Maybe it was the way he had been able to afford really intense, high-tech costumes for years now but still always managed to put together the neatest and most creative ones from scratch every year on Halloween. Or it could have been the way he had bought a grill and learned how to use it just so that he could have cookouts on the rare Memorial and Labor Days when they were at home. There was also the way he insisted on having an all-night Christmas movie marathon as soon as the Thanksgiving table was cleared to kick off the holiday season, even if they had a full schedule the next day.
Justin thought that it probably wasn't any one particular holiday tradition Chris had that made him so endearing during those times of the year so much as his overall enthusiasm about them. Justin had learned very early on that being enthusiastic about something not involving some kind of ball or puck is a good way to get yourself beat up. Lance tended to be his partner in understanding this basic fact, which made Lance easy to get along with and confide in, but he envied Chris and JC -- Chris for not caring and JC for being blithely unaware that his enthusiasm was what made him a dork.
Being Chris's friend was good, especially around the holidays, because it meant that a certain level of vicarious enthusiasm was expected. The first time they had spent New Years' together, when Justin had been sixteen and homesick and desperate to be considered cool at the same time that he wanted to put on one of the exceptionally ugly party hats and wrestle Chris for his noisemaker, Chris had solved the problem by tackling him and attempting to place one of the hats on his head. Justin had squirmed and giggled and acted reticent and, by the stroke of midnight, when Chris licked his cheek in lieu of a kiss, he'd successfully had the best New Years' he could remember. When he'd scowled at Chris about the licking and said, "Ew, gross," with a more quiet, "but, y'know, thanks," Chris had just grinned and said "anytime." They both knew they weren't talking about doggy kisses.
It was when they got the schedule for their sixth consecutive summer of touring that Lance glanced at it, pursed his lips and said, very quietly but with a determination that all of them recognized as being unstoppable, "No."
"No what, buddy?" Chris still had his eyes buried in the draft schedule.
"We are NOT doing a fourth of July concert."
"You have a date or something?" Joey was looking at Lance like he wanted to take his temperature. It was understandable, really, since Lance very rarely quibbled.
"No, I don't have a date, I just want to spend a fourth at home for once. As it is Christmas is hit and miss, to say Thanksgiving's a rarity is to make an understatement of astronomical proportions and Easter is a lost cause. And plus, we're in Canada that week…what the fuck?"
"How about this?" Joey was scribbling with the pen he'd rescued from JC's mouth. "Canada is pretty spread out, date wise, because of distance, but since there are two sets of trucks and we have the ability to fly out of and into each of these cities, we can probably compress the time we're up there by a good three or four days. That would put us in Toronto on the second. Lance, you can fly out the morning of the third. Then, we can move back the Pittsburgh dates to the seventh and eighth instead of the sixth and seventh. We'll be doing like four in a row, because that sets Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Indianapolis right smack together, but if you guys are cool, it would mean Lansten, as well as the rest of us, getting about a three day vacation the week of the fourth."
JC grinned. "I knew we kept you in the group for a reason. Give me back my pen."
Lance snatched the pen out of Joey's hand before JC could grab it, feeling playful after having gotten his way. Joey moved behind JC, who pretended not to care about the successful game of keep away that progressed to taking place on all sides of him when Chris and Justin joined in.
"Are you gonna go home?"
"Well, I mean, if I did I could be in one place for five days."
"Yeah, that's true."
"It would make my mom really happy."
"Out with it."
"Why are you being this agreeable?"
"Mom and Paul are going on vacation on the fourth. I didn't even mention the whole time off thing because she'd stay and they haven't gone away together in a long time."
"You wanna come to my place, is that it?"
"Actually, there's kind of something else that I really wanna do."
"And that is?"
"Come with me and you'll see." Justin affected puppy eyes.
Chris sighed. "I can't believe those still work on me."
"Anchorage." Chris said the word as though it were one he'd never heard before and was having trouble deciding what to think of it. "What the fuck do we wanna go to Anchorage in the middle of summer for? Do you not get enough of cold weather in the winter time?"
"Florida's not cold in the winter."
"We're actually going to Sitka."
"Is that supposed to help? I've never even heard of that. At least I'd heard of Anchorage."
"You know back in elementary school when you had to take American geography or history or something every year?"
"I blocked it out."
"Take my word for it."
"I'm on my way to Anchorage having done that. Do you wonder as to why I'm less than anxious to do so?"
Justin ignored him. "I had this teacher, Ms. Haley, in the third grade. Woman totally rocked, first crush I ever had. She made English text book stories cool, and dude-"
Chris laughed. "Okay, okay, you had wonder woman for your teacher. Come back to the Sitka thing."
"She decided to do this big unit on Hawaii and Alaska, because she said they got ignored a lot. Sitka was the first capital of Alaska and the first place that they announced acceptance into the union."
"So, this is like, your big patriotic moment?"
"No. There's just something else she told us about that I always wanted to see." Justin didn't add the "with the right person" that was bouncing around in his brain.
"You're gonna leave me hanging, aren't you?"
"Have you found a way I like you better?"
Chris didn't want to admit it, but getting to take a hydro-plane into somewhere was actually pretty cool.
Justin was seconds away from what Lance called his "tigger bounce" by the time the plane landed. "This is like, beyond postcard amazing."
Looking out the window, Chris thought that Justin might have a point. The landscaping of the coast of Sitka, with its large bridges and just-out-of-reach islands was oddly sci-fantasyish.
"And get this," Justin tugged at the tip of Chris's hair to get him to look down at Justin's watch. "It's ten fifteen at night."
Chris looked back up at the sun, which wasn't even thinking of setting, "Ms. Haley didn't teach you how to set your watch, huh?"
Justin smacked him upside the head, "Shuddup, it's cool."
Chris smiled at the way Justin could still be so eager to please sometimes. "Yeah," he admitted, "it kinda is."
They were in a café having Baked Alaska, because Chris had pointed out that you couldn't be in Alaska and not eat a dessert named after the state, when Justin looked at his watch and stood up. "C'mon, we gotta go."
Chris looked at his unfinished coffee cup. "It's eleven thirty, Ju. Where, precisely, do we need to go?"
"Get off your unenthusiastic ass, and maybe I'll show you."
Chris threw enough money to cover both of their desserts and drinks on the table and followed his friend out the door. He ran a little to catch up with Justin's long strides and followed silently while Justin made his way to the marina. Justin found a spot that the two of them could squeeze into and planted himself.
Chris looked at the water for a few minutes, noticing that the sun was slightly lower than it had been an hour and a half before. "You came all the way up here to watch a sunset?"
"What is your deal? You've always loved the fourth, why not this year?"
"It's still the third."
"I still love the fourth, I love being home with my family, watching fireworks, eating way too much and kissing my little sisters goodnight when they're already half-asleep from staying up so late."
"Well you didn't have to come."
Justin was better at hiding personal hurt than he had been at fifteen, but not much better, and Chris had been there the whole time to see the transition. So his voice softened and he asked, "Why'd you want me to come?"
Justin shrugged. "You've always made sure that I had a good time during the holidays, even if I was really homesick, or I'd never really celebrated something before. I just…wanted to make one of your holidays really special."
"And sitting on a marina for over half an hour is going to magically do this?"
"Will you trust me for another hour?"
"One more hour Timberlake, I'm counting."
At around one the sun had set far enough to describe the sky as being dark. A crowd had gathered and Chris thanked Justin quietly for getting them there early enough that they could keep their backs to everyone. Justin laughed, "Every once in awhile, I know what I'm doing."
Chris grabbed Justin's wrist and lit up the day-glo display on his watch face. "Happy fourth."
"You just got me that so you could play with it, didncha?" Justin looked pointedly at his watch as he tugged his wrist back into his possession.
"The world revolves around me, most people just don't seem to realize it."
"Chris-" Justin paused, knowing whatever he was going to say wouldn't sound nearly as cool or unworried as it did in his head.
"You only think the world revolves around you because you're standing so close to me half the time." Justin would have congratulated himself on sounding cool, if he had said what he had meant to say.
The fireworks were unbelievable. There weren't enough lights in the "city" of Sitka to interfere with their intensity and they came from all directions, several military ships being anchored further out in the ocean for the occasion. Chris understood though, that Justin had brought them there for the novelty of watching fireworks the night before the rest of the nation. It was like getting a head start on the holiday.
The display went on for nearly half an hour and neither of them felt any inclination to fight their way through the crowds and risk detection. When they finally wandered away from the marina, it was nearing three in the morning and Chris was too tired from traveling and the sudden halt in touring and the sheer excitement that came from watching colors explode against the sky to be anything other than truthful.
"That rocked, J. Totally fucking rocked, I'm so glad we came, sorry I gave you shit about it."
Justin looked over at him as if to check for sarcasm and Chris frowned, "Whatcha thinkin'?"
Justin shook his head, "Nothing. Glad you liked it."
"Of course, you know how I am with fireworks, the only person who gets more excited ever is Lance."
"Why didn't you bring him?"
"He wanted to go home, remember, that's how we got this vacation in the first place?"
"Well, yeah, but if you'd told him I bet he would've brought the family along, or something."
"I wanted it to be you and me."
"Yeah, I'm sensing. Why?"
"Jeez, Chris, we're best fucking friends, does there have to be another reason?"
"Not usually, but you've been weird lately. More worried about whether I'm gonna like the songs you write, more defensive about my age, so yeah, there has to be another reason."
"Whatever, you're getting delusional in your old age."
The walk from the marina was not a long one. Justin moved his hands along his pockets, trying to find the key as they made their way through the lobby to the elevator. Chris efficiently removed his copy from his pants pocket. The ride in the elevator was silent, Justin pretending to be annoyed by his missing key. Chris walked down the hall when the doors slid open, unlocked the door, pushed it back and shoved Justin into the room ahead of him.
Justin was so stunned by the forcefulness of the move on Chris's part, that he was almost unsurprised by the lips that covered his a second after the door clicked noisily shut. By the time Justin had regained enough presence of mind to respond, Chris pulled back.
"Maybe you brought me here because the world revolves around the two of us as one, and if you split us up, it would cause Armageddon."
Justin nodded slowly. "Maybe I just brought you here because my first crush was the person who told me about it."
"Maybe you brought me here because you wanna spend all your holidays with me."
"Maybe I brought you here because I wanna spend my life with you."
"Kiss me again, I'll try to be more decisive."