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wedding bells

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“So how did Ai’Ae do it? I want to know every detail; leave nothing out.”

Since Ae had slipped the ring onto his finger, Pete’s heart hadn’t stopped racing. There were so many overwhelming emotions buzzing through his body, and writing in his diary could only do so much; he had to get everything he felt out soon or he’d scream.

As his fellow tiny partner in crime – and a horrid grudge holder when he wasn’t given the latest rounds of gossip – Wayo seemed like the perfect person to start with.

He only had to take one glance at the gold band around his left finger before he was barraging him with questions that he didn’t begin to have the answers to. Most of them were over wedding plans that he hadn’t even started discussing with Ae (though he couldn’t quite say he hadn’t thought about them, because he most certainly had; he’d had this entire day planned since he was five). But when he wanted to know just how it happened, Pete was more than ready to gush.

Only a week prior, Ae had driven them to Pete’s family beach house for a weekend to themselves. Most of the day was spent on the private stretch of beach at the back of the house, the two of them acting decidedly more daring knowing that they were alone. While they still found plenty of time for each other in their busy work schedules, having time where he could take a moment to breathe in the salt and the sea and the love of his life was nice.

That night, Ae set the table with a full spread of all of his favorite dishes made fresh by his Par Jiew earlier that morning. They ate dinner on the balcony, overlooking the sea. It was picturesque with the bright twinkle of stars against the night sky and the sounds of waves crashing against the shoreline.

Ae had taken his hand in his, told him how much he loved him, and then went into a long and shaky speech that Pete could only remember bits and pieces of. As soon as Ae brought up how they met and how much Pete had changed him, he knew what was happening, and his ears had clouded with thick tears. Ae had barely been able to get down on one knee before Pete was wrapping his arms around his neck and pulling him into a deep kiss.

Pete could confidently say that it was the best night of life (until his wedding of course), but he knew not everyone would feel the same. The candle lit dinner and vase of red roses was terribly cliché, something straight out of a Western romance film; but that was just the kind of person Pete was. He loved romantic movies, loved fairytales, and it finally felt like he was a part of one.

Maybe that was why he had chosen to tell Wayo first out of all of their friends. They both had always had similar dreams of finding a Prince Charming one day with little hopes of them actually coming true. And now, all these years later, they had. If there was anyone he’d want to squeal over flowers and cake flavors and honeymoons with, it would be him.

Having hung onto his every word, Wayo cooed, “You two are so cute, my heart hurts. You have to let me help plan the wedding. I’ll make a binder for you and everything!”

Pete smiled fondly as he babbled. His heart still fluttered, but it felt lighter. If it wasn’t clear before, it was completely transparent now: he was totally, definitely, one-hundred percent ready to get married.

That night, Pete lay in bed, arm raised up to the ceiling. Palm pressed flat, he admired his fingers. Even in the dimly lit bedroom, his ring sparkled, and it was beautiful. Made of pure gold, it was embedded with small diamonds. It must have been a traditionally feminine ring, but Pete had never been the type to care much about that sort of thing. His ring was pretty, sparkly, and perfect. He couldn’t have picked it out better himself.

“You know,” Ae said as he fell into bed beside him. “It’s not going to disappear if you look away.”

Managing to tear his eyes off of it, he found something even better to look at. Freshly showered, Ae hadn’t bothered to put on a shirt, tanned chest on full display. Pete couldn’t help but curl into his side and rest his cheek on it. It was so warm, so safe.

“I can’t help it,” he said, holding up his hand so they both could admire the ring’s beauty. “I just like it.”

“I’m glad.” Interlacing their fingers, Ae used his free hand to pull the blanket over both of them. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get it for you.” Pete tilted his chin up a bit more to look at him, curious eyes urging him to go on.

Stroking his fingers through his hair, Ae further explained, “I know how badly you want to get married. You weren’t exactly subtle about it at all your friends’ weddings.”

Pete slapped his chest. Ae was teasing him, and it was rude. One by one, his friends had gotten married, and while he was happy for them, he couldn’t help the pang of jealousy in his stomach.

He hadn’t wanted to pressure Ae, but he had never been the kind of person to hide his emotions. With his heart worn on his sleeve, he shouldn’t have been so surprised that Ae had caught on.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about proposing. Hell, I was looking at rings for months with Pond. But it wasn’t until I got my bonus last month that it felt like the right time to ask you.”

“Why?” Pete asked. “You could have asked earlier if you wanted to. You know I would have said yes.”

“I know. But I wanted to make sure that I had enough to get you that,” his thumb stroked over the band on his finger, “and to give you the giant wedding I know you want. It took me five years, but I finally did it.”

Sitting up a bit, Pete looked down at him. “You’ve been saving up for a wedding since our second year in college?”

Flashing him a smile – his wide one that pushed up his cheeks and shrunk his eyes into crescents – Ae sat up beside him. “Why do you sound so surprised? I was ready to marry you the first time I touched your cheeks.”

To prove it, he cupped them gently, stroking the soft skin underneath his eyes. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was holding my entire world in my hands.”

“Ae,” Pete whined. He was sure Ae could feel how warm his cheeks were getting, but he said nothing. If anything, he was probably reveling over the fact that he still managed to fluster him after so many years together. “Don’t say that.”

“But you like it.”

Pressing him back against the pillows, he caught his lips in a gentle kiss. He could deny it as much as he wanted, tell Ae he was wrong, but the truth lay in the loud beat of his heart that he could inevitably feel when he pushed his hand underneath his shirt.

The night ended with more kisses than words, the only ones shared being Ae’s comment on how nice Pete looked only dressed in his engagement ring and the squeal Pete gave him in reply.

“Do you want to be my best man?”

Tin choked on his coffee, nearly spitting it out. Pete decided that now, as they had been celebrating the end of their fiscal quarter, was the best time to spring the heaviness of such a question onto him. He was so casual about it too, looking up at him as he waited for his answer.

Clearing his throat, he set down his mug. It wouldn’t be safe to drink anymore until Pete went back to his office. “Excuse me?”

“What?” he asked, laughing at Tin’s expense. “Are you that surprised?”

Well, yeah. For a long time, Tin had considered Pete to be his only friend. He’d started following him around at parties when they were both young, too afraid to hang around the big kids.

Tin had taken pity on him. He was so much smaller and more fragile than the other children. And he had those puppy eyes that even someone like Tin couldn’t deny. So he had let him trail after him like a little duckling, and the friendship just stuck.

But while Pete was shy, he still had that overwhelming warmth that drew people towards him. He was kind and inviting and everything Tin wasn’t. It was no surprise that other children at those parties wanted Pete for themselves, and because he hated leaving anyone out, Pete had invited Tin to tag along.

He made new friends, and by default, Tin also made new friends. But they had always been there for Pete, growing the same soft spot for him that Tin had.

So yes, Pete asking him to be his best man at a wedding he had been dreaming of since Tin had first met him out of every other possibility he had was a bit of a shock. There were plenty of choices, many that people would argue were better than him, but Pete didn’t look like he was about to change his mind.

“I thought you’d ask Wayo or P’Kongpob,” he admitted as his mind continued to wrap around what he was hearing.

“They’re both on my list,” he said. He held his mug to his chest, ducking his head towards the pool of steam as he smiled. “But you’re my first choice. You’re my best friend, Tin. I want you to be next to me when I get married. So say yes? Please?”

While Can had his heart, Pete had been the first (and for a long time, the only) person to melt it. So much had changed over the past few years, but even now, when he looked at him, Tin still saw that wide eyed, lonely boy who asked if he could sit with him when he had no one.

“Yeah. Yeah, I will,” he said, patting Pete’s head as he went back to his office. The overjoyed smile Pete gave him followed him out the door, and he struggled to bite back his own.

He was different now, no longer the brooding cloud of anger that he once was. And he was happy that he’d changed. But he was even happier that Pete hadn’t.

ae: be my best man

pond: WOW. no big speech, no flowers, not even a card??

ae: if that’s a no, i’m going to ask ping.

pond: no no no no i HAVE to be your best man

pond: i’m the reason you and ai pete are together anyway

pond: so it’s the least you can do for me o((*^▽^*))o

ae: this was a mistake

Ae wasn’t quite sure when he’d acquired a second set of parents, but Techno was pretty damn adamant about crushing his ‘son’ to his chest and not letting go.

“My baby is getting married,” he cooed woefully. Half of it could be blamed on the alcohol he’d consumed while the other half was just Techno on a normal day. All Ae could do was sympathetically pat his back as he glared at the rest of his former teammates. Their laughter, while warranted, wasn’t appreciated. “Married! My N’Ae!”

“Alright, that’s enough for you,” Type said, nicking the half empty beer bottle Techno had been waving around from his sparatic hands. “N’Ae is twenty-five now. That’s more than old enough to get married. Especially after six years of dating.”

Techno leaned up towards him with a narrow-eyed glare. “Oh yeah? What about us then, huh?” His words were slightly slurred as he chewed him out. “I’ve liked you forever, Ai’Type, so where’s my ring?”

Catching Techno’s wrist, he held his hand up to his face. “Right there. We’ve been married for two years, you loveable idiot.”

Eyes crossing, Techno blinked slowly as the loosened gears began to turn in his head. “Oh yeah.” Seemingly satisfied, he settled his temple against Type’s shoulder, the bigger of the two securing an arm around his thin shoulders.

“It’s not like you needed a ring to act like a married couple,” Champ teased. “You two did that way before you started dating. You were making it so obvious that you liked each other; we were all just waiting for it to happen.”

“Even if we weren’t officially together, I wanted my children to have a normal upbringing,” Techno chirped while Type groaned and Champ laughed. “I wanted us to be a normal family, so I put my own feelings aside. You should be thanking me, you ungrateful third wheel.” Ae hid a chuckle behind his glass while Can oohed in anticipation.

“Well, mae, it looks like you did a good job raising them. None of them ended up in jail, which is honestly a shock to all of us.” He jerked his thumb in Ae’s direction. “And now one is ready to leave the nest.”

Techno groaned, and Ae was afraid he was going to get worked up all over again. “Don’t make me cry more, Ai’Champ. My poor heart can’t take it.”

Turning to Can, he shook his finger at him. “Listen to me, N’Can. You’re not allowed to marry that pretty boy of yours. I’ll die if you do. Die.”

“Ai’Tin and I haven’t even really talked about marriage,” Can said as he fiddled his fingers and laughed awkwardly.

“I thought you said…he asked you if you were ready…the other week–” Can cut Good off with a hand to his mouth before he could draw out the rest of his words.

“Shut up. Do you want P’No to die?” he hissed. Good just slowly shook his head.

Type, ever the observant one of the team, broke through the chatter with his understanding smile. “N’Ae. You asked us here for more than just a congratulations, right? There’s more you have to say?”

Ae cursed Type and his ability to read a room. He truly was a dad, always knowing when something was being left unsaid.

Lifting his glass to his lips, he said as casually as he could manage, “I wanted to ask you all to be my groomsmen. If you wanted to be, of course.”

Techno was squeezing out what little life was left in him at this point, bursting into a fresh round of tears as he buried his head back into Ae’s shoulder. The others joined in an obnoxiously cheerful confirmation, downing their glasses.

Ae sighed and checked his watch. 11:04. With the way things were going, there was no way he was going to make it home before Pete went to bed. He should have just sent a text.

Pete truly appreciated how determined Ae was to make all of his wedding fantasies come true. He’d saved up for years just for him, and while the notion made his heart sing, it wasn’t nearly enough to cover everything Pete wanted.

Lucky for him, he was an only child and a beloved one at that. His mother had practically handed him her savings account, promising him anything his heart desired. Whatever he wanted, he would be able to get.

Unlucky for him, he had a stubborn fiancé.

Ae had gotten over the majority of his insecurities about Pete’s financial status over the years. Especially now that they both had their own jobs, he was more lenient on his spending. But it seemed he drew a line when it came to picking a wedding venue.

Pete’s choice, while expensive, was beautiful. The lush gardens were filled with freshly budding flowers, making it ideal for the ceremony. The stone building with its wide banquet hall was perfect for the reception, and he could already picture it full of dimly lit candles, sterling silver cutlery, and all of their guests.

It was everything Pete had ever dreamed of. It was exactly what he wanted. And what he wanted, he got.

It had become a perfected art form at this point. Arms looped around Ae’s bicep, he snuggled himself close, voice sweetened with determination. “Ae,” he said, drawing out his name like a song.

“Don’t do that,” his fiancé said, jaw clenched tight. “It’s not going to work.”

Pete highly doubted that, but he upped the ante regardless. “But, Ae, I love it,” he stressed. “It’s perfect.

He saw Ae’s Adam’s apple bob in a thick swallow, and he could tell that his reserves were weakening by the second. “Can’t we at least look at some other places? Maybe you’ll like them even more,” he offered.

Just a push more was all it would take. “But…But I like this one the best; I don’t have to see the others. We can take pictures in front of all the trees and the lighting inside is perfect and…” He paused to bow his head and curl his fingers together in front of him, sniffling for added effect. “And this is where I want to marry Ae.”

Ae looped an arm around his waist, pulling him in close. “Okay, okay. We’ll get married here, if that’s what you really want.”

Pete smiled against his neck. How nice it was, to have his fiancé wrapped around his little finger.

“I can’t believe our baby is getting married,” Ming cooed as he popped the collar of his dress shirt so that he could loop his tie around it.

“Need I remind you again that the four of us are all the same age?” Tin asked. “This will be the fifth time.”

Pete shook his head with a smile. He’d asked all of his groomsmen to meet him at his family’s personal tailor’s – a friend of his mother’s that he’d known before he could walk – shop to fit them into their tuxes. They were solid black with baby pink ties – one of their two wedding colors; Ae’s own groomsmen would be in gold – and would be topped with a boutonniere of white flowers the day of.

“It’s still weird to think about,” Kongpob said as he shrugged his jacket on. “We’ve all known each other since we were young. I still remember when N’Pete would hide behind me whenever people tried to talk to him at parties.”

Forth laughed. “He did that with all of us. Well. Except for Wayo. He’s always been too short for that.” Wayo stuck his tongue out at him to which Forth only patted him on the head. “But he was so cute back then.”

Tongue back in his mouth as he turned from Forth to Pete, Wayo said, “He’s still cute now.” He squished his cheeks together in his palms. “It’s why his Ae likes him so much.”

Pete quickly pushed him off, rubbing his hands over his cheeks as though Ae would be able to feel that someone had tried to taint his special place when he inevitably went in for a pinch that night.

“And it’s why P’Pha likes you. And why Tin likes Ai’Can. People like cute things, Ai’Yo, simple as that. Now,” he turned him around and gave him a small shove, “go stand over there so I can see you.”

While the tailor made the alterations, it was ultimately Pete who had final say. Besides Ae, these were his most important boys; he had to make sure they looked their best.

As they lined up in front of him, he felt his eyes begin to pool. These five boys meant the world to him. Even if they’d grown up and taken separate paths, the place they held in his heart hadn’t lessened.

They stood in front of him, grown and matured, and they were so handsome. Dressed all the same, they looked like his own personal army, ready to escort him to the alter.

“Aw, Ai’Pete,” Ming moaned as all he did was stare at them. “We can’t look that bad.”

“Don’t tease him, Ming. You know how emotional he is – wait, are you actually crying?”

Wayo’s teasing turned to panic as soon as silent tears slid down Pete’s face. He was quick to cover his eyes and wave them off, but it was useless. They all crowded him, a mix of hugs and reassurances making his vision cloudier.

He buried his face in whoever’s shoulder was closest. Needless to say, their suits were perfect.

“Uncle Ae!” Yim squealed as she launched herself into Ae’s arms.

He caught her, because of course he did. Even if she was nearing ten and twice the size she had once been, she was still his most beloved niece who he treasured more than anyone (save for his fiancé).

“Hello,” he said, grunting as he lifted her. She wrapped her skinny arms around his neck, and it was then that he noticed the poufy dress she was in. “What’s got you all dressed up, hm? Are you going on a date, because I’ve told you before, no–”

“– dating until I’m a hundred. I know; you’ve only said it like a million times.”

“And don’t you forget it,” he teased, nuzzling her cheek with his nose. “Then if it’s not for a boy, what’s it for?”

“Oh, it’s for a boy,” Oh said, carrying a box of mangos through the front door. “Your boy specifically.”

Ah. Pete had said that his mother would be sending a package to his house soon, but he hadn’t specified what it would be. This must have been it.

And it would explain why Pete had insisted he go home for the weekend. While they had solidified their individual wedding parties, he still had to ask one last person a very important question.

“N’Yim,” Ae said, adjusting her in his arms. “You like Uncle Pete, don’t you?”

“Mhm!” she nodded cheerily. “Is he coming? Last time he was here, he said he’d bring me one of those pretty dolls all the girls at school have.”

Ae sighed. This is what he got for not allowing Pete to spoil him; he resorted to spoiling his niece.

“No, he’s at home, but…you know how your mom and dad got married? Because they loved each other a lot?” She nodded. “What if I married Uncle Pete? What would you think?”

Yim’s eyes widened underneath her thick bangs. “Because you love him a lot?”

“That’s right. And when we get married, you’ll get to wear your pretty dress and throw flowers for us. How does that sound? Would you want to do it?”

Realistically, Ae knew there shouldn’t be a problem. Yim adored Pete, demanded to be carried by him more than Ae at this point. And Pete adored her just as much. But even though his two favorite people got along, he only felt it was right to ask Yim what she felt.

Just as he had assumed, she was quick to raise her hand high in the air, exclaiming, “I want to do it!”

Ae let out a relieved sigh. If only every wedding decision could be made that easily.

“So if you and Uncle Pete are getting married, does that mean you’re going to have a baby now? Like mom and dad did?”

Ae paled, glaring bullets at Oh when he burst into a fit of laughter. He patted Yim’s back, carrying her up the stairs. “How about we stick to getting married first, yeah? Now come on, let’s go see grandma.”

As Pete’s one and only ‘grooms-women,’ ChaAim took it upon herself to help him with any and all wedding planning.

There were just some things that the boys in Pete’s life didn’t understand, so she was more than willing to be the one to help him pick out tablecloths and listen to him rant about how no baker in the entire vicinity of Bangkok knew the difference between whipped and buttercream frosting.

Whatever Pete needed, she was there to provide. Which was why she was looped arm and arm with him walking through the heart of the city on a busy Saturday. Because she cared.

“Thank you for coming with me,” he said, offering her a smile. As if she needed thanking when he was that sweet. “Ae isn’t really interested in this sort of thing. He’s just sort of let me take the reins on this whole wedding thing.”

“Is that why we’re going to one of the priciest florists in all of Thailand?”

“He said I could get whatever I wanted.”

His smile softened with a faux remorse that ChaAim knew he was only wearing for show. Everyone and their mothers knew that it was impossible for Ae to say no to Pete; if he wanted something, all he had to do was bat his pretty, long lashes and Ae was putty in his hands.

It seemed what Pond so often liked to tease his best friend over reigned true: if Pete was happy, Ae was happy.

And happy he was. It took little time for him to decide on baby pink roses with white baby’s breaths in between. It was the same soft pastel as the dress he had so graciously given to her for his special day and just about as cliché as wedding flowers could get. But stereotypical as they may be, they were so fitting to Pete.

He weaved a rose into her hair, asking what she thought. He looked so tentative, as though she was going to crush all of his marital dreams just by disagreeing with his choice in flowers.

“I think they’re beautiful.” Because they were. They were in full bloom, big and delicate at the same time.

His eyes shone with joy as he talked to the man behind the counter. She stood behind his shoulder, admiring an impressive bouquet of geraniums. She definitely didn’t want to see that bill.

“Should we grab lunch?” ChaAim asked as they left the flower shop. “There’s this amazing sushi place my cousin has been raving about not far from here.”

“Sure,” Pete agreed, leading her down a long stretch of fashion outlets. “There’s just one other place I want to stop at first.”

Stopping outside a small boutique, he pulled her in close. “Don’t tell Ae, okay? I really want this to be a surprise. So don’t tell Pond either. Even if he doesn’t tell Ae, he won’t ever let me hear the end of it.”

“Your secret is safe with me,” she assured, and thank goodness it was, because he didn’t have anyone else to entrust it with.

Golden bell tingling when they walked in, he could sense ChaAim’s eyes on him, feel her smirk against his back, as she took in the samples of lace on the walls and the cases of charms around the counter.

“Oh my god, you didn’t.”

But oh, he had.

Ae fell into bed with tired eyes and a full stomach. While he’d been wary about the bachelor party Pond wanted to throw him, it turned out to be a nice night. There had been no strippers like he’d expected; just a bunch of video games and junk food and alcohol. Much more Ae’s speed.

But as much as he liked spending time with his friends and reminding Pond that no, this wasn’t his ‘last night of freedom,’ this was the start to the rest of his life (which garnered a fair few groans), he missed Pete. Every night for the majority of their relationship, they’d shared a bed, huddled close and wrapped around each other. He’d become accustomed to it, and without the usual warmth curled into his chest, he was restless.

His phone went off, lighting up with the contact of the boy he couldn’t get off his mind. It only took two rings for him to answer. “Why aren’t you asleep, huh?” he asked, smiling through his scold.

“Ae,” came the broken reply followed by a sniffle. It made Ae’s brain flash red alert and had him sitting up in panic.

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” he asked, fully prepared to run to whatever hotel room Pete was in, wedding superstitions be damned.

Pete was meant to be enjoying his own night with his friends, doing face masks with ChaAim, tucking himself into bed and internally whining that Ae wasn’t there to do it for him. Not crying with no one there to hold him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, voice muddled with tears.

“Why are you sorry?”

Between the hiccups and the sharp inhales, Pete said, “I’ve been so…so selfish. I made this entire wedding what I wanted and didn’t even let you have a say. And it’s not my wedding; it’s our wedding. I’ve been so unfair to you. I know you don’t like spending a lot of money on material things, but I didn’t listen. Are you mad? Because we can cancel if this isn’t what Ae wants. I just don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“Pete,” he soothed. “I’m not mad.” How could he be, when he had the most wonderful, beautiful, thoughtful, perfect man in the world crying to him at almost midnight because he was afraid he’d spent a few too many baht on a wedding ceremony?

“I let you plan the wedding because I knew it would make you happy. And that is all I want. If you’re happy, then so am I. The only thing that matters to me is that you’re the one walking down the aisle to me.”

Pete sniffled again, and there was nothing more Ae wanted to do than dry his eyes and kiss his red tipped nose.

“I want to walk down the aisle to you,” he said, voice so small Ae could barely hear it through his speaker.

Ae curled his fist into the blanket; he was impatient as impatient got, and Pete was saying sweet things that made his heart flip flop. Less than twenty-four hours to go.

“Then there are no problems. So go to sleep, Koon Chai. I’ll be waiting there for you tomorrow.”

Kit knocked on the door before scanning his keycard. Cracking it open, he peeked through. “Are you almost done? P’Kongpob says we should start heading down soon.”

Clasping his cufflinks, Ming tugged his suit jacket a bit snugger before turning to Kit with a bright smile. “Ready!”

Kit felt something of a gravitational pull towards his husband, standing directly in front of him with little remembrance of how he got there. Now closer, he could truly appreciate Ming for what he was: tall, dark, and unfairly handsome.

Standing on his tip toes – because even with the heels on his dress shoes, their heights didn’t align – he pressed a kiss to Ming’s lips. “You look nice.”

“Oh yeah? Does it remind you of our wedding?”

“Mhm,” he hummed, smoothing his palms over the jacket lapels. “Best day of my life.”

“Best night of mine.”

Kit turned to leave, but Ming was quick to tug on his arm and pull him close. “I’m teasing; of course it was the best day of my life too. How could it not have been when I married the best person in the whole world?”

“Alright, you’ve redeemed yourself. Now come on, we’ve got to go downstairs.”

Hand in hand, fingers fitting like a perfect puzzle, Ming led him to the elevators. Kit could see the sun pooling in through the hallway windows as the doors closed. It was going to be a nice day.

“Just remember, babe, even though I’m walking down the aisle with Ai’Ping, he doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Oh, and I was so afraid you were going to run away with him after dinner.”

Arthit had originally gone to Ae’s hotel room, because he knew that Kongpob would want a few minutes alone with Pete. He hadn’t vocalized it, but Arthit had quietly excused himself when he noticed his husband getting antsy.

And it’s a good thing he had. Because the entire room was a mess. He wasn’t sure what he expected with a room full of football players, but he was still less than impressed.         

Surprisingly enough, Ae was the most composed. Stood in front of a mirror, he stuck his tongue between his teeth as he tied and untied the loop of gold around his neck.

“You’re twenty-five, and you still don’t know how to tie a tie?” he asked, taking it upon himself to pull the thicker end through the hole the smaller left, creating a clean knot against his chest.

“Ai’Pete usually does it for him,” Pond teased, easily ducking away from Ae’s punch. His dress shirt was half buttoned and untucked from his pants.

Arthit gave him a gentle shove away. “Get dressed properly. If you’re late, N’Pete will be upset.”

“Oh, I’m sure Ae will be able to cheer him up just fine – ow, ow, ow, okay, I’m going!” he shouted as Ping pulled on his ear.

Ae shook his head and did up the buttons on his jacket. He looked well put together and handsome and like the happiness that Pete deserved.

“Are you nervous?” Arthit asked, because he’d been in his shoes. Heaven knew how much his heart had suffered when he waited until the clock finally struck the start of the rest of his life.

“Not really. Should I be?” Smoothing out any wrinkles, he checked himself over, looking over his shoulders and down his legs. “I mean, I guess there’s a lot of people, but I won’t really be looking at them anyway.”

Arthit smiled softly. The Ae that Pete had introduced to him all those years ago in a little restaurant outside of town had matured so much. And his love for Pete had only grown. This day had been a long time coming, so he supposed Ae was right; there was nothing to be nervous about.

Kongpob could feel Pete’s stress from across the room. After Arthit had left the two of them alone, he’d tried to come up with something thoughtful to say before the ceremony started.

He would be walking him down the aisle, just as they had always planned, and while he was more than ready to give Pete away to the love of his life, he didn’t want to do so when he looked so distraught.

Wedding days were meant to be the best days of a married couple’s life together. Between the fights and disagreements, they would always have the memory of where everything began to soothe the aching hearts and late night tears. His own had been perfect, and he looked back on it fondly. He wanted Pete to be able to do the same.

“Don’t worry so much,” he said. “N’ChaAim was checking over everything, remember? She won’t let anything go wrong.”

“I don’t care about that,” Pete said and it was surprise, because he had been doing nothing but caring about that for months. “I just care about Ae. I want to see him. I want to marry him. I don’t want to wait anymore.”

Moving to his side, Kongpob wrapped him in a tight hug. The little boy he had met and befriended and protected all those years ago wasn’t so little anymore.

“I’m proud of you,” he said into his hair, careful that his breath wouldn’t mess it up. “You’ve grown into the perfect person.”

“I’m not perfect, P’.”

“Then the perfect Pete.”

There had been nights when Kongpob had laid awake, unable to sleep and overcome by the dark possibilities of who Pete could become. With the bullying, the heartbreak, the pain, he could have become an empty shell that just lived life until it was over. Or maybe he would be gone before it even started.

But he turned out to just be Pete instead. He was the same kind, sunny boy who had shyly introduced himself from behind his mother’s legs. His struggles had only made him shine brighter, smile sweeter, live truer. And Kongpob couldn’t have been happier.

The double doors in front of him were daunting. They were thick and tall and blocking the path to the rest of his life.

But Pete wasn’t afraid. He had no reason to be. His safe space was waiting him on the other side of that door, just as ready as he was to be together until death due them part.

Now all he had to do was wait for them to open.

“I’ve never been good with words, but for you, I’ll try to be. I’ll do anything for you, if it makes you happy. All I’ve ever wanted was to make you happy, and now I get to spend every day trying to. I can’t promise that I’m going to be easy to deal with, because you know I’m not. I can’t promise that I’m not going to mess up, because you know I will. What I can promise is to love you for the rest of my life. You’re the first person I’ve ever loved, and the only person I ever will. There’s nothing more I want than to be your husband. So even though I promise to listen to every word, say your vows quick, so that I can give you your ring and we can kiss and we can finally be married. Don’t make me wait any longer, Ai Koon Chai.”

“The day I met you, you became my hero. You made me feel safe, made me feel like I could do anything. It was impossible to not fall in love with you. I never wanted to get my hopes up and believe that one day you would love me too. But then you kissed me. And you kept kissing me. You never stopped. And now you’re the person I get to kiss forever. It feels like the best dream I’ve ever had, but it’s real. You are my husband, my love, my Ae. You mean the world to me, and I will never, ever take you for granted. I promise to always stay by your side and never leave it. For the rest of my life into the next, I will love you. I’m so lucky that you’ve let me.”

Pete smiled tensely at the tall man that stood in front of him. He’d been going around to each table, thanking everyone for coming like the proper host his mother had raised him to be, when he reached a group of unfamiliar faces.

“You must be Sun,” he said to which the other only chuckled.

“That’s me. Ae doesn’t ever shut up about you, so it’s nice to finally put a face to the,” he glanced over his shoulder towards the other men Pete assumed were Ae’s high school friends, “how did Pond put it? The dictionary definition of the perfect angel.”

Cheeks flushing to match his tie, Pete bowed his head, curling his fingers together in front of him. “I’m glad you could come. I’m sorry we haven’t met until now.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he assured, flashing him a wide smile. Pond had been right; he was freakishly handsome, but he wasn’t Ae so it made little difference to him. “I asked Ae to introduce us one time, and he nearly ripped my head off. I’m lucky he even invited me here.”

That sounded like Ae; feigning the role of the worried lover when really, he was just possessive. Any other day, Pete would reprimand him for it, but that could wait until tomorrow. He wouldn’t want to ruin the festivities by chewing out his newly announced husband in front of all of their guests.

Sun glanced over top of Pete’s head and stepped back towards his chair. “Well, I better sit down before the other groom commits a homicide. It was nice meeting you. Congratulations!”

Pete turned around to find Ae barreling towards him, unhappy furrow to his brows. It seemed even after Pete wore the ring he gave him, the jealous boil to his blood refused to seize. But no matter; he’d been dealing with this for five years. What was sixty or so more?

He put on his sweetest smile, fluttering his lashes cutely. At most, he got a flick to the forehead.

Ae groaned, dropping his face into his hands. He’d made many mistakes in his life, but none were bigger than the decision of making Pond his best man.

“It might surprise some of you that it took Ae so long to propose, but if you knew how long it took him to ask Ai’Pete out, you would understand. Luckily, he had the best friend in the world to give him the push he needed to finally get his man. Your favorite ship exists all because of me, please hold your applause.”

He went on from there, dramatizing the entire play out of their relationship. Ae nearly beat him over the head with the microphone he was using when he brought up how he got Ae to finally do the wink-wink, nudge-nudge with Pete. But he was holding Pete’s hand, and well, some things just took priority.

Everyone laughed and clapped when he finished, even Pete. He didn’t look as embarrassed as Ae thought he’d be, and for that reason, and that reason alone, he put his plans to castrate his best friend on hold. ChaAim and their future children could thank him later.

“Well,” Tin cleared his throat as he stood in front of the microphone stand. “I’m not quite sure how I’m going to follow that.” He waited until the laughter died down before he continued.

“I’m going to keep this short, because Pete is going to cry otherwise. And then he’ll complain that I made his eyes puffy on his wedding day.”

Turning to look at the two grooms, he felt the sides of his lips lift subconsciously when Pete flashed him a smile. “I’ve known Pete for as long as I can remember. I met him when he wouldn’t talk to anyone and couldn’t tie his shoelaces. He wanted to be my friend, and I still don’t know why. But I guess I got lucky.

“Pete stood beside me even when I was horrible to him. Even when I tried to break up his relationship. Heaven knows I didn’t deserve that. But if anyone knows Pete, they know he’s too good for all of us. Me especially. He’s spent so much of his life trying to make everyone else happy. It’s about time someone did the same for him.”

Fixing Ae with a look, he said, “I entrusted you with his heart years ago. Now I’m entrusting you with the rest of his life. If he shows up at my door crying, I’ll show up to yours with my lawyer.”

Looking to Pete, Tin shook his head when he saw the fat tears welling in his eyes. Once a crybaby, always a crybaby.

“Just because you’re married now, it doesn’t change anything. You’re still my best friend. That’s never going to change. I care about you too much to let that happen. So please stop crying and come hug me before you implode.”

Pete was next to him in a flash, twining his arms around his center and burying his face in his shoulder. “You made me cry. You’re the worst.”

“Yeah, I know,” Tin laughed breathily, patting his back. “Will you forgive me if I tell you that I love you?”

“Are you trying to make me cry more? I hate you.”

Tin only chuckled and continued to rub over Pete’s back.

“My little Pete is all grown up,” Kongpob sighed. He held Arthit by the waist as they swayed on the outskirts of the dance floor, both their eyes locked on the newlyweds in the middle.

“You said the same thing when he graduated,” Arthit pointed out. “And when he got his first job. And when he and N’Ae bought their first apartment together. And–”

“Okay, but marriage is different,” Kongpob cut him off. “It’s the start of a whole new chapter of your life.” He leaned in, nuzzling his nose against Arthit’s. “The best chapter.”

Arthit pinched the back of his neck, snickering when his husband whined at him. “Don’t be sappy.”

“I’m serious!” Pulling him a bit closer, hugging him a bit tighter, Kongpob smirked when Arthit tried to push him away. He liked that he could still fluster him. “I’m still as happy now as I was then. But how could I not be when I’m married to the best man in the whole world?”

Sappy,” Arthit stressed again. “And false. Because I’m married to the best man in the world.”

“Oh yeah? He’s that great?”

“Mhm. Even when he burns my eggs every morning. And gets chip crumbs in the bed. And uses up all the gas in the car.” There would have been more to tick off the list if Kongpob hadn’t dug his fingers into his hips. “But I wouldn’t trade him for anything. I’m happy to be stuck with him forever – oi!”

Arthit squawked when Kongpob dipped him. “Don’t worry,” he teased. “I won’t drop you.”

“You better not, or I’m filing for divorce – Kongpob!”

“I thought you said you wouldn’t trade me for anything,” he teased, dipping him lower.

“That doesn’t give you the right to act like a fool! Now lift me up before I make you bleed all over the nice suit N’Pete got for you!”

Pete held up a forkful of cake, Ae mirroring him. It was a beautiful cake: three tiers of pure white icing, cascades of piped roses twirling all the way around. Inside was vanilla with icing and strawberries between each layer. Simple, classic, something everyone would like.

They’d cut a piece big enough for the two of them to split, and as was tradition – because traditions were everything – they were going to feed each other.

“Ae,” Pete warned, eyes flickering from the glob of icing and sticky bits of strawberry on his fork then back to his husband. This suit was Armani. There was no way he could dirty it.

Because he was Ae, he just laughed before carefully bringing the fork to Pete’s mouth, sliding it back when he took his bite. “Such a Koon Chai,” he teased.

Licking the frosting from his lips, Pete held up his own fork. “Thank you. But now I feel bad.”

“For what?” Ae asked.

“For this.” And before either of them could blink, Pete smashed the forkful of cake into Ae’s face, careful to keep it only on his face and not on the thousand baht suit he’d gotten for him.

Pete did his best to dodge him when Ae lunged towards him, demanding kisses. Whines of ‘you’re going to ruin the suit!’ fell on deaf ears as Ae finally got a hold on him. He nuzzled his cream stained lips across his jaw being far less careful than Pete had been. But the dry cleaning bill he would have to pay would be well worth seeing his husband so happy.

Can watched as Pete stepped in front of all of them, rose bouquet in hand. It seemed a bit odd to be throwing it when almost all of his friends were married. But then again, this was Pete they were talking about; wedding traditions were very important.

So Can stood at the back of the small crowd that gathered, trying to guess who the bouquet would fly to. He hoped it would be ChaAim; Pond’s reaction would be hilarious, and he had his phone camera on standby.

Just as it appeared that Pete was going to turn and toss, he shared a smile with Ae before walking out into the crowd to come stand directly in front of him. Before Can could ask what he was doing, he was shoving the bouquet into his hands.

“No, Ai’Pete, that’s not how you do it,” he said, trying to hand the flowers back to him. “You’re supposed to throw it, remember? Then someone catches it. Come on, try again.”

But all Pete did was place the flowers back into his hands and spin him around. Can was about to correct him again, demonstrate how to do it properly if he had to, but he didn’t get the chance.

Tin kneeled in front of him, one knee tucked underneath him. He looked handsome and nervous at the same time, smile wavering as it tried to stay confident.

“What are you doing?” he blurted because he had never been good with holding his tongue.

“We agreed that when we were ready, we’d get married. And well,” he reached back into his pocket, pulling out a small velvet box. “I’m ready now. I wanted to know if you were too.”

Can was afraid his eyes were going to fall out with how wide they’d gotten. His mind and heart were at a battle over which could spin faster, and he was almost afraid he would pass out on top of Tin. The very guy who was asking him to marry him.

“You’re doing this now?” he ended up asking, suddenly aware of the dozens of eyes on him. “Ai’Pete is going to kill you. This is his wedding.”

“Are you kidding? He practically begged me to when I brought it up. I’m still waiting for your answer, Cantaloupe. And my leg is really starting to hurt.”

Popping open the lid of the box to reveal a simple band of gold, Tin held it up like an offering. “You mean the entire world to me. You’ve made me into a person I never knew could exist. The way you make me feel…words wouldn’t do that feeling justice. I just love you so much. And even though I already plan on spending the rest of my life with you, I want to make it official. So what do you say? Will you marry me, Can?”

He wasn’t aware of his movement until he had Tin by the collar and was pulling him into a kiss. He could hear the cheers around them, particularly Pete’s happy squeals, but all he could focus on was marry, marry, marry. Tin wanted to get married. To him.

Tin chuckled against his lips. “Can I take that as a yes?”

“You can take it as a hell yes.

“Even better.” Taking hold of his hand, he carefully slipped the ring onto his finger. He could feel the weight of it, but it felt right.

Can wrapped his arms around his fiancé’s – holy shit, holy shit, holy shit; he had a fiancé – neck, pressing their foreheads together. The other guests had started going about their night and the music had picked back up, but he stayed where he was. He wanted to live in this moment for a little bit longer.     

“Can you believe we’re all married?” Beam asked. He, Kit, and Pha were leant against a wall, watching their respective husbands, all of which had been dragged onto the dance floor.

“With jobs and houses,” Kit added.

“Soon we’re going to start having kids,” Pha said, causing Beam to take a long swig of his drink. Thank god there was an open bar; it seemed like he was going to need it.

“When we first got to college, did you ever see this happening?” Kit asked.

“Not in a million years,” Beam said.

They’d gone in as young, aspiring med students with the hopes of getting their degrees with some fond memories on the side. And they’d walked out with boyfriends turned fiancés turned husbands.

“I never thought we’d run into Pha’s high school crush again. Or that we’d spend the first half of second year trying to get them together,” Beam said, elbowing Pha’s side good heartedly.

“Well, I never thought Kit would actually agree to go out with N’Ming,” Pha said. “I thought you were going to reject him forever, and now you two are the worst out of all of us.”

I’m the worst?” Kit scoffed. “Coming from the man who ties N’Yo’s shoelaces. And there’s no way I’m worse than Beam. He rejected Forth just as much as I rejected Ming. Now they’re inseparable.”

“My husband always wants kisses, and who am I to deny him?” He giggled when Kit swatted at him. “We all got pretty lucky, huh?”

They both nodded, fond smiles on their lips. Beam leaned his head against Pha’s shoulder, Kit leaning his against Beam’s. Their lives hadn’t turned out how they had expected they would. But they were still so amazing.

By some stroke of luck, Pete had managed to pull Tin and Can apart long enough to get his best man to dance with him. Ae looked less than thrilled about anyone other than him dancing with his newly pronounced husband, but Pete entrusted Pond to distract him until the song was over.

“Your mother keeps taking pictures of us,” Tin said as the two of them moved together in a slow sway. “The TinPete shippers are going to have a field day when she puts them on social media. They’ll think there’s still hope for us.”

Pete giggled. “I hate to break their hearts, but I’m a married man now. And you’re engaged.” He used the hands he had on Tin’s shoulders to squeeze him. “Engaged. I can’t believe you actually went through with it.”

“You would have killed me if I hadn’t. I believe the words ‘do it before I do it for you’ came out of your mouth.” Pete slapped his chest while Tin only grinned. “But I don’t have second thoughts when it comes to Can. I’m just glad he said yes. And that he liked the ring.”

“You should have gone with one of those candy rings from the supermarket. He would have liked it even more.”

“Very funny.”

Tin leaned next to his ear, and Pete swore he could feel Ae’s rage radiating through the floor. Tin wasn’t a physical person. The uncharacteristically intimate hold he had on him would have thrown him off balance if Tin hadn’t had a strong arm around his waist.

“Be my best man,” he whispered to him like a secret.

Pulling back slightly, Pete blinked at him. “Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to ask?”

Tin scoffed. “Who else am I going to ask? My brother?”

Pete pouted at him, plump bottom lip jutted out just enough to make him feel bad for hurting someone as cute as him. “I was so nice when I asked you.”

Making a big deal of sighing and moving back to look him in the eye, Tin gave him a soft smile, one he had only started wearing when he’d met Can.

“Pete, you’re one of my best friends and one of the only people I actually like rather than tolerate. When I get married, I want you to be my best man. Please say yes, otherwise I’m going to have to ask Ming, and that would be such a blow to my pride.”

It was as thoughtful as Tin was going to get, but Pete still took it. Tin had never been one to express himself – his speech earlier took him completely by surprise – and Pete had become accustomed to reading what he felt. But now, sounding so sincere, Pete couldn’t help but smile. He supposed he had Can to thank for that.

Wrapping his arms around his neck, he pulled himself to Tin’s chest in a proper hug. They stood like that as the music died down and the song changed.

“I’d love to.”

Ae watched Tin and Pete dance from the sidelines. He knew it wasn’t so unusual for best friends to dance together. And Tin had just gotten engaged in front of them. There was no reason for Ae to worry about Tin sneaking Pete out the back door and the two of them running away together. But that didn’t change the fact that he was dancing with his, Ae’s, husband.

“Put the angry eyes away before Ai’Pete looks over here and gets upset,” Pond said as he came up beside him. “You’ll just end up kissing him until he smiles, and no one here wants to see that. Half of us already have.”

Ae punched his shoulder. He still hadn’t completely forgiven him for that speech.

Pond wrapped an arm around Ae, shaking him with a long, happy sigh. “You’re a married man now. I never thought I’d see the day. You were always the most emotionally constipated person I knew.”

“He’s still emotionally constipated,” Ping said as he came to join them. He handed one of the two champagne glasses in his hand to Pond. “Just not with Ai’Pete. If he was, we’d really have to take him to therapy. You’re not human if you don’t feel anything for the softest boy in the world.”

“Amen,” Pond agreed. The two of them clinked glasses.

Desperate to get his two nosy friends’ minds off his precious babe, he asked, “What about you two then? Have any marriage plans?”

“Don’t look at me,” Ping said, holding up a defensive hand. “Bow and I only just figured things out.”

And Pond said he and Pete took forever to get together. At least he wasn’t as bad as Ping was when it came to Bow. Pond may have given Ae a theoretical push, but he gave Ping a literal one. Right on top of Bow. Things had slowly progressed from there.

Turning to his quiet best friend, Ae found him staring off to where ChaAim and Bow were giggling over slices of cake. “Wait, you’re actually planning something?”

“I’ve thought about it,” Pond admitted. He looked to Ae with a boxy smile. “Got any advice for me, bud?”

Pond wasn’t a serious person. Even now as they were discussing something as serious as marriage, he held that obnoxious tone that made Ae want to smack him. But his question was genuine, and as badly as Ae wanted to remind him that he didn’t know the first thing when it came to women, he figured he should be a good best friend just this once.

“ChaAim has stayed with you for this long. She already knows how annoying you are, so I really don’t think giving her a ring is going to send her running. Just don’t be an idiot. And actually try to be romantic for once.”

“Oh, because you know so much about romance?” Pond scoffed. “I taught you everything you know. Why do you think Ai’Pete agreed to go out with you in the first place?”

“It definitely wasn’t because of you, asshole!”

Ping sighed, downing his glass. “I need another drink.”           

Giggling, Pete pushed back on Ae’s shoulder. The kisses he was trailing down his neck tickled.

It had taken him no longer than five seconds to close the door to their hotel room and get Pete pressed back onto the bed. He’d undone the top few buttons on his shirt, pushing the fabric aside to give him better access.

“Ae,” Pete said when his fingers went for his buckle. They had all the time in the world; there was no need for him to rush.

But Ae had never been a patient person. Especially not when it came to Pete with slightly tussled hair and flushed pink cheeks. So Pete lay his head back on the pillow, trying to catch his breath as he listened to the clinking of his belt being pulled off. There was a soft pop and zip, and then his pants were thrown to the floor.

Biting his lip, he tilted his chin down to look to what Ae was undoubtedly transfixed on. Around one of his creamy pale thighs was a strip of white fabric, decorated with lace and pearls.

“What is this?” Ae asked as he slid a finger underneath the band, letting it snap back against Pete’s skin.

“You’ve never heard of a wedding garter before?” Pete asked. A part of him was nervous that Ae wouldn’t like it, would find it weird that a man would ever wear one.

When he’d gone with ChaAim to pick one out, she had tried to reassure him that Ae wouldn’t react badly like his anxious mind told him he would. But there was still the fear that Ae would see him as strange. His silent staring was only making him fear it was true.

But then Ae was sliding himself down his legs until his face was in line with the garter. “I’ve heard of it. I just didn’t expect to find my husband wearing one.” His eyes flickered back up to Pete, smirk growing on his lips. “I never knew he could be so naughty.”

“I’m not,” Pete pouted, glancing away from him. “I just thought Ae might like it.”

“I like it,” he said, tone a mix of sweet reassurance and unquenchable lust. “I get to take it off of you, right? That’s how it works.”

“Of course you do–” Pete squealed when he felt the light graze of Ae’s teeth against his skin. Holding him by the ankle, he slid the garter down his leg slowly, maintaining eye contact for the sake of embarrassing Pete even more.

Ae turned it over each way once he had it in his hands. “It’s pretty.” He quickly tossed it to the side, caging Pete between his arms. “But I already have something prettier.”

Pete whined high in the back of his throat, wrapping his arms around Ae’s neck. He wanted Ae to stop making him shy and start making him moan instead.

“I feel bad,” Ae said as he went back to kissing his neck. “I don’t have anything like that for you.”

“But all I want is you,” Pete told him. Maybe it was because he was naturally sweet; or maybe it was because he knew it would get a rise out of Ae. Either way, he got what he wanted (as always).

“You have me,” Ae said in between long, hard kisses. “You have me for the rest of your life.”

And as Ae finally took him whole, Pete couldn’t help but think what a wonderful life it was.