The rest of the week, Sharon and her family showed Cion what Queens had to offer and showed him Manhattan during the weekend. He was enthralled. Bright lights and big city were words that could never have hoped to do New York justice. As they drove along the streets or made their way through the subways, Sharon made a point to show Cion every gay bar she knew of or suspected. Her son Alec had scoffed when he had found out Cion’s preference till Jake tapped him upside the head.
“We don’t judge in this family.” He said with a strength behind his words.
“Don’t worry, Cion.” Jake and Sharon’s daughter Jess said. “He hasn’t even had a girlfriend so what does he know. He could very well be gay too.”
“Jess, stop aggravating your brother!” Sharon yelled, then went back to whatever it was she was saying about New York.
Cion had gotten used to the whirlwind that was the Burgoyne-DeLuca family. Their love was apparent but the parents gave their children no quarter when it came to disrespecting others. And all in all, Cion had to admit that the kids were pretty good kids, even Alec. He definitely felt welcome with them and looked forward to his time here with more excitement, but couldn’t shake the feeling that he was looking for something. How was he supposed to find something in a city this big when he didn’t know what it was he was supposed to be searching for?
They called it an early evening Sunday and went home for dinner rather than eating out as they had most of the week. Everyone seemed tired but happy with the fast paced tour they had given Cion and happy to have a nice quiet evening at home. Even Alec’s music, usually rather loud, was quiet and subdued. Sharon and Jake sat on the couch, her legs propped up on his, reading and unwinding from the day.
“You have a minute, Jake?” Cion asked as he came up from his room.
“Sure. What’s on your mind?”
“I was wondering if I could start at work tomorrow with ya?” Cion asked and saw Sharon frown.
“We told you, Cion. You’re not to be paying us anything, so why don’t you take some time for yourself?” Sharon argued.
“Sharon, if I did that I’d likely go off the rails. I’ve been working since I could spit in a dogs eye. I’d really feel much better with something to do.”
“If you want to, Cion.” Jake finally relented.
“Great. I leave around six in the morning.”
“Grand.” Cion said, smiling. “It’ll be great craic, Jake. You’ll see.”
Cion left to go downstairs to his bedroom. Jake looked at Sharon.
“What the hell did he say?” Sharon only smiled.
The next morning, Cion’s alarm rang at quarter after five and he pulled himself out of bed like a hibernating bear who thinks it’s a bit too early to be lumbering about. Once under the shower spray, set to tepid to help him wake up, he felt more human and able to meet the day. He dressed quickly and was upstairs as Jake was buttering a slice of toast.
“Morning.” Jake greeted cheerfully.
“Morning.” Cion’s greeting was not as cheerful.
“Wow. You know, you don’t have to do this.”
“It’s fine, Jake. I’m just a bit slow in the morning is all. I’ll have me mother’s milk and be right as rain in no time.”
“Your ‘mother’s milk’?” Jake asked.
“Aye. Tea, I believe you Yanks call it.”
“Oh right. Um… not sure where it is. Sharon’s turned into more of a coffee drinker.”
“She keeps it right over there in the cabinet. She was sweet enough to buy it special.” Cion said as he set the kettle to boil and took out two bags. “We’ve time, yeah?”
“Yeah. We’ve got another couple minutes. You sure you’re going to be good with just that? You wouldn’t want toast, or eggs or something?” Jake asked.
“An Irishman can go to war on one of three things; love, whiskey and tea.”
Jake laughed. “I’ll have to remember that.”
They arrived home later that night, tired but feeling a sense of accomplishment. Jake was suitably impressed with Cion’s work and Cion was happy that Jake was impressed. They walked in the door and Sharon came to meet them.
“Jesus! You both look like hell. Go take your showers and I’ll have supper on the table when you get out.”
They both agreed and went to their respective rooms to change. Cion stripped down in the bathroom and turned the shower on allowing it to steam the room up nicely. After the work out he had today, his muscles would need some relief. Not that he wasn’t used to manual labor, but the extra effort he used to convince Jake that he was capable took it’s toll.
Cion used his hands and wiped some of the condensation away from the large mirror in front of him and thought of Sharon’s comparison of him and his father. He had seen very few pictures of Dylan Malloy when he was growing up and had thought that his father and mother had been married until finding out that M had legally changed her name after his death.
He stood at the mirror, all six feet two of himself and smiled. His teeth were white and thankfully straight as he thought if there had been a problem, his mother would have tried crystals or blue green algae before braces. His dark hair was a bit long, but it suited his face which he usually swept it back from. His eyes were bright blue and his lovers often said they changed with his moods.
His lovers also said he often had the look of Clive Owen but with his goatee, Cion couldn’t see it. His chest was muscular and sparsely covered with hair. His arms were muscular from the many years of hard work and his stomach was flat despite his non-vegetarian diet. All in all, he thought he made an attractive package and wished he would soon find the man that would steal his heart and gladly give him his. And with a sigh, he slipped into the water and let his worries wash away.
The week went on pretty much the same as it had started. Cion loved the work, the new challenge and the area. It was exciting being in Queens, where all he had to do was stop in the local pub to hear a bit of home and look to the east to see Manhattan stand so tall and pretty. Some nights he would go up to the roof of the house and stand watching the city sparkle and shimmer in the summer heat. The breeze that would blow by him was so warm it felt like a hot whisper against his skin. But he couldn’t bring himself to go exploring much more than to the local store. Something held him back and he wasn’t sure what it was.
“You should go out.” Sharon began to push him as he sat in one weekend. “You’ve been here two weeks and you haven’t stepped outside the door. Go out and make some friends. If you want I can call some and ask if you could tag along.”
“Thanks, Sharon but no. I couldn’t do that. I’d feel awkward. Besides, they’re already friends. I’d just be an unwanted addition.”
“You wouldn’t though. At least let me call one and ask for a nice place for you to go.”
“You’d better let her, Cion.” Jake said. “You’ll never hear the end of it if you don’t.”
“I’ll go with if you like.” Sharron offered, her face bright with the thought of going to a gay club.
“Again Sharon, thanks but no. I’ll go on my own. It’ll be grand.”
And with that it was settled. Cion worked the week with Jake and his crew, took his pay and bought some new clothes with the help of Sharon’s daughter Jess. She was young, but Cion had to admit, she had an eye for good clothes and he trusted her to show him what was in style. Sharon met them as they got back to the house with their arms loaded with bags.
“I see you had the help of our professional shopper.” Sharon said nodding at Jess.
“I did and she was magnificent. Apparently I needed more than I thought I did.” Cion grinned.
“You got him good deals on all of it, Jess?”
“Course I did, mom. As you said, I’m a professional.” The teenager smirked. “Have a great time tonight, Cion. I’d say that I’d go with you but there’s no chance in hell.”
“You can say that again, miss.” Sharon nodded. “You’re lucky your father allows you an occasional beer when I’m not looking. You won’t set foot in a bar till you’re twenty one.”
“That’s such crap though. You were in bars when you were sixteen.”
“I grew up in Ireland. You don’t. Live with it.”
“So when we go to Ireland again I can drink?” Jess looked hopeful and her mother looked trapped and unhappy about it.
“We’ll discuss it then.” She said and watched her daughter head up to her room.
“I imagine they grow up fast.” Cion observed.
“Faster than you’d like and slower than is safe for them. When they get to be this age you just pray for them to be safe.” She sighed. “Are you excited about tonight?”
“I guess I am. A little nervous though. There are gay clubs in Mayo but I’m going to be a bit on my own tonight.”
“I told you I’d go with you. I still can. Or I can call my friends.”
“No. I need to go out on my own tonight. Perhaps another time. Thanks.”
“No bother. And don’t worry about needing to be discreet. The door downstairs won’t wake us up.” Cion blushed but nodded, making Sharon smile as he headed to his room.
He didn’t eat dinner, preferring to pick something up on his way out. Cion spent an hour lounging about his room before getting ready and heading upstairs to say goodnight to his hosts. Jake and Sharon were in their usual places on the couch watching t.v.
“Jake, Sharon I’ll be heading out now.” Cion said and they both turned.
“Oh Cion! You look devastating!” Sharon smiled.
Cion looked down at what he was wearing and hoped she was right. His dark green shirt set off his bright blue eyes and his dark slacks complimented the look. Even his new shoes, which Jess had insisted he needed, made him feel well dressed and attractive.
“Yeah, guy. You look pretty sharp.” Jake agreed.
“So I won’t be too rough on the eyes then?” Cion felt a little nervousness leave him.
“Definitely not. You’ll be having them queue up for blocks.” Sharon said.
“That really didn’t sound good, honey.” Jake added, shaking his head.
“Well, I’ll be off then. Wish me luck.”
“You won’t need it. You’re stunning and Americans are fools for the brogue.” Sharon yelled after him as he headed out.
Cion chuckled and headed the few blocks to the subway. He made his way out to the club which one of Sharon’s friends had said was a good place to start. The club was in Queens as Cion hadn’t wanted to stray too far away from the area he was familiar with and as he walked up the street he saw a good many man, in groups or alone, heading toward the same place he was. He walked into the club and was hit by a wave of music and heat.
‘Definitely a gay bar.’ Cion thought sardonically as he made his way to the bar.
He ordered a drink from the cute little bartender who stayed and chatted with him for a while, before finally agreeing to go and dance with one of the many offers he received. One dance led to another, one partner led to another and it was some time before Cion found himself back at the bar able to order another drink.
“You’re popular tonight.” The cute bartender said with a smile.
“It must be the accent.” Cion answered, thinking of what Sharon said.
“I don’t think it’s the accent. Not that it hurts. If I were single I’d hit on you hard core.”
“You’re not then?”
“No, my boyfriend’s right over there.” The bartender pointed.
“Next to the go-go dancer?”
“He is the go-go dancer.”
“Fine right body on him.” Cion observed.
“That he does and a mind to match. He’s pre-law at Columbia. I keep wondering what he sees in me.”
“If he’s got a mind to match, I imagine he sees a sweet, cute man he can spend his days with.” Cion winked and the bartender grinned. They introduced themselves as the bartender, Travis bought Cion’s next round.
“So what brings you from Ireland?”
“Adventure. Mystery. Romance. I’ve heard tell that they’re opening up the west to settlers.”
“Um yeah about a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“Well, Ireland’s not big on getting the news.”
Cion refused all other offers to dance preferring to speak with Travis and his boyfriend, Eric when he was on break. At the end of the night, Cion was allowed to stay and nurse his drink while all others had been shown the door.
“So Cion, why did you spend the entire night talking to me when there were so many guys here who would be dying to go home with you?” Travis asked. “Not that I minded the company, I’m just wondering.”
“When I was back in Ireland I sort of got it in my mind that I should go to America and felt like there was something here for me. I didn’t feel like what I’m looking for was here tonight.”
“That must be the deep poetic Irish soul I’ve heard so much about.” Eric grinned.
“Ah yes, the Irish have deep souls.” Cion agreed. “Where else are we going to hide the liquor?”
“I think it’s romantic.” Travis said with a dreamy sigh. “Foolish and hopeless but romantic.”
The bartender lifted the glass of whiskey he had poured himself and Eric once the club closed and saluted Cion.
“To your foolish, hopeless and romantic search, Cion. May you find what you’re looking for.” They each downed their drinks and slapped the tumblers down on the bar.
“Well lads, you’ve been great letting me stay for the craic but I’d best go.” Cion said, standing.
“Crack? You have crack?” Travis asked, confused.
“Craic is Irish for good conversation and fun times.” Eric explained.
“Ah, you know a bit about the Irish then?” Cion asked.
“My ex was from County Westmeath.”
“Who? Timothy the slut?” Travis asked.
“Yeah.” Eric answered, shaking his head at his boyfriend’s jealousy.
“Well again boys, thank you and hopefully I’ll see you again.” Cion said and left the bar.
It had been a good night and he had had enough to be in good spirits but not so much as to have difficulty walking home. He was only a block away when Cion had the feeling that he was being followed and glanced back to see a small group of young men walking behind him. As he turned and saw then, they broke into a run after him. He was caught within minutes and thrown to the ground.
“Fucking faggot!” One of the boys said as they slammed their shoe into his stomach.
Cion had the breath knocked out of him and struggled desperately to draw in air. His back burned as another kicked him from behind and felt a wave of nausea as one kicked his groin. He stopped listening but knew they still screamed hatred at him and knew that if he stayed there he was likely to die. As he struggled to stand, one of the boys grabbed his shirt and threw him head first into a brick wall. Cion barely had enough time to raise his hands before his face and head connected with the hard surface.
“Get the fuck away from him?!” Came a loud roar.
“Someone call the cops!!!” Came another and the group of boys scattered away.
Eric and Travis raced up and knelt down.
“Oh shit! It’s Cion. Call 911, baby.” Eric said but Travis was already on his cell phone.
They stayed with Cion until the medics and police arrived and he was lifted into the back of the ambulance. Cion blacked out and only awoke later in the hospital.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” Said a kindly voice and Cion turned his head to see an elderly nurse standing next to his bed. She was fiddling with an I.v. that was apparently hooked up to his arm.
“What happened?” He asked and winced at the pain in his face.
“You were attacked. The police are waiting to get your statement but the doctor is keeping them out till he sees you first. I’ll go get him.” She said and left the little room.
Cion took stock of his injuries, feeling his arm which throbbed and ached and touching his face feeling bandages taped over a good portion. ‘This isn’t what I need, Lord.’ he thought as the nurse returned with the doctor.
Cion looked up and saw two of the kindest eyes he’d ever seen staring at him with concern. They were green like the hills behind his house and he suddenly felt like he was home for the first time in his life. The man was tall or seemed to be tall standing next to his bed, with broad shoulders which looked like they carried the emotional weight of his occupation regularly. His hair was light brown with subtle highlights of gold and just a bit of red. Though he was a large man, he looked in shape with just a bit of a belly. The man smiled and Cion felt his own lips curve in response, though it was painful.
“Hey, you’re looking better.” He said, and Cion felt his deep, sexy timbre slip over him like a comforting blanket.
“I’m feeling like shite though.”
“I imagine you do but luckily the worst injuries aren’t severe. You had a bad bump on the head, but luckily there’s no internal damage or bleeding. I’d say a sprained wrist, some small scrapes and scratches. You’re going to be sore and tender for a couple of days at least.”
“Will I be able to work, though?”
“Not for a while. Give yourself some time to heal. Is there anyone we can call to come get you?”
“Um yeah. Sharon.” Cion gave Sharon’s number to the nurse.
“Sharon is a girlfriend? Wife?” The doctor asked and had turned away as if his attention were caught elsewhere.
“No. She’s my ma’s friend. I’m staying with her for a few weeks.” Cion said and met the doctor’s eyes as they swiveled back to his.
“Not to pry, but the police said this was possibly a gay bashing.”
“Aye, it was. I had just come from a club not far away and some kids were following me.”
“Did they rape you?” The doctor asked, his voice lowering.
“No. They just beat the sin out of me.” Cion answered and the doctor nodded.
“Well, if you feel up to it the police are waiting for your statement. It’s usually best to get this out of the way but if you need some time…”
“No, thank you. I’d like to get it over with.”
“Ella,” the doctor said addressing the nurse. “Would you give Mr. Malloy’s friend a call?”
“Yes, doctor.” She said and left to call Sharon.
“Are you in any pain?”
“All right. I’ll get the officers. It was nice meeting you, Cionaodh.” The doctor said and smiled.
“Cion.” He said, smiling back.
“It’s Cion for short.”
“Oh. Ok. Nice meeting you, Cion.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh sorry. My name’s Sam.”
“Nice to meet you too Sam.” Cion smiled and felt a burst of joy when the doctor blushed and grinned before he left the room.
Sharon arrived an hour later and burst into the room with her usual energy and concern. Jake wasn’t far behind her.
“Jaysus! Cion! Are you all right?”
“Yeah, Sharon. I’m well, thanks.” Cion chuckled at his own little joke. “Actually, I feel a little worse for wear.”
“I don’t doubt it. Those fuckers! You spoke with the police then?”
“I did, but they don’t seem too optimistic that anything will come of it. I barely saw their faces.”
“Little shit heads!” Sharon burst out. “You try to teach your kids to be tolerant of all others and little bastards like that go around and make us all look bad.”
The doctor came in at that moment and took a minute to introduce himself to Sharon and Jake. Cion flushed a little when Sharon wriggled her eyebrows at him behind the doctors back. The doctor explained Cion’s injuries and then the discharge plan before handing them papers to sign.
“Sharon, Jake, I’ll pay the whole thing back.” Cion said after the doctor left.
“Don’t worry about it, Cion.” Jake shook his head. “You don’t owe us anything. I can’t believe this happened.”
“I told your mum I’d take care of you, boy-o. Fine right job I’m doing from the looks of it.” Sharon added.
“This isn’t your fault. It’s mine. If I hadn’t gone out tonight-.” Cion began.
“This isn’t Belfast, Cion. We don’t live in a police state here. You can bloody well go where you please. And you should be able to go out and enjoy yourself without worrying about taking a beating.”
The nurse came in and handed them a copy of the discharge plans the doctor had outlined before and a prescription for a pain reliever and said they were free to go. Jake and Sharon helped Cion out of the hospital as he was a little unsteady on his feet. The electric doors opened and ushered them out into the heat of the summer night when Cion caught a glimpse of the doctor off to the side smoking a cigarette.
“Would you give me a moment?” He asked them. Sharon grinned.
“Of course, love. You’ll be all right?”
“I think I can handle a few steps.” He said and headed over toward Sam.
“You caught me.” Sam said with a guilty smile. “I’ve been meaning to give them up.”
“Ah sure, five year olds smoke in Ireland so it’s fine.” He answered, then wasn’t sure where to go from there. Sam apparently wasn’t either and just nodded.
“Come back if you have any trouble or you’re still in pain after a few days.” Sam added.
“Right. I will. Thanks.”
“No problem. It’s the job.”
“Right….. the job…..”
“Well, it was nice meeting you Cion.” Sam said and tossed his cigarette to the street. “I’d better get in.”
“Sam?” Cion called, just as the doctor was about to head into the hospital.
“I hope I’m not making a total ass of myself, which is probably a really good thing to say to make good and sure that I am, but….”
“I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me at some point? I mean, I should be healed up nice and good in just a few days. At least that’s what my doctor says and I trust him. He seems to know what he’s talking about.”
“Um…” Sam began.
“We could grab a cup of coffee or some lunch if you’d like. Or if I’ve made an ass of myself by assuming you’re gay and you’re not, than I’m sorry and hope that you’ll take it as a compliment.”
“No. You assumed correctly.” Sam smiled.
“You have someone?” Cion asked with a sour stomach. He hadn’t even thought of that option.
“No. I’m single. It’s just that-.” A nurse ran out and interrupted Sam.
“Doctor, we’ve got a mass casualty coming in. Five patients. E.T.A. six minutes.”
“Thank you, Beth.” The doctor turned back to Cion. “I’ll give you my cell phone number. Give me a call tomorrow.”
“I don’t have a cell phone. You wouldn’t happen to have a pen and paper?” Cion asked.
“I’ve one.” Sharon said from where she had been listening a few feet away. She rushed over and took the doctor’s number.
“I’ll call tomorrow then.” Cion assured Sam.
“Great! I’ll talk to you then.”
“Good luck with the casualty thing!” Cion called after Sam as he rushed into the hospital.
“‘Good luck with the casualty thing’?” Sharon asked with a giggle. “Jesus, you’ll have to go home and kiss the Blarney stone like a fecking tourist!”
“Ah that’s enough from you.” Cion said with a wide smile across his face. He rode home in the s.u.v. not minding the pain but waiting for tomorrow when he could call Sam.