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anywhere i go (there you are)

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Perhaps leaving the wedding ceremony to find your fake boyfriend some paracetamol, extra-strong coffee, and exceptionally greasy food because he complained about being hungover  once  was a little excessive. However, Tine's face when Sarawat pulled him to the stairwell just to eat the food that they should’ve eaten in the morning was worth it. 

 

"You did not have to do that," Tine says, wincing at the coffee. "That is bitter," he grumbles. 

 

Sarawat sighs, leaning against the stairs that they were sitting on. "You are hungover and  hungry." 

 

Tine bites into his sausage and egg muffin. "But," he says with his mouth full, "lunch is in an hour anyway," comes his muffled reply. His cheeks are still puffed up because of the big bite that he had taken and Sarawat's heart bursts at just how adorable he looks.

 

Sarawat pats his head. "We couldn't even have a proper breakfast because we slept in. I have to take care of my boyfriend, don't I?" 

 

Tine grumbles, nudging Sarawat with his elbow. "Shut up," he mutters and subsequently groans. "I can't believe we slept in. My excuse is that I was drunk. But what is your excuse?" 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders. "I was so comfortable cuddling with you that I did not want to wake up." 

 

Tine grins as he bites into the muffin. "There's no one here. You don't  have  to flirt with me."

 

"Oh, but I  want  to flirt with you regardless," Sarawat says. His heart does something funny at Tine still smiling at him. It was quite unfair that he looked ethereal despite getting a five-hour sleep and being clearly hungover.

 

"It was the best sleep I've had in a while," Sarawat says, seeing how far he can stretch this. 

 

Tine slowly nods his head and sips his coffee, his ears red. “Same,” he replies. 

 

Sarawat puts his arm around Tine's neck, pulling him closer. "We should sleep beside each other even after this ends," he whispers, ignoring his heart racing in his chest. Last night has made him braver. 

 

Tine is rigid for a second before Sarawat can feel his tentative nod. 

 

"Wait, really?" Sarawat asks, pulling away from Tine. 

 

Nodding, Tine says, "why not? Friends cuddle all the time, don't they? Besides, it is nice. Sleeping like that." 

 

"It is nice," Sarawat confirms. "It is like we were meant to sleep together." 

 

Tine looked so resigned that if it wasn't for the small smile on his lips, Sarawat would've believed him. "Shut up," he mumbles. 

 

Just then, Tine's phone lights up with a message. Frowning, he says, "The Rod Nam Sang ceremony is starting now, we've to get back."  

 

"Let's go," Sarawat says, standing up and extending his hand to where Tine is sitting. Tine takes his hand and groans. "I don't want to do this." 

 

Sarawat smiles, gently holding Tine's cheek and grazing his cheekbone. "One more day and it is over." 

 

Tine looks alarmed before he slowly nods. "One more day."

 

***

 

"You really can't stop looking at him, huh?" 

 

Startled, Sarawat jerks his head in the direction of the voice, smiling lightly as P'Ton sits beside him. 

 

“Are you having fun?” P’Ton asks. 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders in response. “It is fun being here with Tine,” he admits. 

 

“But without him?” 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders again. If it was under his control, there would never be a moment that he spent away from Tine. 

 

“Ah, young love,” P’Ton wistfully sighs. 

 

Sarawat smiles at that, letting the comfortable silence stretch between them. He tries not to think about how this comes to an end tomorrow. He tries not to think about how he will have to go back to pretending that he doesn’t love Tine. (He fails miserably.)

 

A part of Sarawat wishes to tell Tine just how much he loves him. He knows that if Tine did know, he wouldn’t break their friendship over it. A part of Sarawat sometimes thinks that Tine does actually return his affections. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but sometimes, it is the way Tine looks at him or says something that cannot be construed as anything but flirting. He thinks more about the possibility of Tine actually returning his feelings. This seems more probable after last night, for some reason. It no longer feels fictional despite the possibility of Tine simply being nice to him.  

 

A part of Sarawat knows that it is too wishful to even think that Tine would return his feelings. Tine is so  nice.  He is nice to everyone -- he does not have a mean bone in his body. He is the kind of nice that will put the snails on the sidewalk when it rains so people don’t step on them. So Tine is probably just being nice to Sarawat as well. Another part of Sarawat just doesn’t want to ruin the dynamic that they do have -- the one that they’re both comfortable with. He is happy with loving Tine from afar. 

 

But, when he thinks about Tine being in love with someone else, nausea coils in his stomach. That thought makes him want to tell Tine just how much he loves him only to ask him to spare a chance. It is not fair to Tine, he thinks. None of this is fair to Tine. He deserves to know despite the consequences of the knowledge that would be with Tine. But Sarawat has always been selfish when it comes to his feelings so he keeps it inside and drowns these thoughts with whatever he can. 

 

After a while, P'Ton asks, "When did you realise that you loved him?" 

 

A soft smile laces Sarawat's lips. "I cannot pinpoint a single moment that I realised it, you know? I think it built up over time." 

 

When P'Ton doesn't reply, Sarawat continues, "I was infatuated with him when I first saw him. I never expected to be his friend." Hastily, he adds, "and now his boyfriend. I just always thought that I'd keep liking him from afar."

 

P'Ton thoughtfully nods. "Why did you wait so long to tell him?" 

 

Sarawat turns away from P'Ton. What could he say? That he was completely alright with admiring him fro afar? That he was enamoured by Tine to such an extent that he was (and still is) okay with not telling him how he feels because he doesn't want to lose him? That despite Tine not feeling the same for him, he just wants to be by Tine's side as long as Tine would have him?

 

So, he sighs and says, "I thought that he deserved to know." 

 

P'Ton nods. "If we love someone, we tell them because they deserve to know," he asserts with a glint in his eyes. 

 

Sarawat looks at him in confusion before slowly nodding. 

 

“And you clearly love N’Tine,” P’Ton says. 

 

Sarawat chuckles, looking away from him only to see Tine animatedly talking with his parents. “I think you’re the only close relative that Tine has who hasn’t questioned my love for Tine.” 

 

P’Ton sighs. “Anyone can see that you’re in love with him. But I must come clean.” 

 

Sarawat moves his gaze away from Tine and looks at P’Ton who looks a little guilty. “What?” 

 

“I know that your dating is a ruse,” he admits. 

 

Sarawat can barely move for a moment. 

 

"Ha!" Sarawat exclaims, a second too late. "You're funny, I will give you that." 

 

P'Ton only sighs, sipping his drink. 

 

"P'Ton, of course, we are!" he exclaims. P'Ton still doesn't look convinced. Excelling at social skills was certainly not why Sarawat was chosen as Tine's fake date and he desperately wishes for Tine to appear right this instant. 

 

"We  are  dating!" 

 

P’Ton rolls his eyes. “You two aren’t exactly as discreet as you want to be.” He then leans in and stage-whispers, “If there is a next time, which I sincerely hope there isn’t, talking about your super important plan to fool everyone into thinking that you’re dating should not be discussed in a public restroom without checking if someone is in the stalls.” 

 

He turns to P’Ton who looks completely okay with this information that he suddenly put upon Sarawat. “What?” he whispers, shell-shocked. 

 

Realising that there is no way of getting out of this, Sarawat slumps his shoulders. "I can't believe you know," he mutters, at last, rubbing his face with his hand. 

 

P'Ton hums. "I know," he says. 

 

"Does P'Type know?" Sarawat asks. 

 

P'Ton slowly shakes his head. "I hate that I am technically lying to him. So I won't tell him until I am convinced that he won't tell his mother. I  also  know that you both must have a very good explanation for why such drastic measures were to be taken. So, I don't want to meddle." 

 

Sarawat nods his head. "Thank you, but don't worry about lying to him, P'Ton, we will be breaking up soon anyway," he says, bitterness creeping up his tone. 

 

"I highly doubt that," P'Ton says. "You love him, don't you?" 

 

Sarawat scoffs. "It is all pretence, isn't it?" 

 

P'Ton raises his eyebrows. "Is it?" 

 

Sarawat's eyes follow Tine. Merely looking at him makes him feel things that no one has ever made him feel. He slowly shakes his head. 

 

P'Ton nudges him with his elbow. "You should tell him that." 

 

Sarawat tears his eyes away from where Tine stood to look at P'Ton. "He deserves to know, doesn't he?" 

 

***

 

"To be fair, I was the one who first suggested that you talk to him," Boss pouts on the other side of his screen.

 

Man playfully smacks him. "A rare insightful moment from you and suddenly you think that you are the king of insight." 

 

"You love me anyway," Boss says, looping his arm around Man. 

 

"I do," Man sighs and Sarawat has to exasperatedly sigh. "Guys." 

 

They turn towards him. "Right. So are you planning on telling him?" 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders. "I have everything to lose if I do tell him." 

 

Man frowns. "So you are not telling him?" 

 

"But he deserves to know, doesn't he? Especially after all this." 

 

Boss furrows his eyebrows. "Should I load that wikihow page we used in university to help you tell him?" 

 

"Be serious, guys. There is so much on stake here," Sarawat says, glancing at the clock. "I have a mere ten minutes before Tine comes back to the room." 

 

"Hey, if you wanted helpful advice, your brother was the way to go. he is the sensible one out of the four of us," Man shrugs. 

 

Boss, who is now upside down on his chair only nods. "Correct. He is the one who told us that the fake-dating was a bad idea," he says and Man immediately tugs his sleeve. "Aye, Boss!" Man exclaims. 

 

"He is the reason you guys turned against me that day?" Sarawat frowns. "I told him after I told you guys. How did he know?" 

 

Man tilts his neck. "He is dating Fong," he says. "Of course he knew from before." 

 

"But why did he-- ugh, nevermind. That is  not  the point. The point is, do I tell Tine?" 

 

Man and Boss look at each other before shrugging. "You are going to do whatever you want anyway, aren't you?" 

 

Just then the door clicks and Sarawat cuts the call, sitting up, trying to look as unsuspicious as he can. 

 

Tine only looks at him, narrow-eyed, whereas Sarawat looks at him, wide-eyed. 

 

"What?" Tine asks, removing his shoes and coming to sit beside him. 

 

Sarawat shakes his head. "Why did you leave lunch so early?" Tine asks. 

 

Sarawat wiggles his eyebrows. "Why? Did you miss me?"

 

"Who missed you, asshole? I was just wondering where you were." 

 

"Where your other half was, you mean?" 

 

"Oh-ho," Tine groans. "Nevermind. Don't tell me." 

 

"How is my darling's hangover?" he asks. 

 

Tine cheekily says, "My boyfriend took great care of me. So I barely feel the headache now." 

 

"Good," Sarawat says and rests his hand on Tine's shoulder. 

 

When Tine does nothing to push him off, Sarawat clutches Tine's hand. "I was just talking to Man and Boss before you came" he says.

 

Tine nods. Sarawat forces himself to move away from Tine, something similar to anxiety clawing his stomach. 

 

"Uh, by the way, P'Ton knows about this being fake," he says in one breath, gesturing to the space between them. 

 

Tine looks at him, aghast. "What?" 

 

Before Sarawat can reply, Tine stands up, pacing around the floor. "How? What?" he asks again, running his fingers through his hair. 

 

Sarawat walks in front of him, putting his hands on his shoulders. Tine stops pacing and looks at Sarawat, worry lacing his eyes. "What if he--"

 

"He is not going to tell P'Type until he is sure that he won't tell your mother," Sarawat affirms. He pulls him a little closer. "He found out because we were talking about it in the washroom yesterday. And yes, before you ask, I did grovel to make sure that he doesn't reveal anything."  

 

Tine groans and Sarawat pulls him closer until he burrows his face in Sarawat's neck. Sarawat curls his arms around Tine. "We are okay. It is okay," Sarawat reassures and presses a kiss on the side of Tine's head. 

 

Tine freezes before melting in Sarawat's arms, pulling him a little closer. "What do we do now that he knows?" 

 

Sarawat pats the back of Tine's head. "It won't be a problem because he was pretty understanding. If something bad does happen, we will figure it out." 

 

***

 

Sarawat ypu knew abt the fake daitng beofre me telling u 

 

Phukong lol yeah, i live with Fong who is Tine's best friend!

 

Sarawat why did ypy ask man and boss to comvince me othrewise? 

 

Phukong because this would end up hurting you? is it not hurting you?

 

Phukong i should've told you that i knew but, you know, i just wanted to consider what you were doing from the people you tend to listen to. 

 

Sarawat whta am i doin? it will be back to nrmal tomroww

 

Phukong being hurt in the process of all of this, of course. what is 'normal' going to be like tomorrow? 

 

Sarawat sighs. The more he kept trying not to think about tomorrow and what it might be like when they get back to 'normal', the more people around him tried to remind him of it. Truth be told, he couldn't see a day beyond tomorrow, when he is not spending every waking hour telling Tine just how much he loves him. His heart tugs in his chest and he breathes, trying to stifle the thoughts again. 

 

He looks at Tine, who is putting a lot of efforts behind tying his tie. "Do you need help?" Sarawat asks at last. 

 

Tine lets out a long exhale and Sarawat walks up to him before Tine can say anything. "Yes," Tine mutters.

 

Sarawat turns up Tine's collars before settling the necktie properly. "Why didn't you just ask me for help?" 

 

"I didn't want to bother you," he states. 

 

Sarawat snorts in reply. "I am here, pretending to be your boyfriend. If I was going to get bothered by you, it would've started then, not now." 

 

"Aren't you bothered by it, though?" Tine asks. 

 

Sarawat crosses over the ends of the necktie and pulls him closer. Tine stumbles towards him, his eyes widening. "You could never bother me, Tine," Sarawat replies, feeling Tine's gaze on him.

 

When Sarawat meets his gaze, Tine is looking at him with such unabashed fondness that Sarawat's heart skips a beat. Tine blinks and just like that, the look is replaced with something more guarded. "That is good to know," he squeaks.

 

Sarawat only grins, looping the ends of his tie until he ties a knot. Something changes right that instant because Sarawat can feel Tine's avid gaze on his face. Sarawat dares not to look at him, choosing to tug the knot of his tie in place. Sarawat steps closer until what remains between them is enough space to move Sarawat's hands as he holds the knot in place, gently sliding it towards Tine's neck. The intensity of Tine's gaze raises goosebumps on Sarawat's neck. 

 

He looks up, which is a mistake because he suddenly does not know what he should use his hands for. Tine is still looking at him like  that  so Sarawat averts his gaze and decides to focus on lowering Tine's collar. His fingers brush against Tine's neck and Sarawat can see the pink rising up his neck.

 

He slowly smoothens Tine's tie out, his hands lingering on his chest. Tine makes a small noise which forces Sarawat to look at him. Tine's heated gaze meets Sarawat's gaze and he makes the split-second decision to tug his tie toward him. 

 

Tine stumbles, his hand instinctively holding Sarawat's waist. His heart is thumping painfully against his ribs. Even without craning his neck, he'd be able to meet Tine's lips with ease. He takes a deep breath and tries to calm his heart that is ready to jump out and stick by Tine's side. His entire body tingles with awareness. 

 

"Wat," Tine breathes. 

 

There is so much that Sarawat wants to say. He wants to say:  "Hold me closer, Tine."  He wants to ask:  "Can I kiss you?"  He wants to say:  "I love you."  He wants to hold him and breathe in until all he can feel is him and say:  "You are it for me."  He wants to:  just hold him close and keep him there. 

 

However, he just hums in reply, pressing his forehead against Tine's forehead. Tine's smile is dazzling as he tightens his hold. He is so  warm . The air between them, around them, is so malleable to their mood that it almost pushes them closer. 

 

He removes his hand from the back of Tine's neck and curls his finger around a stranded piece of Tine's hair, putting it in place. Tine's eyes flutter close. 

 

Just then, a knock startles them out of the wonderful reverie. Sarawat blinks, snapping out of the daze. Tine slowly pulls away from him and Sarawat wants to do nothing more than pull him close. 

 

"Let's go!" P'Type's voice comes from the other side of the door. Tine sighs but ends up lacing his hands with Sarawat. "Let's go," he repeats.

 

***

 

The reception passes in a similar fashion. They eat, they drink, they laugh, Sarawat holds Tine's hands and kisses his knuckles, his heart yearns for Tine to know just how much he means it, P'Ton looks at him meaningfully, P'Type glares at him, and P'Ploy makes Sarawat miss his mother way too much. Tine keeps exchanging coy smiles with him and Tine's heart feels full.

 

He doesn't leave Tine's side all evening, despite him having to interact with a lot more people than he had to, at the wedding. They congratulate and give P'Faa and P'Pat a gift ( together! ) as real couples do. It is a slippery slope, he realises. It is so easy to imagine them  actually  doing this together. What seemed like a far-fetched possibility doesn't seem that far or that fetched. Sarawat wants to keep feeling like this forever. 

 

"Are you tired?" Tine asks pointing in the direction of the beach, long after the dinner is over. 

 

Tine's face is flushed and his hair a bit ruffled up so Sarawat reaches over to smooth it out. Tine freezes under his touch. Sarawat drops his hand. To his surprise, Tine grabs his hand and grins. 

 

"Not really," Sarawat answers. 

 

"Me neither," he answers and pulls his hand. "Come with me." 

 

Walking on the beach in the middle of the night with the love of his life, under the blanket of a million stars and the gentle light of the moon is something he wants to remember forever. He takes his phone out of the pocket and begins clicking pictures, as many as he can, despite them being not as good. He wants to remember Tine being on his side and how even the gentle, cold breeze could not cool the warmth he feels from where Tine holds him.

 

He thinks about how fortunate he is to be here with Tine. There's no one he'd share this moment with except him.  

 

"What are you thinking about?" Tine asks they sit down on the cold sand, some distance away from the sea. 

 

"You," Sarawat answers truthfully. The blanket of pretence really helps him be more truthful about his feelings with Tine. It is only for tonight, he reasons. After tonight, he won't be able to speak this freely with Tine. 

 

"Me?" Tine has the audacity to ask as if Sarawat can think of anything but him. 

 

"I am always thinking of you, Tine," he mutters. 

 

He doesn't have to look at Tine to know that he is probably shaking his head. But he still looks at him. He always looks at him. In the dull moonlight, Tine looks ethereal. To his surprise, Tine is not shaking his head. Instead, he's looking at him with awe. Sarawat's stomach flips at the truth that seeps between his words. 

 

He fights the urge to cower behind the pretence of him  practising.  Instead, he challenges Tine's gaze with one of his own, too tired to think of the consequences the truth will have upon them. 

 

Tine clears his throat. "That's – uh – that's good to know." 

 

Sarawat grins. "It is?" 

 

Tine groans, looking down at his feet. "We don't have to practice anymore, you know? It gets over tomorrow." 

 

Sarawat tries not to think about it. He has been so used to professing his love for him that he doesn't know how he will go on without doing so. 

 

"Have you thought about all this?" Tine asks. 

 

"About what?" Sarawat asks. 

 

Tine takes a moment before answering him. "Marriage," he says. "Love."

 

Sarawat hums, looking up at the stars. "Yes," he hesitantly mutters. 

 

"P'Faa is only a couple of years older than me," Tine admits. "It is scary to think of myself in her position a couple of years from now." 

 

"You don't have to," Sarawat says. "If you don't want to marry, you know? You don't have to think of yourself in her position." 

 

"But I do," Tine admits. 

 

Sarawat's heart clenches as he says, "oh don't worry, Tine, you will find the person you're meant to be with." 

 

Tine looks at him a beat too long. He opens his mouth to say something only to shut it as he hums in reply. 

 

"I am not worried about that." 

 

"Oh? have you found the person that you're meant to be with, then?" Sarawat asks. 

 

Tine looks at him again, a small smile on his lips. "I don't know." 

 

Sarawat's mind is whirling. "Do you have someone on your mind, then?" he asks. 

 

Tine looks at him and shrugs. "I don't know," he admits. 

 

"You know," Sarawat begins, "if you were actually my boyfriend, I'd serenade you under the stars." 

 

He really shouldn't feel so delighted when Tine reacts the way Sarawat thought he would – looking down at his lap. Sarawat stretches his legs and braces himself against the support of his hands. 

 

"Really?" Tine asks, mirroring his position. 

 

"Really," Sarawat promises. 

 

Tine laughs. "As long as there are no doves involved you can serenade me all you like." 

 

Sarawat hums. "Sure, but for that, you'd actually have to be my boyfriend," he says and then furrows his eyebrows. "Wait, what happened with the doves?" 

 

Tine laughs again. "Long story. Besides, you already did."

 

"Already did what?" Sarawat asks. 

 

"You already serenaded me, Wat," Tine says with a glint in his eyes. 

 

His arms buckle under his weight and he sits up, pulling his knees to his chest. He sinks his feet in the cold sand, now refusing to look at Tine. "Maybe I did," he says. 

 

"That is all that you'd do?" Tine asks. 

 

"If you were actually my boyfriend," Sarawat continues, "I'd hold your hand and kiss you under the stars." 

 

Tine shakes his head, huffing a laugh. He then does something Sarawat never expected him to do. Tine laces their hands together. 

 

Sarawat takes a deep breath. "If you were actually my boyfriend," he whispers, "I'd dance with you here, without the blinding lights and all the people around us." 

 

Tine suddenly gets up and extends his hand towards Sarawat. Sarawat hesitantly looks at the hand and takes it. Tine pulls him up. 

 

"What?" Sarawat whispers. 

 

He places one hand on Sarawat's shoulder and pulls him closer. "Let's dance," he says, unaware of how Sarawat feels a string of warmth being pulled from the pits of his stomach at those words. 

 

"Dance?" Sarawat asks as he puts his hand on Tine's waist. Tine nods and places his head on Sarawat's shoulder again, as they start swaying to the sounds of the ocean. 

 

Sarawat is dimly aware that there's no music but with Tine clouding all of his senses, he just doesn't seem to care. 

 

"What else?" Tine asks, swaying with him. "What else would you do if I were your actual boyfriend?" 

 

Sarawat blinks at the straightforward question. "What else would I do?" he asks. Tine nods, his chin digging in his shoulder.   Everything.

 

For a second, Sarawat’s mind is completely blank. His words betray him. At this moment, Sarawat wishes that he were an eloquent speaker, finding words that aptly adorn his feelings to the extent of accurately presenting it to Tine. He wishes he had the words and the vigour to explain just  what  he would do and just  how much  he feels for him. 

 

"I would do anything for you," he answers truthfully. His emotions are brimming out of his heart and he needs to control them before he says something he can't take back. "I'd never pass up a single opportunity to remind you how much I love you," he says again.  I would never let you go.  "I'd spend my entire life loving you, supporting you with every bit of strength I have." His heart clenches in his chest as he bites his tongue, hoping he doesn't reveal just how much he  wants  to do that. 

 

Tine's gasp raises goosebumps on Sarawat's neck. He can feel Tine's body going rigid. Tine's face no longer rests on his shoulder but instead is so,  very  close. Tine's hands circle his neck as he pulls him even closer than they were. Sarawat's free hand rests on Tine's waist. 

 

"What else?" he whispers as the night blurs around them. 

 

He glances at his lips before looking back at him. "I'd kiss you everywhere, from your face to your shadow," he murmurs, at last, his voice so soft that it could've been carried away with the wind. "I'd kiss you until we're both breathless until I know nothing but how your lips feel against mine." 

 

Tine only shifts closer, his gaze on Sarawat's lips before he looks up. Every second that passes between them is tantalising. He feels a bit intoxicated under the intensity of his gaze. Sarawat can feel his breath turning shallow. 

 

"You would?" Tine whispers.

 

Sarawat can only nod his head in reply, his eyes darting back at his lips.

 

Tine's eyes snap up. Sarawat can feel the short breaths puffing out of Tine's mouth when he says, "Kiss me, then," he says, leaning forward until his face is millimetres apart. Sarawat can only look up in surprise. His heart skips a beat. Tine's eyes are sure and for the first time, Sarawat feels himself faltering. 

 

"Kiss me," he repeats, his voice a little urgent, a little louder.

 

Sarawat takes a shuddering breath, leans forward, and presses their lips together. 

 

***

Sarawat does not remember much of his graduation party, but he remembers this -- 

 

He remembers clinging onto Tine’s side the entire night. He remembers drinking to the point of blackout, he remembers waking up on Tine’s shoulder as their entire group made their way to Boss and Man’s house. He remembers poking Tine’s cheek and calling him pretty. He remembers Tine swatting his hand but patting his head throughout the car ride. 

 

He remembers waking again in the early hours of the morning, this time, almost sober, only to find Tine in the kitchen. Tine’s tipsiness had been wearing off at this time. He remembers shamelessly flirting with Tine thinking that Tine perceiving him as being drunk would be the perfect cover because he could just deny all of this happening. 

 

Tine was teasing him back that night, he remembers. He was way more touchy than he had ever been. He remembers thinking, ‘ fuck it’   when he catches him looking at his lips for the tenth time that night. He remembers asking Tine if he can kiss him. Tine had said yes suddenly, Tine’s mouth was on his. 

 

Tine had reciprocated Sarawat’s enthusiasm, his hands clutching Sarawat’s shirt as Sarawat’s mouth greedily chased Tine’s. He remembers thinking, this is what kissing the one you love feels like . He didn’t want this moment to end, ever. But it had and Tine’s expression had left a bitter taste in his mouth. 

 

“We can’t,” Tine had apologetically said. The freezing hands of despair had gripped Sarawat’s heart. 

 

“I am sorry,” Tine had hastily muttered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he had said, getting up from his place. The weight of the cold dread in Sarawat’s stomach had kept him seated on spot. “Fuck. I shouldn’t have done that,” he had heard Tine say. Tine kept saying a lot, but the only thing that Sarawat could hear under everything that he said was,  I don’t like you like that.  He’d felt Tine’s hands clutching his shoulder. “I am sorry. I knew that you were drunk and yet I --” 

 

“I am sorry, Wat,” he’d said and left him alone on the sofa. 

 

He'd remembered pretending that he was too drunk to actually remember what had transpired the night before. He had remembered making a decision to stay away until the memories of that night seemed like a distant dream. He’d stayed away for eleven whole months until Tine turned up again and until he’d found it impossible to stay away from him again. 

 

***

 

The faint memories that Sarawat had of Tine kissing him did not do justice to the actual reality of Tine kissing him. Tine’s lips slide against his with perfection, as if kissing is something they’d always done. Sarawat brings his hands to cup Tine’s cheeks from where they had been resting and Tine grips Sarawat’s hair. Sarawat can’t think beyond  oh my god, Tine is kissing him  and  oh my god, Tine’s lips fit perfectly against his.

 

They break apart to breathe until Tine looks at him with a similar expression as he had, all those months before. “Do you want to stop?” Sarawat asks before Tine can say anything that would only break his heart. 

 

Tine shakes his head. “Sorry,” he says, “ Sorry, I got carried away and we should probably --” 

 

“Tine,” Sarawat says again. He feels Tine shiver a little until he pulls him closer, their forehead almost touching. “Do  you  want to stop?” 

 

Tine shakes his head. Sarawat nods and presses their lips together again. 

 

Sarawat doesn’t know just how long they spend kissing each other under the moonlight. He spends every passing moment trying to memorise how Tine’s lips feel against his and how good his fingers feel in his hair. 

 

Tine breaks away again. He rests his head against Sarawat’s head and lets out a breathy chuckle. Tine’s eyes are glossy as he smiles at Sarawat. Hope blooms inside his chest. Maybe, there is a possibility that Tine likes him too. 

 

“We should --” A pause. Tine closes his eyes and opens them again, the gloss clearing out. “We should go back. It is getting late.” 

 

Sarawat nods. He is too afraid to speak right now, fearing that his words will break the tender moment that they shared. They walk back, their hands laced together and Sarawat can’t help but goofily grin at Tine. Tine smiles back. 

 

Sarawat’s heart is pounding in his chest as he looks at Tine properly, in the bright lights of their room. His face is still flushed and his hair's a little ruffled up. Sarawat extends his arm to flatten it. 

 

“Uh-,” Tine mutters, at last, breaking the silence in the room. "I should-- we should, you know," he mumbles. 

 

Sarawat nods his head, giving Tine his space to speak whatever he wanted. 

 

Tine doesn't say anything and Sarawat tries finding his voice. His heart was bursting with anticipation. Tine keeps looking at the floor and then back at him, not saying anything. Sarawat tries smiling at him and then, just like that, Tine's expression morphs into something akin to disappointment. 

 

Sarawat's heart drops in his stomach and he braces for what Tine is going to say even before he opens his mouth. 

 

“This was for practice, yeah?” he mutters, his head hanging low. Sarawat’s mouth gapes open. 

 

Practice?  He wants to scream. But no voice comes out. 

 

Tine then looks at Sarawat, his expression schooled and says, “don’t worry about it, okay? You are still one of my best friends and this probably won’t happen again until we have to prove it to someone.” His laugh feels forced. Sarawat wants to tell him so many things at that moment. He wants to tell him that he actually wanted to kiss him. That he is so stupidly in love with him that he thinks about nothing else but him. His head hangs low. Tine’s stance would not change even if he told him that and so he doesn’t. He does not want to make this trip more awkward than it has to be. Before Sarawat can even muster a reply, Tine has disappeared into the bathroom. 

 

Once, when he was very young, his mother had taken him ice-skating. Sarawat could not ice-skate to save his life. He had still tried, not wanting to disappoint his mother. He kept holding on to the rails for his dear life. His mother kept encouraging him to let go and ice-skate all by himself. Trusting his mother, he had let go, only to fall face flat on the ice rink. For a moment, he had felt no pain -- he had felt nothing for a while, shock slowly clawing its way up to his throat. Nausea had settled in his stomach as he tried to sit up, his vision blurring. He only seemed to slip further, his head hitting the ice rink once again. He had felt cold all over. The pain had settled in moments later -- the pain so intense that was felt in his entire body. That pain, Sarawat thinks as the hot water hits his back, was nothing compared to the hollowness and pain in his chest right now. 

 

When he emerges out of the shower, he finds Tine fast asleep. His heart feels heavy and he wants to sleep for a really long time. He has to somehow be okay with the fact that Tine will never see him the way Sarawat sees him. He somehow has to learn to not take every chance to ruin whatever it is that he has with Tine. 

 

***

 

Their story was something like this -- Sarawat, straight out of high school had been dragged to a Scrubb concert. A boy with a warm honey smile stumbled on him. Sarawat couldn’t get that boy out of his head for over a year. Sarawat was comfortable liking him from afar but all of a sudden, after a fateful night at a local bar, Tine was everywhere he went. He couldn’t possibly avoid him -- their friend circles merged into one. There was nowhere to run from the magnitude of what he made him feel. As Sarawat got to know him, he told himself that he would be happy with loving him from afar because there is no way he could lose Tine. Man and Boss, with their wikihow articles, somehow convinced him to tell Tine that he liked him -- but it had not gone the way he wanted it to. 

 

So, he decided to get over him over their month-long break. He tricked himself into thinking that it succeeded because he really did like Oak. He was kind and loved football and for the first time, Sarawat had felt that he could get over Tine. But then they’d gone on a trip that Tine had organised for and he’d sung a song for Tine by the waterfalls. At that moment he knew that he couldn’t possibly feel something more than he does for Tine for someone else. 

 

He’d gone back to loving him from afar, sulking whenever he dated someone new, his stomach swooping when Tine smiled at him and it was okay. Until it wasn’t. After they kissed, Sarawat thought that the only way to salvage his friendship with Tine was to stay away from him and come near him when he has control over his emotions despite the protests let out by Man and Boss. He somehow got through eleven months without Tine but all his efforts were down the drain because suddenly, they were roommates. And then they were pretending to be in a relationship. And they had kissed -- again. 

 

This time, however, Tine deserved to know the truth and Sarawat was determined to come clean. 

 

***

 

Sleep doesn't find him easily that night and when it finally does, he is woken by the blaring sound of their alarms. 

 

Sarawat rubs his eyes before opening them, only to find that Tine was not in their room. Thinking the worst, he throws his blanket on the side in a hurry, running out of the door until he crashes into someone. 

 

"Why do you keep crashing into me?" P'Type grumbles. 

 

He seems to take Sarawat's dishevelled appearance and grunts. "Where are you rushing?" he asks. 

 

Frantic and wide-eyed, Sarawat says, "Tine. Have you seen him?" 

 

P'Type only raises his eyebrows. "He is taking a walk on the beach. You did not have a fight, did you?" he asks suspiciously. 

 

Sarawat gulps, shaking his head. "No, no. I just-- I really need to talk to him." 

 

P'Type pushes Sarawat's shoulders. "It can wait. But first, i need to talk to you." 

 

Sarawat takes a deep breath. After a moment, he nods his head. 

 

"I had my doubts about you," P'Type starts. "I still do," he scowls, "but the three most important people in my life have convinced me that you're not as bad as I think you are."

 

Sarawat looks at him, his mouth a little agape. Oh. It was this kind of conversation. 

 

P'Type sighs, sitting down on the chair in front of him. "I still think you're an asshole and so I was just making sure that you really do love him."

 

That is a fair assumption. He doesn’t do anything to make people think otherwise. And he really  does  love him. Even if he forgets everything, he'll still remember that he loves him. 

 

"My brother was in love with an asshole too. I understand why you are so sceptical about me. When he started dating Fong, I grilled him too, so don't worry about it," Sarawat says when P'Type doesn't say anything else. 

 

P'Type sighs. "He has been in love with you for four years now," he says. It takes a minute for Sarawat to register P'Type's words over the panic of finding Tine. 

 

Wait. 

 

"When he told me that he loved you, I had to come and take a look at you myself, all those years ago. That is why I was so harsh," he continues as if he hadn't just killed Sarawat with that sentence. "And then you broke his heart --"

 

What? 

 

Sarawat's breathing gets shallow by the passing moment. He feels a little dizzy. he is dimly aware that he is breathing out of his mouth. 

 

"-wat, N'Sarawat?" P'Type's voice breaks him out of his panic. 

 

Tine loves him?

 

"Tine loves me?" 

 

Tine loves him?

 

Ignoring P'Types look of concern, he says, "sorry. I have to look for Tine." 

 

Without bothering to hear P'Type's reply, Sarawat dashes toward the beach. He has to find Tine. 

 

***

 

Finding Tine is not that hard. He is just where they were last night, sitting across the ocean. 

 

“What are you doing here, nuisance?” Sarawat asks, sitting beside him. Tine jumps in surprise as he turns towards Sarawat 

 

Tine sighs. “How did you find me?”

 

“I could spot you in the crowd,” he says truthfully. He sees Tine's shoulders shaking from the corner of his eye. “Don’t -- don’t say that, not in that tone.” 

 

Sarawat sighs. It is now or never, right? 

 

"Do you know why I said yes to this?" he asks. 

 

Without bothering to look at him, Tine answers. "Because I agreed to do the dishes for two months." 

 

Sarawat sinks into the sand. "No, nuisance," he says. "It is because I wouldn't have to pretend at all." 

 

Tine's head speedily turns toward him still not making eye contact. "What are you saying?" 

 

“It’s true,” Sarawat says. “All those months when I wasn’t in contact with you, I kept seeing your face everywhere I went. It was pure  torture .” 

 

Tine meets his eye for the first time today. “Why weren’t we in touch?” he asks. 

 

Sarawat doesn’t have a reply for that. 

 

“Why were you always busy when I came to Bangkok to meet with the others?” he asks again. “Why was it that I had no clue where you were or what you were doing until I met you at our apartment after  eleven  whole months?” 

 

Sarawat has no reply to that so he only looks at Tine until he scoffs. “You were sober on the night of our graduation, weren’t you?” he asks. 

 

Sarawat hesitantly nods his head. Beside him, Tine takes a deep breath. “Of course you were. Do you take me for a fool, then?” he asks, his voice rising with every word. 

 

“Tine,” Sarawat starts but he doesn’t let him continue. “Why did you pretend to not remember our first kiss?” he asks, standing up. 

 

Sarawat follows suit. “Was the idea of kissing me that bad?” Tine asks in a small voice. 

 

Sarawat puts his hands on his shoulders. Tine makes no move to shrug his hands off but instead, he looks at Tine, a little teary-eyed. “Tine,” Sarawat whispers. “The idea of kissing you was so tempting that that is all I thought about before and that is all I thought about after.” 

 

The silence after he says that is broken only by the crashing of the waves. Tine looks at him wide-eyed as if he can’t quite believe what Sarawat is telling him. He needs to change that as soon as possible. “What?” he asks. 

 

“I am in love with you, Tine,” he says at last, with no facade he can cower under. Tine’s eyes widen significantly. “I love you so much that sometimes that is all I think about.” 

 

Sarawat takes Tine’s stunned silence as his cue for speaking more. “The real reason why I stopped seeing you after we first kissed is that I thought that you didn’t want me to kiss you. You broke away and began apologizing. That is the  last  thing I wanted -- for you to apologise. And I thought that it was the last thing you wanted too -- for me to kiss you. ” 

 

“I thought you were kissing me only because you were drunk,” Tine confesses. “When I put you to bed, I told you to kiss me again when you were sober.”

 

Sarawat shakes his head. “I think I was already half-asleep when you said that,” he admits. “You knew that I was sober last night, though,” he mutters. 

 

Tine looks at him sharply. “Why didn’t you say anything then?” he asks. 

 

“You said that we were practising before I had the chance to say anything.” 

 

“I gave you plenty of time to say something -- anything that would make me believe otherwise.” 

 

Sarawat takes a deep breath. Slowly, he nods. “You did. I am sorry,” he mutters. 

 

Tine lowers his gaze again. “I am sorry too. I should have talked to you, properly.” 

 

Sarawat tips Tine’s chin towards him. “Tine, do you believe me when I say that I am in love with you?” 

 

Tine’s eyes soften. “This is not a joke, is it?” 

 

Sarawat takes Tine’s hand and places it over his beating heart. “I am in love with you,” he says, honestly. “I fell in love with your smile the first time I saw you. And then I got to know you,” he says, raising his hand and pressing his lips over his knuckles. “I fell in love with you every time I got to know more of you.” 

 

"And," Sarawat hastily adds, just in case he misread the entire situation, "it is completely okay if you don't feel the same. You deserve to know this." 

 

Tine looks at him with his mouth parted. "Do you know why I asked you to be my fake boyfriend?" 

 

Sarawat says, "because I was the first name that came out of your mouth?" 

 

Tine shakes his head. "Because I couldn't imagine anyone else but you beside me." 

 

Sarawat continues staring at him, a small smile creeping on his face. "I used to compare all my dates with you. Every time they did something that you wouldn't, I had to end it. Do you know how frustrating it was?" 

 

Sarawat is clouded with disbelief as a chuckle escapes through him. 

 

"It was so frustrating, Wat. You had ruined me for everyone. I couldn't even get over you because you were always  there,  even when you were not." 

 

Tine takes his other hand and puts it over his chest. “I guess what I am trying to say is, I am in love with you too.” 

 

The ground shifts beneath Sarawat’s feet. He stares at him in disbelief until his brain snaps back to reality. “You are?” he whispers. Tine nods his head. “I-” he breaks himself, holding Sarawat’s hands tight. 

 

“I can’t believe that you’re in love with me too. I had convinced myself that you were not in love with me and I was learning how to be okay with it, but then we kissed yesterday and then I thought you hated me but now --” 

 

He looks at Sarawat, his eyes a little misty. “-- you are in love with me too,” he says. “I don’t know how to react. Why didn’t you ever tell me?” 

 

Sarawat squeezes his hand. “I had. Once. We were interrupted by Fong because he --” 

 

“-- thought that the balcony was the toilet,” Tine completes. “My friends were right. You were trying to tell me that you liked me.” 

 

“Why didn’t you say anything?” 

 

Tine shakes his head. “I wanted to, trust me, I did. But I didn’t want to assume. Fong convinced me to speak with you after our break ended. And then you had a boyfriend so --” 

 

Sarawat slumps his shoulders, shutting his eyes. “We wasted a lot of time, huh?” Tine's hands on his cheeks make him gaze right back at him. Tine only nods in reply, his eyes glimmering. 

 

Sarawat steps forward. “So does this mean we are real, actual boyfriends?” he asks. 

 

Tine leans forward and pecks his cheek. Sarawat looks up in surprise to find Tine grinning at him. His smile is so contagious that he feels happiness bubbling in his stomach. 

 

“I love you, Wat,” Tine says. “I want nothing more than to be your actual boyfriend.” 

 

Tine wraps his hands around Sarawat’s torso. Sarawat hugs him back. Sarawat takes a deep breath. “I am so happy,” he murmurs in his hair. “I love you so much.” 

 

Tine hugs him back harder. “I love you so much.” 

 

“To be clear,” Sarawat asks, stepping away from Tine’s warm embrace. “None of the cuddling and holding hands was practice, right? Because I didn’t take it as practising.” 

 

“Oh?” Tine asks as he wipes the corner of his eyes. “What did you take it as?” 

 

“I took it as doing everything that I’ve wanted to do while cowering behind the excuse of practising.” 

 

Tine playfully smacks his arm and then grows serious. “None of it was practice for me too,” he admits. 

 

Sarawat can’t help but grin at that. He pats Tine’s head. “I love you so much.” 

 

Tine playful scowl turns into a grin. “I love you too.” 

 

***

 

"Fucking finally!" Phukong shouts as Tine and Sarawat enter the restaurant, three days later, hand-in-hand. 

 

Sarawat grins in response, looking at Tine who looks back instantly. He brings Tine's hands to his lips. 

 

"What? What did I miss?" Boss asks. On looking at their joined hands he sighs, "oh, come on. Everyone knows that you're pretending. Why are you extending this here?" 

 

Phuak nods, agreeing with Boss. "You don't have to pretend with us, guys." 

 

Ohm nods too. "Yeah, you can be real with us!" 

 

Sarawat can't help but let the laugh escape his mouth as they take their seats ( right beside each other! Still holding hands! Holding hands with his boyfriend!! ). 

 

"Unless," Man starts, looking around conspiratorially. "Unless P'Type is joining us for lunch!" 

 

"Or," Fong says, exasperated, "they are  actually  dating."

 

Sarawat makes eye contact with Fong who only winks in reply. 

 

"Wait," Man says. "Wait are you guys actually dating?" 

 

Sarawat and Tine look at each other, only to nod simultaneously in response. They are swarmed with "fucking finally"-s and "thank god we don't have to listen to them pining for each other for any longer"-s and "took you long enough"-s. 

 

Nothing can dampen just how  happy  Sarawat feels. Tine and he keep exchanging glances as their friends congratulate them, hands never leaving each other. 

 

"You guys have not been around Sarawat sulking," Man says. 

 

"Sulking and drunk was even more horrid," Boss shudders. "At least we don't have to deal with this." 

 

"You're welcome!" Phukong cries across the table. "It is because of me that this happened." 

 

Fong frowns. "Because of you? No. I was the one who suggested their current apartment to Tine." 

 

Phukong purses his lips. "I was the one who told you about the apartment, though, before telling P'Sarawat."  

 

Fong shakes his head. "No, I was the one who insinuated you to suggest that apartment so they start living together." 

 

"N'Phukong, you suggested that they should not go to the wedding as each other's fake dates," Man says. "Clearly they wouldn't have realised it without that." 

 

"Yeah, it definitely is not because of you," Boss says. 

 

"For the record," Fong interrupts, "I was against it too. Tine freaked out too and overworked himself because of his freakout that week."

 

Sarawat nudges Tine's side, "that is why you were so busy?" 

 

Tine mumbles, "shut up." 

 

"Aw, my boyfriend is so cute," Sarawat says, patting his head. 

 

Tine nudges him back. "Asshole," he murmurs. 

 

"Nuisance," Sarawat mutters back, grinning ear-to-ear. 

 

"You know," Sarawat says, ignoring the others talking about the reason they ended up together and feeding Tine some of his pad thai, "I am glad that we finally chose to be together, regardless of the situations that led up to it." 

 

Tine's eyes soften as he hides his smile while chewing. "Me too," he mumbles. 

 

Sarawat grins. "I love you," he whispers, kissing the side of Tine's forehead. 

 

"I love you too," Tine whispers back.