Pak Boong: morning glory; a spinach-like vegetable
Gaeng Keow Wan: green curry
Gai Tod: fried chicken
Kai Med Ma Muang: chicken with cashew nuts
Khao Niew Ma Muang: mango with sticky rice
Shin has an issue. A big issue. Monumental. End-of-the-world catastrophic certain death kind of issue.
“You are such a drama queen. You’re bringing home your girlfriend, that’s all.” Alia scoffs next to him, her body swaying as their train picks up speed and Shin turns to her with big woeful eyes.
“No, no! It’d be one thing to introduce my dads to my girlfriend. It’s another to introduce them to my girlfriend’s boyfriend !”
Standing above him, one hand clutching the handrail, Tam chuckles as he ducks down to press a kiss against Shin’s cheek, “So you’re in a polyandrous relationship. I don’t see why it has to be an issue when you have gay dads.”
Shin colors slightly at the public affection but his hand curls into the hem of Tam’s shirt, turning brown eyes upward to explain his world-ending woes, “The gay is not the issue. You and I are not going to be the problem, trust me. But to have a third person into the mix? What if they have an issue with that? With the fact that I’m dating two people instead of the required one?? And what if they think I’m a home-wrecker? That I squeezed my way between you and Tam? And that Alia is now being pushed away because there’s no place for her in-”
All of a sudden, there are a pair of lips being pressed against his, tongue licking past the seam of his lips and intertwining with his. The whimper that breaks out of him is minute but enough that Tam above him groans softly and curls his fingers around Shin’s cheek.
When Alia finally pulls back to let him breathe, there’s a dazed look across Shin’s face, glazed enough that Alia giggles as she thumbs away a trace of lipstick from the man’s lip.
“Effective.” Tam comments mildly, lips quirked up in a grin.
“I often am.” The woman flicks her raven blue hair over one shoulder, settling back in her seat and grinning as Shin recovers and pouts at the surprise attack.
“You promised no more surprise kissing me.” He says with a soft whine, glowering at his girlfriend. For her part, Alia’s apology consists of running her hand through Shin’s hair, messy from how many times he’s clutched at it in the last 15 minutes.
The indulgent touches are calming and very unlike Alia. In their relationship of three, Tam has always been the empathic and tactile one, offering soft kisses and light touches. Shin is the panicked bisexual, trying not to let his own paranoia and insecurities screw up the happiest he’s ever been. And Alia is their rock, the stable logical one that pulls back either man from tipping over the brink.
And he needs that now, her stability as Shin tries to calm himself down. Still, it’s a struggle as thoughts fly through his head at the speed of light.
From the time he’s been a child, Shin has only ever seen monogamy run rampant in their family. It’s not just his parents, his uncles Pharm and Dean have never had eyes for anyone else and his aunt Manaow has been pretty much the same. In some instances, Shin recalls his dad making off-handed comments that he never understood the need for more than one person in a relationship.
“One person is more than enough to handle. Why have an extra and double your misery?” His dad’s words ring loudly in his head, sending a fresh wave of despair through the young man.
His body lurches as the train rolls to a stop and it provides a break in his panicking as Tam tugs him upright, “Come on you; can’t miss our stop.”
The three of them step out onto the platform, making their way down the stairs and up to the main road where they planned to catch a taxi to Shin’s childhood home. His pops had offered to come pick them up but Shin wasn’t ready for the barrage of questions that were bound to come and he needed the time to bring his blood pressure down.
Still, the cab drops them far too quickly at the imposing apartment complex and Alia needs to nudge Shin’s shoulder in order to get him moving and let them all through the front door of the complex. His parent’s combined wealth means a gorgeous view of Chiang Mai as the elevator takes them up to the 25th floor and Shin is still trying to regulate his breathing when they finally stop in front of 2507.
On either side of him, Tam and Alia squeeze his clammy hands before Alia reaches up to knock on the heavy oak door, three sharp raps that emit a squeak from Shin.
Because they are both much better than he deserves, both Tam and Alia let go of his hands before the door swings open, revealing his Pops.
“Shin! You made it! Team! Shin’s here! And he brought friends! Come in come in! Let me hug you! Ooooohhhh is that muscle?? Team! Shin has muscle!!! Where’d you get muscles from?? Have you been working out?”
Hair an artful mix of blonde and gray, Shin’s father is a bubble of energy, herding them all into the open hallway, hugging his son, calling for his husband and smiling all the way through. Win looks nothing like the head of an international hotel chain in his linen pants and soft t-shirt and it brings a rush of affection from Shin as he squeezes his father tight.
Shin pulls back, heart a mix of love and trepidation as he tries to say the words he’s been planning to say, “Hi pops. This is Tam and Alia. Tam was my roommate in first year, remember? And this is his girlfriend, Alia. They’re both my- my...they’re friends of mine.”
From his peripheral, Shin sees Tam tense and Alia bite on her lip. Internally, he’s screaming apologies, begging for their forgiveness in the face of his cowardice. Shit, what the hell was wrong with him?? He couldn’t even introduce Alia as his girlfriend!
Dying internally but forcing a smile to his face, Shin asks, “Where’s dad? Cooking?”
“Yup. Which means I’m going to order pizza in about ten minutes.” Win says, eyes twinkling mischievously when Alia lets loose a small giggle at his joke.
“I heard that, you asshole! Ask me to cook again and see if I ever make anything for you!” Win’s smile grows impossibly brighter and happier when his husband enters, face pulled into a scowl as he wipes his hands on a towel. When he sees Shin however, the scowl is exchanged for a pleased smile.
Once a national swimmer and now an acclaimed coach, Team stands tall and strong as he approaches their group and tugs his son into a hug as well, “I'm glad to see you, bud. You look well.”
Team gives Tam and Alia a welcoming smile too, when they execute neat waiis, “You must be Nong Tam and Nong Alia. Come in, Shin’s told us a lot about you both.”
Stepping further into his old home serves to both relax and tense Shin, the familiar smells of chlorine, spices and salt soothing his nerves yet squeezing his heart. He follows his parents and his partners into the living room where the coffee table holds a chilled jug of sugarcane juice and a bowl of Lays.
The chips make Tam squeak in happiness and he’s reaching for them with an ecstatic grabby hand. Alia’s warning cough makes him pause and he stares at Team and Win with a sheepish expression, “Sorry; I really love Lays.”
“He consumes three packets a day.” Alia comments with a glower, accepting the glass of juice Win hands her with a thankful nod.
Team laughs and proceeds to hand over the entire bowl to Tam, clapping his shoulder, “A man after my own heart. I used to have five back in the day before my cholesterol became a problem.”
“You still have three. I see you sneaking in that third packet when you think I’m not looking.” Win complains even as he winds an arm around his husband’s waist. The snark makes Team huff but he does nothing about the arm holding him tight as they all take a seat and conversation switches to Shin’s education.
The university is a mere hour away from home but to have the entire college experience, both his fathers had encouraged Shin to stay in a campus dorm his first year. It had been an enjoyable time and his roommate had turned out to be Tam, who had at first been awed by Shin, adopted son of a well-known hotel conglomerate and national gold-medal athlete.
As time went by, they’d gotten comfortable with each other enough that Tam began to invite Alia to their room to drink and hang out and then out to bars as a trio. A drunken night had meant Tam pulling Shin into a kiss rather than his girlfriend and while that had caused some initial embarrassment and denial, Alia’s determination and fondness for them had meant a wild night with both beds pushed together.
That had been towards the end of his first year and now starting his second year, Shin felt that it was the right time to introduce his partners to the most important people in his life. He loved his parents and logically, he knows that his fathers are going to support him and encourage him no matter how many people he brings home. It doesn’t ease the fear in his heart.
As the four people he loves converse and move to the dining table to eat what his father has cooked, apprehension dries out Shin’s mouth and makes his palms clammy. He barely speaks as bowls of rice are spooned out and Team sets steaming plates of Pak Boong , Gaeng Keow Wan , Gai Tod and Kai Med Ma Muang on the table. He definitely doesn’t notice the look his parents send across the table from his lack of enthusiasm at the dishes; especially since they’re his favorites. Shin’s still too busy bashing himself internally for being a coward to really pay attention to them.
When Team passes Win, he raises an eyebrow at his husband and receives an imperceptible shake of the head. Silent communication that they’ve perfected over the years becomes their ally as Team takes his place near Win and both men watch the three students.
They see how Alia has chosen to sit near Shin, despite Tam being her boyfriend. They see their son’s small smile as Tam reaches across, takes his plate and serves Shin with Pak Boong even as Shin places three pieces of fried chicken on Alia’s plate. When Team tries to offer the cashew nut chicken to Alia, Shin is the first to protest, citing the young woman’s nut allergy. They watch quietly as Alia pours a glass of water for Tam but sends the softest smile at Shin, eyes warm and understanding.
And they watch the guilt eat away at their son at every touch, every smile, every gesture of love.
Win looks at Team then, giving him a knowing smirk. He took after you, you damn tsundere.
Team responds with all the love in his heart. Shut the fuck up.
Under the table, Win takes Team’s hand in his own, rubbing over the silver ring that hardly ever comes off. Should we say something? He asks with a raised eyebrow.
Before Team can answer, Alia sneezes all of a sudden and upsets the full glass of water she’d been holding, sloshing most of the cold liquid onto herself. Shin moves before any of them can, grabbing his own napkin and dabbing it against the wet spot on her dress and in the midst of the apologies and the chuckles, they all hear Alia plainly, “I’m fine, thilak . It’s just water.”
Shin freezes first, hand stilling with the napkin still in his hold even as Alia realizes what she’s said and her eyes widen. Tam, on the other side is watching them both with his lip caught in his teeth, half out of his seat.
Shin can hear the rush of blood in his ears, can hear how loudly his heart beats as Win clears his throat and remarks, “That’s a sweet term to call Shin, N’Alia.”
Alia, for her part, looks miserable and apologetic as she first looks to Shin and then waiis at Team and Win, “I’m sorry, that was my mistake. I didn’t mean-”
“We’re a couple! All three of us. I’m gay. And straight. And in a relationship with Tam and Alia. I love them both. Please don’t hate me!” Shin blurts out then, words stumbling off his tongue. He looks up to see the shell-shocked faces of both his partners and sees the small pleased smile flickering at the edges of Tam’s lips.
It gives him courage, that small flicker of a smile. As does the hand winding itself into his own from near him. Enough courage to look at his fathers and be ready for the disappointment and yell...ing...wait.
Why do his dads look like they’re trying not to laugh?
Win breaks first, laughter spilling from his lips, loud and warm and infectious. Near him, Team grins, chuckling as he runs a hand through his hair. He has nothing but warm affection in his eyes as he looks at the three youngsters.
“I think the term you’re looking for is bisexual, bud. When you’re attracted to men and to women. And we’re okay if you’re in a polyandrous relationship. As long as you guys have open communication and are being safe, it doesn’t matter to us. And you better be safe. Your pops and I both support you but either of you get N’Alia pregnant and I’ll come at you with a slipper to the head.” Team warns and he smirks at the squawk his words get.
Shin blushes bright red even as he tries to make sense of what’s happening, “Wait...so neither of you are mad? That’s I’m...half gay? And that I have two lovers?”
“Bisexual. Use the right term. And why would we be mad? I’m bisexual too.” Win shrugs as his laughter swindles down to chuckles and reaches up to wipe away a stray tear.
“Not the bisexual part. The ‘having one too many lovers’ part!” There’s a slightly hysterical tone in his voice, Shin realizes belatedly but he can’t really care right now. His brain is in the middle of exploding.
“It really doesn’t matter to us Shin. There’s no amount to how many people you love and if it means that your heart holds enough for these two lovely people, then that’s what it is. We’re not going to stop you from being happy. Your dad’s right though. Use protection; you’re all way too young to be having children.”
Win takes that moment to clap his hands and stand, tugging Team along with him, “Alright! We’ve got the awkward “coming out” out of the way. Who’s up for dessert? Team made Khao Niew Ma Muang .”
“I’ll take some.” Alia pipes up and she shrugs when Shin looks at her with wide eyes, “What? You know it’s my favorite.”
Tam stands then, picking up his plate, with an offer to help clear up but Team shoots down the idea immediately, piling the empty plates into Win’s arms, “Don’t worry. I think you might need to walk my son through the brain freeze he’s having right now. Take care of him, won’t you?”
There’s more in that statement, a request from a father about his child and Tam understands. He nods, making a deep waii that gets him a pleased nod from Team and a pat on the shoulder.
Left alone, Tam rounds the table, moving to his knees to look at Shin, who’s still in the process of blinking. Tam looks at Alia with a grin, “He’s still processing, isn’t he?”
Alia giggles, hand reaching out for Tam, “You might need to re-boot him.”
And Tam does just that, reaching up to press his lips against Shin, as Alia’s hands runs through their hair. Shin jolts from the pressure against his lips but doesn’t pull away, letting every bit of that un-required tension flow out of him.
When they pull apart, Tam strokes his thumb over the underside of Shin’s jaw, “You okay?”
The smile that blooms across the man’s face, free and open and warm as he turns to both his partners speaks volumes. But even so, Shin reaches out to tangle his hands with both Tam and Alia, “So okay. So very okay.”
In the kitchen, Win leans against Team, chin hooked over his shoulder, “Think we can go out just yet?”
Team, who can see everything happening in their dining room, grins and turns in the circle of his husband’s arms, “Let’s give them a few more seconds. We haven’t embarrassed them enough, I don’t think.”
“And this is why I married you.”
“Really? I thought it was for the great blow-jobs and the mind-blowing fucks.”
“You should know that we can hear you guys and I would like to bleach my brain now!” Comes the pained call from the living room and Team laughs as he follows a grinning Win back out of the kitchen.