Gavin is loud. Louder than one should be when there could possibly be bears around. Michael shushes him before he even knows his name.
“Quiet!” He hisses, maybe a bit too harshly because Gavin turns to him with wide eyes, frantic like he didn’t realise he had company.
“Jesus!” He exclaims, a little quieter but still too loud. He leans back against the tree behind him, clutching a hand to his chest. “Don’t do that! Don’t just scold people out of nowhere!”
Michael blinks. “Excuse me? Out of nowhere? Buddy, if anyone here is out of nowhere then it’s definitely you. You just walked into my camp. Uninvited, might I add.”
Gavin rolls his eyes. “Can’t a bloke just take a stroll around the forest, maybe hoping to meet some other campers along the way? What’s wrong with that?”
“Uh, what’s wrong is you were stomping around like fucking bigfoot. Did you deliberately step on every twig you saw or are you just that stupid?” Michael adds some wood to the fire in front of him as he berates the stranger in his camp. Might aswell be productive while doing so.
Gavin’s eyebrows furrow. “Well, you clearly weren’t taking a nap or anything. What’s so bad about me making noise? Have you got supersonic hearing or something? Oh, man that would be top-”
“No, I don’t have supersonic hearing, idiot,” Michael interrupts. “We need to be quiet because there are bears around this area. It’s like, their primary habitat or whatever.”
Gavin frowns. “But I thought the bears were all around the Thorofare area. That’s way over there.” He waves a hand vaguely to his right.
Michael is silent for a fraction of a second. “I read the map,” he scoffs. “I think I would know where the bears are.”
Gavin raises an eyebrow. “Oh, really? Because on my map, the bears are all around Thorofare. No where near here.”
Michael narrows his eyes. He doesn’t say a word as he reaches down into his bag, pulling out his map and unrolling it. It’s relatively small, proportionate to the area, and he immediately notices what could possibly be the worst thing ever. He’s wrong.
“Uh, my map-” he recovers quickly. “It’s an older version. From back in the 90’s, when the bears lived around this area.” He continues even as Gavin starts to smile a little. “Y’know, back before the Great Bear Migration of ‘96. When the bears all, y’know, migrated. To Thorofare.”
Gavin’s still smiling. He nods. “Yeah,” is all he says, and it might be a question or it might be a confirmation. It could also be a mockery. Michael frowns either way.
“I’m serious, you know. Like, honest.”
“Yeah, no, I believe you.” Gavin’s grinning now, and Michael would be mad if he didn’t know how much he would be antagonising if their positions were reversed.
“Whatever,” he finally settles on saying, and when all Gavin does is stand quietly for a few seconds, he adds “Well are you gonna sit down, or what?”
That night, they drink their voices away. Michael laughs so hard he snorts beer onto the fire, and Gavin collapses on the tent in a fit of giggles and brings it down with him.
“What the fuck? Where am I supposed to sleep tonight? You better fucking rebuild that.”
For the next half hour, Gavin tries unsuccessfully to pitch the tent again, all the while Michael laughs at his attempts and sometimes offers helpful tips.
“No, no, that pole is supposed to go in that hole,” he instructs, pointing with the neck of his beer bottle.
Gavin somehow manages to frown and smile at the same time. “What the bloody hell are you on about? What hole?”
Michael takes a quick swig of beer. “Well, your asshole, of course.” He drinks again as Gavin loses himself in the throes of drunk laughter once again.
Somehow, by the grace of some god, Gavin manages to pitch the tent. Michael applauds him, then throws a rock at him.
“Don’t fucking break my tent again,” he orders as he stands and stretches. “Especially not while I’m in it.”
It’s not until he’s inside his sleeping bag, all wrapped up and cozy, that Gavin starts to complain.
“Michael,” he whines. “Michael, I’m all alone out here. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
“Sorry,” Michael’s muffled voice calls out. “I’m not a one-night-stand kind of guy.”
Gavin snorts a laugh, still trying to sound pitiful, and crawls in the tent anyway. Michael doesn’t complain, just shifts over to give him some room.
Michael is this close to falling into a drunken haze of unconsciousness when Gavin pipes up once again.
“Michael,” he whispers terribly loudly. “I’m cold, Michael.”
Michael grunts noncommittally.
“Can I have your sleeping bag?”
Michael grunts once again, this time a definitive ‘no.’
“M-Michael,” Gavin stutters, trying and failing to mimic shivering. “I’ll g-get hypothermia, M-Michael.” And then he laughs at how stupid he sounds, ruining the illusion anyway.
All Michael does is reach for the spare blanket in the tent corner and throw it in the general direction of Gavin’s voice. He’s asleep before he can hear Gavin murmur happily “Aw, thanks Michael.”
“Have you ever gone fishing with a hangover before?”
Michael almost feels bad as he sees Gavin squinting pitifully up at him. The instant (read: shitty) coffee in his hands is steaming in the chilled morning air, mixing with his warm breath and creating smoky swirls on the rise.
“The hell?” He mutters, reaching up to rub his eye with his sweater paws. “No, why would anyone do that? The only thing I do when I have a hangover is drink coffee and sleep.”
Michael smirks. “Well, Gavino, let me explain something to you.” He sits down on the opposite side of the dim fire, the pot of instant coffee now burnt. Neither of them wanted more anyway. “You see, in my many years of experience, I’ve found that sitting around doing nothing is fucking boring. So, we’re going fishing. End of story.”
Gavin yawns. “Do you even have a fishing rod? Or two?”
“‘Course not. Do I look like the kind of guy who would own a fishing rod?”
Gavin shrugs. “Well, you don’t look like the kind of guy who would bring a bottle of wine into the forest, either. But we’ve already got that planned.”
“Dude,” Michael insists. “Wine-drunk is the best kind of drunk. You’ll see, trust me. Now, finish your gross ass coffee. We’re going fishing.”
The biggest creek in the forest is wonderfully close to their camp. Gavin still manages to complain.
“Michael,” he grumbles as he sits on a rock. “Michael, I’m tired, I’m hungover, and I’m not in a fishing mood.”
“Bullshit,” Michael asserts. “Get off your ass, and come here. Now, since we don’t have rods, we’ll have to use, like, spears or something. Or maybe just our hands, like bears do.”
Gavin smirks. “Are we going to migrate to Thorofare, too?”
Michael flips him off. “Shut up. That was a terrible joke. Fuck you. Fuck my map. Get over here and get your hands dirty.”
Five minutes later, Gavin is standing at the edge of the creek, a miserably blunt stick clutched in his hand, hovering over the water. Meanwhile, Michael is crouched on a rock in the creek, surrounded by a moderately fast flow of water, his hands tense as he waits.
“You know,” Gavin begins, keeping his eyes locked on the stream. “I didn’t think you were serious. About catching them with your hands, I mean.”
Michael rolls his eyes. “Please. When am I not serious? I bet I’m the most serious person you know.”
Gavin snorts. “Are you sure you’re not still drunk?”
“Is it ‘most serious’ or ‘seriouser?’ Or ‘seriest?’ Have you ever noticed that when you say a word a bunch of times it doesn’t sound like a word anymore?”
“Jesus, what is this conversation,” Gavin mutters to himself, though he still smiles.
Michael’s still going. “Like if you say ‘lamp’ enough it starts to sound like ‘plam.’ Lamp lamp lamp lamp lamp- FISH!” He lunges forward, his hands smacking in the water as he fumbles. There’s a solid three seconds of flailing before he loses his balance and falls in. Gavin gets hit with a stray splash, but he’s too busy laughing to notice.
The water’s too shallow for Michael to be completely submerged, but he still rolls around and makes a big deal out of it when he steps out saturated.
“What the fuck,” he breathes out, a laugh threatening to escape from his throat. “Stupid fucking fish, dragging me down. What an asshole.”
Gavin’s too busy cackling to form a reply, and all Michael can do is shake the water out of his hair and laugh along.
“What are you doing?”
They’ve just had lunch, and Michael’s still got the faint taste of beef jerky in the back of his throat. He looks up from where he’s dismantling the tent.
“What does it look like? I’m taking the tent down,” he answers.
Gavin frowns. “But then where will we sleep?”
Michael rolls his eyes. “We’re still going to sleep in the tent, just in another part of the forest,” he explains. “I want to move around, get a change of scenery, you know. There’s no point in staying in the same place the whole time.”
Gavin shrugs. “I guess. Want some help?”
A while later, they set out into the woods. Michael’s got all their baggage piled in his arms, while Gavin strolls comfortably with only a map.
“You know, you could help me,” Michael points out, only slightly breathless from the twenty minutes they’ve been walking.
Gavin hums. “Yeah.”
Michael sighs. “Maybe we can swap. You take all this shit and I’ll take the map. Sound good?”
Gavin gives him a sly look. “Sorry, but I don’t really trust your map-reading skills. I mean, I don’t want to accidentally walk into a bear colony and get my head munched off.”
Michael wants nothing more than to flip him off. “Fuck you,” he settles on saying, and Gavin only laughs softly. A few minutes later, he takes the folded tent from Michael’s grip and hoists it over his shoulder. It’s not a heavy burden, but a nice gesture nonetheless.
They walk for a while. The sun sets quickly, so it seems longer than it really is. It’s not until Michael no longer has any feeling in his feet that they finally stop.
“We’re here!” Gavin exclaims, folding up the map and looking around with a satisfied smile.
Michael doesn’t question him. “Fucking finally,” he sighs, dropping their supplies on the ground. He stretches his arms above his head and pops his back before he even considers looking at where they are.
He lets out an appreciative whistle. “Damn. This is nice.”
They’re in a small clearing, trees all around them with no canopy above. The quickly darkening sky is clear to see.
“I know,” Gavin agrees. “I’m a genius, right? A forest genius.”
Michael smiles. “Sure thing, Gav.”
“You could even say I’m the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you.”
Michael snorts. “Don’t push it.”
He sets up the tent then, and Gavin helps by bringing out the wine and taking a drink. He passes the bottle to Michael every so often, and when the tent is set up they sit on the cold ground.
Michael thinks in the back of his mind that they should light a fire and have something for dinner, but he quickly dismisses it. It’s too late, too much trouble, and he’s too tired. And he certainly doesn't trust Gavin to do it by himself.
“What are we even doing?” Gavin asks a while later, after plenty of sips of wine.
“What do you mean?” Michael replies, accepting the bottle from Gavin’s outstretched hand.
Gavin frowns. “I dunno. Just, why am I out here? Why are you here? Why am I with you?”
“Fuck if I know,” Michael replies curtly. “Jeez, Gav, with the way you’re headed, you’re gonna start asking all sorts of existential questions. Why do people die? Why is there suffering in the world? Is there a god?”
Gavin makes a noise somewhere between a laugh and a sigh. “You’re even more drunk than I am,” is his only reply, and he takes a drink.
A while later, when the bottle’s almost empty and the chorus of a million crickets mixed with Gavin’s soft breathing is all he can hear, Michael stands.
“Well, I’m off to bed. Feel free to join me whenever,” he offers, and starts to make his way to the tent.
“Wait,” Gavin says softly. Michael turns to look at him, and it’s silent for a second. He’s about to ask when Gavin continues.
“Can’t we sleep out here tonight?”
Michael frowns. “No, it’s too cold and dangerous out here. We have to sleep in the tent. C’mon, Gav, you’re drunk.”
Gavin purses his lips. “Well can we just stay out a little longer? Come here, sit” he invites. Michael’s about to give up and just go to bed when Gavin speaks again. “Look at the sky, Michael. Look at the stars. Can’t you stay just a little while?”
And when Michael looks up, gazing at the universe above them, the rest of the world looming overhead, he knows there’s only one thing to say.
“Sure, Gav.” And he sits and he stares.