Meet Me in St. Louis

"We're lost."

"We are not lost."

"Face it, we're lost."

Pie-eater looked over the top of the atlas with a sigh. "I knew I should've driven," he muttered.

"You can't drive stick," Mush reminded him without looking away from the road. "Look. Route 70. See the signs? We're fine."

Pie just rolled his eyes and shoved the map into the glove compartment, which was already packed to the brim with receipts, brochures, and not a few empty soda cans. It wasn't closing anymore, but boys are boys, and neither would ever volunteer to clean it out.

"You should clean the glove box out," said Mush. "Seeing as how you're not doing anything."

"The glove compartment is fine," Pie said, kneeing it sharply. Something crunched.

Mush rolled his eyes and tried to concentrate on two things, merging onto the highway and not laughing at his boyfriend. Pie, who was staring sulkily out the window, was not helping matters, and Mush cracked a grin despite himself.

"I'm glad you think this is funny," Pie snapped, but his voice had no bite. He gave Mush a long look, during which the darker boy focused very hard on the car in front of him, feeling almost nervous. "It's that smile. I can be mad at you, but I can't be mad at that smile," he remarked finally, and turned back to the window.

Mush felt fingertips of heat on his cheeks but quickly regained control. Pie's compliments were sometimes awkward and heavy-handed not to mention few and far between - and he was always worried that if he reacted in the wrongly, they would go away forever.

After a few miles of comfortable silence, Pie reclined his chair a bit and attempted to settle in for a nap. It was dusk, and the endless stretch of highway was tinged with that perfect, dusty summer light, but Mush forgoed the sun setting over the trees for a few glances at Pie's peaceful face.

Pie rarely looked so calm; in fact, usually his brows were knit together in a tight V that Mush teased would be permanent if he wasn't careful. Pie would have none of that. He was not like Mush. Pie was literal, matter-of-fact, and reliable. Mush was optimistic, spontaneous, and unpredictable. Pie needed Mush's whimsical nature and fascination with life, Mush needed Pie's steadfast nature to fall back on. One might think that Mush would get bored with Pie, or Pie irritated with Mush, but it didn't happen. They weren't perfect, but they were content, and sometimes very happy, and in life you must appreciate what you have and learn not to ask for or expect too much.

When, one night, tucked between the jersey sheets of Pie's queen size, Mush had suggested a roadtrip, he had done it half asleep, as if planning an adventure in a dream. Pie heard him and immediately started making lists and mapping routes in his head, and the next morning he could be found at the kitchen table with a huge atlas spread in front of him and a mug of coffee (black) steaming fiercely. Mush who drank tea with milk and honey was happy enough that Pie had agreed that he let Pie attack the maps with a highlighter, buy the guidebooks, and check off the lists. After all, Mush knew that he would be the one driving, and he would do what he wanted.

Decisions. Where Mush went with his gut, Pie made lists of pros and cons. One of these lists was taped on the dashboard. It was their itinerary, a neatly printed sheet of all the top-rated national parks that fit into Pie's carefully planned route. They had just under two weeks, and he had pieced together a logical trip that would hit all the best spots without straying too far from their set course.

Mush didn't mind the outdoors, but the Great Smokey Mountains were not on his short list, and so instead of heading south after they left New York, Mush waited for Pie to be distracted with the radio, and then shifted their course just a smidge to the West.

"Oops," he'd said with a barely suppressed smile. Pie had thought it was an accident, which was just as well. Mush had long since decided that he was going to see the St. Louis arch if it killed him. Like Pie, he had it all planned out. He had daydreamed about the moment for weeks, while lying in bed, or on the subway, or in the shower. They would go to the top of the arch. They would gaze out at the city laid at their feet. And they would embrace tightly, and kiss, and it would be the best kiss of his life.

He replayed this image through his head once more and then allowed himself another look at his love. But he lingered too long, and one of Pie's eyes cracked open, catching him in the act. Pie smiled, a sly, sleepy smile, and Mush's heart bubbled up in his chest.

He turned back to the road a second too late, and didn't see the Jeep until he was just about on top of it. Mush had hit cruise control at about seventy and as he swerved to miss the car, the Jetta went careening off the road and down a short hill before jerking to a stop in a ditch. The airbags went off, then deflated, and smoke billowed out of the hood at an alarming rate.

Mush sat straight with his hands still gripping the wheel and his eyes locked onto the obscured windshield in front of him. He was torn between a feeling of immense relief, and absolute horror. He didn't dare look to his right.

Pie breathed heavily, wide-eyed and sweating. He fumbled for the door handle and pulled it sharply, but the door was only able to open about a foot before hitting some branch and getting stuck. But the fresh air seemed to do him some good, and though his face did not quite return to its normal color, it did try.

They sat like this, Mush staring ahead and Pie at the ground, for a full minute. Their bizarre meditation was broken only by the distant scream of police sirens. Pie blinked, as if waking up, and straightened. The sirens came closer, and with them, the promise of flashing lights, loud questions, paperwork, stretchers, and hospital coffee. Pie took a deep breath. Blue lights danced on the trees above them, and a megaphone blared to life in all its static glory.

Before it was too late, before his-two second moment was lost, Pie leaned over and kissed the shock right off of Mush's mouth. And Mush slowly, hesitantly, allowed himself to look at Pie, and when he saw only love and relief in the other's brown eyes, smiled just a little, and licked his lips, tasting not St. Louis and its cool blue steel but something far, far better. It was the kiss he had been waiting for.

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