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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."

 

Chapter Text

The Lipa Noi beach is picturesque. The almost-white sand sparkled in the glaring sunlight, the waves of the deep blue ocean lapping on the shore. Quiet contentment spread through him as he breathed in the scent of the sea. Gentle hands grabbed his and his heart tugged with joy. He looked over at Tine who had already removed his footwear, his toes submerged in the warm sand. Tine looks back at him, grinning as they walk towards where they would meet his family. For the first time in his life, Sarawat isn’t bothered by the sand that will cling onto their luggage. 

 

To Sarawat’s delight, the beach was fairly empty. He pulled Tine closer. 

 

"This is beautiful, isn't it?" Tine murmurs, looking at the clear blue sea. Nearing noon, the gentle breeze seemed to soften the sun's glares. Sarawat follows Tine's gaze and nods. He had truly forgotten how much he loved the sea. He swings their joined hands between them, ignoring the swoop in his stomach at Tine’s gaze on their joined hands. 

 

"It's more beautiful with you here," Sarawat replies. 

 

Pink creeps up Tine's cheeks as he mumbles, "save your flirting for when you actually meet my family." Sarawat only grins in response. 

 

They soon reach the villa rented by Tine’s family and are greeted by Tine's mother and his cousins. "Oh, Tine!" his mother says, leaning forward to hug him, holding him tight. Tine hugs her back, reciprocating her enthusiasm. "Mother, I missed you." 

 

They break away, only for his mother to hold his cheeks. "You look happy," she says, promptly turning towards Sarawat and grinning widely. 

 

"Sarawat, welcome! I am so happy that you came," she says, smiling warmly. 

 

Sarawat joins his hands to greet Tine's mother. "Aunt, hello," he says, suddenly feeling awkward. His hand grabs Tine's hand by instinct and Tine's mother follows this movement. "I am so happy that he's dating  you ," she grins. "We have so much to talk about, let's go.” Pointing to an attendant, she says, "she will show you where your room is. Join us for lunch, won't you?" 

 

“Your mother seemed happy,” Sarawat says, opening the door to their room. He lets the ‘ she was not as intense as you made her out to be’  hang in the open air. 

 

Tine only scoffs in response, taking his bag from Saarwat’s hands and putting it in his side of the closet. “You’ll see. She is trying to be nice to you so you lower your guard.” 

 

“Maybe she will go easy on you,” Sarawat says, putting his bag on his side of the closet. 

 

When he gets no response, he turns only to find Tine looking at their bed. The bed that they are sharing for the next three days. The reality of it hits Sarawat with full force. 

 

“What are you looking at?” he asks, coming up behind Tine. Tine jumps, his gaze frantically turning away from the bed to him. 

 

“Nothing,” he replies, his voice a bit too high. 

 

Sarawat raises his eyebrows. 

 

“The bed is small, isn’t it?” he sighs. “I will take the floor. I am making you do this, it is only fair.” 

 

Sarawat takes Tine’s hand in his and kisses his knuckles. Tine gapes at him. “We have shared smaller beds with more people, nuisance. We will be okay.” 

 

Tine jerks his head only to tighten his hold. “Let’s go, the sooner we get over with lunch the better.” 

 

“Take a deep breath, Tine, we are prepared for the intensity of it, remember?” 

 

***

 

Halfway through lunch, Sarawat realises exactly what Tine meant when he described his mother as intense. P'Ploy is a kind woman who, like her younger son, always radiates warmth. However, like her elder son, she is also quick-witted and her sharp gaze seems to hold him down until he lays his soul bare. She had been politely grilling them with all the questions she could ask and making staunchly keen observations.  "Oh Tine, I am not asking you to commit a crime, I am just asking you how you became boyfriends – why'd you look so nervous?" "Tine, you're listing down Sarawat's allergies as though you're answering your exam paper." “That picture seems a bit old, doesn’t it? But okay, i will believe you if you say that it is from a month ago.” 

 

Tine kept breaking out in a sweat at his mother's blatant interrogation about the pretence of all of it and Tine’s father kept silently chuckling at the interactions. 

 

Sarawat just felt -- incredibly awkward. He also felt a little offended at the underlying accusation of his feelings being anything but real. He wished he could say something that could help dispel the nervousness radiating from Tine. So he does the only thing he can at that moment -- he shifts towards Tine, in such a way that their thighs are touching despite them being on different chairs. He rests his leg against Tine’s leg. 

 

Sarawat feels Tine's anxiety dissipate the moment they make contact. Sarawat pats his back and smiles at him when he turns to look at him. Tine smiles back and takes a deep breath. "I am just nervous because I really love him and I want you to approve of this." 

 

“You know that I love Sarawat,” his mother comments. “He seems great for you. The timing just seems a little too convenient. You have a few bad dates and suddenly when I propose to set you up again, you tell me that you’ve been dating?” 

 

Tine sighs. “I don’t know how to prove the love that we have for each other is real,” he says at last. 

 

His mother hums. "You don’t need to prove anything. I just didn't know that my son was such an excellent actor," his mother comments, "you have been with him for six months and yet you managed to hide it so well. We didn’t even catch you smiling at your phone.”

 

Tine, who is not an excellent actor, only manages to nervously chuckle at his mother’s thinly veiled accusation. "We wanted to keep it just between the two of us a little while longer," he says, his fingers anxiously fidgeting on his thigh. 

 

Sarawat decides to interject at this moment, trying to save the eventual car-wreck that this would follow. He gives Tine’s hands a gentle squeeze. "You must forgive me. I had requested to keep it a secret since I wasn't out to my mother yet and Tine was just being a supportive partner. If you have anyone to blame, blame me." 

 

Tine looks at him, his shoulders insignificantly sagging in relief.

 

"You've told your mother now?" she inquires, sipping some water. 

 

Sarawat nods. "We told her just a day before Tine told you. Which is why he told you." 

 

P'Ploy nods, seemingly satisfied with that. 

 

Type, however, still looks at them suspiciously and says, "your dates with the people you were set up with seemed so genuine though. Guess we underestimated just how much you could pretend." 

 

Tine's cousin, P'Nam, who is seated right beside him pipes in, "but I guess the reasons why he refused to see them again makes sense now, doesn't it? They were always so preposterous –  oh, she didn't play the guitar, oh, he was way too cheerful, oh, she didn't like coffee  – we should've realised that it wasn't that Tine was picky, it was that he was trying to come up with the lamest excuses." 

 

His other cousin, who he thinks is P'Tan, snorts at that. "Remember when that girl – Fon, was it? – said that the reason she didn't want to see Tine again is that he kept talking about N'Sarawat here? It all makes sense now!"

 

Sarawat, somehow, manages to hide his surprise at everything they said. He looks at Tine, who has turned completely red who is gazing intently at the ground. His heart is pounding in his chest and he has to remind himself that he has to act like Tine's boyfriend and not a lovesick fool, so he nudges Tine with his elbow. "Aw  babe , you talked about me to your dates? That's so cute!" 

 

Tine nudges back. "Shut up, asshole." 

 

"Language!" P'Ploy chides. 

 

"I know he loves me, so it's okay," Sarawat says, nudging Tine. 

 

Tine snorts and then looks at him, his eyes gently. "Yeah, I do," he says softly. 

 

The topic about their relationship would’ve ended here, but P’Type’s glare was right in his face. He smiled at him, wearily, until he turned away, talking to his mother in a hushed voice.  

 

After lunch, when Tine has gone to the washroom, P'Ploy finds him again. "You make him happy, I can tell," she begins, startling Sarawat. “I can see just how much you love him.”

 

Her words wash over him in pleasant surprise. That is all he’s wanted, isn’t it? To love Tine and to make him happy? Why does it leave him with a bitter taste in his mouth then? 

 

“I can see how much he loves you,” she continues. 

 

Huh. Maybe Tine  is  a good actor. 

 

She pats his cheek. "The love that you both share is genuine and I truly am grateful that Tine found someone who loves him just the way he deserves." 

 

Sarawat’s mouth feels dry. “P’Ploy, your approval really matters to him,” he says. “He seemed nervous today because he is nervous about what you and P’Type might say to us, about us. There is nothing ingenuine about what I feel towards him.” 

 

She then shakes her head and Sarawat notices her eyes glistening a little. "You have to forgive me if I came on too strong at lunch. All these years, all I've ever wanted from him was for him to take care of his heart. He is a gentle boy, you know?"

 

Sarawat heaves a sigh. P'Ploy looks at him again, pursuing her lips. "You see, he loves with all his heart and ends up getting hurt more often than not. For twenty-three years, I've seen him throw his heart at people only for him to be heartbroken by the end of it." 

 

Sarawat feels pure, unadulterated guilt coursing through his veins. He feels horrible, lying to his mother who thinks that this is real, who only wants her son to be happy. "I love your son," he says truthfully. "I am in love with Tine. I care for him and respect him and I am going to do everything I can to support him." 

 

Sarawat doesn't notice Tine behind him until he asks, "Mom? Are you still grilling him?" Tine snakes his arms around Sarawat's waist. 

 

P'Ploy only wipes the corner of her eyes. "He's a good man," she says, pointing at Sarawat. "You make each other happy. I am only happy for you." 

 

Sarawat looks at Tine only for him to look back. Sarawat manages a smile. Tine might've been a better actor than he gave him credit for. 

 

Tine's mother pats their shoulders. "I've seen him give his heart to people but this time I can see you are both taking care of each other's hearts – together." 

 

*** 

 

Lunch had been more intense than Tine’s colourful papers would’ve prepared him for. He was forced to say something that he’d been whispering in between his songs for Tine, something that only all his dreams knew of. Saying out only reflected the magnitude of his feelings for him. 

 

"Your mom and brother kept implying that you were lying about me," Sarawat says, instead, ignoring his thoughts about Tine. 

 

"I  am  lying about you," Tine replies, sitting on their bed. Sarawat sits beside him, giving his head a gentle pat. "Are you though?" he teases. 

 

Tine narrows his eyes at him. "Asshole," he mutters. Sarawat shakes his head, lowering himself until he was lying flat on the bed. Tine mirrors his actions until he is laying right beside him. Their hands fill the space between them and Sarawat laces their hands together without giving it much thought. 

 

"Why did they keep saying that you were pretending though?" he asks. 

 

Tine groans, "I might've told P'Type the last time I met him that I will pretend to date someone if it meant getting my mother out of my hair. And he might have told mom." 

 

"You dumbass!" Sarawat exclaims. "Why didn't you tell me before? There's no way P'Type is going to believe this, is he?" 

 

Tine shakes his head. "He will believe us. He will have to. You make the whole act completely believable." 

 

If an act constitutes revealing everything he'd ever wanted to tell Tine, then it definitely is believable. 

 

"Your mother is on our side now. There's no way he'll go against his mother." 

 

Tine only scoffs. "Sure. She's going to grill us even more, I can feel it." 

 

"Your dad seems to be on our side too, right? He was laughing with us. He didn't ask us a single question. He seemed cool." 

 

"Oh yeah?" His voice drips with sarcasm. 

 

"What happened?" he asks, without trying to pry. He was aware of the fact that Tine was not that close to his father thanks to the family dynamic paper that Tine had given him for preparation. 

 

Tine shakes his head. "He was…indifferent when P'Type came out and his reaction was the same when I did as well. He was never there, growing up and suddenly he thinks that he has the right to say anything  now –"

 

He stops himself and looks at Sarawat, shaking his head as if to say,  let's not talk about this. 

 

"Tine," Sarawat sighs, at last, patting Tine's head. "We're going to be fine." 

 

Tine doesn't look convinced. "We will kiss in front of him if need be," Sarawat teases, trying to lighten the mood. 

 

Tine, however, has a serious look on his face. "What if – what if we  have  to kiss to prove it to him." 

 

"Hey, kissing me isn't that bad," Sarawat mutters. 

 

Tine gives him a  look.  "Nuisance, if this was real, we wouldn't need their approval, ever," he grins, squeezing their hands together. "We would be Sarawat and Tine, against the world." 

 

Tine doesn't look convinced. "I would rather pull my hair out than go on one of those dates again." 

 

Sarawat sighs, not letting go of their joined hands and says "Tine, even if this was real, we have nothing to prove to anyone. And your brother is protective, sure, but he is not evil and there's no way he's going to do something like that." 

 

***

 

Evil, Sarawat thinks, runs in Tine's family. His family is hell-bent on keeping him and Tine apart for the evening. He helplessly looks at Tine who looks right back, feeling just as helpless. A swarm of Tine’s young cousins surround him, begging him to play with them and a swarm of Tine’s relatives surround Sarawat, asking him questions about himself. He supposes that this is fair -- his family cares enough to be curious about the person that Tine is dating. It is perfectly  fair.  But as Sarawat’s gaze meets Tine’s lost gaze for the third time that evening, he can’t help but feel that this situation is just, completely unjust.  

 

He just wants to spend this beautiful evening with his (fake) boyfriend and stay here with him until it gets dark before they are forced to go have dinner with his family. He sighs again, turning his gaze to Tine’s uncle who asks him if he could listen to Sarawat’s music. 

 

“I will ask Tine to send you some of my songs,” he smiles. The uncle, seemingly satisfied with the answer, pats his back. Over the various voices that surround him, Tine’s voice is the only one he can actually hear. Sarawat eyes find Tine just as more kids join them and he hears them beg Tine to play with them. His heart painfully clutches in his chest as Tine crouches down, ruffling the kid’s hair and takes the ball from his hands. 

 

Thinking that he is in the clear, he walks over to where Tine is, who is now holding one of his cousins in his hands. Sarawat staggers in his step, a hand enclosing his arm before he hits the sand. 

 

“P’Type,” he breathes as he steadies him. P’Type grunts in reply. 

 

“Sorry about that,” he mutters, rubbing the back of his neck. 

 

“You can’t take care of yourself and you expect to take care of my brother?” he asks, looking at where Tine was. 

 

Tine looks at them with concern before he is pulled away by one of his sisters. 

 

“I do take care of him,” Sarawat pointedly says. “And he takes care of me.” 

 

P’Type is about to say something when Tine comes by his side. “Wat! They want to play with you too,” he says, dragging him to where his cousins were. 

 

"Thanks," Sarawat mutters. Tine shakes his head. "No, thank you. He has been glaring daggers at you ever since." 

 

He finds P'Nam before Sarawat can reply and asks her, "can you play with them for a while?"

 

P'Nam smiles, glancing at the both of them. "Of course. Take a walk with him. You both must be so tired." 

 

Tine smiles gratefully and they speed-walk in the opposite direction they came from. Or rather, Tine speed-walks, dragging Sarawat with him. 

 

"Woah, calm down, nuisance," Sarawat says, pulling Tine closer. 

 

Tine sighs. "P'Type is exhausting, sometimes." Hastily, he adds, "of course I love him, but he is too suffocating at times." 

 

Sarawat nods. "I get that, but I also kind of get him. Remember how I was when Phukong liked Mil?" 

 

Tine shudders. "But Mil deserved it. He was an asshole." 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders. "Maybe he thinks that I am an asshole, you know?" 

 

Tine stops walking and turns towards Sarawat. "But you are not an asshole," he says, quickly adding, "I do call you one but that's different." 

 

Sarawat grins. "Of course it is. But I don't care if he thinks that I'm an asshole." 

 

"Doesn't it bother you?" Tine asks in a small voice. 

 

Sarawat shrugs his shoulders again. He frankly just does not care. He feels a little insulted that his obvious affection is dismissed by P'Type but other than that, he has no particular issue. 

 

Tine scoffs as they begin walking again. "Of course you don't. You don't care about anyone's opinions -- and I mean this as a compliment. It must be nice, not caring about what others think." 

 

Sarawat tugs at his hand. "I care about your opinion," he says earnestly. 

 

Tine stops to look at him. "I wish I could be like you," he says. 

 

"Really? You want to be like me when you are  you? " he teases. 

 

Tine shakes his head in reply and starts walking until Sarawat pulls him to a halt. 

 

"Tine," Sarawat says in a serious tone, "have you see yourself?" 

 

After Tine's lack of reply, Sarawat leaves his hand, coming to stand in front of him. He holds Tine's shoulders. "You are joking, right? You are the best person I know," he says. "You are --  you , Tine, Mr Chic, who everyone falls in love with." 

 

Tine scoffs. " Everyone ?"

 

Sarawat blinks, biting his tongue before he says something he cannot take back. Instead, he squeezes his shoulders. "Even if people don't fall in love with you, they definitely come to appreciate you more than they would if you weren't  you.  The point is that  you  are enough and I am just happy that you are  you.

 

Tine looks up to him with his mouth parted a little. The wind ruffles up Tine's hair and Sarawat runs his fingers through Tine's hair. Tine closes his head, his shoulders relaxing under Sarawat's hands. He opens his eyes again, a small smile tugging at his lips. 

 

Tine clears his throat. "I - thank you?" 

 

Sarawat smiles in response, standing by his side again, his hands enclasping Tine's gentle hands. 

 

"We can just tell your brother the truth," Sarawat says. "He would clearly be relieved." 

 

Tine shakes his head. "He will tell mother. And she--" he sighs. "Besides, he should respect my choice, regardless of who it is." 

 

Sarawat nods as they begin to walk towards the sea. "Once we fake break up, P'Type will kill me," Sarawat says, frowning. "And then kill my ghost for hurting his brother." 

 

Tine shakes his head. "He won't. I will come up with a good excuse," he nods his head in assurance. "Besides, P'Ton is coming tomorrow. He will be less intrusive with his boyfriend around." 

 

Sarawat nods. "I don't mind this, you know? If you're worried at it bothering me, then let me assure you that I don't care." 

 

Tine peers at him. "You really don't?" 

 

Sarawat shakes his head. "What had you said? Free food, free alcohol, the beach, and your company. What more could I want?" 

 

Tine shakes his head in feigned annoyance. 

 

The waves crash just a little distance away from their feet. Tine stops to remove his slippers before nudging his sand-covered feet with Sarawat's legs. 

 

"Ai, nuisance!" Sarawat glowers. "Really? Sand? On me?" 

 

Tine only grins in response. "Remove your slippers! I want to submerge my feet into the water!" 

 

"Then submerge your feet," Sarawat says. "Why pull me with you?" 

 

Tine pouts, pulling him toward the waves. "But I want to do it with you. This is what couples do, isn't it?" 

 

Tine keeps pouting and that's all it takes for Sarawat to come to the conclusion that he is a weak, weak man. He sighs as he removes his slippers right beside where Tine's slippers are and glances at him. Tine is grinning sunnily at Sarawat as he holds his hand again, leading him toward the ocean.  

 

Warm waves of water crash against their feet and Tine walks even ahead until both their ankles are submerged into the warm seawater. Sarawat is not particularly fond of the feeling of sinking his feet into the sea, of all things, but Tine's smile is worth all of it. The waves make them falter which prompts Sarawat to pull Tine toward him, holding him tight. Tine grins and moves out of his hold, bending down to splash some water on Sarawat. 

 

Sarawat gapes at Tine. "Ai, nuisance!" exclaims. 

 

Tine innocently grins, before cupping more water in his hands and splashing it on Sarawat. Sarawat sputters the seawater that enters his mouth. 

 

"You are going to regret this!" Sarawat promises and before he has the chance to make Tine regret  it , Tine has splashed more water on him. Tine dares to  giggle . Then it happens, just like that. Without thinking and pausing, or even giving Sarawat even a chance to react, Tine is pulling at his wrist with full force. Sarawat gasps as he falls into the water and because Tine does not predict the force with which he pulls Sarawat, Tine falls back too. 

 

Tine's giggles die down as he falls with a loud  splash.  For a moment, they are still, Tine's hand curled around Sarawat's wrist as Sarawat lies on his knees beside Tine, who is gazing intently at him. They are mere centimetres apart. Sarawat's brain shuts down for that moment and he tries to take in the intensity at which Tine looks at him. Tine looks ethereal in the soft golden light and Sarawat just wants to -- lean forward and kiss him because he is  weak,  weak man. But, the moment passes and Tine lets out a gasp, using his elbows as prop himself up. Sarawat is pulled with him until he is sitting a little too. Tine's eyes return to him, his hand letting go of Sarawat's wrist as he looks anywhere but him. 

 

"Sorry," Tine flounders. "I- uh, yeah," he says, breathing deeply. 

 

Sarawat shakes his head, slowly pulling himself away from Tine. "It's okay," he smiles despite himself. His heart thuds to the comfortable beat of being affected by Tine again. 

 

He extends his arm to help Tine get up. The water that sticks to his clothes feels uncomfortable by the passing second and suddenly all he wants to do is get out of the clothes that stick to his skin. They wordlessly make their way towards the dry sand. 

 

They spot P'Type walking towards them and Sarawat sighs in anticipation of what he might say next. Instead, he wordlessly hands them  both  a towel each. 

 

Sarawat looks at him equal parts of grateful and confused. 

 

"Don't mention it," he grunts at Sarawat. 

 

"Thanks anyway, phi," Tine says. 

 

"Uh-huh," he says. "I need you to come with me to run some errands for mother." 

 

"With me?" A nod. "But P'Type," Tine whines. "I am exhausted. Why me?" 

 

"Because  our  mother asked us to go. Are you coming or no?" P'Type asks, exasperated. "You will have to change, by the way. Can't have you catching a cold."

 

Tine sighs, looking apologetically at Sarawat. Sarawat touches Tine's cheek. "I'll be fine, nuisance. Go with P'Type." 

 

Tine nods and walks away from him. 

 

Sarawat finds a comfortable place to sit at, on the sand. His clothes are ruined anyway, a little more sand definitely won't make it worse. Under the light glow of the evening sun, the beach is even more serene. Sarawat revels in the beauty of it. The wind is gentle on his face and he feels almost at peace. 

 

He is so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn't even realise someone sitting beside him. 

 

Tine's father sits beside him, a guitar in one of his hands, and two bottles of iced tea in another. Sarawat silently takes the bottle he offers. Sarawat notices that Tine and P'Yut share the same eyes, except Tine's eyes, have a permanent crinkle around the corners, making it seem like he's always smiling. 

 

P'Yut doesn't talk for a while, the only sound between them being the gentle crashing of the waves and the seagulls flying above them. 

 

"Here," P'Yut says, handing him the guitar. "You play, right?" 

 

Sarawat gingerly takes the guitar from his hand. The guitar seems to not be used at all, but he can tell that it's old. He tunes it and strums a few times, Tine's father beside him looking at his movements carefully. He automatically starts playing Scrubb until he hears Tine's dad chuckle. 

 

"This must be Tine's influence too," he comments, taking a swing of the tea. 

 

Sarawat nods. "It's his favourite band," he helplessly mutters.  

 

P'Yut nods. "He lived with us for 18 years. We all know each and every Scrubb song and blame Type for introducing him to this band." 

 

His eyes are full of mirth despite showing very little emotion on his face. Sarawat continues strumming the song that he was, mostly because the evening is just too serene to pass up the opportunity. Tine's father seems to enjoy it as well, only sitting back and sipping the tea. 

 

"This is Tine's guitar," he says after a while. "He'd begged us to buy one for him when he had started highschool. He used to say that the guitar was his entire  heart  and he will do anything for it. So we finally complied with his request and bought him one." 

 

Sarawat who knows this, adds, "he stopped playing after the first few lessons but he told me how much he enjoyed them. I remember him telling me." 

 

P'Yut nods. 

 

"I used to teach him the guitar for a little while when we were in university. He knows all of the basic chords now,” Sarawat says, proudly. 

 

P'Yut nods again, smiling a little and letting the silence stretch between them. Sarawat stops playing the guitar and twists open his iced tea too. 

 

"You should keep his  guitar ," he says after a while. "We haven't been taking care of his  guitar  the way it deserves.  haven't been taking care of it too. Ever since he was young, he was so carefree with it. He hasn't been taking care of his  guitar  as well. So you should keep it. My son, he –" he takes a deep breath, "– he trusts you with it as well and –" he pauses, taking another deep breath, "– I trust you with taking care of his  guitar  too." 

 

Sarawat, catching on what P'Yut is implying, can only stutter a meek "thank you" as he holds the guitar in his hands. Something akin to longing crashes hard in his chest. How he wishes that all this could be real. 

 

 P'Yut only nods in reply, standing up and patting Sarawat's shoulder. "Take care of his  guitar ." 

 

***

 

"You're dating the love of your life and didn't even bother telling me." Earn deadpans as soon as Sarawat picks up her call. 

 

Tine is still not back when Sarawat returns to his room, way after sunset. He places the guitar on the table and says, "you saw the picture huh?" 

 

Earn snickers. "Yes I saw the picture. You're not getting off this easy. How come you never told me?" 

 

"I– yeah. I wanted to. I wanted to tell you that it isn't real."

 

Earn is silent for so long that Sarawat thinks that the call has been dropped. "Not real?" she incredulously asks. 

 

Sarawat retells the entire story of how he came here as he is – pretending to be Tine's boyfriend when he really wants to be Tine's boyfriend. 

 

Earn is silent again for a long time. "That is the stupidest shit I've heard," she says. "That isn't good for you, is it? You didn't think of yourself before agreeing to this, did you?" 

 

"You're not wrong." 

 

"Oh my god, Sarawat," Earn groans. "If I were there I'd have smacked some sense into you. I would have told you that we had a gig in another city and whisked you away. Pear and I have extra coupons for this wonderful spa as well and we could've gone there. You could've done anything  but  this. Why did you say yes?" 

 

"I am just being a good friend," he mutters half-heartedly like he always does. 

 

"No. You're being an  idiot ; a complete, utter  fool.  You are always being a coward, aren't you? Knowing how it is to be with him without actually asking him out. You're taking the coward's way out."

 

Just then, the door opens behind him. Sarawat turns around to see Tine, holding a bag of what seems packed food and smiles in relief. "I've to go, Earn. My  boyfriend  just brought some food. Talk to you later." 

 

"Who's your  boyfriend , asshole?" Tine asks, kicking his shoes inside. He sits on their bed and puts the packed food beside him.

 

"You are, of course," Sarawat says, sitting beside him as well. 

 

Sarawat looks at the food and looks back at Tine, wondering why they aren't having dinner with his family instead. Tine seems to catch on because he says, "I am exhausted. We can just stay here and watch a movie while eating." 

 

Sarawat wants to hug Tine. Somehow he managed to read his mind despite being in a different place altogether. "Unless you want to go eat with them," he adds after a pause. 

 

Sarawat rests his head on Tine's shoulder, curling his arms around Tine's forearm. "I am happy where my  boyfriend  is," he says. 

 

Tine makes no move to shrug his head off his shoulders. This prompts Sarawat to huddle in even closer. "How was it with your brother?" 

 

"It was tiring...exhausting. But it was nice spending time with him when he didn't talk about you." 

 

"Do you think that he believed you?" 

 

Tine nods. "I think we are in the clear for a while." 

 

"Hmm, I talked to your dad too," Sarawat says. He feels Tine's body go rigid and Sarawat looks up. Tine looks a bit, alarmed, to say the least. 

 

"Was he okay?" Tine asks, softly.

 

Sarawat nods. "He was really great. He gave me your guitar and asked me to take care of it." Sarawat points at the guitar on the table. Tine goes near it, trailing his fingers on it. 

 

"He looks like he believes us too," he says, the pang of longing still apparent in his heart. 

 

"I am surprised," Tine says. "I did not expect him to give you my guitar. I did not expect him to even talk to you. He never seemed bothered before." 

 

"It seemed as though he cared for you," Sarawat says softly. 

 

Tine scoffs, before sighing and leaning against the table. "Growing up, he was...cold, to say the least. He was rarely home and even when he was, we didn't see him. He seldom had anything good to say about us. His reaction to P'Type coming out was cold and maybe he realised something and made an effort but –" 

 

Tine sighs again and Sarawat walks up to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. " – I guess he's been making an effort even after I told him but it doesn't seem enough, you know? I wish I was as close to him as people are with their fathers." 

 

Tine gives him a wobbly smile which prompts Sarawat to walk up to him and hug him as tightly as he can. Sarawat can feel Tine's body limping against his, before he wraps his arms around Sarawat's waist, pulling him even closer. Tine's head rests comfortably on Sarawat's shoulder and he trails his hand up Tine's back until he's gently patting his hair above his neck. They stay that way for a while. 

 

***

 

Sarawat wants to build a bubble and put all the good things about this trip in it. He wants to stay there forever. In his carefully constructed bubble, he would take the sound of the waves crashing that can be heard from their room. He would take the moon and the stars and hang it inside his bubble. He would take the delicious food that they've been eating. He would take Tine's guitar and the low lighting of this room that just made everything a little more delightful. He would take the faint pink that creeps up Tine's cheeks and paint the walls with it. He would take the warm feeling inside his chest, the buzzing feeling in his stomach that comes with feeling content, and the way he feels when Tine looks at him. He would take Tine and everything that came along with him. He could stay in that bubble forever, he thinks. 

 

He is staring at the ceiling thinking about his perfect bubble when he hears Tine whisper, "are you awake?"

 

"Yes." 

 

Tine, whose back was facing Sarawat, turns and faces him instead. Sarawat turns too and suddenly they're  really  close. 

 

"Why are you awake?" he whispers. 

 

"I was thinking."

 

"About?" Tine asks. 

 

"You," Sarawat answers truthfully. "Who else can I think about but you?"

 

Tine takes a sharp breath. "Revising for tomorrow, are we?" 

 

Sarawat looks at Tine for a moment too long, trying to convey ' Hey! I am in love with you'  with his eyes under the dim light of the bedside lamp. Unfortunately for Sarawat, Tine is neither a psychic nor someone who can read Sarawat's eyes very well. 

 

"It is true," Sarawat says. 

 

Tine takes another sharp breath. 

 

"I think," Tine begins, his voice a bit shaky. He clears his throat and continues, "I think that we were still a bit awkward with the whole subtle physical interactions," he says. 

 

Sarawat's eyebrows are one with his hairline. "Awkward," he repeats after a pause. 

 

Tine vehemently nods his head. "Yes. They felt a bit forced." 

 

"Forced," Sarawat repeats, pretending to ponder. "What do you suggest then?"

 

Tine looks away. "I think that we should touch more." 

 

Sarawat raises his eyebrows. 

 

Tine must've realised just how his sentence sounds only shakes his head. "No, you pervert, not like  that . I mean. Uh – I think that we should, you know –" A pause. –  cuddle ." 

 

Sarawat's eyes shoot wide open. " Cuddle ," he uselessly repeats. 

 

"Only for tonight. Uh, I mean, if you want." 

 

Sarawat did want. Very much. 

 

"For practice," Tine says when Sarawat stays silent. 

 

Sarawat is a  weak , weak, man. He can only nod in reply. "Let's cuddle for practice, then." Sarawat can feel Tine smile before they find a position they're both comfortable in and drift into sleep together, holding each other. Sarawat's heartbeat aligns with Tine's breaths and he finally realises that heaven does truly exist and it is being in Tine's arms. 

 

Sarawat may be weak, he thinks as sleep slowly takes over, but he is also cuddling the person he is in love with, so who is really winning here?

 

***

 

They are decidedly not winning, Sarawat realises as he is mercilessly tackled by one of Tine's many, many cousins as another one of Tine's many, many cousins score the final goal of the match.

 

He hears Tine holler a "foul!" and he can't help but feel touched. He dusts off the sand off his shorts and goes to him. 

 

"It wasn't a foul, nuisance," he says snatching the water bottle from his hand and gulping down almost half of it, "but I appreciate you defending my honour." 

 

Tine only nudges him. "If I don't defend my boyfriend's honour, whose honour will I defend?" he murmurs. "Besides, I don't know what a foul looks like." 

 

"Four years of gawking at me while I play football and you can't even tell what a foul is? Was I that distracting?" 

 

Tine's cheeks get red and he chooses not to reply, only holding out a napkin in response. He takes the napkin from Tine's hand, Sarawat's fingers faintly brushing against his. He has to steer back at just the intensity of Tine's touch. He notices Tine pulling away from his hand and sighs in relief when he realises that he's not the only one feeling it. "It's okay, Tine. I was distracted by you too." 

 

He hears someone clear his throat beside them and turns towards P'Type. He looks at him with a little less intensity than he did yesterday. He turns towards his brother. "Be ready by 7, okay? We will leave together. The room is booked for 8 so we cannot be a minute late." 

 

All in all, today has been a good day and will remain a good day, if Tine's sunny smile is anything to go by. The morning had passed better than Sarawat could've ever hoped. They woke up in each other's arms again, except this time, there was no awkward scrambling. This time, there was a gentle 'good morning' as if waking up in each other's arms was something they'd always done. When they'd met everyone for breakfast, Sarawat had noticed just how much the family grew overnight, with more and more of Tine's cousins and nieces and nephews coming through. He was also underprepared to deal with just how adorable Tine looked when he played with them -- but that matter could wait. 

 

"I didn't know you had so many cousins," Sarawat had said, pulling aside Tine who clearly looked overwhelmed. 

 

Tine had shaken his head. "Neither did I." 

 

They'd stayed away from people till it was time for lunch. They were thrown again into the mass of people being introduced to a lot more relatives than Sarawat could ever hope to remember. Sarawat had finally met the bride and the groom P'Faa and P'Pat and felt comfort in the fact that they looked as awkward as Sarawat had felt. Tine had been an enigma by his side, effortlessly making small talk with anyone and everyone. 

 

The cousins had already decided to go to the club in the evening and had even gone ahead to even book one of their private rooms for an informal party since it was only a night before P'Faa was to get married. The invite soon got extended to her soon-to-be husband's cousins too.  

 

Sarawat was, for the lack of a better word, dreading going to the club. 

Later, Sarawat will realise that going to the club was probably the best thing to ever happen to him. But in the present, Sarawat is dreading the socialisation and just wants to spend a quiet night with Tine – again 

 

***

 

Something about today, however, felt different. He was yet to find out if it was a good kind of different or a bad kind of different. There was  something  prominent that settled between the space that Tine and Sarawat shared, something heavy but oh, so fragile. It makes its presence known every time he breathes the same air as Tine. Sarawat almost doesn't want to address it but he knows he  has  to before it dissolves into something dangerous.

 

Something heavy that had settled between them doesn't stop Sarawat from leaning against Tine on their way to the club. Maybe it's the effect that Tine's continuous physical presence over the past few days or maybe, just  maybe  Sarawat is just touch-starved. It doesn't help that Tine smells ridiculously good. Sarawat feels like a creep, trying to discern the contrast between how he used to smell then and how he smells now, so he reels away from Tine, only for him to look at him funny. 

 

"Were you trying to smell me?" he asks, his tone incredulous. 

 

Sarawat catches P'Type's glare from the mirror and he sits back, putting a little distance from Tine. 

 

"You smell nice," he says, his voice small.  He does . He smells like expensive cologne and it is as intoxicating as Tine. 

 

"So you're a creep too?" P'Type scowls. 

 

His boyfriend, P'Ton, says, "Eyes on the road, babe. Besides, they've been together for only six months. Don't you remember how we were then?" 

 

P'Type's glare is now directed at his boyfriend before he drives again. 

 

“How long have you both been dating?” Sarawat can’t help but ask. 

 

P’Type glares at him through the mirror, again. “It isn’t your business, is it?” 

 

“P’Type,” Tine says, “please be nice to my boyfriend.”  

 

"You have to excuse him," P'Ton says, looking at Sarawat. "He means well but his actions come off rude. We have been dating for about four years now." He turns to them and winks. “The novelty doesn’t wear off.” 

 

P’Type says, “I don't mean well. I mean to insult him."

 

P'Ton pouts. "That is  very  rude. What if Tine had treated me that way when I came to meet your family?" 

 

Sarawat scoffs. Tine would never treat anyone with anything but kindness. P'Ton could purposely drop soup in his lap and Tine would apologise.

 

P'Type gives him a  look  that expresses the same "Unlike Sarawat, you had not broken my –" 

 

"P'Type," Tine whines. "Play some music, please. How are we travelling without listening to it?" 

 

His brother sighs and complies. 

 

"Broken his what?" Sarawat whispers. Tine avoids eye-contact and shakes his head. "Nothing." 

 

Without giving Sarawat a chance to reply, he starts singing along to the songs that P'Type says. P'Ton makes eye contact with Sarawat, shrugging his shoulders. 

 

***

 

The club is packed with people and Sarawat reluctantly lets go of Tine's hand because Tine is an  extrovert  who wants to  mingle  with this cousins and  dance  with them, leaving Sarawat to sulk alone in the corner of the busy club, waiting until the private room was available to them. If Sarawat was someone who could easily make conversation with people, he'd have manoeuvred his way to where Tine was dancing with his cousins. But instead, Sarawat had to be someone who couldn't make small talk to save his life, he thinks as he pitifully sips his beer. 

 

Sarawat misses the warm comfort of his bed way too much. He suddenly wishes Man and Boss were here too. They'd reduce the awkwardness that seems to loom over his head. He sits on a sofa, far away from where people were dancing, far away from where Tine was, only to be joined by P'Ton and P'Type. 

 

He glances at P'Type and P'Ton, surprised to see just how fond P'Type looks at his boyfriend even as he is wiping the drink that P'Ton spilt on his shirt. 

 

P'Type catches his eye and guards his expression. "What are you looking at?" he asks over the loud music. 

 

Sarawat shifts a little towards them, so he doesn't have to shout over the music. "I wish I was with Tine," he says, because he really,  really  does. He catches Tine's eye from the dancefloor and waves at him. Tine enthusiastically waves back, until he is pulled in the opposite direction. 

 

Sarawat heaves a sigh. "Be a good partner and go dance with him," he hears P'Type say. 

 

"But babe," P'Ton pouts. "I want to dance too and yet we're here, sitting because you want to."

 

"You can go and dance then," P'Type says, "I can sit here with Sarawat." 

 

His boyfriend only scoffs in response. "And leave him here with you, all by himself? I want Sarawat alive by the end of tonight, thank you very much."

 

Just then, Tine comes along the sofa, all their cousins in tow. "The room is finally empty, let's go, let's go!" 

 

***

 

P'Ton is somehow really easy to talk to. He has the kind of energy that Sarawat had always been jealous of, finding comfort in the awkwardness that Sarawat's stilted conversation left behind, only for him to contribute something entirely different to the conversation. Sarawat feels himself opening up in a way he hasn't to someone new for a very long time and finds that he enjoys it. He doesn't know how much time has passed since they've found a corner in the room where the songs drown out and they can hear each other better, but he knows that this is marginally better than lamenting in his room, all alone. 

 

"I can see how much you love him," P'Ton says after he catches Sarawat looking at Tine for the umpteenth time that night.

 

Sarawat forces himself to drag his eyes away from Tine. "I do," he admits. "I really do love him." 

 

"He loves you too, I can tell," P'Ton says as he sips his drink. 

 

Sarawat's heart clenches. 

 

"You know what you should do? Serenade him. We all know that you're dating anyway and serenading keeps the romance alive, trust me!" 

 

Sarawat furrows his eyebrows. "Have you serenaded P'Type before?" 

 

"Oh, multiple times. Once there were doves involved. That… didn't end well. The other time, his stuck-up boss threatened to kick me  and  him out of his office. We were almost served eviction notice once because I wouldn't stop blaring  our  song. It was hilarious," he says, with a fond look on his face. 

 

"I will think about serenading him," Sarawat replies as if he even has to think about it. He may not be confident about a lot of things but he knows in his bones just how happy Tine looks when he sings for him.  Besides , he reasons,  it will make the act more believable . "Wait, what happened to the doves, P'Ton?" 

 

P'Ton cheekily grins. "Add me on Line. I will tell you all about how not to handle doves while serenading the love of your life and we can talk about the perils of dating the Teepakorn brothers because God knows I've been wanting to share their eccentricity with someone who understands me!" 

 

The wave of longing that was kept at bay, crashes against his heart with full force. They've successfully tricked everyone but in the end, the only fool that's remaining is him -- because he wants this with Tine. With his heart a tad bit heavy, he adds P'Ton on Line when Tine comes along, giggling and half-drunk. 

 

He grabs Sarawat's hand and drags him to the dancefloor, stumbling a bit. He doesn't know where or how he drank because every time that Sarawat had looked at him (and trust him, he had looked a  lot ), he had only been giggling and dancing. But the flush of his cheeks and the stumble in his steps as he holds on to Sarawat tells him otherwise. 

 

"Wat, wat, wat," he says, clutching his shirt. "Dance with me. I want to dance with you," he says, pulling him towards where his cousins stood. 

 

Sarawat briefly acknowledged the cousins and but Tine grabbing his shirt had made him focus all his attention on Tine. Tine loosely hugs him and rests his head on Sarawat's shoulder as he swayed with him to an upbeat song. 

 

"Tine, how drunk are you?" Sarawat asks after a while of Tine's offbeat dance. 

 

Tine breathes on his neck, leaving goosebumps all over Sarawat's neck. "Only a little, to take the edge off."

 

Suddenly, he grips Sarawat's arms tight, looking him straight into the eye. He's close, unbelievably so. Tine's presence appears to be looming over his and there's something heavy that settles in the space left between them. Sarawat takes a staggering breath, trying to put some distance between the both of them, trying to distance himself from that heavy feeling that is making it hard for him to breathe. Uncharacteristically, Tine only steps in closer. He takes Sarawat's hand and says, "I want to dance with you." 

 

Sarawat has to take a deep breath before nodding. His heart is thundering in his chest as the changing lights glint in Tine's eyes. Tine pulls him towards the centre of the dancefloor again and Sarawat follows, his heart reverberating with the heavy bass of the song. 

 

The change that seemed insignificant in the air that surrounds them had suddenly become larger than life and Sarawat had been too busy looking at Tine to even notice that change. For the first time in his life, he feels as though he's losing against something that isn't under his control. It's as though he's given Tine all the reins in his life and told him –  here, do as you please.  Something that could have been filled with a quip or an obvious attempt to flirt is filled with something magnetic and that is enough to snap Sarawat's mouth shut. 

 

Tine places his hands on Sarawat's waist and pulls him closer. Somehow, during the entire ordeal of being at the other end of the teasing, the songs had changed into something slow, smooth, and full of love. His heart still was beating as though a harsh song was being played through it but that didn't stop him from closing his eyes and breathing in, trying to remember the details of this very moment. He tries to memorise how Tine's hand feels slotted in his, how gently his hand rests on Sarawat's waist, and just how at home he feels in Tine's arms. Tine giggles as he steps on Sarawat's foot by mistake and Sarawat can only smile in response. He twirls him instead and lets Tine do the same to him, as they crash into each other, resting their foreheads together. 

 

The ease at which Sarawat can imagine them slow-dancing in other scenarios should alarm him. He imagines them slow dancing in their kitchen at two a.m., slow dancing to any of the shitty romantic comedies songs that they always end up watching, slow dancing fifty years later when they're old and wrinkled. The intensity of what he feels for Tine should alarm him too. The fact that Tine is his first thought when he wakes up and the last thought when he falls asleep – the only person he isn't scared of laying his soul bare should alarm him too. But it doesn't -- because Tine is here, resting his head in the crook of his neck as he sways with Sarawat to the song. How could he feel anything but love in this very moment?

 

The song ends, but their dancing does not. He feels like it is just them in the room with a bright red spotlight, the shape of his heart is shining above them. Sarawat wants to live in the moment forever. 

 

The moment, unfortunately, doesn't last forever as someone takes the mic and begins speaking. Sarawat grudgingly breaks away from Tine, trying feeling a little dizzy at what had just transpired. He laments the loss of Tine's body against his. It does not last very long, because Tine laces their fingers together. 

 

"Sorry to cut the beautiful slow dancing, everyone," P'Ton says, not looking sorry at all. "I could see everyone having a lot of fun but unfortunately, our dear bride and groom have to leave in a little while to catch their beauty sleep for tomorrow." 

 

His grin then turns cheeky. "However, a very famous singer from Bangkok has come all the way here to sing us a  very  special song for the bride and the groom! Give Sarawat a round of applause, everyone!" 

 

Sarawat's mouth hangs open. He should've expected this, really. His experience with Man and Boss should've prepared him to deal with this situation but he finds himself completely rooted on spot, until someone, who he notices is P'Type nudges him. 

 

Sarawat stumbles his way forward, realising after a moment that Tine is still holding his hand, grinning at him and following him until he reaches P'Ton where he stands with a guitar in his hand. 

 

He covers his microphone with his hand and whispers, "only if you're okay with it." 

 

Sarawat nods and suddenly, leaving Tine's hand and he is standing in front of the rest of Tine's family. 

 

P'Ton steps down, handing Sarawat the acoustic guitar and Sarawat clears his throat. "Good evening," he begins, wincing at how his voice sounds. He meets Tine's eyes who only smiles at him.  

 

"Firstly, this song is dedicated to the bride and the groom. I hope that both of you find strength in each other and are happy forever." 

 

His audience whoots in response. 

 

"This song is also dedicated to Tine," he says, looking straight at him. "Tine," A pause. Surely, there must be something he could say that would encompass all that he feels for him under the false security that this pretence gives him. Tine's eyes widen as he waits for Sarawat to continue. "Tine, I love you," he confesses, hoping that Tine understands just how much he means it. 

 

He takes a deep breath and strumming his guitar to Everything – the song that he can play even in his sleep. He'd learned how to play it for him, he muses as his eyes find his. Their eyes never leave each other during the entirety of the song. It could never be enough to reveal the extent of his feelings for him, but it comes close enough. The song comes to an end, but the way Tine is looking at him doesn't. A part of him wants to look away. He is a  weak  man, he thinks. He is a weak,  weak  man who is bending under the intensity of Tine's gaze. The applause cannot manage to drown out the thudding in his chest as he stands beside Tine, twining their hands together, again. Something has changed tonight, he realises with more clarity as he feels the sparks against his skin when he touches Tine. Something has changed tonight and Sarawat can only hope that it's for the best. 

 

Chapter Text

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.