But That Was the Thing

Chapter 1


A/N: This is my first Black Donnellys story, and I appreciate any feedback you have. Right now the idea of the story is to bounce around from present and past, because I do like flashbacks. The flashbacks will be in italics.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Donnelly brothers or any of the other great characters on the Black Donnellys.


Lying in bed listening to the rain, Kevin could only imagine that the deep pounding in his chest would turn into some kind of stroke. Maybe a heart attack if he were lucky.

Lucky. It wasn't bloody likely.

This was becoming a habit, and if there was one thing he was learning about habits, it was that they never led you down the road you wanted. He certainly wasn't down any good roads lately; it seemed like no one was.

Muffled voices echoed from inside and he tried to urge himself out of bed. But another roll of thunder crackled and he rolled over onto his face instead, breathing slow breaths into the pillow.

He didn't even play pool, but the games had been all in his favor. They had been all in his favor until he started betting on them. Then the talent he had been surprised to find he had suddenly disappeared. A couple games in and he realized that the bets would not be in his favor.

Kevin groaned at the memory and rolled out of the bed to his feet, digging through his pockets on his way out of the bedroom. Two soggy dollars, a bottle cap, and three nickels.

"Do you even own a wallet?" he heard Sean say.

Kevin looked up to find his brother watching him with an amused grin. "Funny, Sean," he said. Kevin slid his belongings back into his pocket. "That's funny."

"I was coming to get you," Sean said, giving him a push. "Dinner."

The kitchen was warm from the oven and smelled good. Kevin usually didn't have any trouble eating but he was having a hard time working up an appetite as he joined Sean and his mother. He slid in next to her at the table.

"What are you doing sittin' in wet clothes for?" Helen Donnelly frowned at her son as she unceremoniously plopped food on his plate.

"It's raining." Thunder accompanied his words and Sean rolled his eyes, starting to wonder himself where Kevin had been earlier that day.

"Captain Obvious, thanks," Sean said.

Kevin frowned at him, ripping off a chunk from the loaf of bread.

"Seriously, where were you?"

Kevin met Sean's eye for a second and shook his head, then looked at his mother, who seemed to have a permanent frown etched into her face. She suspected something was up. But she never asked. "This is good, Ma," he said.

"You haven't eaten it," she said flatly.

Sean smirked at him and Kevin picked up his fork, shoveling some of the casserole into his mouth. He stayed quiet most of dinner, not even tasting his food, and was relieved when the conversation turned on Sean's apparent lack of effort in school, seeing as it was midterms and all.

"Slacker," he said through a mouthful of bread.

Sean kicked him under the table. "Why don't you tell us where you were today?"

"Why don't you talk about that paper you need to do?" Kevin kicked him back.

"I don't have any papers." Kick.

"Tests then." Kevin kicked him again and his fork clattered to the ground.

"Get out of my kitchen." Helen slapped Kevin's arm, as he was closest. He gave her a frown. "Both of ya. And put your plates in the sink."

It wasn't until later when Kevin was on his way out the door that Sean drew the story out of him. "Two thousand, Kevin?" he asked in the end. "Two thousand?"

Kevin shrugged. "What's a gamble if you don't gamble?"

"Smart?"

Kevin hesitated a second and then frowned. "Be serious," he said with a tone of complaint in his voice.

"Do you need help?"

"No."

"C'mon."

"No," he repeated, rolling his eyes. He wasn't as confidant as his quick response made him seem, but he found himself repeating the same answer to his other brothers not even an hour later when they got part of the story out of him. Only he wasn't telling anyone the full story. So they focused on what got him into the debt, thinking it was a simple case of owing some pool hustler a little cash.

"You don't even know how to play pool. Do ya, Kevin?" Tommy sent him a hard gaze.

"I'm not stupid, Tommy."

"Well stop acting like it."

"I don't even know why I tell you."

"Because we would find out anyway," Tommy said with a pointed look.

"How much is it?" Jimmy asked. The glazed over look in his oldest brother's eyes made Kevin frown. He looked down at his own half-finished beer.

"I can take care of it. Just leave it." He turned his back on them, wanting to be left alone, but Tommy caught him by the shirt and pulled him back around.

"Hey, Kevin. C'mere. What is this?" He held a blue square of cue chalk under his younger brother's nose. "What's this for?"

Kevin shook him off and stared at the square for a second, then looked at Tommy. "How the hell should I know?" He said it defensively, because he didn't like the amused look on Tommy's face. Then Jimmy started laughing.

"You're a class act, Kevin."

"Stop it." He whacked away Tommy's hand and the chalk fell to the ground.

He told himself he should never tell them anything. But he knew it wasn't true. Having his brothers make him feel stupid was something he could deal with if it meant they would have his back.

--

He was certain no one would find him beneath the bunk beds. He lay there breathing in the dust bunnies and staring at the wall, his chest pounding. Why? What had he been thinking? He had been tricked; it wasn't his fault.

What was it about President Jackson's face staring out at him from the crisp green paper bill that he just could not leave be?

It all started with the bet to Brian Donovan. Brian was almost three years older and, thanks to being left back one too many times, was one of the biggest kids in his class. He also lived to taunt the younger kids, and Kevin was no exception.

On that particular day, Brian had made a bet to Kevin that the younger boy did not have the guts to steal the teacher's car keys. Kevin took the bait, chin held high. How much, he had demanded. Twenty bucks had been the answer, and away they went.

He had snuck in early from recess to look. Searched the desk, its drawers, and the teacher's coat. Frantically, because he sensed someone coming in the room at any moment. It was to no avail, because he couldn't find the keys anywhere.

Needless to say, he had needed to scrounge up twenty bucks, because Brian was threatening to steal his homework the rest of the year. He had gone one-on-one with this kid before, and it had not ended in his favor. He knew he couldn't fight him off every day. And Kevin had enough trouble in school as it was, never mind having some kid bully him out of the work his mother had forced him to do the night before.

So on advice from Jimmy, who never questioned the need for money, Kevin had swiped some money that a customer had put down as payment at one of the tables at the coffee shop down the street. Smoothly. Or so he thought. Only some man had seen him, and had tried to catch his arm.

"You're a Donnelly," the man had said. "I know your father."

But Kevin had already ducked his head and scrambled out the door, running down the street as fast as his legs could carry him, the bill crumpled in his fist. He had caught his breath two blocks down and continued on his day as normal, dwelling on his near capture for a minute at most. Only when he got home, he knew the look on his mother's face didn't bode well for him.

"Kevin Donnelly. Were you at a coffee shop today?" Her voice was stony; her eyes dared him to try a lie. He stared at her, eyebrows raised in surprise. Damn.

Deny, he told himself. But no words were coming. He swallowed hard.

"Kevin. I'll ask you again. Were you at a coffee shop today?"

He tried again to come up with some kind of answer, but words still abandoned him. He shook his head slightly, eyes flickering away to find a quick escape instead. Helen Donnelly raised her hand, as if a smart smack would loosen his tongue, but Kevin ducked under her arm before she had the chance.

"Just you wait until your father gets home," she had warned to his retreating back. Just wait. Her words echoed in his head.

Which was what brought him here. Under the bed. Down with the dust bunnies. Because those words only meant one thing, and it meant more than ducking away from one of his ma's smacks.

He needed a plan.

There were hurried footsteps into the room and a small blonde head peaked under the bed at him. Sean.

He vowed to find a new hiding spot.

"Kevin, we wanna play ball. Now."

"So go."

"We need you," said Sean.

Kevin shook his head no.

"We need you," Sean repeated, as though the words had not been heard the first time. He slid himself further under the bed as if that would rouse his brother out.

"I heard you. Go away, Seany."

Sean did not relent. Sean, as a rule, reasoned. "It's the Credidio's, and they say that the three of them could beat the four of us, 'cause they say Jimmy can't keep up, so Jimmy wanted to hit Mick, but last time Jimmy punched Mick then Mick's dad came to complain, then Ma was mad, so Tommy says we should just play them, and when we play them then we can show them it's not true. See?" Sean caught his breath, waiting for the response he wanted.

Kevin stared at his tow-haired brother, trying to digest the run-on sentence.

"See?" Sean repeated.

"Mick's the slowest kid in the neighborhood," Kevin said finally.

"So come on."

Kevin should his head, silent. After a few more minutes of persistence, Sean glared at him and gave up. But Kevin had only a minute or so more to stew before he heard footsteps again, these less hurried than the ones preceding them.

"Get outta there, Kevin." It was Tommy.

There were times when Tommy had the patience of a saint. Other times it was limited.

"I'm serious." Sometimes it was more limited than others. "Kevin!"

This time the voice was hard and a hand clamped on his ankle, pulling. Kevin kicked at him, hoping to loosen the iron grip, and connected with something, which was rewarded with a slap to the back of his leg. It stung and he stubbornly made up his mind that he would not give Tommy the satisfaction of getting him out. He wedged himself firmly against the wall.

"Kevin," Tommy said. Kevin didn't budge. He stared at the wall, willing Tommy to go away.

He did. But in five minutes, Kevin heard Jimmy's voice.

"Pop's still at work, Kev. Come out. If I have to get you, I'll punch you in the face."

The threat, real or imagined, had the younger boy crawling out from under the bed. He had given up on being left alone by then. Jimmy was in the doorway and looked like he hadn't planned on coming in regardless.

"Man," Jimmy said, laughing. "Are you in a mess."

Jimmy had this cackle of a laugh and it was usually infectious. Not this time. Kevin stared at him, brow furrowed and dust clinging to his curly mop of hair. He kicked at a pile of dirty laundry on the floor.

"It's fixed though," Jimmy said, watching his little brother's frustration. "Me and Tommy fixed it."

"Fixed it how?"

"'Cause we claimed you were with us at the time, that's how. At the pizza parlor. So that's where you were. Got it?"

The younger boy nodded, mulling it over. That worked. It was perfect really. The worry in the pit of his stomach slowly faded. He thought for a second and then he shoved at his brother, angry now instead. "This is your fault."

"My fault?" Jimmy repeated, caught off-guard by the shove. But he laughed. "My fault? I told you how to get the money. I didn't tell you to swipe it under the nose of somebody we know. It's not my fault you're retarded."

Kevin shoved him again, harder this time. "I'm not retarded."

"Push me again, Kevin, and you will be."

But that was the thing about Kevin Donnelly. It was the same as making a bet that he couldn't do something. Chances were he would take that bet.

So of course he came at his brother again, only this time Jimmy shoved him back and the smaller boy fell backwards, landing on the ground with a not so soft thud.

The thing about Jimmy Donnelly was that you didn't push him.

And that was how Tommy found them, with Jimmy in the doorway and Kevin sitting on the floor with a cross look on his face, rubbing an elbow.

"Car keys, Kevin?" Tommy stared at him. "Car keys?" Somehow Tommy always knew what the story was, even if you didn't tell him.

"Yeah, so?"

"Kevin," Tommy said slowly, pursing his lips. "Mr. O'Brien doesn't even drive a car."

"Yeah, so?"

"You can't get car keys, from someone who doesn't drive a car."

Jimmy started laughing again and Kevin glared at him harder. That was why he didn't tell them anything.

--

I hope you guys like it so far. Please review!