TITLE: Total Grilling Experience
AUTHOR: Ellen Milholland [radiant@bluelikethat.com]
URL: http://www.bluelikethat.com/radiance/imagine.html
RATING: PG
CODES: gen, suggestion of CJ/T
ARCHIVE: Ask, please.
DISCLAIMERS: Consider me disclaimed.
SUMMARY: "I can grill!" Josh whined. "I am a lean, mean grilling machine."

For Luna, because she issued the challenge. Damn her, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

*

"I can grill!" Josh whined. "I am a lean, mean grilling machine."

"You know, Josh," Donna threw over her shoulder as she maneuvered the sleek Saab into a tight parking space. "You can keep saying that, over and over, and I'm probably still not going to be convinced. I once saw you ruin ramen. Ramen, Josh." She twisted the key in the ignition, satisfied.

"Those directions were impossible. And besides, there are no open flames involved in ramen. Had there been, I'm sure I could've triumphed--"

"Over noodles and hot water? Be still my beating heart," Donna mock- swooned.

Sam sighed from the passenger seat. "Could we make this quick?"

"You can't rush this, Sam. It's a very delicate process--"

"Shopping for raw meat and cheap beer is a very delicate process?" Donna scoffed as she opened her door and swung her feet to the asphalt. "I am so glad I was born a woman."

"You imply that only men can enjoy the truly primal joy of the total grilling experience." Josh stopped and considered as he joined her, standing in the parking lot, leaning against Sam's car. "Wait, you're right."

She smacked his shoulder.

Sam slammed his door shut and said, from across the car top, "I'd just like to remind He-Man Josh over there that if any of this primal joy stains my car, he is never, ever going to drive anywhere with me again."

"Duly noted, mi amigo," Josh said, gesturing with a flourish. "Follow me."

"Donna, remind me again why I agreed to this?" Sam groaned, dragging his feet against the pavement.

"Because otherwise you would've had to stay back at Toby's place, and you didn't want to watch him and CJ making eyes at one another?"

"Thank you. That made this excursion sound almost bearable."

"My pleasure," Donna smiled, following Sam through the automatic doors.

"Ah, my domain!" Josh said triumphantly as he breezed through the too- cold produce section.

"You grill a lot of lettuce?" Donna asked.

"Can't you feel that the whole building is charged? This is part of the grilling experience that you're feeling here."

"Suffering through, you mean? Enduring?" Donna smirked, grabbing a pre- bagged salad and dropping it into her cart.

Sam picked out a few tomatoes and set them next to Donna's salad. "Just wait until Josh gets to the meat aisle."

"I don't even know what should alarm me most about this picture. The fact that you just said 'meat aisle' and 'Josh' in the same sentence, or the fact that you clearly know how to choose perfectly ripe tomatoes," Donna said, leaning her forearms against the shopping cart.

"See, just because I once saw Martha Stewart--"

"Please stop, Sam. I enjoy having respect for you," Donna cringed.

Sam shrugged. "You'll see, when you try the tomato. Then you'll appreciate me."

They caught up to Josh fiddling over bottles of salad dressing. "Josh," Donna clucked her tongue, "We are absolutely not eating anything that has bacon written on the label."

"Why not?"

"Because it's... a disgusting idea. There is no reason salad dressing should have bacon in it, period."

"Do you like, hear the screaming of the poor, defenseless romaine, Donna?" Josh asked, shaking the bottle of Bacon Ranch near her face. "Is it calling for your help?"

"In fact, it is. And besides, I prefer balsamic vinegar--"

"Oh, no, no, no," Josh shook his head. "Real men don't put vinegar on their salad."

"Uh, Josh, I usually--"

Donna choked back a laugh. "Not that we would *ever* question Sam's masculinity..."

"Hey!" Sam protested. "Let me just remind you whose Saab you drove over here!"

"Now, now, children," Josh soothed. "I assure you that Sam is a member of the Real Man club, unless, of course, he chooses to undermine my salad dressing arguments again. In which case, I will feel obliged to take back his membership card."

"You know, you people aren't funny. I'm going to find beer."

"If you come back with girly beer--" Donna called to him as he walked away.

"This is me, locking you in the trunk of the Saab," Sam called back.

"God speed!" she amended.

Donna took the Bacon Ranch and replaced it on the shelf. "How about Italian? We could even get the one labeled 'robust' if that would make you happy."

"I'm not sure I'm really very fond of the word 'robust,'" Josh frowned.

"You seem fairly robust to me," Donna said, tossing the plastic bottle into the cart. "And I have made the final salad dressing decision. Poof." She made a 'magic wand' motion with her hand. "Off we go. I have a hunch we can finish this entire trip in 10 minutes."

"Apparently you don't understand the gravity of this situation, Donna. You can't rush these things."

"Could you just grab your meat so we can go?" Donna stopped, tapping her finger against her lips. "Hm, we're just going to ignore that last sentence, okay?"

"Thank God," Josh nodded, turning towards the refrigerated case. "I mean, under the right circumstances, but we wouldn't want to mar the perfection of the total grilling experience."

"Oh, well, of course not," Donna said, watching him scrutinize the shrink-wrapped packages of hamburger meat. "I don't suppose I could cajole you into buying some veggie burgers or something."

"I'm way ahead of you, there, Donna," Sam said as he reappeared, carrying a case of Budweiser and a bright green box of Garden Burgers.

"Oh, man," Donna laughed. "This just gets better and better. Next thing you know, you'll be telling us you shave your legs."

Sam rolled his eyes. "A guy swims in high school, and he never hears the end--"

"Um, you guys?" Josh turned, glaring. "You're ruining the experience for me here. If you want to go talk shaving, or waxing, or tampons or whatever, could you, you know, go somewhere else?"

"What is this? 'Call Sam a girl' day? Because while I am aware that I'm twice as pretty as Donna, here..."

"Ouch, Sam. You wound me," Donna frowned, clutching her chest.

"At least I didn't call you a girl--" Sam stopped, looking puzzled. "Um, I have no idea where that sentence was headed. I'm going to get rolls."

Josh was still hunched over the meat case when Sam returned several minutes later, balancing packages of hamburger rolls atop bottles of diet soda. Donna's eyebrows rose at the bottles. "Diet Coke, Sam? To protect your girlish figure?"

"I'll have you know that it's CJ who drinks the soda. And, what is Josh doing?"

"Shush," Donna rolled her eyes. "He's still in the process of choosing the perfect package." She stopped. "Well, there's another sentence I think we might scratch from the record."

"There've been several?" Sam asked, eyebrows raised.

"It's probably best not to ask," Donna advised.

"Aha!" Josh practically shouted. "I have found it!"

"Great!" Donna smiled sarcastically.

"Can we go?"

"You know, CJ and Toby are probably having sex right now. Isn't my meat infinitely preferable?"

"Oh, God. CJ and Toby having sex..." Sam practically squeaked.

"Okay, I'm getting the feeling we really need to find a synonym for the word meat..." Donna said, dropping her head into her hands.

Josh laughed. "Wow, I'm so glad we decided to take this little trip."

"Could we just go, Grilling-Man?" Donna sighed. "I mean, honestly..."

Sam was still shaking his head. "If there is any possibility that CJ and Toby are having sex over there, I'd much rather stay here and discuss Josh's meat."

Josh met Sam's eyes, and they both laughed.

"Well, there's something I'd pay to watch." Donna waggled her brows.

"Not a chance, Donna, my girl. Sam's all mine," Josh grinned.

"That's what he thinks," Sam smirked, pushing the cart away towards the registers. "Hey, I know!"

"Oh, no," Donna sighed.

"I can call Toby from my cellphone, to inform him that we're coming back..."

"That's a great idea, Sam. You do that," Josh nodded, chuckling and delicately placing the package of hamburger meat next to the cash register.

Sam left the store, then, through the automatic doors, and a minute later, Josh and Donna followed him out.

"Watch the leather interior!" Sam reminded them as they put the bags on the floor of the back seat.

"Yes, sir!" Josh saluted. "Wouldn't want to incur your girly wrath--"

"You know, Josh, this car has an exceptionally roomy trunk. I think you'd both fit," Sam glared.

"Oh, I'm so glad we did this," Donna grinned, leaning back into the driver's seat. "The total grilling experience is new and thrilling."

"Oh, just wait until we get to play with the charcoal," Josh said.

"I absolutely cannot wait," Sam sighed. "Drive on, Donna. Drive on."

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