As an apology for enrolling him in his seventh high school for a span of three years, Tine’s mom sprung a surprise trip for the two of them in a really nice ski lodge in Japan for the Christmas holidays.
Not that he wasn’t grateful for the opportunity to ski, but Tine spent most of the two weeks in the hotel lounge while his mom skied or did the same. It always had a warm fire going, plus endless hot chocolate.
He curled up with one of his books and was set for the day.
After dinner, he’s sitting in his favorite spot when someone gently taps his foot with their own and he jumps.
“Tine, it’s New Year’s Eve. Enough reading,” Tine’s mom said while giving him a stern as she takes the book from him.
Pure panic runs through Tine’s veins. “But I'm almost done—” he reaches for his book but she holds it away from his grip.
“There's a party for teens upstairs, I think you could have a great time there,” she prods. “It will be fun.”
Tine negotiates, “Can I bring my book?"
Tine's mom sighs. “Fine, but make sure to have fun okay?”
With that, Tine goes upstairs, clutching his book in his fingers.
There's actually a fair amount of people Tine's age there, and that surprises him. He was expecting either no one or a bunch of 13-year-olds.
There's a stage of people in the middle of the room. They seem to be singing karaoke, some poppy ballad he's never heard before. The guy and girl singing aren't completely terrible, he's just grateful that he has the book with him.
“Give it up for a couple of snowboarders!” the emcee says, letting the two “singers” leave to light applause.
“Let's see who's next!”
Tine winces as suddenly there's a light focused on him. And people start guiding him to stand and towards the stage as Tine protests weakly. “What? No, there's a mistake—”
Reluctantly, since making a scene would probably be even worse, Tine stands up on stage.
His sudden nerves get even worse when he sees the guy next to him. Just a bit shorter than Tine himself, which is still a feat because Tine is way too tall, but he’s broader, his biceps clearly defined. He has dark black hair, unsettlingly deep brown eyes, and a jaw that could probably slice granite.
Tine has never seen a guy this attractive. In real life.
Oh, and he’s Thai, too.
He’s wearing a loose navy green shirt with grey skinny jeans, and he looks so casually good. Tine suddenly feels ridiculous in his favorite black top with his matching white sweater and joggers. Unsure of himself, he starts scratching at his neck.
The other guy, at least, also looks uncomfortable as hell. That’s slightly reassuring.
“You know, someday you guys might thank me for this.”
Tine shoots the emcee a stunned look of disbelief. The other guy sends the emcee a look too that frankly says ‘cut the crap’.
“Or not,” The emcee shrugs and forces the microphone into the black-haired god’s hand, who just puts it back in the stand.
The music starts, and like the fan he is, he instantly recognized it. It’s the famous Scrubb song ‘Together’ that went viral internationally. The guitar chords are pretty simple, like Tine could play it and he’s not that good.
The words show up on the screen in front of them, and Tine does nothing.
The black-haired guy clears his throat and sings quietly into the mic.
Walking by, looking at people I don’t know, staying around
Looking at them, it feels the same as I used to
I try looking back at the memories I have, it seems there’s only me
Only me who knows me, as usual
Tine gets another feeling of panic when he watches the other guy goes to step off the stage. Maybe he should sing. Before he knows it, his eyes are scrunched close and he’s singing.
Days, months, and years used to be just a passing wind
But someone has made my time feel meaningful
They start singing the chorus together, and Tine knows this song so well—he’s a fan of Scrubb after all—so he manages to get slightly more confident.
One person changed everything
The person who can make me smile, no matter how sad I am
You have changed my love
I don’t know, I don’t understand
Maybe because we belong together
People start to pay more attention to them, and it seems like the other guy just lives for it as he puts his hands up, much to the screams of the females in the crowd, and plays around with the mic stand.
One day, just looking at you passing by, you were someone whom I didn’t know
But you made those days of mine changed from the usual
Days, months, and years used to be just a passing wind
Until someone has made my time feel meaningful
Something about his energy inspires Tine, and he takes his own mic off the stand and dances. He even removed his sweater and threw it on the floor. Quirking an eyebrow, the black-haired boy does the same and actually dances up to Tine. Like he might actually start grinding on Tine if he got close enough.
One person changed everything
The person who can make me smile, no matter how sad I am
You have changed my love
I don’t know, I don’t understand
Maybe because we belong together
A bit taken aback, Tine nearly falls off the stage but thankfully some people pushed him back up. Plus, the guy had taken Tine’s hand and pulled him closer. And, this time, he wasn’t sure if he’d mind if he started grinding on him.
Before he knows it, the song is over and people are actually cheering for them. He looks over at the guy, who’s already extending his hand.
Tine takes Sarawat’s hand and shakes it. “I’m Tine.”
They have to clear the stage and Sarawat just jumps right off into a free spot, a good foot and a half from the stage. He holds out a hand to Tine. Tine debates heading towards the stairs but instead just takes the hand again and jumps down as well.
“I saw a hot cocoa bar over there,” Sarawat says as he grabs Tine’s jacket from the floor and gives it to him.
Oh right, he did a mini striptease earlier. Tine screams internally.
“Care to join me?” Sarawat asks him, clearly amused by whatever’s going on in his head.
“Yeah, cool,” Tine tries not to blush too bad as he follows Sarawat’s lead. What even is happening right now?
It’s nearing midnight and Tine and Sarawat are walking out on the terrace because rumor has it there are fireworks to signify the New Year.
“Seriously, Tine, you have an amazing voice,” Sarawat’s complimenting him and Tine feels his ears burn with the blush, “You sing right?” He emphasizes then winks, “And not just karaoke with handsome strangers?”
Tine shrugs at the compliment towards himself. He can’t help but smile though at the compliment Sarawat gives himself, “Just middle school choir years ago. I had a solo once and nearly fainted.”
Sarawat looks genuinely surprised. “Really? What happened?”
Tine involuntarily shudders, cradling the hot cocoa closer as he and Sarawat huddle together to stare off into the night sky. “I took one look at the crowd staring at me, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at the ceiling. End of solo career.”
Tine can laugh about it now, but it still terrifies him to think about it.
“That’s damn near impossible to believe,” Sarawat nudges him with his arm. “You have an amazing voice.”
“That was my first time doing it since. It was actually kind of cool,” he replies.
Sarawat smiles, and it’s like the sun is exploding at night. It’s so bright. He stops himself before he waxes poetically about this lovely stranger.
“You were brilliant, by the way.”
Tine’s face reddens a bit. “You sound like a singer too,” he shyly compliments back.
Sarawat snorts, “Yeah sure, my shower head is very impressed with me.”
“I bet it would be,” Tine says, then realizes what he actually said and feels his whole face blush. He almost refuses to look at Sarawat on the principle of protecting himself from further embarrassment, but then he sneaks a peek and sees Sarawat is smirking happily.
Before he can defend himself, the crowd of people that has gathered around them is counting down. Fuck, is it already midnight?
“10! 9! 8! 7!”
Tine and Sarawat look at each other, noticing how close they are. Sarawat’s eyes flicker to his lips.
“5! 4! 3!”
Not sure what else to do, Tine nods a bit, and he’s fairly certain Sarawat wouldn’t have caught it if he wasn’t so close.
He does, and Sarawat leans forward more until their lips are touching.
"2! 1! Happy new year!
It was fireworks. Their kiss was fireworks.
Tine’s head tilted just barely as the other boy deepened the kiss, his lips opening to better cover his. Unconsciously, he wrapped his hands around Sarawat’s back, tugging him closer. He could hear his blood pounding in his veins as Sarawat continued to kiss him, slowly dipping his tongue in and out. Sarawat gently bit down on his lower lip before sliding his hands down to his shoulders and pulling away.
It doesn’t go too far, not really, but Tine does find himself blushing afterward. Bashfully, he removes his hand from Sarawat’s back.
Tine clears his throat, afraid that his voice might break. “Well, I guess I should go wish my mom a happy new year,” Tine says awkwardly. Because what even is this? What’s even happening in his life right now?
Tine Teepakorn does not go around kissing near strangers at parties, especially not near the slopes of a mountain valley in Japan, which is almost 3000 miles away from Thailand.
He doesn’t know how he feels about it.
“Hopefully not like that—shit fuck sorry,” Sarawat runs his hands through his hair.
Tine laughs because it’s funny and also Sarawat is really cute, all blushy, and nervous. It makes him feel better about feeling blushy and nervous. “Yeah, so uhm, happy new year—”
“Wait, do you live in Thailand as well?”
Tine nods. “Yes, I’m here for the holidays. Why?”
“Can I get your number then?” Sarawat asks, back to the confidence he had before that Tine also really liked.
Tine’s face reddened a bit, clearly taken aback. “Yeah sure, I’ll give you my number,” he quickly reaches into his back pocket, as does Sarawat. They both unlock their phones and pull up ‘Contacts’.
Practically synchronized, they fill in their info and take selfies for the photo. He debates doing something silly or sexy and just goes for a classic smile. Again, it’s reassuring to see that Sarawat does the same.
A crowd suddenly formed around them, separating the two boys from one another.
“It’s really nice to meet you!” Tine says, hopefully not too loud, or else his mom might panic.
“You too!” Sarawat shouts back at him, waving his hand furiously in the process as if he doesn’t want to let Tine out of his sight.
‘This school is humongous’, is Tine’s first thought.
Then he realized, he’s 17 years old, so his mom shouldn’t be walking him down the halls of high school like a first-grader, much to his chagrin.
Luckily, she’s not holding his hand this time.
After wrapping up with the principal in his office, who can’t stop talking about how the school will be delighted to know that Tine Teepakorn—professional acclaimed nerd—is attending their school, the man walks Tine and his mom down the nearly deserted hallways.
Tine might actually die. His stomach might implode because it's so tense.
“Ma, my stomach—” Tine goes to plead. Maybe to start the second semester of his junior year tomorrow. Or next month. Or never.
“Honey, it’s normal to be nervous on the first day at a new school.”
Tine groans. Of course, his mom would know, she’s dragged him to various schools already, more than what’s considered normal.
He cuts that thought off in his head. His mom works really hard to provide for him. “You got this, Tine, you always do.”
He knows that if they weren’t in public, she’d stamp it metaphorically with a pinch to the cheek. Thank god, she didn’t.
And thank god, her company isn’t moving them again until he graduates. If he had to start senior year at another new place, he doesn’t think he could take it.
“I reviewed your transcripts, your inner wildcat will surely roar here at GMM High,” the principal says, handing his schedule over to Tine. Is he kidding?
As the principal leaves, Tine desperately turns to his mom, praying for an ounce of sympathy, “I don’t want to be the school’s bullied, genius freak again.” He purposefully leaves out the gay part, because she already knows.
His mom taps him on the nose because she probably can’t help herself especially when he gets worried about being bullied for whatever reason. “Just be yourself, Tine. Now go to homeroom, you don’t want a tardy mark on your first day.”
He barely resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Yes, ma”.
This is by far the weirdest classroom Tine’s ever been in. Paintings of playwrights, carpets, and drapes hanging about, and a stage in front of the desk? What kind of hell has he walked into?
His least favorite thing is when teachers introduce the new kid, like introducing a new buffalo to the herd, so he tries to quickly maneuver his way to the back after dropping his information off to the teacher. He doesn’t want to get noticed too much by her or the students. As soon as he was able to, he sat down, dropping his stuff beside him and barely paying attention to the people around him.
He squints at the front of the room. He might need to get his glasses out to see the board, but he doubts the white-haired, cheerfully plump woman standing at the front is going to write anything in homeroom class.
The bell rings, and the lady at the front is already talking. He’s memorized his schedule, so he knows her name is Ms. Pornenpipat.
“I trust you all had splendid holidays. Make sure to check the signups on the bulletin boards for extracurricular activities, Mr. Guntithanon,” The teacher says pointedly to the guy sitting at the front, who’s currently not listening to the lecture.
But then, Tine realizes.
That’s the last name of the guy he kissed, as it says so on his phone.
Tine shakes his head a little bit as the guy turns around and he no longer can see his face. Nope. No way. Too much of a coincidence.
“Especially be on the lookout for auditions for the upcoming Scrubb musical,” She drags out the a-vowel in the word and something about it makes the hairs on his neck stand up, “There will be single auditions and pairs auditions for our two leads.”
“Man,” She uses the same teacher tone, addressing the boy with facial hair behind Mr. Guntithanon who’s holding a ball used in football on his desk. “This is a place of learning, not a football arena.”
Tine assumes someone who brings a ball would be deeply offended by that faux-pas.
“There is also a final sign-up for next week’s scholastic decathlon competition,” Ms. Pornenpipat continues around the room and stands beside a boy with porcelain skin and man-bangs. “Chem Club president Type will gladly answer any and all questions about that.”
The boy sitting a row beside him and a chair forward raise his hand happily. Tine can’t help but smile a bit, is it okay to be smart here?
All of a sudden, Tine feels his phone vibrate in his book bag. But because of his nerves this morning, he forgot to put it on silent so his old iPhone 5 starts playing the most generic Apple ringtone.
Embarrassed, even though everyone else is taking out their own phones to see if it’s theirs, he pulls his out of his bag to turn it off.
But then he sees Sarawat’s picture pop up on the screen and his heart actually flutters.
Before he can ruminate on that, Ms. Pornenpipat is practically in his face, carrying around a purple pail with “DETENTION” in sparkles on it. “Cell phone use is strictly prohibited, Mr. Teepakorn, so we shall get to know each other in detention.”
Tine screams internally, because how did he become the person who gets detention on his first day? He decided to roll with it and hope it doesn’t become part of a permanent record as he gently places his phone in the pail.
“And welcome to GMM High, Mr. Teepakorn,” Ms. Pornenpipat says, and Tine can’t tell if she’s sincere or not.
As Ms. Pornenpipat walks to the front, she stops by the desk of the boy she called out earlier, “Mr. Guntithanon, I see your phone is involved, so I shall see you after school in detention.”
She goes back to stand at the front but the guy with facial hair, Man, says, “That’s not even a possibility—” He starts harshly but then Ms. Pornenpipat’s glasses drop menacingly on her nose as she sends him a look that would probably kill Tine. He resists the urge to laugh as he hears Man reconsider, “Ms. Pornenpipat, your honor, b-because we have football practice and Sarawat—”
Sarawat? Tine thinks to himself. Okay, that’s the weirdest coincidence ever.
“Ah, that’ll be 15 minutes for you too. Count them,” Ms. Pornenpipat goes to turn around again, but then Tine hears the Chem Club president speak in a whisper that’s not much of a whisper.
“That must be quite the struggle for Man since he probably can’t count that high,” Type says, pleased with himself, to his friends around him.
Tine smirks a bit there. Nice burn.
“Type, 15 minutes,” Ms. Pornenpipat issues, and Tine sees the pure shock on Type’s face and assumes that he must feel as bad as Tine felt.
Type, in his own way, looks cool. He looks professional in a fitted shirt, blazer, and jeans with no rips in them for his first day. Tine is just wearing a generic white t-shirt and jeans with a rip that was not intentional. Damn his clumsy legs.
If he ever wants to be known as the nerd again, he might befriend Type.
Okay, that was mean, he should probably befriend Type anyway.
Tine’s drawn from his thoughts when Ms. Pornenpipat harshly sets the pail down. “The holidays are way over people. Way over. Any more comments? Questions?”
Silence falls over the room.
Tine, out of the corner of his eye, sees a guy with old Bieber hair raise his hand. “Yes, Ohm?” Ms. Pornenpipat seems to deflate.
“How were your holidays, Ms. Pornenpipat?” He asks, innocently enough.
Everyone groans at him.
Tine sighs as he puts his stuff together again. He’ll have to discreetly text his mom during detention to let her know that he’ll be home late. He hopes she won’t worry.
As he worries about her potentially worrying, he barely notices when someone approaches him from behind as he leaves the room and gently touches his elbow.
He jumps in surprise, and spins around and prepares for the fist in the face when he sees it’s Sarawat. His Sarawat. His Sarawat must be Sarawat Gunthitanon.
That realization makes Tine smile in pure disbelief. “I don’t—”
“Believe it,” Sarawat’s grinning just like Tine pictured and remembered it.
Anyone else interrupting him would have been annoying. Sarawat doing it is a godsend because he’d probably trip over his words.
“But how?” Sarawat asks, his voice still in a whisper.
“My mom’s company transferred her here,” Tine almost goes to explain the intricacies of her job but he stops himself and changes the subject back to them. “I can’t believe you live here, that you go here. I-I looked for you at the lodge New Year’s Day.” He admits, hoping that it's not too creepy to admit that.
Sarawat doesn’t seem to find that stalkerish, and he continues to whisper as he gently leads him down the halls, “We had to leave first thing—”
Tine looks around, and then back to Sarawat, “Why are you whispering?” Tine speaks hushed too like maybe he’s missing something. Are they not allowed to talk at a normal volume in the hallways? He feels like the principal should have mentioned that.
Sarawat looks sheepish, like after he did when he kissed Tine.
Sarawat speaks at normal volume this time, “Oh, uh... my friends know about the snowboarding. Not the… singing.” He waves his hand around, saying “singing” like a curse word and he’s in fourth grade and afraid to use it.
And Tine wonders if that also means the kissing of, you know, a boy as a jock.
Even as he speaks, some guy from out of nowhere slaps Sarawat on the shoulder and says, “Hey, Sarawat” as they walk past.
Temporarily, Sarawat claps them back and says, “Sup.”
Sarawat turns back to Tine, noticeably a bit more distance between them.
Might be a sexuality crisis then.
Tine raises an eyebrow, “Too much for them to handle?” His nerves are making his confidence higher and he’s not sure if he likes it.
Sarawat laughs, but it’s slightly uneasy. “No it was cool, it was great,” he emphasizes, and his smile is real. “It’s just, with my friends, it’s uh...” Tine can see the struggle on his face as they walk side by side. “It’s not what I do.” He says simply.
Tine exhales a bit and pretends to study his schedule.
“It was like a different me, I guess,” Sarawat continues.
Tine’s not sure how he feels about that, and he’s also fairly certain his classroom’s down this left hall, not straight ahead, so he cuts Sarawat off and keeps walking.
To his surprise, Sarawat keeps up, “Well, anyway, welcome to GMM High,” he says this grandly, sweeping his arms out.
That has Tine smiling as they walk in front of a pillar that has a lot of events stapled onto it. Tine, in the habit of being the new kid, makes sure to stop. Maybe to also let Sarawat shake himself loose if he wants to.
Again, surprisingly, he stays right by Tine’s side as he points out the sheet that says “SCRUBB: THE MUSICAL AUDITIONS” in glitter pen, along with a sign that says those who will audition will be getting extra credit. “I bet homeroom made you pumped to audition, huh?” Sarawat says in a teasing manner.
Tine shrugs, trying to be casual, “I won’t be signing up for anything for a while, I just want to get to know the school.” In reality, he’s just not eager to reveal how smart he actually is yet.
He can’t stop the smile on his face as he turns to Sarawat though. “But if you sign up, I’d consider coming to the show.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fucking impossible,” Sarawat laughs, and he’s so charming Tine’s heart hurts a bit.
Tine goes to say something but then out of nowhere, a girl wearing the most ridiculous all-pink outfit he’s ever seen in his life appears.
She looks vaguely familiar, and Tine figures he saw her in the halls or something.
“What’s impossible, Sarawat? I didn’t even think that word would be a part of your vocabulary,” The girl says as she flutters her eyelashes at Sarawat.
Tine recognizes her voice, she must be in his homeroom. Her eyes fixate on Tine, and Tine feels his smile from before drop. “Oh! So nice of you to show the new student around.”
She looks positively lethal, in a very positive way.
Tine looks over at Sarawat, and sees how uncomfortable he looks. Neither of them says anything.
The girl just turns from them and, in a bright pink sharpie surprise-surprise, writes her name “PAM BURIN (huge star)” in a very big and curly style all over the signup sheet where it says the pairs auditions.
He then notices her write in a tinier font ‘+Green Burin.’
Sarawat and Tine share a look, both uncomfortable, but Tine feels a bit more pleased. As this kind of ridiculousness is oddly comforting.
“Oh, were you gonna sign up too?” The girl, Pam, says saccharinely.
Before one of them even had the chance to respond, she kept talking, “My brother and I have starred—” she taps the sharpie against the star she drew next to her name—bigger than her brother’s name. “—in all of GMM High’s productions. And we really welcome newcomers,” her tone suggests they absolutely do not. “There are a lot of supporting roles in the show.” Pam says, grinning like a feral cat.
And ah, Tine realizes, guess they do welcome newcomers. Just only in certain capacities.
“I’m sure we could find something for you,” Pam flutters her eyes at Tine and, unlike the time with Sarawat, it wasn’t flirty; it’s condescending.
Tine, not really wanting to start anything, assuages her. “Nah, I was just looking at all the bulletin boards,” he looks over at Sarawat to verify that, and he awkwardly does, nodding vacantly. So Tine continues on his own, “Lots going on at this school. Huh.” He exhales, hopefully, that sounded convincing.
But then he looks at Pam’s giant signature again, and he can’t help himself as he goes to class as he says in a light, insincere way that she did, “Nice penmanship,” he sends a look, perhaps flirty perhaps playful, over at Sarawat one more time, not sure why, but then he heads to his next class.
Tine manages to sneak into the library during lunch to email his mom that he’s gonna be late. Even though Ms. Pornenpipat never said specifically to him, he assumes that he’ll only have to be there for 15 minutes. He decides to Google the bus schedule. It looks like he’ll be fine.
Satisfied with that, he goes to his science class, which is advanced because his mom insisted.
The teacher, a nice pregnant lady named Mrs. Noomnim, writes equations on the board and explains them through. They covered this last semester in Tine’s previous school so he follows along but not as focused as he would if he did not know the subject. Plus, he’s sure if he gets confused, he could ask Type, who’s sitting right next to him.
Suddenly, in between the break in the desks of the weirdest science desks Tine’s ever seen, is Pam. Seriously, can he not shake her? Why does she care?
“So!” Pam says perkily. “Seems like you knew Sarawat Gunthitanon,” She crosses her arms and poses on them.
“Not really. He was just showing me around,” Tine insists, and then pointedly turns back to his notes even though he doesn’t really need to.
Even though Pam seems a bit put off by his lack of response, she keeps going. “Well, you see, Sarawat doesn’t normally interact with new students,” She says with the tone one might use to shade people with an incurable disease.
Sighing and ignoring her a bit, Tine turns back to the board and says, “Why not?” Even though he doesn’t really care.
However, he notices something on the board. That should be 16/pi, instead of 32/pi.
He checks his notes again, and only vaguely hears Pam’s “Well, it’s pretty much football 24/7 with him.”
Tine’s 99% sure his notes are right, and it should be 16 over pi. “That should say 16 over pi,” He says, mostly to reaffirm himself. He doesn’t realize how loudly he said it until the teacher speaks.
“Yes, Mr. Teepakorn?” She says, turning to him, stopping.
Tine feels his face go red, sure that people are looking at him. He knows he’s right, but he fumbles a bit, “I’m sorry, I just—uh...” He clears his throat, as she patiently waits for him to spit it out. “Shouldn’t the second equation read 16 over pi?”
He hears some people scoff and groan, mostly Pam, but also from beside him. He had no idea Type could be rude too.
Mrs. Noomnim seems to agree. “16 over pi? That’s quite impossible,” but, nicely, she goes and checks her own notes and textbook again. The shock is obvious on her face. “I stand corrected.” She says this warmly, which Tine likes because some teachers get mad when he proves them wrong.
The annoyance turns into slightly impressed noises and Tine is pleased that he was right without too much retribution.
He goes back to his notes, but then he hears Mrs. Types speak again, “Oh, and welcome aboard.”
Tine smiles to himself, and he barely registers Pam looking annoyed as hell.
Detention starts off fairly decently in Tine's opinion. Ms. Pornenpipat flutters around like a hummingbird ordering around a ton of high school students that don’t want to be there, but they all listen.
Tine’s in charge of finishing the touches on a giant moon with weird lips made of styrofoam. He’s sad he’s not working with Sarawat on the tree, but that space has already been occupied by Man, the guy with the facial hair who’s slightly shorter than both him and Sarawat but even more muscular. He has the best arms Tine has ever seen.
Aside from Sarawat, of course.
Ms. Pornenpipat flutters by him, cutting off his staring at the two football players, “Paint, paint! Let’s go!” She waves her hands grandiosely at him.
He’s almost terrified into a military response, but instead says nothing and paints more. Only for 10 more minutes.
The paintbrush is almost dropped out of his hands when he hears an excited noise appear from in front of him. It’s Type, beaming a big smile, but not as good as Sarawat’s.
“The answer is yes!” He says, still grinning.
Tine could not be more confused. He doesn’t recall asking him any questions. “Huh? What are you—”
He notices the papers in Type's hands, but he can’t see them as he vividly gestures as he speaks. “Our scholastic decathlon team will have its first competition next week, so there is definitely a spot for you.” Type points the papers at Tine, and he sees the headline:
“SCHOLASTIC WHIZ KID DOMINATES COMPETITION” in his old town’s newspaper.
Tine feels his whole body turn cold. “Where did those come from?”
Type now looks confused, as he should, “Didn’t you put them in my locker?”
“Hell no," Tine bites at his lip, still panicking.
Type decides to change tactics, and goes for a warmer approach, “Well, we’d love to have you on our team. We meet almost every day after school.”
Tine grimaces and goes to say “no” but then Type pleads. “Please?”
Still grimacing, but lightening up, Tine explains. “I need to catch up on the curriculum here before I think about joining any clubs-”
All of a sudden, someone has their hand on his arm. He looks down at the tan, pink-nailed fingers, and knows it’s Pam before her loud voice speaks, “Well, what a perfect way to get caught up! Meeting with the smartest kids in school!” She lets go of his arm and turns her attention to Type, who’s raising an eyebrow at her for interrupting, “What a generous offer, Type!”
Jesus, does Pam have to emphasize a word per sentence? At least Type looks about as fed up as Tine feels.
Ms. Pornenpipat, thankfully, interrupts, standing in their little circle. “So many new faces in detention today. I hope we don’t make a habit of it,” she says, mostly to Tine. “The drama club can always use an extra hand,” she adds. “And while we are working, let’s discuss the expanding epidemic of smartphones.” She practically says the words like a curse.
Smothering a sigh, Tine continues working and touching up the moon, staring at Sarawat whenever he can.
He zones out a bit as she continues to talk, but then hears her clearly as she walks past, “—is ringing in the theater! What temerity! The theater is a temple of art, a precious cornucopia of creative energy—”
A broad man walks in, furious, storming down the aisle, “Where’s my team, Pornenpipat?”
Everyone looks up, and Tine can feel the tension even though he has no idea what’s going on. “What the hell are those two doing in a tree?” He points, and Tine looks over.
Sarawat and Man are definitely in a tree, but they both hop down and stand at attention. At least Tine isn’t the only one who goes to military-stance when he’s nervous.
“It’s called ‘crime and punishment’,” Ms. Pornenpipat says, and Tine can’t see her face but he can hear her smirk. “Besides, proximity to the arts is cleansing for the soul—”
“Can we have a talk? Please.” The coach seems furious. “And you two,” He points at Sarawat and Man, who seems uncomfortable, “To the gym. Now.”
Sarawat pulls Man and his football from the tree and down to follow Ms. Pornenpipat and the coach of the football team.
After detention, Tine makes his way home. To his surprise, his mom is making dinner in their new house.
“Did you finish unpacking? And are you cooking dinner?” Tine asks. Whenever they move, home-cooked food rarely happens. He tries to eat healthily, but it’s hard. Plus, never as good as homemade.
“I did! Well, the kitchen anyway. Mostly,” Tine’s mom stands on her tippy-toes and kisses his cheek. “How was your first day?” She stops stirring the pasta and gives him her full attention.
“I got detention!” He blurts, then grimaces. “Well, I mean—”
“You got detention?” She looks genuinely confused. “On your first day?”
“Well, I forgot to turn off my ringer this morning and Sarawat called me this morning—”
“Wait, Sarawat? The boy you met in Japan during the holidays?” She looks surprised. He’s been out to his mom for years now, and she’s always been supportive, “What’s he doing calling you on a school day?” She coos, clearly intrigued.
Tine can’t hide the smile on his face. “He lives here. He goes to my high school, can you believe it? And uhm, he was calling to see if it was me, I think.”
“What a lovely coincidence,” Tine’s mom gave him a hug. As she pulls away, she raises an eyebrow. “But how did you get detention?”
Tine is feeling sheepish. “GMM High has a zero-tolerance policy regarding cell phone use in class. And, I had to spend 20 minutes in detention. But I got my phone back, and since I did well and appeared on time and did extra, it won’t be on any record.”
She smiles at him, “That’s good then, sweetheart. Now, are you ready for some pasta and salad? God, I’ve missed cooking.”
“I’ve missed your cooking too ma,” Tine says. “Can I set the table?”
“Absolutely. It should be done in 5.”
“Awesome, all that painting made me hungry.”
“Painting?” His mom is confused. Oh right, she doesn’t know about Detention: Pornenpipat Style.
“Yeah, that’s a story. I’ll tell you all about it at dinner.”
That night, in his room filled to the brim with boxes and the only things unpacked, are books, some clothes, and his bedding, Tine is ready to fall asleep when his phone buzzes with a text.
Tine smiles at his phone, a bright light in the dark room.
Tine can’t help but laugh.
Just as Tine presses send, he immediately regrets it. Why the winky face? Why the tree thing? How is seeing Sarawat inside a tree hot? Damn his entire life.
He immediately opens the new text from Sarawat.
They kept talking for a while until Tine finally admits he has to sleep, even though it’s “only 11:30 :(” according to Sarawat.
Tine blushes in the darkness. What was he supposed to reply? Oh god, Sarawat is definitely flirting with him.
Just as he was about to reply after six minutes of overthinking, he received a text from Sarawat.
Tine scratches his head and throws his phone on the couch near his bed. He's so annoyed, why does he suck at flirting?
Tine, for reasons unbeknownst to him, is walking across campus to with Type, who looks professional as always. They’re discussing Tine joining the team, but he’s still unsure.
“We’ve never made it past the first round, but we’ve always wanted to. I bet you,” Type playfully pokes Tine’s shoulder, both of them grinning, “Could be the answer to our prayers.”
“I just want to focus on my studies this semester,” Tine reiterates. “And I have to help my mom get our new house organized. Maybe senior year.”
Type goes to say something, but Tine wants to change the subject. “What do you know about Sarawat Guntithanon?”
“Sarawat Gunthitanon?” Type clarifies, raising an eyebrow again. Tine loves that Type’s not the typical nerd, he’s kind of sassy and outspoken. It makes him relax. “I wouldn’t consider myself an expert of that particular sub-species of football jock. But, if you can speak cheerleader, you might be able to get an answer.”
He approaches a group of girls, all wearing the cheerleader uniform that is conveniently right by them.
He fans himself with his hand and speaks in a light, girly way, “Oh my gosh. Isn’t Sarawat Gunthitanon just the hottie super-bum!?” He squeals, and all the girls agree in even higher-pitched tones.
Tine can’t help but grin. These people aren’t that judgmental. Just clique-ish. He wouldn’t have gotten away with that at his old school.
Type gently pulls him through the crowd, leaving the cheerleaders to continue conversing on their apparently-favorite topic.
“See what I mean?”
“I don’t know how to speak cheerleader,” Tine admits, playfully sheepish.
Type exhales, “Well, you’re a lost cause then. But that explains why we,” He dances a finger between the two of them, “Exist in an alternate universe to Sarawat the Football King.”
“Have you tried to get to know him?”
“Surprisingly, the star player of GMM High isn’t that interested in conversing with a gay nerd.” Type says, casually, then freezes. He studies Tine carefully. “You aren’t gonna be a bigot, are you? Because, if so-”
“I’m a gay nerd too,” Tine blurts, quietly enough. Type grins a bit, happily taken aback it seems. “I mean, I’m gay and, as you saw, obviously kinda smart—”
“Really fucking smart,” Type emphasizes. “Much smarter than Sarawat Gunthitanon and Man at least. Not that it’d a feat,” He giggles conspiratorially.
Tine doesn’t laugh. “Are you sure about Sarawat?” Tine says because he can’t believe that Sarawat would be a bigot. “Because actually—” He almost says something about the texting and the kiss. But then he decides he can’t out Sarawat.
“Actually what?” Type asks.
“Never mind. It was nothing.”
Type studies him like a chem equation he doesn't get. “You’ll see what I’m talking about when you see everyone in the cafeteria at lunch. The tables practically have names of cliques engraved.”
“I guess so,” Tine says lightly. Because GMM High can’t be worse than his other schools.
At least he has a friend now. “C’mon, we need to get going. Hey, what kind of music do you like?”
Tine finds himself back at the auditorium, and he doesn’t even have detention this time. But instead of onstage near a moon, he’s lingering just outside, and he can hear everything — trainwreck after trainwreck of auditions, from some girl singing opera and two people doing spoken word in the most monotonous voices ever.
Intrigued, he keeps walking until he’s inside, and he can see Sarawat, also hovering, but he’s hiding behind a cleaning cart.
“Hey!” Tine says, hushed, sneaking up behind him.
Sarawat jumps like he’s been shot, but when he sees it’s Tine, he visibly relaxes. “Hi Tine.”
“So you decided to sign up for something?” Tine asks, slightly hopeful.
“Uhm, no. You?” Sarawat asks, equally hopeful.
“No,” Tine says, quietly. He changes the subject. “Why are you hiding behind a mop?”
“Oh, uh—” Sarawat turns to the cart and pushes it away, and Tine stares at his arms a bit. They’re really nice.
Tine gulps and guesses, quietly, “Your friends don’t know you’re here, huh?”
Sarawat smiles but it’s tense. “Yeah.”
Awkwardly, they look away from each other and onto the stage, and there’s a girl, standing up there, terrified. The notes play from another, tiny bou on the piano, and the other girl runs off stage. “Next!” Ms. Pornenpipat shouts.
“Ms. Pornenpipat is a little... fucking harsh,” Sarawat goes for sarcastic and can’t seem to get through it, eyes deadly focused on the stage.
“The Wildcat is... afraid?” Tine asks, almost teasing.
Sarawat is fairly offended. “No! No. I’m not afraid. I—” Whatever awkwardness between them falls as Sarawat says, “Just... scared.”
“Me too,” Tine admits, self-deprecatingly. He takes a deep breath.
Their little moment is broken up by Ms. Pornenpipat shouting. “And for our lead roles—” afraid she’ll look around, Sarawat pulls Tine behind the cleaning cart and they both duck behind it. “We only have one pair signed up: Pam and Green Burin. I think it might be best for you to show everyone exactly why we gather in these hallowed halls.”
Tine watches their audition skeptically, both he and Sarawat moving to the back of the auditorium and sitting ducked in the chairs. The pianist looks put off a bit when he’s shoved to the side. He’s heard the same 8 bars performed over and over, and the song is calm and relaxing. He assumes the whole show’s music would be.
Their version of Click by Scrubb is so poppy and upbeat. They’re talented, but it’s so overdone and ridiculous that he can’t take it seriously.
Judging from the skepticism on Sarawat’s face, he’s sure he feels the same. He looks at the piano player, and he looks confused and taken aback. He definitely feels bad, as Sarawat pulls them out of their seats and back in the doorway.
Once they wrap up, Tine watches as Pam intimidates the even smaller boy, causing him to fall back on the steps. Tine can’t stop the slight scowl on his face.
He barely registers Ms. Pornenpipat’s voice as he suddenly stands and walks down the aisle, moving past a surprised and hiding Sarawat.
“I’d like to audition, Ms. Pornenpipat!” Tine says, jogging up a bit, stopping her in her tracks.
“Timeliness means something in the world of theater, young man,” Ms. Pornenpipat says, eyebrows perched menacingly on her nose. “The individual auditions are long over and there is simply no one to pair you with.”
Tine’s face falls.
“I’ll sing with him!” Sarawat steps out, one hand raised and the other scratching at the back of his neck. He looks so attractive in his blue sweater and jeans and since he might have saved Tine’s almost audition, Tine could kiss him.
Well, Tine could kiss him always.
“Oh, Mr. Gunthitanon,” Ms. Pornenpipat says, cocking her head condescendingly. “Where is your ‘sports posse’ or whatever it’s called?”
“A team,” Sarawat corrects her mildly, standing next to Tine as the stage is cleared except for the pianist, who’s gathering papers. “And I’m here alone. Actually, I’m here to sing with Tine.” He says, a bit more confident. Tine can’t help but smile at him.
She eyes the two of them. “Yes, well, we take these shows very seriously here at GMM High. I called for the pairs audition and you didn’t respond. Free period is now over.”
Tine’s face, which had just been hopeful, fell again as Ms. Pornenpipat moved her way around them.
Sarawat sees this and speaks up, “He has the most amazing voice—” He insists.
Ms. Pornenpipat cuts him off. “Perhaps the next one.”
And then she’s gone.
Tine exhales, deflated. What a bummer. Besides, all his courage is gone because Pam has already left. This was an awful idea, and he’s glad it got shattered—
He’s distracted from his thoughts as the pianist trips, and all his papers are scattered across the stage.
Quickly, Sarawat rushes up the steps, Tine following.
All three of them are suddenly on stage, and they all work to organize the papers. Tine tries to put them in numerical order, but since the pianist and Sarawat are just hastily shoving papers into a stack, he does the same and hands it to him.
“You’re the stage director? Phukong right?” Sarawat checks, voice gentle. He must have heard his name before Tine got there.
“You based the musical based on Scrubb songs?”
He nods again.
“And you wrote an original that will be incorporated in the musical?”
He nods again.
“Well, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the show bro,” Sarawat says, smiling at him. Tine nods in agreement.
Sarawat helps him up.
“Why were you so afraid of Green and Pam then?” Tine asks, then stops himself. “Sorry, that was rude—”
Sarawat cuts him off, a hand on his arm gently that calms him down, “Yeah, isn’t it your show?”
“My show?” Phukong chokes a bit, surprised yet pleased with the idea.
“Yeah,” Sarawat gets more into the conversation, “Isn’t the stage producer of a show kind of like the playmaker in football?”
Both Tine and Phukong are confused. “Playmaker?” He checks, testing the word.
“Yeah, you know the one who makes everyone else look good. Without you, there is no show.” Sarawat shrugs. “You’re the playmaker here, Phukong. Not Pam and Green.”
“Playmaker...” He says, again, then smiles. “Wanna hear how the duet’s supposed to sound?” He asks again, eyes suddenly bright.
“Sure,” Tine says, stepping to the piano. Sarawat looks at him, smiles then turns back to Phukong. As the bars play, he nods his head at them to sing.
Tine, who’d been studying the sheet, looks to Sarawat. Sarawat nudges him but he does sing.
I never imagined I'd find such a good day with us right here
At just the first meeting, I immediately felt like there was something
When we spoke, I knew and saw that it was meaningful
There's something between the two of us, connecting us together
We both understand easily
We're so different from everyone else
Both our inner thoughts say how much we think together
There might have been many times I was confused
Many people showing up and passing through my life
But, when I met you, it was different because I was certain
The song sounds so much better calmer, and Tine can’t help but melt as he sings with Sarawat, and the way their voices seem to melt together in the same way.
If today we ended things, it'd probably be a mistake
When I found someone who once wrote that we were a good match with my heart
We both understand easily
We're so different from everyone else
Both our thoughts inside are a good match for what our hearts are telling us
Phukong looks ecstatic too, happily playing the melodic, soothing chords as their voices fill the empty auditorium.
I've never met anyone else, not to the right, not to the left, they were too imperfect
You don't see things pessimistically or selfishly, but you have something extraordinary
I've never met anyone else who wasn't fast, wasn't slow, wasn't too small
But you have something that's better than anyone else, you're perfect with your heart
You can stay with me just fine
They go through the song, he and Sarawat moving closer together. Tine has to wonder if Sarawat feels the way he does.
Both of us understand we're different than everyone all over the world
I'm answering the truth inside, we're a good match for what our hearts are telling us
I never imagined I'd find such a good day with us right here
At just the first meeting, I immediately felt like there was something
The song wraps up elegantly, “Wow, that’s nice.” Sarawat says to Phukong.
Phukong smiles, and goes to speak but then someone speaks from behind them.
All three of them jump and spin around.
“Guntithanon, Teepakorn, you have a callback,” Ms. Pornenpipat spares them the slightest of smiles then turns to Phukong. “Phukong, give them the duet from the second act. Work on it with them.”
Sarawat stares at Ms. Pornenpipat in shock, as Tine beams at Phukong, who immediately enters work mode, ecstatic again. “Alright, if you guys wanna rehearse, I’m usually here during the free period and after school, and even in biology class if you want. You can come to rehearse anytime. Or you can come to my house, after breakfast. I have a piano there, and we can rehearse before and after school, maybe even after football, but not during lunch hour as I spend it with my boyfriend, but if you guys want—”
“Hey, we’ll talk about it more later,” Tine reassures Phukong.
Sarawat, who was shell-shocked, exclaimed, “What the fuck just happened?”
“Favorite band?” Tine asks, sneaking a nacho from his tray.
“How dare you ask me such a question?” Type asks in response. Tine, in a very brotherly way, likes Type a lot. He’s fun and he’s hilarious and he’s smart, plus he finally gave up on pushing Tine to join the scholastic decathlon.
They just finished up at the cafeteria line, and are walking through the crowds of people who seem to all be bickering with each other. Everyone is all clumped together into different groups. He assumes that Type was probably right on that.
“If you had to pick one,” Tine pressures.
“Ugh, I guess Evo Nine. Or K-Otic. Or maybe—”
“I said ‘one’,” Tine laughs. Then he pauses as he looks at all the people. They’re looking at them. “Why is everyone staring at us?”
“Not ‘us.’ Just you,” Type fills him in, staring snootily at all the people, daring them to say something.
“No, people can’t stare at me,” Tine panics slightly. “Is this because of the callbacks?” He sighs in relief as people turn back to their bickering.
“It’s alright,” Type reassures him.
Tine nods, agreeing and distracted, as he suddenly trips on some spilled milk and the nachos (his beautiful, beautiful nachos) that were on his tray fly up and backward.
He spins around just in time to see them land right on Pam’s chest.
He’s not a swearing man, but shit.
There’s a split second of silence in the whole cafeteria before Pam shrieks so loud Tine’s eardrums might burst as she removes the nacho basket and hands it to her brother dramatically. And then everyone around them is laughing.
Panicking, Tine goes to help her clean it but then Type, wisely, pulls him away from Pam as she finishes up her shriek.
“I’m so sorry,” Tine pleads, still held by Type so he doesn’t do anything stupid. He turns to Type and whispers, panicked, “Is everyone staring? I can’t—”
Ms. Pornenpipat appears out of nowhere, coming up to stand beside Pam. “What the hell is going on here?”
Tine sees something flash on Pam’s face as she immediately turns into a targeted victim. “Look at this! That Tine Teepakorn just dumped his lunch on me. On purpose! It’s all part of his plan to ruin our musical!” She sneers behind Tine to gaze at someone, and Tine realizes who it is when she says, “And Sarawat and his football robots are obviously behind it!”
“Everyone’s staring,” Tine turns to whisper at Type, breath fast and heartbeat erratic.
“Why do you even think they auditioned? After all the hard work that you put into this show. Don’t let them ruin it!” Pam stomps her foot and rushes off, her brother trailing behind her.
“Ms. Pornenpipat, please, it was an accident—” Tine breaks out of Type’s grasp to plead but she’s already gone. Tine’s entire posture falls and he might actually cry.
“Let’s get you out of here, Tine,” Type says soothingly, pulling Tine away.
At the library, Type sweet-talks the librarian and gets him to let their little group of scholastic decathlon people eat their lunch to “study” together in the library. Tine is introduced to many people, but his favorite is Fong.
“Guess what Fong said before you guys were able to join us,” Phuak says, causing Fong to shuffle his hair.
They all turn to Fong to let him explain. His face reddened as he hesitantly explained. “Well, since Sarawat Gunthitanon could defy previously-obtained stereotypes and break the status quo of being a jock who only does jock things by getting a callback for the musical, I decided to share my passion with the group.”
“What’s your passion?” Tine asks as Type cocks his head at him.
“Contemporary dance,” He says, eyes sparkling in excitement.
“That’s so cool! How long have you—” Tine goes to say but Type smacks a hand on his chest to stop his thought.
“But Fong you’re...” He trails off then continues, “With us.”
“So I can’t dance and be really smart at the same time?” He’s offended. Tine is on his side, he has the right to be.
“You can! That’s not my point,” Type exhales sharply. “You’re—all of us—are supposed to do what’s expected of you. Like, I’m an out nerd, I’m not supposed to have tattoos and piercings and dye my hair crazy colors whenever I want—if I wanted to. I don't,” he backtracks, even though he got a similar glint in his eyes like Fong did when he talked about dancing. “It’s about who you’re supposed to be, not who you want to be.”
“I think you’d look awesome with all those things,” Tine says, drinking some water from his water bottle. He was far too mortified to go back to the cafeteria.
Type looks over at him. “Really?”
“Yeah, ear piercings. Hand tattoos. Maybe even an eyebrow piercing. And I think you could rock any hair color.” Tine says, completely honest.
Type can’t hide the smile on his face. “Really?”
“Absolutely!” Fong says, grabbing his hand. “I mean, if I can dance,” he gestures to his body, and all of them go to reassure him but he keeps going. “You can dye your hair bright red. Or blue. Or green. Or whatever you want.”
“I’ve always wanted bright red hair.”
“Like a stop sign!” Fong says, beaming.
“Or our colors!” Phuak says.
Type pauses in thought to himself, blushing. “Fong, I think you’d be an excellent dancer. Does anybody else have any secret passions?” He says, obviously trying to be more open.
Tine clears his throat. “Well, it looks like everybody already knows mine.”
Once Tine and Type are all alone studying in Chem class, Tine turns to his new friend and says, “Do you think Pam is mad at me?” He’s not sure why he cares. Maybe because she can sabotage him. Maybe because he knows she probably already has.
“Nope,” Type says, and Tine exhales in relief. “I think she’s furious.” Type discreetly points his pen at Pam’s direction, and she’s glaring harshly from her table. She sees them both notice her and hmphs away from them. Luckily, he doesn’t think she can hear them.
“Oh god, this is insane,” Tine places his face in his palms. He’ll just beg for another transfer soon enough.
Type explains his internal crisis. “Nobody has beaten out Pam for anything since the fourth grade. Of course, she’s furious.”
“I wasn’t trying to beat anyone out,” Tine sighs. “We didn’t even audition! We were just... singing.”
Type shrugs, “You won’t convince her of that. I’m telling you, if she could find a way to play both Romeo and Juliet, she’d sell out her own brother.”
“But I didn’t even mean to! It just happened! But... I really liked singing.”
“Then keep auditioning.”
“But I don’t want to sing in front of people.”
“That’s kind of the definition of performing. I could get you a dictionary if you’d like.”
“Please don’t be an ass, Type, this is serious.”
Type closes his book, “Fine then. If you want to sing, you have to digest those insects in your chest and sing your best. If you lose to Pam, then you know that you tried and you won’t have to perform. If you do win, you’ve beaten Pam. It would be awesome. And I know that even if I haven’t heard you sing before.”
Tine smiles. “Well, not sure if hopefully or hopefully not, you might be able to.”
“I better,” Type pokes him with his pen. “Now come on, let’s finish this up, no more petty gossip.”
After rehearsing with Sarawat and Phukong for thirty minutes straight during a free period, Phukong suggests a break, so Sarawat offers to distract Tine for a bit while Phukong makes adjustments to the piece should he sees fit.
Sarawat drags Tine up to the top of the school, covering his eyes the whole way and saying how “top-secret” this whole thing is, making Tine anticipatory. When he makes the big reveal, Tine sees that it’s a giant jungle of plants and flowers, and Sarawat is gauging his reaction.
Tine smiles, “It’s like a jungle up here,” He walks around, Sarawat following closely behind. “How is all this stuff maintained?”
“Of course that’s your first question,” Sarawat says, since Tine’s been hinting and hinting about how smart he actually is during all their late-night texts and chats before and after rehearsals with Phukong. “And the science and nature club, which means my buddies don’t even know it exists.” Sarawat exhales happily.
That takes Tine back a bit. He’s not sure how he feels about secrets of this nature, pun intended. But since Sarawat looks so happy, he’s not gonna bring up his slight fears. Or the fact he’s not even sure what Sarawat’s sexuality is, even though he did kiss him.
“You pretty much have the whole school wired, don’t you, Sarawat?” Tine says, standing next to him on the railing, accidentally mimicking his posture. “Seems to me like everyone wants to be your friend. Or sign up to be members of your little fan club.”
Sarawat laughs, self-deprecatingly, “Unless we lose,” he clears his throat, “Lots of fairweather friends and fans.”
Tine didn’t mean to make him sad, “I’m sure it’s tricky, being the captain and the coach’s son.”
Tine first found out that the coach is Sarawat’s father when the other boy expressed a bit of his anxiety during one of their late-night texting sessions. He was a bit shocked, to say the least.
“I don’t know, but it makes me practice a little harder, I guess,” Sarawat crosses his arms and leans his body so he’s hunched on the railing, “Some people think it was handed to me, because of it. I want them to know it wasn’t.”
“I know it’s not,” Tine reassures him.
Sarawat smiles then it falls, “I don’t even know what he’ll say when he finds out about the singing.”
He gazes off into the sky, lost in thought a bit, “My parents’ friends are always saying. ‘Your son’s the football guy!’ ” He says, subdued yet mocking the chirpiness Tine can guess those friends have. “ ‘You must be so...’ ” He trails off and sighs, “ ‘Proud.’ ” The chirpiness falls. “Sometimes, I don’t wanna be The Football Guy. I just wanna be a guy, you know? I want to be me.”
He looks at Tine for understanding, and Tine nods. “I saw the way you treated Phukong at the audition. You’re like a big brother,” he says, a bit obvious because he was right there. “Do your friends know that guy?”
Sarawat exhales a bit, “To them, I’m the Playmaker Dude.” He shrugs, “Not really much else I need to be around them.
Tine walks off to the bench and sighs as he sits, “Then they don’t really know you, Sarawat. At my other schools, I was the confused gay nerd who didn’t have friends. I couldn’t be anything else. Moving around sucks, but it’s fun to be anyone I want to be now. I could be a singer. I could be the nerd again if I want.”
Sarawat looks over at him. “I know this isn’t your point, but you are gay?”
Tine exhales a bit, “Yeap.” He almost adds “like a rainbow” but he’s pretty sure now’s not the time.
“I’m… gay. Just so you know. If that’s okay.”
“Why won’t it be? It’s who you are. A part of it, at least. Not just the Playmaker Dude,” Tine takes a deep breath, “And that’s what I’m saying. Labels get to be too important sometimes, but when I was singing with you on that stage back on New Years and with you in the auditorium, I just felt like... a boy.”
Probably sensing the heavy, Sarawat points at him playfully, “You even looked like one too.”
Tine rolls his eyes and laughs as Sarawat sits down next to him. “Ultimate compliment, there.”
“I liked singing with you too,” Sarawat says, “I felt like me, without any pressures. I had never thought about singing, but now that I have...” He looks a bit hesitant, then he says, “I really just want to sing with you.”
“So you actually want to do the callbacks?” Tine says, a bit of his hopefulness leaking out.
“If it’s with you, definitely,” Sarawat smirks a bit as he says, “Just call me freaky, callback geek.”
“Be careful or I will,” Tine playfully threatens. Sarawat reaches over and tickles him, causing Tine to laugh harder than he has in weeks.
“Stop!” He’s still laughing when Sarawat finally relents. “You’re a cool guy, Sarawat,” He says, definitively, “But not for the reasons your friends think.”
Sarawat’s beautiful cheeks turn pink a bit when he looks at his hands.
Tine keeps talking because Sarawat blushing is an amazing sight and he doesn’t want it to end, “And thanks for showing me your top-secret hiding place.”
“My pleasure. In return, I need a favor though.”
Tine raised his eyebrows. “What is it?”
Sarawat held both of his hands in his palm. “Call me Wat from now on.”
Tine can’t help but smile in return.
Tine collapses in bed after dinner. It’s exhausting trying to audition without letting Pam or Green catch them because Sarawat says they can’t have any more advantage. Seriously, those little drama geeks are everywhere.
But he’s having a lot of fun rehearsing with Phukong alone and with Sarawat. Sometimes, they can’t all be together, but they’re having fun all together. Phukong is awesome, a talented musician and songwriter. Plus he’s also gay, and so they talk about the struggles of that as well. He has a great ear for it.
Plus, on top of that, Tine’s getting into the swings of being at GMM High instead of any of his other schools. And he’s roped Type and Sarawat into helping Ms. Pornenpipat set up the stage for the musical. Whoops, music-ale. Or as Sarawat likes to joke, “Sarawatical”, with a little cheeky drum beat on his thighs.
Whenever he and Type are paired up together, they either talk something scholastic or about Man. Type has a lot to say about Man. Tine doesn’t mind listening to it, he just hadn’t realized how much until he counted how many times Type said, “And that's Man, the maneater.” on one hand in five minutes of sewing.
So, safe at home, he’s about to run through the sheet music one more time, when his phone starts ringing.
Thinking it’s Sarawat, he answers a bit more huskily than normal, “Hello—”
“Are you home?”
It’s not Sarawat. It’s Type. And he sounds terrified. “Type? Y-yeah, I’m home, what’s going on?”
“I’m at your front door,” Type knows where he lives because he drives him home. “Can you let me in? Please.”
“One second, be right there.” He rushes downstairs, telling his mom a friend is coming right over and swings open the door, the phone still in the other hand.
And his jaw drops to the floor.
There’s Type standing there on his front porch, with an eyebrow piercing that’s a little red around the edges, ear piercings in both ears, and his hair is now red. Bright red.
“Holy shit,” Tine says, at a loss for words other than those too.
Type bursts in, hands wrenching together, “Damn it, I knew it was a bad idea. Fuck, I’m so stupid-”
“Everything is now shit and I don’t know when this will come out,” Type points at his hair violently, which is definitely stop-sign red. Wildcat Red. “And I can’t take out the piercings yet because they could get infected or close up but maybe I want them to close up but all this kinda drained my babysitting money-”
“You babysit?” Tine asks before thinking it through.
But it does stop Type’s massive rant in his foyer. “That’s what you took away from all this? What about my job applications? College applications?! What if Man won’t like me because of my new look? All you care about is my fucking means of income?”
Tine would be cowering back if it was anybody else. But since it’s Type, especially since this Type just admitted his crush on Man, he just shrugs and remains the calm one, “Yeah, kind of. I mean, you were just talking to me about how much you wanted these things. Granted, I thought you’d wait a little bit, or maybe do them one at a time.” Now he’s definitely making fun of Type.
But it does seem to calm him down. “But they look okay?”
“Dude, if I have a punk for an older brother, he would look like you.”
“Sod off,” Type mocks him and punches his arm, which Tine figures he deserves. But he does seem to relax. “Can you help me clean my eyebrow piercing? I’m too afraid.”
“Sure. You know, I've always wanted a lip piercing-” Tine leads him into the kitchen, where his mom is just putting away a box marked that’s now empty. She stops and looks at Type, who she had just met a couple of hours ago without all these things. He cuts off his thoughts though because she might kill him if he does.
“Those things are new, correct? I didn’t just miss them before?” She asks, politely enough.
“Yes, Ms. Teepakorn,” Type says, completely sincerely polite.
“It’s auntie, dear, I told you,” She gently pats his face. “Well, they look nice, Type. Very punk rock.”
Type grins, “Thank you, auntie.” When she leaves, he turns to Tine, “Your mom rules.”
“I know.” He pauses as he pulls out Type’s favorite snack. “So a crush on Man, huh?”
Tine grins, but he does drop it. “Wanna watch Jeopardy?”
After a long day of classes and rehearsals, Tine decides to unwind by stopping by the football field, since Sarawat had just told him that he had to ditch practice to rehearse with him and was gonna make it up. He felt bad, so he was going to go keep him company. Or at least offer to.
“So this is your stage?” Tine says once he’s certain there is no one else. He looks around. The field is bigger than some of his old schools.
Sarawat dribbles the ball casually, smiling. The bright red of the uniform looks really good on his skin tone. “Yeah, you could call it that. Or just a smelly field.” He teases.
Tine holds out his hand for the ball. “May I?”
Sarawat gently tosses it at him, “Be my guest,” he then went to the net, acting as the goalkeeper.
Tine kicks the ball and it goes into the net. Sarawat is surprised and impressed and it warms Tine’s insides. “Woah!” Sarawat claps before he grabs the ball. “Damn impressive, Tine, where’d you learn that?”
“Simple math and physics. Freaky math nerd.” He points at himself, consciously leaving out the “gay” part in case any other jocks walk in.
“Academics, looks, singing. Can’t believe you’re good at kicking balls too,” Sarawat says, with a hint of mirth in his voice.
Tine takes the ball from his grasp, grinning. “Better not test me then, Wat,” he starts. “But seriously, it helps that I’m tall,” he shrugs then decides to mess with Sarawat a bit. “I once scored 41 points at a league championship game.”
Sarawat’s eyebrows go up, “No way.”
“Yup. Then I invented the space shuttle that same day.”
“Tua woon wai,” Sarawat said while smiling; he looks impressed. He smacks the ball from Tine’s grasp and kicks it into the net as well.
Tine smiles at the term. “I’ve been rehearsing with Phukong. On my own.” Tine says.
“Me too. It’s coming up,” Sarawat is kicking the ball alternately between his legs. His face is stony serious. “And, by the way, I had to miss practice today to do so, so if I get kicked off the team, it’s on your conscience.”
Tine panics, “But, I didn’t tell you to—”
A smile appears on Sarawat’s face, cockily and easily, “Tine, chill.”
Huffing, Tine steals the ball from Sarawat behind his legs and dances around with it, as Phukong told him to for their audition.
“That’s foul, Tine,” Sarawat says, hands on his hips as he watches Tine pretend to fake him out then keep ballroom dancing with the football. Tine just hums “breaking free” and keeps going. “That’s a penalty right there.” Sarawat playfully tackles him, going for Tine’s middle, tickling him so hard that Tine’s laughing hysterically and dropping the ball.
“Excuse me, sir!” The booming voice from the time detention got interrupted is back and both Tine and Sarawat freeze. “This is a closed field for football players only.” Coach Guntithanon says, stepping up to the sidelines. When did he get there?
Tine hands the ball to Sarawat sheepishly and steps aside.
Sarawat stays casually and laughs a bit. “Dad, come on, practice is over—”
“Not until the last player leaves the field. Team rule,” He says this at Tine. Like he’s excluding him.
“Sorry, sir, I had no idea,” Tine explains, scratching at his shoulder a bit, wishing he could hide behind the football. He’s taller than the Coach, but he’s still intimidated.
“Dad, this is Tine Teepakorn,” Sarawat introduces. Tine, politely, goes to shake his hand.
“Oh, you’re Sarawat’s detention buddy?” Coach Guntithanon raises an eyebrow. He doesn’t take his hand.
Tine’s eyes flash over to Sarawat. So, he didn’t tell his dad that they had kissed just a couple weeks ago. Interesting.
Tine drops his outstretched hand and swallows the lump in his throat. Well, this was mortifying. “I’ll see you later, Wat. Nice to meet you, Coach Guntithanon.”
Tine walks slowly, at first, then nearly runs out of the gym, barely hearing, “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Teepakorn,” from Sarawat’s dad.
He needs some Blue Hawaii.
Tine is kind of exhausted.
There is so much going on right now. Sarawat is barely talking to him unless it’s shared rehearsals or the easy talks on text that seem to only happen at night. They share looks in homeroom, but they barely converse.
Tine is getting his notebooks for his next class in his locker, and briefly considers just taking a nap instead of class, when Type walks up to him. His face freshly pierced still, is serious and somber.
“You okay?” Tine asks, shutting his door after his stuff is in his bag.
“There’s something I need to show you.”
Nodding, Tine follows.
He takes him to the chem classroom and props him on one of the stools in front of a PowerPoint presentation with all the people from the Decathlon. With a deep sigh, he can guess where this is going.
“From lowly Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon,” Type begins, gesturing to the grayscale and actually well-done slide on the presentation, “To early warriors and medieval knights, they all lead up to: Lunkhead Football Man.”
He says this so seriously that Tine has to raise an eyebrow, “Type—” He holds up a hand. Respectfully, Tine stops.
Type continues and gestures to Ohm, who pulls down a poster. It’s a generic poster of a football player making a touchdown, but the face has been poorly covered with a picture of Sarawat’s. Tine can’t help but smile a bit.
This is not the right response, apparently, because Type continues, harsher. “Yes, our culture worshipped the aggressor throughout the ages, and we end up with spoiled, overpaid bonehead athletes whose contributions to civilization are just ‘touchdowns’.”
Tine is taken aback. He hasn’t seen Type this harsh since the first day he met him and heard him talk smack about Man.
“This is the inevitable and arguably current world of One. Sarawat. Guntithanon,” Type says dramatically, gesturing to the poster. That makes Tine giggle.
Again, the wrong choice. Type gestures to Fong, who pulls out another laptop as Type keeps speaking, “But the path of the mind, the path we’re on,” He says sincerely, “Ours is the path that has brought us these people.”
He goes back to the PowerPoint. As he brings up a person, their picture appears, “Eleanor Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo, Alfred Einstein, Alex Gaskarth,” He winks happily at Tine, and Tine grins. Right response. “And so many others who the world reveres. And should revere.”
They all stop. And Tine looks at the clock.
“Yes, but what is...” He almost asks the point but he doesn’t. They put a lot into this, for whatever reason. “I’ve got Phukong waiting—” he gestures to the door.
“Tine!” Type snaps, making him jump back a bit. Type takes a deep breath and continues, calmer, without apologizing, “Sarawat Gunthitanon represents one side of evolution. And our side is the side of education and accomplishment and the future of civilization! This is the side you belong to.”
They all band together and look at him, hopefully.
“Look, guys, I can be on your side, and also do the musical. It doesn’t have to be so divided,” Tine insists. “Everyone keeps saying, if Sarawat Gunthitanon can do both football and the musical, two sides that are also in opposition, then anything could be possible. Right?”
Type sighs. “Well, it seems like he can’t.” He then pulls up a video of Sarawat.
On-screen, Sarawat is talking emphatically. “Look, Tine is just some guy I met. And the singing thing? It’s nothing. It’s just a way to keep my nerves down, so I can fight hard for our team. It means nothing to me! You’re my guys and my team. Tine is not important; the musical is not important. I’ll forget about him and the audition and we’ll get that goddamn championship.”
“Behold, Lunkhead Football Man,” Type says with a dramatic sigh as the video cuts off. “Only with one thing in mind.”
He shakes his head at the screen, then turns to Type.
“So, Tine, we’d love to have you on the scholastic decathlon-”
Type cuts off when he notices that Tine is actually tearing up, and trying to hold it in. He shoos the others away.
“I need to go,” Tine says, standing up.
“Do you want to grab lunch maybe?” Type says, looking a bit remorseful.
Tine says nothing as he leaves the room, the shattered pieces of his heart falling behind him.
Tine finds himself in the jungle. Well, the Science and Nature Club’s Arboretum Project. From the top, he can see everyone celebrating Sarawat and the Wildcats down in front of the school.
Shaking with sadness and fury and heartbreak, he sits on the bench. But the memories burn him, causing him to leap right back up.
Everywhere is tainted with Sarawat. He can hear them chant his name from all the way up there. His whole heart feels numb with pain, but since he can feel the pain, he assumes he’s still not numb.
Not being able to stand to be up there, even though he’s alone, he decided to go down the stairwell.
He can’t believe he was so blind. Sarawat was obviously not serious about him. Or at least not as serious about hiding his precious reputation. Or his football team. But he had hoped Sarawat felt the same way. Or maybe he had just wanted him to feel that way about him.
Whatever, he’s done now. He’s so fucking done.
He goes to his locker again, wishing for a break.
But obviously that’s not allowed, because behind him, he can hear Sarawat’s voice. Right behind him. He doesn’t turn around as he’s greeted cheerfully, “Hey Tine! Listen, I wanna talk to you about something—”
Fed up, Tine spins around, “Oh shut up, Sarawat. I get it. You’re afraid of being bullied, or you have this ‘pressure of responsibility from being popular’, or whatever the fuck you think gives you recognition in this school,” he spits the words harshly and Sarawat visibly recoils. “You have your boys, your team, I get it. We’re good. You’re absolved from your responsibility to do the callbacks. Because I’m certainly not doing it anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” He looks genuinely confused. “I was coming here to talk to you about the final callback—”
“Who are you even kidding, Guntithanon? Because it’s certainly not me anymore. You’ve got your team...” And he makes an impulsive decision, right then and there, “And I’ve got mine.” He straightens his shoulders, “I’m doing the decathlon and you got your championship or whatever.” Sarawat winces at Tine’s casual harshness. “It’s where we belong.” He grabs the last of his stuff and shuts the door.
But before Tine leaves, he can't help but say, “Go Wildcats.”
The lack of enthusiasm clearly laced in his voice.
“No.” Tine stops him, shakes his head, then walks away.
He hears Sarawat call after him, saying “Tine?” in a defeated tone, but he keeps walking.
At home, Tine’s curled up on the sofa, reading a book.
“Hey, don’t you have callbacks to prepare for? I thought you were going to Phukong’s?” His mom sits next to him.
“I canceled on him. Just like Sarawat canceled on us.” Tine says, resolutely. But his mother won’t take that.
Tine sighs and he feels his eyes prick with tears, “I saw him. He said he didn’t care about me. That I wasn’t important. That the callback wasn’t important. That all he cared about were the championships for his football team.”
“Oh my god,” Tine’s mom takes his hand and rubs soft circles with her thumb, and he feels like a five-year-old again; it makes the tears fall down his cheeks faster. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
“I should have expected this,” Tine berates himself. “I can’t compete with football. I can’t even compete with Pam.”
Had Tine really not told his mother about her? He fills her in quickly.
She says nothing for a moment, “She’s a Pink Panther fan then?”
“Ma!” Tine can’t help but laugh. “She’s just really obsessed with the colour pink.”
“How tragic,” Tine’s mom said jokingly. She rubs his hand again and he braces for the worst. “Well, I’ve heard you sing, when you don’t think I’ve heard from you. And you’re talented. I’m sure you could’ve kicked her ass. Musically.”
Tine smiles a bit, through the tears and pain. “Thanks, ma.”
“As for Sarawat, I can’t believe he said all that stuff to your face—”
“It wasn’t to my face. Not really. It was on a video stream.” Tine explains.
“Kids these days, breaking hearts virtually,” Tine’s mom curses, making him laugh a bit. His mom always makes him feel better. “So, maybe...” She purposefully trails off a bit then says, “Could there have been a communication mishap? Some context you missed?”
Tine sighs at his mom. “He actually said, ‘Tine is not important. The musical is not important.’ ”
His mom hisses in sympathy. “Well, that’s.. forward.”
He actually laughs again at that and wipes at his eyes. “And it is what it is.”
She gets up, and he’s alone for a while. Then the doorbell rings. Tine is obviously not gonna move so his mom nicely gets it.
“Oh Type! What a pleasant surprise. Please come in, Tine’s in a bad mood, you might cheer him up.”
“Hopefully I do, ma’am.” Type’s voice goes through, and he walks into the living room. “Hey, Tine,” He comes and sits down next to him.
“Look, I already agreed to be in the decathlon, what else do you—”
“I’m not here about that,” Type says, and he looks a bit insulted that Tine would assume that’s what he was there for. “I’m here to apologize. I was a jerk. A massive jerk. I was scared that if you stuck with the singing and the musical, that you wouldn’t want to be on the team—”
“I’m on your team now, it’s done.” Tine scrunches his eyes shut, “I heard what Sarawat had to say. It’s done.”
Type makes a soft noise of protest, “It’s not. I—well, the whole decathlon team really, but I’m not shying from blame, I knew that Man could get Sarawat to say those things and make you want to forget about callbacks.”
Tine’s broken heart sinks a bit. “What?”
“We had planned the whole thing—” Type looks so apologetic but something clicks in Tine’s head. He holds up his hand. Type stops mid-sentence.
“No one forced Sarawat to say anything. Doesn’t matter what you planned. No one fed him a script or a fucking sheet of music or something,” Type winces at the swear word. Is he not allowed to swear? He’s mad, okay? “And you know what? It’s okay. It’s all okay. We should study for the decathlon. Let’s just move on.”
“No, let’s not,” Type says. He takes a deep breath but he can’t stop the slight wince as he says, “The decathlon is... whatever. But how you feel about me, the team and, more importantly, Sarawat is what really matters. I honestly wouldn’t want to be on a team with me or the others if they had pulled that shit with me.” He nervously pulls at his eyebrow piercing and Tine gently slaps his hand away. It’s still fresh.
“I get it. In a really screwed up way,” Tine sighs. “But what happened is over. I want to move on. Helping me study will distract me and I could use a distraction.”
Type looks like he wants to fight him on it. But instead, he says, “Let’s study then,” He grabs the books from Tine’s backpack and spreads them on the coffee table. “Has anyone ever told you that you’d look really good with a lip piercing?”
“Flattery gets you nowhere.”
“I’m serious. Let’s go get your lip pierced.”
“Are you drunk? Or on drugs? Because I might actually have to leave the decathlon team if you drive while intoxicated—”
“100% sober, I swear. C’mon, it’ll be like 1000 baht max. It’d look like I have a punk little brother as well.”
Annoyed, Tine throws in his face. “I am not punk.”
Type shrugs, not as offended as Tine thought he might be. “You wanted a distraction. Besides, piercings are fun.” Type points to the three places on his head that have them.
Tine looks over at the stairs, where he assumes his mom is in his room. “If my mom kills me, my death is on you.”
Holding ice to his lip, Tine finds himself in his bathroom studying himself. The piercing didn’t hurt that bad, nor was it that expensive. Plus, on the bright side, his mom didn’t kill him. She only threatened to if he was “dumb enough to get an infection and ruin his good face.” Type and he studied for a while after but when Type kept trying to wheedle him about Sarawat some more, he kicks him out.
Vaguely, he hears someone knock on the door. His mom opens it.
He perks up when he hears Sarawat’s voice, “Hi, Ms. Teepakorn, I’m Sarawat Guntithanon.”
“Oh, Sarawat!” She says, surprised.
Tine winces and books it, quietly, to the stairs. Just as his mom turns around to check on him. He shakes his head fervently.
“Um, Tine is busy with homework at the moment,” She lies poorly. “Now’s not a good time—”
“I made a mistake, Ms. Teepakorn. And I really want to tell Tine and apologize,” There’s a pause that lasts an eternity but was only a second, and then he says, “Could you tell him that I came by to see him?”
“I will, Sarawat. Good luck on the game,” She says, somewhat nicely somewhat sarcastically. If you hadn’t know Tine's mom Teepakorn your entire life, you wouldn’t be able to tell. He loves that about his mom.
“Thank you ma’am,” Sarawat says and leaves.
His mom turns to him once the door is closed. “Guess I don’t need to tell you that Sarawat Gunthitanon stopped by.”
“I didn’t want to talk to him,” Tine says, feeling small.
“I protected you. I make a good dragon.”
“Yes you do, Mom. And I make a better princess.” They both laugh. “I’m going to bed.”
“Good night, sweetheart.”
Safe in his room, Tine changes into his comfiest sweats and his favorite band merch. Back when he was an underclassman in high school, he’d try to go to as many Scrubb concerts as he could afford. The one he was wearing was a massive sweatshirt, and it fits so soft now with all the washings and his mom’s fancy detergent. He wears it whenever he can, but it always feels better when he’s sad.
His phone suddenly rings. He looks at the screen, as he’s sitting down to a book.
Tine’s hand hovers over it before he reluctantly answers. “Yes?”
Sarawat starts immediately like he's afraid Tine will hang up. “What I said the other day, none of that was true. I was sick of my friends riding my ass about my dedication to the team, and not in a fun way.” His tone is light through the device but Tine doesn’t even spare him a pity laugh. He says nothing.
Sarawat takes that opportunity to continue, “Anyway, I said things that I knew would shut them up. I didn’t mean any of it.”
Tine sighs and looks at his book. He turns on his lamp for more light. “It sounded fairly convincing to me.”
“Listen, Tine, the guy you met and sang with that night is way more me than the fuckass who said those stupid things.”
“Sarawat, this whole singing thing is driving the school batshit. You said so yourself, everyone is treating you differently. I bet people would be treating me differently if I had been here for more than a week. I didn’t want all this attention—”
“I know, and I’m sorry you got dragged into my shit. The attention part is all me because I think I’m realizing I don’t want to be the Football Pal, or have it be the only part of me people see,” Sarawat takes a deep breath before he continued. “The truth is, I liked sharing myself with you. And I like who I am with you, and I want to be that more. If they can’t handle that, it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.”
Tine’s knees almost gave in with Sarawat’s honest statement. Who wouldn’t?
“What about your dad though?”
“This isn’t about my dad. Or my team. They let me down. So I’m gonna sing. What about you?”
Tine takes a shaky breath. This day is too intense. This week is too intense. “I don’t know, Wat.”
“You should definitely consider saying yes because I brought you something.” Sarawat’s voice is nervous and shaky too, and that’s oddly reassuring.
“Bribery?” Tine can’t help but laugh.
“Turn around,” is all Sarawat offers.
Tine does, and on his balcony is Sarawat, standing there. He’s wearing a soft-looking sweater and jeans again. Tine’s first thought is, what the fuck ? His next is shit, I missed him.
He doesn’t say either. But he does go over to open the door, hanging up as he does.
Sarawat lowers his phone from his ear, making intense, sincere eye contact with Tine. He opens his mouth, singing lines from the first Scrubb song they first sang together — Together.
One person changed everything
The person who can make me smile, no matter how sad I am
You have changed my love
I don’t know, I don’t understand
Maybe because... we belong together
He pulls out the familiar-looking sheets of music, looking the most nervous Tine’s ever seen. “It’s a pairs audition,” Sarawat says, smiling a bit. “I can’t do it without you. But even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. You’re who I want to sing with, Tine. Who I want to be with.”
Instead of words, Tine takes the sheet of music in his hand and leans down a bit to kiss Sarawat deeply.
Inching closer until his body was almost pressed against his, a film of heat and clothing all that separated them, they moved slowly and smoothly, kissing each other with all the care that his bewildered mind could conjure.
Sarawat is kissing him like he wanted to take all his doubts, his pain, his longing from him, and make them disappear.
After what seemed like a small eternity to Tine, the other boy let go of him, leaving his lips alone and longing for more.
“When did you get a lip piercing by the way?” Sarawat asks like he just noticed. Maybe he was so nervous he just did. “It’s really hot.” His voice is low as his arms circle around Tine’s waist.
Tine feels his face flush. “Today.”
Sarawat grabs his head to kiss him again but he pauses. “Does it hurt?”
Tine smiles. “Not anymore.”
Tine exhales happily as he finishes explaining the equations to the freshmen on the decathlon team. “Got it?”
They nod, and they all actually paid attention and Tine feels like they did follow alone. Tine beams to himself, flashing a smile Type’s way, who grins back.
Shortly after, he’s explaining a chemical balancing equation using real-life examples, courtesy of Ms. Noomnim. He loves math, but chemistry is more fun.
He’s comparing it to pH scale when he glances at the clock. Shit.
“Sorry guys, gotta run!” Tine quickly strips off the lab apron and his goggles and safely books it from the room when he’s away from breakable chemicals.
He sees Sarawat leaning against a locker, slightly out of breath. Tine is still running, so he nearly pulls Sarawat’s arm out of his socket to follow him.
Sarawat laughs as does Tine. “You’re late!”
They chat with Phukong as he sets up the piano, and catch their breaths, and run through the song, again and again, grinning the entire time.
Man, it is good to be back.
Tine is happily walking into school with Sarawat, who nicely drives him in the mornings when they see Phukong, currently frozen in his tracks at the Pillar of Information.
Man is talking about a party behind them with Type and some of the other football players, but Tine is definitely distracted. “What’s wrong?”
“Look,” he says, looking positively dejected.
On the callback sheet, there’s a pink slip of paper attached that says the date has been changed from Thursday to Friday. Right in the middle of the Scholastic Decathlon and the Championship game.
“Fuck," Sarawat curses, running his hand through his hair.
“Who would do that?” Type looks confused yet out for blood.
“I smell a rat named Pornenpipat,” Man snarls, clutching his football.
“Actually, it’s two rats. Neither named Pornenpipat,” Phukong crosses his arms over his chest, sighing in quiet fury.
“Do you know anything about this... small person?” Man says when he blanks on his name. Type hits his stomach. Tine would normally think about how cute they’d be as a couple and how much closer they’ve gotten since their plan to sabotage him and Sarawat (which Type and Phukong both separately dubbed them “Sarawatine”). But he can’t think about that right now.
“Miss Pornenpipat thinks she’s protecting the show, but she doesn’t realize that Pam and Green are only concerned with protecting themselves. They convinced her to move the date.”
“Oh, wait ‘til those fucking show dogs see what I’m gonna do with them—” Man growls, furious.
“Nothing,” Sarawat says, slapping a hand in front of Man so he doesn’t storm off. “We’re gonna do nothing, except sing. Maybe. I have a plan. But it’ll only work if we work together.” Almost on instinct, he puts his hand palm down in the center of all of them.
Tine grins at him and puts his hand on top of Sarawat's.
“You know I’m in,” Man says, raising his hand. Wordlessly, Type slaps his hand against Man’s and holds it together in solidarity, and the others do the same, voicing their agreement.
“We got this, Wildcats!” Tine cheers.
"What team?" Man shouts.
"Wildcats!" They shoot their hands up and cheer.
During homeroom, Tine and Type are going over their weak points. He was so enrapt in their studies that he jumps when hands go around his eyes.
“We got a surprise for you,” Sarawat says in his ear. “Hope you like it!” Man says from Tine’s other side. Tine hopes that means he’s doing the same thing to Type.
“A pi pie!” Mil says.
According to Phukong, Mil had a crisis of identity like Fong, except he wants to be a baker and not just a jock. He makes the best cookies.
Oh, and he’s also Phukong’s boyfriend.
Sarawat’s hands remove themselves from Tine’s face to reveal a giant, beautiful cake on their notes. Tine and Type share a look like they both want to correct him, but they don’t. They cheer happily and say thank you's.
“We have something for you guys too!” Tine says, and he leads Sarawat while Type leads Man to the whiteboard. They dedicated about two minutes making a fake equation for them.
“Oh, it’s an... equation. Wow!” Sarawat is the best at feigning happiness about it. But even he is still piss poor and unconvincing.
Type snorts and Tine giggles as they flip the board over and reveal the real surprise.
A giant poster that took an hour of a Wildcat making a touchdown.
“Oh my god!” They all look way more impressed with that, thankfully so. As for their third surprise, the Decathlon members use deflated footballs as weapons and playfully attack the jocks.
“Attack!” Type shouts.
“You assholes!” Man laughs, defending himself against the onslaught. They all laugh happily until one of the JV guys runs in, “Guys, Pornenpipat is coming!”
From the inside, Tine and Type watch as the football team surprises the drama club. “Wait, Ms. Pornenpipat, Pam, Green, we have a surprise for you,” Sarawat says, standing up with the rest of his team.
Ms. Pornenpipat says nothing, but Tine can tell she’s skeptical as she stands with Green and Pam.
“From our club to yours,” Sarawat explains right before they spell out “GO DRAMA CLUB” with the exclamation point courtesy of Tine’s boyfriend.
Wait, are they officially boyfriends?
Tine can’t worry about that right now. He has a decathlon to win and a callback to rock. Sighing, he looks at Sarawat and wishes he could see him in action.
But as he said, he can’t worry about that right now.
Tine enters what he calls his Nerd Zone whenever he has intellectual competitions like this. It happened when he took the SATs and ACTs and any of his finals. And thank god he's entered it for right now.
Since he has the best penmanship and understanding of chem, he’s in charge of the Equation Rush, he has to rush to solve an equation. Seems simple enough, but it might kick his ass.
But hey, he’s in the Nerd Zone.
Anything could happen.
He comes back to himself when it’s nearing the end of the minute and he dings the timer. The judge studies his work and Tine feels like his heart might explode.
He gives the gesture that says they win that round.
Tine turns to Type and hugs him, and he can hear his mom cheer in the audience. Graciously, he turns to his opponent and says, “Great job!” and turns back to Type. He whispers under his breath, “3:35.”
“I know,” Type smiles mischievously, speaking hushed.
Type pulls out his laptop and does work that Tine planned but doesn’t understand. And waits for it to work.
“How do we know it will work?” Tine asks, still whispering.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Type shrugs and gets into the gym’s mainframe to work the scoreboard and cause it to go “so fucking haywire” in Type’s words.
Type says once it says ‘message transmitted.’
“Let’s hope that worked. Initiating phase 2,” Type opens up a new thing and pulls it up, sending a different code.
“You pretending you’re a spy?” Tine smirks.
“You know it, Tine.”
They stop laughing once the Erlenmeyer flask boils on the pan and releases the most horrendous odor.
“Everyone evacuate!” A judge says, as everyone already is.
“Go, Tine, we’ll meet up!” Type says, shoving him out the door first.
Tine books it down the halls, as he did for rehearsals, and he books it down the aisle of the auditorium.
“Ms. Pornenpipat, wait!” Sarawat says, running down the parallel aisle.
“We’re here!” Tine shouts, still in his lab coat. Sarawat is still in his uniform.
“I called your names. Twice.” Ms. Pornenpipat says, glasses down her face to look down harshly. They both book it up the stage. The only other people there are the Burin twins. Where is Phukong?
“Ms. Pornenpipat, please!” Tine says, nearly begging.
“Rules are rules—” She goes to reiterate that lesson but then the auditorium starts to fill.
Tine and Type and Sarawat and Man had planned a whole disaster where their respective events had to pause (for the game, the lights and scoreboard short-circuiting. For the decathlon, a stink bomb of sorts.) However, they didn’t realize everyone would go to the auditorium.
Well, maybe Man and Type did, judging by the near-identical smirks on their faces.
Pam and Green, who were looking smug on stage, gasp at the crowd. “We’d be happy to repeat our performance for the crowd, Ms. Pornenpipat.”
“I don’t know what’s going on here...” Ms. Pornenpipat says, in quiet shock. “But in any event, it’s far too late. And you don’t have a pianist.” But Tine can tell she’s just searching for excuses. Or at least he hopes so.
He deflates in relief though when he sees Phukong appear from backstage, running back.
But since he's not facing him, Sarawat rushes to say, “We can sing without a piano—”
“You won't have to!” Phukong says, completely serious. “Pianist here, Ms. Pornenpipat.”
Ms. Pornenpipat seems to relent, but Pam pushes her way in front of Phukong. “You really don't wanna do that.” She towers over him and Tine can hear her snarl.
He's never punched anyone, much less a girl, but that might change if Pam hurts Phukong.
“Yes, I really do,” Phukong says, puffing up a bit and going to the piano.
“Ms. Pornenpipat... Please?” Tine says, quietly.
She opens her mouth but then the crowd gently cheers, if such a thing could be said.
“Sarawatine! Sarawatine! Sarawatine!”
“Did all these people came here for both of you?” Ms. Pornenpipat asks, confused. Sarawat smirks a bit as Tine explains.
“Yup. That's Sarawat and I. Sarawat and Tine. Sarawatine. They want us to sing.” Tine blushes as he tries to stammer it out.
“Don't speak for the crowd.” Pam snaps.
“And you do?” Sarawat says, defending Tine.
“The theater is for the people, Mr. and Ms. Burin. And the people want these too.”
“Pam, just shut up,” Green says for the first time, clearly tired of her sister’s dramatic antics.
Pam huffs and leaves the stage. Green follows but before that, he wished them good luck.
“Appreciate this opportunity, boys.” Ms. Pornenpipat says to them. “Or should I say, Sarawatine.” She spares them a smirk and goes to her chair.
Sarawat and Tine share a relieved, ecstatic look. “You guys got this,” Phukong says to the two of them as he hands them microphones. They don't sparkle and aren't assaulting pink, and for that Tine is grateful. “Ready on stage!” He calls to someone.
But then he remembers.
He's about to sing. In front of people. A lot of people.
He can't move. He can barely breathe. All he can feel is their stares and how heavy the mic feels, even in both his hands.
“Thanks, Phukong,” Sarawat says. The music starts to play, but Tine just stares at everyone and their faces start to blur. He starts getting dizzy.
Just as he staggers backward, Sarawat rushes toward him.
“Wat, I-I can’t do this.” Tine panics, thankfully remembering to lower the microphone.
“Hey, hey,” Sarawat says, voice calm and steady like a rock. “It’s just like on New Year, the first time we sang. Look at me. Just look at me,” He smiles softly, but it’s bright enough to calm him down. He nods. He watches as Sarawat gestures to Phukong and the music starts again.
Sarawat sings the first lines of Kan Goo, coming in perfectly, in a way that Tine knows Phukong will be proud of.
I don’t know when it started, or who began this story
I don’t know if you came to me, or if I came to you
Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not
The only thing that I knew is having you in my heart
Focusing just on Sarawat, and not the crowd, Tine sings.
I’m not sure if it’s destiny, or if we’re meant to be
There’s something that brought me and you close together
What I know, is it’s the right thing if we can love each other
Because he needs more of an anchor, Tine clutches onto Sarawat’s outstretched hand.
I don’t want anyone in the middle between us, I will always be beside you
Wherever you are, I’ll definitely stick with you
As they sing, they go through their hesitant choreography because Tine warned both him and Phukong that he’d be too nervous to move.
You don’t need to look for anyone
I’m waiting for you to look at me
Can you see me now?
When the song crescendoes, it’s just like New Years, and Sarawat feeds off the crowd’s energy, getting into it and having a blast. In turn, Tine is revived by Sarawat, and he feels his tension slowly leave as he ditches his lab coat. Just like New Years when he ditched his jacket.
If there is anything between you and me
I hope it’s the word ‘love’ that still exist
Their dancing gets a bit wilder and their voices get stronger. They're smiling bright and dancing apart and coming back like they’re magnetically drawn together.
Because the one who should be beside you, must me be
Because, darling, we’re meant to be
Tine’s barely paying attention to the crowd, but he can feel it when they all stand to their feet.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not
The only thing that I knew is having you in my heart
Sarawat moves them around so they’re all over the stage, and they’re singing their goddamn hearts out and they dance next to Phukong who’s beaming with excitement. Tine even manages to do a flawless spin with his “long giraffe legs” as Sarawat calls them.
I’m not sure if it’s destiny, or if we’re meant to be
There’s something that brought me and you close together
What I know, is it’s the right thing if we can love each other
The song reaches its dramatic close, with the two of them singing
I don’t want anyone in the middle between us, I will always be beside you
Wherever you are, I’ll definitely stick with you
Tine and Sarawat, because Phukong warned them kissing was tacky, hug each other like lifelines when they get roaring applause from the crowd.
But Tine barely cares, because he has Sarawat in his arms.
Living off like three adrenaline highs, Tine and Type book it to the auditorium after they win their decathlon. Type’s still talking about how much they kicked ass, even though both their pudgy, nerdy asses are out of breath from the running.
They enter just as everyone’s on their feet and people seem to be crowding around one person, and Tine doesn’t even have to stand on his tippy-toes to know it’s his boyfriend.
Sarawat is shouting over the din of the crowd to someone, so Tine takes the opportunity to hug-tackle him and his sweaty muscular body from behind. “Congrats, Wat.”
Sarawat spins him around, grinning and holding onto to him as they separate a bit, “Thank you, Tine. What about you guys?”
“We won,” they can’t help but surge together and despite the chaos, with everything going on, they kiss.
With a swift twist, Sarawat turned Tine and dipped him, secure in his grasp. His lips and tongue no longer his alone as they melded with his.
Fuck the crowds. Fuck everything.
Sarawat slowly lifted him back up until they both stood to lean on each other. One last teasing tug on Tine’s lower lip, Sarawat pulled back to take a breath and leaned again.
Man separates them by shoving a football between them. “There’s time for later, lovebirds.”
Sarawat groaned and gave Tine a quick smack on the lips before he looked over at Man. “What do you want?”
“Team voted you the game ball, Captain,” Man grins and salutes, with his hair forming sweaty ringlets on his face. He’s grinning just as hard as every other Wildcat in the gym. Possibly the school.
“Thanks a lot,” Sarawat says, rolling his eyes but he’s sincere. Man goes off to find Type, who’s right there with his Wildcat Red hair.
Sarawat grabs Tine to kiss him again, but he forces them to spy on their friends.
“Hey, Type,” Man calls over, spinning Type into him. “You coming with me to the after party right?”
“Like on a date?” Type says, exuberant yet casual.
“Must be your lucky day,” Man winks and goes off to celebrate.
“They’re so cute,” Tine says to Sarawat.
Sarawat sighs and ruffled his hair. “You know who’s even cuter?”
Tine scrunched his eyebrows. “Who?”
Tine smiles and he grabs Sarawat’s neck to kiss him but Type practically barrels into Tine.
“Tine, Man just asked me out!” They both hug in excitement and just as Tine’s going to congratulate him, Pam and Green walk up to them. Tine leans back a bit, good mood automatically deflating a bit.
“Well, congratulations,” Pam says, huffing a bit but Tine can tell she’s making an effort, “I guess I’ll be the understudy in case you can’t make one of the shows. So... Break a leg.”
Tine’s eyes go wide.
Pam laughs a bit, but for once it’s not cruel, “In theater, that means ‘good luck.’” She seems sincere, but Tine’s not 100% sure he believes her.
“I have an idea,” Sarawat whispers to Tine instead of making good on their promise to make out some more. But since he usually has good ideas, Tine follows along.
They sneak up behind Phukong. Sarawat calls, “Director!” Phukong looks up and grins, and goes to congratulate him, but he keeps talking. “Here’s your game ball,” He puts the ball in his hands, smiling, “You deserve it, Playmaker.”
Tine shakes his shoulders happily, as everyone around them cheers, since he stands at almost a foot taller than him.
He looks around the GMM High field as Sarawat plays star athlete and takes praise, but his eyes are locked at Tine alone, smiling at him.
For once, Tine’s grateful that he's staying.
“How do you feel about pancakes?” Tine says, looking through his fridge as his mom comes down.
It’s the day of Songkran Festival, so he has the day off. He does have to go to the theater later from a casual rehearsal with Ms. Pornenpipat and Phukong, but that’s not until 3. Sarawat might even come over to play FIFA, if he can find it in any of the billion boxes in his house.
“I don’t know if we have enough to make some,” Tine’s mom says, preparing the coffee maker.
Tine looks at the decently stocked fridge. “Why wouldn’t we?” He asks, voice suspicious.
Her mom is such an awful liar. And she looks like a cat that ate the canary, feather still in her mouth.
“Oh, I don’t know...” Tine’s mom trails off. “Might need a lot of energy today.” She hums.
He freezes. “What have you done?” Tine closes the fridge and narrows his eyes at her.
“Oh, I haven’t done a single thing,” Tine’s mom goes and kisses his cheek. “If you need me, I’ll be unpacking my room.”
Women. He’s so glad he’s gay.
He did promise his mom that he’d help unpack boxes today, but that’s because with all of his happiness from winning the Decathlon, landing the role of Win Metawin in Scrubb: The Musical, opposite Bright Vachirawit played by no other than Wat, and then siphoning some of Wat’s energy from winning his championship game, he’d forgotten how many damn boxes they had. And how heavy they were.
There’s at least 8 in the basement, 10 in the living room, 7 in his room, and there’s still furniture that’s not in the right place.
You’d think moving around dozens of times would make you an efficient packer and unpacked. It does not.
With a sigh, he rolls up the sleeves of his boyfriend’s blue sweater that he’s already stolen and sets to work on wrenching open the boxes with the box cutter.
The doorbell rings and he nicks his finger. “Shit!” Tine hisses.
Yeah, that’s another thing. In the past three weeks, he’s already managed to become a swearing mess. He blames it on Type and Man, since Sarawat’s like a lawfully good swearer.
Putting pressure on the tiny slice, he goes to open the door with his uninjured hand, “I’ve already found the gods—” He cuts himself off when he sees who it is.
“Damn right you did, I'm right here,” Man says, entering without being invited in. “Where do you want me?”
“What the hell—” Tine is so confused.
Type walks in right behind and nuzzles into his boyfriend’s side. “I know where I want you, babe. Right against the—”
The confusion is not helped.
“Ew, both of you go to the basement so you can PDA in privacy,” Mil says, walking in with Phukong. “Want us to finish up the living room?”
“We can help!” Ohm says, bouncing in with Fong and Phuak on his side. “Or, you mentioned there’s stuff in the guest room right?” He takes his stunned silence as a yes and turns his attention to the other boys. “We got this,” he stands, posing mightily for a small person.
“We got this just like I got this dance move,” Fong says, happily dancing to the cheers of the people still in the room. Which is now seven, including him.
Five seconds ago, there was only him.
It makes complete sense when his boyfriend saunters into his house, wearing his red and white football tee with his hands in the pockets of his best jeans.
“What’s going on?” Tine thinks for a second and ignores his boyfriend to turn to Type and Man, “If you two go make out in my basement, I will cut your balls off.”
“Tine Teepakorn!” Tine’s mom shouts from above and he winces. His friends snicker.
“Since that made my day, deal,” Type says.
“Awwwwwwwww,” Man pouts.
“What’s going on is...” Sarawat explains, directing the attention back to himself with an easy grin, “We’re gonna help you unpack.”
“You wouldn’t stop being a nuisance about it,” Sarawat says.
And then they all start mimicking him in a terribly too-deep voice, repeating things he probably said over the past two weeks.
“I’ve been unbearable, huh?” Tine winces.
“Yeah, kind of. Luckily for you, we decided to help you out instead of ditching you,” Man says, smirking at him.
“Whatever, Man, I introduced you to your boyfriend. And convinced him to get those piercings that turn you on.”
For the first time ever, Tine sees Man blush. Sweet victory.
It takes way longer to set everything up than it would have if it was just him, but he knows they’ll help in the long run. Plus he’s just grateful for his friends.
He and Sarawat are in his room, organizing books and making shelves.
“Why am I dating someone who has a penchant for Oscar Wilde?” Sarawat holds up Tine’s worn copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
“Is it a bad thing?”
Sarawat smiles. “Not everyone likes Oscar Wilde, but I like you, Tine.”
He can’t help but blush. Damn it, Guntithanon.
“So we are dating?”
“We’re not?” Sarawat looks slightly confused.
“I just meant... you hadn’t asked me.”
“But you hadn’t asked me either.”
“I—good point,” Tine says. “I didn’t want to pressure you for anything. I wasn’t sure if you were in the closet and I didn’t want you to think I was pressuring you.”
“Tine, I’ve been out of the closet for a while now.”
“Yeap, since freshman year, but it was just with friends. Now, I guess, with singing with you for a pairs audition, the number of people who knows probably got bigger. You’re the math whiz, you tell me.”
Tine ignores that and focuses on the bigger thing, “I didn’t mean to force you out of the closet.”
“You didn’t force me out of anything, Tine. You honestly made me a bit stronger. But I didn’t even need it. Everything’s been good here. No negative reactions.”
Tine deflates in relief but then pauses. “That’s weird to me. Because this school couldn’t handle it a week ago when Mil wanted to make French pastries.”
“The status quo said nothing about being LGBTQ plus,” Sarawat says. “Someone should have told you this, but we’re a very progressive school. Thailand in general is very progressive.”
“I wish someone did, I was afraid I was gonna get bullied.” Tine admits.
“Aww, little buffalo, come here,” Sarawat crawls over the short distance to pull Tine into a tight hug. “I’m sorry I didn’t. I feel awful. I figured Type told you, he’s been out for ages. Since like third grade.”
“He told he’d been bullied for being a gay nerd. I figured it was a compound thing.”
Recognition flashes on Sarawat’s face, “Ah... well, not that I ever did, I swear, but Type mostly got bullied for the nerd part. Never the gay part. Hell, Man’s been out as gay since sophomore year.”
Tine absorbs this and decides to go lighthearted since nothing bad really happened. “Someone should have really taken the time to tell the new kid this.”
Sarawat giggles a bit, leaning his face into Tine’s neck. “From now on, I’ll tell you everything.”
“That’s a deal, wildcat.”
“No, that’s a promise, tua woon wai.”
Tine internally swoons. “Saraleo...”
“Oh quit it. C’mon let’s finish packing, your mom promised us pancakes.”
Tine groans, “Damn it, I knew she was a part of this.”
Sarawat just laughs and cuddles him tight. “Your mom’s the best, so let’s get going.”
“Yes, sir,” Tine says, smirking at his boyfriend, still in his lap. “Or we could—”
And then Sarawat’s slanting their lips together, holding him by his hips.
Tine could get used to this, forever.