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Who am I?

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Rain kept dripping onto Tin’s already drenched clothes. An unannounced thunderstorm was starting to roll over Bangkok and Tin was walking along roads and backstreets like a zombie.

He didn’t know what had prompted him to go outside after crying in the shower, or why the dark clouds on the horizon hadn’t deterred him. His mind was going blank, he just... wanted to do something.

Maybe it had just been the thought stuck in his head that his brother Tul shouldn’t see him in this state, that his divinely bad luck made such a meeting likely... and that if Tin had to die today, figuratively or literally, it at least shouldn’t be at his brother’s hand.

Tul shouldn’t have the satisfaction of thinking he had broken him.

Particularly, since he hadn’t.

Can.

Can was who had broken him with his cold rejection.

Tin didn’t understand. It had come out of the blue. One day they were kissing in his home cinema and Can had begun to not only kiss him back but even initiate new ones... the next day he had rejected Tin’s feelings.

Can only liked him as a friend.

Once again, Tin had let down his walls for another person and once again, he had gotten hurt.

He should have known better. How could he have deluded himself into thinking he deserved the love of someone as loyal and happy as Can?

Delusional.

Maybe... he should just get hit by lightning... the rain was turning more torrential by the second, it would be easy to get struck. The thunderstorm was already almost above him, the intervals between lightning and thunder at mere seconds.

He could just drown and be done with life.

Tin realised he was in front of Can’s gate.

The light was on in Can’s house like a mirage in the desert, eclipsed by the sudden flash of lightning illuminating the entire area in a short burst of blinding light, then darkness.

Why?

Why?

Lightning struck again...

Tin opened his eyes. The smell of something burning nearby shook him... the rain was so deafeningly loud it overwhelmed him.

He cowered at the next roll of thunder, as if a bomb had gone off nearby.

Someone was cooking meat, Tin could sense it.

He was hungry. But the scent of damp grass and earth, diffused into the air with every drop of water threatened to drown him.

What had happened to his nose?

Looking around again he suddenly realised he was curled up in the shelter of a dark, small room with only one hole as an exit, twilight streaming in from outside. And there... the rain had lessened.

He heard it, more than he saw it.

The sound of the rain didn’t drown out everything else, thunder didn’t feel terrifying any longer. Instead, Tin now perceived the faint chatter of people talking around him, far away, in every direction.

He saw the gate of Can’s house through the small hole... from the inside?

And outside... he saw himself. Shouting at the gate unintelligibly.

What weird dream was this?

He tried to get up to crawl out of the small space he was caught in and confront his doppelgänger. Only... he was comfortably on all fours, not crawling on his knees... he...

He could smell his own shower gel on the doppelgänger even from this distance. The faint traces of a woman’s perfume in the yard from someone passing by ages ago?

He looked down at himself to see... nothing... then... paws?

Realisation struck him like the lightning before.

He was a dog?

Not just any dog. Can’s dog.

But he was still... himself, with his thoughts and emotions. Which could only mean...

The doppelgänger was Gucci. In Tin’s body.

He was too shocked to freak out. Too focussed on solving this problem.

Right now.

He jumped out of what he had identified as Gucci’s doghouse and into the lawn, the rain had receded to only a drizzle... he needed to draw attention to the situation, get the dog in his body to open the gate, do something.

Anything.

But when he reached the gate and looked up again, he was gone.

Shit.

What should he do now?

He tried to figure out a way to leave. But unfortunately, the gate was very much Gucci-proof and Tin hated that his... fur? was getting wet.

He shook himself tentatively, like he had seen dogs do, surprised at the effect it had.

Where had the dog gone with his body?

How could he ever have thought that this day couldn’t become any worse? Now he wasn’t just heartbroken and drenched in rain, he was a damn dog!

He only saw one possibility: alert the family and try to get them to follow him outside. Maybe he could follow the scent of his shower gel and what he remembered about his own smell to find... Gucci?

Maybe he could find a way to communicate.

With new determination, he ran towards the door, marvelling at the speed he developed with just a few strides.

Predictably, the door was closed.

Tin didn’t know if Gucci was allowed inside the house, or he might get in trouble.

He could hear the TV run inside, playing some kind of cheesy drama, by the sound of it. And there was also someone faintly sobbing. Maybe the scene on the TV was sadder than it sounded like.

He tried to jump up to open the door, but like the front gate, it was all Gucci-proof.

There was only one option left.

Tentatively, he tried to shout.

It came out as a demotivated bark.

This was fucking weird.

He barked again, louder and more urgently this time.

“Ugh! Can! Your dog has his five minutes again!” A shrill voice shouted inside. Tin identified it as Can’s sister Ley. “Caaaan! Come and look after your stupid dog, he won’t shut up! Did you forget to feed him again, stupid brother?”

There was no shouted response from Can, though the sobs got muffled, as if the person crying was covering their head with a blanket.

It couldn’t be Can, could it?

“Caaan! Come down! Damn it, your dog is going crazy!”

Oh... she had no idea.

Though, Tin wasn’t sure if he wanted to see Can, even if Can never found out. But Ley didn’t seem to make any efforts to come out and help him herself, and there was nobody else currently in the house that Tin could smell or hear.

“CAAAAN!”

She shouted so loudly that Tin thought he was going deaf... or it was just... he wasn’t used to having dog ears.

Finally, he could hear movement inside. There was a loud thumping sound, followed by the trip trap of feet walking towards a staircase and running downstairs, coming closer.

Tin braced himself mentally, without ever stopping his barks.

As Can got closer to the door, he couldn’t just hear him, he could smell him. He smelled like his kisses, sweet like strawberries in the sun.

He wasn’t ready to see him. But he was his only hope.

When the door finally opened, Tin tried to pull Can outside, towards the gate and after the dog that was running around somewhere in his body.

“Gucci! Stop it.”

There was no conviction in Can’s voice. And when Tin looked up, he could see that his eyes were red and swollen. Why should he cry if he had rejected Tin?

Instead of pulling, he tried barking and nodding his head towards the gate.

“You are probably hungry, poor Gucci. I’m sorry forgot to feed you... I don’t feel like eating, you know? That’s probably why. Come on, I’ll get you something.”

Can... did not feel like eating?

Can?!

The Can Tin knew was always eating. Eating was like a hobby for him. What had happened that would make him lose his appetite?

When Can turned around to get the dog food, Tin assumed, he automatically followed.

Can didn’t tell him off. So Gucci was allowed inside?

“Can! Why is your filthy dog inside? He stinks!”

Oh please.

“Gucci isn’t filthy!”

Tell her!

“He still isn’t allowed in here!”

“I don’t care!”

“I’m telling MUM!”

“I don’t care!”

Toward him, Can said:

“Come on, Gucci... you understand me, at least, don’t you? You don’t confuse me and abandon me with these strange feelings. Good dog.”

Can thought Tin had abandoned him?

He just didn’t want to be only friends. Why was Can so upset about it?

It turned out, Tin got to know more about this than he expected, since Can kept talking to “Gucci” about everything, in a breathless stream of consciousness.

“I just wanted to take it slower, Gucci, why didn’t he understand? I’m so confused! Kissing feels good. But is it just kissing or just because it’s Tin? I don’t know! Does that mean that I like him like that? Ai Asshole! How can he just leave? I don’t want him to leave! I want him to stay! I’m not the bad guy! What if I say yes and then it turns out I’m wrong and I hurt him? I don’t want to hurt him, I didn’t. I just wanted things to stay as they were for a while. Ai Asshole, why did you hurt yourself like that?!”

While he talked… and talked, and Tin listened and tried to process everything, Can put a bowl of dog food in front of him.

At first, he considered not eating it – but he was hungry, or Gucci’s body was hungry, Tin didn’t know how it worked exactly, and it didn’t smell that bad, from a dog’s perspective at least.

“Gucci, at least I still have you. You get me, don’t you? Good boy! Ah... I wish I was a dog like you. Your life seems easy.”

Tin learned that laughing bitterly now came out as barking, which Can interpreted as agreement.

“You’re a clever dog, Gucci.”

You have no idea.

“Why can’t people be more like dogs? If Tin was a dog, we could just remain friends, like we used to and none of this drama would have happened. Aiii… why does it hurt so much, Gucci? Why do I miss him so much?”

Hearing that Can missed him… did things to him. Even if Can still insisted that he wanted to be just friends, at least… at least he missed him.

Tin bumped his nose slightly against Can’s knee and enjoyed the petting he got for it, even if it was meant for Gucci and he still needed to convince Can to follow him and help him find… his body… okay, and the real Gucci, too.

He pulled at Can’s sleeve, trying to get his attention and slowly dragged him towards the door.

“I get it, I get it, Gucci, you want to go for a walk! Let’s go! I’m sure exercise will do wonders for me, too… forget Ai Asshole!”

Finally!

Though Can protested that Gucci was behaving so badly in his eyes, he still followed him while Tin was slowly sniffing out his own scent and following the trail of his body.

To his horror, he soon realised that the trail led to the police station… He didn’t even want to imagine the headlines if this thing had gotten out already… Tin Medthanan had a mental breakdown, behaving like a dog, nonverbal and… damn!

Luckily, Tin perceived, before he properly saw, that Gucci was still outside – in fact, he seemed to resist the policemen’s attempts to push him inside. When he saw Can, he struggled himself free with an impressive strength Tin didn’t know his body had in him, pointed at his own doggy body and gesticulated wildly.

When he couldn’t make the policemen understand, he suddenly ran towards Can and flung his arms around him. It looked… comical.

“Tin?! What happened?”

Tin, still a dog, barked – and Gucci pointed at him again.

Can was visibly confused and tried to get “Tin” to talk, which… obviously didn’t work.

“Sir, do you know him? We got a call that someone was behaving strangely in the street and we were trying to figure out his identity.”

“Err…”

Tin barked again, which made Gucci point at him and nod.

“I… guess I do?”

“Do you know how to contact his family?”

Before Can could answer, Tin growled threateningly and Gucci, in Tin’s body, seemed to slowly edge towards him and hide behind him.

“I…” Can seemed to think on his feet rapidly, “I am his family. Actually. He’s… he’s my boyfriend. Thank you for taking care of him. He has had a rough day.”

“Don’t let him drink alcohol,” the officer answered, and thankfully… clearly wanted to avoid the paperwork.

“Come on, Tin, let’s go,” Can said to… Gucci, who smiled and nodded and followed him like the puppy that he was.

Tin involuntarily growled at the sight, what this behaviour would do to his public image if people saw him act like that. He had no idea whether Can had understood what was going on.

“What’s the matter with you, Tin? I’ve never seen you behaving so strangely…” Can whispered, as soon as they had turned around the corner from the police station.

Tin was grateful for his keen dog ears to hear the words, because Gucci didn’t know how to answer and just pointed at him instead.

He barked again and tried to signal to Can somehow that he was in here, in the dog’s body…

“Seriously? You missed Gucci?”

Gucci whined – Tin couldn’t believe his voice could sound this pathetic – and pointed at him, while Tin tried again to make Can understand… by standing in front of Gucci, and looking from himself to his real body and back.

Realisation seemed to dawn on Can slowly…

“You… no… no, that’s crazy. I’m going crazy now. Tin, you make me crazy… look how… do you enjoy that you got me to call you my boyfriend so they don’t contact your shitty family? Was that what this was all about? Talk to me, Ai Asshole!”

In response, Gucci whimpered, shook his head and pointed at him, the dog, once more, with more urgency.

And once more, Tin barked to confirm it.

“You… swapped bodies?”

Tin barked in agreement and Gucci just pointed at him.

“You… are Gucci?”

Gucci nodded.

“Then this… is Tin?”

Tin barked.

“What? Did I just tell you… have you heard? Aaaargh! I’m doomed! I’m… what did I even tell you? That wasn’t for you to hear! That was for Gucci, not you, Tin!”

If Tin could shout, he would scream at Can to get his damn priorities straight, he didn’t care for Can’s confused confession about having feelings at least, even if he didn’t understand that… all he wanted was to get out of Gucci’s body and become himself again.

Another angry bark finally let Can snap out of it.

“Ah… ah… I… what do I do now? Ai Tin! I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have cursed you when I didn’t know you! I hated you then! I didn’t know it would work! How could I know it would work like that?”

Can… had cursed him when he had hated him?

Did he think this was the effects of a curse?

He shouldn’t… his head hurt just from thinking too much. Maybe this was the effect of being caught inside a dog’s body.

“I think… I think we should go to the temple. Come, Gucci!”

Tin was a bit envious of the dog in his body who now got to hold Can’s hand, while he could only walk behind them. But maybe… if he was lucky… Can would get a taste of it?

It was a long walk to the next nearby temple – though from what he could smell, Tin thought it wasn’t that far away, Can just didn’t have any sense of direction and Gucci was confused and child-like, slowing them down.

It was already night when Can knocked at the temple door. They had to wait for what felt like an eternity until a monk finally answered. He didn’t have a chance to ask them what they were doing here, Can immediately started to explain, in such a rambled, incoherent way that the monk needed to ask a lot of follow-up questions until he got the story together.

Sometimes, Tin barked to disagree – until the monk, who was starting to believe the story, if only because Gucci was behaving so obviously doglike that he couldn’t be a person, and Tin tried to act as un-doglike as he could.

“We could lay out letter cards, so your friend here can communicate with us,” the monk suggested.

“Ah, like an Ouija board?”

“Something like that…”

Tin was ecstatic, when he understood that they were really doing this – and he needed to calm himself a lot to contain his excitement to finally be able to communicate properly.

It was tedious and demanded a lot of concentration, to use the letter cards to answer their questions and to communicate to them that he had been struck by lightning, before he had found himself in Gucci’s body. That he had been running away from home and wandering aimlessly. Also… that he didn’t believe Can’s curse had anything to do with it, it just… couldn’t be.

“Maybe you should solve the misunderstanding that brought you here… maybe a genuine attempt to understand each other will generate another thunderstorm and let you swap back,” the Monk theorised and told them he would leave them alone in the room now, that he counted on them to solve this puzzle on their own.

As soon as they were alone, Can took a deep breath and looked at him.

Tin was impressed how easily Can had accepted the fact that he was in his dog’s body, once he had understood what was going on.

“Tin,” he said softly, “I’m sorry… for what I said. I… I guess I’m just… confused. Why do you make me feel… like you make me feel? Why would you even want to go out with someone like me? I’m just… I don’t have any qualities... I’m just an idiot. A poor one, too. I lack everything a young master like you needs.”

Tin growled in disagreement. Why would Can even think that?

In Tin’s eyes, Can was warm and nice. He gave him hope.

Courage.

The will to hold on, to dare to dream about more in life than being a corporate heir with a shitty reputation and a family who either ignored or hated him.

Even today, even before Can had figured out he had actually been saving Gucci from the police, Can had been willing to say something that must have been uncomfortable for him, just to protect Tin from his family.

How could Tin not fall for him?

Tin wanted to tell him, explain it to him – but as long as he was a dog, he couldn’t and it made him whimper.

“Since you can’t easily talk right now, why don’t you just listen to me, Tin? I like you! I don’t want to lose you! You make me feel all fuzzy and weird inside. Kissing… isn’t so bad. There, I said it. I admitted. But… is it enough? Is that what you want? What if… what if it isn’t enough? What if you just think you like me now, because you can’t have me? And once you have me, you just get bored of me and return to the girls who all want to date you? Or the right princess comes for a prince like you and leaves me out here alone? What if I give you my heart and it’s not enough?”

But… it was enough. Can was enough for him. Tin knew that. He didn’t want anyone else. He didn’t want a princess, if he could have Can instead. Contrary to what cliché told about him, Tin wasn’t complicated at all. He wanted someone at his side who believe in him, who made him feel warm and comfortable. No matter what other people thought. No matter what shit his family pulled. He wanted someone who made him feel safe.

Can was all of this.

Tin jumped over to the letter cards and began to spell it for Can, who read each letter out loud.

“To me, you are perfect.”

Just as tears were forming in Can’s eyes, the first raindrops started falling outside.

Wait? Had it really been Can who had created the thunderstorm with his tears?

“Tin… please, I want you back. You should sit here with me, not trapped in my dog’s body… please.”

As the tears got bigger, the rain also intensified.

Tin pulled at Can’s sleeve and pointed towards the open doorway and the already heavy rain outside.

Can seemed to understand and didn’t hold back his emotions anymore.

Thunder rolled outside.

Tin pulled at the seam of his own trousers, on the body that still hosted Gucci, and pulled him outside. He would get soaked again, but it would be worth it.

*~*~*

Wrapped in two blankets and covered by a third, Tin lay in Can’s bed, eyes half closed, finally calm. He was running a fever, but now that he was warm and dry once more, he didn’t mind.

Behind him, he could hear Can’s soft, regular breathing, broken by unintelligible murmurs – even in his sleep, Can was talking.

On the floor in front of him sat Gucci, a dog once more, silently watching over him.

Tin smiled and reached out to pet the dog. It was strange. Thinking that only a few hours ago, he had swapped places with Gucci, that the soft rubbing he gave Gucci’s thick fur would have been felt by himself. He didn’t want to think too much about it.

But he was grateful.

When lightning had struck again at the temple and Tin had found his way back into his own body, he had been deeply relieved, even though he had been shivering and wet to the bone. He knew the dog had felt the same. Can had taken care of both of them: he had found towels to rub both of them dry, and spare clothes for Tin to change into.

Can had also made an offering of gratitude at the temple and prayed to the gods to lift the curse he had put on Tin, if it was still in effect.

They had hugged for a long time.

They had kissed… with more depth than before, more meaning… so much more was riding on it.

Can had accepted Tin’s feelings. And Tin had vowed to help Can figure out what he felt in return – though Tin knew it, he understood it now. Can hadn’t rejected him because he didn’t like him more than a friend – he had been scared and confused by the unfamiliarity of it, the enormity of the feelings he had developed.

Now they had a chance. And, Tin knew that it would be more than that. It had to be.

Not least because of the connection Tin had to Gucci; the dog had brought them together first. The dog had seen him for what he was even before Can had decided to believe him. And since Tin had been Gucci and Gucci had been Tin, there was a deeper understanding… even if for some reason, Tin and Can wouldn’t work out in the future… Tin knew he would always have Gucci.

“Thank you, good boy,” Tin said softly.

In response, Gucci wagged his tail and panted just loud enough for Tin to get that he had understood – but not too loud, so they wouldn’t wake up Can.

“Clever dog.”

Knowing how confusing and unsettling it had been to find himself in the dog’s body, he had an inkling how much worse it must have been for the dog, to wander among humans and get lost. If by some divinely bad luck – as Tin was prone to have – “Tin’s” weird behaviour that evening made the headlines, he would take it on and protect Gucci.

Tin felt like he could take on everything now – or, well, as soon as the fever was over, he could.

He didn’t just have a boyfriend now, sleeping soundly somewhere on the other half of the bed, he had what he had always dreamed of: a real family.

Can’s mother had asked him to call her mum. She hadn’t even commented on the news that Tin was her son’s boyfriend – she had brought the blankets and made tea and porridge for him. She had scolded her son for not properly taking care of his boyfriend; yes, even if he hadn’t been his boyfriend, yet – you didn’t treat friends like that, either, she had insisted. And she had allowed Gucci to stay at Tin’s side wherever he went, even though the dog usually wasn’t allowed in the house.

Can was lucky to have such a family. And Tin was lucky to have found them, too.

Ley had been a bit distraught at first and had asked him curious questions about Pete – until Tin had finally figured out that she had apparently thought he was dating Pete. She had been very excited however, when she had understood that it was her brother he was seeing.

Behind him, Can moved in his sleep and came to rest his head somewhere on top of the heap of blankets that covered Tin, murmuring contently, as if he was dreaming of something good.

Tin closed his feverish, burning eyes and slowly drifted off into sleep as well.

Tomorrow, he would need to pinch himself to understand that he wasn’t dreaming. That all of this was real.

That like a stray puppy, Tin Medthanan had found his forever home.