Many Times, Many Ways

“I have a good idea,” JC says brightly, so of course despite Chris’s very bad feeling, two months later they’re stuck in the snow in some kind of ditch beside an empty road in the middle of nowhere.

“Room service,” he mourns, watching the fat fluffy flakes drift in front of the headlights and pile up on the hood of the Range Rover. “Umbrella drinks the size of your head. Naked people.”

“They have those here, I think,” JC says, twisting in his seat and clamping an arm behind Chris’s headrest. “In the brochure –” and somehow they’re fishtailing wildly backwards in the fresh snow and then sliding sideways, and JC’s yelling at him for some reason and slamming an arm across his chest like his mom used to do when she hit the brakes, and the headlights strobe and Chris catches a few brief, terrifying glimpses of rocks and the edge of a cliff and JC’s eyes shocked perfectly round, and suddenly a large jarring thump, and stillness.


Except that he can hear JC gulping in huge breaths, and in the dim light from the dash see his fingers clenching and unclenching around the steering wheel and his body shaking violently. “Really, naked people?” Chris croaks, too loud in the small space, “’cause that would be,” but he can’t think what. JC does this wild gasping, moaning thing and lurches across the console and latches onto Chris like he’s falling, holding on tight.

“You’re okay, you’re okay,” JC tells him and abruptly relaxes, and then Chris can breathe, too.


Outside the Rover the snow is still coming down, a whiteout except for the dark mass of whatever they crashed into, and the wind seems to be picking up; inside it’s getting cold. JC stops cranking the engine when the lights start to wane, and anyway with the angle of their tilt, Chris doubts they’d get far. “Plus, sliding off a mountain is not exactly my idea of a good time,” he says, crossing his arms for warmth.

JC closes his useless phone and shoves it in his pocket. “Which means what?”

“Nothing,” Chris says.

JC frowns. “Anyway,” he says in his pissy voice, “we didn’t slide off a mountain. We… hit a house first.”

“Ah, okay,” Chris says, peering out the windshield. A shack, maybe. Or a mound of dirt. “Well. Lucky us.”

JC rolls his eyes and throws opens his door, letting the snow and wind and wet and cold in.

Don’t fall off the cliff,” Chris shouts.


But JC’s back almost right away, covered with snow, diving into the Rover to haul out a couple of their bags. “Come on!” he yells over the wind, and he’s gone again, but he leaves the door open, so Chris has to plow through a snowdrift to maneuver around the front of the vehicle to close it, before he can rescue himself from the blizzard by trailing along in JC’s wake around the corner of the…

It is a mound of dirt.

But with a door, and a couple of filthy windows, and it’s freezing cold, but JC has a flashlight propped on a rickety wooden shelf, because he’s a fucking boyscout, and is trying to fire up a battered lantern with his cheapo 7-Eleven lighter. “I think there’s something in here,” he says, sloshing the lantern around. “Did you get the rest of the stuff?”

Chris just stares at him.

“Fine,” JC says, tossing the lighter at him. “See if you can light this,” and he’s gone again, leaving Chris in the hut with the flashlight and the piece of shit lantern and half their bags and probably rats and scorpions and who knows what all else, most likely just garbage. Chris rubs his gloves together and puffs a white breath between them. “Fucking awesome vacation,” he says, and kicks the lighter across the dirt floor.


By the time JC gets back, shivering hard, teeth chattering, Chris has the lantern burning and has found a pile of hideous, stained, warm wool blankets, and has one wrapped around him. “Here, JC, I –” he starts, but JC hurls a backpack at him and he gets the picture that JC’s maybe not very pleased right now.

Whatever. He perches on a suitcase uncomfortably and wonders what time it is in the real world. Somewhere in the world, there is television, and pizza. Here, there is JC’s absolute silence. Party on.


“This is not so bad, really,” Chris says conversationally, continuing a theme he’s been working on for the past hour or so; he’s not sure if JC’s listening anymore. JC’s face is pale in the flickering light from the lantern, and he’s huddled down into his coat and some shirts scavenged from their luggage and an awful, hair-covered blanket, and full body shudders roll through him every so often. Chris could almost feel sorry for him. “My fucking fingers are freezing, and my toes, and I can’t feel my ass, but as Christmas vacations go, not bad. I get to pick next year though, okay? My turn next year. I was thinking, maybe Siberia? We’ll be ready for that. Or, oh — I know! We could,” and JC’s up on his feet and out the door, so suddenly that Chris finishes his sentence before the shock hits him, “go to Canada.”

Even shuddering with cold, he’d rather be out in a fucking snowstorm than stay here with Chris. He’d rather fall off a fucking cliff than stay here with him. Excellent. Just — great. Chris sighs, his stomach twisting up in a tight, shamed knot, and he climbs to his feet and heads for the door.


But the storm has played itself out, settling into a clear, still night, and it’s brutally cold; but he pushes the thought away, because there’s JC, arms wrapped around his body, head tilted, facing the sky. He looks so small. Against the huge sky, merging into the dark land, so small, and he’s too near the edge of the fucking cliff. Chris sidles closer.

“JC –”

“Look,” JC says, glancing at him and away, and Chris knows he’s talking about the stars, sparkling hard white and blue like diamonds, and a few yellow lights in the snowy hills, and the moon.

“Okay,” he says, and watches JC’s face until he’s ready to go back.


Inside, they make a big nest of the horrid blankets and random clothing, and JC pulls a couple of bottles from his duffle with a flourish.

“Holding out on me,” Chris says.

JC smiles at him. “I wonder whose fault that is?” he says, and before Chris can say another word he sets the bottles carefully on the floor and stalks over and pushes him down, peels him out of his clothes, and makes everything right again with his hands and body and mouth, his fucking beautiful voice, and in turn Chris makes sure he’s gasping and helpless with pleasure long before it’s over, because he can.


“Tomorrow we’ll walk somewhere, or something,” JC says drowsily.

“Sure,” Chris says, thinking about the bitching and complaining and sarcasm soon to come, and JC snickers, obviously on the same page. A wave of happiness washes right through Chris.

“Hut, sweet hut,” he says, clinking his bottle against JC’s, and then squirms down deeper into the scratchy pile, closer.


Engine rumbling, getting louder and then cutting off, car door slamming, heavy footsteps crunching in snow, and Chris is suddenly wide awake, stifling under the mound of blankets and JC breathing softly into his neck. He slides a protective hand up over JC’s back.

The hut door swings open, letting in a swirl of snow flakes and a blast of cold air and watery sunlight, and also a large, surprised-looking guy in a red and black quilted shirt and a knit hat with a puffball on top.

“Hey there,” Chris says.

The guy just looks at him, and at their clothes draped around the tiny room, and at the empty bottles on the floor next to their makeshift bed, and at the tufts and whorls of JC’s hair, the only part of him visible outside the blankets.

“You hit my shed,” he says finally, matter of fact, like that sort of thing happens a lot.

“Sorry,” Chris offers.

The guy shrugs. “Needs a good mudding anyhow,” he says, whatever that means, and Chris is about to ask, but JC chooses that moment to regain consciousness with a loud snort. He pushes aside the blankets and stretches, long and sleek and flushed in the pale light, and then shivers a little and hugs himself. “Mm,” he says, yanking the covers back up, sliding good morning fingers over Chris’s face and into his hair, and the guy’s watching all this with a hint of red across his cheekbones and an open mouth.

“We’re heading to the ski hill. Kind of,” Chris says. The guy nods jerkily.

“I got a thermos in the truck. Coffee?”

“Yes, please,” JC mumbles from his nest, and the guy turns redder, and Chris grins.

Best Christmas trip yet.



December 2007