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Like You're Living In The Shadows

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Story Title: Like You’re Living In The Shadows

Type of story: Short/Medium fic

Main Characters: Geoff & Aden

BTTB rating: T

Genre: Romance, Angst – Pre-Slash

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Pre-Slash

Summary: Bible camp AU.

Geoff can’t wait for the summer to begin. He’s a camp councillor with a head full of ideas and plans. These plans did not include a reluctant addition to their cabin who wears combat boots, smokes and listens to loud music.

like you’re living in the shadows

Part 1/4

Geoff practically pushes his parents and little sister back into the car as soon as they drop him off.

Annie is whinging, asking their parents in a high-pitched whine why can’t she stay too. But even that can’t ruin Geoff’s good mood. He’s got his backpack slung over one shoulder and his large duffel bag at his feet. He watches as the car disappears down the gravel track, turning the corner, leaving a trail of red dust in the air.

Finally, Geoff thinks. He turns away from the road and prepares to make the short trek up to the mess hall. He can already hear the chatter emitting from the wooden building made entirely of old logs, a handmade cross above the door.

He’s been waiting for this moment for so long. And now he is finally here, finally ready, for the summer to begin. The sun is already beginning to set, casting an orange glow over the surrounding trees. There’s a low hum of mosquitoes and the faint chirping of a cricket somewhere in the distance, as Geoff takes the path away from the road.

There’s a rumble of gravel from behind and he spins around on the spot. A sleek black car with impossibly black windows roars up, sending little bits of gravel flying, before stopping suddenly. The back door swings open suddenly, and the first thing Geoff sees is a pair of black combat boots. Then a dark pair of jeans, ripped in the knee, up to a white v-neck tee and black leather jacket. Geoff doesn’t even have a chance to see the person’s face, because they are leaning through an open window of the car, hurling the kind of language Geoff’s parents would ground him for eternity if they ever caught him using.

“This is so typical!” The boy is clearly furious, not really caring who hears. “Things get tough and you just dump me in the middle of nowhere.” He stumbles back as the window is wound up in his face. “I hate you!” As the car begins to peel away the boy bends over, picking up a rock and hurls it at the car. It misses, fortunately, the driver not even stopping, probably not noticing.

“What are you staring at?” Geoff doesn’t even realise he’s staring; he just can’t seem to tear his eyes away. The boy is glaring at him angrily, arms folded tightly across his chest.

“Uh, n-nothing,” Geoff stutters. But still his eyes remain on the boy, who can’t be much older than he is, as he watches Geoff just as curiously. He’s got dirty blonde hair spiking from his head, hazel eyes darting up and down over Geoff.

Geoff suddenly feels extremely uncomfortable, a warm prickling sensation radiates from the back of his neck. Finally, the boy with the combat boots storms past Geoff, a single bag over his shoulder.


When Geoff has finished unpacking his belongings in his cabin, which because he is a leader, he gets all to himself, he makes his way towards the clearing. Geoff can already see the bonfire sparking; can feel the heat as he approaches. He walks towards the fire with a sense of purpose.

He’s one year older than the last time he was here, another year of experience under his belt. He feels the same sense of pride as when Reverend Johnson had tapped him on the shoulder after church one month earlier asking him to be a leader. Obviously, he’d said yes.

Reverend Johnson calls them all to attention, before giving his yearly briefing about why they are here. To experience God in new ways and build a relationship with Him and each other. He says the same thing every year, but this year it means more somehow. Geoff looks around the circle of boys and girls, occasionally catching their eyes, smiling back, trying to remain modest. Because for the first time, he’s in charge. He’ll be the one helping with the group activities, picking the Bible passages for discussion, allocating roles for the drama night. He’s already turning ideas over in his mind at the prospect of being responsible for the moulding of these young boys.

After dinner the boys and girls are separated and sent back to their dorms, and finally Geoff can take a moment to breathe. He looks around the long dormitory, his sleeping quarters separated by a door at the end of the room. Two boys are playing snap on the floor, one other curled up with a book on his bed, another two deep in discussion in the corner.

But there is one noticeable absence. Combat Boots is nowhere to be seen.

In the far corner there is a single black bag sitting on an unmade bed. The rest of the boys have made themselves comfortable, bringing their own pillows, unrolling sleeping bags or sheets, but this is just a mattress, nothing else.

Geoff isn’t quite sure why, but he approaches with caution, slowing making his way down the dorm to the bed. None of the boys are really taking any notice, too busy caught up in their own activities to care what he’s doing. The front pocket is open, a white cord sticking up and Geoff reaches for it.

Now, Geoff knows it’s wrong to snoop. He’s always telling Annie off for going through his things, but this is different. As a leader it is Geoff’s responsibility to make sure that no items of contraband are brought to the camp. He was given a list and told to report anything untoward to the minister. So really, he’s only doing his job.

The iPod falls out of the bag easily, and Geoff thumbs at the wheel. He doesn’t even realise that the room has fallen silent, the clicking of the device amplified by the high ceilings.

Someone clears there throat and Geoff spins around.

A pair of hazel eyes are staring back, glaring at him, eyebrows knitted together.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Geoff blinks, forcing himself to look away, down at the iPod in his hand, clearing his own throat which has suddenly gone exceedingly dry. “Uh, um. You’re not allowed these,” he manages to stutter out.

“Oh, really,” Combat Boots replies, quirking an eyebrow up in amusement, “What are you going to do about it?”

Geoff doesn’t want to be intimidated. He’s supposed to be setting an example, supposed to be the one in charge, but his mouth isn’t working and his brain has shut down and all he can do is stare and try to ignore the heat that’s radiating from his cheeks. Combat Boots chuckles and takes the iPod delicately out of Geoff’s palm.

“That’s what I thought,” he says, shoving it in his pocket and giving Geoff a smirk.

It takes Geoff a moment to realise what has just happened. The other boys have turned back to what they were doing, clearly bored of the whole scenario. Geoff blinks, swallows and then finally, finally thinks he is able to speak again.

“Ice breakers!” Geoff declares.

Most of the boys seem eager and Geoff finds himself relaxing, sitting in a circle, the other campers staring up at him. They’ve already gone around the circle once saying their names and a word that describes them starting with the same letter, when Geoff looks up and sees Combat Boots watching them. He’s standing at the foot of his bed, arms crossed, mouth in a perfectly straight line.

“Messy Mitchell,” a boy with dark hair and glasses announces, while Curious Corey rolls his eyes. Geoff shoots him a look.

“What about him?” Corey asks. A few of the boys look over their shoulders staring at Combat Boots.

“You’re welcome to join us,” Geoff offers, and he thinks he may have had a break through. Combat Boots unfolds his arms and takes a couple of steps towards the group. And Geoff is feeling rather pleased with himself, knowing that he could make a difference if he just included the boy. His harsh tone earlier was most likely because he was lonely. Once he started mingling, everything would work out, Geoff was certain.

“How’s this?” Combat Boots asks. “I’m Aden and I’m annoyed, angry, and I just want to be left alone.” Geoff is left in shock as Aden storms out, shuddering as he lets the door to the door slam shut behind him.


The sun is high in the cloudless, blue sky. The lake is perfectly calm, flat like a mirror, except Corey is yelling “Canonball!” at the top of his lungs and plummeting straight into the water. Geoff watches as the rest of the boys immediately follow suit. Running to the edge of the short wooden pier and jumping off the end. The girls are a bit different. Most of them peel off their tops to reveal their swimsuits before approaching the edge of the water with caution. They dip their toes in the liquid and squeal, and Geoff can hear them exclaiming that it’s cold and they don’t want to get their hair wet. But then Corey and Luke, two boys Geoff recognises are swimming past. They stop, exchanging equally mischievous glances before using their hands to splash the unsuspecting girls. More squealing and screaming and all hopes of hair remaining dry are forgotten. It’s war. But all in good fun.

Geoff watches from a distance before wandering down to the pier. At least he’s not the only one not swimming. One of the other leaders, a girl called Melody is sitting to the side, a book in hand, keeping an eye on her own campers.

It’s not that Geoff doesn’t like swimming, or isn’t insanely hot from the summer sun. The problem is that he lives on a farm, and the distance from his house to any sort of water body is pretty limited, so he hasn’t had a lot of practice. Sure, they have a dam, but most of the cattle drink from it and even after a really heavy rain, the water wouldn’t reach any higher than his knees. So Geoff figures he is much safer to just stand on the edge and watch the others, rather than experimenting with his own buoyancy.

Melody looks up at him as he stops beside her.

“You’re not swimming?” she asks. Geoff shakes his head. Melody smiles. She’s cute, Geoff observes. Her long blonde hair is straight down her back, and her eyes are the same colour as the sky. If he wasn’t already hot from the sun, he certainly is now. Geoff shifts uneasily from one foot to the other, feeling his cheeks burn, the blush spreading all the way to the tips of his ears. His mouth is dry and Geoff is thinking about sprinting back up to the mess hall to get water or something when it happens.

There is a faint yelp from behind and Geoff turns and sees Corey speeding straight towards him. He’s being chased by Mitchell and doesn’t look like he’s showing any signs of slowing down. The pier isn’t exactly wide, and Geoff is thinking about how he doesn’t really have much room to stand aside when he is barrelled straight into. Straight into and off the edge.

The water is cold, surrounding Geoff’s body and head and he tries to open his eyes to see which way is up, but he can’t. It’s like being in a washing machine, or what he imagines being in a washing machine would be like. Not knowing where the surface is, feeling like you are going around in circles. His shirt is up around his neck and his sneakers are dragging him down, while he flails his arms to try and swim up, down, any direction really. Because he’s starting to panic. He must be running out of oxygen, vision blurring, head beginning to throb.

But suddenly he’s spluttering and breathing actual air because a strong arm has reached in yanked him out by the collar of his shirt. The ground feels like it’s going to disappear from under him as he’s being lead away. He wobbles, feet coming out from under him and Geoff is on all fours while a strong hand is patting him steadily on the back telling him to cough it all up.

The coughing subsides, and after a few ragged, deep breathes Geoff finally realises that he hasn’t actually drowned. He’s sitting on the ground, leaning back against a tree, but there’s a shadow over him, blocking out the sunlight. Geoff doesn’t recognise who it is, just sees the vague outline of a person.

“You alright?” they say and Geoff’s waterlogged brain has to do a double take in order to recognise the voice.

“Yeah,” Geoff replies weakly, his voice coming out hoarse and low.

Aden chuckles, and Geoff can’t work out what is so amusing. He could have drowned today and now he realises that even though it’s forty degrees in the sun, he is shivering and probably has hypothermia or water in his lungs and all Aden can do is laugh at him. Geoff isn’t sure why it is suddenly important that Aden stops laughing, but it is.

But before Geoff can ask, Aden is turning and beginning to walk away.

“Where are you going?” Geoff splutters and Aden looks back. It’s only now that Geoff realises he must look ridiculous, kind of like a cat that’s been forced to have a bath. He is soaking from head to toe, water droplets dribbling down his chin, shirt and pants sticking to his body while his throat feels like he’s swallowed sandpaper.

Aden shakes his head in disbelief. “You’ll live, kiddo,” he says and Geoff doesn’t object, just watches his combat boots walk away.


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like you're living in the shadows

Part 2/4

Everyone is still talking about how Geoff fell in the lake, and Geoff has pointed out on numerous occasions that he was pushed, and Corey shouldn’t have been running on the pier, but they don’t seem to care.

It’s finally lights out and all the boys are in their beds, or at least pretending to be asleep. And by all, Geoff means all the boys except for Aden. Geoff had gone looking for him once he had dried himself off and found a change of clothes. He checked the hall and the dorms and the bathrooms and even wandered back down to the lake to see if he had returned there, but by the time they were called to dinner he was still missing.

He had thought about telling the Reverend Johnson. But maybe it was his pride that stopped him from saying anything. Geoff couldn’t face him and say that in his first summer as a leader he had lost an entire person. And honestly, Aden had shown his dislike of the camp since he first arrived, so it’s not surprising that he’s hiding out by himself. At least, that is what Geoff continues to tell himself. If he wants to be left alone, then Geoff should respect that.


However, he can’t seem to shake this feeling that something might be wrong. That Aden might have got into trouble, and being in an unfamiliar location would mean that it would be really easy for him to get lost. And although he saved Geoff, he could be hurt. None of the campers are allowed to have mobile phones, but if Aden had managed to smuggle one into his backpack then it wouldn’t really do him much good, because there was zero reception in the middle of nowhere. Geoff had always seen this as a good thing. It had alleviated the distraction of boys constantly texting girls and girls texting other girls and focus on why they were there in the first place. But now, he’s wondering whether Aden is injured and lost and has no way of calling for help.

Making sure the dorm is silent, Geoff slips out the door.


The heat of the day is replaced by a cool breeze. Geoff shivers as a full moon bathes him in silvery light, guiding him away from the dorm.

He knows it’s dangerous to be out at night by himself, and he’s inwardly cursing for not bringing a torch. The moonlight is fine, until it goes behind a cloud and then for a few moments, it is pitch black. Geoff stops, there’s a crack, maybe footsteps coming closer. He can feel his heart pounding in his chest, breaths becoming short and sharp, mind beginning to spin.

“What are you doing out here?” a voice says from behind and Geoff spins around frantically. He automatically raises his hands in defence. At first he can’t see anything. He’s wandered around the back of the wooden cabins, tall trees boxing him in. Looking in every direction he tries to find the source of the voice; it sounds oddly ... familiar.

Then he sees the shadow. The clouds have parted, the moonlight illuminating the trees and overhanging branches. The shadow approaches and Geoff stumbles back, but then he stops, intrigued as the figure steps out of the darkness.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” the voice asks. It’s not dark or menacing, more annoyance that Geoff has found him.

“Shouldn’t you?” Geoff shoots back. He’s trying to remain strong, but his voice still quivers slightly because he can’t stop thinking about the fact that he is alone in the woods and if they wanted to, they could hurt him and no one would hear his screams.

There’s a low chuckle and then Geoff sees a spark, glowing orange as the person lights up. Geoff can’t seem to move, he’s rooted to the ground as Aden steps out of the shadow and inhales on his cigarette. He blows the smoke out in a stream as a breeze picks up and wafts it across Geoff’s face. He wrinkles his nose at the smell while Aden smirks.

Aden holds the cigarette between two fingers and offers it towards Geoff. Geoff’s still staring, but shakes his head aggressively. Aden just shrugs, not in the least bit offended.

“I didn’t think you’d be the one to break curfew,” Aden says conversationally.

“I came to find you,” Geoff replies, voice wavering. He swallows hard, shifting from one foot to the other.

“Why?” Aden asks taking another drag. He’s watching Geoff curiously, eyes flitting over his face. It’s dark even with the moonlight but Geoff can’t tell how much of his expression Aden can see.

Geoff half shrugs. “It’s my job. When I said I’d be a leader this summer I promised I’d look after everyone. And I was really looking forward to it because I’d been coming to these camps since I was a kid and now I was finally old enough and Reverend Johnson trusted me so I –” He stops, because he’s blurted all this irrelevant stuff out and Aden is looking at him in this way that makes his cheeks redden, a heat flushing his face, and Geoff suddenly feels like he’s the one that’s out of place.

“I bet you didn’t sign up for this,” Aden says.

Geoff’s not quite sure how to respond to that. Geoff has been to many camps, met tons of different guys his age, ones with shared interests and others with nothing in common, but none like Aden. He’s somehow intrigued by him. Geoff isn’t sure why. But he just is.

Aden drops his cigarette butt to the ground and stubs it out with the toe of his boot. “I’m going to go do something you won’t want to know about, so you’d better go back to the dorm.”

So Geoff obeys.


In the morning Geoff sees a crowd gathered down by the lake. One of the canoes is in the middle, no oars and a couple of the boys have started hurling stones towards it, trying to hit the boat. This earns a stern look from Reverend Johnson who sighs and says that they going to have to wait for the wind to pick up for it to be pushed back to the shore.

They also get a lecture during breakfast about respecting property, because they’ve assumed that one of them is to blame. Eyes flick between each of the boys, with pointing fingers and defensive replies. Geoff looks around and sees Aden sitting tall in his seat, eyes never wavering from the Reverend’s face.

When the canoe finally reaches the edge of the lake there is another surprise awaiting them. Not only did someone manage to get an entire canoe into the middle of the lake, but they also stock piled it with five loaves of bread and two fish that appear to have been stolen from the kitchens. After sitting in the sun all day the bread is dry and is fed to some magpies that have been hanging around the campsite while the fish has such a pungent smell that it’s wrapped in newspaper and thrown out.

“I reckon it was that Aden guy,” Corey is saying in a hushed voice that night. The boys have gathered around his bed, heads bent down and voices low, although Geoff can still hear them from the end of the dorm.

“Probably. I heard some noises last night, footsteps and things,” Luke adds.

“I heard that he was sent here because his brother got sent to prison,” Mitchell contributes.

The boys’ eyes widen, circle becoming tighter.

“Nah, I heard he was almost arrested –”

“Maybe he was with his brother when –”

“Did you see him during breakfast he was –”

“Guys!” Geoff yells, interrupting the speculation. “None of us know who did it, okay? So, if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” The boys quieten, shuffling around the dorm as they get ready for bed.

The lights are switched out and Geoff sits on the edge of Aden’s bed, watching as the sleeping bodies rise and fall, listening as the breathing deepens. He doesn’t really know why he’s waiting. Aden obviously doesn’t play by the rules, so he’s not likely to be coming to bed anytime soon. But Geoff can’t help but worry. He just sits and waits, legs pulled up under his body, head resting in his hand propped up on his knee. It’s not the most comfortable position, but it keeps him from falling asleep.

At least, that was the plan. He’s woken roughly, by someone shaking his shoulder and Geoff’s eyes snap open. He sits up, rubbing his eyes, trying to work out what had happened. He was so sure he would be able to just wait up for Aden, figuring it was some unwritten part of his leadership duties, but then his feet were beginning to get pins and needles so he needed to stretch out. And then he neck was stiffening so he decided to just lean back for a while, it’s not like the mattress was that comfortable anyway. He must have dozed off because Aden is standing over him, smug look on his face, hand curled around Geoff’s arm from when he pulled him into a sitting position.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Aden hisses.

“Wha-? Uh, I don’t –” Geoff can’t even form a full sentence. His mind is spinning, eyes still blurring, voice thick with sleep.

Aden rolls his eyes, but when he speaks his voice is even, calculated. “Well, maybe you should go to your own bed.”

Geoff blinks and rubs his eyes with his fist, quickly scooting off the bed. He can feel the blush spreading from his cheeks to the tips of his ears. Aden is watching him intently, like he doesn’t trust Geoff to just disappear into his own bed, like he’s some little child who needs to be escorted and tucked in at night.

“God, you’re hopeless,” Aden mutters, mostly to himself, but then he’s grabbing some of the fabric of Geoff’s shirt and dragging him away from his bed. His feet a moving rapidly, trying to keep up with Aden’s long, determined steps as he strides out the dorm and into the cool evening air. Every cell in Geoff’s body must still be asleep because he’s not arguing, or disputing, or objecting to Aden hauling him around the back of the dorms.

“What-? What are you doing?” Geoff finally splutters, when Aden has released his shirt and is standing, watching as Geoff uses his hands to flatten out the creases. Aden just crosses his arms across his chest.

“I could ask the same of you,” Aden replies. “I’m a bad egg. You know it, I know it. It’s not going to change. So if you think that by watching out for me and making sure I meet curfew that I’m suddenly going to change, then you’re delusional.”

The darkness shadows Aden’s face as he speaks. His voice isn’t loud, no more than a loud whisper, but it’s clear, determined. Geoff swallows, as Aden pulls out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and lights up. Geoff finds himself watching the smoke, how it streams out of Aden’s mouth, drifts upwards, white against the dark sky, before disappearing entirely. It’s almost like Aden has forgotten Geoff is there. He takes another drag from his smoke, closing his eyes as he inhales.

Geoff doesn’t move. He knows he should be in his own bed. That if Reverend Johnson decided to do a bed-check that they would both be in serious trouble. Aden doesn’t seem concerned, but Geoff is worried. And even though he knows he’s nervous, he doesn’t make a move. Just stands and watches.

Sooner than Geoff anticipates Aden is stubbing out his cigarette at his feet, then tugging on the white cords that Geoff has just noticed dangling from his pocket, putting his headphones in his ears, completely blocking Geoff out. So even if Geoff had wanted to talk to him, he couldn’t.

In the quiet of the night, with nothing but the occasional rustle of leaves, Geoff can hear the faint drum of a bass. Aden taps his fingers on his thigh in time to the beat, music turned up loud.

“Why are you even here?” Geoff wonders aloud.

He didn’t even mean to say it. But as soon as it slips out, Aden’s eyes snap open, coming into focus, locking on Geoff’s face.

Aden pulls at one of the headphones, letting the bud fall out of his ear.

“What? You want some sort of sob story? Is that part of your job description? Well, you’re getting nothing.” He goes to put the bud back in but Geoff blurts out, “You confuse me,” and Aden stalls.

They are both silent. Geoff has always made a conscious effort not to lie, he knows it’s a sin, and it’s not like he’s told any recently, but for some reason this seems brutally honest. More truthful than anything he’s ever said in his life.

“You confuse me,” he repeats. “You act like you don’t care what anyone thinks, but if you didn’t care then you would have blown off this place weeks ago. No one is making you stay. You smoke and pull stupid pranks, but I still see you at breakfast every morning. The way you say thank you to every one of the cooks as they dish up the food. You think I’m a kid who doesn’t know anything about the real world because I spend my summer at a bible camp, but you still pulled me out of the lake on instinct. So I may be delusional for thinking you would change overnight, but you’re the one who’s kidding himself, thinking that you’re so different from everyone here.”

It’s like he’s opened a soft drink can and all the bubbles have exploded out the top. Once he started, he just couldn’t make himself stop. Aden is now staring at him, one headphone still in his ear, and Geoff can hear a complicated guitar riff coming from the other one.

“Loaves and fishes?” Geoff adds, quirking his eyebrow questioningly.

Aden’s mouth twists into a smirk. “You’re okay, kiddo.”

Geoff doesn’t like being call kid. Even when his dad calls him ‘buddy’ he insists that he’s not a child anymore. He’s always been looking forward to growing up. To being old enough to drive on the main road, not just the property, and being strong enough to mend the fences by himself, not just holding the tools for his grandfather. But for some reason when Aden says it, he doesn’t mind so much.


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like you're living in the shadows

Part 3/4

It’s become a routine or sorts. Every night after lights out has been called and all the younger boys are in their beds, Geoff sneaks out. None of the boys even ask about Aden now. They’ve pretty much blocked him out of their minds. They don’t ask where he is when he skips dinner, when he slips in late to hymn practice, or when he’s not in bed like the rest of them. But Geoff knows.

Geoff grabs his torch from his bedside table and takes the worn path around the back of the cabins. Every night he has this fleeting thought of what would happen if he got caught. The look on Reverend Johnson’s face, the disappointment in his father’s tone when he came to pick him up, but neither of these things seem enough to hold him back.

Aden is always there first. Not bothering with dinner, just coming up straight after the evening prayer session. He lights up a cigarette and is puffing on it when Geoff appears, headphones in his ears, some song vaguely audible through the buds.

Geoff leans on an old tree, the scratchy bark catching on the threads of his shirt, while he uses the sole of his sneaker to smooth down a patch of dirt. It’s a pointless exercise really, because as soon as they leave, a kangaroo or some other creature will come along and dig up the area foraging for food. But it’s not about accomplishing anything. Geoff does it so he has something to focus on, however pointless it might be. Because he discovered early on, that with nothing to do he watches. He watches Aden with his music blasting, fingers tapping out a beat, eyes closed, pale moon bathing his face in light, and Geoff thinks this is what being at peace must look like. But then he realises he shouldn’t be concentrating so hard on Aden and how he looks with his lips turned up in the corners, the shadow of a smile on his face, so he toes the ground and shreds leaves with his fingers until he’s ready to go to bed.

It’s like he’s got these two separate lives. During the day he’s Geoff Campbell, camp councillor, setting up games of volleyball or running bible discussions, but at night he’s Geoff Campbell, sneaking out of his dorm, abandoning his duties to hang out around the back of the cabin with Aden. Geoff isn’t sure he’s ready for the two to meet.


“What are you listening to?” Geoff asks one night.

They don’t normally talk. They’ve established the kind of relationship where Aden breaks the rules and Geoff doesn’t tell on him. But it’s something Geoff thinks about. He always hears the thump of a bass drum or strum of an electric guitar through Aden’s headphones, but not enough so he can decipher the song. And it’s not like Geoff listens to a lot of music anyway. They have a radio at the house on the farm but it’s always on the AM stations and his dad only listens to it for the news, so he doesn’t really know much about mainstream songs and artists. But he’s curious, is all.

It’s something that happens a lot when he’s around Aden, Geoff is realising,

Aden pops one of the earbuds out and holds it out to Aden. He doesn’t even say anything, but Geoff steps away from his tree and moves across so he’s next to Aden. Carefully he takes the bud and pops it into his right ear.

The first thing Geoff notices is that it’s loud. Really loud, and Geoff almost pulls it out straight away. But for some reason he doesn’t. He listens, straining to make out the lyrics. It’s a scramble of guitar and drums and words.

“You don’t have to like it,” Aden says. He can probably see the confusion on Geoff’s face. The way his forehead is furrowed as he concentrates on the words, the actual meaning of the song, not just the loud guitar riff that fills his ear.

“No, it’s not that, I just –” Geoff replies quickly. He doesn’t want Aden to think he can’t handle it. There’s this nagging thought in the back of mind that’s telling him that he’s just a little kid who knows nothing about music. This could be the greatest band to ever walk the face of the earth and Geoff doesn’t want to listen because the volume is turned up high.

“Don’t stress,” Aden says, a chuckle in his voice. “Hang on.” Aden pulls out his iPod and stops the song. Geoff lets out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. It’s quiet and Geoff can hear Aden turning the wheel, selecting something else for them to listen to. “This might be more your style.”

It’s still loud, but the guitar is a tune Geoff actually recognises, and then the artist actually starts singing.

Very superstitious / Writing on the wall / Very superstitious / Letters ‘bout to fall

Geoff finds himself humming along, nodding his head as he stands side by side with Aden. He chances a glance at Aden and finds him staring back. He quickly averts his eyes, unsure as to why he’s suddenly embarrassed. Maybe it’s because this is the closest they’ve been since the start of the summer. It suddenly feels as though Aden has shared this personal thing with him and he’s not sure how to respond. He doesn’t want to be here anymore, invading Aden’s private moments.

Geoff pulls out the ear bud, straining to keep his voice even as he says, “I’m not superstitious.”

Aden looks slightly taken a back, but its fleeting as he lets Geoff hands back the bud, then Aden’s face is blank, guarded again that Geoff is second guessing that he actually saw it in the first place.

“Sorry,” Geoff doesn’t quite understand why he’s apologising, but it feels like the right thing. Although it does imply that he’s done something wrong. He can certainly feel the guilt of something in the back of his mind. He’s not sure why. He goes to head back to the cabin, to trace the familiar path back to his bed, but then Aden is saying, “Stay,” and Geoff nods.


“You know Melody likes you, right?” Aden says.

Geoff looks up from shredding his leaf, unable to hide the surprise on his face.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Aden replies.

“How do you know?” Geoff can’t resist asking.

Aden shrugs. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you. It’s the same way –” But then he cuts himself off, averting his eyes to the ground. It’s not like Aden at all, to be suddenly bashful. Geoff isn’t sure what it means. “Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not watching you.”

Geoff waits for Aden to continue, but he doesn’t. He knows it should be weird, freaked out by what Aden has just said. But he’s not thinking about the fact that Melody maybe likes him, and more about the fact that Aden spends his time watching him. All those times when he was sitting in the clearing with the campers, roasting marshmallows by the fire or going on nature walks with the Reverend. During all those moments, Aden has seen him, and Geoff thinks he maybe likes that.

Aden still confuses him.


During the final week of camp things turn hectic.

It’s tradition that on the last night of camp all the parents drive up to the site and gather in the mess hall to watch a play that the campers write and produce themselves. This year Geoff got the job of director, which is especially wearing because he’s barking orders at thirteen year olds who do not understand what is riding on this performance. All they care about is the fact that there is a cloud in the sky in the shape of a dinosaur and Geoff continually catches them staring out the window at it when they are meant to be learning their lines.

This year the play was written by Melody, and it’s a simple story about a group of animals who initially don’t get along, but when a group of developers want to demolish their land, they have to learn to work together to stop them. Then the entire cast gets on stage to sing a song about the importance of friendship.

At this very moment Mitchell is complaining because he doesn’t want to play the platypus because it’s a girly animal, and he’s not getting on that stage as a girl. Geoff sighs, running his hand through his hair, he’s already had this argument before and he just wants one of the campers to be satisfied with their parts. Those who aren’t performing in the play have been allocated to backstage duties like painting a backdrop that is supposed to resemble the Australian bush, or putting together costumes. Corey is currently being chased around the hall by a girl who is trying to pin a tail to his pants. He’s not looking where he’s going and come to crashing halt when he trips over a ladder and ends up sprawled on the floor.

The rest of the cast and crew erupt in laughter, and Geoff is left shaking his head as Corey scrambles to his feet, dusting off his jeans, face bright red with embarrassment. Why is he working with such amateurs? There is no way they are getting any work done now.

But then there is a loud crash as the big wooden door slams shut and Geoff spins around. Aden is walking towards him, and suddenly the room is silent. Geoff is sure everyone must hear his heart beating rapidly in his chest, in time to Aden’s booted steps as he approaches. Aden has always made himself absent during group activities, Geoff never asks where he disappears to, but occasionally works it out when Luke’s underwear is hoisted to the top of the flagpole or the girls find a dead rat in their shower block. So it definitely catches him by surprise to see Aden strolling across the hall to where all they are all gathered. Everyone else is clearly caught off-guard as well. Geoff can feel the eyes staring at both of them.

Aden reaches Geoff’s side and looks straight over the top of his shoulder to where Mitchell is standing. “Oi, the platypus isn’t girly, okay? They have these killer spurs on the back of their feet for attacking prey.” Geoff can almost see the colour drain from Mitchell’s face as Aden addresses him directly. It’s not like Aden is scary exactly, but it took Geoff some time to get used to his unapologetic presence. So he can understand why the rest of the crew are a bit uncomfortable. It’s not like Aden has attempted to make friends while he’s been there. Mitchell nods and scuttles away and a quiet whisper starts as the girls turn back to their set and Corey has a tail pinned to him.

Geoff looks over at Aden who has his arms across his chest, surveying the work they’ve all been doing. Suddenly Geoff feels completely immature. This play was the most important part of the whole camp experience for him, but it suddenly feels childish and stupid. Seriously, all their costumes are made from painted cardboard and fabric joined together by duct tape. It’s not exactly high-class theatre. He thinks about shrugging and rolling his eyes, in a sort of ‘Kids, eh?’ kind of way in Aden’s direction, but then Aden is asking if there is anything he can do to help, and Geoff lets himself smile.


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like you're living in the shadows

Part 4/4

Somehow they’ve managed to pull it all together.

With a relatively few late nights spent erecting lighting and re-writing the script, they’ve finally made it to performance night.

After placating Mitchell, Aden became a sort of co-director. He definitely had more authority with the boys, having no qualms about giving them a whack on the upside of the head when they were mucking around more than necessary. Aden still disappeared for dinner and Geoff joined him later at night to watch him smoke, but Geoff is quietly glad that everything he had become used to didn’t change.

The parents have already started to arrive. Geoff is standing on the edge of the gravel road, watching as cars pull up, parents and siblings opening doors and making their way towards the hall. Some of them he knows from his parish, and he sees Melody hug a man and woman Geoff assumes are her parents. She pulls away from them both and sees Geoff standing there. She waves and gives him a bright smile. Geoff waves back, and then instantly there is a loud squeal of “Geoff!” and he spins around and sees Annie sprinting towards him. He lets her throw her arms around his neck in a hug, and is surprised to find that he actually did miss her. It’s nice and familiar to have his dad pat him on the back and mum kiss him on the cheek. They tell him that Pop is looking forward to having him back on the farm, and missed him too. In his weird grandfather sort of way, Geoff assumes.

Once his family have taken their seats Geoff disappears backstage. Girls are putting final touches on the backdrop, while Mitchell is having trouble getting the spines on his echidna costume to stay on his back. Geoff looks around frantically as Mitchell and Luke tear past him, unable to contain their excitement. He’s trying to find Aden, he’s the one who’s supposed to be corralling the boys into their places. He can already hear Reverend Johnson on stage, welcoming the parents and siblings and starting to introduce the play. Geoff begins to panic, grabbing Corey in his kangaroo costume and pushing him towards the stage.

The lights go up, the curtain being drawn back and Geoff can’t do anything but watch as Corey hops towards the centre of the stage, occasionally bending over as he pretends to look for food. He’s still holding his breath when Luke and Mitchell join him on stage, perfectly on cue.

“There’s nothing more you can do now,” he hears a deep voice whisper from behind. Aden is leaning over his shoulder, eyes on the boys onstage, watching as the play unfolds.

“Where were you?” Geoff hisses back. Because it’s all very well and good for Aden to say that, when he wasn’t even around when Melody was still running lines with a couple of girls who didn’t know their parts. Geoff was breaking out in a nervous sweat.

Aden ignores his question focusing especially closely on the animals on stage.

“I was looking for you. I needed you to be here and you weren’t,” Geoff whispers with as much anger as possible.

“People let you down sometimes,” Aden replies flatly. “Get used to it.”

Geoff turns around so he’s facing him. He can feel his face turning bright red, heat spreading from his cheeks. They are standing impossibly close. Face to face and eye to eye in a dark corner to the side of the stage. The audience can’t see them, but if the cast turned around they probably could. But Geoff doesn’t care. Aden doesn’t have any right to tell him that he needs to ‘get used to it’. They’ve spent the entire summer together, and maybe they won’t see each other again after they leave, but Geoff was under the assumption that they had been through enough, that they had shared enough, that they were actually friends. And in Geoff’s experience, friends don’t let each other down.

Geoff tells Aden this in a fierce whisper.

Aden doesn’t move, he’s staring at Geoff, narrowing his eyes and Geoff thinks he’s probably going to punch his face in. So Geoff is scrunching up his eyes and praying that his nose doesn’t end up broken, but then ... nothing. Geoff is cautiously opening his eyes, and Aden is gone.

If this was the start of the summer Geoff would have run after him. Would have tried to apologise, forgive and forget. But he’s still mad; his hands clenched in fists, so he squats down into the darkness and watches the rest of the play alone.

The audience is applauding as Geoff walks out on stage. He sees his mum and dad leap to their feet as he takes a bow, before taking Melody by the hand for a final round of applause. But he’s not really watching how Melody is looking up at him, or hearing his dad whistle at the stage, he’s searching the random adult faces, looking to the very back of the hall, trying to find Aden. He’s nowhere to be found.

“It all came together really well, don’t you think?” Melody is saying to him, and Geoff gives a non-committal nod before climbing off the stage. His parents are talking to Reverend Johnson, and he looks over, beckoning Geoff towards them.

“Geoff did a wonderful job this summer,” Reverend Johnson is saying, smiling down at him. Geoff just looks at his feet, hoping he can just slip away. He’s not really interested in trying to make small talk.

Another parent is coming up behind them, wanting to talk to the Reverend and Geoff allows himself to disappear into the crowd.

He makes his way across the crowded floor, negotiating his way around younger siblings and campers, still bouncing around with a post-show buzz, until he slips out the door.

Geoff does a quick jog towards the lake, but the canoes have been packed up for the holidays, so it’s empty. The clearing is empty too, along with the boys’ cabin. But then it dawns on Geoff and he takes the path around the back of the dormitory.

He’s never been back here in broad daylight. It’s always been under the cover of night, but for some reason Geoff just knows this is where Aden will be.

The sun is streaming through the tall trees, casting long shadows along the ground. Geoff puts his hand up to his face to shield his eyes from the bright light. A bird is chirping loudly overhead as Geoff looks around. All the trees look identical, standing straight and inclosing them in a small space. Geoff didn’t realise how small the bare area was. At night Geoff always stayed back, on one side, while Aden was on the other, but even then he can’t have been more than a metre away from Aden. But he’s looking around and seeing a scatter of cigarette butts on the ground and twigs and grass but no Aden.

Geoff can feel his face fall, and he’s not sure why he’s so disappointed. It’s just that he was so certain that Aden would be there. And he isn’t.

Geoff turns away, ready to head back to the hall, to meet up with his parents again.

“Why’d you come looking for me?”

He spins around so fast he might have given himself whiplash. But it’s worth it, because stepping out from behind a tree is Aden.

Aden is holding back, staying close the trees, out of direct sunlight. His face is half covered in shadow as Geoff shrugs.

“I’m not used to people coming after me, I guess,” Aden says.


Now it’s Aden turn to shrug. Geoff knows there is something more to it. He’s been getting glimpses of Aden’s life over the summer. First when he was dropped off in the black car, then on that first night where he described himself as angry and just wanted to be left alone. Something serious must have happened in a person’s life for them to be like that. Geoff can’t imagine what, though.

He’s never had the guts to ask Aden directly about it. But this seems like it’s his last chance. They’ll all be going home soon, Geoff will be returning to the farm, and Geoff is fairly certain Aden won’t be returning to camp next year.

“My dad,” Aden begins, “He doesn’t care. He’s got bigger things to worry about. Like, my oldest brother, he’s in jail.” He stops, watching Geoff intently, as if he’s trying to gauge Geoff’s reaction; just dipping his toe in the water, and deciding whether he wants to dive in. “My other brother ran away from home.”

“What about you?”

“I’m in the too hard basket,” Aden replies with a bit of a smirk. But then his face falls. “It’s almost expected that I’m going to screw up at some point.” Geoff opens his mouth to argue. But Aden continues quickly. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. That’s why I got dumped here, in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of kids. A last ditch effort to stop me from going off the rails.”

He finishes with a shrug of his shoulders. Then he’s crouching down, absent-mindedly tracing swirling patterns in the dirt. Geoff finds himself left speechless. He can’t believe what Aden has had to go through. How he’s resided himself to the fact that he’s not going to amount to anything, and that everyone he meets is going to let him down.

“I’ve come to realise that the only person you can look out for is yourself,” Aden says with a worrying amount of certainty.

“But, what about friends?” Geoff asks.

“Never had any.”

“What about me?”

Aden looks up, meeting Geoff’s eye. He stands slowly, approaching Geoff with a certain degree of caution. Like he’s trying not react too suddenly, for fear of scaring him off. But Geoff is way past being scared off my Aden.

“I’m your friend,” Geoff says again, a determined nod.

Aden is standing in front of him, leaving the shadows and standing in the late afternoon light. The sun is beginning to set, turning the sky the colour of amber. And finally after what seems like forever, Geoff watches as Aden turns up his lips in a smile.

“Thanks,” he replies.

Maybe it’s the warmth of the sun, the end of a long summer, but Geoff feels his cheeks begin to burn. This weird warmth at the back of his neck, and there is this tugging in his stomach that he can’t quite define. But he smiles back.


Geoff is tossing his bag in the boot of the car. Annie is already in the backseat, whining about being tired and just wanting to go home. Geoff looks around at the virtually deserted camp. Almost everyone else has already left with their parents and the sun is sitting low on the horizon. The last boys and girls are packing away their bags and climbing in the back seat.

It’s been a long summer and the exhaustion of everything is finally catching up with him. Geoff is ready to sleep for the next week. But before he can finally switch off, he’s looking down to the end of the gravel driveway, seeing a figure with a bag on their shoulder, gazing down at their feet.

The car door slams as Geoff’s mother gets in the passenger seat, and then he feels a large hand on his shoulder. His father is looking down to the figure as well, and then he glances back at Geoff.

“Is he a friend of yours?” his dad asks. Geoff nods. “Do you want to go ask if he needs a lift anywhere?”

Geoff smiles up at his dad and walks away from the car. Aden must hear is footsteps on the loose gravel because he looks up before Geoff gets to him.

“Is your dad coming?” Geoff asks.

Aden shrugs, and Geoff sees a mobile phone in his hand. The screen slightly scratched, but still illuminated. “I’ve called him every night since I got here. He didn’t pick up once.” His voice is so sad, and this, Geoff realises, is where Aden was every night at dinner.

“Well, good,” Geoff replies. Aden looks up at him like he’s crazy. Like he actually thinks it’s a good thing that his father has forgotten all about him. “You’re coming with me.”

“Are you sure?” Aden asks, but he’s hauling his bag higher up on his shoulder and walking alongside Geoff back to the car.

Aden looks shyly up at Geoff’s dad and for the first time since Geoff has known him, Aden looks slightly intimidated. But Geoff’s dad just takes Aden’s bag and tosses it in the boot with the rest of Geoff’s belongings.

The back of the car is closed and Geoff’s dad is ready to drive off, but then Geoff hears his name being called out. He turns around and sees Melody jogging up to him. She’s got a broad smile on her face coming to a stop just in front of him. Geoff can practically feel Aden’s breath on his neck as he watches from over his shoulder.

“Geoff, I just wanted to say goodbye. It was great seeing you,” Melody says brightly. “See you next summer?”

“Sure,” Geoff replies, not really making much eye contact. But then she’s leaning in and giving him a kiss on the cheek and Geoff can feel himself blushing. She runs off to her mother’s car, getting in, and Geoff watches it drive away.

“I told you so,” Geoff hears Aden say under his breath as they both climb in the backseat.

Annie is already complaining that it’s too crowded and she doesn’t want to sit next to one of Geoff’s friends, so Geoff is clambering into the middle, while Aden sits on his right, but Geoff lets her whine and beg their parents for ice cream, because he feels like he has everything he needs.



A/N: Thanks for the comments Red Ranger and Carina :). It means a lot.


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