Heart Strings

Chapter Twelve

Danny woke around two and Liam had not stirred; he lay as if dead, only the regular movement of his chest gave an indication he still breathed. Danny needed something but he wasn’t sure what. He crawled out of bed and padded into the hall where he found himself in front of Connor’s open door. Danny watched Connor sleeping and remembered the hugs he had received earlier and hoped. Danny shook Connor’s arm and the man woke instantly.

"Is everything okay, Danny?"

Danny couldn’t speak; he couldn’t articulate what it was he needed. What he needed was fatherly affection.

Connor seemed to understand the sense of need, and slid himself back, away from the edge of the mattress and lifted the bedding. Danny lay down next to Connor and placed his back against the man’s chest. Connor gave Danny a kiss behind the ear and Danny wriggled trying to get closer. With Connor’s arm around his chest, Danny slipped off to sleep with a beatific but unseen smile on his face.

For Connor holding a child as he slept wasn’t unusual. Despite his air of confidence, his own son needed the reassurance of his father’s embrace at times.

After sleeping nearly ten hours, Liam woke and found himself alone. Remembering that Terri was staying he donned his Dublin City F.C. warm-ups and a tee shirt and went looking for Danny. He found Terri drinking coffee in the kitchen.

"Good morning, Liam, are you feeling okay today?"

"Oh good morning, Terri, I feel grand, how are you? Is Danny with you?"

"I’m fine honey; Danny is sleeping in your Dad’s bed. He’s all snuggled up next to him and your Dad has an arm over him. It’s funny, he always seems to look like he’s working hard at sleeping with that serious face, but right now he has the most serene smile I’ve ever seen him with."

"I guess I wasn’t much company last night, I barely remember going to bed. But I know how he feels. I love to sleep in me Da’s arms once in a while. It’s very comforting and safe, especially when I’m having troubles."

While Liam and Terri were talking in the kitchen, Connor woke with the realization that Danny was still tucked up against him. He began to tickle Danny’s ear and nose and Danny began to stir. He gave out a long sigh and stretched. He suddenly realized where he was and who he was lying next to.

Good morning sleepy boy, how are you feeling?

Danny was relieved to discover that Connor wasn’t angry at having been invaded. "I feel good, thank you for holding me sir, um… sorry Connor."

"Well, you looked like you needed a bit of comfort, just like Liam does sometimes. I’d love to chat a bit more but me bladder is screamin’."

"Oh, me too, I need to pee pretty bad."

"Well, you can go first if you like."

"We can go together; I know what a penis looks like."

"Well, alright," Connor answered, although he was reluctant, he didn’t want to hurt Danny’s feelings, but he was glad his morning erection had passed.

The two stood in front of the bowl, drained themselves, and then washed their hands. Danny had gotten a close up view of a grown man’s penis; Connor could see him staring but said nothing.

"Do you think mine will ever get that big?"

"I don’t see why not, you’ve a good start."

Danny grinned up at him. "Thanks."

Connor tossed a tee shirt at Danny and grabbed one himself. "We best get downstairs and see what’s going on."

Danny parked himself between Connor’s legs where he sat on the bedside. He leaned forward and kissed Connor’s cheek. "Thanks for showing me what it’s like to have a Dad. Do you think we could do it again sometime?"

"I think that would be grand. I’ve become very fond of you these past days, Danny, you’re a good lad."

Danny hugged Connor’s neck and then stepped back and smiled.

Connor rose from his bed and patted Danny’s bottom urging him along and down the hall.

"So Liam, what is the deal with your Mother?"

"I really don’t have one. She ran off with another woman shortly after I was born. Me shan, um… grandmother raised me and did all the mothering. After I made it through my first year at school, Da brought me back here to America. She tried to get joint custody last year and I told the judge I didn’t want to be with her. She had a lot of options besides running away and well, I just didn’t need the turmoil. I have to go to a supervised visitation every other month, but I’ve told her I have nothing for her. I just can’t forgive her for pissing off with her lady friend. Now they’re married and they have kids. Erica can’t have anymore so her partner, Skiva had two girls with donor sperm."

"So Erica is your mother’s name?"

"That’s right, would you like some breakfast? I’m a pretty good cook."

Liam was through discussing his mother; she was just a bit of baggage that he had to carry. He considered her abandonment of him to be worse than aborting him before he was born. He knew he would have to deal with that someday, but he wasn’t ready and Erica had nothing to offer.

Liam and Terri cooked a nice traditional American breakfast. 

“Terri, is there something more between you and my da besides working together?”

"To be honest Liam, I’m not sure. Your Dad is a very nice man and very charming. But this is also the best job I’ve ever had and I don’t want to do anything to spoil that."

"Oh that’s just bollocks, why shouldn’t you have both. Me da’s a fine man; and he’s been in a good mood since we met you at the restaurant. I think he fancies you but, I’m a kid and gay as well, but I know Da and he’s happier when he’s around you."

Liam that’s refreshingly honest; a little brash but honest, but it would have to be something we both want.

Their conversation was interrupted by Danny’s giggling coming down the stairs. He was giggling because Connor was lugging him down the stairs like a sack of potatoes. Danny entered the kitchen wearing his sleeping shorts and one of Connor’s tee shirts. Connor still wore his pajama bottoms and a tee shirt as well.

Danny kissed his mom and then Liam, "Good morning Mom. Good morning Liam, that smells good."

Liam took the skillet off the burner, turned, and hugged Danny. "Good morning, Danny" he said as he kissed Danny’s lips.

"Good Morning, Son," Connor said as kissed his son’s cheek.

"Hi, Da, we’re nearly done here, do you want to set the table?

"I’m on it!" Danny exclaimed.

Connor pulled Orange juice and a bowl of fruit salad from the fridge and placed them on the table, while Danny laid out flatware, plates, cups and glasses.

Conversation was lively and once breakfast was finished, Connor said he would do the cleanup. The boys went up to dress and Terri kept Connor company.

"Did you sleep well, Liam?" Danny asked.

"Yeah, Danny, sorry I turned into a zombie on yas. I tend to just crash for ten or twelve hours after one of those incidents. I’m sorry I wasn’t better company."

"It’s okay, Liam, I understand."

"It’s nice sleeping with Da isn’t it. I always feel safe and really chill when I do. He gives a great cuddle."

"So you aren’t upset?"

"No, of course not, why would I be?"

"Well he’s your dad; I don’t want to steal him or anything."

Liam put his arms around Danny, "Me da has a big heart and I’m sure he can love you as well as me and not lack for what I need. He’s always been affectionate to me and I love it. I still kiss him goodbye when he drops me at school and I don’t care who sees it.

A chirp from Liam’s phone interrupted him. He ignored it and kissed Danny gently and thoroughly. 

"I love you Liam, and thanks for understanding, I woke up early this morning and needed something or someone and I don’t really remember how I ended up beside your dad’s bed. And then he just took me in with him and held me and it felt so warm and safe. I envy you that."

"Were you scared when the storm hit too? I was so upset I didn’t pick up on it if you were. I should have asked."

"No I was fine, it's just when your Dad rushed in and held us both, I really liked it. I guess I needed comfort and you were out cold. Don’t feel bad about that either, it was nice for me to sleep with him."

"So what do you want to do today?"

"I need to do something physical, let’s take a ball to the park and kick it around. Maybe some other guys will join us and we can have a game,"

*************************************

"I’m going to need to get going, I have to sign for the last of the deliveries today and then get our things from the hotel." Terri told Connor.

I’ll go up and get changed, can’t drive around in this outfit." 

"Oh that’s right; my car is at work still."

"Be sure and get yourself some renter’s insurance. It’s worth the money," Connor urged.

"Way ahead of you, I took care of that the day I signed the lease. I’m covered for everything but space alien attack."

"Yeah, I should have known you were sharp enough to get that covered."

The sound of feet galloping down the stairs interrupted them.

"We’re off to the park, Da, why don’t you play yer Shane MacGowan albums for Terri, she’ll be putty in yer hands."

Liam giggled and kissed his dad’s cheek and then Terri’s. Danny did the same and Liam informed them of their plans.

"Have yas got yer mobile, ya little heathen?"

"Right here, Da."

"And you, Danny?"

"Yes sir, it’s in my pocket."

"Alright then, off with yas."

The boys charged off to meet the morning and Liam suddenly remembered that he had a message.

"So, you like the Pogues?" Terri asked.

"You know them then? I like the band and the music."

"My favorite is Christmas in New York." Terri said.

"It’s a great song, do you know who he recorded it with?"

"Kirsty MacColl I believe."

"Okay then, yer well in."

The text had been from Cheri asking if they wanted to meet up at the park.

Liam responded that they were on their way.

"I was going to see if the four of us could talk about something." Liam said when they had said their hellos."

"What’s up, honey?" Cheri asked.

"It’s about being out at school, have you guys considered it?"

"I’m okay with it, but Amber has some reservations."

"We should get all the gay kids we know about and sit down and talk." Danny suggested.

"Good idea, Danny," Amber said. "I bet Cheri and I could organize that. Maybe just an invite to meet under the madrona at the south end of the campus."

"I know a couple of guys, but only one of them goes to this school, Sean might be a tough sell though."

"We know just about everybody that is gay at our school, even if they don’t think anybody knows." Cheri offered.

"Danny and I would like to be out, but I don’t want to fight someone everyday I’m in school. We’re the youngest boys in our class and we already have a target on our backs just for that."

"Well I doubt you’ll have much trouble with bullies after what happened with Brian, but honestly, Danny might. Please don’t be insulted Danny, but you are small and I know you must be a good fighter, but we’re not talking a playground tussle here. We’re talking about haters and bullies."

"I think I can handle a bully."

"One maybe, but you know bullies don’t work that way, they run around in groups. There are also predators; if they know you’re gay, they’ll come at you and rape you in the boys room while their friends watch."

"Are there people like that at our school?"

"I don’t know honey, but there may be."

"But you said you’d like to be out too, Cheri."

"That’s true, but I have to worry about bullies too. Girls can be haters too, and some of them are really good at it. But I don’t know a girl at this school that I couldn’t beat the shit out of if they touched Amber or me either one."

"I can believe that, you’re a formidable woman, Cheri, but you are just looking at the worst case scenario. I’ve only been at this school for less than two weeks, but most of the students are nice people. I think the majority would support us."

"I know, Liam; I wanted Danny to see it’s not just a simple matter."

"Hey, I’m right here, talk to me directly."

"Sorry Danny, Liam’s right. I was painting the worst picture, but I think like Liam that our school has a lot of good, decent people and they would back us up. I’ll bet Brian would even back you up."

"It’s a bit of a stretch that, but you might be right. He’s not a proper villain, he was just havin’ a bad time at home. Tell you what, I’ll ask him Monday."

"Okay, you take his temperature and we’ll talk to the other LGBT kids and see if they will meet us somewhere."

"Well then, that’s sorted if you agree. Danny lets go bang the ball around a bit."

"Sounds good to me." Suddenly Danny yelped out in pain and held his side. A golf ball rolled down the shallow incline toward a guy with a golf club. A second barely missed Ambers face and Liam took off at a dead run. The kid with the club rushed the next shot and missed Liam and everyone else; he didn’t have time for another. Before he could get the ball on a tee, Liam tackled him and both skidded for several feet. The teenager lost his club in the collision and Liam squared off on him as he stood up again. 

"What do you think your doin’, ya eedjit?"

"Fuck you, this is my park!"

"Like hell, I’ve been playin’ here for years!"

"Well it’s mine now so get out," hissed the teen.

With that, the teen pulled a knife from his back pocket. It was a Balisong or Butterfly knife. The punk was good at theatrically flipping it open and closed like he meant to throw a scare into Liam, but Liam just watched until he closed it up and then he snatched it from the punk’s hand. Liam spun backward on his left heel and kicked the thug in the knee and he went down screaming. Liam heard a car driving toward them and turned to see a police car.

Liam stood where he was not realizing that Cheri, Amber and Danny were right behind him.

"What’s going on here one officer asked Liam. He was threatening me with a knife so I took it from him. The knee is the price he paid for waving it at me. He started shagging golf balls at us while we were talking and one hit Danny."

"So where’s the knife?"

"On the ground by your feet sir."

"Do you have any I.D.?" The officer asked.

"No, but you can hold my phone, My name is Liam Dennehy and you can call me Da if you’d like."

"I’m the one that called, I’m Cheri Larkin. Liam is telling the truth, I have it on video. He tried to hit Liam with a golf ball but he got scared. One just missed Amber’s head."

"You have video?" the officer asked.

"Yes. Do you want to see it?"

"In a moment, you guys stay here and I’ll go speak to my partner."

After a while, the officer returned and said. "He’s telling a completely different story. He says the knife is yours and he claims that he accidentally hit a couple balls in your direction. So I would like to see the video you mentioned."

"You can watch it on my phone or I can send it to you."

"Why don’t you show me the video and then you can send it to my email."

Cheri started the video, which was very smooth considering she was running towards Liam and the teenager. She was close enough to record the conversation. The whole thing played out on Cheri’s phone for the officer to see.

"Thank you, Ms. Larkin, if you will please email that to me I will use it for the investigation. Liam, here is your phone, why don’t you call your father and get him to come pick you up."

"Yes sir, I guess we’ll have to find someplace else to get a game going."

Liam turned and asked Danny how he was feeling. 

"I’m okay, but I have a mark where the ball hit me."

Liam shouted for the officer and showed him the huge crimson welt on Danny’s side just below his ribs.

"Oh crap, I better call the medics." The officer said. "I’m really sorry son; I remember Liam saying that someone called saying Danny got hit. I’m sorry; I got focused on the investigation." 

"I don’t need the medics, My mom is with Liam’s dad and they’re on their way. I called them when you showed up."

"Well okay, but do you mind if I get a picture of that wound and one of you for identity?"

Connor’s Landcruiser rolled up next to the Police Car and Terri made a beeline for Danny. She had to wait for Liam to release him before she could embrace him.

"I’m okay Mom, please be careful of my side."

"Who did this to you Baby?"

"Stay calm Mom, Liam took him down and the cops will handle the rest. You can watch the video on You Tube later."

Another police unit contained a supervisor and his driver. They conferred with the other officer who apparently showed them the video. They had a tough time holding back their laughter near the end of the video, which stopped when the Police arrived.

"Hello Ma’am, my officer has informed me that your son has declined medical treatment; is that true?"

"Danny? Is that what you told them?"

"It’s just a welt Mom, see for yourself." Danny pulled up his shirt and an angry red circle with the pattern of dimples from a golf ball was surrounded by a large dark pink circle nearly four inches around."

"We’ve already summoned the paramedics to treat the other boy, why don’t we have them take a look and make their recommendations?"

"I think that’s sound advice Danny, but the choice is yours."

"Okay Mom and I think they wanted pictures of it as well. Will you give them the okay?"

"Oh yes, of course, it needs to be documented."

"Thanks, Ma’am, this officer will take care of that if you would both like to follow him."

"I’m going to presume that you are Liam, can you tell me how you got the knife from the other boy?"

"Liam looked to his dad and Connor nodded."

"He was trying to look tough flipping the thing back and forth open and closed. I watched his pattern and slapped his hand once he closed it but before he could start his sequence again."

"Okay can you tell me why you kicked him?"

Again, Liam got approval from Connor.

"I wasn’t sure what else he might have in his pockets and I needed to protect my friends."

"Sounds reasonable to me; how old are you Liam?"

"Eleven sir, I’ll be twelve next week.”

"How old is the other boy Sergeant?" Connor asked.

"He’s three weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday if my math is right."

"Um… sir, I’d prefer if that video didn’t go public. I don’t like hurting anybody and I don’t want people patting me on the back for doing it. I was just protecting my friends."

A fire truck and ambulance added to the tire tracks on the park’s field. 

"The groundskeepers won’t be pleased come Monday," Connor joked.

A Mercedes screeched to a halt at the curb and a man walked quickly to the scene."

"Where’s my son? Where’s Larry? The man demanded."

"This way sir,” an officer called.

Fifteen minutes later the man approached Liam, Danny, Terri, Connor and the two girls.

"I don’t know what to say, I’m very sorry for my son’s actions. I can’t imagine why he would do that. He’s only been here three days."

"I imagine you will need to get him someone who can help him work out his issues before he gets himself into real trouble," Terri said.

"Yes, you’re right of course. I was told a boy was injured, is he okay?"

"I’m fine, the paramedics just said to keep an eye on it." Danny stated.

"Well, if there are any medical expenses, I’ll stand good for them."

The man gave his name as Jack and handed Terri a business card.

"They’re taking my son to the hospital to check his knee. I think he’s okay but the doctors will say for sure."

Connor loaded Liam, Danny and the girls into the truck and drove them all back to the house.