"So, do you want to take a hike?" TJ asked, "W-with me, I mean?"
Sydney feigned to consider it.
"Do you even have to ask? Of course I'll go!" Sydney said, booping TJ's nose, in turn prompting a giggle out of his boyfriend.
"I mean, it is really hot out there" TJ said.
"So is here, but I'm not complaining" Sydney replied.
TJ looked at him with a "I-knew-you'd-say-that" look on his face.
"We also have to get up early."
"Way ahead of you."
Sydney then dropped on the couch, snoring loudly. TJ couldn't resist himself and cuddled up beside him, purring at his cuteness.
"Do you mind?" Sydney feigned indignation, "I'm trying to sleep you motorboat you!"
"Okay then, I'll leave you to that" TJ said, getting out of the couch, waiting until Sydney looked at him to see his own playful tongue sticking out.
"When did you get so sassy?" Sydney said, stretching himself out on the couch in a semi-seductive pose.
"You're a good teacher. But yes, its probably a good idea to get to sleep soon."
"You can sleepover, if you like" Sydney said, looking at TJ in a mixture of embarassment and expectation.
When Sydney went to sleep, it was heaven, his beloved between his arms and purring into his chest.
When he woke up, it was hell, TJ's phone ringing madly into his ears.
"Good morning my love" TJ yawned, kissing Sydney in the cheek.
"Morning babe" Sydney yawned in turn, stretching his arms as TJ got out of bed.
TJ's morning routine was surpisingly fast for his usual standards, having simply brushed his teeth, taken a short shower and dressing up. Sydney was still getting out of bed when TJ put on his polo.
"Showering for only three minutes?" Sydney yawned again, "You're clearly possessed."
"Like I said, we have to get up early" TJ said, "And besides, I'm hoping we can take a long one when we come back."
Just the thought was enough to tighten Sydney's underwear and judging by TJ's expression the otter guessed the lynx was hard too.
"Can't wait for that" Sydney said, "I can guess I'll need an hour long shower when we get back?"
"Well, I did ask my parents to bring me as many water bottles as possible" Tj said, "so I can at least give you small showers along the way if you want."
"You just can't wait to see me naked can you?" Sydney teased.
"No, its better if you keep your clothes on, to retain the moisture" TJ clarified, before realising his mistake.
"So a wet t-shirt fetish then" Sydney said, "Great idea, you get to watch my clothes go all skintight on my muscles. Toby, you pervert mastermind."
TJ threw a used shirt at Sydney's head, soon realising again the consequences of his actions.
"Mm, musk" Sydney sniffed, "Thanks babe."
That in particular did TJ in because he couldn't help but be drawn to Sydney's morning musk, already starting to get intense, and his pants began to feel particularly painful.
"D-do you mind if I use the bathroom?" TJ whined, embarassedly.
"S-sure" Sydney said, his mischievousness traded for his own brand of embarassment.
A pair of solitary releases, Sydney's short morning routine and an awkward, silent breakfast with his mother later, the pair began their hike. The sun was still emerging from the horizon, the desert cast in the bluish greys of the twilight. Their first sightseeing was in the "forest", basically at Sydney's doorstep. They chased each other playfully much as when they were kids, memories of those fleet moments of happiness their childhoods coming rushing back to both Sydney and TJ. This lasted until the dim light began to be replaced by orange, and both boys panted with their backs against a tree trunk.
"We shouldn't waste all our energy here" TJ panted, taking out a granola bar, "I want to go as far as the canyon and maybe even the mountain tops."
"That actually sounds pretty neat" Sydney panted back, "though I seriously doubt any of those are as cool as the forest. Been to them a few times, though granted not in a while."
"Only one way to find out" TJ said, nuzzling against Sydney.
TJ took out the first water bottle, shared between the two of them, before they continued their hike.
A few hours later, the darkness and cold of the desert gave in to intense light and heat. It was still early in the morning, and TJ and Sydney already shared a few bottles. At first it was simply drinking, but as they began to climb uphill TJ began dropping water all over his shirt.
"It begins" Sydney said teasingly.
"I saw some hikers in a video do it" TJ reminded, "First time I actually did it in a hike however. Do you want me to drop some water on you?"
"I'll pass" Sydney said, "I'm tougher than most otters."
"Just because you don't swim often doesn't mean you're immune to dehydration" TJ said, "I just want to make sure you're alright."
"Baby, I'll be fine" Sydney said, kissing TJ, "Save some water for yourself, okay?"
"Not going to happen Syd" TJ said, leaning against him, "You need it as much as I do."
"Well, now you've wet my shirt, hope you're proud of that."
TJ stuck out his tongue playfuly, which prompted Sydney to give him a brief peck.
"Your tongue's already out, lets try to french kiss on the outside!" Sydney suggested enthusiastically.
"O-okay, if you say so" TJ said nervously.
Their tongues wrestled with their muzzles open, which they both found very funny to the point of breaking into laughter. Eventually TJ pulled Sydney into a deep kiss, and the two embraced, feeling each other's torsos.
"You're starting to get ripped" Sydney said, his hands gliding softly over TJ's arms and pecs.
"Oh, its nothing, my muscles aren't as big as yours" TJ said, in a mixture of wanting to comfort Sydney as well as personal embarassment.
"Well, true, but it's still amazing how you you're getting both stronger and more beautiful every day" Sydney said, a hand rubbing TJ's cheek tufts, "You're like nothing else in this world, Toby."
TJ couldn't help but purr against Sydney's neck, his lynx ears like blades out of the forge.
As midday came by, Sydney began to eat his words.
He was lagging behind, fanning himself with his cap. TJ was hopping enthusiastically from outcrop to outcrop, well ahead of him. Eventually, however, the lynx noticed Sydney's distress, and came rushing towards him.
"Toby, no-" Sydney said, but it was too late.
A jet emerged from TJ's water bottle, landing on Sydney's head and soaking his shirt.
"I'm sorry but its for your own good" TJ said apologetically, though trying his hardest to not crack a smile.
This didn't go unnoticed by Sydney, however,
"Oh, so my humiliation is funny to you?" he said overdramatically.
"C'mon Syd, you know that's not true" TJ said.
"What is even true anymore!?" Sydney continued his dramatic tirade, putting his hat back on.
"Well, we're nearing the mines" TJ said, "you said you wanted to come by them for your treasure."
"Arrr, lead the way landlubber" Sydney said, shifting his demeanour from a betrayed dramatic to a commanding dramatic.
"Even though the real treasure is our love" TJ said, and even he cringed at that.
"Aye, yer finally learnin'" Sydney said, and pulled TJ into a hug, nuzzling against him.
"Now you're the one getting me wet" TJ whined, a small attempt at his boyfriend's style of banter.
"Hopefully in your crotch as well" Sydney said suavely.
TJ responded by lowering Sydney's cap over his blue eyes, which didn't deter the next wave of cuddles.
Soon after, they reached the one entrance to the mines that remained, a cavernous wound on the mountainside. It breathed out a strange wind, and although it was appealing to TJ after hours of walking in the sun the dark hole felt intimidating.
"You're not thinking of going in there are you?" TJ asked, placing a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder.
"Just to poke around a bit" Sydney responded reassuringly, "I'm not stupid, I know cave-ins are a thing."
As a kid, the tales of gold within the mine felt very appealing to Sydney. Maybe someone had missed a spot check, maybe there was still lots of treasure within the darkness. And sure enough, he had visited at times, but never worked the courage to actually go in. After the incident in the lake, he didn't think about the mines for a long time, but now was a good as time as any to check them.
As he approached the entrance, a sense of dread began to fill him, the wind voiding something in his chest besides the body heat. He thought about water, moving time in streams and rivers, and how some of those never met the sea. His legs felt heavy and his heart beat began to slow down in spite of how nervous he was. Amidst the darkness, a strange soft white light emanated, cold and alien like that of the stars, two black eyes within it.
"And poking around's done!" Sydney said, trying to conceal his terror with mirth.
"Everything's alright Syd?" TJ asked concernedly, "You're starting to shake a lot."
True to form, Sydney's limbs were no longer heavy and his heart might as well had been a hummingbird's. Panic sent tremors through his body.
"Y-yeah!" he said, trying to catch his breath.
TJ frowned at him.
"It was about that whole 'not real' thing, isn't it?" he asked.
The energy on Sydney's body dissipated, but this time due to impossible sadness. He looked downwards, his cap covering his eyes.
"Because I felt it too" TJ said, his voice cracking.
Hearing his boyfriend cry brought new energy to Sydney. Wrathful energy, that made him clench his fists and turn back to the void.
"We're real!" Sydney shouted at the mine, "I'm alive and he's happy! So fuck off!"
Sydney's voice echoed through the rock, and he could visualise the shape of the tunnel as it reverberated. Soon, however, it was replaced by a radio static, and out of the darkness came a red, clawed hand.
"Shit!" Sydney said, "D-do you see this Toby!?"
TJ nodded, and the two of them run away as fast as they could.
Hours passed, and after a long, stressful climb the pair reached the canyon.
"Woohoo, we made it!" TJ said, high fiving Sydney.
"Dad took me here once or twice" Sydney said exhaustedly, "Flynn and I came here like once so I'd have at least one happy memory of it. I guess I have another one now."
"Aw" TJ said, kissing Sydney on the cheek, "What did you guys do when you were here?"
"Shouting at it, obviously" Sydney said, "Made some pretty ugly noises."
"Like what?" TJ asked.
"Lets just sit down a bit" Sydney said.
"Alright" TJ nodded.
They sat down in the rock bench, both to rest as well as to feel somewhat more grounded in a place where they could easily slip to their deaths. After the encounter in the cave, both of them felt pretty nervous. Nonetheless, TJ couldn't help but turn around to stare at the canyon, and his wonder was contagious to Sydney. The otter took a deep breath, and expelled to the canyon:
"MY DICK IS HUGE!"
The earlier strain from shouting at the cave was still noticeable, but still Sydney's voice was thunderous. It returned as a rather dim, raspy echo.
"See what I mean?" Sydney said.
"Well yeah, but you did shout a naughty word" TJ said, half-joking, "Maybe it feels offended?"
"To be fair I did just see an evil hand, so I'm inclined to believe you" Sydney said, also half-joking.
TJ rose to his knees on the sit, and shouted with the hands around his mouth:
This time, the echo returned distorted, the same static invading their ears, less a sound and more like a scrape on the mind.
"W-whats the deal with all these radio noises?" Sydney said, trying to put a brave face for TJ's sake.
"I don't know, but I'm scared Syd" TJ said, sitting down again.
"Don't worry, I'll kick this thing's ass" Sydney said, embracing TJ, "I'm not going to let anyone or anything hurt you."
"And I'll do the same" TJ said, staring at Sydney's eyes, "To be brave is to be afraid but still protect the ones you love, and I'm both very afraid and very much in love with you."
"Is that a Bible quote or something" Sydney said, kissing TJ on the nose.
"No, but its the basic idea of the virtue of fortitude" TJ said, leaning against Sydney, "Its something I learned from my Catholic friends."
"They're lucky to have you as their friend" Sydney cooed gently, "Like I said, there's no one in this world like you."
"Same with you Syd" TJ, nuzzling against Sydney.
They said nothing for a while, soaking each other's presence. The water and sweat soaked shirts frankly made the experience somewhat disgusting for TJ, but Sydney's warmth, scent and love made it worth a thousand years of being stuck like that.
Eventually, they got up and Sydney flipped the bird to the canyon. TJ was almost tempted to do the same.
Eventually, they reached a mountain top. The sun was beginning to lower, and neither of them wanted to risk climbing down in the dark.
"Everything the light touches is ours" Sydney said.
"It soon will be dark, though" TJ said.
"Not with the fire of our love to guide us" Sydney said, sticking out his tongue playfully.
They began making their way down again. A static sound was faint in their minds, but it was little more than background noise.
When they reached TJ's house, it was already as dark as when they strated their hike. Their bottles had run out half an hour earlier, and whatever moist remained was begining to prickle as the temperatures lowered quickly.
"Want to do this again?" TJ asked.
"Yeah, but give me a day or two" Sydney said, "I'll probably be stuck in the bathtub for the whole time."
"Well, like I said we can have that hour long shower" TJ said, a bit nervously.
"Won't your parents mind?" Sydney asked.
"M-maybe a little, but I'm guessing that as soon as they smell us they'll concede" TJ said.
"Which reminds me, I didn't bring deodorant" Sydney said.
"Its alright, I have some in my bedroom" TJ responded.
"Always prepared uh?" Sydney asked.
"Lets just say I'm used to you forgetting things" TJ teased.
"Harsh" Sydney said.
"I still love you though" TJ said, kissing Sydney.
"And I love you too" Sydney responded, "Now lets get that bath."