I can't quite pin the time when I stopped saying, "Oh, fuck there's Ling, " and started saying, "hey, there's Ling." It sort of snuck up on me slowly. One day I was walking along with Al through the open-air market, looking for those delicious, sweet, greasy things called "Elephant Ears." Suddenly, I noticed Ling walking next to me, and I didn't automatically want to punch him.
I remember that, not wanting to hit him, and being absolutely amazed that I didn't want to hit him. Because wanting to beat Ling into the ground is like wanting sneeze when you are in a dusty room. It's so automatic, it's expected. But there he was striding along next to me with his trade mark grin and for some reason the urge just wasn't there.
I wasn't tired or sick, either.
Of course, it helped that he wasn't causing mayhem, or needy, or, you know, talking. He was just there, at my side, like he'd been there all afternoon. Except he hadn't. That's one of the things that USUALLY annoy me. Ling is there, then he isn't, then he's there again. He is as stealthy as a cat, and is just about as predictable.
I spoke first, "So, where have you been the last week?"
"Here and there," said Ling.
"Find out anything about the stone?"
Ling nodded. "So what are we looking for here?"
"Lunch." Then I saw it, the stand with the large sweet flat confections. I bought one, then looked over at the prince.
His eyes couldn't have been wider and more puppyish. You know, he's almost my age, and he's a prince for crap's sake, he really aught to have more dignity than to beg like that. So, I handed over few more cenz and bought him one, too.
Now ordinarily that would annoy me, because you'd think, being a prince and all, Ling could afford to buy his own food. After all, he MUST eat when he's not with me. Why is it that, whenever we are together, I'm somehow paying for him like he's my date? And yet, I didn't feel annoyed. It felt—normal—no, that's not quite the word. It felt promising. I found myself looking forward to seeing his pleasure when he bit into it.
When I looked around Al was a few vendors down looking at stuffed animals, I decided to leave him be. Watching me eat is no great treat for him and he'd be pretty easy to find, even in a crowded market, when I was done.
Ling and I moved away from the vender into a nearby narrow alley so that we could eat our food without getting bumped into. I found a large concrete block to sit on and immediately lit into my pastry, finishing it in next to no time. Ling hesitated a moment and then started in on his.
He paused in the middle of the first bite, frowning. Then looked surprised, and swallowed. Then a huge smile lit his face.
"Never had one before?" I asked.
"No. I thought you said this was lunch."
I frowned. "Of course it is!"
"It's dessert. Or is this what your diet consists of?"
"If you don't like it, I'll eat the rest of yours." After all, I paid good money for it, if he wasn't going to enjoy it, I would. I reached out to take it form him, and we got into a tussle, which involved him shoving the pastry in his mouth while I tried to pull it away from him.
He fell on his back on the dusty ground, I climbed on top of him, pulling a piece of the pastry off and shoving it in my mouth. His hands grabbed mine to prevent me from stealing his food, so I leaned in and grabbed the pastry with my mouth instead, biting off a large piece and then smiling around my full mouth.
He was now at a distinct disadvantage, both his hands occupied with mine, and he was forced to hold the elephant ear in his mouth. If he bit down, it would break free and fall onto his chest. Meanwhile I had free reign to eat it, while he so kindly held it still.
Ling realized this and let go with one hand to hold the pastry, but that freed my hand, and I resumed grabbing for it. He ended up getting only one bite in before I tore off nearly a third and shoved it into my own mouth. Ling attempted to grab it back, but only managed to swipe a crumb. I could see he was amazed at just how much I could shove into my mouth at one time.
While I was busy he tried to finish what he had left, but when it comes to eating, I'm the better man. He grabbed my hand as I attempted to pull the last piece from his mouth.
I swooped down with my mouth intent on that last bit of bread dangling out of his, but he sucked it in just before me.
Which is how my lips ended up on his.
It was honestly not a kiss. Well, at least it didn't start off as one. Ling's lips were dusted with cinnamon sugar, so can you blame me for trying to steal that from him as well?
"Oh, THERE you are!" came a high somewhat echoey voice. "I turned around and you were gone—"
I turned around and Al was standing in the mouth of the alley. For a moment, Ling and I just stared at him.
"Oh, brother," said Al somewhat scornfully. "Really, in public? Why don't the two of you just get a room already."
Ling grinned, "I'm not sure Ed can wait that long. I am so irresistible."
And suddenly the familiar, comfortable urge to hit him was back in full force.