Shaw Island Matt Caper

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Chapter 9

Rescues, Revelations & Reality

 

 

Liam awoke in the same position he was in when he fell asleep.  He smiled to himself, enjoying the feeling of being in another boy's arms.  But when his senses alerted him to the woody pressing against his ass, he panicked.  He was still not fully awake, and his brain took him back to nearly being raped.  He jerked violently, as if having a seizure, waking Colin in the process.  Liam pushed away from Colin, while they both cried out with alarm.

 

"What the hell are you doing?!" Colin yelled, sweating profusely from the scare.

 

"Oh my gosh.  I'm really sorry, Colin.  I thought I was still kidnapped, and I felt your-" he paused, blushing as he gazed at four and a half to five inches of a solid shaft.

 

"Shit," Colin cursed, realizing his plight.  He covered himself as much as possible and faced away from Liam.  "I can't help it," he said angrily.

 

"Duh, Colin," Liam replied.  "All boys get boners.  It doesn't mean anything."

 

"Yeah, but if Dad sees it-  Oh."  Colin remained facing the other direction, even as he stood up.  "I keep forgetting where I am."

 

"Does your dad get mad about it?" Liam asked, knowing he was asking something potentially incendiary.

 

"No."  Colin paused, halfway looking back at Liam for a second.  "He makes fun of me and calls me a fagot and other things."

 

"Aww, sorry.  That's really rotten."  Liam stood and stretched, noting that for once, he wasn't aroused after waking up.  "I'll never make fun of you.  I like your body.  You can even jerk off, if you want.  But don't do it outside, `cause that's what I was doing when I was kidnapped."

 

Colin finally turned around, slowly uncovering himself.  "Seriously?"

 

Liam nodded.  "Normally I'd be itching to jerk off by now, since I didn't get to finish.  But what they almost did to me...  It just made the feeling go away, I guess."  He smiled while getting another eyeful of Colin's full Monty.  "You look nice."

 

Colin was truly beet red, dropping his gaze to survey the grass.  "Thanks."  He touched himself lightly, as if he had decided to go ahead and masturbate, but then didn't follow through.  "Um.  I'm...not going outside, just..."  He jerked his thumb toward the tunnel.  Liam nodded in understanding, and Colin left the room without another word.

 

Liam busied himself with eating, putting his mind on other things.  He didn't know how long he'd been asleep, but he thought the others should've arrived already.  The worrier that he was, he began obsessing over it, fearing the worst.  He even began to be anxious for Colin to return, to know that at least he was safe.  When Colin did finally return, Liam was quick to usher him back down the narrow cave.

 

"I have to pee.  And I need to see outside.  I'm worried about the others.  Why aren't they back yet?" he rushed in panicked tones.

 

Colin followed silently.  As they stole outside and relieved themselves, they continued to turn every which way, staying on alert.  The sun was high in the sky.  "Maybe they're waiting for dark again," Colin whispered.

 

They scurried back into the tree, which Liam could now see was fortuitously placed directly against a large hill.  "I don't like it," said Liam, once they were safely back to their shelter.  "What if something bad happened to them?  We should go look for them," he stated emphatically.

 

"Calm down, man," Colin spoke gently.  "Let's wait it out.  If they're not back by this time tomorrow, we'll go looking for them.  Deal?"

 

Liam plopped down in the grass with a frustrated sigh.  "Fine."

 

Colin sat with him, watching him curiously.  "You worry a lot about your friends, don't you?"

 

"Yes," Liam mumbled.  "It's hard for me sometimes, because Matthew gets scared and worried, and I have to be the strong one.  Only I feel scared inside, too.  I don't want anything bad to happen to my family or friends."

 

"You can't control everything," Colin said wisely.  "Bad shit happens.  Trust me, I know."

 

"Well, it's not fair," Liam frowned.  "I want us all to have happy lives.  At least from now on."

 

"They're probably gonna put me in foster care, you know.  If we ever get back.  I'll have to leave the island and never get to see you again."  Colin pulled up some grass blades and ripped them apart slowly.

 

Liam didn't have an answer to that.  It was yet another way he couldn't take care of his friend, and he didn't like it.  Instead, he changed the subject.  "What're we gonna do all day?  I can't just sit here.  What does that way lead to?" he pointed to the cave entrance opposite where they came in.

 

Colin shrugged.  "Trey says it's an escape route, but only if we need it.  The bay is on the other side, and we would risk being eaten by the sea monster."

 

"So there really is a sea monster?"

 

"I guess.  I don't really want to find out."

 

They dwelled in the shelter for several hours, exhausting just about every topic of conversation they could think of.  They ate, walked around, briefly went outside to respond to nature's call, and explored a small part of the rest of the cave.  But largely they stayed where they were, in case the others returned.  Liam, however, began to go stir crazy by early evening.  Feeling frustrated, impulsive, and a little hyper, he declared he was leaving and ran toward the tree entrance.

 

Colin ran after him, chastising him.  "You idiot, come back!"  But Liam was already pushing through the bark door, where he proceeded to run from tree to tree, expelling a tremendous amount of energy.  He growled and picked up speed, having no particular direction, barely even watching where he was going.  He made himself dizzy and didn't even care.

 

"Oomph!" he grunted, suddenly tackled to the ground, which provided for a soft landing.  He was pinned down on his stomach, with Colin on top of him.  He giggled, thinking it a dirty position to be in, until Colin nearly smothered him by pressing a palm over his mouth.

 

"Shh!" Colin whispered sharply.  "Somebody's coming!"

 

They saw two boys creeping through the woods, and Liam recognized them as "Killer" and "Hot Stuff" from Gage the Boss' gang.  They were watching their surroundings carefully, squinting in the waning light.  They came so close to the pair on the ground, Liam was sure they'd be discovered.  He didn't dare breathe, and he could feel Colin's heart thrashing against his back.  By some miracle, the hunters continued on, unaware of the other boys' presence.

 

Colin didn't let Liam up until several minutes after the others passed, nor did he remove his hand from Liam's mouth.  At long last, he pushed to his feet and yanked Liam up, too, pushing him toward their cave.  Once inside, Liam started whispering desperately.  "I'm really sorry."

 

Colin didn't reply.  He marched through the tunnel, to their inner sanctum, before he rounded on Liam.  "Do you want to be kidnapped again?!  Do you wanna go back so you can be raped?!" he yelled furiously.  "You want us both to be killed?!  You're so stupid!  What the hell were you thinking?!"

 

Liam shrank in the wave of Colin's reprimand, tears of regret springing to his eyes.  He hung his head in shame.  "I'm sorry," he barely whispered.  He glanced up, but only briefly.  He didn't want his tears to be seen.  "Thank you for saving me.  Again."

 

"Yeah, well..."  Colin scowled and tried to breathe deeply.  "That's what friends are for.  But I won't always be around to save your ass."  He placed a gentle hand on Liam's shoulder, which in turn prompted Liam to give Colin a full hug.  "Oh my god," Colin mumbled.  "Why are you always hugging people?"

 

Liam let go and stepped back.  "You don't like it?"  He wiped his face and sniffed loudly.  "I won't do it anymore.  Promise."

 

Colin shifted his weight from foot to foot repeatedly, chewing on one fingernail.  He watched as Liam poured himself some spring juice.  He declined when Liam offered to pour him some, too.  "Don't stop doing it," he said suddenly, now chewing on his bottom lip.

 

Liam turned to Colin, surprised.  "Really?  I can still hug you?"

 

Colin gave a half-shrug.  "I don't know if I'm...supposed to like it, since you're a boy, but..."  He shrugged again, seeming terribly flustered.  "No one ever hugs me.  My mom did sometimes, I guess, but it felt fake even when she did."

 

"Mine aren't fake," Liam declared.  "I really do love you.  As a friend, I mean," he added quickly, blushing.  "It doesn't mean you're gay, if you like it.  Guys hug all the time."

 

"Okay," Colin nodded.  "You can hug me, but not at, like, school, or anything."

 

"Okay!" Liam grinned, and he wrapped Colin in a long, tight embrace, after which he planted a sloppy kiss on his friend's lips.  "Oh, crap!  Sorry!  I kiss Matthew a lot, and he doesn't mind it, and it's just a habit now, and I'm really sorry!"  Colin's shocked expression was what clued him in on his mistake.

 

"Oh.  Um..."  Colin's face was bright red.  "It's okay, I guess.  But I'm not gay.  You know that, right?"

 

"Yeah, totally!  I didn't mean to do it!"

 

"Okay.  I just wanted to make sure you don't fall in love with me, or nothin'.  And when I popped a boner before, it was `cause I was dreaming of a girl, not `cause of you."

 

"No, no, I never thought that at all," Liam assured him.  "I mean, that it was because of me.  I'm not in love with you, I promise.  I love you because you're my friend, that's all.  That's okay, right?"

 

"Yeah, that's definitely okay," Colin managed a smile.

 

"Were you dreaming about Sonia Purvis again?" Liam asked.

 

"Yeah," Colin's smile widened.  "I've liked her forever.  She's so nice and pretty."

 

"You should ask her out," Liam nodded confidently.  "You're a whole lot better than Patrick."

 

Colin shook his head adamantly.  "No way, man.  Patrick is bigger than me.  He could kick my ass."

 

"Well, don't worry.  Patrick is a prick," Liam shared.  "She'll probably break up with him soon.  Then you can make your move."

 

They settled into comfortable company once again, even more than before, with Colin opening up to Liam bit by bit.  And Liam spent his extra energy running around inside, instead of venturing into dangerous territory outside.  They ate, they drank, they talked, and they ate some more.  Then finally they slept again, secure against one another.

 

 

 

 

Loud voices filled the room, bringing Liam to consciousness, alarmed.  The voices sounded anything but calm.  Everyone else was standing and arguing over something, until Liam spoke, and they all stared at him with frightened expressions.  "What's going on?"

 

"Liam, I'm really sorry," Trey, the oldest, began.  "It's all my fault."

 

Liam got to his feet.  "What's all your fault?"  No one spoke as he took roll call in his head, seeing Trey, Toran, Colin, and Kip.  "Where's Matthew?"

 

"Gage's gang took him," said Trey, wilting with guilt.

 

Liam immediately went into panic mode.  "How could you let that happen?!  They're gonna hurt him!  We have to go after him!"  He bolted down the cave in a fury, unwilling to waste any time.

 

"Liam!"  The others shot after him, Kip catching up to him first before he reached the exit.

 

"Let me go!  I have to go find Matthew!" Liam shouted.

 

"Calm down!" Kip ordered.  "We'll get him, but we have to devise a plan first.  If you go charging in unprepared, you'll be captured again."

 

Liam was already dissolving into tears, succumbing to Kip's embrace.  "Please don't let him get hurt," he sobbed.

 

"Come on, pal, let's eat something and prepare for battle."

 

After an agonizing wait while they ate to gain strength, made detailed plans, and discussed those plans to exhausting limits, they exited the cave.  All were covered in vine-leaf garments made by Kip, in order to better blend in to nature.  Trey led the way toward the place where they had rescued Liam, hoping the gang wouldn't be too far from that spot.  The rest of the group huddled behind Trey, intent on not allowing another abduction.

 

"Liam," Kip whispered as they crept along.  "I really need to apologize to you.  I'm sorry for what I did, back at my shelter the other morning.  I'm so ashamed of myself.  Being lonely was not a good excuse to pressure you like that."

 

Liam frowned.  "Do we have to talk about this now?"

 

"Yes," Kip insisted.  "My behavior was unacceptable.  I needed you to know that, and I hope you can forgive me."

 

A pregnant pause occurred between them while Liam considered Kip's words.  "You were my first kiss," he whispered at last.  "I liked that part.  But I know in my mind how I want my, you know, my first time to be.  I want it to be with somebody that I love."

 

"I understand," Kip replied.  "I should've been a friend to you, instead of treating you like an object for my sexual gratification.  Again, I'm truly sorry."

 

"I forgive you," Liam said tenderly.  "We can still be friends."

 

There was a collective sigh of relief, since the others couldn't help overhearing their conversation.  The silence that followed made Toran's scream all the more terrifying, and half a second later, he wasn't walking with the others anymore.  Trey went into a panic, seeing the hole in the ground that had been expertly covered, at least until Toran fell in it.

 

"Toran!" Trey yelled, crawling on his belly to the edge of the hole.  "Toraaaan!"

 

"Trey!" came Toran's distant reply.

 

"Toran!  Are you okay?!"

 

"I hurt my leg!  Get me out of here!"

 

"One of Gage's traps," Kip muttered.  "Can you see him, Trey?"

 

"No, it's too deep."  Trey was on the verge of hyperventilating.

 

"Breathe, Trey," said Kip.  "We'll get him out."  He paused to come up with a plan.

 

Liam was now torn between worrying for Toran and being anxious to rescue Matthew.  "What're we gonna do?" he asked in a small voice.

 

"We have to split up," Kip sighed.  "We have to get to Matthew as soon as possible.  Trey, you think you and Liam can devise a way to get Toran out, while Colin and I find Matthew?"

 

Trey nodded, but Liam vehemently opposed.  "No!  Let me go with you, Kip.  I need to save Matthew!"

 

Kip placed a patient hand on Liam's shoulder.  "No offense, Liam, but Colin and I are stronger and faster.  Trey needs you here.  When you get Toran out and back to the shelter, then you and Trey can come after us."

 

Liam growled and started to protest more, but Colin interrupted him.  "Li, don't worry.  We'll get him.  And don't go off alone, ya got that?"  Colin even went so far as to hug Liam, which was just what was needed to calm him.

 

"Okay," Liam conceded.  "Please don't let him be hurt."  He turned to Trey when the others moved on, seeing he was anxious about his brother.  "So what do we do?"

 

Trey gazed into the dark hole, rubbing his temples and shaking his head slightly.  "I don't know.  We don't even know how deep this is."

 

"We need a rope," Liam mused.  "How strong are these vines?" he indicated the ones they were wearing.

 

Trey shrugged.  "Dunno, but we can give it a try."  He jerked his head toward a large tree.  "Let's take as much as we can off of here.  I'll tie knots in `em."

 

Liam set to work, while Trey hollered down to his brother to "hang tight".  From the nearest tree, they began unraveling a thick vine wrapped around the trunk and disappearing up into the branches.  Trey growled in frustration.  "It's not going to come loose!"  He was tugging hard at it, grunting and muttering under his breath.

 

"It's okay!" said Liam.  "That means it won't break when we pull Toran up, and maybe this is long enough to reach him.  Let's put it in the hole and see if it reaches him."  And they dragged the unraveled vine and fed it into the hole, about twenty feet of it.

 

"Toran!  There's a vine coming down!  Can you reach it?!" Trey yelled.

 

"I think I see it, but it needs to come down more!" Toran yelled back.

 

Liam sighed.  That was the farthest the vine was going to unravel.  "Want me to try to climb the tree and get more?" he offered.

 

Trey shook his head.  "Give me the vines you're wearing," he said, tearing off his own vine-clothes.  He tied it to the thicker vine with expert knots that impressed Liam.

 

"Wow, where'd you learn to do that?"

 

"My grandpa taught me how, before he died," Trey said softly.  Once again he fed the vine into the darkness, until he heard Toran shout.

 

"Got it!"  Toran tugged on the rope heavily.  "Pull!"

 

"Don't let go!" Trey yelled, then instructed Liam.  "Get behind me and pull.  Pull as hard as you can."

 

They began, and Liam had never worked so hard at something.  Even with Trey's strength, he struggled to breathe as he used every muscle possible to rescue Toran, who wasn't as light as he looked.  His hands began to blister only halfway through, and his body ached something awful.  Nevertheless, he persisted until tears clouded his vision, and even then he kept going.

 

"Toran!" Trey finally gasped, and let go of the vine.  Liam stumbled backward, while Trey dashed to the edge of the hole and hauled Toran out completely.  The brothers lay on the ground, hugging and kissing each other with great relief.  Liam collapsed against the tree, wanting to never move again.

 

"My leg's hurt, Trey," Toran whined.

 

Trey ceased his embrace to examine Toran's leg and foot.  "I don't think it's broken, but that's a nasty swelling.  You can ride on my back to the shelter."

 

Toran smiled.  "You haven't carried me piggyback in a long time."

 

They kissed again tenderly, and Liam looked on with a soft smile, and a little bit of envy.  But soon they felt rested enough to make the journey back to the cave.  Fortunately, they had not gotten too far from it, and they were soon resting comfortably on the grass, except for Trey, who catered to Toran by getting him juice and making a pile of rocks on which Toran could elevate his foot.  Liam remembered the misery of when he had hurt his ankle.  It was almost funny to think it had actually been Kip they had tripped over.

 

"Trey, you need to go help the others," Toran finally told his brother.  "Quit fussing over me and go."

 

Trey frowned.  "I'm just making sure you're taken care of.  You sure you'll be okay?"

 

"Yes, for Pete's sake," Toran sighed.  "They still don't know about this cave, so I'm perfectly safe.  Go, already."

 

"Fine," Trey resigned.  He kissed Toran once more before leading Liam out again.  They left naked this time, having left their vine coverings at the hole, tied to the vine on the tree.  They were also more vigilant about watching for traps.

 

"I hope Toran will be okay," Liam offered.  "It's obvious you love him, from the way you treat him.  I wish my brother was like that."

 

"Patrick?" Trey asked.

 

Liam lifted his eyebrows in surprise.  "How did you know?"

 

An amused smile played on Trey's lips.  "You talk in your sleep."

 

"Dang, I gotta stop doing that," Liam muttered.  "That's embarrassing."

 

"His loss," said Trey.  "He's missing out on a great brother."

 

Liam smiled slightly.  "Thanks."  He felt the need to change the subject.  "What would Gage do, if he knew where your shelter was?"

 

"Raid it probably.  Try to make us slaves again.  It's a good shelter, he'd probably take it over."

 

"But why didn't he do that to Kip?" Liam asked.

 

"Why didn't he do what?"

 

"He knows where Kip's shelter is, because that's where he kidnapped me.  Why hasn't he done the same to Kip and made him a slave?"

 

Trey was quiet for a long moment, and when he spoke, it was in a low voice, as if afraid of being overheard.  "Kip doesn't like to talk about it, but him and Gage were lovers once."

 

Liam gasped.  "No way!  What happened?"

 

"This place, I guess.  Something changed Gage, and he became mean and power-hungry.  But he still doesn't bother Kip.  Maybe he still cares, who knows.  But Kip had to get away."

 

"That's so sad," Liam frowned.

 

"You're just a hopeless romantic," Trey grinned.

 

"I believe in true love," said Liam defensively.  "If Gage was nice before, then there oughta be a way to make him nice again."

 

"I doubt it," Trey said bluntly.  "As long as we're here, I don't see anything changing.  And there's no way out of here, so that's that."

 

"I don't accept that," Liam scowled.  "I came to find Colin.  Now that I've found him, and once we get Matthew back, I'm finding a way home.  I miss my family."

 

Trey didn't respond, but Liam didn't need him to.  He was resolute in his mission to get home.  They continued on in silence, the late afternoon sun falling on their bare backs.  When the terrain became steep, Liam bristled, for he suddenly remembered being dragged up and down steep hills when he was kidnapped, just before they had reached their destination.  He was just about to mention this bit of information, when they reached the peak of a steep incline.  Instead, he gasped and drew closer to Trey, who instinctively circled a protective arm around Liam's waist.  Before them stood a gathering of boys, waiting for the pair, consisting of Gage's gang, as well as Liam and Trey's friends.

 

"It's about damn time," Gage leered.

 

"Pussy boys alert," another boy growled.

 

"Shut it, Killer," Gage ordered.

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Suddenly Matthew broke through the gang's barrier and ran to Liam.  "Matthew!" Liam cried with great relief.  They hugged fiercely, then Liam immediately began checking Matthew over for damage.  "Are you hurt?  Did they hurt you?  I swear to God, if they did-"

 

"I'm okay!" Matthew promised.

 

Kip approached them casually, interrupting the conversation.  "They only took Matthew to lure you back," he told Liam.  "It's you they want."

 

"Well, you can't have me, Gage!" Liam yelled at the leader.  "You can't have any of us!"

 

Gage sneered as he came closer.  "Au contraire.  Boys!"  At his command, his six followers surrounded Liam and his friends, shoving Colin in the circle, as well, who immediately turned and prepared to fight.  Liam and Trey did the same.

 

"Gage," Kip said calmly, making the leader pause.  "Don't start a fight.  No one needs to get hurt.  Let `em go and take me, instead."

 

"You're bluffing," Gage scoffed.

 

Kip shook his head slowly.  "I'm not.  I'll stay and do as you please, if you'll let all four of them go."  To seal the deal, he stepped up to Gage and stretched his neck, kissing Gage on the mouth.  Liam could tell Gage was shocked, and then pleased.

 

"Step aside, boys," Gage ordered.

 

"You've gotta be kidding, Boss!" Killer challenged.

 

Gage's eyes burned a hole in the younger boy.  "You just earned yourself a whipping," he growled.  Killer moved aside with the rest, hanging his head.  "You better go, while you have the chance," Gage said, looking at Liam.

 

Liam wasted not a second more.  He took Matthew's hand in his, then Colin's hand in his other, and led them away, with Trey leading the way.  Liam looked back to see Kip and Gage kissing like mad, and he wondered if Kip had stayed for his friends' benefit or his own.  Either way, it made Liam sad.  But he now had whom he'd come for, and that was all he could manage just then.

 

The four barely talked during their journey, they were so exhausted and drained of emotional energy.  Liam held fast to the hands of both his friends, afraid of losing them again, but neither seemed to mind.  Not far from the shelter, they stopped to answer nature's call, and only then did Liam release his hold on the others.  But just when he finished relieving himself, he caught sight of movement to the east, the direction from which they had just come.

 

"Did you see that?" he asked Colin.  They both peered through the trees, until suddenly they clearly saw two of Gage's boys advancing upon them.  Then almost immediately, two more appeared about ten feet to the side of the first two.

 

"They followed us!" Trey cried in alarm.

 

Liam made a quick decision, unsure whether it was the best one.  "Trey, go to Toran, he needs you.  We'll lead them to the pool, so they don't find your shelter."  He secured his two friends' hands in his own again.  "Run!"

 

And run they did, Trey in one direction, the others in another.  "Come get us, motherfuckers!" Colin screamed, much to the shock of the other two.  Nonetheless, they didn't slow down, as it seemed the whole gang was following the trio.  Liam began hollering out instructions.

 

"When we get to the pool, jump in!  Maybe we can-"  The rest of his words were lost, as the ground gave way, and they all tumbled into a deep, dark hole.  The pain of landing was magnanimous for Liam, but brief.  He was unconscious a second later.

 

 

 

 

It seemed only a moment later that Liam opened his eyes, only he was in a completely different place than he expected.  Everything was white and blinding, and almost immediately he shut his eyes again.  Another second later, which was actually several hours, he joined the world of the conscious once more.  Someone was holding his hand, and he could see a dark shape against the bright light.  He tried to speak, but nothing would come out.

 

"Hold on, honey, I'll get you some water.  Jacob!  Jacob, wake up!  Liam's awake!"  Liam recognized his mother's voice, and his mother's touch, as she lifted his head gently to give him water.

 

"Mom," he managed.  He couldn't move, and he was confused, but more than anything, he was so happy to be with his mom again.

 

"Oh, Liam," Jenny gushed, and she kissed his forehead.  "I'm here, baby.  You're going to be all right."

 

Liam opened his eyes a little more, and he saw his dad flank his other side.  "We missed you, buddy," said Jacob, and he, too, kissed his son.

 

Liam began to cry, overwhelmed with emotion.  "I'm so happy to see you," he mumbled.

 

Jenny dabbed his tears away, urging him to settle down.  "You're hurt, you need to rest."

 

"I love you," he said, at least he thought he did.  He couldn't help but close his eyes again, feeling nauseated.  The medication in his system caused him to sleep even more.

 

The next time he became aware of reality, his mind was much clearer.  With considerable difficulty, he sat up, realizing he was in a hospital bed.  He spotted his mom on a cot nearby, snoozing.  Again he experienced a wave of emotion, a tremendous feeling of relief upon seeing her.

 

"Hey," a voice to his left whispered.  He turned and lit up, seeing his beloved Patrick sitting by his side.  Patrick held a finger to his lips, so Liam didn't wake their mom.  "You little turd.  You had us all worried."

 

"What happened?" Liam whispered.  "How did I get here?"

 

"We dragged your butt out of a hole, that's what happened.  All three of you.  We can't believe any of you survived."

 

Liam gasped.  "Matthew!  Oh my gosh, is he okay?  Did you find Colin?  Is he alive?  Please say he's alive!"

 

This time, Patrick put his finger on Liam's lips to shush him.  "They're fine.  They're in the hospital, too.  We're in Anacortes.  Colin went a whole week without food or water, but he's okay.  And all three of you have broken bones."

 

Liam turned down the bed sheet to find he was in only a gown.  He pulled it up, seeing he was naked, except for wraps around his ribs and a cast on his right arm and right leg, none of which he'd noticed until that moment.  "Noooo," he whined.  "Not again.  I don't wanna be an invalid!"

 

The door opened, and William quietly entered, smiling when he saw his brother awake and sitting up.  He pushed Patrick aside and ruffled Liam's hair.  "Boy, I'm glad to see you awake and alive.  Don't need to see all of you, though."

 

Liam giggled and covered himself.  "William, are you going to take care of me?  I'm sorry I went and hurt myself again."

 

William shrugged.  "No biggie.  I bet Colin's glad you did, `cause we probably wouldn't have found him, if you hadn't fallen in that hole, too."

 

"Can I see Colin and Matthew?"

 

"Maybe tomorrow," said William.  "It's after midnight.  You should probably sleep a little more, if you can.  Now that you're awake, you'll probably go home tomorrow.  That's good for Mom, too.  She's barely left the room this whole time."

 

"How long have we been here?"

 

"A few days," William answered.  "We found you on Monday, and now it's Thursday."

 

"Friday," Patrick corrected.

 

William rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, technically, it's Friday morning."  He ruffled Liam's hair once more.  "We'll see you tomorrow, okay?  And for God's sake, don't go falling in any holes in the meantime."

 

His brothers left, and Liam was left with his snoring mother.  He lay back with a sigh of relief, thanking God he was home, and that Matthew and Colin were okay, too.  He didn't believe he would sleep the whole night, but he surprised himself.  The next thing he knew, a nurse was at his bedside, checking his vitals.

 

"Welcome back!" she said jovially.  "We're all glad to see you!"

 

Liam smiled and sat up with a grunt.  Both his parents were in the room, and his mom immediately greeted him with another kiss.  "Do I get to go home, now?"

 

"You sure do, darlin'," said the nurse, who had a nametag labeled "Becky".  "I'm gonna let your dad get you in some clothes, then you'll be on your way."

 

Jacob dressed him in a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, but no underwear, because of the cast.  Socks and shoes finished the ensemble in no time, but time seemed to drag after that.  He began to think he would never get home, until they started wheeling him out the door.  But suddenly he gasped, alarming his parents.

 

"Wait!  What about Colin?!  He can't go home!  We can't let his dad take him!"

 

Jacob put a calming hand on Liam's shoulder.  "It's all taken care of, Liam.  Relax.  Colin and Matthew have both gone home with Charles and Linda.  Colin's gonna stay there, at least for a while."

 

"Thank goodness," Liam breathed.

 

All the way home, even on the ferry, he remained in a wheelchair.  He was never so glad to see his home, when they finally arrived.  It felt like years since he'd been there.  As soon as they entered the house, Jenny began making "real" food for her son, which he was looking forward to after a nasty hospital breakfast.

 

"We're setting you up in the den," said his father, wheeling him to the back of the house.  "That way, we'll be near if you need something during the night.  And your brothers have volunteered to help take care of you, too."

 

"Both of them?" Liam asked.  "Did they really volunteer, or did you bribe them?"

 

"Yes, both of them," Jacob drawled.  "And I didn't have to bribe them.  They do love you, you know."

 

Liam had a TV in the den, where he was laid out on the fold-out sofa bed.  His game system had also been set up there, and several of his books were brought downstairs, as well.  He was informed his schoolwork would be brought to him every day, so he wouldn't have to go anywhere until he was fully healed.  That would have suited him fine, except that meant he wouldn't see Matthew or Colin.  And his and Matthew's parents had to order new phones for them, since theirs had been destroyed, so they would be a few days without texts.

 

"I'll take you to see your friends either tomorrow or Sunday," Jacob promised.  "I have work to catch up on, though, so I'll see you soon."  Jacob bent down and kissed his son's forehead, and Liam beamed like the sun.

 

"I love you, Dad."  He wanted to say it before anything else happened that might prevent him from doing so.

 

"Love you, too, son.  More than anything in this world."

 

Liam waited until his dad was out of sight to allow his tears to flow.  Hearing those words meant the world to him.  Perhaps he was propelled by emotional overload from returning home to his family, as well as knowing Colin had been found and was safe, but that first night at home seemed the perfect opportunity to be candid with his brother, too.  William offered to go first on bathing Liam, even though Liam insisted he could do it himself.  But Jenny vetoed his pleas, with the explanation that it had to be done carefully, so he didn't ruin his casts.  It wasn't that he didn't want to be bathed, but he didn't want to be embarrassed and/or humiliated if and when he became aroused.

 

William set up a fold out plastic table right there in the den, covered it with towels, and assisted Liam in climbing on it, after undressing him.  With a bowl of soapy water and a sponge, he began at Liam's feet.  He was barely above Liam's knee when the twelve year old boned up.

 

"Ohh, man," Liam whimpered.  "Please don't hate me."

 

William frowned.  "Don't be ridiculous.  Why would I hate you?  You're a boy, it happens."

 

"Patrick hates me," Liam pouted.

 

William clicked his tongue in disbelief.  "No, he doesn't."

 

"I think he does.  He didn't talk to me, until I was in the hospital."

 

"Well, whatever happened between you two, he seems to have gotten over it," said William, lifting Liam's balls to wash underneath.  Liam shuddered from the sensations.

 

"I have to tell you something.  I can't keep it a secret any longer.  It's why Patrick hates me."  His voice trailed off, as William casually washed his erect shaft.

 

"I'm listening."

 

"I'm gay."  His body heated instantaneously, and he avoided William's gaze, drawing a breath broken by fear.

 

"Wow, really?" said William, with genuine surprise.  "Gosh, I had no idea.  But, you know..."  He paused for a moment, trying to orchestrate his words carefully.  "I mean, it's cool.  If I'd have known, I wouldn't have been so..."

 

"Insensitive?" Liam finished.

 

"Yeah," William murmured.  "Sorry about that.  I don't hate you."

 

"But do you still love me?" Liam asked hopefully.

 

William laughed.  "Yeah, Li, of course I do.  You're still my brother."

 

Liam's body literally sagged with relief.  "Ohmygosh, you're the best, Will.  I didn't mean for Patrick to find out, but he did, and he got mad and stopped talking to me."

 

William frowned deeply.  "Seriously?  Oh my god, if he's mad at you for that, he's a damn hypocrite.  Pardon my French."

 

"Why?!" Liam was interested to know.

 

"Hang on.  I'll be right back.  Cover that thing with a towel."  William stormed out of the room, and Liam placed a heavy towel over his crotch.  When William returned, he looked upset, but determined.  He had Patrick with him.  He resumed washing Liam, while Patrick watched with confusion.

 

"So what do you want, Will?" Patrick demanded.

 

"Guess what Liam just told me?" said William.  "He says he's gay."  He looked sharply at Patrick, who immediately scowled and crossed his arms over his chest.

 

"So?" muttered Patrick.

 

"Is that why you've been a dick to him?" William asked, getting angrier.

 

"You didn't see what he was doing!" Patrick insisted.  "He was...pleasuring himself, like, up the butt."  He grew crimson in the face.

 

"So?" William countered.  "That's worse than the time I caught you and Aaron making out and jerking each other off when you were thirteen?"

 

Patrick trembled so violently, and his skin turned so purple, Liam thought he would literally explode.  "I HATE YOU!" Patrick screamed, and ran out of the room.

 

"I have a feeling he won't be talking to me for a while, now," muttered William.