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Now That You're Here

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Sarawat doesn’t know whether it’s his biological clock waking him or the rays of sun falling in through the blinds, tickling his nose in that weirdly wonderful way no one can explain, but everyone knows.

What he does know, however, is that, for the first time in what feels far too long, the bed doesn’t feel foreign, too big or too empty, and it’s all thanks to the warm, comforting weight resting against his side.

At first, Sarawat doesn’t dare glance down to the head resting against his collarbone, for fear of it being all in his imagination, but when he does—when he catches sight of a familiar, unruly bedhead of windswept hair—the resulting smile threatens to split his face in half.

Tine is in his arms. This time for real, not a doll version of him, not someone only existing in his imagination. His warm body is resting against Sarawat’s side, an arm over his boyfriend’s stomach and, Sarawat notices amusedly, the hand neatly tucked under his body, as if he doesn't want to let go of him.

Soft puffs of air tickle Sarawat’s skin where Tine’s head is hidden, pillowed on his collarbone, still slumbering.

It’s been a long two weeks. Weeks he spent with his band, practicing for the 2U event. Time Tine spent taking care of the cheerleading team, helping them reach their best potential.

And it was a success, Sarawat thinks. They deserve all the praise their university is giving to them right now.

There’s no denying the fact he’s missed Tine, though; there’s no denying they both have missed each other, horribly so, and the silent longing they shared before P’Dim knocked on their door to get him was more than words could ever do.

Two weeks, feeling more like months, are the longest they’ve been apart. It’s been the longest either of them has been alone, too, which only added to the stress and pressure. 

Silent one-sided conversations, filled with confessions of love, of homesickness and the feeling of being too overwhelmed with practice and loneliness to get stuff done got them by, but in the end they’re a poor substitute for the real deal. The look of surprise had changed to one of delight in an instant when they saw each other again, amid hundreds of students, a bottle of fruit drink used to convey their yearning for each other’s presence.

After the event was done, Tine told him about the photo he took two years ago of the 2U Event poster where he was captured in the background. What he felt that moment was inexplicable for him. It’s as if everything came to a standstill for that piece of heaven. He couldn’t stop the big smile that had crept on his face at that moment, so no one can blame him if he rested his hands on Tine’s face, the other on the small of his back, holding him as close as possible despite the sea of people around them.

When people in films talk about fireworks going off, Sarawat thinks it’s probably where they got it from. It’s their ‘Hollywood’ moment, sappy and romantic and warm and wonderful, in the empty stairs outside the auditorium where no one is watching—just the two of them, together.

The memory makes Sarawat smile even wider and he, carefully so as not to wake his sleeping partner, slings his arm around Tine’s shoulders, drawing him impossibly closer.

That’s when Tine shifts, mumbling something unintelligible, and suddenly there’s even more contact between their bodies.

Definitely not awake, Sarawat thinks, and Tine’s breathing remains as soft and regular as mere minutes ago. Wakefulness is a long way away, it seems, even with life in full swing outside their window.

A small sigh escapes as he lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

This is real, Sarawat. Tine is here, now, and you’re not going to be far away from him again soon, at least not for this long.

He looks down again. When Tine shifted, he must’ve turned his face, because Sarawat can see light eyebrows and his boyfriend’s long lashes—impossibly golden in the morning light—resting on pale cheeks.

It’s endearing, Sarawat thinks, how relaxed Tine is in his sleep, how guilt-free and peaceful he looks. How he appears younger now compared to when he first saw him years ago, and the weight of worry has lifted from his shoulders.

Sweet, caring Tine, forgiving and accepting and so, so open-hearted—not to mention the most affectionate person Sarawat knows. In fact, he would go as far as saying he knows Tine by the back of his hand, with all his faults and insecurities and that little shyness coming out every so often.

Turning his head, Sarawat burrows his nose in his boyfriend’s hair, catching a sniff of something so uniquely Tine it makes his swell with affection and his eyes well up a bit. He smells warm and clean, like vanilla and tea tree and mint, and his own, personal smell just adds a layer driving Sarawat crazy and making him love the man in his arms even more.

Tine smells like home.

It also brings back memories of what happened last night, after they parted ways with the rest of their club members, the reason why they’re wrapped against each other and nothing else.

For all the yearning the couple put themselves through, their reunion had been—if Sarawat says so himself—something incredible. He doesn’t think he'll ever grow tired of being with Tine. Intimacy is one thing, and it’s the most wonderful, satisfying thing they both could imagine, but there are so many different aspects to what they do between the sheets.

There are the small noises Tine makes when Sarawat kisses the soft spot behind his ear. The way he arches his body against Sarawat’s. The way their hips slot together, like pieces of a puzzle made for each other. That small trail of hair, leading down from Tine’s belly button. The way he says Sarawat’s name, the pitch of his voice lighter than usual but still with its soothing, smooth timbre, like dripping honey or, in a mental image whose origin is completely unknown to Sarawat, salted caramel: sweet, but with the promise of something more, something lighter but richer that only becomes apparent once you taste it.

And he most definitely won’t tire of the sight of Tine in the throes of passion; writhing below him or, what seems to be their current favorite, sitting in Sarawat’s lap, giving both partners the opportunity to touch, taste, and discover each other over and over again while their bodies follow their own rhythm.

It’s a sight to behold, Sarawat thinks, and his free hand has subconsciously started to dance along Tine’s body. Starting at his thighs, to the small of his back, Sarawat’s fingers are drawing soft patterns over the planes of ivory skin. 

Words, numbers, declarations of love—Sarawat’s aim is to reassure, to reacquaint, not arouse. It’s comfort, not passion, he’s aiming for.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed—forgot to check the time when he awoke—but the buzzing of his phone pops Sarawat’s comfortable bubble. Seconds later, Tine’s phone buzzes, too, a sure sign of either an emergency or a group text, most likely from one of their close friends.

Stopping his gentle caresses, at least for the moment, Sarawat stretches slightly to reach for his phone and check, just in case it actually is an emergency.

It’s not.

True to his suspicion, it’s Man sending a text to their small group chat, which includes him and Tine, as well as P’Type, Man, Boss, Ohm, Fong, and Phuak.

‘Rise and shine whipped bois, how are you spending your first day back together? ;-)’

It’s 10:30 am, the sun is high in the sky and for a short moment Sarawat, from the comfort of the bed he shares with his partner—his partner who is still sleeping peacefully in his arms—considers lying to them, considers telling them they’re having a lazy breakfast and will head down to Buak Hat Park later, to lounge in the sun and just talk and bask in each other’s presence.

Instead, he does something they both rarely do, despite being obsessed with selfies.

Setting his phone to silent, and pulling up the covers so they cover a bit more, Sarawat switches on his front camera, nestles his face into Tine’s hair and snaps a picture, hitting ‘send’ before he can think about it.

It takes less than two minutes and their phones buzz again, announcing a reply.

‘Be thankful my man is earning money miles away because we’re much cuter during the mornings ;-)’

That made Sarawat laugh, especially the sudden replies from the others rambling about how Man should close the app and log out. P’Type even replied with a ‘sigh’ and a smiley emoji.

Sarawat decides to take a proper look at the picture since Tine might chastise him for taking a not-so-flattering photo; he’d like to know what to prepare for.

His warm skin, as Tine describes it, is very much present as always; a subtle golden hue, amplified by the sun shining on his body. In contrast, Tine looks even paler than he already is, the freckles on his shoulders manifesting in the form of an undertone reminiscent of rust hidden under coats of white paint.

They look so utterly content, Sarawat thinks, so happy, it makes him want to move even less. 

There’s movement at his side, then, Tine’s breathing switching from deep to shallower, and he makes the little noise at the back of his throat indicating he’s waking up.

“Wat, what are you doing? Are you sending ugly pictures of me to our friends again?” he mumbles, slowly starting to arch his back and stretch his legs. Doe eyes open, fixing themselves, a bit blearily, onto Sarawat, and he slowly raises himself onto his elbows so he’s looking into his face.

“Who said that to you? You're never ugly, Tine. Not in a million years.”

That earns him a playful shove from Tine’s free hand, before he pulls back the waistband of Sarawat’s shorts and let go so they snap against his boyfriend’s hips.

Suddenly, all Sarawat can do is laugh. As it lights up his face, putting that twinkle in his eyes, he thinks he may just be the luckiest person on Earth and he really doesn’t know how he deserves this, but he's determined to hold onto it for as long as possible.

“I know I said it last night, but thank you for coming back to me,” Sarawat murmurs, his hand sliding from the small of Tine’s back to the nape of his neck.

Tine just stared at him, as if he can’t believe he is right here, right now with him.

“You have no idea how lonely the apartment is without you.”

Goosebumps rise on Sarawat’s arms and shoulders, the declaration making him shiver just a little, but he smiles and leans into the touch before answering.

“Probably as lonely as P’Dim’s house, when all we’ve done is sing and play instruments when the one person I’d love to do it for was miles away from me.”

Tine smiles warmly at that and leans to give him a kiss, his lips warm and soft. The kiss is everything; slow and sensual and so, so lovely—and then some, staying languid even as they deepen it and their tongues start playing a familiar game.

Hands wander, explore, reacquaint. Somehow Sarawat manages to flip them, so Tine ends up laying on his back, his hands buried in Sarawat’s hair as they kiss each other to within an inch of their life.

Breaking apart is just as lazy and affair, interrupted by small peck after small peck.

“Breakfast?” Tine asks, the index finger of his left hand stroking up and down the small trail of hair on his belly.

“Hmm… can we just stay in bed, for now? I missed you, and I think all I want to do is cuddle up to you, watch lots of stupid TV, nap and maybe, if we’re both up for it...” he winks at Tine fondly, earning a ‘Saraleo’ from the other boy and a small grin.

So that’s what they do, with the addition of ordering enough food to feed each of them twice. And while Chiang Mai bustles past outside, the inside of their four walls is peace and quiet and love, at the heart of which two strangers to lovers enjoy their life as a young couple, in the comfort of a blanket fort.

Everything is wonderful; the cuddling, the whole atmosphere, their intimate touches in between—everything. They even showered together, in a surprisingly innocent way, and they feed each other snacks before bursting into giggles.

At night, as they’re dressed in their pajamas and once again cuddling close, Tine places his hand on Sarawat’s heart.

“Let’s be honest, were you watching me sleep this morning?” Tine asks, playfulness evident in his voice and the way he raises one of his eyebrows.

Blood rushes to Sarawat’s cheeks—ridiculous, they’ve been together for a year—but as his voice is firm as he denies any notion of being that creepy person who stares at their partner while they sleep.

“I was just thinking.”

Said partner turns pensive, then, pressing a quick kiss to Sarawat’s lips and turning around to be the little spoon. He knows Tine loves the way Sarawat holds him, as if he’s the most precious thing in his world—little does he know he is.

“Tell me what you were thinking about?”

Sarawat snakes a hand under his boyfriend’s shirt, resting it on the soft skin of his stomach, and he counts three breaths before answering.

“I was thinking about you. How much I adore you, how far the two of us have come and how indescribably lucky I am to have you, Tine, in my life,” Sarawat murmurs softly, “You’re the best thing that could’ve happened to me, and I was thinking about how proud I am to see you be yourself, and to do the things you love with such joy.”


“But most importantly, and I don’t care how sappy or cheesy this sounds, I was thinking about how much I want you—how I need you to stay by my side for a long time.”

“Wat,” Tine murmurs, placing one of his own hands on his, “I’m not stupid to let you go.”

Sarawat smiles at that.

A small kiss to Tine’s neck is the finishing touch, while his arms cuddle more closer to the other boy to the point they can’t fully say where one of them ends and the other begins.