Six

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Friday saw Sigmund stepping out of Dad's car onto the grass outside LB, carrying his tent and sleeping bag and flashlight and Swiss Army knife and towel and compass and mosquito repellant and sunscreen and, Jesus, Dad. I'll be okay. It's only for the weekend.

Except Dad had been so excited about it all. More excited than Sigmund, even. So Sigmund hadn't had the heart to say anything.

Which was why here he was, standing on the lawn, weighted down with ten million packs like a huge nerd while everyone else was standing around clutching small gym bags.

(FML)

"Sig! Hey, you're here. Whoa. You brought some stuff."

And, suddenly, there was Lain. All freckles and long copper hair, gleaming under the January sun. Cool shirt and skinny jeans and one too-hip duffel

"Uh," said Sigmund, feeling like the world's most influential loser. "Yeah."

But Lain just smiled his bright smile and said, "Here. Let me take some of that." And began helping himself to Sigmund's burdens. Sigmund decided not to stop him and so, when the bus rolled up, the both of them were more or less equal in the shouldering-of-bags stakes.

Sigmund hated bus trips. They threw the luggage in underneath, then found a free seat somewhere near the back. Lain slid in next to Sigmund, grinning and unperturbed, trendy-ugly sunglasses obscuring half his face.

"Free day off work," he said. "Cool, huh?" His thigh was warm where it brushed against Sigmund's.

Sigmund—whose stomach felt like a writhing pit of snakes—still managed part of a smile. "Yeah," he said, trying not to think of kitchens or Katia. "Cool." Did straight guys think about the warmth of each other's thighs?

Lain's grin split open into rows of shark-white teeth. "Still not convinced?"

"No computer, no Internet, no showers," Sigmund said. "For three days." He grimaced, pushing all non-camping-related thoughts away for later. Or never.

"Aw, c'mon," Lain said. "You've got your phone, right? There'll still be reception."

"Yeah, maybe. For the, like, ten minutes until the batteries die."

They weren't going very far. Just out to Woolridge Reserve, about an hour's drive. There was a campground there. A river, some rocks, some bush. Nothing too threatening. Except emus, maybe. Sigmund hated emus. And mosquitoes. And flies. Probably redback spiders too. Maybe funnel-webs. Did they get funnel-webs out this way? Sigmund didn't know. Then there were the snakes. Browns, taipans, red-bellied blacks . . . he didn't know if all those were local, either. He was sort of hoping to keep it that way.

Fuck. They were all gonna die.

The bus lurched to life. Between Lain's warmth and his smile and thoughts of the poisoned fangs of death incarnate, Sigmund already felt like throwing up.

A fist connected with his shoulder. Playful, not violent. "Hey, man," Lain said. "Relax. It'll be fun."

Sigmund exhaled, looking down to where his hands were busy fumbling in his lap. "Sorry. I'm just . . . kinda a buzzkill."

Lain shrugged. "Nah," he said. "You're doing this for your dad. That's cool. Making the old man proud and all."

"Yeah," said Sigmund. "I guess." Then he remembered Lain was, like, an orphan or a runaway or whatever, and the only family member he ever talked about was dead. So maybe Sigmund should try and be less of a spoiled moping brat. Appreciate what he had and all. "I, uh. Dad took it pretty hard when Mum died," he said, surprising himself. "So it's just the two of us, you know?" The two of them, and the company. Dad's only other love.

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