It had been hard for Harry when he first moved back in with his father. He didn't really know this man. His grandmother and grandfather Beecher had tried their best, showing him pictures of his father and telling him stories, but he'd been afraid at first, leaving the security of his maternal grandparents' home. There were lots of nights, in the beginning, when he had slipped into Holly's room, and she would hug him until he went to sleep. It seemed to Harry that his father had been afraid at first, too. And Harry sensed he was unhappy. It had gotten better when Chris, his dad's friend, came to live with them. It was better at their house; his grandpa wasn't happy about it. And now, in addition to all the taunts Harry had to listen to about his father having been in jail, there was this to deal with. Harry decided he was willing to put up with it. His dad smiled a lot more now.
"Cole Harris says they're preverts," Dylan Wells told his friend, 7 year old Harry Beecher.
"They are not!" Harry retorted.
"How do you know?"
"I just do. How do you know they are?"
"Cause they're two guys. You're supposed to have a mom and a dad, not two dads," Dylan countered.
"Who says?" Harry asked. "It's cool having two dads. You can drink milk straight out of the carton, and burp when you want... well, Dad doesn't like the burping thing, but Chris is okay with it."
"Yeah? " Dylan asked, momentarily distracted. "You get to leave the toilet seat up? My mom yells about that all the time."
"Nah, because of my sister. Chris says we have to be considerate of Holly," Harry said bitterly.
"Mostly Chris. Sometimes my grandma or Aunt Bonnie brings stuff. When my dad cooks, he burns stuff, then he yells a lot."
"My dad, too," Dylan said. "He set the stove on fire once. So, do they like, kiss?"
"Sometimes," Harry admitted.
"My mom and dad, too. Ugh."
"Yeah, that's gross, ugh," Harry agreed. "Listen, they're going to help me with my pitching on Saturday. You wanna come over?"
Harry's attention was distracted by Cole Harris, who was walking toward them with two of his cohorts.
"Hey, Harry, what are you and Dylan doing? Practicing to be fags like your dad?"
"Toby, he's fine, it's just a bloody nose. You don't need to come - - " Chris said as Toby hung up. "- - home. Well, your dad's on his way home," Chris said to Harry, who was lying on the couch with an ice pack on his nose.
Chris sat beside Harry as they waited for Toby to arrive.
"Chris, what's a prevert?" Harry asked after a while.
"A prevert? I'm not sure. Where'd you hear that?"
"Dylan said that he heard this guy say that you and my dad were preverts."
Chris frowned, then scowled, recovering before Harry could see his anger. "Harry, he meant pervert. And whoever said that was being mean."
"But what does it mean?"
"It means... it's not nice to call someone that. It's... "
Toby rushed in, interrupting Chris's explanation. "Thank God," Chris murmured.
"Harry, baby, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Dad."
"He is, Tobe. It's stopped bleeding, and the swelling's gone down," Chris said.
"What was the fight about?" Toby asked.
"Harry won't say."
"Harry, it had to be about something. Tell me."
"Harry, I can't fix it if you don't tell me. Please, I need to know."
Harry mumbled something unintelligible.
"This guy called you and Chris faggots. That's why we fought. This guy asked if me and Dylan were practicing to be... you know."
"Was Dylan hurt?"
"Black eye," Chris answered.
"Who did it, Harry?" Toby asked.
"I'm calling his parents," Toby said, going to look for Harry's class list.
"Chris," Harry said in panic.
"Harry, why don't you go up to your room while your dad and I talk?"
Chris took the phone from Toby's hand as he punched in the numbers.
"Chris - -"
"Wait, just listen to me, okay? What do you think this is going to accomplish?"
"His parents need to have a talk with him."
"Tobe, don't you think he might've learned that from his parents?"
Toby sighed. "Yeah, probably."
"Let me teach him to defend himself."
"Chris, I don't want Harry fighting."
"Neither do I. But Toby, he's gonna come across bigots like that again. And they will fight him. He needs to be able to defend himself."
Toby sagged against the counter. "Chris, this is so hard," he said wearily.
"I know, baby," Chris said, pulling him into an embrace. "But we'll be okay. We knew raising a family together wasn't going to be easy." Chris hesitated. "Toby, before you came in, Harry asked me what a prevert was."
Toby gave Chris a look of confusion. "A what?"
"He meant pervert. Toby, they're gonna hear those words."
"But, Chris, it's the kids..."
"I know," Chris repeated, knowing Toby was thinking about Gary, and protecting his remaining children. "They'll be okay. Kids are tough, Toby. What's the word... resilient. Look at Holly, look at how far she's come."
Toby smiled, thinking of Holly and how much she'd opened up in the past year. A lot of that was due to therapy, but much of it was Chris. When Toby would have kept Holly inside where he felt she would be safe, Chris convinced Toby that she, and Harry, too, needed to get out, and to be around kids their own age. Chris took them to the park and the zoo, never letting them out of his sight, but encouraging them interact with other kids. Soon, Holly was asking to stay overnight with school friends. Toby let her go, and realized, as much as it scared him, it was something he had to accept; his daughter was growing up.
Toby was surprised by Chris's natural parenting skills, but Toby freely admitted, Chris was usually right.
"Okay, Chris. Saturday, you can teach Harry to defend himself. I>Not fight, defend himself."
Chris smiled. "Okay."
Harry, who'd been eavesdropping at the top of the stairs, went to call Dylan.
"Hey, Dylan, Chris is teaching me to fight Saturday. You're coming over, right?"
- TBC -
Title: Conceptions 4: Learning New Words
Website: Maddie's Fanfiction
Feedback: Yes, please!
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
First Published: November 17, 2004
Summary: Harry gets into a fight at school.
Notes: This is a prequel. Harry has been largely ignored so far. This is set about a year after Chris and Toby move in together.
Thanks to Rifka for beta, help with a title and coming up with a word I desperately needed.
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