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the Story Of True love (already) between US

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There was a lingering tension between him and P’Arthit, and Kongpob was perfectly aware that it was of his own doing.

To be honest, he also didn’t know why he was acting like this. The older hadn’t done anything wrong, though his recklessness had to be thoroughly addressed at one point, because Kongpob would never tolerate his boyfriend willingly hurting himself for such a temporary cause.

Still, his boyfriend was fine, recovering with no lasting damage, and their short moment in the field during the rain was already swept under the rug, since people were more concerned for the head hazer’s condition than observing how he was being cradled in another person’s arms. Even the girls didn’t ask Kongpob any suspicious questions, probably assuming that it was simply in his nature to hold out a helping hand to whoever needed it; even if that someone was his supposed ‘rival’.

They weren’t wrong. Kongpob would do this for anyone.

But he certainly wouldn’t clutch them to his chest, turn their face into his neck, soothe and assure them that they were fine, they were safe.

That was reserved for a select few people in his life, and at school, there was only one person Kongpob would hold like that.

Their secret was still their own. Their relationship was still guarded and kept away from public knowledge, and it brought a measure of relief, because Kongpob honestly wouldn’t want to get into an argument with his boyfriend about the topic while the other was still regaining the full use of his lower limbs. He would never change his mind in this; Kongpob knew he was in the right, and this was one of the rare moments when he would never give ground to his older boyfriend, because what P’Arthit did was dangerous, and it should never happen again.

Blessedly, the older seemed to understand where he was coming from. While his boyfriend wasn’t unreasonable, he had to complete those laps to save face, and knowing that didn’t bring Kongpob any measure of comfort. He also couldn’t promise that he wouldn’t do something like this ever again, but just the fact that P’Arthit was aware of the consequences of his actions was enough to assure Kongpob that the other would take some care with his body next time.

By all means, this incident should have been placed behind them. There was no permanent harm done, and even better, one of his boyfriend's friends finally knew the truth about them. P’Knot was probably the best person to come out to first in his boyfriend’s friend group; the senior was mature, trustworthy and open-minded, accepting his suddenly changed place in his boyfriend’s life without even a blink. Kongpob knew for the longest time that P’Arthit was struggling with his perceived deception when it came to his friends, desperate to come clean to those he held closest to in his heart.

Kongpob had never considered it an issue personally, simply because he had accepted who he was and what it meant when he realized he loved another man. It was just a matter of time before he would introduce his boyfriend formally to his own family and circle of friends. But for P’Arthit, it had been an uphill battle, rediscovering his identity and rearranging what he knew of himself when Kongpob came crashing into his life.

It was a harder transition for the older, who already had some sense of stability in his life. These changes weren’t complete, still in progress, but at least his boyfriend welcomed and accepted his support now, allowing himself to change, slowly but surely, to become a cuter, happier and more content version of himself.

A large part of Kongpob was proud that he had been there to witness it, every step of the way. He wouldn’t be as brazen as to claim that his boyfriend was now living a better life because of him… but at the same time, Kongpob hoped that was true, to some level, and that he could still offer the same care and comfort as long as they were still together.

And then he had to see her name on P’Arthit’s phone, and all of his carefully gathered confidence crumbled in an instant.

It was strange to suddenly feel so wary of a person he barely knew. He was aware of her, of course, and what she meant to P’Arthit, but that was in the past.

Everything was different now, of course. The person who held P’Arthit’s hand now wasn’t her.

He just felt… off-kilter. Uneasy, even as the older deliberately ignored the ringing of his phone, giving him a concerned look as Kongpob headed to the sink with all the dirty dishes at hand.

But if he really had to examine his feelings, as he plunged the plastics and ceramics into cold, running water, he knew full well the sensations that were welling up inside of him.

It was insecurity. Complete, unmistakable jealousy, irrational and maddening.

Because who was Namtan? What qualities did she have, to have P’Arthit’s attention on her for such a long time?

Was she pretty? Smart? Kind? Was she rich? Did she have a good family? What did she have that Kongpob currently didn’t, in the off-chance that P’Arthit would take another glance back at her?

If it was another person Kongpob might not have been fretting so much. Emotions could be fickle sometimes, it was a way of life, though Kongpob had never held such sentiments when it came to his own feelings for his boyfriend.

But first loves were different. And P’Arthit… had harbored feelings for her, for a very long time.

And he never stopped loving her, even after she found someone else. And still remained friends with her to this day, despite everything.

It didn’t make sense for Kongpob to dislike her. He didn’t even know her, a peripheral presence that usually didn’t bother him in his daily life, because why would he think of her, when his days were filled with happiness with P’Arthit?

But she… also hurt the person he loved. Terribly, deeply, even thought she had never been aware of it. Had some hold over him still, lingering and faint, but still undeniably present.

And… some part of him was so, so afraid that his older boyfriend’s fondness for her would change into something else, the moment she decided to turn her attention towards him completely.

Because who was Kongpob, really, compared to a woman who was probably beautiful and funny and nice and probably complimented P’Arthit down to the smallest, most negligible of details?

He would never be able to give P’Arthit the family he needed. Not even all the money in the world would let him give his older boyfriend the perfect mixture of their mingled flesh and blood, their own little person with each half exactly from them both.

His fingers clenched around the sponge in his hand, water overflowing around the basin, but he couldn’t bring himself to move, eyes wide but unseeing as he stared at the almost impossible task before him.

He wouldn’t win. If it was a choice between him and a woman there was no way P’Arthit would choose him if Namtan decided to like the older back.

If he wasn’t careful, if he let his guard down just the tiniest bit, taking his boyfriend’s affection and attention for granted, then he might just find the love of his life slipping through his fingers before he could find a way to stop it.

He should be prepared. He should make sure that P’Arthit’s eyes would only remain on him and him alone, should never give the other any reason to doubt him and his feelings.

He… wouldn’t know what to do if he found himself staring at the older’s back, walking away with his arm around someone else’s shoulders.

(More than Praepailin, Namtan was the clearer, more obvious threat.

And Kongpob was berating himself for not realizing it sooner.)

Then a pair of arms were wrapped around his middle, and Kongpob blinked, pulled out of the darkened haze inside his mind.

“... P’Arthit?”

“You’re taking too long. I thought you drowned yourself at the sink.” An almost-petulant grumble, by his shoulder blade. A broad chest, against his back. A lock of hair, at his nape.

A rapidly beating heart, alongside his own.

“What a way to go if you actually did, Kong.”

“P’, you shouldn’t be standing in your condition.” The older’s legs weren’t that strong yet, he just got out of the hospital a few hours earlier, for goodness’ sake. It was a good thing Kongpob was there; the older absolutely couldn’t be trusted at all to take care of himself. “Please go back to bed, you should be resting.”

He was about to turn around, about to usher the older back to his pillows and comforters, but a quick check to his bicep stopped him, forcing him to remain face forward.

“Did I say I was going to help?” The hairs on the back of his neck rose when the older spoke, in that particular tone that suggested his boyfriend thought Kongpob was being an idiot again. Even without looking, Kongpob could clearly see the raised eyebrow the older was giving him right now.

The hook of a chin over his shoulder. The heat of a curved cheek, almost pressed against his. The slight tightening of forearms and elbows around his waist. “Get on with it, then. You need to learn how to wash dishes too, you know.”

“... Picking off food morsels isn’t exactly the cleanest job.” Kongpob didn’t mind doing any chore to be honest, even this. It was just an attempt on his part to have P’Arthit closer, to make the other teach him how to do it better, because it always exasperated his boyfriend when Kongpob wasn’t quite able to do something properly in his presence.

Nothing quite like showed domesticity and stability like doing household chores together, and Kongpob would forever cherish those small, intimate moments of just standing side-by-side, washing and drying dishes together, with P’Arthit asking him with some disbelief on just how he got dishwashing liquid on his hair when his hands were still dry.

Then the other would try to take it out with a small huff of fond exasperation, and Kongpob would simply smile back, thinking that there was no other place he would rather be.

“Well, part of becoming an adult is doing the right thing, even if you don’t like it very much.” Kongpob felt a nudge behind him, now completely pressed together, back to front, feeling the weight of the other settle around him like the warmest, cuddliest blanket. “I’m here to observe your work. So hop to it, 0062.”

But the older’s physical closeness wasn’t enough to alleviate any of his concerns. “But P’, you’re still—”

In response, elbows locked themselves at the sides of Kongpob’s torso, ensuring that neither of them would be able to move as the older ducked his face down, head moving from side to side at the junction of Kongpob’s neck and shoulder, obstinately stubborn at his very core.

His boyfriend tucked himself around Kongpob’s body more thoroughly, hands drifting and curling at the side of his chest and hip. The warmth of his boyfriend’s cheek felt like a brand on his skin, the next words mumbled out so lowly and hastily it just highlighted the obvious bashfulness the other was experiencing.

“I-If you don’t want me standing up for too long, then hurry up and finish already. Idiot.”

His heart just… seized in his chest, and Kongpob had almost given in to the urge to turn around and just… nuzzle the older, because P’Arthit was being so unbelievably adorable he didn’t think his heart could take any more of it.

He knew he could tell his boyfriend, right here and now, the thoughts that plagued and troubled his mind. Kongpob was certain the other would listen, would tell him he’s overthinking it and he was stupid to do so, all in a roundabout, awkward way to find out what was wrong and what he could do to help fix it.

His boyfriend was so endearing right now. And thoughtful as well, since his P’Ai-Oon wasn’t the type to give physical displays of affection so easily, even when they were alone.

Because why else would he stand up and cross several feet to where Kongpob was, despite the pain he felt, if the older didn’t realize that there was something bothering him?

He should be upset, that he was seen through so easily by someone else. But as long as it was P’Arthit, Kongpob never minded.

He should never hide anything from his other half, after all.

And that was the exact reason he was going to stay quiet.

Because his ideas were all ridiculous, and he should get his mind under control. No need to burden P’Arthit with something so trite and insignificant, with everything else that was on the older’s plate.

So he leaned back, ever so slightly, keeping their weights at equilibrium as his hands started moving again. He felt more secure, calmer, allowing his older boyfriend to hide behind him and gather his composure, all the while with a wide, beaming smile on his face.

And whenever he would find himself drifting into his darker headspace, starting to brood and work himself up into another vague panic, the grounding presence at his back was there to remind him of where he was, on what he should focus on, on what was truly important to him.

Comfortable silence.

“P’, I… ”

“... What?”

“Nothing.” Kongpob’s head was lowered, continuing to dutifully scrub away with a smile lingering on his lips. “Thank you.”

“For what.” His boyfriend’s embarrassment was still evident, voice strangled with the lie. But there was a question in it still, a worry that couldn’t be disguised no matter what, and Kongpob made sure that everything was cleaned and put away, that his hands were finally dry, before he allowed himself to savor the embrace completely.

The arms around him were tight. Warm, like a ray of sunlight, illuminating a path he could traverse on, despite the blackness surrounding him.

And they didn’t feel like they were letting him go anytime soon.

So Kongpob kept his gaze lowered, staring at the palm that mostly covered the left side of his chest, splayed over his heart.

And he moved, slowly, curling his fingers around a pale wrist, raising the older’s hand just so he could place the softest, lightest kiss under the other’s thumb.

“For choosing me.”

He was completely sincere.

At his fingertips, he felt his boyfriend’s pulse jump.

“Stop talking nonsense, Kongpob.” P’Arthit’s voice was muffled against the collar of his shirt, without its typical snap, shy and pleased and never failing to make his heart rattle in its cage. “My legs hurt right now. Take responsibility for them.”

Kongpob’s cheeks were hurting too. But it was a pain he welcomed, turning around and catching the other in a full, proper embrace, sniffing his boyfriend’s hair happily.

“Okay, P’Ai-Oon.”


Since P’Arthit was still recovering from his time at the field, it was P’Knot who took point during this initiation session, standing in the middle of the auditorium while they all sat, waiting for the final words from the hazing seniors before being let go for the day.

And there was a very important, unexpected announcement indeed, since it was apparently the last day of the gathering, and something called the flag capturing ceremony was upon them. Attendance was mandatory, it was the final activity of the initiation ritual, and it was only if they managed to successfully finish the event that they would be considered as true students of the Engineering faculty.

Kongpob exchanged quick looks with his friends at this news, though he would have preferred to get his boyfriend’s reaction instead. But since P’Arthit was pointedly looking away from their direction, clearly unwilling to draw more attention towards himself, perhaps it was better that he asked in a more private setting.

And he finally got the chance, just before the start of his next class, the professor letting them know that they were running a bit late and to look at their worksheets while they waited.

But before Kongpob could start to compose his message, phone already in his hand, a text came through first.

You’re friends with the other outspoken freshman, right? The one that Prem really doesn’t like?

Yes, why, Kongpob quickly replied, sitting up more properly, suddenly more alert.

Because why was his boyfriend asking about Wad, of all people? They didn’t hang out all the time, but they shared an understanding, especially since they really don’t like how the seniors were treating their classmates and friends.

Wad… was handsome, in an unkempt, rather roguish way. Almost the complete opposite of Kongpob in physical appearance, but he was a good guy underneath all that bluntness.

… Was P’Arthit asking because he’s interested in that type of person? Had they met each other at one point, talking without Kongpob knowing?

Why was his boyfriend asking him about another man?

One of my friends saw him getting beat up by students from another faculty. Prem stepped in as quickly as he could, but they’re still both in pretty bad shape. Make sure he’s okay? My friend did get his ass kicked on his behalf.

Oh.

No problem, P’, Kongpob replied, relief surging through his body at the explanation, though the embarrassment he felt towards himself afterwards made him want to melt into his seat and never come back out, the heat flaring on his face making it almost unbearable.

He should really get a grip on himself. His boyfriend wouldn’t cheat on him so openly, and even if they did talk, what exactly was the problem with that? P’Arthit could meet with any person he wanted, Kongpob trusted his boyfriend completely, and he didn’t have to know everything that was going on in the older’s life. It wasn’t any of Kongpob’s business, and until the other decided to share it with him, it should stay that way.

This really wasn’t healthy. Ever since he saw her name on his boyfriend’s phone, he was starting to feel on edge all the time, and it was starting to tire him out. A part of him knew that he should seriously talk this over with P’Arthit, just for his own peace of mind, but with the final hazing activity looming over their heads, the other was piled with work, and Kongpob refused to add more to it.

Kongpob almost jumped when his phone rang, half-expecting it to be his boyfriend, who would somehow know what he was thinking right now and berate him for letting his thoughts wander in such an absurd direction.

But no, it was P’Ple, and Kongpob raised the phone to his ear, wondering why she would call him at this time.

“N’Kong!” She greeted, warm and affectionate, and he couldn’t help but smile; her tone reminded him so much of his sisters’, when they took the time to contact him out of their chaotic work schedule. “You remember what we talked about last week, right? That we’ll have dinner with our line code group tonight?”

Ah, right. This was going to be their first student code ‘family meeting’, and it would allow Kongpob to meet and get to know the more senior generations of their group. It was a way to make friends, but it was also a way to network, making connections and gathering information from people in the same circle.

“Yes, P’,” he answered, his own voice softening to match hers. “I didn’t forget.”

“No need to meet up somewhere beforehand, just go to the restaurant directly, okay nong? I’ll text you the details later.”

“Okay. See you in the evening,” Kongpob said his goodbyes and hung up, with a smile still, which was noticed by Aim, who leaned in and asked who it was.

“Your voice sounds too sweet,” his friend teased, and Kongpob quickly explained the conversation he just finished, clarifying that it wasn’t a date, but a meeting with their university seniors.

“You should make use of your good looks, you know,” Aim commented afterwards, turning back to his sheets, which brought a small, startled laugh out of Kongpob in turn.

There was one person who would definitely take issue with Kongpob ‘making use of his good looks’. He would be murdered if he even tried, and while seeing the occasional possessiveness and jealousy on his P’Ai-Oon was the most endearing thing, Kongpob would never hurt his boyfriend deliberately, and especially not in that way. Not to mention that Kongpob was already happily taken and not interested in looking at anyone else ever. “Are you kidding me? We’re busy with studying and extracurricular activities every day.”

Aim seemed to accept his explanation with a thoughtful nod, allowing Kongpob to return to his work, but another distraction soon came around.

Literally, by walking through the open front door.

P’Arthit was right; Wad looked like a mess. There was a bruise at the side of his lip, a cut on his cheek, uniform dirty and tie rumpled. It was obvious he had been in a fight, but the expression on his face wasn’t… angry, exactly.

“Ai’Wad, what happened to your face?” Oak was the first to notice, and most of them looked up, blinking at Wad’s disheveled appearance.

“Nothing. Just an accident,” Wad muttered quickly, obviously a lie. Despite his appearance, Oak got him up to speed about what recently happened during the hazing activity, and Kongpob took the chance to observe the other more closely, as per his boyfriend’s request.

Wad looked a little… shocked, was the best word Kongpob could come up with. Like he just found out something large, significant, and was still processing the new information he just obtained.

Like… he couldn’t believe a senior that seemed to hate his guts actually jumped in when he was in trouble to help him out.

“You sure you’re all right?” Kongpob asked just as Wad and Oak’s (rather one-sided) conversation wrapped up. The other first year turned to him then, rather wary. But Wad must have seen something in his face, because he just gave a short, curt nod as a reply.

My friend is fine, Kongpob reported via text once Wad went to his seat. I hope P’Prem is recovering as well.

“Speaking of the flag capturing event, I really want to know what we’re going to do that day.” May said cheerfully, hearing the tail-end of their friends’ conversation. Kongpob was interested in what the hazing crew was planning as well, since there must be more to it than… well… getting a flag from somewhere, like the event name said.

(He had potential insider information of course, but his boyfriend had strict principles, and would never tell him any additional details no matter what method of persuasion Kongpob managed to use on the older.

Kongpob was tempted to try some of them, just to see how far he could make the blush go, but P’Arthit wouldn’t be receptive to his attentions at the moment.)

Besides, it was actually pretty fun, anticipating and waiting with the rest of his friends. Aim nudged at him afterwards, suggesting to ask his code line seniors for any advice or information during their dinner tonight. It was a good idea, so Kongpob agreed, trying to correct Aim’s worksheet formula along the way.

It was only after classes had ended that Kongpob managed to see his boyfriend’s reply.

Thanks, Kong. And don’t worry about him. Prem has a head harder than concrete. He’ll live.


That early evening, Kongpob arrived at the outdoor, eat-all-you-can barbeque restaurant that the seniors have decided to meet in, still in his uniform but without the tie, the top button of his shirt undone. There were already a sizable crowd inside, also starting their dinners, and Kongpob walked to the benches where P’Ple was already sitting down with a few people.

“P’Ple, hello,” Kongpob said with a wai once he was close enough, and she smiled back at him, gesturing for him to seat at the empty space beside her. Food was already underway, the scent of cooking meat and vegetables filling the air, and Kongpob followed instructions, exchanging wais with the others around the table.

“Let me introduce you to our direct line seniors first,” P’Ple said, gesturing to one person at a time. P’Noonnoon was their third-year line senior, who was at her other side, and their fourth-year line senior, P’Pak, wasn’t able to come tonight because of conflicting schedules. Their recently graduated code seniors were there as well, just one to two years ahead, and Kongpob made sure to greet them all properly, apologizing for his late arrival, before settling down for the meal in front of them.

“Are we expecting a lot of people?” He asked as P’Noonnoon waved his apologies away, saying that they reserved the seats earlier to avoid the potentially larger crowd.

“Yes, didn’t Ple tell you about this?” P’Noonnoon asked, and Kongpob stilled.

He did know, P’Ple had told him about their ‘family connections’ before, but he didn’t expect that something like this would happen so soon, as P’Noonnoon informed him again about being co-mentors with another student line. He had told P’Arthit about the dinner tonight, but he hadn’t heard from the other about their student number line also joining them for dinner.

Did P’Arthit forget about it? Maybe. Was he going to come? Probably not, if he didn’t inform Kongpob in turn. The older was busy after all, wrapping up the loose threads for this year’s hazing activity, and Kongpob suddenly felt bad that his boyfriend wouldn’t be able to have a good meal tonight.

It would be embarrassing, but should he prepare something for the other tonight from the meal today? Perhaps grill a few things and take them to his boyfriend’s dorm afterwards? The food was looking to be delicious, and Kongpob would want to share something about this experience with his significant other, if only in a small manner.

It was all too soon before the other people from their student lines finally arrived, and Kongpob was finally introduced to P’Fon and P’Tum, his and his boyfriend’s respective code line seniors who were engaged to be married in a few months. They were a beautiful couple, both physical- and personality-wise, and P’Fon finally managed to corner him, telling him he was cuter in real life than in his Facebook photos, just like all the people that shared her student number.

Kongpob accepted the compliments with a smile and a brief dip to his head. That caused P’Tum to ask if she meant that the people in his line code were ugly, causing a round of lighthearted bickering and laughter.

But it was time to eat and talk to the group in earnest, and Kongpob easily made conversation with the others, asking basic things and responding in turn. It was turning out to be an engaging meeting, and Kongpob was starting to enjoy it, allowing himself to be more open and friendly as the time passed.

It was perhaps almost 30 minutes into their meal that P’Tum suddenly brightened up, raising his arm and quickly waving it to get someone’s attention.

“Ai’Oon, over here!”

There was only one person he knew with that name.

And Kongpob’s heart instantly skipped a beat in his chest, quickly looking towards the back.

And there he was, his P’Ai-Oon, coming up to them with a smile on his face and in his hazer reds and blacks, stopping at the opposite end of the bench Kongpob was sitting on. He couldn’t stop staring at him, as the older offered his wais and took his place across P’Tum and P’Ton.

“The hell, P’,” a familiar, beloved, often-missed voice complained, but without any heat as the older started taking off his workshop shirt. “I told you not to call me that. Call me Arthit already. Even my friends are calling me that too, you know.”

“And why not?” P’Tum was asking with an amused, raised eyebrow at Kongpob’s boyfriend. “That’s your nickname, isn’t it? I’ve been calling you that since first year. Get used to it already.”

“And I’m already a third year and the head hazer,” P’Arthit reminded the other. “That name can affect my image, P’.”

“All right, I forgot,” P’Tum eventually conceded after exchanging an entertained look with P’Fon, in a tone that suggested he was just humoring the other. “Have to be the third year head hazer and all. But the freshmen gathering’s almost over, isn’t it?”

As P’Arthit answered the questions about the initiation ritual and flag capturing event politely, Kongpob was quiet, watching the interaction between his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s mentor. From all the stories he heard about P’Arthit’s first year, P’Tum was apparently the most terrifying head hazer in recent generations, uncompromising and borderline cruel towards the first years he was looking after. It didn’t look that way now, certainly, with two, gentle looking people simply talking shop, but if P’Arthit took his hazing leadership cues from this particular senior, then he already had an idea of how terrible it must have been during his boyfriend’s year.

Still, the sight was heartwarming, P’Arthit completely at ease around the seniors, clearly fond and holding them in high respect.

Kongpob wondered what the reactions from their student lines would be, if they gathered like this again in the future and he was introduced as P’Arthit’s boyfriend, that time around.

In the middle of his musings, P’Arthit was starting to stand up, saying that he’d get some meat. Kongpob waited for a few beats before getting up as well, telling P’Ple that he was getting some food.

He eventually caught sight of his boyfriend wandering around the buffet tables, checking out the available dishes, and Kongpob leisurely followed along, stopping when the other finally decided on a few things, carrying two small plates in one hand, while picking out ingredients with a pair of tongs in the other.

So Kongpob went to stand beside him, movements as stealthy as he could make them, grasping the other’s elbow when it looked like his boyfriend was too preoccupied with the spread in front of them to notice him.

“Please let me help you with that.”

P’Arthit’s face snapped up to meet his, eyes widening, and Kongpob offered a smile, watching the way the older’s shoulders relax when he registered who it was.

“Buddha, Kong. I thought you were someone else. Hold out your hand.” Kongpob did, and his boyfriend placed the second plate onto his palm without hesitation, like he was a mere prop for the other’s use.

Kongpob couldn’t stop his pleased beam. Their relationship had finally evolved to this point, with his boyfriend having little to no reservations now when it came to him. “Want anything from here? You should try those vegetables; they’re seasoned lightly, so you should be able to eat them.”

“I’ll try them, P’.” A small helping was placed into the plate then, which was now apparently Kongpob’s, as the other picked and chose dishes for both of them to try. “You weren’t able to tell me you were also coming tonight. We could have come together.”

“I didn’t tell you? Sorry, must have slipped my mind.” A few more things added on Kongpob’s plate, as well as on the older’s. “Besides, I also decided to come at the last moment, my meeting with the hazing team finished earlier than I thought.”

“But how are you feeling?” It was already a few days after, but Kongpob didn’t know if the other had recovered enough from his stunt in the field to be moving around like this. He checked up on his boyfriend as much as he could, but schoolwork and in-school activities soon forced him to make those his priority instead. “Are you okay now?”

“My legs are fine, stop fussing.” His boyfriend rolled his eyes at him, plopping another piece of meat in the last free space on Kongpob’s plate. “They don’t hurt anymore. Get another plate.”

Kongpob reached for a clean one, and followed after the older as they explored other food options available for them. “P’, that dish over there is really spicy, P’Noonnoon told me about it. You should try some. And that’s great, then. Though it won’t stop me from always worrying about you.”

“Kongpob.” His boyfriend leveled an unimpressed look at him, the tips of his ears burning a bright pink even as he scooped a serving of Kongpob’s suggestion onto his plate. “We’re outside with our seniors, have some restraint.”

“I’m being good, though?” Kongpob gave his boyfriend a guileless smile, and the disbelieving, flustered, tiny scowl he received in return just made him want to sniff a kiss onto the other’s cheek, just to know how hard his boyfriend was blushing right now. “As your boyfriend, it’s natural that I think about you all the time.”

Behave.” A pair of tongs was sharply and warningly brandished in front of his face. “Do you want anything else?”

“This plate is fine, P’.” Kongpob shook his head, amused still, and went with the other to the beverage stand. He didn’t know how they were going to carry all of this food back to the table, which was quickly resolved when the older produced a tray from Buddha-knew-where. “So it was P’Tum who gave you the nickname of ‘Ai-Oon’?”

“Yeah,” his boyfriend sighed, drawn out and long-suffering as he scrutinized the offered drinks with a critical eye, while Kongpob placed the plates on the tray, fixing them in a way that would make them easier to carry. “Used it ever since we met when I was a first year. Said that my face was too kind and sweet for a strong name like ‘Arthit’, so ‘Oon’ it was. Drinking tonight?”

“That’s adorable.” He could easily see it, his P’Ai-Oon with slightly chubbier cheeks, meek and cherubic in his white shirt and black tie, sitting quietly in terror with his friends in the auditorium as P’Tum ripped into the first years in his hazer reds. “And no thank you, I brought my bike today. I think ‘Ai-Oon’ is a good name, actually.”

The other looked at him with approval. “Better to be safe.” P’Arthit chose a bottle of beer for himself, a glass of red iced tea for Kongpob, and armed with definitely more food than either of them were ready to finish in one sitting, they started their trek back to the table, taking it slower than normal because of the extra weight. “And if I hear any of your friends call me ‘Ai-Oon’ I’ll make you sit and stand in the middle of the faculty building. It’s bad enough that my friends use that for me too.”

“Understood.” Though Kongpob hadn’t seen any violent reactions, on the few times he was able to catch any of his boyfriend’s friends calling him with that nickname. “But the nickname definitely suits you, P’.”

The older just gave him an exasperated look, once again exhaling a breath. “Can you please let it go already? It’s just a nickname, it’s not anything special.”

Kongpob frowned, stopping in his tracks, causing the other to halt in his steps as well. “But… it is special, P’.”

His boyfriend looked at him quizzically.

“What are you talking about?”

Kongpob paused, trying to find the words that would capture what he wanted to say, on how perfectly the two syllables captured the essence of the older’s truest self.

If he could only describe P’Arthit in one word, throwing out the typical, cheesy, romantic terms, it was definitely…

“Because… for me…” They weren’t near their table yet. People were still present, flowing around them still, but Kongpob ignored them all, focused entirely on the person in front of him. Without being entirely conscious of his actions, he felt his hands shifting, moving the tray he was carrying on one hand, so the other would be free to reach out and touch, his thumb slowly running down a rapidly fevering cheek.

“‘Ai-Oon’ is who you really are, prettily wrapped and packaged in a single word.”

Under his fingertips, he felt P’Arthit freeze, his eyes growing large, pupils becoming wide and soft as they gazed back at Kongpob. Warm breath stuttered as it ghosted around his skin, the older’s mouth parting in shock, just the tiniest bit, and he merely smiled back, letting his hand fall down once again.

So cute.

“And… I promise I won’t tell anyone else. After all… I’m the only one who should be able to call you P’Ai-Oon.” In the other’s complete absence of mind, Kongpob took it upon himself to arrange the plates and drinks they brought together, so that they would be able to return to their respective seats with their own food. After all, they weren’t out.

Yet.

His boyfriend was still staring at him, struck speechless.

“I wonder what P’Fon and P’Tum would say if they found out that there’s another couple in our joined student line.” Kongpob continued, in a louder, more cheerful tone, definitely teasing this time around as he brushed past the other, since the group might already be wondering what was taking them so long. “Should we find out?”

It was barely a second later when he heard his boyfriend run after him, flustered and irate and shy all at once.

“Wai— no, come back here— Kongpob!”

Kongpob bit the inside of his cheek as he finally came back to the table, resisting every urge in his body to laugh out loud as he placed the full tray on the table. The others in the group didn’t look suspicious, which told him they weren’t gone that long, and started grilling his portions, eating a bit of the dishes P’Arthit told him to try.

The vegetables were really good, and Kongpob hummed, taking a second bite quickly.

He should get a second serving as soon as he finished this one.

“What’s wrong, Ai’Oon? Why are you so red?” P’Tum asked as the other returned just a few moments after, and Kongpob carefully did not look at the other side of the table. “Downed a few beers already?”

“It’s nothing, P’,” he heard his boyfriend answer, and distinctly felt a glare being shot at his direction.

Dinner continued without much interruptions. His boyfriend kept throwing him dirty looks from the other end of the bench all throughout, which just brought a pleasant grin to his face, keeping his attention equally divided between all the people in the group. He glanced at his boyfriend every once in a while, but P’Arthit seemed determined to ignore him until the end of the night. Kongpob’s punishment he supposed, for his actions earlier.

It was mostly halfway through the meal that P’Tum started asking questions directed towards him and his… how should he describe his yearmate who had his boyfriend’s student number? Co-line code mentee? Schoolmate? Classmate? The labels were getting a bit complicated, but the questions thankfully weren’t, just simple things like where they came from and what schools they attended.

“Oh, yeah,” P’Tum said, in the middle of this round of light-hearted grilling, placing cooked pieces of pork on P’Fon’s plate before turning to them. “I want to know what made you nongs study Engineering here.”

“It’s near my home,” Ai’Let answered first, which was absolutely a legitimate reason in Kongpob’s book. Why go far when there was already a good school nearby? P’Ton seemed to agree with him, while P’Fon laughed and said it was an interesting answer.

“And what about you, N’Kongpob? Don’t tell me it’s because it’s near your house too.”

“Well…”

How far should Kongpob go with his answer? The real, unedited version would expose his relationship with a person inside the group in one go, and he didn’t want to lie to the seniors either. Some of these people were already his friends, and his boyfriend’s as well, and he wouldn’t give a good impression on them with a fake cover-up on their official first meeting.

So perhaps, Kongpob thought, with another glance to his significant other, who still wasn’t looking anywhere near him, it was time to bring some of his boyfriend’s attention back to him.

“It’s not, actually. At first, I really wanted to study Economics, but my mother wanted me to study Engineering. That’s why I enrolled in this university.”

That got everyone else looking at him, P’Arthit included, and Kongpob gave the best casual shrug he could, turning the meat on the grill to its still uncooked side.

“Oh? Why didn’t you study what you liked?” P’Fon asked, sounding concerned, and P’Ton gave an agreeing sound alongside her. “You know, studying something you dislike for four years can be painful.”

“That’s because…” Once the pork pieces were grilled just right, Kongpob moved them to his plate, head lowered so he didn’t have to meet anyone’s gaze.

“When I was thinking on whether I should follow my mother’s wishes or do what I wanted… I met someone.”

The women in the group made collective gasps, not expecting the twist, while the men visibly choked around their chopsticks.

But none so much so than the person sitting on the other end of the bench, who looked like he was half-dying on his partly-eaten pork belly, face and neck visibly bright red even with the incandescent lights filling up the space.

What the hell are you saying right now, was clear from the older’s wide eyes, but Kongpob maintained a serene expression on his face as he continued to tell his tale.

“They were from the university’s Engineering faculty. They were a tutor that my mother hired for my last year of high school so I would pass the entrance exam and have the right grades for the course.” A quick sip of his drink. “At first I was… not pleased about her decision. But this person, my tutor, looked really happy teaching me everything they knew, and they were so passionate about the subjects taught to them. So…”

Kongpob raised his head to meet their expectant gazes this time, heartfelt and sincere.

“I thought that if studying Engineering can make someone look that beautiful… maybe I could learn to like it too.”

A quick dip of the pork to the sauce, and straight into his mouth.

Ah, done just right.

Around him, both student lines have descended halfway into hysteria.

“You went into a four-year course you don’t like because you met someone you liked from the Engineering faculty?” P’Tum sounded both amazed and incredulous. “You better not be joking with any of us, nong!”

“I’m completely serious, P’,” Kongpob said, solemn, because it was the truth. Or part of it, at least. On the other side of the bench, his other half was completely silent, glaring so heavily at his plate Kongpob was almost convinced the other could set fire to it through sheer will alone.

But his ears and the back of his neck were colored as deep as roses in full bloom, body restless and all but squirming in his seat, with no choice but to listen to how their (abridged) love story played out.

“N’Kongpob, this person is a senior, right? Have you met this person again after you got into the program? Are they still studying in the university?” P’Ple asked intently, rapid fire, with a gleam in her eyes that told Kongpob plainly that she would be starting to look for this person very, very soon.

A part of him wanted to tell her right now to not bother, said person was already sitting with them after all, but maybe some time in the future, once he was certain P’Arthit wouldn’t kill him once this dinner had passed.

“Yes, they are. I’ve met my tutor again multiple times, they’re still studying in their course.” Kongpob confirmed. “We don’t meet as often now, because they’re busy nowadays, but they’re still as lovely as the first time I met them.”

The women tittered simultaneously, thoroughly charmed by his honesty, and even the men were giving small nods, suitably impressed.

“Have you confessed to them yet, N’Kongpob?” P’Fon demanded. “What year are they and which course do they belong to? Electrical? Chemical? Civil?”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you, P’Fon. I’d still like to maintain their privacy. And besides, I… think they already know what I feel for them.” Kongpob said after a moment of pause, treading carefully so he wouldn’t give away more than he intended. “I didn’t exactly hide it very well when they were tutoring me.”

He gave them a hesitant but earnest smile, probably the very picture of a besotted, enamored young man.

And you know what? They would absolutely be right.

“I can only hope that they… would feel the same towards me.”

“Oh, nong,” the female seniors sighed, almost at the same time, sympathy clear in their tones as they made unsaid (but probably wrong) conclusions on their own. P’Ple even wrapped an arm around his shoulder in a show of solidarity.

“Don’t worry, nong. With someone as handsome and as well-mannered as you, I’m sure that this tutor of yours would fall for you eventually.”

“That’s right, N’Kongpob. You’re definitely a catch, and that tutor is an idiot if they can’t see it, after all you’ve done to get closer to them.” P’Tum declared, and there was a sudden, faint, garbled sound, coming from P’Arthit’s general direction. “Ai’Fon, see, Engineering men can be romantic if they put their minds to it. Nong-ah,” he addressed Kongpob, “if your relationship with your tutor doesn’t work out and you decide to transfer to another faculty next year, I’ll still consider you my junior for this year, so don’t worry about it and eat a lot. I’ll look after and take care of you.”

“Thank you, P’,” Kongpob said with a smile, returning to his meal as P’Fon started arguing with her fiance once more.

But his relief was short-lived, as a loud noise came from the other side of the table, and Kongpod raised his head just in time to see his boyfriend stumbling to his feet, face and neck the same color as the workshop shirt he currently wasn’t wearing.

“Hey, Ai'Oon, what’s up with you?” P’Tum tilted his head at the other with furrowed brows. “You okay? You look really flushed.”

“Just— bathroom,” the other managed to choke out, already speed-walking down the pathway before anyone could really respond, leaving the rest of them to stare after his back. Kongpob, feeling like he might have pushed the other too far, was also getting off his seat, making rapid excuses to his seniors before following after his boyfriend.

Perhaps… this plan of his backfired. Kongpob was starting to hope that he hadn’t just purchased a one-way ticket to the end of his dating life, because a triggered, shy P’Ai-Oon was an unpredictable, explosive P’Ai-Oon.

He would… probably need to do a lot of apologies and pink milk bribes to make up for this one. While Kongpob didn’t say anything that would link them together explicitly, the way P’Arthit reacted, so open and uncontrolled, would probably tick off someone who was intuitive and observant enough to catch his actions. It didn’t look like there was someone like that within the group, with all of them none the wiser, but even then he shouldn’t have been so confident.

Kongpob should have asked if it was all right to reveal those kinds of details about their relationship. They were both private people, his older boyfriend all the more so, and their (future) revelation to their friends about their relationship would just make them remember the story he had just told in all of its wistful, young adult glory.

His feet took him to the direction of the restrooms, but before he could truly leave the bounds of the restaurant, he found himself being yanked backwards, with a sudden tight grip curled around his forearm.

“P’Arthit!”

“Come with me and don’t you dare say another word,” his boyfriend snapped, color high on the apples of his cheeks.

Kongpob, bewildered and confused, was supremely cautious of his next actions as he silently allowed himself to be dragged away from the bright lights and large crowd. His other half was like a cat in a lot of ways, affectionate and prickly towards him in equal amounts, and it was during moments like this when he couldn’t tell which way the wind was blowing.

He doubted if the older would break up with him right here and now, but there was a very decent chance of him walking away tonight without a significant other for the next few days.

He was led to a quieter, more secluded corner, still in the vicinity of the restaurant, slammed against the nearest wall that was curiously reminiscent of something similar happening a few weeks before, though their positions were reversed.

In front of him, his boyfriend was breathing hard, cheeks darkly flushed even in the low darkness, fingers shaking as they curled around Kongpob’s collar.

And they locked eyes, sharing each other’s space, taking in the air the other breathed out. Kongpob was tense, could only stare back, expecting a heavy punch to the jaw any moment now.

But as he watched the tension in his boyfriend’s shoulders coil to its breaking point, its tightness was suddenly released in a rush, with P’Arthit’s body swaying and eventually slumping against his own with a drawn out groan.

Kongpob… honestly didn’t know what was happening right now.

“... P’?”

“You,” the other growled against his shirt, “are a menace, and I should be breaking up with you right now.”

Despite his words, his boyfriend was tugging Kongpob more securely against himself, burying his face at the column of Kongpob’s neck, sounding tired, frustrated…

But not angry.

“I can’t believe you just told them that. You’re unbelievable.”

Kongpob blinked down at his boyfriend, helpless. What answer did the older expect from him right now? His boyfriend was acting so not-himself it was giving him whiplash. “I... didn’t want to lie to the seniors.” Hesitantly, he grasped the older’s elbows, slightly cheered when he wasn’t pushed away.

“But wait, are you really breaking up with me?” He blurted out instead.

“Who the hell said anything about breaking up?!” His boyfriend’s head shot back up, narrowly avoiding clipping his chin as he glared at Kongpob with his dangerous, beautiful eyes. “Do you want to break up with me? After everything you said in front of our line code groups?!”

“What? P’, no!” This entire situation was utterly mind-boggling for Kongpob. Was the other feeling all right? Sick? Had he drunk more bottles than Kongpob thought? But he couldn’t smell any traces of alcohol, or any other substance that might alter a person’s state of mind.

So P’Arthit was normal right now. As normal as he could be, at least.

But it still didn’t stop Kongpob from feeling utterly lost. So he could only address any issue as they came, and blessedly, this topic was easy to reply to.

“No matter what happens, I won’t be the one to break up with you first.” If P’Arthit wanted to be rid of him, then the older would need to make that step for them both, because Kongpob could never bring himself to do it. He would make himself mute first before the words ever passed his lips. “I can promise you that.”

P’Arthit… looked strangely satisfied with the answer. “Good.”

But the other’s eyes had narrowed towards him again.

“But what the hell did you mean by ‘I hope they feel the same way about me’?”

“P’, that was just—” for them not to know what our relationship really was, but the words wouldn’t come out, no matter how hard he tried.

And his boyfriend picked up on his hesitance immediately.

“Do you think that way?” The question was sharp, and armor-piercing. When Kongpob wasn’t able to answer, head turned away in shame, the older sighed, frame visibly softening.

It wasn’t very long before he felt lightly calloused fingertips, brushing through the side of his head.

“You’ve been acting really strange lately. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.” The touch was careful, light, like trying to soothe a scared and cornered animal.

“What’s wrong? Talk to me, Kong.”

He shouldn’t. He shouldn’t say anything, assure the older that there was nothing wrong and he was fine, because admitting to his feelings of inadequacy made him feel pathetic, unable to control where his mind went to at times.

He should stop the direction this talk was going. P’Arthit didn’t need to know any of this.

“... Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough for you, P’Arthit.”

The words hovered in the air between them. And it wasn’t a total lie. Not really.

Because those sentiments had always existed. Recent events just… forced them in the forefront of Kongpob’s mind more often than not.

(If only she didn’t exist. If only she hadn’t become a standard for him to strive towards.

If only he could stop his fear of losing the person he loved the most.)

The shock that painted the other’s features was gut-wrenching, hand jerking away at his statement, and the shame that filled him made Kongpob wince at how sad and pitiful he sounded.

“Explain.” His boyfriend’s tone was a mixture of a demand and a plea.

“I run and I run as fast as I can, but I feel like I still can’t… catch up to you, no matter how hard I try. I know there are things in your life that I can’t be a part of, because you’re older and you have responsibilities that you have to do, but I can’t help but… want to know everything about you.” Kongpob exhaled, resigned, tilting his head up to the sky.

Anywhere else, as long as he wasn’t looking at the person in front of him.

“And… I don’t know, how much distance I can keep from you, before it wouldn’t be enough for me anymore.”

The silence that stretched after his statement was pronounced, heavy. The other was still stunned, processing his words, and the rising discomfort was making him regret everything he ever said out loud.

When Kongpob heard the exhale, he braced himself for the worst.

“Kongpob, you idiot.” The older’s voice was filled with disbelief. “Was this the thing that’s been bothering you for a while now?”

Kongpob found his head being turned towards the other, palms pressed firmly against his jaw he wouldn’t be able to run away.

“Just— oh god, Kongpob, you know can just ask, right?” P’Arthit asked, complete exasperation in his tone, briefly pinching his cheeks in reprimand. “I’m your boyfriend, you can talk to me about anything. Or am I just some random stranger you met on the street?”

“P’Arthit, it’s not that at all,” Kongpob tried to say, because the older wasn’t understanding what he was saying at all.

The pressure eventually eased, and his boyfriend looked at him, expectant.

“Then say it clearly. Make me understand.”

No, Kongpob thought, as the words started to form itself around his throat.

He couldn’t, he couldn’t say it, the thing he wanted to ask, because he didn’t want to scare his P’Ai-Oon, make him run away, finally realizing how intense and depthless and insatiable Kongpob’s wants and desires were.

(Because wasn’t it normal, natural even, to want to know everything about your significant other?

But Kongpob knew that what he wanted was so much more. He wanted all of P’Arthit, every single part of him, even the things that the other didn’t want him to see. He wanted to care for every little secret, cherish every small imperfection, because there was no part of the older that he didn’t love.

And with that want came possession, obsession, and that was the last thing he wanted P’Arthit to know about him.

Because it was wrong, to want someone so much to the point of hating some of the people that surrounded that other person, to feel threatened by someone he didn’t even know.)

But it was apparent that the other wasn’t going to let this go.

Say it clearly, he said?

All right, then. If that was what his boyfriend wanted.

So Kongpob brought his head down, met the older’s eyes steadily, and spoke.

“P’Ai-Oon, I want your everything. Will you give it to me?”

The question was blunt. Point-blank. Left nothing to the imagination, honest and raw and out in the open. Everything he ever wanted, condensed in a few simple words.

If his boyfriend was taken-aback, he didn’t show it outwardly. Instead, he looked thoughtful, as though actually considering his request, before eventually nodding.

“Sure. As long as I can get yours in return.”

… No way. It couldn’t have been this easy.

Kongpob frowned. Was his boyfriend making fun of him? “P’, I’m serious.”

“So am I.” P’Arthit raised an eyebrow at him, matching his disbelieving look. “What, you think you’re the only one who feels that way? Get in line, Kong. I was here first.”

“But— P’Arthit—”

Another exhale, another squeeze to Kongpob’s cheeks. “Look. I get it. In fact, I’m the one who’s supposed to say those things to you.”

Kongpob’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

P’Arthit paused, letting his hands slide down to grasp Kongpob’s biceps. “Because look at you, Kong. You’re handsome. You’re well-mannered. You’re rich. You belong to a class of people that I will never belong in, and you can probably get whoever person you wanted. Me? I’m just a normal guy.” He shrugged.

“Hell, we shouldn’t even be doing this conversation in the first place because us? We were never supposed to happen.”

That hurt. Kongpob swallowed thickly, unable to deny it, because it was truly a hand of fate that he managed to meet the older the way he did. But whatever look he had on his face made the older’s lips thin, gaze and expression twisting into something more determined, resolute.

“But here we are,” his boyfriend continued, like he just hadn’t stomped on the pieces of Kongpob’s suddenly broken heart, “hiding from our seniors, talking about our feelings. And here I am, in front of you, telling you that it’s okay, that you can have all of me, because I feel the same way about you.

The moment the words left his lips, the older’s face heated up so quickly that even the dim lighting around them couldn’t hide the dark crimson flush of his skin. P’Arthit looked furiously embarrassed at himself, fingers working as it clenched and unclenched around Kongpob’s upper arms.

Kongpob was staring back openly, eyes wide and lips parted in shock, feeling as if his heart was about to fall out of his chest any moment now.

But the other wasn’t finished yet.

“S-so get that—that foolish idea out of your head right now, you—you knucklehead.” The older finally managed to burst out, glaring at him as if this entire thing was his fault.

But in Kongpob’s eyes, the older couldn’t be anything but adorable.

And despite the gravity of their conversation, Kongpob managed to chuckle, love and fondness rushing through him, instantly taking the oppressive, heavy feelings inside of him alongside it.

Because somehow, someway, his boyfriend said the words he desperately wanted to hear.

“‘Knucklehead’, P’? Really?”

His boyfriend looked slightly guilty, instantly avoiding his gaze. “Calling you an asshole or a bastard will just make me feel bad because you’re neither of those things,” P’Arthit muttered back, in a volume that was probably not intended to reach his ears.

But this close, Kongpob heard it loud and clear, and struggled to hide the grin that was threatening to split his face in half.

“I’m glad to know that my boyfriend doesn’t think I’m a bad person,” he replied, tone deliberately light.

“So? What other good qualities does P’Arthit think I have?”

HIs boyfriend opened his mouth to answer the question, before realizing that Kongpob wasn’t serious at all. That earned him a smack to the chest, and Kongpob started to laugh, feeling surety and assurance once again settling into his bones as he pressed their foreheads together, feeling nothing but utmost adoration for the one who held his heart.

“I apologize, P’Arthit. Thank you. You’re right.”

“I’m always right,” was the indignant, faux haughty answer, but his boyfriend’s eyes remained warm and intent as they gazed back into his own, palms cradling his face once more, a thumb running over the warmed shell of his ear.

“But you understand now, right? No more of this ‘chasing after me’ nonsense?”

“Of course,” Kongpob agreed, easily leaning into the other’s touch.

“But I don’t know about ‘not chasing after you’ anymore. The Moon always races after the Sun, after all.”

He received another thump in the chest for his efforts, P’Arthit getting that now-familiar expression that showed how impossibly shy and happy he was at Kongpob’s words and then suddenly frowning because he realized that he was liking it a bit too much.

“You’re being insufferable right now. Stop it. I don’t even want to look at you, because I know you’re smiling right now.” the older said sternly, and Kongpob didn’t say a word to deny it, knowing that his expression spoke for himself.

So he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the other tightly, hoping that his gratitude would be conveyed through this simple gesture. By his ear, he heard a resigned huff of breath, the soft click of a tongue.

But the arms that hugged him in return were just as tight, a light hand rubbing at his back as they swayed side to side, and Kongpob allowed himself to indulge in the affection and comfort that was freely offered to him, hiding his smile against the older’s collarbone.

No amount of words would be enough to describe how much P’Arthit meant to him.

(Well, that was wrong. Three words could probably do it.

But he had already thoroughly embarrassed his boyfriend by this point, and Kongpob was certain he had already maxed out the other’s tolerance for his nonsense.)

“We should go back. We’ve probably been gone for too long, at this point.” It was Kongpob who said it this time around, pulling away first. It caused the other’s brow to rise significantly, but didn’t offer any protest to the suggestion.

“They won’t really care, I think. Have you been drinking since dinner started?” At Kongpob’s nod, P’Arthit gave an casual shrug.

“Then they won’t notice much. You’ll get used to it, and don’t worry about it. I also left my workshop shirt at the bench, I should get it before I forget.”

Sharing one last look, they made their way back inside the restaurant. There were still a crush of people around, dinner making way for the more casual, easy-going rounds of drinking and socializing. They walked together, side-by-side, with a respectable distance between them.

“So…” Kongpob started thoughtfully. “Is there any chance that you’ll tell me anything about the flag capturing ceremony?”

“Not on your life,” his boyfriend answered instantly with a snort. “Wait with the rest of your friends. Just because you’ll be participating doesn’t mean I’ll make it any easier for your year.”

“I don’t expect anything less from my P’Ai-Oon,” he informed his significant other sincerely, watching in delight as a violent blush took over the older’s cheeks.

Kong,” the older hissed, both scandalized and pleased, looking so sweet and lovely underneath the steadily approaching outside lights.

“What? P’, you told me everything you have is mine now.” He faced his boyfriend then, still at the edge of the shadows beside the restaurant parking lot.

He lightly tapped the other’s chest, right over his heart, making no illusions as to what he meant.

“Including this.” Kongpob gave his boyfriend a happy, triumphant grin.

“Kongpob,” P’Arthit repeated, with a clear note of warning this time, face still rosy, and Kongpob finally gave into the temptation, darting forward to steal a kiss from his lips.

Almost unbearably sweet, with a hint of heat, caramelized sugar melting on his tongue.

Kongpob licked his lips when he pulled back, just in time to see the older’s eyes flutter open. “And don’t worry, you can call me yours too. I would never mind.”

When his boyfriend finally exploded, Kongpob was already inside, half-way back to their shared student line table, face muscles aching with the sheer width of his grin.

“0062! Sit and stand in the middle of this restaurant right now!”

The embarrassment afterwards was totally worth it.