liam had fully relaxed he began to tell Danny why he had such a violent reaction to the storm they just experienced.
"I was five and playing in me shan’s back garden; we had a blow come up like the one you just saw. I wasn’t that concerned until it got really dark really quickly. Shan’s neighbor shouted for me to go indoors. He had to shout because the wind was so loud. He started to walk towards me just as me shan came out to take me in. She was scolding me a bit when a bolt of lightning hit her neighbor and we caught some of the shock. The noise was deafening and we were thrown to the ground or maybe Shan did it to protect me. Shan hauled me inside and called 999 and saw to me, I pissed meself and needed to be seen by a doctor at Casualty. We were both okay but the neighbor man was dead. I’ve been terrified of this type of storm ever since. During the last one, I hid in the boy’s lav at school. They had to fight me to get me out. I’m sorry I scared you and I’m okay now. Usually I can deal with it if I know it's coming. The sudden ones catch me out and I freak out a bit."
No sooner had Liam finished explaining the past to Danny when Connor charged through and scooped up both boys in a hug. He held them tight and was obviously upset.
"Are you lads okay? I’m sorry it took so long to get here, but there’s a tree down and we had to come round the back way."
"Danny, are you here?" Terri called.
"Here Mom!" he reported back.
Connor released his grip on Danny so he could go to his Mom and focused his attention on Liam.
"Me darlin’ boy, are yas okay?"
"I’m okay Da, Danny was with me through the whole thing, he tackled me and we rode it out in here."
"He’s a solid mate, that one." Connor said.
"He is Da, he’s more than a mate. I love him."
"I’d say the feeling is returned by the way he looks at you."
Liam smiled weakly at Connor. His father knew he was far from completely calm, but as long as there were no more sudden squalls, he would be able to sleep through the night and regenerate. They had been through this before. It was lucky that they didn’t encounter these storms often in their area.
Liam began putting the cushions back on the sofa and folding the blankets. Danny moved to help him, but Connor pulled him close and told him that Liam needed to do it on his own. "It’s part of his coping system."
Connor picked Danny up and cuddled him and Danny seemed to enjoy it. He didn’t get that kind of attention from a man very often.
Terri reached out a hand to Liam and pulled him in for a hug, which Liam accepted readily. I’m sorry you had to go through this Liam. Your Dad was very upset when he couldn’t get to you quickly. I don’t like lightning and thunder myself. I was terrified of it as a kid in Oklahoma. We had an awful lot of it and tornadoes too. I don’t mean to say I know how you feel but maybe I have an idea."
"Thanks Terri, I’m sure glad Danny is so strong, it didn’t bother him a bit. You know I love him don’t you."
"Yes honey, and he certainly loves you, I think it’s wonderful."
"I’m glad you’re okay with it, I think I’d fall apart without him."
"So would he, you are a completely new experience for him and he’s thriving because of it. I don’t want to swell your head but you’ve been very good for my baby."
Terri looked around and asked, "Where did they go anyway?"
"Da is probably showing him the back-up generator and checking the outside and gardens."
"Danny’s been pretty good for me too. He feels like a part of me I didn’t know was missing."
Terri smiled at him and kissed his cheek.
Connor and Danny entered through the French doors at the back of the music room.
"Okay guys, the generator is up and running, I just have to cycle the breaker in the utility room and it will switch over automatically."
"How did the house make out, Da?" Liam inquired.
"Our place is just fine, but the neighbor to the south lost about half their roof. Some of it is in our back garden."
"I’m sorry to hear that, I guess you were right about the metal roof."
"Well it fit the design effect I was going for but in this climate the thing will last a hundred years."
"What are you talking about?" Terri asked.
"The metal roof, I designed the place with a standing seam metal roof and they’re very durable. Nothing on the outside of the house will burn if we get embers from the brush fires in the area."
But I saw wood trim and the railings were wooden too."
"Apitong, it’s similar to the mahogany family but it pulls silica up into the wood as it grows, so it doesn’t propagate fire very well. Everything else outside is a concrete product."
"So you designed this place?"
"Yes, that’s how I paid the bills while we were getting the company up and running. I still take an occasional commission now and then. Would you like a tour? I never did show you around."
"That would be great, can we start in the kitchen?"
"Sure, that’s where the breaker is."
Connor showed Terri the kitchen, which was a thing of beauty if you’re into kitchens like Terri. Connor flipped the breaker in the utility room, the lights came on, and the icemaker solenoid snapped, startling Terri.
"I thought you boys had guests, where’s the dirty dishes and such?" Terri asked.
"We cleaned up afterwards Mom, there’s still plenty of meat and cheese in the fridge and bagels and sweet rolls and such in the cupboard."
"You have Liam well trained."
"It’s t’other way round actually. Me mam taught him well and me da taught him to listen to her. He doesn’t nag mind, but he sets a good example for me, cleanup wise."
"Well, we won’t starve I guess; our friends weren’t as ravenous as I expected. The girls ate the most, but I think Debby is pregnant," Liam revealed.
"Pregnant? A middle school girl?"
"No Mom, Lance and Debby are married, they’re like twenty-five or something."
"Oh sorry, I thought it was going to be just you kids here today."
"It’s okay Terri, a lot of the people I busk with are adults. It helps keep the pervs away. Especially when Jack is there, occasionally he’ll remove his jacket so they can see his badge and handcuffs and such." Jack plays a great banjo but he had to work today and I’ll bet he’ll get overtime pay."
"All the people I’ve met are quite decent, some are a little out there spiritually but good folk and damn good musicians." Connor added.
"Well it sounds fun, maybe I can sit in sometime, I was pretty good on keyboards when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
"I didn’t think you were that old, Mammoths maybe but not dinosaurs," Liam chuckled.
"Do you think you might like to stay the night? I don’t know when they might get the traffic ironed out," Connor asked Terri.
"I think that’s a good idea, the hotel probably lost its power as well and I grabbed my overnight bag from my car as a precaution," Terri replied.
"Well then, I’ll get your bag and Liam can show you the guest rooms and you can pick one."
Connor reheated Lasagna and everyone was well fed. Liam and Danny were pretty tired even with the nap. The stress of the storm had been taxing for Liam and he was asleep as soon as he lay down next to Danny.