Shaw Island © Matt Caper -- Personal FB Account -- Matt Caper's Page


Chapter 7

Erections, Eruptions & Evanescence

Liam lay next to Peter the statue on lush, green grass that was softer than he'd ever felt. The air was warm and clear, the trees were full of bright leaves of various colors, and no sticks or branches littered the ground. Every sight, smell, touch and sound – birds sang actual melodies in soft tones – made him feel content and extremely happy. In fact, he felt so free, he removed the only piece of clothing he was wearing, his underwear, and snuggled up to Peter with a smile.

Suddenly the statue's limbs moved, and his stone chest begin to rise and fall, as if breathing. He responded to Liam's touch, pulling the boy closer to himself. Liam obliged by climbing atop Peter. Though the statue had not become flesh, his stone body still felt warm, soft and inviting. Except there was a part under Liam's mid-section that was undoubtedly stone hard, something that pushed against the vine leaves covering repeatedly, which stirred Liam's flaccid shaft to life.

"I wanna have sex with you," Liam whispered.

"But remember? You're supposed to love me first," said Peter. Something resonated in the back of Liam's mind, finding a distant memory of sage advice someone had once given him, though he couldn't remember who. "Do you love me?" asked Peter.

But when Liam looked down, the face was no longer Peter's; it was Charles Loper's, and, when Liam checked, he was clad in those delicious briefs. Liam was immediately infatuated. "Yes, I love you," Liam responded.

Mr. Loper's strong hands squeezed Liam's ass, and he gasped. "Kiss me, Liam," said Mr. Loper.

As Liam's body was urged repeatedly against Mr. Loper's, causing him to thrust desperately, he awkwardly searched for the man's lips with his own. When they finally met, the electricity was powerful; the sensations in his chest burst out of the pores of his body, creating rays of light going every which way. This was the connection he'd been searching for with someone.

As he began to deepen their kiss, the world suddenly started spinning, and then he was falling. He did not know how he could fall from the ground, and there seemed to be nothing prehensible. When he hit a solid surface, he jerked his eyes open, seeing complete darkness. He was on his back, and his head hurt something awful.

"What happened?" he whimpered, barely finding his voice. "Mr. Loper?"

A light came on – his bedside lamp – and he was horrified to see Colin getting out of bed, instead of Charles Loper. The fact that he was in his bedroom, and not that wonderful place in the woods, stirred reality in his mind.

Standing over Liam, Colin was obviously upset and flustered. He was also, Liam noticed with a catch of his breath, fully hard in his briefs. "What the hell?!" he whispered. Liam instinctively realized Colin was whispering, so he wouldn't wake Matthew. "You tried to make out with me!"

Liam looked down, finding himself completely naked and aroused. "Oh, no," he breathed. "I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!"

Colin followed Liam's eyes to his crotch, apparently only then realizing he had an erection. "What are you staring at, you perv?" he bit.

Liam blushed and looked away. "I didn't mean to kiss you. I was having a dream."

"So was I," Colin muttered. "A good one, until you ruined it."

Liam struggled to his feet, shame and guilt written all over his face. "I really am sorry. Is that why you're hard? `Cause of your good dream?"

"Yes," Colin frowned, embarrassed that his erection was pointed out.

"What were you dreaming about?" asked Liam.

"Making out with Sonia Purvis," Colin answered quickly.

"Patrick's girlfriend?!" Liam exclaimed.

"She's hot," Colin shrugged nervously. "What were you dreaming about?"

"I don't remember," Liam lied.

"You called me Mr. Loper."

Liam silently cursed himself and hurriedly began searching the bed for his underwear, while Matthew remained dead to the world. When he found them, bunched up at the foot of the bed, he raced to get them on.

"Your underwear's inside out," Colin murmured.

Liam couldn't handle the shame any longer. He hurried past Colin, burning a path to the bathroom, and closed the door. He didn't even feel like jerking off, he was so embarrassed. He fixed his underwear, then merely slumped on the floor against the tub, wondering how he could make such a fool of himself. If he couldn't even be trusted in his sleep, why would Colin want to keep being his friend?

After a long pity party in the bathroom, he finally returned to his room and crawled back in bed. Colin was already there; it wasn't clear if he was asleep, but he said nothing.

In the morning, it was as if nothing unusual had happened overnight. The boys lounged around in their underwear, Matthew playing idly on the computer, the other two watching TV. Liam kept trying to catch Colin's eye, but the older boy wouldn't look at him for more than a second or two. As a result, he began to think he'd really messed up their friendship. And after Colin left early, saying his dad would be wanting his chores done, he was all Liam could think about.

"Come on," urged Matthew, after lunch. "Let's go outside and play."

"I don't feel like it," Liam whined, lazing on the family room couch.

"Are you sick?"

"No," Liam mumbled. He just felt rejected, the same as Patrick had made him feel.

Matthew pouted, looking rather rejected himself, though Liam didn't notice. "Fine. I'm going to search for Peter. Text me if you wanna play.


He didn't text Matthew, however. He went in search of the one person he thought could make him feel better about himself. It was a fair walk to Indian Cove, longer than he anticipated, made longer by the bitter, cold wind. So when he approached a small, but elegant house, he desperately hoped Dr. Nate was home and unoccupied. But when he rang the bell, it wasn't Dr. Nate who answered. Instead, it was a young, handsome man with olive skin, dark wavy hair, and piercing blue eyes.

"Hi," said the young gentleman, as he opened the storm door.

"Um. Does Dr. Nate live here?" Liam asked.

"Yes. Come in out of the cold. He'll be out in a minute."

Liam stepped into the foyer and into a wonderfully warm blast of air. Looking up, he noticed a vent above his head, to the right. Below that, he found himself looking into a small room, like a den, decorated with various works of modern art. He'd never seen anything like it; there were portraits of naked men and women, abstract watercolor paintings with bright colors, oil paintings with fantasy themes that depicted angels, demons, fairies, gods, warriors and other creatures that Liam didn't know about. Then there were sculptures that seemed to make no sense at all, but drew him in, anyway

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" the young man's voice was soft and kind.

"Did Dr. Nate do all these?" Liam whispered, feeling reverent.

"He did some of the clay sculptures, but the rest are part of his collection of other artists' work. He doesn't find much time to sculpt these days."

"Why, Mr. Reilly!" Dr. Nate's voice boomed. "This is a pleasant surprise. Did Alexander introduce himself?"

"I'm afraid I didn't," said the young man. "You can call me Alex." He offered his hand, and Liam shook it.

"I'm Liam. I didn't mean to interrupt your company, Dr. Nate. I can come back some other time."

Alex and Dr. Nate chuckled. "Alexander isn't company. He lives here."

"Oh." Liam's wheels started turning, but at the moment, he was confused about the meaning of Dr. Nate's words.

"I've made some hot tea. Would you like to come in and have some?" asked the doctor with a smile.

"Yes, please," said Liam. He was led to the sitting room, and Alex left to fetch the tea.

"What brings you out here on such a cold day?" Dr. Nate asked, as they settled on the sofa.

"Um. I don't know. You said I could talk to you about anything, right?"


Liam fidgeted nervously, looking around at the sitting room's décor, finding it a little more subtle than the front room. "I like your paintings and stuff," he stalled.

"Thank you," said Nate. "I've spent many years collecting. I appreciate the way an artist's mind works."

"Alex said you're an artist, too, at least you used to be."

Nate nodded. "I've done some work here and there. But I wouldn't call myself an artist. I never devoted a lot of time to it, like others have."

Alex entered and served them a tray of cups and saucers, a kettle, and a plate of sugar cubes. Liam thought it was all very formal. Alex departed again, and Nate poured for them.

"Is Alex your butler, or something?" Liam asked, dropping sugar cubes in his cup.

Nate's chuckle rumbled low, with a rich sound. "Alex is my partner."

"Like, at work?"

Nate looked pointedly at Liam, eyes twinkling. "My life partner. He's my lover."

"Oh." Liam blushed terribly, sipping some of his tea. But this news also excited him greatly, and it gave him the courage to speak again. "Dr. Nate, I'm pretty sure I'm gay, now," he blurted.

Nate nodded slowly. "Not that I doubt you, Liam, but you're awfully young. What makes you so sure?"

Liam squirmed a bit, but Nate's easy demeanor and warm smile helped him feel more at ease. "Well, see, when know..." He paused, blushing like mad. Despite Dr. Nate's approachability, he still had never talked like this to a grown-up before.

"Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind," Nate soothed. "You won't offend or shock me."

Liam nodded, starting to feel some moisture under his arms. "Okay. Um, so, I, like, jerk off pretty much every day, and lately, I've been thinking about a man, when I do it. I also learned that gay men have sex up the butt, and I really like..." His mouth became terribly dry, and he had to sip some tea. "I, um, like putting something in my butt, when I jerk off. It feels better than anything I've ever felt, and I wish it was a man instead."

"That took a lot of guts to say," Nate said gently. "I'm glad you can be honest."

"But you won't tell anyone, will you? Not even my parents?"

"I certainly will not," Nate stated adamantly. "What you say is between you and me only. I'll ask questions, but you don't have to answer them. Only if you want to. I was wondering, is there a specific man you think of, when you masturbate?"

Liam nodded, barely able to look the doctor in the eye. "I really like Mr. Loper. I think about him all the time. I get hard a lot, when I'm around him. He's seen it, too, but he's never said anything about it. He's so handsome, and he plays with me and Matthew a lot. Not even my dad does that. And he lets me snuggle up to him, when we watch TV."

"Hmm," said Nate, sipping from his own cup. "That sounds more like a desire for fatherly love and attention, rather than a romantic attraction."

"Even though I want to see him naked, and kiss him, and stuff?" Liam asked candidly.

"Well, you are going through puberty. If you don't feel like you're getting the love you need from someone who's supposed to guide you in life, that can translate into a sexual attraction, when an adult male gives you affection and attention, because of your surging hormones."

"So I'm not really in love with Mr. Loper?"

"Probably not, Liam. Not because it would be impossible, but because Mr. Loper is already married and very devoted to his wife. I know what a charismatic personality he has. He's an easy man to like, but he's not gay. Maybe you'll find you're not gay, as well."

"Well, what about last night?" Liam countered. "I had a dream that I kissed Mr. Loper, but in real life, I was making out with my friend, Colin, while we were both asleep."

"Well, I'm sure that was awkward," Nate laughed. "But your dreams are often hormone-induced; they can be very fickle. Have you always been attracted to Colin?" asked Nate.

"Well, no," Liam admitted. "At least, I don't think so. I did want to be his friend, though. But I also wish I could see him naked when he has a boner."

Nate smiled. "Ahh, but that's normal. At your age, anyway. Remember what I told you at the mall, however. Your sexuality is something special. It's yours to give, if you want to. But do yourself a favor; decide what you want, for certain, before you get into a situation with a boy, girl, woman or man. Think about what you're willing to do and not willing to do. And think about long-term, like `will this affect my friendship with this person?', or `do I want something more than just sex with this person?'. These are important things to consider. If you decide ahead of time what you want, then stick to it when the time comes, you'll be a lot happier in the end. If you want sex with lots of men, that's your prerogative. Just think about the consequences, is all I'm suggesting."

Liam was quiet, focused intently on Dr. Nate, until it was his turn to talk. "Now that you put it that way, I'm not real sure what I want. Except I wish I could talk to my dad like this, and my brothers, too. William's nice to me, but he has his own problems right now. Besides, he thinks being gay isn't normal, and if he knew, he'd hate me like Patrick does. Patrick caught me putting my hairbrush in my butt, and he hasn't talked to me since. I used to think he was the best person in the world, but not anymore."

"Only you can't help still loving Patrick, can you?" Nate said knowingly. "I imagine that makes the hurt even worse, when he seems to despise you."

Liam nodded sadly, a pain circling in his chest. "I want him to like me so bad. I wish I could make him forget about what he saw."

Nate raised his chin, gazing at Liam with narrow, thoughtful eyes. "I think you should confront him."

Liam's eyes, on the contrary, swelled into large circles. "That would be so embarrassing! He'd probably just kick me out of the guest house, anyway."

"You're a very persistent fellow," Nate pointed out. "If you really want to make peace with him, you'll find a way to make him listen. And if you can't say it in person, write him a note. Or an email."

"Oh!" Liam's light bulb finally shone. "I can write him an email! That doesn't sound so embarrassing."

Nate smiled, sipping his tea, and Liam did the same. Alex came in during the silence. "I'm going to the mainland, Nathan. Call me if you think of something you want." He bent down and kissed Nate on the lips, causing a jolt inside Liam. "Nice to meet you, Liam."

"Thanks. Bye," Liam answered. Then he was quiet again until Alex left. "Did you tell Alex about what I did at the mall?" he asked in a strangled voice.

"I did, to be honest," replied Nate. "But don't worry, he doesn't think any less of you for it. I'm curious about something, Liam. Your friend, Colin. Are you referring to Colin Aerhart?" Liam nodded in reply. "And you befriended him?" he sounded surprised.

"Yeah. He was mean to me before, but I decided to try to be nice, because I felt bad for him, and I got him to be my friend." He wondered if that was still true, however.

"You seem to have accomplished something no one else has been able to. I doubt anyone else has tried. Why did you feel bad for him?"

Liam hesitated. "I'm not sure if I should tell you. I promised him I wouldn't."

"Then don't," Nate stated.

"But... But what if I don't tell, and the situation gets worse? I don't really know what to do."

Nate was quiet, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "I think I have a pretty good idea to what you're referring, since I'm the only doctor here. But I don't have any proof, only speculation."

The mere fact that Liam could no longer bear such a heavy burden on his own, made him decide to share what he knew. "I've seen it with my own eyes. I saw his dad beat him up, when he didn't know I was watching. And the other night, Colin was kicked out of his house at night, without clothes, and he had to spend the night in the woods. I found him by accident. I stole some of Patrick's old clothes that Colin could wear. I also showed him where the key to our house was, in case he needs a place to sleep again. I'm scared he'll get hurt worse, if they find out I told. I don't want him to keep getting hurt, though. It happens all the time, and his mom tells people it's because he fights older kids. But that's not true."

Nate had set his tea cup down and was wringing his hands together. His eyes were loaded with emotion. "Oh, Liam. I had no idea it was that bad. That poor boy." He breathed heavily, looking off into the distance, while Liam looked on fearfully. "You did the right thing by telling me," Nate continued. "Something needs to be done."

"I think he's afraid of going into foster care, though," said Liam. "If he gets taken away, he'll have to leave the island and start over in a strange place."

Nate shook his head sadly. "There's really no easy answer to this. I have to decide what the best course of action is. But I can't do nothing, not after you've told me all that."

Liam sighed and hung his head, nodding slightly. He could only hope he'd done the right thing, and that Colin would forgive him for it.

Monday morning, Liam was startled to discover Colin waiting for him outside his house, on his way to school. "Don't look so shocked," Colin mumbled, as they walked toward Matthew's place.

"Does this mean you're not mad at me?" Liam asked frankly.

"Why would I be mad?" Colin still was barely looking at Liam.

"Come on, you know why. I tried to make out with you in my sleep. I know it was a terrible thing to do, but you've pretty much ignored me ever since, and I think that's crappy, too."

Liam's feisty reply caused Colin to finally look at him. "You're not afraid to say what you think, are you?"

"That's not true," Liam countered. "I am afraid, but I usually say it, anyway."

"Whatever, man," Colin sighed. "I'm not mad at you." Liam thought Colin looked like he wanted to say more, but he remained silent.

"I have to tell you something," Liam began. He was definitely afraid, at that moment. "You might be mad at me, after I tell you."

Colin frowned. "What?" he asked tersely.

Liam was beginning to feel sick to his stomach. He rushed out his words in one push of air. "I told Dr. Nate what your dad does to you."

Colin stopped walking abruptly, turning to Liam. "What?!" he shouted incredulously. "You promised!" Simultaneously, he began to tear up and fill up with rage. "You're just a damn liar!"

"Colin, I was scared! I don't want him to hurt you anymore!"

"It's not your problem! God!" He threw his bookbag on the ground, only to pick it up again. "Some friend you are," he spat, and walked off the road, into the woods.

Liam let him go, because he knew Matthew would be waiting on him. When he joined his best friend, his mood was evident.

"What's wrong?" Matthew asked.

"I went to see Dr. Nate yesterday, and I told him about Colin's dad. Now Colin is mad at me."

"Why did you tell?"

Liam gaped. "Why do you think? I don't want him to be beaten up every day until he grows up."

"I guess you're right," Matthew murmured.

At school, Colin reverted to ignoring everyone. Liam was devastated. The whole day was nothing but torture. Finally, he did the only thing he could think of, and wrote a note to Colin: `I'm really really really sorry. I still want to be your friend.'

After they were dismissed from class, he tried once more to approach Colin. "Can we talk about it, Col?"

Colin pushed Liam away from him. "Go away, homo."

Colin's last words hurt Liam deeply. He joined Matthew and Abby in the schoolyard, though he wasn't any use in conversation. He and Matthew would've walked home in complete silence, if not for Matthew's incessant chatter, regardless of Liam's lack of responses.

Late that night, when Liam was getting ready for bed, he was called downstairs. He still didn't feel like socializing and went reluctantly. Upon entering the family room, he stopped abruptly. With his parents was Mr. Aerhart, looking pretty upset.

"Liam," his dad addressed him. "Have you seen Colin recently, son?"

"I saw him at school."

"Have you seen him since?"

Liam shook his head, frowning and narrowing his eyes toward Mr. Aerhart.

"It's very important that you tell me what you know," said Colin's father. Liam's frown increased, and his jaw tightened.

"Is there something more?" Jacob Reilly asked his son. "Liam!" he said sharply, when Liam didn't answer.

"Why are you asking me?" Liam said. He assumed Mr. Aerhart had kicked his son out again.

Mr. Aerhart turned away, apparently too upset to answer. "Honey," said Jenny. "Colin's mom left today, while Colin was at school," she said gently. "His dad came home to find them both gone, but she didn't take Colin with her."

"You mean, she left for good?" Liam asked, suddenly afraid for Colin. Jenny nodded, glancing worriedly at Mr. Aerhart. A second later, Liam had everyone's attention. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?!" he screamed, startling everyone out of their skin.

"Liam Reilly!" his dad exclaimed.

Mr. Aerhart, eyes burning with anger, glared at Liam. "You better watch your mouth."

But Liam's rage far outweighed anyone else's in the room. "I SAW YOU BEAT HIM UP!" he screeched, shaking violently. "I know you do it ALL THE TIME! And you made him sleep outside in the COLD!" Liam's parents were too shocked, by this point, to say anything. "What'd you do to him THIS time?!"

Mr. Aerhart advanced toward Liam, like he was going to hurt the boy, but Jacob Reilly was faster. He pushed the abuser against the wall, causing Jenny to emit a short cry. "I swear to God, you ever touch my son, and I'll kill you," Jacob hissed, nearly growling with every breath. "Now get out of my house."

Liam was never more proud of his dad. His father turned to him, once Mr. Aerhart was gone, and embraced him. Liam held on tightly, still trembling. "Why didn't you tell us about Colin?" Jacob asked, holding Liam at arm's length.

"I was scared," Liam squeaked. "But Dad, I might know where he is. He has a fort in the woods."

"Can you take me there?"

Liam flew upstairs, dressed in warm clothes, and he and his dad set out with large flashlights, into the woods. The wind was bitterly cold, as they cut through it at a relatively high speed. Liam hoped he could find the fort again, especially in the dark. But he remembered, from last time, that it was closer to the bay than he had thought before. With that in mind, he led his dad to the fallen tree. "There it is!"

Jacob squinted. "Where? I don't see it."

"That's the point," said Liam, and he climbed through the brush. "Colin? Are you here?" His heart sank. The place was empty. In fact, it was just like they had left it before, with the blankets and sleeping bag unrolled, spread out on the planks.

"My word, this is really something," Jacob muttered, shining his light on the bins of food.

"I don't think he's been here, Dad. It's just like we left it. What if Mr. Aerhart killed him?" He was terrified of that thought.

"Don't think that way, son. He'll turn up. Let's get home. If he hasn't come back by tomorrow, we'll get a search out for him."

Liam led the way out, feeling lower than ever. "I showed him where the spare key is to our house, in case he ever got kicked out again at night. Maybe he'll come there."

Jacob placed a gloved hand on his son's shoulders, holding him close as they trampled leaves and branches. "You're a good friend, you know that?"

"No, I'm not. I wish I had done something to help him a long time ago."

"Ahh, don't let yourself feel guilty about it. It's normal to not know what to do, in a situation like Colin's."

"I guess." They walked the rest of the way in silence, and while Liam hoped to find Colin there waiting for him, he knew how unlikely it was. But only his mom greeted them when they returned. After undressing for bed, his state of sorrow prodded him to do something to make him feel somewhat better. He fired up his computer, and since he didn't know Patrick's email, he found him on Facebook instead. And he sent him a message:

`Dear Patrick,

Since you won't talk to me, I have decided to write this email. I guess you know now that I'm gay, or at least I think I might be. I'm sorry you hate me for it. I wish I could change, so you would like me again. The best night of my life was when I got to spend the night with you, even tho I was beat up. I want you to like me some day, cuz I love you more than anything.

Your brother,


He knew it was sappy, and Patrick would probably be disgusted, but it was the raw, naked truth. He sent it and went to bed. Unexpectedly, he found himself replaying the events of the night his brothers took care of him. One of his favorite parts was when it was just him and Patrick, and they were in the shower together. As he remembered Patrick's hands washing his entire body, his own hands tried to recreate the sensations; he caressed himself all over, hastily removing his underwear in the process. He managed to highly arouse himself, and to take it further, he fictionalized what happened in the shower. Patrick, on his knees, stroked his brother's smaller dick, and with sultry eyes, he tilted his head and began licking Liam's tight sac. He licked all the way up to the head of Liam's dick, flicking the slit teasingly. I love you, Liam, said Patrick, just before engulfing Liam's dick in his mouth.

In the bed, Liam lifted his hips, folding his body in half, and brought his cock straight into his mouth. It was something he'd seen in a porn video, and now he knew it was actually possible. He whimpered and moaned, pretending his mouth was Patrick's. His sensitive penis had never experienced such sensations before. He sucked furiously, thrusting into Patrick's eager mouth, in his mind's eye, until he came with heavy grunts and moans. He swallowed all of his cum, as if he'd done it a hundred times before. There wasn't a bit of it he didn't like.

Completely back to reality and panting, he unfolded his body, amazed at what he'd just discovered he could do. But then there was his fantasy to think about. First Mr. Loper, and now Patrick. What was wrong with him? Would Dr. Nate say it was just a need for brotherly love, this time? Whatever it was, it had made him feel new sensations and emotions, not to mention a familiar guilt for taking his fantasies too far.

The next day, though, only Colin was on his mind. His friend didn't show up for school, and by the afternoon, a search had been organized, with groups scouring the woods, combing the edge of the bay, and going to every house on the island. No one seemed to have a clue where he went, and Liam became more and more certain that Mr. Aerhart had hacked him up and thrown him in the bay or buried him somewhere.

He also began to wonder why Colin's mom had left him there when she took off. That made her no better than her husband, in Liam's mind. But as he thought about Diane Aerhart, he realized with a start that no one would suspect that someone besides Colin and his father would be greatly affected by her disappearance. He also realized he hadn't seen William since before Diane left.

Liam shot out of his room, zooming by his mother cooking dinner in the kitchen, and ran all the way up to the guest house door. He knocked loudly when he arrived, gasping for air. Predictably, Patrick answered the door, but said nothing, as he waited for Liam to catch his breath. Seeing Patrick made Liam blush, as he thought of the night before.

"Is William here? Is he okay? Can I talk to him?" Liam asked in a rush.

"I don't think he wants to talk to anyone," Patrick murmured softly.

Liam frowned. "Will you tell him I said, I'm sorry he's sad?"

"I'll tell him," mumbled Patrick.

Liam stood awkwardly for a couple of seconds, then finally turned away and left. It was plain to him, during that exchange, that his email had made no difference to his brother.

On Wednesday, there was a small farewell party for the Philpotts, though the men were out again, looking for Colin. Liam and Matthew said their goodbyes to Abby, and they were gone the next day. It all felt anti-climactic to Liam, and he was sure Abby had wished for more enthusiasm, or at the very least, more sadness about her departure. Liam just didn't have it in him.

By Friday, the search had been called off. Anywhere on the island that Colin could have gone, was searched. Authorities were still conducting their own investigation, but nobody was out actually looking, anymore. "Matthew, we have to go find him," Liam said, as they settled at Matthew's place after school.

"But Liam, they searched everywhere. How can we find him, if the grown-ups can't?"

"I don't know!" Liam cried. "But we have to try! Maybe they missed something. I have to look for myself, or I'll go crazy thinking about it."

"And drive me crazy, in the meantime," Matthew mumbled.

Liam scowled. "You don't have to go with me."

"No, I want to!" Matthew assured him. "But can we eat something first? I'm starving!"

They nearly ate enough for a whole meal, and were almost too stuffed and sleepy immediately afterward, to go traipsing through the woods. Liam agreed to a short rest, during which they drank juice to reenergize themselves. It seemed to work, and they entered the woods with renewed vigor.

They moved slowly, as they had when looking for the statue, looking up trees, into thick bushes, and behind large tree trunks and rocks. "What if he's not in the woods?" Matthew asked. "What if he fell in the water somewhere?"

"He would've been easily found, if he was on the shore somewhere," Liam murmured distractedly. "I wonder if they searched Mr. Aerhart's shed? You know, the one that's locked? He could be chained up inside, or something."

"You have a weird imagination," Matthew stared at him like he was crazy.

"You didn't see how mean Mr. Aerhart was!" Liam objected. "Let's go see if he's in there."

"No way!" cried Matthew. "Mr. Aerhart's probably home by now, and I don't wanna be caught!"

"Well, let's hide and see if we can see anything," suggested Liam. Matthew opted to hide behind Liam, while Liam crept as close as he dared and hid behind a tree. An eerie tension settled over the whole property, drifting inland along with a fog that was beginning to creep through the woods like a stealth vampire. When the fog circled the boys menacingly, both of them turned and ran from the place, convinced evil was coming for them.

"This way," panted Liam, leading Matthew toward the fort. By the time they reached it, the ominous, thick fog had dominated the woods and provoked fear in the boys. "This is the fort Colin made." But when they crawled inside, there was nothing there but nature itself. All the bins, lights, and blankets were gone. Even the floor boards had been removed.

"Where is everything?" asked Matthew, expecting all the things Liam had described.

"Mr. Aerhart must have taken it all." Liam was highly frustrated, and upset that Colin's dad would violate the place. "That really sucks. Colin worked hard on this."

"We should probably go home. I can't see anymore," Matthew whispered, darting glances everywhere and sticking close to Liam. "Will you hold my hand?"

"Yeah," Liam conceded. He took Matthew's hand, and they crawled out of the circle. "Let's go home," he sighed. He had really wanted to find Colin.

"Do you know where you're going?" Matthew asked hopefully.

"Are you kidding?" exclaimed Liam. "You know how bad I am at direction. Besides, you're the one who's lived here all your life. You should know how to get home in your sleep."

"I might as well be asleep," Matthew mumbled. "I can't see worth spit.

Step by step, they pushed through the gray, glancing over their shoulders every few moments, afraid of what they might see there. The fog grew thicker, until they could see only faceless shapes in each other. The only solid components of their environment were their hands grasping one another, the crunch of leaves under their feet, and the whistling of the wind somewhere above them.

"Hey!" Matthew suddenly cried out, making Liam's heart stop.

"What's your problem?!" Liam cried.

"You put my hand on your butt!" Matthew complained.

"No, I didn't," Liam sighed. "I was just scratching it."

"You could scratch it with your other hand!" Matthew scowled. Liam giggled, and in retaliation, Matthew pulled their hands to himself and scratched his whole butt with exaggerated movements. "How do you like it?!"

Liam screeched dramatically, his voice cracking considerably, and laughed loudly. He stopped abruptly to speak again. "I like your butt."

Matthew emitted a silly laugh. "Oh, yeah, I forgot you do like it. That's so not fair," he giggled.

Liam continued his dramatics, sighing heavily. "I wish I had a boyfriend. He could touch me whenever he wanted, and I'd do anything he wanted me to."

"Like what?" asked Matthew curiously.

"Anything," Liam answered. "I would bring him food while he's watching TV. I'd even clean his room, if he wanted. I'd read to him and snuggle with him," he sang dreamily. "I'd carry his schoolbooks every day, if I could. I'd bathe him, too, but I'd want him to bathe me in return, `cause I like that. And all those things we saw in those gay videos? I'd do any of that with him. We would make out and suck each other's dicks, then he would put his dick in my butt and have sex with me."

"Holy moly," Matthew breathed. "You'd really do all that?"

Liam blanched, realizing just how much he had said. "Yeah. But I don't know how to get someone to be my boyfriend."

Matthew smiled wickedly, though Liam couldn't see it. "I have an idea. I'll let you bring me food, clean my room, carry my books, and all that," he giggled. "I don't think I wanna put my dick in your butt, though. But we can bathe each other! `Cause we already do that. And we snuggle sometimes." More giggling.

"You're so funny," Liam said sarcastically. "Does that mean we can still make out and suck each other's dicks?"

Matthew cackled. "Ummmm, negative, Captain. I don't know how to do those things, anyway."

"Me neither, but I want to learn," Liam stated, and sighed.

"I didn't know you liked the things in those videos that much."

"Yeah," Liam hummed. "But I want it to be with someone special. I just wish someone loved me."

"I love you," Matthew declared.

"You know what I mean," Liam growled. He began to feel bad, though, when Matthew didn't answer. "Thanks, Matty. You're sweet." He drew closer to Matthew, leaned in, and kissed him on the mouth. Matthew giggled once more, and Liam smiled, knowing he'd smoothed things over.

When they continued forward, Liam abruptly had a sense of vertigo, as his balance seemed to go topsy-turvy. He didn't realize he was falling, until he jerked Matthew's hand, and subsequently his body. Matthew cried a high-pitched squeal, as they tumbled through nothing but air.