Adam's eyebrows arched as he tried to sweep moss off a tree stump, sighing when he was forced to sit on it anyway. "What is this? The hillbilly loveshack?"

"It's as big as a whale!" Matt sang gleefully, if off-key. Adam faked a cringe and glanced around. He'd never admit it out loud, naturally, but he was mentally surveying the place and tucking little notes away for future reference. The so-called "Hardy Hideout" was an elaborate setup of large rocks, vines, and some worn netting overtop in what Adam had to assume was a roof. They appeared to be in the densest part of the woods, but even still a bit of sunshine was able to get through the treetops and cast sparkling shadows on the ground.

"I feel like I shoulda brought bread crumbs with me," Adam grumbled, casting a mournful glance over his shoulder and regretting never having been on a real camping trip in his life. Well, there was the time he and Jay had decided to set up the tent in Jay's backyard when they were twelve, but the lights from the twenty-four hour Super Stop-n-Shop next door kind of ruined the whole effect. So did the homeless guy who could be heard on the shop's sidewalk ranting about the Nazis setting up camp next door and plotting World War III.

A sudden unidentifiable noise was heard behind him and Adam jumped up, grabbing a nearby stick and wielding it like a club. Matt dove behind the east wall of the Hideout and, after a few moments, revealed laughably wide eyes.

"What the hell're you doin'?"

"I heard something!" Adam replied as if insulted he really had to explain himself. He looked around, clutching the stick against his chest. "I've seen Deliverance! I know how these things go!"

Matt started to reply but was instead interrupted by the rustling noise. Adam swung the stick wildly at the ground, swearing loudly when all he managed to accomplish was jab himself in the foot. Matt, on the other hand, watched in barely contained amusement as a chipmunk scurried off into the woods, fleeing for its furry life from the crazed madman that had just tried to club it while it was eating.

"Well, I hope you're happy. That poor thing's gonna need some serious therapy now."

"Him hell! What about me?" Adam yelled, throwing the stick down in disgust and flopping back onto the stump. "I saw my life flash before my eyes!"

"So did that chipmunk. Didn't you ever watch Chip an' Dale when you were little? Or did you just watch the lumberjack network all day?"

Adam, try as he might to fight it, had to chuckle at the remark. "So what's so great about your li'l lovenest or whatever it is?"

"Me an' Jeff built it a long time ago when we were on summer vacation. It's nice an' shady, keeps bugs and furry animals at bay," he nodded his head towards the path the chipmunk had taken, "and is the only thing I ever built that hasn't fallen apart yet."

"You mean you never made birdhouses in shop class? No one can screw up a birdhouse."

Matt gave a sad little smile. "You remember that episode of Beavis an' Butthead when Beavis cuts his finger off in shop 'cause he's just bein' stupid?"

"Yeah . . ." Realizing the connection, Adam sputtered in attempts to keep the laugh inside. He failed and ended up laughing and shaking his head in disbelief. "At least you didn't go into carpentry." He paused again to scratch at his ear. "I guess your inner child's got some love for woodwork and all that junk."

"Everyone's inner child has a talent."

"Yeah," Adam agreed with a straight face. "Mine plays with matches."

Matt paused, then wisely chose to let the statement go. "I broke my shop teacher's dog's leg, too. I had to build a doghouse model. He liked it an' asked me to build one big enough for his dog. I was fine as long as it was just clay models." Matt sighed heavily and rose to his feet, brushing his knees off as he did so. "The first night the dog slept in it, the damn thing collapsed an' broke its leg in two places."

Adam started to reply, then shut his mouth and continued laughing.

"Look, I know I'm an idiot, okay?"

Adam shook his head and held up his hand. "No, it's not that. I mean, yeah, you're an idiot," he smiled at Matt's expression, "but I was laughing about the time me an' Jay almost burnt down the chem lab in high school. We found out a little creativity and a bowl of dry ice can go a long, long way . . . especially when the student teacher sees the smoke, immediately thinks it's a fire, runs to the back of the room, knocks a burner over and starts a small electrical fire." He smirked at the memory, meeting Matt's humored gaze. "We got suspended, but it was worth it. The lab was shut down for weeks to redo the wiring."

"Y'know," Matt started, "I'm just now realizing that maybe we all had way too much time on our hands when we were teens."

"Yeah," Adam agreed without protest, nodding to the Hideout. "You an' Jeff made that, huh?"

"Y'sound surprised."

"I am. I just . . . I dunno. I picture you two wrangling cows or something. Riding horses into town to pick up girls. Charming them with your five-inch personalized belt buckles."

"Guess what?"


"You're an asshole."

Adam casually glanced to his watch, then smiled broadly. "Hey! I've only been up for half an hour! This has gotta be a new record."

"No, I'm pretty sure your mom said that a couple minutes after you were born."

"Harsh, Matt."

"I know."

"I've trained you well, Jedi."

"The ways o' the dark side were stronger than me."



Adam gave an exaggerated sigh. "Stronger than I."

"Okay, Canadian boy. Shouldn't you go learn French or something?"

"That's Quebec."

"Quebec, Ontario, what's the difference? It's all frozen tundra and hockey. And lumberjacks."

"And Storm Troopers!" Adam piped up, face lighting accordingly. Matt groaned and started to round the corner of the Hideout. That was until he heard the tell-tale sound of a lighter striking.

"Please tell me you're not tryin' to start a fire, 'cause Smokey the Bear would be very disappointed."

He peeked around the corner, eyes narrowing to see an unlit cigarette dangling from Adam's lips, the light breeze making it impossible for him to successfully start it burning.

"Shit," Adam grumbled miserably, striking the lighter twice more before looking up to see Matt watching him. "What?"

"It's a sign."


Matt shrugged, stepping out from behind the Hideout. "I don't know. Maybe God's gettin' you back for skippin' health class so much in school."

Unable or unwilling to think of an appropriate comeback, Adam went back to tending to his cigarette. It took several more tries to succeed, but his joy was short-lived; after the first inhalation, Matt stalked over, grabbed the cigarette, and threw it to the ground, crushing it beneath the heel of his boot.

"That's it. You're Lucifer. I'm sure of it now."

Matt offered an indifferent shrug, crossing his arms stubbornly over his chest. "Those things are bad for you."

"Gee, thanks, Mom." Adam rubbed his hands over his face, for what had to be the hundredth time looking down and wondering why he hadn't worn shoes outside, and then looked back up at Matt. "I don't think you understand, Matt. I need my nicotine rush."

"Says who?"

"Me. I get in a pissy mood without it. Then I say things I wouldn't say otherwise."

"I know. I've seen you on long flights," Matt groused, grabbing the pack of cigarettes still in Adam's hand and sending them to the ground, crushing them in the same spot as the first. Adam's eyes bulged slightly in surprise.

"Fuck! Matt, what was that for?"

"They're bad for you. If you don't mind, I'd like to keep you around for a while. With lungs, thanks."

Adam's eyes narrowed to thin green slits that reminded Matt eerily of a cat after its prey. "What do you care what I do with *my* lungs?"

The entire conversation seemed so incredibly ridiculous to Matt he had a hard time maintaining a fairly straight face. It was just his next comment that made him really begin to wonder on his sanity - or lack thereof. "Because if anything's gonna be takin' the air out of 'em, it'll be me."

Though he winced as if expecting Adam to deck him, Adam stood perfectly still. His voice, however, was lower than before and certainly much harsher to Matt's ears. "What, you think I think it's charming you like playing a fucking babysitter with me?" He asked with accusatory eyes. Matt was stopped before he could even think of answering. "No, Matt, I'm sick of this. You tell me what I should do, what I shouldn't do, what's good and bad for me, where I should go, who I should go with, what kind of toothpaste to buy . . . It was a one night stand, okay? Do you not understand that? It was *one* night. We were both drunk and horny, and at that point I think we would have fucked stuffed animals if we could've figured out a way how. Get it through. Your. Head," Adam finished, poking Matt in the temple with his index finger to punctuate each word.

"Um . . ."


Matt looked up sheepishly through long, dark lashes. "You might be a total asshole, but just so y'know, you're also pretty damn sexy when you're mad."

Adam threw his hands up in frustration, turning and beginning to walk away. He might have made it more than a few feet if Matt wouldn't have grabbed his wrist and pulled him backwards hard enough to almost knock him off balance. Matt found himself pinned against one of the walls of the Hideout, a situation that was changed as quickly as it was discovered; he rolled to his left, effectively pressing Adam up against the huge rock and temporarily forgetting the considerable height difference between them. It really was hard to be intimidating while looking upward.

"You're a horrible liar, Adam, always have been. That picture in my notebook? I started it that night. Maybe y'won't admit it or y'don't want to for some stupid reason, but you don't know what you did t'me. Hell, *I* don't even really know what y'did t'me, just that you took something I've been trying to get back ever since."

"I gave your sock back to you -"

"Just shut up, stop bein' a smartass for a minute, an' listen," Matt ordered sharply. Adam obediently silenced himself. "I don't know what your problem is or why you won't just admit we had somethin' an' it wasn't just 'cause of the beer. I care about you, alright? Yes, you're Canadian, you're arrogant, you think you're some kinda English literary god, you've got an endless supply of redneck jokes, you're the poster child for every major cigarette company on Earth, an' you have some o' the most God-awful music tastes I've ever heard, but damn it all, everything wrong with you just makes you better. You're gorgeous, Adam, not that you don't remind me about that every day. You're funny. You make me smile. You hog the covers. You eat Chinese food with your fingers 'cause you can't figure out how to work the chopsticks. You talk in your sleep about a cactus named Randy. You're a borderline psychotic, yeah, but I . . ." Matt stopped suddenly, swallowing hard and taking a tiny step backwards.

"Don't you dare even fucking think of saying it, Hardy."

Matt turned his eyes to the ground, scanning it like he actually cared to find something there. Well, he had his chance, he mused to himself, watching a leaf blow delicately across the forest floor. And, as usual, you blew it.

"I'm not ready for that yet."

Matt looked up to see Adam's eyes locked on his, though they were softer than before and not quite as angry. He pulled Matt closer, sinking back against the rock to compensate for the height difference. "Sandy."


Adam cupped Matt's face in his hands, drawing him close enough so that their lips just barely touched. "The cactus. It's Sandy, not Randy. Get it right next time or I'll kick your ass. She's a sensitive cactus."

The comment was silly enough by itself, but it was the fact Matt honestly couldn't tell if he was joking or not that made him erupt into uncontrollable giggles. Adam, after a bit of persuasion, joined in on the laughter, running gentle circles along Matt's cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.

"You know," he began, opening his eyes and touching Matt's eyebrows to hint for him to do the same, "I would've slept with you regardless. I think getting drunk just made me do it sooner." He paused for a moment, pulling Matt's glasses off. "I'll deny I ever said it and probably put a hex on your family if you try to prove otherwise, but you've got beautiful eyes."

"That's it? I laud you with complements an' all that an' all you say's I got nice eyes?"

"If it's any consolation, you actually used 'laud' in the right context. I mean, what else do you want me to say? You butcher the English language, you listen to me when I'm asleep and that's my private time, you draw lewd pictures of me in your notebooks, you steal my cigarettes and throw them out car windows, give them to random people on the street when I'm not watching, fill them with tissue paper, you listen to Johnny freaking Cash . . . really, Matt, what else am I supposed to like about you?"

Matt faked a pout. "You're cruel."

Smiling lightly, Adam gave a light peck on the lips. "But you've never found out about how I end up giving the blanket back when I see you shivering in your sleep, or that I purposely eat Chinese food that way because I like the way you watch my mouth when I slurp the stuff, or even that some of your brother's horribly sappy poems are actually starting to make sense to me."

Matt blushed a bright, humiliating shade of red that only served to make him more embarrassed. It was enough to make Adam laugh at his misfortune, tugging Matt closer still for another kiss, this time longer and sweeter, softer. It ended abruptly, however, when Matt chuckled and pulled back so that he could speak.

"So what does this mean for us now?"

Adam seemed to give it a bit of serious thought. Unfortunately, his answer didn't exactly reflect that. "I guess we could sit around all day watching Queer as Folk reruns and giving each other back massages."

Matt rolled his eyes but decided to simply change the subject rather than try to elicit any truthful response. "Adam?"


"When you're between a rock an' a hard place, uh . . . whaddya do?"

Adam sighed lightly. "I make fun of whoever would say something so cheesy. But in my experience, I've learned that the hard place always wins."


A single blond eyebrow raised to a high peak. "Feel free to test that out."