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


Chapter 8

Kip, King & Kidnapped

In a most ironic way, it was fortuitous that Liam couldn't breathe as he was hurled toward a certain death, or so he imagined. Arms and legs flailing, and eyes shut tightly, he could feel gravity sucking him downward; in those mere seconds, he assumed he'd led Matthew and himself unwittingly off a cliff. But when the falling ended, he wasn't shattered against rocks, as he had feared. Instead, he was suddenly wet. But there was no shock of cold from the bay. In fact, he didn't even hit a water surface at all. It was rather like a window opened within a body of water, and he went right through the portal, already holding his breath against his will.

Even in his panic, he was aware how very warm this water was. Nevertheless, he needed out of it to breathe, and quickly. He had opened his eyes upon impact, and a stunning view presented itself. This water was practically as clear as air, and the surface was just above him. He broke through, gasping for air, and he heard Matthew do the same not even a second later, which gave him great relief.

One thing was clear: they were definitely not in a bay, a sound, an ocean, or even a lake. This appeared to be more like a swimming hole or large pond, only much cleaner. With only a few strokes, Liam could stand on solid ground with his head above water. Panting, he and Matthew trudged to the edge, where they collapsed.

"Ohmygosh, I was so scared," Matthew croaked.

Liam couldn't answer right away; he was busy sucking in sweet oxygen that he'd been deprived of for almost too long. He was also still in shock, not knowing where they were. When he thought he could manage it, he rolled to his front and gazed around. He experienced such a feeling of déjà vu, it made his head spin. He clamped his eyes shut for a few seconds, opened them again, and shook his head slowly in great wonder. Everything he could see, he'd seen before in a dream. It was the dream he'd had about Charles Loper, when he'd actually tried to make out with Colin. They were in the woods, but a place far different from where they'd come. The fog was gone, the air was warm, the grass was green and impossibly soft, and the trees bore leaves of colors that he'd never seen on trees before, not even in Autumn.

Finally, he felt he had the strength to sit up. "I've dreamed about this place before," he said to Matthew.

"What do you mean?" Matthew asked, pushing himself up. It was only then he seemed to realize they weren't where they should be. "Ohhhh," he breathed. "Where are we?" He felt of the grass, gasping with delight. "Wow!"

Liam felt so happy and so content, more than he'd ever felt before. Nothing about this place was unpleasant, as far as he could see. "I don't know," he murmured. "But I really like it."

"Me too!" Matthew declared.

Liam came out of his reverie long enough to realize the discomfort his winter clothes were bringing him. He began to struggle out of each piece with grunts and panting. "I don't see anyone around," he said, capturing Matthew's attention. "Let's take off our clothes until they're dry."

Matthew joined in stripping, and they were greatly relieved once they were naked, not having damp material sticking to their bodies any longer. "It's so warm!" Matthew declared with a smile. He stood and stretched his limbs, then ran to a nearby tree with low hanging branches; he badly wanted to touch the bright orange leaves, and the pink ones, the cream-colored, the blue ones with white streaks, the fiery red ones, the gray ones with splashes of green, and the mauve ones. And that was just on one branch. Somehow, all the colors and patterns together didn't create an eyesore, but rather feelings of euphoria and peace.

Liam merely closed his eyes and spread out on the amazing grass, lying on his stomach. He let go of his burdens and worries and reveled in the peace and warmth. In a tree nearby, a lone bird began whistling a hypnotizing melody, which put Liam to sleep with ease.

When he opened his eyes again, the sun was quickly disappearing. He blinked a few times, letting his vision adjust. "Matthew?" he called softly. There was no sign of his friend. Pushing to his feet, he walked the small clearing at the edge of the pond, squinting into the growing darkness. But it was his foot that found Matthew first, when it gently struck the sleeping boy's hip. Liam knelt down, grinning when he realized Matthew's penis was pointing to the sky. Then he had to get a second, closer look, lifting his eyebrows in surprise; he could swear his friend's whole package was already starting to develop.

"Oh, Maaaathewww. Wake up, sleeping beauty, before I have to kiss you." He tweaked the boy's nipple.

Matthew opened one eye, frowning. "Did you say you were going to kiss me?" he asked, swatting at Liam's hand.

"You look so lovely when you're sleeping, I just can't resist," said Liam, unable to keep from giggling.

Matthew snorted, then sat up and yawned. "Man, this is almost as soft as my bed." His stomach rumbled, and he covered it with both hands. "Oh my gosh, I'm hungry."

"Me, too," said Liam. "Let's see if we can find something to eat." They both stood and took a minute to stretch, then looked around for any sign of light. "Well," Liam spoke again. "I guess we'll just walk until we find something. Hold my hand again, okay?"

Holding hands, they bravely walked out of the clearing, forgetting all about their clothes; they felt so natural and comfortable, they didn't really remember they were naked. There was still no inkling of cold air. There was no breeze, but it wasn't so hot that they needed one, either. Except for being unable to see their path, everything was pretty much perfect. At least, it would be when they found food.

The more they walked, the darker it became. The path didn't seem dangerous at all; the ground remained plush and soft, and they felt their way around trees, finding no other obstacles. Nevertheless, the absence of light unnerved them. Finally, they stopped walking, unsure of their next move.

"Do you hear that?" Liam whispered into the night. He couldn't see even an outline of his best friend, thus he moved closer. "It sounds like waves. Like the bay."

"Liam, maybe we should go back and find the pool we came out of. I'm starting to get scared."

"No, look!" Liam exclaimed so suddenly, Matthew nearly knocked him over grabbing onto him.

"What?!" Matthew cried, alarmed.

"Shh," Liam soothed, petting Matthew's hair. "It's okay. I just see light. Look, over there." He turned Matthew's face toward a pale glow beyond a few trees.

"Ohh!" Matthew breathed. "I think it's the moon!"

They discovered Matthew was right, after investigating further. The filtered moon lit a clump of bushes, which appeared to bear strange looking plants. The sweetest aroma they could imagine floated into their nostrils, and Liam bent down to scrutinize the greenery. Only a few seconds of that, and he gasped.

"Matty! They're fruit trees! I mean, fruit bushes! Food!"

Matthew squealed and bravely reached for one, and it easily came off the stem. "What is it?" he whispered in awe. "It smells so good!" Each of them examined a piece of fruit, or what they supposed was fruit, but neither could determine what they were holding. It had no particular shape, as each one seemed to look different from each other. Its skin was flaky, like a pie crust. When that was peeled away, the center proved to be something like a pie filling, but with enough texture to make it somewhat chewy, as well as creamy.

"Heck, I'm gonna try it," said Liam. "It smells too good to be poisonous." He bit off some of the flaky covering, then closed his lips around more and sucked in the filling. "Mmmmm. Mmm mmm mmm!" he hummed, looking almost orgasmic. Matthew took that as a good sign and stuffed his mouth, too. Mere minutes later, they had eaten at least four each, even though they were about the size of a large baked potato.

"Ohmygosh. Ohmygosh. That was soooooo good!" Matthew declared, then burped and rubbed his belly. "I want these all the time, now!"

Liam moved to a patch of grass, where all of his muscles relaxed, and he melted into a lazy pile. Matthew joined him, and they stretched out on their backs, feeling completely satisfied. Neither moved for many long minutes, but they didn't sleep, either. Something was happening inside them; neither knew what it was, nor did they realize anything was changing. They were only aware of their emotions.

Matthew rolled over to Liam, almost completely on top of him, and embraced him tightly, startling him as well. "Liam, I'm so scared. Please protect me! I'm not big enough to protect myself, and my dad isn't around as much as I want him to be." He lifted his head, and Liam could see panic on the boy's face. "Don't stop being friends with me! Pleeaase! I need you! You're gonna go be friends with Colin and leave me! Don't do it! Liam!"

Liam was nothing but astounded by Matthew's behavior. But as he pushed Matthew off of him and sat up, he could not console his friend and soothe his worries. He was battling worries of his own. "You don't even love me! No one loves me!" Liam cried. "You're only friends with me because I'm the only older boy at school, other than Colin! We're friends by default!" He burst into unexpected tears and jumped to his feet. "Mom and Dad love William and Patrick the best! Will doesn't really love me, Patrick hates me, and Colin hates me, too! And I know you secretly hate me, too, `cause I'm gay! Admit it!"

"No!" Matthew yelled, jumping up and latching on to Liam. "I love you so much! I'm your best friend! I don't want you to leave me! Please don't leave me!"

With a loud grunt, Liam forced Matthew off of him and stormed away into darkness. Matthew screamed and tried to follow, but Liam evaded him. With the most terrible cry of despair, Matthew sank to his knees and bawled loudly, feeling more scared and alienated than ever before. After pushing from tree to tree, Liam eventually also fell to the ground, beating it and cursing his meaningless existence.

Something began slithering over Liam's backside, causing him to choke on a sob as he gasped and looked up. The night prevented him from seeing, but he quickly realized it wasn't a slither, but a caress. He was feeling someone's hand. "What do you want?" he growled, expecting the presence to be Matthew. Instead, someone shifted until they were low to the ground, too, and kissed Liam's temple.

"Drink this," a foreign voice whispered. A rounded edge was pushed to his lips, and he sipped a tangy juice-like beverage – something like peach and mango and strawberry mixed together, yet not completely identifiable. It only took a couple of minutes and a few more sips, and his emotions were pretty much back to normal. In the distance, Matthew's scream was frighteningly clear.

"Matthew," whispered Liam.

"Let's go to him." The voice sounded like another boy's. A hand slipped into Liam's and led him to his feet, then through the woods at a quick pace. All they had to do was follow the voice of Matthew.

When they arrived, the mystery boy knelt before Matthew and silenced him with a kiss. Before Matthew could react, he was being made to drink. A couple of minutes later, there was complete silence, until the boy spoke again. "Both of you hold my hands. I'll lead you to shelter." No one spoke again, as they walked with the stranger.

Liam felt so horrible about what he'd said to Matthew, he silently cried during their journey. He couldn't even believe those words had come out of his mouth. He'd had no idea Matthew felt so scared about things, either. But when Matthew had chosen to open up to him, he'd delivered a harrowing, hurtful response. It was unforgivable, he knew.

The trio halted after only a few minutes, and the boy in the middle gave them instructions. "Kneel down. There's a small hole to crawl through. Follow my feet." Liam found the boy's bare feet, while Matthew found Liam's. They crawled single file through a hole, and inside, they were finally able to see. Lit torches lined a cave wall, a small, circular shelter that was actually quite cozy. There was plush grass inside as well, and a small spring that came out of the wall, low to the ground, and flowed a few feet in a groove along the wall. It pooled in a natural cistern, kept from overflow by draining through a tiny hole, disappearing right back into the wall.

The most amazing thing they saw in the cave was the mystery boy. He was a very slender boy, looking to be about Liam's age, with beautiful dark curls on his head, vine-leaves entwined in some of those curls, and completely naked everywhere else.

"Peter!" Matthew exclaimed. And so it was. He was the same boy they'd found in the woods, only now he was flesh and not stone.

The boy smiled. "My name is Kip." He retrieved another tumbler, the first of which he must have abandoned in the woods. From the spring he filled the cup, and offered it to Liam. "Drink more, both of you." It turned out to be the same juice that they'd tasted earlier. Astonished, Liam drank half the cup, then gave the rest to Matthew.

"I thought it was going to be water," Liam murmured.

Liam stared greedily at the woodland boy's groin area, which had more hair and development than his own. With a sigh, Kip sat against the wall, watching the other two curiously. "Make yourselves comfortable. I need to explain about that fruit you ate." He didn't wait for the boys to sit to continue. "I call it a pastry fruit. If you eat it without drinking some of this water, it causes real trouble, as you found out. It exacerbates your fears and worries that you agonize over."

"It ex what?" Matthew interrupted. He and Liam were seated next to each other in front of Kip.

"Exacerbates. Basically, it magnifies the things that you obsess over and dwell on. It's perfectly fine if you drink this while eating, however."

Liam turned to Matthew, practically covered in shame. "I didn't mean what I said, Matty. I'm furious with myself for saying it. I never knew you were so scared of all those things."

Matthew hung his head, more embarrassed than he'd ever been. "I never wanted you to know," he mumbled. "I didn't mean what I said, either, about you ditching me for Colin. He deserves a friend like you."

Liam scooted closer and nudged his friend, making Matthew look up at him. "It doesn't matter why we became friends. Just say you'll forgive me, because I want you to be my best friend for life."

Matthew launched a powerful hug onto Liam, and Liam responded in kind. "I do love you," Matthew croaked, becoming tearful again. "Do you really feel like no one loves you?"

"Sometimes," Liam sniffed, his chest heaving. "I know it's not true, I don't know why I think it." They continued to hang on to each other for dear life.

"My, but that's the sappiest scene I've ever witnessed," Kip stated dryly. The boys let go of each other and wiped their eyes and noses. "We're all friends again, happy days."

"Can we be your friend, too?" Matthew asked.

Kip's apathetic demeanor softened, and he seemed genuinely touched. "I haven't had any friends for a while."

"Where are we, anyway?" Liam asked.

"Shaw Island, where else?" Kip replied.

Liam laughed. "On what planet? We live on Shaw Island, and this definitely isn't it."

"Sure it is," Kip smiled. "It's just different than what you're used to. It used to be better than living in reality, but that didn't last."

Kip's words only confused Liam more. "What do you mean, living in reality? This place isn't real?"

"Oh, it's real enough," sighed Kip. "Everything was fab when I got here. It was safe and warm, there was lots to eat, and none of the food had ill effects, either. I could do what I wanted, and no one cared; I started walking around naked, just like you."

Liam and Matthew looked down at themselves, realizing for the first time that they still had nothing on. "Our clothes!" Matthew exclaimed. "We forgot about `em!"

Kip sighed. "Someone will probably have stolen them by now."

"There are others here?" Liam asked.

"Sure," said Kip. "We used to all be friends, but even that went south eventually. We started fighting and turned on each other, started hurting each other, we became greedy and angry, and it only got worse. I don't know what caused it, but you can be sure that the fruit isn't the only thing around here that's poisonous." He talked plainly, without much vocal inflection or visible emotion. But there was a deep sadness evident in his eyes that Liam couldn't miss.

"So, you came here through the pool, like we did?" Liam asked. Kip nodded in response. "But if you lived on the real Shaw Island, how come we don't know you?"

Kip chuckled. "I've been here a long time. What year is it, now?"

Liam and Matthew stared for a moment, half expecting Kip to be joking. "Two thousand twelve," Liam said finally.

"Jeepers!" said Kip. "That means I've been here..." he paused to count in his head. "Thirty-seven years." The other two balked, rendered speechless. "I'll bet no one even remembers me anymore."

"We saw you in the woods. In our woods, I mean," Matthew stated. "You were a statue!

Kip's jaw tightened, and his chest swelled higher with each heavy breath. "That happens sometimes. Some days, I think of home, but it's too painful to face reality. Turning to stone is more painful than you can ever imagine."

"Why are you still so young, if you've been here so long?" asked Liam gently. He already felt sad for Kip.

"No one ages here. I've been thirteen since nineteen seventy-five."

"Wow!" said Liam, eyes bright. "That's so cool!"

Kip shrugged. "It's not bad. Just lonely sometimes. Even as long as Shaw Island has been populated, there aren't that many kids here. We all seem to have the same thing in common; some really bad stuff happened to us in the real world."

"No grown-ups here?" Matthew asked. "Only kids?"

"I've never seen any adults. No girls, either. Only boys. When I got here, there were only nine others; I was the tenth. Could be more now, besides you," Kip shrugged, then yawned. "You probably have more questions, but I'm really tired. Let's sleep." He stretched out on that wonderful grass and invited the others to join him. Liam lay beside him, with Matthew on the other side of Liam. All three were snoozing within minutes.

Liam woke from a most vivid dream, except he couldn't remember it once he was awake. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. Automatically he reached between his legs, unsurprised to find a throbbing hard-on. As he opened his eyes fully, his gaze fell on Kip, who was watching him with a half-smile.

"Good morning," said Kip. "Nearly afternoon." His eyes roamed Liam's body. "Not everyone here has mature bodies, like you and me," he said softly. "I used to think I was lucky, `cause even the boys here who didn't like boys before, learned to play with boys. You do, when there aren't any girls, you know. But now that I have no one to play with, having sexual urges isn't so great anymore."

Liam stared, a little shocked by Kip's words. He looked to his right, where Matthew had been, but it seemed he was alone with Kip in the cave. "Where's Matthew?" he murmured.

"He's been helping me gather food." It was only then Liam realized the spread near the entrance. Kip joined him on the ground. "Who's Patrick?"

Liam's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "He's one of my older brothers. Why?"

Kip shrugged. "You said his name in your sleep."

"I didn't know I talked in my sleep."

"You sure do," Kip smiled. "Gab city." His smile faded, though his gaze intensified, and his fingers, very delicately, began stroking the back of Liam's hand. "You've played with other boys before, right?"

Eyes wide, Liam shook his head. "Dr. Nate said I should give my body to someone I love, and who loves me, so I don't get hurt."

"I wouldn't hurt you. I like you. We can have some fun together. I could teach you a few things and show you how good it feels. I'll even be your boyfriend, if you want, but I don't have to."

Liam was struck mute for a moment, and Kip took that opportunity to lean forward and press a kiss to his lips. When he didn't protest, Kip deepened the kiss, leading Liam in a full, passionate dance of lips and tongues. Liam followed Kip's motions, learning quickly what to do. It was almost like the dream he'd had, that started out with Kip as a statue, but then turned into Charles Loper.

The sound of a rock being moved aside and Matthew crawling through the entrance halted the would-be lovers. Liam saw that Kip was fully erect, now, and bigger than himself, both in length and circumference. The heated boys looked bashfully to Matthew, who had a basketful of delicious smelling food. "Um. Should I go away?"

"No," Liam said quickly. "I need to think about this first." He abruptly left his spot and crawled out of the cave, and found a spot to relieve himself, which he found rather difficult with a boner. Then he lingered, so he could rid himself of the erection. His dick was slippery with pre-cum, which he hadn't experienced much before. He stroked furiously, unaware, as usual, of his surroundings.

He was prevented from reaching his desired climax in a most rude manner. Someone grabbed him from behind, immediately covering his mouth, while another boy punched him in the stomach, rendering him unable to produce sound. He was gagged, and his hands were tied by a team of boys in a matter of seconds. Then as he was dragged into the woods by the vine attached to his hands, forced to walk quickly to keep up, some sort of material was thrown over his head and face, so he couldn't see where he was being taken.

Liam's surroundings were dark for the longest time. His feet had been tied together, his hands tied behind his back, and he'd been shoved into an enclosed space and left to rot. Or so he felt. His stomach was empty and yearning for fulfillment, and his limbs ached. He heard sounds of boys near him, but it was all just muffled words, nothing distinct. After a long while of straining to listen for pertinent information, he finally gave up and fell into a fitful sleep.

He was startled awake by being jerked out of his prison, and for the first time, the covering over his head was removed. It was nighttime, but even the fire of the torches surrounding him blinded him at first. Someone removed his gag, and he was grateful.

"You scream or make any noise, and I'll break your arms," said a pubescent voice. Naturally, Liam kept quiet.

Slowly, he opened his eyes and let his vision adjust. He saw seven naked boys staring back at him. Most of them looked to be young teens, one was obviously a preteen, and one was an older teen. Liam assumed him to be the leader, as he was front and center, with three boys flanking each side of him.

The older boy advanced slowly toward Liam, who was on his knees, feet and hands still tied. "What's your name?"

"Liam," his voice trembled.

"Not anymore. What shall we call him, boys?"

"Rat?" suggested the preteen.

"Dog shit," another boy glowered as he spoke.

"Pretty boy," said a soft-spoken teen.

The leader smiled menacingly. "Pretty boy," he repeated. "You like him, don't you, Swift?"

The boy apparently named Swift blushed, visible even in the torchlight, and nodded. "Yes, sir, Boss."

"Fine." The leader sank to his haunches, until he was face to face with Liam. "From now on, your name is Pretty Boy. You'll call me either Boss, or Sir. I'm the King of this place, and you'll do what I say." He turned his head slightly. "Killer, what happens when you don't obey me?"

The glowering boy spoke again. "We get whipped, Sir."

"And?" Boss growled.

"And we became the group's slave for a week."

Boss turned his head again, gazing at the preteen, who was in his line of sight. "Mouse, what happens if you don't submit to a whipping, or if you refuse to do any boy's bidding when you're a slave?"

"You'll beat us severely and throw us to the sea monster," Mouse squeaked.

"Tarzan, untie Pretty Boy's hands," Boss ordered.

"Yes, Sir," another teen raced to obey. Liam emitted an audible sigh of relief when his hands were free, even though his wrists were nearly rubbed raw.

"Tarzan, tell Pretty Boy what happens when you obey my commands and do your part to help the group."

Tarzan cast a look of adoration on his leader. "You give us everything we could ever want. You help us find the best food, you make the best shelters for us, and you teach us survival skills."

Boss smiled at his charge, who drank it in. "What else? Hawk?"

"Sir?" another boy rushed to present himself before the King.

"What else do I do for you?"

"You treat us like brothers and play with us," said Hawk proudly. "You make us laugh, and you take care of us when we're hurt or sick."

Liam frowned and, against his better judgment, interrupted. "Why can't you do all that without whipping them and making them slaves?" he scowled.

Killer was quick with serving his justice. He stepped forward and slapped Liam so hard in the face, Liam actually fell on his back. "Everything has consequences!" Killer yelled.

Boss pulled Liam to his knees again, as tears flowed down the boy's face. He spoke to another boy, but kept his gaze on Liam. "Hot Stuff, what else does your King do for you?"

The only boy who hadn't spoken thus far stepped forward. "You kiss us when we go to bed, like the best big brother ever. And you make sure our sexual needs are always taken care of. You do it however we like, too. Like, Tarzan likes it gentle, but I like it rough."

"And we give it to you when you want it, too, Boss," Mouse piped up. "That's `cause we love you."

Boss smiled again and motioned Mouse over to him. He kissed the boy passionately on the mouth, reminding Liam of Kip's recent kiss. He felt incredibly sad all of a sudden, because he realized Kip and Matthew would have no idea that he'd been kidnapped. They would think he just ran off.

Boss turned back to Liam, while Mouse clung to him, caressing the muscular body. "See, Pretty Boy? I'm good to those who follow me. It's very simple, really. You will have a happy life, happier than you've ever had, as long as you follow the rules." He took a moment to close his eyes, humming with satisfaction, as Mouse's hands traveled to erotic territory.

"May we play with each other, Sir?" Hot Stuff and Killer were aroused and caressing each other. For that matter, everyone was aroused, except for Liam.

"Not yet, boys," Boss moaned. "Tarzan, untie Pretty Boy's feet."

"Yes, Sir."

"Killer and Hot Stuff, bend Pretty Boy over that rock and hold his torso and arms down. Hawk and Tarzan, hold his feet. Swift, my boy, he's all yours."

Liam struggled, but the boys were stronger. "No, please don't!" he cried, bursting into tears again, as he was placed over the rock.

"It's okay," said Swift. "I'll be gentle."

"Nooooo!" Liam cried desperately.

"You're on probation, Pretty Boy," Boss explained. "You're our slave, until you can prove yourself worthy of the group."

Liam felt Swift get in position behind him, and he screamed bloody murder. Then suddenly, there was another scream joining his. Then another, and another. There were surprised grunts and gasps from the group, and Liam felt himself being let go.

"Run, Liam!" someone yelled. He didn't need to be told twice. Though he was weak, a rush of adrenaline fed energy to his feet, and he raced away, without ever looking to see what was happening. The trees in this area were huge and magnificent, wider than a vehicle. But he dodged them sufficiently, and soon he ran out into an open area devoid of trees, and the moonlight lit his way.

"Liam! Follow me!" said a voice behind him. But then the voice passed him, and another naked boy came into view. He curved to the left, and Liam followed. He heard others behind him, and he hoped to God they weren't part of the bad group. "In here!" The boy stopped at one of the huge trees, and Liam gasped when he opened up the tree. A door had been made out of bark, set on handmade hinges. He ushered Liam inside, and three boys went in after him and closed the door.

Instead of a hollowed out circular space, like Liam expected, a long, narrow cave lay before him. The other three began running down it, and one of them took Liam's hand and pulled him along. They didn't stop, until they reached a lighted space, not unlike Kip's cave. But this one was larger, and it contained another cave entrance on the other side of the room.

The boy who held Liam's hand faced the frightened boy, who immediately cried out, his voice bouncing all over the walls. "COLIN!" He attacked Colin with the fiercest hug, spilling hot tears all over the boy's neck. Colin returned the embrace, and they said nothing for a couple of minutes, while Liam allowed all his tears to come forth.

When he began hyperventilating, Liam had to let go and take deep breaths. Colin caressed his back, being more tender than he'd ever been. "Are you okay? Did they hurt you?" Colin asked.

Liam wiped the moisture from his eyes and shook his head. "You got there just in time. They were about to rape me, but you saved me!"

"I had help," Colin smiled. The other two, both with brilliant blond hair with golden highlights, were standing near, watching with concern. "This is Trey, and this is Toran. They're brothers."

Liam instantly hugged each brother in succession, very tightly. "Thank you!" he gushed.

"You're welcome," said Trey, the older of the two.

"No problem," said Toran.

"I can't believe you're here," said Colin.

"We went looking for you, Matthew and I!" Liam exclaimed. "Then we got pulled into this place! Kip helped us out, but then I got kidnapped this morning. I mean, I think it was this morning. I sorta lost track of time."

"It doesn't take long to lose track of time, here," said Toran.

"Those boys were mean, Colin. I owe you big time."

Colin scowled, surprising Liam at first. "The hell you do! Don't you remember all you did for me back home?"

"Then you're not mad at me anymore?" Liam asked softly. "Because I told Dr. Nate all that stuff?"

Colin shook his head. "No." He glanced at the brothers worriedly. "When I first got here, I was pretty happy. I thought maybe I was safe, for the first time in my life. But then I ate some of this fruit I found-"

"Pastry fruit!" Liam interrupted. "We ate it, too!"

"Yeah! I ate it, and then I was mad as Hell, madder than I've ever felt in my entire life. Toran found me, and I tried to kill him."

"He almost succeeded, too," said Toran, rubbing his throat.

"But I knocked him down with a big stick," added Trey. "And I forced him to drink spring juice."

"Oh my gosh," Liam whispered. "Kip made us drink it, too. I said some really mean things to Matthew after I ate it."

"I don't know Kip," said Colin, and Liam saw the brothers exchange glances.

"We do," said Trey. "We used to be friends with him, until Gage formed the group and declared himself King."

Toran sighed sadly. "We followed Gage for a while, and we hurt Kip, because we were told to."

Liam frowned. "Then you better go apologize!"

Trey shook his head. "He must hate us. We can't bear to face him."

"What made you change your mind and leave the group?" Liam asked curiously

"We don't really know," Trey answered. "One day, we just felt awfully ashamed of all we'd done. We ran away, and we've had to hide from the group ever since."

"Well, the other things is-" Toran stopped abruptly, after a sharp glance from Trey. "Can't I tell him?" Trey looked at Liam warily. "I think we can trust him," Toran added.

"You can trust me," Liam assured them.

With a nod from Trey, Toran continued. "Gage wanted us to have sex with all members of the group. But, see, me and Trey love only each other. We didn't want to have sex with anyone but each other, either."

Liam's grin lit up the cave. "That's so sweet!"

"Really?" Colin nearly whispered.

Liam nodded. "If you haven't figured it out already, I'm pretty sure I'm gay." He paused, seeing no reaction from Colin. "Is that okay?

"Definitely," Colin murmured. "Do you and" he trailed off.

"No!" Liam exclaimed, finally getting Colin's meaning. "I mean, Matty doesn't mind, but he's not my boyfriend or anything. I don't think he's even gay."

Colin nodded, dropped his gaze, and began wringing his hands together. "I'm... I mean, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry...for calling you a homo. In a bad way."

"It's okay," Liam said tenderly. "You hurt my feelings, but I forgive you. Besides, you were just mad because I broke my promise."

"I know you were just trying to help. But I guess it doesn't matter, now. I don't ever have to see my dad again."

"But don't you want to go home, to the real Shaw Island?" Liam asked. "When you disappeared, I screamed at your dad in front of my parents. I just knew he'd hacked you up and buried you somewhere. But now that people know, we can find you another place to live. You could have our spare bedroom! I know I could convince Mom and Dad to take you in!"

Colin was shaking his head. "No one even knows how to get back home. And why would we, when it's so much better here?"

"Kip says this place is poisonous, and it's not just the fruit. It's why some of the boys turned bad," Liam shared.

Colin shrugged and broke from the circle to sit down. The others followed. "Doesn't matter," he said again. "We can't get home, so we might as well make the best of it here."

Liam frowned, as he rubbed his raw ankles. "There's gotta be a way home. I wanna see my parents again, and even my brothers. And I know Matthew wants to see his mom and dad."

Trey showed confusion as he spoke up. "You talk like you didn't go through anything traumatic and bad. I never heard anyone say they wanted to go back home, before."

"But I didn't," stated Liam. "Matthew, neither. I told you, we were just looking for Colin, and suddenly we were here." The blond brothers stared at Liam like he was a circus act. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You've never been raped, or abused, or anything like that?" Toran asked.

"No!" Liam said emphatically. "I have a real easy life, compared to Colin."

"That's so weird," said Trey. "That's never happened before."

"What hasn't?"

"All the other boys who came here, they were either abused by their parents, or they were abandoned by their parents and abused by someone else in their family, or they were raped by their dad or uncle or grandfather, or somebody like that. Or all of the above. No one's ever gotten here because they were looking for someone else."

"Well," huffed Liam. "Colin might be able to live without us, but we can't live without him."

Colin gasped lightly, unexpectedly moved by Liam's declaration of affection. Pools of tears formed in the corners of his eyes, which he quickly wiped away. "Damn. I don't know what to say."

"Say you'll help me find a way back home. I want us all to go; you, me, Matthew, Kip, and Trey and Toran," Liam insisted.

"But where would we start?" asked Trey. He had Toran sitting between his legs, arms wrapped loosely around his brother.

"We should find Kip and Matthew, first," Liam decided. "You can patch things up, then we can decide what to do."

Everyone was quiet, pondering such a magnanimous thought as returning to reality. Finally, Trey spoke again. "All right. Me and Tor will go find them and bring them back here."

Toran nodded, as if they'd discussed it already. "Totally. But we should go now, so we're not seen by Gage and his group." The brothers immediately stood to go.

"You don't want us to go with you?" Liam asked, standing, too.

"No way, man," said Trey. "You get some rest. You need it, after what you've been through. Both of you should rest. There's plenty of food in here, and you can step outside if nature calls, but don't stay out long."

"Yeah, that's what got me before," Liam mumbled.

The brothers gave the other boys reassuring pats on their shoulders, kissed each other, then hurried down the cave. Colin heaved a sigh "Are you hungry, or anything?" he asked.

"Oh my gosh, I'm starving!" Liam hurried to an impressive spread, nearly choking as he stuffed fruit in his mouth, along with something akin to beans that tasted like a cross between celery and chicken, what looked like plain leaves that had a salty flavor, and as much spring juice as he could pour down his throat.

"Whoa! Careful, Li! You're gonna make yourself sick!"

Liam smiled when he had swallowed an enormous bite. "You've never called me Li before. I like it. I'm glad we're friends again."

"If we have to stay here, I'm glad you're with me," Colin admitted. "But if you find a way home, I'm going, too. I think I can face anything, as long as you're there."

Liam beamed and continued to stuff his face. When nature called, Colin stepped out with him to keep watch, then they hurried back inside. Finally, Liam was ready to sleep. "Can I ask a favor?" he began, stretching out on the grass. "If you don't want to, it's totally okay."

"What is it?" Colin sank to the ground beside him.

"I would just feel safer if I could sleep next to you. You don't have to hold me, or anything, but could I cuddle up to you?"

Colin's face heated up, but he nodded just the same. "Yeah, that's cool. We're friends, so it's okay."

Liam grinned and put his back to Colin's front, and he was pleasantly surprised when Colin threw an arm over him and drew him in. "Thanks, Col," Liam twisted his neck until his lips reached Colin's cheek, giving him a brief smooch. After that, he settled in that warm embrace and didn't move again for several hours.