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Sarawat hummed under his breath as he strung out a few random notes on his guitar, bouncing his leg while he waited for Earn to come back. They had to practice for their band but she’d left for the washroom, although he was sure she was taking more time than necessary. Still, that was something he didn’t want to think of.

He heard the door open and looked up, finding Tine walk in instead of Earn. His heart did the tiny summersault it always did when he saw Tine, and he clammed down the grin he felt turning up automatically upon seeing the cheerleader, feeling his heart flip again when Tine’s face lit up when their eyes met. He’d never felt happier in his own skin.

Tine approached him, and Sarawat wasn’t fighting off his grin anymore.

“Hi”, he said, sitting on a chair from across him. “You’re here earlier than usual?”

“Yeah. Band practice”, Sarawat answered, making Tine snicker. “I don’t see any band, it’s just you.”

Just him and Tine.

Sarawat’s smile pitched higher, and he shook his head, focusing back on his guitar. “I’m waiting for Earn.”

“Oh.” And then Tine didn’t talk.

After sitting in silence for a few minutes, lazily drumming chords, Sarawat sneaked a glance back at Tine. He looked deep in thought - and unhappy? There was a small frown on his face, lips puckered, staring away almost annoyed.

“Hey”, Sarawat called, and watched Tine snap out of his thoughts. “Aren’t you going to practice?”

“Ah”, Tine let out, as if it had only occurred to him. “Yeah, yeah.” He stayed unusually silent on his way to grab his guitar, and Sarawat felt unsettled. What was suddenly wrong with him?

He was going to open his mouth to ask, when the door swung open again, and Earn strolled in with a huge smile on her face. Pear followed barely a second later, and then it all made sense. Sarawat almost rolled his eyes, turning back to Tine, surprised to find his jaw set. When Earn called out to him, excited, Tine looked down, visibly upset. Sarawat’s own stomach pricked, memory of Tine’s admission in the bar returning to him.

Breathing out slowly, he turned to Earn, trying to figure out a way to let that idiot know he had nothing to worry about. He’d be lying if he said it didn’t make him happy - Tine getting jealous over him - the implication behind it was obvious. No one gets jealous over someone they don’t have feelings for. Even the idea of Tine harboring any sort of feelings for him was lighting a fire in his gut. But he didn’t want Tine to stupidly get upset over something nonexistent.

Finally looking at Earn, he found the girl staring at Pear with a grin, biting the inside of her cheek. Sarawat rolled his eyes now, if only Tine would actually look at them. He was so fucking dense, though, unless he watched them kiss he wouldn’t know. And that wasn’t possible - for now at least.

Maybe if he finally pushed Earn to ask Pear out - again - Tine would stop being an idiot. The last time he tried to push it, Earn called him out for saying so only to get Pear to stop hanging around Tine. It made him feel horrible, he was being a terrible friend and a bad, selfish person, so he didn’t bring it up anymore.

But maybe this time, he could get away with it and win both sides.

“Let’s go”, Sarawat stood up, nodding towards the door to guide Earn out of there. She smiled at him brightly, and followed, and Sarawat knew Tine would have misread her excitement.

Once they were out, he turned to her again. “Did you have to act all happy like that back there?” He was annoyed at the wrong person, for the wrong reason, but he was frustrated.

Earn blinked at him, then scowled. “Oi. What are you suddenly acting like a dick for?”

Sarawat shook his head. This was useless, he was being an asshole.

“Just”, he tried to explain, but failed to come up with words. He finally settled on saying, “Tine.”

She widened her eyes, looked back, then looked at him. “Wait. You wanted to stay back there because you were afraid he’d hit on Pear?”

Sarawat nearly rolled his eyes to the back of his head.

“No. You-”, he sighed, frustrated. Not for the first time in the twenty years of his life did he wish he was better at communication. Earn, luckily, knew him enough to pause. She reached out to him, and grabbed his arm. “Hey, how about we find a place to sit, and then talk?”

He nodded at her suggestion, grateful. When they did find a place to sit, she sat next to him and asked. “What are you so worried about?”

“I’m not sure”, Sarawat answered, honestly. He thought Tine was being jealous, but what if he misread his behavior. He didn’t want to seem like a conceited fool.

“I won’t understand you if you keep pouting, what is it”, Earn drily pushed.

So, Sarawat went back to one of his favorite nights. “You know when my band was performing at L Co Hol?”

She nodded, and he continued, “After the performance, there was uh. A lot of girls. Crowded-”

“Yeah, yeah. I get it, move on”, she said, impatient.

Sarawat huffed. “I wanted to talk to Tine. But he suddenly got up and left.”

“Wait”, Earn cut in again. “From where did Tine come into this story?”

“He was there from the start”, Sarawat threw his hands, frustrated.

When she continued to stare at him, confused, he sighed. “I asked him to come watch me play. Because he asked me out.”

“He asked you out”, Earn screeched.

“Will you keep your mouth shut”, Sarawat finally snapped. “And don’t shout!”

“Okay”, she pursed her lips, sheepishly. “I can’t believe he asked you out.”

He couldn’t believe it either.

“He asked me out for dinner”, he explained. “Not a date.”

“So, like”, she started, as if trying to make sense of it. “He optionally wanted to hang out with you.”

“Yeah”, Sarawat answered, equally bewildered. They looked at each other, a red flag running in both their minds, then she shook her head and gestured for him to continue.

“So I asked him to come watch me play.”

“And he came”, she spelt out slowly.

“Yeah”, he dragged out.

Earn suddenly slapped his arm, making him jump. “Okay, I get it. You won! He’s in love with you now!”

He swatted her hand away and snapped again, “Shut up, he’s not. Just. Listen to me, okay?”

She pouted, but obeyed. “And anyway, it’s Tine. For all I know, he probably suddenly thinks of me as his best friend or something.”

It made her snicker. “You’re right. That’s a lot more likely than him asking you out on a date.”

He wanted to hit her but she was right.

She cut in before he said anything else, “Did you tell him you were lying about the kiss?”

“No”, he hushed her.

She shrugged. “You’re a poor liar. If he knows you at all, he probably knows already.”

“I’m not that bad”, he defended himself. “And will you listen to me?”

“Okay, okay.”

“Right. So. The girls. Anyway, Tine suddenly got up and left, and I went after him.” She looked like she wanted to speak but he glared at her, effectively shutting her up. “He was taking a selfie with P’Mil. Which I don’t like, by the way, I think he likes him.”

“I don’t care”, she quipped, turning her attention to her nails.

Sarawat exhaled. “He keeps trying to get his attention, keeps looking his way, finds reasons to talk to him-”

“Wat!”

“This isn’t about him, though. Obviously.”

“Weren’t you worried about Tine being straight earlier, why are you bothered with a dude now?” She looked so bored, and Sarawat still hadn’t come to the main point yet.

“He seemed upset, annoyed”, Sarawat continued, choosing to ignore her concerns about Tine’s sexuality. “And I didn’t know why. I was afraid, because, you know. I kissed him, and he’d been weird since then. And he told me he wanted to leave the second he saw me - which in the hindsight is really weird considering he’s the one that asked me out - but when I asked him what was wrong”, he felt silent, memories of the quiver in Tine’s voice giving him the same tingles they did that night.

“What was wrong?” Earn asked, when he’d stayed quiet too long.

Sarawat broke away from his daze, “He said he was jealous.” He almost flushed at how coy his own voice came out.

Earn took a good while to digest it, and Sarawat knew she’d shriek ‘what’.

She did shout. “What?!” And he grinned to himself.

“Yeah.”

“He was kinda drunk too”, he further explained. “He told me he didn’t remember any of it the next day.”

“Serves you right”, she immediately responded. “Doesn’t that also mean he knows you lied?”

He shrugged. “Maybe he’s just messing with me.”

“Wow, but. He got jealous. He got jealous because of you.” She was smiling at him so widely, Sarawat felt his insides grow warm.

“Yeah.” He reminded her of the real problem, then. “”But then he denied it.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s okay. If he got jealous, it obviously means he likes you.”

Hearing someone say it out loud, made his ears turn hot. “I don’t know that-”

“Shut up”, she held up her palm, and then looked away intensely, as if she was deep in thought. He watched silently, as she sat up abruptly, as if an idea hit her. It made him vaguely think of a light bulb over her head lighting up, and he bit back his smile.

“He broke your pick didn’t he?””

Sarawat nodded. He still had both the pieces, but he’d never tell her that, she’d never let him hear the end of it.

“Take him out!”

“Excuse me?”

She clicked her tongue. “Take him out to buy a new guitar pick with you.”

“And what will that do?” He was genuinely lost. She slumped then, and he remembered who he was taking love advice from.

“I haven’t really thought about it. But you can make it a date!” She tried to recoup. “The more time you spend with him, the more he’ll grow comfortable around you. And anyway, don’t you wanna hang out with him outside college?”

She was pulling at his arm and he shrugged her off. She was right, though. He’d never tell her that her stupid plan gave him an excuse to hang out with him and so wasn’t all completely useless, but he thanked her.

His expression of gratitude made her draw her brows at him. Then she grinned and shrugged, “Don’t forget me when you get laid.”

“At the rate you're going”, he countered. “I’ll get laid way before you, so I might.”

It was her turn to smack him, and he laughed. “Ask her out”, he told her, sincerely. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you Earn. I wish Tine looked at me like that.”

She laughed at his comparison, but it was gentle. “I’m scared.”

He looked at her and sighed. “Me too.”

-

“Tine?”

Tine shook himself out of his thoughts, and looked up to see Pear looking down on him with a frown. She smiled at him. “Do you wanna have lunch together?”

Sarawat’s upset face suddenly flashed before his eyes, followed by his harsh kiss and words after that.

“Sure”, he smiled back at her. Sarawat was at band practice with Earn anyway. He wouldn’t care.

He packed back his guitar, without having played it, and followed her out of the music club. He told himself he didn’t care, but still looked around apprehensively, worried about finding Sarawat.

“Tine?” He heard Pear call him out again. She laughed when he met her gaze. “Sarawat’s at practice, I doubt you’ll find him.”

Despite himself, Tine felt his face flush. “What-”, he stuttered. “What do you - how do you know I was looking - who I was looking for?”

She faced ahead and shrugged. “I know there’s something going on between you two.”

His face felt hotter, and he denied it, reflexively, “There’s nothing going on between us.”

It made her pause and look at him. Then she shrugged again, “What do you want to eat?”

He only got a drink in the end, because he didn’t have the appetite for lunch. When she sat against him with a tray of food, she gave him a questioning look.

“Not hungry”, he told her.

She let out a laugh. “Okay.”

They sat quietly for the next few minutes, Tine sipping lazily on his drink while she at. It was part of why he liked her so much. He was at ease sitting in silence with her, he felt no need to say anything. And when they talked too, she was easy to converse with. It was never awkward with her, and he appreciated that.

“Can I tell you something?” Pear broke the silence.

Tine looked at her. “Hmm?”

She smiled, but broke eye contact with him, staring down at her food as she played with her cutlery. “This might be weird.”

“It’s okay”, he assured her, now curious.

He blinked when he saw her cheeks color, and felt a moment of panic. If she was going to confess to him, he was going to die.

Before she continued, she met his gaze again, and Tine could feel bile rising up his throat. He got himself into this, this was all his fault, he was a terrible -

“I’m gay.”

Tine’s thoughts screeched to a halt, and he froze. Pear was looking up at him, meekly, through her lashes.

“Oh”, he let out at last, guilty about the relief that flooded through him. And then he felt stupid. “I thought you were going to confess to me.”

Pear threw her head back and laughed, and it reminded Tine she was beautiful. He found himself smiling, as she stilled and responded, “You’re very cute, Tine.”

“But?” He was laughing himself.

“If I liked boys, you’d definitely be my type”, she was still laughing, and he was once again flooded with gratitude towards her.

“Thanks”, he said.

“Huh? For what?”

“It’s a big thing, right?” He shrugged, lifting his drink to sip at the straw. She nodded. “I’m glad you shared that with me. It means you trust me enough”, he said, happily.

She let out a small giggle. “I haven’t told a lot of people.”

Tine nodded at her. “I’m sorry I hit on you before.” It made her laugh again, and Tine was once again put at ease.

Everything was so simple with her. She didn’t rile him up, or twist his insides into painful, tight knots. She didn’t make his head spin, or his heart pound. He was comfortable with her - a light graze against her skin didn’t make his own burn. She hadn’t kissed him but he was sure her kisses wouldn’t leave him staring up at his ceiling through most of the night.

“Tine?” He heard her call, and realized he must have zoned out again. He seemed to be doing that a lot these days. “What is it?”

He sipped again, and shook his head, forcing up a smile. “Nothing.”

She sighed. “You don’t have to tell me. But I know something’s troubling you. We’re friends right?” He nodded slowly. “You don’t have to lie to me, you can be upset, it’s okay.”

Her words were so gentle, it pushed something in him even his best friends couldn’t force out. “How did you know?”

“That I like girls?” There was something so strange about her, Tine thought. She always seemed to know exactly what was on his mind.

When he gave her a silent nod, her lips tipped up and she said, “I don’t know. I just. Kind of knew somehow. That’s not very helpful, is it?”

Tine shook his head.

“Honestly”, Pear started, again. “I never thought I was a lesbian, you know.” She peeked at him again, and he gave her an encouraging smile, wondering if it was easier for her to say she was gay than to call herself a lesbian. “It never even occurred to me. That I could be into girls. But I am, that’s part of me. So I learned eventually.”

She lowered her voice, “I was all alone in this, so. It was kind of scary. I had a crush on my best friend back then.”

“Are you two still friends?” He asked her, carefully.

“No”, she shook her head. “But I never told her. I don’t know what would happen if I did. I was so scared, and I didn’t want to believe I liked a girl, so I distanced myself from her. We grew apart.”

“Oh.”

Tine thought about how he avoided Sarawat sometimes, and a guttural fear settled in his chest. He didn’t want to grow apart from Sarawat, he didn’t want to spend the rest of his college life without ever seeing Sarawat.

“Do you miss her?”

Pear laughed. “This is from when I was in middle school, Tine. But, yeah. I still do.”

Middle school.

“Pear”, he started. He knew she was watching him, and he thought maybe she could read the panic circulating through him. “Pear, what if I’m - what if I’m into boys?”

His eyes weirdly stung at his admission, and he blinked it away.

She let out a breathy laugh, and reached out across the table to cover his hand with her own. “Tine, it's okay.”

“I’ve never thought I was into boys I-”

When she squeezed his hand, Tine wondered if she really could read him, and what she thought of his panic.

“Is it”, she hesitated. “Is it Sarawat?”

Not surprised by her mind reading anymore, Tine nodded. Giving him a reassuring smile, and his hand another squeeze, she said, “It’s okay, Tine. It’s just a boy. I know you’re worried now, but it’s really okay. It’s normal.”

He breathed out slowly, her words somehow calming him down. They didn’t have an immediate effect, but she said it was okay. It’ll be okay, this was fine.

“Being in love is a wonderful feeling, isn’t it”, she said suddenly, snickering.

“Are you being serious?” He wore a poker-face, and it only seemed to make her giggle more.

“There’s someone I like too”, she informed him. “You know her.”

Tine squinted his eyes, thinking of every girl he knew. “How well?”

“It’s Earn, Tine”, Pear laughed, but Tine’s chest grew tight at the sound of her name. When he didn’t respond, she called out, “Tine?”

“I don’t know if I really like him”, Tine finally said. She blinked, confounded, so he continued, “I’ve never liked a boy before. So I don’t know if I really like him.”

His question threw her into thought again. After a few long moments of wordlessly chewing on her lip, she looked back up, snapping her fingers. “You want to make sure of your feelings right?” When he gave her his affirmation, she said, oddly excited. “Hold his hand!”

“Pear”, Tine whined, wishing the girl would take his dilemma seriously.

She shook his hand, reminding him she was still holding it. “I’m serious”, Pear pouted. “I don’t know how to explain this, but trust me. You’ll know when you hold his hand properly.”

He narrowed his eyes. “And how do you suggest I do that?”

She sat back, frowning, and he almost felt bad for asking her so much, as if she alone could solve his problems. “Take him out”, she finally spelled out.

He sighed and leaned back. “Pear”, he dragged her name. “Even if I take him out, won’t it be weird if I tried to grab his hand.”

To his surprise, she was indifferent this time. “That’s your problem, Tine”, she lifted a shoulder. “Figure it out yourself.”

He huffed, baffled at her and was about to answer back when he heard a voice call her name, one too familiar for his liking. Tine turned to find Earn, followed by Sarawat, and his mood soured almost immediately.

It annoyed him that his heart skipped a beat when he saw Sarawat, and the entirety of Earn was annoying him more.

The only thing that kept him in his seat then, was their joint gaze on Pear and Tine’s hands. Pear noticed too, patted his hand and pulled back her own, awkwardly. Sarawat had his jaw clenched, and Tine would have felt guilty for the satisfaction it brought him, if he didn’t feel crazy seeing him with Earn himself.

Earn didn’t linger about it, though, immediately turning her attention to Pear. She seemed funnily bubbly, as she talked to her, and the sound of her voice, her attitude, her very presence was irking Tine.

“You’re having lunch, already?”

Geez, it was past noon, what other time would she have lunch at.

Pear shrugged, lightly, tucking her hair behind her ears, and Tine stared in shock as he took in the red color her outer ear shell had taken. He looked at Earn, who was grinning at Pear, and then back at Pear who was shyly grinning back at her.

He didn’t have the time to process what he was seeing, a light tap against his head making him scowl up at Sarawat.

“You broke my pick, didn’t you?” Sarawat’s tone was gentle for the accusation his words threw.

Tine looked back at the girls, and finding them lost in their own conversation, gave Sarawat a confused look.

“Why are you bringing that up now?”

Sarawat looked at the girls too. “I need a new pick.” He looked back at Tine. “Saturday. Come and help me buy a new one.”

His invitation made Tine’s heart skip another beat, but he refused the invitation from habit. “Buy it yourself.” He justified it to himself, thinking he’d have a heart failure if he spent an entire day with Sarawat alone, but he regretted his words the moment they left his mouth.

He did want to hang out with him. There was never a time when he didn’t. He hated to admit it, but even when Sarawat wasn’t there, he wanted to be with him.

But Tine knew Sarawat would push - he never gave up so easily.

“Tine, please”, Sarawat almost pouted, in the way he did everytime he really wanted something from Tine, who belatedly realized he’d somehow never refused this.

He had convinced himself that it was Sarawat’s kiss that night that made Tine so overly conscious all of a sudden, but he was starting to realize that maybe somewhere, he’d always held a decent amount of fondness for the boy.

“You need to make it up to me, you broke it”, Sarawat hit him again.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll come with you, okay?” Tine pretended he was annoyed, but his lungs had the air in his chest clenched tightly. He thought about his futile attempts to thwart Sarawat’s requests, making it to the field and the concert anyway. There was no way he could stay away from Sarawat, he thought. He drew him in like a moth to flame.

It almost scared Tine, thinking of how much power he’d unknowingly given Sarawat over him.

Sarawat’s lips drew up in candid, unconcealed joy, and Tine’s heart prickled again.

He was losing, and he was losing fast, yet somehow all this while he hadn’t realized.

-

Sarawat had taken Earn’s advice about taking Tine out, but after spending half an hour in the sun waiting for the boy, he was starting to wonder if it was a mistake. Pulling out his phone, he searched for at least a cheap apology for being stood up, but there was no new notification. He sighed, shutting his eyes, and leaning back, defeated. He should have figured. He was the only one eager to hang out today.

He was always the only one eager, alone in his affections, the only one who buzzed with the thoughts of seeing the other boy.

He’d told himself many times that he’d be content with that. Just being around Tine. But his heart sunk and chest ached.

Despite it all, Sarawat stood there. Tine had made it a habit to show up late anyway, and he should have known better than to let his hopes high, but he couldn’t make himself move, his mind conjuring up excuses on Tine’s behalf.

He stood for another half hour, and his heart had sunk to his knees.

Then Tine finally showed up, and Sarawat’s heart flew to his throat.

He looked messy, clearly not having bothered dressing up (since this wasn’t a date, not to him), his hair tousled and his outfit simple, breathless, having run to him. Sarawat didn’t care that Tine hasn’t dressed up for him, that he’d shown up was enough.

A pleased flush crawled up his skin, his mouth tugging up in the corners as he took in Tine’s disheveled state, the other steadying himself with his hands on his knees, gasping air into his lungs.

“Took you long enough, nuisance”, Sarawat greeted.

Tine held up a hand, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s Saturday, I slept in.”

Sarawat was always told he was a poor liar, and he was sure Tine had to be the opposite. Yet, in the past few weeks, Sarawat was almost certain he could tell when Tine was lying. He held eye contact for too long, and his wide grin was a sorry replica of the way his lips stretched when he was truly overjoyed.

He pushed past that, though. It didn’t matter if Tine was over an hour late, or that he lied to him about why - he was here. That was enough.

“Let’s go”, he told him. “I’ve been standing here for the past hour, you almost got me roasted under the sun. Buy me a drink as compensation.”

Tine’s eyes widened. “You’ve been - the past whole hour. You-”

“Yeah”, Sarawat threw his head up, reprimanding. “That’s when we agreed to meet, you idiot. Now buy me something, before I pass out from thirst.”

“You could have bought something for yourself, asshole”, Tine mumbled, and Sarawat was struck with how beautiful Tine looked with rose-tinted cheeks. If it was because of the sun, or because of him - he didn’t know. It made him smile, either way.

Tine was the most beautiful boy in the world.

 

After Tine got him his drink, they shopped for a new guitar pick, and Sarawat had asked Tine if he wanted to get a guitar. He remembered him asking about it when he first started playing, but now Tine refused.

“Do you think you can use my guitar forever?” Sarawat narrowed his eyes.

Tine didn’t look at him. “You’ll let me.”

His comment took Sarawat back with surprise, leaving him very slightly flustered. Tine was right. Tine knew he was right.

“Who said that?” Sarawat scoffed, turning around to walk to the cashier, evading further talk.

There had been something odd about Tine all day. Sarawat couldn’t put a finger to it, but everytime he’d turn to Tine, the boy seemed to be standing closer to him. He stood so close, in fact, that their hands brushed more than ten times in the past hour.

If Sarawat let himself think wishfully, he’d almost believe Tine was trying to hold his hand.

 

Sarawat came to this area of town a lot. It was close to where he lived, and he spent a good part of his highschool life roaming these streets - new guitar lines, a broad collection of albums, different musical equipment piquing his interest. He knew every music store in the locality by heart, knew what kind of music each store sold. And so naturally he had his favorite dining place here.

As him and Tine walked into it for lunch, Sarawat threw the shop owner and his daughter a broad smile, looking down when it was returned. Ever since he moved away from college, he frequented this place less, since it was so far away now. It stayed his favorite restaurant, though. A small place owned by a kind, old man and his daughter. He wasn’t the most conversational or friendly person, so he wasn’t particularly close to either of them, but their presence always put him at ease, they just sort of understood each other.

They made the best food too. He liked it better than what his parents made, even.

When he looked up at them again, he saw the pleasant surprise on their faces upon seeing Tine. Sarawat bit his lip, awkward, then guided Tine to find a seat.

The young woman came over to hand them menus, and she gave him a questioning smile. From the little conversations they had, he knew her name to be Waan, and she was in her late twenties. She worked a separate job regularly, and helped her father when she was free.

Tine had his head bowed, reading the menu with devout attention. Sarawat gazed at him fondly, then turned back to Waan and shrugged lightly at her. She raised an eyebrow, nodding at Tine, and Sarawat fought back a blush, violently shaking his head. His actions shook a laugh out of her, and she stifled her giggles behind her hand, when Tine’s head snapped up to look at her.

Sarawat turned his own gaze down, positive his face was pink now. He could see Tine look in between them once from his periphery, then he turned his attention back to the pamphlet. Sarawat reached out, and took it from his hands.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to look. I know the best dishes here”, he said.

When Tine looked at him, there was a mixture of surprise along with something darker behind his eyes, something that seemed vaguely familiar.

“I come here a lot”, Sarawat explained. From the times they dined out together, he had an idea of what Tine would usually order. He knew Tine preferred mild dishes, where he preferred spicier ones, but Tine had a decent spice tolerance himself.

He looked at Waan and said, “I’ll take the usual. Tine do you want-”

“I’ll take whatever he does too”, Tine cut in.

Waan looked at him, then back at Sarawat, smiling knowingly, as if she caught onto something he hadn’t. Sarawat pouted a little, inquisitively, and she darted an eyebrow in Tine’s direction. He nodded to let her know that, yes, he was the one. He’d never really told her anything. Not about his sexuality, not about him.

But he’d never brought anyone other than his brother here before, not a single one of his friends, both throughout high school and into college.

She gave him a soft smile, it seemed almost proud. For what, he thought exasperated, bringing in his most likely unrequited crush?

He looked back at Tine when she left, who immediately snapped his head down, ears reddening. He’d been staring, Sarawat realized, and his heart swelled.

“You seem close to her”, Tine muttered, gaze intently focused on where his hands sat in front of him on the table. Sarawat watched his hands, then him, and almost laughed when he saw the pout on his face.

“We’re not”, he explained, wondering how the hell Tine managed to get jealous - was that what this was? - over someone who thought of him as a kid. “But I come here a lot. So we’re acquaintances, I guess.”

Tine shrugged, but he didn’t look at either of them again, when she came to give them water.

His words from the bar played over his head, and he didn’t know if he should be happy or frustrated over this. The only times he genuinely felt there was a possibility Tine liked him was this - when he got jealous. He didn’t want Tine to get stupidly jealous though, and especially not over women. It was giving him a headache.

God, even Waan somehow knew about his preferences, and the moron he spent weeks with got jealous over a girl.

“Het brain disease”, Man had told him, after he narrated the bar incident to them.

Sarawat’s mouth twitched up, and he called, “Hey, Tine?”

“Hm”, Tine answered, refusing to meet his gaze.

“I like boys”, he told him, bluntly. The other snapped up to look at him, and Sarawat continued, “Just boys.”

He was stared at blankly, before Tine spoke in a hushed whisper, “Is it coming out week?”

“Huh?”

Tine shook his head. “Nothing, nothing. I just - why are you telling me this now?” He made an incredible face when he said ‘now’, and Sarawat’s grin widened.

“So you’d stop getting jealous of every girl you see me interact with.”

His face turned a deep maroon, and he looked away, retaliating in a small voice, “Who said I was jealous?”

“You did.”

Tine spluttered, and Sarawat took the chance to make him fess, “You do remember that night then.”

His mouth fell open, and he closed it trying to come up with an argument, all while Sarawat watched, pleased. He finally settled on, “You remember that then too.”

Sarawat’s satisfaction shrunk under his accusing glare. Rubbing the back of his neck, he slowly picked his words, “I didn’t want to make you feel awkward. I shouldn’t have done that, anyway.”

To his surprise, Tine softened. “But, you lied, didn’t you?”

“Yeah”, Sarawat said, equally quiet.

“You’re a bad liar, you know”, Tine fidgeted with his phone.

“I’ve never had to lie so much before.”

It earned him a snort. “Why are you lying so much now, then, huh?”

Sarawat met his gaze and his heart fluttered. He pushed the words out his mouth before he could think too much about them. “So I can stay with you longer.”

The sound of Tine inhaling sharply melted his insides. His lips curved up in a small, shy smile as he looked away, and Sarawat’s heart welled with pride. Tine was so pretty when he looked like that, Sarawat was falling for him all over again. He realized that almost every moment he spent with Tine made him feel like that, he was doomed from the beginning.

“How often do you come here?” Tine changed the topic, like he always did when he was fazed.

Sarawat huffed fondly. “A lot. It’s my favorite place.”

“Because it’s quiet, not crowded, has a nice playlist, and is far from uni”, Tine guessed, proudly, his pointer finger in air. Sarawat’s eyes widened, and he slowly nodded, Tine chuckling happily to himself after the affirmation.

“You’re so predictable”, Tine told him, grinning as he unlocked his phone, probably to text away or scroll through his social media, and Sarawat didn’t have the heart to tell him he was wrong about the last one.

So he sat quietly opposite him, his neck feeling unnaturally hot.

He didn’t want to tell him he was wrong. But Sarawat did want Tine to know more about him. He didn’t know if Tine remembered most of what he told him, but he always stored away anything Tine told him in the safe of his mind. He also wanted Tine’s attention. They were here out, together. At least for now, Sarawat wanted his undivided attention.

“I’ve been coming here since highschool, actually”, he said, effectively drawing Tine’s attention. “And because uni is far, I come here less now. But I’ve only ever brought Phukong here before. You’re the only other person.”

Sarawat was pleased to find he was not the only one blushing from the implication his words carried.

They didn’t have to sit in silence for too long, before Waan brought them food. It was the best as always, but Sarawat couldn’t help but feel it tasted especially good today. Maybe they tried something new. He wasn’t an expert in cooking, he didn’t know.

Tine’s face brightened as soon as he took a bite, and Sarawat grinned.

This was really the best place.

 

Tine was a strange person for a lot of reasons. He always seemed to hold an abnormal amount of energy, almost like a little child that had too many candies, but carried himself in a deliberate manner, sticking true to the name only he called himself - Mr. Chic. He could be oddly eccentric and selfish at times, but at others his kindness exceeded his care for his self-image. Tine was stupidly dense, and absurdly smart at the same time, and Sarawat knew he wasn’t as oblivious as he seemed to be - sometimes.

Tine was also a single-minded person. He said he liked music, but only listened to Scrubb songs. He wasn’t a picky eater, but his diet was usually consistent, he ate the same predictable menu nearly everyday. He was also horribly heterosexual, but Sarawat found that harder to believe each day. No boy would be left so flustered by a kiss from another boy if he was straight. A drunk dude, at that. But each passing day, Sarawat told himself it was wishful thinking - he didn’t want to hurt himself by raising his hopes too high.

There was something else about Tine that always struck Sarawat - his affinity towards bad ideas and decisions. The fake-dating was a terrible plot his friends concocted that he stupidly followed through. He cut his guitar pick in half, because he genuinely thought it would work like that.

And now there was something Sarawat was sure was driving Tine to behave like that. He was acting strange since the morning, after having showed up late. He’d stand too close, then jump apart when Sarawat would notice. Sarawat tried to stand closer to him, watching his odd behavior, and earned himself a smack in return. And Sarawat could swear he was trying to hold his hand.

Thinking it over, it seemed like a laughable, ludicrous notion, but when Tine’s fingers grazed his for the nearly millionth time as they walked back to the bus station they’d agreed to meet at, Sarawat was convinced he really was trying to hold his hand. Or touch him, or something.

Tine was abnormally quiet, too, and as much as Sarawat would have loved to hold his hand, there was something off about his behavior. He was acting annoyingly suspicious - it was never a good thing when Tine was lost in his thoughts, plainly because him thinking was rarely a good sign. Sarawat was half in the mind to grab his hand himself and see how he’d react, and after some contemplation he decided to do exactly just that.

Before he gave up from nerves, Sarawat slid his palms against the other, lacing his fingers with his own. Tine’s hands were warm, where his were usually cool, but it wasn’t the first time Sarawat had noticed. As he’d expected, Tine jumped, almost recoiling his arm back as if Sarawat had scalded him, and Sarawat let go, anxiety churning out his gut.

“Sorry”, he muttered, turning away. He didn’t know how Tine was looking at him, and he didn’t want to know.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched Tine’s hand move towards him, then hover mid-air in hesitation. His skin burned in shame, as he realized he had it all wrong. Tine didn’t want to hold his hand, he was probably spacing out because he didn’t even want to be out with Sarawat in the first place. His throat tightened and he drew back the hand within Tine’s reach, using it to rub his neck instead.

“Wat”, Tine started.

“We should, uh, hurry up”, he said, quickly, grateful his voice came out steady. “It’s getting late, we’ll miss the bus.”

“Wat”, Tine called again, and Sarawat looked in his direction, but not at him.

Sarawat realized he’d made it awkward, and Tine would continue to look at him questioningly, unless he fixed it. So he grabbed him by his elbow, nudging him forward, “Let’s go, let’s go.”

He held his arm for a good distance, before letting it go, and he was sure Tine could see his flaming cheeks, even in the red hue of the setting sun.

Tine didn’t try to bring it up again, and they made their way to the bus stop, the rest of their walk awkwardly quiet.

 

Sarawat collapsed on his bed the moment he entered his room.

Not wanting Tine to think there was something wrong with him, he had walked him home like usual, but now came back unusually tired.

They’d somehow settled into their usual conversations during the bus ride home, and Tine didn’t act any different, reinforcing the fact he was wrong about his initial perceptions.

Burying his face in his pillow, he once again wished he could somehow disappear when he remembered grabbing Tine’s hand. Even in the calm security of his room, his heart raced thinking about it.

He was so, so dumb. He was so stupid, and he failed to recognize his own idiocy in favor of always demeaning the other.

Sarawat lay in bed, for another few long self-deprecating hours, then heaved himself up to take a shower.

-

 

Tine stood in front of the door, the only sound audible in the dark corridor belonging to his own pounding heart. He had a spare key he could use to get in, or he could knock and maintain social propriety, instead he stood frozen, unable to move a muscle. He had to be standing there for a good five minutes or more but he couldn't tell, his sense of time lost to his anxiety.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally forced himself to suck in a deep breath first, then lift his hand to knock, only for his fist to freeze again inches from the door.

This was going to drive him insane, and it was all Sarawat's fault. If he hadn't held Tine's hand then reacted like that, Tine wouldn't be here, standing at his door at nearly midnight. He closed his fist and banged his head against it. This was stupid he had no reason to be this anxious. He was just here to talk to a boy. To Sarawat.

Oh god, he was here to talk to Sarawat. Who liked him. Who he possibly liked.

Tine took another deep breath to steady himself then re-evaluated his options - simply entering with the key or knocking then waiting for another painful eternity until Sarawat opened the door.

Pros of plan A: he didn't have to wait or face Sarawat up close immediately after the door was open and because it was pretty late there was a good chance he was asleep so he could go back quietly - Sarawat slept like the dead anyway. The only con he faced was that Sarawat might be awake, think he was a burglar and possibly attack him.

Pros of plan B: he wouldn't seem like a creep and he wouldn't get hit.

Plan A it was then.

He steeled himself and pulled out the key, grateful it didn't slip with how much his hands were shaking. He needed to be quick if he didn't want to get hit so opted for speed instead of stealth and jammed the key into the lock.

He'd judged his pros right. He didn't have to immediately face Sarawat. Instead the boy in question stood straight, right in front of his bed (mattress), looking alarmed.

Too bad he wasn't asleep though.

Tine broke into an awkward smile as he watched the apprehension on Sarawat's face morph into confusion. He slowly held up the spare key that Sarawat had left him with as a poor explanation as to what he was doing at his flat after 11pm.

Sarawat looked at him, then at the key, then back at him again, raising his eyebrow in question.

"I got in through your key, I didn't break in", he finally explained himself.

"I know that dumbass", Sarawat answered and it sparked another heat of annoyance through Tine, one that mixed poorly with the painful throbbing of his heart. "Why are you here?"

"That." Tine's mind was racing to find a response - he hadn't thought this out as clearly as he thought he did and standing in front of Sarawat without a good enough excuse was leaving him flabbergasted.

"That, um. I-I...I wanted to hold your hand!" He finally blurted, immediately regretting every living breathing moment of his life, in spite of knowing it was better to be straightforward at this point. Sarawat's pained expression flashed before his eyes, and it eased Tine's embarrassment, reminding him that Sarawat was the kind of moron who'd probably be happy hearing something like this.

Sarawat's eyebrow arched again, this time with a look of incredulity on his face. Tine realized, painfully, that he wouldn't even be here torturing himself if that fucker didn't look so pretty. He was annoying and shameless and weird and dumb, but he was so handsome, Tine forgot to breathe when he gazed at him sometimes. His own thought process made him look away from Sarawat, too embarrassed to face him now.

Everything about this was embarrassing, this was a huge mistake. He opened his mouth to rectify himself, try and salvage what he could of this situation, when Sarawat started walking towards him. It threw him off for a moment, his heart rate starting to synchronize itself to his footsteps, and Tine was half in the mind to turn back and run away, if his feet didn't feel rooted to the ground.

He somehow knew what Sarawat was going to do next. He somehow knew what he would say.

Sarawat stopped right in front of him, looking both amused and inquisitive, before obediently holding out his hand.

"Here. Hold it."

He knew.

Tine ignored both Sarawat's hand and the flush of satisfaction he felt at successfully predicting the other boy's behavior, and said, "Why did you drop my hand after holding it?"

"You know why, even you're not that dumb", Sarawat didn't take back his hand, but looked away, as if he was embarrassed. His behavior had become so oddly endearing to Tine, he wondered how he failed to notice it.

"I am, actually", Tine told him, making Sarawat snap back to him in wonder. "I am that dumb. I need you to spell it out for me."

When Sarawat was done blinking at him in surprise, he opened his mouth to speak, so Tine cut him off, "I know now, though." His speech came out hurried. "You don't need to say it again."

Both of them stood in a tight silence for hardly a minute, where Tine could tell he'd annoyed the other yet again, before Sarawat spoke again. He wasn't a very patient person and Tine had somehow grown to rely on that to fill any awkward silences. "You said you wanted to hold my hand." He said gently.

"Its really late", Sarawat spoke again, since Tine still hadn't taken the offered hand. "Didn't you find a better time?"

He came here impulsively, because Sarawat's face had been haunting him since he came back. Tine wanted to call him out for holding his hand, then dropping it and making such a wounded expression, it wouldn't let Tine fall asleep. He'd gone to bed at nine himself, but after two hours of rolling around, sleeplessly, he decided he wanted to see Sarawat.

It was his own fault, really. He was the one who kept trying to take Sarawat's hand, and maybe the other could read him just as well now.

"No", Tine finally said, quietly.

Sarawat sighed but he didn't look one bit tired or annoyed. Not even entertained or questioning anymore. Instead, his mouth curved up to one side, eyebrows lightly crinkled together and lowered.

Tine's breath stuttered along with his heart when Sarawat looked at him like that. He hated that look on him, and he hated that it made Sarawat look the most attractive, and he hated the fact it was reserved for only him the most. He hated it so much his chest would grow tight whenever Sarawat looked at him like that, hated it so much his heart would swell when he'd let himself bathe in the implications it held.

He hated that he knew he didn't hate any if this at all. He hated that he loved it instead.

Tine chose to pretend he didn't understand why Sarawat would look at him like that but it didn't take a genius to find the affection behind his gaze. He let himself be blinded by Sarawat's teasing words and the label of their fake relationship instead, too afraid to venture into what it would mean to be looked upon like that, and to crave being looked at like that.

Tine's heart wasn't racing anymore, but beating agonizingly slow, so slow it was making him lightheaded and dizzy.

Sarawat was bad for his health - this was the one thing he was sure of.

"Close your eyes", Tine's voice came out irritatingly loud in the silence of the dimly lit room. The only lighting was from a lamp next to Sarawat's bed. He was clearly going to sleep, and Tine wondered why he was going to sleep so late.

The thought that Sarawat was just as bothered by today's events as he was, set Tine afloat. He wasn't alone in this, he wasn't losing sleep over something Sarawat would easily forget.

His command was answered by another raised brow, to which he answered by raising both of his. Sarawat rolled his eyes and (unsurprisingly) obeyed.

After staring at the other boy's outstretched hand for a couple moments more, Tine finally reached out and covered it with his own, heat rushing to his face despite how silly it made him feel. He watched Sarawat's expression twitch, but his eyes stayed closed, leaving Tine to stand there stiffly, watching their very awkwardly conjoined hands. He wanted to shift his hand to hold it better, and intertwine their fingers but he couldn't make himself move, worried it'd be too much, too annoying.

As if sensing his hesitation, Sarawat took his hand and pulled it down, closer to himself, his slightly larger hand engulfing Tine's own. His gesture gave Tine the push he needed to shift their hands so he could intertwine their fingers, but Sarawat seemed to pick up on that, lacing their fingers together first.

Tine wanted to look at Sarawat, knowing he'd look up to find a smug look on his face, but his gaze remained glued to their hands. He thought about what Pear said about holding hands, and he wasn't sure if he understood. She said he'd know once he held his hand, but he didn't have a sudden epiphany, no movie like moment with fireworks exploding, no romantic ost banging, just their breathing sounds, the noises coming from outside, and his slowly calming down heartbeat.

He, then, looked up at Sarawat, and deadpanned to find the boy's face twisted into a familiar smug smirk. Knowing him too well was a disease.

He looked down again, thought of Pear's words and finally decided to close his own eyes, trying to focus on their hands, waiting to see if it'd work.

Sarawat's hands were cool, but not freezing cold - a pleasant contrast to his own usually warm ones. It was nice, he thought, and wondered if Sarawat's hands got cold during winter. His own would sweat easily during summer, but if Sarawat's were always this cool, Tine thought they would easily balance out the other.

Pear had told him that he'd know how he felt towards Sarawat if he held his hands. That he'd know if Sarawat was worth the crisis he'd put him through, if he wanted to be with him. He was starting to question her rhetoric - realizing this whole exercise was futile - when Sarawat suddenly squeezed his hand. His eyes flew open to find the smirk had long melted off his face, his least favorite expression taking its place.

He wondered what he had done to get Sarawat to make this kind of face around him.

When he had his eyes closed though, it wasn't annoying Tine. It didn't have him feeling bothered and flustered, instead it gave him a moment to quietly appreciate the curves of his face, the way his hair softly fell on his forehead, the light uptilt of his lips without the taunting he was sure would follow.

Maybe the taunting was better though, because as Tine stood stupidly, gazing at a boy he'd grown to find so beautiful, his heart squeezed tight and small but felt too big for his chest all at once.

Sarawat was so, so beautiful, Tine was amazed he'd never noticed that before.

No, he had. But he chose to ignore it for obvious, justified reasons - and with the shit that came out of that pretty mouth, it had become easy for Tine to look past. But standing like this, watching Sarawat without being watched in turn, really really made Tine realize how pretty he was. It made him ache funnily, made him want to reach out and push his hair back, to trace his cheekbones and jawline, to run his thumb across his cheek and under his lower lip.

He swallowed a little too loud as he stared at his lips, wanting to look away but somehow unable to now. His own suddenly tingled with the memory of their first - and fairly harsh - kiss, and Tine found himself wanting to press his lips against Sarawat's again. He wanted to know what they'd feel like, how Sarawat would respond, if he could be gentle.

God he wanted to kiss Sarawat. He wanted to kiss Sarawat so bad. He wanted to kiss a boy so much, he had to bite down his own lip down to ground himself.

"Tine?" He watched Sarawat's lips form the words better than he heard them. "Can I open my eyes now?"

"No", he answered, voice horribly tight.

He watched Sarawat draw his eyebrows together and was barely breathing, when Sarawat squeezed his hand again.

"Okay", Sarawat's voice was uncharacteristically soft, and Tine felt himself choke up.

Pear was wrong. Or she was right. He didn't know, he didn't get it, he didn't want to understand.

None of his previous girlfriends felt this way. None of them were painful to look at, he never wanted to kiss them as bad as he wanted to kiss Sarawat right now. None of their hands fit so perfectly into his own, none of them ever held his hands long after they'd grown sweaty. No one looked at him the way Sarawat did - like he was so beautiful and important and precious.

Why did it have to be Sarawat of all people?

Why did Sarawat simply stand there obediently and patiently, waiting for Tine to reach his conclusion instead of just opening his eyes? Why did he only offer tiny squeezes in reassurance instead of questioning what the hell Tine was doing, at this hour above all?

His stomach had twisted itself into so many painful knots while he stared, he wondered if being with Sarawat would always be this painful.

"My heart hurts when I'm with you", Tine finally told him, flustered and confused. "I don't understand it but it hurts, and I don't like it one bit."

Sarawat had blinked but he kept his eyes closed. He then lifted their conjoined hands and brought them up to his chest, pressing Tine's hand against his ribs.

Tine knew his breath audibly stuttered this time, knew that Sarawat had to have heard it, but he could hear nothing except for Sarawat's loud heartbeats, pounding against his ribs to reach Tine's hand.

"Can I open my eyes?" Sarawat asked again, but not as confident as he seemed before. Tine only nodded in response before realizing he couldn't see him, and squeezed his hand. He didn't trust his ability to speak right now.

When Sarawat's eyes met his, he realized he made another mistake.

There was no coming back from this.

He'd heard somewhere, read in some books about how people's eyes would sometimes sparkle, but only took that with a grain of salt, because a little moisture in the eyes shouldn't help anyone wax poems. And yet as he stood there he could have swore he found stars in Sarawat's eyes, despite knowing it to be a dim reflection of the light pouring in from outside and within his own room.

Beautiful.

He was so fucking beautiful.

And that urge to kiss him returned, more profusely this time. He forced it down, swallowed it hard and said, "I've never felt this way before."

He wanted to add 'boy' but he knew it to be both true and false. Sure, he'd never found himself attracted to boys, always confident he was only into women, but he'd truly never felt this way for anyone else before. Adding it would definitely sour Sarawat's mood anyway.

Sarawat's gaze melted again as he responded quietly, "There's always a first time for everything."

There was something about his voice, about his expression, his attitude, that had a tight hold on Tine's lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe. Instead of verbally responding, he dragged their hands towards himself, baring himself to him, letting Sarawat listen to the heartbeats that had beat just as fast as the other's.

He watched Sarawat breath out unsteadily, blood rushing to face at how pleased it left him. But his small moment of revelry was shattered when Sarawat took a step towards him. Impulsively, Tine took a step back, wincing when he saw the hurt flash through Sarawat's face. He silently hoped Sarawat would walk forward again anyway; he didn't know how to fix this. To his relief, Sarawat did. But it was a smaller, more cautious step, accompanied by a question on his face.

Tine felt his own features freeze, so he silently stood still, their hands dangling awkwardly in air now. When Tine didn't move again, Sarawat moved a little closer and a little more when he realized Tine wasn't going back anymore. Tine didn't know if he could take a step forward himself, if he did it'd close the gap between them, but he was so afraid he couldn't bring himself to move.

Sarawat stopped where their hands brushed his chest again and Tine could still somewhat make out his heartbeat.

"Are you scared?" Sarawat questioned. He was smiling but there was no mock in his grin. "Why are you so afraid of me?" He laughed now. "You know I won't hurt you."

"I don't actually", Tine stupidly answered. Was his fear so clearly written on his face?

Sarawat chuckled again, the sound of it ringing in the otherwise dead silent room. His heart did a funny squeeze again, and as much as Tine didn't like, that he wanted to hear him laugh again. "You're afraid I'm going to grab you and kiss you again then?"

"Yes." No.

"I won't do that again, I promise."

"Why did you do it in the first place? How can I trust you now?" Please do it again.

Sarawat's eyebrows dipped in that look again. Tine wanted to bang someone's head - his own or Sarawat's, he wasn't sure.

"You're stupid that's why." He was smiling awfully sweet at someone he was insulting. "I told you that a million times. That", he took a deep breath, "that I liked you. But you never took that seriously."

Tine had another thing to add to the list of things he hated about Sarawat: his sudden loss of confidence before he was going to say that (stupid shit), but his ability to maintain eye contact while saying it (stupid shit) anyway.

"We were faking it", his worn excuse slipped out his mouth. But he really was confused.

"You asked me to flirt with you only in front of Green. I've told you this so many times when we were alone."

Tine was growing increasingly annoyed with himself, he didn't understand how Sarawat looked so patient.

"I thought you were practicing. You told me you had no experience."

He didn't know why, but Sarawat suddenly took another step towards him. He lowered his voice and spoke to him. "Fine then. I'm telling you now, properly. Not faking it and definitely not practicing", his snort made Tine flush deeper. "I like you. I've liked you for a long time. I really like you. I-"

"Geez how are you not embarrassed?!" Tine squeaked, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking their joined hands violently. He knew he'd combust if he stared at Sarawat for a second long.

"You're the one that said you were confused", he could hear the petulance in Sarawat's voice, the frustration he knew only he could draw out. It made his stomach tighten, but it was welcome this time. He was happy only he had that effect on Sarawat, only he could make him whine like that.

Tine opened his eyes, to find Sarawat's lower lip slightly jutting out in a pout he'd expected from his Tine earlier. It made him smile, feeling giddy all of a sudden.

"I'm not anymore", he answered, words laced with laughter. "I'm not confused."

It somehow made Sarawat stare at him in confusion.

There was something about Sarawat's expression that gave him a boost of confidence, pushing him forward so the only space left between them was filled by their hands.

His own heart thundered in his head from the sudden movement, but now that his hand was pressed against Sarawat's chest, he could clearly make out his heartbeats too.

Everything about this situation that seemed so frightening to Tine before, was making him laugh now. His lips curved up in a wide smile against his will and Sarawat slowly mirrored him.

"Why did you want to hold my hand?" Sarawat questioned.

Tine bit his lip, embarrassed, growing even more flustered when Sarawat's eyes flicked down. "Pear said I'd know if I liked you when I'd hold your hand."

Sarawat's eyebrows jumped in response and Tine felt his face heat further.

"So?" Sarawat said, instead of teasing him like Tine was sure he would. He knew Sarawat well now, but in many ways the boy was still a surprise to him. "Did you find out?"

Tine looked down at their intertwined hands. "Maybe."

"Maybe", Sarawat let out an airy laugh, and Tine gazed up at him, no trace of amusement in his own expression. He didn't know what Sarawat saw, but it made him stop laughing.

"There's a better way for you to tell", Sarawat informed him then, and Tine knew what it was when his gaze fell to his lips.

It made Tine stupidly blush, and he was sure Sarawat shouldn't have been able to see that in the dark but somehow he'd noticed something because he closed his mouth before he said anything else. He was quiet for a moment before he spoke again, "Can I kiss you?"

Tine cursed both Sarawat, for his bluntness and his own heart, for suddenly stopping. His gut twisted painfully and he could feel his face grow warmer.

He wanted Sarawat to say that, knew that's what he'd been implying, but now that he had, his own mouth wasn't moving. He opened his mouth and closed it; worried his voice would break if he spoke.

Then Sarawat pulled their hands down and closed the remaining space between them, standing so close their bodies were almost touching, so close he could both hear and feel his breath. He felt another twinge of gratitude for Sarawat's impatience, he really couldn't move himself.

"Tine." Sarawat's eyes were searching his face and whatever he found made him smile softly. "I'm not going to kiss you unless you tell me I can."

This bastard had to be teasing him. He swallowed hard, his mouth strangely dry and slowly nodded. Sarawat was grinning now and Tine was finding it harder and harder to look away from his mouth.

"Say it", his words were mingled with laughter. It both made him want to punch him and kiss him harder.

"What if I say no?" Tine challenged instead. It was too embarrassing. What was he supposed to say - shut up and kiss me already?

Sarawat's smile only grew wider as he inched forward, closing the remaining space between them. Tine's face was growing hotter by the second and when he felt Sarawat's free hand on his waist he was sure he was on fire. His skin was burning where he touched him, just below the small of his back. His hand was sweating so much he was amazed (and slightly grateful) that Sarawat hadn't dropped it yet.

"If you say no, I won't", in contrast to his words, that asshole moved his face closer with each breath, pausing barely inches away, only far enough to maintain eye contact.

He had his eyebrow slightly raised in provocation and Tine was again hit with how attractive the boy in front of him looked. He bit the inside of cheek and watched Sarawat's eyes drop down to his mouth, with a look in his eyes that made his insides burn hot.

"Do whatever you want", he finally answered, his voice barely audible to himself. Sarawat's gaze dropped again, then he looked back up at Tine and smiled softly at him. The hand that was holding his waist moved so it held his face instead and he gently ran his thumb across Tine's face, the same way Tine imagined doing it to him just minutes ago.

Instead of kissing him, Sarawat bumped their foreheads together, and murmured, "Your face is burning."

His statement only made Tine flush harder even when he didn't think he could have with how hot his face already was. He looked away from him, staring down, because looking at Sarawat was proving to be more difficult by the minute. "Shut up", he answered, voice too small to carry any bite.

Sarawat chuckled and Tine could feel his breath fan his face. He moved then, and when Tine closed his eyes thinking he was finally going to kiss him, he felt his cool lips against his burning face. Sarawat's hand was cooler too and when he moved back, he used his hand to engulf that side of his face, smiling toothily at him. Tine stood perfectly still, eyes closed; the cool of his hand was comforting, it felt good.

He hadn't opened his eyes yet, so he yelped a little when he felt the same pair of lips on his other cheek. When he opened his eyes, he found Sarawat staring at him with a look that held something far different from the innocent kisses he'd peppered him with. He felt his guts turn molten and it gave him the final push he needed to move.

He was not going to beg for a kiss.

He was perfectly capable of stealing one himself.

His hand flew up to hold Sarawat's face in place, tilting his own head before his lips crashed against the other's. He cringed immediately, having hurt his teeth, but then Sarawat was moving and kissing him back and every press of their lips twisted Tine's guts; but he was enjoying it. He liked the way Sarawat was kissing him, he liked how Sarawat tasted like mint, he liked how his kisses made him feel. He moved his hand from Sarawat's face to bunch the front of his shirt, feeling both elated and like he was going to fall at the same time. It made him hold on to him like his life depended on it.

Sarawat was the one who broke their kiss first, breathing heavily as he pressed their foreheads together. He could feel his fingers at the back of his head, lightly playing with his hair, and he didn't want to open his eyes.

"Good?" Sarawat finally spoke, his voice sounding so winded it pricked Tine's stomach.

"Hm." He gave a weak sound in response. He really felt like his legs would give out any moment.

They both stayed quiet for a while, Tine's heart finally starting to calm down a little, as he drew in slow, long breaths.

"Tine." Sarawat spoke again. He knew without looking that Sarawat had been watching him the entire time.

"It was my second", he said, opening his eyes to face the confusion he expected. "Kiss. It was my second."

He meant to give it as an explanation to why he wasn't that great in kissing but it clearly made Sarawat think of something else.

"You've only kissed one girl before?" He pulled back, genuinely looking so confused Tine wanted to smack his head.

"No", he whined. "Did you forget last week? Do you have memory loss now?"

Sarawat took a moment to process that then laughed. (Like he'd expected that asshole to.)

"You've had so many flings but you've never kissed them before?" The laughter in his question made Tine want to punch him.

"They weren't 'flings', and no." He cleared his throat awkwardly and looked down. "None of them. Felt right."

He felt Sarawat's hand nudge his head forward, lifting it so he was forced to face him.

Tine always knew it wasn't his least but most favorite expression, but he's never loved being looked at like that more.

"And I did?" He asked carefully.

"I like you", Tine finally told him, and Sarawat's eyes went wide. "I like you. I like you a lot. I like you so much my-"

He was cut off by the pair of lips that were planted on his. Sarawat kissed him long and hard, his hands tightening around both his hand and jaw. Tine was sure he'd melt away at this rate, his daze unbroken even when Sarawat pulled away.

"You drive me crazy", Sarawat's breathing was harsh and Tine only blinked at him.

Flattening his palm out against his shirt, Tine smacked him. "I should be saying that, asshole."

Sarawat rolled his eyes even in this situation. "Stay here, tonight?" He was being nice again, and Tine felt the urge to roll his own eyes.

"I told you I don't trust you", Tine jokingly narrowed his eyes.

"You said you liked me", Sarawat smirked, and Tine hit him again. He chuckled then, "It's not like we haven't spend the night together before."

Tine, for what seemed like the millionth time that day, blushed again. He vividly remembered that night, remembered pulling Sarawat up into a more comfortable position, remembered watching him as he struggled to fall asleep.

"No way", he said. "Drop me home."

He didn't want to stay over, he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, too aware of everything, but he didn't want to part with Sarawat yet. His request made that clear to the other too, so he relaxed into a laugh.

"Okay."

Before he moved away, Tine fisted his hands in his shirt again. "I can go a while later. It's Saturday."

He rolled his eyes, and kissed the pleased smirk off of Sarawat's face.