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Family Dinners Are (Not) Fun

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“No,” Tin firmly said to his mother over breakfast.

It was one of those rare days where the Medthanan are having breakfast together as a family. The last time they had breakfast together was so long ago that Tin wasn’t sure if they actually ate together before. Breakfast started off what Tin would have regarded as normal. Clinking of utensils against glass plates, an array of dishes set in front of them which will ultimately end up in the garbage as there is simply too much food for four people to consume in the morning. In the Medthanan family, they are a family of a few words and Tim expected this morning to be no different. That is, until his mother said something so incredulous.

“You’ve seen Pete before. I don’t see the need for you to see him again. If anything, I’d rather him not see any of you any more than necessary,” Tin continued, stabbing his food a little too aggressively than necessary.

Pete was no stranger to his family. With the history that Pete and he share, it was hard for the Medthanan to not know the soft-spoken boy. The two of them were childhood friends and the Medthanan were particularly close to the Sutthiprapha, purely for business, obviously (more so his side rather than Pete’s mum. Pete's mum seemed to be genuinely tolerable to them). Just like the Medthanan, Pete was just as familiar with them, and being Tin’s boyfriend meant that he knew the toxicity running in his family. While Tin could proudly say that he managed to keep Pete away from the toxicity, it seemed that his lucky streak is about to run out.

“Bring him over for dinner on Friday, “his father ordered, not bothering to look up from his iPad, “I’ll get the cooks to prepare his favorites. No arguments.”

“Unless you’re saying that things aren’t actually serious between the two of you...” Tun piped up, throwing a smirk in Tin’s direction, “which is a shame because Pete is just the cutest and sweetest.”

Tin couldn’t help the low growl from escaping at the thought of Tun attempting to get his gross hands on his Pete. “He’ll be here at 8 pm.”

“You know I will take you home right now if you want to right? Just say the word and I’ll start back the car and drive you home. No questions asked,” Tin said as soon as he killed the engine of his car. The two of them took a moment to sit in the car in silence. While Pete has met Tin’s family before, it was the first time it kind of meant something. He was no longer Pete, Tin’s friend. He was now going to step into the house being branded as Tin’s boyfriend. So Pete understood why the current keyed up Tin in front of him was anxious.

“We need a safe word. In case things get overwhelming for you,” Tim suggested, nervously drumming his fingers against his steering wheel, “something discreet, something inconspicuous.”

“Something like plane. Plane sounds good. It might be weird to be suddenly having a conversation about planes so we’re safe in that. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of a way to say plane if you really need to.”

The longer Tin seemed to talk, the more intense the drumming got. Pete reached over and gently placed his hand over Tin’s, hoping that it’ll help in calming the other boy. And it did. And it will always will for Tin as he turned his hand to hold onto Pete’s hand. He stared at the hand he was holding, bringing it close to his lip, and placed a soft kiss. Tin closed his eyes for a moment to recollect himself before opening his eyes to turn to his boyfriend who was waiting for him patiently, no questions asked. He reached out his other hand to cup Pete’s face, softening when the latter instinctively leaned into the touch.

“You’ll be okay,” Tin whispered, gently stroking Pete’s cheek.

We’ll be okay,” Pete corrected him, nuzzling his face on the warmth that Tin was currently giving him.

The two of them stayed like this for a few seconds until Tin knew that they had to go in and face his family. He eventually reluctantly pulled away and pressed a quick kiss on Pete’s lips before unlocking the doors of his car and the two eventually made their way into the Medthanan’s.

Despite having gone to Tin’s place countless times, Pete could never get used to how cold the house is. Well, metaphorically cold. Unlike his house, Tin’s family house was more minimalistic. While Pete’s house was adorned with photos of him and his mum, Tin’s was simply inquisitive centerpieces and unfamiliar artworks (with the exception of a giant portrait of the Medthanan family hanging up in the hallway). They approached the dining area where the remaining of Tin’s family members were waiting for them.

If there is one thing that Tin’s father does not shy away from is definitely excessiveness. The spread of food being laid across the table was definitely enough to feed the family for at least a week and knowing it’ll just going to be thrown after dinner was done, leaves a slight ache in Pete’s heart. After all, his mother taught him the importance of not wasting food. It didn’t go unnoticed that the food was all Pete’s favorite and it was definitely not because any one of them has taken note of what he likes to eat, after all the years he visited

“Don’t just stand there,” Tin’s father said, his naturally loud voice startling Pete, “have Pete take a seat.”

Pete took a quick glance at Tin whose face is set in a permanent frown. Tin lightly touched the back of Pete’s back and gestured him towards an empty seat, opposite Tun who was watching them closely.  Despite the tension in the air, Pete was raised by his mother who would often remind him to be polite to others even if they don’t deserve it.

And the Medthanan definitely do not deserve his politeness.

So Pete placed his hands together and offered everyone a wai, with a smile on his face which he hoped looked sincere enough.

“Thank you for inviting me for dinner, especially so if you’re busy with work,” Pete said, bowing his head down slightly.

Tin’s dad lifted his hand and waved away Pete’s thanks nonchalantly, “no need to thank me. If anything, Tin should have invited you over more for family dinners. But it seems Tin doesn’t value family as much as he should.”

Tin’s dad narrowed his eyes towards Tin who was looking down on his plate, his body obviously tensed.

How could he value family when he obviously has none, was what Pete wanted to say but he knew it’ll only make things worst so Pete simply tightened his smile and took a seat. Under the table, Pete placed his hand on Tin’s lap, giving his boyfriend a reassuring squeeze.

I’m here.

“Please help yourself, Pete. I’ve had the cooks make your favorites. Tin was barely any help in sharing what you liked so I had called your mother for some help,” Tin’s dad continued as his wife served him his food.

Seeing how Tin is unmoving, Pete took the initiative to help his boyfriend put some food on his plate.

“Not exactly the most observant boyfriend you have there, huh Pete?” Tun casually remarked, “dad thinks it’s just Tin being unbothered. But I think it simply is because he doesn’t know what you like.”

Pete paused for a slight second before continuing to take food for himself now. It didn’t take Pete to look at Tin to know how the latter is probably feeling now. That’s already three jabs towards the latter and dinner has hardly begun.

“Tin knows me very well,” Pete argued back but the lightness of his tone still present so as to not make the dinner even more difficult for the two of them, “he knows that I wouldn’t want you to go through the trouble of cooking specifically for me and that I’ll be fine with anything.”

“But thank you for thinking of me and making the effort,” Pete turned to Tin’s dad who was watching the entire exchange quietly.

Tin’s dad nodded in acknowledgment as he took a bite out of his meal, “wouldn’t want to lose you as a potential son-in-law just because apparently my son couldn’t care less. Your family is very important to us.”

Rich people translation - your family business is useful to my family business so I will only accept you on that account.

“I don’t know what you’re going on about, but don’t you ever say that I don’t care about Pete,” Tin said through clenched teeth, eyes never leaving his plate.

Tun lets out a scoff, “I’m sure that’s the case and that Pete knows that you care about him. That’s why he’s spending so much time with that engineering kid instead of you. It’s cute that Pete posts pictures of him together with you on Facebook.”

As if on reflex, Tin slammed his fist against the table, finally looking up to glare at his older brother. Pete winced at the sudden change of topic, knowing that Ae is a sore spot for Tin.

“Ae is just a friend P’Tun,” Pete explained, placing his hand on Tin’s clenched fist, hoping it’ll soothe the latter, “and the only reason why I’m seeing him regularly is that I’m tutoring him in English.”

Humming a reply, Tun gave a look at Pete which screams that he obviously did not believe Pete the slightest. “If you say so N’Pete.”

Not caring about the older boy, Pete turned to look at Tin who seemed to be in a staring session with his older brother. “Please eat Tin. Your food is going to get cold.”

Pete gave Tin’s hand one last squeeze before turning to focus on his food which Tin followed suit, much to his relief. Soon, nothing but the clinking of utensils against the silverware could be heard.

Just awhile more . If they could just continue dinner this way, they might actually survive dinner without any more hitches.

How silly of Pete to be even remotely optimistic when it came to the Medthanan.

“So Tin, if you actually cared about Pete, it must have sucked to know that he was being bullied and blackmail while you were away huh?”

And it was as if all the air was sucked out of Pete at the mere mention of his traumatic past which he barely managed to escape. But it wasn't only Pete that froze up at the mentioned incident.  While Pete has to face his traumas of going through what he did, Tin had to suffer the guilt of not being there and being able to help in any way. It was a hard topic for the two of them to talk about. It was still a hard topic for them to even bring up but now, the two of them were forced to acknowledge what happened, in front of Tin's family nevertheless.

“How did you know about Pete being blackmailed?” Tin quietly asked as he stared at Tun who took another bite of his meal, shrugging his shoulders.

“I asked you a question,” Tin’s voiced raised slightly, “how did you know about Pete being blackmailed?”

Tun smirked slightly, obviously amused at the almost derailed Tin in front of him. It wouldn’t take much for him to completely lose it. Just one sentence is going to be enough to break Tin.

“Probably the same way the police knew you were at that party taking drugs.”

The implication was there and Tin understood it immediately.

It was me.

“I’m going to fucking kill you for touching Pete!” Tin roared as he jumped from his seat to leaned forward and grab Tun’s shirt from over the table.

“Tin! What the hell do you think you’re doing! Let go of your brother!” Tin’s dad yelled while Tin’s mum attempted to hold her husband back.

But Tin wasn’t listening. All Tin could think about was how the reason Pete went through hell was because of the man in front of him.

“Why the fuck did you do that?” Tin demanded, shaking his brother back and forth, “wasn’t it enough that you ruined my life by getting dad to put me on a plane and have me shipped off to the other side of the world? Wasn’t enough that you set me up and framed me as a drug addict? Why did you have to touch Pete!”

It wasn’t until when the safe word was being uttered did Pete snapped out of his daze. He immediately stood up and gently tugged Tin’s hand, “Tin, you’re going to have to let go. I think dinner is over.”

Pete paused for a second as he watched Tin tightened his grip on his brother, intensely glaring at the latter and for a second it seemed as though he wouldn’t let go. And what felt like an eternity when in actuality it has just been a minute or two, Tin pushed Tun away from him, causing the latter to stumble backward slightly. The latter quickly regained his balance, tugging and readjusting his shirt before taking a seat again. Tin clenched and unclenched his fists, watching Tun resumed his meal as though nothing had happened.

Still seeing red, Tin didn’t realize Pete apologizing to his parents about their departure. Something about his mother needing him to be home. All he knew was that in one moment, he was still in his dining room and the next he found himself being tugged away.

“Probably the same way the police knew you were at that party taking drugs.”

The sentence repetitively echoed Tin’s mind as the image of Tun’s smug face burned in the back of his mind. The thought of someone hurting Pete was enough to send him on a blood hunt but now knowing that it was all intentionally planned out, that it wasn’t by chance Pete managed to meet the wrong person at the wrong time, makes Tin want to do worst.

While Tin was kept busy with his inner turmoil, Pete quietly guided Tin to his car, passenger seat of course. He buckled Tin in before heading to the driver’s seat. On the way back to Pete’s condo, Pete couldn’t help but throw a worried glance at his silent boyfriend ever so often.

Pete unlocked the door to his condo, flipping the light switch on. He toed off his shoes which Tin followed suit. He turned around to find Tin looking at him from the doorway.

“Hey, don’t be a stranger,” Pete gently teased when the latter made no attempts to move.


“Can I hug you?” Tin softly asked, staring at Pete with hopeful eyes, as though there was a possibility Pete was going to deny him of one.

Pete stared at Tin strangely, “of course you can. You don’t ever have to ask.”

Wordlessly, Tin shuffled his feet towards Pete and wrapped his arms around the latter’s waist, burying his face into the crook of his boyfriend’s neck. He let out a shaky breath as he tried to ground himself back, seeking comfort in the familiar warmth. He felt a pair of arms wrapped around him, soothingly rubbing his back, murmuring sweet nothings.

“Probably the same way the police knew you were at that party taking drugs.”

Tin squeezed his eyes shut as Tun’s words continued to echo in his mind. The guilt eating him alive. Too focus on trying to calm down, Tin didn’t notice how much he was shaking in Pete’s arms. But didn’t stop Pete from letting go. In fact, it made him squeeze the latter even tighter, as though trying to fix his boyfriend back together with his hug.

“Probably the same way the police knew you were at that party taking drugs.”

Finally, it became too much for Tin to handle and he couldn’t help but let out an anguished cry before breaking into ugly sobs.

But Pete was patient. His ever-loving, saint of a boyfriend simply held on and let Tin cried in peace. No judgments, no fake words of comforts like “it’s okay”, “don’t worry about it”. Eventually, the sobbing came to a stop and Tin pulled away to look at his boyfriend. He shakily removed his hands from around Pete’s waist to carefully cup his boyfriend’s face. Tin gently stroke his boyfriend’s cheek, looking as though he was in pain while doing so.

“I’m so sorry,” Tin managed to croak out, his voice hoarse from all that crying, “It’s all my fault. If only you didn’t meet me, if only I didn’t love you, you wouldn’t have gone through all that while I was gone.”

Pete struggled to find something to say but he couldn’t. What was he supposed to say? That it was okay? They both know it was a lie. Tin knows that Pete still gets nightmares over what he went through. Tin knows that the reason why he was afraid of the dark was because of him . And lying to Tin and causally belittling his experience would just be an insult to Tin. His boyfriend wasn’t stupid and he doesn’t need comforting lies.

“I think we both had a long night,” Pete carefully said as he placed his hand over Tin’s, “let’s wash up and head to bed. We can talk about it in the morning. Okay?”

Tin closed his eyes and leaned forward to place his forehead against Pete’s.