Heart Strings

Chapter Thirty-One

When Danny opened the door, Todd and Darren along with Pearce were grinning broadly. 

"Is Liam okay?" Todd asked.

"Come see for yourself," Danny replied and ushered them through the doorway.

"Hey Liam, are you feeling okay today?" Darren inquired.

"I feel pretty good, my leg is sore at the wound but not bad. It really only hurts when I strain," Liam assured them.

"Well I brought you something to help with support when you walk. I got it when that guy hit my bike," Darren held up a wooden walking stick with a tiger's head carved into the top.

"That's so cool Darren, thank you; I wonder if they'll let me use it at school," Liam marveled.

"I did, it was cool. I hobbled around and people opened doors for me and held my books in the restroom. I milked it for several extra days. I felt better but by the end of the day I needed the stick again."

"Well thanks Darren, I'll give it a try," Liam said.

"Hi Shane, I didn't think you'd be here, weren't you going to Universal today?" Pearce asked.

"That was our plan but none of us really felt like it after last night. Doug has been looking forward to Disneyland for a while and I hope we can still do that tomorrow. We have to fly back Tuesday so we'll see what my parents decide. I figure we can go to Universal in Florida and it won't be much different, but the Disney California Adventure is supposed to be really cool," Shane explained.

"You must really love your little brother, that's really cool that you'd do that for him," Todd put in.

"I do, I can't help it, as goofy as he is, I love him."

"We were all goofy once, I still am about some stuff," Pearce put in.

"I think we all are," Liam observed.

“Well Jim, Terri and I had a long talk this morning, she's agreed to be my wife. I couldn't ask for a finer woman."

"That's great Connor, will you be doing a civil ceremony or church?"

"I fancy we'll have a friend do the honors, he's judge here in Claremont and we've been mates for years. Jack Corrigan was the first Irish lad I met when I moved here. I designed a house for him and he's still livin' there to this day."

"Sounds like a good choice; Amanda and I would love to attend if I may be so bold. You and Terri and the boys have reached our hearts and I'm glad to call you a friend, Connor.

"Likewise Jim, you have become a good friend and I will keep you up to speed. we're holding off telling the boys until things calm down a bit, it will be a surprise for me mam as well. We haven't a date yet but we'll start working that out right soon."

The boys continued chatting and Liam decided to rise up and try the walking stick. It worked wonderfully for him and with Todd and Danny behind him, he tried the stairs one tread at a time. He supported the left leg and trudged up the stairs without any actual assistance. He would lean on Danny because he thought Danny needed that.

"That worked great, I've no difficulty with the stairs but for safety's sake I'll have Danny go with me."

Todd, Darren, Danny and Liam made for Liam's room, while Shane and Pearce broke off and went to Shane and Doug's room.

Liam grinned at Danny but said nothing. Danny grinned and winked.

"Would you like to see some of my drawings Pearce?" Shane offered.

"Yes please, I'd like that a lot."

Pearce thumbed through Shane's most recent sketchbook and gazed up in awe. "These are beautiful, you can really draw. I like to draw too but I don't have any of my books to show you. I can't risk anyone seeing them."

"I think I understand," Shane said handing Pearce his red covered sketchbook."

Pearce scanned a few of the images and arrived at Shane's self-portrait. He looked up at Shane and smiled. "Are you um…,"

"Gay... yes I am and I like you a whole lot, are you interested in having a boyfriend?" Shane put forth hopefully.

Pearce stood and crossed to where Shane was standing. "I've been wanting to do this since I met you last night." Pearce kissed Shane on the lips and really worked at it. Shane gasped when Pearce raised his head.

"Oh yeah," said Shane and surged forward to initiate another passionate kiss.

Just as they finished a knock at the door made them jump apart. Pearce slipped the Red sketchpad under a pillow and Shane called out, "Come in."

"Oh hi Shane, I didn't know you had company, I wanted to ask what you would like to do tomorrow, we can go to Universal or Disneyland," Jim inquired.

"Where will I find Dougy, I was betting you'd vote for Universal," Jim smiled.

"Well, there's a Universal in Florida, but only the one California Adventure and Doug has been looking forward to that for a long time, Dad."

Jim seized his son and kissed his cheek and hugged him with moist eyes, "Let's go check with your brother." 

The two boys followed Jim across the hall, Jim knocked at the door and was granted entry.

"I thought my youngest would be here, what's become of him, Jim asked.

"He's in my closet practicing the guitar piece I gave him," Liam explained. “He's due for a break so just go on in."

Moments later a gleeful squeal was heard echoing through the room as Doug heard the news and reacted. Doug bounded out of the closet and hugged his brother and then all the other boys and then apologized to Pearce, Todd and Darren.

"It's okay Doug, my brother Jabs does the same thing.  Thanks for the hug," Pearce purred to Doug.

"What school does your brother go to Pearce?" Doug asked.

He goes to Empire and boards during the week. Mom and Dad have weird hours and can't always be home with him but I'm changing schools so he can stay at home during the week with me until our parents get home. Plus it will get me out of that pit I go to now. Lockhart really sucks. My brother Elliot went there and hated it and he's straight, it's a nightmare for a gay kid like me. Most of them hate me just because of the way I look, and I don't have any control over that."

"They probably dream about you and it freaks them out," Darren joked.

"That might be true Darren, he's really attractive. If I didn't have Liam I'd be interested," Danny grinned at Liam.

"I don't think you're being conceited Pearce, although I think that's sort of what you're hinting at. You are very good looking but that only goes so far. You seem to have a good soul, you're kind and caring from what I've seen and that is what makes you a truly beautiful person," Liam extolled.

Pearce's eyes were awash with tears as he moved to hug Liam. "Thank you for saying that. I see the same thing in you and Danny and all of you here. You are all wonderful people."

Pearce sat down next to Shane and kissed him in front of the assembled group.

"Alright Pearce! Way to score a boyfriend," Todd nearly shouted.

Another knock at the door brought Cheri and Amber to the group.

"Nice to see yas Cheri, you really killed it last night, I can't wait to get on stage with you again," Liam told her. "You too Amber, you've a sweet voice and it blends well with Cheri."

"Thanks Liam, but you're not going to get out of us smothering you with kisses so sit still and take it," Cheri commanded.

Liam suffered their attention and affection with good cheer until the girls were satisfied with their work.

"So how bad is the wound?" Cheri asked seriously.

"It wasn't that bad and it doesn't hurt a great deal either, I walked up the stairs on me own," Liam explained.

"But he shot you, how can you not be badly injured?!" Amber asked a bit miffed.

"Well the bullet hit a couple of other things before it hit me leg and most of the energy was used up by then. It didn't go very deep and caused very little damage according to the doc," Liam soothed.

"Oh okay, I guess I understand," Amber sighed."

Another knock at the door was heard and Connor stuck his head in, "You've a crowd forming downstairs, I've been putting them in the music room."

Liam and his entourage ambled down the stairs and Liam managed quite well.

In the music room, Brian, Calvin, Tristan and Sean rose to greet him.

"Hi guys, nice to see you," Liam walked directly to Brian whose arm was in a sling. Liam hugged him in welcome but gently in case he had other injuries. So what happened to you then Brian, I see Calvin is sporting a bruise on his cheek, Liam hugged Calvin the same way."

"We were on the way to the party and Dad got hit by a drunk that ran a red light. Dad's truck is totaled but the airbags kept us from being hurt really bad. They thought I had a broken arm but it's just badly bruised, my head hit Calvin's so he's bruised up too. It could have been a lot worse." 

Liam observed how Brian took Calvin's hand but let go immediately.

"Um Brian, can you walk me to the toilet?"

"Sure Liam, let me help you up.

When they were in the bathroom, Liam relieved himself and then washed his hands. "Brian, it's okay you know, I consider you a mate and I want you to know that you can be yerself here. Almost all the people in that room are gay. If you love Calvin, let it show. You're safe here.

Brian's eyes were wet and he couldn't stop the tears from falling, he hugged Liam with his good arm.

"Thanks Liam, I thought we were hiding it pretty good. At first, it was just about making up for torturing him but he is such a sweet person and he forgave me and let himself be open about how he felt. I had to tell him I loved him; I think even when I was being a jerk to him some part of me loved him."

"I sensed something like that the first day I saw you together but I wanted to tell you in private and then Dave became a problem and well, here we are. We best get back before Danny thinks I'm shopping around."

"Let me pee and wash my face okay, then I'll help you back," requested Brian.

"Not a problem, I'd like to see if Todd was right and it looks like he was. How can Calvin manage that monster?"

"Well right now we just jerk each other off, but when he's ready we'll try some stuff."

"Well good luck to yas, and I won't be sayin' anything about your old fella there."

Brian blushed but didn't speak.

They made their way back to the assembled group which had grown by several boys. 

Connor decided to order pizza and sides enough for visitors and Terri went to buy ice cream.

By seven, all the guests had made their way home, Shane and Pearce had a very promising goodbye.

The Powells packed up and said their goodbyes and wished everyone good luck. Hugs were exchanged and off they went to check in to the hotel at Disneyland.

It's so quiet there without all the people. Connor, Terri and Danny took care of the cleanup. Liam wouldn't admit it but he'd been on his leg too much and it was throbbing a bit. Reluctantly he took one of the pain pills his Da offered although it took three tries to get him to accept. "That's why the doc prescribed them lad, it's foolish to be in pain needlessly," Connor counselled. Liam took the pill and his leg felt better.

The four of them watched TV together, the boys sat on either side of Terri while Connor lounged in the leather recliner. The show ended and Connor suggested the boys should go up and shower, when they were done Connor would change the dressing on Liam's leg and show Danny how to do it.

Monday morning began like any other and the boys gathered at the kitchen table with Connor and Terri.

When they had all finished eating, Connor asked them to stay. "We've somethin' to discuss with yas and now it's just us, I think it's time," Connor began.

"Connor has asked me to marry him and I've said yes, we hope you boys will approve of the idea," Terri announced.

The boys were on their feet instantly, Liam winced but jumped at his father and hugged him as hard as he could. His eyes were streaming and he muttered into his father’s ear, "This is great Da, I love you and I love Terri too." 

Danny and Liam came up for a breath at the same time and Liam dissolved all of Terri's worries of Liam's acceptance of her. Danny hugged and kissed Connor, "Does this mean I can call you Da now?"

Connor looked at Terri who replied, "I don't see why not."

Liam responded with, "Way to go Mam," kissed Terri's cheek and hugged her again.

They stayed that way for quite a while and then the questions began.

"When will you get married?" Danny wanted to know.

"After the holidays, it would be a nightmare to plan a wedding in the next two months, so either February or March is what we've decided," Terri volunteered.

"Will yas be movin' here or will it be a new house?"

"We discussed that and we decided here is the best, it's bigger overall and Terri loves it. She'll want to add her own touches of course," Connor explained.

"I was a bit afraid you would feel you were losing your freedom.  I know you like to wear as little as possible. Will that be a problem," Terri inquired.

"That's not a problem for me, I've the same equipment as Danny and me da and it's bound to happen sometime. I'm not shy at all really," Liam replied.

"That's true enough, he used to fetch the paper in the altogether a year or so back," Connor grinned.

"Mom's not terribly shy either and you know I'm not. Our A/C didn't work in the old place and we didn't wear much then," Danny supplied.

"We did have to make some concessions to the weather back then, and I'm no prude. If you can take it I can, so let's not worry about it," Terri confirmed.

"And so you know, me mam is comin' ta visit next week. With Liam's adventure and our announcement, nothing would keep her in Dublin. She had studio work this coming week or she'd have been here by now," Connor warned.

"Yas here that Danny, Shan is comin', she'll love the both of yas on sight, Liam crowed.

"That sounds cool, I hope you're right Liam," Danny smiled.

"Well then, let's get this cleared away and set to work stripping beds and such," Connor suggested.

Liam and Terri cleaned the kitchen and then went to the room Shane and Doug had occupied. They found the bathroom had been cleaned including the toilet and shower.

"Bless their hearts, what wonderful boys," Terri gushed.

The bed was neatly made but they would strip it and wash the sheets anyway. There was an envelope addressed to Liam and Danny on Shane's pillow.

Terri handed the envelope to Liam, "You should probably open that with Danny in private, it might be personal."

"Thanks Mam," Liam replied, stowing the envelope in his pocket.

Liam pulled the top sheet back and untucked it and then untucked the fitted sheet at the foot end. Terri lifted the pillow Doug had used and a red tablet was under it. Curious, she opened the tablet and looked at Shane's private drawings.

"Shane is quite an artist, will you see that he gets it back, he'll probably be sweating bullets when he discovers it's missing," Terri smiled sweetly.

"Thanks Mam, I'm sure he'll be glad to know it's safe."

"I noticed you weren't in the book; didn't you want to pose?" Terri asked.

"There really wasn't time, he took a picture and said he'd draw me from that," Liam explained.

"I'd like to see that, he's a wonderful artist, did he get Danny to cooperate?"

"He snapped us both so he'll draw Danny too," Liam confirmed.

"Thanks for understanding Mam, Shane's a nice person and a great artist. I fancy he'll be a professional someday," Liam speculated.

"I love hearing you call me Mam, I didn't expect it right off the bat though and then I thought if you did it would be Mam," Terri stated.

"Well, Mam is more natural for me but I wouldn't want yas to confuse it for ma'am. I'll probably still call you Terri sometimes but I'm happy to have a real Mam now."

Terri was overwhelmed by Liam's answer and held him tight for a few moments. Liam hugged her back and it was a very sweet moment for the two of them.

"You really work fast Connor, I only asked you a couple of days ago if I could call you Da someday, I hope you know what this means for me," Danny ventured.

"I know Lad, the idea was in me mind before you asked, seeing how solid yer Mam was in a crisis sealed the deal for me. There's no finer woman for me and I mean to keep her with me always. As for you, I know I'm not your real father, I'm sorry you never got to know him. But I love you like you were me own and never doubt that, if you've troubles they're my troubles too," Connor assured.

Danny melted into Connor who picked Danny up and held him and patted his back. Kissing the boy's cheek Connor said, and I'll see what can be done about your other request. 

Connor and Danny made short work of stripping the bed clothes, Danny handed an envelope to Connor. It held a card from Jim and Amanda wishing them well and congratulations and thanking them for their hospitality. They wrote that a standing invitation was open for them to visit whenever they found themselves in Baltimore.

With the chores done, Liam sat on his bed and called Todd.

"Hi Todd, is Pearce still with yas?"

"Sure would you like to talk to him, I'm sure he's around here somewhere."

"Well I was wonderin' if yas could come over, I have somethin' of Shane's and he's approved Pearce as a courier to get it back to him. Do yas think you could come over, otherwise I can get me da to drive me over instead."

"No man, we'll come to you but we'll be bringing Jabs, we've got to escape my freaky girl cousins, I understand Darren's situation so much better. They even took over my bathroom," Todd protested.

"I'll be happy to grant yas sanctuary as long as you need it," Liam laughed.

They ended the call and Liam chuckled. Danny looked curious and Liam told him what Todd was suffering.

"Jeez six girls under your roof plus your aunt, that sounds like hell," Danny observed when Todd arrived.

"Pretty close, Aunt Lucy is cool and her two girls are nice but Aunt June's girls are with them and they're spoiled rotten. I had to lock my room when I left. I told Aunt Lucy it was because my skeet guns are in there, I just didn't mention the gun safe. Otherwise, Patty and them would trash my room. I throw my dead bolt when we're in there or they'd just march in."

"Why do you have a deadbolt on your door Todd?" Danny asked.

Dad put it in a few years ago, for when I was home alone, if I got scared I'd go in there and lock it. Also, if someone broke in I could hide in there while I called the cops. Dad has a key and I have a key, it's not to keep him out."

"I understand, in our old place it wouldn't have helped. The doors were like cardboard and locking them wouldn't slow anyone down much. It would only give me time to grab my bat," Danny related.

"This is Jabs by the way, he's Pearce's little brother," Todd explained.

"Nice ta meet yas Jabs, do you like it here?" Liam asked.

"Yeah, it's really nice and the people have been neat, sorry I couldn't be there. Mom wanted me to go somewhere with my cousins and it was a bust out because the place was packed.  We went to Dave and Buster's and played games all evening instead. Pearce told me what happened when he got back. I'm sorry you got hurt at your birthday party, are you feeling okay now. Did it hurt a lot to get shot?"

"Okay Pearce, I understand why he's called Jabs," Liam said, grinning.

"My real name is Gabriel but they call me Jabs cos I talk a lot."

"It's okay mate, and to answer your question, yes, it hurts a whole bunch. I don't recommend it as a casual pastime," Liam chuckled.

Jabs laughed and so did the rest of the boys.

"Say Pearce, can I talk to you around the corner a bit?"

Liam and Pearce walked to the music room, "I've somethin' of Shane's here and he'd like me to hand it to yas so yas can return it to him." Liam held up a red sketch book and Pearce blushed. "We found it under a pillow in Shane and Doug's bed."

"I forgot I stuck it there when his dad came in, Shane must have forgot about it."

"He's quite the artist eh?" Liam asked.

"Are you kidding, he's fantastic, he said he'd like to draw me too," Pearce extolled.

"Yeah, he has piccys of Danny and me to draw us too."

"Are they naked piccys?"

"Yeah, how about you?"

"There wasn't time but he can sure kiss, I can't wait to change schools, it will be so much nicer and he just makes it perfect," Pearce gushed.

"I understand, just don't show it to your brother, I taped it shut but that's up to you to have another look."

"Why not show it to Jabs, it's just drawings of nude guys?"

"Yas must not have looked through the whole thing, have a look and decide fer yerself. You'll see what I'm talkin' about," Liam explained.

"Oh, okay. Thanks Liam and thanks for making it possible to meet Shane, I probably would have seen him at school but we had time alone here and he would have had his guard up at school," Pearce noted smiling softly.

"Let's rejoin the other's then and yas can give it to Shane when yas see him next," Liam suggested.

That evening Conner informed Liam that he had an appointment with his pediatrician Tuesday at ten. The veteran's day holiday had delayed it by a day.