by Hana Chikai (羽名血海)
Ben wasn’t sure when the last time he spent new year’s with a family – a proper Chinese New Year with a proper family unit – was. He’d been alone since he was sixteen; quasi-adoption into Dhuan’s rowdy loving family was amazing but it wasn’t the same as having uncles telling corny jokes over pork jerky and black melon seeds; nosy aunts asking about girlfriends, wives, children; a pair of mandarin oranges fresh from the refrigerator, perspiring in your hand as you hand them to grandparents who receive them with trembling fingers and a bright red envelope.
Ming asked the question over a dinner of beef and kimchi and metal chopsticks. Ben could only stare as Ming smiled, then yelped as the meat began to sit too long on the charcoal grill. He flicked slices of beef onto Ben’s rice, and Ben swallowed hard. “Why?”
“Why not?” Ming’s counterpoint was swift, too swift; he had been expecting that response. “Eat your food, it’s getting cold,” he chided, then smiled again. “Come on, my family would be really glad to have you around.”
He meant he would be really glad to have Ben around, and they both knew it. Ben felt his lips curving into a mirror of Ming’s infectious smile, and nodded silently.
The weeks before the festive weekend were hell. New year shopping for new clothes and new everything would have been bad enough, but that year’s new year weekend coincided with yet another event that demanded extra special attention. Ben found himself neck-deep in tailoring requests and individual style consultations on top of all the other administration details that had been piling up since the August before.
Wear smthg nice was all Ming had to say when Ben asked what he was supposed to do, bring, say, wear, which did nothing to make him feel better about his first ever reunion dinner in ten years as well as a meet the parents session that nobody knew was happening.
The evening of the thirteenth rolled to a pause with a heat wave rolling in. Ben stood fidgeting as the lit numbers above the elevator door blinked slowly towards the right, and he found himself picking his way through forests of potted plants along the corridor as he struggled to remember the directions he had been given. It turned out to be easier than expected: Ming was standing at the doorway, waiting for him.
“Everyone, this is my friend Benjamin,” Ming shouted over the noise that enveloped Ben like heat from an open oven. Ming’s home was large and airy, filled with people and sound and the flickering of fluorescent lightbulbs. The scene was familiar and foreign at the same time; a gaggle of teenagers mashing at Playstation controls, a group of men cracking open cans of beer and discussing football, and the laughter of women and smells of cooking wafting from an open doorway further in the house.
Ming’s older sister Yan was lounging on a couch, talking with a girl about Ming’s age; she waved as Ben was led further into the house. “Long time no see,” she greeted, and Ben grinned. Ming stood in the centre of the chaos and began pointing out relatives to Ben – “First Uncle over there is married to First Aunt, who’s in the kitchen, and Ann and Ling and Wen are their kids” – before a man in a green polo shirt laughed and told Ming to knock it off; there was no way Ben was going to be able to remember all that anyway.
“And this is my dad,” Ming wrapped up lamely. Ben greeted the man, who had the same smile as both his children. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”
The last stop on the tour was a door adorned with a large poster featuring a girl with blue hair. Ben was only able to catch the first five letters – EVANG – of the movie title before Ming opened the door to reveal his bedroom. It was cluttered but neat, one wall having been taken over by shelves of books, comics, figurines and the occasional cosplay prop.
“So this is your type,” Ben quipped, walking over to take a closer look at a figurine of a girl with long hair and breasts larger than her head. Ming laughed, closed the door, and crossed the room to put his arms around Ben. The room was stifling with the windows and door closed and without any fan on, but Ben turned to hug Ming back anyway. Muffled conversation and the crash-bang of fighting games floated through the still air as Ben tilted his face up to catch Ming’s lips in his.
They were half on the bed with Ming’s hands up Ben’s shirt and Ben’s fingers tangled in Ming’s hair when there was a smug knock at the door. “Dinner’s ready,” Yan sing-songed, and Ben could just see her grin.
The food was excellent, almost rivalling Dhuan’s mother’s cooking. Ben sat at the designated kids’ table and had second helpings of soup as he let the chatter flow around him; there were at least three topics of conversation at any given time, bantered from one end of the table to the other. Ming and a young bespectacled boy named Wei Le were having a very serious discussion about the latest Final Fantasy instalment, with Yan and a couple of other girls chipping in occasionally. A very small girl who had been introduced as Fluffy had fixated on Ben the moment he had materialised from Ming’s room, immediately claiming the seat on the other side of him, but had so far been too shy to speak to him.
“Ben, right?” The voice belonged to Ming’s oldest cousin Joshua, who looked exactly like Yan, right down to the piercing gaze that possibly maybe slightly turned Ben on in a guy. “Are you Ming’s classmate?”
Ben felt Ming tense imperceptibly beside him. “We met through a cosplay event,” he said smoothly; it was the truth, albeit a thoroughly edited one.
“You don’t really seem the sort,” Joshua said mildly. “Are you in university?”
Ben smiled his blandest and most polite smile. “No, I’m a fashion designer.” This piqued the curiousity of several teenage girl cousins around the table, who began bombing him with questions.
When dinner was over, Ming’s mother refused to let Ben help with clearing up, even as she roped her children and several nieces and nephews into doing exactly that. Ben sat on the couch feeling somewhat helpless even as Fluffy held a hand-held gaming device out to him. He accepted it, and she snuggled into his side and laughed at him attempting to roll a small yellow blob across the screen.
When Ming emerged from the kitchen with damp hands, Ben was on level three and Fluffy was half-asleep in his lap. “I like kids,” Ben said, not looking away from the game. “Too bad I’ll never have any, huh?” Ming smiled sadly and sat down beside them both.
“Stay over tonight,” Ming murmured, and Ben lowered the console to gaze at him. The corner they were in was secluded; everyone was busy attacking an enormous bowl of almond jelly longan dessert. “I’ll be all yours tomorrow night, too.”
It was hard to resist a request like that when it came from a mouth reddened from the fish head curry and topped with puppy dog eyes like Ben had never seen before. Brushing the back of his fingers against Ming’s, Ben smiled and agreed.
It was nearly one in the morning when everyone adjourned, and before Ming could say anything, his parents were already suggesting that Ben stay the night. “You’re all dressed up already, so you can come visiting with us tomorrow, too,” his mother chirped. “Ming, go get a spare mattress, and get Ben a towel and toothbrush and some clothes.”
As Ming bustled around the house grabbing things out of cupboards, Yan waltzed by with a broom in hand and a sly grin across her face. “It’s said that children should stay up late on the night before new year’s to ensure their parents live a long, long life,” she told Ben. “So don’t disappoint me, little boy.” She laughed and walked away, and Ben was left protesting to her back that he was only a year younger than her, and what was she implying, anyway?
“Go shower,” Ming ordered, bundling a pink towel into Ben’s arms. “I have to clean up first, but just make yourself comfortable in my room and I’ll come in soon.”
It felt surreal sitting amidst all the little figures of lithesome animation characters with a damp towel around his neck. Ben found himself examining the small collection of photographs pinned to the cork board above Ming’s desk; here was a sizeable collection of cosplay photos, there was a family photo from at least five years ago when Ming was still half a head shorter than Yan, and in a corner, much to Ben’s surprise, was a Polaroid snapshot Dhuan had taken of Ben and Ming one afternoon when all three of them had been at Ben’s house, playing Street Fighter very badly on Ming’s Playstation and eating copious amounts of delivery pizza. The shot had been almost artistic, capturing a moment when Ming had reached an arm around Ben’s shoulders to guide the latter into firing one of those fireball things. Ben gazed at the photograph, biting his lip to stop himself from grinning like an idiot.
“Oh, that,” Ming suddenly said into his ear. “Isn’t it cute? My sister spent half an hour laughing at it.” While Ben had been poking around the room, Ming had taken his own shower and smelled like citrus and mint. “Give me your towel.”
Ben watched Ming pad around the room, switching the air conditioning on and hanging the towels up. He’d never seen his boyfriend in this setting before, clad in a T-shirt that said Mr. Loser and basketball shorts, hair mussed and wet, glasses sliding down his nose, pointing out this figurine or that comic to Ben, and Ben had never been so turned on in his life.
“I love you,” Ben blurted, stopping Ming mid-lecture about a comic series about pirates.
Ming blinked, once, before breaking into the widest smile Ben had ever seen on him. “You know, that’s the first time you’ve ever said that.”
Ben shrugged and reached out to grab a handful of that silly shirt. “Is the door locked,” he asked huskily, and Ming nodded eagerly. “Good. Now take those horrifying shorts off.”
Ming obeyed, his cock already at half-mast. Ben pushed Ming backwards, kissing him hard, until Ming’s knees hit the bed and folded until he was sitting. Ben dropped to his knees, one hand kneading at Ming’s ass and the other grasping and pulling at the erection in front of his face. Ming helpfully opened his legs to let Ben shift closer, and then whimpered as Ben took Ming’s entire cock into his mouth, sucking and licking and carefully cupping his balls. “God, Ben, that’s so f–” Whatever he was going to say was cut off by a well-placed swirl of Ben’s tongue, and Ming let himself fall back to lie down, hands gripping the bedsheets.
It didn’t last long; they hadn’t seen each other for weeks, what with running the shop and new year shopping with parents and schoolwork, and they’d made do with dirty text messages and one memorable cyber sex occasion on MSN. Ming had called Ben straight after to wail about how hot and yet filthy the whole thing had been.
“Ben Ben Ben I–” Ming let go of the bed and clutched at Ben’s general direction; Ben reached up and slid his fingers through Ming’s as the latter arched and moaned, coming hard into Ben’s mouth. It wasn’t a pleasant taste; no matter how many times Ben did this, it never was. But it was worth it to watch Ming pant and thrash, thighs gripping Ben’s shoulders for a few moments before settling into the last few tremors of orgasm. “Shit,” Ming murmured. “Shoulda given you more warning.”
“Shut up,” Ben told him, swallowing quickly and with barely a grimace before standing, yanking off the running shorts he suspected were from Ming’s secondary school days, and kneeling over Ming’s prone figure with one hand on the bed and the other wrapped around his own dick. “Do you have any idea how fucking hot you are?” he asked, and Ming smiled, lopsided, and shook his head slowly while Ben jerked himself off, fast and hard and oh so good, spilling onto Ming’s shirt and stomach. Ming caught him as he tumbled down onto the bed beside Ming.
They had just thrown away the tissues and Ming had barely pulled a fresh T-shirt over his head when there was a knock on the door. Ben unlocked and opened it, and Ming’s mother poked her head in. “Put these under your pillows,” she instructed, handing them each a red envelope with little gold designs on the front. “Happy new year, boys.”
Ben returned the greeting distractedly, staring at the envelope and feeling about ten years old when his parents were still in the country and Chinese New Year was an occasion to actually be marked on the calendar. Without a word, Ming wrapped his arms tightly around Ben’s shoulders. Ben swallowed and flicked Ming on the nose with the red packet. There were a million things he could say – “thank you for inviting me” or “I love you” again or “happy Valentine’s day” – but instead he said, “I don’t have a pillow.”