Shaw Island Matt Caper

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Chapter 10

Memories, Mysteries & Madness

"Everyone is so sweet to keep sending you flowers, but I'm running out of places to put them!" Jenny was running around the house, fretting over where to put each bouquet. Liam didn't think it really mattered, but apparently it did. Personally, he was grateful when someone sent candy or snacks, instead of flowers, as a "get well" gesture or a "welcome home" greeting.

He waited all day Saturday for his father, hoping to be taken to Matthew's for a visit. But when Jacob didn't come home until after dinner, Liam knew all hope was lost for that day. He was already going stir crazy, being cooped up in the den all day long, and even more frustrated that he required assistance every time he had to go to the bathroom. Though he felt lucky he didn't need help with the process once he was actually in the bathroom.

William bathed him again that night, and he strove to hold on to the feeling that the privilege of being cared for by his brother gave him. In the middle of the ritual, he suddenly remembered what had happened with Diane, Colin's mom. He felt selfish for not having thought of it before.

"William?"

"Hm?"

"Are you sad about Mrs. Aerhart?"

William pursed his lips, and his chest rose high with a deep breath. "No," he said shortly. "Now I'm just angry."

"I'm sorry she did that to you," Liam said softly.

William gave a light huff. "It's not like I had any claims on her. I must've been stupid to think she cared about me."

Liam was silent for a minute, until he couldn't hold back his thoughts any longer. "I hope you'll still give Colin a chance. Whatever she said about him, it probably isn't true."

Waves of crinkles washed over William's forehead. "Where did that come from? What do you mean, give him a chance?"

Liam shrugged. "I just think she didn't care about anybody but herself, and Colin was left all alone. He needs a good big brother, Will. It might help him have confidence in himself."

"What are you, Dr. Phil, now?" William chuckled. "And why me? He's with Mr. Loper, now. He's a nice guy, nicer than me."

Liam shrugged. "I know, but Mr. Loper already has one son to think about, plus he works a lot. You have more time to spend with Colin now that, you know, his mom is gone."

William simply shook his head in wonder. "It seems like you're always trying to take care of everybody. Not everything is under your control, you know."

Liam sighed in exasperation. "My arm itches," he complained, switching gears. "My leg, too. I hate these casts!"

"You shouldn't have been bungee jumping in the woods," William quipped. "I'm turning you over," he carefully rolled Liam onto his stomach to wash his backside.

"Couldn't you just check on him every now and then, while he's stuck inside like me? I bet Mrs. Loper could use some help with him and Matthew."

"You're nothing if not persistent," William sighed. "Fine. I'll go see them tomorrow. I'll even take you if Dad can't. Fair enough?"

Liam twisted his neck to look up at William with a bright smile. "You're the best, Will."

"I know."

It turned out that both Reilly brothers and their dad visited the Lopers on Sunday. Liam was bursting with excitement to see his friends. Matthew and Colin were also camped out in the den, and when Liam was wheeled in, he nearly had a heart attack from what he saw. His friends seemed to be in much worse shape than he. Both of Matthew's arms and one of his legs were in casts. Every one of Colin's limbs was in a cast, his ribs were wrapped, and there were faded bruises all over him. They wore nothing but cut-off sweat shorts.

Liam gasped and covered his mouth in horror. "Oh my gosh! Oh no!" came his muffled cry. "This is all my fault!" He looked positively stricken with remorse.

"Don't be silly, Liam" said Linda Loper. "How could this be your fault?"

"I'm the one who convinced Matthew to go look for Colin! And Colin wouldn't be in this mess if I had done something to help him a lot sooner! I'm a terrible friend," he moaned.

"You're a good friend, Liam," Colin said, rolling his eyes. "Quit being so dramatic. I would've died if you hadn't found me."

"Yeah," Matthew added. "You were determined to find Colin, and we did. Besides, it's not so bad. Could've been worse."

"Except when we have to use the porta-potties. That's pretty embarrassing," said Colin. Liam noticed, then, there were two portable potties set up, one on each side of the fold-out sofa."

"Mrs. Loper," William spoke up. "Liam thought you might need some help with the boys while Mr. Loper is at work, so I thought I'd help out, if you wanted it. I could come over right after school. I'd even be willing to move in for a while, until they're better, but that's totally up to you. I could sleep in here with them, so you wouldn't be bothered during the night."

Apparently William hadn't mentioned this idea to anyone, not even his dad, for everyone was suddenly beside themselves. Most of all Linda. And Liam was prouder than he'd ever been of his brother. "My goodness, William!" Linda gushed. "Could you handle that, with school and everything? That's an awfully large offer!"

"Yeah, definitely," William said easily. "School isn't that demanding right now. And the boys might feel more comfortable with me helping them with stuff, when Mr. Loper isn't available. I can get Patrick to help out with Liam, so everything pretty much works out." Liam hadn't considered that part of the plan. Somehow it didn't seem so brilliant anymore.

"That would be really wonderful," said Linda. "I can't thank you enough, William. You're more than kind to do this."

William shrugged. "It was Liam's idea."

Linda smiled, bent down and kissed Liam's cheek. "I'm not surprised. Liam's a wonderful boy. Charles can help you move a bed in here when he gets home. I know he'll appreciate help with the boys, too."

Jacob and William left soon, so that William could pack a few things, while the three boys were left alone to visit for a while. "You guys sure got a lot of flowers," Liam noted that the den was filled with color.

"Most of them are for Matthew," Colin mumbled.

"We're glad you're back, though," Liam assured him. "I can't believe no one found that hole until we fell in it."

"Yeah, well, that was thanks to ole' Pop," said Colin dryly.

Liam frowned, confused. "What do you mean?"

Colin sighed deeply, as if preparing for something difficult. "When I got home that day from school, Dad was there. He told me Mom had left, and it was my fault. I ran out of the house, and I was gonna go to my fort, but he followed me. He caught me and beat me pretty bad." His voice was even, showing little emotion, but Liam could see all that emotion packed in his eyes. "Neither one of us knew the hole was there, until I fell in it, I don't think. He must've covered it up afterward, so no one could find it."

Liam's good hand was covering his mouth again, and he was speechless for a moment. Matthew spoke up quietly. "They arrested him."

"Oh man, that's rotten, Col," Liam whispered. "I'm glad you didn't have to go back there."

"Me, too," Colin agreed.

There was a brief lull in the conversation, during which Liam thought about his own information to share. "Oh my gosh, I have to tell you guys something. So, Will's been the one bathing me, right? Even though I told Mom I could do it myself. I really can't, but I didn't want to embarrass myself by getting a boner."

Matthew giggled, while Colin blushed deeply. "Colin got one when my dad washed him the first time," Matthew shared, earning a scowl from Colin.

"I've never been so embarrassed," Colin mumbled. "It was in front of Matthew and everything, Mr. Loper sure is nice, though. He didn't even say anything."

Liam nodded. "I know. He's seen me with one before, too, but he didn't make fun of me, or anything. William doesn't mind it, either. He said it's normal."

"Finish your story," said Colin.

"Right. So, the first night he gave me a sponge bath, I decided I had to be honest with him. So I finally told him I'm gay, and that's why Patrick has been mad at me."

"Oh, man," Colin said. "So you really are gay. Geez, sorry about that comment I made at school. I shouldn't have said that."

"I know," Liam said, brow furrowed in confusion. "You already told me that."

"When?" Colin asked. "I haven't even seen you."

"When I told you I was gay before," Liam insisted.

"What? You never told me that before now," Colin replied. Matthew watched their whole exchange with wide eyes.

"I did, too!" Liam exclaimed. "I don't remember when, exactly, but I remember the conversation. You asked me if Matthew and I had sex with each other, and I said no, we're just best friends.

Matthew burst into a fit of giggles. "Ohmygosh, that's funny."

"You're crazy," said Colin. "I don't remember that conversation."

Liam was now more confused than ever. "I could've sworn it happened."

"Maybe you dreamed it," Matthew offered.

"Well anyway, that's not the main thing I wanted to tell you. So, I told William, and he said he still loves me just the same, which I was really glad about. But then he got mad that that's the reason Patrick has been such a prick to me. He called Patrick a hypocrite, then he went and got him and brought him back to the den, where I'm staying for now. Will confronted him, and Patrick got mad and told Will about catching me putting my hairbrush in my butt-"

Liam was interrupted by a gasp from Matthew, then laughter by both Matthew and Colin. Liam blanched, covering his face with his one hand.

"Oh god, it hurts to laugh," Colin wheezed.

"Did you really do that?" Matthew asked amidst continuous laughter.

"Crap," Liam mumbled. "Me and my big mouth." The others continued to laugh, and Liam couldn't help grinning, too. "Only the handle of it. Ever since William said gay people have sex up the butt, I wanted to try it. It's, like, the best feeling ever." The others only laughed harder. "And Patrick caught me doing it in the bathtub one night, after I hurt my ankle."

"Oh yeah!" Matthew's laughter subsided into light giggles. "When we found Kip in the forest and tripped over him."

Liam nodded. "Right." But then something clicked in his brain, and he nearly had a conniption. "You called him Kip!" he nearly yelled.

Matthew's face twisted, as if he couldn't quite remember why he'd just said that. "Oh. I guess I meant Peter."

"No!" Liam cried. "You said Kip! I saw him, too! We were in the forest, and we were naked, and we ate this fruit, and he came to give us this juice!"

Matthew gaped at Liam, and he would've jumped off the bed if he could have. "Yeah! `Cause the fruit did bad things to us! And he took us to his cave, and then you got kidnapped!"

"Oh my gosh!" they said in unison.

"Wait, what?" Colin began, frowning. "That couldn't have happened. That was only a dream. We were in a hole for days."

"So you remember it, too?!" Liam gasped.

Colin silently processed his memories for a moment, then slowly nodded. "I think I remember that conversation about you being gay, too, now that I think about it. We were with those brothers, the good-looking ones."

"Trey and Toran!" Liam cried happily.

But Colin shook his head. "But it couldn't have been real. I mean, come on. It's not logical."

"So we just all had the same dream?" Matthew asked. "That's not very logical, either."

"Well, it makes more sense than a magical island," Colin replied.

"Yeah, I guess," Matthew shrugged.

Liam could only shake his head in wonder. "Unbelievable," he murmured. "Maybe it was a dream. But how do we explain the statue in the woods? That's pretty weird, isn't it?"

"There has to be a logical explanation for it. Boys just don't go to a magical place and live forever," said Colin.

"No one would believe us, even if it were real," Matthew pointed out. "It's not like we could prove it."

Liam frowned. "But some important things happened. We talked about stuff. Like, personal stuff. Was that all fake?"

Matthew's expression was somber as he thought of their experiences there. "I remember when we ate that fruit; it was awful. You said you thought no one loved you, not even me. But then afterward, you said you loved me more than anything."

"See?!" said Liam excitedly. "I really felt that way! I mean, I don't feel that first part now. I used to, but I know it's not true. I meant what I said afterward."

Matthew smiled. "So did I."

"I remember stuff we talked about, too," Colin said quietly. "I sorta can't believe I told you all that, but it's all true. At least, I think it is."

Liam smiled, too, feeling satisfied. "So it doesn't matter if it was a dream or not. We're still better friends, now."

"Best friends," said Matthew.

"Best friends," Colin agreed.

"Best friends!" Liam exclaimed joyously.

Linda walked in on the tail end of their conversation. "You guys are sweet," she smiled. "And lucky to have each other."

"Mrs. Loper," Liam began. "You're gonna let Colin stay here for good, aren't you? You won't let him move to a foster home off the island, will you? Please?"

Colin blushed and ducked his head. "Liam," he chastised.

Linda only continued to smile. "The nice thing about living in a small community like Shaw Island is that kids aren't as apt to get lost in the system. We haven't made any permanent plans, so I can't say what will happen for sure. What I can say, however, is that Charles and I can already see Colin is nothing like Diane portrayed him to be. We're very fond of him and always will be, no matter where he ends up."

Colin's head remained low, but the others also saw him grin. "Thanks, Mrs. Loper," he whispered. "I like it here already."

"I'm glad," said Linda warmly. "Listen, boys, I'm going to the general store. William will be here before too long. Do any of you need anything before I go? Something to eat? A bathroom break?"

If any of them needed a bathroom break, they weren't about to say so. It was embarrassing enough to have a dad or brother taking that responsibility. When Linda left, Liam garnered the others' attention, before they were interrupted again. "I still haven't told you the best part," he began.

"So tell us already," Colin snapped, though his smirk said he wasn't being serious.

"Okay. Patrick was getting his panties in a wad about me being gay, right? So William was like, `So? I caught you and Aaron' -- Aaron was his best friend before we moved here -- he said, `I caught you and Aaron making out and jerking each other off when you were thirteen!' Can you believe that?!"

"No way!" Matthew exclaimed, and laughed.

"So he's been gay all along, and he doesn't want to admit it?" Colin asked.

"Basically," said Liam. "Seems so, anyway. It sucks, though, because now he'll have to take care of me, with William here. This may not be pleasant."

"What might not be pleasant?" said William, bounding into the room.

"Patrick taking care of me," Liam clarified. "Is he still mad?"

"Yeah, he's mad, all right. He's totally ignoring me right now. But I warned him be better be nice to you, or I was gonna go to Dad. So you probably have nothing to worry about."

"That's a relief. Thanks, Will."

"Mom wants you home now," William said, and Liam moaned. "She doesn't want you to overexert yourself."

"For crying out loud," Liam mumbled. "I'll text you when I get my new phone, Matthew. I understand if you can't text back."

"I'll try," said Matthew. "But guess what? Mom ordered Colin a phone, too! We can all text each other!"

"Awesome!" Liam exclaimed, while Colin grinned proudly.

"Say goodbye, guys. Liam's leaving now." William started rolling Liam away.

Jenny came to the den the next afternoon, announcing she was leaving for a little bit. "I need to find something for dinner tonight. Patrick will be home soon. Will you be okay until then?"

"Mom, I'm boooored," he whined. "Can't you take me with you?"

"First of all, you're not dressed," she pointed out, as he wore only cut-off sweats, like his friends. "For another thing, I'll go much faster without you. See if Patrick will take you out for some fresh air this afternoon. But not too long, it's nippy out there."

He groaned in defeat, and she patted his head and left. He knew he probably wouldn't ask Patrick to do anything. Not unless his brother was in a better mood than before. He lay back and watched some silly sitcom that only mildly entertained him. Pretty soon he was switching channels every few seconds, becoming more bored with every show. Finally, he simply shut it off. He grabbed a book and pretended to be in the adventure he was reading.

With the TV off, he clearly heard when someone entered the house. He idly thought it was too early for Patrick to be home and sort of wondered if his mom had forgotten something. But he didn't think on it too much, involved as he was in his story. So when he heard a male voice from the doorway of the den, he nearly jumped out of his skin.

"Whoa! Sorry! I didn't mean to startle you. You're Liam, right?"

Liam found himself looking at possibly the most gorgeous guy he'd ever seen, at least he thought so in that moment. A young man stood there smiling and holding a book bag. Liam was immediately lost in his gleaming teeth, blue-gray eyes, light brown hair, and overall boy-next-door, clean-cut look. "Uh-huh," he managed to reply.

The guy smiled brighter and came into the room. "I'm Daniel Cole. Your mom said to let myself in. You know my mother as Mrs. Cole, your teacher."

"Ohhh," said Liam with a goofy smile. "Um. Sorry I'm not dressed."

Daniel shrugged and sat on the edge of the bed. "I don't mind if you don't mind. I've brought you your schoolwork. If you're not opposed, I'll go over it with you and kind of be your tutor, until you return to school."

"Cool!" Liam agreed easily. "How come I've never seen you before?"

"I've been away at college. But I've graduated now, and I'm buying my own house here. Well, my father is buying me a house, actually," he laughed.

"You came back here?" Liam asked incredulously. "There's not anyone your age here, is there? How old are you, anyway?"

"You're an inquisitive one, aren't you?" Daniel grinned. "I'm twenty-two. And I love it here, that's why I came back. I already have a job with a tech corp that lets me work out of my house. It's a sweet deal. But I have some extra time on my hands, so I offered to help you and your friends while you're still crippled."

"So you're tutoring Matthew and Colin, too? They're my best friends."

"Yes, I am. I just came from their house. Looks like you made out better than they did."

Liam nodded. "Yeah. I feel bad for `em. William -- he's my brother -- he's gonna live there to help them out."

"So I heard," said Daniel warmly. "Hey, why don't we get started? Can I sit up there next to you?"

"Sure!"

Daniel stretched out his legs beside Liam and got comfortable before opening the book bag. Liam found out he'd missed a ton of work, which pleased him none. It did please him, however, to be so close to Daniel. The man's arms were thick with muscles, and Liam was betting his legs were, too; if only he'd remove those jeans so he could see.

Liam swallowed hard, trying not to allow himself to fantasize while Daniel was still sitting right there. Though the fresh, clean scent wafting from the hunk also made it hard to concentrate. Liam wanted to bury his nose in Daniel's chest and run his fingers through his hair, which looked so silky and soft.

"Are you listening?" asked Daniel, in the middle of a lesson.

"Uh-huh."

"Okay, concentrate. Mom says this is going to be on a test coming up."

"Yes, sir."

Daniel snorted. "I'm not that old. You don't have to call me sir." He poked Liam in the side. Liam giggled and grabbed at his hand.

"Dad makes me call everyone sir or ma'am. It's just a habit," said Liam.

"Well, try not to do it with me. It makes me feel weird," said Daniel, ruffling Liam's hair.

"Okay."

Daniel continued with the lessons, and Liam struggled to pay attention. After explaining one of the lessons, he carefully placed the open book in Liam's lap, making the boy shudder and wish for Daniel's hands to remain in that area. Just thinking about it made an obvious tent in his loose shorts.

Daniel handed him a pen. "Do this short worksheet, and we'll go on to the next lesson." He glanced downward and lifted an eyebrow. "Or do you need a personal break?"

"Crap, I hate it when this happens," muttered Liam.

"Really?" asked Daniel. "'Cause I always thought it was rather fun."

Daniel's amused smile was infectious, and Liam couldn't help smiling, too, even as the situation brought deep color to his face. "Yeah, but not when it happens in front of somebody."

"You're cute when you blush," Daniel noted, which only served to make Liam blush deeper.

"You're way good-looking," Liam confessed impulsively.

Daniel was the one blushing, then. "Ahem," he chuckled nervously and fidgeted a bit. "Well, thank you. Uh, perhaps I should leave the room for a few minutes? I don't mind."

"No, that's okay." He reached for an unused pillow and placed it over his crotch, putting his work on the pillow. Without another word, he went to work on the worksheet Daniel had provided. When he was finished, he closed the book, and Daniel took the sheet for examination.

"You're really smart," said Daniel sincerely. "I've also noticed you use correct grammar when you speak. That's impressive."

"Not really," Liam shrugged. "It's only `cause Mom has always corrected me when I said something wrong. It was basically drilled into me."

"Yes, but you learned it well. You should take compliments graciously when they're given," Daniel winked at him.

"You're right. Thank you for the compliments," Liam smiled.

"But you're not arrogant, at least," said Daniel. "I like that. Shall we move on?"

"Yes, sir. I mean, yep." Liam grinned, showing all this teeth.

The rest of the tutoring session went by without incident. Liam was sad when it came to an end. Nevertheless, he continued to glow after Daniel had gone. Patrick arrived home shortly thereafter, and Liam simply grinned when his brother walked in the den.

"What are you so happy about?" Patrick muttered.

"I have a tutor, until I go back to school. His name is Daniel. He's Mrs. Cole's son." He sighed dreamily. "He's so cool."

The corner of Patrick's upper lip turned upward, as he took on an impatient stance. "Do you need anything?" it seemed to pain him to ask. Liam shook his head in response. Patrick tossed him a small box, already opened. "There's your new phone. I'm going to my room. I guess you can call me if you need something." He stalked out, while Liam squealed with glee over his new phone. He promptly started adding numbers, though it took him a while with only one hand fully available. He sent an excited text to Matthew, but had to wait for Colin to text first in order to have his number.

His dad was the one to bathe him that night. He was kind of glad of that, since Jacob would listen to his ramblings about Daniel and their session, while Patrick likely wouldn't. "Something tells me you liked him," said Jacob facetiously.

"He's so nice!" Liam said for probably the tenth time. He paused his words while his dad rolled him over. "I wish he was my teacher all the time, instead of Mrs. Cole. She's nice, but he's nicer."

"I hope you don't drive him crazy by talking through the whole session."

"I don't!" Liam exclaimed, turning his head and sticking out his tongue at his father. Jacob swatted his behind, and he yelped.

"You're in the wrong position to make faces at me," Jacob laughed, and Liam giggled.

The next day, Liam was giddy and excitable, anxiously awaiting Daniel's visit. This time he planned to cover himself with a pillow from the very beginning, to avoid embarrassing both of them. But before the tutoring session, he received a pleasant surprise just after lunch. A booming voice jolted his gaze from the TV screen.

"You are a magnet for trouble, young man!"

"Dr. Nate!" Liam yelled a little too loudly, then he laughed. "I'm always getting hurt, aren't I?"

Nate smiled jovially as he came to stand beside Liam's bed. "It appears so, lad. You've forced me to come check on you once again. Not that I mind, of course. How are you fairing?"

Liam muted the television. "Okay. Better than Colin and Matthew. Did you go see them, too?"

"I did," Nate confirmed. "I had a long, wonderful talk with Colin, during which I offered my friendship and listening ear, should he need it. I have to say, I think you did the right thing in telling him about talking to me. Personally, I'm grateful, because that meant I didn't have to withhold any information from him. You continually astound me with your high character."

"Aww, thanks, Dr. Nate. I don't feel so good about my choices most of the time," Liam admitted.

Nate simply smiled. "You're learning more than you think you are. You care about people, and that's half the battle."

Nate's words, as they tended to do, made Liam glow with pride. "Hey, will you sign my cast? There's a marker on that table."

"Certainly. Thank you for asking me." Nate sat gently on the bed and wrote a short note on Liam's leg cast. Liam used the silence as an opportunity to talk about his new friend, Daniel, his current favorite topic.

"He's like you, `cause he talks to me like an equal, instead of a superior. He's really nice!"

Nate chuckled. "Indeed, he is! I've known Daniel since he was itty bitty. He grew up to be a fine, young man."

"Can I ask you a question?" Liam began.

"Of course," Nate replied.

"Is it okay to be attracted to Daniel? I don't think he's married, is he? He's only ten years older than me. Than I," he corrected himself. "Is that bad? `Cause I really like him."

Nate's smile was kind, not demeaning, but he chose his words carefully. "Apparently you have a tendency to have an attraction to older guys. No, that's not bad at all. Sometimes you just can't help being attracted to someone. A word of caution, though. A potential negative in that equation is if a relationship should bloom between you, because you're a minor and he's not. That could cause major legal troubles, not to mention psychological ones, if it ever went sour."

Liam frowned. He hadn't considered the legal ramifications. "Are you saying I have to wait until I'm eighteen to have an older boyfriend? Or can I have one and just not tell anybody?"

Nate chuckled. "I can't answer that one for you. That's between you and your potential partner. All I'm saying is be careful and know what you want before you have it. You asked for my advice, so there it is."

"You're right," Liam nodded. "I'll get to know him better to see if we're compatible."

Dr. Nate laughed, and Liam frowned. "I'm sorry," said Nate. "Forgive me, I don't mean to laugh. It's just that with the things you say, even I sometimes forget you're twelve and not twenty."

Liam grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "I'll take that as a compliment." Then his smile faded, as he thought of another serious topic of conversation. "Oh yeah, I just remembered... I know you're real busy, so I understand if you can't, but I was hoping you would help me with something else."

Nate raised his chin, surveying Liam with twinkling eyes. "Okay," he said slowly. "What might this be?"

"Well, since you're really great to talk to, like for me and Colin, and you know a lot of stuff and give good advice, I thought maybe you might do the same thing for my brother, Patrick."

"Oh?"

Liam took a deep breath. "This is another situation where I'm not sure if I should tell. But, I know if anyone can help him, you can. I think he might be gay, too, but he seems awful mad about it. Maybe he's not, and he just experimented, like you said boys do sometimes. But I can't get him to talk to me, because he always gets mad, and I don't know why."

"Hmm," Nate hummed, pondering the situation. "I'll give it some thought. But honestly, Liam, I think you're more capable of being a friend to him than I am. It's simply a matter of finding out how to reach him, that's all. If the opportunity arises, I'll help how I can. But I'd say this one is largely up to you."

"I was afraid you'd say that," Liam pouted.

Nate stood. "I had better be off. I still have a lot to do today."

"Thanks for coming," Liam was smiling again. "Hey, how's Alex?"

"Oh, he's doing well. Perhaps when you're better, you can come over again, even have dinner with us."

"I'd love to!" Liam brightened. "Tell him I said `hello'."

"Will do. Take it easy, okay? Please, no more injuries." After a brief visit with Jenny, Nate left, leaving Liam to think about ways he might get Patrick to talk to him again.

When Daniel showed up, however, all thoughts of anything else were gone. Almost the instant Daniel joined him on the bed, Liam popped a boner. But he was already covered with the pillow. He worked to play it cool and act like everything was normal, even though he wondered every other minute how his hair looked, if he should have worn a shirt, how his breath smelled, if the temperature was comfortable for Daniel, or of Daniel was secretly harboring an attraction to him. It all nearly made him crazy, and he had to work extra hard to focus on the lessons.

"You're awful nice to be doing this for us," said Liam, after their work was complete. "Are my parents paying you? `Cause they should. I could ask them to, if you want!"

"Don't you dare," Daniel ordered. "Your mother offered, and so did Linda. I declined them both. I don't need the money, and I'm more than happy to help you guys out."

"Are you married?" Liam asked abruptly. "You've never mentioned a wife."

"Do you ever run out of questions?" Daniel laughed.

"Sorry," said Liam sheepishly. "You can ask me anything you want, too! I wouldn't mind."

"Okay," said Daniel, a smile playing on his lips. "No, I'm not married. Are you?"

Liam giggled. "Hardly."

"Girlfriend?" Daniel asked.

"No way!" Liam exclaimed.

"Why not?"

Liam shrugged, spilling out the truth casually before thinking better of it. "I'd rather have a boyfriend." His eyes grew wide when he realized he'd outed himself.

Daniel looked surprised for a moment, but otherwise he didn't react much. "Okay," he said.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Liam asked with a dry mouth.

"Definitely not," Daniel answered.

"Why not?" Liam returned.

Daniel hesitated, and he was about to reply -- or it looked like he was going to -- when he was interrupted by Patrick's entrance. "Oh. Hello," said Patrick.

Clearing his throat, Daniel pushed off the bed and stood, offering his hand to Patrick. "You must be Patrick! I'm Daniel Cole. It's very nice to meet you."

"Likewise," said Patrick. Liam thought his brother seemed to relax in Daniel's presence and become a little warmer.

Daniel smiled, looking back at Liam, then to Patrick again. "All you Reilly boys were obviously doled out the good looks. I bet Liam also got his intelligence from you, didn't he?"

Patrick blushed, and Liam was fascinated by Daniel's effect on his brother. "I do pretty well in school," Patrick admitted.

Daniel twisted his body around to face the same way as Patrick, toward Liam, and threw an arm over the boy's shoulder. "Keep your brother in line, will ya?" he said in a stage whisper. "He's a troublemaker."

As Liam gasped dramatically, Patrick laughed. Liam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Patrick laugh. "You don't have to tell me that!" said Patrick, and he and Daniel shared a good laugh. Liam watched suspiciously, trying desperately to read Daniel's real thoughts, though unsuccessfully.

"You guys take it easy," said Daniel, shaking Patrick's shoulders jovially. "See you tomorrow, Liam."

When Daniel was gone, Liam looked down Patrick's body, eyes widening at the sight of an enlarged bulge in Patrick's jeans. But he didn't get the chance to say anything about it, since their mom walked in at that very moment, and Patrick took that opportunity to leave the room. Not willing to let it go, however, Liam jumped at the chance to bring it up later that night. His parents were in bed, and the duty of bathing him was forced upon Patrick.

Patrick set up the bathing table, assisted Liam onto it, and removed Liam's shorts. Both boys were silent, though Liam was watching his brother closely, searching for the right words to say. "What'd you think of Daniel?" he finally began.

Patrick started with Liam's hair, before letting him lie back. This was Liam's favorite part. "He's cool, I guess," Patrick said nonchalantly.

Being devoid of tact, Liam got straight to the point. "He gave you a hard-on. I saw it."

Patrick's fingers dug into Liam's scalp a little harder. "Why're you looking at my dick?" he said tersely.

"You're not going to have sex with him, are you?" Liam persisted.

Patrick sighed with great exasperation. "I'll do whatever I feel like doing. It's none of your damn business."

Liam didn't know how he got there, but he suddenly found himself jealous and angry. "You can't," he said sharply. "I saw him first!"

Patrick stopped what he was doing and laughed, which only fueled Liam's anger. "You idiot, he's not going to want you. You're a thumb-sucking baby. You're stupid if you think you have a chance with him."

Liam was so hurt and furious, he reached for the bowl of soapy water and threw it with all his might straight at Patrick, completely soaking him. And the metal bowl followed, smacking him in the torso. In the milliseconds that followed, Liam witnessed the most terrible, most hateful expression he'd ever seen on his brother. But he didn't have a chance to view it for very long; Patrick reared back and used the strength of his upper body to slap Liam into attempted oblivion. The effect was powerful enough, as Liam went flying off the table and landed on his right arm, shattering its cast.

Also terrible was Liam's wail, which sent his parents into a flying frenzy straight to the den. After a quick assessment of the situation -- with Jenny still panicking - and a call to Dr. Nate, a still howling Liam was loaded into the car, to meet Nate at his private plane that would transport them to the mainland. After a long night, newly broken bones, and a new cast, Liam was sedated and resting again on his fold-out sofa bed. And Patrick received the first real spanking from his dad that he'd gotten since the age of seven.