Title: Happy Birthday (a two-part series)
Character(s) or Pairing(s): the East Asians! \o/ + Greece/Japan
Warnings: none…human names?
Summary: How Japan celebrated his birthday.
A/N: I shall take the liberty to name a few of China’s siblings who are unnamed. Taiwan is Lin, Hong Kong is Henry and Vietnam is Kim. Tibet is Khenpo, Singapore is Sally, Thailand is Jaidee and Mongolia is…Bataar (ahahaha I am generic and sad that way).
Kiku thought, while idly watching as Yung Soo flipped through songs for their next dance, how this felt somewhat different from their regular workweek nights.
It’s not unusual for the family (in recent years, hearing that word isn’t so awkward anymore) to get together whenever they had spare time, sometimes in Yao’s house, sometimes in Sally’s or Henry’s or Yung Soo’s. There weren’t always complete. More often than not, such nights were quiet and peaceful (except when Jaidee felt particularly energetic, like during Fridays) with them doing their own thing in different parts of the living room, playing video games or eating, like a bunch of dormers winding down after a long and tiring school day.
Yung Soo and Kiku started jumping on the DDR mat in unison, eyes fixed on the screen and it’s blinking arrows, feet moving in sync with the digital dancers. Several cups of instant noodles littered the kotatsu, along with a few orange peels, cooling tea, mochi and other sweets.
Over the music, there was the occasional resounding clack of tiles as Yao, Bataar, Lin and Khenpo were trying to settle their petty, unresolved disputes by game after game of fierce mahjong (Taiwanese style, Lin insisted, hoping for some sort of advantage which she sadly did not seem to be getting). Henry and Sally were hooked to two different game consoles (no doubt battling each other through some two-player mode) and Kim and Jaidee were in the kitchen, busying themselves with somewhat elaborate dinner plans with the wide variety of ingredients and potluck they brought.
“Woo~! I won this round!” Yung Soo exclaimed and Kiku sighed as his brother flailed about in celebration. They were both out of breath, but feeling energized. Yung Soo once more flipped through the more difficult songs to dance to.
Kiku looked about the living room while waiting, not quite sure how his day ended this way. He wasn’t complaining of course, it had been fulfilling so far. Right after his part time teaching job in an escalator university earlier this afternoon, he had headed home, in mind to treat himself to a large bowl of convenience store ramen, takoyaki from his favorite street-side stall, salted salmon and a decent amount of cold beer.
But just as soon as he had changed into more comfortable, traditional wear, Yao and Yung Soo were knocking on his door, bearing colored plastics filled with food. More of this siblings started pouring (well, not pouring perhaps, how many were they really?) after that.
And it was normal too. Soon enough, they had occupied Kiku’s living room and he was somewhat struck with the fact he’d never seen his place so full.
Yung Soo was taking an extra long time to decide between songs and so he popped the question that hadn’t exactly been answered but didn’t need to be.
“…why is everyone here again?”
“Dinner,” Henry deadpanned and Kim in the kitchen let out an inaudible sigh.
“Your house has games,” Sally piped up.
Lin frowned from her seat but didn’t take her eyes of her hand. “Your house has games too.” And the sisters started arguing lightly without looking at each other.
“So that I can beat you in DDR! Everyone knows I invented in anyway,” Yung Soo provided beside him and changed a few game settings with rapid button pushes.
“The New Year is near, aru,” Yao said somewhat absently from his seat, but for some reason, the talk subsided.
Kiku felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth and was tempted to ask if it was really the Chinese New Year, because it was still a few days away. In his gut, perhaps he can fathom the real reason behind the ones they gave. A bit narcissistic, but he liked fishing for compliments sometimes, who wouldn’t? The thought touched him, made him glow inside and his face blush with a bit of embarrassment.
“Japan, focus, you’re losing,” Yung Soo said, already jumping on the mat. “On second thought, keep standing there.”
“Like I would,” he replied simply and danced once more.
The smell of freshly washed vegetables, halved onions, chopped chives, spices (Jaidee’s no doubt) and a hint of good beef and steaming seafood wafted from the kitchen. Bataar sniffed appreciatively. Yao called “SIC!” triumphantly and there was a crash of mahjong tiles.
“Damn it, ge-ge, stop winning!”
“I’ll bring the hotpot out in a few minutes!” Kim called. “Someone clear the kotatsu!”
- - - -
“Get off me, aru. You’ve had too much to drink, ar—watch where you’re touching!”
Yung Soo drunkenly draped himself over Yao and laughed, the can of beer in his hand swinging dangerously. “Lighten up, hyung. It’s Japan’s birthday after all…”
Kiku modestly took a sip out of his sake cup and relished the warm burn it gave his stomach. “…what significance does my birthday take in this? Don’t you do this almost every time?”
Yung Soo blows a raspberry and Yao utters a cry of half-exasperation, half-rage. Bataar and Khenpo merely chuckled on their respective cushions, poking the still-whirring hotpot in the hopes of finding a missed piece of meat or shrimp. Henry, Jaidee, and Sally brought up the subject of boybands and the conversations rose to an uproar. Kim volunteered to wash the dishes and Kiku helped, not in the mood to be in the way of a drunken, enthusiastic Yung Soo talking about his ‘world famous boybands’, Lin talking about her actors being ‘way better’—“Oh god, that was in 2004. Get over it, Lin”—and Yao reminiscing.
He sat on the dining table and watched as Kim moved from one place to another like her traditional dancers. Indeed the kitchen was her domain, if not Jaidee’s too, when he wasn’t out being too flashy and nerdy at the same time (quite a feat, honestly). And though Kiku had never really been a fan of spicy things, he loved the scents from their dishes. He busied himself making tea for all of them.
“What are you thinking?” Kim said with a smile in her voice. “You’ve been unusually quiet all evening, especially with the sake you drank.”
Kiku laughed a bit at himself. “That’s exactly it, I’m afraid.”
Kim raised an eyebrow. “…what about this evening?”
He looked wistfully at the clock as if to read something otherworldly and intangible. Kim muttered something about ‘foreigners’ under her breath but understood all the same. “Expecting someone?” she prompted instead.
Kiku returned to himself. “I’m not getting my hopes up. Our times are different after all.”
Kim laughed, boyish and bark-like it startled him a bit, but then again, this particular sister has always been somewhat feisty. “Oh please, you’re practically pinning. Get out there hand have some fun, I’ll take care of the tea.”
“You’re a guest, Vietnam.”
“…that may be true but still, everyone else out there’s got better sense than you to go enjoy themselves. Come now.”
Kiku sighed and left the kitchen, resuming his seat around the kotatsu. Yung Soo and Yao were currently in song. Super Junior M, Kiku thought and hummed along.
A few hours and several, loud, very bad renditions of various pop songs later, Henry turned on the karaoke machine.
“Shit! There was one all along?!” Jaidee exclaimed. If cats could throw back the boots hurled at them every time they tried to caterwaul, they would aim them at Kiku’s house, out of rivalry or annoyance, it would be hard to tell.
- - - -
Herakles, panting and breathless, having just caught the last train from the airport, arrived at Kiku’s doorstep with apprehension threatening to overwork his heart.
Eleven in the evening, his wristwatch glared, even though it was neither digital nor glow in the dark. An hour to go before he missed Japan’s birthday. Would this visit still be worth it? He was suddenly hesitant to knock on the door.
From within the house, he heard Chinese ballads being hollered into a microphone and laughed a bit, despite himself. Stalling for no one in particular, Herakles listened as the last few notes of trashy karaoke music died down and shouts of who would be singing next were heard.
“Oi! Japan, where are you going?”
“A breath of fresh air, you two are killing me.”
“You promised a duet!”
A few notes struck up again. “…what, Hong Kong, stop showing off by singing English songs.”
“I can do that too!”
Herakles barely had time to marvel at the unusual number of visitors Kiku had in his home when the front door slid open.
Deep brown eyes widened in surprise. “Ah.”
Herakles blinked and for a moment, they were both frozen where they were. “Happy Birthday Japan,” he greeted awkwardly.
Kiku was still in a slight state of shock. “Th-thank you.” Quickly, he slid the door shut behind him. “How long have you been standing here? It must be cold,” he added in a whisper, now very unsure of how to start the conversation with him.
“I just arrived,” Herakles replied and deftly took his hand, tugging him gently for a walk. “I’m sorry I’m late.”
Kiku regained his pace and composure. “I was waiting,” he began quietly. “But I’m really glad you came.”
“A present,” Herakles said, holding a box out. Kiku, once more, was pleasantly surprised and took it with a bow of thanks.
“It’s heavy,” he noted. In the evening darkness, he didn’t see Herakles’ own blush bloom on his face.
“Open it later when you’re back home. It’s just a little something I made.”
A tiny excitement bubbled in Kiku’s chest at the words. With silent promise, he carried the package more gently. They stopped in the middle of the garden path, feeling cold sludge under their shoes (or slippers in Kiku’s case) and smelling the crisp February air. Dew on the petals of a few winter flowers reflected the light coming from the house. It was as if he and Herakles were in the middle of a billion tiny stars.
“They sure are loud,” Herakles noted, talking about the singing coming from the living room.
Kiku laughed a bit. “It’s karaoke, and we’ve been having beer since six.”
Herakles enjoyed himself with possible implications and Kiku felt rather sated to care. They stood just a bit closer for warmth. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kiku shiver and draped a jacket-clad arm around his shoulder.
“Hah, I wish I hadn’t rushed out of the house in only my yukata. I forgot it was cold out.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
Their gazes left the glowing house and returned to the midnight sky. Kiku let out a sigh and smiled when he saw his breath cloud in air. “I never really used to care about my birthdays before,” he began in a matter of fact tone.
Herakles listened with growing curiosity, but let him continue.
“Science says the earth has just completed another rotation around the sun. The past makes it hard to tell apart the years from the days and sometimes, there isn’t much of a point in counting when there isn’t an end…” he trailed off, remembering, when he was young, how sure he was he’d live forever. Wars changed that.
“…and then you see your people, celebrating their birthdays every single year because somehow they know they’ve got to value every moment they live since time for them is so short.”
Herakles picked up from there. “Then you start to wonder what’s stopping you from living your own life year by year. If it’s the closest we’ll get to being human, then why not take a shot. Who knows how long this peace will last…”
“Birthdays, huh,” Kiku whispered and leaned against Herakles, thinking of the Alfred’s parties and how everyone ate and drank and laughed and got along (generally) or first time Yao called for a get together as a complete family. When that night had ended, there wasn’t one of them who hadn’t shed a tear or cried a river, had a screaming match and even an all out fist fight, then hugged each other fiercely, be it with forgiveness or lingering spite.
Behind them, Kiku heard curious voices, shushings and a few snippets of conversation.
“He is taking a long time, aru. Who is he talking to?”
“Ssh! They’re just out in the yard! They might hear you!”
“…they? Who’s they?”
“Greece! He came just a while ago.”
“Ah…girls, leave them be.”
“Why is he with him, aru? Alone? The boy is drunk! Someone get him back!”
“China, he’s not a child anymore.”
“Korea, stop singing…”
Kiku rolled his eyes and patted Herakles’ arm in request for a moment. His companion came to in question and Kiku turned around. Sure enough, his siblings were watching from the open window.
“We can hear you perfectly from here, and China I’m not as drunk as you think, though I would like to have some tonight, if you know what I mean.”
Herakles reddened in surprise. Khenpo, Bataar and Jaidee wolf whistled. Lin threw up her arms in mocking, good-natured despair.
“This really is your birthday, isn’t it?” she called.
Kiku smiled sweetly. “It is.” He turned back to Herakles and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Stay for breakfast?”
“…um, would it be alright?”
“I insist,” his companion said and led the back into the dojo. “China makes an excellent crab egg soup. They’ll be up all night, trust me. Beside, you’ve got to try some of the food Vietnam and Thailand made. I think they’ll be to your liking.”
By the time the evening was officially over, Herakles had played his first mahjong game (and lost terribly), reacquainted himself with incredibly spicy (yet addictive) dishes, had a mini break-dance showdown with Yung Soo, laughed and drank with the rest of them.
- - - -
They were monopolizing the kotatsu. It was a good thing though: something to keep them warm and hide the fact they weren’t wearing any clothes underneath the heavy comforter. After Khenpo and Bataar turned in last night, the rest of them stayed up to play and sing, and close to dawn, when only Herakles and Kiku were left awake, they made love on warm tatami.
“…we should get dressed. China wakes up early.”
“Open the present,” Herakles said, propped on one elbow and watching Kiku snuggled among the sheets.
The sound of ripping paper pierced the humid, chilly morning air but no one stirred. Kiku gasped softly. His gift was heavy because it was made out of white marble. White marble lovingly hand carved into a exquisite, detailed chrysanthemum.
The way Kiku’s mouth opened a bit in awe, the way his hands tightened, the way his eyes lit up and his face took on the slightest of pinks, were all that Herakles needed to know how much the gift was appreciated. Kiku looked up at him, but found he had no words to say.
“A thank you isn’t enough,” he whispered breathlessly.
Herakles squeezed his hand from under the pillow. “It’s more than I need.”
They are woken up again by noon to Yao screaming profanities and lack of decency.
…this part was surprisingly challenging, perhaps because this particular leg of nations isn’t explored …much. I don’t know. I hope you enjoyed it! :D Let’s all sing a round of happy birthday for these two!