19: unforgettable, shortcake

by Chris J

Joey wiped his hands off on his apron after delivering the finishing touches to the piece of shortcake. Presentation was key, after all, or so his boss was always telling him as he did his infrequent rounds of the kitchen. Giving it on last, critical look, he handed it off to JC who gave him a grateful smile and a wink and rushed it out into the dining room.

It had been a pretty hellish night, all things considered. They hadn't been prepared for a whole delegation from the nearby conference centre to show up at dinnertime and had been caught understaffed. Lance and Justin and Christina had handled them as well as they could for the first while, but everyone was relieved when JC and Britney had been able to come in to work on such short notice.

Chris and Joey hadn't gotten any help in the kitchen though. At least Nick had been in for the last few hours on dishwashing detail and had been able to take over prep when things got a little hairy. Joey wiped his sleeve across his forehead and breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that there were no more orders waiting, that the neon open sign had already been extinguished and the last of their customers would be leaving shortly.

He heard the heavy door behind him open and close and footsteps coming up the narrow hallway. He turned to see Lance and Britney coming towards him, giggling at some unheard joke and smelling faintly of cigarette smoke. "Hey, Joe," said Britney, flashing him her dazzling smile. "Hell of a night for tips. You'll be getting a nice cut at the end of the week."

"Good to hear," he said, turning towards the grill and beginning to clean up. "I've got my eye on a new car stereo, and they're only on sale until Sunday."

Lance laughed. "You spend more on that car than you do on JC. You know he's gonna kill you if he finds it in pieces on his kitchen table again."

"Then I'll have to make sure I do it when he's not home, won't I," he said incorrigably. "It's not a big job. He'll never notice." He finished with the grill and started hauling some of the prep dishes over to the dishwasher.

"Never notice what?" asked Chris, slamming the heavy door of the walk-in cooler, his nose and cheeks looking red. He dusted off his hands and looked around the kitchen for any other foodstuffs that needed to be put away.

"Joey here's planning on installing a new car stereo in Mary Jane this weekend," said Lance, then turned back to Joey. "I still can't believe you called your car Mary Jane," he said. "That's just wrong."

"Wrong for you maybe," said Joey, searching the kitchen for a moment. "Where the hell did Nick get to?"

"I sent him downstairs to stock up the flour for tomorrow morning," said Chris. "And JC'll kill you if you spend all weekend on that car of yours, Joe. You know that."

"He's right, I will," said JC, pushing through the doors into the kitchen. "Someone keep Nick from wandering out into the dining room, okay? Justin's flirting up a storm with his last table, and you know now Nick gets when he sees that."

"That boy's got to learn to keep his libido in check," said Lance, shaking his head. "Or he's gonna get himself into a lot of trouble one of these days."

"Aw, we all know he's not serious about it," said JC, defending his friend. "He loves Nick to pieces, he just likes to be friendly with people. It's in his nature." He walked over to where Joey was piling the dishes into the washing rack and slid his arms around his waist. "I remember when Joey was like that."

"Yeah, back before Mary Jane," laughed Lance. "Listen, if you guys don't need any help in here, me and Brit are going to head off. You're all coming by Kevin's party later tonight, though, right?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," said Chris, wiping off the countertops. "Kevin's parties are unforgettable. You guys go ahead and head on out, we're almost done here anyway."

"Thanks, Chris," said Britney, giving him a wave as Lance took her hand and they started towards the back door again. "We'll see you guys later!"

JC released Joey and headed back towards the dining room again. "I've got to clear my last table and cash out and I'm done," he said. "They were good tippers, at least, so the night wasn't a total disaster."

"So I hear," said Joey, smiling to himself as he sent the next-to-last load of dishes through the machine. "Shit, how long does it take that boy to fill up a couple containers of flour, anyway?"

As if on cue, Nick stumbled into the kitchen under his heavy load and slid the containers into place. "Hey, thanks, Joey," he said, taking over his spot again. He laughed and swatted Joey's hand away as he tried to ruffle Nick's hair. "Is this it?"

"JC and Justin have got at least one more load each," he said. "That'll be the end of it, though, unless Chrissy has to bring anything in from the bar when she's done tidying."

"Nope, nothing," said Christina, bumping her hip against the swinging door to open it and strutting into the kitchen. 'I'm done, done, done for the night. How are you guys doing in here?"

"All but done, sugar," said Chris, flashing her a smile that she quickly returned. "Plenty of time to get home and get cleaned up for Kevin's party."

'Oh, that's tonight!" she said. "I'd almost forgot! Do you guys think AJ's gonna be there?"

Chris frowned at the mention of Christina's ex. "He knows enough not to show his face for a while. At least, he'd better."

"He's not," said Nick, turning towards them. "I was talking to Howie this morning and he says that AJ has to do a late night delivery run out of town tonight, so he's gonna be a no-show. Brian'll be there, though. He never misses his cousin's parties."

"That's okay," said Joey, still watching the door for JC's return. "Brian's a good guy. You don't need to be worrying about him, Nick--Brian and Justin have been over for a long time now. They're just friends."

"Yeah, I know," said Nick with a sheepish smile. "He keeps telling me that. But it's hard to believe that anyone would ever give up a guy like Justin, you know?"

Joey grinned at him and attempted to ruffle his hair again but Nick was still too quick to bat him away. "Why don't you and Chrissy go ahead?" he said to Chris. "I can lock up tonight."

"You sure, Joe?" asked Chris, untying his apron. "Because we can wait."

"No, go ahead," said Joey, still trying to get in past Nick's defenses. "We'll only be a few more minutes anyway, I think."

"Thanks, man," said Chris, grabbing his coat off the hook. "We'll see you at Kevin's, I guess?"

"Yeah, thanks Joey," added Christina, blowing him a kiss. "You're a doll."

"Are you trying to touch my man, Joe?" asked Justin, backing into the kitchen with an armload of dishes. "Cause you know if I wasn't carrying a bunch of breakable stuff, I'd kick your ass."

"You wish," said Joey, laughing and backing away so Justin could get past. "But don't worry, your studmuffin is safe from me."

"He'd better be," said JC, following with an equally large load of dishes. "Okay...the place is cleared out, the dining room is clean, and I locked the front doors for you. We'll be out of here in no time."

"Thanks, hon," said Joey, pulling him in for a kiss after JC dropped off his dishes in front of Nick. "Damn, it's been a long evening."

"Yeah, but now we get to go par-tay," said Justin enthusiastically, slipping his arms around Nick's waist from behind and swaying his hips in time with the music in his head. Nick rushed the last load through the industrial washer and got Justin to help put everything away.

"That's it," said Joey, surveying the room. "Get out of here, you two," he said to Justin and Nick, who were already wrapped around one another and leaning against the wall by the door. "And try not to show up at the party looking too freshly fucked. You know how those people like to talk."

"Let em!" said Justin, grinning eagerly at Nick as he pulled his boyfriend towards the door. "I don't give a fuck. See you guys soon!"

Joey gave them a half-hearted wave as he hung the cloth up over the tap to the sink. He felt a pair of arms come around him as he slipped his apron off and smiled. "You ready to go, too?" he said over his shoulder to his boyfriend.

"Why?" asked JC. "When we've finally got the place to ourselves?" He kissed Joey's neck suggestively and pressed himself against Joey's ass.

"Because we've already done it in here," he laughed. "And so we know that our bed's way more comfortable than this floor. Not to mention cleaner."

"Hmm," said JC. "You may be right about that..."

"How about this," said Joey. "I promise that you'll get some as soon as we get home if you'll promise me that you won't bait Nick and Justin at the party tonight. You know they don't need any encouragement."

"Throw in a promise that you won't touch Mary Jane this weekend," said JC, "and you've got yourself a deal."

Joey turned around in JC's embrace and laughed. "You already know I'd do anything for you." Then he smiled lovingly and kissed his boyfriend again. "And...well, hell, a little making out in the kitchen never hurt anybody."

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