Cage of Lies

Part 7 - End

- - -

Jake couldn't remember when he woke up, only that the sound of rushing water passed his ears like group of speeding motorcyclists that never seemed to stop. He felt cold, his limbs hard and useless, and the occasional inability to breathe was only a minor concern for the teen that was so close to death. He knew his life was over. He was not even afraid to admit that to himself. He found himself occasionally saying silent goodbyes to his new family, Max, his mom and sister, even the teachers he thought he detested. He could hear a far off voice, and wasn't sure if it was in his head, or someone was really there. When he could feel nothing at all: No pain from thought, no comfort from past words said, he finally let go, losing consciousness.

- - -

Connie Wright was on a camping trip with her husband Vincent Wright. Nothing was going right for the two of them. Their camp was raided by bears because they smelled the food locked in their coolers, they ran out of gas while trying to find their camping site on a vague map, and both were growing tired of waiting for a rescue team to find them when they had called two days prior.

They did know one thing: That if one walked up the river you would eventually hit the street and a mile after that you would find a town. They started their two day hike on Wednesday morning at around five in the morning. It was now Friday at two in the afternoon, and both were feeling extremely dismayed. They knew they were closer than they were before, but how close they weren't exactly sure.

Connie was the first to spot a bundle of something down below at the shore of the river. Vincent told her to ignore it, that it was just a bunch of trash, but she was not sure, and her curiosity was winning her over. She ignored him, skidding down the ledge and walking to it, fumbling through it before she gasped and stared up at her husband with wild eyes.

"Hurry! It's a boy!"

"A boy?" he gawked, rushing down as well, and checking, meeting her gaze, "It's the boy from the news! Quick, try calling the patrol on the radio!"

As soon as they said that they found a unconscious boy by the river, the ranger came to his senses. Before they were thinking it was just a husband and wife's spat and did not take them seriously, but now that they mentioned a possibility of being the missing teen on the Amber Alert, and his life was in danger they took immediate action.

They showed up not even thirty minutes later, lifting them out of the woods on a helicopter, both annoying Connie greatly that they were so quick now, but ignored it hoping the boy was going to be fine. They were told that they needed to get his blood flowing normally, get him hydrated and some substance in his stomach before they could remotely check and see if he was alright, everything that they had to do at the hospital.

It was a thirty minute ride, and once they arrived, the couple was sent to the waiting room both knowing there was nothing they could do, but wanting to make sure he was alright before they left. As a doctor tended him, one of the nurses called the hotline, getting in touch with the detective. He informed him that there were more injuries that they did not know of, but first had to ensure he would live. The detective pleaded for them to do all they could while he called his mother.

- - -

Janet Willis nearly dropped the phone when the detective told her that Jake was safe. She grabbed her purse, driving as fast as she could to the school, picked up Grant and Max, telling Max to call his mom on the way to the airport. Jake was half of the country away, something she didn't expect, but kept to herself. The detective told her to meet him at the airport and they'd fly over immediately.

It was a short plane ride, but it seemed like forever. Max did not move an inch, staring at the seat in front of him. Grant on the other hand squirmed in his seat, crossing and uncrossing his arms every few minutes. They weren't exactly sure if his condition, only that he was currently undergoing a surgery to align the bones in his arm and leg saying they were crushed.

By the time they arrived at the hospital, Jake was in a room, fast asleep but looking worse for wear. They did not say much, what really was there to say? They just sat in chairs and awaited him to wake up. Though, when the time came that Jake did wake up, Max was the only one conscious. He felt his hand being lightly squeezed, and looked over to the teen in bed, lightly smiling as he looked at him with an almost clouded gaze.

"Max?" he whispered, the dual color haired boy nodding his head and scooting closer. "Am I dreaming?"

"No, I'm here," he smiled wider, the younger teen sitting up slightly and reaching out with his one good arm. The older got the hint and leaned forward holding him, allowing him to nuzzle against his chest, "How do you feel?"

"Better. I missed you."

"I meant your arm and leg," he chuckled, not letting him go as he clung to the back of his shirt.

"They're numb," he pulled back and stared up at him, his eyes watery. Max frowned, reaching up and wiping his cheek as a tear fell. "I thought I was going to die. The only thing that I felt I regretted was never seeing you again..."

"Jake..."

"That's love right? I asked you what it was... You were worried about me, right? You missed me?"

"Jake," Max rubbed his cheek lightly, "I don't know if this is the right time to be talking about this," he glanced over to the sleeping Grant and Janet.

"Oh," he nodded, sitting back but scooting over so he could sit next to him. "I want to go home with you," he whispered.

Max shook his head, "Maybe someday, but right now you need to be with your family."

"Why not now? I don't take up much room. I'll sleep in the closet if I have to-!"

"Jake," he shook his head, "It's not about the space. It's about what is good for you." He let out a sigh as Jake stared up at him with confused, almost hurt eyes. "Look, I'm the first you've had feelings for, right?"

"Other than Albert," he nodded.

"There are a ton of people out there. I don't want to tie you down to me like he did. Things in life happen, and if your feelings for me fade and you grow new ones for someone else I don't want you to feel conflicted."

"I won't. I like you. I want you-"

"Jake, before I knew you I was one-hundred percent certain that I was straight. You are the first guy I've looked at and thought 'He's cute' or anything remotely close to that."

Jake smiled, "You think I'm cute?"

"That's beside the point. I want us to be certain of our feelings, and I want you to experience the family you should have been with."

Jake was silent, but nodded his head, looking down sadly. He knew he was right, but also he could not feel it was the right choice. He wanted to go home with him and see Emily and Sophie. It was selfish, so he kept his mouth shut on the matter.

- - -

A week passed since Jake was finally sent home. A tutor from the school was hired to come to his house and home school him for a while while he healed up, and he was required to go to a psychiatrist twice a week to talk about what happened. Instead, Jake didn't talk much about it at all, more talk about how he was confused. He would never say who he had feelings for, or even his gender, but it was the only thing he would speak about.

Grant took to visiting Jake in his room often, and would talk to him further about Max after admitting that he was awake the whole time they spoke on the bed. He admitted that he had mixed feelings about them being together since Max was his best friend since middle school, and Jake was his brother. The younger of the siblings found out that Max had moved to their school district a year after Jake was taken, and a year still after that they had become friends.

Max was seemingly the only topic that Jake ever wanted to talk about, but to Grant it was at least something. He was smiling and talking more, something that he had to be thankful for, especially under the circumstances. Max had to take more hours for work to cover some expenses at home, leaving the two next to no time together.

Janet Willis was having her own internal battle. She knew she should tell Jake of her cancer, and the possibility of her not being able to live for very long, but she also did not want to hurt him with the news either. He was just starting to make progress, if she told him would he continue to do so? It was a battle she knew she had to face eventually, and finally took to doing so while asking for Grant's help.

"Jake, I need to talk to you about something," she started, sitting down at the foot of his bed, "Do you know what cancer is?" He was hesitant, but nodded, staring at her with curious eyes. "You know that sometimes it just comes, and even though we fight we sometimes lose?"

"I know. Albert's father died of lung cancer even though he fought hard."

"Well, I have a malignant tumor in my brain. It's called Glioblastoma Multiforme. The day we found out you were my son I had also found out that I had it."

Jake was blank, staring at her, his eyes shifting to Grant, who hugged his arms to himself, struggling hard with the emotions going on in his own body. "You can fight it, right?"

She was quiet for a moment, before she nodded, "I'm going to try, but my type doesn't typically live for more than a year or so..." she trailed off, noticing the look on his face drastically change.

His brows furrowed as he looked down to his blankets, his shoulders quivering slightly. She wanted to say something, but how could she? Was he mad? Sad? She wasn't sure. Grant walked over, putting a hand on his shoulder and squatted down.

"In... the event it does happen, you and Grant will be living together."

"What about...dad?" Jake asked, nearly at a whisper.

"Dad hasn't exactly been around. Not for a long time. We didn't want to say anything about it, but he doesn't exactly do anything other than call and send money. Must have been weird to only hear about him, right?" Jake gave a single nod, looking back down, his head lowering.

"Can I see Max?" he whispered, Grant looking over to their mother, who cringed and nodded her head very slightly.

"Yeah, we'll go see him when he's off work, okay?"

Jake gave a nod, laying back and staring at the ceiling. Grant stood, taking his mother's hand and leading her out of the room, where she collapsed, covering her face in the living room. "Mom?" Grant asked, leaning down and taking her shoulders, staring at her with wide eyes.

"I should have sent him to live with Emily," she stated through soft sobs, "She offered, but I thought this was what was best for him..."

"Mom, you can't think like that. This situation... It's hard, but there's no right or wrong way we could have done this. We have to focus on you, you can't blame yourself-"

"Get me the phone please," she asked, lowering her hands.

"What?"

"Get me the phone."

He hesitated, then nodded, walking over to the phone and getting it. She dialed a number, waited, then sighed, "Hi Emily, it's Janet."

"What are you doing?" Grant asked, his eyes widening.

"Is the option of Jake staying with you still there? I'll pay for him, of course."

"Is everything alright, Janet?" Emily asked.

"We are just having a hard time with him. He wants Max more than anyone else. I think it would be best if he stayed with him."

"Well, you know the offer still stands. But are you alright? You do not sound too good."

"I'll explain everything when we drop him off. Is tomorrow okay?"

"Yeah, of course."

"I really appreciate this," she hung up, and looked to Grant, who stared at her, his brows furrowed in disbelief. "It's for his own good."

"Jake's gay mom. If he's in the same house as Max they might-"

"You think I do not know that? I see the way they look at each other. He asks for him, no one else. He trusts no one else. I thought maybe if I kept him here he'd learn to rely on someone else, that was why I declined Emily's offer at first. Then I learned it was not going to be so easy. Even if I told him not to go to Max, he'd still go. It didn't matter what I did. It's true he appreciates us in his own way, his reaction to my illness was proof of that, but the fact that he asked to go to Max in the end only proves that it won't change."

"What if something goes wrong? Max is my best friend, but-"

"Then you will be there for your brother. Right?"

"But mom-"

"It's what is best for him right now. That's all I can ask. Please respect my decision."

Grant stayed put even after his mother had gotten up and left him. He didn't understand, and felt like he couldn't. They were flesh and blood, and Jake hadn't been with them for that long, how could she just up and give up on him like that? He was silent on the matter, and kept quiet even during dinner. It wasn't until the next day, when his mother was getting his things packed that he finally voiced up.

"How do you know it's what is best for him? Emily is having finance problems right now, right? Max has to work more because of it. Is this really what is best for him, for them?"

"Grant," she roughly put a shirt down in the suitcase she was in front of before she sighed and looked to him, "Do you think this is easy for me? I just got my child back. I am having a hard time knowing that he would be better in their hands than my own. Can you please just support me right now instead of trying to change my mind?"

He was taken aback, and simply nodded, taking the other suitcase that held his books, school things, and other random ideas bringing it to the car. He paused in the living room, looking to the couch that Jake was laying on and bit his lip, "Are you happy to be going to live with Max?" he asked from the doorway.

The younger brother paused, looking from his book to him, and tilted his head to the side, "You do not want me to go?"

"It doesn't matter what I think, or what I want. What do you want?"

"I want to be out of the way."

"Huh?"

"Mom's sick. I get that. And having me here is a bother to her whether you or her want to admit it. You've gone your whole life knowing about me, but never really knowing if I'd ever show up again, or even if I was still alive. Now, here I am. Sure I thought of you as a friend before, but can you honestly think of me as a brother at this point?"

Grant had never thought of it that way. The moment he was told that Jake was his brother he had instantly taken to him. Not because he felt that he was related, but because he felt it was the right thing to do. Now that he looked at it, Jake was nothing more to him (relationship wise) than his best friend's love interest.

Jake weakly smiled and looked down at the cover of his book, "I may not be very well educated when it comes to things like this, but I have learned how to read peoples emotions pretty well. I don't want to hurt you or mom, but I know me being here has been rough. I've tried to stay out of the way, but..." he shook his head, "Things aren't working out like I want them to."

"And I don't want you to blame yourself for that either." Grant and Jake looked up, Janet walking into the room carrying his other suit case, "Your stuff is all packed, Jake. Are you ready?"

"Yeah, I am really sorry about this-"

"Don't apologize," she held up her hand, "You have nothing to be sorry for."

- - -

A year had passed all too quickly since Jake had entered the Dawson household. It took half a year for Emily to legally adopt Jake, and although she refused on several occasions, Janet continued to sent her money payments to help pay for their finance troubles up until the eighth month of him living with them. Her death happened suddenly, much more sudden than even the doctors expected. She told Grant she was going to take a nap, that she was feeling ill on a Saturday afternoon. He was worried, but let her go on her own, only finding she had passed in her sleep when he found her hours later. It was hard, but since Grant was eighteen he was able to go on his own, paying for an apartment near the school with the money he got from her, the money had from selling the house (with Emily's help), and his part time job at a sports store down the street. He would, however, come over to the Dawson house every few days for dinner and sometimes would stay the night.

Jake and Max shared a room, having two twin beds on both sides of the room, though occasionally (after he had gotten his cast off his leg and was able to fully walk again) Jake would sneak into Max's bed and sleep curled up next to him. He never once forced himself on the older, but kept his thoughts to himself, feeling a bit lonely since he could not do what he wanted. He knew now he loved him, but because the older of the two did not say it, he did not dare voice out first.

It was a week before Max's eighteenth birthday, and the idea of him becoming legally a adult scared Jake to death. Would he move out and leave him? Just the idea was enough to scare him. He laid in his bed, staring at the wall across the room, awaiting the other to return home, deciding that he would finally tell him he loved him, and that he was sure of it.

He watched as Max entered the room tearing his jacket off and flopping on his own bed, letting out a sigh that told the younger that he didn't exactly have a good day at work. Was that a sign that he should just keep quiet? He wasn't sure. He watched him for a moment, before sitting up and sitting cross legged, facing him, "Was work bad?"

"Nah, my boss just had me unload a bunch of stock. There's this new line of beer that he had me carry around, and for some reason I think it's made with bricks. It's heavy," he laughed, rolling to his side and facing him, "You okay? Mom didn't harass you about a job again, did she?"

"N-no," he stuttered, looking down and fiddling with his hands in his lap, "I just... wanted to talk to you about something."

"Oh?" he sat up, leaning forward slightly, "Whats up?"

Should he just blurt it out? He thought for a moment, before shaking his head, making the other peer at him curiously, not wanting to say anything, but also wondering what internal battle he was having with himself.

"I..." he huffed, slowly allowing his eyes to meet his, then faltered to the ground once again, "Remember when you told me I had to be sure I loved someone before I told them?"

Max froze, nodding very slightly, suddenly scared. Was Jake about to tell him that he was in love with someone else? The fact that he said 'someone' instead of Max frightened him, but he kept silent, looking to him curiously, trying hard not to show the fear he was feeling.

"I am sure now. I'm just scared if I tell them they will dislike me."

"If they dislike you for you loving them then they aren't worth your time."

"But they are worth my time... I just... am scared," he nodded.

"Just tell them. You should never be afraid to tell someone you love them. If anything, they should be honored."

The conversation was getting scarier and scarier by the syllable. When did Jake fall in love with someone else? And who was it? He didn't want to know, but also, he did. He kept calm, watching as the teen he loved squirmed and looked down, his brows furrowed.

"I love... you."

"Huh?" he blinked twice, watching as he flinched.

"I love you, Max."

"Oh thank god," he nearly fell over, letting out a breath he had not realized he was holding, running a hand through his hair, "You scared me to death."

"What? Was it wrong to say it?"

"No!" he stood and walked over, getting to his knees and pulling him into a hug, "No, no, no. I'm so happy you said it. Just the talk before... I was scared you loved someone else."

Jake scrunched his nose slightly, shaking his head, "No, I care about others, but you are the only one I know I love," he smiled lightly, looking down as Max leaned his head against his chest.

"I love you too. I think I always have. I just didn't want to confuse you," he nodded, and looked up. They stared at each other for a moment, before Max leaned up, bringing their lips together.

Their kiss started out tender, sweet, almost innocent. Neither of them had kissed anyone in a year at the least, but the longer they sat there, the more anxious both grew. Max moved up, laying over Jake, careful to use his knees to keep him hoisted above him so not to put his weight on him. Tongues pressed and grazed against each other as Jake clung to Max, pulling him closer, grinding their middles together.

Max pulled back, panting lightly, the younger staring up at him with lust-clouded eyes, "I want you so bad," he cooed, the older gulping and leaning down, kissing down his neck.

"Boys! Dinner!"

They both jumped, looking to the closed door as Emily knocked, yelling through it. They had completely forgotten her, lost in their own little world. Jake blushed, looking away, making Max chuckle, "Looks like we're going to have to wait after all..."

"You're off tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah."

"And tomorrows shopping day, meaning?" he half sang, smirking.

"Meaning she will be gone with Sophie for at least two hours," he grinned, leaning down and kissing him lightly. "I love you."

"You won't leave me, will you?"

"How could I leave a face like this," he grinned, caressing his cheek, "Come on. Mom'll get suspicious if we don't head down."

Jake watched him get up and leave the room. Everything was going to be fine now. He could honestly say for the first time in his life he could feel that way. He waited a moment, grinning to himself before he finally stood, going down to dinner, with a family, and with people whom he loved and cared about.