First Published on Chaleuria
Having settled the most important matter at hand, they finally started unpacking their luggage. According to the contract, the filming process would take at least three to six months. Give the length of their stay, both of them had come with fully packed suitcases. Well-disciplined and habitually tidy, Zhang Zhun arranged his belongings neatly in his chosen space with great efficiency. On the other hand, since Zhang Zhun had picked the bed against the wall, Chen Hsin began unloading the contents of his luggage onto the bed by the window. Zhang Zhun was done in no time. When he looked up and saw the mess that Chen Hsin had made, however, he could not help but shake his head.
“You…” He was at a loss for words as he examined the jumbled heap before him: bundles of clothes thrown in with daily necessities, numerous bottles and jars, and even two pairs of sneakers – all thrown haphazardly into a sizeable mound on Chen Hsin’s bed. While he did manage to clear out his suitcase, there was no way he was going to be able to sleep in his bed tonight.
Chen Hsin crossed his arms in vexation. “What?”
“After filming for all these years…”
“My assistant took care of everything!” he interjected defensively.
Indeed, personal assistants oversaw many aspects of their lives. Before Zhang Zhun left, Xiao-Deng had insisted on coming along to help out, but Zhang Zhun turned him down. Given the nature of the film, he was afraid that the presence of someone who knew him well would make him too self-conscious. He supposed Chen Hsin shared the same sentiment as well.
“What about your place? Is that your assistant’s responsibility as well?” he asked, lighting a cigarette.
“My girlfriend takes care of my place,” he retorted in defiance.
Zhang Zhun raised an eyebrow at the information. “You’re taken?”
Publicly, Chen Hsin had always claimed to be single – the lonely golden prince waiting for his one true love.
“Ever heard of the term ‘clandestine affair’? You got a problem with that?”
Zhang Zhun cut off the exchange with a wry laugh. Putting his half-smoked cigarette in Chen Hsin’s hand, he started sorting out the pile on the bed. Chen Hsin did not object as Zhang Zhun tidied up his space for him. Instead, he backed up and leaned against the window ledge to give the other man more room. He continued talking as he puffed on the cigarette.
“I get to call the shots in bed.”
Zhang Zhun did not pay him much attention. “Not interested in your habits in the bedroom. That’s between you and your girl,” he replied distractedly.
Chen Hsin rolled his eyes. “I was talking about us.”
Zhang Zhun froze for a split second before continuing with his task. “What are you high on? We’re both men.”
“Don’t care. A deal is a deal!” Chen Hsin took one last drag on the cigarette and snuffed it out savagely before picking out a towel and his cleanser from the pile. As he made his way to the bathroom, he warned teasingly, “Zhang-laoshi, no peeking!”
By now, Zhang Zhun was starting to get used to his jokes. He returned lightly, “My bod’s hotter than yours. Why would I care?”
When Chen Hsin came out of the shower, Zhang Zhun had already finished helping him clean up his side of the room. It was also getting late. They had dinner at the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel and charged it to the production team’s bill. After dinner, they took a brief detour and made a quick visit to the art gallery next to the restaurant before finally returning to the room to start their ‘work’ for the night.
Zhang Zhun picked the film for the night: Free Fall. Scanning through the blurb, Chen Hsin asked, “Why this?”
“It has an okay cover,” he replied, ‘okay’ being a euphemism for ‘relatively conservative’. He switched on the DVD player and picked up the remote control.
Chen Hsin changed out of his clothes, pulled on his sweatpants, and got into bed. He patted his pillows and called out to Zhang Zhun, who was still in the midst of changing. “C’mere,” he said, earning a glare from Zhang Zhun. Ignoring his invitation, Zhang Zhun headed straight for his own bed as he pressed ‘play’. From his side of the room, Chen Hsin began to complain loudly, “What’s the point of watching a single movie on separate beds? We might as well pick different movies to watch on our own!”
Zhang Zhun paused. He supposed Chen Hsin had a point. They both had signed up for the film, and they were both stuck in the couple’s room; it was meaningless for them to put up pretenses or barriers around each other. Having thought things through, he gave Chen Hsin’s long legs a kick and climbed onto his bed. “Move over,” he ordered.
Chen Hsin shifted a little in response, but in truth there was barely any extra room left on the single bed. They eventually settled down shoulder to shoulder, their arms flush against each other, and began watching the film in earnest. The opening sequence was long: a lone man jogged through a typical European coniferous forest with cold, cheerless music playing somewhat oppressively in the background. Without warning, Chen Hsin leaned towards Zhang Zhun. Zhang Zhun tensed at his sudden proximity, but Chen Hsin only meant to reach for the light switches on Zhang Zhun’s side. With a single flip, the room was cast into darkness.
With the curtains fully drawn, the darkness in the room was absolute except for the wash of white light from the screen. For reasons he did not understand, the space filled Zhang Zhun with calm and a soothing sense of inexplicable contentment. On the screen, the film began to play out. It was a sad story. The protagonist was a straight police officer who had become the object of a newly-transferred colleague’s courtship. He resisted at the start; the other man’s advances filled him with fear. But the course of love was never predictable or reasonable. A half-coercive kiss in the forest was all it took to tip him over the edge into a bottomless pit of desire. Like a crazed junkie always looking for the next fix, he gave in to his addiction and betrayed his pregnant girlfriend just to get in bed with another man. He lost everything in the end, and Zhang Zhun wept for his unspeakable, immeasurable loss.
“You cry very easily, eh?” Chen Hsin passed him a handful of tissues out of nowhere.
Zhang Zhun immediately shielded his eyes in embarrassment, muttering, “The light from the screen is too bright.”
“You also cried when a fight choreographer got injured on the set for Northern Peak. I still remember that.”
True story. Chen Hsin got him and there was no point in trying to hide anymore. His emotions had always been rather delicate: he was easily affected by stories of tragic suffering, and he felt deeply for the pain and sadness of others. His eyes casually glided to the side, still glimmering with unshed tears, and spotted a huge roll of toilet paper by Chen Hsin’s hand. “What’s that for?” he asked.
This time, it was Chen Hsin’s turn to be embarrassed. He pushed the toilet paper a little behind him. “I thought it’d be better to be prepared, you know, just in case… didn’t expect the film to be all serious and emotional.”
Flustered, Zhang Zhun looked away wordlessly. Behind him, Chen Hsin added, “I say, it’s a waste of time watching these types of films. When it comes to acting, love is the same across the board, doesn’t matter whether it’s between a man and a woman, or between two men.” It was impossible to tell if Chen Hsin was being serious or simply trying to justify his own expectations.
To drive his point home, Chen Hsin jumped off the bed and picked out the box with the most sexually explicit cover from the stash. “What we need is this,” he asserted as he slotted the DVD into the player. Then, he climbed back into bed, took the remote control out of Zhang Zhun’s hand, and started the film.
Unlike Free Fall, Chen Hsin’s choice was a brutally simple and direct film that went straight to the point. It took less than five minutes into the opening for the two actors to strip themselves completely of all clothing and expose their bodies in all their uncensored naked glory. Staring at the well-oiled, muscular bodies onscreen, Zhang Zhun shifted his arm away from Chen Hsin. “This… is porn, right?”
In response, Chen Hsin silently shoved the toilet roll toward him before turning up the volume. Statistically speaking, gay porn would not be entirely alien to any man in his thirties or forties. Even so, Zhang Zhun felt his hackles rise as he watched the man onscreen spread his legs shamelessly, writhing and jerking his hips wildly as he switched from position to position. Screams of ecstasy poured endlessly from his throat as if he were nothing but a tireless sex machine designed to live only for lust and pleasure. Furtively, his eyes wandered to the place where the men were joined – glistening and sopping wet as flesh slipped wantonly against flesh – and the decadent, obscene mess filled him with a strange fear he did not understand.
Then Chen Hsin was touching him, fingers brushing lightly against his hair before moving to his ear. Suppressing the urge to resist, he forced himself to wait for Chen Hsin’s kiss. But there was nothing familiar about the way Chen Hsin kissed him this time. He felt Chen Hsin’s tongue stroke across his gums and swipe deeply to the back of his throat, as if teasing and eating him alive at the same time. Overwhelmed by the sensation, he moaned helplessly and uncontrollably into the kiss, desperately hoping that his voice would be drowned out by the lewd noises from the film before it could reach Chen Hsin’s ears.
“Care to respond just a little, bigshot?” Chen Hsin breathed into Zhang Zhun’s ear, his hands caressing Zhang Zhun’s chest, groping his flesh as he would fondle a woman’s breasts. “Don’t… not yet…” Zhang Zhun mumbled, wriggling his body away and pulling at Chen Hsin’s wrists at the same time, turned off by the way Chen Hsin was touching him.
Chen Hsin backed off. With a lick of his lips, he turned his attention back to the TV. However, barely five minutes later, he was facing Zhang Zhun again, gently kneading Zhang Zhun’s left earlobe between his fingers in a placatory gesture. Under his soft melancholy gaze, Zhang Zhun caved. Chen Hsin claimed his lips again at his wordless consent, hands sliding downwards along his ribs to grab his ass. When Chen Hsin lowered his body firmly onto Zhang Zhun, Zhang Zhun immediately felt the extent of Chen Hsin’s arousal as his hot, raging hardness dug into his groin.
He pushed Chen Hsin away again and averted his head. Frustrated, Chen Hsin struggled briefly against his hold but he did not budge this time. After a long petulant glare, Chen Hsin got out of bed and headed straight for the bathroom. Zhang Zhun, on the other hand, covered his face and tried to recover his sanity. After collecting himself, he turned the lights on and looked in the direction of the bathroom. Through the slightly reflective glass, he saw Chen Hsin standing stark naked as his tall, lean figure bent over the toilet, bracing himself against the wall with one hand while reaching down with the other. Then, in plain view of Zhang Zhun, the hand between his legs started jerking. Hard. And fast.