Outside the classroom, everyone shook Danny’s hand or patted his back. Cheri grabbed him and hugged the life out of him.
"That was so cool Danny, you are really smart and it shows when you let your guard down."
"You sounded very adult in there Danny, I thought Mr. C. was going to pull you up short, but it’s cool that you can do two things at once," Liam added, hugging him as well.
They dawdled a bit, waiting for Amber and then Amber and Danny went to their next class while Cheri and Liam walked the few steps to their own.
"Good morning Cheri, Liam; It’s nice to see you both looking so cheerful."
"Hi, Catherine, our friend Danny impressed everyone in class and we’re still a little floaty about it."
"And you, Liam?"
"Yes, Catherine, good morning. Danny gave a great dissertation on Graphene and its potential applications."
"Oh my, that’s like deep nerd stuff isn’t it. My husband says it’s a game changer."
"Well, like any new technology, it has to prove reliability and viability as a product. Once it’s proven and cost effective, it will be the building block of the next wave of technology."
"You seem to know a bit about it yourself Liam."
"Well, me Da works with the stuff. But I can’t say any more than that."
"I understand," Catherine said as other students began filtering in.
"So Danny’s been pumping your dad for info?"
"Naa, more likely Bender. Rick probably told him more than he should have but Danny is very discrete."
"Does that include your love life?" Cheri giggled and winked at him.
Liam laughed and remembered something. "Hey what about those two girls that were sitting with us, do ya know them?"
"Harmless," Cheri said.
"Well thanks, Ford, you will let me know if it changes to "mostly harmless, eh?"
Cheri giggle snorted loudly.
"Oh nothing, Catherine, Liam just referenced HHG and it caught me off guard."
"That’s a rare talent. Not unusual in the Irish."
At lunch, Cheri and Amber went off campus to eat and Liam and Daniel sat in a quiet corner and ate sandwiches.
"Liam, why didn’t you want me to mention you when I showed the new guitar to Mr. Levi?"
"Because it was supposed to be about you. And it’s not "the" guitar, it’s your guitar. Look, I’m not some rich kid trying to reorganize your life. I just try to help when I can, and not just you. And I’m no saint either, I’ve me own issues to deal with and I do the best I can. I help others the best way I can. That’s just me."
"But you seem to do a lot more for me than others."
"Ya silly bugger, I’m not in love with the others, just you."
"Oh," Danny said. He looked around and no one was looking their way so he gave Liam a quick kiss on the lips."
But someone was watching; two sets of eyes saw the exchange and smiled at each other conspiratorially.
As Danny and Liam turned onto Ward, they spied T.J. sitting on his front porch. As soon as they stepped on the sidewalk in front of his house, he squealed their names and charged down the steps at them. Liam and Danny each dropped to one knee to receive the greeting of the lively little boy. He dove for Liam who caught him in his arms and then passed him to Danny after receiving and giving hugs and kisses. Danny did the same and they all stood and walked the path to T.J.’s porch.
"Well what’s going on here?" a friendly voice called out.
"Just returning some lost property, Sir. It seems to have attached itself to my friend Danny."
"Yes I see. T.J. would you like to introduce us?"
"Okay Daddy, this is Danny, he’s our new neighbor and that’s his boyfriend Liam."
"Is that so now?
"Yes and this is my Daddy Bryce, you already met my other Daddy Greigh."
"Nice ta meet yas, Sir."
"Same here, Sir."
"Well Bryce will be fine, and it’s nice to meet both of you."
"You can still call me T.J. though."
"And just what does T.J. stand for anyway, if yas don’t mind sayin?"
The little boy looked at his feet and muttered, "Tristan Jarlath."
"And what’s wrong with that, those are both fine names. In my family Jarlath is a popular name for lads. I had mates with that name as well. Of course, we called one Jars or if we wanted to set him off, Jar-Jar. The other lad was called Jarth but he moved away to the north," Liam told T.J.
"Well I like my initials," T.J. said carefully.
"Nothin’ wrong there either."
"I guess I wouldn’t mind being called Jars."
"Those are family names of men I admired growing up," Bryce explained.
"I knew a couple people with the name Royal in Dublin. Their Da was a Gardi."
"Hah, small world, I’m a policeman myself. In fact, I just recognized you from the park Sunday. Has the detective contacted you boys yet?"
"No, I’ve not heard from him."
"Me either," echoed Danny.
"It’s nothing bad and he’ll want your parents there, but before they decide to file charges against that boy they want to discuss some things with you."
"Does he need Cheri and Amber as well?" Danny asked.
"I doubt it; it’s more to do with you boys since you were injured and Liam defended you."
"Well, I’ve nothing to hide and you’ve seen the video."
"That goes for me too."
"While they were chatting, Terri’s Mini Cooper rolled into the driveway and Connor’s Simca parked out front.
Danny called to them and they joined Bryce and the three boys.
"Hi Mom, Hi Connor, this is Bryce; he’s T.J.’s Dad."
"Hey lads, making friends already. Didn’t I see you at the park Sunday?"
"Yes, I responded to the incident and dealt with the other boy while my partner checked on Liam and Danny and the two girls."
"Yes, that’s right. We were notified that a detective wanted to interview the boys and that he had some information that might affect the case."
"Yes, Sir, that’s as much as I know about it though."
"Please, call me Connor. The detective will be here around five so we thought we’d bring the boys up to speed."
"Well, Connor I sort of let the cat out of the bag already."
"Eh, no harm done and they don’t seem upset."
"I’m glad of that,” Bryce sighed.
"So you are the famous T.J. eh?" Connor asked.
"That’s him Da, and the J is for Jarlath."
"Like your cousin; and those two mates of yours?"
"You mean you weren’t just making that up to make me feel better about my name?"
"Now why would I go and do that?"
"I’m sorry, that wasn’t nice of me."
"No need to let it worry yas."
"I learned that poem you told me."
"Well, let’s hear it then."
T.J. recited the poem without a flaw and all were impressed.
"Daddy Greigh wrote it out for me and I worked on it a lot."
"Well, you did a fine job T.J. and now you can help your friends keep on the right side of the wee folk."
T.J. nodded energetically.
Liam noticed Bryce gazing at his son with pride like his own father did with him. It gave him a warm feeling and he pulled Danny close.
"How do you like the house, Ma’am?"
"It’s wonderful, and please call me Terri. I love the place and it’s a huge improvement over an apartment."
"I’m glad you like it, Greigh and I did a lot of work to it. I’m a carpenter and Greigh is an accomplished tile setter when he’s not teaching. If he gets a full time gig at McAuliffe the price of tile work will go way up around here."
"Oh, are you the owners?"
"Oh no, I used to own and rent out homes, but it ate up way too much of my time. No, the place belongs to a friend and I take care of any repairs that come up."
"I can’t see how anything could go wrong in such a beautiful house but things break I suppose."
"It’s got new plumbing and electrical throughout and the foundation and frame are sound. Plus it’s got a new fifty-year roof. But give me a yell if anything acts up and I’ll make it right."
"Well it’s nearly four-thirty; we better get ready for Detective Graves," Terri said. "Danny, Liam, would you mind helping me carry a few things in."
The two boys each gave T.J. a squeeze and followed Terri.
Connor was about to do the same when Bryce asked him what kind of car that was at the curb.
"That’s my baby; she’s a 1960 Simca Vidette drop head. That’s a convertible to you."
"That’s a cool little car, maybe you’d like to get a look at my little TR-3. It’s in progress but mostly it’s bodywork at this point."
"I’d like that, I always liked the TR’s; I’m fonder of Riley’s but they’re a bit pricey here."
"Do you get up to the car show at the Fairgrounds very often?"
"Not as often as I’d like. Liam hasn’t developed an interest in cars yet and maybe he never will, but he can tell you if a Martin or Gibson guitar is genuine or a fake. That’s his passion."
"They both seem like nice boys. Um… just so you know, Greigh and I are getting married soon. I hope you’re comfortable with a gay couple having contact with your sons."
"Oh right, they did say Greigh mentioned the wedding. I don’t think it’s a problem, Danny and Liam are a couple. I think they’ll be pumping you for information about being out in public."
"I’m sorry, I barely got to speak with Greigh, I worked a double yesterday due to an incident."
"Don’t worry yourself about it, but I have to ask. Do you get a lot of crap in this neighborhood?"
"None at all so far; some people are a bit awkward at first but it passes quickly."
"Maybe it’s part of being a college town or perhaps society is improving. I have to hope, just for Liam and Danny’s sake and your little T.J."
"I hope so Connor, I really hope so."
Connor joined the others in the living room and they talked about the day. Liam related Danny’s performance for Mr. Levi and the Nerd hat incident.
"He didn’t say anything that you wouldn’t read in Scientific American."
"I didn’t know you were interested in material science, Danny. I can help you with that. Can I presume that the "Nerd hat" is a good thing?"
"You didn’t tell him did you?"
"Tell me what? Connor asked.
"Liam won the Nerd hat fifteen minutes into the science class the first day." Danny related the circumstances."
"Well, if you remember that, you should remember that we got sent away to play video games so yer mum could have a private word with me da."
"Oh yeah, it was kind of a weird night."
"Well now that’s out of the way, you are both bright lads and I think any recognition you get from your peers is like gold."
"Do you know what the detective wants to talk about?"
"Not entirely,” Connor replied. “Danny, how’s that welt on your side?"
Danny pulled up his shirt and showed the bruise which was fading rapidly. "It doesn’t hurt at all unless I poke it."
The front doorbell rang and Danny jumped up to answer it.
Danny would never have guessed that the man was a police detective. He looked like someone’s grandfather. He wore a neat suit and his badge was clipped to his belt but he held another with his I.D. up where it could be seen.
"Come in sir, Mom and Connor and Liam are all in the living room."
"Would anyone like something to drink?" Terri asked.
"I’ll take water if you have it," answered the Detective.
"Da, Terri, do you fancy iced tea?"
Both answered yes.
With the drinks served, Detective Graves got down to business.
"A few things have come to light since Sunday’s incident. It appears the boy who assaulted you and was subsequently disarmed and restrained by young Liam here, may not have been aware of his actions."
"He has a couple medical conditions that require him to take medication. It would appear that his previous doctor changed his meds just before he moved here to live with his dad and there was an error at the pharmacy and he ended up with the wrong meds. So, though he did indeed deliberately hit golf balls at you, that anti-social behavior isn’t part of his usual character. I’ve spoken to all his doctors and teachers in Illinois and it doesn’t match their picture of him. So unless you have any strong objections, I will recommend that no criminal action be taken by our prosecutor."
Liam looked at Danny, "What do you think, Danny?"
"I don’t know, have you talked to him, Sir. Does he seem like he’s faking to get out of it?"
"Yes, actually I have, and I believe he’s being genuine. He says he’d like to talk to both of you and apologize."
"What about the knife?" Liam asked. "He seemed to know his way around that thing; and why did he have it?"
"I checked the knife myself and I can tell you that it wasn’t sharp. The tip of the blade was rounded and the blade edge was blunt. It was a gift from his stepfather and he would play with it when he got upset, as it was explained to me."
"He asked me to thank you for not "beating the crap out of him," his words, when you could have. And I have to say you exercised excellent restraint. I saw the video and it was remarkable the way you snatched that knife away and brought him to the ground. All police copies of that video will be erased once this case is closed. I know you were concerned about it going public."
"Yes, Sir, thank you. I guess I’d be willing to let him have his say, How about you Danny?"
"It couldn’t hurt could it? It might be better to sit down with him than to run into him at the park or something."
"Detective, I think between Danny and I, we feel that nothing more needs to be done."
"Well if you’re sure and your parents agree then I will inform the prosecutor and contact the father of the other boy and you can get together to talk."
Both Connor and Terri agreed and the detective gave them a few things to sign and explained what they were. When he had gone, they all took a deep breath.
"Well, I’m glad that’s done with. This whole thing has been unreal. You boys behaved like very caring people, which I know to be the case. I’m proud of you both." Terri said.
"And me as well, I’m very proud and you are fine lads, the both of you."
"Thanks, Da, Terri."
"Thanks Mom, thanks Connor, it just seemed so unnecessary to go any farther after the Detective told us all that."
"So who wants dinner and where?" Connor asked.
"I know we had burgers last night, but could we go to that fifties drive in out on Arrow Route?"
"It sounds good to me, Terri?" Connor asked.
"Are you guys trying to get me fat? Okay but healthy food the rest of the week okay?"
"Agreed," the boys and Connor said in unison.
Danny pulled Liam in the direction of his bedroom and closed the door.
"Are you mad?" Danny asked.
"Of course, but you’ve known that since you met me."
"No, I meant angry."
"I know Danny, I was kiddin yas a bit. Why should I be angry?"
"Because I told them about the Nerd hat thing your first day."
"Na, I just kind of forgot. I was having trouble focusing on anything but you. I barely paid any attention in my other classes. And when I did remember I couldn’t find a good time to bring it up."
"So you’re not angry with me?"
"I find that difficult to do. I love you. If I get angry I’ll let you know, trust me."
Okay, it’s just you seem to push me to show people I’m good at stuff and then you don’t talk about how good you are at anything.
"I know Danny, I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. I just want everyone to know what I know about you. That you are a hell of a musician and a wonderful friend and a great person. Okay, I love you so I’m a bit biased but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. And I’m not comfortable telling people what I’ve accomplished and beating the drum for Liam."
"There was a boy I knew who was always goin’ on about what a grand musician he was and how he could speak a bunch of languages and eventually I found out it was all shite. He didn’t know any of it. He just felt he had to sound grander than the next lad. I never want to be like that. I’d rather show what I can do than tell them about it. And I would have eventually remembered the thing with the hat and told me da."
"I’ve always been scared to show off in case someone might hurt me or pick on me for being good at something. That’s why I let Gregg get away with leaving me out when we were in the quad and stuff like that. He came and apologized to me in front of a bunch of other guys. I think it was genuine."
"He did mention that he owed you an apology."
Liam pulled Danny close and held him and then kissed him, I love you, Danny, I love you."
"I love you too, Liam."