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Mother Nature: It Fucks You Up

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“Can’t you just smell that fresh air?”

Matt could certainly smell something, and it was most definitely bear shit. Or maybe racoon shit. Or, heaven forbid, human shit. He wouldn’t put it past some nature freak to take a dump in the woods. Shiro seemed to think it smelled nice. Matt was certain he’d left his sanity back in their apartment along with Matt’s computer and the internet and every kind of fast food Skip The Dishes could bring to him.

Matt was not built for the wilderness. He was Italian, Jesus Christ. The sun beat down on his pasty white skin like holy water on a demon, burning away the sunblock faster than he could apply it.

“Guh.” He managed to reply, hiking up his backpack and grimacing at the sweat soaking through the back of it. This was awful. This was torture. Holts just didn’t survive without at least two computers and/or three cell phones with internet access at all times. He pulled out his phone, staring morosely at the lack of reception as the power bar barely clung to life.

He was going to die out here.

“Lance! This is a perfect spot for a selfie!” Shiro’s grin was not infectious. Instead, it made Matt contemplate all the true crime shows they watched. His fingers twitched. He could make it look like an accident…

Lance shifted his parasol, adjusting the aviators on his face. Matt had laughed at him for bringing a fucking umbrella on a hike, but he’d already contemplated various ways to steal it and somehow blame it on Shiro. He’d already scrapped plans one through forty-two, but forty-three was sounding promising.

No one would find their bodies…

“Shiro, babe, you wouldn’t let me bring my charger so now my phone is dead.” Lance’s tone indicated he was two seconds away from shoving Shiro right off that cliff.

Could he trust Lance not to snitch on him if they murdered Shiro? No, Matt was smart enough to know two people could keep a secret only if one of them was dead.

“Ah, it’s fine. We should just enjoy nature and all its beauty,” Shiro said, sweeping his arm over the wilting trees around them. A large portion of the forest had been burned by fires a few years ago and it hadn’t quite grown back to its full glory. Not that Matt would appreciate it either way.

Was it too much to hope that they’d round that ugly butt-shaped tree to find an air-conditioned McDonald’s?

Matt shared a despairing look with Lance.

“It’s your fault.” He mouthed quietly to Lance as Shiro continued to survey the burnt remains of Mother Nature, clutching his binoculars.

Lance gave him the finger. “You know I’ll agree to anything when Shiro’s shirtless!” He hissed, quietly enough that Shiro couldn’t hear him over the obnoxious binoculars he was using to peer at trees and rocks in the distance that looked like every other tree and rock around them.

“I told you not to look!”

Lance gave him an unimpressed expression. “Don’t ask me to do the impossible.”

“You’re so weak.”

Lance’s grin was smug and completely unrepentant. Asshole. “Says the guy who thought he was too cool for an umbrella. I’m going to enjoy slapping your burns every. Damn. Day.”

Matt narrowed his eyes. “You monster.”

“I-“

“Guys! Guys! There’s a bear over there!” Shiro yelled excitedly, pointing off in the distance like the six-year-old he literally was. He still had the binoculars up against his eyes.

Goddammit. He was adorable.

When Shiro had announced he wanted to go camping for his birthday, Matt had thought he was joking. Surely, he didn’t want to go outside when there was a perfectly serviceable space in their living room that they could pitch a tent in? Matt could even rig up a mini burner so they could roast marshmallows. Then they didn’t have to worry about mosquitos or bear attacks or, Matt shuddered, hippies.

Matt had had the foresight to close his eyes the moment he realized what Shiro was asking while shirtless, but Lance hadn’t even tried. Matt wasn’t going to win with two against one.

It was also kind of hard to say no when Shiro was looking at him so earnestly.

Though, they did have to explain to him that camping in February was not a good idea.

Thinking back on it, that should have been the first sign.

And now look where they’d ended up. Squinting at blobs that may or may not be bears. Or possibly a moldy rock.

Matt hoped it was the latter, so he could bash his head in and end it all.

“I don’t see anything,” Lance said, wiping his arm across his forehead to soak up the sweat. He was fucking glowing in the sunlight as he shifted his umbrella to see better. Goddamn him and his sun-kissed skin. He spent five minutes in the sun and turned a glorious bronze, deeper than his usual tone. Matt spent five minutes in the sun and he turned into a human lobster, hellbent on world domination.

Of course, when he would eventually emerge from his bright red carapace of never-ending itchiness, he would find that he didn’t get a nice tan, oh no. His skin would revert back to blinding white, a beacon to call lost ships back home.

“Let’s find a good spot to set up camp,” Shiro announced, striking forth once more into the wilderness with enough gusto for the three of them.

Matt and Lance exchanged another look.

This was going to be a long, long weekend.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

“Uh, what is that?”

“It’s our tent.”

Matt tossed the lumpy sticks he’d managed to forage onto the ground as he took in what Shiro was apparently calling a tent. It looked more like a monster truck had run over half of it just in time for a tornado to swoop in and grope its remains inappropriately.

Matt peered at the canvas bag they’d carried the tent in. They’d borrowed it from an excited Hunk and a deeply amused Keith.

That…that should have been the second sign.

Hunk had helpfully included the instructions. The picture on the front showed two children easily assembling this tent with giant smiles on their faces that didn’t reach their cold, dead eyes. The tent looked big and sturdy and like it could actually provide shelter for three men.

He looked back at the sad, defeated ‘tent’ Shiro had erected. “There’s something…different.”

Shiro deflated at the look on Matt’s face. “Okay, I know it’s not perfect but…I tried.”

And of course, Matt’s traitorous heart couldn’t stand seeing Shiro look so upset. “It looks great, honey-bunny!”

He was a lying liar that lied.

Shiro beamed at him, swooping in to give him a warm kiss.

“Hey, I helped!” Lance pouted. Matt glanced over to see him lounging on a lawn chair, soaking up the sun like it wasn’t trying to melt his skin off.

“Yes, you certainly look like you were helping.” Matt said, voice monotone as Shiro pulled away.

“He read the instructions.” God, Shiro was too damn loyal.

Matt looked back over at the tent. A pole fell to the forest floor, rolling into a bush like it too wanted no part of this wreck of a trip.

¿Se lo leíste en Español? (Did you read it to him in Spanish?)” Matt asked, sending the Cuban an amused look.

Lance dismissed him with a wave. “No es mi culpa que él sea pésimo para esto. (It’s not my fault he sucks at this.)”

“I think I know that word!” Shiro said slowly, frowning. “Are you guys talking about food?”

“…Yes.” Matt and Lance said simultaneously.

Shiro’s grin was back in full force, he reached for his bag. “I thought it might be fun if we caught our dinner!” He held up some fishing rods, yet another set of outdoor equipment they’d borrowed from Hunk and Keith.

Keith had laughed as he handed them over.

There had been so many signs…

Oh, dear God.

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“So…how do you set this thing up?” Matt asked from the safety of the shade. “I’ve never fished before.”

Shiro stared at the fishing rods, an odd look on his face.

“Shiro, pumpkin, snuggle bunny, one of two loves of my life, please tell me you know how to fish.”

Shiro turned to him, dark eyes wide and-

Oh no, not the puppy dog look.

Matt stood, completely defenseless, like the virgin in a horror movie.

“That’s why, gentlemen, you brought me.” Lance declared, climbing up onto a large rock and posing like a goddamn super hero. “Lance McLain, fisherman extraordinaire. Master of the Sea!”

“This is more of a lake-“ Shiro muttered but Lance cut him off.

“Silence! I will not be disparaged!”

Matt stared as the sun shone off Lance’s glistening torso. God, he was beautiful. Lance really was in his element around water, Matt would begrudgingly admit that. Lance’s grin widened at their no doubt awestruck looks, running his fingers through his bangs and letting the light sparkle off his teeth like an awful eighties toothpaste commercial.

“Watch and learn, losers.” Lance blew them a kiss before diving smoothly into the water.

Okay, he just upped his already high hotness points by at least fifty.

Matt looked over at Shiro, taking in the slight blush tinting his cheeks. Damn, Matt was so lucky to be with these two idiots.

Life was good.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Life was not good.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow!” Lance squirmed as Shiro carefully wrapped his shoulder with a tenser bandage. His touch was gentle and caring.

Matt was neither of those things.

“You idiot!” He growled, fingers tightening around the medical kit instead of Lance’s throat. “Why did you think it was a good idea to dive into fucking shallow water!?”

“I thought it was deeper.” Lance said quietly, wincing as Shiro carefully tightened the bandage.

Matt stared up at the darkened sky, praying to a God he didn’t believe in for Shiro-level patience. He was left wanting. “Okay, and because you weren’t thinking, you dislocated your shoulder.”

“I still caught a fish!” Lance bristled, pointing.

Matt felt like the shredded remains of his sanity had been left at the side of the lake.

The three of them stared at the lone fish swimming happily in the bucket. Lance had caught it with his bare hands because he was Lance.

That shouldn’t have been enough of an explanation, but it was.

“So…how do we eat it?” Lance asked as Shiro finished tying off the bandage.  

Silence. Pure, awkward, embarrassed silence.

“Okay, we’re all smart adults.” Matt said, tightening the hair tie holding back his ponytail. “We can figure this out.”

The three of them contemplated the fish.

“I guess we just…kill it?” Shiro said slowly.

“I think you just whack it with a stick or something?” Lance whispered, as if saying it too loud would let the fish know about its impending death.

Matt squared his shoulders, snatching the fish from its bucket. “I’m just gonna-” He cut off as the fish bitch slapped him in the face.

Lance and Shiro made odd snorting noises simultaneously and Matt looked up to see them desperately trying to hold back laughter.

Matt grabbed the fish with both hands, holding it up so he could look it right in its ugly fish face. “You have made a terrible enemy this day.” He growled. He looked around. There. That was a good-sized rock to smash this fucker against. With a battle cry, Matt lifted his arm to bludgeon his nemesis.

“NO!” Shiro and Lance gasped, rushing him. He yelped as each one of them grabbed him by an arm.

“Don’t kill it!” Lance begged, trying to grab the fish.

Matt squawked indignantly. “I’m hungry!”

“It’s a living creature!” Shiro shouted, trying to pull Matt away from the rock of destiny.

“Are you two serious right now!?”

“Please, Matt.” Shiro said so earnestly that Matt looked over at him.

He was punched right in the face with Shiro’s pout, completely decimating his shields and leaving him stunned like those fainting goat videos Lance kept insisting he watch.

Matt.exe had stopped working.

Shiro carefully took the evil fish from Matt’s death grip and put it back into its bucket. The two of them crouched over the bucket while Matt attempted to reboot his system.

“Do you think we could keep it as a pet?” Lance asked.

Shiro put his hand gently on Lance’s uninjured shoulder. “It’ll probably be happiest if we put it back in its home.”

These two were not the people Matt wanted with him in a zombie apocalypse.

He’d still bring them anyway because love and all that shit.

“Why don’t you two start the fire while I take this stupid fish back to the lake?” Matt said wearily, moving towards the bucket. Shiro and Lance nodded, moving to grab the wood.

Matt leaned over the bucket. Shit. The fucking fish was dead. Matt had probably choked it or something when Shiro and Lance decided to be heroes.

Oh well. Good riddance.

“Don’t worry, we got this!” Lance said, piling the wood Matt had found in a clear patch of dirt.

Matt carried the bucket into the forest and dumped it unceremoniously behind a tree. Some wild animal would be pleased to see it.

Probably the only thing with any shred of happiness in the forsaken place.

As he returned to camp, he was disappointed to see the fire still hadn’t been started.

“Ugh, why won’t this thing light up?” Lance groaned, crouched over the pile of wood and moss. He had a lighter in his hand, trying to get it started.

Shiro leaned over him, blowing on the sparks. It refused to catch.

“No, wait, I’m just gonna dump the lighter fluid on it!” Lance exclaimed, and oh dear God they were going to burn this forest down.

Matt paused. It would mean they could go home…

“Lance, we’re not here to start a forest fire.” Shiro said gently, taking the lighter away from Lance. That was probably a good idea.

“Only you can prevent forest fires.” Lance joked in a serious, deep voice.

“Okay Smokey, you suck at this.” Matt sighed.

Lance looked upset that his failure of a fire starter had been taken away from him.  Instead, he moved towards Matt. He clapped him on the shoulder, a serious look on his face. “Matt, eat a Snickers, you’re not yourself when you’re hungry.”

Matt pouted at him because fuck dignity, he was tired. “We don’t have any food. We haven’t even been able to make a fire.”

Despondency was his middle name.

Shiro sighed, putting his head in his hands. “I’m sorry, you guys. I thought we could get away and have some fun. I didn’t-“ He paused, looking away. “I didn’t realize it was going to be this hard.”

“Shiro…” Lance said quietly.

“I just, I never got to go camping before and I thought-“ Shiro cut himself off, giving them a rueful smile. “I guess I’m just not cut out for this after all.”

Oh hell no.

Lance and Matt exchanged looks. They were getting really good at that.

“Shiro, my darling, don’t ever feel sorry about sucking at this. We all suck at this.” Matt said, moving towards him and draping himself over Shiro’s right side, careful of the prosthetic.

“Yeah, my body is used to luxury.” Lance agreed, wrapping his lanky arms around them both from Shiro’s left side.

Shiro chuckled, snuggling into them. “Let me make it up to you guys, then.” He said softly. “Let’s go home, build a pillow fort in the living room and eat take-out while watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Matt groaned. “That sounds amazing, let’s go. I’m gonna make out with both of you so much once I’ve washed out all this sunblock.”

Shiro and Lance’s smiles were better than a thousand laptops with high-speed internet.

God, he loved these two idiots.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

“Okay but, like, I’m just saying camping is overrated and I choose comfort.”

Matt looked up from where his head was pillowed in Shiro’s lap. Lance was carefully applying moisturizer to Shiro’s face as he spoke while the other man ran his finger’s through Matt’s damp hair. It had felt so good to wash off all the sweat and dirt and fucking fish goop from his skin.

Life was good.

“And this is so much better, you guys. We can cuddle here and we have chocolate and there aren’t any bugs in Matt’s hair and-“

As soon as Lance was done with the moisturizer, Matt pulled him down so he could shut him up the only way he knew how: by kissing the hell out of him. Lance groaned, pressing their bodies closer together. Shiro’s laugh shot warmth down his spine, curling his toes.

After that, they were all distracted for a bit.

In the end, Matt sighed contentedly as they all curled up together in the pillow fort.

They didn’t need to be rugged outdoorsmen. They had each other. That was all that they needed.