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Till Debt Do Us Part

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Prologue: Not everything that glitters is gold

 

Tine’s heart beat quickly in the confines of his chest as he looked at himself in the floor length mirror. He steadily stared at his reflection, turning here and there as he looked at his clothing. He sluggishly stretched out his leg as he admired the white traditional pants that went just a bit past his knee. His gaze made its way down to his white knee length socks which seamlessly travelled up his legs and disappeared beneath the fabric of his pants. He absentmindedly adjusted the collar of his white jacket before his fingers slowly trailed down the smooth fabric and rested heavily on the buttons pressing against his torso. He looked handsome. He may not have felt particularly serene at the present moment, but he could admit that this was probably the best he had ever looked in his adult life.

 

 

He had never worn such traditional clothing before in any capacity. In fact he would have rather worn his skinny jeans with the hole in the knees with a nice crisp T-shirt. It wouldn’t have necessarily been appropriate for a wedding, let alone his own wedding, but at least he would have been comfortable. If he was going to go through with this, then he would have at least preferred to wear his worn out converse sneakers instead of these fucking awful black dress shoes that were cutting off all necessary circulation to his toes. The music from outside grew louder and nearer, which made his heart speed up. It was almost show time. He knew that his groom’s family were almost there. His eyes flickered closed as he took five long deep breaths in to calm his nerves and let out five slow shaky exhales. Tine could not recall the last time he had ever been this nervous. He hadn’t even been this nervous the time when his brother dared him to climb up on their roof when he was thirteen. He had to get a cast, miss school for a week, but even then he was much calmer than now. Now he had so much at stake. His family’s entire reputation did.

 

He felt a warm firm squeeze on his shoulder and immediately opened his eyes to see one of his groomsmen standing behind him. Fong studied Tine’s expression through the mirror, worry clearly etched in his smooth features. Tine did his best to force a cheery smile at his friend. He didn’t want him to worry and he definitely didn’t want him to truly see how scared he was about getting married.

 

“Hey,” Fong smiled at his good friend as he playfully shook him, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Unsurprisingly, Tine couldn’t believe it either. He had never imagined in his wildest dreams that he, Tine Teepakorn, would be getting married to one of the wealthiest most eligible bachelors in Thailand. “It seems like yesterday you were asking me to give you the LineId of any and every woman that I knew and now today you’re going to get married.” He laughed and poked Tine’s back.

 

“Yea and you’re getting married to a dude!” His other groomsman Ohm laughed as he laid across Tine’s childhood bed, wrinkling up his suit in the process “That was the part that really threw us for a loop.” His friend rolled to his side and smirked, “Had I known you were bi I would have hooked you up with so many dudes from my classes when we were in school, but now it’s too late and you’ll be gone forever.” Tine’s third groomsman Phuak who was sitting at the edge of the bed leaned over and smacked Ohm across the back of his head, it was hard enough to make the other boy hiss in pain. “Shit! What the hell?!” Ohm turned quickly on the bed and pinched the sensitive skin behind Phuak’s knee. Phuak jumped off the mattress with a yelp and rubbed the tender spot while glaring at his friend who was in turn smiling triumphantly at his retaliation.

 

Tine smiled at his friends, he was going to miss this feeling of normalcy for a bit, but he knew that his situation was only temporary. He just couldn’t tell his best friends that. In fact, he really couldn’t tell them anything at all and the secrecy was weighing on him more than the idea of getting married. Tine was not great at keeping secrets, which made his predicament even harder. He sighed and walked over to his window, a small smile playing on his lips as he heard the singing and music wafting through the walls from beyond. He peered outside and saw that the colourful traditional outfits of his groom’s travelling party had arrived. He’s here. This was getting real. Very real. He unlocked the latch and lifted up the window pane. From the chorus of laughter, he knew that his family members were playfully blocking his husband to be from getting into the house by using ‘gates’ made from necklaces. His groom would have to either give them envelopes full of money to get past or sing something. Since Tine heard no singing he could only assume that money was being handed out. The other man wasn’t any fun. His betrothed was reserved and stoic, which was very much the opposite of Tine.

 

He could see the frantic and constant bright flashes of reporter’s cameras surrounding the group outside. He shook his head and furrowed his brow. The paparazzi and the press watching their every move was going to make this marriage ten times more difficult for Tine, but he was prepared for it. Or he at least hoped that he was thick skinned enough to deal with it or this marriage thing would never work.

 

Phuak rolled his eyes and gestured to Tine, “You’re acting like he’s dying or something. Tine’s just getting married.” He folded his arms across his chest and shook his head.

 

Ohm laughed, “Aren’t those two the same things. Check it out,” He put his hand out and counted on his fingers, “He’ll probably never see his friends again, probably never have fun again, will never fool around with random girls again, he’ll probably never even have,” Ohm paused for affect, “sex again. So, if you ask me, marriage is a lot like death.”

 

Phuak gave short laugh that sounded like a snort, “What the hell man, you’re fucking married.”

 

Ohm nodded in defeat, “Yea, my point exactly. It’s death.”

 

The other three men rolled their eyes at Ohm in unison before their attention was diverted to a light knock on the door. Ohm quickly hopped off the bed to smooth down his clothes as he stood beside Phuak who was also trying to fix his hair. Tine glanced at his reflection one last time as he looked in the mirror.

 

 He took a deep breath and walked over to open his bedroom door. He was greeted by his mother and father. Tine could hear the rustling of his friend’s outfits behind him indicating that they were all bowing in respect to his parents. His mother’s eyes were puffy and red. He knew that she had been crying, but he also knew that her tears weren’t necessarily happy tears, but bittersweet. She reached out and touched the top of Tine’s head gently. His father stood tall and proud, tears trailing down his cheeks as he looked at his youngest child. He clapped Tine on the shoulder and beamed proudly. Tine did his best to ignore the heavy feeling in his chest and forced another smile. For a quick moment, he studied his dad. He noticed the bags under his eyes and the crows’ feet that crinkled in the corners of them. Everyone had always told him that he was a clone of his dad when he was younger and now standing here, looking at his father’s beaming smile, Tine could truly see it. His dad meant the world to Tine. He would do anything, anything, for him.

 

His mom gently fixed his hair and then took a step back to look at him, “Are you ready?” He could see the other unasked questions in her eyes. She knew the real situation and he knew that she wanted to know if he was still going to go through with this. He knew that she was trying to give him an out if he needed one. Most importantly, he knew that she would still love him even if he did back out of this. But for Tine, that was absolutely out of the question.

 

Tine bowed to his parents as a sign of respect and also because he didn’t want his mother to see the worry on his face. He closed his eyes and gave himself a firm pep talk in his head. He could do this. He was strong. This was for the best. This was for the greater good. Plastering on a convincing smile, he stood back up and laughed, “Yep! Mr. Chic is ready to get married.” She stared at him for a moment and then offered him a small smile. The look of relief on his mother’s face, the smoothing of her worry lines, told him that his mask had fooled her and if he could fool her then this was going to be easier than he thought.

 

His dad laughed and shook his head as he watched his son lean in to tightly embrace his mother, “Soon you’ll be Mr. Guntithanon.” Tine bristled at the thought of changing his name. Surely he wouldn’t be expected to do that. Would he? Tine cleared his throat and reached out to hug his father. His dad pat his back gently and released him. “We can’t keep your groom waiting.” His dad said softly before moving towards the stairs.

 

Tine looked back at his friends who were giving him encouraging smiles and thumbs up. The trio made their way to the door and scurried down the stairs so that Tine and his parents could enter the living room together without them in the way. Tine glanced over at his mom and grinned even though he was terrified inside. She took his hand in her own and squeezed gently. He nodded slowly and followed behind his dad, his mother by Tine’s side.

 

Once they made their way down the stairs Tine was shocked to see so many people crammed into his parent’s modest home. He swallowed slowly and scanned the room, taking in familiar and unfamiliar faces before his gaze finally settled on him. The man he was about to marry. Sarawat.

 

Tine’s breath hitched in his throat as he stared at the man approaching them. In the past, Tine could honestly look at a man and acknowledge that they may have been attractive or good looking. But he did that to mostly scope out his competition when trying to land some girls. However, he had never considered a man or woman breathtaking or ethereal.  He had never ever thought that way, until he gazed at Sarawat at this very moment. Sarawat wore a similar traditional suit to Tine’s, but his shirt was made from silk and had gold buttons down the front. His pants were black in comparison to Tine’s white ones. His dark brown hair had been combed back to reveal his flawless tanned skin and handsome features. Tine was in awe and slightly annoyed that he had been outshone by the other man. As he studied Sarawat, he watched as the other studied him back. He could see his husband to be taking him in from head to toe and then back up to his face.

 

Sarawat’s expression was slightly unreadable as they stared at each other. His brow was furrowed and he nibbled slowly on his bottom lip, it looked as if he was upset. Tine resisted the urge to pout at his groom’s expression. Maybe Sarawat thought he looked ugly. He personally thought he looked good, but Sarawat clearly didn’t agree. He sighed, whatever, it didn’t matter. Tine forced a large smile in an attempt to will the other man to do the same. They needed to look in love. This union needed to look happy.  Tine nervously glanced around to see if people were noticing and then peeked back at Sarawat. He let out a relieved sigh as he observed the other man sporting a shy nervous smile directed at Tine. His eyes sparkled as if this was the happiest day of his life.

 

Tine was startled by the sudden change of expression, but he was also impressed. Sarawat was a much better actor than he thought the other brooding man could be. Sarawat walked forward and took Tine’s free hand in his own. He brought it to his lips and placed a soft kiss to the back of it. Tine knew that his cheeks must have been red from the gesture. He was going to have to work on that sooner rather than later. It wouldn’t make sense for him to continue to be shy or bashful around the man who was about to be his husband. Especially since the public were already trying to expose them for what their marriage truly was.  Sarawat let go of Tine’s hand, gave a charming smile to his parents, and bowed to them. “Thank you for allowing me to marry your son.” He said slowly and calmly with his velvety tone. He straightened his back and reached his hand out for Tine to take it. Without hesitation, Tine placed his hand in the other man’s. The sooner this was over with, the happier he’d be.

 

Sarawat led them through the group of people towards two small padded tables at the front of the room. They knelt down on a cushion beside each other and faced their guests as they watched them sit down on the folding chairs. Tine placed his hands in prayer position on top of the padded table and he could see from the corner of his eye that Sarawat had done so as well. Tine closed his eyes and willed for his heart to slow down. This was going to work out. Sarawat could have run away by now, but he was here. He was committed to this as much as Tine was. Well, he had better been committed considering that this was Sarawat’s idea.

 

Tine leaned over to him, “Hey,” He whispered while keeping his eyes on the people settling down in front of them. He could see the other glance at him, “Thanks.”

 

He watched as Sarawat visibly winced before turning his head to look at him. A fleeting look of sadness transformed his face before it settled into a tight lipped smile. He gave a small curt nod and turned to look at the guests. Tine resisted the urge to roll his eyes. What had he really expected? An actual verbal response from the Sarawat?

 

Tine didn’t think very highly of the man beside him. He didn’t hate him of course. He just thought that he could be harsh, cold, overly confident, unfriendly, annoying, stubborn, and often times a bit of an asshole. But despite all that he could admit that Sarawat was selfless and he was kind. How else could Tine explain why he’d be doing any of this?

 

Before Tine even registered what was happening, the couple had a traditional head piece called the Mong Kol placed on their heads by one of Sarawat’s uncles. Water poured on their hands by their loved ones as they wished them well and that was it. It was done. It had all happened so fast. People smiled at the happy couple and began heading out to the reception hall not too far from Tine’s house.

 

After most people had already gone, Tine looked over at Sarawat expecting him to be talking to his friends, but found him staring at him instead. Tine looked behind him to see if it was actually him who had caught his husband’s eye. Seeing nothing behind him he pointed to himself as if to say ‘are you looking at me?’. Sarawat grinned, slowly walked over to Tine, and reached out to gently stroke his hair. Tine resisted the urge to duck away since there were still a few people in the house watching them. It would be awfully suspicious if Tine resisted his husband’s touches. Sarawat let his fingers comb through Tine’s thick soft hair, “I’m obviously looking at you nuisance.” He let his hand linger for a moment, appearing to study Tine’s face before he leaned in and pressed a tender kiss to his husband’s forehead. The unexpected gesture left Tine shy and dumbfounded for a moment before he remembered that this wasn’t genuine. None of this was.

 

He could see the paparazzi mulling around outside, taking pictures of them and the wedding guests. Sarawat was pretty convincing, but Tine felt that he was a damn good actor too. From the corner of his eye, he watched one of the paparazzi watching them with his camera raised. Perfect. Tine stretched out his arms and wrapped them around his groom’s shoulders, pulling him in close. As if reading his mind, Sarawat glanced at the paparazzi and wrapped his arms around Tine’s waist. He lowered his head and nuzzled the crook of Tine’s neck. Through the window they could see cameras flashing from outside. Good. It would help to have many pictures of them embracing in the tabloids tomorrow. They had done it. They were married.

 

Their little arrangement had officially begun.