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The DWNOGA authors have been up for days now, but as usual I'm a tad behind. My story was Like a Big Pizza Pie, written for [livejournal.com profile] wickedwisdom . It's Choey, which I'd never written before, and an established relationship story, also not in my comfort zone. But that's what I love about this challenge: you never know what you're going to be asked to write, and I find that every time I write a pairing I haven't felt inclined to jump into on my own, I tend to fall in love with it.

Huge thanks to [livejournal.com profile] rikes , who performed an amazingly speedy last minute beta duty on the first three quarters of the story. (She caught mistakes in the last quarter, too, but I sent it to her too late and didn't read her reply until a few days after I'd submitted. *hangs head in shame*)

I noticed that a lot of people on my friends list posted some fascinating "story behind the story" notes, and I would do the same except that I don't think there actually is a story behind this story and I'd hate to bore you all rigid with a litany of "I sat down to write, and nothing happened, and so I sat some more, and still nothing happened, so I wept for a while, and went back to sitting and not writing, and then I wrote a whole lot in a short period of time." If, however, you have a burning desire to learn more about my writing process than that, feel free to ask. :)


Like a Big Pizza Pie

 by Sola Fiamma

 Written for DWNOGA 2006. Many thanks to the awesome rikes for the amazing last-minute beta.

 "So, hey," Justin mumbles around the handful of chips he's just crammed into his mouth, squeezing in beside Chris on the couch, "what're you guys doing for your anniversary?"

"What? What the fuck are you talking about? And, god, give a guy some
room. Get your freaking elbow out of my ear. If you want to sit in someone's lap, go find Joey. I'm busy. Oh, but leave the chips." Chris tries to wrest the bag away, but Justin hangs on, tenacious in his stinginess as in everything else. "Fucker."

"Oh, you have plenty of room. Besides, I'm cold. This bus sucks. It's
always cold. And it doesn't help that JC keeps leaving the window open in the bathroom."

"I think we should all thank god every chance we get that JC leaves that window open. I think I'll say a little prayer of thanks right now."

Justin giggles and hands him the chips. "Yeah, okay, whatever. I guess you're right. But, seriously, though, Chris. How are you and Joe gonna celebrate?"

"Celebrate
what?"

Justin rolls is eyes. "Hello? Your anniversary? Dude, I can't believe you forgot. You guys hooked up for the first time a year ago next Thursday."

"How on earth do you even
remember that?"

"Well, actually it was Lance. He remembered. I dunno why. Maybe you guys made too much noise and scarred him for life."

"Asshole," Chris says. "He wasn't even in the same building."

"Well, maybe the gooey looks on your faces the next morning scarred him. I'm pretty sure I'll never be the same. So what'll you guys do?"

"Do? Oh, for our anniversary?" Chris thinks about it. Huh. Guys don't really do this shit, do they? With, like, each other.
He's never done it, not with the guys he's been with. Of course, he's never really been with any of them long enough to really have an anniversary, so. Huh. "We're not doing anything. Joey doesn't really care about that kind of shit."

"What?" Tilting his head back for a better angle, Justin peers at him dubiously.

Chris does his best not to flinch. If he keeps his expression free of the doubt he's starting to feel, Justin will drop this and then Chris can forget all about it and the doubt will take care of itself. He doesn't say anything, because he knows if he does, Justin will be onto him in a flash. Instead he shrugs and pops a few more chips into his mouth.

"Bullshit. He does too care." Justin leans back into the couch again with a self-satisfied grunt and snatches the chip bag back. "You're such a jerk. So, what are you going to get him?"

"Get him? You mean, like, a
present? I told you, Joey's not into that stuff."

"Oh, of course he is. He has to be. He's Italian."

"Um. Yeah? And that would mean…?"

"It means he's
Italian, dude." Justin says, rolling his eyes and speaking really slowly like he's dealing with a particularly backward five-year old. "Italian. You know. Like, uh. Casanova. Or, wait. I mean, Venice, dude. Venice and canals and that song, right? That amore song." He starts singing, "When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's amore. It's part of his culture, man. He's, like, hardwired for romance and shit. There's nothing you can do about it."

"What a load of donkey crap." Chris thinks about it for a few minutes. Well, it is crap. Probably. Because, really. Joey? How likely is he to get bent out of shape because Chris doesn't buy him an anniversary present? Besides. Why should
Chris be the one to have to remember anniversaries when he quite clearly isn't capable of it? If they're so important to Joey, why can't Joey do the remembering? "And why is it up to me anyway?" he asks Justin. "If Joey's so sappy about anniversaries, why can't he remember them?"

Justin shrugs. "Whatever, dude. Joey remembers. I already
told you that Lance knows. And if Lance knows …"

"Oh, fuck, you're right. I hate you. Shit. So, you think he's gonna, like, surprise me or something?"

"Has he said anything to you about it?"

"
No. Or I would have said."

"He's gonna surprise you, dawg. And he's gonna be pretty fucked up if you've forgotten and haven't even bought him a card or nothin'."

"Fuck." Chris shoves his elbow into Justin's ribs, just on principle, but Justin just laughs at him. "Oh, shut up, asswipe, and help me here. What the fuck should I get him? What do you get someone for the first anniversary, anyway? Like, traditionally?"

"Uh." Justin's brow furrows as he ponders this. "Diamonds? Or, no, hey, wait, garnets, maybe. Or dishes."

"You're pretty fucking useless, you know that, right?

"Well, how should I know? I'm only seventeen! God, please. Why would I know shit like that. Ask JC. He's a big sap."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The thing about JC is that mornings really aren't his best time, and Chris should have remembered that and not have spent fifteen minutes tapping discreetly on his hotel room door. Still, that's an investment of time that he's never going to get back, so there's no giving up now.

After another five minutes of vigorous pounding punctuated by progressively louder shouting, JC finally yanks open the door and throws a pillow at him.

"
What do you want" JC hisses at him, looking like a demented hedgehog with his hair standing straight up and his eyes still gummed shut with sleep. "Chris? What are you doing here?"

"Waking you up. I need to ask you a question. I should have asked you yesterday, but I got sidetracked watching The Simpsons with J, and then there was the concert, and then I kinda fell asleep, so. Yeah. Now would be good. Can I come in or have you got some hottie stashed between your sheets?"

Peering over JC's shoulder at the disaster of sheets and blankets on the bed, Chris can't make out whether there's another body buried in there or not. From the expression on JC's face as he turns to have a look, he's not sure either.

"Um. I'm alone. Sure. Come on in." He says this pretty confidently, but Chris doesn't miss the quick poke he gives the mound of bedding as they pass it. Nothing beneath the mound stirs, and JC gives a little sigh of relief.

"So, uh. Did you bring," JC waggles his hands around helplessly as he staggers to the couch, "you know."

"Joey?"

"No, uh-"

"Drugs?"

"
No. I mean-"

"Coffee?" Chris says, taking pity on him.

"Yes!"

JC looks ridiculously grateful and it's so touching that Chris doesn't have the heart to tell him he hasn't brought coffee. "Yeah, sure. Coffee. Of course."

"Oh, thank god." JC collapses on the couch, closes his eyes and holds his hand out.

"So, dude," Chris says, perching on the coffee table, "I was talking to Justin and�". What?" he asks as JC paws at his leg.

"Coffee?"

"Yeah, yeah, hold your water, princess. Coffee's coming. First you gotta help me figure this thing out." He gives JC's leg a don't-worry-caffeine's-on-the-way pat and explains the anniversary dilemma. Slowly. Four times, because JC keeps drifting off whenever Chris takes his eyes off him at him.

"So you see my problem, right?" Chris says, finally. "I gotta give Joe
something, or he'll think I've forgotten or that I don't give a shit, and I'll feel like a total fuckup when he gives me my whatever he's giving me. But, see, the thing is, how should I know what people give each other for anniversaries? I mean, it's just stupid to assume I'd have a clue about something like that. What's he thinking? Shouldn't he have given me, like, a list or something? He gave me a list for his birthday. But, whatever. Justin said to ask you."

JC blinks and yawns.

"He said you might have an idea," Chris says.

JC's glances at Chris, but he doesn't say a word. Maybe he's asleep with his eyes open. It's not like that hasn't happened before. If he doesn't smarten up soon, Chris is going to go get a bucket of ice and dump it on his crotch. That's happened before, too.

"He
said," Chris perseveres. "That you'd probably have an idea of what people usually give. For anniversaries. Like, traditionally."

JC stares at him, but Chris decides to wait him out this time. Sometimes when JC's really tired, it takes him a while to process conversation. He'll just stare vacantly, and you're not really sure whether he's thinking about what you've just said or wondering when you're going to do something about the gross pimple on your chin. So, Chris waits and twitches, and JC stares, and then just when Chris thinks he's going to have to start delivering thundering slaps to JC's thighs, JC speaks.

"Anniversaries? Are you fucking kidding me? You woke me up to ask me about anniversaries? That's just. Oh, man. Seriously, do I
look like Martha Stewart? Why don't you just. I dunno. Buy him a Superman doll or something."

"You think that would be okay? I could totally do that. Except, I dunno. Not very romantic, really, is it?"

"Romantic?" JC squinches up his face and thinks about it for a few long minutes. "Uh, no. I guess not. I mean, maybe if you threw in a Lois Lane
doll. But no. Not really romantic. So, Joey's really into this stuff, huh? I didn't realize."

Chris shrugs. "Yeah, probably. Maybe. Justin says it's, you know. An Italian thing. Apparently."

"Mmmm." There's a short silence while JC digests this. Or at least Chris assumes he's digesting it. It's entirely possible that he's performing a mental tally of how many pairs of underwear he has left before he has to start thinking about laundry. "Yeah, okay. I see what Justin means. It's like those people who have that weird skin disease where you can't go out in the sun or you fry or it kills you or whatever, and you have to live underground or only come out at night, like vampires. That XP thing."

"
What?

"Um. Xeroderma Pigmentosa? Yeah. That was it. Remember? We saw it on that documentary the other night? It's a disease that�""

"I don't give a flying fuck what it is. And I did not watch a documentary about any such thing. Or if I did I was stoned and it doesn't count. What the hell does it have to do with Joey anyway?"

"Genetics. And fuck off if you're going to be a dick, okay. And where's my coffee?"

"Genetics?"

"I'm just saying, I understand J's point that maybe Joey's hardwired to be romantic because of his Italian whatsit. Ancestry. Like being allergic to the sun. Or being a hemophiliac. Or being albino."

"Or, in your case, being a stupid twat."

"Or, in yours, a jerk and a liar. There's no coffee, is there?"

"What? Oh, no. Of course not. Sorry. So, essentially, what you're saying is, you have no clue what I should get him? Does that about sum it up?"

"Yeah, but I know who will have a clue. Lance knows all that stuff. Call him. Tell him to come to my room. With coffee. In the meantime, shut up while I snooze."


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"I can't believe you know this stuff." Chris says, sipping his latte experimentally. For some stupid reason, since they've been back in the States Lance can't bear to order a plain coffee. It doesn't matter how many times Chris asks for one, Lance always ends up bringing him some fancy-dancy beverage with shots of this and that and possibly even soy, so it pays to be cautious with that first sip. "I mean, dude, who knows that first anniversary is paper? Besides chicks, that is."

Pushing JC's feet off his lap for the fourth or fifth time, Lance tips Chris a wink. "I'll let you in on my secret. It's called the internet. God, you are so lame. Frankly, I don't know how you even find your dick when you need to take a leak."

"Pfffft. I can
always find my dick, don't you worry about that." The latte tastes pretty good, actually, with a hint of vanilla and maybe a touch of raspberry. And JC is busily sucking back his own coffee and has finally stopped whining about caffeine deprivation, so Chris is feeling pretty charitable toward Lance. Otherwise he'd pull out his dick to demonstrate exactly how little trouble he had finding it when the need arose. "But, seriously. Paper? How sad romantic is that? So I should buy him, like, a notebook or something? Or a comic book? That's pretty sad, dude."

"Well, you could always go modern. Paper's traditional, but the modern first-year gift is, hang on, let me check." Lance hauls a sheet of paper out of his pocket and studies it. "A clock. Yeah. That definitely says romance to me."

"A
clock? Fuck. That's even worse than paper. What the fuck's he supposed to do with a clock? You're not making these up, are you? Because if you're making them up, I'm gonna pants you in public, I promise you that."

JC stretches and casually lays his feet back across Lance's back. "No, dude. Clocks make sense. It's, like, a symbolic thing, right? Like, we haven't been together all that long, but we have all the time in the world. You know?"

"I know you're a fucking freak, that's what I know. I also know if I give Joey a clock, he's going to dump me like a sack of rocks. Who the hell wants a boyfriend who gives you
clocks? That's just. It's pathetic."

"JC. Get your smelly feet off my lap before I pour coffee all over them." Slapping at the offending appendages, Lance makes a moue of distaste before turning back to Chris. "Paper doesn't have to be boring or lame, you know. You're just not using your imagination. If you put your mind to it, you could come up with something he'd like."

"Oh, yeah, like what? An origami dildo?" Chris snickers. "Actually, that's not such a bad idea."

JC giggles ferociously, which Chris figures is really more to distract Lance's attention away from his feet, but it's gratifying all the same.

"Oh, don't be such an ass," Lance says. "There are plenty of things you could get him. Like, why not a ticket to something? That's paper."

"A ticket. Hmmm. Like, to a concert, you mean?"

"Yeah, why not? Or to the theatre. Joey loves going to shows."

"Or, hey! Wait!" JC whips his legs off Lance's lap and onto the floor so quickly he manages to launch Lance's coffee all the way across the room and into the wall above the bed, where it explodes in a steaming mess of liquid and foam. "A plane ticket!"

"My coffee!" Lance wails.

"Dude, don't worry, you can buy another one." JC shakes his head at Lance. "It's just coffee. But it's a good idea, right, Chris? You're always pissing and moaning about how you guys don't get any privacy on the bus and how you never get to be alone, and we've got a few days off coming up, so this would be, like, perfect, right? A couple of nights in some nice quiet place, just you and Joey. I mean, if that doesn't say romance, what does?"

It
is a pretty good idea. A damned good idea, really. Chris is impressed. Not that JC doesn't have good ideas, it's just that they're usually way more complicated than this and involve phrasing and rhythm patterns and whether or not there's enough lyrical intensity to adequately differentiate the bridge from the rest of the song.

This, though. This could work. Because JC's right, as much as Chris loves all the guys, the last few months have been incredibly frustrating. It feels like forever since he and Joey have been able to spend any more than the odd night together. They've been touring endlessly, working on the album, doing interviews, and it's been go, go, go from the time they get up till the time they drag themselves into bed. There's no privacy on the bus, none at all. You can't even pick your nose without four other people yelling about boogers and throwing boxes of Kleenex at you. Whole days go by where the only action he and Joey see is when they sneak away early from an after party for a furtive handjob before Justin, Lance and JC get back on the bus. All this abstinence punctuated by woefully infrequent and regularly interrupted bouts of stealthy sex really can't be good for a person.

"You know," he says. "I like this idea. I think I like it a lot. Maybe we could head back to Orlando, or--"

"That would be dumb," says Lance. "Your families would be all over you before you could blink. No, you want someplace quiet and secluded, someplace no one's going to think of looking for you. But it has to be someplace relatively close, because you'll only have three or four days. You know what? Leave it with me. I'll do a bit of research and find something for you."


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The cabin is at the top of a steep, winding gravel road that switches back and forth across an angry looking river. Riddled with pot holes and almost smothered in parts by dense undergrowth encroaching from the depths of the forest, the road would be impassable in most vehicles. Fortunately, Lance has had the foresight to rent them a Jeep Cherokee, so other than the bumpy ride and a few assorted bruises from slamming into the sides of the vehicle, they've managed not to spin out into a gulley or get stuck in any of the holes.

For the last few minutes they've been squabbling about whether or not they've missed the cabin, because the road seems to be dwindling away to little more than a footpath, but as they lurch around the next corner they see it, a stunted-looking log structure nestled snugly against the bald rock face of the mountain on one side and surrounded on the others by tightly packed evergreens. It is, quite literally, the end of the road which peters out entirely about three yards from the cabin door.

"Surprise!" Chris yells, punching Joey in the arm. "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"

Joey doesn't look quite as thrilled as he might, but that probably has more to do with the fact that his guts have just been whipped to pudding by the wild ride up the mountain. Chris gives him a few minutes to recover and punches him in the arm again.

"So, do you like it? Huh? Isn't it fantastic? Isn't it un-fucking-believable? Do you love it? You love it, right?"

"Chris," Joey says, climbing out of the Jeep, "No more sugar for you. Ever. But, oh, man." He stares at the cabin for a few seconds, then does a slow 360 turn, taking in the forest, the mountain, the river. "Wow. This is just. Wow. It's fucking awesome, dude. How did you ever find it? And what made you think of it?"

"Uh. Well. Lance found it for me, actually. And it was JC's idea. Kind of a group effort, I guess."

"Whatever, it's way cool," Joey says, grabbing Chris and wrapping him into a rib crushing hug. "And it's not even my birthday!"

"Well, no. No, of course it's not," Chris mumbles into Joey's jacket. What is this, some kind of trick? To see who's going to make a twat out of himself by saying "Happy Anniversary" first? Because Chris is totally not going to be that person, oh, no. That will just give Joey license to mock him for the rest of his life. So far, he's managed to avoid the whole subject by assuming that Joey won't try and make him say the actual words. When Chris presented him with the airline tickets to Bella Coola by way of Vancouver, Joey had been obviously delighted, even though he really didn't have the remotest idea where Bella Coola might be, and he'd thanked Chris profusely, but he never once mentioned the anniversary. Chris has assumed that they're going to do the right and fitting guy thing and mark the occasion without actually mentioning it. Obviously, though, Joey has other ideas. He just wants Christ to be the one to say it out loud.

Whatever, Chris thinks as Joey sucks on his neck and squishes the breath out of him. Joey'll break first. He won't have any choice. Tomorrow's their
actual anniversary, and at some point during the day he's going to have to give Chris his present, and then he'll have to say something because Joey is the biggest sap on the planet, and there's no way he's going to be able to just toss the gift into Chris's lap and then run off to play Halo or whatever. Like some people. Right now, though, right now it's just so cool to stand here getting crushed by Joey, listening to the rumbling of the river, the calling of birds overhead and the occasional rusting of insects or small animals concealed by the thick foliage -- and nothing else. No bickering boybanders, no television, no roar of traffic. Just him and Joey and the great outdoors. How freaking awesome life was when you turned the planning of it over to someone who knew what he was doing.

"So," Joey says, swinging Chris around to face the river. "You s'pose there's good fishing here?"

"Totally. That's why people come here, apparently. Hunting and fishing. And maybe a bit of Deliverance-style butt banging in the wilderness, but who are we to judge? Oh, and there's gear in the cabin, that's what they told Lance. Rods, reels, flies, all that shit. So, dude, we're good to go. Ya wanna? We can stow our crap in the cabin, grab some poles and hit the fishies!"

"Let's go. I hope they have hip waders. I bet you look fucking hot in hip waders."

Snickering, Chris yanks his duffel out of the back of the Jeep and heads for the cabin. "You've got a pretty warped sense of the erotic, Fatone."

Joey looks s as excited as a kid, and Chris realizes he is too. He feels like they've escaped, like they're doing something illicit and naughty, and it hits him how hard they've been working lately that something as simple as a fishing trip has them both so revved up with glee. All he's been able to think about on the drive up from the Bella Coola airport -- other than to wonder how it is that such a dinky foreshortened runway ever managed to qualify as an airport and to try not to focus on the fact that he's going to have to take off again from that same miserable few yards of tarmac -- is that the first thing he's going to do when he gets to the cabin is bend Joey over the nearest available piece of furniture and have at him. Now that he's here, though, knowing that they're going to be here for the next three days and two nights, the urgency has abated. Right now, it's enough just to be with Joey,
alone with Joey. Fishing first, fucking later. It's the best plan he's made in forever.

The key is exactly where Lance told him it would be, under the large black rock a couple of feet along from the front door. Well, the only door, probably, Chris guesses, judging by the size of the cabin, which is so small it's barely more than a shed. A log shed, though, so it does have charm going for it. And at least it's a clean shed he notes as they pile in with their bags. The wooden floor, rough as it is, looks well-scrubbed, and there are no visible cobwebs festooning the wooden beams of the ceiling. The furniture is minimal: a sturdy wooden table, a couple of straight-backed chairs and a green cupbboard against the far wall; to the right, a lumpy looking couch positioned in front of a stone fireplace, to the left a bed that might possibly hold the two of them if they both lie on their sides and a small dresser. There are a couple of shelves hung near the table that hold mugs and plates, and a couple more on either side of the fireplace filled with dog-eared books and magazines. In spite of the sun shining outside, the light in the cabin is quite dim, the only source, other than the open door, a small window over the bed.

"Aha!" Joey cries, spying the fishing paraphernalia in the far corner. "Fantastic! Oh, wait. What do we use for bait?"

"Bait?" Chris thinks for a minute. "Oh, shit. Shit. I forgot. We were supposed to pick up bait in that last little town we passed. What was did you say it was called? Stewmeat?"

"We didn't pass through any town called Stewmeat!"

"Whatever, dude. You were navigating, and I'm pretty sure you said Stewmeat. The last town after Hagensborg, remember? We were s'posed to stop there. Only I forgot."

Joey shakes his head fondly at him. "Doesn't matter. We can drive back and get the bait tomorrow. I don't mind waiting. I'm sure we can think of
something to do until then."

Dodging Joey's groping hands, Chris says "Um. Yeah, this is true. But, sadly, bait isn't the only thing we forgot to pick up. I hate to break it to you, but we don't have any food, either."

Joey stares at him. "When you say "
we forgot ….?"

"Oh, shut up. I'm sorry, okay? It just slipped my mind. I mean, after those ginormous moose burgers you forced me to eat in Hagensborg, who's gonna think about food?"

They both snicker.

"Dude, you're right," Joey says. "But those burgers were totally worth it. Biggest fuckin' burger I've ever eaten. Maybe the best, too."

"Mmmm. Yeah. So. You figure the memory of the burgers will last us till morning, or should we drive back to town for supplies?"

Even as he asks, Chris feels his stomach growl. He really, really hopes Joey doesn't want to wait till morning. He might be forced to start gnawing on his own fingers and toes.

"I dunno, Chris. Those burgers were hours ago. I'm not sure I can wait. Besides, you got any beer in your bag?"

"Uh. No. Good point. Let's go." He tosses the Jeep keys to Joey. "You can even drive this time. And, hey, dude, if we hurry, we might still get a couple hours of fishing in before the sun goes down."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"Just try it one more time."

"Fuck, Chris. It won't start! Trying it again is just going to wear down the battery. There's no point beating a dead fucking horse." Joey glares at him, but Chris folds his arms and pouts in return, because he knows Joey can never resist the pouty face. "Oh, fine, whatever."

With an irritated flick of the wrist, Joey turns the key in the ignition for about the fifteenth time. Nothing. Nada. Not even a gasp of effort from the engine.

Chris thumps the dashboard with his fist and grunts. "Fuck. Fuckety fuck. Never mind the freaking battery. Sucker's deader than a pickled pig embryo. What the hell. Stupid god damned piece of rented shit. I'm never renting another cocksucking
thing from this stupid ass company again!"

"We could walk," Joey says doubtfully. "Couldn't we? I mean, it'll be a bit of a hike, but it wasn't
that far. We should be able to make it down and back before dark." He tips his head to one side and peers up at the sky through the windscreen. "Yep. Definitely before dark. We'll get the food and find a mechanic, ask him to come up and see what the fuck's up with the car. Better than hanging around starving all night. Plus," he adds, waggling his eyebrows suggestively at Chris, "We're gonna need to keep our energy up, if you know what I mean."

It's impossible to resist Joey when he's determined to be in a good mood. Plus, he has a point. Sex is always better when you're not tempted to gnaw chunks out of your boyfriend for sustenance. "Shit. Okay. Walking it is. If we get run over by a logging truck, though, it's on your head."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

By the time they drag themselves into town, Chris is beginning to think that there are worse fates than getting run over by a logging truck. If, for example, he
lived in that god forsaken cabin and had to walk down that steep, rutted road every day, there wouldn't be many logging trucks rolling by without him trying to throw himself under their wheels. Joey doesn't look much more impressed with the whole experience than Chris feels, but for the sake of their relationship they haven't said much to one another for the last couple of miles.

The town doesn't appear to be much more than a few houses and a couple of storefronts running along both sides of the road. The biggest building, an old wood-frame house painted a dizzying shade of pink, has a weathered sign with bright green lettering advertising it as "Pete's General Store," so that's where they head first.

"Hey," Chris says to the woman sitting behind the counter reading a comic book. Other than glancing up and sighing loudly, she doesn't pay them any attention, and from the set of her shoulders, it's pretty clear that she hopes they'll extend the same courtesy to her. She looks to be somewhere between sixty and eighty, her face as lined and craggy as if she's personally faced down every storm that's ever roared through these mountains.

Joey and Chris leave her to the riveting hijinks of Archie and Jughead and start gathering groceries, squabbling amicably over one another's choices, recovering their earlier good moods. They load up a couple of baskets with the essentials: bread, milk, butter, eggs, coffee, a box of cookies, a couple of bags of chips, chocolate chip granola bars, a box of instant mashed potatoes, a jar of peanut butter and a couple of steaks (in case they don't catch any fish). Joey's dubious about the steak. Other than a few questionable looking pork chops, they're the only meat in the cooler, and he keeps sniffing them and poking them and muttering something about freshness. They do look safer than the pork chops, though, so they decide to risk it.

"Excuse me," Chris calls out. "Ma'am? Uh, where's the beer?"

"Beer?" Her voice is shrill enough to peel paint, and she's definitely not happy with the interruption.

"Yeah. Where's the beer?"

"What beer?" She's looking at him like he's wearing a shoe on his head. "I said WHAT BEER?" she repeated, apparently assuming he's deaf as well as retarded.

"WhatEVER beer. The beer you sell. Where. Is. It." Two can play at this game, Chris tells himself, ignoring Joey tugging at his sleeve and hissing at him to cool it.

"At. The. Liquor. Store. This is Canada, eh? We only sell beer in liquor stores. This isn't a liquor store. Draw your own conclusions."

"Oh. Fuck. Oops. Sorry. No offence. So, okay, where's the liquor store then?"

"Bella Coola. You gonna pay for that stuff?" She glares at Joey who's carrying both baskets.

"What? Oh, yes, of course." He starts unloading the food onto the counter, and she starts ringing it in, examining each item carefully first, turning it over in her gnarled hands like she's never seen anything quite like it before and can't quite imagine how it came to take up residence on the shelves in her store.

"BELLA COOLA?" shrieks Chris. "That's MILES away!! MILES!"

"And they can probably hear your there, too. Also, we call them kilometres here. Oh, my. Jiffy Peanut Butter. That goes real nice on pancakes I always think. Did you boys want to buy some pancake mix?"

"OH MY GOD. BELLA COOLA?"

"Chris, calm down. It's just beer." Joey takes a look at the expression on Chris's face and turns back to the woman. "You mean there's no place in this town that sells beer? Or any other alcohol?"

"Your friend likes the sauce a bit too much, eh? I know what that's like. My fourth husband was a bit too fond of it too. That's what killed him in the end. Drank himself stupid and froze to death in the bathtub. Forgot to light the stove, eh? What a clown."

"Um. That's too bad. Sorry to hear that. What happened to the first three? If you don't mind my asking."

"Bears."

"Bears?" asks Joey.

"BEARS???" shrieks Chris.

"Bears," she says, ringing in the steaks. "They got eaten by bears."

"
All of them?"

"Well, not at the same time, obviously. But, yeah. All of them. Funny thing, me and the bears? We seem to have the same taste in men." She glances at Chris. "So you got nothing to worry about. You don't do a thing for me."

It takes her a good five minutes of cackling and wheezing to recover from her own wit. It takes Chris a good five more minutes to get his temper under control enough to ask her again if there isn't anyplace else in town that sells booze.

"Oh, well, sure. There's off sales at the Talchako Pub, eh? But they're not open."

"What time do they open?"

"Hmmm. Let me think." She squinches her eyes shut in concentration, a steak clutched in each hand. "That would be … May. May 1st, I believe. They always close after October. Not enough customers, eh?"

Chris feels like weeping, because oh, god, would a bottle of scotch ever go down nicely right now. Why didn't he have the foresight to pack some hooch? There's really no excuse for that kind of negligence. He looks over at Joey who's pawing through his wallet for cash since, big surprise, the store lady won't accept debit or credit cards. Amazingly enough, Joey's still cheerful, making a joke, telling her where they're staying, charming the pants off the old bat. Shit. Now.there's an image it's going to take him a good long while to scrub from his brain.

"Okay, fine," he says, "If there's no booze, there's no booze. I can deal. Let's just go to the gas station and talk to the mechanic."

"You can go to the gas station, son, but you won't find a mechanic there. Just Mac Rochelle's kid. He knows how to pump gas, but that's pretty much all he knows how to do. I wouldn't let him near my car if he was the last pair of hands on earth, I'll tell you that for free."

"So, there's no
mechanic?" Chris is whining, he knows he's whining, but he can't make himself stop. God knows, if there was ever a good reason to whine, this has to qualify.

"Oh, sure, there's a mechanic. He's just not here, that's all. Got married a couple of weeks ago. He's on his honeymoon, eh? Hawaii, I think. Or Mexico
maybe. Should be back tomorrow or the next day, though. Want me to tell him to swing by?"

Chris smiles at her, trying to look beseeching and winsome. "I guess there's no chance you'd be willing to give us a ride back up to the cabin?"

"Well, I
would, but I don't have a car. Or a driver's license."

"But. You said you wouldn't let that kid touch your car. The gas station kid. You said!"

She looks at him pityingly. "That was just to illustrate my point. You think if I had a car I'd be sitting here reading about Betty getting shafted by that bitch Veronica for the two billionth time? How'd you boys get here, anyhow, if your car's broke? You walk?"

They both nod.

"Well, I guess you know how you're getting back, then. And here," she adds, tossing Joey a flashlight and a package of batteries. "These are on the house. I'd say you've got another half hour of daylight, tops, and unless you're planning on running the whole way, you don't have a hope of getting home before dark. That's a good hour's hike, if I recall."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

As it turns out, the hike takes a good deal longer than an hour. If Chris hadn't developed a blister on his heel; if two of the plastic bags hadn't ruptured, spilling their contents halfway down the mountain; or if the heavens seen fit to split open and dump an ocean's worth of rain on top of them as they struggled up the steep incline, they might possibly have made it in an hour. The fact that they have to make the last quarter of the journey in absolute pitch dark other than the wavering beam from the flashlight hasn't helped much either.

By the time they reach the cabin, their clothes are sodden, their shoes are sodden, every last inch of their skin, exposed and unexposed, is completely, utterly sodden. All either of them wants to do cook the steaks, eat them and crawl into bed.

"Where's the light switch," Joey asks, shining the flashlight around the room. "I can't find the light switch."

"On the wall by the door," Chris say. "I guess, anyway. I dunno."

Joey shines the light over by the door, then very slowly goes over every inch of wall space in the cabin. "Chris. There's no light switch."

"Fuck. I think there was a lamp on one of the shelves. Let's get that." Shoes squelching and pants clinging to his legs like sacks of wet laundry, Chris finds the lamp and brings it to the table. "Here, give me some light and let's see if we can get this thing working. You got a lighter? Matches?"

Chris fiddles with the lamp for a while, trying to light it, but it just doesn't want to catch. He fiddles some more, and then some more, finally realizes what the problem is. "Uh, Joe, you wouldn't happen to have any lamp oil on you, would you? Fuck. This sucks."

"It's not so bad," Joey says, putting his arm around Chris. "At least we're together, right?" He bumps his hip against Chris and licks his ear. "Not so bad, really."

Chris's dick thinks Joey makes a pretty valid point. Other parts of his anatomy are not quite as convinced; those parts would really appreciate a bit of heat and some dry clothes before they're ready to contemplate fun. He returns the hip bump and squeezes Joey's ass. "It'll be a lot less bad if we can get some heat going and get those steaks cooked. How about I light the fire and you get the steaks on?"

A couple of minutes later as Chris is laying the kindling, Joey says, "Um. Dude? I hate to tell you this, but there's no stove."

"
What What do you mean there's no stove? There has to be a stove. What kind of place doesn't have a stove? Have we missed a room? A room with, say, a stove and light switch in it, by chance? And maybe some lamp oil?"

Joey spins around with the flashlight, as though he's waiting for a door to the missing room to suddenly appear. It doesn't. The shadows leap and stretch, and the bed and table seem to leap out from the walls and then recede, but no door becomes miraculously apparent.

"This is so messed up," Chris says, yanking open the drawers of the green cabinet, inc case maybe there's a miniature stove inside. There isn't. There is, however, a list of instructions for cabin guests. These include a request to replace whatever kerosene you use for the lamp (obviously ignored by the last loser who stayed here), instructions on using the outdoor fire pit, and information on what should and should not be disposed of in the outhouse toilet. Outhouse. Oh, fuck. Fuck. He'll tell Joey later. When he has to pee so badly that he won't have time to strangle Chris.

One thing's for sure, Lance is dead.

When he explains the stove situation to Joey and tells him the only cooking facility is an outdoor fire pit, Joey looks strained. Very strained. Like someone who has come dangerously close to the end of his tether and is about to start throwing things through windows or punching people in the nose.

"Joe. Dude. I am
so sorry. It wasn't supposed to be like this." He walks over and snuggles into Joey, ignoring their dripping clothes and general soddenness. "Let me at light the fire, and maybe we can at least get warm."

One thing Chris does know how to do, and that's light a fire. In less than five minutes he has a good blaze going, and there's enough firewood stacked in the corner to last through the night. They start peeling off their clothes, draping them over the two chairs. Chris makes it as far as his t-shirt and boxers when he feels Joey's cold, cold hand sliding up under the t-shirt and stroking his back.

"You look so fucking good by firelight," Joey whispers, helping Chris slide out of his remaining clothes. The shock of icy skin against icy skin makes Chris gasp, and he can feel an echoing shudder travel through Joey's body.

"Oh, Jesus," says Joey, "Oh, fuck," and Chris takes advantage of the opportunity to slip his tongue into Joey's mouth and glide his hand down to give Joey's ass a questioning squeeze. He interprets the ensuing moaning and thrashing as an implicit yes.

As Joey's moans intensify, Chris glances longingly at the bed across the room. It looks a long way from the fire, and it also looks pretty damned heavy. He just knows if he tries to shift that thing, he's going to top off n already majorly fucked day with an ulcer. The couch, however lumpy, will have to do. And it's a good thing one of them is still thinking, because Joey certainly isn't. He's starting to slide down toward the floor, and while there is a possibly infinite number of places that Chris would be willing to fuck Joey's brains out, the middle of this cold, wet, sliver-ridden floor is most definitely not one of them.

Trying to avoid the worst of the puddles on the floor, which is pretty ridiculous considering that the only light in the room is coming from the fireplace, he bulls Joey over to the couch, and topples him there, hoping the lumps aren't actually springs pushing their way up through the fabric. Fortunately, Joey doesn't bellow, so whatever's under there can't be too vicious.

For a while they roll around on the couch, letting the fire warm them while they grind their dicks together and gasp into each others' mouths until they're both slick with sweat and panting like linebackers after a. Stretching out over Joey like a blanket, like the river rolling by outside, Chris gropes around on the floor for his bag, and then for the condoms and lube inside. Just the sound of the foil package crackling between Chris's fingertips is enough to make Joey groan and start grinding frantically, and that's enough to make Chris want to come on the spot.

Instead he pulls back a bit, watches Joey wriggle around in frustration, watches the play of firelight across their pale limbs, watches as Joey takes a couple of deep breaths and mutters "fucking control freak bastard" before yanking Chris back down on top of him.

"I love you, dude," Joey says, just before Chris slides into him, slow and steady. Chris almost loses it then, and Joey knows it, he's snickering away like someone who doesn't have a dick up his ass. "You're such a pussy when it comes to the emotional shit, you know that, Kirkpatrick?"

"So they tell me, Fatone, so they tell me." And before Joey can into it, because this is
so not the time for this particular discussion, Chris picks up the pace, starts fucking him hard, hoping the couch doesn't collapse beneath them as he slams into Joey, realizing just before he comes that Joey always seems to know the exact right thing to say to get what he wants. He could charm the Pope into fucking him blind, Joey could.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"We gotta get off this couch and into that bed," Joey says. "Unless you feel like getting up every couple of hours to stoke the fire."

"Mmmph." Chris doesn't feel like moving at all. His legs are aching from the walk up the mountain, and Joey feels so damned
good sprawled out beneath, toasty warm and welcoming. In an hour or two, though, he's going to be so twisted out of shape, not to mention cold, he'll probably be in agony for the rest of the day. "Okay. Okay. I'm moving."

He drags himself into a sitting position, shifting to let Joey do the same. "You might have to carry me over to the bed, though. I'm not sure I'm ever going to move again. Man, am I bagged."

"Come on. Up and at 'em!" Joey springs off the couch with a completely ridiculous surplus of energy that Chris can't even begin to comprehend. "Let's�""

"Wait! Don't back up! My bag�""

"Oops!" There's a loud crunch as Joey steps backward onto Chris's duffle. "Oh, man, I'm sorry. It sounds like I broke something." He starts rooting around in the bag, looking for the source of the crunch.

"Careful. It's glass."

Joey pulls out a bright blue paper bag and peers inside. "Dude. A clock? A
wall clock? Who brings a wall clock on holiday?"

"It was. Oh, fuck it. It was your anniversary present. One of them. The trip was the other. You know, air ticket, paper?" Paper being the traditional first wedding anniversary gift? And, according to Lance, the modern first anniversary gift is a clock. Which, what the fuck, right? Who thinks of this shit. But anyway, that was your second gift. Happy anniversary! What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Why are you giving me an anniversary gift? It's not our anniversary."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it isn't."

"Yes, it
is, Joey. Lance told Justin. We first hooked up a year ago today. Man, it's been a crazy year, hasn't it?"

"Are you kidding me? You're celebrating the first time we screwed? How tacky is that?"

"What, so you weren't planning on getting me an
anniversary present?" Chris can't believe it. After all the plotting and planning with Justin, Lance and JC and it turns out that Joey was just going to blow this off. He doesn't know whether to feel vindicated or annoyed.

"Of
course I was going to get you something, you jerk. On our anniversary. Our real anniversary."

"Which would be?"

"December 30? Bronco Bowl? Second II None Tour? When you said to me, 'Dude, we've been hooking up for, like, ages now. Does that, like, mean we're a thing?'"

"Oh."

God, was he really supposed to have known that, Chris wonders. How could he possibly be expected to know that? Did Lance know? Obviously not. "So, Lance didn't know?"

Joey slaps him on the side of the head. "Of
course, Lance knows!"

They stare at one another for a couple of seconds. "Fuck," they say, almost simultaneously. "He is
so dead."

- The End -



 


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