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anywhere i go (there you are)

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Halfway through his favourite meal and fifteen minutes into his favourite movie, Sarawat realises that he's being coaxed. He should've probably realised this sooner -- when Tine offered to cook and do the dishes tonight despite it not being his turn.  He sneaks a glance at Tine, who is sitting right beside him, looking distressed even to the untrained eye. He's sitting uncharacteristically upright, his eyes nervously darting back and forth the wall and their television as he nervously fiddles with his fingers on his lap. Sarawat knows that Tine had been sneaking glances at him – and this time when he sneaks a glance, Sarawat is looking right back. Tine seems to choke on thin air, before gulping more than half the cola that he'd poured in his glass. His actions are jittery and he looks back at Sarawat with a very guilty expression. Sarawat is more suspicious than concerned. 

 

"Spit it out, nuisance," Sarawat sighs, pausing the movie. He arches his back and rests his arms on the back pillow, his fingers mere centimetres away from Tine's neck. 

 

Tine looks away before meeting his eyes again, this time with more apprehension than guilt. He looks tired -- more tired than he had been the past few days. There are noticeable bags under his eyes. Tine still says nothing, looking as though he had just set fire to Sarawat's guitar. He looks away again and Sarawat pokes Tine's neck only for him to yelp. 

 

"Ai Wat!" Tine looks affronted. "Why are your hands so cold?"

 

"Tine," Sarawat says in a tone that almost seems threatening if Tine didn't know better. But Tine does know better – or at least, Sarawat hopes that he does. "What is it?" 

 

Two months of living with the person he's been in love with for almost five years does not prepare him for the words to come out of Tine's mouth. 

 

"Be my boyfriend," he says in one breath, his eyes shut. All the breath seems to be knocked out of Sarawat's chest and sounds around him seem to die down, his mind echoing only those three words.  

 

Sarawat feels his head spinning. "What?" he chokes out. 

 

Tine sighs again, leaning back against the sofa, against Sarawat's fingers. Tine looks at him again. "Be my boyfriend. Well, not really my boyfriend . Just pretend to be my boyfriend." 

 

"What?" Sarawat chokes out for an entirely different reason. He tries to breathe, his heart whirling from the implications of Tine's previous statement. 

 

He sees Tine run a hand across his face before he murmurs, "my mother was insisting on setting me up with someone during my cousin's wedding and–"

 

White noise floods his ears and Sarawat tightly grips the sofa and tries concentrating on Tine's voice again. 

 

"–you know how those dates go and I frankly don't want to date anyone right now–" 

 

"–and I don't know, I just thought of you and your name came out of my mouth before I could think about it–" 

 

"–I'm sorry, I'm just so desperate to not go on any other dates set by her." 

 

Tine take a huge breath and runs his shaking fingers through his hair. Sarawat only looks at him in bewilderment – he doesn't know how to react. 

 

Tine inches closer, putting his hands on Sarawat's leg, right above his knee. "Be my fake boyfriend. Pretend to be in love with me." He must've noticed Sarawat's flabbergasted expression, for he comes closer to him and all but pleads. "Please, Wat. Please, please, please."

 

"No!" Sarawat screams, at last, finally finding his voice and shaking his head with vigour. "I am not going to be your fake boyfriend, Tine." 

 

Pretending to be Tine's boyfriend is pretending to be a version of Sarawat that is forcing himself to be in love with Tine – a version of Sarawat that doesn't already love Tine. Sarawat doesn't think such a version exists. Pretending to be Tine's boyfriend is saying everything that he wanted to and actually acting on his feelings. 

 

"Please, please, please," Tine begs, shaking Sarawat's forearm. "Please, Wat. You have to help me."

 

"Why, Tine? Why am I helping you here?" Sarawat asks, pulling his arm away from Tine. 

 

"We live together!" Tine pouts, holding Sarawat's arm again. "It's my cousin's wedding and my entire family is going to be there. I need it to look convincing so they stop snooping."

 

Sarawat snatches his arm from Tine's hold to get up from their sofa and pours himself a glass of water. "So?" he asks, sipping the water. "Why don't you ask Fong or Ohm or Phuak? Why me?" 

 

Tine frowns. "Because I already told my mom that it's you." 

 

This earns him another glare. 

 

"I don't know," Tine shrugs, at last, his shoulders slumping forward in defeat. "You know my mother. You know how she always sets me up with someone or the other. I thought telling her that I'm bi would finally stop her from doing that but instead, it just increased the pool of people she is trying to set me up with. Besides, she loves you. She would not question my choice here and she already –" 

 

Tine stops himself and shakes his head. "Look. I know this is a huge thing. I know that we've just gotten close again and I shouldn't be asking this of you, but I am tired of being set up on unsuccessful dates. I don't want to go on dates set up by her." 

 

Sarawat remembers the dates Tine goes on. He remembers the air inside their house buzzing with familiar nerves and anticipation, the bitter feeling in his own mouth as he sees Tine leaving, and the bittersweet feeling muddled with a little bit of relief that follows when Tine comes, defeated by yet another unsuccessful date.

 

If this was Man or Boss, or even one of Tine's friends, Sarawat would have helped him out without hesitation. But this is Tine. Someone, he's already in love with. Once he starts acting on his feelings, he knows that it'll take heaven and earth for him to stop when they eventually go on about their lives. The voice in his head is forcing him to refuse. But the way Tine is looking at him right now makes him falter a bit. 

 

"She's going to run out of people soon. She is also being extremely supportive by setting you up with people regardless of their gender. Are you angry at her for being understanding and supportive?" Sarawat asks instead. 

 

Tine rolls his eyes and holds Sarawat's arm again. Sarawat wants to pour more water to get rid of his drying mouth. "It's just four days. Think of all the advantages: we get to go to the beach and you get free food and free drinks, cosy accommodation, and my undivided attention. You really can't be wanting more," he lists. "The only disadvantage would be dating me." 

 

That's the problem. Sarawat doesn't want more. He only hopes that this isn't conveyed on his face. It must work because –

 

"Well, pretending to date me, that is." Tine sighs. "Please, Wat," Tine whines. "I promise that I will do the dishes for a month if you agree to this." 

 

This catches Sarawat's attention. Pretending to explicitly be in love with someone you already are in love with may not be worth a lot of things, Sarawat muses. But not doing dishes may just be worth it. "Two months and it's a deal." 

 

Tine grins. "Deal."  

 

***

 

Sarawat is fully aware that Man and Boss don't buy the "I agreed to it because he said that he'll do dishes for 2 months" excuse. Man and Boss are fully aware that Sarawat himself doesn't buy it either. He is also fully aware that Man and Boss don't buy the "I agreed to it because I think that this is good because all my feelings will be acted upon under the façade of this pretence" excuse either. Man and Boss, however, are concerned about the fact that Sarawat wholeheartedly believes this.

 

Sarawat is fully convinced that this act that they'll put on for those four fateful days will help him get over Tine. Distancing himself didn't work, liking someone else didn't work as well, but acting on his feelings would surely, surely, work in his favour.

 

When he first tells them, Boss says, "oh great. Maybe both of you will finally realise just how well you go together." 

 

Man nods as well, "yes. This is the best thing that can happen to you. Maybe he will finally realise just what he is missing out on. We will make a list. A list on how to woo him so he can't think of you as anything but his boyfriend."

 

But then something changes. Sarawat isn't quite sure what happens but the next hour is spent trying to convince Sarawat to not fake-date the person he actually wants to date. 

 

"You're both colossal idiots," Man says at last. 

 

He sighs, picking another blazer up and trying that on. In hindsight, Sarawat should've known that there'd be something Tine would ask of him that he wouldn't be able to refuse – even if the refusal would've been good for his heart. Cosmos knew he thinks as he finds a blazer that fits him well, cosmos knew that he is not immune to Tine, and cosmos decided to take advantage of this. 

 

"You don't have to do this," Man says, again, slapping his back as Sarawat closes the button of his blazer. 

 

Sarawat sighs, making eye contact with both Man, who is standing right by him and Boss, who is perched over on the sofa, from the mirror. "I know." 

 

"You can say no," Man reminds him, yet again. "I have seen you heartbroken over Tine for far too long." 

 

"Is it heartbreak if Tine is not even aware of the matters of his heart?" Boss asks. 

 

Man turns to give Boss a look and Boss merely shrugs. "I'm just saying, if you'd only tell him, with your words –" he pointedly looks at Sarawat  "–that you actually want to date him and not pretend to date him, things might just go a little smoother." 

 

Later, Sarawat will realise that taking Boss' advice might've been the way to go. In the present, however, Sarawat only sighs. "It's okay, it's only for four days. I can do it." 

 

Boss only raises his eyebrows and he walks over to where they're standing. He drapes his hands around Man's shoulders and sighs. Man puts his arms around Boss and looks at Sarawat with defeated eyes. "We'll catch a flight and be there the second you send us a signal. We will rescue you if need be. Just – take care of yourself." 

 

"You know I will," Sarawat replies, patting Man on the back and removing the blazer. 

 

"No," Man replies. "I know that you won't. For someone so smart, you're pretty much stupid when it comes to him. So do it only if you're sure."

 

Sarawat smiles at him. "I will be fine. I can do it." 

 

***

 

Sarawat, as it turns out, is not fine and can not do it . In front of him, Tine is biting on his lower lip as he rummages through the papers that he has laid out in front of him. The harsh afternoon sunlight is almost gentle on his face as he meticulously writes down the entire story they'll tell his parents. Tine had come home from work, only a while ago, his iced tea still untouched, his tie still loose and the first two buttons of his shirt open. Sarawat can't help but stare.

 

"I am not changing the fact that we met at university because my mom knows you, but, we drifted apart because I had to move away for my internship and reconnected again six months ago," Tine says, writing down June in big bold handwriting. "June, 15th?" he asks and Sarawat only raises his eyebrows. Tine takes that as a yes and jots that down too. 

 

"We reconnected on June 15th when I came for one of your shows and we subsequently realised true feelings ever since then. Our first date was June 22nd." 

 

"You've been on dates set up by your mother since then, I'm assuming, since three of which happened after we moved in together," Sarawat says, trying to appear as casual as he can as if he just happens to remember the precise details of dates that Tine had been on. 

 

Tine nods and points to the words on the paper in green ink. "We had decided that we didn't want to be out yet since we didn't want to jinx anything which is why I played along, but the wedding is a perfect time to introduce my boyfriend to my family." A pause. "And my extended family." A pause and a groan. "And my cousin's future husband's family and extended family." 

 

He looks at Sarawat with something akin to despair. "Is this how people introduce their boyfriends?" 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders. "I can whisk you away to the Maldives if you want to escape the wedding." 

 

Tine stares at him. "That's – what?" 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders again. "I'm just saying. You're clearly stressed. We can go away that week and pretend that it's a work trip." 

 

Tine glares – or tries to. "Have you met my family? They'd rather have me unemployed and homeless than miss a family event." 

 

Sarawat purses his lips. "Alright. Tell me more of what you've written in that paper of yours," he says, trying to snatch the paper. Tine has a firm hold on it. 

 

"Okay, fine, don't show me. But give me more details about our first date. Who asked whom out?" Sarawat asks, after a while. 

 

"Obviously me," Tine says, pointing to the purple ink on the paper.

 

Sarawat only quirks his eyebrows and slowly takes a sip of his coffee. "You?" 

 

Tine nods. "You were flirting with me ever since we reconnected and I asked you out." He frowns when he looks at Sarawat's bemused expression. "Why? Is it not believable?" 

 

Sarawat thinks about how obvious he was when they were still students and how he used to be blatantly subtle about his declarations of affection. He thinks about how he'd almost told Tine that he likes him, one rainy night when they were both singing Scrubb songs and how anyone (except Tine, of course,) would have known that Sarawat was talking about him despite the interruption. 

 

In Sarawat's long lost imagination, it is Tine who asks him out. Tine, who realises that he feels something for Sarawat that is other than platonic feelings and asks him out because he finally understands Sarawat's blatant declarations of love. In reality, however, he knows that Tine can be denser than a raincloud when he needs to.

 

"I don't think you can tell if someone likes you," Sarawat shrugs his shoulders. In his brand new imagination, however, it is he who asks Tine out. It doesn't hurt to imagine things that may not happen. 

 

(It does.)

 

"I can tell if someone likes me, Wat," he mutters. "I don't think you can, though." 

 

Sarawat, who knows that Tine has never picked up on his cues, only nods in defeat. Or maybe, Sarawat wonders, he does see them and chooses not to see them. That thought is even crueller to think of. 

 

"I can, but whatever. This is not real anyway, you can tell them whatever you fancy," Sarawat sips his coffee and looks outside the window. 

 

"Okay, so I asked you out, we went to a coffee shop for our first date and then moved in together four months later," Tine decides, writing that down as well. 

 

"Coffee shop? That's it?" Sarawat asks. 

 

Tine crosses his arms over the table. "What do you think our first date should go like, then?" 

 

Sarawat, who has imagined their first date in detail only shrugs his shoulders. "Coffee shop is fine."

 

Tine chuckles, shaking his head. "Okay. So this seems foolproof, doesn't it?" 

 

Sarawat nods. Tine hands him a paper with various questions written on it.  "I have prepared a set of basic questions that we must know about each other. Although I know the answers to most of the questions, it still doesn't hurt to know more. So just fill it for me and I'll fill mine and we can go over it." 

 

Sarawat looks at the paper in front of him, with questions ranging from his favourite colour to his deepest fear. 

 

Sarawat's expression must give something away because Tine only sighs. "I need to be prepared for mom. You've met my brother. My mom is worse. She will know in a second if we're lying. She reads people really well and this has to be an airtight arrangement." 

 

Sarawat remembers Tine's brother in great detail -- how he had carefully analysed each one of Tine's friends -- especially Sarawat before giving his nod of approval. He shudders at the memory. "I've met your mom too. She seems sweet." 

 

"Yes," says Tine, already filling out the questionnaire. "She is sweet to my friends. But not to my partners – at least I don't think she will be." 

 

Tine frowns and Sarawat nudges Tine's leg with his foot. Tine looks up and his shoulders slump forward. "I've never introduced anyone to my mom but I've seen P'Type's boyfriend almost break up with him over how intense that one dinner was. I just want to be prepared. It is not just her this time. P'Type is also intense when it comes to the people I'm dating. Hence the…" he trails off, gesturing the papers. 

 

"I understand. I just never took you as someone who would plan things out and actually follow through," Sarawat says, ignoring what his heart is doing to him. It is so easy imagining actually being together with Tine. 

 

He looks up, almost offended until he breaks out into a smile. "Oye," he says, "I can plan things out very well." 

 

Sarawat shakes his head. "Do you remember the trip you planned during our third year?" 

 

Tine flushes red, looking down at his feet. "Okay, I can plan things out but it's not my fault if I can't follow them," he mutters. 

 

"It is exactly your fault if you can't follow them," Sarawat lazily stirs his coffee, taking a sip out of it. Tine catches his eye and smiles a little. 

 

"You were the only one who bothered following all the activities that I'd planned that day." 

 

Sarawat hums. "You'd put in the effort." 

 

"And you'd forced Oak to follow it too," he says. The crunch of the paper resulting from Tine gripping the paper too tight forces Sarawat to look at him. Tine frowns, smoothening the paper out. 

 

Sarawat doesn't say anything for a while. "Sorry," Tine says looking up, "should I not have mentioned him?" 

 

Sarawat shifts in his chair, looking outside the window again. He sighs, meeting Tine's apologetic gaze. "I don't mind. It's been a long time since I've thought of him, actually."

 

"I never knew what happened," Tine says. "One day he was hanging out with us and the other he was not." 

 

Sarawat looks up at Tine, "I started liking someone else and realised that it wasn't fair to Oak. So I told him and broke it off," he says. 

 

Tine snorts and then covers his mouth. " You liked someone else?" 

 

Sarawat looks at him, wishing for his eyes to convey – Yes! It was you! – in big neon lights. However, he just sighs. "Yes." 

 

Tine hums in reply. "Did you tell that person that you liked them?" 

 

Sarawat nods his head. "Kind of. But he didn't feel the same." 

 

***

 

"What do you do when you agree to do something stupid that will cause you more harm than good?" Sarawat asks. He's sitting on the window sill, trying to watch the stars on a cloudy night as he hears his brother sigh on the other side of the phone. 

 

"I don't do that," Phukong replies. 

 

"That's just Fong's rationality rubbing off on you. But what would you do without that?" 

 

"...I still won't do it," comes Phukong's reply. Sarawat doesn't say anything, which prompts him to ask, "what did you do?"

 

Sarawat still doesn't answer, only sighing in response. 

 

"It's unlike you to call out of nowhere and talk about things like this." 

 

Sarawat moves his legs so that they dangle off the window sill. "I may have agreed to be Tine's fake boyfriend." 

 

Phukong whistles, "fake boyfriend?" 

 

Sarawat sighs. "Yes."

 

"Oh, brother," he huffs out a laugh. "No wonder you called me. No wonder Fong's been having more conversations with Tine lately."

 

"I should've said no," Sarawat says, a little mournfully.

 

"But you didn't," comes Phukong's voice from his phone. Phukong is kind enough to mention that Sarawat cannot say no to Tine. Sarawat is almost startled as he finds himself losing his train of thought, thinking about Tine, again. "I didn't," he says, rubbing his hand over his face and feeling a little guilty over being openly affectionate with Tine under the guise of pretence. 

 

"Why didn't you?" Phukong asks. 

 

Sarawat thinks about Tine's face when he'd said it. He thinks about how desperately he wanted it to be real , how he wished for it to be true, and how this might be his only chance to live this perfectly construed fantasy. This would be a closure, he reasons. He would get all his affection for him out of his system and then he'll no longer yearn to be with him the way he's always yearned.  

 

"Just being a good friend," Sarawat replies. 

 

Phukong snorts. "I've seen you both in a room together. I've seen you both talk to each other and be around each other. I've seen you work together and live together. Nothing about it has ever screamed friends to me."

 

***

 

The days leading up to the wedding have left Sarawat without any actual time to spend with Tine. All of a sudden, Tine is swamped with work. He leaves way too early and comes home late and exhausted,  too tired to mutter anything but a small "hello." Sarawat, for the first time in his life, misses the beauty of their everyday routine. Tine had always prepared coffee for him in the morning (a sharp contrast from when they were university students). The days Sarawat was at the studio, Tine always came to see him after work. The days Sarawat had a gig, they always ate together before leaving for it. On weekends, they watched stupid movies and ate takeout. On other weekends, they met with their friends. Sarawat has a dull ache in his chest when he realises that it's been a long time since they've done anything in accordance to this unspoken routine. 

 

Hence, when the rare occasion to spend time with Tine pops up, Sarawat grabs it with the desperation of a dying man. He just didn't expect the opportunity to include walking in the glaring sun. He glances at Tine. At least Tine made it better. 

 

The late January sun only seems gentle when it's pouring through their condo windows, Sarawat thinks as he squints up to the sun. Sarawat can't help but selfishly wish that they were home, watching a movie and eating takeout until they both pass out. 

 

"Online shopping is a thing, Tine," Sarawat says for the millionth time, his voice almost coming out in a whine. 

 

"We are leaving in four days, Wat," Tine says. 

 

"One-day delivery, Tine." 

 

"Cannot fully rely on them. Besides, we can practice right now." 

 

"Practice?" Sarawat asks, suspicion lacing his tone. 

 

Tine nods fervently before stepping forward and smoothing out his forehead with his thumb. "Don't look at me like that. We need to practice." 

 

Sarawat blinks. "Oh?"

 

Tine nods. "We can act like a couple. It makes it more believable." Tine walks a bit faster and then stops, looking at Sarawat expectedly. 

 

Sarawat shakes his head in confusion and Tine pointedly looks at his own hand that is held out for –

 

Oh. 

 

"Do you want me to hold it?" Sarawat asks, his heart thudding with anticipation. 

 

Tine sighs and clasps his hand with Sarawat's. Sarawat's head spins again and he stops himself from remarking something cheesy like oh look, our hands fit perfectly. 

 

(They did, but that wasn't the point.) 

 

(Sarawat wanted to keep holding his hand forever.) 

 

"Practice," Tine says as they begin walking together. "If I'm dating someone, I will always hold their hand, no matter what." 

 

"How many people have you dated, exactly?" Sarawat asks, holding their hands tighter. 

 

" Loads ," Tine haughtily mutters and they wait to cross the road. 

 

Tine must see something on Sarawat's face which is why he says, "I have been on dates with people, I have dated some other people. You know this." 

 

"I do know that,” Sarawat says. “I was just curious," he says, tugging their arms forward as they walk across the road. 

 

Tine sighs. "I haven't, ever --," he squints into the afternoon sun “-- you know, seriously dated someone”. "I mean there have been people I've dated for more than a while, but it's all faded away into nothing." 

 

"How come?" Sarawat asks. 

 

Tine shrugs, avoiding eye-contact. "It just didn’t work out." 

 

Sarawat decides to leave the topic then. They walk in silence, their clasped hands swinging between them until they reach the mall. Sarawat pulls him into the cool air-conditioning and almost groans. 

 

"We are catching a cab back home," Sarawat sighs. "The heat is killing me. You won't make your boyfriend walk all the way back, would you?" 

 

Tine mutters something under his breath, and only shakes his head in response. Sarawat's heart tugs at the small smile on Tine's lips.

 

***

 

If Sarawat had any semblance of self-preservation, he'd back out from being Tine's fake boyfriend simply because how easy it feels to slide into the role of one. If he wasn't so distracted by Tine's presence in general, he would've been shocked at how easy it is to vicariously stay true to his feelings for him. They walk around the mall, hand in hand, only to not hold hands when they're trying out different clothes. 

 

Every time Tine comes out with a different floral shirt and a different pair of shorts, Sarawat has to hold back how he actually feels when he sees Tine in them. Tine looks radiant in everything he wears but seeing him in outright floral shirts takes everything from Sarawat to not look at him with blatant affection. Tine ends up buying more shirts than necessary. Sarawat, on the contrary, buys plain cotton shirts and tank-tops, choosing comfort over whatever beach fashion tips Tine was spewing. 

 

"You can't wear tank-tops in front of my family," Tine whines as Sarawat pays for both their clothes. "This is a PG-13 wedding." 

 

Sarawat only quirks his eyebrows. "I don't think wearing a tank-top is something that is not PG-13, Tine," he says. "I am not going to roam around without a shirt, nuisance. That sight is only reserved for my boyfriend ."

 

Sarawat sees the red creeping up on Tine's face and all he wants to do is kiss his cheeks. 

 

"Of course it isn't," Tine says, his expression now guarded. "You can wear whatever you want, just don't scar my baby nephews and nieces." 

 

Sarawat leans in, "Oh don't worry, that's only reserved for you, sweetheart ."

 

Tine's looking at him, wide-eyed and flustered and Sarawat grins in response. Just because Tine perceives it as fake-flirting doesn't mean that Sarawat can't real-flirt. 

 

Sarawat takes his card from the cashier and holds Tine's hands again. 

 

Tine is uncharacteristically quiet as they walk towards the home appliances shop.  

 

"Should I not have said that?" Sarawat asks after a while.

 

Tine's eyes are still wide as he hesitantly shakes his head. "No, no," he smiles. "You can call me whatever you want." He pauses and whispers, " darling."  

 

Sarawat's face feels hot. "Hm, I don't like that," Sarawat says. He does. Tine could call Sarawat anything with that bit of affection and it would only take him a minute to physically melt. 

 

"What should I call you then, love ?" Tine asks. 

 

Sarawat does not think his face can get any hotter than it is. "Whatever you want to call me, sweetheart ." 

 

Tine flushes again and leaves his hand, going ahead to skim through the various coffee machines. 

 

"Do you want to buy this one, my love ?" Sarawat asks. 

 

Tine sighs, rubbing his face with his free hand. "You're going to take every opportunity to tease me, aren't you?" 

 

Teasing is a just a thinly veiled excuse for Sarawat's blatant declaration of affection. "No," Sarawat says, "I am just practising how to be a good boyfriend." 

 

That very moment and the way Tine's looking at him right now prompts Sarawat to do something stupid. He raises their intertwined hands and softly kisses Tine's hand, while not breaking eye-contact. Tine's hand is so soft , he thinks. There's nothing about him that isn't gentle. 

 

Tine keeps looking at their hands, his lips parted and meets Sarawat's eyes. He looks conflicted. He breaks eye contact and Sarawat raises his head. 

 

"I should've asked before I did that," Sarawat mutters. 

 

Tine looks at him again. "No," he clears his throat. "This is good. It's practice. My brother and his boyfriend are overly-affectionate with each other. So this is good." 

 

Sarawat can't imagine P'Type being affectionate with anyone, but he lets that thought pass because he is too distracted by the blush that has been creeping up on Tine's neck. 

 

"Good," Sarawat echoes. 

 

"Good," Tine confirms. 

 

***

 

Things were not good. Acting as boyfriends meant leaning into each other's personal space. He kept thinking of Tine's dates and whether he was physically affectionate with them the way Tine is right now. His head is on Sarawat's shoulder as he leans impossibly close to Sarawat on their shared seat. His hair tickles Sarawat's neck but that doesn't stop Sarawat from pulling him even closer. 

 

"Are you not going to eat?" he asks, pointing at the half-eaten food. 

 

Tine peers at Sarawat, "I am going to eat, but I'm just taking a break." 

 

"A break," Sarawat echoes. "From food?" 

 

Tine nods his head. "I'm full now but I can eat it after a while." 

 

Sarawat, who has lived through Tine's food-related fancies and whims for four years only snickers in response. He can't help but pull his cheek. Tine swats his hand. "Fuck off." 

 

"Hey! I am your boyfriend . Show me some love," Sarawat says, taking a sip of Tine's Blue Hawaii. 

 

Tine sits up to snatch his drink from Sarawat's hands, only to lean back into Sarawat to resume eating his food. 

 

"We should click pictures," he says, stuffing the noodles in his mouth. 

 

"Like couple-y pictures," he emphasises. "I do have pictures with you dated a year back but nothing in between and you don't upload pictures of yourself." 

 

Sarawat ponders for a minute, takes his phone out and snaps a picture of Tine mid-chew. 

 

Tine looks appalled by the picture, despite not seeing it. He looks at Sarawat in a way that he sure thinks is threatening. "No. If you love me, you won't upload it." His cheeks are puffed and Sarawat wants to do something embarrassing, like coo at how adorable he looks.

 

Instead, he only ruffles Tine's hair. "I will upload it because I love you." 

 

Tine can only look in horror as Sarawat opens his Instagram. Tine hurriedly places his chopsticks down. Anticipating what Tine would do next, Sarawat shifts a little to the other end of the table and stretches his hand so it's out of Tine's reach. Tine only holds Sarawat's shoulder down as he stretches his other arm to get Sarawat's phone from his hand.

 

"Give it to me," Tine grits. "I will not have you ruining my reputation." 

 

"Oh-ho," Sarawat says, trying to hold the phone a bit higher. "What reputation?" 

 

"Ai Wat," Tine holds Sarawat's shoulder down even more as he tries capturing his phone. "Give it to me." 

 

"No, sweetheart ," Sarawat grins. Just then, Tine decides to stand up but ends up miscalculating his step because suddenly, Sarawat lands on his back on the seat with half of Tine's body on Sarawat and the other half, almost off the seat. 

 

Sarawat feels his breath catch in his throat as he looks at Tine, up close. All of his words die in his throat as he peers up to Tine. Tine is looking down at him with wide eyes, his gaze captivating. Sarawat can't look away.  All of his senses are encapsulated by Tine. He can't look anywhere but him. He can't smell anything but Tine's citrus perfume. He can't hear anything beyond his own fast heartbeats caused by Tine. He can't feel anything but Tine's hand on his shoulder, his other hand on Sarawat's wrist, and his entire torso on Sarawat. 

 

Sarawat feels hot all over as he gazes at Tine's lips. Something claws in his stomach. Tine is so close, he muses. Tine breaks eye contact only to gaze into his lips again. Sarawat is about to close the distance when memories flash before his eyes and he breaks eye contact, looking sideways and clearing his throat. Tine scrambles to stand up, almost falling down if not for Sarawat holding him by his waist and hoisting him so he successfully sits upright. 

 

Tine chuckles nervously. "Thank god we weren't sitting on the chairs, huh? You can post it, by the way, it's just a picture, it's okay," he says, taking a deep breath and diligently getting back to his food. Sarawat was getting the feeling that it wasn't okay.

 

"I'd rather not," he says, taking a minute to compose himself, still trying to wrap his head around what had just transpired. There's red creeping up Tine's cheeks again. Sarawat takes a deep breath and says, "My boyfriend being this cute is only reserved for my eyes." 

 

*** 

 

"You're digging yourself a bigger grave, phi," Phukong says the next evening.

 

Sarawat balances his phone on one ear as he folds his clothes. "I know," he sighs. 

 

Despite the entire fiasco, things seemed to fall back into routine today, his work finally not overburdening him the way it had been. But things between them seemed a little tense since yesterday when the frightful Tine-falling-on-him-and-them-almost-kissing-in-public event happened. Things were decidedly not tense enough because Tine blatantly asked for them to  cuddle together tonight while watching an anime. 

 

"It'll only make the physical affection more realistic in front of them," Tine had said. When Sarawat had not looked convinced, Tine pulled his arm and settled himself in it. "We only have three more days to practice, Wat." 

 

Sarawat had only extended his arm to gather Tine as he lay his head on Sarawat's chest. Sarawat's hand naturally drifted to Tine's hair as he started playing with it. Tine's hair was so soft . Tine had only sighed deeply as he got closer to him. Sarawat could no longer concentrate on the anime. 

 

As they departed for bed, out of whim, Sarawat had kissed Tine's forehead. He had heard Tine's breath stutter as he liked at him with wide eyes. "For practice," Sarawat had said. 

 

"As hard as it is, maybe you can just tell him how you feel. Ask him to go a little easy on you." 

 

"What's the point? He doesn't feel the same," Sarawat sighs, sitting on the bed. 

 

"You've never talked to him about that, though. You can't make this decision for him," Phukong says. 

 

He thinks about Tine dating someone the day after Sarawat almost confessed to him. He thinks about their graduation day. How much evidence is enough evidence? "He's expressed so himself." 

 

Phukong is quiet on the other side of the call for a little while before sighing. "Is that why you drifted away from him?" he asks quietly. 

 

Sarawat hums. 

 

"What happened?" Phukong asks. 

 

Sarawat would rather not think about that day again so he just hums again, before saying, "nothing really."

 

"You can tell me whenever you want," his brother says. "Now tell me, are you done packing?" 

 

***

 

Around three months ago, Sarawat had responded to the only housing advertisement in the newspaper that hadn't seemed shady. To be fair, Phukong had been the one to tell him about it. The two-bedroom condo was located in close proximity to all the bars that he performed at but wasn't too close to the crowded areas of Bangkok.  

 

"You will have another roommate with you," the landlady had said, showing him around the place. "He is a nice young man, very respectful and kind. He is a lawyer and his office is nearby. He is stopping by today so you both can get to know each other." 

 

Sarawat had nodded and prayed that his roommate wasn't someone he would instantly dislike. If Sarawat had all the money in the world, he would have no roommates. But when he met his future-roommate, he came to a contradictory conclusion.

 

His breath had hitched as he saw Tine again, after almost a year of not seeing him. He hadn't looked any different, but there was a prominent difference in the way he carried himself and the way he dressed. 

 

Tine had looked surprised to see Sarawat there. But then he'd smiled. God, had Sarawat missed his smile. He had missed him. 

 

They'd moved in together and somehow the reason why Sarawat actively drifted apart seemed irrelevant. He got to be close to Tine again. And that was enough. 

 

***

 

A knock startles Sarawat from his thoughts. "Come in," he says immediately. After checking the time, Sarawat concludes that they had six hours before they had to get up to catch their flight. He switches on the lamp and sits up. 

 

The door opens and Tine saunters in yawning, his hair ruffled.

 

Sarawat instinctively makes space for Tine on his bed, patting the space beside him. "Can't sleep?" he asks as Tine shifts his pillow and his blanket. He looks distressed. 

 

Tine shakes his head and shuffles in. "Do you mind?" he asks after he settles in. 

 

"I'd never mind, Tine," Sarawat sincerely says, settling in his bed too. Sarawat knows that Tine is a heavy sleeper but some nights he just can't sleep. He remembers those quiet, sleepless nights when they were both still university students and how Tine used to always seek comfort in listening to Sarawat play the guitar. He leans across Tine and gets his phone from the side-table. Slowly, Scrubb's songs fill the silence.

 

Tine looks at Sarawat, smiling softly. "You remembered." 

 

Sarawat scoffs. As if he could ever forget anything Tine tells him. "I remember everything about you, Tine." 

 

Tine almost looks fond in the dim lights of the room.

 

Sarawat shuffles and starts running his fingers through Tine's hair. "Do you want to talk about it?" 

 

He hears Tine sigh as he leans into Sarawat's touch inching closer to Sarawat. "Are you sure you're okay with coming tomorrow and pretending to be my boyfriend?" Tine asks. 

 

"Of course, I am," Sarawat automatically says. There isn't much pretence involved anyway. He just has to prepare for the day that this ends. 

 

Tine turns towards Sarawat, his hands resting on the very little space between them. Sarawat continues running his fingers through Tine’s hair. 

 

"I can tell them that you're sick. Or that a big project has come up and you have to stay here. I–" 

 

Tine cuts himself off and peers up to Sarawat again. 

 

"I don't want to force you into something like this. I realised how forceful I was being and god, I'm so stupid . I should've thought of this before I told mom your name. But I didn't." 

 

Tine's voice is so small that all Sarawat wants to do is gather Tine in his arms and never let go. Instead, he rests his other arm on Tine's shoulder. "I don't mind, Tine. You're not stupid and you're definitely not forcing me." 

 

Tine takes a deep breath. "Are you sure?" 

 

Sarawat nods. "I am. I would tell you if I am uncomfortable." 

 

Tine nods in reply as he shifts again, lying flat on his back. 

 

Sarawat can deal with his messy feelings later. But for now – 

 

"Turn around," he says. 

 

"Huh?" 

 

Sarawat sighs. "Turn around. Let me hold you while you sleep." 

 

Tine pauses. "You want to spoon me?" 

 

Sarawat hopes the dark is enough to hide his sheepish grin. "For practice ." 

 

"For practice." Tine mindlessly repeats. 

 

"Nuisance, turn around and let me cuddle with you. You were the one who said that this will ease our physical interactions or whatever." 

 

"Or whatever," Tine echoes but does what Sarawat says. Sarawat simply chooses to ignore how well Tine's body fits into his and circles his arm around Tine, still running his fingers through Tine's hair. It's an awkward angle, but he doesn't want to stop running his hands through his hair because he can feel Tine relaxing in his arms. Tine envelopes Sarawat's other arm with his own and silently intertwines their fingers together. 

 

"Good night, nuisance." 

 

Tine visibly relaxes in his arms and snuggles a little closer. He feels the faint ghost of Tine's lips on his bicep. "Good night, asshole." 

 

***

 

The dull ringing of the alarm clock wakes Sarawat from the best sleep of his life. He ignores it and when it doesn't stop ringing, reluctantly removes his hands from Tine's waist to shut it down. Instead of waking up, he huddles even further into the warm presence next to him. He feels Tine curl up more, as he nestles against Tine's neck. He slowly opens his eyes, immediately met with a tousled mass of brown hair and Sarawat can't help but press his lips against Tine's hair. The first rays of sunlight are peeking in through his heavy curtains and Sarawat eyes Tine, who is still in his arms. He is struck with the sudden realisation that he never wants to let him go. He holds him a little closer, resting his chin on the nape of Tine's neck. His heart feels light and warm. 

 

He is struck with a second, sudden realisation that he is absolutely, positively fucked because he cannot imagine a morning that doesn't include waking next to him. He kisses Tine's shoulders and hears Tine groan. Years of sleepovers resulting in waking next to each other makes him well acquainted with how he sounds right before he wakes up. 

 

"Morning, Tine," he greets Tine in a whisper as he turns around in his arms. He faces Sarawat now, putting his arm around Sarawat's waist and pulling him closer. His breath hitches in his throat as he feels Tine's fingers twist around his t-shirt. He pushes his hair away from his forehead and this movement is enough to make Tine stir once more as he blearily opens his eyes, directly peering at Sarawat. Sarawat tries to smile, his brain refusing to function at such close proximity from Tine. Tine, on the other hand, breaks out in a grin. "Good morning," he says, his voice hoarse. He makes no move to get up, but instead, nuzzles his neck. 

 

He feels Tine's absence before Tine actually scrambles away from him – his body doing rigid and his breath hitching as his eyes open wide. He breaks away from Sarawat, sitting up and gasping. 

 

"Sorry!" he exclaims, ruffling his hair up even further. He looks anguished, guilty even and Sarawat's heart breaks a little more. Sorry was farthest from what he wanted to hear. His stomach drops as he sees Tine avoiding eye contact.

 

"It's okay, nuisance," Sarawat says, sitting up too. "Let's go. We have a long day ahead of us."