The New Year

Big families are great in small doses. Reunions, weddings, funerals, the odd get-together. On a good day, I might even say that I am thankful to have come from a really large family. The grandparents, the occasional crotchety grandaunt, nine aunts and uncles plus the squabbling in-laws, assorted cousins that numbered up to forty at last count and a handful of greatgrandkids making up the number. It was a riotous bunch and I loved the hell out of them, mostly. On days such as today however, I found them a bloody pest. Especially when one of them has managed to find out the secret you've been hiding from the rest of them.

The deafening crash of cymbals, the deep, heart-pounding beat of the drums signalled the arrival of the lions down the driveway of our family home to usher in the New Year. The sound of firecrackers - virtually replicated by my technowhiz cousin June since real-life firecrackers had been banned several years back - filled the air even as my younger cousins squealed with delight. Nearby at a half-moon table in the front hall, my two older aunts chattered on, filling each other with the latest family gossip even as they filled themselves with melon seeds. Eager to escape the neverending questions pelted at me each New Year - mostly on my lack of a suitable mate, I hid myself in a dark alcove off the main hall, a place my grandmother used for her occasional afternoon nap. Fishing out my PDA from my shirt, I started to take down some notes as I lounged on one of the seats around the marble table. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one with the same idea.

"Hiding in the closet, John?" The voice was deep, velvety, as smooth as chocolate cream - and it belonged to James Sung. Ever since he'd ferreted out my secret, he had been an ever-present pest. My cousin James was the only son of my third aunt. Well, not exactly my third aunt as she had been adopted into the family after her parents - who had been my grandma's best friends - had died in World War II. A far too convoluted story and I certainly had more entangled branches of the family tree to tell.

Let me tell you about James. Not only was he the family scapegrace - falling in and out of scrapes every other week, he also had the distinction of being the best-looking guy in my generation. For the last six months after his latest mishap, he had been sentenced to stay with me. For the most part, even I had to admit that he had settled down somewhat. Although he still pulled some weird stunts once in a while, it was more manageable and far less dangerous to himself. Anyone who cared to ask James would have received a woeful, tearful tale of being torn between two unfit parents who spent their time squabbling, fighting and tossing precious Ming vases at each other. He claims that his parents' disregard for their only son accounted for his lack of self-esteem, an obsessive need for approval and his severely destructive behaviour. It was all too true and a definite reason for sympathy. Unfortunately, James only dragged the pitiful tale out of the closet to endear himself to the fairer sex who found his hurt vulnerability paired with a model-handsome face and a buff body straight out of International Male absolutely irresistible.

Many a time, I tried to tell myself that I wasn't dead envious of his good looks but I couldn't. In comparison with his wilder days, the man was an absolute saint now eschewing all vices but the few years he spent in a drugged, alcohol coma hadn't left a scar on that incredible face at all. Of course that wasn't to say that I looked like something dragged out from the pit but I was more well-known in the family for being the responsible one, the mature one, the guy who constantly rescued the scapegrace, the guy who acted as a sort of deputy sheriff for my grandfather as I went about dispensing his Machiavellian mode of justice. The rest of the family called me Zhan Zhao.

Surprisingly enough, I had started in the lower ranks of the company as a favour for my grandfather - and for the family. Passing out of university, I had every intention of entering the field of medicine but duty called and I submitted easily thinking that I could leave anytime I wanted. Very soon however, I proved almost indispensable according to my grandfather - though I seriously doubted that - and each time I broached the subject of leaving, he would beg me not to leave and once even faked a heart attack. Under severe family pressure, I remained in the family business. Each time I threatened to leave, there was the usual bout of tearful recriminations, a swanky new office and a promotion with an even heftier wage. Looking back, it was a fatal mistake to give in all the time. Not only was I unwillingly conscripted into the family business, apparently I also took on the duties of a deputy, policing the activities of our extended family.

Familial ties had always turned out to be my downfall. About half a year back, when James came to me with his solemn promises to change, I'd accepted it and even offered him a place to stay - following an imperial edict from my grandfather. After all, I lived in the family mansion in the capital, a three-storey mausoleum that had far too many rooms for a single bachelor. The temporary lease had turned out to be somewhat semi-permanent and six months later, he was still sleeping in the room above mine. Unfortunately, one day when I was far too careless, he found my secret. Just two days ago, my snoop of a cousin - who obviously couldn't keep his nose out of people's affairs - came upon my open laptop and decided to pry. Up on the screen was a JPEG that I'd recently downloaded, a tall, sexy hunk dressed in nothing but a smile - and a 12 inch dick from hell. The picture spoke for itself - and of my sexual orientation.

Needless to say, James Sung felt it his duty to be my tormentor and the next day was spent with him teasing me mercilessly. Faced with the spectre of having James plaguing me throughout the plane flight back home, I'd cancelled my flight plans at the last minute and decided to take a slow drive home. Caught at the last moment, he had no choice but to go home by himself and I had to myself a six hour drive to think of a rational, logical explanation that would placate my relatives. After all, logic and rational thinking were my strong points, weren't they? After six hours of Russell Watson blaring out his arias through the stereo, nothing came to mind however. How could I possibly explain away the all too obvious evidence of my homosexuality? Could I blame it on a quirky adolescent phase that I hadn't quite gotten out of? Could I claim that it was an accident, that some evildoer had downloaded the pic to implicate me? Although part of me was relieved to finally have my secret out in the open with someone in the family, there was a tiny part of me that cringed at the very thought of being dragged out of the closet. How would my family react? Even my steel-balled mother would probably faint from such distressing news. Could my grandfather's ailing heart stand the shock? Would I be cast out of the family without a single reference?

A dozen questions and worries nagged at my mind as I spent half my time writing a suitably penitent out-of-the-closet speech for myself and the other half thinking of various methods of torture for James. Oddly enough, my methods for torture always involved James being totally naked, writhing in sweat and chained to some flat surface. Ultimately however, my fears were unfounded as for some obscure, despicable reason of his own, James saw fit to keep the information to himself. Greeting me at the front door of the mansion, he made no mention of the shocking discovery at all and acted as if nothing had happened.

But of course, it didn't mean that he couldn't spend his time tormenting me in private. Caught in my hiding place, he cornered me in my seat with a wicked smile. No doubt, his many female admirers would have creamed at the sight of that smile but I steeled myself. So what if he did look incredible - the warm, smooth gold of his skin that spoke of his Chinese heritage, the thick, black curls that he'd kept military-short this year, the dark, thickly lashed velvety brown eyes that sparkled so often with devilry.

They sparkled in the familiar way now as he blocked my exit. "So, tell me, John, do you find jockstraps hot on guys? Or do you have a decided preference for briefs?"

"Fuck!" It was the third time he had posed such a leading question and each time I'd managed to ignore him but this time I turned to him with a scowl. "James."

"C'mon, have a heart!" Dressed in a slick new suit for the New Year that made the most of his tall, athletic physique, James looked good - and he knew it. Turning around so that I had an excellent view of his impressive back, he asked another question. "Does my new pants make my ass look fat?"

It was a moot point. His back was a masterpiece, broad, well-muscled shoulders tapering down in a perfect V to his trim waist and a firm, perfectly rounded ass that showed how God had intended a man to wear pants. However at that moment, I didn't feel like telling him that nothing could possibly make his tight, sexy behind look fat. Not only would it probably amuse him like hell, it might make his ego implode upon itself. "You're getting on my nerves."

Not content with my curt reply, he took a seat on the marble table, hopping up onto the tabletop. Since he was a kid, he never took the conventional way, always using the table instead of a chair for a seat which drove my grandmother crazy. It also drove me crazy but I didn't think that he needed additional ammunition. "Don't you think the new curtains are absolutely fabulous? I mean the red and the yellow are a bit too much but I think it works, don't you?" He peeked up at me through his preposterously long lashes, grinning at me all the while and I had to restrain the urge to reach out and run my tongue across his soft lower lip. The man had great lips, firm, thick, gently curving at the sides, often coming to a pout that begged for a hard kiss. As he leaned forward, my dick twitched in my pants as I started imagining what else I could do with that mouth.

The sudden lurid image had the effect of a quick splash on the face and I shoved him away with a glare. "James. I am warning you."

"Was that a Village People CD I saw in your car? Streisand?"

"Any more jokes and I'm going to dock your allowance." It was a very real threat. Since his parents had been too busy having their annual knock-down fight to even bother about their son, it was left to my grandfather and later, me to manage him. Since we had both passed the age of majority, I had been left virtually in charge of his trust fund. The demeaning situation frustrated him no end but so far he had made no push to change the situation as it were - as he was also smart enough to know that under my care, his personal fortunes had almost trebled in amount.

"Ouch. You are a hard man," he complained playfully.

As he leaned down again from his perch on the table, my nostrils filled with the heavenly scent of warm, healthy male sweat and I shuddered. It was a tantalizing scent that had haunted me for the past few months and I had rigidly schooled myself to ignore it, no matter how tempting it could be. Keeping him at arm's length, I stood up and pushed him away, trying to get around him. "You got that right. Now, let me pass, you nut."

"A hard man." He ran his finger down my well-toned arm instead. "Really hard. Been working out?"

From any other man, I might have thought it was a come on but from James, it could have been anything. Of late, I had been having distressing sexual dreams with my sexy cousin as the lead actor and it was slowly pushing me off the edge. The both of us had almost nothing in common, he frequently gave me the urge to throttle him and dammit, the bastard liked girls! "James!"

As I took a threatening step forward, he let out a laugh and danced away around the table. "Oh, come on, it has taken years for me to find a flaw. Can't you give me this one?"

Although he laughed, I could see that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "You're serious?"

From the safety of his end of the round table, James teased me. "Yeah, the perfect grandson. Spectacular grades, amazing credentials, perfect hair. It is nice to know that you're still human, after all."

The way he spoke of me made me sound like some android devoid of human emotion. For a moment, I wanted to shrug it off, thinking that only James thought of me that way but then, I remembered something Aunt Mary had said before and I wondered. Aunt Mary had talked of me as a clone of my Grandpa - and I didn't think that she had meant that as a compliment. My grandfather was the all-powerful, all-seeing family patriarch who had a penchant for getting his hands on the best deals in the country - and also finding his way into every little family dispute. Although I saw him as the kind, loving man who had guided me personally through some of the worst stages of my life, I knew that there were others in my family who saw him as some terrifying creature of omnipotence. Had I really turned into the old bastard - as we called him? Stunned with the realization, I decided that a seat would be in order and sat back down. The panic in my voice was not obvious however as I countered his statement, "I am not all that perfect."

Taking up his unconventional seat back on the table, James just shrugged. "Go tell that to my mother."

"Tell what?" Somewhat disturbed by his comment, I ran my fingers through my dark hair. "That I'm not perfect. Surely she knows that. I make mistakes more often than I can count."

"Hardly any, John and my mother just can't stop reminding me of it either. Why can't you be more like John? John never does anything wrong." His lips twisted in a sexy sneer. "Perfect Little John."

I looked at him, surprised that he had said that. In recent years, there had been an animosity between the two of us - mostly on James' side - that had culminated in one horrible drag-down fight about a year ago. It was a terrible experience but I believed that we had benefited from it. It still amazed me how easily we had come to blows over such petty, insignificant matters. After all, years back when we were younger - and he hadn't grown that sharp, bristly armour of his, we had been as close as two such different personalities could be. And after our fight, when he had moved in with me, we managed a tolerable relationship, certainly not as close as I would have liked but I assumed that we got along quite well. "Look, you know I am not some robot."

"You aren't?" Dramatically, James let out a gasp and faked a shocked expression. "Does Grandpa know about this?"

My earlier surprise faded away as I turned my glare on him. "James."

"I love it when you give me that stare," he stated fondly, lifting a hand to brush away a stray lock of my hair.

It was a surprisingly intimate move that had me stiffening, his touch sizzled against my skin and I carefully moved his hand away. "That's not the point. You're not supposed to enjoy it. The staff at the office run at the sight of it."

For a moment he looked down at our joined hands but thankfully decided not to comment on it. Instead, he gave my hand a warm squeeze, released it and smiled. "I can easily believe that. But I like it."

"You are incorrigible," I scolded him.

"Yes." We were close enough know that he only needed to lean forward an inch or two - close enough that our noses almost touched, our lips barely a hairsbreadth away. His breath was warm, spiced up with the red wine chicken that he'd taken only this morning and the faint, surprising hint of peppermint. "And you love me all the more for it."

Dare I tell him about last night's sexual dream? It would probably give him fodder to tease me for the rest of my life if he knew how I'd worshipped his hot, naked flesh last night, how I'd spent my time spreading slow, melting kisses down the front of his magnificently built torso. "Yeah... you wish."

For a moment, our gazes met and I wondered what he was thinking about inside those dark, soulful brown eyes. Something different lit up those dark eyes, something darker and warmer. We were close enough that we were almost kissing, he knew that I was gay... I started wondering whether he knew of the licentious thoughts in my head, the thoughts that had me aching to move closer, to draw that handsome head close for a kiss. What would he say if I moved my hand over his powerful thigh, thread upwards towards the tempting juncture of his crotch...

"So tell me, why aren't you involved with anyone?"

The abrupt change in subject - and the quick, efficient way he had of moving surprised me. While the others might regard the man as a lazy good-for-nothing, I could see that the man could move really fast when he wanted to. While I was still in a sexual daze, the man had moved back from the table and onto the chair. I shook myself to regain my bearings. "None of your business."

"It is none of my business," James agreed instantly. Leaning forward onto the table, he shook his dark head. "But you know me well enough that won't stop me asking. I'll just keep on asking till you tell me."

His persistence had always been one of his more irritating traits and I frequently wondered why he had never applied those particular traits into his work. If he'd been only half as dogged... "Look, I work from 9 to 9 for a company that never sleeps, I manage everyone in the family's petty little problems, your parents' divorce and settlements, Aunt Mary's latest bailout, you."

The last word was said pointedly and he flinched accordingly. "Ouch. There goes the fangs again."

"Yes," I replied flatly.

His smile turned devilish. "But baby, you know I love it when you bite."

"Stop it."

Evidently pleased that he had managed to annoy me, James tried for another change of subject. "Did you hear that 8th Aunt is pregnant again?"

The quick changing of subjects had me floundering and it took me a moment as I wondered at the connection between my 8th Aunt and my state of matrimony - or my lack of it. Scrolling through the list of relatives in my head, I pictured a plump, good-natured matron in her late 30s with a brood of kids and the most horrific new year dress. "Good God. They couldn't possibly find another name with a J!"

"Don't underestimate grandma," he replied with a shrug. "I think it's a toss-up between Jeremiah or Joseph if it's a boy and Jessica or Janet if it's a girl." Oddly enough, years back my grandmother had dug up an archaic list of names starting with J and each new member of my generation had been saddled with one. The earlier kids had of course lucked out with a better choice of names.

"There's already a Jessica."

"Hmm.. yeah, you are right. Forgot about the kid. Wouldn't you just know it.. you're always right."

"Stop that." Eyeing him with some disfavour, I demanded an explanation. "What is it with you? Must you always irritate me?"

"Hey, it's my job and you do pay me a pretty good allowance." His grin resurfaced as did those drop-dead gorgeous dimples. "So why isn't a guy like you married to some seven foot hulk with muscles? No Mr Right around the corner?"

My heart did a triple beat and I looked away from his smile, amazed at my reaction. What in the world was happening? While I had always admired James' sinful good looks - and had fantasized more than once about tearing his pants down for a quick slurp, I could always turn my mind in a different direction. This time, it seemed all I could think of was a naked, sweaty James and the nearest flat surface. Was it the wine? What could I possibly have in common with some gorgeous thug with a penchant for driving me crazy? "I don't like muscles."

"Liar," James pointed out. "I saw that jpeg! Muscles bleeding out of the ears, veins popping out in both arms and a whopper of a dick from.."

"Have you no shame?" Shocked, embarassed, I stood up to look around. "Shut up! Grandaunt is just sitting there in the next hall."

"Please!" he laughed. "She wouldn't hear us even if I screamed fuck my ass in her ear."

It was a thought that had occurred to me previously and one that came to my mind now. Bending that perfect young body over the marble table, spreading the cleft of those incredible half-moon cheeks, hearing his cries as I fucked him till we both blew our brains out. A drop of sweat trickled down my spine at the thought and I clenched my fists. Trying to think of a distraction, I imagined my crotchety Grandaunt coming by dressed in nothing which sufficiently dampened my erection. "And the picture wasn't that bad."

James only sneered in return. "It was but you're avoiding the question."

Deciding to go on the offensive for once, I turned the question back to him. "Why are you suddenly so interested in my social life?"

"Maybe I am interested."


"Yeah, I'm interested." His gaze met mine without wavering, those dark eyes somber and serious for once. "Interested in you."

"What?" Stunned at the sudden thrill that ran through my spine, I took a mental step back, far backward. Not only from the surprise that his answer had caused but also from the mind-boggling idea itself. Although I had never considered it as a possibility, I found to my dismay that there was nothing else that I could possibly want more at that moment. Me and James. "That isn't even remotely interesting or funny."

"Nothing funny about it. You're a good-looking, upstanding young man, well-read and travelled, have all your teeth and hair.." Listing off my attributes with aplomb, he steadily counted off the tops of his fingers. "Well, you have a tendency to have some dark humours and mood swings but I think.."

"Mood swings?" The images that had come to my mind, me and James, were nothing compared to the anger that came rolling beside. Alternately, my fingers itched to choke him - and pull him close for a blistering kiss. It was a dangerous feeling and I found that James always managed to drive me a little crazy. "Stuff it, asshole."

His smile turned into a superior smirk. "You'd like to, wouldn't you?"

It was far too close to the truth and my face turned an alarming shade of pink as I blustered through a reply. "God, could you be any more crude... shit. If you don't stop this, I really will stop your allowance this month."

Some weeks back, the threat would have gotten a reaction but this time he just returned my stare with a cool look. "I could get a job."

"You said that six months ago," I pointed out mercilessly. Although I had to admit that he had changed a lot. At least he wasn't bumming around and getting drunk again. Just three weeks ago, I'd caught him going out at night and I could have sworn that he had gone for night classes but he denied it. But why else would a man need a backpack with books in it?

"That was different, it was six months ago. I was a brainless idiot then." This time he replied without a hint of humour, his voice filled with a singular determination that surprised me. "I really will get a job this time. Anyway, just answer the question and I'll keep quiet."

"No, James. I am single and alone." I finally answered his question, frowning all the while. "Now, will you leave me alone?"

He laughed.

His reaction surprised me even more. "What the hell is so funny?" I demanded.

The ferocity in my voice had James smothering his laughter in a barely repressed grin. "Nothing. Jeez, can't a guy just laugh." Even as I continued glowering, he snickered.

Standing up, I leaned forward and stared down at him. Ever since we were kids, I always had the height advantage over him - about an inch or two more. "James Sung, you've got something up your sleeve but I just can't tell what it is."

In reply, James tilted his head to one side and gazed innocently at me. "Well, you're single and I'm single..."

"If that's another gay joke again.."

"Perhaps we might have something."

Giving up, I flung my hands up. "James, if you keep on teasing me about this, I just might thump you."

He gave me a sidelong glance. "Why do you think I am teasing?"

"Get out of here." I told him with a smile.

He laughed again.

After tormenting me for the past ten minutes, we'd both gradually drifted down to the front hall to await the lions' entrance. As usual, my grandparents, my parents and the other elder relatives took their seats near the front entrance while those of the younger generation huddled around the main door, munching on peeled mandarin oranges and pickled dates. Seeing my approach, my grandfather sent me a warm smile and nodded. The red packet was in my shirt pocket and this year, I had been elected to give payment to the lion dancers. Outside the porch, some of my cousins were busy snapping photographs and I declined their offer to join them with a self-deprecating smile.

To keep the kids from getting in the way of the lions, James had corralled the youngest of my cousins into a small group that hung about the door. Crouched down by the front door with the younger children, he was toying with the braids of one of my younger cousins, the chubby five-year-old Joan, as he held her close to his side. Another small boy, Joseph, spent his time happily digging through the pockets on his shirt in search of red packets no doubt. Something the small girl confided in him had the man laughing aloud, flashing two rows of straight white teeth and those irresistible dimples. Damn. James Sung was one sexy bastard and that was something that I could never deny.

Shallow. Utterly shallow to be interested in a man just because he was hard, hot and handsome but I simply couldn't deny it. As I continued my admiring perusal, he turned to me and looked straight at me. His eyes were dark, almost totally black in colour and fringed with the most sinfully thick black lashes that had the cousins complaining daily at the injustice. Those soft lips curled up in a knowing smile that had me turning red. Damned if he didn't know that he looked great.


It was a voice that I recognized and I turned sideways with an easy smile. It was my cousin, June. One of the closest to my age, June was in charge of the fledgling software development branch of the company that was based in Singapore. Almost dainty in size at around 5'2", she reminded one of a little fairy, sloe-eyed, elfin-like features and slim, lithe limbs. Those who crossed her however soon learned why for all her tiny size and gentle voice, even my redoubtable grandfather occasionally cowered before her when she roared which gained her the nickname of Cili Padi, a surprisingly fiery spice that came from an exceedingly small chilli plant. Dolled up in chinoiserie chic all in dazzling red, she looked like the perfect little chinese courtesan - albeit a mini version. "Hey, you look wonderful but then again, you always do."

Always pleased to see me, she pulled me close for a hug. "You are a sweetheart."

"That's me."

"And you look as dashing as ever, trying to outshine us all."

Grinning foolishly at her, I replied. "I try my best."

"Poor guy." Pulling away for a moment, she looked up at me, her dark eyes searching. "Has Jackie been bothering you again? Jonathan? James?"

"Why do you say that?" I asked nervously. Did she smell the almost incestuous lust I had for James on me? Could she tell that moments ago, I was that close to slurping him up like the tall, cool drink that he was? Could she guess that I wanted to press my lips down the front of James' shirt, run my tongue down the hard, smooth expanse of his impressive torso, breathe in that musky scent of his, mized with his tangy sweat and spicy cologne. Almost incestuous since James didn't have any blood ties to any of us but then again with all the entanglements in our family, who knew for sure?

It wasn't what I feared however as June replied with a teasing twinkle in her eyes. "You have that line between your forehead again."

"What? What line?" I said in frantic surprise, turning around in search of a mirror. Sure, I was okay with not being the best-looking but I could have sworn I didn't have a wrinkle on my forehead this morning.

"And here I thought your brother Jonathan was the vain one." Laughing at my reaction, she gave me a fond nudge. "Gotcha, big cousin."

"Hey, a man of my age has to watch out for the wrinkles!" I protested.

"You might act old but I know that you're only three years older which makes you only 27, young man."

"Act old?" It was the second time somewhat had said something like that and since June wasn't one to kid around, I stared back. "I act old?"

"All serious, reserved, conservative.. I bet some of the younger cousins are terrified of you."

The way she said it was so plainly matter-of-fact that it stunned me. As one of the eldest children in the family, it had always fallen on me to take charge, to deal with the responsibilities that came with a large family. Sure, I'd always known that I was a little more serious than I should be but serious enough that the kids were terrified? "What? Tell me you're not serious."

"That's not what I meant. You don't scare the living daylights out of them, John." Surprised at the look on my face, June hastened to reassure me. "You're not a monster to them, John, but it is terrifying to be compared to you. Doing so well in school, always well-behaved, performing like a genius at work. I know you're under a lot of pressure from everyone but it is still intimidating to stand under your awe-inspiring shadow. Believe me, I know."

"Good God, James said almost the same thing." The fact that James had been correct irritated me and I started loking for the perpetrator. Turning to look for him, I was surprised to see Joan standing alone, clapping her hands while James was out of sight. Deciding that he was probably flirting with one of the neighbours, I turned back to June.

"Well, he is right this time," she nodded in agreement. "Lately, he has been doing quite well for himself these past few months. I think you're a great influence on him. It's the first time in years I've seen him at least sober on New Year's Day."

Just as I was about to make my usual acidic comment on James, the lion dance started out in the front hall and the ensuing din silenced our conversation.

Moving to stand at the edge of the room to watch the proceedings, I smiled. Others might call it an unbelievable din, a sudden alarming clang of noise and colour so jarring that many couldn't stand it and yet for me, it has come to symbolize the Chinese New Year. The sudden flash of red and yellow. The clash of the cymbals. The beat of the drums. The laughter of my cousins. Two lions came dancing in, one resplendent in fiery red and gaudy orange and the other in austere shades of black, grey and white. Satisfied with their position, the lions started their intricate steps, moving to the beat of the relentless drums as they played, danced and rolled about in our front hall. In the midst of the revelry, June released the sounds of her firecrackers and though I couldn't see the flash of red that came with the crackers, she made it sound all too real.

Halfway through their routine, I started wondering whether the red-gold lion had a vendetta against me - which worried me since the dancers in the lion seemed to be far more agile and graceful than the other. The red lion managed to weave and leap through the contraptions my cousins had made with seeming ease. Each time it made its rounds around the room however, the head of the lion would turn and send a playful wink towards me with its huge batting lashes. A second time, the lion came close to bump teasingly against me. A quick look around the room confirmed the fact that I was starting to hallucinate since no one seemed in the least bit suspicious of the proceedings. Deciding that it was a figment of my imagination, I received a shock when the lion took a daring leap off the front table and landed in front of me.

Standing against the edge of the room, there was no room for me to run and I took a step backwards only to have the lion come closer. Just as I was imagining getting devoured by a fake lion, the lion batted its lashes at me again and shook its head vigorously before dancing away. As one of my cousins laughed behind me and gave me a clap on the back, I stared back down on the floor and saw a small red packet on the ground.

Satisfied that everyone had kept their eyes on the lion, I leaned down quickly and picked it up. Lifting open the flap, I stared in astonishment. A small scroll written in Chinese. And it asked me out on a date. The writing was as familiar as my own and I stared in shock. What the hell was James up to?

The man remained out of sight as I searched for him in the front hall all the way to his room. As I came back out to the front, I realized that the crowd had dispersed slightly and the lion dancers were outside partaking refreshment. My brother Jonathan and June crowded around the man under the red lion and I wondered why. Calling out to them, I took a step towards them hoping that they would know where James was hiding. "June, have you guys seen James?"

The lion's head came off and I stared. It was James. Sweat dripped down his dark wet locks onto his flushed face. He'd changed his clothes for the performance and perspiration caused his skimpy white T-shirt to cling onto his well-sculpted chest, outlining his hard, solid pecs, slick now with glazed, edible sweat. At the edge of his pecs, two dark, cherry-coloured nipples poked through the expanse of his white tee. The shirt was translucent enough that I could have easily counted his abs with meticulous care. Although his pants were loose and baggy, they came down tight around his crotch, drawing attention to the ample goods within. I could have easily slurped him up with a straw.

My brother clapped him on the back and praised him on the performance as James smiled gratefully. Noticing my approach, Jonathan called out to me. "He was great, don't you think?"

Even June had been impressed by his athletic prowess earlier. "I can't believe you did all those jumps and splits!"

It was something that I couldn't deny as well. "Yes, he's always been good at performances," I replied non-committally.

The tone of my voice remained cool and James turned to look at me, surprise evident in his dark eyes. "Uhh.. glad you liked it, John."

Keeping my voice as calm as I possibly could, I spoke softly. "James, could I have a word?"

As attuned to my feelings as a close brother could be, Jonathan sneaked a look at James and then me. It was easy for him to correctly guess my feelings as he had often been on the receiving end of one of my lectures in his younger days. Unfortunately, his studies in the university hadn't thought him the value of diplomacy. "Uh-oh, James, what did you do to big brother now?"

"Oh, I think I have a very good idea," James told him with a fading smile. Seeing the disgruntled expression on my face, he wiped the sweat off his forehead. "Fine. I can see that you just can't wait so let's go up to the room, I just need to change."

"What is the meaning of this, James." Waving the letter in front of him, I lit into him as soon as he'd dragged me into the safety of his room. At that point, I couldn't pinpoint on the exact reason for my anger, a burning feeling that had come to life when I'd seen his writing on the scroll. Was this one of his pathetic mind games? Had he guessed that I'd fallen in lust for him and now he was trying to play some stupid prank on me? "Tell me, what the hell is this?"

As I'd raged on my own, he'd crossed towards the dresser and retrieved a shirt and a pair of blue jeans. "It means exactly what it says." he replied doggedly. Dropping his clothes on the bed, he sat down to face me.

"If this is another one of your pranks, I.." I was at a loss for words and had to satisfy myself by glaring at him.

James didn't look away, holding my stare instead. "Look, why is it so hard to understand? Don't you get it? I've always .. been interested."

His voice rang with sincerity and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't read any sign of duplicity in him. It boggled my mind as I couldn't find any reason why he was doing this. There was no way in hell he could have always been interested in me as he'd claimed. Why would he make such a claim? Was he high on drugs again? "You've always been... is this one of your jokes? If it is, I don't think it's very funny."

The look on my face had turned from fury to a certain confusion that him smiling. "It isn't. I've always looked up to you, admired you."

Floundering, I tried a new tack. "Have you been drinking again?"

He laughed. "You know I stopped drinking sometime back."

"Well, you sound drunk."

"I'm not." Standing up, he pulled off his T-shirt in one swift motion, tossed it away and walked slowly towards me. His bare chest was just as amazing as I'd imagined, perfectly muscled, smooth as silk, glistening with sweat. My attention came to lie on the swell of his pecs, the darkly tipped nipples riding on the crest. The pants rode low on his waist, baring his midriff - and the sexy trail of black curls that led the way down his taut abdomen.

His lips curved up in a wicked smile. "You like what you see, don't you, John?"

"You're definitely drunk," I told him. Trying to take a step back, I stumbled over the carpet and fell forward onto James as I tried to regain my footing. My hands scrabbled down his naked torso, running down his sweat-soaked muscles as I tried to gain a grip. His strong arm came around my waist to catch ahold of me.

"Always the clumsy one." The devil was in his eyes again as he helped me up. "Always falling for me, John."

"Shut up."

"And I'm not drunk. If I was drunk, we wouldn't be having a rational conversation at all, I'd be tearing that suit off with my teeth and we'd be having wild monkey sex." His words were intoxicating and drew an amazingly clear vision of the both of us tangled in the sheets. The sharp gasp that came from me had James smiling again. His hand came to rest on the lapels of my suit and he looked up at me, looking almost shy for a moment. "Look, it's already difficult enough saying this so don't make it worse. I love you, John."

I stared at him. It was obvious that he was waiting for a reply but I found that my throat had practically closed up and all I could think were James' words. A thousand questions jostled for position in my mind but all I could think of was his cliched phrase. It would be easy enough to give him the same reply but I found that I couldn't. Sure, I lusted for him but did I love him? Surely not, I was already having enough problems dealing with the fact that I wanted desperately to knock him down and fuck him. There was no way I was going to compound my problems my falling in love.

Tired of waiting for a reply, James let out a sigh. "You don't have to give me a reply right now. I know this might come as a surprise to you but I have been attracted to you for.. for a long time, John. I never thought that I'd have a chance with you.. well, not until the other day." As I remained silent without comment, James took his chance and hastily continued. "Look, you know why I changed? It's all because of you - and well, because of how I started looking at myself. For years, I thought that I wanted validation and approval from all the wrong people.. Grandpa, my parents... when all I actually wanted was your approval. Your opinion matters the most to me, John."

"Me?" My voice came out in a squeak and I blushed right to my ears. It had never occurred to me that I held such an important position in his life. So far, I'd always imagined that James thought of me as the marplot, busybody cousin who acted as his warden/guardian.

"Remember about two years ago. You came by my apartment."

My mind flipped through the calendar with ease. It was easy to remember that night since it was the first time we'd both come to blows with each other. "You missed work twice in a row, a job I help you get. You were high on some ecstasy pills, drunk and you had two nameless bimbos squirming around in your lap, Dumb and Dumber with Boobs."

"Mia and Lili. Obviously it has stayed in your mind." Somewhat surprised at how easily I recalled the event, James nodded. "Yes, I remember your face then."

"My face?" Surprised that he could even remember my face through that drunken, drug-induced haze, I started to tell him so but changed my mind. There was no need bringing all those old issues up when it was clear that he had tried his best to change the past.

"Yeah, you looked plain disgusted," he said quietly. Releasing his hold on me, he turned away from me. "And disappointed in me. That was something that had never happened before.. You'd always had faith in me."

"I still do." The admission surprised me as much as it did him. "And I remember that day, you caught me at a bad time that day. I just had to handle your parents' quarrelling again - broke a few things in the house if I remember correctly, getting Jackie out of a jam and then you came along." Of course I didn't feel like telling him that it was from that particular night that I started having lurid dreams about him. He had come to the door, absolutely drunk, in a opiate haze and yet he looked absolutely incredible. And as mad as I was then with the red haze across my eyes, there was this sudden shocking urge to drag the bastard back to my house and fuck him hard. That moment had stunned me - and perhaps had me acting harsher than I would have normally.

The man laughed, a bitter, jarring sound unlike the warm, deep-throated sound that I'd grown used to. "A bunch of fucking screw-ups, huh."

"James." Concerned, I reached out to put my hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently on the firm muscle. "I never thought of any of you as screw-ups - well, except if you'll excuse me for saying so - your mom and Jackie. Never you. Even my mother doesn't think that of you."

Turning his head sideways to glance at me, he posed his question to me. "Really?"

"Yeah." I tried a smile. "Just misguided."

"Much worse than that, I'm afraid."

Imitating his move earlier, I recanted his bad points with my fingers, counting them out one by one. "Perhaps a little spoiled, overly arrogant, desperate for approval.."

Looking at me from under his thick black brows, he glanced at me through narrowed eyes. "You can stop anytime."

"You know something, James." Pleased that he was back to his old self, I ran my hand gently down the curve of his spine - partly for his sake but mostly for mine. As I'd said before, the man had a superior back - and everything else. "I never saw you as that. I always saw you as the guy who got me into scrapes, the guy who taught me how to have fun. The kid who taught me how to cut class, the guy who taught me how to shake my booty in Zouk."

My description had him smiling. "You were always too old for your own age."

"I always had to be." It was the simplest answer - and the truth.

"How true." He laughed. "Well, I've changed.. or well, I'm trying to anyway. I even started taking some courses."

It explained his frequent disappearances in the evening, backpack in hand - something that had puzzled me for the past few weeks ever since I'd caught him coming home one night. At that time, since I'd seen no signs of any excesses upon him, I'd accepted his vague excuses. "You said you hadn't."

"I didn't want to flake out on you again, John."

"Somehow I don't think you will."

"Thanks." The smile on his face was reward enough.

Going back to his clean pants, he dug around the pockets and fished out a wad of notes. With a triumphant sweep, he drew it out and handed it towards me. "And here's the money for the past six months' rent. I counted it according to the rates around the area and -"

"John." For a moment, I stared down at the neatly tied-up stack of notes and back at his face. It was more money than he had probably earned in his whole life. Sure, his hefty allowance could easily cover the cost but James had never been able to budget and save anything. "Where did you get this?"

"You'll think it's stupid." He looked a litle sheepish as he told me the answer. "I've been doing some modelling lately, runway stuff and prints."

"Oh. That's.. that's wonderful." It was an absolutely perfect deal, making money out of that fabulous face and body and I was amazed that we hadn't thought of it before. As I tried to imagine seeing James' first ad on display - and had a lustful thought of a twenty foot billboard of James in his Calvin Kleins, I took a deep breath and shoved the money back. "You know I can't take this, James. I can't charge my own cousin rent."

Since I still made no move to take the money, he tossed it back onto the bed. Turning back to me, he gave a shrug. "Half-cousin at best but well, no point in arguing but... you have to at least give me a chance. You don't love me at all right now but I do know that you do have the hots for my body - and right now, I will take what I can get." Those dark eyes turned warm with appeal, his voice grew heavy with the timbre of sex and I shivered. His large hands reached forward and ran slowly down my face, leaving a delicious trail of heat in their wake. "I had this great plan to seduce you here, to have you giving me the best fuck of my life .. but let's start with dinner instead."

His face was inches away again, his warm breath burning against my cheek. His hands had come down to my shoulders, running deliciously down the lapel of my suit. How could I possibly say no? At this game, the man was a master and I found myself helpless. "Okay, dinner when we get back. And you're paying."

His handsome face was split with a wide smile just before he let out a yell. "Yahoo!" Before I could even make a protest, he silenced me with a warm kiss. Those strong arms pulled me close enough that I could feel his heart pounding through his chest - and his hard cock burning a mark on my thigh. Not one to ever lose an advantage, my hands drew him close and ran down the perfection of his broad back. The warm bed beckoned behind me... the bed in my grandparents' home.

Realization came to me and I shoved him away. "Jamie!"

It was a name that I used to call him when we were younger and he smiled. Although he pulled away, he kept his arms tight around me. "You taste like vanilla, John. Sweet."

"Fuck! Anyone could have seen!"


I could find no reply and just laughed.

He flashed a sinful smile. "Come, Perfect John, let's break a few rules of our own."


  1. you know what - u should be writing books as ur part-time job or sumthing. your short stories are simply amazing. :)

    keep on writing!

  2. where's the rest of the chapters for "The New Year?" pls post asap. i've missed this story for the longest time.

  3. ABOUT DAMN TIME SUNG!!!! I was wondering if you were ever going to start this again. I know it's going to be a little trickier posting like this as opposed to the old way.

    Been away too long myself but now settled back in Seattle and trying to keep things flowing.


  4. Ah yes, how I've missed thee. I hope you'll post the other chapters and update this soon.

  5. happy new year! hmmmmm - in advance ... kung hei fat choi! hope to get the rest of the chapters for the NEW YEAR and hopefully . . . the continuing chapters, too! Missed you and your very entertaining stories as well.

  6. This is one of my favorite stories on the web. I've been following all the chapters ever since. I've read all the ones on Nifty and the few others on the (defunct) geocities site that were not posted on Nifty. I hope you'll be continuing this. ^_^