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love me better, love me harder

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Tin drops his book on the table loudly, jostling Can’s sleeping form awake. “Fancy seeing you here, Ai Thai Program. I thought you didn’t have a brain to study with.”

“I have a name,” Can replies through gritted teeth, annoyed by the interruption.

Pete rolls his eyes and glances at Ae for support, but his boyfriend still has his attention focused on the practice questions in front of him and Pete doesn’t want to ruin his momentum. It was difficult for Ae to maintain his concentration on a good day, yet he seems to be doing pretty well.

“Get along, please,” he hisses to his friends, tone close to begging, “it’s exam week and we’re all too high-strung to deal with your incessant arguments.”

Tin snorts dismissively at that. He takes the seat nearest to Can before proceeding to open his business textbook and start reading. Can falls back asleep after a couple minutes.

Pete leans toward Tin. “You know if you don’t like him, you can sit anywhere else.”

“I know,” Tin replies shortly.

Pete’s too busy trying to understand the concept behind binomial distribution to notice the hint of a smile on Tin’s lips as he gazes at Can, who’s snoring softly with his head buried in his notebook.

 The heat’s getting too much for Pete to stay all buttoned up, so he rolls his sleeves and prays this match starts soon. He loves Ae very much that he doesn't really mind being drenched in sweat for three hours every third Friday of the month to watch him play. It’s just that lately, Bangkok’s weather hasn’t been kind to his pale complexion. Pete searches the crowd for Ai Pond, he’s promised to bring some popsicles with him if Pete saves him a seat. There’s no sign of him, yet.

There is, however, someone Pete never thought he’ll see at one of these events.

“What are you doing here?” He tries to not sound too accusatory as he squints up at Tin’s form towering over him, slightly thankful that his friend is actively shielding him from the radiant sun.

“Watching the match,” Tin says matter-of-factly before taking the seat next to him.

Ai Pond’s reserved seat. There goes Pete’s popsicle.

“You’ve never been interested in soccer before.”

“I have too,” he replies, indignant, “just not university soccer. Go Manchester United!”

He gives Tin a weird look for the sudden burst of faux enthusiasm. Knowing fully well that Tin rarely does anything without ulterior motives, Pete decides to press the issue further.

“Are you here to annoy Ai Can again?”

It’s weird, to say the least, to watch Tin struggle to fight a smile from forming on his face. At the mention of his proclaimed mortal enemy, no less. In general, Pete agrees with the consensus that his friend has always been conventionally attractive. Though he’s never been attracted to him in that way, he can’t refute the fact that Tin is practically glowing right now. Glowing. He suspects very little of it is due to the scorching heat, the other man hasn’t sat down long enough to start sweating.

Tin catches himself and returns to his normal facial expression before Pete can point out the glitch in his behaviour.

“Now why would you think that? I’m here to watch the match,” he gestures to the field, “support my friend.”

“Oh, so you and Ai Can are friends now?”

“I’m talking about Ae.”

Pete laughs. “Yeah, right.”

“No, seriously. We talked and I apologised—”

“You’re lying.”

Pete refuses to believe that Tin’s trying to throw him curve balls twice in one day. In the span of five minutes, even. First was him being generous with his smiles and now this? Surely Tin doesn’t see him as that big of a fool.

Tin juts his chin out in challenge before shouting, “Ae! Good luck, man!”

Ae lifts his head from his spot on the bench, about five rows down from where Pete and Tin were sitting, and returns Tin’s encouragement with a lopsided grin. Pete gapes at their genuine interaction. No way. He must be dreaming or something.

“Told you,” Tin says cheekily, before someone else appears in his line of sight and shifts his attention. “Hey, shortie!”

Can seems as caught off-guard as Pete feels when he sees Tin. “What are you doing here?”

That was a question, not a biting remark, Pete notes.

“Wanna see you lose.”

Not the best insult Tin’s ever thrown, either.

“You asshole!”

“You’re one to speak,” Tin retorts.

Pete watches the two of them banter, interest piqued by the subtle changes in the way they fight. Fight with quotation marks, he guesses, nowadays. Can’s hackles no longer rise until everyone in the room is able to see how flushed he is, Tin’s eyes are no longer dead when he returns the verbal assaults. He’s not entirely sure if they’re doing this because they can’t admit that they can actually be civil with each other or if it’s some weird mating ritual that’s unfamiliar to him.

It’s his birthday and his mom had let him have the house to invite some people over. Obviously, that meant Tin and Can, too. Pete has let his guard down around them now, no longer prepared to break up an argument whenever he sees them together.

The atmosphere today is a little different, however. Can looks like he’s been standing in a storm for a good twelve hours despite the fact that he’s completely dry, and Pete could swear there’s a cloud hovering over Tin’s head. They haven’t been at each other’s throat in a while, it’s a little jarring to see them at it again.

To their credit, they managed to go through the entire night without exchanging a single word to one another. Pete doesn’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. While no words also mean no harsh words, they both seem miserable. Tin keeps glancing over at Can, who’s pointedly ignoring all his silent advances.

Maybe Tin said something stupid again. He does that sometimes. Pete will just have to talk to him.

So when the initial buzz of the party dies down and most of his friends are gathered around the couch to listen to one of Ai Pond’s absurd childhood stories that he claims to have shaped the person he is today, Pete kisses Ae on the cheek and slips away quietly to look for his childhood friend.

Pete finds the door to the guest room on the ground floor slightly ajar in his search. He goes to investigate and the closer he gets to the door, the more he’s able to hear voices coming from inside the room.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” is the first full sentence that catches his attention. Pete would have left, except he can see through the opening that Can is crying and he’s never seen his friend like this.

“I—” Tin starts to speak.

Pete steels his nerves and knocks on the door twice, making his presence known. “Hey guys. Ai Can, are you alright?”

Can furiously wipes his eyes with the heel of his palms before looking at Pete, his previous act did nothing to conceal his sorrow. “Yeah, I’m just— fresh air.”

He pushes past Pete.

Pete turns to Tin after Can disappears down the hallway, presumably heading for the back garden to get the fresh air he wanted. “You don’t have to be so mean all the time. Haven’t you had enough?”

Tin himself looks shell-shocked like he hadn’t expected for Can to react strongly to whatever he was saying to him.

Pete sighs tiredly. This whole enemy ordeal is getting old for Tin and Can. He knows they actually get along, they did get along rather well at one point, though something turned sour along the way and no one except the two of them seems to know what that was.

“I wasn’t,” Tin ruffs out.


“I wasn’t being mean.”

“Then why was he crying?”

With a pained expression on his face, Tin replies, “I can’t explain right now.”

“Fine. You always avoid this topic anyway. You have feelings for him,” Pete throws out, trying to sound as confident as possible even when he doesn’t know this for a fact. Tin physically reels from the force of his words, and yes, Pete knows he managed to hit the mark.

“I know you do, there’s no use trying to lie to me,” he trumps on before Tin can get a word out. “And Ai Can’s strong, but he can’t keep taking this childish act of you pulling his figurative ponytails just because you like him. We’re 20, not 10. Grow up.”

He leaves Tin standing there, immobile and looking like Pete’s struck him with his fist repeatedly instead of just telling him to get his attitude sorted out.

“Can,” Tin calls softly as he sits down next to Can on the cafeteria bench opposite to Pete’s.

Pete lifts his gaze from the bowl of pork noodle in front of him because what. He stares at Tin, hard, but his friend’s focus is solely on the man sleeping in front of him. Can shifts a little in his sleep at the call, but his eyes still stay stubbornly shut.

“Cantaloupe, wake up,” Tin says again, softer than before.

“What the actual hell,” Pond whispers next to Pete. Now, Pete’s mother raised him never to swear, okay, but he echoes Pond’s sentiment at the moment.

Can does wake this time, blinking sleepily at Tin. Tin smiles, honest-to-God smiles, like he’s not giving everyone around them and their mothers mass hysteria right now.

“Did you eat?” he asks, eyes shining bright as he looks at Can.

Instead of answering his question, Can returns it with one of his own. “Is it over?”

There’s a short pause before Tin nods, just the slightest.


The next thing Pete sees makes him glad to be sitting down because otherwise, he would have fallen right on his ass and embarrass himself because Can is kissing Tin. On the mouth, for the whole world to see. There are excited gasps erupting around them, but neither of his friends seems to care. Tin’s hands shoot up to cup Can’s face in them and Pete feels like he’s intruding on a rather intimate moment just by being here.

Ae’s standing up next to him, clearly just as surprised as Pete is of the development. Pond’s surprised, too, but he’s quicker to process this whole thing than the rest of them, his phone already out in his hand to document everything. Boe’s squealing excitedly on Ae’s other side while Cha’aim struggles with taking her boyfriend’s phone away from him, swatting his arms repeatedly.

And yet, with all of this, Tin and Can are still kissing. It doesn’t get heated, but it doesn’t have to. Tin’s steadying hands on either side of Can’s neck and Can’s own curled in Tin’s uniform shirt tells Pete everything he needs to know.

They break apart when Ae awkwardly coughs out an, “Guys… um.”

Tin, ever the more reasonable one, pulls away first. He drops a final kiss on the side of Can’s temple, the shorter man immediately melting at the contact and snuggling closer to Tin.

“Alright,” Tin speaks then, his tone authoritative. “Anyone who doesn’t want to get sued to bankruptcy will delete whatever pictures and videos they’ve taken.” He clears his throat when his voice breaks at the last word. “Let’s not make your lives painful, okay? Delete them.”

“That means you too,” Tin stares pointedly at Pond, who sheepishly hands over his phone to ChaAim for her to do the deed.

Can giggles. “I like it when you're bossy.”

Pete thinks he’s died and ascended to another plane of existence.

“Please someone explain to me what just happened before my brain explodes!” he bursts out.

Ae looks down at him, surprised by the sheer volume of his voice, then proceeds to pat his head a couple of times in an effort to comfort him. Pete’s thankful for his boyfriend, really, but he needs to make sense of this whole thing right now or else he’d die trying.

Can detaches himself from Tin and starts talking slowly, about how their public display of hatred these last four months was nothing but an act. They were getting close to each other, and had just started talking about pursuing a romantic relationship when word of their proximity reached Tin’s brother. In no time, Can’s dad heard of the possibility of being transferred to another city for work and his mom got notifications of mortgage payment defaults.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out the evil mastermind behind all of this. Tin was the one who suggested they hide their relationship for the time being, while he collects enough dirt on his brother and his business dealings to have some sort of leverage over him. It took longer than Tin expected.

“The asshole’s actually good at covering his tracks,” he says grimly.

“But you’re better.”

Tin pride shines at Can’s word. Oh, my. Pete wonders if this how he seems around Ae to other people. He almost wishes they were back to fighting.

“I needed to buy time,” Tin concludes his story.

“So when you were crying at my house…?”

“Sorry about that,” Can offers apologetically. “Was a little exhausted, that’s all.”

Tin nods in agreement. “We both said things we didn’t mean.”

“Okay, are we good now? I want to go back to eating,” Ae comments.

Pete turns to his boyfriend. “You’re taking this revelation better than I am.”

“I mean, hey, Ai Tin came to me to apologise and you weren’t aware of it, so who else could be influencing him?”

“You knew!” Pete accuses.

He can’t believe this. He tells Ae practically everything from A to Z about how his days went, including small jokes his professors would make in classes. He leaves nothing out, wanting to share even the smallest part of himself with Ae. Pete even laid out all his suspicion about Tin and Can with visual aids over dinner that one time, and Ae didn’t mention any of the information he has! Unacceptable.

“I didn’t know,” Ae argues, “but I can’t say this,” he points to Tin and Can, “wasn’t foreshadowed.”

“The betrayal.” He scoots away from Ae. “The audacity! You’re my boyfriend, you’re supposed to share all of your gossips with me!”

“Okay, okay,” Ae lifts his hands in the air, a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry, from here on I’ll make sure to share all of my gossips with you.”

Pete pouts, but finds himself unable to resist the smile Ae tries to placate him with. “You better.”

Can, who has been watching them with renewed interest, turns to Tin with a questioning look on his face. “Will you share all your gossips with me?”

“I think you’re wearing my underwear, Can,” Tin answers lightly. “The answer to that question is a definite yes.”

Pete groans.