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the missing pieces (i found them)

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Tine is tired. So incredibly tired. Work is kicking his ass, to say the least. His head is throbbing after hearing kids cry all day. He loves being a pediatrician, he really does, but he’s been working non-stop for eighteen hours at the ER and the weekends are always the busiest days, specially this one. He’s barely had time to drink a cup of tea.

He checks his clock. The five minutes he took to rest are almost over. Four more hours to go, he can do it.

As soon as he gets home, he’ll cuddle Charlotte, his puppy, and sleep for twelve hours. But first a long shower. He’s been puked on at least thrice today.

He heads over to the ER, stretching his back as he walks. He should get one of those massage chairs or go to the spa, his back is killing him from standing and walking all day. Well, he doesn’t really have time, does he? No spa then.

His next patient is waiting for him. Pete Guntithanon, six years old, stomachache, according to his file. A cute little kid is laying on the hospital bed, getting his head patted lovingly by a tall man. “Hello, I’m doctor Teepakorn. Are you his tutor?” he addresses the man.

“Yes, I’m his dad” he says, straightening out from his bent over position.

“What happened?” Tine asks. The little boy is just there, firmly holding his dad’s hand. The dad is really handsome, he looks straight out of a magazine, with his black slacks and white button down that perfectly hugs his broad shoulders. But this is not the time to think about that. Focus.

“I think he ate too much junk food” the dad says, scratching the back of his head with his free hand. “He went out with his mom and when he got back home, he was already complaining. He puked and had diarrhea as well”

“I see” the doctor nods. “Hello little friend, where does it hurt?” he turns to the kid and asks. The little boy looks just like his dad, it’s kind of terrifying. Same eyes, same mouth, same eyebrows, same hair. Some strong genes he’s got.

“My tummy” he says, pointing at his stomach and pouting. “I puked a lot” his eyes are a bit glassy, but he is calm.

“I’ll press your tummy to see if everything in there is in order, okay?” the kid nods. Tine presses his stomach for a few minutes, checks his eyes and breathing next; everything seems to be in order. “Did you eat a lot?” Tine asks.

“Yes. My mom said I could eat anything I wanted”

“Does your stomach hurt easily?”

The boy nods, still pouting. He’s adorable. At times like this Tine is reminded why he choose to work with kids.

“You have to be careful, okay? If your tummy doesn’t want more food, you have to stop eating. Or else I’ll hurt like now” Pete is looking at him with a lot of attention, taking in every word Tine says. “I’ll give you some medicine, so it doesn’t hurt anymore, yeah?”

“Okay doctor. Thank you” Tine pats his hair and gives him a smile. Polite boy.

He turns to speak to the dad. “He is a bit dehydrated from all the puking and the diarrhea, so we need to replenish his fluids. We’ll also administer some medicine for the pain” the man is looking at him with so much intent, eyes wide open, nodding to everything he says, just like his son. It’s endearing. “Make sure Pete follows a bland diet on the following days. Other than that, everything is fine” Tine says with a smile. “I’ll bring you a chair so you can wait more comfortably, give me a sec”

When he returns, the dad is waiting on the same spot. “Here you go”

“Thank you, doctor,” the dad says. He extends his hand then, offering Tine a handshake, which he accepts. His hand is very big and warm, almost engulfing Tine’s own. “For everything”

“It’s no trouble” They let go of each other’s hands and Tine turns to address the boy. “You have to stay here for a little while, okay Pete? The nurse will come to give you the medicine”

“Okay doctor” the kid extends his little hand, just like his dad did a few seconds ago. It takes Tine some seconds to realize that the boy is offering him a handshake. Tine chuckles a little bit and takes his very small hand. “Thank you for healing me” he says, tone and expression serious.

His heart feels warm at that. It’s amazing how a few words can replenish his energy levels, can make him forget he hasn’t slept in twenty-four hours, the tiredness he was feeling moments ago gone. He loves being a doctor, he really does. And he loves kids as well.

“You are welcome” he says, with his biggest smile. “I’ll come see you in two hours again, so rest for a little while”

____________________

After that, luckily, the influx of people stops. He gave some stitches to a girl who fell from a three, some medicine to a boy with a cold and ate three or four packages of instant ramen and slept for five minutes slumped over a table. Not miserable at all.

When he checks his clock, he sees that a little over two hours have passed, so he goes see Pete. The boy is still where he left him, very much awake.

“Hello again” Tine greets him, checking his IV bag. There’s still some liquid left, but it’s almost empty. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. It doesn’t hurt anymore” the boy says, rubbing his tummy.

“That’s great” Tine says with a smile, only now realizing that the dad is fast asleep, resting his head on the space Pete left on the bed. “Your dad fell asleep” Tine points out. He looks so much younger like that, without the deep worried crease from earlier adorning his features. He must be around his age, Tine thinks.

“Yes, he was up all night looking after me” Pete says, softly caressing his dad’s hair, careful not to wake him up. The sight makes Tine’s chest ache. They are both so cute, it’s always heartwarming to see families love each other so much.

“He must be tired then. We’ll let him rest for a little while, ok?”

“Thank you, doctor” the boy says with a small smile. His face then lights up, “Doctor do you like puppies?” he asks, pointing to the dog pin in Tine’s scrubs.

“I love puppies!” Tine exclaims excitedly. “I have a small puppy; her name is Charlotte. Do you like puppies Pete?”

 “Yes, I do. But my dad and I live in an apartment, we can’t have one” he says a pout. “But we are moving! so dad said I can have one in the new house!” he exudes so much energy. Tine wishes he had at least half.

“Well, until you have a puppy of your own, you can have my pin” Tine says, taking the small thing off his hospital scrubs and pinning it on Pete’s shirt.

“Thank you so much doctor! I will never lose it!” he says excitedly but quietly, so to not wake up his dad. He’s looking at the pin with so much awe. Kids need so little to be so happy, they are amazing.

“I’m going now. When you dad wakes up tell him to talk to the nurse, ok?” the boy nods. “It was very nice meeting you, Pete. Don’t eat too much and be good, yeah?”

“I promise on this pin, doctor” he says with the biggest smile ever.

____________________

Next Friday Tine finally, finally, finally (how many times can he say finally for the message to come across?) has a free day. It’s been a hell of a week.

Tine, at thirty-two, is the youngest practicing pediatrician at the hospital, which is why he’s almost always appointed at the ER. He’s thankful, though, for the countless opportunities he’s had. He’s young and already has his own house and car (he’s paying both, but the contract has his name… it counts for something right?). He’s privileged he can live this comfortably.

The only downside of his career is the lack of time. All he does is work. He barely has time to call his mom, much less visit her, since she doesn’t live near. Every time they talk, though, she nags him about getting someone and starting a family, he’s old enough, she says, he’ll be old and alone, she also says. Tine has to admit he feels a bit lonely sometimes, but he has his friends and Charlotte and that has to be enough for now.

He fell asleep at nine p.m. last night, right after his shift ended. He filled Charlotte’s plate with food and some fresh water first. Priorities.

Which is why he wakes up very early the next day, used to sleeping so little. Charlotte is sleeping on his chest and her fluffy tail is ticking Tine’s nose. That’s what woke him up. He rubs her back softly and she wakes up, turning around and licking his face.

“Good morning baby” he says with a small laugh. “I missed you too. I’ll try to come sleep at home more often” she licks his face again, as if she understands his words. Cute.

After having breakfast, he goes back to bed. A small commotion outside wakes him up around nine a.m., which is weird, since his neighbors on the left are an elderly couple and on the right there’s an empty house.

Tine is curious, so he peeks through his living room window and sees a moving truck parked outside.

That’s nice, having new neighbors. That house has been empty ever since Tine moved here four months ago. He’ll bake a tray of cookies for them later.

____________________

He spends the rest of the morning on that blissful state between awake and asleep, Charlotte bundled up right beside him. His tummy is still full from breakfast, and there’s nothing for him to do, so he just stays in bed.

His mom calls around twelve, demanding him to get out of bed and do something productive. He knows he doesn’t have to do what she says but that woman has a way of just knowing things even when she’s not here physically… he’s not taking any chances.

He showers and takes Charlotte out for a walk, which only lasts for fifteen minutes. Summer it’s in its heyday, long days and short nights, the sun making it impossible to be outside at this hour.

When he passes by his new neighbors’ house on his way back, the truck is gone. They must be settled already. He is going to start baking, then. He hopes he has enough groceries.

Tine, if he says so himself, is an amazing cook, but a much better baker. His mom used to bake something different every week. His brother, Type, was not really interested in learning, so she taught Tine instead.

He can bake everything, from a small cookie to a big fondant cake. Too bad he doesn’t have time to do so. It’s one of the things he likes to do to de-stress.

The cookies are ready in record time. He made a lot, since he doesn’t know the size of the family. He is curious to meet them. He also made an apple pie. All to himself.

He waits until the cookies are a bit cooler and puts them on a simple bag with a pretty ribbon. He is a bit nervous. Meeting new people makes him feel that way.

He is standing in front of his neighbors’ door, feeling the urge to just turn and run. Is it too late to go back to his place? What if they’re not nice? He should’ve brought Charlotte… you can never be mean to a cute puppy.

Tine takes a big breath and knocks. A few seconds later, the door opens, a man he has definitely seen before standing in front of him.

“Doctor Teepakorn?” he says, as surprised as Tine feels.

“Pete’s dad?”

“Ummm, yeah” the man says as he scratches the back of his head. They stand there for a few seconds, just staring at each other. Neither knows what to say. It’s very awkward.

Pete’s dad is still as handsome as he was at the hospital, but he looks more homey now, with his messy hair and cozy clothes. He still looks straight out of a magazine.

Tine feels like he should have put some more effort in his outfit. He is sure as hell he doesn’t look as good in his worn-out t-shirt and ratty sweatpants. If he’s being honest… he was starstruck by this man, the other day. He kept looking around the hospital to see if he was back with his son. Not that he wanted the kid to be sick

A small figure appears at the door, saving them from having to speak first. “Who is it dad?” when the boy sees Tine, he gasps, his mouth forming a cute “o”. “The doctor that likes puppies?”

“Yes, that’s me” Tine affirms with a small laugh. “My name is Tine, I’m your neighbor” he says, pointing with his thumb to his house. “It’s nice to see you again”

“I’m Sarawat”

“I’m Pete” they say at the same time, looking at each other and laughing.

“Hello Sarawat, hello Pete” they are wearing matching tie-dye t-shirts. They look so alike, it’s cute to see. “I brought some cookies, to welcome you guys to the neighborhood”

“Thank you so much, I love cookies” Pete is jumping up and down, clapping his tiny hands in happiness. Then he remembers something. “Doctor Tine look” he says, pointing at his shirt. “The pin, I still have it” he does. The small puppy is pinned on his shirt.

“You do? That’s amazing”

“I promised I wouldn’t lose it” his expression is very serious. How can he go from being a little overhyped kid to a small serious man in just seconds? “Dad says not to promise something if I won’t keep it”.

“That’s right” Tine says, patting Pete’s hair with his free hand.

“He hasn’t taken it off ever since he got it, you really made an impression” Sarawat is still nervously scratching the back of his head, barely making eye contact with Tine, who gives him a bashful smile. They’re both a little flustered. Two awkward guys. Fantastic.

“Doctor Tine” Pete interjects, taking Tines index finger between his tiny hands. “Can I see your puppy now?” with those eyes he’s giving Tine, he’s not sure who is the puppy.

“Pete, it’s rude to impose, Doctor Tine might be busy” his dad scolds, and Pete’s face falls.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to”

“It’s ok. I’m not busy, today is my free day, actually” Charlotte would like the company. Tine is totally not thinking about how he would like this handsome guy and this adorable little boy’s company. Tine feels daring suddenly, so he bursts the first thing that comes to his mouth. “Do you want to come eat lunch at my place?” he offers. Sarawat’s ears turn red. “I mean… you guys don’t have chairs and a table” he says, pointing to the empty living room behind Sarawat, “and… you know… I do? And Pete can play with Charlotte”

Sarawat doesn’t answer right away. He’s just staring at Tine, impassive expression on his face. Tine tries to look at his eyes, maybe they can hint what he is thinking, but there’s nothing there, just a carefully crafted blank expression.

Pete is expectantly looking at his dad. Tine is about to open to backtrack his offer, but Sarawat beats him to it, nodding his head yes.

 “I’d love to. We’d love to” he says with a small smile.

____________________                       

Charlotte was kind of shy at first, hiding behind the couch, not used to other people. “Hey baby, come here” Tine calls. She trots to him and he picks her up, holding her in his arms. “These are new friends. This is Sarawat” Tine says, closing the distance between them. Sarawat extends his hand, so Charlotte can smell him. Then he pats her head very softly. “And this is Pete” Tine crouches down so they are at the same level. Pete extends his hand, Charlotte smells it, and then licks it. “She likes you!” Tine says to Pete. “You can play with him, Charlotte”

Pete is beaming when Tine puts the puppy on the floor and she goes to him. “She likes me dad!” he exclaims, jumping up and down on his spot. Sarawat is looking at him with soft eyes. His enthusiasm is so cute.

“I’ll be in the kitchen” Tine says, tapping Sarawat’s shoulder. “You can stay here, if you want”

“I’ll help” the other man says, following him to the other room.

Tine investigates his pantry. Well. There isn’t much variety. His freezer is no better. “How about…” he should have thought this through better. It’s kind of embarrassing how he has enough baking ingredients but not enough to put a simple meal together, “a stir fry with noodles?” he says, sending Sarawat a small smile over his shoulder. “I don’t have much groceries, sorry. I’m not at home that often”

“Anything is fine, really. Pete and I are not picky”

That’s a relief. Kids don’t like vegetables that much. “Great” he says, placing the ingredients on the counter.

“Let me help” the other man offers.

Tine feels the need to tell him not to worry, that he’ll do it, but he has the inkling suspicion that the other man’s offering so he has something to do other than stand on his place like that Mike Wazowski meme, hence, Tine gives him a knife and a cutboard.

They work in silence, only Pete’s laugh audible in the background. “He really likes dogs, doesn’t he?”

“He does” Sarawat says, smiling a little. “We used to live on a really small apartment and, you know, pets aren’t allowed there” his chopping technique is impeccable, Tine thinks, looking discreetly. Every pepper is the same size. He has really pretty hands as well, maybe he is a hand model. Those exist, right? He should stop staring. “I hope we can adopt one now”

“I’ve had Charlotte for about six months” she was so tiny back then. “It makes me sad that I can’t be that often with her but she’s the one who keeps me company when I’m home” he would like to be with her all day. Thankfully he has a big yard where she can play when he isn’t home.

“You… you look very young. How long have you been a doctor for?” Sarawat asks.

“Thanks. I’m thirty-two” Tine’s cheeks are blushing a little bit. He hopes Sarawat can’t see it. “I take my skin care routine very seriously” he jokes, trying to feel a little bit less flustered. That was lame though. He knows he looks younger, why is he reacting like this, then? “I finished my pediatric residency last year”

“I see… Do you like it? I mean… what you do?”

“Yes, I love it. Kids are amazing” he really does. Uni was hard, his residency was hard, work is hard. But if he could go back in time, he would do it all over again. They are silent after that again, but it feels less heavy than before.

“I’m thirty-three, by the way” Sarawat admits, some minutes later.

Tine’s guess earlier had been right, then. “You look so much younger” and he does. He looks like a college boy, with his outfit.

“I also take my skin care seriously” he says in a flat tone.

It takes Tine some seconds to understand that the other man is joking. He wasn’t expecting it, since Sarawat looks like a very serious person and he said that in a very serious tone, so it takes him a few seconds to react. The laugh that erupts from his chest is so ugly, he’ a bit embarrassed. Sarawat’s laughing under his breath, very pleased with himself, Tine can tell.

They are interrupted by the small pitter-pattering of Pete’s bare feet, entering the kitchen. “Hello, do you need help?” he offers, looking at his dad.

“We are fine, son, you can go back to play with Charlotte”

“Okie dad”

Tine is looking at his retreating form, smiling. “He’s so polite and well behaved”

“I try my best” Sarawat says, making eye contact with him for some seconds. Tine is sure he does.

____________________

They are sitting on the table, eating. Tine has a very small table, so they’re all close to each other.  Tine is used to eating alone and quickly, so he’s enjoying the company. Pete is talkative, unlike his father, who is concentrated in eating.

Sarawat mainly chopped vegetables, claiming he’s a very bad cook, but with his help they were able to put something together very quickly.

“Doctor Tine, do you heal everyone at the hospital?” the little boy asks, curiosity clear in his eyes.

“Yes. But mainly kids” if they are short on people, he has to attend everyone who comes in. If not, he only focuses on children.

“Why kids?”

“I like helping them and making them feel better” in high school, Tine wasn’t sure whether he wanted to become a pre-school teacher or a medic. It was hard to decide, since he loved working with kids and loved medicine. He chose the latter for economic reasons, if he’s being honest.

Pete hums, chewing on his food. He is not picky, just as Sarawat said. “You were nice to me. Some doctors are grumpy sometimes” he says with a small frown. “I also want to be a doctor when I’m a grown up. But a puppy doctor!” his enthusiasm is contagious.

“A veterinary” Sarawat corrects.

“Yes dad, a veterinary”

“That’s amazing, Pete, helping animals is great”

“Thank you, doctor” the kid is really well spoken for his age, Tine notices. He still calls him doctor, as well. Tine is not used to it; nobody calls him that outside the hospital.

“You can call me Tine”

“Okie Tine” Pete smiles at him, big and shiny. A mini sun.

They focus on eating for a little while. Sarawat still hasn’t said much. If Pete wasn’t here this would be a little uncomfortable. “What grade are you on, Pete?” Tine asks.

“I’m on first grade” he looks proud of this.

“Do you like going?”

“I love it! I love learning. Dad says it’s important” he looks at his dad for affirmation, and the other man nods.

Tine nods as well. “It is very important.”

Tine hated studying, which makes his choice of going to med school kind of stupid. He barely had time to do other than studying until a few years ago. Or months? he doesn’t remember. All those years passed in a blur.  

“I like playing the piano as well. My dad is teaching me” he points at him, who looks up from his food. “When I’m a grown up I want to learn guitar, just like my dad”

 “You play?” Tine asks. That explains the nice hands. He is a musician.

“Only sometimes” he answers, looking down at his food.

“He plays every day!” Pete says with an indignant tone. Sarawat just laughs.

After a few seconds of silence, the little boy speaks again. “Dad I finished; can I go play with Charlotte now?” Sarawat nods, and Pete gets up from the table, taking his plate to the sink. “Thank you, dad. Thank you for the food, Tine”

“You are welcome”

Both adults are quiet for a few seconds, finishing their plates. The silence is, surprisingly, not uncomfortable, as Tine thought it would be.

“He talks a lot. Sometimes I can’t keep up with him” Sarawat bashfully admits, scratching the back of his head. It must be a nervous habit, Tine thinks. He’s always doing it.

“It’s no bother, on the contrary. I’m used to kids. I talk a lot as well” Tine says with, what he hopes is a reassuring smile. He gets up then, collecting their plates and placing them on the sink.

Sarawat gets up too, taking with him what’s left on the table “Let me help”

 “It’s ok. You are my guest”

“You already made food. Let me help you” the tone of his voice doesn’t leave room for Tine to say no.

Sarawat does the dishes and Tine dries them. Tine doesn’t know why, but he’s hyperaware of the way their hands brush when Sarawat passes him the plates.

He starts feeling a bit awkward, so he rakes his brain for a topic of conversation. “Are you done with the moving?” he asks, just to talk about something.

“Yes, we brought most things yesterday” that makes sense. The moving truck left very quickly this morning.

“Ohh, I didn’t realize” Tine says. “I was a zombie when I got home yesterday, fell asleep right away” that’s what working twenty-four hours does to you. That’s the hardest part, Tine thinks, the long shifts he must work sometimes. “What do you work as, Sarawat?”

“I’m a music teacher” Oh. Tine is a bit surprised, it’s kind of unexpected.

“You are? That’s incredible!” Tine exclaims. “I wanted to be a teacher too… Do you work with kids as well?”

“No, I teach teens, mostly” he says, scratching the back of his head. He doesn’t realize his hand is coated in dishwasher, so his hair is full of bubbles now. “I’m… not that good with kids”

“Well you are good with Pete” Tine says, taking a clean dishcloth. “Don’t move, your hair has dishwasher”.

He cleans the back of Sarawat’s head, who is standing very still. Tine thought they were the same height but being this close he realizes Sarawat’s a little bit smaller. From this position he can see the way his ears slowly get red. He smells really good, Tine notices. Wait… that’s kind of weird. “All done”. Tine steps back.

Sarawat turns around the, with a sheepish expression on his face. That’s a new one. Tine has only seen concern and softness there before. He’ll treasure it, as he is fairly certain that this man prefers to wear an expressionless mask.

“Thanks” he says. He is going to scratch the back of his head again, but Tine lightly grabs his wrist before he can do it. Tine lets go of it rapidly, he doesn’t want the other man to feel uncomfortable. Sarawat looks at his hand, with a disbelieving expression, like he can’t believe it betrayed him like this. “I think it has life of his own” he chuckles lightly.

He is cute, Tine thinks.

____________________

They sit on the couch later, eating the apple pie Tine made. It’s really good. Sarawat is not a big fan of sweets, he says, but he ate two slices, nonetheless. Pete is delighted, the sugar rush kicking right away. He says he loves sweets, but his dad doesn’t really know how to bake.

“Who teached you how to bake?” Pete asks Tine, finishing his second piece. Sarawat didn’t want to let him eat more than one, but his son’s puppy eyes were stronger. “Your cookies were really yummy too”

“My mom taught me when I was really young” Tine answers with a smile.

“Can you teach me too?” puppy eyes mode activated. Tine wonders who taught him.

“If you dad agrees, then of course!” Tine says, looking at the man for confirmation. He’s just staring at them, blank expression on his face. Tine wonders what he is thinking. He’s like that ‘no thoughts, head empty’ meme.

“Dad?” Pete asks, exasperated.

“I… I mean… If Tine has time, then yes” Pete screams a big yes at his dad’s answer and throws himself at him, giving him a big hug.

“Thank you, dad!” he kisses his dad’s cheek and then throws his arms at Tine, who is a little bit surprised at the action. He hugs him back, nonetheless. “Thank you, Tine!”

“You are welcome, Pete” Tine looks at Sarawat, who is still observing them with a ‘no thoughts, head empty’ expression. Tine really needs to stop spending all his free time on Twitter. His brain is wired to make meme references only.

Pete lets go of Tine as Sarawat gets up from his seat. “It’s time to go, Pete” he says. “We need to unpack and I’m sure Tine has things to do”

“I actually don’t” where did that come from? Why is he being so clingy? His mouth has a life of its own, it seems. “My mom called me this morning, forcing me to get out of bed and do something productive with my life” Tine says with an awkward chuckle. “Do you need help unpacking?”

Tine is just being a good welcoming neighbor, he decides. They barely know each other, but this is the most fun he’s had in a while. 

“We do need help. Uncle Man and Uncle Boss came yesterday but can’t come today” Pete answers on his dad’s place.

“I’ll take Charlotte, so she can play with Pete”

Sarawat comes out of his stupor and nods. “Yeah, we do actually need help” he says with a small smile. “Thanks, Tine”

____________________

It’s a sunny afternoon, so Pete plays with Charlotte on his backyard while Sarawat and Tine unpack. It’s comfortable, too comfortable, if Tine is being honest, even though don’t talk that much. It’s crazy how their relationship progressed in a matter of hours.

Sarawat has a lot of stuff, it takes them a few hours to unpack and put in place just the essential. By the time they finish, Tine is dead on his feet, t-shirt drenched with sweat. He is sure his cheeks are all rosy with the exertion. There are still left at least half of the boxes to unpack. Tine says as much to Sarawat, while they are sitting on his couch, drinking some water.

“I’ll do it… eventually… In a year or two” Tine laughs at that. He finished unpacking some weeks ago and only because his friends visited him and helped.

A blaring sound scares Tine, almost splashing water from his glass. It’s his cellphone. He takes it out of his pocket, looking at the screen. “You have to be fucking kidding me” he says as he sees who’s calling. It’s the hospital.

“Hello” he answers. A doctor called in sick and they are asking him to cover, they say. His luck. “I’ll be there” Tine sighs. Next week he’s taking at least two full days off, he promises. He should follow Pete’s advice and make promises he can fulfill, though.

“You gotta go to work?” Sarawat asks.

“Yeah” Tine says with a defeated sigh. “I’m the youngest, so most of the time I’m the one who’s on call. If someone’s missing at the ER, they call me”

“How many hours a week you work?”

“It depends, really. My contract says fifty hours a week but… It’s usually more”

“That’s… rough” Sarawat says. That’s an understatement. But it is what it is.

Outside, Charlotte is still playing with Pete. They must be having a lot of fun; Charlotte never gets to play with anyone. It breaks his heart having to leave her alone at home. Sarawat follows his gaze. He must see the conflict on his face, as he offers, “You can leave her here, if you want”

He takes Tine by surprise. “Really? It wouldn’t be a bother?”

Sarawat shakes his head no. “Pete is having a lot of fun. You can come pick her up when you come back from work”

“Thank you”

“It’s no problem, Tine” Sarawat says with a small smile and soft eyes, his long brown hair falling over them. It’s Tine’s turn to shush his thoughts. Head empty, Tine, he repeats like a mantra.

____________________

He works for thirteen hours non-stop. Why do people get sick? Why do people drive like shit? On top of it all, he wasn’t assigned to the pediatric wing today, as he usually is. He can’t stand adults. Whiny stubborn bastards. If he hears ‘but I read on the internet’ once more he is seriously going to lose it. At least he’s free until tomorrow morning. He hopes.

He naps on his car for an hour before driving home, he could barely keep his eyes open and he’s not going to put other people in danger just because he’s sleepy.

He remembers he has to pick up Charlotte from Sarawat and Pete’s, so he passes by a small café and buys breakfast for all of them. He doesn’t really know what they like so he buys a lot of food. He’s also very hungry. Hehe.

Tine’s standing in front of his neighbors’ door, trying to decipher whether they are awake or not. He stains his ears but hears nothing. Maybe they’re still sleeping.

Suddenly, the door is yanked open. Sarawat is standing there, in all of his ‘I just woke up but still look fabulous’ glory. The morning sun is caressing his skin, and it seems like he’s shining. Is he Edward Cullen? Tine wouldn’t mind being Bella. He really needs to sleep.

“How long were you planning on staying there?” he says with a mocking tone. Not the quiet man from yesterday, it seems. “I was waiting for you to knock”

“Uhhh… well… I was trying to hear if you guys were awake” Tine’s cheeks are warming up. It must be the summer sun. Yup.

“We are. Come in” he says, stepping to the side.

“I brought breakfast to thank you for babysitting Charlotte”

“Thank you. You saved me from having to cook” he laughs a little. He looks so handsome when he smiles, much better than the scowl that adorns his lovely face most of the time. Head empty, Tine. “Pete, breakfast is ready” he calls as they head towards the kitchen.

The little boy comes running from downstairs, Charlotte in tow. He smiles when he sees Tine. “Hello doctor Tine. I hope work was okay” he takes the little puppy in his arms then. “I took good care of Charlotte” he says, passing the dog to Tine.

Tine thanks the boy and kisses Charlotte softly in the head. She licks his face in return. “Hey girl, were you good?” she barks. Is that a yes?

“Pete, help me set the table” Sarawat says. Tine puts Charlotte down, so he can help as well, but Sarawat stops him. “Sit, we’ll do it”

“Yes, doctor Tine, you are tired from work” well, that’s two against one, so Tine does as he’s told.

Pete and Sarawat work at setting the table like they’ve done this many many times, which Tine supposes, they have. Sarawat passes him the plates with food and Pete sets them on the table, which is significantly bigger than Tine’s.

Tine is not going to lie, he’s a bit curious about Pete’s mom. By what he’s seen, it seems like it’s been only Sarawat and Pete for a while. But Pete’s mom is around. If he remembers correctly, Pete was with her when he got sick to his stomach.

Anyway, it’s none of his business. They barely know each other. Still, Sarawat has made an amazing job raising him, that’s in plain sight.

Tine went a little overboard with the food, he thinks a bit embarrassed, as he sees the table full to the brim. He says as much to the boys working.

“Don’t worry” Sarawat answers. “We can eat a lot, right Pete?”

“Dad remember doctor Tine said my tummy can’t be too full or it will hurt again!” he says with a stern tone.

His expression is too funny, Tine tries hard not to laugh, so Pete doesn’t feel like he’s mocking him. Maybe he’s trying to emulate Sarawat’s trademark scowl.

“Right, right, sorry buddy, I forgot” Sarawat says, holding his hands up in sign of surrender.

“It’s okay dad” he lifts his arms and Sarawat picks him up, hugging him tightly to his chest. Pete buries his face on the crook of Sarawat’s neck. “I forgive you”

“Thank you, Pete” he has this calm expression on his face, Tine feels like he’s intruding. Still, he can’t tear his eyes away. Seeing them like this makes his chest all warm and mushy and he doesn’t really know why.

____________________

While they eat, Pete talks about his time with Charlotte. After Tine left, they watched a movie and then slept cuddling along with Sarawat, who had to let her out at two a.m. because she wanted to pee.

Tine tried to hear him, but he’s practically sleeping with his eyes open.

Pete notices this. “Doctor Tine are you sleepy?” Tine nods yes. “Go to sleep then” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and Tine laughs, a hysterical sound that even scares him.

Both, father and son are looking at him like he’s lost it, which he thinks, he has. All of the cables on his brain are crossing. He’s short circuiting. He can only think in short sentences.

“Go. We’ll clean this” Sarawat says, grabbing him by the shoulders and guiding him to the front door. “We’ll take care of Charlotte on the meantime”

“Do you still have dog food?”

“Yup”

“Good” when they are outside Tine’s door, he turns around. Sarawat looks so pretty illuminated by the mooring sun. Very pretty boy. He’s not a boy. Pretty young adult. Not a young adult either. Pretty adult who is a father. Yeah, that’s better. Anyway. To sleep.

____________________

After that, Tine sleeps for ten hours, which is really bad. He just fucked up his nonexistent sleeping schedule. It’s ten p.m. now and he has the morning shift tomorrow. All he knows is pain.

He calls for Charlotte and no one comes… where is she? Right. She's next door. He’s such a bad dad. He has to go get her before they go to bed.

He knocks on their door and a few seconds later Sarawat is there, in all his tall glory. He is wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, round specs perched on the top of his nose. He looks like a college boyfriend. Tine is too old to be thinking like this.

“Good night sleeping beauty” the other man teases him. They kind of became friends in the span of twenty-four hours. Is this how it is when you are ancient?

He’s had the same friends for ages, since high school, actually: Fong, Phuak and Ohm. He hasn’t seen them in a long time. A get together is long overdue.

He also has Pear -whom he met at med school and is now his coworker, so he sees her way more often-, his brother and his brothers’ boyfriend. And that’d be it. He would like Sarawat to be his friend, though. He’s nice to him and Tine doesn’t feel uncomfortable around him either.

 “Good night” Tine rubs his eyes, still feeling a bit sleepy. His stomach growls and it’s loud enough for Sarawat to hear it. That’s embarrassing, he can feel his cheeks heating up. There’s a beast waiting to be fed in there, it seems.

“Come in, we have some leftovers from dinner” the other man offers, smiling kindly.

“I don’t want to be a nuisance… I just came get Charlotte” he’s just saying this out of courtesy… he actually wants some food and doesn’t feel like cooking, if he’s being honest.

Sarawat narrows his eyes. “Just come in, nuisance” he says, stepping aside.

Inside, Pete is sitting on the couch, watching a movie with a sleeping Charlotte resting on his lap. His heart feels warm at the sight. “They are cute” he says to no one in particular, but Sarawat is close enough to hear him.

“Yes, they are” his voice is quiet, almost a whisper. “Pete, say hi to Tine” and he does, waving his little hand.

They head to the kitchen and Sarawat tells him to sit while he heats up the food.

“He can play with Charlotte whenever he wants” Tine says, picking up the conversation from earlier. “I’m thankful she has company”

Sarawat is quiet for a few seconds, leaning on the kitchen counter, arms folded. His hoodie sleeves are rolled up. He has nice forearms. Is this what you get from being a musician?  Does the face come with it as well? Maybe Tine chose the wrong career path…

“You know…” Sarawat is a little bit unsure, scratching the back of his head. “I was thinking… maybe we could look after her whenever you have to work?”

“Would you do that?” Tine asks, surprised. A voice on the back of his mind is telling him not to trust this man so quickly. Tine tells it to shut the fuck up. He wants to be Sarawat’s friend, and he hasn’t wanted to be anyone’s friend in a long time, so he’ll just take a leap of faith.

“Of course,” he answers with a small smile. “Pete would be very happy”. He grabs his cellphone and gives it to Tine. “Put your number in there. Text me when you go to work, and we’ll pick her up if we’re at home”

The phone is unlocked. His background wallpaper is a selfie of Pete kissing him on the cheek. They look so happy. Tine feels strangely happy as well just from seeing the picture.

When he’s done, he gives the phone back to Sarawat. “I’ll text you, so you have my number” the other man says.

Tine phone pings, alerting him of a new text. It’s a picture of Charlotte and Pete. She’s licking his face and he’s smiling so big. He must be smiling like a fool at his phone, but they are so cute.

He will never delete this picture. When he gets those annoying ‘There’s not enough space on your iPhone’ he will delete every picture but this one.

“Thank you, Sarawat” Tine says; for the picture, for taking care of his baby, for the food.

Sarawat is looking at him with the softest little smile, making Tine’s heart pick up its rate. The moment is interrupted by the loud beep of the microwave. Ugly little electronic device.

 ___________________

Tine doesn’t see them the next day, since he had to leave very early to the hospital. He slept like two hours last night. The morning shift sucks and the bags under his eyes were so prominent today not even concealer could hide it. He looks worse than some patients.

He texted Sarawat, though, letting him know that he was leaving to work. There’s a spare key underneath the ‘welcome’ mat outside his door, so he tells him to let himself in and get Charlotte. He answers about an hour later, while Tine taking a rest, drinking coffee.

Sarawat: Wgy do u keep it therr. Hide it beter.

He makes typos? How cute. Somehow it conveys his personality…

Tine: i knooooowwww sorryyy

Sarawat has sent a photo.         

Tine audibly coos. It’s a picture of Pete and Charlotte, sleeping together.

Tine: they r so cuteeeee omg

“What are the heart eyes for?” he hears someone ask, the voice startling him. He looks up from his cellphone, which he almost drops. It’s Pear. God, he didn’t even hear her come in. “Or who, should I ask?”

“No one” he says, too fast be convincing. She narrows her eyes at him. His name is being called in the loudspeakers. Saved by the bell. Well, saved by someone sick. “Duty calls, bye”

Time to save them back or whatever.

___________________

He had to attend at least four sprained ankles today. He was also puked on five times. Kids go wild on Sundays. No one came in with something severe, though, which is always a blessing. He hates seeing kids in pain.

It’s eleven p.m. and he’s inside his car, pondering how to pick Charlotte up from the neighbors’ house. He could knock, but tomorrow is a school day, so Pete must be sleeping already.

He could call Sarawat, but what if he’s sleeping as well? He’s a teacher, and a sleepy grumpy teacher is no good for anyone. He’ll text him, yup, that’s a good idea.

He finds Sarawat’s contact right away, he’s the only person who has messaged him today… sad.

Tine: you up? Wait… oh no…

Tine: i mean are you awake, he quickly types. He hopes Sarawat doesn’t understand young adult asking for a booty call slang.

Sarawat: yeah.

Tine: i’m outside… didn’t wanna knock in case Pete is sleeping

Sarawat: going.

He’s so brief. He texts just like he speaks.

Tine gets out of his car and leans on it, waiting, taking a deep breath. Summer nights are so nice. The air is still a little warm, the sky clear and illuminated by thousands of stars.

Sarawat comes out, Charlotte cradled in his arms like a baby. She is sleeping, Tine realizes. What a nice big comfy bed she’s got. Tine is a little bit jealous.

“You are spoiling her” he says when Sarawat is close enough to hear him. They stand in front of each other and Tine gently caresses the top of Charlotte’s head. “How did she behave?”

“Really good. We went to the park. Pete feel asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow”

“You work tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah” Sarawat answers with a tired sight.

“Go to sleep then, it’s late” Tine says, carefully taking Charlotte from Sarawat’s arms, so to not wake her up.

“I still have your keys; I’ll go get them” he turns but Tine grabs his wrist. Charlotte is tiny enough, so he can hold her with only one arm.

“Wait” Tine says on al impulse. Is he going to do what he thinks he’s going to do? Oh my god he’s lost it, he’s definitely lost it. “Keep them” his hand burns where it’s connected with Sarawat’s skin. “They are safer with you, right?”

It takes the other men a few seconds to answer. He looks a bit stunned. Tine ads it to the mental catalogue he’s made of Sarawat’s expressions. “Yeah, right”

Tine is blushing, hard. He’s thankful for the darkness the night provides. He’s reluctant to let go of Sarawat’s wrist, but he does. “Good night, Sarawat”

“Good night, Tine” the man says, heading to his place.

Tine waits until he is inside and the lights from his living room are turned off to head home. He’s fine. He’s totally fine. His heart is not beating out of his chest.

___________________

Tine wakes up late the next day. This week he is scheduled to do four 15-hours night shifts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. He gets three free days though, so he’s really happy. He shouldn’t be happy for getting a proper amount of rest but… it is what it is.

He eats a big brunch, slowly enjoying his food. He always has to eat so fast, inhaling his meals before he gets swept to the ER again.

He feels the sudden urge to clean his place which he hasn’t done in so long… his mom would kill him if she knew. He’s going to do it on her name.

Two hours later he’s finished. That was really tiring. What’s the point of having such a big house when it’s only you? It’s not like he’s going to have a family anytime soon, Tine thinks. Maybe he should have bought a one-bedroom apartment, that would have been way more convenient for his lazy ass.

Whatever. He has a big nice backyard which he’s going to use now to exercise. Tine used to be a big fan of fitness. When he had the time, he used to hit the gym regularly. Home workouts are his thing now, but his muscles are still pretty much intact. 

An hour later finds him half dead. It’s so hot outside he had to take his shirt off. He’s now lying on the grass, regretting all of his life choices. He’s going to be so sore tomorrow.

His heart is pounding on his ears, so it takes him some time to realize that someone is knocking on his front door. He gets up with no difficulty at all, because he’s fit as hell. He’s not panting. He is okay.

He opens the door and Sarawat is in the other side, looking very professor-like. Navy blue button down, black slacks, specs. Very nice. He must be hot as hell on those clothes, though. He looks hot as hell...

“Hi” greets Tine. “I didn’t know you got off so early from work” 

Sarawat is very obviously staring at Tine’s pecs, and Tine is not flexing, absolutely not. The other man clears his throat, scratches the back of his head and looks up at Tine’s eyes, in that order exactly. He’s barely blinking. The tip of his ears is red. Tine wants to raise his fist in victory. What did he win? he doesn’t know.

“I… umm” he clears his throat again. “I get out at one on Mondays” 

“You wanna come in?” Tine asks, not waiting for a reply and stepping aside. Sarawat nods. “What time does Pete get out of school?” Time heads to the kitchen to get a bottle of water, Sarawat following close behind.

“At two” Tine looks at his clock. It’s a quarter past three. “He’s with my mom now” he doesn’t sound very happy about it. “I have to pick him up in about…” he looks at his wristwatch “an hour” 

“You don’t… get along very well with you mom?” Tine asks carefully. He doesn’t want to pry, but Sarawat sounded very displeased at her mention.

“Not really” he says with a very fake chuckle. “But she’s Pete’s grandma and he enjoys being with her, so what I feel towards doesn’t matter”

“It matters” Tine immediately answers, “but it’s nice that you can put your feelings aside for Pete’s sake”

It says a lot about who Sarawat is as a person. Tine’s witnessed in countless of opportunities how parents try to influence their children, put them on their side in whatever grudge they have against someone. Kids shouldn’t be involved in adult’s business, Tine thinks. Specially not when they love that other person.

“Thanks” Sarawat is a man of few words, but Tine thinks he can see gratefulness and relief in his chocolate eyes. “When does your shift start?” he asks, changing the subject, not so smoothly.

He goes with it. He doesn’t want to make the other man uncomfortable, and he’s already shared enough. “I work from five to ten today” Tine sighs. The night shift is not his favorite. 

“We won’t see each other till’ tomorrow afternoon, then” Sarawat says with a small disappointed? sigh. Tine can’t tell for sure. Maybe his lungs needed some extra air. “I’ll drop Charlotte back before I go to work tomorrow morning”

Tine almost laughs at the ridicule of the situation. It sounds like they are divorced parents discussing visit arrangements.

“Okay” Tine says, crossing his arms. Sarawat’s eyes go back to where they belong. Victory again. Wait… where they belong? Tine’s thoughts are running wild. He didn’t cross his arms on purpose, absolutely not.

After some seconds he seems to snap out of his pec-induced trance. “I have to go” he says, practically running out of the kitchen. “Seeyoubye” he shouts before leaving.

Tine’s face hurts from smiling so much.

___________________

He comes home that morning and, as he’s taking off his shoes at the entrance of his house, he sees a small paper sticked on his door. It’s a note. The handwriting is not neat at all. He has to squint his eyes a little to make out the words.

“Hello Tine, Charlotte is back safe and sound.

Check your fridge.

Pete and Sarawat <3😊”

Tine smiles, folding the note and putting it on his wallet for safekeeping. The little heart and the smiley face were surely made by Pete, since they were a little misshapen. He’s a cute kid.

Charlotte is sleeping on his couch on top of a pink fluffy blanket. She didn’t have that before. Spoiled girl. All she does is sleep and get cuddled. Tine wants what she has.

On his fridge there’s a plate full of homemade pancakes. Sarawat must have cooked them for breakfast. There’s also a bottle half-full of honey.

Tine’s heart is beating really fast at the implications of this. Sarawat made extra pancakes just for him. He thought about him while making breakfast. He’s about to grab the closest pillow and scream into it, but before it gets to that he wills his mid to stop. This means nothing. He’s just being a nice neighbor. Yup.

But what if…?

“What if nothing just shut up. Ughhh” he says to his brain. It doesn’t listen.        

___________________

The rest of the week passes in a similar manner. He doesn’t see Sarawat and Pete at all, since their schedules have crashed. When Tine’s at home his neighbors aren’t, busy with school and work. When they come home Tine’s already left. But every morning Tine comes home to freshly made pancakes waiting for him on his fridge and Charlotte sleeping on his couch. His wallet is fuller as well, and it’s not from money.

He also texts with Sarawat very frequently, getting updates of his puppy time with them and a lot of voice messages from Pete. He always wants to tell him the latest updates about his days.

It’s Thursday morning now, and he’s finally free. Well. He’s free for a few hours, but he’s free, nonetheless. He eats his daily dose of pancakes and lies on the couch, his tummy full and Charlotte by his side. The little pleasures of life. His eyes feel so heavy.

He is woken up by the sound the front door opening and Charlotte barking. His lids are glued together, he can’t open his eyes. Something is touching his cheeks.

“Doctor Tine?” he hears a faint whisper close to his face. The something are Pete’s hands, then. He leans into the touch, making a faint hum of acknowledgment. “We came for Charlotte, but you are here” the little boy pokes his cheek. “Are you sleeping?”

Tine opens his eyes and Pete’s lovely face is right in front of him. “Not anymore” he says, with what he hopes is a smile. His brain is not working yet. Someone crouches down right next to Pete’s form. He is seeing two Petes now. No… a big Pete and a small Pete. Sarawat and Pete. Right.

“You guys are identical. Am I seeing double?” Tine jokes.

Pete’s sweet laugh fills the room. “Nooo, this is Pete,” he points to his chest “and this,” he points to his dad “is my dad”.

Tine theatrically rubs his eyes. “I see the difference now. Pete is cuter” he fake whispers, putting his hand close to his mouth. Pete laughs at that.

He looks at Sarawat then, and his eyes all soft and sweet. They are so close he can see the faint laugh lines adorning his face. He is so handsome.

Tine feels something stirring in his stomach at the sight of both his neighbors, who came barreling into his life and have made these last few days a lot less lonely. He wasn’t aware of how solitary his life was (or still is?).

“Doctor Tine,” Pete says redirecting the attention to him, “did you like the pancakes? I helped dad make them!”

“I loved them” Tine sincerely answers. “I’m really thankful. It’s nicer to come home when food is waiting for you”

“That’s good” says Sarawat very quietly, almost a whisper. “Do you want to have dinner with us?” he offers, louder this time.

“It would be my honor” his stomach feels funny again. He hopes it’s just the prospect of food and nothing more complicated than that.

Pete’s face lights up at his answer. “Yes!” he exclaims excitedly, thrusting both of his arms into the air. “Let’s go!”

___________________

They go to Sarawat’s place, since his pantry actually has edible things, not only instant ramen. Tine’s visit to the supermarket is long overdue.

Sarawat and Tine cook something simple and fast, some meat with vegetables and rice. Sarawat is a pretty decent cook, if Tine, Gordon Ramsay himself, says so. He doesn’t know why the other man insists that he can’t cook.

Pete wants to help, so they put him in charge of making dessert. Sarawat has a ton of ice cream on his freezer, since he says his son is literally obsessed with it. Pete has the job of making sundaes, so he scoops different flavors on a big container, decorating it with chocolate chips and sprinkles. When it’s ready, Sarawat puts it back on the freezer so it doesn’t melt. It’s still so hot.

All of this feels oddly domestic, something Tine is not used to. It makes him feel a bit weird, but not in the bad way. It’s a good weird. Somehow. It’s almost like getting a taste of something he’s longed for a long time. What is it? He doesn’t know. What he does know is that just a taste is not enough…  

Dinner is comfortable, filled with the sound of Pete’s voice, who is excitedly telling Tine everything he’s done on the days they haven’t seen each other (even though he already did that. Tine pretends this is all new information). Sarawat is mostly quiet, as per usual. Charlotte is also here, sleeping underneath the table.

“I’m done dad” Pete says, getting up from the table and putting his plate on the sink. “Thank you for the food. Can I go watch cartoons?” Sarawat nods and Pete, before leaving, kisses his dad on the cheek.

“What was that for?” Sarawat asks, caressing the top of his son’s head affectionately.

Pete looks at him like he’s dumb. “Being the best dad, duh” he says and leaves.

“This kid” Sarawat is smiling so big. He’s so bright when he smiles. The sun itself, Tine thinks.

Suddenly It’s very hard to breathe, the air refuses to enter his lungs, but Tine is smiling as well, it’s contagious. He is lucky he can witness such sincere and pure form of love. He longs to have a bond like that, to have someone he can love and care for unconditionally.

“He’s an amazing kid” Tine says.

Sarawat’s eyes are on him now. He’s so handsome when he’s happy, Tine wishes to see this expression permanently etched on his face. He promises to fight whoever dares to upset him. “He is. I’m lucky” he says, so sincere and heartfelt.

He also wishes to be the cause of Sarawat’s happiness someday.

Wait… too soon. He needs to find a safer topic of conversation away from this line of thought.

 “How has been work?” Tine asks. He can’t bear to look at Sarawat’s face anymore, so he gets up and gathers the remaining dirty plates.

“Same as always” he says, getting up as well.

“I’ll do the dishes” Tine announces, with a tone that leaves no space to debate. Sarawat opens his mouth to protest, but Tine already has the dishwashing gloves on.

“I’ll dry them”

Tine takes his time, scrubbing everything well. His mom would be proud.

Sarawat is leaning against the counter a few meters away from him, cooing at Charlotte, who woke up some minutes ago and is now being squished against the other man’s chest. To be her…

“Do you have plans tomorrow?” Sarawat asks.

Plans? Tine thinks bitterly. When was the last time he had plans on a Friday? He can’t remember. “Work from five to ten again”

Sarawat looks at him then, almost scandalized. “Again? Isn’t that like against the law or something?”

It kind of is… his indignation makes Tine laugh. “Some doctors have been missing these past few weeks, so I had to cover a few shifts” he explains. “Next week my schedule should be more normal… hopefully”

Working for fifteen hours is a lot, but it is not like he must be awake all the time. There are rooms at the hospital where he can rest, if things are not that hectic. But tomorrow is Friday, which is like the worst and busiest day of the week. The number of drunks he has to deal with is stratospheric.

“Why? Were you gonna ask me out on a date?” Tine jokes, batting his eyelashes at Sarawat. A man can only wish. There is a grain of truth in every joke, he thinks.

The tip of Sarawat’s ears is red. It’s cute, Tine thinks, how his cheeks barely blush, but his ears are always a flaming red when he’s embarrassed. It’s a contrast to Tine, who gets red all over.

“Kind of?” he says, dubitative.

“Oh?” something stirs in Tines chest. His emotions have been all over the place on these past few hours.

“My friends are coming by tomorrow, I wanted you to come as well” is that disappointment in his voice? Tine can’t really tell. Sarawat is looking down now, refusing to meet Tine’s eyes, which makes reading him more difficult.

It’s all in his eyes, Tine’s come to realize. His voice is a good indicative as well, but only when he’s not being inexpressive on purpose.

“Ooohh” what’s with the monosyllables? Can’t his brain come up with something better? “I’m sorry” apparently not.

“Don’t be” Sarawat says, putting Charlotte down and grabbing a dry cloth to start with his task.

“I’d love to meet them someday” he does. He’d love to meet everyone who’s important to Sarawat. Why? He doesn’t have an answer right now.

“I’m sure you will”

___________________

Friday passes by in a blur. He went for a walk with Charlotte, but he had to abort the mission hallway through, since it was too hot, and his baby was panting. Summer is the worst.

His mom called then, telling him once again to do something productive with his life, as if saving people isn’t enough. He knows that’s not what she means. Still, he doesn’t want to dwell on what she actually means. Not the time for an existetial crisis.

It’s Saturday now, his shift almost over. What he said before about being able to rest sometimes? Yeah… that kind of came back to bite him in the ass. He got approximately one hour of sleep on the most uncomfortable bed his back has ever laid on. Sleeping on the floor would have been better. He woke up even more tired.

He takes a taxi to go home, too tired to drive. It would be dangerous and he’s nothing but precautious. He’ll ask Pear to bring his car later.

As soon as he gets home, he checks his fridge.

He feels bad, for basically living from his neighbor’s food, so he’ll be grateful and eat it all. Today he doesn’t find pancakes waiting for him, instead, there is a bunch of Tupperwares full of homemade food. Tine mouth waters, it looks delicious. One of the containers has a note sticked to it.

Doctor Tine.

This afternoon we will go to the park with Charlotte at six.

 If you want to come.

Pete Sarawat and Charlotte 😊 <3 :o

It’s decorated with glitter and stickers, obviously being written by Pete. Tine looks at it for some insane amount of time. He just can’t believe this kid exists, he’s so sweet. Sarawat is doing an amazing job as a father but being like this is also part of Pete’s nature, he thinks.

Tine decides he’s not going to miss this invitation even if his life depends on it, so he eats fast and lies on his sofa to get a quick nap. He needs to stop sleeping here, though. He has a nice big bed, but it’s such a hassle to climb up the stairs.

___________________

The alarm on his cellphone wakes him up at four. He said he wouldn’t miss his afternoon plans, didn’t he?

He showers quickly to get rid of the ever-present hospital smell that accompanies him. It’s like he’s drenched on antiseptic. At first it gave him so much nausea, but now he’s used to it.

He puts on some summery clothes, since it’s so hot outside. Even though it’s almost the end of the season, the temperatures haven’t gone down. The days are still long and suffocating; the nights short and warm. The only good thing is that he doesn’t need to carry a coat everywhere,

It’s Pete who opens the door after Tine knocks, jumping up and down excitedly after realizing who is on the other side. “Doctor Tine” he says, suddenly wrapping his short arms around Tine. “You came!”

Tine is surprised for a few moments, not expecting this sudden gesture of affection, but he returns it, bending a little and putting his arms around Pete’s shoulders. “Of course I did. I wouldn’t miss it”

“Pete I’ve told you not to open the door” Tine hears Sarawat before he sees it. Pete is still hugging him when the other man enters the living room, wearing a muscle tee and shorts.

Weeeeee. Tine mind goes blank. He can’t process the look Sarawat is giving them right now. It’s a crime he doesn’t show such nice arms more often… He was right when he said Charlotte had a really nice bed.

“Sorry dad” Pete says, bringing Tine out of his stupor and letting him go. Tine closes the door and the little boy grabs his hand, dragging him to the kitchen. “Come on! We are making sandwiches”

The kitchen table is full of food. Bread, eggs, shredded chicken, avocado, tomato, mayo… you name it. Tine feels jealous. His mind tells him that if only he dared to go to the supermarket then he would have as much food. But he’s lazyyyyyyyy.

“Hi” he greets Sarawat, locking his gaze on the other man’s face. Which is still as breathtaking as his arms. Where should he look then?!

“Hi. I’m happy you could come” he says, briefly squeezing Tine’s bicep. “Do you want to help us?” he asks, signaling to the table.

Tine nods. “Are we going to a picnic?” Tine doesn’t know where to start.

“Yes! I’m so happy!” Pete says, jumping on his place. Kids have so much energy, Tine is envious again. “Dad I’ll go change my clothes. You keep doing that” he commands, running towards his room.

“Okay boss” Sarawat screams so the little boy can hear him, laughing under his breath. Tine can hear the faint laugh of Pete, as well.

Sarawat and Tine sit side by side and start working on putting together the food. Tine is in the mood for an avocado-chicken sandwich, so he prepares one. A thought occurs to him, then. “Is Pete allergic to anything?”

“No, he isn’t” Sarawat says.

Tine feels nervous at being alone with him. Almost all the time Pete accompanies them. So he does what he knows what to do best: talk.

“Ahhh, that’s amazing. An allergic reaction is no joke, you know? I’ve seen it many times at the ER, people get all swollen up. If it’s a bad one, they can’t even breathe. It’s really dangerous, everyone should be careful” Tine grimaces at his babbling. What is he even saying? He rakes his brain for a more normal topic. “Did you get together with your friends yesterday?” Bingo.

“Yeah” why is he not cooperating? Ughhh. Tine doesn’t think he can stand the silence.

“Did you have fun?” he asks, trying to keep the conversation alive, while still making sandwiches.

“A lot” he says. “I… You were missing, though” at that Tine stops… wait… did he really say that? Was he going to say ‘I missed you’ instead? “My friends wanted to meet you” that’s the final blow.

“They know who I am?” Tine asks, so surprised he stops with his task to look at Sarawat. He seems unbothered, though, buttering a bread. Tine would love to be a mind reader.

“You are all I talk about” his tone is impassive. How can he say such thing like it’s nothing?

Tine hands are shaking a little bit, so he puts them between his legs. Sometimes he wishes he could control his feelings better. He is grateful Sarawat is not looking at him, or he could see everything Tine is feeling written across his face. Thank you bread.

“Ahhh, really?” Tine says with a small chuckle.

“Hmmm” the other man hums. “How was work?” that change of subject was not smooth, but Tine will go with it. His heart is grateful.

“As always” he answers. Tine can feel the word vomit building up. “I really don’t like drunk people. But you know what’s the worst? People who drink and drive. Like how insane you must be to think that’s a good idea? There are so many ways you can go home now. And the worst of the worst is that these bastards cause accidents and they are always almost unharmed” that came out kind of wrong, Tine realizes. “I mean… It’s not like I want them to get injured, that’d be unethical…”

“I get it” Sarawat says, cutting Tine’s ramble. He sets the butter knife he was using on the table, focusing his attention on Tine. “You are cute” scratch what he said before, this is the final blow.

Tine’s going crazy. The corner of the other man’s lips curl into a smirk as he glances at Tine, who is blushing profusely.

“Cute?!” Tine shrieks. This is so embarrassing; he needs to get a grip. This… attraction he has for his neighbor, he has to get over it soon.

Tine would call it the hots, but is it really the hots? Yes, his body is nice -more than nice- but that’s not the only thing Tine finds attractive about him.

For instance, he really likes the way he treats Pete, with love and trust. He can see how good of a job he’s done at raising him, since every time Pete looks at him there is so much respect and admiration in his eyes.

He likes his smile as well, how makes his lips look like a heart. He likes his eyes and the small crow's feet adorning its corners. He likes the way he pays attention to him and him only whenever he speaks, like he treasures every word that comes out of his mouth.

He likes that he cares about his as well, going out of his way to make food for him whenever he knows Tine’s busy.

Well… he has to get over it soon indeed, before it gets serious. (It already is, the treacherous part of his mind retorts. He ignores it).

“Yes, getting all worked up like that” Sarawat’s words bring him back from his musings, but what he says is not any better. His tone is somewhat flirty, and Tine imagines him saying something of the sorts in a different situation. He blushes even harder. “But I hate drunk drivers as well” there he goes, changing the subject again.

“Good… I don’t think we’d be able to…” be friends? “hang out, if you didn’t”

“Hmmm” he hums, getting up from his seat. “I’ll be right back.” Before he is out of the kitchen he turns around and points to the table “Keep doing that.”  

Tine rest his forehead on the table and lets out a frustrated groan. He really needs to shove all those thoughts to the back of his mind. And he does, putting them on the ‘for later’ box. He locks the box with three padlocks. He also puts a ‘Stop. Do not enter’ sign. Much better.

___________________

Surprisingly for a Saturday afternoon the park is almost empty. There are a few kids on the playground and an elderly couple sitting on a bench, but no one else.

It’s still very hot, so they sit atop of a blanket by a big tree to avoid the sunlight. Sarawat had one of those cute picnic baskets you see in movies where he packed the sandwiches they made earlier, juice and fruits, which they eat as soon as they get accommodated to prevent them from getting all warm and disgusting. He also brought his guitar. Tine wants to hear him play.

Charlotte, to Pete’s dismay, doesn’t feel like playing. Must be the heat. But Pete is restless, so Sarawat lets him go to the playground where other kids are. It’s not that far away, so they can supervise him clearly from their position and go to his rescue in case something happens.

Which leaves him alone with Sarawat. Well, Charlotte is here too, but she is of no help.

Tine feels nervous, a tight knot on his stomach, but he doesn’t know the exact reason as to why he feels this way. He’s never felt uncomfortable with Sarawat before -maybe when they first met- but it was short lived.

The other man’s presence is not the problem; the problem is that Tine doesn’t know what to do, how to act now that he is aware of how handsome and amazing his neighbor is. Not that he wasn’t aware before but now…

Sarawat clears his throat, catching Tine’s attention. “I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable before” he says.

“What?”

“When I called you cute… I was over the line. I made you feel uncomfortable, so I apologize” he didn’t mean it, then? Tine feels a wave of disappointment hit him out of nowhere. It’s still a sweet gesture, but he doesn’t need to apologize, he did nothing wrong.

“It’s ok, you didn’t make me uncomfortable” on the contrary, Tine thinks. “I’m not used to receiving compliments, that’s all” he explains. But then his brain decides to stop working, the words leaving his mouth before he has time to process them. “Do you really think I’m cute, though?” Tine asks, looking at his lap, so he doesn’t have to look at Sarawat.

When he looks up the other man has a gentle smile on his face. He is also looking at his lap. “Obviously, that’s why I said it” the disappointment is replaced with something else, something Tine can´t name. He feels just as nervous as before, but it’s a different kind of nervousness.

“Thank you, then” Tine says, blushing profusely under the scrutiny of Sarawat, whose eyes are on him now. When their eyes meet Tine gives the other man a small smile, which is returned. In this lighting his eyes look a warm chocolate. Tine’s always had a sweet tooth. “Will you play a song for me?” Tine asks, pointing to Sarawat’s guitar case.

“Would you like that?”

Tine nods. “I’ve always wanted to hear you sing. You must be good, since you are a teacher”

“What if I’m bad?” he asks with a pout. “I don’t want you to be disappointed”

“You couldn’t” Tine says in a low voice. He doesn’t know if Sarawat hears him, but he feels deep down in his gut that he would never do something to let Tine down, at least not intentionally. He hopes he’s not wrong.

Sarawat takes his guitar out of its case and places it on his lap, strumming the cords a little bit. He makes a face at the sound it makes, adjusting the tuning keys and strumming again. Once he is happy, he asks, “What song do you want to hear?”

Tine is too distracted by the sight in front of him to think. Sarawat looks out of a movie poster, guitar in hand, the soft glow of the sun illuminating his face, long hair falling into his eyes. He looks so dreamy, like an indie musician boyfriend… whatever that means.

“Tine?” he waves his hand in front of Tine’s face. When did he get so close?

“Sorry” Tine says, waking up from his daydreaming. “What about… a Scrubb song?” it’s always Tine’s first instinct to choose Scrubb, it’s his favorite group, after all.

Sarawat nods, thinking for a few seconds, humming a melody Tine’s heard a million times before playing it properly: This person.

He’s really good with his hands, Tine thinks, but what amazes him the most is his voice. It’s so sweet and soft, almost lulling. It settles deep into Tine’s heart.

The song is just starting, but Tine doesn’t want it to end. It feels like Sarawat is serenading him, with the way he looks into his eyes.

It might be this person, the one who will be here

The one who comes to fulfill your good days from now on

It might be this person, if it is this person

The world that was once empty will be different

I want to try that

When he finishes, he’s a little out of breath, his cheeks flushed. He looks so pretty like this. Something clutches in Tine’s chest, but he smiles. He loved every second of it, he hopes he can hear more soon.

“Was it good?” Sarawat asks, a bit apprehensive. Tine has never seen him like this, insecure. He hopes Sarawat knows he is amazing at his task. If he doesn’t, then he will remind him every day.

“I loved it” Tine says sincerely. He hopes Sarawat can see it.

The smile he gives him back implies that he does. It’s not good for Tine’s heart, though.

___________________

After that Pete comes back, complaining about being too hot. They stay under the tree’s shadow for the rest of the afternoon, playing board games. Tine thinks Sarawat is Doraemon, producing things out of thin air. It has to be a parent skill, packing so many things in so little space.

The walk back home is not a long one, but it’s spent talking and laughing. Sarawat has an arm slung so over Tine’s shoulders and Tine is holding Pete’s hand, at the little boy’s insistence, who is also holding Charlotte’s leash. She is walking slowly, probably tired.

The way he feels right now… he can’t put a name on it, as he’s never felt like this before. If he would describe it, it’s like his heart feels at peace, somehow. He could die right at this moment and it’d be okay. Well. Maybe he is exaggerating a little bit.

Tine sees a car parked outside his house as they get closer. He can’t see who’s leaning against it from this distance, though. But he does hear the loud scream of his name. He can recognize that voice anywhere.

“Pear?” he asks, detangling himself from Sarawat’s hold and walking faster to meet his friend. He forgot he’d asked her to bring his car back from the hospital.

“Why don’t you answer your phone? You got any idea how long I’ve been waiting for you?” she slaps his chest when they are close enough. What a nice greeting.

“Yes, hello to you too” Tine says, softly flicking her forehead.

She takes a step to the side so she can look behind Tine. “Sarawat?” she asks, tilting her head with confusion.

“Auntie Pear!” Pete screams in delight, crashing his body with hers.

They hug, jumping up and down. Pear is not much taller than Pete, so it looks like two overhyped kids meeting after a long time. Tine would laugh about it if he wasn’t so perplexed.

 “You guys know each other?” he asks to no one in particular, but Sarawat, standing by his side now, answers.

“Yeah, she’s Earn’s girlfriend”

Yes, Tine knows that, but it doesn’t explain anything. Pear is not paying attention to them, too focused talking to Pete.

“So… you know each other through Earn?”

“Yes. Earn and I were on a band together long ago” Sarawat explains.

That makes sense, since Earn works on the music field. It’s crazy how small the world is.

“Sarawat” she says, turning her attention to the other man. “You disappeared on us you bastard” it’s his turn to get slapped on the chest. “You have any idea how much we’ve missed this little pumpkin?” she says, side-hugging Pete.

There must be only like a twenty-centimeter difference between them. Is Pete too tall or Pear too small? Yeah… now that Tine notices Pete is quite tall for his age, but since Sarawat is also a tower, he looks just like a normal kid. He’s still small on Tine’s eyes so it doesn’t really matter. He is still going to tease Pear about this later.

“We’ve been busy. We moved” he says, pointing to his house.

“Oh, so you are neighbors?” Sarawat nods at this. After a moment she lets out a long “Ohhhh” which sounds like she’s solved the biggest mystery in the world. “So, you are…”

Tine clears his throat before she can continue. He gives her a ‘shout your mouth’ glance, which he knows she can read. They’ve been friends for ages, they can literally communicate without words.

Pete tugs on her arm to get her attention. “How do you know doctor Tine, Auntie?” thanks heavens, he saved him.

Pear gives him a meaningful look before addressing Pete’s question. Tine braces himself; an interrogation session is coming. Pear does not surrender until she gets the answers she wants.

“We went to college together, sweetie”

“Wow that’s amazing” he exclaims. “Doctor Tine is the best doctor in the world Auntie! He healed my tummy and he has this amazing dog called Charlotte and he cooks yummy cookies!”

Speaking of Charlotte… where is she? Tine looks around only to realize that Sarawat is cradling her on his arms. Is she a baby or what? Tine wants to be a baby too…

“He’s great” she says, patting Pete on the head, “don’t you think so too, Sarawat?” she asks with intent. Tine knows what she is trying to do.

“Yeah, he is. I like him a lot” the other man answers. Wait… he can’t… what? Pear looks surprised as well, eyebrows raised. “Let’s go Pete, it’s late and you still have to shower”

“But dad…” Pete whines.

“No buts”

Pear takes Charlotte from Sarawat’s arms, since she notices Tine has no reaction whatsoever. He is still standing on the same place; he is sure he looks like that Mike Wazowski meme. Sarawat broke him.

“Now that I know where you live, I’ll come see you more often with Auntie Earn, okie Pete?” the little boy nods, giving Pear one last hug and a wave at Tine. “And you…” she says, giving Sarawat a menacing look “don’t disappear again”

Sarawat nods. “I’m sorry”

She gives Sarawat a not so violent pat on his arm. “Don’t be. I know it can get rough sometimes”

“Thank you, tell Earn I said hi” and with that he leaves.

He is left with Pear, who flicks him in on the forehead. “Wake up. Let’s get inside”

___________________

Tine is trying to delay this conversation as much as he can, so he makes tea to be busy. Well… to pretend that he’s busy.

He makes from scratch, though, not just a damn bag inside a mug with some hot water.

Pear is getting impatient; he can tell by the way she bounces her legs up and down. She’s about to snap soon.

“Can you hurry up?” she asks from her place at the sofa. Well… he can’t delay this anymore can he?

Tine comes out of the kitchen carrying two tea mugs and sits next to Pear. She makes a sound of approval after sipping on hers.

 “I’ll go straight to the point. You and Sarawat. I assume they are the neighbors you can’t stop talking about”

“…yeah” it’s not that he can’t stop talking about them, but they are the only thing happening in his life at the moment worth telling.

“Spill”

“There’s nothing to spill, Pear, we are just… acquaintances” this whole situation is so confusing, Tine doesn’t really have the energy to dwell on it.

Pear sighs, placing her mug on the coffee table. “You did look cozy for being just acquaintances. I mean with his hand around your shoulder… walking so close” she says with a dreamy tone, “Pete holding your hand” he exaggeratedly sighs now. She’s so dramatic. “You looked like a little family”

“How long have you known him for?” Tine asks to change the subject. He didn’t think she’d be this straightforward.

“I don’t know…” she thinks for some seconds. “Like… eight years maybe? Earn and him used to be super close, like best friends. Like you and I” she says, throwing her arm over Tine’s shoulders and resting their heads together. “After he got married, he kind of… disappeared” she is being very careful with her words, Tine thinks, which is so not like her. She’s the type of person who says the first thing that comes to her mind. “He got in touch with Earn again four years ago, I think. He kind of disappeared again these past few months, though. The last time we heard from him he was going through… some difficult times” Pear sighs, deep and heavy. “He is my friend as well Tine… I’m trying to be careful with what I say, I don’t want to reveal anything too personal” just as Tine thought.

“I don’t want to know either, Pear” he says honestly. He does want to know, but not from her.

At this she sits up straight, locking her eyes with Tine’s. She looks surprised and Tine can’t blame her. They have known each other for years; she’s witnessed Tine’s curious nature. It’s not that he’s a gossip, he just can’t stand not knowing things. But he’s not going to disregard Sarawat’s want of privacy.

“You aren’t curious?” she asks.

“I am very curious” Tine admits. “But I’d like to hear it from him, if he ever trusts me enough to share it.”

She smiles at that, patting his chest right above his heart. “Always so sweet and thoughtful” she says, going back to her previous position, head resting on Tine’s shoulder. “I know sometimes you think that caring so much is something bad… feeling so much and showing it so freely. But it’s not, Tine” she grabs his hand and squeezes the hell out of it. “There aren’t many people left like you, my friend, no one so sincere. What you think is a weakness is your biggest weapon against all of the bad stuff that happens in the world. Treasure it”

Tine feels like crying. Not long ago he had been thinking exactly that, how much he’d like to show less, to feel less. Most of the time it’s so overwhelming he prefers to ignore it.

“What was that for?” he asks, his voice cracking at the end of the sentence.

“Nothing in particular, I just wanted to remind you” she gives him some minutes, then, to compose himself.

Tine is grateful she isn’t looking at him, but again, she knows how much he hates when people see him cry. Only three people have seen him do so: his mom, Pear and Fong. His mom always says he knows how to show every emotion but sadness, always hiding it behind a beaming smile. He just doesn’t want to burden people with such things, he needs to deal with them on his own, he thinks.

“How long have you and Sarawat known each other?”

“I don’t know… formally a little over a week?” his voice is back to normal now, thankfully. At his words, Pear makes a questioning noise, so he explains. “Two weeks ago, Pete went to the hospital and I treated him. A week later they moved next door”

“Ayeeee, for real? That’s so romantic” she squeals. “Destiny is wonderful”

“Pear…”

“What? You like him Tine. You can lie to yourself all you want but you can never lie to me” a heavy weight settles on his stomach at her words. It can’t be, it really can’t.

“It’s not-”

“He likes you as well” she interrupts before he can say anything else. “The fact that he hangs out with you already says something. That guy can be so difficult sometimes” she says with a tired sigh, as if she’s experienced it personally. “Also, he never ever ever lets his kid interact with someone unless he trusts them. He’s really picky as to whom he introduces to Pete.”

Tine sighs heavily. What is he supposed to do with this information? “I don’t like him, Pear. I think he’s just… hot” Tine cringes at his words. That sounds so wrong. But he doesn’t want her to get the wrong impression.

“Mmmm, okay I guess” she says disbelieving. “Well my dear friend I hope the big revelation comes to you soon”

Tine doesn’t know what big revelation she is talking about.

Chapter Text

The next day is spent mostly on his house, catching up on sleep and meals. It’s still too hot to go outside, so he he stays in the most part of the day.

When he lived with his mom, they used to spend Sundays baking. He misses those days, when it was just him, Type and his mom against the world.

When the air is a little less warm, Tine decides to clean his car. It’s long overdue. There are cockroaches living inside, probably. Someone wrote ‘clean me you dirty fuck’ on the back window. He’s one hundred percent sure it’s the handiwork of Pear.

Charlotte is sleeping soundly on Tine’s porch as he cleans. He starts from the inside, picking up all kinds of trash. When did he become such a beast? If his mom knew… Tine shudders at the thought.

He’s sweating profusely by the time he’s done, his shirt and hair all wet. Why does summer have to be like this? Ugh.

He’s sitting on the pavement, catching his breath when flip flops come into his line of vision. He looks up and it’s Sarawat, looking like a surfer boyfriend in his summer tee and shorts. Tine needs to stop thinking about him as a boyfriend… it’s getting weird.

He has a bottle of water with him, which he passes to Tine before he sits next to him on the floor.

He drinks almost half of it in one gulp, it’s so refreshing. He is tempted to throw the rest over his head, but he contains himself.

“Thank you. I feel like death” Tine says. “It’s so damn hot” he still hasn’t caught his breath completely. Someone is missing, though. “Where is Pete?”

“Changing his clothes. He saw you through the window and wanted to come help.” He is looking straight ahead, not even glancing at Tine. “I hope you don’t mind” he says with a small chuckle, scratching the back of his head.

Is he… nervous, somehow? Does he think Tine is going to send them away?

“Why would I mind? I love being with him” Tine says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. And it is. Pete’s presence has made his days infinitely less boring and lonely. Sarawat’s as well.

“Really?” he seems surprised at that. Where are these bursts of insecurity coming from?

Tine wants to assure him, wants to make his point clear, so he places his hand on the other man’s tight and squeezes. “Yes, really”

He turns to look at Tine then, face full of confidence. He places his hand on top of Tine’s and squeezes, imitating his action. “And with me?” he asks.

 Tine wants to wipe off the smug smile that adorns his face. How does he want to wipe it off? Well… Tine can’t tell. It’s a secret.

“You too, asshole” he can feel his cheeks heating up even more and it’s not from the summer heat, but he’s going to blame it on that.

Sarawat’s face turns serious now. “Thanks Tine. It’s hard to… meet new people when you have a kid” he admits. “I’ve had the same friends from ages… from before Pete was born, actually. It’s hard for me as well, let people get close to him… to trust them” the implications of his words hit Tine hard. He trusts him. He trusts him enough to let Pete spend time with him. That leaves a wonderful feeling in Tine’s chest. “We are not being too clingy, right?” he asks, the insecurity from before coating his voice again.

Tine decides to be honest, for once. It must be hard for Sarawat to open to him, so he owes him as much. He will treasure this moment for ever.

“No… but if you were, I wouldn’t mind” he means it. He hopes he can convey it in the look he gives to Sarawat. “You really make my days happier” he says, squeezing the other man’s thigh again, for emphasis. Purely for emphasis. Not because he has nice squishy thighs.

Before Sarawat can answer a loud screech echoes on the street. “Doctor Tineeeeeee! I came to help.”

Pete is running to them, wearing what appears to be a Puppy Dog Pals one-piece bathing suit. Tine knows every single cartoon that kids like nowadays. It comes with the job.

“Thank you” Tine says when Pete is closer. “And please call me Tine. You make me feel like I’m still at work”

He scratches the back of his head, just like his dad. “I don’t want to be desperectful”

“Disrespectful” Sarawat corrects and Pete nods.

“You wouldn’t be, pinky promise” Tine offers his pinky and Pete takes immediately, sealing the promise.

“Okie then, Tine” he has with a huge smile on his face. He offers his hand to help Tine stand from his place on the floor. Tine takes it, acting as if Pete is the one pulling all of his weight. “Let’s get to work” he says with resolution.

___________________

They manage to soap the exterior of the car in a matter of minutes. Six hands are better than two, Tine concludes.

Sarawat is rinsing it now, hose in hand. Tine and Pete are lying on the grass on Tine’s front yard, catching their breaths. It must be around seven, but the heat does not go down.

“You guys okay?” Sarawat asks.

“It’s sooooooo hot dad” Pete answers with a whiny tone.

It is hot indeed. Tine feels his skin burning where it has been touched by the sun. He would take a cold shower, but he really hates cold water.

A few moments later, he hears more than sees Sarawat getting closer. Tine thinks he’s done washing the car and is about to open his mouth to speak, but before he can Sarawat is watering them as if they were plants. Tine screeches so loud and so does Pete, who hugs Tine tight, like a baby koala, hiding his face on Tine’s neck.

“Daaaaaaaad stop” Pete half-screams half-laughs.

“I’m not doing anything” Sarawat says, fake innocence in his tone.

Tine can’t see his expression, since his eyes are closed to prevent water getting into them, but he can hear the smile on the other man’s words.

The stream of water stops then, and Tine opens his eyes. Sarawat’s back is to them, getting the last remnants of soap off the car. His free hand is on the pocket of his shorts. Smug bastard. He’ll see.

Pete looks at Tine with intent. Tine can understand him perfectly. It’s time to get their revenge.

They get up from the floor, quietly, as to not alert Sarawat. Tine practically throws himself at the other man’s back, locking his arms on his middle, not letting him escape. He lets out a surprised huff, but it’s not like he’s putting any resistance or anything.

“Now Pete” Tine says.

The little boy takes the hose from his dad’s hand and sprays him with water. Sarawat lets out a loud scream and Tine hides his face on the back of his neck, so the water doesn’t get into his eyes.

He is not enjoying this. Absolutely not. He is not enjoying the press of Sarawat’s big and strong back against his front. Not at all.

They are all laughing and screaming, Tine’s sure the whole neighborhood can hear them. But it doesn’t really matter. He feels really happy and he’s sure Sarawat and Pete feel the same way as well, if the big smiles on their faces have anything to say.

Tine is not a small guy, in fact, he’s taller than Sarawat by a few centimeters. But the other man is buffer and stronger. Which is why he has no trouble scaping Tine’s hold, turn over, and tackle him to the floor.

Tine lands with a huff, Sarawat on top of him, who hides his head on the crook of Tine’s neck just like Pete did some minutes ago. The water stops then, and Tine sees Pete running to turn the hose off.

“No more wasting water” he says, and rushes inside his house.

Sarawat still hasn’t moved from his position, breathing heavily against Tine’s skin. Tine doesn’t really mind, but there’s no way that the other man hasn’t noticed how fast his heart is beating, with how close their bodies are pressed together.

“You good?” Sarawat asks.

 His breath is warm against Tine’s cold neck, the contrast sending a shiver down his spine.

“Yeah” he sounds breathless. “Just a bit cold”

Right then he hears the pitter-patter of Pete’s feet against the pavement. He’s been saved from further embarrassment.

“Dad, I brought towels” the little boy says, sitting on the grass.

Sarawat sits up as well, offering Tine a hand to pull him up, which he takes. “Thank you, son,” he says, grabbing one of the towels and reaching out to dry Pete’s hair.

Before he has the chance to do so, Pete puts his hand up, stopping him. “Dad, I can do it myself”

Sarawat looks at him with so much tenderness. “Sometimes I forget you are all grown up” he says, ruffling his son’s hair. He turns to Tine the and asks, “Are you grown up?” Tine is silent. His brain is really fried. “I’ll take that as a no.”

He takes a new towel and covers Tine’s head with it, rubbing his hair to get the excess water out. Tine closes his eyes, the experience quite relaxing. No one has ever dried his hair for him. Well, his mom probably did when he was a kid, but he has no memories of that. It’s nice though, to be taken care of like this.

“Are you sleepy?” Sarawat asks. When Tine opens his eyes the other man’s face is right in front of his. There must be like only five centimeters separating their noses. Tine is about to panic, really. What is wrong with Sarawat today? “Are you a baby?” asks again, pinching Tine’s cheeks.

Pete is giving them a funny look, like they are being weird. Then he tilts his head to the side, eyebrows furrowing. Tine can practically hear his brain working. What is he thinking about so hard? A few seconds later le lets out a small “Ohhh” and looks at them like he’s had a big revelation and sees something they don’t.

Tine knows all of this because he refuses to look at Sarawat’s, so he focuses on something else.

Sarawat tilts his head to the side as well, searching Tine’s eyes. Tine gives in and looks at him. “Will you dry my hair too?” he asks with pouty lips.

His eyes are big, and just like the other day at the park Tine thinks of melted chocolate. He’s never seen such a rich brown. It’s mesmerizing. His lips look so plushy and soft up close, his cupid’s bow forming the shape of a heart. How would it be like to feel them against his own?

Wait… what?!

Sarawat lifts his brows expectantly and Tine nods, just so he has something else to focus on rather than the way his stomach is in knots at the sight of his neighbor.

He’s fucked, he really is.

___________________

Today sucks.

He had such a nice weekend, going back to the real world is not something he wants to experience.

He started his Monday by dropping a cup of just bought coffee on his car. His clean car. That’s how he knew this day was going to be hell.

Then, he saw his schedule for the week. He thought all those old bastards were coming back this week. Don’t get him wrong, Tine respects his seniors, but it’s kind of annoying they get to miss work whenever they want to, and the youngers have to cover. That’s how hierarchy works, he guesses.

Anyway… he’s busy the whole week. He was supposed to do only morning shifts this week, which last eight hours. But… yeah. He has to do four night shifts instead, and those last fifteen hours.Oh, and he’s not counting today. Life is nice. At least he gets paid extra hours. It is what it is.

The week passes in a blur. Tine feels like he barely has time to exist, going through the motions of his daily life in a mechanical way. It doesn’t feel nice at all.

He doesn’t see his neighbors either, their schedules crashing again. He knows they still take Charlotte, since Sarawat is always sending him photos of her playing with Pete, but apart from that and his patients he hasn’t had any contact with the real world. He goes to the hospital, comes back home, sleeps, repeat.

The pancakes for breakfast are back, though, as well as the sweet notes left by his neighbors. That gives him a little bit more of energy to continue with his day. And it’s also the only consistent meal he’s had this week, so they are to thank he keeps moving.

He’s had so much work as well. There was a chickenpox outbreak on a local school, so many kids keep coming in seeking treatment. It’s not mortal, in most cases, but many children have come with a really high fever, which is concerning. His heart aches for them. He wishes no kid ever gets sick again, even if that means he basically wouldn’t have a job.

It’s Friday now, his shift almost over, but he feels like shit. Actually, that’s an understatement. He feels like the whole six floors of the hospital collapsed on top of him. And he’s not being dramatic, thank you very much.

It’s not chickenpox, though, since he had it when he was a kid. He’s just very overworked.

Tine remembers Sarawat telling him once that working such long shifts should be against the law… he really was onto something when he said that… his big beautiful brain. Tine feels delirious.

A sudden wave of nausea hits him, and, wow, everything is moving. He has to grab onto the nurses’ desk, so he doesn’t fall.

“Doctor Teepakorn? Are you alright?” one of the nurses, Air, if he’s not mistaken, asks him.

“Yeah” he says, taking a deep breath to calm his stomach. Weeeeeeee. His legs are wobbly. “I- I just need a second”

Someone grabs firmly onto his bicep. “Let me help you sit” it’s still nurse Air. He is moving now but doesn’t dare open his eyes. “Sit” she instructs. He expects his butt to touch the floor, like those pranks kids used to do in middle school, but he is met with a chair instead. He hears nurse Air shuffling around and then something cold touching his lips. “Drink up, doctor Teepakorn”

It’s water. He grabs the cup himself; he can at least do that much.

Tine hadn’t realized how dry his throat was. He gulps the whole glass in one go and takes a deep breath, just now opening his eyes. The world is not moving anymore. What the hell was that? He’s a doctor, he should be immune to this kind of things.

“I think you should go home” she says, in a way that’s clear to Tine that she is in fact sending him home, not suggesting it. “There’s barely people coming in now, we’ll be fine”

She is right. Besides, there’s only one hour left until his shift ends. “I will”

“I’ll call a taxi; you are in no shape to drive” he agrees.

___________________

He gets home practically crawling. He doesn’t know what’s wrong. His mind is clouded, and he feels endless tremors coursing through his body. He doesn’t even take off his shoes before he throws himself on the couch. He just wants to sleep for a little while.

He is woken up by gentle hands touching his face. “Tine” he hears a voice. “Tine? What’s wrong?”

Tine opens his eyes a little bit. Wow. Did he die? Is this heaven? The angel in front of him is so pretty. Yo, what cloud the ones who have a crush on his neighbor are on? Ahhh his mind, so funny. He would laugh if he had the energy to do so.

Wait. Speaking of neighbors. That’s Sarawat in front of him. Is he dead as well?

He wants to ask him that, but apparently nothing comes out of his mouth.

“You are shaking” the other man says, worried expression on his face. Warm hands press against his forehead, sliding down to his cheeks. “Shit, you are burning” someone is licking his face… Charlotte. Is she dead too?! All dogs go to heaven indeed. “Pete, wait here with Tine”

“Okay dad” answers a small voice. He is left with his dog and Pete, who is now kneeling in front of him. “Tine” he whispers as to not disturb him. “Don’t worry, you will be fine” he is moving the hair out of Tine’s forehead with his little hands. He must have learned it from Sarawat. “My dad is not a doctor like you, but he heals me when I get sick. He will heal you too”

Tine makes a noise he hopes it sounds like an affirmation.

Sarawat comes back, carrying a huge first aid kit. Tine closes his eyes again, the dizziness coming back. Someone is unbuttoning the first buttons of his shirt. “I’ll take your temperature” he hears the other man say and then something cold is on his armpit. The thermometer, right. After a few minutes of silence, he takes it off. “Thirty-nine” he says with a sigh.

“What do we do dad?” Pete asks.

“Take off his shoes, okay? I’ll go to the kitchen for a sec”

“Okie. I’ll take your shoes off Tine” Pete whispers softly.

He feels his laces unbuttoning and then his foot is free. Then the other. Tine sighs out of relief. He feels the blood circulating again.

“Thank you” he says. That didn’t sound like him at all. He sounds like Spongebob. You know, that episode he says, ‘I don’t need it’ with that dry ass voice.

He hears faint noises coming from the kitchen and then Sarawat’s heavy steps. The other man places something on the coffee table and when Tine opens his eyes, he is squeezing the water out of a white towel, which he places on Tine’s forehead. That feels so good.

“This is medicine Tine. Take it” he orders, giving him two white pills and a glass of water. Tine obviously complies, who is he to say no to this very handsome doctor? “Sleep now” Sarawat instructs, covering him with a thick blanket he found God knows where.

Tine is in and out for a few hours, feeling from time to time calloused palms on his forehead replacing the towel. Whenever he opens his eyes, Sarawat and Pete are still there, sitting cross-legged on the floor, leaning back on the couch Tine is sleeping on.

He doesn’t know how long he’s slept for when Sarawat softly wakes him up.

“What time is it?” Tine asks, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Six” he answers, grabbing the thermometer to take Tine’s temperature again. “Thirty-seven” he hums approvingly. “How do you feel?”

“Not as bad as before”

It’s true. He now feels as if a bike had run over him. That’s an improvement from a building. His head doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode anymore, either.

“Good. Are you hungry?”

“Not really” Tine says, but then his traitorous stomach grumbles so loud that even Pete, who is concentrated watching cartoons, laughs.

Sarawat gives him a downright mocking look, his eyebrows all arched up. Why are they so mean with the sick? A little bit of compassion.

 “Stay here. Don’t let him move Pete”

 “Okay dad”

Tine sits up. “Come sit here Pete, your back must hurt”

He nods, climbing up the couch and sitting next to Tine, resting his head against his upper arm.

“Are you better Tine?” he asks, looking up at him

“Yeah, much better. Thank you for taking care of me” Tine answers, caressing Pete’s hair. He did the same for him hours before, Tine remembers. What a sweet little human.

“You are welcome” he says with a big smile.

Sarawat comes back then, carrying a tray full of food. He sits on the sofa, placing it on his legs. He is really close, their arms and legs pressing up, even though Tine’s couch is very big. “I didn’t know what you wanted to eat” he admits, scratching his nape, giving Tine a sheepish smile.

He is so cute. Tine remembers a thought he had when he was dying, something about having a crush on someone. Mmmm.

“Did you make the soup?” it looks delicious. Tine doesn’t know why this man insists he can’t cook.

“Yeah. Pete used to get sick very often. He calls it the magic soup”

“Why?” Tine asks, turning to look at the little boy bundled up against his side

“It makes me feel better im- imed” he huffs in annoyance. “How do you say it?”

“Immediately?” Tine suggests.

“Yes, imedialy” that’s so cute. He’s never known a cuter kid. He wants to squish his round cheeks. “Thank you”

Sarawat urges him to start eating, saying something about not wanting Tine to faint. Doctor orders.

He eats all the soup and a little bit of bread. He doesn’t want to upset his stomach; it doesn’t feel completely fine yet.

Once he is done, Sarawat takes everything back to the kitchen. Tine tries to stand, he needs to go to the bathroom, but his legs feel so weak.

He hasn’t been this sick in years. The last time he felt this bad was back in med school. He remembers that week vividly. He had a really difficult test coming up, one he could not fail, so he barely got two hours of sleep a night for a whole week, trying to study as much as he could. He didn’t eat properly either, drinking only those disgusting energy drinks. God, just thinking about that stuff makes him want to puke.

He didn’t fail his test, on the contrary, but he had to be in bed for at least a week. His friends got worried when he didn’t answer the phone, so they went to see him. They had to force his dorm door open, since Tine wouldn’t answer. He was lying on his bed, half-dead.

Well, maybe half-dead is an exaggeration, but that’s how he felt. He didn’t have the energy to stand. They took him home and his mom looked after him. When he went back to his dorm, she would call him every four hours to make sure he’d had a meal.

Now the same thing happened. He hopes she doesn’t hear about this, or she’ll kill him for not caring after himself properly. It’s just that he gets so immersed in things sometimes, he forgets. It’s kind of ironic, though, given his line of work.

Sarawat comes back, sitting on the same spot as before. He softly guides Tine’s head to rest on his shoulder. “What are we going to do about you?” he asks quietly, concern clear into his voice.

“Help me go to the bathroom? I can’t walk”

“You should’ve asked before, dummy” he says with exasperation.

Thank God Tine’s bathroom is on the first floor, he doesn’t have the energy to climb the stairs.

Tine drapes his arm over Sarawat’s shoulder, who grabs him firmly by the waist, supporting almost all of his weight.

Tine pees with a lot of difficulty, since is not that stable on his feet, but he felt too shy to let Sarawat come into the bathroom with him. He is waiting for him dutifully by the door, though.

Instead of walking back as they did before, he places one arm on Tine’s back and the other by his knees. Is he…?

“I’ll carry you. It’s easier” he says, as if Tine wasn’t a 75 kg man. But Tine is not going to say no to such a heartfelt offer, so he places his arms around Sarawat’s neck and lets himself be lifted.

The walk back to the couch is short, but maybe this will be the only time in his life he will be carried like this by a handsome man, so he makes the most of it by hiding his face on the crook of Sarawat’s neck. This is nice. Tine could fall asleep right here.

___________________

He does fall asleep, it seems, since it’s dark outside when he wakes up. He’s not on Sarawat’s arms anymore, though.

What a shame, really. But his head is on the other man’s lap, his hair being softly caressed by big, warm hands, so it’s not a downgrade. Anywhere near Sarawat is nice, if he’s being honest.

The other man has his eyes closed, the faint light from the streetlamps softly illuminating his features.

His face must have been manually crafted; Tine thinks. His lips, his nose, his jaw, everything about him is so unbelievable beautiful.

Tine’s personal favorite are his eyes, though. They are now closed, but he can recall the sight of them in a second. Its rich chocolate, the way they turn all soft when he looks at Pete. The way he looks at Tine almost all the time, affection mixed with exasperation. The memory alone makes his heart race a little bit faster.

Tine used to think that Sarawat’s eyes gave away nothing, back when they first met. He was wrong. He doesn’t know if Sarawat has left his guard down around him or something, but now he shows so much more. Or maybe Tine’s gotten better at reading him, he doesn’t know.

He feels weird, suddenly. He shouldn’t stare so blatantly at his handsome neighbor, so he focuses his attention elsewhere. Pete is nowhere to be seen.

“Where is Pete?” Tine asks in a hushed tone; in case he’s sleeping somewhere close.

“Sleeping. He’s on your bed” Sarawat answers, just as quietly. “I hope you don’t mind”

“I don’t”

Tine closes his eyes at the feel of Sarawat’s fingers scratching his scalp. It’s so relaxing, he feels like falling asleep again.

 “Are you hungry? I made some dinner”

Tine’s still full from the meal he had some hours ago, and, if he’s being honest, thinking about food makes him a bit nauseous right now. “No. Just sleepy” he says, yawning.

Sarawat moves then, as if to stand up, but Tine stops him placing a hand on his stomach. “Where are you going?” he asks with a pout. He doesn’t want to be left alone.

“Nowhere” the other man answers, but still moves. “Scoot over a little” he requests once he’s standing.

Tine doesn’t understand why he would want him to scoot, he’s perfectly comfortable the way he’s now.

Wait…Oh my god… is he suggesting-are they going to share a bed? Well, not technically a bed… but still.

Tine feels hot all over. Even though he tells himself it’s because he’s sick, he knows that’s not the reason.

Sarawat lifts his eyebrows, urging him to move. Okay… mental breakdown paused for a bit.

Tine moves to the side, making as much space as he can for Sarawat. His couch is big but both of them are large guys.

Well, if they have to sleep squished together so be it. Sometimes you must make sacrifices…

Sarawat lies on his side, facing him, their noses barely apart. The room is dark, Tine can barely make out the outline of the other man’s body, but he can feel his warm breath fanning on his face. It smells like mint; he must have brushed his teeth recently.

Tine hasn’t brushed his teeth since yesterday… that’s gross.

Sarawat’s lies his hand on Tine’s cheek, the touch of his fingers feather like. “I was really worried about you, nuisance” he whispers.

Tine can’t see him, but he can hear the sincerity in his voice. “I’m sorry” he says just as quietly.

He’s scared speaking any louder would pop the bubble he feels is surrounding them from the real world.

“You are a doctor. It’s your job to look after others, but you also need to look after yourself, Tine” he closes the space between them, hugging Tine tightly against his chest. In this position he can feel Sarawat’s heartbeat. It’s almost as fast as his. “I’ll remind you every day. And if you ever forget, I’ll do it for you” soft lips press on his forehead after those words. “I promise”

Tine feels something shifting inside him, but he doesn’t know what it is. What he does recognize is the infinite amount of affection he feels towards his neighbor, who is not just his neighbor anymore. He hasn’t been just that for some time now.

His words mean a lot to him; it’s been a long time since he’s felt so cared for. He’ll do the same for him, for them, if they ever let him.

Sarawat moves, lying on his back. His arm is secured around Tine’s wait, so he brings him with him. Tine rests his head on Sarawat’s chest, feeling the warmth emanating from his body. He could stay here forever. It’s been so long since he’s been held like this.

“Sing me a song, Wat” Tine asks. He remembers the way listening to his voice felt the other day. He wants to feel like that again.

Sarawat sings softly, as if it was a lullaby. Tine recognizes the song, how could he not? He knows every single Scrubb song that exists.

One person has changed everything

The one who can make me smile, no matter how sad I am

You have changed my love

I don't know, I don't understand

Perhaps it's because we belong together

Tine has never felt so at peace as now. Covered by the darkness of the night he allows himself to think that maybe they do belong together. It feels like Sarawat is the missing piece in the puzzle that it’s Tine’s life. There were two pieces missing, though, Tine realizes.

___________________

Next Monday afternoon finds Tine in the middle of answering emails. He called in sick today. He covered those old geezer’s absences for weeks, it’s their turn now.

He spent the whole day in bed yesterday. After waking up and taking a shower, he wanted to go out for a walk, but Sarawat threatened him with not making breakfast if he didn’t go lie on his bed.

Tine felt better, but he still complied. Both his neighbors accompanied him the entire day, promising to come back the next day after work and school.

They couldn’t fulfill their promise, though. Sarawat texted him earlier, checking up on him and apologizing for not being able to go see him after work. Usually, his mom and Pete spend Mondays together, just the two of them, but his son demanded for him to be there today, he explains.

Around seven his cell phone rings; It’s Fong.

“Hello” Tine greets.

“Hey buddy, I’m outside” he says.

This is a surprise, but it’s not unwelcome. He hangs up and gets up from his seat to let him in.

“What are you doing here?” Tine asks. Maybe that’s not the proper way to welcome your friends…

Fong slaps his arm at that. “Yes, I missed you too”

“I didn’t mean it like that dickhead. I wasn’t expecting you, that’s all. Get in now” Tine says, ushering him in. He missed him.

Fong has been his best friend for years, like, almost twenty years. That’s a lot, now that he thinks about it. They have been through everything together, whether it be in happiness or sadness, Fong’s always been there. They used to see each other all the time, since they lived close. Tine moved a little further away, so it’s harder now. Fong is a lawyer, so he is always busy as well.

“What’s up with your life?” his friend asks, sitting on Tine’s couch.

Tine goes to the kitchen to get one bottle of beer for Fong and one of water for him. He’s taking medicine, so he must be careful. His stomach doesn’t feel good yet, either.

“As if you don’t know. Like we don’t text everyday” he plops himself beside his friend, passing him the cold beverage.

“You are so uncooperative. I hate you”

“You love me”

“I do” Fong says, sending Tine a flying kiss.

“Nothing new” Tine sips on his water. The coldness is soothing for his throat. “I go to work, and I come home”.

He takes Tine’s wrist on his hand. It looks so bony and pale, Tine hadn’t realized. It seems like he lost a lot of weight in the span of a week.

“You look thinner” his friend notes. “And paler. Are you taking care of yourself?” he asks, worry clear in his expression.

“Yes” Tine lies. There is no point in telling the truth, really. He doesn’t want to cause any unnecessary concern now that he’s well. “I’ve just had a lot of work, that’s all.”

Charlotte comes in then, jumping into Tine’s lap. Fong rubs the top of her head. “She’s grown. She still looks like a rat, though”

“Hey” Tine says, offended, slapping his friend’s hand away. “Don’t touch her if you are going to talk about her like that”

They talk for a while, just catching up. Fong shows him pics of his new girlfriend. That man can’t be alone for a second. He gets attached so fast, Tine’s already lost count of how many times he’s got his heart broken.

“What about you?” he asks.

Tine frowns, confused. “What about me?”

“You know…” he moves his eyebrows up and down “Is there… someone?”

Their conversation is interrupted by a knock on Tine’s door. He quickly goes to answer it, telling Fong to wait.

Sarawat is on the other side looking kind of… frustrated? “Wat? Is everything ok?” Tine asks, concerned. He’s never seen that expression on the other man’s face.

“Yeah” he says, brushing both his hands through his hair. It’s pointing in different directions, like he’s been doing that action for quite some time. “Did Pete leave his sippy cup in here? I can’t find it and he refuses to drink his milk anywhere else.”

Tine remembers seeing it on his kitchen counter. “Yeah, it’s here, come in.”

Fong is attentively watching them from his spot on the couch, hawk-like eyes. When Sarawat notices his friend’s presence, Tine introduces them. It feels weird, two important parts of his world colliding.

“Sarawat, this is Fong, my high school friend” Tine says, pointing at him. “Fong, this is Sarawat, my neighbor…” he pauses for a second, doubting. Are they friends? They have slept together (not like that), so they must be friends. And if they aren’t, they are now, Tine decides “friend” he adds.

“Nice to meet you” they say, shaking hands.

“We are going to be in the kitchen for a sec” Tine informs Fong, who nods.

When they get there, Tine twists around to face Sarawat, asking what he’s been itching to ask since he saw him standing at his entry. “Is something wrong?”

Sarawat makes that frustrated face again. “I fought with my mom” he sighs. “It’s nothing new but Pete noticed” he explains, massaging his temples. He is keeping his voice down, since Tine’s kitchen is an open space and he probably doesn’t want Fong to hear. “He is acting very… difficult. He is never like that, so I don’t really know what to do”

Tine wants to ask why they don’t get along, but it’s not the time or place. Also, they have officially been friends only for a few minutes. Maybe he should wait like, a month to ask something so personal.

He’s brought back to the present by Sarawat’s hand lightly engulfing his wrist. It looks so big against Tine’s bony one. He really needs to start eating better. “You want to say something. Say it” he commands.

“I don’t want to meddle…”

“I want you to meddle” he says, slightly tightening his hold to emphasize his words.

That gives Tine enough confidence to speak his mind. “You should talk to him. To Pete, I mean”

“How so?” Sarawat asks, a confused frown on his face.

“Explain him a way that he can understand what is going on between you and your mom, Wat” Tine says. “He’s a big, smart boy, I can assure you he knows much more than he lets on.”

Sarawat is pensive for a while. He lets go of Tine’s wrist and grabs his hand instead, caressing his knuckles. That action alone makes his heart go crazy… It’s almost ridiculous how touch deprived he is. Imagine if… nothing. Not the time, they are talking about serious issues here, for fucks sake. His imagination needs to stop running wild.

 “You are right” Sarawat agrees after a while.

Tine smiles and winks at his friend. “When am I not?”

“Shut up nuisance” he says, trying to flick Tine’s forehead.

He doesn’t succeed though, as Tine grabs his hand before he can do it. He tries to let go, but Sarawat intertwines their fingers instead.

They are holding both hands now… Tine thinks he is going to combust while Sarawat looks like nothing out of the ordinary is happening. He is so frustrating sometimes.

The other man has a playful smile plastered on. “So, are we friends now?” he asks.

“You don’t want to be my friend?” Tine pouts.

“Don’t pout” Sarawat says, letting go of one of Tine’s hands in favor of brushing his thumb over Tine’s lower lip. “You are spending too much time with Pete.”

“I like spending time with you guys”

Sarawat has this look on his face, soft and sweet, the corner of his eyes crinkled, his head tilted to the side. “We like spending time with you too, Tine”

Tine feels eyes on them. Fong is watching them out of the corner of his eye, trying to be discreet but failing.

Who said having an open kitchen was a good idea? He will file a lawsuit against the person who designed the interior of his house.

Tine clears his throat. “So… the sippy cup?”

___________________

Sarawat leaves after that, running back home with Pete’s sippy cup, promising to follow Tine’s advice and reminding him to take his medicine. If he didn’t, he said he’d kick his ass. So mean.

“Who was that?” Fong asks, eyebrows raised.

“My neighbor. The one with the kid. I’ve told you about him” Tine answers, sitting back on the couch.

Fong strokes his nonexistent beard. “The one you eat dinner with every night? The one who cooks you breakfast? The one whose kid you wax poetic about?”

Tine feels scandalized at that… but Fong is not really lying. “How do you know all of that? Are you spying on me?!”

“Tine you literally only text about them” he deadpans.

“I… don’t” Tine retorts lamely. He does.

“You do. I know all about Sarawat’s pancakes, Pete’s homework, how much Charlotte loves them, how they helped you clean your car the other day-”

Tine covers Fong’s mouth with his hand. He doesn’t want to listen anymore. “I get it! Shut up now”

His friend nods, gesturing with his hands in surrender. He sobers up after Tine takes his hand off, looking at him with a very serious expression. “Tine. He likes you”

Tine wasn’t expecting to hear that, so he just stares at his friend, mouth agape for a few seconds. “He doesn’t” he says when he snaps out of it.

His cheeks are blushing so much he covers them with his hands. He doesn’t want Fong to see, but he’s not fooling anyone

Fong sighs. “He was making heart eyes at you. I saw it”

It’s Tine’s turn to sigh. “Yeah but…”

His friend interrupts him before he can continue. “Do you like him?” he asks.

“I haven’t even thought about that” he lies.

He has thought about that, but Fong doesn’t need to know. He has thought about how nice it would be to wake up like Sunday morning, with Sarawat’s arms around him. He has thought about how much he’d like to eat dinner with Pete and Sarawat every day. But he doesn’t need to know. 

His friend is looking at him with narrowed eyes, like he knows something more than what he lets on.

Tine’s bulb lights then. He has connected the dots. Is that why Fong was asking him if he had someone earlier? Did Pear talk to him?

“It’s that why you came? To get information? Did you talk to Pear?” he asks with an outraged tone. This is betrayal. “I should have known your intentions weren’t pure”

“I came to see how my lovely friend was doing. I was lucky enough to witness him interact with his prospect love interest. Not the point, though. Tell me if you like him” his friend demands.

Tine is not ready to have a heart to heart. He hasn’t even admitted what he feels to himself, how does Fong expect him to say it out loud?!

“Fong it’s… really complicated” he says instead, deflecting. “He has a kid and…”

His friend interrupts him. “What’s so complicated about him having a kid? You love that little brat”

Love? Those are big words. Tine is very… fond of him, of them.

“Yes, but there are many things I don’t know about them. I know the mom is around, but I’ve never seen her. Are they married? Divorced? Does he like men? Do I like men? Does he like me? Would his kid accept me as his dad’s boyfriend? Would he trust me enough to be around his kid like that? What if we break up?” he blurts out. Tine is out of breath by the end of his short speech.

Wheeewwww. He actually said all of that. He hadn’t even realized all those questions were haunting him.

“So, you have thought about this” Fong says carefully.

“… maybe” Tine says, not daring to look at his friend.

“Well…” Fong starts. “I know one answer” Tine motions with his hands for him to continue. “You like men”

Duh. Tine knows. “I know” he says and then groans. “I can’t believe I’m having a sexual awakening at thirty-two. Doesn’t this happen like in college?” Tine leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He’s a bit overwhelmed.

“You went to college only to study, Tine” Fong says, patting Tine’s shoulder. “Are you going to tell him?” he asks.

“Are you insane?” Tine straightens up so fast he feels a bit dizzy. “Didn’t you just witness my major mental breakdown at the mere thought of admitting that I like him?”

“Tine listen” Fong says, facing him. “I don’t know tall, dark and handsome neighbor as much as you do. But I’m pretty sure he likes you. I could see it in the way he looked at you” Fong takes both Tine’s hands in his. “Look… when he came in… he looked really troubled. After talking to you his expression was completely different, like a heavy weight was lifted off his shoulders. He looked… happier” Tine also felt better after talking to him. “I understand your concerns but try to face this with an open heart. Not everything is bound to failure”

Tine sighs. Maybe he’s right. “Okay” he says. It doesn’t sound very convincing, though.

“Okay? I give you that phenomenal speech and all you have to say is okay? Ungrateful bastard” he says with fake annoyance, giving one last squeeze to Tine’s hands before letting them go.

Tine feels better. Fong always knows what to say. All he needs to do is convince himself of his friend’s words now. That’s going to be… difficult. He doesn’t want to be delusional.

“You know,” his friend says after a few moments of silence, “he’s the perfect specimen to have a sexual awakening with. He’s hot af”

“Don’t say hot af. You are old”

“He’s a dilf” he then looks at Tine like he’s had the best idea ever. “A d-y-l-f, actually”

“What?”

“Dad you’d like to fuck”

How does he manage to say such things with a straight face? Tine is speechless. He is gaping. He surely looks like a dead fish. What is wrong with his friends?

“Oh my god, I despise you”

___________________

Tuesday afternoon finds Tine sitting on the couch doing nothing. His talk with Fong has haunted him since yesterday, work being the only thing distracting him from thinking too much. Now that he’s at home…

He doesn’t feel that good today, not fully recovered from whatever was that got into him the other day. Sarawat told him to get another day off, but he couldn’t. Still, his boss at work promised he’d manage the doctor’s schedules better, so he -and all the doctors- wouldn’t get sick from overworking. He got an earful from nurse Air, the rumors say. Deserved.

Sarawat is on the floor, helping Pete with his homework, since both refuse to leave his side, just in case he gets sick again, they said. Tine doesn’t mind the company, on the contrary, it’s nice to finally have some sound in his ever-quiet house. But this isn’t helping to his don’t-think-about-what-Fong-said-the-other-day case.

He’ll sleep. That’ll silence his mind.

His attempt to have a nap is interrupted by a knock on his door. God, he hates that sound. It’s only okay when it’s from Sarawat or Pete. “I’ll go” he says, getting up from the sofa.

It’s his mom. “I heard from Fong that you were sick, looking all pale and bony” she says as soon as Tine opens the door. No hello. She pushes him out of the way, barreling into his house. “Why do I have to find out from other people what’s happening in my son’s life? Ungrateful little thing, you have no regard for your poor old mother. How many times do I have to tell you to eat properly? To not work as much?” loud as always, Tine thinks. Things don’t really change, do they?

“Hi mom” Tine greets, closing the door. Sarawat and Pete are still on the floor, mouth agape. The pencil Sarwat’s holding is frozen mid air, along with his hand. That’s his mom’s effect on people.

“Oh, you have visitors” she says.

At that, they snap out of their stupor, getting up almost instantly.

“Hello” both say at the same time.

“I’m Pete, nice to meet you”

“I’m Sarawat, nice to meet you” they seem robots. It’s crazy how intimidating a 1,55 cm woman can be. “We live next door” Sarawat says, pointing with his finger at his house, apparently. He gets the direction wrong, though. His house is on the other side. Is that a bead of sweat Tine sees on his forehead? “Let me help you with that” he offers, taking the plastic bags his mom is holding and carrying them to the kitchen.

Fong must have told her his pantry was empty. This is treason.

“What a gentleman. You should learn from him, Tine”

“I didn’t raise myself” Tine retorts quietly. He prays he didn’t hear him or his head will get smacked.

She opens her eyes at him… here comes trouble. “What did you say?”

Tine feigns innocence, hugging her tightly to his chest and kissing the top of her head. “Nothing mom”

His mom is weird. She is loud and annoying. But Tine wouldn’t have it any other way. He loves her. How could he not, when she raised him and his brother practically alone?

His parents divorced when he was very young, and his dad disappeared from the face of earth. They never needed him, though, since his mom gave them everything they could need. That’s why he admires Sarawat so much, because he’s seen firsthand how hard it is to raise a kid on your own.

He will be grateful his entire life. Everything he is, is thanks to her.

___________________

Sarawat insists that he and Pete have some important things to do so they must go. Naturally, Tine’s mom doesn’t allow it, so they stay for dinner. Her power… Tine wishes he could have it.

Sarawat offers to help her cook but she doesn’t let him come anywhere near the kitchen, so him and Pete stay in the living room finishing Pete’s homework.

Tine is another story.

She pesters him the whole time about how skinny he is, how pale he is, how he looks like a walking corpse. She says she’ll call him every hour if that’s what it takes for him to be responsible. She can’t believe she raised such a careless child.

Tine’s reminded of his high school days, where this same situation would happen almost every night before dinner, but he knows that there’s some serious concern behind every single one of her words.

It’s still kind of embarrassing to be scolded like this in front of his friend and his child, though. Specially since he can hear Sarawat’s and Pete’s muffled laughs coming from the living room. At least they are trying to be discreet.

The food is delicious, as always. His mom’s an amazing cook. It makes him feel instantly better. But it also makes him feel nostalgic. He misses her dearly every day of his life, annoying as she is and all.

“Have you heard from your brother?” she asks.

Tine nods no. He hasn’t called his brother in a long time. He adds it to the mental list of things he has to do later. It’s a long one. But he doesn’t have to buy food anymore. Yay.

She huffs. “He is worse than you, working all day. I don’t know what I did wrong to have such workaholic kids”

“What is workalolic?” Pete asks to his mom.

If it weren’t for them, who have spoken non-stop to each other, this would have been way more uncomfortable. He is sure Sarawat is dying of awkwardness right now, since he hasn’t uttered a word unless required to.

“A workaholic is someone who works a lot” his mom answers.

Pete touches is chin, as if deep in thought. “I see… Tine is a workalolic. He got sick the other day from working too much”

“Ahhh he did, didn’t he?” she gives him a disapproving look.

Tine doesn’t dare to open his mouth. His food is very interesting.

“Yes, but dad and I took care of him” Pete says proudly.

“Then I have to thank you both for looking after my son” she says, fixing her eyes in Sarawat.

She has this expression on her face… it reminds him of that time he told her he had been skipping classes and she already knew. Tine doesn’t know how she does it, but it’s like she can see all the truths in the world and no secret is safe from her.

The other man gives in to the pressure of her stare and chokes on his food. He sips on his water, taking his time to answer. “It was nothing, really” he says shyly, scratching the back of his head.

Is he blushing? His mom made the impossible happen. He looks so pretty.

He feels her eyes on him now. Did she catch staring lovingly at Sarawat??? Wait, she can’t catch him doing that because that’s not what he was doing. Absolutely not.

She hums. “So… how did you two meet each other?” she asks.

Something is definitely cooking on her head. Tine hears an alarm and sees red lights. Danger.

“At the hospital” Sarawat answers. “Pete was sick”

“Doctor Tine healed my tummy”

Sarawat sips on his glass of water again. He’s clearly nervous. Tine feels kind of sorry. His mom always makes people nervous. If she likes you, though, she can be as sweet as a cake.

“We moved here a week after that” the other man adds.

“What a coincidence… or maybe destiny?” she says, tilting her head as if she were in thought. She’s such a performer, any other time it would be funny.

Now it’s Tine’s turn to choke with his food. What is she talking about? “Mom” he curtly says after a few coughs. This is so embarrassing.

“What? The world wanted you to meet each other, Tine” she says that like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Then Sarawat does the unthinkable. “I… I’m glad I met him” he says, looking and Tine with the softest smile.

The shy tone of his voice does not go unnoticed, making Tine’s heart beat so fast probably everyone can hear it. As a doctor he knows that’s not possible, but still. Maybe his mom can hear it, if the way she is looking at him says something.

“He’s a dummy sometimes but he’s a nice boy, right? My pretty boy” she tugs on his cheeks. He will never stop feeling like a little kid on her presence.

“Moooooom” Tine whines, Pete laughing in the background. He decides that this the worst and the best day of his life.

“Right” Sarawat mumbles mostly to himself, but Tine’s mom, as every mom, has an inhuman hearing.

___________________

Before the neighbors leave, his mom steps in front of Sarawat.

“Young man” she says, placing her hands on the other man’s shoulders. They barely reach, she’s such a tiny woman. The only thing Tine got from his dad was height. “You have a very polite and well-behaved son. Keep doing what you’re doing or else he’ll grow up to be like Tine. We don’t want that”

“Mooooom!” Tine whines again. All he’s done for the past three hours is whine. Not even Pete, who is a kid, behaves like this.

Sarawat nods. “Yes. I will follow your advice” he says with an amused smile. Is he siding with his mom? Betrayal. All his friends do is betray him.

“Pete, come here” Pete, who is standing by his dad, gets close to her. She rummages through her bag and comes up with a handful of sweets. “Take this. You are a nice boy. Always listen to your dad, ok?”

“Yes, thank you so much” he says, giving her a hug. “Can I tell you something?”

“Yes, sure thing” she agrees, bending to be at his level. She barely has to, though…

“Tine is really nice. I’d like to be like him when I grow up, so don’t worry” he says whispering, like telling her a secret, but it’s loud enough for all of them to hear.

Tine could cry right now. He’s never felt this way before… like he’s done something right in his life. Pete’s everything to him. He really is. He can’t remember how his life was before he met them.

“Also, since we met him my dad is happier, he smiles a lot more”

Wait… Tine whips his head so hard in the direction of Sarawat he is sure he almost breaks his cervical. The other man’s eyes seem like they are going to come out of their sockets, but he refuses to meet Tine’s eyes. He is blushing as well. Twice in one night.

When he comes out of his daze, he grabs Pete by the hand. “Let’s go Pete, tomorrow is a school day, we have to sleep” he says, practically bolting out of Tine’s house. “I hope to see you again”

“Oh, we will surely be seeing each other again” she half-screams to make sure Sarawat hears her. She gives Tine a knowing look now. “Let’s go talk, son”

___________________

Is his mom secretly a police officer? Tine thinks as they do the dishes. She has asked him so many questions in the span of ten minutes. He doesn’t know how she comes up with so many. She should’ve used this mind of hers for something productive, maybe they would be rich by now.

“Does he have a wife?” she asks for the third time.

Tine has evaded the question, since he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t want an answer that would break his heart. Sometimes ignorance is better.

“I don’t know mom. I haven’t asked” Tine sighs, dejected. “We haven’t known each other for that long” he explains.

“I see” after scrubbing some plates she bluntly asks, “Tine, do you like him?”

He’s gotten the same question twice in the span of twenty-four hours… maybe even less. Heat floods his face, he must be blushing so hard. There is no way she doesn’t know the truth, but he remains silent, paying strict attention to the plate he has on his hands. It must be dried thoroughly.

“You do. I know my son” she says as she turns off the faucet and takes off the dishwashing gloves. She turns to Tine, who resists meeting her eyes. If he does, she’ll know everything. Well, it’s not like she doesn’t already. “Sweetheart, I don’t care if you like men or women or whatever, I just want you to be happy” Tine knows that, he knows she doesn’t care about stuff like that.

“I know mom… it’s just… I haven’t known him for that long”

Tine keeps fighting this, finding excuses as to deny the obvious. He doesn’t want to be set for disappointment, that’s all. Tine knows himself, know his heart is soft; he must take precautions.

“Have you ever been in love, son?” she asks, grabbing Tine’s hand between both her own.

“No mom, I haven’t.”

In his thirty-two years of life, Tine’s had only one girlfriend. She broke up with him pretty quickly, arguing he never had time to her, only to study. She wasn’t lying.

Tine used to be so scared of failing (still is), he put all his effort into studying, the only thing he could actually control. He regrets a little bit, not having lived more, let his fears control his life. But that’s the past.

He promised he would change, but he’s still stuck on the same place as before. 

He thought he liked Pear as well back in med school when they were classmates. It was short lived, though. Fong once said he didn’t really like her, instead, he liked the idea of liking someone. He doesn’t know what he meant by that, but it makes sense.

“Falling in love has no timing, Tine” she says with a soft voice. His mom is never soft with him, he really must be in need of some serious intervention.  “It can happen immediately; it can take years. You remember how Man and Type were, right?” he nods.

Tine doesn’t remember how they meet. What he does remember is the way Man fell immediately for his brother. Type, on the other hand, was a hard nut to crack. It took Man almost a year for Type to agree to be his boyfriend. Nowadays they are inseparable, though.

“They are the perfect example of how falling in love is different for everyone, Tine… What do you feel for him?”

Tine knows the answer to that question like the palm of his hand but saying it out loud makes it real. Does he want it to be real?

He swallows thickly, trying to figure out how to tell the truth without actually saying it. But this is his mom, he should be honest with her. 

“I… I like him. I like him a lot. He’s amazing mom” Tine sighs. How is he going to look at Sarawat now? How did it go so fast from a harmless crush to liking him so much? “I only admitted to myself I liked him last night. Fong made me”

Tine is grateful, though. He has always been one of those people who needs some help, a little push when it comes to being honest with himself. He isn’t brave enough to do it on his own.

“I know, he told me”

Tine should have known; she always finds a way of knowing everything. “That bastard”

“Don’t blame him son” she says patting his cheek. “I made him tell me. It’s not his fault”

“Did you send him yesterday?” Tine asks. It wouldn’t be the first time they complot against him.

“Yes and no. He was worried, all of them were worried” she sighs, shaking her head a little bit. “You need to communicate better with them, Tine. They are your friends and they worry about you. Don’t ghost them” Tine nods. She’s right. He just doesn’t want to bother them; they have problems of their own. “You don’t bother them, Tine” his mom says with a knowing look. She really is a psychic. “Back to business” she says clapping her hands. “We have established you like him, what will you do now”

“Nothing” Tine answers immediately. “It’s really complicated mom, there’s a lot of things I don’t know… and I don’t dare to ask. I don’t know if I’ll like the answers I get”

“Baby, he clearly likes you. God, even his son can see it”

Tine doesn’t believe it… but he’s been wondering. Wondering if maybe the songs Sarawat has chosen to sing to him apply to their relationship, to how the other man feels about him. Wondering if the way he treats Tine, as if he were something precious, means the same to him as it means to Tine.

 “Listen baby… I’m not saying you are in love with each other, I’m not saying it’s not and won’t be complicated. But giving it a try… I think it might be worth it” she says. Tine doesn’t really know… would he be good enough to be with someone like Sarawat?  “Stop doubting yourself Tine” she says, as if sensing his insecurity. “You are handsome, you are smart, your heart is so big it could fit the entire population of the world” he feels tears picking on his eyes and he blinks to keep them at bay. His mom notices, though, and hugs him tightly. Her head barely reaches his chest, but it feels like she’s surrounding him whole. “You don’t have to tell him tomorrow, or next week. But don’t wait too long baby. Don’t let this opportunity pass by”

___________________

After admitting his feelings nothing really changes.

Well, something does change. Tine’s more aware of Sarawat’s presence, of the way the other man looks at him when he thinks Tine doesn’t notice, of the way Sarawat treats him, with so much tenderness and care. Tine keeps wondering if maybe…

Now that he thinks about it… another thing has changed as well. Ever since they slept together (not like that), Sarawat’s been way touchier. Brushing their hands as they cook, patting Tine’s thigh, caressing his hair. Tine doesn’t really mind, but he’s a little bit shy to return the gestures. They haven’t left his side the entire week either.

It’s Friday now, Tine got home a little while ago and they still haven’t come, so he’s kind of sulking.

There was a car parked outside Sarawat’s house, one he’s never seen before, so they must have visitors. He feels a lonely; he got used to spending the afternoon with them.

His cellphone rings, then. It’s Sarawat. Tine doesn’t even get to say hello when the other man is already frantically speaking.

“Tine are you home?” he sounds weird.

Tine wishes he could see his face to decipher his tone. He feels his stomach knot in worry. He hopes everything’s fine.

“Yeah, what is it? Are you okay?”

“Can you take Pete out for a walk?” he asks.

“Yeah, I’ll be right there” Tine says and hangs up.

He puts some shoes on and knocks on his neighbor’s door less than a minute later. A woman opens it. One he has never seen before.

“Ummm, Hi. I’m Tine” he feels awkward. Where is Sarawat?

“I’m Pete’s mom. Nice to meet you” she says.

Tine knows it’s only pleasantries. She doesn’t look happy to be meeting him at all. Tine observes her for a few seconds. She’s pretty, so pretty.

There’s a weird atmosphere in the house, filled with tension.

He catches a glimpse of Sarawat and Pete coming down the stairs from where he’s standing at the door. When Pete sees him, his face illuminates and he runs to hug Tine.

“Hey buddy” Tine greets him, hugging him back.

His heart feels lighter at the mere sight of both his favorite people. Whatever it is that is happening in this household, he hopes it’s not too serious.

“Be good” Sarawat says, walking close to them to pat Pete’s head and give Tine the little kid’s backpack. “Say bye to your mom” he instructs.

“Bye mom” Pete waves at her and she waves back, giving him a sweet smile.

Sarawat gives him a meaningful glance then, and Tine understands what he means. They probably need to talk, Pete not present.

Well, Sarawat and Pete have taken very good care of Tine in the past, so he’ll do the same thing with Pete now.

___________________

Tine asks Pete what he wants to do, and he decides to take Charlotte out for a walk. As soon as she sees him, she runs to greet him. She has gotten as used to their presence as Tine, it seems.

The days are starting to grow colder, so it’s not impossible to walk under the sun as it was a few weeks ago. The breeze is nice as well, not too cold and not too warm.

Pete’s Puppy Dog Pals backpack is strapped on Tine’s back, since it was a bit heavy. Tine doesn’t know why Pete needed to bring a backpack, but he’s not a parent, and he guesses it’s a parent thing.

Tine is tightly holding Pete’s hand, since he’s scared he might lost the child in a second of distraction.

Pete seems to be sharing his same concern. Tine can tell, by the way he’s clutching Charlotte’s leash with an iron fist. They have walked four blocks now, getting close to the park.

“Can we eat ice cream?” Pete asks, pointing at the shop Tine can’t see but knows is there.

“Sure”

They walk a little bit longer in silence. Tine feels uneasy; Pete’s been strangely silent the whole walk, which is so not like him. He always wants to talk, tell him every single detail about his day.

Pete wants a triple flavor ice cream. Tine is scared it might hurt his stomach, but he doesn’t have the heart to say no, so he proposes they share. Pete agrees and choses the flavors, and after that they sit on the outdoor tables of the shop.

“How was your day?” Tine asks, in hopes of making him open up.

“Good” he says that and nothing else.

This would usually be the time where he launches on a detailed explanation of everything he did at school, what games he played, what he learnt, but nothing else comes out of his mouth.

Still, Tine knows Pete wants to say something, he can see it on his face, in the way he opens his mouth and closes it and huffs when he, apparently, can’t find the right words.

“What’s wrong, Pete?” he asks. “You can tell me anything” Tine hopes this encourages him to speak his mind. He doesn’t like to see him this frustrated.

“That was my mom, back home” he says. Tine had an inkling feeling Pete’s mood was related to his mom’s arrival. “Whenever she comes, she and dad fight. I don’t like it” he puts his plastic spoon down, looking at Tine. He looks so down. “Mom wanted to take me to live with her some time ago, but I didn’t want to, so I stayed with dad. I think she’s mad at me for that and also mad at my dad. But I have always lived with him” his tone is resigned, and his eyes are full of unshed tears.

Tine’s heart breaks for him. God, how can such a little body have these many preoccupations?

Tine doesn’t know what to say… he doesn’t want to fuck up and say something he shouldn’t, but Pete is looking for reassurance, and he’s not going to deny him that, much less when he looks like he needs it. Tine is not going to let him feel guilty over whatever problems their parents have. Pete’s trusting him, so he’s not going to let him down.

Tine scoots his chair closer to Pete and takes his little hands in his. “Your mom isn’t angry at you, Pete. She loves you very much. I could see that today” Pete nods, as if he knows it. “If she and you dad are angry at each other, that’s not your fault either. They probably have adult problems that they need to fix, but none of that is your fault” Tine says with certainty.

At that, Pete looks up, his eyes filled with hope. “It’s not my fault?” he asks in a small voice. Tine wants to wrap him in a hug, but they need to talk first.

“It’s not” Tine says, nodding for emphasis. “I really mean it” he holds Pete’s gaze until the little boy looks a little more convinces and nods. “And you did nothing wrong by saying you wanted to live with you dad. What you feel is important and you should always say it. Your opinion matters”

As a kid, Tine’s dad made him feel countless of times as if his opinion didn’t matter. It didn’t feel good at all, and Tine didn’t care about his father much. He can imagine what Pete is feeling now, so he says the words he wishes someone said to him when he was little. Tine hopes it’s enough to calm his heart, even if a little.

“Yes, dad always says that. That’s why I said I wanted to live with him” he explains.

That’s good. This whole this is just a big misunderstanding. Tine wasn’t lying when he said kids know way more than what they let on. He knew, from way before his parents decided to divorce that they would do it. It was a relief, honestly, since they fought almost every day.

Tine continues, then. “These… thoughts that you have, you should tell your parents about it. It’s not good to keep things inside. It’s not good for your heart. If you feel upset about something, tell them. If you want to know something, ask” Pete dutifully nods. He looks like he’s taking note of everything Tine’s saying. That’s a good sign. “Talking is good, okay?” Pete nods again.

Tine doesn’t want Pete to grow up to be like him, a chronic overthinker, too afraid to talk about his feelings, always bottling everything up.

The little kid smiles, big and happy, just as always. “Thank you, Tine. I feel better now” he says. “I will ask my mom if she’s mad at me when I get home”

“That’s good” Tine smiles at him as well. “Can I hug you?” he asks for permission. Pete practically throws himself at Tine’s arms, crushing his neck with the force of his hug.

Tine feels better, the knot on his stomach slowly coming undone. He really can’t stand seeing Pete anything than happy. He’s too attached to him, to them, it’s past the point where he can do something about it, so he’s just going to embrace it fully.

They go back home about an hour later, after finishing their ice cream and playing a little with Charlotte. Pete has returned to his usual self, babbling for as long as they walk.

Pete’s mom opens the door again. She looks less hostile now, actually smiling to Tine. It seems genuine this time. “Thank you for taking care of him”

“It was nothing, really” Tine says nervously. She makes him nervous, and he doesn’t know why. Her presence is really intimidating to him; it must be because he doesn’t know her. “I’ll go home now”

“Wait” Pete says, grabbing his hand. “Thank you. I really liked talking to you”

Tine can’t contain himself, so he bends down to match Pete’s height and hugs him again. “I’m glad I could be of help” his heart feels at peace, knowing he could make Pete feel a little better.

___________________

A few hours later he sees Pete’s mom car leave. It’s not like he was attentively watching, sitting by his window, waiting for something to happen. Not at all.

He gets a text from Sarawat then, telling him to come over. He doesn’t need to be told twice.

Sarawat looks really tired, Tine notices, dark bags under his eyes, his usual glowy skin looking pale and lifeless under the artificial lights of his living room. His hair is pointing in every direction, like he ran his hands through it multiple times.

“Did you eat?” it’s the first thing he says.

Tine has the sudden urge to tell him to smack him on the head like his mom does to him and tell him not to worry about him, to worry about himself first, but he has come to understand that Sarawat is kind of a chronic worrier.

“Yes, I did” Tine answers, coming in. “How are you feeling?” Tine wants to hug him, but he doesn’t know whether Sarawat would like that or not. He doesn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.

Sarawat sits on the couch and mimics for Tine to do the same. “Honestly? Exhausted. Today was a long day.” Pete is nowhere around. It’s late, so he must be sleeping. He’s also been through a lot. “You must be curious” he says, running his hands through his hair again.

“I am” Tine admits, sitting on the empty space besides Sarawat, who moves a little bit closer, so that their arms are pressed together.  “But you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to”

Sarawat sighs, looking at Tine. “I want to tell you. Not many people know about this but… I trust you”

Tine smiles, small and sincere. He knows Sarawat is a very closed off person, so the fact that he trusts him enough to share something like this with him makes him feel special.

Sarawat looks like he’s bracing for a battle, taking deep breaths from time to time, opening his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.

He is bouncing his legs anxiously, so Tine places his hand on the other man’s thigh and squeezes, trying to give him at least a little bit of comfort. Sarwat takes his hand then, interviewing their fingers, and starts talking.

“She is Pete’s mom, Pam. We got married seven years ago” he says. “My parents… they have a lot of money. Business was going down, so they thought it was a great plan to marry one of their sons with the daughter of the owner of a big company” the harsh laugh Sarawat lets out leaves an ugly feeling on Tine’s chest. “It was either me or my younger brother. I would never let him do that, not if it could be helped. Not if I could help it” he says, putting emphasis on the I. “So, I married Pam”

Tine understands the duty of an older brother. Type used to do all kinds of things for him when they were younger, used to take the blame on things Tine had done so he wouldn’t be scolded. When his parents fought, he used to sneak into Tine’s room and tell him stories, so he wouldn’t be aware of what was happening outside.

Tine thinks that if he had been on the same situation, his brother would have done the same as Sarawat. The unfairness of it all leaves a bitter taste on his mouth.

“A year later we had Pete and two years later we divorced” he continues. “I always knew that’s how it would end. I wanted it to end, if I’m being honest. Neither was happy, and Pete didn’t deserve to grow up like that” Tine knows he’s right from his own experience. “She went to work abroad, and I stayed here with Pete” he says, pausing for a few minutes.

Tine doesn’t know what to do, what to say, so he says nothing and just waits for Sarawat to keep going.

The other man is clutching his hand for dear life, almost as if he’s scared Tine’s going to leave. Tine hadn’t noticed, too immersed on Sarawat’s words. He caresses the other man’s knuckles, and he seems to relax, so he keeps doing that.

“It was so hard at first… I didn’t want anything to do with my family, so I refused all kinds of help from them. Imagine this… the son of a big businessman doesn’t study economics, but education. Dedicates his life to music” Tine doesn’t like the humorless laugh Sarawat lets out from time to time. He wishes to never hear that sound again. “I never got along with them, but after getting married it was worse”

Sarawat is looking straight ahead, hiding his eyes from Tine. It doesn’t matter if he can’t see them, Tine can still read him.

Maybe is because of the expressionless mask he always wears, but Tine is way more aware of how other parts of his body express what he’s feeling. The tight set of his jaw, the way his eyes are unmoving, how he drums his fingers on the armrest of the couch, the tense set of his shoulders.

His face might be blank, but his body isn’t.

“Anyway… a few months ago Pam came back. She wanted to take Pete to live with her” something clicks on Tine’s brain then. This must be what Pear was referring to when she said Sarawat’d had some hard times earlier this year. “I refused, of course. She’s his mom, yes, but he’s lived his entire life with me. He sees her only a handful of times a year, Tine” he says, a frantic tone to his voice.

He stops for a moment, taking a deep breath before continuing. It seems like this is the hardest part for him.

“She asked him what he wanted to do, if he wanted to live with her. I was so angry that she did that, Tine. That she put him in that position. He is just a child, how is he supposed to choose?” his tone morphs from frantic from desperate, like he’s relieving those moments all over again.

He is squeezing Tine’s hand for dear life once again. Tine entwines their fingers now and caresses the top of Sarawat’s hand with his free one. The other man takes a deep breath, an effort at putting himself together.

“He said he wanted to live with me, and the matter was over. He stayed. Ever since then, every time she comes, we fight. I really understand her anger at me. I never loved her, never even pretended to do so. I was a dick. And I also couldn’t forgive her for doing that to Pete. I know she meant no harm, but still” he says, rubbing his eyes the palm of his free hand. “But fighting is no good for anyone, especially for Pete” his tone is quieter now, resigned.

He takes some time before continuing and Tine tries to process everything he’s heard so far. This is the most Sarawat has talked ever since they met. He never expected his story would be like this, though. It feels surreal, almost out of a drama, so different from what Tine has experienced. 

“Today he asked her if she was angry at him for choosing to stay. He thought we fight because of him. Those thoughts have been plaguing his mind for God knows how fucking long, Tine. And I didn’t know… I should’ve known” he says, letting go of Tine’s hand to hide his face in his. He sounds broken and Tine really hates it. Really really hates it.

He hates that he can’t protect this man, who’s been through so much, from pain. He wishes he was the one feeling it instead of Sarawat.

Tine hugs his frame then, as best as he can given the position they are in. “How were you going to know, Wat?” he says softly. “You can’t know everything. I know it’s hard to accept, but unless Pete tells you there are things you simply can’t know”

Sarawat lowers his hands; his eyes are glassy, a tear adorning his cheek. Tine takes his face in his hands, brushing the wetness away with the back of his thumb. 

“Don’t blame yourself for that. It’s not your fault” Tine says, impulsively kissing the tip of Sarawat’s nose. He panics for a few seconds, waiting for Sarawat to pull back and look at him with a disgusted face or something, but he doesn’t.

Instead, he leans into Tine’s touch and closes his eyes. When he opens them, he looks way more serene than he did before. “He told us you talked to him Tine. Thank you. I’m really thankful”

Tine gives him a smile in return. He is happy he could be of help.

He wants to say something else, though, but he doesn’t know if he should…

“You want to say something, say it” it never ceases to amaze Tine how well Sarawat can read him. Since the first moment they met he has been able to do so.

Tine has never felt secure enough to speak his mind, but Sarawat always looks like he wants to hear what Tine has to say, so he’s going to say it.

“You and Pam really need to get your shit together. You need to make an effort, not for yourselves, but for Pete. He’s the one who matters in this situation. You are already divorced; you have nothing to do with each other. How you feel towards each other shouldn’t matter. What matters is doing what’s right and what’s best to ensure Pete’s wellbeing, to ensure he doesn’t feel that way ever again” he feels breathless from talking so much in one go. Wow.

Just now Tine realizes he’s still holding Sarawat’s face in his hands. He lets go of it in favor of scratching his nape. Suddenly he feels embarrassed. Maybe he spoke with too much fervor?

“I hope I didn’t cross any lines saying all of that. I’m sorry” he says in a small voice.

“You didn’t Tine. Your opinion is important to me” the other man assures him. Tine feels something akin to pride swelling his chest. “We talked today, that’s why I asked you to take Pete. I didn’t want him to hear us” he explains. “We cleared everything up, so hopefully from now on we’ll be okay” he says with a hopeful smile.

Tine hopes so as well. “I’m really glad”

Sarawat yawns, looking sleepy all of a sudden. His eyes can barely stay open, the events of the day finally catching up to him. It must have been a rollercoaster of emotions. He lies down, pulling his long legs over Tine’s lap.

“You should go to bed” Tine suggests.

“Mhhh” Sarawat hums. “Come here there” he says, patting the free space next to him on the couch.

It takes Tine some time to process what he means. Is he suggesting that they sleep together (not like that) again? He pats the couch once again, more forcefully this time, urging him to move.

Tine… wants to do this again, if he’s being honest with himself. He loved waking up all wrapped up in Sarawat’s arms the other day, warm and cozy. He’s going to be selfish, just once. God knows if he’ll get a chance like this in the future.

And maybe… Sarawat needs some comfort tonight. He wants to be there for him if he’ll have him.

Tine lies down and as soon as his head hits the couch Sarawat curls up against his side, arranging Tine’s arm to use it as a pillow. In a short time he’ll not be able to feel it at all, but it doesn’t matter. He takes Tine’s free hand, sliding their fingers together.

Tine’s panics for a hot second, he’s about to pull back; they are too close, this feels too intimate after the heart to heart they had earlier. But it’s too late to pull back, isn’t it? In more than one way. So Tine embraces this situation fully, curving his pillow-arm to caress Sarawat’s hair.

Right in this moment he looks so tiny, Tine feels the sudden urge to protect him from everything bad in the world. He promises to himself that he’s not going to let anybody hurt him again, if it’s in his power to avoid it. He knows it might be impossible, but he’ll try his hardest.

Sarawat yawns again, and before he can fall asleep, he says in a hushed tone, “thank you for listening”

Sometimes Tine can’t believe this man is real. He should be the one doing the thanking. Sarawat did the hard part, he only offered his ear.

“Thank you for telling me” Tine says just as quietly, careful not to break the atmosphere. “You have been through a lot” Tine sighs. He really has. He can’t imagine.

“Yes. But I’d go through it all over again. Pete is the best thing that’s ever happened to me”

Tine believes him. He has seen it. He’s privileged enough to see it every day, to see it in the way Sarawat looks at Pete, like he’s everything he’s asked for in life, the best thing he’s ever done. He sees it in the way he treats him with so much love and care.

“You’ve done an amazing job with Pete, Wat”

“I have?” he says, resting his chin on Tine’s shoulder, looking up.

His eyes look so hopeful. Does he really not see it? Tine is going to repeat it until Sarawat believes him, until he sees it himself.

“Yes” Tine says, bending his neck to kiss the other man’s forehead. “Sleep now”

Sarawat surprises him by kissing his cheek. It’s fast, but Tine feels warm all over, especially on his chest, close to his heart.

The place where his lips touched burns and Tine realizes just here, right in this moment, that he’s a little bit in love with this man. Too late to pull back indeed.

___________________

He wakes up to someone quietly calling his name. It’s Pete, who is rubbing his tummy with a big pout. He must be hungry. Tine nods and tells him to wait in the kitchen, he’ll be there in a little bit.

To detangle himself from Sarawat proves to be a difficult task; the man is clinging to him with everything he has. He looks so pretty like this, Tine thinks, no worries clouding his beautiful face. His cheek is squished on Tine’s shoulder, and Tine has the sudden urge to pinch it, but he doesn’t, so to not wake him up.

After five minutes trying, he finally manages to break free, Sarawat not even flinching. He’s sleeping like a log.

Tine’s contemplating lovingly the sight of his sleeping friend, remembering the way he kissed the tip of his nose yesterday. He would panic, but Pete’s voice calling for him prevents him from doing so. He needs to focus. Breakfast first, panic second, ogling… whenever he has the chance again. He got his monthly dose.

Pete’s dutifully waiting for him, sitting on a kitchen stool. “Could you make pancakes, please?”, he asks as soon as Tine steps into the kitchen.

“Sure” Tine says. “Do you want to help?” Pete practically jumps from his seat at the offer, nodding eagerly.

His fridge is full, thanks to his mom, so he has enough to make a big batch. He gathers the ingredients and places them on the counter so they can start working on it, but Pete is not tall enough to reach the top, and Tine doesn’t have one of those stools where kids can stand. He’s going to have to buy one for the future.

“Do you want to sit in here?” Tine asks, motioning to the counter, as to which Pete nods. “You help me with the ingredients, okay? I’ll mix it”

“Okie” the little boy agrees with an eager nod.

They work in silence for a few minutes, which is unusual for Pete, who is talkative by nature. Tine can tell by the expression of his face that he wants to say something. It mirrors the one he had yesterday but it’s not somber at all. On the contrary.

“Pete, is there something you want to say? You can tell me anything” Tine hopes this encourages him to speak his mind just like yesterday.

He stays quiet for a few more seconds, but Tine can see the way his expression changes once he makes up his mind. “Tine, I think my dad likes you” he blurts out.

Well, that’s… not what Tine was expecting at all.

He is sure as hell he looks funny right now, mouth agape, eyes wide open in surprise. Pete’s barely restraint laugh says as much.

It takes him some time to go back to his senses, and his first instinct is to deny what Pete said, brush it off. But now is his chance to ask something that’s been plaguing his mind for quite a while, one of the reasons he hasn’t allowed himself to hope.

“Would you… would you be okay with your dad liking me?” Tine asks.

“Of course,” he answers, as if that’s the most stupid question he’s ever heard. He’s heard that tone in Sarawat before. “I want him to be happy. I’m happy if he’s happy. You are nice to him and nice to me, and I like it when the three of us are together”  

Tine feels like crying. He’s sure he’s about to start bawling in any moment now.

Those are the best words someone has ever said to him, he decides. If he were to die right in this moment, he’d die the happiest man alive, and he’s not being dramatic.

But he doesn’t wish to die, not yet, at least, not without seeing where this is headed. Whatever this is and… you know… if it’s headed somewhere. He dares to hope it is.

For the first time in a long time, or in his life, maybe, his heart feels somewhat full.

There’s something else he needs to know, so he just asks right away. “Would it be ok with you then if I… if I liked him back?”

“Really? You like him back?” Tine nods, feeling shy. He never in his life thought he’d be in this position, talking about his feelings with the son of the man he’s in love with. Well, he never imagined himself in love, in the first place. It’s kind of surreal. “That’s amazing!” he exclaims, thrusting both his arms into the air in excitement.

Tine wants to say something else but is interrupted before he can. “What are you two secreting about?” Sarawat asks, entering the kitchen.

“Nothing dad” Pete answers, winking conspiratorially an eye to Tine.

This kid… he reminds him of his mom, always plotting something.

Sarawat walks to Pete, who is still sitting on the counter, and kisses the top of his head good morning.

Then, to Tine’s surprise, the other man kisses his cheek, a loud smooch that resonates throughout the kitchen. He wraps his arms around his middle next, resting his chin on his shoulder. He’s the perfect height to do that. Their bodies fit together perfectly.

Tine feels the heat flooding his cheeks. In any other occasion his first instinct would be to pull away from him because of shyness. He does feel shy now, but he also feels comfortable. This feels right. He’s doesn’t want to pull away anymore, restraining himself and his feelings. So he leans into Sarawat’s hold.

Chapter Text

After the conversation they had the other day Sarawat’s become really generous with his kisses. He kisses Tine on the cheek, on the forehead, when he says hello, when he says goodbye; when he feels like it, basically.

Tine’s not complaining. Not at all. He accepts all shows of affection from the other man, cheeks burning up and heart racing every time. He’s gotten used to feeling that way now, but he still has quite a bit of trouble initiating it on his own or reciprocating.

 He is still unsure, doesn’t know if his feelings are returned. He doesn’t even know if Sarawat knows he likes him. Tine thinks he does, since he’s really obvious… but he can’t know for sure. Talking is so complicated.

Pete informs him on Wednesday afternoon that Sarawat’s birthday is in three days. He still hasn’t forgotten that Tine can bake and promised to teach him (which Tine honestly forgot… he’s the worst), so he asks if him they can make a cake for his dad.

Naturally, Tine says yes. He could never say no to Pete, and he also feels excited to gift him something made with his own hands.

He goes to the supermarket on Thursday after work; it seems like he hasn’t stepped into one in months. He’s really failing at adulthood.

He buys everything he needs to make a small cake and more… just in case. Sarawat isn’t a big fan of sweets, Tine remembers, but Pete said that he does enjoy a good slice of strawberry cake, so that’s what Tine will do.

Tine and Pete agreed that the older would bake the cakes and Pete would come to help decorate de next day, so that same afternoon he bakes enough to make two, a bigger one and a smaller one. He thought it’d be nice if Pete decorated one all by himself.

Ever since he got sick his work schedule has been way less packed, which allows him to actually have a little bit of life outside the hospital. If he had known, he would’ve almost died sooner.

He’s thankful for that, since he’s free this weekend. Sarawat invited him to a little get together he’s going to do for his birthday. He insisted he didn’t want to, but his friends practically forced him to. Tine knows he’s lying just to maintain his tough guy reputation.

He wants to buy him a present, apart from the cake, but he doesn’t know what. It could be anything but… Tine doesn’t want it to be anything. Call him sappy, but Sarawat’s important to him.

Pete asks for permission to go to Tine’s of Friday afternoon to prepare a surprise for his birthday, he explains to his dad. Sarawat agrees and Pete absolutely forbids him the entrance to Tine’s house. He says it with so much vehemence, Sarawat can only comply. They are so cute.

They start working as soon as they put on their aprons. Tine saw a tiny apron with puppies the other day and he had to buy it for Pete. He hopes Sarawat doesn’t find it weird.

Pete fills and decorates his little cake with every single thing he can find. Sprinkles, whipped cream, frosting, chocolate, strawberries, you name it. By the time they are done every single corner of his kitchen is dirty, but it was worth it. He had so much fun today.

They store the cakes on Tine’s fridge and make plans for tomorrow as they try to clean the mess. Tine has to be outside Sarawat’s at 10 a.m. sharp and he must not knock under any circumstances, Pete says. He will be there and open the door for him. He’ll also make sure his dad is still in bed so they can bring the cake upstairs and sing happy birthday to him without him noticing.

That little kid has such a big brain, he’s kind of a legend, Tine thinks. He had everything planned out.

Next day is already here, and Tine has been restless ever since he woke up one hour ago, checking his clock every five seconds and begging for it to move faster.

His impatience makes him be in front of his neighbor’s door five minutes earlier, holding one cake in each hand, candles in place.

Pete opens the door exactly at ten, as he said he would, making a shushing sign at Tine and closing the door as quietly as he can. They stop by the kitchen, tiptoeing their way there, so Tine can light up the candles and then carefully climb up the stairs, each holding one cake.

Sarawat’s door is closed, but Tine can hear the faint noise of the tv. “Daaad, are you awake?” Pete asks.

“Yeah”

Tine feels butterflies on his stomach. This is so stupid, all he has to do is sing his lovely friend a happy birthday, so why is he feeling so nervous?

He tries to take a deep, calming breath, but it doesn’t calm him at all.

Pete slowly opens the door, and the sight that greets Tine makes him even forget the happy birthday song lyrics.

Sarawat is sitting on his bed, no shirt in sight. Tine has never seen him shirtless before and this is not how he expected the first time to be… not that he’s had fantasies about seeing his neighbor half-naked.

But wow… this is even better than the fantasies he’s never had. His arms are… no words. His chest… no words. His abs… no words. Nothing. Nada. Tine’s neurons aren’t making synapsis right now.

But he must get his shit together, since he has a duty to fulfill. He will not fail Pete. He needs to remember the happy birthday song lyrics right now.

The look Sarawat is giving them wakes him up from his thirst-induced daze. He looks quite emotional, his eyes all glassy. He’s blinking rapidly, letting out an incredulous laugh. He wasn’t expecting this kind of surprise, that’s very much clear. It makes Tine feel giddy.

Pete counts to three and starts singing happy birthday. Tine follows his lead, finally remembering the damn words.

Sarawat is just… smiling. He’s so beautiful, Tine feels his chest tighten at the sight. He loves to see him happy.

 “Don’t forget to make a wish, dad” Pete reminds him.

“I don’t think I need anything else” he answers, looking from Tine to Pete, but closes his eyes for a few seconds anyway before blowing out the candles.

Sarawat smiles again, so big and bright his eyes are barely visible. Pete’s also laughing, so loud and cheerful.

Tine, for the first time in his life, feels like nothing is missing.

___________________

He offers to take both cakes downstairs and bring a slice for each one of them. To be honest, he needs a moment alone to put his emotions in check before doing something he might regret later.

The way Sarawat looked at them, the way he looked at him when he said he didn’t need anything else… it’s a lot to process. Tine doesn’t know whether the man likes him for real or if it’s just wishful thinking on his part.

He hears Pete calling for him, so he hurries up. It’s crazy how easy it is for him to navigate this house, almost as if it was his own. He’s spent multiple afternoons cooking dinner with Sarawat here. He knows where everything is. It scares him. What if this is over someday? What if Sarawat doesn’t like him? What if he gets bored of him?  

He shakes his head to get rid of those thoughts. Not the time. It’s easier to wallow in self-pity and insecurity when he’s lying on his bed at 3 a.m. listening to Scape by Scrubb on the verge of an emotional breakdown, not at ten in the morning. His mind needs to learn about timing.

Pete and Sarawat are waiting for him like two eager puppies. Their eyes light up when they see him. Sarawat’s put on a shirt (very sad but Tine’s thankful) and left an empty space next to him on the bed, where Tine sits awkwardly before handing over the plates with cake.

Pete starts eating right away, making an approving noise as soon as he has the first bite, but Sarawat is just looking at him. Tine can’t decipher his expression. He’s so good at that poker face, it’s frustrating.

“What?” Tine asks, frustrated. He doesn’t understand why he is being stared at like that. He doesn’t know why but he’s grumpy.

“This space” he slowly says, patting the empty space on the bed, “I left it for you. So get your ass in here” he looks a little bit exasperated, like Tine is having trouble understanding something.

Before he can even think of saying anything Sarawat is tugging on his arm and Tine unconsciously moves. His body is betraying him.

He ends up with his back against Sarawat’s pillows, their arms completely pressed together, plate of cake on his lap. He doesn’t know why they are so close, there’s plenty of space, but it’s not like he’s against it…

“Dad you said a bad word” Pete says, mouth full of cake. Some whipped cream adorns his nose. He’s probably going to be in a sugar rush the whole morning.

“Yes. I’m sorry. Don’t say it please and don’t speak when you eat”

Pete nods at his dad’s words and instructs them both to start eating or he’ll eat their parts, he says. Tine does and honestly… the cake is really good. There’s no point in being humble when you are literally better than that cake boss dude.

Sarawat also dives in, making approving noises and throwing a thumbs up in Tine’s direction. It’s nice that he liked it, Tine would have cried if he didn’t.

A few moments later Tine feel Sarawat’s eyes on him. He’s like burning holes on his face. Tine looks back, and the other men reaches to his face, swiping his thumb over the commissure of Tine’s lips. He must have had some cream.

Tine can’t look away, even though he knows what’s going to happen next. Sarawat brings his finger to his mouth, and licks it clean, winking at Tine when he’s done and going back to eating as if nothing had happened.

Tine tries to forget what just happened. He doesn’t need that mental image this early. Or ever, really. God, this is so damn cliché. It’s like everything happened in slow motion. He could see Sarawat’s tongue darting out and… brain stop.

 Tine goes back to eating, as that’s the safest thing he can do right now. When they are all finished, Pete asks to speak, like if he were at school, raising his hand. The two men in the room turn to look at him, waiting to hear what he has to say.

“First, happy birthday dad. I love you and you are the best” he says, throwing himself into Sarawat’s arms and hugging him.

“Thank you, I love you too” the other man answers, ruffling his son’s hair when they separate.

“Second, I want to thank Tine for making the cakes, they were delicious, and my dad liked them a lot, right dad?”

Sarawat looks at Tine from underneath his eyelashes, resting his chin on his palm. “Yes, he’s the best”

“He is” Pete states like it’s a universal truth. “I like him a lot dad, don’t you like him too?” Pete asks with intent.

Tine is a little bit scared of where this is going, knowing that Pete knows his most kept secret and also knowing that this kid is kind of a mastermind.

Sarawat wasn’t expecting that to come out of his son’s mouth, if he’s reading his expression correctly, but he quickly recovers, flashing a smile to his kid but not meeting Tine’s eyes, and says, “Yes, I like him a lot”

Tine blinks. “Uh?”

Is he…? What does he mean? Does he like him as a friend? As a person? As a man? As a potential love interest? What is Tine supposed to say now? So many questions… no answers.

“Okay” Pete says, jumping off the bed. “I’m leaving now” the door closing as he leaves with a loud thud.

The atmosphere is kind of… heavy. Neither of them talks, both looking straight ahead. They don’t even move. It’s like time has stopped. Are they breathing? Tine doesn’t know, but he doesn’t feel air coming into his lungs. The only sound is coming from the tv.

Tine feels restless, something simmering inside him. He’s about to snap, he’s about to say something he doesn’t know if he should say, but Sarawat beats him to it.

“I have something to say as well” he takes a deep breath and locks his eyes with Tine. “There’s nothing better than spending your birthday with your favorite people”

Tine doesn’t know what to say, again. It’s so ridiculous, this situation. An adult knows like what, thirty thousand words, and he can’t think of one? Just one? All those years in med school must have fried his brain.

“Am I… your favorite?” Tine asks lamely.

Why is it that whenever he is near Sarawat he goes back to being a shy stuttering teen? Well, it’s not like he’s ever stopped being one… but it’s worse.

He nods. “If we talk about humans then you come after Pete” he lies his head on Tines lap, spreading his body on the rest of the bed. “If we talk about adults, then you come in first” he says with a small smile.

It infuriates Tine, how he can say such things with so much calmness, while Tine’s heart is beating like crazy and he feels like he’s about to vomit from all of the butterflies in his stomach. He wishes he could be like that as well. If he could then he would have told Sarawat his feeling ages ago.

Sarawat takes Tine’s hands and places them on his head. “Now rub my scalp, would you? It’s my birthday” he says with puppy eyes and a pout. This is where Pete must’ve learnt that infallible trick.

___________________

Tine spends the rest of the day with them. They eat lunch together and Tine helps Sarawat adorning the house a little bit. Some balloons here and there and that’s it. Very minimalistic.

He offered to prepare some food, but Sarawat said his friends would bring everything. He leaves a few hours before the party so he can finish making Sarawat’s present and then take a shower. He bought a bunch of guitar picks at the music store the other day and plans to make him a bracelet with it. Tine thought it’d be cute, he hopes Sarawat shares the same opinion.

He knocks on his neighbor’s door around seven. There are so many cars parked outside Sarawat’s house, he never thought there’d be so many people invited.

He shifts from leg to leg, restless energy coursing through his body. He’s nervous, since he’s going to meet Sarawat’s closest people. He doesn’t want to leave a bad impression on them… Maybe he dressed up too much? Should he go back and change his clothes? It’s too late now, as the door is being opened.

God, Sarawat looks beautiful. He is wearing a black button up with some jeans, his hair styled to the side. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really, he’s just effortlessly handsome.

“You look really nice” the other man says as a greeting.

“Yes, you do” Tine realizes a second too late what he said. Sarawat already has a smug smile plastered on. He wants to kiss it away. Wait… what? “I mean, you too” he corrects, blushing. This is not a good start. He needs to get his shit together. “Here” Tine says, passing him the present.

Sarawat admires the small box. “You didn’t have to buy me anything, nuisance”

Tine has come to grow fond of the nickname. “I wanted to, asshole”

 Sarawat looks at him, the streetlamps making his eyes shine impossibly bright. “You are my present” he says, his expression incredibly serious.

Tine’s about to die… right here. Sarawat’s must be making fun of him. He thinks the other man is about to burst out laughing in any second, but he doesn’t. He’s not joking.

What does he mean by that? Well, whatever he means, Tine feels like Sarawat is also a gift sent from who knows what deity to make his life better.

Before he can answer, though, someone stands next to Sarawat, interrupting them. Tine hadn’t realized they were still at the house’s entrance, so caught up in the moment, but that’s not what surprises him the most. He’s used to spacing out when he’s around Sarawat. What surprises him the most is the face that’s in front of him. That’s a face he has seen before, too many times to count.

“Man?” Tine asks, surprised.

This is the last person he expected to see here. Sarawat had talked about a friend of his called Man before, but Tine never thought it was this Man.

The other man doesn’t realize at first who is standing in front of him, but at the utter of his name he actually looks at Tine’s figure. The way his expression changes is almost comical.

“Tine?” something clicks then, and his eyes grow even bigger. “Wait… this is the cute neighbor you’ve been talking about nonstop?” he narrows his eyes at Sarawat, pointing an accusatory finger at Tine.

Sarawat decides to ignore him, asking instead, “You guys know each other?”

“He’s my brother’s boyfriend” Tine explains.

Sarawat looks even more surprised now. “You are Type’s brother?” Tine nods.

What the hell… first Pear and now Man… and he knows his brother as well? The memory of his mom labelling their meeting as destiny comes to his mind then, making him flush.

They were much closer than it seemed. Would they have met again if Sarawat hadn’t moved next door? They would have, probably. But… would their relationship be the same as it is now, whatever it is that it is now? Tine doesn’t know.

He’s so immersed in his thoughts he doesn’t register Man’s open arms, waiting to hug him. “It’s good to see you man, it’s been too long” he says as he squeezes Tine.

It really has. Tine hasn’t seen his brother since before he moved to his current house, like four months ago maybe? They speak very often, but they haven’t seen each other in so long. Tine is going to invite them over along with his mom one of these days.

 “It’s good to see you too”

There aren’t that many people inside, as Tine initially thought. Pear and Earn are here, which is nice. Sarawat introduces him to his brother, Phukong, who is around Tine’s age and his boyfriend, whom Tine doesn’t remember his name. He also meets Boss, who’s Sarawat’s other best friend.

And Pete, obviously. It’s not bedtime yet, and he’s not going to miss the party for anything in the world. As soon as he sees Tine, he runs to greet him, giving him a big hug. Tine has to pick him up for a little while, since Pete doesn’t want to let go of him.

The atmosphere is nice, there’s not a single occasion where Tine feels uncomfortable, as he usually would around people he doesn’t know. He doesn’t feel left out either, since he’s the only one who’s never shared with the whole group before.

When they sing happy birthday to Sarawat they put Tine in charge of holding the cake with the help of Pete. He doesn’t know why, since he’s the one who has known Sarawat for the least amount of time, but he’s not going to say no. Sarawat’s friends insist very vehemently as well.

When it’s time to make a wish, Sarawat locks his eyes with Tine’s for a few seconds, just like he did in the morning. Tine ignores the whistling and cooing sounds made by Sarawat’s friends. The strong blush on his cheeks is embarrassing enough.

He’s going to move to the side so Pear can take pictures of Sarawat and Pete with the cake, but Sarawat doesn’t let him. He just secures his arm around Tine’s waist and smiles, Pete perched on his hip.

When Pear shows him the pictures later Tine’s heart makes a backflip. A cartwheel. A somersault. His heart is Simone Biles. He doesn’t want to say what they look like… If he doesn’t say it then it’s not real. And if it’s not real it can’t hurt him. That’s right.

Pete hasn’t left his side the whole time, but it doesn’t bother Tine. He likes looking after him. Tine’s on the couch talking to Pear and Earn with the little boy on his arms when he starts dozing off. He lasted a lot, considering he usually goes to sleep at nine.

“Tine I’m sleepy” he says, rubbing his eyes.

Tine stands up with Pete on his arms. He goes to Sarawat who’s playing a card game with his brother and Man.

“Pete wants to go to bed” Tine informs him. Sarawat’s about to get up but Tine stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “I got it, don’t worry” he says with a smile.

He was going to do it, anyway, regardless if Sarawat was busy or not. The other man looks at him with a soft smile and mutters a thanks.

Pete changes into his pajamas with his eyes almost closed. Tine helps him brush his teeth, wash his face and his hands and tucks him into bed.

He sits up against the headboard on the empty space left by Pete, since the little boy said he doesn’t like to fall asleep alone, caressing his head until his breathing evens out.

Tine ends up falling asleep as well. That’s where Sarawat finds him, fifteen minutes later. He is woken up by a calloused hand stroking his cheek.

“I’m the sleeping beauty” Tine murmurs, still half asleep.

“Do you need a kiss to wake up as well?” Sarawat asks.

That wakes him up right away. “Uh?”

Sarawat’s close, way too close, their noses a few centimeters apart, breathing the same air. Their lips are close as well, all Tine has to do is move a little and he’ll be able to feel them against his. He licks his lips, as they feel so dry; the motion followed by the other man’s attentive eyes.

Tine wants it, God knows he wants it, and he thinks Sarawat is going to do it, but it doesn’t feel right, though, not now, not here, with Pete sleeping by their side.

Sarawat reaches the same conclusion, it seems, as he moves back a little and kisses Tine’s cheek instead.

“There you go” he says, tone dark and heavy.

His pupils are dilated, and he’s as short of breath as Tine is. It’s nice to see that he has some sort of effect on the other man, and that he probably wants to kiss him just as much as Tine does.

He hopes he can get it someday and it’s not just his heart deceiving him.

___________________

Everyone leaves quite early. Is this like when you are old? Tine doesn’t know, since he doesn’t go out that much.

When he was younger, though, on the few occasions he did go out, him and his friends would be at it all night. Well, mostly his friends, since Tine always passed out after two drinks. He can’t hold his liquor to this day, which is why he prefers not to drink.

He stayed to help Sarawat clean, which they did very fast, and now they are sitting on the porch. Sarawat’s softly playing the guitar, humming to some song Tine doesn’t know. He looks unreal, crossed legs, guitar in hand.

This is how Tine imagines a night with your summer love looks like. It doesn’t help that’s actually summer and well… Sarawat is his love.

The night is perfect as well, neither warm not chilly. The sky is clear, big stars illuminating Sarawat’s figure.

Tine remembers a few weeks ago a night like this, when he gave Sarawat his house’s spare keys. That should’ve been the first sign for him, but he didn’t have a clue back then of how he would come to feel. Now there’s no turning back.

Somehow that doesn’t trouble him. Even if it’s one sided, his love for Sarawat’s not a burden and it will never be one, on the contrary, it has brought him happiness he hasn’t felt in so long.

Is this really fate? Tine wonders. Were they meant to be? But if they were… it doesn’t really matter. Is not fate what makes them get along so well, it’s not fate what made Tine fall in love.

“You okay?” Sarawat asks, after a few minutes of silence. “You are quiet”

Tine sighs. There’s a lot on his mind. “I’m just thinking… it’s crazy how we didn’t meet each other sooner” Sarawat looks at him, his attention undivided. “I mean… your best friend is my brother’s boyfriend and my best friend is also your friend… it’s not like they are just acquaintances to us, those people are part of our lives, but we didn’t meet through them”

Sarawat nods, processing. “I think we met at the right time” he says, reaching out to caress Tine’s hair.

Tine smiles at him and leans into his touch. Sometimes he says the sweetest things. “I… I think so too” Tine looks up at the sky, just to have something else to focus on instead of Sarawat’s piercing eyes. “The view is so beautiful”

“It is” Sarawat says, but Tine can feel still his eyes on him.

“But you are looking at me” he notes.

“Exactly”

Tine can only smile at his words, his chest constricting, the butterflies on his stomach going crazy. But he can agree with him. Looking at Sarawat, he’s prettier than all things in the world, the warm chocolate of his eyes shining brighter than the stars. Tine will never get tired of looking at him.

Sarawat takes a deep, shaky breath, like he’s gathering courage to do something. “There’s something I want to tell you, Tine” he says. “Please listen”

He puts the hand that was on Tine’s head back on the guitar and positions himself to start playing. The song is slow, but it’s still somewhat familiar.

When Sarawat starts singing, though, it clicks. It’s probably his favorite songs from Scrubb. Every time he listens to it Sarawat comes to his mind, the words so fitting as to how he feels about him.

Sarawat’s voice is so beautiful, Tine’s been longing to hear it ever since that day he sang him to sleep.

I never thought I would have such a great day with you by my side like this

I instantly felt it the second we first met

It's like there was something

I've never met anyone, not too left, not too right, not too perfect

You are not pessimistic or demanding,

but something about you is so special

I've never met anyone who is not too fast, not too slow, not too little

We just click,

you are enough for my heart

Sarawat is enough for him, more than enough, Tine thinks as the man finishes singing.

Both of them need a few seconds to gather their emotions. Tine hands are shaking at the implications of this. Are his feelings not one sided? His heart races at the thought. That’d be… really nice, he thinks, smiling to himself.

Sarawat is the first to break the silence. “Ever since we met my life has been…” he says, a little dubitative. He doesn’t look at Tine, his eyes trained on his hands. He takes a deep, stabilizing breath, and talks more confidently, “better. Brighter. You make my days easier. If I have a bad day just seeing you… makes it better”

Tine feels the same way, and he wants to say it. Sarawat deserves to know the way he feels, but before he can say find the right words to do so the other man blurts out, “I like you” Sarawat looks at him now. Tine feels the urge to lower his gaze, but he doesn’t, he wants to see what the other man’s eyes have to tell. “I think I’m in love with you” he says, more firmly. He shakes his head then, like he’s frustrated he can’t find the right words. “I’m definitely in love with you” he says with finality.

It’s weird, the way Tine feels right now. He never dared to imagine this moment for more than a few seconds before, but he always thought it would be like in those cheesy books he sometimes reads, where the protagonist feels like the world stops spinning for a moment and only the two of them exist.

But he doesn’t feel like that right now. The world doesn’t stop, he doesn’t feel like he’s going to die, his heart doesn’t stop, on the contrary, it’s beating so fast it might as well come out of his body.

He feels… it’s hard to describe it, but it’s like his heart finally feels at peace, like things are now the way they were always supposed to be. It might sound cheesy, bit it feels like Sarawat is his other half.

He also feels a little dumb, for not telling him sooner about his feelings, but at the same time this feels right, the way everything happened between them, the time they took, it was neither too fast nor too slow, not too perfect. It was right. They are right for each other.

Tine takes Sarawat’s guitar from his hold, and gently lies it on the floor. He hugs him next, hiding his face in the crook of his neck, nestling into his warmth. “I’m in love with you too” he says, mouthing against his skin. He pulls back then, holding Sarawat’s face in his hands, connecting their eyes. The other man looks stunned at his words. “I have been for a long time”

“You are?” Sarawat asks. Did he really not see it? “I mean... I thought you were” he explains himself, “but I wasn’t sure... thought it was my imagination” 

“I thought it was my imagination as well” Tine adds with a shy chuckle.

“I guess we’re not good at communicating, are we?”

“We’re not” Tine says, caressing the high of Sarawat’s cheeks with his thumbs. The pink dusted in there is faint, but still visible under the night light.

Sarawat smiles, closing his eyes briefly. “We’ll work on it” he twists his face, kissing Tine’s palm. The tender gesture melts his heart.

He’ll never wash that hand, for real. Fuck hygiene procedures.

“Are you already planning your future with me?” Tine teases, with a cheeky smile, wiggling his eyebrows up and down.

What he doesn’t expect is Sarawat answering in a serious manner “Yeah” he says, “I’ll kiss you, then I’ll ask you to be my boyfriend, then we’ll go on dates, then we’ll move in together and we’ll be happy forever” 

Is he for real or is he just joking? Tine hopes he’s not joking, he’d love to do all of that with him. Also… shouldn’t dates go first?

“Stop playing” Tine says, trying to laugh it off, but the blush on his cheeks and his heavy breathing are giving him away.

“I’m serious, nuisance” he takes Tine’s hands in his and puts one of them on his chest, over his heart. It’s beating really fast. The doctor in Tine wonders if he should check his blood pressure; the silly man in love is doing backflips at causing this reaction in him. “I’ve never felt like this before. No one has made my heart like this. I want you to be my nuisance forever”

Tine wants to tell him he feels the same, but he’s not good at talking, never has been. His emotions show freely on his face, but it’s hard for him to find the right words that could translate his heart. There’s one thing he can do, though.

He places his arms around Sarawat’s neck, slowly leaning closer, until the tip of their noses is pressing together. Sarawat hasn’t closed his eyes and neither has Tine, just admiring each other from up close. He could count the other man’s lashes if he wanted. His hands are shaking as he asks, “Can I kiss you, Sarawat?”

Sarawat presses a soft hand on Tine’s waist and nods, giving him enough confidence to do it. He wants this just as much as Tine does, he can see it in his eyes, in his dilated pupils, in the way his tongue darts out to wet his dry lips.

This feels like a dream. Tine thought for the longest time that he was being delusional, thinking that Sarawat could like him back.

Tine closes his eyes and presses their lips together, lingering for a few seconds. It’s chaste but confident, and if he didn’t feel like he was going to die before he definitely does now. He’s been waiting to feel Sarawat’s lips against his for the longest time, so it feels kind of surreal.

Before Tine can say anything or even process what he just did, Sarawat speaks. “You don’t need to say anything you are not ready to, Tine”

He’s so understanding, sometimes too much. He opened up his heart to Tine, and he’s going to do the same thing in return. Doing so is not going to kill him. The only thing he wants to die from is Sarawat’s lips. He’s had one taste, but he’s eager for more.

Tine takes a deep breath, “I want to be with you for as long as you’ll have me” he says, whispering against the other man’s lips.

Sarawat cups his cheeks, brushing his thumb over Tine’s lips. “What if I’ll have you forever?”

Where does he gets all those lines from? He’s unbelievable. It’s like he knows how to break him.

“Okay” Tine can only say.

That’s literally the most stupid thing he’s ever said in his life, but can you blame him? His brain is not really working in full capacity. Not like humans’ brains work in full capacity but his is working in even less capacity. You get the idea. 

He’s about to hide his face on Sarawat’s neck from embarrassment, but the other man says, “you are so cute” and connects their lips again. This time is not just a chaste peck, not at all. Sarawat’s lips move hungrily against his.

Sarawat grabs him by the waist, practically lifting Tine to make him sit on his lap. Not that Tine is complaining.

Does Sarawat go to the gym or does he get that big amount of force and muscles from carrying a kid around? Whatever it is he’s enjoying the feel of Sarawat’s strong biceps against his palms very much. 

He should care that they are outside, on Sarawat’s front yard, where anyone can see them. But he doesn’t. He’s just focused on one thing now. Can you blame him for not being a multitasker? 

They kiss and kiss until Tine can’t breathe anymore. There’s literally no air on his lungs. He sees bright spots behind his closed lids. He breathes in, hard, and rests his forehead against Sarawat’s, who’s also having some difficulty.

Something else hard is pressing against his thigh… oh my god, he hadn’t noticed. Should he do something about it? Wait… no. Is it too early? Should he offer? Tine’s pants are getting tight as well…

“Stop thinking” Sarawat says. “I can hear your brain”

“I was thinking if I should help you with that” Tine retorts, pointing to Sarawat’s very happy friend down there.

To make his point even more clear he presses down, letting out a hiss at the feel of Sarawat’s very prominent bulge.

It takes the other man some seconds to process what he is offering. Tine feels the pleasure of victory coursing through his body. Finally, he’s not the one caught off guard.

The victory is short lived, though, because once Sarawat snaps out of it he puts his arms behind Tine’s thighs and stands up with him on his lap. Tine squeaks, squeezing his legs as much as he can, afraid to fall, but Sarawat carries him as if he were made of feathers. Tine is not a small man… why is it so sexy that he’s so strong?

Sarawat practically kicks the front door open, running up the stairs. Tine has his head hidden on the other man’s neck, kissing and licking the sensitive skin there, enjoying how Sarawat has to stop every now and then just to let out a small moan, his hand’s squeezing Tine’s thighs from time to time.

How did they get so horny so fast? Just minutes ago they were swearing eternal love at each other…

When they are outside Sarawat’s bedroom door it hits him, it really hits him. Is he going to get some? Oh my god… it’s just been his hand and himself or the longest time and he’s never done anything with a man before. An exited thrill courses though his body.

Any other time his insecurity would overwhelm him. Right now, he feels insecure, yes, at his inexperience and at being seen naked, but the fact that he’s going to do this with Sarawat calms him down, gives him a sort of confidence he’s never felt before.

Sarawat throws him on the bed and climbs on top of him. He rests on his forearms on the bed, supporting most of his weight so he doesn’t crush Tine, but their bodies are still pressed almost everywhere.

Sarawat is about to kiss him again but stops himself, an unreadable frown on his face. “Is it not… to soon?” he asks.

“Is it too soon for you?” Tine asks back.

If it was it’d be okay. He doesn’t want to pressure him into doing anything he’s not comfortable with. But he’d need a long cold shower, and he can’t stand cold water, so he’d suffer a little bit. He’d endure it for Sarawat, though. He’d take one hundred thousand cold showers for him.

“No” he answers.  

“Neither for me” Tine says.

Okay… maybe this communicating thing started the right way, Tine thinks.

Sarawat studies his face for a few seconds, searching something in Tine’s eyes. He’s probable checking if Tine is being sincere or not. He’s so sweet, always making sure Tine is comfortable. His heart swells with affection, he’s so good to him.

He seems to find what he is looking for, it seems, as he gives Tine a devilish smirk. Tine’s entranced for a moment. Sarawat’s looks so beautiful like this, on top of him, his lips rosy and plump from their kissing, his hair a mess from the way Tine buried his hands in it.

Sarawat kisses him again, much slower this time, their tongues tangling in a languid manner. The way Sarawat drags his teeth on Tine’s lower lips draws out a low deep moan from his throat. Sarawat seems to like that sound, as he moans back.

“Do that again” he commands, low and husky.

That tone goes straight to Tine’s crotch. His friend down there would like to heart it again. “Make me” Tine says.

He’s surprised, as he’s never been this daring before. It’s the company, he guesses.

His words have the desired effect, though, as Sarawat straddles him, their hard cocks aligning and pressing together for the first time.

The sound that comes out of Tine’s mouth is embarrassingly loud, feeling overwhelmed with pleasure. This sight is even better than before. They are barely touching, fully clothed, but it’s somehow insanely erotic.

Sarawat reaches over and slides his hands up and down Tine’s chest, stopping at his pecs. He caresses Tine’s nipples over his shirt nect. The touch of his fingers is barely there, the friction not enough. He feels himself getting even harder, craving for more.

Tine takes off his shirt then, and the look that Sarawat gives him makes him feel shy. There’s pure awe and adoration on his face, like he can’t believe his eyes, but he also looks extremely hungry, like he wants to eat all of him in one go.

Tine wants to cross his arms over his chest to cover some of his exposed skin, but he resists the urge. He doesn’t have to hide himself from Sarawat.  

“You like what you see?” Tine teases, in hopes of relieving some of the timidness he feels.

“Yes” Sarawat says. “You are beautiful, Tine” Tine can feel himself going red everywhere. Now that he’s shirtless, Sarawat’s able to appreciate that not only his cheeks get red, but his neck and chest do as well. “Insanely beautiful.”

The way he says it steals Tine’s breath away, as if he had any to spare in the first place. He doesn’t know how to reply with words, so he takes Sarawat’s hand and presses it back on his chest, urging him to continue.

He does, rubbing his thumb over Tine’s nipples, drawing a high-pitched whimper out of him. He had no idea he was that sensitive in that area.

When Sarawat does it again a little more firmly this time, Tine arches his back in pleasure, their cocks brushing again as Tine jerks his hips up.

Tine can’t take the teasing anymore and it seems that Sarawat shares the same feeling, as he bends down and replaces his finger with his hot, wet mouth. He sucks and scrapes his teeth over one of the sensitive buds, Tine’s hands curling on Sarawat’s hair, and then changes to the other. He’s generous like that, making sure both get the same attention. Such a big heart.

Tine pulls him up by his hair, connecting their mouths in a desperate, wet kiss. Their tongues are everywhere, their teeth colliding. Tine moans as Sarawat’s hips jerk up. He needs to get rid of his pants right now or he’ll die.

He flips them over, taking Sarawat’s shirt off. He can be generous as well. One of his fingers trails down the other man’s chest, a feather like touch stopping at the waistband of his boxers, leaving goosebumps on its wake. He takes one of Sarawat’s nipples between his thumb and index finger, rubbing the pink bud.

He places his mouth there next, just as Sarawat did before. The other man seems to like what Tine is doing, the low moans he lets out from time to time being an indicator.

After Tine’s done, he attacks his neck, leaving wet kisses all over the skin on his way up. He finds a particularly sensitive spot behind Sarawat’s ear, to which he gives special attention.

Sarawat flips them over again, done with the foreplay it seems, as his hand go straight to the button of Tine’s pants.

 He gives Tine a look, asking for permission, which he obviously concedes. He’s been waiting for this moment ever since Sarawat dumped him on the bed.

Sarawat helps him discard his pants, and then Tine’s just on his boxers, wet spot staining the front, giving his arousal away.

“Take yours off too” Tine instructs.

Sarawat doesn’t need to be told twice, hurriedly taking the piece of clothing off. He straddles him again, and the press of their erections is even more pleasurable with less clothes. But it’s not enough, not yet. Tine’s not going to be satisfied until they are flesh against flesh.

Sarawat kisses him again, but this time is sweet and gentle, a contrast as to how his hips move up from time to time so their cocks brush.

He takes his time exploring Tine’s mouth with his tongue, dropping tiny kisses on Tine’s forehead, his eyes, his cheeks and the tip of his nose afterwards. The other man buries his face in Tine’s neck next, sucking hard. He’ll leave marks, but Tine doesn’t care.

His palm trails down Tine’s torso, stopping at the waistband of his boxers. It’s so infuriatingly slow. Tine doesn’t really have patience to handle this, but he can’t really talk right now, since his brain is not working.

Sarawat seems to feel Tine’s impatience, though, as he drives his hand lower, palming him thought his boxers. Tine’s cock twitches with want, he’s so hard it almost hurts.

He’s about to beg Sarawat to properly touch him, to take off his clothes already and do something or he’ll go nuts. But before he can say anything, Sarawat is opening his mouth to speak. Tine knows what he’s going to ask, so he interrupts him before he can even get a single word out. And that’s on saving time.

“Yes, please hurry up” Tine says, nodding his head eagerly.

The other man chuckles at Tine’s antics. He kneels on the bed and takes off Tine’s last piece of clothing, drinking in the sight of his bare body for a few minutes.

Tine feels a little shy, lying naked on Sarawat’s bed, under the scrutiny of his stare, but he also feels loved, as the man in front of him is looking at him with something akin to amazement.

“You are so beautiful. I’ll never stop reminding you” Sarawat says, discarding his own underwear as soon as he snaps out of his trance.

And wow, what a moment. A moment Tine will never forget. His cock twitches at the sight of Sarawat naked, at the sight of his pretty rosy dick.

Tine wants to bend him over and fuck him until neither of them can take it anymore. But that’s for another day (again, when did he get so horny??)

Sarawat returns to his previous position, gently separating Tine’s legs so he’s comfortably placed between them. He bends down to kiss Tine, both moaning onto each other’s mouth when the side of their dicks press.

For a few minutes they just slowly rub against each other, Tine placing his hands on Sarawat’s ass to keep him going. When Tine squeezes, Sarawat lets out a guttural grunt and Tine’s sure he’s about to come just from that sound alone.  

Sarawat reaches down, wrapping one hand around Tine’s hard, leaking cock and he lets out a strangled noise at the sensation. Sarawat’s hand is so rough and calloused from years of playing instruments, so different from what Tine’s used to.

He slowly strokes Tine’s cock from base to tip, once, twice, and then he thumbs the slit, smearing the precum gathered there around.

Every time Tine moans, Sarawat jerks his hips up, unconsciously seeking friction.

Tine’s a nice person, so naturally he wants to help his friend- or whatever they are now- with his big hard problem. He loosely wraps his fingers around Sarawat’s dick as well, giving it some experimental tugs.

He’s never done this before, just to himself. He’s a bit unsure, but he knows the mechanics. Going by the way Sarawat is moaning and jerking up his hips into Tine’s hand, he’s doing good.

His mouth waters at the feel of Sarawat’s warm cock pressed on his hand, at the thought of having its weight on his mouth. That’s for another day, though. Today is jerk off session.

From the position they are in Tine is having some difficulties doing his job properly. He tells as much to Sarawat with a frustrated huff. The other man tells him not to worry, that he has enough space for both. Tine doesn’t know what he’s referring to, until Sarawat wraps his big hand on both their cocks.

Tine looks down and moans at the sight of their cockheads smushed against each other. The other man strokes their dicks a few times, almost driving Tine crazy from the pressure of his hand and the way their dicks brush. It’s so much better than doing it on his own.

Both their cocks are leaking, dribbling down and making the glide of Sarawat’s hand much smoother. He pumps them slowly at first, teasing, from base to tip, pressing down with his thumb on Tine’s side vein. Tine pulls him down for a messy kiss, sucking and biting onto his lower lip.

Sarawat picks up his pace then, gripping more tightly, making both groan into each other’s mouths. Tine feels close, has been on edge ever since he felt Sarawat’s clothed erection pressed against his thigh, if he’s being honest.

He loses it when Sarawat bends down to suck onto his nipple. A few more pumps and the added flick of Sarawat’s wrist make him explode, shooting cum all over his chest and stomach. A loud moan escapes his lips and Sarawat kisses the next one away.

He comes a few stokes later, adding to the mess on Tine’s skin. The noises that leave his mouth are much more subdued, but the expression on his face as he orgasms deserves to be on a museum. The museum is Tine’s memory, where he stores this moment forever.

Sarawat slumps down, not caring about getting dirty, and hides his face on Tine’s neck, trying to catch his breath. Tine scratches his scalp in return, as he knows Sarawat likes it.

A few minutes later Sarawat looks at him with a dopey smile, making Tine’s heart flutter, and bends down to find his mouth. They kiss slowly, affectionately, enjoying the way their lips move against each other. Tine feels happy right now. He wants to be like this forever. Is it too soon to be thinking like that?

He doesn’t want to let go of Sarawat, keeping him trapped with his arms around his waist, but he needs to clean himself up. He says as much to Sarawat, who kisses him on the forehead and tells him not to move. He goes to the bathroom and comes back clean, carrying a wet towel.

The towel is warm against his and Tine’s thankful at the other man for remembering his distaste for cold water. Sarawat cleans him almost reverently, not missing a single spot. When he’s done, he throws the towel to the trashcan and places a quick kiss on Tine’s pec. He seems to really like them.

“Let’s get into bed” he says, climbing up.

“Give me my boxers first” Tine says, extending his hand.

“Why?”

“What if Pete comes in? dummy” at his words Sarawat grabs his face in his hands, smushing his cheeks until he has duck lips and then he kisses him, a chaste but strong smooch. “What was that for?” Tine asks.

“You always worry about Pete. I love that” Sarawat says, kissing his forehead tenderly. Then he lets go of Tine’s face and scratches the back of his head. “I’ve never had someone over so… I didn’t think about that”

Oh. So, he’s never been with anyone since his divorce?

“I’ve never been with anyone since I got divorced” he says while putting his underwear on.

Wait… did Tine say that out loud? He’s sure he didn’t… Can Sarawat read his mind?

“How did you know I was thinking that?”

He helps Tine with his underwear, softly patting his thigh when it’s on. He lies on the empty side of the bed, turning onto his side. Tine does the same, so they are facing each other, and Sarawat covers them with the comforter.  

“I can read your eyes. And before… it never felt right to be with someone… I never really liked someone either. But with you it’s… different” Tine’s hand is resting in between them and Sarawat interlaces their fingers together. “And Pete… he loves you”

Speaking of Pete… will he be okay with whatever they are now? Tine thinks he will, since he basically was playing matchmaker a few days ago. But you can never be too sure, and what he has to say means a lot to Tine

“What… what will we tell him?” Tine asks.

“The truth, if that’s okay with you”

“What’s the truth?” he’s sincerely curious, since they haven’t discussed anything.

“That you are my boyfriend” Sarawat answers.

Are they… boyfriends? Oh my god. Just thinking about that word, it makes Tine’s heart go crazy. He’s so excited about the present and the future.

“Am I? When did we discuss that?” Tine says, frowning exaggeratedly in fake confusion.

Sarawat mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “you are so annoying, nuisance”.

Tine’s about to feign offence, but before he can, the other man let’s go of his hand in favor of grabbing the side of his neck. “We are doing it now” he says, moving a little and drawing their faces impossibly closer. They are basically breathing the same air. “Will you be my boyfriend, nuisance?”

If Tine were alone, he would hide his face in a pillow and let out the most high-pitched squeal of his life. Like a dolphin. And he would also kick his feet on the bed. He’s going to do it as soon as he gets home.

What he does, instead of screaming into Sarawat’s face, is give him a small kiss on the tip of his nose nose. “Yes” Tine answers, pushing Sarawat so he lies on his back and they can cuddle. Tine will be the little spoon. He wants to be held by his boyfriend. Boyfriend… The urge to squeal comes back. “Let’s sleep now” his heart needs a rest.

“This is the bestest birthday of my life” Sarawat murmurs, hugging Tine closer to his chest.

Tine feels like he got the biggest present, though.

___________________

He wakes up the next morning to an empty bed. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for him, so he doesn’t really question it at first, but then he remembers where he is and the events of last night.

They… did that. Oh my god. And he also has a boyfriend.

Tine would scream in the nearest pillow just as he wanted to do yesterday if Sarawat wasn’t coming out of the bathroom, freshly showered. He’s not going to embarrass himself in front of his boyfriend.

“Good morning nuisance” his boyfriend says, plopping on the empty side of the bed.

Did he mention that this man is his boyfriend? Well, his boyfriend is wearing a t-shirt now, much to Tine’s dismay. But he still remembers vividly the sight of his naked arms… crazy stuff, really crazy.

“Morning” Tine answers, pucking his lips to get a morning kiss… from his boyfriend. Ahhhhhh.

Sarawat’s about to kiss him, but the door is yanked open strongly by Pete. The kid doesn’t look fazed by the sight of them almost kissing, whereas both Tine and Sarawat are frozen on the spot, eyes big as saucers.

“Dad, Tine, are you boyfriends now?” the little boy asks instead of a greeting. Sarawat slowly nods. “Finally, you guys were boring me” he says with a blank face. “But I’m very happy about it” he says with a smile. Tine worried for nothing… this kid surprises him every day. “I’m hungry. I’ll be waiting downstairs” and with that he leaves.

Both men are silent for a while, unmoving. His boyfriend (hehe) is the first one to snap out of it, moving to stand up from the bed. “I- I’ll go make breakfast” he seems just as shocked as Tine feels.

“Uhhh” is all that comes out from his mouth.

Once he’s alone, he allows himself to scream into a pillow. It’s not as loud as it would if he were alone, but it helps relieve some of the mixed emotions he’s feeling.

Everything has happened so fast it’s a little difficult to process. But honestly… has it really been that fast? Tine feels like this thing he has with Sarawat has been heating up in low heat for a long time, finally coming to a simmer.

Still, Pete’s reaction was kind of… anticlimactic. He expected something stronger from the kid, whether it be positive or negative, but it seems he was just bored with their antics. That draws a smile out of Tine’s lips. He’s very unpredictable just like his dad.

After a quick shower he goes downstairs to help with breakfast, but Sarawat’s already finished. It smells so good, his stomach growls.

He borrowed one of Sarawat’s clean t-shirts and sweatpants. He’s his boyfriend now and it’s his duty to lend him some clothes. It feels so nice, to be surrounded by the smell that’s so characteristically Sarawat’s. It might be just laundry detergent, but it’s Sarawat’s laundry detergent, not just any.

“Nice clothes” his boyfriend remarks when his eyes land on Tine’s figure. The look he gives him, hungry and sultry, makes Tine’s toes curl and a blush spread on his cheeks. It reminds him of last night but seeing it in broad daylight just hits different.

The boys are sitting on the floor, food scattered over the coffee table. They really love not using their furniture. He sits next to Sarawat, who kisses his cheek as greeting and hands him a plate full of pancakes. “Eat” he simply says.

As always, it’s delicious. Tine thinks Sarawat tried to trick him at first, when he told him he couldn’t cook so Tine would do it. He says as much to his boyfriend, who just laughs and kisses his cheek again. Suspicious.

Everything feels so right, he would love to wake up to the same scenery every single day that’s left of his life. The thought scares him a little bit, but it’s also really exciting to have something to look forward.

“Is Tine going to come live with us dad?” Pete asks, with all of his childlike innocence. Tine almost chokes on his food.

Sarawat softly rubs his back so the cough goes away. “Not yet, Pete” he says with a small laugh.

“Oh” the little kid has a dejected expression on his face. Tine doesn’t like it. He’ll move in with them right now. But then he smiles, remembering something. “Well, we’re neighbors and we’re always together, so I guess it doesn’t matter” well… he’s right.

Tine’s about to finish his food when his cellphone rings. It’s his mom. Why is she calling so early?

“Hi mom”

“Where are you Tine” she says, skipping any pleasantries. “I’m outside your house but no one comes out”

Uh-uh. “I- I’m next door, mom” what is with this woman and her timing? It’s like she smells things from kilometers away.  

“I’ll be going there”

“No- wait… Mom?” the line’s dead. “Shit” Tine mutters.

He remembers his company, though, and is about to say sorry but the knock on the door interrupts him. He mouths “my mom” to Sarawat, who suddenly looks just as nervous as Tine feels.

He needs to prepare himself. He knows his mom, so he knows there’s only two ways this can go. Really good or really bad.

Pete’s the quickest one to react, and the closest to the front door, so he’s the one who greets her. “Hello Tine’s mom” he says, giving her a quick hug. “Did you know that Tine and my dad are boyfriends now? I’m so happy” he’s jumping up and down on his spot.

“Ohhh they are? Since when?” his mom is looking at them as she enters the house. Tine just now realizes she’s carrying some plastic bags. She must have brought groceries for him, again. This is his fault for not being enough of an adult. “Tine take this honey” she says, extending her arms. Once Tine does, she starts walking in the direction of Sarawat’s kitchen. How does she know where it is?! “Sarawat sweetheart come talk to me for a second”

“I- sure” he says to no one, since his mom isn’t on the living room anymore. He almost runs to the kitchen.

Tine places the bags on the floor, and everything is silent for a few seconds. He strains his ears to hear something, anything, but he hears nothing.

He sits on the couch, shaking his legs with anxiety. Pete sits beside him and rests his head on Tine’s shoulder. That makes him feel infinitely better.

“Can she be my grandma now?” he asks, eagerness coating his voice.

Tine doesn’t know what to answer. Sarawat and him haven’t talked about this. Well, they have been dating for hours only, so it’s kind of obvious why a topic like this hasn’t come up. Tine would expect a conversation like this to happen in like, two or three more months. But… it’s not like they haven’t been acting like a little family lately.

“I- I don’t know Pete… I- just… I-” he stutters.

“Why are you nervous Tine?”

“I- I’m…”

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to say anything. I’ll ask her if she wants to be my grandma” he says, giving Tine a sweet smile. “I think you are my family too, Tine. If she’s your family, then she’s mine too”

That’s… relieving, honestly. Tine considers them his family, as well. If he didn’t have them tomorrow… he doesn’t know what he would do. Two months ago something like this would have never crossed his mind, but right now he can’t imagine a future without them.

“Thank you, Pete. I feel better now”

Sarawat and his mom come out of the kitchen a few minutes later. His mom looks, smug? Yes, definitely smug. Sarawat is both pale and blushing a hot red.

She walks to Tine and puts her hands around his ear as if to tell him a secret.

“He passed” she whispers.

“He passed what?”

“You can marry him, Tine”

“What?” what is going on with everyone today?! They’ve just been dating for what… eight hours at most? Jesus Christ.

“I’ll go now, I just came to drop these by” she says, rummaging through the bags Tine put on the floor earlier. Se retrieves a small gift bag. “Pete come here, I got you something”

Pete does, eagerly opening his present. “It’s a puppy! Look dad a puppy plushie” he half-screams, showing his dad the small stuffed animal. He turns to the small woman in front of him, sobering up. Tine can see the debate happening on his face. Is he going to ask her…? “Can I call you grandma?” he blurts out.

Tine didn’t think he would do it. His mom looks delighted at the question, of course she does. Sarawat, on the other hand, looks astonished. It would be comical if this wasn’t a serious matter. Is he… against it? Tine stomach falls at the thought, his heart constricting painfully.

“P- Pete… I- I’m so-” the other man stutters, but his mom interruptus him.

“Don’t worry sweetheart” she assures Sarawat with a dismissive hand. “If you want to then yes, you can” she says to Pete with a wink.

He hugs her tightly, the dog plushie squished between their bodies. “Thank you, grandma”

“My heart loves hearing that!” his mom exclaims, beaming at the little kid.

___________________

They’re washing the dirty dishes from breakfast, but honestly Tine’s mind is elsewhere, his thoughts running wild. Ever since his mom left, a heavy silence has settled upon them.

Tine… doesn’t know what to feel, what to think. Things are shifting so fast, he doesn’t want Sarawat to feel uncomfortable or pressured into doing something he doesn’t want to just to not disappoint Tine.

His mom… kind of disregarded Sarawat’s words and went with what she thought was better. Tine doesn’t want him to feel overlooked, since he’s the one who has the last word in the matters regarding his child.

“What are you thinking about?” his boyfriend asks, breaking the silence.

Tine doesn’t know whether he should tell him… but he did promise to communicate better, and he wants to know what’s on Sarwat’s mind as well.

He remembers telling Pete not long ago that if he wanted to know something, he should ask. He’s going to follow his own advice.

“I… are we going a little too fast for your liking? Did you not want Pete to call my mom grandma? Because if you didn’t, I totally understand, I- I mean you don’t have to explain it to me or anything I was just wondering-” his rant is interrupted by Sarawat, who places his hand on Tine’s arm.

“Tine… are we going too fast for your liking?” he asks back.

“No”

“Good. Neither for me” he says, locking his eyes with Tine’s. “You are it for me, Tine. That’s what I said to your mom. I think… that’s why she let Pete call her grandma. Otherwise she wouldn’t have. It doesn’t bother me, either, so don’t worry. I was just… taken aback. I didn’t want her to feel obligated to do something, that’s why I tried to intervene” he explains.

It makes sense… his worries are very much the same as Tine’s.

He realizes belatedly what the other man just admitted. Did he just say…?

“I- I’m it for you?” Tine questions, pink dusting his cheeks.

“Yes” his boyfriend answers, straightforward.

Tine really likes that about him, how he doesn’t beat around the bush. Tine is the total opposite, never able to find the words to speak his mind.

“I… Y- you… I-mean” he lets out a frustrated huff. “You guys are it for me as well” he shyly admits, looking at his gloved hands.

Sarawat grabs his face, kissing him softly. Tine will ever get used to this, he thinks, as his heart beats as fast, if not faster, than the first time they kissed.

Sarawat pulls back, resting their foreheads together. “I know you are an overthinker. I know it’s not going to go away just because I tell something like ‘please don’t overthink’. I don’t want it to go away, either. It’s a part of who you are, and I accept it. But please, if something is bothering you, tell me. Okay nuisance?” he says, his eyes full of understanding.

He’s amazing, Tine thinks. Any other person would be annoyed by the way his head works -or overworks-, but not Sarawat. He doesn’t want him to change. Tine doesn’t think he would be able to even if he wanted to, because, as Sarawat said, this is already part of him. Still, he vows to be better in the future at voicing his thoughts.

“I promise” Tine says with a small smile.

Sarawat gives him a quick peck on the cheek and they get back to work. They are silent again, but it’s not heavy as before. Tine’s heart feels more at peace now.

He can see the benefits in talking. Why did he spend so long just storing everything inside? It seems silly now.

“Pete…” his boyfriend says as they are finishing with their task, “I’m sorry if he’s too much for you sometimes. It’s just… he’s been wanting this to happen for a long time. I think he realized I liked you even before I did” he admits with an embarrassed chuckle, scratching the back of his head.

Tine reminisces one of the first dinners they had together, if not the first, when Sarawat did the same thing and got dish soap on his hair. It seems so long ago even though it wasn’t. Tine remembers how he felt back then, though, the way his hear raced at having his cute neighbor at such close proximity.

“Don’t be sorry. Pete’s… eagerness is okay with me. It makes me happy to know that he likes me so much” Tine says with a small smile. If he’s being honest, Pete’s opinion is the most important to him. If he hadn’t been happy with their relationship, he would have pulled back immediately. His heart feels warm, knowing that the little kid has already welcomed him to be part of his life. “I think he was trying to play cupid”

Sarawat chuckles. “He definitely was, that sly beast” he scratches the back of his head again. “Your mom… gave me her blessing” he says with a small voice. Did she tell him the same as Tine?! “She said I could marry you whenever I wanted to” he’s not looking at Tine, staring at the plate on his hands instead. He’s so cute when he’s shy. “She was a bit scary at first but she’s really sweet. I think Pete and her will get along really well. I think I will get along with her really well too”

“She was always nagging me about getting married and giving her grandchildren” Tine says with a sigh. And then he realizes what he implied with his statement. “Wait… I- I didn’t- I mean…” he’s splattering water everywhere with the panicked way his hands are moving.

“Tine” his boyfriend takes Tine’s hand, even though it’s dripping wet and full of dish soap. “It’s okay for me to do those things with you. I told you, you are it for me”

It’s not that Tine doesn’t believe him, he does. Sarawat has been nothing but honest with him ever since the beginning.

It’s just that... he still can’t wrap his head around the fact that he has a boyfriend now, that all those weeks spent pinning have concluded in this, and that said boyfriend seemingly wants to spend a long time by his side.

He can’t believe life has given him such a big present. If he’s being honest, he doesn’t think he deserves something like this, something too good to be true. Someone too good to be true.

“I don’t deserve you” escapes his mouth before he has the chance to stop it.

“What are you talking about, Tine?” his boyfriend says, letting go of his hand and grabbing him by the shoulders. “How can you say something like that?” Tine sees hurt flashing on his eyes.

He feels his stomach fall. He made him upset. That’s the last thing he wanted to do. It’s just that so much has happened, his emotions are all over the place. He’s never been good at any of this stuff.

“Wait… don’t be mad. It’s just- I- I don’t know how to say this” he lets out a frustrated huff at his inability to speak. “You are amazing, Sarawat. You and Pete are amazing. I’ve spent most of my life alone, it’s hard to accept someone so good like you would want me”

That… kind of sounded pathetic. It doesn’t make much sense either. He knows he’s being irrational, but it doesn’t really make a difference to his stupid brain.

“Well, you are gonna have to try. I’m not going anywhere, Tine. I’m sure of it” his eyes are boring into Tine’s soul, there’s so much force behind them. It’s like he’s trying to imprint his words on Tine’s body. “You are amazing as well. Get that in there” he says, touching Tine’s temple. “And if I’m amazing and you’re amazing then we’re perfect for each other. We’re meant to be amazing together” his voice is softer this time, hos words drawing a smile out of Tine’s lips. “Do you believe it?”

“Not yet, but I will. I promise” Tine says with honesty.

Sarawat seems pleased at his answer, giving him a tiny nod and a quick peck on the corner of his lips. Tine hugs him next, because he wants to, and he can. The heavy weight of Sarawat’s arms on his waist feels so good, so comforting.

His boyfriend pulls back a little, resting their foreheads together. “This… might sound cheesy but I’ve never met someone like you” his eyes look so lovely up close. Tine can see tiny splashes of gold here and there. “Before getting married… I had never dated anyone. Much less being in love. I’ve never been a romantic, Tine, and these past few years I’ve been focused only on Pete. I wanted to give him my best. So I gave up on finding someone… not that I ever had any hope,” he says with a humorless chuckle, “but then I met you.”

Tine also gave up on finding someone a long time ago. He used to be hopeless romantic, but after some years he realized that life wasn’t going to give him any of that, so he focused on other things. That’s why it’s so hard for him to believe that this man, this beautiful man with his beautiful heart and beautiful words might love him.

“When we met at the hospital… you looked so tired, but you were so patient and gentle with Pete. And the pin you gave him, he even wore it with his pajamas” his laugh is not humorless anymore, but amused. “It’s his most precious position. He keeps it on his treasure box”

Tine can recall every single moment of the first time they met. It’s weird, the way his mind decided to store every single detail on his long-term memory, as if it knew somehow that they’d see each other again.

He remembers Pete, so tiny on the hospital bed. He didn’t know he’d turn out to be such a tall kid, but he found him so adorable, sweet and polite since the beginning. Then there was Sarawat, so attentive to his medical advice, so worried about his kid and so devastatingly handsome.

“I don’t think you realize how incredible you are Tine, not just to me, but to everyone. Your heart is so pure, so big, I wish I could protect it, so it always stays that way” that’s so beautiful, his words, Tine thinks. “I would have been just as happy being friends with you, if that meant always having you by my side” he looks emotional, Sarawat, his eyes glassy. Tine feels the same way, his words digging deep. “You are so good to us, so good to me… I never thought- sorry” he interrupts himself to rub the unshed tears of his eyes away. “I never thought life would give me a chance to love”.

Tine feels like crying, and he is crying, it seems, as he feels something wet sliding down his cheeks. Sarawat kisses the tears away, but it’s counterproductive, as it makes him cry a little bit harder. It’s not from sadness, though, on the contrary.

“I love you nuisance” he says, holding Tine’s face between his hands. “I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again, I want you to be my nuisance forever”.

His chest feels like it’s going to explode. Is this what love feels like? He could get used to it. It makes him feel alive.

“How am I gonna top that?” Tine asks.

“You can’t. But you can top me” his boyfriend says with a flirty wink.

Tine blushes. He’ll look forward to it. “Perv” he says, with a shy smile. “I… I love you too, Sarawat. You are a dream came true, a dream I never knew I had”

The other man smiles at his words, so big and happy Tine promises he’ll say it every day for the rest of his life if it means seeing that expression on his face.