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the Story Of True love (already) between US

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The first serious discussion they ever had as a couple was if they should just share a room off-campus for Kongpob’s first year in SSU as an engineering student.

Surprisingly enough, it was Arthit who brought up the idea of them staying together while they were still studying at the University. He attempted to logically explain that it would be cheaper and more cost-efficient to get a larger place together (never mind that Kongpob’s family could easily buy out entire apartment blocks if they were so inclined), Arthit would have more time to help Kongpob out with schoolwork if needed since they were both in the same faculty and, as Arthit finally conceded to P’Tum and P’Deer’s urging to take up their position as this year’s head hazer, it meant that Kongpob would actually learn how to do housework for once and Arthit wouldn’t have to worry about household chores when he comes back to the room.

(For the heir of a multi-million bhat company, Kongpob took to ironing, laundry and vacuuming with surprising enthusiasm, delighting in the simple acts of folding and washing and cleaning. It was just like him to find such joy in simple things, trying his best to be orderly and meticulous in everything he did.

Except dishes. Kongpob didn’t really like doing them, and Arthit figured it was more than fair to take over that duty, considering the younger practically did everything else.)

He tried to explain all of these (very fair, very reasonable) reasons to Kongpob, whose bemused expression slowly turned into amusement the more Arthit talked, the slowly deepening color of his ears and cheeks utterly betraying him the more the younger man continued to stare at him.

Then Kongpob reached forward to grasp his hand that was resting on the study table between them, squeezing his fingers lightly, and thankfully stopping Arthit’s tirade before he could say something stupid and ridiculous like, I just want to spend a lot of time with you.

“P’Arthit, you know you can just tell me you want to be together all the time. I wouldn’t mind.”

Kongpob!

It was maddeningly infuriating, at times, to have a boyfriend that was so open and shameless with his feelings. Arthit would never get used to it, the way his face would flush and his heart would skip a beat, studiously looking away from that (charming, handsome, utterly captivating) smile that seemed to suit Arthit’s name more than he ever did. In the year that Arthit had known him (first as his tutoring student, then later on as a close junior, and a few months later, finally his boyfriend), Kongpob had always been upfront and honest, seeing through him in a way Arthit couldn’t protect himself from.

He was like that when he admitted to Arthit that he wanted to study economics instead of engineering, that he wanted to make his family happy and proud of him and sometimes felt like he would never be able to, that he had feelings for Arthit, but he would give Arthit as much time as he needed, even willing to stop their tutoring sessions because the last thing he wanted was for the older to be uncomfortable with him and their good relationship.

Kongpob Suthiluck, this stubborn, earnest, straightforward young man had managed to slowly, persistently worm his way into Arthit’s mind and heart in a way no other person ever managed to. Even Namtan wasn’t able to do it, and Arthit had loved her, for a very, very long time.

It wasn’t even that Arthit stopped loving Namtan after he met Kongpob. She was a friend, a dear one, had been and always would be. Kongpob wasn’t a rebound for his unrequited feelings, and he deserved more than to be a runner-up, the second place in Arthit’s confused, stormy, adolescent heart.

It was just that he just found someone he managed to love more, deeper and more intense and more all-encompassing, to the point that Arthit couldn’t even remember what it was like to not feel this way for his boyfriend.

It wasn’t a giving in as it was a giving up, and before he knew it, Arthit had slowed his steps, had stopped looking back, and found himself pulled back into a warm, solid embrace.

The moon, after its long chase, finally managing to eclipse the sun.

(He wasn’t telling any of this to Kongpob, though. Arthit would probably die of embarrassment as it was, and the younger didn’t need his ego more inflated than it already was.)

Kongpob was still holding his hand.

“P’,” Kongpob started, finally deciding to stop teasing him and take their conversation seriously. “It’s a great idea. You know I’d like nothing more than to see your face first when I wake up.” His tone was soft, the smile on his lips even more so. “But P’, I think… it would be better if we had separate rooms, at least for now.”

Arthit’s brows furrowed. “Why?”

“Well… Mae and Phorh want me to be more independent, and you being around me all the time wouldn’t really help with that, P’Arthit.” Kongpob’s smile had taken on a more mischievous edge. “I’d be so distracted watching and trying to take care of you all the time that I won’t have the time to learn things on my own.”

Arthit’s expression was completely unimpressed, even as a darker red stained his cheeks. “Yuck. Don’t be sappy, Kong. You don’t have to take care of me.”

“And,” Kongpob continued serenely, as if the older didn’t say a word, “I think we should have some space for ourselves, since I’ll be adjusting to university, and you’ll be busy with your hazing activities. I wouldn’t want us to fight all the time because we’re both stressed about school. Besides, I’m sure that you’d like to have the chance to invite your friends over to your room to have fun sometimes. And you can’t do that if you’re living with me.”

At the mention of his friends, Arthit sobered up immediately.

He wasn’t ashamed of their relationship. While he may have struggled to accept his feelings for Kongpob at first, he wasn’t the type of person to keep on denying something when it was already happening.

He would have preferred to keep their relationship quiet, private, but if your boyfriend was Kongpob Suthiluck, those plans tended to go down the drain real quick.

Their families found out a few short weeks after they started dating, and Arthit had been more terrified of Kongpob’s parent’s reactions than his own. He had watched enough dramas to know that uptown people certainly did not like the downtown people, and with Kongpob’s family being as ridiculously rich as they were, Arthit had been half-expecting to have money thrown at his face in exchange for never seeing his boyfriend again. Thankfully, Khun Mae and Khun Phorh decided that they liked Arthit enough to not tell him to stop seeing their only son and company heir.

(Khun Phorh apparently liked hardworking people, and Arthit’s attempts to bring his son’s grades up to an acceptable standard for SSU apparently was enough to convince him that Arthit would do right by his son. Khun Mae was a little disappointed that she wouldn’t be getting a pretty daughter-in-law like she always dreamed of, but the cute, shy Ai’Oon who took such good care of her son was a perfectly acceptable replacement.

“You can call them Mae and Phorh, P’Arthit, Mae already adores you.”

“Shut up, Kongpob. Don’t make me disrespect your parents.”

He had an open invitation to the formal Suthiluck family dinner that took place every month, with Kongpob’s sisters and their husbands and children present. Arthit had never gone, too intimidated and terrified to meet the entire family in one sitting, but he was slowly getting there.

Someday.)

His own parents were more disapproving of the relationship, which Arthit understood since he was an only child. But Kongpob had once again worked his boyish, gentlemanly charm on Arthit’s parents, and proved that Arthit really was their biological child, because even his parents eventually gave in to his boyfriend's sterling personality, in the end.

(Now his Mae demanded that he bring Kongpob with him every time he visited home, since the younger was apparently too thin and needed some real, home-cooked food. His Phorh had sat down with Kongpob and soon enough they were arguing about their favorite basketball teams and possible plans of restoring an old motorcycle his Phorh had scavenged somewhere.

“I expect a large dowry for my Ai’Oon of course, Ai’Kong. You understand, he’s not the best person to get along with sometimes and he can be very bad-tempered, but he’s our only son and as his mother, I only want the best for him.”

“M-Mae! W-What nonsense are you talking about?! What dowry?!”

“Of course, Mae. P’Arthit will want for nothing with me. I promise to work hard and save up to give P’Ai-Oon everything he could ever need.”

Kongpob, not you too!”)

Arthit’s friends... were an entirely different matter altogether. Arthit would trust them with his life, would do anything and everything for them, but this was the one thing he couldn’t muster the courage to tell them about.

It was laughable, really, that Arthit was able to survive telling his own flesh and blood that he was in a relationship with another man, but instantly froze up when his friends were in the picture. It wasn’t like they were homophobic, they were friends with Tutah of all people, and he was as stereotypically gay as one could get.

Perhaps it was because Arthit had already shown himself in a particular way towards them. In their eyes, he was… well, normal, as in, he was attracted to girls (still did, Kongpob was just… an exception), liked reading comic books and collected robot figurines. He liked drinking pink milk, peppered his food with as much spice as physically possible, couldn’t stand the taste of coffee, and that was how his friends knew him.

His relationship with Kongpob would be something out of the ordinary, an anomaly, and Arthit didn’t know how they would react to it.

They knew of his part-time gig as a tutor. In fact, it was Knot who suggested it to him as a way to earn some extra money, since Arthit didn’t really want to join any clubs or organizations. Figuring it was a good idea as any, Arthit posted an advertisement on the online school board, and was soon enough swamped with calls by desperate students wanting to pass their subjects. It was a steep learning curve, but Arthit had always been patient when times called for it, and soon enough his efforts paid off. Sure, it gave him less time to hang out with his friends, but they had always been wholly supportive, and the multiple rounds of beer Arthit paid for when they went out took the sting out of it a little.

It was through the word of mouth between gossiping mothers that Khun Mae Suthiluck, Kongpob’s mother, would know of Arthit and his services. Hearing from the others how much Arthit helped their children, she would eventually hire him to make sure that her only son, who was about to start his last year of high school, would have the right grades to be able to make it into a good Engineering Faculty when he got to university.

And the rest, as they said, was history.

In other words, it was through his friends that he was even able to meet Kongpob in the first place.

At once, guilt stabbed clean through his chest, the sensation so visceral Arthit physically winced.

“P’?”

Arthit paused, turning his head to look at the younger hesitantly. He started to retract his hand slowly, still in the keeping of the other.

“... Kong, I—”

And all at once, comprehension flitted in Kongpob’s features. He stopped Arthit’s retreat, taking his hand and pressing it in between his own.

“It’s all right, P’Arthit. You don’t need to apologize. Not to me.” His voice was gentle and understanding, and Arthit hated it so, so much. Hated how those words took out the tension from his shoulders, made churning feelings of relief and self-loathing mingle inside him.

“But it’s not fair to you.” Arthit protested, unable to pull away from his boyfriend’s touch no matter how loudly his mind screamed for him to. “I should be more…”

Brave. Confident. Willing to fight for what they had.

But he wasn’t, and the frustration and misery was eating Arthit from the inside.

(Kongpob had always been the braver one between the two of them.)

“I know you don’t want to lose them, P’. They’re important to you.” A pair of thumbs caressed the back of his palm, running over his knuckles again and again in a rhythmic, soothing motion, a devoted man rolling his prayer beads in earnest supplication. “I don’t mind waiting until you’re ready. I know it’s a lot for you.”

“But you’re important to me too.”

The words were the truth, and too honest by half, Arthit biting his lip the moment it escaped his mouth. He immediately looked away, color high on his cheeks, unable to believe what he had just said out loud.

But the smile that bloomed on Kongpob’s face was incandescent, a ray of sunlight piercing through the gloom.

And if something so simple made the younger so happy, it made Arthit reevaluate how he was treating the younger recently.

Was he that terrible of a boyfriend?

But whatever thoughts he had that would probably point out that yes, he was probably a horrible significant other, he was stopped by the feeling of his hand being squeezed again.

Kongpob’s expression was still bright. Arthit was finding it difficult to look at him.

“I’m really happy right now, P’Arthit.”

“Stop it. You’re embarrassing me.”

“Really, really happy.”

Kongpob.

The beam didn’t leave Kongpob’s face, and it made Arthit’s face feel like it was on fire. “But to be honest, please don’t worry about it. I really don’t mind keeping our relationship quiet. I even think we should, for the moment.”

“Why?”

“Well… you’ll be my head hazer soon, wouldn’t you?” Kongpob shrugged. “Besides our families, I haven’t told anyone yet either. I just...”

Arthit’s breath caught in his throat, heart threatening to escape his ribcage, as his hand was slowly lifted up, a pair of lips lightly brushing against his skin, making the hairs of Arthit’s neck rise.

Warm. So warm.

“I feel very selfish right now. I want to keep you to myself a little bit longer, P’Ai-Oon.”

All the monks and gods above. This boy was going to be the death of him.

“E-Enough.” For the innumerous time, Arthit quietly cursed his lighter skin for giving so much away, hot and fevered to the touch, his lips unable to stop their upwards twitch. “Get back to studying. Your finals are coming up, you can’t afford to fail.”

Kongpob’s dark eyes lifted up to meet his own, and for a short moment, Arthit was terrified-hoping-anticipating that the younger wouldn’t listen, that he would drop his pen and bring himself closer into Arthit’s space and Arthit would—

He would—

But Kongpob eventually drew back, finally releasing his hand, ever so respectful and obedient. Arthit felt himself exhaling a breath he didn’t realize he was holding, heartbeat stuttering in his chest.

“Yes, P’.”

Blessed silence enveloped them both, punctuated by the scratches of pen on paper, the rustle of papers as pages were flipped. Arthit was able to absorb a few things from his own studying, glancing at the younger every so often to make sure he was really doing his work and not just doodling on the corners of his books.

“... Look for nearby dorms, then.”

He heard Kongpob pause in his writing. “... Excuse me?”

“I mean…” The embarrassment was starting to creep in once more, but Arthit refused to give in to it, not this time. He scratched the side of his neck with the other end of his pen, refusing to look up from his readings as the other continued to stare at him.

“If you’re going to live by yourself, then look for something around my area. They’re cheap but well-maintained. No sense in making your parents spend more than they should.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw Kongpob grin, perfectly straight teeth gleaming white, the joy in his expression making Arthit soften, just a little bit as well.

“Yes, P’Arthit!”

In a few weeks, after school break, the new semester would start. Kongpob would be in his first year, and Arthit would be his senior in his third. Arthit would start going to SSU earlier than others in his year, to prepare with the others in the hazing team for the activities they would do for the freshman.

He hadn’t told Kongpob any specific details, wanting the younger to experience the SOTUS system for himself personally. The other was naturally curious, and had tried to wheedle more information out of Arthit, but this time, he kept his mouth shut.

It was an experience that he wouldn’t be able to explain completely with just his words. This year, they would be much softer, more lenient, since times were changing, but it didn’t mean they were going to take it easy.

And Kongpob, as usual, was completely correct. Their relationship should be kept as quiet as possible for another, larger, more important, reason.

While there was no rule in SSU that said hazers couldn’t be in a relationship with a freshman, it was something that was implicitly understood, since there was a definite power imbalance during the whole event. It was a teaching experience done in a very tough love kind of way, and as head hazer, Arthit was expected to conduct himself a certain way. He would need to put the fear of god into the poor nongs in the first few weeks of their university life, and it left a distasteful taste in his mouth, even if he knew the reasons for it.

(Which was another complication Arthit should think about, to be honest.

He couldn’t be seen showing preferential treatment towards a younger student, it would undermine the purpose of the SOTUS system and the hard work his seniors had done. While Arthit was reasonably sure he wouldn’t favor Kongpob over anyone else, and would probably be harder on him than anyone else in his batch, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling to yell at your boyfriend and punish him for something he was still learning and had no control over.)

But that was a bridge Arthit would cross when he got to it. Right now, his focus should be to help Kongpob pass his final year of high school, prepare himself mentally for his duties as the head hazer, try his best to have a good relationship with his boyfriend, and to come out to his friends in the near future.

Not exactly an easy list of things to do, but Arthit was willing to do a lot to make it work.

“P’Arthit.” The sound of his name caught his attention and made him look up, only to see Kongpob laying down across the table, head pillowed on one arm, face tilted to the side and glancing up at him. His other arm was stretched out across the study table, fingers absentmindedly playing with his pen, the expression on his face nothing short of complete and utter adoration.

(It was an expression Arthit often saw on him, even before they were dating, not knowing what it meant at first, when Kongpob looked at him that way.

Now he knew perfectly, and he considered himself a complete idiot for not seeing it sooner.)

“Hm?”

Kongpob smiled. “I love you.”

Arthit wasted no time in lightly rapping the younger’s cheek with his pen, both in reprimand and in unintentional affection. “Brat. Don’t distract me.”

There was a pout lingering in Kongpob’s voice, even if the smile remained on his lips. “But I really do love you, though.”

Arthit quickly looked away, glancing around the room, as if expecting someone around the corner seeing and listening in on them.

But there was no one here save the two of them in Kongpob’s large bedroom, with its own automatic locking doors, sitting room, walk-in closet, and its bathroom with a sizable bathtub.

So he allowed himself to reach forward, to run his fingers through the younger’s short, dark hair, to cradle Kongpob’s head with his palm and pinch his cheek lightly with his fingers.

“I know. … Me too. Now sit up and focus on your subjects. I’ll need to go soon.”

“Aww, can’t you stay the night, P’?” Now there was a definite moue shaping Kongpob’s lips and Arthit had to stop the sudden, violent urge to surge forward and remove it with multiple kisses.

“No.” Arthit leveled the younger a flat look, managing to keep his voice level. “Don’t be shameless. Your parents are home.”

“So you’ll stay the night if I’m the only one at home, P’Ai-Oon?”

Arthit just let out a long suffering sigh, pinching the younger’s cheek just a touch harder, making Kongpob wince and finally sit up properly.

“Stop asking ridiculous questions. Focus.

And he really should tell Kongpob that his air conditioning system was broken. He was feeling very hot under hs collar, suddenly.

The grin never left his boyfriend’s face.

“Okay, P’.”


It was a few weeks later, on one of their dates during summer break, that Kongpob showed him around the dorm room he was going to stay in for his studies in SSU, already paid for, cleared out, and cleaned, just waiting for its newest occupant to move in, which will happen in the next few days.

True to Arthit’s suggestion, it was in the same condominium complex where his dorm was also located, his eyebrow climbing higher and higher when they went up the floors.

If he remembered it right, this was also the same floor his dorm room was in, just on a different building directly across from this one.

He had a suspicion that grew the more they walked, but didn’t think much of it as Kongpob led him down the hallway, opening the last door on the right.

Because it was going to be too much of a coincidence, wouldn’t it? There was no way.

The room was relatively spacious for a first year’s needs, but that was fine, Kongpob would need the space as the years went by anyway. Arthit took it upon himself to inspect every nook and cranny of the empty room, squinting at the non-existent cracks on the walls as the younger looked at him fondly.

“What do you think, P’Arthit?” Arms wrapped themselves around his waist, a chin resting itself on his shoulder as Kongpob’s gentle voice sounded near his ear. “Is this room acceptable to your standards?”

“Kongpob, let go,” Arthit half-heartedly tried to pull away, but the younger only held on tighter, knowing that Arthit wouldn’t really put up too much of a fuss if they were somewhere private. “The windows are right there, you.”

“The neighbor’s windows are covered, P’.” Kongpob laughed, his breath warm and tickling the back of Arthit’s ear. It was enough to make Arthit almost shiver. Almost. “No one is looking out. Is my dorm room okay?”

In the end, Arthit let himself be held, and if his weight was completely resting against the younger, his own arms covering the other’s, well, that was just a happy coincidence that no one around them brought up.

“It’ll do, I guess.” It wasn’t bad. It had a balcony and an air-conditioning unit too, which was more than most dorm students had. “You’ll be all right here, Kong? When are you going to move in?”

“Yes, I think so. I might start the move next weekend, if I manage to pack all my things on time. Mae still wants to buy extra furniture that she thinks I’ll need.”

Arthit stopped himself from snorting on time. “All you need is a bed and a closet, most of the time. A table too, maybe.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve managed to convince her not to go overboard with the spending.” The laughter in Kongpob’s voice sent warmth slithering through Arthit’s veins, thick and as sweet as honey. “And she knows that you live nearby, so that also makes her worry less.” The younger lowered his head, just enough for his lips to move against the bare skin of Arthit’s neck as he continued. “Somehow, I feel like I’ve made the wrong decision.” His arms tightened around Arthit’s middle as he buried his face at the curve of Arthit’s shoulder.

“I take it back, P’Arthit. Let’s live together for the rest of our lives.”

Arthit couldn’t help it; he started chuckling, undeniable fondness rushing through him. This ridiculous nong, always so dramatic. “Too late for that now.” He reached up to pat Kongpob’s hair soothingly, his amused smile hidden by their positions.

“Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to take care of you, N’Koon Chai,” he teased when he felt Kongpob frown against his skin.

“I’m not a Koon Chai. I know how to do things, P’.”

“Because I literally had to teach you so you don’t dye your white shirts pink—” Arthit glanced outside the window and stopped when something caught his eye.

“P’?” Kongpob raised his head. “What’s wrong?”

“That’s… those are the curtains of my room.” Arthit blinked, just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

“Really?” Kongpob released him as Arthit moved to open the younger’s balcony door to go outside, trying to see the other building more clearly. Kongpob was right at his heels, but Arthit couldn’t give less of a damn as he clutched at the railing, narrowing his eyes at the direction of his supposed dorm room.

But nope, those were his light cream curtains, covering up the windows that would have allowed them to see into his (messy) bedroom, directly across from Kongpob’s new dorm. His eyes slid to the side immediately, and choked when he saw the familiar shirts and shorts drying on the clothesline he set up on his own balcony.

He thought there was no way, that perhaps they would just be living in the same dormitory complex, perhaps see each other and visit each other’s rooms whenever they would make plans, but Arthit certainly did not expect their rooms to be this close to each other.

Now, they only had to draw the curtains back and open the lights to see each other whenever they wanted.

Arthit didn’t know if this was a good or a bad thing.

Soon enough, he felt, rather than saw, his boyfriend settle on the balcony beside him, resting his arms on the metal railing in a moment of quiet contemplation.

Then Kongpob turned to him, grinning as if he had just won the largest cash prize in the lottery.

“I guess we’ll be close neighbors then, won’t we, P’Ai-Oon?”

Chapter Text

The official first day of classes came as normally as any other day, with sunlight shining through the small slits in between the drawn blackout curtains.

It was still relatively early, and a young man entered the dorm room as quietly as he could manage, closing and locking the front door behind him. The plastic bags he carried rustled as he took off his shoes, padding silently further into the room, using the weak sunlight as a guide through the relatively small space. He eventually reached the other side, placing the bags on the small dining table that was against the large windows. Checking the time, he decided to draw the curtains back completely, finally bathing the room with the warmth of the morning sun.

The young man took his time to prepare the table, opening the bags he brought, placing utensils and cutlery on the table. Spoons and chopsticks on one side, with bowls and small plates, a pitcher of water and two glasses on another. Two drinks, one light pink, the other light brown, were placed inside the refrigerator in the meantime. Every movement was done with care, with deliberate slowness, to lessen the amount of noise he made, the young man occasionally pausing and glancing at his bed nearby.

No movement so far.

With a small, relieved exhale, he finished setting the table. He took a quick detour to the balcony, tugging the dark blue towel hanging on the rack, before darting inside again. Satisfied with his work, he decided it was time to do the next task on his morning list.

He moved towards the bed, sitting on the side, on a convenient indent created by a curved lump of chaotically piled comforters and pillows. The mattress dipped slightly under his weight as he peered over the blankets, hands gently tugging at the fabric away to reveal the messy mop of dark hair and sounds of light snores underneath.

Kongpob Suthiluck smiled.

There he was. His most favorite person in the world.

“P’Arthit, wake up.” His voice was pitched softly, coaxing and almost song-like in rhythm, his palm meeting soft, fluffy hair. His fingers eventually threaded through the other person’s locks, slowly removing the large tangles created throughout the night. “It’s seven, you have to be early today.”

A low grunt answered him, and Kongpob grinned wider.

“P’, if you don’t wake up now, you won’t be able to eat breakfast and get to class on time. You told me you’ll be very busy.” He continued to say softly, thumb rubbing softly at P’Arthit’s temple. It had been a challenge to convince the older to stay with him in his dorm room, his boyfriend always so suspicious of his motives, even if Kongpob really just wanted to spend some time with his special person before completely getting into university life.

Eventually he did manage to wear the other down, and the night ended up to be exceedingly pleasant, in multiple ways.

(As promised, they took it easy. P’Arthit would never forgive him if the older appeared for his classes and the hazing activity looking like he’d been mauled by an animal.)

Kongpob had eventually learned the best way to wake his always-grumpy-in-the-mornings boyfriend up, through a series of trials and errors on the less-than-often-than-he-would-like times his boyfriend could be convinced to spend a night together.

Start waking him up early. Do it gradually, intensifying efforts as the time passed. Always stroke his head, his hair, his neck, and his ears to persuade him to consciousness, keeping the touch light but undeniably present.

Kisses were acceptable, but only on the head and cheek, since his boyfriend insisted on hygiene and morning breath wasn’t sexy, even if Kongpob had never minded.

If they had no time, blow into his ear. And if Kongpob felt particularly daring as well, he could also offer a nibble or a bite, though the consequences of that particular action were unpredictable.

(It was either he got punched, or they ended up staying on the bed longer than it was socially acceptable. Kongpob only did the last thing if he felt like gambling early on in the day.)

Usually a mix and match of the aforementioned techniques would work. His P’Ai-Oon had never been a morning person. It should be a chore, trying to wake the older up, but for Kongpob, it was a privilege that only he was privy to, giving himself the time to just savor the sun radiating its gentle warmth beside him and enjoy the peace and quiet the early hours offered.

And besides, Kongpob was a morning person, so it worked out well for them, considering the older tended to sleep so heavily he slept through his own alarm at times.

So the next 30 minutes passed away just like that, with Kongpob going through his morning routines, showering quickly, putting on his uniform, and going back to the older’s side every once in a while to cajole him from the bed.

P’Arthit was already stirring awake, way before Kongpob expected him to, and considered it a win as he returned back to the older’s side, this time lightly shaking his shoulder.

“P’Ai-Oon... ” He cooed, leaning forward to kiss the older’s head. “Get up now. The food is getting cold. There’s pink milk waiting for you.”

“Nngh… Ai’Kong…” P’Arthit turned away from him, snuffling deeper into the pillow, and it was the cutest thing Kongpob had ever seen in his life. “10 more minutes...”

Well, everything about his boyfriend was endearing.

“P’...” Unable to resist, Kongpob moved his arms to bracket over his boyfriend's head, tilting his body downward, lips just brushing the shell of the older’s ear as he spoke.

“Do you really think we’ll be done in 10 minutes? You might never leave the bed this morning, P’Arthit.”

That finally caught his boyfriend’s attention, his eyes flying open as he swatted at Kongpob’s chest, sending him back. “Hey!”

Kongpob kept his amusement to himself as he sat down again, watching his boyfriend back up against the headboard and gathered the blankets to his chest in an attempt to make a sort of defensive barrier.

Cute. As if that would stop Kongpob from doing anything else.

“Good morning, P’Arthit. I bought your favorites today.” Kongpob beamed as innocently as he could, managing not to laugh out loud. His boyfriend was always the softest during mornings, all hazy and bleary-eyed and sleep-warm, and his indignantly wronged expression was really just the cherry on top. “Let’s eat? It’s the first day of classes, we should be ready.”

“You…” P’Arthit squinted at him, suspicious but still looking a little drowsy, a kitten trying to bare its claws. Kongpob had to clench his fists to stop himself from reaching out and cuddling the older to his chest, even if it would result in some serious bruises on his part. “What did you say earlier?”

“Nothing, P’. You must be still half-asleep.” Kongpob answered smoothly, not quite able to hide the quirk of his lips as he stood up. “We can eat now, or you can take a shower first, no rush. We still have time.”

P’Arthit was still on guard, but seemed to believe him, finally sliding out of the covers, his eyes still narrowed at Kongpob.

And by now, after a few months of dating, Kongpob knew when and where to choose his battles.

“Here,” he said cheerfully instead, offering the towel, which the other took at the speed of light, quickly making a strategic retreat towards Kongpob’s bathroom.

Kongpob watched his boyfriend essentially run away, unable to keep the wide grin off of his lips.

He’s so unbelievably adorable I don’t know what to do sometimes.

Kongpob knew he was more fortunate than other people. Born into a family with wealth, he knew from a young age that could have just about any material thing he wanted if he asked for it. Vacations were always done abroad in luxury hotels and accommodations, clothes and accessories always from designer brands and bespoke tailoring shops. They had a family private jet and a state-of-the-art yacht moored at their family summer house on their own small private island at the southern part of Thailand.

One of Kongpob’s watches, the one he received for his 18th birthday as well as a gift for graduating high school with honors, would earn a person enough money to put 4 children through completely private schooling and then some.

But his Phorh and Mae were sensible, down-to-earth people still, despite being the third-generation owners of the family business, and had instilled into their children the value of hard work and rightfully earning what was due to oneself. They were also loving and attentive, as much as they could be considering their work, but Kongpob had never begrudged the smaller time he spent without them, since they were always present at every important milestone in his life. His older sisters were as much parents to him as their Phorh and Mae were, always stepping up to take their place and never too busy to take care of their littlest, only brother.

So as he grew up, Kongpob wanted for nothing. He had a loving family, money to live off comfortably for the rest of his life, a good education, and many good friends, both from inside the family circle and outside of it.

But…

He wouldn’t say there was something missing, mostly because he knew if he thought the idea to existence karma might just decide to take everything back and give him a harder next life for not appreciating this life enough, but there was still something that was… well.

There was one more thing he wanted to personally experience.

He saw it between his parents, when they looked at each other. Saw it between his first sister and her now husband, when they visited at home with his precious niece. Saw it among his friends, when they all went out as a group with their linked fingers and secret whispers to each other.

He wanted to know what it was like to be in love.

Meeting P’Arthit was the answer to that prayer.

At first he wasn’t very keen on his mother’s idea to get him a tutor for this final year of high school, knowing that he was doing perfectly fine on his own and his grades weren’t that bad, overall. But his Mae insisted on him getting into Engineering and his grades weren’t high enough for the program, so even if Kongpob wanted to study Economics instead, his grades were good enough for it, he agreed to his mother’s plan and resigned himself to enter a degree he didn’t particularly like.

It turned out to be the best decision of his life.

Falling in love with the boy two years older than him was ridiculously easy. P’Arthit was already endearing without effort, respectful and patient and full-hearted, completely serious in his mission to make Kongpob a better student. His dedication was admirable, his personality even more so, and before Kongpob knew it he was looking forward to every tutoring session, not really to study, but to stare at the other’s face as he coached Kongpob through linear algebra and integral calculus. The first time he brought home a 90 in his exam the older boy had been so delighted he treated Kongpob out to dinner from the food stalls nearby his high school, making the trip even if his own house was quite a distance away.

(Kongpob would always fondly consider that memory as their first date, even if his boyfriend insisted otherwise.)

He hadn’t planned on confessing so early, not really. Kongpob had planned to do it after he graduated, after slowly working through the older’s defenses, when he was already accepted in SSU for Engineering, just to be at more equal footing with the older. He wanted to make P’Arthit see that he wasn’t just a kid he was tutoring.

But during one of their lessons, P’Arthit had mentioned something off-hand about Kongpob needing to find a girlfriend or something soon, with all the girls hanging around him, and Kongpob’s mouth had started to move before his mind had even registered the act.

“But I don’t have any feelings for them. The only person I have feelings for is you, P’.”

It was the most nerve-wracking experience of Kongpob’s life. He could clearly remember the way the older’s eyes flew to him in complete shock, the way the pen clattered as it rolled off the other’s hand to the table in front of them. The bright red blush that stained his cheeks, as he tried to give an answer, instinctively knowing that it wasn’t a joke at all.

(Even back then, despite his initial rejection, P’Arthit’s heart and body knew what his mind didn’t, yet. Despite the hurt and the shattered pieces of his heart, Kongpob waited faithfully, drawing on the same determination and patience the older displayed during their sessions.)

In the end, as his now-boyfriend pulled at his shirt collar and gave him his first, clumsy, awkward kiss after a few weeks on that fateful night on Rama VIII Bridge, Kongpob’s faith was ultimately rewarded.

Thus, the lacking pieces were slotted into place, and his life was finally complete.

And Kongpob wouldn’t have it any other way.


Breakfast was a quiet affair. As another part of his peace offering, Kongpob took out the pink milk from the fridge, seeing the way the other’s eyes light up at the sight of his favorite drink. As usual, Kongpob had his simpler meal of basil, meat, and rice, while his boyfriend’s share was covered in a bright red layer of peppers.

It definitely wasn’t healthy for someone to eat so much spice so early in the morning, but far be it for Kongpob to stop the love of his life from eating something he obviously loved.

“Do you have everything you need, Kong?” His boyfriend was already wearing his black shirt and red workshop blazer, hair slicked back with a hoop earring on one ear, and Kongpob could just swoon. Goodness, P’Arthit looked so good today. “Since it’s the first day, you’ll just be meeting with your yearmates and being introduced to your teachers. Remember to take notes on every professor’s requirement for their class, it’ll help you schedule things around during the end of the semester.”

“Okay, P’.” Kongpob answered obediently, fondness curling around his chest as he gazed at the older. His boyfriend may not be physically affectionate, but he showed his feelings in different, more subtle, but no less affectionate ways. He was attentive and caring in all the right ways, and Kongpob had never been so lucky to have him as his boyfriend.

He scattered the rice around his plate when a sudden thought came to him.

“We’ll… be meeting the hazing team after classes. Right?”

With those words, his boyfriend paused, placing down the spoon that he was just about to put in his mouth. Kongpob didn’t know how his voice sounded when he said those words out loud, to be honest. Curious, most probably. Some excitement. Maybe a small amount of caution. The SOTUS system was certainly not unique, hazing activities were common in most universities around the country, but perhaps Kongpob was more apprehensive than he thought he was.

Possibly because his boyfriend was a central part of it.

Honestly, Kongpob wouldn’t know what to do if the love of his life, his smart, soft, laid-back, shy, caring P’Ai-Oon, would suddenly start to look at him like he wasn’t even worthy of being the dirt underneath his shoe.

His heart would break into a thousand pieces, probably.

“Kong. Ai’Kong.”

“... Mn?” Kongpob looked up, not realizing that he had been quiet for quite some time, simply pushing bits of food around his plate. His boyfriend was staring at him, eyebrows furrowed, with a slant to his mouth that displayed his worry.

Kongpob smiled when his boyfriend didn’t speak further. “What is it, P’?”

In response, the older briefly pinched the bridge of his nose, let out a loud exhale, and reached out to grasp Kongpob’s free hand, pulling lightly to rest them on top of the dining table.

Kongpob felt the smile slip off his face, to be replaced by confusion, glancing down at their connected hands. “... P’?”

His boyfriend sighed again. Paler, delicate looking fingers ran lightly through tanned skin, sliding around the back of his hand to press against Kongpob’s pulse, thumb making small circles on his wrist bone.

“Kongpob, listen to me. Very carefully, all right? I want to make things clear right now between us before we get on our day.” The older waited for Kongpob to nod first before meeting his eyes squarely, his touch grounding them both in the moment.

“Later on, whatever happens… I want you to remember that it’s my job. It’s nothing personal, but it is important that we— I do what I do.” His voice was low, words weighted, heavy with meaning.

“Kongpob, in that auditorium, I will not be your boyfriend. I will be your head hazer, you senior. I will make some people cry. I will make some people hate me. And there will be a line that I can’t allow you, or anyone else, to cross.”

And Kongpob could see it now, the layer of unbending steel that now shone in the other’s eyes, covering him like armor. His gentle P’Ai-Oon was completely gone now, replaced by Khun Arthit Rojnapat, third year Engineering Faculty student, Kongpob’s senior, his head hazer.

Somehow, realizing that made a thrill shoot down Kongpob’s spine, a reaction he didn’t expect, and carefully did not dwell over for the moment.

(Something to think about later, when he was alone, in the privacy of his room.)

“P’...”

“But at the end of the day, it’s just an activity, meant to teach you a few things.” P’Arthit continued. “Who I become in that auditorium isn’t who I am in real life, and I’ll still…” This time around, the older looked away, allowing Kongpob to see the light flush crawling up his neck and the tip of his ear.

“I’ll still be yours the next day, and all the days after that. So do you understand now Kongpob, 0062?”

It wasn’t often that Kongpob was rendered speechless, but right now, being soothed and assured by the other, telling him that what they had would never change, was so intensely comforting, laying down the anxiety and apprehension he didn’t realize was already quietly building up inside him.

What should he do? He was in trouble. He… might never be able to live so happily again if P’Arthit wasn’t by his side anymore.

Kongpob ducked his face for a brief moment, trying to wrangle the intense wave of emotions that surged through his entire being, something so vast and depthless and indescribable but always, always, recognizable.

An emotion that was perfectly understood.

Kongpob took a slow breath and finally lifted his head, eyes wide and taking in the entirety of his entire universe.

In the end, he was a simple man. His world now revolved around the sun.

“... I understand, P’Arthit.” He answered, completely earnest and sincere, face still feeling somewhat warm. “I won’t think too much of it then.”

“Good.” The older looked satisfied, despite the light blush still clinging to his cheeks, and Kongpob wanted to kiss them, again and again until they were completely red and as bright as a rose in full bloom. “Now eat, eat. We shouldn’t waste food.”

As his boyfriend started to pull his hand back, Kongpob moved, twisting his arm so he was the one who held on this time, taking the moment to appreciate the contrast of their skin tones, of how perfectly his boyfriend’s wrist fit the cage of his palm.

He would never let this go.

“Please don’t worry, P’Arthit.” He said after a while, his smile slowly widening.

“Whatever side of you I see after today will not make me like you any less.”

“You—!” He watched the older splutter and choke, face turning redder and opting to just slurp at his pink milk instead of saying something back.

Kongpob simply gazed at him with undisguised affection, picking up the spoon with his other hand to continue eating.

It was fine if P’Arthit didn’t answer.

After all, his hand still stayed exactly where it was, in Kongpob’s care and keeping.


The first day at SSU was eventful. Kongpob got his class schedule already lined up, and the amount of information given to him in just a few hours was enough to make his head ache. But it was exciting as well, since he had Aim with him all throughout the morning, the two of them naturally gravitating and sticking together since they already knew each other from high school.

By the time lunchtime rolled around, Kongpob was starving and his hand was aching from all the notes he had written. But also he found out that the Engineering Faculty cafeteria had excellent food choices, and Aim was a good person to get to know better, the two of them swapping stories from their high school life. Kongpob wasn’t alone in this madness, and it was a nice feeling.

He hadn’t seen his boyfriend around at all. One would think that, since they were in the same faculty, Kongpob would at least get a glimpse of him, even from a distance, but so far, there was no handsome, black-shirted, red-blazered senior walking around the corridors.

Kongpob wasn’t too worried though, as he finally got to his first afternoon class.

They would definitely meet each other again today.

And, true to his belief, his last class of the day had his professor saying that all freshmen needed to go to the Engineering Faculty auditorium to meet their seniors, and there was nothing to do but to pack up and go as instructed.

It was all a flurry of activity. The atmosphere was bright and festive, with people playing drums and tambourines as they were ushered to the registration table. Kongpob signed beside his name, got his nametag, and was hustled inside the hall alongside his fellow yearmates.

And it… wasn’t that bad. Kongpob had been expecting something… not so lighthearted, but so far the second-years were just teaching them the faculty anthem and were told that they should memorize it. There was singing and dancing and people introducing themselves.

It was fun.

At least, until the back door suddenly opened, and the first of the third-year hazers came in.

The temperature instantly dropped to freezing temperatures. They were all wearing the same uniform, faces stoic and expressionless as they walked up to the stage in a line, hands behind their backs, completely silent, save for the sound of their shoes against the wooden floor.

Kongpob’s eyes instantly found the person he was looking for, and had to mentally take a step back.

He… didn’t know who the person in front of them was at all.

His boyfriend looked completely different. His face was stern, posture drawn taut, gait strong, unyielding, and without nonsense as he took his place in the middle of the stage, his sharp gaze sweeping out to all of them forbiddingly. Behind him, the other hazers took their places, Kongpob recognizing some as his boyfriend’s closest and most treasured friends.

(In the pictures Kongpob had seen, they were all smiling, goofing off, having fun. Now their faces were as cold as stone, auras icier still.)

“Whatever happens… I want you to remember that it’s my job. Who I become in that auditorium isn’t who I am in real life.”

Now Kongpob understood why.

“Welcome, first year students. My name is Arthit. I’m a third year and your senior in the Faculty of Engineering.”

As the older continued to speak, stating what they were here for, what they intended to do, of how important the Gear was to Engineering students like them, on what the freshmen should do, Kongpob found that he couldn’t concentrate much on the words at all, continuing to fully stare at the other.

It was… terrifying. But also deeply fascinating, to see the older act so opposite of who he really was. His P’Arthit might be prickly at times, but he was never so strict, this antagonistic, towards other people. It was a new side to his boyfriend, one that he and everyone else got to see, and for most of them, it would be the first impression they would have of Arthit Rojnapat.

Everyone was deathly silent. Some were fidgeting, others completely frozen in place. Most had their heads lowered down, unwilling to look at the seniors in the eyes, wholly intimidated.

(Fleetingly Kongpob worried about the older’s throat. With all the shouting the older was doing, the volume carrying throughout the large, closed area, P’Arthit was going to lose his voice if he didn’t stop soon. He should text him to at least drink warm water to soothe his vocal chords later on tonight.)

And then the first task was announced.

A thousand signatures from seniors in their faculty, to be completed in just one week.

Whispers immediately broke out among the first years.

“That’s just impossible,” Aim whispered to Kongpob under his breath, and Kongpob quietly agreed, quickly glancing at the stage again. It was doable, for sure, but in just one week? With classes and extracurriculars still going on?

This was a task set up for complete failure. Kongpob knew it, his yearmates knew it.

And he had a feeling that his boyfriend knew that as well.

But if they wouldn’t be able to do it, then why even give that specific task? Wasn’t that just cruel? Unfair, because all of the odds were stacked against them in the first place?

(Was this what his boyfriend and friends experienced too, as first years, or was it even worse?)

So there was no other way around it.

Kongpob raised his hand.

He felt the eyes of his entire year on him as he stood up, and he knew the exact moment the older recognized him.

“Kongpob, Student ID 0062. May I have permission to speak?”

His boyfriend’s eyes narrowed further, lips thinning as a nerve ticked by his jaw, but finally, finally, he saw something else in the older’s eyes, the hint of an emotion so familiar Kongpob could almost smile in relief.

Fond exasperation.

Of course you would say something about this, you heroic idiot, his beloved P’Ai-Oon seemed to say with an internal eye-roll, masked underneath the veneer of severity and harshness.

Despite the light, almost-playful censure, Kongpob refused to back down. The deadline was too tight. It just wasn’t possible.

But naturally, he was shot down.

“Can’t we have one month?” He continued to insist.

“No, you can’t!” P’Arthit barked back, lips curled in a disdainful sneer, the expression so suddenly and unfairly sexy Kongpob had to swallow, his hands slowly curling into a fist.

It felt dangerous, suddenly, to do this, to challenge the head hazer like this in front of everyone else. Risky. He was definitely courting trouble, at this point.

But Kongpob had never felt more exhilarated in his life.

It was definitely a bad time to feel attracted to his boyfriend.

“If it were you, would you be able to get one thousand signatures in one week?” Kongpob asked, voice strong and uncompromising, ignoring the rising voices around him. He watched the older look away and really roll his eyes, thoroughly fed up with him by this point, and it was another well-beloved look on him that Kongpob bit the inside of his cheek to stop his face from showing just how much he adored the man above him.

Because he wasn’t, and would never be, afraid of the love of his life.

“You’re in no position to ask questions back.” The older told him pointblank, cutting off any more protests Kongpob may have. “My orders are absolute. Is that understood?!”

Yes, P’Ai-Oon, I’ll follow everything you say, Kongpob immediately thought, resisting the urge to tug at his own closed, slowly heating collar. He quickly looked away, letting out a breath slowly, as his yearmates answered the third-year in unison.

With one final glance at him, working his jaw, his boyfriend and the hazing team eventually left, leaving him there standing, staring at their backs.

“Hey, you were so cool, earlier,” the reedy, bespectacled boy whispered beside him as finally sat back down again, the signature books starting to be passed around. “By the way, my name is Oak.”

As Kongpob introduced himself, he suddenly found himself already making plans with Aim, Oak, and Tew to play some online games at an internet cafe afterwards. He wasn’t really a gamer, but he knew how to play at least, and it was a nice way to unwind after all the tension earlier.

If anything, at least he could make some new friends, after that disaster of a confrontation with the head hazer.

Who was also conveniently his boyfriend.

Oh, Kongpob thought, belatedly remembering his reaction to P’Arthit basically treating him like he was less than nothing in the older’s eyes.

Oh, he was going to be in so much trouble for this.


What seemed to be the plan to play for an hour in the internet cafe eventually turned into a group dinner with an impromptu drinking session, the four of them already thick as thieves at the end of the evening. Kongpob managed to down a few beers, which wasn’t nearly enough to get him tipsy, let alone drunk, but eventually after a few hours of just getting to know each other he decided to call it a night and bid his newfound friends goodbye.

When Kongpob returned to his room, it was already late. He had no idea how exhausted he was until he managed to slip off his shoes and padded towards the living area, flopping face down on the bed after depositing his bag at the corner. His mind was lightly hazy as he groped for his phone, checking for any missed calls or messages.

Naturally, he had texted his boyfriend about his sudden plans before going on them, not really to ask permission, but to just let him know what Kongpob was doing.

What he got was a single reply that Kongpob just managed to read right at this moment.

Let me know if you need a ride back home.

The text was enough to put a smile on Kongpob’s face. His P’Arthit, always so worried for him. It was enough to give him the energy he needed to push himself back up on his feet and clean himself up before finally going to bed.

With some of his lights open, he quickly texted that he was back, but a quick peek around the curtains showed that the older still wasn’t at his dorm room, the room on the other side completely dark, its own curtains closed. A little concerned now, Kongpob showered quickly, the cold water bringing him back to much-needed sobriety and awareness.

When he exited the bathroom, hair still wet and dripping water over his sleeping shirt, his boyfriend still wasn’t back to his dorm. Kongpob was seriously contemplating calling the older to ask where he was, but the sudden sight of the lights flickering open on the other side stopped that thought, Kongpob immediately drawing one of his curtains aside to check on his boyfriend.

He could see into the other room clearly now. The older was sitting on his bed, barefoot but still in his complete hazing uniform, fiddling with his phone. Kongpob barely had to wonder what he was doing on it when his LINE chimed with a new message.

Asleep? Can I call you?

Of course P’, you can call me anytime, Kongpob quickly replied, quickly situating himself by the window, continuing to watch the other room, rubbing at his hair with a towel. His message was barely sent when his phone vibrated on his palm, and he immediately answered.

“Hello, P’?”

“You shouldn’t be drinking on a school day,” the older immediately scolded as an opening, and Kongpob couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped him.

“I didn’t drink much, and besides, it’s just the first day. We didn’t do anything for classes yet. You sound tired, P’. Why did you get home so late? I was starting to get worried.”

“Meeting. The hazers always get together after an event to talk about what happened today and the things we need to do next.” Kongpob looked on as the other stood up, starting to pace around. He was close enough to see the troubled expression on his boyfriend’s face. “... Are you okay?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Kongpob asked, a little surprised at the question.

“... It must have been a shock to you. Sorry.”

“What are you sorry about?” He blinked, completely confused by this point.

“I humiliated you in front of your batch, Kong.” He could see the grimace in P’Arthit’s face, hear the guilt in his voice. “I could have handled it differently. I realize that now.”

“But I had that coming,” Kongpob pointed out in turn. “Don’t apologize, P’. I knew what I was doing and I fully accept the consequences of my actions. Besides, it wasn’t that bad. You could have done worse. You put me in my place, P’, that’s all.”

“So…” The older stopped moving, body language hesitant. “You didn’t go out today… because of that?”

“What? No!” Kongpob laughed. So cute. Gosh, his boyfriend was the absolute best. Kongpob wanted to squish his cheeks. “P’Arthit, I went out drinking today because some of the people in my class invited me. It wasn’t because I felt bad that you yelled at me.” He assured, voice warm and low. “I told you. Nothing you would do today would make me like you less.”

“Oh.” Kongpob saw the other’s shoulders drop, his body loosening. And he didn’t have to even look to know that his boyfriend was absolutely flustered right now. “That’s… well. That’s good.” The older cleared his throat, the sound scratchy, and Kongpob frowned at the sound.

“P’Arthit, your voice sounds hoarse.” He said instead, letting his boyfriend go for the moment. He meant what he said; apologies weren’t needed at all. “Have you drunk some warm water? Drink some medicine and get some rest, at least. All that shouting isn’t good for your throat.” Kongpob made a note to look at his medicine cabinet to see if he had some lozenges stored. “I can go over there to give you some if you need them.”

“It’s okay. Hazard of the job.” The third year had finally removed his red workshop shirt, hair already falling out of place from its gelled position. “Not allowed to use microphones. Wouldn’t look as imposing and badass.”

Kongpob chuckled, going outside to his balcony to hang his wet towel, hair mostly dry.

“... Does it have to be a thousand signatures, P’?” He sighed, still not completely accepting the task assigned to them. “I can’t stop thinking about it. No matter how I try to plan it out, it’s still around 140 signatures a day. We don’t meet 140 different people everyday.”

“Hey, consider yourself lucky. During our time we had to finish at the end of the school week. At least you guys have the weekend to catch up.” The older took a moment to stretch his back and waist, before sighing again.

“As head hazer, I need to say yes. A thousand signatures, 0062, no less.”

Kongpob frowned. A pause.

“But as your boyfriend, to be honest… doing your best is still the most important thing.” The other went out of his sight, but the rustling and clinking he heard afterwards told Kongpob that the other was probably near his kitchen. “And that’s all I can tell you, right now. And I’m not worried about that, because I know that you always do your best.”

Kongpob’s heart stopped in his chest.

When it came to their relationship, Kongpob only needed the simplest things to make him happy.

And P’Arthit always made him feel the happiest.

P’.” He said after a moment, touched and moved beyond words.

Embarrassed silence.

“A-Anyway, go to sleep already. It’s past midnight, you have classes tomorrow.” His boyfriend eventually came back into view, with a glass of water on his unoccupied hand, now changed into a loose shirt and shorts. Kongpob was a little disappointed that he didn’t see the process from start to finish. “Sleep as much as you can, because you’ll be begging to soon enough.”

“In a while.” There were still a few things Kongpob needed to talk to him about. “Will you give me the honor of being the first name on my signature book, P’Arthit?”

“No way,” his boyfriend answered with a laugh, which just made Kongpob’s chest feel warm and tingly. P’Arthit sounded the best when he was laughing, and it was always a small thrill for Kongpob, knowing that he was the one who brought it there. “I’ll make you work extra hard for it. Ask me again in a few days. I’ll need to think about it.”

“I’ll do anything you want, P’,” he conceded easily, hiding a yawn behind his hand. His boyfriend wasn’t wrong, he really needed to sleep, and soon. But…

“Ah… P’Arthit…”

“What?”

“You looked incredibly attractive on stage today.”

“Wha—?!” Kongpob turned his head just in time to see the older choke on his water, and Kongpob felt a little bad, but mostly affectionately amused. “Kongpob!”

“P’, you might wake up the neighbors.” Kongpob reminded the other cheerfully, “I wouldn’t mind seeing you like that more often, P’Ai-Oon. Also, please remember to close your curtains before you shower or go to bed. I wouldn’t like it very much if other people can see what I’m seeing right now.”

“You—!” Finally, Arthit glanced at his direction and Kongpob, safely inside his own dorm room, gave a small wave, knowing that his face wouldn’t be seen, close to the window as he was, with the lights behind him. “Oh my god, have you been watching me all this time?!”

“I was worried when you weren’t home yet.” Kongpob replied simply, bringing his hand to his mouth when the older immediately went to his windows to drag the curtains shut. Which was a shame, Kongpob was immensely enjoying the view. “And I wanted to see your face before I go to sleep.”

“Urgh! Go to bed, Kongpob!” His boyfriend growled, a little bit of his ‘hazer’ voice seeping through, and this time, Kongpob couldn’t stop the goosebumps that rose on his skin.

This was definitely bad for his heart.

“Good night, P’Arthit. Sweet dreams.”

A dial tone was his answer and Kongpob pulled his phone away, his cheeks aching a little bit from how wide he was smiling. He glanced at his phone screen, which was a picture of them holding hands, arms stretched out as if they were going somewhere together.

It was taken by his boyfriend and he knew P’Arthit had the same picture as his home screen.

And as Kongpob finally prepared for bed, charging his phone and sinking onto his bedsheets that still smelled faintly of warmth and sunshine, his phone chirped with the night’s last message.

Good night. Get some rest.

And don’t watch me from the window. It’s creepy, you stalker.

Chapter Text

It was a few days into the hazing activity and Arthit couldn’t say he was enjoying it. He didn’t dislike it either. It was what it was, and despite his reluctance, he still had to show his face as head hazer, so here he was in the cafeteria with his friends, carefully watching small groups of white-shirted first years clumping together, hesitantly approaching any senior they would come across.

The freshman signature signing event was... going. Not well, but not terrible either. The first years were actually making an effort to do his assignment, and the seniors in the faculty were delighted to poke some light fun and humor at the nongs’ expense.

The various ways the seniors could pressure the first years during this affair usually depended on the person. Some didn’t, simply giving their names immediately without much thought, just telling the young ones good luck. Others requested the freshmen to sing, to dance, to run a few laps around the building before giving their signatures. A sizable amount demanded more ridiculous things instead, like standing up in front of a full cafeteria and shouting something completely ridiculous and humiliating, like “I’m the most beautiful/ugly/whatever adjective,” or “I like P’(insert name of said senior here)”.

Arthit had done his own share of light hazing for this particular activity. During his second year he, Bright, and Prem mostly used this opportunity to get the numbers of some of the prettier freshmen, partly to make the girls flustered and partly to prove to the gang that he still had pretty good game. He didn’t really do anything with the phone numbers though, still hung up on Namtan as he was, and even he knew it was a dick move to force someone to give their personal info in those circumstances.

Speaking of which, he really should be doing that again this year. Hell, Bright was already expecting it, if the way he was already eyeing up possible candidates was saying anything. He was reasonably sure Kongpob wouldn’t mind, since this was a part of his job. He would just have to soothe and assure the younger later on when they were alone that it really didn’t mean anything, because his boyfriend would definitely pout over it. Arthit would even let the other watch him tear up the numbers he’d gotten and check his phone for new contacts if that was what it took.

But the thought of his younger boyfriend going through the same thing, of his yearmates asking Kongpob for his number in exchange for their signatures, had Arthit’s entire body, down to the smallest cell, physically recoiling, the notion of it so repulsive that he instantly gave up the moment the hitting-on-the-girls idea entered his mind. Kongpob was irritatingly charming, polite and formal and friendly and not to mention unbelievably handsome; Arthit had no doubt that Kongpob’s pictures were already making the rounds through the faculty.

Even more so because of the altercation between them on that first day.

Arthit knew his boyfriend was always too goddamn perfect to be real.

(But he was perfect and he was real, and during Arthit’s most quiet and solitary moments he always wondered why the younger chose him, when he was unremarkable and normal and totally ordinary compared to someone like Kongpob. Kongpob would disagree, but that was the simple truth.

In the end, Arthit could only be grateful and humbled that Kongpob had chosen to love him out of all the people in the world.)

He would have to get the nongs to do something different this year. Arthit was in a serious relationship now, the least he could do was to be faithful to his boyfriend. Still, he would have to make it something more difficult than other people’s, because he had some pride as the head hazer.

So far, no first years had approached him, which was just fine with Arthit; he needed the time anyway to think of what he would have Kongpob do for his signature. He had to tread lightly; the younger would take the entire stretch of the highway if given an inch and Arthit didn’t think he would be able to take the heart attack that would inevitably cause.

Which meant having the younger speak in front of a crowd was a definite ‘no way’. Knowing his boyfriend there was the equal chance of him saying what Arthit ordered him to say and him saying ‘I love P’Arthit the most in the whole world’ in front of the entire engineering student body, so he was definitely not taking those chances. No singing or dancing or shows of physical prowess like laps, sit ups, or push ups; he was hazing his boyfriend, not making more people attracted to him, damn it.

Which left him with… nothing, basically.

Arthit sighed, forlornly looking down at his cup of cola. He wished he could buy pink milk. Stupid, perfect, handsome, lovable Kong.

“You okay, Ai’Arthit?” Knot asked, looking up from his notes to glance at him worriedly.

“Yeah.” Arthit waved Knot’s concern away, sipping at his drink in a way his friends would describe as brooding, which it was not, thank you very much. “It’s nothing, just thinking.”

“Oi, don’t look so down, Ai’Arthit!” Bright said with a grin, leaning forward with a sparkle in his eyes. “It’s that time of the year again! Hey, do you think they’ll be some pretty nongs in this batch of first years? We can do the old thing again!”

“Aow, I can’t do that this year, Ai’Bright.” Arthit groaned, refusing to even consider it. “I’m head hazer, I just can’t ask something like that from the first years.”

“That hasn’t stopped P’Deer from last year from getting at least five numbers from the second years!” Bright tried to peer into his Arthit’s eyes, also starting to look concerned, and he quickly looked away. “What’s up with you? Are you sick or something?”

No,” Arthit answered instantly, using his palm to shove the other’s face away from him. “Go away, Bright, you’re too close.”

“You’ve been acting weirdly ever since the hazing started, Arthit,” Tutah tutted, eyes narrowed from underneath his glasses. “Is the pressure getting to you? Do you need a break?”

“You sure you’re fine?” Prem grunted beside him, and Arthit could just hug them all, lowering his head to hide his touched expression. His friends, seriously. He hated them sometimes, but he would never replace them for anything.

“Stop henning, guys, honestly.” Arthit rolled his eyes at them, after taking a moment to compose himself. “I’m fine. Just wondering why no one’s asked us yet.”

Speak of the devil and he shall appear, Arthit would think later on, the conversation stopping as one freshman girl suddenly went to their table, dragging one of her friends with her.

“Excuse me, P’Arthit, but my friend wants to know you!”

Then said girl was left standing there, alone, and Arthit suddenly felt a pang of sympathy, quickly darting his gaze to the one that just escaped. Some friend she was, throwing this one to the wolves like that.

He glanced at this girl briefly, cataloging her features. She was pretty, undeniably so, possibly the most beautiful freshman in this batch yet, and something unpleasant curled in his chest.

She was exactly the type of girl that guys would fight over for.

(Would Kong find her attractive? He should, right?)

As the nong stammered through her introduction and request for Arthit to sign her book, Arthit wondered what he should ask her, Praepailin, 0774, to do. Him suggesting anything is absolutely out of the question, on the off chance that his boyfriend was around and listening in somewhere.

So he opted for the easiest route out.

“Isn’t it too easy to get my signature by just asking? How are you going to convince me to give it to you?” He placed the ball in her court, lacing his fingers under his chin as he observed her.

“Nong ah, just to let you know,” Bright interjected, and Arthit quickly glanced at him, “my friend here likes to be told that he’s handsome.” He sent a sly smirk in Arthit’s direction. “Maybe if you shout it out loud 3 times for everyone to hear he’ll soften up enough and sign your book.”

Arthit froze as everyone around him ‘oooh’ed.

Ai’Shit Bright, god fucking damn it.

The poor girl was blushing, completely mortified by this point, and Arthit wished he could take everything back and just sign the damn thing to get it over with. But it was too late for that, and he braced himself as the girl squared her shoulders and took a breath.

“P’... P’Arthit is super good-looking!”

As Praepailin repeated the sentence 3 times, voice growing louder each time, Arthit just wanted to disintegrate from his seat, fingers tightly clenched around each other even as his expression remained completely cool. His ears were probably betraying him at his point though, felt them blazing against his head, as Praepailin finished and his friends whooped and hollered around him.

He hoped to Buddha Kongpob wasn’t anywhere near them right now for this. He was going to die if the younger somehow got wind of what happened.

“Thank you for your confession.” He said instead, keeping his voice even and collected. “Give me your book, N’Praepailin.”

The relief on her face was palpable, and Arthit wasted no time in signing on a blank page and returning her book back, which she took quickly. Praepailin left their presence as fast as she physically could, and Arthit honestly couldn’t blame her.

“Dude, what the hell was that?!” Bright exclaimed as soon as she was out of earshot. “That was the perfect chance to get her number! I was wingmanning for you and everything!”

“Did I tell you to wingman for me, Ai’Shit Bright?” Arthit scowled, slurping at his cola. “I could have handled that fine. Maybe I wasn’t interested in her, you ass.”

“Are you blind? She’s beautiful, man! She’s already popular with some of our classmates, and you just wasted my efforts, man!”

“Speaking of good-looking, popular people…” Knot said mildly, tilting his head towards another direction, “look over there.”

Arthit followed his gaze, and felt the breath instantly escape his lungs.

Oh.

There it was.

He knew he was going to see something like this soon enough, and Arthit thought he was prepared for it.

But apparently not well enough, as he stared at his boyfriend being surrounded by a gaggle of girls, exchanging signature books with them. Kongpob was smiling at them, his polite but guarded smile, but it wasn’t enough to stop the suddenly hot, ugly sensation rising in Arthit’s chest.

It was a painfully familiar emotion, and he must not have schooled his expression on time, because Prem saw it.

“Arthit, what’s wrong? You look upset.” He asked, and Arthit didn’t answer, instead wrenching his gaze away, straightening his workshop shirt, and standing up from the bench.

“Kongpob, 0062.” He said sharply as Kongpob passed by their table, the younger stopping and bowing lightly as he approached. His boyfriend was happy to see him, it was obvious, but Arthit was in a bad mood and seeing the way those dark eyes lit up wasn’t helping him at all.

(He shouldn’t, he shouldn’t, the younger wasn’t doing anything wrong and this was Arthit being a jealous bastard.

Kongpob shouldn’t be smiling at other people that way.

And Arthit hated that he was even thinking like that in the first place.)

He glanced down at the other’s hands quickly and back up to his face.

“Why do you have two signature books?”

In front of him, he saw Kongpob pause and hesitate, instantly sensing his mood. “The other belongs to my friend.”

“Your friend? And why can’t your friend work on this themselves?” He knew his tone was too harsh, too demanding right now, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“You told us to get signatures. But you didn’t specify how to get them, did you?”

Kongpob was starting to look very unhappy, stance defensive. Cheeky brat. Well, Arthit had expected this kind of thing from him already, the younger already too noble and selfless for his own good. The purpose of this exercise was to make the first years interact with the people in their faculty, to force them out of their comfort zone so they could build connections that might be important years down the road.

As for all of the singing and dancing and physical exertions, well, what was social interaction without effort? There was always the fear of humiliation, of rejection, everywhere, and all of them had to be ready to face it. If not now, when? When they were older and had to face a group of executives, with their jobs and futures on the line?

It was better to learn these lessons early, in a safer, more controlled environment, with their fellow peers rather than real, senior-ranking people. Arthit knew that some seniors took this chance to go on an absolute power trip over the freshmen, and had strictly ordered the other hazers to keep an eye out and inform him if those people were around.

They were toughening up the first years, not traumatizing them.

(It was one of the many things he loved about Kongpob, that he was so undeniably good, completely willing to give the shirt off his back if it would help someone who needed it. The problem was that people shouldn’t expect saviors in their lives; kind, nice people like Kong were so easy to take advantage of in the right circumstances.

In real life, people didn't have heroes to save them; people needed to work hard to save their own damn selves. His boyfriend shouldn’t have to stick his neck out for them, not if they weren’t willing to do the same for him in turn.

And that was why Arthit was there.

Someone more responsible needed to look after his Kong.)

Arthit kissed his teeth, more than tempted to just say screw it and go for broke. The defiance in the younger’s eyes were abundantly clear, thinking he was doing the right thing, but he was only spoiling his friends at this point, and Arthit wouldn’t tolerate it.

His boyfriend needed to learn the consequences of his own actions. He should look after himself first, and only help other people if they were willing to do something for themselves.

“Give me your signature book.”

It was passed to him quietly, and Arthit sat down, quickly leafing through the pages. He found that most of them were already filled with names, and even if Kongpob wouldn’t get the thousand names required, he had still gotten pretty close.

(Despite his current irritation, he couldn’t help the curl of pride around his chest, seeing how much work Kongpob put into this task.

He knew his boyfriend could do everything he wanted, as long as he put his mind to it.)

“You don’t have mine yet.” Arthit stated as he leaned back against the table, glancing up at the younger.

“... Yes.”

“Well, then.” Arthit closed the book. “Since you like to help people so much, 0062… I want you to collect the books from all the freshmen you encounter and get their signatures for them too. Once you’re finished, I’ll give you my signature.”

Kongpob stared at him in complete shock. “... What?”

“What, you can’t do it?” He continued without pause, eyes narrow. “With all the names you’ve got right now, I’m sure that this will be a piece of cake, with all the girls lining up to get your signature.” Too much, Arthit thought, instantly recognizing the vitriol in his tone, but it was already out in the open, and he couldn’t take it back.

He thought he saw a flash of understanding in the younger’s face, and Arthit immediately tore his gaze away, feeling too raw, too exposed.

Fuck.

“But…” Kongpob’s voice softened, and Arthit ached at the sheer gentleness of it, the familiar timbre reserved for him and him alone, “P’Arthit…”

“If you think it’s impossible then give the signature book back to your friend and let them do their work.” He interrupted, pushing the book back against Kongpob’s chest. He couldn’t hear that tone from his boyfriend. Not now. “Don’t bother getting mine if you can’t do what I told you.”

Kongpob continued to stare at him, quietly pleading, and Arthit closed his eyes for a brief moment, before completely turning away.

“Well? Get moving.”

He saw the younger’s jaw clench, thoroughly rebuffed, and eventually bowed his head.

“Yes, P’Arthit.”

And, to Arthit’s complete non-surprise, Kongpob started to approach a nearby table of freshman to do exactly as he said.

It was necessary, he told the large part of his heart that was slowly turning heavy in his chest. The younger needed to learn a lesson in moderation, and he wouldn’t get it unless he experienced the effects for himself.

Besides, he’d stop the younger after a day anyway, once Kongpob realized how monumentally difficult the work would be.

“That was harsh Ai’Arthit, even for you.” Tutah noted as Arthit took his seat once more, not even bothering to hide his terrible mood. “What do you have against that nong, na? He’s just helping out his friend.”

“... I hate people like him.” Arthit answered truthfully, finishing off his drink, observing his boyfriend from the corner of his eye. “There are right and wrong ways to help people. He needs to be taught a lesson.”

And to that, his friends had no answer, immediately understanding what he meant.


That night, Kongpob was waiting for him by the corner of the building after the hazer team meeting, and Arthit had to stop the reflexive urge to turn around and walk completely in the opposite direction.

Arthit had done his share of running away, both literal and figurative, during the course of their relationship. It was just so hard to put things in words, to be truthful and honest about his feelings, even if Kongpob was, supposedly, the one person in the world he should be free to talk to about anything and everything under the sun.

Truthfully, Arthit knew that part of the reason why they were still together was because Kongpob was too stubborn to let him go, continuing to chase him whenever Arthit became a coward and turned tail. It had always been the younger who ran after him, who did the most to make their relationship remain the way it did.

And Arthit, recognizing it because he wasn’t as oblivious as others paint him to be, tried to do his part by staying still, to give the time and attention the younger needed from him.

The fact was just that his boyfriend just… wanted him, in any way Arthit was willing to give. And Kongpob gave himself to him so wholly, so unrestrainedly, that it scared Arthit in a visceral way.

Because what would he do, if he couldn’t take care of Kongpob like he deserved?

A relationship needed two people to communicate, to give and take, and as the older one between them, Arthit had to do better. Had to be better, for them to work, to be happy and content with each other as days, months, and years pass by.

(He was already preparing for forever when he looked at Kongpob.

Arthit intended to keep it that way.)

So he paused in his steps, waving away the rest of the hazer team to leave first, waiting until the last of the red shirts disappeared into the darkness before turning to the younger. Together, without a word, they both started the trek back to their apartment complex, Arthit going first, Kongpob lingering behind.

It was during the middle of their walk, that Arthit finally slowed down and spoke.

“It’s late. You should be back at your dorm.”

“P’Arthit.” Kongpob turned him slowly, warily, as if expecting to be chased away at any moment. But Arthit didn’t move, keeping his eyes on the younger as Kongpob eventually walked up to him, both of them finally standing side to side. They stared at each other for a while, Kongpob trying to find the right words to say, and Arthit, waiting for the younger to continue.

Then Kongpob inhaled a breath.

“I… understood what you wanted to tell me, this afternoon.”

“Did you?” Arthit asked, a touch too biting and sarcastic for what should be a normal conversation, and at the other’s reproachful look, immediately winced and pressed a hand to his face in self-reprimand.

For the love of all that was holy, could Arthit not fuck up everything in one day?

“Sorry. That was too harsh.” He wasn’t being fair to his boyfriend right now, and they both knew it. “Let’s not do this today, Kong. I’m tired and I don’t want to fight with you.”

“We’re not going to fight.” Kongpob said firmly, hand darting out to lightly grasp Arthit’s wrist. His palm was warm, still soft and pliable in certain places. Arthit found his gaze drawn to it, at the single point of contact between their bodies. “I’m just saying that I know what you wanted me to learn, P’Arthit. It took a while, but I get it now.”

“And what was it I’m trying to teach you?” He asked, just to make sure.

Kongpob looked at him steadily.

“That I can’t save everyone, P’.”

Arthit studied his boyfriend’s face for a moment, and saw nothing but calm certainty and self-assurance. Kongpob… really did look like he understood, and sharp, tingling relief swept through his body.

(He had been quietly agonizing over it for hours, wondering if he did the right thing. He did nothing wrong, his friends assured him, it was for the nong’s own good, but they didn’t know the depth of emotional investment Arthit had for this particular one.)

“... I’m not going to apologize for what I did.” Arthit finally said, finally gazing into the younger’s face. His eyes were equally as firm as his tone, despite feeling the lightest he had been all day. “You had that coming. If you don’t like it, you’re always free to take it up with me during the hazing period.”

“I understand. But I won’t stop doing what I think is right.” Kongpob answered back, still quietly resolute. “You can scold and punish me all you want for it, that’s fine. It’s my choice to make, P’Arthit, and you’ll need to respect that.”

Now it was a battle of wills, Arthit still mildly censuring, and his boyfriend silently expectant. But in the end, it was he who looked away first, huffing out a breath, even as his wrist twisted in the other’s grip.

“Fine. So stubborn.” Arthit sighed, letting their hands fall freely, palm to palm, arms lightly swinging between them.

“But then again, it’s my fault that I’m saddled with you, of all people. I suppose I should just give up and accept my fate.”

WIth those words, a smile cracked through Kongpob’s face, the first he had seen all day, and Arthit felt a light squeeze on his hand.

“You’ll never be able to escape me, P’.” His boyfriend promised. From anyone else it would have sounded like a threat, but from Kongpob’s lips, it just sounded sweet, inviting.

Arthit raised an eyebrow at him. Cocky brat. Arthit didn’t know whether to punch him or kiss him. “What, you think I can’t run away from you?”

“Not at all. Just… ” In the darkness, Kongpob’s deep eyes twinkled, brighter than any star in the sky.

Then Arthit suddenly found himself being yanked forward, right into his boyfriend’s embrace, crashing against his chest and being enveloped into his arms.

“I’ve already caught you, P’Arthit.”

“H-Hey!” Arthit grasped at the back of Kongpob’s shirt, feeling the shift of the other’s muscles under his knuckles, his momentary panic instinctively making him attempt to pull back. “Kongpob, we’re outside!”

“It’s night, and no one is around right now.” Kongpob murmured lowly into his ear, gathering Arthit to his chest, pressed against each other so closely that if he closed his eyes, he would feel and hear the beat of his boyfriend’s heart on his clothed skin.

Or maybe it was his own, already threatening to burst out of his ribcage.

“Let me hold you for a little while. Please.”

Arthit couldn’t speak. How could he, faced with such earnestness, such open intensity? His face was on fire, his cheeks even more so, and could only be glad that they were partially covered by the darkness of the night.

He wouldn’t be able to stand it if a stranger would see this moment of tenderness between them.

So he quickly took a glance around, to see if they were truly alone, and they were. Just the two of them, on a sidewalk in the middle of a deserted university road, in between two orange-colored lamplights.

So Arthit thought that it was all right to surrender now, to let himself turn into liquid, weight and being completely resting against the other, soaking up the heat of his body. His fingers uncurled, hands and arms shifting to properly cover the younger’s back, tucking his face into a tan neck, filling his nose with the faint scent of Kongpob’s cologne, the mild mint of his hair conditioner.

(Because Kongpob had always asked so little of him, when he was ready to give up everything, and Arthit could only, helplessly, respond in kind.)

Next to him, he felt the other chuckle, quickly darting in for a sniff at his skin, nuzzling at the line of his throat, making Arthit shiver. A quick smack to boyfriend’s back quickly put a stop to that, and he felt a pair of lips press at his pulse, a fleeting apology.

After a moment of simply holding and being held, his boyfriend sighed in contentment.

“I missed you, P’Ai-Oon.” Kongpob whispered into his neck, and Arthit felt the uncomfortable prickle under his skin finally settle down, the yearning in his bones finally laid to rest.

It had been days since they were able to properly be with each other like this. Saw each other, naturally, talked to each other as much as they could, either through texts or calls, but those things couldn’t quite compare to the real experience of physical, grounding touch.

God, Arthit wanted him so much.

“... Missed you too.” Arthit admitted quietly, braver in Kongpob’s arms, emboldened further by the darkness surrounding them. His hand reached up to pet the other’s hair, smoothing the wayward strands that had already escaped its gelled state throughout the day. He always liked it more when Kongpob had his hair down. “You’re doing well. I’ve never seen someone get so many signatures in just a few days.”

“I was very motivated.” Kongpob answered with a pleased tone, Arthit feeling a small smile grow on his collarbone. “P’Arthit, if I did something to make you unhappy, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Arthit denied immediately, shame immediately filling every pore in his body. “It’s me. I was in a bad mood, and I took it out on you. I should be the one apologizing.” With some hesitation, he lifted his face and pressed a quick, shy kiss to his boyfriend’s cheek. “Forgive me?”

Kongpob turned his head towards him, grin wide and estactically bright, and Arthit just wanted to disappear, gaze completely averted, cheeks unbearably hot.

He really couldn’t look at his boyfriend, right now.

“There’s nothing to forgive, P’.” His boyfriend quickly assured, pulling back a little so they could see each other’s faces more clearly. His hands slid down to Arthit’s waist, keeping them close still. “But... I’m really happy, though.”

Arthit knew he was walking right into a trap, but he still squinted at his boyfriend suspiciously. “Why?”

“I found out that you can be jealous too.” The younger looked far too pleased with that discovery, and Arthit was sure all the blood in his body had already rushed to his face at his point. “My boyfriend wants me to himself. I can’t not be happy, P’Arthit.”

“Oi!” He pushed at Kongpob’s chest lightly instead, making the other sway and chuckle, his hands never moving from Arthit’s body.

But Arthit couldn’t deny it, not when his expression was an open book, especially now that Kongpob could look at him in his entirety.

“... O-Of course I can also feel jealous.” He muttered, face still turned away, not wanting and at the same time desperate to see how his boyfriend would react. “Who wouldn’t be, if they see their boyfriend surrounded by and smiling at pretty girls?”

A sudden burst of low laughter, and Arthit glared at the younger, feeling wronged and indignant. But Kongpob was shaking his head, one hand reaching up to slide under his jaw, eventually managing to turn Arthit back to face him again.

“You’re so cute, P’Ai-Oon.” The younger said softly, expression open, warm, and utterly captivated, thumb lightly stroking Arthit’s fevered cheek. “You know I wouldn’t look at anyone else but you. But I also heard that Praepailin confessed to you during lunch today.” The younger was still enjoying himself far too much to truly sound upset. “She said you’re super good-looking. I should be the one jealous, P’. She’s pretty.”

“Aow, that’s not my fault! It’s the idiot Bright who suggested it.” Arthit said quickly, wanting to clear that up too. “I couldn’t stop him in time.”

Then the rest of the words registered in his mind.

“You think she’s pretty?” He blurted out, once again proving that his brain-to-mouth filter wasn’t working, and groaned when Kongpob laughed again, his boyfriend charmed and delighted by Arthit making a complete fool of himself in front of him.

“Of course, P’Arthit. I won’t lie.” Kongpob answered easily, and Arthit would deny it until the day he died, but the sound that escaped him was small, and clearly dismayed.

Maybe he even heard the inside of his chest cracking a little.

But his infuriating boyfriend just leaned forward and touched their foreheads together, like he didn’t just break Arthit’s goddamn heart, and whispered against his lips, eyes glittering with an emotion Arthit knew and similarly felt but wasn’t brave enough to say out loud yet.

“But you’ll always be the most beautiful to me.”

And something in Arthit finally snapped.

“S-Stop it!” He griped, flustered and exasperated and embarrassed and adoring, finally pushing the other away, with enough strength this time to create the appropriate distance between them.

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. Everything was too much. Kongpob was too much for him right now, and he was completely done.

The moment Arthit got back to his room he was smothering himself to death.

Kongpob could learn to live without him.

He promptly turned around and started walking away.

“Wait, P’Arthit! Where are you going?!” The younger sounded alarmed, but this time, Arthit definitely wasn’t looking back.

“I’m going back alone!” Arthit yelled back, strides large as he attempted to get as far from his boyfriend as fast as he could, not giving a damn if he was being a disturbance this late. It was completely Kongpob’s fault, if someone asked. “Go home, Kongpob!”

After a surprised pause, Kongpob started to follow after him, chuckling, steps bright and with a spring to them.

“Let me walk you to your dorm! P’!”

“No! Go back to your own room!”

But Arthit could hear the happiness and contentment in Kongpob’s voice, and didn’t stop the bashful but pleased smile that was also stretching his lips.

Their walk back to the dorms never slowed.

But in the end, his arm still reached back, covering his boyfriend’s hand with his own when the younger finally managed to catch up and keep pace with him.

Just how it was always meant to be.

Chapter Text

Kongpob could honestly say he was currently living his best life right now.

Everything was great. He had a solid group of friends at school, he wasn’t doing too bad with his studies, his family was healthy and safe, and he had an older boyfriend that was sweet, caring, and most importantly, returned his feelings freely and wholeheartedly.

(Said boyfriend was also the head of the hazing team of his course faculty, occasionally yelled at him, and gave him nigh-impossible things to do, but Kongpob said his life was nice, not complicated.)

It was strange, this curious dichotomy between him and his boyfriend. On one hand he was dating Arthit Rojnapat, the fierce and scary leader of the third-year hazing team that Kongpob butted heads with at every chance he got, especially when Kongpob felt that he wasn’t playing nice or fair with his yearmates.

On the other hand, he was also dating P’Ai-Oon, his constantly fussing, twice-shy, somewhat still soft-spoken lover who was unfailingly polite to Kongpob’s parents and got flustered at a drop of hat, always allowing Kongpob to do whatever he wanted, as long as it was within the privacy of a closed and locked room.

The current set-up they had shouldn’t work as well as it did, considering the great contrast between the two sides of their current relationship. Kongpob knew some couples have argued for less. Their constantly oscillating interactions, hot and cold, hard and soft, yes and no, was probably enough to drive a person insane.

But Kongpob had always been patient, and a great compartmentalizer, besides. The P’Arthit he saw during the freshman hazing activity wasn’t a different person, just a different side of him, and Kongpob simply loved everything about his boyfriend, from his fluffy dark hair to his small, seashell pink toenails.

Somehow, they managed to strike a good balance without completely discussing it. True to his word, his boyfriend didn’t allow his duties to interfere with their private lives. P’Arthit always left his ‘hazer’ mode outside the door after every gathering, never ‘taking the work home’ so to speak, although there were times that it became really close. For Kongpob’s part, he never took what the older said personally during said meetings, and sincerely tried to not draw too much attention to himself while following the SOTUS system, not wanting to give the older a harder time with the gaggle of first years he had to oversee.

What happened in the auditorium or field while P’Arthit was his head hazer stayed in it; and they never discussed what happened during the meeting unless it directly impacted their relationship. It was a good system, and so far, it was working for them.

Today the second-years were giving out t-shirts; apparently they need to wear it during the hazing exercises. That meant that they were going to start doing more physical things. Kongpob, on his part, would be fine, he was fairly athletic and stayed fit through exercise, both the literal and the recreational kind.

(If his boyfriend ever heard that he considered their sex life as ‘recreational excercise’ Kongpob would be banished to the couch for the rest of their lives.)

It was the other students that he worried for.

Aim had apologized for getting him into trouble; which wasn’t his fault, and Kongpob had told him as much, since he was the one who made the offer in the first place. P’Arthit was correct about one thing; it was that the assignment given to him was too much work, and realizing that most people would rather pass on their own personal responsibilities to the nearest person available was a sobering learning experience.

(It hurt, to have his worldviews shattered a little, but this was how people matured and grew up. His boyfriend had been kind to do it this way, and Kongpob knew that he was rather sheltered when he was growing up. Perhaps it was naive, but Kongpob wanted to see the best in the people he met, to offer his assistance when they genuinely needed it. Not for fame or recognition, but simply because it was the right thing to do.

Everyone needed a little kindness in their life.

P’Arthit said he couldn’t save everyone. Perhaps he was right.

But it didn’t mean that Kongpob would stop trying.)

Still, Oak insisted that the head hazer was gunning for him, if he was okay, and it made Kongpob bite the inside of his lower lip in an attempt to stifle his smile.

Oh, he hoped that the head hazer was paying attention to him all the time.

He got his own shirt without much fuss, just needing to adjust to the tighter fit since he swapped shirts with a classmate, Wad, who needed the bigger size. As the time for the next gathering approached, they trekked to the bathrooms and locker rooms to get changed, goofing off and having fun as a group of boys tended to do. Kongpob took off his long-sleeved top and put on the SOTUS shirt, looking at himself in the mirror to see if it actually fit.

The length was fine, but it was just a bit snug around the arms and shoulders, tight around the chest too. He sighed, silently wondering if he had gained some weight, before putting on his nametag and going out to meet with Aim and the rest in front of the auditorium.

As usual, his boyfriend looked so good in his hazer uniform, and Kongpob barely remembered to keep his head down as they went through the usual drills. He thought they were actually doing a better job than the past week, already starting to get used to the grueling treatment the third-years were pressing on them.

Then, they were back in the auditorium, sitting in lines and rows, heads bowed as the head hazer loudly asked them again, the silence among the first years absolutely deafening.

“Well?! Didn’t you hear what I asked?! How many students are there in your first year batch?! Answer me!”

Kongpob kept his head lowered, eyes still lingering at the form of the older as he gazed down at them in disdain.

“Hmph. No one seemed to care enough to have an answer.” The third year sneered. “Doesn’t that mean you don’t care for your friends at all? That’s why you don’t know all of their names yet!”

Kongpob… actually didn’t know all the names of the people in his year. Or how many they were in the batch. One could argue that he would learn them eventually in time, but wasn’t that what the signature event was for? So he’d be able to approach other people who he normally wouldn’t on a normal day, and get to know them better?

Besides, who expected them to actually know those kinds of details by heart? They weren’t important, not on the grander scale of things, but to the seniors, it was as if they had done some hideous crime by not knowing everyone in the room.

Kongpob could hear the words unsaid, hidden behind the barrage of sharply asked questions.

You are not taking this seriously.

You’re not trying hard enough.

You’re not worthy.

This was another lesson wrapped up in a harsh, cold, humiliating package, probably meant to put some steel in their spine, strengthen their resolve, and confirm their determination. But this wasn’t right at all. Shaming people for their inabilities didn’t make them do better, it just made people feel worse, and just made them not try at all.

To his left, Kongpob heard a small sniffle, and he glanced at the direction of the sound, only to see a girl silently crying, clearly ashamed and upset.

This was too cruel. This was everything he hated about the SOTUS System. Kongpob tried to move as quickly but as discreetly as possible, reaching into his pants pocket for his handkerchief, and giving it to her.

“Use this,” he murmured to the girl, who glanced at him and nodded her thanks, moving her glasses to dab at her wet eyes.

In his distraction, Kongpob didn’t hear the approaching footsteps, didn’t see the looming shadow of the head hazer right in front of him in time.

“Kongpob, Student ID 0062. Get up.”

Kongpob paused at the sound of the voice, which was familiar in its timbre, but completely unknown in its tone. He slowly stood up, allowing his gaze to eventually meet the older’s.

He was the only one who saw the other’s nanosecond pause, dark eyes sweeping at him up and down, lingering just ever so slightly on his torso. Kongpob couldn’t help but internally smirk, adjusting his stance a little to expand his chest more, and this time, genuine annoyance flitted through the head hazer’s features.

He was going to pay for it later, but exchanging shirts with Wad was an excellent idea.

Just for the briefest moment, Kongpob allowed himself to really look at his boyfriend, to allow the always-present warmth and affection fill his eyes, before retreating back to its warrier, more impassive state.

Hello, P’Ai-Oon, he said without words.

Again, something flashed in his boyfriend’s eyes, multiple things all said and unspoken, so quickly one would have missed it if they weren’t looking closely.

But Kongpob was always watching.

What is that shirt?

You look ridiculous standing like that.

Alai wa, Ai’Kong, trying to save someone again?

The simple acknowledgement was a thrill, and Kongpob shifted his shoulders slightly, the best approximation of a shrug he could give. This time, the older visibly rolled his eyes, tongue clucking, and Kongpob carefully checked his expression, keeping his mouth in a firm line, no matter how much it wanted to curve up right now.

(Some part of him hoped that his boyfriend felt jealous again. He quite liked the idea of being owned by a possessive P’Arthit.)

Kongpob swallowed as the handsome head hazer cocked his head at him, expression now cool and considering, a nerve ticking by his jaw. He was wearing one of his larger hoop earrings today, bright silver glinting in the cold fluorescent light of the auditorium, and Kongpob wanted to tug at it with his teeth.

(He… should really start getting used to his boyfriend looking at him like this, lest he embarrassed himself by having a completely inappropriate reaction in front of almost half of the entire engineering faculty.)

“I asked you how many students there were in your first year class.”

“I don’t know.” Kongpob answered truthfully. The older raised his eyebrow at him, unimpressed.

“Why don’t you know?”

“Because I never count them.”

“Even with the task I gave you for my signature? Speaking of, have you even finished it?”

“No.”

“So, not only can’t you do the things I asked you to do, you’re not even aware enough of the task I’ve given to do it properly.” The other snapped. “Is this a game to you, 0064?”

“It isn’t, khráp.”

With every exchange they had, the older seemed to encroach closer and closer into Kongpob’s personal space, the familiar, comforting scent of combined spice and sunlight drawing so much nearer. He wanted to close his eyes, savor the moment as the scent slowly engulfed his senses, but he kept his eyes open, not wanting to miss every move his boyfriend made.

(Some part of him was offended by the idea that he wasn’t taking his work seriously. That was absolute nonsense however, and they both knew it, so it was no use dwelling on the idea.)

His heartbeat accelerated, pulse quickening, as the older took another step forward, now firmly within Kongpob’s reach, both of them sharing the same space, breathing the same air. His fists clenched, trying to stop the shake of his fingers, throat bobbing as he stopped the reflexive need to grab and hold the other against him, to press multiple kisses on the pale, unblemished skin.

“Even if it wasn’t, you must give me an answer for every question I ask.”

“I understand.”

He was sure his boyfriend noticed it too, the current steadily building up between them. Kongpob was near enough to see the light brown of his boyfriend’s pupils grow dark and wide, lending an almost soft appearance as they continued to keep their eyes on each other.

If P’Arthit kept staring at him like that Kongpob wasn’t liable for the actions he would do afterwards.

The older eventually tore his gaze away, which made Kongpob almost sigh in relief, but it wasn’t enough, the rest of him still surrounded by the rest of his boyfriend’s everything. But even that was short lived, as the head hazer only took a moment to fish the golden Gear badge out of his workshop shirt, lifting it to eye level.

“Do you see this Gear badge?”

Kongpob glanced at it briefly, then returned his gaze back to the head hazer. “Yes.” But I can’t help but look at you instead.

As the older man started to lecture them again on the importance of the Gear for their faculty, Kongpob couldn’t help but stare, entranced. He knew what the other was saying was important, but he couldn’t bring himself to take in the words, much more interested in every gesture the other made.

His boyfriend’s mentor, P’Tum, was right. Despite his shyer, more laid-back personality, P’Arthit was an excellent head hazer, able to command a room into listening to every word he said without seemingly much effort. Most would say it was due to fear, but Kongpob knew there was an underlying, if begrudging, respect there as well.

He knew how long his boyfriend resisted the idea of mentoring the freshmen like this, but Kongpob was proud of P’Arthit anyway, for doing something the latter didn’t particularly like, but was giving it his all anyway.

Like this, the older was in his element, the scalding, unforgiving sun shining down on them all, blinding them completely with his shine and brilliance.

And Kongpob was the willing sacrifice, letting the scorching heat sear his flesh and bone, his wings already charred and burned to a blackened crisp.

It was alright.

(In the end, it was the same sun, and not the sea, that cradled him carefully in his safe and loving arms.)

“If any of you can’t prove to me that you’ve earned it, feel free to get out. I won’t consider you my juniors any longer.” The older sneered, sharp eyes going around the auditorium, daring anyone to refute him. When silence greeted him instead, the head hazer returned all of his attention to Kongpob.

He felt his breath catch, a chill running down his back, his adrenaline spiking. It felt like… like the moment when the first drop of a roller coaster ride was about to come, that mixture of dread and excitement, of danger and exhilaration, all mingling and churning in his gut.

“Now, Khun Kongpob,” the head hazer said slowly, intently, and he braced himself for what would come next.

“What if I don’t give you this gear badge? What will you do?”

The real answer was… nothing. Kongpob couldn’t do anything if the head hazer didn’t give him the gear badge, because he was just a first year and the other was a third year and it was the older who had all the power between the two of them. P’Arthit was well within his right to deny Kongpob the symbol of their faculty, because in his eyes, Kongpob hadn’t proved himself deserving of that honor.

So when Kongpob said nothing, the other eventually put down his hand, scoffing. With a final derisive look, the head hazer started to walk away, satisfied that he had gotten the last word.

(But the person in front of him was also his boyfriend, the love of his life, the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Kongpob shared everything with him, his personal belongings, spaces and needs, his wishes, hopes, regrets and dreams. There was nothing he would deny the older, and the other had been the same, allowing Kongpob to slowly but surely permeate every part of his life, until what was his and his boyfriend’s became ours and theirs.

There was nothing that Kongpob owned that wasn’t P’Arthit’s.

So…!)

“Then I’ll just take it from you.”

The head hazer stopped in his tracks, a shockwave rippling through the entire room. The other quickly whipped around to face him, forcing himself right into Kongpob’s face, with an upset furrow on his brow and a snarl on his lips.

“What did you say?”

(And, if one listened carefully enough, the faintest sound of disbelief.)

“If you won’t give the gears to us, then we’ll just have to snatch them from you.” Kongpob continued with a confidence he didn’t quite feel, mouth continuing to say words, unable to stop the boulder that was already rolling down the hill. He could feel the increasing buzz as everyone around him started to talk, seeing a red-shirted senior already inching towards them from the corner of his eye.

But he didn’t care about all of that, keeping his stare on the person that mattered to him the most.

This time, it was both the head hazer P’Arthit and his P’Ai-Oon that was openly staring at him with a furious, scandalized, almost incredulous expression, as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were hearing.

“And how would you do that?!”

Kongpob wasn’t also entirely sure of what he was saying, but what was happening was almost reminiscent of how they finally got together.

(It was a beautiful night. They were walking on the Rama VIII bridge, finally going home after some event Kongpob couldn’t remember what for. It was just him and P’Arthit, still on tenterhooks with each other, because despite the older rejecting him the first time, Kongpob couldn’t help but still yearn, hoping against hope that the other would eventually open his heart to him. He remembered walking just behind the other, staring at his back, wondering why P’Arthit was doing this, why he was still giving him hope, after all this time.

There, in the middle of the bridge with glittering rainbow lights, they rested their arms on the railings and looked out into the shimmering lights that surrounded the calm Chao Phraya River.

P’Arthit asked if he was tired. Tired of chasing him all the time, not knowing where he was heading, or when he was stopping. Kongpob answered that no, he wasn’t, and he probably never would be, and it was the first time that he saw that upset, scandalized, incredulous expression.

Not at Kongpob, or at least, not wholly because of him, but because the other still couldn’t believe that Kongpob was willing to go this far to stay by his side. P’Arthit started to list all of his shortcomings; that he was a guy, that he was older and Kongpob was younger, that he liked sweet things, that he was stupid. That he could be incredibly selfish, that he complained a lot, that he liked to take things easy, that he wasn’t an early riser.

And if, despite knowing all of these things about the other, Kongpob was still willing to accept him.)

Kongpob allowed the smallest of smiles to appear on his face, just like that night.

“I’ll just make you my wife.”

(“Yes, I can. What about you, P’Arthit? Can you accept me?”

“I… don’t know you well enough, Kongpob.”)

“They say that whatever belongs to your lover is also yours.” He continued, fondness slipping into his tone, remembering that moment clearly. His eyes were heavy with meaning, voice low with triumph as he gazed at his boyfriend.

“If I can make you my wife, your gear badge will also be mine.”

(“But I’d like to know you more.”

“...What do you mean?”)

Because what I have will always be yours as well.

The hands suddenly clutching at his collar were familiar, and Kongpob was immediately drawn by it, into those dark eyes that held the same passion and want all those months ago. He couldn’t help the gasp that escaped him as he leaned into the touch, his hands just barely stopping from grasping the older’s elbows.

His eyes dropped to that pretty pink mouth and back up into those depthless, longing eyes, remembering when he tasted them for the first time.

(Sweet. He tasted soft and unbearably sweet. P’Arthit always did.

Kongpob wondered if this time would be different, if he would taste the heat and spice instead.

He wondered what flavor he would prefer more.)

But he was released before he could even blink, seeing P’Knot standing behind his boyfriend with a hand on his shoulder. He took a moment to steady himself, exhaling a breath, chest stuttering. The head hazer also looked completely undone, a flush high on his cheeks, knuckles white as his fists shook almost against his will.

Everyone was holding their breaths, unwilling to be the one to break the almost stifling tension that enveloped the entire auditorium.

“You’re really brave, Khun Kongpob.” The other eventually said after a few calming breaths, and if his scowl had the ability to kill, Kongpob would be lying on the floor lifeless right now.

But the blush still lingering on his face wasn’t due to anger or displeasure. Kongpob had been with him long enough to recognize that, even if other people might see it differently.

(He had managed to fluster his boyfriend enough for him to break character. Kongpob would be lying if he said the thought didn’t please him.)

With a ticking jaw, the older finally took a final step forward, now close enough that Kongpob could feel the warmth radiating from his body. Even he knew this was too close, too intimate, and he froze, wondering if he should take a step back this time.

But he felt rooted to the ground, as his boyfriend stopped a hair's breadth away, unable to look away from those beautiful and fierce-looking almond eyes.

“... Fine.” He finally breathed against Kongpob’s mouth, and he resisted the impulse to close his eyes and bridge the small gap of air between them. “Let’s see if you can do as you say.”

Before Kongpob could even start thinking about those words, the head hazer whirled back to the front of the stage, workshop shirt flapping behind him as he returned to his place in the middle of the hazing group. “But as for now, the gears are in my possession, and I have the right to order you to do anything!” He turned around to face them, his eyes completely on Kongpob, the pressure of his glare almost crushing if it weren’t for the fact that Kongpob liked the sensation of having his boyfriend’s complete and undivided attention.

“Kongpob, Student ID 0062! Sit and stand 200 times! Go!”

With a tiny sigh, Kongpob did as commanded, placing his arms around his neck, starting to do his squats.

“Don’t look!”

(He… had a lot of explaining to do, once he and P’Arthit were completely alone.)

But despite everything that had happened, with a bowed head, Kongpob still managed a small smile.

The back of P’Arthit’s neck was still bright red.


That night, Kongpob and his friends were at their usual bar, winding down with some food and a few buckets of beer. Kongpob wasn’t planning on going in the first place, wanting to talk to his boyfriend, and his body still aching from the 200 squats he had to do, but Oak wanted him to come so they could talk about what happened during the gathering, and Aim and Tew similarly insisted. So here he was.

(Besides, he knew P’Arthit would be meeting with the hazing team longer than usual tonight, due to the stunt he just pulled. He figured it was better to let the older cool off a little before Kongpob started apologizing (again) for all the trouble he had caused.)

“You have balls of steel, man. You okay?” Tew asked. “Saying that you’ll make the head hazer your wife? I’m surprised you were let off that easy.”

Kongpob shrugged. “I’m fine. A little achy, but nothing too serious. The seniors will always find a way to bully us. It was the only thing I could think of.”

“For a moment there I was terrified that you’d either start punching each other’s faces or make out in front of us. The way you looked at each other was really intense, man.” Oak shuddered, and Kongpob almost choked on his drink.

“Do what with P’Arthit?”

Had he been that obvious? Were his feelings displayed so blatantly, enough that other people were able to see through it? Kongpob didn’t think so, but then again, he wasn’t an outside source.

(Hopefully it would look like two people just gearing up to fight, instead of the other, truer option. He wouldn’t like the older to get into trouble because of him.)

“Look, I can’t exactly control what I’m thinking!” Oak defended himself. “All I saw was two people glaring and standing as close as possible to each other. When that happens in movies, it’s either they’re going to fight or fuck, there’s no in-between.”

“Ai’Kong, if you leaned your face in just a bit more you would have kissed him. And after that ‘wife’ remark, I’m sure P’Arthit would have killed you with his bare hands right there and then if you actually did,” Aim informed him. “Look, I know the guy’s been bullying you from the start, but don’t provoke him too much. P’Arthit looks dangerous, you shouldn’t get on his bad side.”

His boyfriend was about just as dangerous as a newborn kitten, but Kongpob obviously couldn’t say that out loud. “Thanks for the concern, Ai’Aim. But I’ll be fine. I’m not scared of P’Arthit. I just don’t like it when people are being bullied in front of me.”

“You’re a bleeding heart, Kong. I don’t know what we’d do without you.” Tew knocked their bottles together, mostly in salute to him. “But Ai’Aim is right. You gotta be more careful around the head hazer. If he wasn’t trying for you yet, you’re definitely on his radar now.”

A little too late for that, Kongpob thought ruefully as he knocked back his bottle without another word.


“P’Arthit, please forgive me?”

Absolute silence.

“P’Arthit. P’Ai-Oon, please?”

Still nothing.

“Please? I’ve already explained what I could. Are you going to stay angry at me forever?”

“...”

“I’m really sorry. Is there anything I could do to make it up to you?”

“... No.”

P’Arthitttttttt. Please, na? Pleaseeeee?”

A loud, exasperated sigh.

It was the weekend, and with Kongpob not having any classes the entire day and his boyfriend having some free time until the afternoon, it was finally time for them to hash things out and clear the air between them once and for all.

Someone had recorded the incident with a phone, and even Kongpob had to admit that, while watching everything go down from an outsider’s point of view, the atmosphere between him and the older was… not entirely antagonistic.

In fact, it was very telling, once you knew which signs to look for.

Right now, they were inside Kongpob’s dorm room, the safer location to meet up, with him sitting on the bed and the other sitting on the chair they used for the dining table. P’Arthit was hugging a pillow to his chest, eyes narrowed at Kongpob from the edge of it.

Experience had taught them both that they should have physical distance when doing things like this, because if they didn’t they tended to become… distracted. Eventually.

Kongpob had pulled out all the stops for this one, buying his boyfriend’s favorite food and drink in an attempt to appease the older, but it wasn’t enough.

So now he was reaping the fruits of his labor, Kongpob had quietly resigned himself to groveling and being exiled from the other’s presence for a few days. A week, tops.

(Dear god, please don’t let it be a month.)

“I can’t believe you right now,” P’Arthit grumbled, squeezing the pillow and looking like a disgruntled cat. Kongpob found him completely adorable, despite the currently serious talk they were having. Even in his angriest, his boyfriend still managed to look unbelievably cute.

‘I’ll just make you my wife?’ Right in front of everyone? Have you no shame, Kongpob?!”

“... It just slipped out,” he was forced to admit, and the withering look Kongpob received in return was completely deserved. “You were being a jerk, you told me that I needed to have an answer for every question you asked, so I said the first thing that came to my mind.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to say something like that! Oh, God,” the older groaned, thumping his head against his table again and again, and Kongpob was already standing up, trying to look for a towel or something to place under the older’s forehead. “I still don’t know how I was able to look the hazing team in the eye after that. I’ve never felt more embarrassed in my life.”

Kongpob finally found a clean t-shirt, rolled it up, and slipped it in between the other’s head and the wooden table. “... I apologize. It wasn’t my intention to humiliate you in front of everyone.”

“No, your intention was to let everyone know that I’m an asshole and you’re just retaliating in the way you know how,” his boyfriend snorted, turning his head to the side to squint accusingly at him. “It was payback for all the things I’ve made you do. You don’t have to be ashamed if that’s the reason, I’m a big boy. I can understand that.”

Kongpob frowned. While part of that reasoning was true, it wasn’t the correct one.

Truthfully, at that time, he wasn’t thinking of revenge at all.

“... As much as I disprove of the methods you use for the SOTUS System, I don’t think you’re an asshole, P’Arthit.” Kongpob eventually said, sitting on the side of the bed, close enough to reach out and tuck away the strands of hair that were falling on the other’s face. “And if it was ‘payback’, as you said, then there are other ways to do it without resorting to involving the entire freshman class.”

P’Arthit blinked at him in mild surprise. “Wow, you swore.”

Kongpob briefly smiled in response to that little quip. It wasn’t often he allowed himself to say foul language, brought up in a household that rarely used them, and it brought little spikes of pleasure because his boyfriend was always visibly startled when he heard Kongpob swear. “Besides, who said I wasn’t serious before?”

He brought his hand back, clasping it with the other as he rested his elbows on his knee, the first one to look away for once as heat crawled up his face.

“P’Arthit, when I answered that question, I was thinking that since what is mine is yours, I… hoped that what was yours would be mine as well.”

In front of him, he heard the rustle of movement as the older straightened up in his seat, now openly staring at him in shock, pale arms choking the poor pillow to death.

“Hey, you…”

“But you don’t have to be my wife, P’, to have all of me.” Kongpob continued, wringing his hands together, feeling like he was confessing to his boyfriend all over again.

“You’ve already done that without trying.”

Complete silence.

Kongpob could feel the startled eyes on him, and the color deepened on his cheeks. It wasn’t often that he felt flustered, but the thought of him marrying his boyfriend was… something else. Sure, it wasn’t legal yet in the country, there were still a lot of things they didn’t know about each other, and they would probably have more serious fights and disagreements still.

Perhaps it was too soon to think of definitives, they’ve only been dating for a few months, but right now Kongpob had never been surer of anything in his life.

Arthit Rojnapat was it for him. He was Kongpob’s person. He was the man Kongpob would turn old and grey with, with a long, happy life under their belt. They would live together in one house, would get pets and children if they both wanted them, would be the person that would hold the other’s hand and stay beside him and face the future together.

But he couldn’t say it out loud. Not yet. Not when it could scare P’Arthit away, and that was the last thing Kongpob wanted.

(Maybe one day, if they’re still together after a few years.

But then again, Kongpob could not imagine a future without his boyfriend in it.

So for now he would simply enjoy the present, bask in the affection and the care the older continuously gave him, and return it a thousandfold, in multiple ways and times.)

He felt, rather than saw, the other eventually move, the pillow eventually being thrown by Kongpob’s side, landing with a quiet flop.

Then he felt a pair of hands covering his own, stopping their anxious movements, and he turned his gaze back, blinking.

“Honestly… saying things like that…” His boyfriend was grumbling under his breath, but his voice wasn’t quite as soft as he thought, Kongpob still hearing every word he was saying. His boyfriend’s face was red again, outrageously embarrassed, but there was a shade of pleased satisfaction in it, like a cat that had gotten the canary.

“What the hell am I supposed to do, not fall for you?”

(It was the same look he had when they parted from the bridge, when Kongpob was finally able to open his eyes, heart falling and mouth tingling.

It was a mesmerizing sight.)

His heart instantly skipped a beat, and Kongpob was certain he looked silly, with how large his grin probably was. His cheeks were aching so much. “P’.”

The older sent him a tiny look of exasperation, the tips of his ears turning bright red, but forged through anyway with a light squeeze on Kongpob’s hands. “Look. I don’t know if I’ve made this clear to you yet, but you’re right. What’s mine is yours too.” He shrugged, posture too stiff and neck too red to be truly casual, but his voice was firm, brooking no additional arguments.

“Although I don’t know what you’ll be getting out of it, since clearly I’m getting the better part of the bargain. But that has never been a question, and it would never be. Understand?”

Kongpob blinked again, trying to understand what he just heard. And when he finally did, he thought he would probably never be able to describe the rush of emotions that followed, only adding to the already bottomless love he felt for the other man.

(His boyfriend was also completely wrong, of course. Kongpob was clearly getting the better deal here.

He would have P’Arthit’s everything too.

And for him, that was the most priceless treasure in the entire world.)

“Understood, P.” He beamed, chest about to burst from sheer joy. Oh, he loved this man so, so much. “Do you forgive me now?”

His boyfriend stared at him for a moment, before turning his gaze away with a huff. “... Fine. You’re forgiven. But if you pull that stunt again I’m making you run laps until your legs fall off.”

Kongpob just beamed brighter. “I’ll give up my ability to walk if it would make you happy, P’Ai-Oon.”

Urgh.” P’Arthit pushed his hands away in disgust, and Kongpob chuckled, using the momentum to move and grab the other’s hands instead, pulling the older out of the chair and right into his arms instead. The other made a startled noise, hands clutching at his shoulders for balance as the action made them rock back, but not enough to tip them over to the bed completely.

Now he had an armful of his sunshine, the fabric of the t-shirt the other wore soft and smooth against Kongpob’s cheek. He buried his face into his boyfriend’s stomach, inhaling deeply as his arms wound around the other’s waist, nosing against the soft line of his belly. The older was relatively fit too, as an engineering student, but there was always a slight curve to his stomach, a layer of fat that no amount of exercise would be able to get rid of.

(P’Arthit complained about it often, especially when Kongpob decided to use him as a pillow, which was often. Kongpob disagreed, because it was soft and cute just like his P’Ai-Oon, and it was his favorite place to rest his head on, apart from the older’s lap.)

“Oi, that tickles!” Kongpob felt a smack on his bicep, but it barely stung, and simply tightened his hold. His boyfriend was still glowering, muttering under his breath, but his fingers remained around the curve of Kongpob’s shoulders, his body not pulling away.

“P’, you’ll make me cry.” He wasn’t lying, Kongpob could feel hot moisture starting to build at the back of his eyes. He looked up, completely gone for this person and not caring one bit, resting his chin on top of that small part of squishy belly. “Thank you for forgiving me.”

“Yuck.” The older mimed vomiting above him, lips twitching upwards despite his still mildly annoyed look. “Sappy crybaby.” His boyfriend teased gently instead, fingers starting to run through Kongpob’s hair. Kongpob leaned into the touch completely, watching his boyfriend’s face as it went through a series of different expressions; fondness, realization, unease, hesitation.

“Just so you know, I’ll… probably get into trouble in the future.”

Kongpob’s eyebrows pulled down in question. “What? Why?”

“Because I grabbed you aggressively. We can yell at the freshman all we want, but touching them is not allowed.” He was still touching Kongpob now, trying to arrange his hair more neatly on his head. “And I’m head hazer, so I’m held to a higher standard.”

His brows furrowed further, not entirely understanding the problem. “But I provoked you.”

“I still lost my cool and I’m your senior. That’s inexcusable. There’s a possibility that I might be kicked off the hazing team.” His boyfriend shrugged, as if it wasn’t a large issue when it clearly was. “Just letting you know.”

“Oh.” Kongpob… didn’t know what to feel about that. On one hand, it would make him feel better, since his boyfriend wouldn’t be forced to haze the younger students anymore, but on the other hand, he couldn’t imagine being in an assembly without P’Arthit yelling and ordering them around.

His boyfriend would probably be the only head hazer he would accept.

“We’ll both handle it when the time comes.” Kongpob finally said, voice firm, hands moving up and down the other’s back in an attempt to console. “You won’t be alone, P’Arthit. I’ll support you, whatever happens.”

(His boyfriend may not like the position, but he had accepted it, which meant that he was determined to see it through to the bitter end. Getting suspended from the position was a disgraceful way of ending his job, would be letting down the people who believed in him and his abilities, and Kongpob knew that it would be a regret the other would have for the rest of his life.)

Under his palms, Kongpob felt the tightness eventually leave the older’s back, muscles sinking into the pressure of his fingers. “... Okay. Thanks, Kong.”

Kongpob smiled. “Anything for you, P’Arthit. Besides, I didn’t mind it so much.” He added cheerfully, and the older looked down at him as if he was crazy.

“What? You’re okay with people just grabbing your collar like that?”

“Not at all.” His fingers trailed up the curve of the other’s spine, reaching the middle of his shoulder blades. “But it just reminded me of our first kiss, that’s all.”

As expected, bright red instantly blooming on P’Arthit cheeks. “Hey! I didn’t grab you that hard!” His fingers bit down on Kongpob’s shoulders in stern reprimand, but the sting of pain was laughably ignorable.

Kongpob’s eyes widened, the very picture of innocence. “Really? I must have forgotten.” He pulled at his boyfriend again, nearly making him topple into his lap, with a sly edge to his smile. Teasing the older was his absolute favorite pastime. “Can you please do it again? Maybe I’ll be able to remember it more clearly this time.” He added, smirking into the older’s stomach when the other tried to finally pull away.

Kongpob!

“Yes, P’mhia?” Kongpob asked without much thought, instantly locking gazes with the other.

But this time, the older stopped struggling. His eyes were blown wide open, jaw hanging down, completely frozen stiff, looking at him with such incredulity that Kongpob instantly thought he had messed up and stepped over a line.

(Because his boyfriend was also a man. He had his pride. There were other things Kongpob could call him, more appropriate endearments that weren’t any less sweet or loving.

Would he let a boy two years his junior call him ‘wifey’ of all things?)

Just as he was about to open his mouth and sincerely apologize, his boyfriend shifted his gaze away, only to look back at him and away again, lips parting and closing as he struggled to find the words to say.

It felt like they were both hanging at the edge of a precipice.

Until P’Arthit finally spoke, words leaving him in a rush.

“I… Not until you give me a ring.”

His jaw immediately clamped shut, looking utterly mortified, but the silence was damning, the damage done.

Kongpob was completely stunned.

Did… he hear that right? Was he dreaming? Was… this moment being conjured by his overly active imagination?

He had thought that it was too soon, but… was… was P’Arthit also thinking of the same thing as he was?

(Was P’Arthit really letting Kongpob make him his wife?)

He couldn’t breathe. Everything was too overwhelming, and in the end, he had to remember to take in some air, to breathe, before he completely passed out and make his boyfriend worry about him.

But his head was still spinning. Was it common to die of delirious happiness?

“P’Ai-Oon…”

“W-What?” The other snapped, defensive and embarrassed, and Kongpob could only helplessly laugh, shaking his head, squeezing the older so tightly until he was as breathless as he made Kongpob.

“You make me the happiest.” He said simply, watching the reluctant delight and bashfulness overtake the other’s expression again.

Without looking away, Kongpob removed one hand from the other’s back, reaching back to hold on to his boyfriend’s left hand, squeezing it to coax its tight hold on his shoulder to loosen. He waited patiently until his boyfriend decided to let go, and only then did he clasp his hands around the other’s fingers, slow and gentle.

In front of him, under his touch, he felt a rush of air leave his boyfriend’s body.

Kongpob finally let his eyes move down, but only because they were closing, his arm finally moving to bring the older’s hand to his mouth.

First, his lips brushed the tips of other’s fingers, then at his knuckles, treasuring, cherishing, adoring the person who owned them.

Then finally, his lips finally found the top of P’Arthit’s ring finger, and the kiss he pressed there was worshipful.

Complete, unmistakable devotion.

(Years down the line, they would be in the same position, with Kongpob looking up at him, one hand grasping P’Arthit’s, the other holding up a small, opened box with a silver ring inside.

He would work to make it a reality.)

“One day,” he said quietly, eyes finally flickering up to meet the older’s, completely serious.

“P’Arthit, in our future, I’ll give you a ring that you can proudly wear on your finger.”

After a moment of stunned silence, his boyfriend eventually nodded, speechless and looking dazed still, and Kongpob’s answering smile could power up the entire building for years.

It was a promise.

(And maybe, by then, P’Arthit would finally call him pua.)

Chapter Text

The hazing activities continued as usual.

This time, they were outside, at the open field, standing beneath the heat of the unforgiving afternoon sun.

Prem was yelling at the first years, ordering them to hold and support each other as they sat on the hot grass. By the side, Arthit watched his friend do his job, arms crossed against his chest, face blank, but mind wandering, just as it had been these past few days.

Arthit had honestly thought he had seen the depth of his boyfriend’s utter shamelessness when it came to their relationship. Kongpob was straightforward at his best of times, close to tactless at his worst ones, but again and again, the younger still managed to catch him completely off guard at the right moments.

‘I’ll just make you my wife’, his ass. Just remembering it made Arthit want to hit something, warmth threatening to return to his face at the memory.

He had been so shocked hearing it that his body just… automatically reacted, wanting to get the other to stop talking through any means possible, the fear of their relationship being discovered in this way suddenly spiking and making him panic. Grabbing at the other’s collar was admittedly a bad move, but he still had the presence of mind to remember that he was still the head hazer, and shutting his boyfriend up by covering his mouth with his own in front of the whole first year class would be disastrous, for a completely different reason.

Arthit sighed and shook his head minutely. He was all over the place, and he knew it. Kongpob was extremely apologetic over everything, knowing he was adding to Arthit’s stress on top of everything else, and Arthit knew he was sincere about it.

He just… couldn’t help it. It was just in the younger’s nature to stand against anything he considered an injustice, even if it meant arguing against his own significant other, and to be honest, Arthit wouldn’t change him for the world. He accepted that about the younger, so he had to live with it, even if his boyfriend’s upright personality was currently giving him grief.

Buried under his bicep, his left ring finger suddenly twitched.

“P’Arthit, in our future, I’ll give you a ring that you can proudly wear on your finger.”

Arthit suddenly coughed, covering his mouth with his fist, his attention now completely on the bare skin of his fingers.

Well. If Kongpob wanted to marry him then he’ll need to work extra hard for it. He had some pride of his own, he wasn’t an easy man, after all. It would take a few years, sure, but Arthit was willing to wait to see if Kongpob would do as he said.

(And if he stayed up all night after that, clutching at his pillow and rolling around on his bedsheets, making sure that the curtains were completely and firmly closed, that was something between him and only his room to know.

It was… a good thing then, that his future-in-laws(?!) already liked him. His parents have already adjusted to their relationship, so it should be… fine, right? After Kongpob’s graduation, maybe?)

His fingers clenched. Too soon. He was definitely thinking ahead too much. Right now, he should be focusing on getting through the entire hazing program first without any future incidents.

Then, once that was done and over with, he could focus on other, better things.

Like his and Kongpob’s first year anniversary.

But as always, things didn't go his way, and he stepped forward once he finished counting the heads currently present in front of him.

First years skipping the gathering was common. Hell, he did that with his friends when they were first-years too, mostly to follow after Knot, who didn’t get along with P’Tum at all at first. They got into trouble for it, of course, but soon enough they knew the reasons for it.

Now, part of what they needed to teach the nongs was the ability to continue and help each other even under constant pressure. Some companies demanded that their engineers work overtime with no breaks to finish a project, and a single mistake could have terrible results.

Running away from them wouldn’t solve anything. Sure, there would have been pretty good reasons for some, like schoolwork for instance, but that could be resolved to managing their time better and developing better study habits.

It was a lesson they needed to learn for themselves.

“What time did I tell you to be here?” He barked. He had made it perfectly clear that he expected them to be on the dot for every meeting, because punctuality was a good habit to cultivate, useful in all situations. As the first years muttered their responses, Arthit internally exhaled a breath.

Time to lay it down on the young ones.

“You’re all late! You kept us all waiting! Have you no sense of responsibility?! Or do you not have one at all?!”

He tried his best not to yell too harshly, because that would make the nongs feel worse. But his voice was hard, unyielding, letting them know, perfectly clear, on what they had done wrong today. If he didn’t put a stop to this now, the first years would slack off more, and it would be a failing on his part as a mentor for not being able to teach them properly.

“But it’s all right,” he conceded after a while, watching as the shoulders of the freshmen visibly sag in relief. “since it’s the first time. I’ll give you another chance.”

He stepped forward, looking around their bowed heads, eventually explaining what he was going to do. He’ll pick a representative from them, and if that person couldn’t answer all of his questions, they all get punished. Direct, simple, easy to understand.

Eventually his feet took him to where his younger boyfriend was sitting with his friends, and Arthit had to look down at his shoes in exasperation.

See, even his body was infatuated with Kongpob in a completely separate way from his feelings. It was ridiculous.

He stopped in front of Kongpob, delaying as much as he realistically could. He really didn’t want to drag the younger into this again, intensifying their so-called “rivalry” further, but at this point, Arthit had no choice. He didn’t know any of the first years enough to be confident that they knew the information he was going to ask. He knew this because Arthit was there when Kongpob was studying up for it, offering him small smiles when the younger got something right.

He hated to admit it, but his boyfriend was the best shot these kids had.

Yes, he was aware he was being a hypocrite right now, after lecturing the younger so many times on taking care of himself first.

But Arthit wasn’t needlessly cruel. If the first years were already starting to skip, that meant they needed to rethink their hazing strategy.

He’d let them off easy, today.

Sure, he’d be throwing his boyfriend under the bus in the process, but Arthit would properly apologize to him afterwards, once they were alone.

(Besides, he had the inkling feeling that Kongpob actually liked being ordered around by him, the masochist.)

So he looked to the side, grasping his wrist tightly behind his back as he shouted.

“Student ID 0062! Raise your head and come out!”

The younger seemed to have expected it, because he was getting to his feet slowly, eyes twinkling in a way that always made Arthit feel like he missed a step going down the stairs, the swooping feeling in his intestines that made his pulse jump and his palms clammy.

Kongpob straightened out his shirt once he was standing up properly, and Arthit almost choked on his own spit.

The shirt. The damn shirt. It was always the damn shirt. Why did Kongpob choose to wear such a small size? Didn’t he know it was doing terrible things to Arthit’s heart whenever he saw him like this? It was too damn fitted, showing off his arms and pectorals and Arthit shouldn’t be looking at him.

If Arthit knew who the second-year who gave him that shirt was, he was going to strangle them. How dare they show off a junior’s body like this? It was practically indecent. He wanted to throw the offensive clothing away. He wanted to burn it.

He wanted Kongpob to wear it all the time, but only when they were in each other’s rooms.

Unlike everyone else’s expectations, Kongpob looked completely settled, dark eyes meeting Arthit’s unflinchingly. If one looked closely, his lips would have a hint of playfulness, because the brat knew it, the effect he had on Arthit.

He refused to back down, however. His eyes never strayed downwards, taking a steadying breath, studying the younger’s face intently.

Then, the interrogation started.

The other didn’t let him down; giving off his answers quickly and precisely, making pride bloom in Arthit’s chest. That’s his boy, always ready, always prepared.

But this was just the start.

“Good. You know. But here’s the question I want to ask: where are the 54 people that should be here in this meeting today? Where are they?”

Arthit saw the other pause, clearly not expecting this turn of events. He waited for an answer, lips pursed, hoping against hope that Kongpob would be able to pull through and save his friends this time, just like he had always done.

“Where are they?!”

But the silence had gone on for too long.

And Arthit couldn’t wait anymore.

“First years, raise your heads! Look at this friend of yours who doesn’t have an answer for me! This means you’ll be punished—!”

“They’re not missing.”

Oh? Arthit bit off his tirade, tilting his head at the other, tongue clicking at the obvious lie. He was also a little curious on how the other would wiggle out of this, taking a step forward, narrowing his gaze further.

“Say that again.”

“Those 54 students are not missing.”

“I have eyes too, and I can damn well see they’re not here!” Arthit snapped back, wondering where the younger was even going with this. “How can you say they’re not missing?!”

But his boyfriend remained as cool as a cucumber, and some long-honed instinct at the back of Arthit’s mind, one that had been quickly trained after meeting the younger, started niggling, telling him to brace himself for what comes out of the other’s mouth next.

“They’re not missing, really. Though they cannot be here in person, they have sent their hearts here.”

Around him, the first years ‘oooooh’ed, and Arthit’s eyes rolled so far up his head he thought it would be stuck there permanently.

Cheesy. So fucking cheesy he was already getting goosebumps. Only Kongpob could say something so ridiculous like that with a straight face and not be made fun for it. At the corner of his eye, Arthit could see some of his fellow hazers shaking their heads, unable to believe what they had just heard.

“Your friends must have a lot of hearts to spare.” Obviously this wasn’t the truth, but it gave Arthit all the justification he needed to spare the rest of the first years. His boyfriend, despite all odds, had done it again.

They truly didn’t deserve Kongpob in their lives.

Yes, not even him.

He would personally massage the younger’s legs tonight, as a way to apologize for what he was about to do next.

“Every heart they sent then, would be enough for all of you to run 54 laps around the track.”

“No.” There was a small, almost imperceptible smile playing along Kongpob’s lips now, like he had just thought of something completely brilliant, and Arthit was almost afraid of knowing what it was. “They just sent their hearts to me.”

Arthit was so going to regret asking this question, but…

“And why just send their hearts to you only?”

Kongpob smiled.

“To replace the one that I’ve already given to you.”

The freshmen collectively ‘oooohed’ at the same time again, impressed and a little giggly at such a smooth pick-up line, and even his yearmates behind him were chuckling a little.

It was the sun. It was the heat that was making his face burn brightly right now.

Kongpob!” Arthit snapped, both as hazer and boyfriend, irate and embarrassed, irritated and pleased, all at the same time. Really, the audacity of him. Arthit should really teach him a lesson about respecting boundaries and private affairs and not flirting so blatantly in front of the entire freshmen and hazer assembly.

What had he done in the past life to deserve this kind of treatment? Wasn’t Arthit a good person in his past incarnation? Had he killed a King or something?

Kongpob still looked visibly pleased, the little shit. Arthit scowled darkly at him.

Forget the damn massage, Kongpob could walk around campus with twinging calves and cramping thighs for all he cared.

“Yes?”

“Run 54 laps around the field right now! Go!”

“Khrap!”

(He did say that he was making Kongpob run laps if he did something like this again. And Arthit was a man of his word.)

Later on, as he dismissed the first years for the day, he went to the tent that was sent up near the track, where the medical team was stationed to take care of the first years who weren’t able to cope with the activities physically.

To his surprise, he found Kongpob sitting on a bench, elbows resting on his knees, shoulders heaving as he took deep breaths. He had a water bottle on one hand, already half-finished.

He was sweating so hard his hair was completely drenched, his white shirt was starting to stick to his body, revealing tantalizing glimpses of tanned skin. Arthit had to stop and shake himself a little so he could return to his task without being completely distracted.

Sue him, he liked his boyfriend in white shirts.

As he approached, the other finally saw him and stood up, expression wary, and Arthit understood why.

The younger didn’t know who Arthit was approaching him as.

“Have you finished the laps?” He asked once he arrived, tone a little stiff still, aware of where they were, but with a little of the concern already slipping in.

“Not yet.” He saw the other’s shoulders drop down, his gaze soften a little, instantly cueing into the tone of his voice.

“Why did you stop?”

“P’Fang told me to.” Kongpob answered simply, and Arthit could kiss her for managing to stop his boyfriend before he got himself seriously injured finishing those laps, or worse. “She’s my senior too. Is it wrong to listen to my seniors?”

(Well. Not literally. He wasn’t going to cheat on his boyfriend for any reason. But it was the thought that counted.)

“Oh, I get it now. So you’ll listen to a senior like her, but not me?” It was a bit more sarcastic than Arthit intended it to be, the question more serious than he would have liked.

But the younger was shaking his head, mirth and affection starting to bubble up to the surface, now less his argumentative junior and more of his loving, constantly adoring other half.

“No.” After a quick look around, the younger leaned in, making Arthit’s eyes widen as damp hair tickled the side of his cheek, the scent of sweat and masculine musk strong and heady as Kongpob whispered into his ear.

“Don’t worry. You’re the senior I listen to the most, P’Arthit.”

Arthit pushed him back immediately, ears hot, pressing a hand to one as if it would make the sensation of hot breath against his heated skin disappear.

“Get out of my sight,” he shot back, trying his hardest to make his heart stop beating out of his chest, “and make sure to stretch. I don’t want you cramping for tomorrow’s activity.”

Kongpob smiled back. “Yes, P’.” As polite as ever, he offered a departing wai, before jogging out of the tent and back to the locker rooms, probably to shower and change back to his school clothes.

Arthit continued to stand there, with a hand on his chest, blood rushing in his ears, not realizing he wasn’t alone anymore until Ai’Fang’s voice sounded behind him.

“Hm? P’Arthit, why are you just standing there? Is there something wrong?”

(He would definitely buy Fang lunch as thanks one day.

If she asked why, Arthit would simply say the truth: for taking good care of his first year.)


The hazing team was fractious today.

While the first years who attended today’s session were being taken care of by the more easy-going second-years, Arthit was sitting at the head of the circle of haphazard chairs, glancing around as his friends bickered with one another on what to do with the current batch of first years.

Prem was completely livid; Arthit knew that he appreciated the System more than most people; helping him find Arthit and the rest of the guys and the confidence he lost as a teenager. For him, everyone should go through the System, believing that it was through shared hardship that helped people build character.

As much as Arthit appreciated his friend being offended on his behalf for ‘besmirched’ honor, it was completely unnecessary, since no ‘sullying’ really happened in the first place. “How could you let that boy do that to you?”

Because he’s my boyfriend and I don’t actually mind, Arthit thought with an internal grimace, turning to Prem, annoyed. Prem had his heart in the right place, he wouldn’t be Arthit’s friend if he didn’t, but he was rough around the edges, letting his temper get the best of him in the worst times.

“I already punished him according to our rules. What else do you want me to do?”

“Fuck the rules, then!” Everyone sat up straighter, and even Arthit was wary, glancing at Prem. This was… not good. “It’s clear that we can’t control them! You should be harsher on him, Arthit!”

“But we’re already too harsh on them!” Fang said, instantly coming to the nong’s defense. “The teachers are watching our every move right now!”

“Everyone, calm down.” Knot said, as serene and as focused as ever. “We can always teach them in a more reasonable way.”

“I agree.” Arthit had to say. He wasn’t a fan of this method of teaching in general, and this kind of toughening up left more negative consequences than positive ones. It had been the topic of more than one conversation with his boyfriend, and it had left Arthit more enlightened about the generation gap between them. “The freshmen right now don’t understand what we’re trying to do.”

“Those brats can’t be taught with reason!”

As Tutah tried to placate Prem this time, Arthit looked down at the center of the circle, slouching further into his seat as the team remained silent, air heavy in the room.

“Hey, Ai’Arthit.” Prem was leaning forward in his seat, staring intensely at him.

“If something like that happens again, show him who’s boss. Don’t let them cross the line.” He warned, just barely holding on to his cool. “We’re their seniors! And they’re just juniors!”

Arthit looked away from him, exhaling sharply through his nose, trying to find a solution, but finding none.

This was a worse situation than they anticipated. They had pushed the nongs too far, and now they were questioning the entire purpose of the SOTUS System. People were posting on messaging boards and social networking sites; if they didn’t get a handle on this soon enough, the SOTUS System would be completely destroyed, and it was an unthinkable result.

What should he do?


“P’Arthit, my friends and I are going out drinking today. Would that be all right?”

“You know you don’t have to sound like you’re asking permission all the time.” Arthit snorted, lounging on his bed, halfway through reading the latest volume of the manga he just bought. “You’re a grown man, Kong. You don’t need me to tell you what you can and can’t do.” He trusted Kongpob enough that the younger would know where his limits were.

He still insisted on his boyfriend drinking only during the weekends though, no matter how hypocritical it sounded, coming from him who went out with his friends around 5 times a week when they were younger. They were Engineering students for god’s sake, having alcohol in their blood was practically a necessity for their continued survival. “Have you finished your schoolwork for tomorrow, though? I know you’re getting a lot of work from the professors these past weeks, that’s why some of your friends are skipping the afternoon activities.”

“I’m not asking for permission. I’m letting my boyfriend know where I am so he doesn’t worry about me.” Even through the phone Arthit could see the smile on the other’s face, making him roll his eyes, lips twitching up against his will. “But yes, I’m done for the night, thanks to your help, P’Arthit. Your notes were very helpful.”

“Yeah, well, don’t expect it all the time,” Arthit floundered a little, hearing the genuine gratitude in the other’s voice. “I’m only doing this so you don’t skip the meeting with your friends.”

“I understand, P’.” How Kongpob could sound sincere and teasing at the same time Arthit would never be able to understand, but all the same, it brought instant warmth to his cheeks. “We’ll be at the usual bar, then.”

“All right. Have fun, Kong. Text me if you need anything.”

“Bye. I love you, P’.”

“Yes, yes,” Arthit let out a long-suffering sigh, hearing the other laugh, before the call was cut off.

It was going to be a quiet night after all. But as much as Arthit wanted to ask the other to stay with him tonight, to have someone to share his current troubles with, the problem of the freshmen and the SOTUS System was for the third-years to solve alone. It would be an unnecessary burden on the younger, who was going to be smart enough to realize that he would be part of the reason why Arthit was having a difficult time right now.

His boyfriend would stop speaking up during gatherings if it meant making him have an easier time, and Arthit didn’t want that. And besides, Kongpob was having fun with his friends, he was experiencing all the things boys his age should, and Arthit wouldn’t be the one to get in the way of that.

As long as the younger was responsible and careful, he didn’t have any problems with Kongpob hanging out with other people. He wasn’t going to be the clingy, jealous significant other who demanded that their lover stay with them all the time.

He could distract himself no problem. It was high time Arthit had some alone time of his own, he wasn’t able to read his manga lately, and there were a few series he hadn’t been able to watch.

He could do this. He needed to take a break from everyone else but himself.

It was over an hour after Arthit last talked to Kongpob, already on his third manga volume, when his phone chirped again, but to his surprise, it was Knot who was texting him.

Hey, Ai’Oon, free tonight?

Yeah, why, Arthit texted back, curious. He glanced at his watch. It wasn’t too late yet, but it was definitely not a dinner thing.

We’re drinking tonight. We need it. Wanna come?

Where?

When Knot replied with the location, Arthit thought about it for a moment.

Then he smirked, finally rolling off the bed.

I’ll come. Give me 15 minutes.

It looked like it was his turn to surprise his boyfriend tonight.


The bar Arthit and his friends met up in was a familiar spot, especially for first years who lived in the dorms due to its cheaper prices and its close proximity to SSU. Arthit had fond memories of this place, including a bar fight in their first year that had him smashing a wooden chair over someone’s head like a professional wrestler.

But that was neither here nor there, as they entered the place, with its multiple-colored lights and its rustic, native feel. Already there were more than a few tables occupied, and Arthit was looking around, trying to find where his wayward boyfriend was.

“Hey, you’ll break your neck if you keep twisting it around like that,” Bright snickered at him. “Already finding someone to hit on, Ai’Arthit?”

“Shut up,” Arthit instantly answered back, punching him in the arm. “You’re the only one who comes with us to pick someone up, dick.”

“Let’s sit over there,” Tutah ushered them deeper into the establishment, and that’s when Arthit heard it: the sound of loud, unrestrained, familiar laughter.

It was a heartwarming sound, and he found himself smiling slightly.

He was glad Kongpob was having a good time with his friends.

They all looked towards the sound, and the sight of the younger with his three, first-year friends were unmistakable, Aim, Oak and Tew, if Arthit remembered their names correctly.

(He hadn’t met them formally, but from the stories Kongpob told him, they seemed to be nice kids, with good heads on their shoulders, if not a little stupid for suggesting to skip hazing practice, of all things. They seemed to have Kong’s back, but time would tell if they would actually pull through when the time demanded it.

For his boyfriend’s sake, Arthit sincerely hoped they would.)

“Well, well, look who’s there,” Tutah drawled with a shark-like grin. “It’s Arthit’s good looking nong, his 0062.”

Arthit was then fiercely glad that the place was dimly lit; it hid the sudden spike of warmth that flooded his face, the way the edges of his lips tipped up ever so slightly in smug delight.

(He shouldn’t be this happy when people refer to Kongpob as his. It was completely absurd, Tutah didn’t mean it that way, and he knew it was more of a jab towards him and his supposed dislike for the junior than anything else.

But the simple, undeniable truth of it was enough for his heart to flip in excited little circles.

Kongpob Suthiluck was his.)

“Aow, we haven’t even started and you’re already talking like a drunk.” He shoved Tutah slightly, quickly looking away still, just in case. “Leave them alone, we’re out of the university.”

“Nah, I think we should invite ourselves to their little party,” Prem was smiling wickedly, “after all, it’s a school night, right? Why aren’t they back in their room studying?”

“Ai’Prem…” Knot warned.

“What?” Prem replied, defensive. “Look, we’re not going to do anything, we can just drop by and say hello!”

Whatever Knot was about to answer was drowned out by another chorus of howls; one of Kongpob’s friends was telling them a story, the fairly handsome one, and his voice was just loud and slurred enough for them to know the interesting details of their conversation.

“—And best of all, the man suddenly yelled, ‘Be quiet! How many students are there in your class?! Keep your head down!’”

“He’s dead but he’s still hazing?!”

Arthit was sure that the story was funny. Hell, he was a bit amused by it too, to be honest, from the bit he just heard. But after exchanging a quick look with his friends, if these juniors could have some fun at their expense, then it was completely fair for them to also have a good time with their nice, completely respectful nongs.

“Let’s go,” Arthit instantly said, and they approached slowly, letting their faces bleed into their typical ‘hazer’ looks, stone cold and completely unamused, standing behind them in a line, looking down with raised eyebrows.

He saw the exact moment two freshmen facing them registered their presence; their expressions turning into genuine horror, sitting up more properly in their seats, coughing. The two on the other side, Kongpob and his other friend, seemed puzzled, at least until Arthit spoke.

“DIdn’t you say you guys have a lot of assignments to do?” Arthit drawled, close enough to press a palm briefly against his boyfriend’s back, thumb running down his spine in the most teasing of caresses, which made the younger jolt in surprise. “And you wanted to skip the gathering? Then what is this?”

“Well…” As one of Kongpob’s friends tried to explain why they were there, Arthit could feel the younger’s eyes on him, seeing the short moment of pleasant surprise on the other’s face at the corner of his eye. They really haven’t gone out with friends like this, considering no one from their respective groups actually knew of their real relationship, but it was something Arthit would want to happen in the future, definitely.

As much as possible, he would never hide Kongpob from the people he loved.

“Oh… I see. Under a lot of stress, aren’t you?” Arthit said, putting all the fake sympathy in his tone, exchanging glances with his friends with a clap. “Then the more the merrier, right?” He smiled, with an edge of unholy glee.

So they all settled right there and then on the table, getting extra chairs, Arthit taking his place beside his boyfriend as they placed down their poisons for the night. Kongpob was still looking at him, a little incredulous, as if not believing that Arthit was quite real.

As Arthit’s friends started talking among themselves, popping open the bottles of strong but cheap swill that Arthit was reasonably sure Kongpob’s delicate taste buds had never experienced in his life, Arthit felt a warm hand rest on his thigh, squeezing in welcome, hidden underneath the table.

Kongpob’s eyes were much warmer though, bright and inviting, body angled towards him, glancing furtively every so once in a while.

You didn’t tell me you were coming, P’.

Surprise, Arthit conveyed with a dry look towards the younger, who instantly got the message, teeth biting on a lower lip as the younger tried not to laugh. He waved his phone, jerking his head meaningfully towards his friends. Sudden invite. Couldn’t say no.

He saw Kongpob’s minute head nod, understanding, as Arthit's friends started bullying the other first years into taking the first shot with the rest of them. Arthit glanced around, first at his friends, then at the first years across from him, making sure that the dim lights light and the table offered enough cover and protection from curious, prying gazes.

And then, as casual as he could make it, Arthit rested his hand on top of Kongpob’s that was still on his leg, curling his fingers around the top of the tanned palm, an additional, grounding weight on Arthit’s thigh, keeping his boyfriend’s hand in place.

Arthit could feel the other’s beam at the back of his head, and he refused to turn back, knowing that his ears were already burned scarlet.

“Come on, let’s start! These bottles aren’t going to finish themselves!”

Arthit knew that Kongpob had a relatively high alcohol tolerance. According to the younger, it came with the territory of ‘needing to mingle with other high-class people who liked their drinks without completely destroying your family’s reputation and business at the end of the night’. But Arthit’s liver had practically turned to iron by this point, as an Engineering student whose only outlet from stress was alcohol, and Kongpob and his friends had already gotten a head’s start by already having a few beers. As the night progressively became darker their selections became more and more higher in proof, Arthit’s friends determined to make the nongs so intoxicated they wouldn’t be able to tell their hand from their ass once they were done.

Arthit tried his best to spare his boyfriend for the inevitable morning fallout. He slipped in water into Kongpob’s glass as much as he could get away with it, amused with the initial grimace the younger had on his face at the first shot. They kept the same position all night, holding each other’s hand under the table, even as the liquid in the bottles gradually decreased.

But thankfully, his boyfriend was a quiet, if affectionate, drunk, completely leaning against his shoulder at the end of the session, about to completely pass out. His hand had already migrated from wrapping around Arthit’s thigh to his waist, which was thankfully still hidden by the table.

“P’Arthit,” he mumbled, undeniably adorable as he nuzzled against the curve of Arthit’s shoulder. “You smell good, P’Arthit.”

“Hey, rest against your friend, not me,” Arthit had to say finally, tone gentle, pushing Kongpob away into the arms of his taller, more built freshman friend. He was also tipsy, but the constant worry of keeping their relationship hidden didn’t make him drink as much as he would have. He looked around quickly, his friends too busy downing their drinks to pay attention to him. Good. He did a quick check to make sure that the younger still had his important items: dorm keys, wallet, phone. “You good?”

“Mn.” At Kongpob’s other side, his tall friend seemed like he was trying to figure out why he was there, looking befuzzled when Kongpob suddenly appeared on his lap. “P’, why…?”

“Your stress should be gone now, right?” Arthit asked, voice a bit louder, making the nongs look at him with bleary eyes, almost toppling off their seats. “Go. Go home. Take care of each other.”

With some groaning and heaving, the four first years eventually stumbled to their feet, clutching each other like a lifeline. Arthit and Knot kept an eye on the group as they left, dancing and wobbling on their feet like the drunks they really were, the rest already relaxing and starting to enjoy the night in earnest.

Arthit quickly checked his phone, and found no messages. He was still a bit worried, but Kongpob should be fine; he was with a group, and this was a relatively safe area for students.

He’d stay for an hour more, just to make sure he didn’t arouse suspicion, and immediately go back to the dorm to check if his boyfriend was still alive.


It was close to midnight when he entered Kongpob’s dorm room, quietly unlocking the door with his own key, taking a brief moment to take off his shoes, open the light to the hallway and look around. It was quiet, with no significantly large messes from intoxicated stumbling and shuffling, still as clean and organized as Arthit remembered it being. A quick check to the bathroom revealed the same, and he moved further inside, only to see his boyfriend collapsed on top of his bed, completely unmoving, smelling of hard liquor and still in his earlier clothes.

He hadn’t even managed to take off his shoes, his legs dangling uncomfortably off the edge of the bed.

Arthit smiled down at his boyfriend, fond. Lightweight.

“Couldn’t even take off your clothes, huh.” He murmured, leaning over the other to check on him. Wallet, phone and keys were inside the jeans pockets, and a quick press of fingers to the pulse revealed the other was still breathing, and Arthit breathed out, relieved. Shaking his own head a little to clear the light fog that had settled, he turned the younger onto his back and started to pull off the younger’s clothes little by little, unbuckling his belt and unlacing his sneakers to make him more comfortable.

“Come on, let’s get this off you,” he muttered, tugging down at the fitted jeans on his boyfriend’s hips, it was during this time that the younger finally started to stir, eyes half-lidded and irises still blown wide open.

“Ngh… P’Arthit?” He mumbled, trying to sit up, but Arthit quickly put a stop to that.

“It’s me.” Arthit said softly, unwilling to startle his boyfriend, who might think he was some pervert breaking into his room. “Ai’Kong, can you help me out? It’ll be hard to sleep in those clothes. Come on, up.”

With a little assistance and a more willing participant, Arthit managed to get Kongpob down to his boxers and ushered him under the covers, while he took the younger’s clothes and placed them in the nearby hamper. A quick detour to the bathroom, and he soon returned to the side of the bed, with a basin full of cold water and a washcloth, which he set on a nearby table.

A dip of cloth in the water, a tight squeeze and wring. Arthit sat on the edge of the bed, tilting the younger’s face towards him, and started to slowly wipe him down, hoping that the rough texture of the cloth and cold water would jolt some sobriety back into the other. Arthit kept to the task carefully, diligently, passing the wet cloth down his boyfriend’s neck, his collarbones, his shoulders and arms.

Soon enough, after Arthit wrung out his third pass over, the younger finally started to stir.

“... I thought I was dreaming. It really was you at the bar earlier.” Kongpob finally muttered, one eye peeking out from long, dark eyelashes. “You pushed me away. That was mean of you, P’.”

“Aow, you were being clingy and we’re in front of our friends. I had no choice.” Arthit muttered, tone apologetic as he pressed the once again cold washcloth against Kongpob’s cheek, watching as the younger leaned into his touch easily. “There, there. Consider it a learning experience, if you’ll be drinking with my friends in my future. How are you feeling?”

“... Floaty.” The other admitted, a ridiculously wide smile appearing on his face. “Happy. Pretty P’Ai-Oon is here, taking care of me.”

“Of course I am,” Arthit answered with a softer-than-usual flick at the other’s forehead, lightly blushing, tone chiding. “Where else would I be?”

“I thought you would be still with the other P’s.” The younger responded, voice still rough, but sounding much more coherent than he was minutes ago. “You didn’t have to check up on me.”

“And what, possibly leave you to die of alcohol poisoning?” Arthit asked with a slight roll of his eyes, placing the cloth inside the basin. He leaned over the other, running a hand through his boyfriend’s hair, feeling the younger melt deeper into the sheets.

“It was partly my fault you’re like this. Just keep quiet and let me make up for it.”

“Okay, P’.” Kongpob sighed eventually, voice still dreamy, nuzzling into Arthit’s palm like a particularly large puppy. “... Are you drunk?”

“A little,” Arthit admitted, continuing to pet his boyfriend’s head with some fascination. His hair was always so soft and silky to the touch in its natural state. He could play with it forever. “But I’ll be fine. I can still go home.”

“You can always stay.” Kongpob said at once, a hand reaching out to grasp at Arthit’s shoulder.

Their eyes eventually met, and in the quiet darkness of the room, something sparked.

“P’Arthit. Please stay with me tonight.”

Arthit’s throat suddenly felt as dry as a desert, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. Stay… to what, exactly? If it was… if it was something like that then Arthit was leaving, his drunk boyfriend be damned. He was exhausted, tipsy, and honestly, not in the mood to fool around right now.

But Kongpob just looked… quietly hopeful, the heat that usually accompanied these moments nowhere to be found.

He wasn’t asking for sex, Arthit realized.

He was… he wanted to...

And somehow, knowing what the younger really wanted was more mortifying than if they actually just slept together tonight.

“I…” Arthit instantly darted his gaze to the corner of the room, feeling the heat suffuse his entire face, mouth opening and closing as he tried to articulate a response.

(But in the end, his struggle was moot.

He already knew his answer, because he would always say yes to whatever the other asked of him.)

“... Fine.”

He slowly stood up, but only to quickly remove his shirt and pants, kicking them off to the side because he couldn’t be bothered to clean them up right now. Arthit was sure that the blush had spread down to his neck, feeling the appreciative eyes roaming over his almost-bare form, and quickly threw off the covers by the side before he could lose his nerve and chicken out.

“Move.”

Slipping into Kongpob’s bed was always a nice experience. Arthit was pretty sure that his pillows and bedsheets were made from those expensive, thousand thread count things that could only be seen in most luxury hotels. It felt like he was lying down on a cloud, and he wouldn’t admit out loud, but he always slept better here, in this bed, surrounded by Kongpob’s scent.

In the dim light of the room, they stared at each other, Kongpob’s eyes shining like stars. Even like this, with some distance between them, the younger already looked ridiculously content, as if there was nothing he wanted more in his life than to see Arthit like this.

It was embarrassing, to be looked at with such boundless, depthless affection. Arthit knew that his boyfriend had finally gotten his wish, that he wouldn’t ask for anything more.

But Arthit knew it wasn’t enough. For both of them.

So, just before either of them completely closed their eyes, to let sleep finally claim them both, a whisper broke through the silent stillness of the room.

“Kong, come here.”

When the younger finally moved, it was slow, gradual, the pull of the moon against the tides of the sea. Arthit had forgotten how nice it felt, to just be skin to skin with the person he loved, to feel their warmth and weight against his own, reminding him that he wasn’t alone. He tucked his boyfriend’s head under his chin, exhaling a breath he didn’t know he was holding as they settled in each other’s embrace, legs tangled together under the blankets.

“I was right,” Kongpob murmured happily against his neck, pressing his nose against the delicate skin. “You smell really nice tonight, P’Ai-Oon.”

Arthit merely sighed, fingers once again finding its way through short, dark hair, running them up and down, up and down the younger’s scalp, in a slow, rhythmic motion.

Everything felt right again.

“Go to sleep, Kong.”

Chapter Text

“You seem to be cozying up to your 0062 lately, Ai’Arthit.”

Arthit almost spat out his iced coffee. Almost. Instead, he placed the glass back on the table, slowly raising an eyebrow at the other, who was staring at him placidly.

The two of them were currently spending some time studying in a nearby cafe since they were the only people in their friend group who took their academics seriously, with Knot running for honors and Arthit trying to maintain his current GPA to make sure he could still stay in the hazing team. It was hard, finding the time to actually study with everything else in Arthit’s life, but having a study buddy like Knot gave him the motivation to actually get off his butt and actually, really try to learn something.

“The hell are you talking about, Ai’Knot?”

“I saw you and the freshman at the bar the other night. Your 0062 wasn’t exactly subtle, leaning against you like that.”

“Stop calling him my 0062. He was drunk.” Arthit snorted, trying his best to not give away the fact that his heart was currently racing a thousand miles an hour, his mind spluttering out a litany of swears.

God fucking damnit, he wasn’t as careful as he thought. He thought he had gotten away with it, but he had forgotten that Knot was the most observant person in their group. Nothing got past him, not for a lack of effort, and it was nigh impossible to hide something from the other, once he had cottoned on to the idea that something was going on.

He couldn’t even blame Kongpob. Everything Arthit did that day was of his own volition, in concern for his boyfriend, his own self-confidence making him lower his guard, and now Arthit was facing the consequences of his hubris.

He might not be a great actor, but if there was one moment where he had to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance, then that time was now.

“We made him drink so much the kid barely knows the difference between his elbow and his foot. I can’t blame him for clinging to the nearest person available.” Arthit said, taking a sip of his drink, this time grateful for the bitter taste of caffeine stinging at his taste buds. He would never like the taste of it, but it was a strangely comforting drink, and it kept him conscious and aware of the current situation, in any case.

His friends had raised their eyebrows the first time they saw Arthit order an iced coffee, watching him grimace through the first few sips. But Arthit had simply waved it off as him trying to experience something new, and soon enough they got used to him ordering something coffee-related every once in a while.

(Coffee reminded him of the shape of Kongpob’s lips, the taste of his mouth, strong, heady, thick and warm. Arthit couldn’t get enough of it, the hint of bitterness overwhelmed by devastating sweetness, and he always craved more.

It was a poor substitute, but on the days he missed his boyfriend more than most, it would do.)

“It would make more sense for him to hold on to his friend, though, since he knows him more,” Knot pointed out. “And you didn’t exactly push him away.”

“I’m head hazer Knot, not a sadist,” Arthit rolled his eyes further, hoping against all hope that he wasn’t blushing right now. That reaction would be a lot more difficult to explain. “What did you want me to do, knock him off his feet and yell at him for something he wasn’t fully conscious of doing?”

“No, but I expected a bit more.... resistance. You don’t exactly like people touching you.” Knot said delicately with a sip of his own cafe latte.

“Hey, you sure you’re not hallucinating that night? I did push him away at the end, hard enough to make him stumble over his friend.” Arthit defended, hoping that would be enough to make his friend back off. He didn’t know how long he could pull off this ignorant facade. “He had no control over himself, and in the end, he was harmless. I can take care of myself. He might be mouthy during gatherings, but he’s got his heart in the right place, and I can’t dislike him for it.”

Do you hate him, Ai’Arthit?”

The question had Arthit pausing, quickly glancing at his friend to gauge the type of answer the other was looking for.

Knot’s expression was completely serious, and Arthit knew that trying to bullshit his way out of this would not work.

“... Look, he’s not a bad kid, Ai’Knot. I don’t hate him.” Arthit was forced to admit. His feelings for the younger were on the completely opposite side of the word’s spectrum, and acknowledging Kongpob’s existence in front of Knot right now was already something closer to the truth that any of his friends knew.

“But he’s got a hero complex a mile wide and thousands of meters deep. If we don’t train it out of him, the first years would start getting used to having someone to depend on and it’s not healthy.” Putting aside his own rabid jealousy of people always being attracted to the younger like a moth to a flame, Kongpob had always been too helpful and kind for his own sake. It was one out of the multiple traits that Arthit loved about him, but it was also a characteristic that was most likely to hurt the younger the most, if he got into the wrong crowd. It wouldn’t hurt to be a little cautious of people, especially if you were trying to help them. “I’ve been trying to get him to see it, again and again, but it just wouldn’t go through his thick skull.”

Knot’s lips quirked up slightly in amusement. “So that’s why you’re bullying him so much? Ai’Oon, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re trying to get his attention because you like him.”

This time, Arthit really did spit out the drink he had in his mouth.

“Oi, shut your mouth! Like him? What are we, five years old?” He spluttered, not even caring that he looked like an idiot right now, with coffee dribbling down his chin. Great, now their interactions during hazing activities got equated to him pulling on the younger’s pigtails in public in an attempt to get the other to notice him. “I like girls! He might be handsome for a freshman, but I’m not attracted to guys!”

(Well, that was true. Technically. Right now, Kongpob was the only man he was attracted to. Time would tell if that would change, although Arthit was starting to have a sneaking suspicion that his attraction to the younger was less because he was a man, and because he was Kongpob, more than anything else.)

Knot held up his hands, placating. “It’s perfectly all right to like both, though.”

Don’t you think I know that, Arthit thought with a dark scowl at the other. He had done the whole sexuality crisis months ago, before he finally agreed to date Kongpob, and he wasn’t keen on revisiting that harrowing journey any time soon. “Don’t start fishing, Ai’Knot. We still have worksheets due for morning class tomorrow.”

“All right, all right, I’ll stop.” Knot conceded with a chuckle, returning to his work, but the curious sparkle in his eyes as he glanced at Arthit had never left.

And Arthit knew that he had to be more cautious than ever before. No more risks. Next time, he would keep his relationship with Kongpob on a polite, distant leash, at least in public.

(For all his earlier explanations, Arthit knew that what he told Knot wasn’t even close to the real story, and he was doing his relationship, Kongpob, a complete disservice.

He owed it to his boyfriend, and himself, to completely come clean about his boyfriend. He shouldn’t need to hide the special person in his life from others he also loved.

But he wasn’t ready right now. Not with everything that was happening at the same time. He had subjects to pass, a job to finish, a SOTUS System to save.

He couldn’t bear to add the added stress of potentially losing his closest friends to that list.

Not even Kong’s presence could save him from the devastating heartache that would ensue.)


The rising tensions between the first years and the hazing team finally exploded the next day, and even Arthit wasn’t prepared for the amount of fallout afterwards.

Prem had taken him aside before the first years were set to arrive, with a glint in his eye and a set to his jaw that should have had alarm bells ringing in Arthit’s head.

His friend had asked to let him lead the session this time, and Arthit, despite knowing how dangerous it may become due to Prem’s explosive temper, eventually agreed. As head hazer, he had the right to accept or refuse requests like this, but in the end, he had to give his friend a chance to prove himself, to see if his way of hazing really was the right way for them to move forward.

Despite his severe reservations, he still held hope in his heart that Prem wouldn’t let him down, that his faith in his friend would be rewarded.

Oh, how wrong he was.

It didn’t take long for things to go downhill. As Prem started to scold and punish the first years for respecting those who were older than them, one of the first years, the person Prem had been targeting all this time, had finally had enough, getting into Prem’s face and arguing with him about respect, and how it should be earned, not demanded.

Arthit watched in silent horror as his friend released his ire out on the rest of the nongs, screaming at them to get out if they couldn’t follow the SOTUS System. A few freshmen actually left with that first one, also unable to stand the treatment they were going through, and the gathering ended in a sour, heavy note.

Later on, in the hazer meeting, Arthit wasted no time in ripping the other a new one, not caring if he’s one of his closest friends.

“Ai’Prem, you crossed a line today. You can bawl those freshmen out, but you can’t take out your anger on them!” Arthit said, genuinely angry and upset.

“Do you expect me to pamper those freshmen, then?” Prem argued back, still thinking he was in the right, and it was making Arthit’s blood boil. “Did you see how he looked at me?! Do you want me to kneel and beg in front of him?! The more we go easy on them, the more they become undisciplined!”

“We don’t have to take it easy on them, but you can’t just throw a fit on them like that.” Knot said, stern in his tone, and thank fucking Buddha someone apart from Arthit still had common sense in this room.

“Not throw a fit? How would we haze the freshmen if we don’t throw a fit?! Will they listen to what we tell them?!”

Bright, beside Prem, tapped at him to make him calm down, but Arthit wasn’t finished with him just yet.

“Prem, I’m all right with you standing in front during the gathering.” He said, attempting to keep his voice even. “But you’re not allowed to discipline the freshmen anymore.”

The defiant expression on Prem’s face instantly shortened Arthit’s already ticking fuse. “Was I so wrong?!”

“Yes, you were!” Arthit raised his voice, and this time, everyone listened. “You were definitely in the wrong this time, Prem!” He looked away, taking a deep breath, trying to unclench his fist. By his side, Tutah pressed a hand on his thigh briefly, reminding him of where he was, and Arthit took another deep breath, trying to control his emotions.

“Listen to me. We’re dealing with a new generation of young people. We can’t stay like this. We have to adapt our approach to the changing times. We have to learn alongside these juniors. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we can’t be wrong!” He looked around the circle, meeting the eyes of every member of the hazing team.

“I admit, I also went too far on the first day. Prem, I hope you think of what you’ve done today, and look back on the things you’ve done wrong.”

Prem should know better than to let the notions of age seniority get to his head. They were also human, they made mistakes as easily as anyone else did. Hell, even their mistakes, while small in their eyes, would be astronomically huge in the eyes of the juniors, who should be looking up to them as guides and role models.

Arthit leaned back on his seat, unable to look at the other, frustration still writhing under his skin. How had he done so badly? He had screwed up, with every single action he did leading to this exact event. He had no control over the hazing team, the freshmen are barely listening to him, and the activities they had planned were complete failures.

He never should have agreed to being head hazer in the first place.

Then last year’s head hazer arrived, his expression completely unamused, and Arthit knew he was completely, totally fucked.

“I heard everything. Ai’Arthit, what the hell are you doing? How could you let a lot of first years skip the activities like this?”

As Knot tried to defend him, Arthit continued to sit, lost in his own thoughts, even as P’Deer’s tongue continued to lash out at them for not doing their jobs properly.

“I think you should come and have some time with me, to remind you of what exactly it is you need to do.”

And with that, everyone sank down in their seats, Arthit included, as dread slowly settled in his bones.

Damn it all.


He hadn’t talked to Kongpob recently.

Arthit glanced at his phone, thumb hovering over the younger’s name in his LINE app, but couldn’t bring himself to press it. It wasn’t due to the lack of interest, god only knew how desperate he was to finally curl against his boyfriend and be away from the rest of the world for a few hours, but life was rarely that kind.

He did receive texts from the younger still, regularly, telling him to have a good day, to take care of himself, and reminding him of small things, like eating lunch and getting his dry clothes from the drying rack on his balcony. The first time Arthit got a text like that he almost broke down in the middle of the cafeteria during lunch break, just missing his boyfriend, wanting to spend time with him, and wishing to get this damn hazing activity done and over with.

He replied as much as he could, with variations of ‘Thanks’ and ‘Okays’ with various emojis, but both of them knew Arthit didn’t usually answer like this.

The younger... probably realized he was having a rough time, and was trying to be accommodating by giving him some space. While thoughtful, it was completely the last thing Arthit wanted right now. He wanted to confide in the younger, to ask him for advice since the other would know his yearmates the best, but the fact that Kongpob was a freshman that he was mentoring too instantly made that impossible due to conflict of interest.

Arthit couldn’t give away the fact that the hazing team was currently fractured, even if his boyfriend would never tell a living soul if he asked, because honestly, it was a hit to his own pride.

It proved how incompetent he was as a leader, and he could never bear to have Kongpob think of him any differently, as someone lesser, more flawed than he already was.

(And perhaps, that was his greatest fear: to lose the light in Kongpob’s eyes when he looked at Arthit, because the younger finally realized he wasn’t worth it.)

He honestly didn’t know what to do, at this point. He felt like he was drowning, only able to take the barest gulps of breath on the surface, only to be dragged down, kicking and screaming, into the depths, never to see the light of day again.

“Ai’Arthit.”

“... What?”

“It’s time.”

With the future night session with P’Deer hanging over his head, Arthit prepared for today’s meeting. He silently watched as the first years came in in their usual lines and rows, hands clasped low on his back, instantly noticing that the number of freshmen today was less than the very first gathering.

The atmosphere today was worse, heavy and suffocating. He could feel his boyfriend’s eyes on his form as we walked around, concern radiating from every pore in his body, and Arthit briefly wondered how he looked like in the other’s eyes right now. Frigid? Unapproachable? Distant?

But now, as much as Arthit yearned to know the other’s thoughts, he had a meeting to oversee, a few more lessons to impart.

“Where’s your name tag?” He asked one of Kongpob’s friends, the tall, pale, built one, who now seemed as meek as a lamb, shrinking into himself as Arthit unleashed the full force of his disdain on him.

“I… I forgot.”

“Did you think I gave that name tag to you as an accessory?” Arthit asked, voice cold, and the nong, Aim, flinched. “I’ve told you,” he addressed the room in general this time, projecting his voice louder, “how important those name tags are to all of you.” It was a way for them to get to know each other, to put a face to the name, with the amount of people that entered the Engineering. Not only with their fellow yearmates, but also with the seniors and the professors. It was another way to build connections.

Normally, outside the hazing gatherings, Arthit wouldn’t mind so much. He personally knew how bad his own memories were, forgetting a few things here and there. If it weren’t for Kongpob, Arthit would have probably gotten himself into serious trouble by forgetting something important.

But this year’s hazing team had done poorly so far. He had to take control of his team, the juniors, everything, before it all completely fell apart around him.

“Then let’s prove it! Everyone, raise your heads! Look at your friend here!” Arthit commanded, and looked around as the freshmen trained their looks on Aim, the full weight of their attention on the poor boy. “Any of you know him?”

No one spoke. Arthit saw a few looks at one another, shaking their heads, sending pitying looks towards the standing first year.

“Anyone?! No one spends time with him?!”

From the initial look of it, Arthit was about to face disappointment. These first years have no loyalty to each other, not even for their so-called friend, who was now facing a figurative firing squad. It was natural, to try and save their own skins, but as Arthit glanced at Kongpob’s other friends, who were studiously keeping their gazes away, he couldn’t help but also feel sorry for this one.

Nong, I’m so sorry, Arthit thought distantly, with a sick feeling growing in his stomach.

At least, if he didn’t know that one hand would be eventually raised, because this particular junior had one good friend standing beside him.

“His name is Aim.”

As Arthit thought, Kongpob eventually stood up, brows furrowed in a familiar determined look. His eyes were filled with another emotion, however, one solely reserved for him alone, and the clarity of it was enough to almost knock Arthit off his feet, his knees threatening to give.

P’Arthit, are you all right?

P’Arthit, what’s wrong?

P’Arthit, why aren’t you talking to me?

Arthit stood up straighter and clenched his hands together.

(He couldn’t meet his boyfriend’s eyes. Couldn’t let the younger see the desperation, the yearning in them. Not here. Not now.

If Buddha was listening, please, help him get through this without giving anything away.)

“Do you really know this person?” He asked, voice clipped, straight to the point.

Arthit saw the brief moment where Kongpob was taken-aback, not expecting to be shut out, but answered anyway. “I do.”

“Give me your card,” Arthit replied instantly, holding a hand out to Aim, who reached into his pocket and gave it to him immediately.

Kongpob hadn’t disappointed him, offering information about his friend without a single mistake. Arthit soon returned the I.D. to Aim, whose shoulders had dropped, finally realizing that he had safely traversed through the dangerous waters.

“You seem to know him well.” Arthit had to acknowledge, but it didn’t seem to make the younger happy. In fact, Kongpob looked more troubled, dark eyes following Arthit as he walked back to the front of the stage. “But I want to know if you know the other freshmen as good as you know your friend. Everyone, flip your tags!”

This was a test. A test that Arthit was sure Kongpob would fail, because even as good and as friendly as the younger was, he wouldn’t be able to remember everyone in his year, not by this time, at least.

He knew he should let this go. Kongpob had proved his point; he knew Aim, so it shouldn’t matter that the nong didn’t have his nametag. Arthit should have had him run laps and move on.

But P’Deer’s words were still haunting his mind.

What are you doing, Ai’Arthit?

Are you sure you’re doing your best?

Arthit closed his eyes briefly, trying to stop his body from shaking.

He would do well this time.

He wouldn’t disappoint anyone else anymore.

He would finish his task as head hazer without any more mistakes.

“Student ID 0023, stand up!”

One by one, he called student IDs at random, making them stand up and face his boyfriend. With every person he called, Kongpob said the right name, and flipping the name tag back up to show as proof.

It was going well. Kongpob had always been brilliant, and if Arthit wasn’t so distressed, he would have felt proud of how well the younger was doing right now. His boyfriend had always been the more personable one between them, always willing to get to know new people and make friends.

Until it didn’t.

A girl this time, one Arthit was reasonably certain Kongpob had never interacted with much before. He saw Kongpob falter, trying to remember her name. Behind him, Bright and Tutah were speaking in low tones, but Arthit ignored all of that in favor of letting his gaze roam over the first years.

“Give me your name tag.” He said to the girl, May, who meekly removed it from her neck, unsure. Arthit glanced down at it, waving it in front of the juniors as if it was a evidence of a crime they had just committed.

“I told you the reason why I gave you these name tags.” He said, voice echoing throughout the auditorium. “I want you to pay attention to your friends. But you can’t even remember her name.” He sneered at Kongpob, who recoiled at the accusation, shown by his rigid frame and his clenched jaw.

(It was unfair. Arthit knew that. Kongpob cared for a lot of people, and couldn’t be expected to remember everything.

But Arthit had a job to do.

And this time, he swore to do it well.)

“If this thing is meaningless for you, then you don’t need it.” Meeting the younger’s eyes squarely, Arthit ripped the name tag into pieces, letting it scatter uselessly to the ground.

What the hell are you doing, a small part of Arthit screamed inside his mind. This was so vindictive and petty of him that Arthit would be ashamed, if he thought back to this moment. He didn’t have to drag the poor girl into his mess, just to feed Arthit’s incessant need to prove himself to everyone, his boyfriend most of all.

“This just tells me you don’t care for your friends at all!” He shot at the younger, whose eyes widened at the accusation.

It was a personal attack, and both of them knew it.

The genuine hurt and disappointment that flashed in Kongpob’s face smashed against Arthit like a ton of bricks, making his chest ache so much he had to force himself to inhale a breath.

But what was done was done. He had made his points, in a cutthroat, hard-hitting way.

“I hope that everyone will bring their name tags next time. And if you think you know everyone in this room well enough, then don’t bother. I’ll test if that is true, like what I just did right now.” With those final, parting words, Arthit made to leave.

His work for the day was done without incident.

But why was it that he felt more horrible afterwards?

Taking one last look at the first-year girl he had just made an example out of, he made a note to give her a new name tag, for the next gathering. He’d ask one of the second-years to put it in her locker.

But before he could really leave, Arthit heard movement in the back, and Bright stopped him with a few words.

“Hey, it looks like it’s not over yet.”

And it wasn’t, because when Arthit turned back around, Kongpob was there, kneeling in front of the girl and helping her gather the pieces of her destroyed name tag. The younger was apologetic in tone and action, asking for her name, and May’s hesitant but shy responses was enough to make Arthit see red.

If asked, he wouldn’t be able to say what the trigger was. Perhaps it was the sight of his boyfriend being kind to someone else Arthit had been cruel to, or seeing him offer his own name tag in an attempt to make amends for his perceived mistakes, showing that, even now, Kongpob was still so undeniably good.

But if he was honest with himself, in the deepest, ugliest, most hidden parts of his heart, he knew the real reason why.

Kongpob shouldn’t be helping her.

Why was he helping her, when he should be with me?

(Never mind that Arthit wasn’t the one who reached out. That he was avoiding the younger as much as he could, because of a problem that he had taken upon himself to solve alone.

The heart was an irrational thing, not caring where and when it decided to show itself to others.

And it chose this moment, the absolute worst place and time.)

Arthit was striding forward, getting in between them before he knew it.

“Kongpob!” His boyfriend’s name was sharp and reprimanding on his tongue. “What are you doing?”

“I’m giving my name tag to her.” His boyfriend answered, looking up at him, explaining as truthfully and as openly as he could.

“What for? Who told you to do this?” Arthit was unrelenting, words lashing out of his mouth like a whip.

A part of him, one that was a distant and impartial observer, was cringing. He sounded so upset, so jealous, as if he had just seen his boyfriend making the moves on another person in front of him.

“No one. But I couldn’t remember her name.” Kongpob answered, this time with a set edge to his mouth and jaw. He wasn’t going to budge, not this time. “This is my fault. So I have to take responsibility.”

“But you know if you give your name tag to her, then you won’t have yours anymore,” Arthit knew the other was aware of the possible consequences of his actions, but he had to say it out loud for everyone to hear, just in case.

Don’t do this, Arthit was warning him with his eyes. Don’t be so damn selfless, Kongpob.

“And if you don’t have your name tag anymore, then you’re breaking the year’s class rules.”

Kongpob slowly stood up, not removing his eyes from Arthit’s, his voice clear and straightforward, decision made before he even spoke.

“I do know.”

I’m sorry, P’Arthit. I can’t.

Arthit couldn’t think. He couldn’t breathe. The world was spinning around him and he didn’t even know the first thing he could do to stop it.

Stop being so damned noble, Arthit wanted to scream at him. Stop making my job more difficult than it already is.

What about your responsibility to me? Am I not your boyfriend? Aren’t you supposed to support me more than anyone else?

I miss you. I miss you so much.

I’m sorry. I hurt you.

Please, I need you. I need you so badly right now.

But instead, Arthit gritted his teeth, tore his gaze away, and turned around, leaving the younger and the rest of the first years behind.


To add insult to injury, one of the freshmen fainted of heatstroke when they were outside in the field.

It was the usual exercise, the freshmen sitting and standing 100 times together by supporting each other’s shoulders. It shouldn’t be that hard, Arthit and his friends had done it before in the middle of the day when they were first years, and for this year they decided to do it near sunset so the heat wouldn’t be as overbearing.

But one of the nongs apparently couldn’t take it and dropped right there and then. Arthit had been on the site immediately, holding the small girl up and yelling for the medical team to come help, ordering the other hazers to keep the order with the rest of the first years as they helped the junior to the infirmary.

Arthit had to remind the freshmen to take care of themselves again before calling it a day; the first years were clearly shaken at this point, and he too, was already emotionally compromised.

The teachers were going to hear of this, and once they did, Arthit was going to be facing their wrath, since he was in charge of the team. Arthit would take full responsibility; there was no question about that, but the earlier incident would be another black mark in their already abysmal track record.

Once everything was done and taken care of, Arthit took a moment to hide away in the corner of the field by himself, leaning against the wall of the building as he took deep breaths, trying not to be overwhelmed.

Not for the first time, he had to ask why P’Tum wanted him to be head hazer. Arthit wasn’t anyone special, not particularly charismatic or intimidating. His planning skills weren’t something to look at, and the most he could say about himself was that he tried his best in anything he needed to do, which was a quality most wouldn’t expect from someone who had to lead a hazing team.

What was it that the senior saw in him? How could he have been so sure that Arthit, of all people, would be able to pull something like this off?

It wasn’t much, but the brief time he had now did help. Soon enough his mind was starting to clear again, his heart returning back to its regular rhythm. One thing at a time, Arthit reminded himself, pulling away from the wall.

Even if he didn’t know the reasons why, he had accepted the task anyway. The only thing he could do now was to see it through and perform to the best of his abilities.

In his pocket, his phone buzzed with a message from Fang, asking him to get a few things for their medical kit.

Well. First thing was first.

He had a few things to buy.


The infirmary was quiet when he entered, and Arthit saw Fang immediately, sitting near the table with their food, texting on her phone.

“Ah, Ai’Fang, is the junior that fainted this afternoon already gone?” He asked his friend, voice low and soft, not wanting to disturb anyone who might be resting inside. “I wanted to visit her, but I can’t find her anywhere.”

“Ah, yeah.” Fang nodded. “She’s okay now, she left when she woke up.”

Arthit accepted this, pursing his lips a little in thought. “Also, Fang…” She was the head of their medical team, she would understand Arthit’s concerns the most. “If the juniors have to run in the heat again, it’s okay to give them the better drinks. I’m sure the others wouldn’t mind if it’s for the nongs. Oh, here’s the balm you asked me to get for pain relief.” He presented her with the plastic bag. “There’s two kinds, the warm and the cool one, and I didn’t know what you needed, so I went ahead and bought both.”

“Thank you so much!” Fang smiled at him, gesturing to the side of the room. “A nong over there is waiting for some.”

And even before Arthit even turned he just knew who was going to be sitting there, his body stiffening.

He twisted his head to the side, and was faced with a familiar broad back on the left, the white shirt stretching across firm trapezoids and angular shoulder blades.

Kongpob.

He cleared his throat, putting his hands on his waist, even as he bit his tongue to stop the reflexive questions threatening to come out of his lips.

Was his boyfriend hurt by the activity earlier? Why was he in the clinic? Was he the one who needed the pain relief balm?

“And what are you two doing here?”

The two freshmen instantly turned around, with bags of food still waiting to be opened in their hands. “Um… ah…”

“I asked N’Kongpob to wait here.” Fang piped up behind him, seemingly attempting to save the freshmen from the ‘scary’ head hazer. “We were going to nominate him as our faculty’s representative in the Moon and Star University Contest.”

“Him?” Arthit allowed his eyes to flicker at his boyfriend briefly, whose expression was still puzzled and cautious. “You’re nominating him? But he doesn’t look that great to me.”

At the corner of his eye, he saw Kongpob wince, looking at him with an undeniably sad look in his eyes, almost pouting really, which made Arthit roll his eyes.

(Please. His boyfriend knew how good-looking he really was. It was Arthit’s job as his boyfriend to make sure the younger stayed grounded and his head didn't grow too big.)

“He doesn’t have any manners towards his seniors. You’re going to embarrass us all if you nominate him.”

“But…” Fang replied, clear confusion in her tone, “you were the one who suggested we nominate him—”

Arthit’s neck instantly burned hot. He didn’t actually think they were serious when they asked for his opinion. They asked him a few days beforehand, before everything had gone to hell in short order, and he (mostly) jokingly offered Kongpob as a suggestion “because his pretty face had to be good for something else rather than arguing with his seniors all the time”.

But if Arthit really thought about it, Kongpob was the obvious choice to be this year’s Engineering Moon. He was handsome, charming, and had a magnetism to him that drew people in. Kongpob didn’t like the attention, certainly, mostly preferring to keep to himself and his group of friends, but people like him more often than had a spotlight shining down on them, either through force, or as a result of circumstance.

(He really shouldn’t have opened his big mouth.)

“Yes, I did say it,” Arthit mumbled out, the admission painful, “but only because I don’t see him having a chance of winning the contest at all.”

Even to his ears, it sounded like a lame excuse. Kongpob was still staring at him, expression a little shocked and lost still, and Arthit knew he had to explain himself properly once they finally had the time to see each other.

But whatever the conversation was headed to was paused, because a whirlwind of a second-year suddenly burst inside the room, loud and as flamboyant as always.

“Khao Fang, you bitch! Where’s that extremely good-looking junior you were telling me about?! I need to see him for myself!”

There it was. Arthit followed the movements of the junior with his eyes, supremely done and unimpressed, as Minnie accosted his younger boyfriend, who looked startled as he was pulled to his feet, his face scrutinized by the senior.

“Ooh, he’s really handsome! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?! Come with me, boy. Where have you been, darling?” Minnie cooed, looking up at the younger up and down appreciatively.

… Darling?

Arthit’s eyebrows twitched.

“If he’s this handsome, I don’t think we need to choose,” Minnie said to Fang excitedly. Kongpob, meanwhile, looked absolutely blindsided, pulling up his formally polite smile at the complete absence of anything to say. “Let’s skip the nominations and choose him as our faculty ambassador. I’m sure he’s going to win because he’s definitely got the look.” The junior continued confidently, making an ok sign with his hand. “I can confirm.”

Arthit was eventually forced to look away, crossing his arms and a vein ticking at his jaw as his junior fawned and simpered over his boyfriend, telling him how nice his hands were, brazenly asking for his number so they could discuss more things later down the line. Arthit clucked his tongue, hands tightening around his biceps, as he continued to listen to this drivel, feeling a few pairs of eyes following him around, one curious, the other alarmingly amused.

Oh, Buddha, grant him the patience to not rip away the hands that were touching his boyfriend right now. Sure, it wasn’t like they knew who Kongpob really was to Arthit, but still, flirting so openly with a first year, in front of a senior like him? The fucking nerve. People have no decency these days.

“You can also go to his dorm, he lives alone,” Aim said in complete jest, clearing laughing at Kongpob’s expense, and Arthit froze in his pacing.

He heard Minnie trill, asking for his dorm room number with a giggle, and saw Kongpob mouth his friend’s name chidingly, with a quick look towards him. But Arthit’s thoughts were too busy racing around to notice.

Excuse him? Go to Kongpob’s dorm? Oh hell no. Arthit was only one allowed to come inside his boyfriend’s dorm room, and that was because the younger had given him permission long ago. Kongpob could have all the people he wanted inside his own room, Arthit didn’t and wouldn’t care, but for something like that?

The younger was lucky if Arthit didn’t choke him out first for even thinking about it.

Kongpob better not cheat on him with someone like Minnie of all people. Arthit was clearly the superior choice between them and if Kongpob needed reminding, then Arthit would be all too willing to give him something to jog his memory.

“Why is it so noisy here?” Arthit interrupted, cutting through the conversation, with a glare towards the direction of Minnie and his boyfriend. “Be considerate of other people.” He said, with a pointed look at his junior, who faltered under his quelling look.

“Ah, Ai’Fang, Knot is looking for you,” at the other junior’s nod, Arthit turned to the other two first years. “And you freshmen boys, if there’s nothing else you need, then leave.”

Arthit watched as they packed up to leave, understanding coming to him as Kongpob helped his friend to walk by throwing the other’s arm around his shoulders. With an internal sigh, he glanced at the table they were just sitting at, noticing that they left something behind.

“Wait.” He called out, going to the table and grabbing the oranges on top, waiting until they turned around and looked at him, Aim unsure and a little scared, Kongpob wary and intrigued.

Arthit gave nothing away, even as he continued to speak. “Give me your hand.”

Slowly, hesitantly, the freshmen obeyed, stretching their wrists up, with open palms.

“My friend gave these to you. Eat them. Don’t leave them behind.” He placed the oranges on top of their palms, two for Kongpob because he was Arthit’s boyfriend and it wasn’t anyone else’s business but his. “Understand?”

With the two’s slow, if confused, nods, Arthit soon left, feeling a gaze follow his back.

“For a minute I thought we were in trouble again,” Arthit heard Aim mutter, and allowed a small curl of humor to settle in his chest.


“Do you understand?!”

Arthit kept his gaze forward, hands behind his back as he stood in parade rest, alongside the rest of the third year hazers.

It never got easy, even as they grew older and had their own juniors to take care of. Arthit almost missed it really, since in some ways, it was so much easier to not think about anything else and just follow what someone else was telling you to do.

But if given the choice, he would never go through the hazing activity ever again, at least, the kind of hazing he was subjected to by P’Tum, and now P’Deer. If the freshmen now thought that they were being too much, then clearly those nongs haven’t experienced the kind of hardship and suffering Arthit and his friends had gone through.

In some aspects, their hazing experience was borderline abuse. The rules weren’t so strict then, with larger loopholes and with more people willing to look the other way. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to cough up blood, and even then they were told to suck it up and finish their task, or they would be punished even more.

It was a miracle nobody died. They all got through it eventually, kicking and screaming and pulling each other along the way, to the point that it was impossible not to feel a level of camaraderie, if not genuine friendship, towards each other. During Arthit’s time, it was them against the third-years, with no power or influence, given no choice but to cooperate and help each other out.

Better to suffer and be miserable together, than to suffer and be miserable alone.

It was a relationship forged by fire and bended by steel. It brought them closer as a group, as a class, and until now those connections still remained, to the point that Arthit could simply ask any one of his yearmates for something, it would be given easily, and vice-versa.

The results, in the end, were ultimately good. But Arthit couldn’t deny that he, his friends, his classmates, had also lost something precious and innocent along the way.

“I hope you make use of what I taught you today to the freshmen.” P’Deer said, sweeping his gaze around the room, meeting all of their eyes briefly. “Is that understood?”

“Yes!”

“Then that’s a wrap. Get some rest.” Arthit allowed his body to loosen up as they were dismissed, and he trudged towards his friends, leaning against the closest one, wearily closing his eyes.

“You look rough these days, Ai’Oon.” Tutah rubbed a consoling hand on his arm. “Should one of us accompany you to your dorm? You look like you’ll collapse any moment now.”

“Nah. I’ll be fine, Tutah.” Arthit muttered, head throbbing, eyes aching, feeling like wrung sponge. He got most of P’Deer’s attention tonight, and that meant exerting more mental and physical effort to keep himself from reacting outwardly. Tutah wasn’t wrong, and Arthit, at any other time, would definitely pick up that offer.

But right now, they weren’t the people he wanted to see.

“Come on man, it’s nothing,” Prem frowned, cocking his head. “I’ll take you. I’ll even buy you pink milk along the way.”

It was an apology in his own way, and Arthit offered him a wan smile; all was forgiven and forgotten between them. “I’m good. Let’s just go. It’s late.”

“Yeah, being in the school at night gives me the creeps,” Bright shuddered as they all shuffled out of the classroom and into the corridor, opening the flashlights on their phone.

“It’s because you’re terrified of ghosts, Ai’Bright.”

“Hey, take that back Ai’Knot! I’m a man, and a man shouldn’t be afraid of something like ghosts!”

Arthit bit off a chuckle as they walked to the staircases, feet dragging a little but still following after the rest as they all apparently had the same idea Bright did. The first ones in the pack were already heading down the stairs, their flashlights leading the way.

Arthit was about to head down too, until he saw a figure emerge from the shadows.

He almost screamed like a little girl, clutching at his heart and taking an instinctive step back, legs tensing as he prepared to run.

But what he saw when he blinked again was entirely unexpected.

“... Kongpob?”

“P’Arthit.” The younger blinked, looking as startled as he was, the footsteps of Arthit’s team eventually fading away as they continued to stare at each other on top of the staircase.

“What are you doing here?” Arthit hissed when he finally got his pounding heart under control, rubbing at his chest in an attempt to soothe it. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“I’m sorry.” His boyfriend said, moving closer, and Arthit could just about make his features in the semi-darkness. “I forgot my lecture notes, and I needed them for an assignment I’ll pass tomorrow morning.” He lightly touched Arthit’s elbow, peering into his eyes. “Are you all right?”

The touch felt electric, and he quickly looked away.

“... Yeah.”

This was the first time they’d seen each other in a while. Arthit suddenly didn’t know what to say, how to act in front of the other, not when he had been trying his best to avoid Kongpob the past few days.

He was tired. Physically, emotionally, mentally. So tired all he could mostly feel was numbness. Arthit could barely think straight, his mind occupied with things he needed to do, tasks he needed to accomplish.

If he ended up fighting with his boyfriend tonight Arthit was seriously going to cry.

In his pocket, Arthit felt his phone vibrate. It was Knot, asking him where he was, and Arthit quickly gave a reply, his phone screen briefly illuminating his face.

It was when Arthit pocketed his phone again, semi-darkness shrouding itself around them once more, that his boyfriend moved, a hand grasping Arthit’s wrist, pulling him closer.

“Hey, what are you doing—?!”

But another hand had slid to his face, cradling his cheek, and Arthit froze as the closer distance finally allowed him to see the other clearly, his eyes adjusting to the lack of light.

The younger looked upset, and Arthit was at a loss as to why.

“Kong, you…”

“Oh, P’Ai-Oon,” Kongpob murmured, grief and the faintest stirrings of rage in this tone. A thumb moved, lightly stroking Arthit’s cheek.

“Please tell me who broke your heart.”

Arthit’s breath caught in his throat, heart giving a single beat inside his chest.

And that was enough.

He felt himself crumble, knees buckling as he swayed forward, body cradled securely against the younger, who wrapped his arms around him. Arthit could sob when he felt his boyfriend’s body press against his own, a steady, warm, comforting presence.

Kong,” he gasped, fingers clinging to the fabric of the younger’s shirt, trying to speak, trying to breathe, tucking his face into the other’s neck and desperately wishing he didn’t have to move away from it.

“Oh my god, Kong.”

“I’m here. P’Arthit, I’m here.” The younger swore quietly, a hand splayed in between Arthit’s shoulder blades, fingers curled around the curve of his hip. Arthit could feel numerous kisses pressed on his hair, the side of his face, whatever places the younger could reach. “What do you need? Tell me.”

“I… I need—” Arthit gulped down another lungful of air, unable to stop himself from shaking. He squeezed his eyes shut, focusing on the strong, steady pulse he could feel beating against his cheek.

“Stay. Like this, just-just stay with me. Please.” His voice broke a little at the plea, and it was beyond pathetic, to let the younger see him like this, but Arthit couldn’t bring himself to care.

He felt his boyfriend nod, simple, unquestioning acceptance, and held on to him even tighter, almost painfully, bruisingly so.

But to Arthit, it was exactly what he needed the most.

“I won’t go, P’. I promise.”

It was all right now. He was fine. He was safe. Kongpob was here. He would gather every piece of Arthit and put him back together, slowly and surely, until Arthit was whole and complete again.

Here, surrounded by the dark, protected by Kongpob’s embrace, he was allowed to break down.

And so Arthit finally did.

There were no tears. Just heaving gasps of oxygen, his entire body shuddering and jerking as it released all the tension that was steadily building up inside of him, almost threatening to burst. Arthit greedily soaked up the offered comfort, fingernails biting into a clothed back, letting himself sink into familiar heat, immersing all of his senses into the other until he could come back to the present and start thinking clearly again.

All this time, Kongpob offered no resistance. Simply held and let himself be held, voice low and murmuring everything and nothing at the same time, meant to soothe and console. Arthit could feel fingers running through his hair, a palm patting his back, every touch bringing Arthit closer and closer back to himself.

It was eons, hours, minutes, seconds, before Arthit managed to loosen his hold, finally getting a firmer hold on himself. His arms twinged as it released his boyfriend from his almost-strangling grip, realizing that he might have held his boyfriend enough to bruise him, even with clothes on.

“I’m sorry.” He said quickly. “Are you all right?”

“Don’t apologize for this, P’.” Kongpob shook his head immediately. “P’Arthit, you’ve been having a hard time, aren’t you?”

“... Everything just piled up at the same time.” Arthit admitted, not willing to speak about the details, but unwilling to lie either. “My studies, the hazing activities, my friends… problems started coming up one by one and I didn’t know where to start fixing them. So I panicked.”

Kongpob was strangely quiet after that declaration, expression indecisive, warring with… guilt?

“I’m going to stop acting out during gatherings." His boyfriend suddenly declared with a fireceness that surprised Arthit. “I’ll listen to everything you say from now on, P’Arthit. I promise.”

“Oh my god—Kong, no.” Arthit said, appalled, pulling back to look at his boyfriend’s face properly. “I didn’t say you had a fault in any of this.”

“But part of it is my fault.” The younger said, abject misery and self-awareness in his tone. “If I wasn’t so stubborn, challenging you during gatherings all the time, then maybe you wouldn’t have been so stressed. I didn’t mean to, but earlier I saw you being punished with the other P’s. That was P’Deer, wasn’t it? The head hazer from last year?”

“Well, yes.” Arthit blinked at the sudden rush of words escaping the other. “Wait, Kongpob, you saw—”

“I hated it, P’Arthit, seeing you in another person’s mercy like that.” The younger interrupted, the dark expression on his face startling Arthit into complete silence. “It made me angry seeing you standing there, being scolded like you were an unruly child. I thought that what you were doing in the SOTUS System was wrong, but I didn’t realize until now that you had to live through that too.”

“Kong—”

“So I’ll stop,” Kongpob continued, seemingly decided on this course of action. “I’ll keep my head down and do what the seniors want from now on. I won’t add to your troubles anymore. I promise, P’Arthit.”

Arthit had had it. Exasperated, his hands slid around to grasp Kongpob’s collar, and yanked him forward, shutting his boyfriend up in the best way Arthit knew how.

A few moments of silence. Arthit automatically closed his eyes, savoring the taste of bitter, syrupy coffee on his lips, retracing the shape of a mouth that had already been branded in his memories.

But as soon as it started, Arthit was pulling back, breathing heavily, heat radiating from his face and neck.

Kongpob was staring at him, completely stunned. “P’…”

Kongpob. Listen to me.” Arthit said sternly, holding his boyfriend’s face with both of his hands, forcing him to keep his attention solely on Arthit. “Stop this nonsense at once. Like I said, I’ve never blamed you for what’s happening to me right now. I won’t let you change who you are, especially if it’s for someone like me.” Perhaps a bit heavy handed, considering the topic of conversation, but it was the spirit of the words that counted.

“Besides, I’m not a delicate petal. You think I can’t handle a few rebellious juniors like yourself? Dream on.” He scoffed. “You’re fine. You’re not, and have never been, a problem for me. Got that?”

Kongpob blinked at him, still looking a little dazed, but he nodded anyway, which was more than satisfactory to Arthit by this point in time.

“Then come on, let’s get out of here.”

And with that, he pulled the younger along down the stairs, refusing to look at him, the night wind outside finally able to cool down his heated skin. His boyfriend stumbled after him, with a small, silly grin on his face that made Arthit want to pinch him and kiss him again.

It was in the middle of their walk back to their rooms that his boyfriend seemed to return to the present, squeezing Arthit’s hand as he walked faster, two of them eventually side-by-side.

“Is there anything I can do to help you, P’Ai-Oon?”

“This is a problem that concerns me and the hazing team, Kongpob.” Arthit reminded him with a gentle voice, not unkindly.

“Yes. It may not be in my place to interfere.” Kongpob said evenly, pulling at Arthit’s hand so they stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. The younger raised his other hand to tidy Arthit’s fringe, the tips of his fingers gliding lightly against Arthit’s scalp.

“But P’Arthit, I saw how much stress this is causing you now, and it’s already hurt you.”

Kongpob met his eyes again, this time completely serious.

“And anything that hurts you becomes my business.”

Arthit colored instantly, any reply he might have drying in his throat. He eventually moved his gaze away, using both hands to drag his boyfriend down the road again. “Sap. Don’t worry about it. Come on, let’s go to your dorm room.”

“My… dorm room?”

“Yes. Speaking of which,” Arthit looked back, narrowing his eyes at the younger, suddenly reminded of something important. “You better not have invited anyone else in your dorm room alone but me. You hear me? If you did, I’m breaking up with you faster than you can drop down and give me a push up.”

The silly grin slowly returned to his boyfriend’s face. “Okay, P’Arthit.”

“And don’t let Ai’Minnie get that close to you again.” Arthit shook his head. “Honestly, people are so shameless these days, hitting on someone in an infirmary of all places…”

“Okay, P’Arthit.”

“And also… I’m sorry for roping you into the whole Moon and Star University Contest thing. They asked for my opinion, but I didn’t think they’d go for my suggestion. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Just tell Ai’Fang anytime.”

“Okay, P’Arthit.”

Arthit stopped and stared at the younger, this time with a raised eyebrow, completely unimpressed. “Are you going to say something else other than ‘Okay, P’Arthit’?”

The younger looked thoughtful for a second, before looking at him with a smile.

“... I love you, P’Arthit.”

Urgh,” Arthit threw his hands up, completely giving up, and Kongpob’s laughter was light, carried along with the night breeze.

Chapter Text

Kongpob was conflicted, lately.

When P’Arthit told him that he should experience the SOTUS System personally, he didn’t protest, simply asking a few questions about the process. But the older had been, at that time, deliberately vague, refusing to entertain any of his thoughts or theories, simply telling him that he should go through it himself to find out.

And then he started classes in SSU, and finally saw what his boyfriend meant with his words.

In general, the SOTUS System had good intentions. Kongpob could see that, at least. But the methods to get to those intentions were, to him, completely unacceptable. There was always a better way to instill discipline in other people, to teach them good things, without resorting to physically and mentally harming them. At the start of the freshman gatherings, Kongpob couldn’t understand why the seniors, why his boyfriend, had resorted to harshness and ruthlessness when it came to dealing with the first year students, when they should have shown care and support instead.

But perhaps he had asked for too much, had been too persistent that even the universe stopped ignoring him, because one night, he had seen something that he probably shouldn’t have.

And now he was questioning everything he thought he knew about the SOTUS System, and how it affected everyone, especially the people who came before him.

He didn’t think he could explain it to anyone, the helplessness and rage that filled him when he saw his boyfriend in that orange-lit room. Despite being around the same height, his P’Ai-Oon looked so small, so vulnerable, standing in front of the rest of the hazing team, protecting the others from the brunt of the attacks as last year’s head hazer, P’Deer, lashed out at them, at him, for their recently poor performance during the hazing activity.

His P’Arthit showed no reaction, no movement, simply staring ahead and accepting every single verbal abuse hurled towards him, questioning his leadership, his authority, his capabilities as a person. It wrenched at Kongpob’s heart, to see the resigned weariness in the older’s eyes, at his tense shoulders and rigid stance, Kongpob’s fists closing and shaking as he peered through the small opening the door provided him.

P’Deer didn’t touch the third-years. Not even once. But his words did more damage than any fist or kick ever could, and Kongpob had to leave before he was discovered eavesdropping, or worse, before he could barge inside, grab his boyfriend, and ultimately save him from the abuse he was hurtling himself through.

It wasn’t… It wasn’t his fault. His boyfriend was only following what was taught to him by others before them, because that was what they thought was right. It obviously wasn’t, but he, his boyfriend, his friends, the seniors… everyone was trapped in the same system of seniority, order, tradition, unity, and spirit. It was a horrifying cycle of hardship, hurt and humiliation, with the sole purpose of making you a stronger and better person afterwards, but it didn’t excuse the trauma someone had to experience firsthand.

Now, it was clear to Kongpob that his boyfriend had been lenient towards the first years. Unlike P’Deer, P’Arthit actually explained why he was lecturing them, why he was shouting at every mistake they made, instead of simply telling them they were incompetent or they were idiots for not doing things properly. Sure, one could argue he was saying it in the wrong way, but what mattered was there was a reason for it, and those reasons were legitimate, if you got past the initial hurt and shock of being told off in the first place.

P’Arthit was kind, caring. He was truly trying his best to teach them perseverance, teamwork, personal responsibility, and to have grace under pressure. These were traits that were hard to explain, even more to display correctly, so his boyfriend had no choice but to be the bad guy, to be the one who had to force them in different situations, so they would be able to discover these lessons for themselves.

And because of Kongpob, who flaunted his superior moral compass and self-righteous bullshit, his boyfriend almost cried in front of him, drained and upset and brokenhearted, and Kongpob just became the worst person in the world.

P’Arthit could tell him all he wanted that he didn’t have anything to do with it, but Kongpob knew the truth. All of his questioning, his continuing defiance in front of everyone else, had just added to the pressure that was already building on the other’s shoulders. He recognized that even if he hadn’t done what he did, someone else would have. Wad, most probably. Or another one of his yearmates that had the same sentiments he did and had the spine to express it in public.

But it shouldn’t have started with him. Not when he knew who he was talking to, whose feelings and well-being should be his first priority to cherish and take care of.

He had never felt so sorry, so guilty, in his life. Hurting the person you love the most, even accidental, was the most terrible feeling, and Kongpob was drowning in it, in the loathing and self-disgust that had completely overtaken him.

How could his boyfriend even bear to hold his hand again, Kongpob thought as he stared at their intertwined fingers, when the person he was touching was a part of his continuing suffering?

(Kongpob would never forget how much the older’s body trembled, how hard the older’s arms shook as it wound itself around him, how painful his nails felt, as it dug deeply into Kongpob’s skin. How harsh and ragged the other’s breaths were, almost sobbing his name as his fingers forced visible bruises into his flesh, through his clothes, a vicious reminder of how much he had failed the love of his life.

And even that wouldn’t be enough punishment for him to make up for what he had indirectly caused.)

His boyfriend was calmer, now. More steady, as he finally released everything he had been holding on to for the past few days, and a small part of Kongpob, the one that didn’t hate himself right now, was in awe, was humbled, by how much the older truly trusted him. He had allowed Kongpob to see him in his worst moments, to hold and comfort him, and despite how terrible the reasons for it were, it was still a memory Kongpob would treasure for the rest of his days.

But never again, Kongpob quietly swore to himself. He should never be the reason for his P’Ai-Oon to go through that again. This time, he failed badly, but his boyfriend had already forgiven him, because his heart was big and magnanimous and he loved Kongpob too much to truly be mad at him.

But there should never be a next time. P’Arthit had chosen to give him his heart, with the expectation that it would be cared for completely and competently. Kongpob had focused on trying to fix the already flawed, broken system, attempting to save other people when they could do it themselves, forgetting the one person that should matter to him more than anyone else.

This time, any pain the older might experience would not come from him. This time, for sure, he would save P’Arthit and protect him from anything that would try to hurt him again.

Including himself.

It was time Kongpob took his job as a boyfriend more seriously.


Today, they were doing the faculty chant again.

They learned it early on in the freshmen gathering sessions, taught to them by the second-years, who told them that they should know how to do the words and gestures by heart. The steps were shown to them, and a pamphlet was given with the words to the chant printed on it. It was apparently to show off their faculty spirit, though Kongpob didn’t know exactly how their actions were proving anything.

(“We always say, ‘we are engineer’, but no one asks ‘how are engineer’,” Oak joked at one point, which was met with multiple groans and small things thrown in his direction.)

And so now they were here, inside the auditorium, with arms around each other, bobbing their heads up and down as they shouted the chant out loud. It didn’t sound as nice as it should be, disjointed and weak in places, mostly because their efforts were half-hearted at best, already tired from classes beforehand. The second-years were trying their best, bless their hearts, but even Kongpob couldn’t get into it as he should have been, still preoccupied with his boyfriend and his personal promise not to get into trouble anymore.

Then the third-years arrive, in their black shirts and red workshop uniforms, observing them critically, and even Kongpob knew they deserved the tongue-lashing they would get this time.

“Stop! What are you doing?!” The head hazer demanded, with hands on his back, looking at them in disbelief. “Is this the best you can do?!”

They sounded weak. They weren’t harmonious. Kongpob heard it, the third-years knew it, and everyone was aware of the parts they played in it.

And, as the senior glanced at the second-years, working his jaw consideringly, Kongpob knew that the first years weren’t the one in trouble this time.

Kongpob Suthiluck, don’t you dare, he told himself sternly, gripping his wrist and keeping his hands on his lap as he watched his boyfriend promptly dress down the second-years for not doing their jobs properly. It was the correct thing to do in this circumstance, because it was the second year’s responsibility to train them, and if the teachers didn’t know what they were doing, then their students wouldn’t know how to do anything either.

Still, it wasn’t a good feeling to watch the people trying so hard on your behalf being punished, knowing that it was your fault for not doing your part well enough.

“Keep chanting and don’t stop until these freshmen know how to do it!” P’Arthit barked, and most of the first years were looking away at this point, Kongpob included, their conscience pricking at them when the second years started grasping each other’s shoulders. “Go!”

It was almost the same as seeing P’Deer with the third-year hazers, but the difference was that the head hazer was addressing the group as a whole, not a specific person in particular, and he was giving them a chance to prove him wrong by letting them show off their abilities in front of everyone.

Again and again, if they had to.

Lead by example. Face the consequences of your actions.

To be in something together, to help each other out, to know what you had done wrong, and try to fix it.

And in the end, Kongpob couldn’t.

He couldn’t stand by and let the second years take all of the fall. Couldn’t betray his own beliefs, his own principles, because he knew who he was and what was right and what was wrong.

I won’t let you change who you are, especially if it’s for someone like me.

Kongpob raised his hand, chest torn in two, but his conviction resolute.

I won’t change, P’Arthit. I promise.

“Kongpob, Student ID 0062. May I ask for permission?”

The third year stopped watching the second years, who also paused in their chanting as Kongpob stood up, facing the senior hazers once again.

P’Arthit’s head swiveled to glance at him, hands on his hips, an eyebrow raised. Behind him, the older’s friends were exchanging knowing glances, with P’Prem almost cracking a grin before his face smoothened out into the familiar, stony ‘hazer’ expression again.

There they go again.

“What do you want?” The head hazer sounded put out, tone clipped, exuding exasperation from every pore of his body. But as Kongpob met his eyes, there was something… expectant, almost proud, lurking underneath his strict gaze.

About damn time, you brat.

And all at once, Kongpob’s uncertainties vanished.

It was fine. He wasn’t causing any trouble.

He wasn’t hurting his boyfriend, not now.

So Kongpob pushed through.

“May I chant on behalf of the second years?”

“Permission refused. They don’t need a savior. Sit down.” The third year wasn’t tolerating any of his actions today, which strangely gave Kongpob the confidence to continue until the very end.

P’Arthit knew him the best, after all. He could trust the older to truly stop him, when he had finally crossed the line.

“But—”

“If you’re not going to sit down, then get out!” P’Arthit told him sternly. It wasn’t unlike how his boyfriend forced him out of the older’s dorm room when it got too late for Kongpob to stay, before he could ask if he could just stay over the night. It brooked no more words, no more arguments, and Kongpob couldn’t stop his jaw from flexing, trying to stop himself from smiling broadly during what was obviously a tense-filled situation.

“... May I ask for permission again?”

“Kongpob! You don’t have my permission! Get out!” The head hazer finally yelled at him, fists clenching, expression furious, face and neck bright red. It was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, and Kongpob went, standing up and turning to leave, but not without a final glance at the head hazer, first.

But today was different.

As Kongpob started to walk away, something miraculous happened.

“Kathawuth, Student ID 0097. May I ask for permission?”

He stopped. And so did the rest of the third-years.

Kongpob turned around, just in time to see Aim on his feet, looking at P’Arthit. Kongpob couldn’t see his face, but he could imagine the uncertainty in his expression, the way his eyes wouldn’t quite meet the older’s, the subtle terror when facing the head hazer head-to-head like this.

His friend had made it no secret that he was intimidated by Kongpob's boyfriend, but here he was, talking directly to him for the first time.

“... What’s the matter?” Not showing favoritism, his boyfriend says, when his voice audibly softened towards his gentler, more jumpy friend. Kongpob had to bite his lower lip, eyes slowly widening, as he heard Aim make his request.

“I would like to have Kongpob come back in… and I and the rest of us will chant on behalf of the second years.”

Kongpob couldn’t believe what he was hearing. And apparently, so did the head hazer, who had paused for a nanosecond to actually think of the offer, only visible to Kongpob’s eyes.

“No, you do not have my permission. Sit down.”

But no, it wasn’t just Aim. Kongpob stared, stunned and in disbelief as, one by one, his friends raised their hands and asked permission for his behalf, repeating his words, until the rest of the first years were raising their hands and chorusing together, asking to let them chant with the second years this time.

It was a beautiful, moving sight. The second years definitely were, judging by their tearful, grateful expressions.

And somehow, someway, the lesson that the third year wanted them to learn was finally, for the first time, received.

“Enough!” P’Arthit finally bellowed, instantly plunging the room into silence. He visibly exhaled, tilting his head heavenwards for a brief moment, before looking at the freshmen. “If you want to chant that badly, fine! I’ll let you do it.”

But his eyes slid towards Kongpob’s direction, somehow not surprised to see he was still there.

“But your friend is not allowed to stay. Why are you still here? Get out!”

And Kongpob finally left, the sounds of his yearmates standing up and starting to chant behind him making his lips curve upwards.


Kongpob chose to wait on top of the staircases outside the auditorium, occasionally looking at his watch to know how much time had passed. From his vantage point, he could see the various people milling around the area, busy with their own lives, and he took a moment to just take a deep breath, leaning back with his palms pressed against the concrete as he looked at the slowly darkening sky.

He hadn’t realized how much he missed this, how much he— no, they both needed this, to make everything feel like it was normal again. Kongpob really had intended to keep his head down, to continue the rest of the SOTUS System without any more complaints from him. But that would have probably raised suspicion from among his friends, who might think that his boyfriend had finally bullied him into silence, into non-resistance, and it might start a butterfly effect that might cause unforeseen events in the future.

It was smart. And sly, the older knowing that his sense of justice wouldn’t let something like this go. His boyfriend knew him very well, and Kongpob was rather relieved that the other had chosen this method to finally finish that confrontation. It was an appropriate punishment to the crime.

P’Arthit was right. People had to stand on their own two feet, to not wait for someone to give them the help they wanted, but they should also be there for the people who need their assistance the most.

And if sending him away was the way to get that message across to all the people in the room, then it was a lesson Kongpob would be glad to be the collateral damage of, if it meant everyone else understood it like he did.

Night had already fallen when Kongpob finally heard something behind him. A combination of different voices, with the most well-known to his heart standing out above the rest.

P’Arthit was planning to eat out with his friends. Kongpob hoped they would choose a good restaurant, maybe somewhere with a warm menu to help soothe the older’s throat. With all the shouting he did earlier, Kongpob was worried about his boyfriend, who usually spoke in softer tones, sometimes making small adorable noises when he moved around, especially when he was feeling carefree.

Kongpob wasn’t hearing those noises recently. He wanted those cute noises back, and the older losing his voice wouldn’t help with that.

“What are you doing here?”

He was so immersed in his own thoughts Kongpob didn’t even notice the group were finally close enough to touch, with his boyfriend standing on the steps just above the ones he was sitting on. His boyfriend’s arms were crossed, staring at him expectantly.

Kongpob immediately stood up to face the third years. “I’m waiting for my friends.” He answered truthfully.

And you, went unsaid.

P’Arthit nodded back a little, seeing this, his eyes flashing warmer and fonder for a brief moment before cooling down and becoming distant again.

“You know, right? Why I kicked you out today.”

Kongpob nodded earnestly, meeting the other’s gaze seriously. “Yes, P’Arthit.” He truly did understand, they had this conversation before, and the other inclined his head in acceptance.

“I didn’t get angry with you because you were disregarding my orders. People don’t need heroes, Kongpob.” And you don’t need to be a self-sacrificing idiot all the time. “People shouldn’t start getting used to your help. They need to know how to handle difficult situations alone. To stand up and work things out by themselves. The first years who couldn’t do that… aren’t worthy enough to be my juniors.” I won’t help people who couldn’t help themselves first. “Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“But today, a friend of yours stood up for you, and talked to me after.” There was approval in the older’s gaze at those words. “So I’ll allow you to join at the next gathering.”

“Thank you.”

As the older finally deemed their conversation over, finally moving on with his group of friends, Kongpob couldn’t help himself, and reached out a hand to stop the older from moving away.

“Please wait, P’Arthit.”

Kongpob watched as his boyfriend’s friends seemingly gave each other a look, before eventually leaving when the other gave them a nod. For a moment both of them just stood there, before his boyfriend squared his shoulders, and finally decided to speak first, tone wary and a little defensive.

“What? Are you still angry at me?”

“No.” Kongpob smiled at him, finally allowing himself to show his feelings a little more. “I just wanted to thank you for putting a new name tag in my locker.”

“How did you—?!” The older blurted out before shutting his mouth again, probably realizing that he had revealed too much.

Kongpob shrugged. “I guessed.” But then again it was obvious, because who else had the authority to give the freshman something like that? Kongpob had found the blank name tag immediately the day after the debacle with May, and he wasted no time in writing his name on it and using it for the next hazing activity. His friends had noticed, but Kongpob had just feigned ignorance and said it was there when he opened his locker, which was the truth.

Just not the complete one.

The older sighed, glancing around them quickly, before going down onto the same step Kongpob was standing on. He still wasn’t looking at him, arms still crossed, but they were standing closer to each other now, enough that a slight movement would make the tip of their sleeves brush.

“Stop that. I told you that I wasn’t angry, and people need second chances. But I did mean what I said. No heroes, Kong. The more you try to help them, the more you actually hurt them. But sometimes… they do need a leader.” P’Arthit glanced at him for a second, before quickly darting his gaze away, the back of his neck slowly flushing. “The right one.”

Kongpob looked at him for a second, before realizing what his boyfriend was trying to say. So cute. His boyfriend was the cutest when he’s trying to be honest with his feelings, but couldn’t quite manage it.

“Thank you, P’Arthit.” He beamed at the praise, as subtle and as non-verbal as it was.

“But!” The third year turned to him then, wagging a finger at him. “That doesn’t mean you should always jump in to save someone else. Take this as my last warning to you, Kongpob. Stop being a hero.”

“I will, P’Arthit.” In fact, Kongpob had been planning on it.

He didn’t want to be anyone else’s hero.

Just his boyfriend’s.

They stood in silence for a moment, looking at the sky together. Kongpob had never been so aware of their miniscule distance, that if he just reached out, just a few inches, and he would have the other’s warm, lightly calloused palm in his own.

His fingers twitched with the desire. But this was too out in the open, with any of Kongpob’s friends appearing from behind them at any moment. So he didn’t dare try.

But oh, how he yearned.

“You know… for a moment, I doubted your friends.”

Kongpob glanced at the older, blinking in surprise. His boyfriend shrugged, carefully not meeting his gaze as he continued to talk.

“I was worried. That they wouldn’t be willing to let you cross the wire after you’ve laid down for them first. I… don’t want you to be hurt by people you care for.”

P’Arthit tilted his face towards him, just enough to let Kongpob see the upward curve of his lips, the unmistakable pride that was now on his face.

“I’m glad I was proven wrong today. You chose them well. I’d like to meet them, soon.”

Kongpob felt himself blush, his heart stirring crazily inside his chest. He didn’t think that getting something so simple as his boyfriend’s approval over the people he hung out with would make him feel like this, happy and dizzy and pleased.

But he was thrilled, all the same. In the near future, he would invite P’Arthit to come with him when Kongpob would meet up with his friends, and reintroduce them, formally and properly, to each other.

He just hoped his friends wouldn’t suddenly keel over in shock, when that happened.

“I want them to meet you too.” Kongpob said sincerely, eager for that day to come soon. “I want them to know the person who gives me the best advice. And the one who takes care of me more than anyone else in the world.”

The older scoffed, even as the red deepened under his skin. “Who’s that person? I don’t know them.”

Kongpob laughed quietly, before turning his head to look at his boyfriend openly, completely and unapologetically besotted, the smile still lingering on his face.

“He’s the person I love the most.”

Hey.” HIs boyfriend nudged at his shoulder in light reprimand, and the brief contact sent sparks shooting up and down his arm, spreading around his body, radiating from the spot where their bodies touched.

Kongpob’s bicep felt hot. He covered it with his hand, and felt the warmth still lingering, soaking through his palms and fingers.

He looked up to the starless night, with his grin wide enough to crack his face in two.

“... I’m not apologizing, this time.”

“Shut up, Kongpob.” The light outside was enough for him to see. From the corner of his eye, he could see that the blush had finally travelled to the P’Arthit’s face, cheeks bright red, his expression so bashful it was almost unbearable to look at without giving into the urge to kiss the breath out of him.

But Kongpob managed to hold on to his self-control, just barely, quickly looking away, taking deep breaths as an embarrassed silence enveloped them both.

He had to say something. Anything. Because if he didn’t find a topic to distract them he would probably be pulling his boyfriend to a secluded location nearby and while the other would probably go along with him now, the chances of them being seen by other people were too great, and they had gone on for too long, keeping this relationship quiet and precious and just theirs, for others to discover them now.

Then a thought struck him.

“P’Arthit. I have a question.”

“What?”

“When I was doing my signature task, I wasn’t doing it to be a hero.” Kongpob faced him then, glad that the older’s voice wasn’t trembling anymore. “Why did you punish me then?”

He felt, more than saw, his boyfriend stiffen beside him, which told him that he had definitely missed something along the way.

“... What did you think?” The older was carefully avoiding his eyes as he threw the question back, and the blatant attempt of deflection made Kongpob smirk. Cute.

“I think…” He pretended to think about it, trying to think back to that memory, even if he was fairly sure of the answer. “... It’s because you like me.”

“... Ha?”

Whatever his boyfriend was expecting, it certainly wasn’t that, with the way he was blinking and his throat was bobbing, even shaking himself a little, completely taken-aback. “What did you just say?”

“They say when you like someone,” Kongpob started off pleasantly, “you find a way to tease that person so you can get their attention. You seem to enjoy punishing me.” To say nothing of Kongpob’s own enjoyment in following the older’s punishments. He leaned forward, slowly, gradually, until he was close enough for their cheeks to almost-brush, to get a whiff of his boyfriend’s citrus shampoo, his lavender-scented body wash as he whispered into the older’s ear.

“And since you do like me… does that mean you were jealous, seeing me with other people? Is that why you wanted to get my attention?”

This close, Kongpob could almost feel the way P’Arthit’s chest stilled, his breaths stalling, as he entered the older’s personal space.

And for the shortest, briefest second, Kongpob felt the other lean into him, just enough for him to feel warm breath slide against the side of his neck.

And then he was being pushed back. Violently.

“N-No way!” P’Arthit was stuttering, his ears completely scarlet, covering his lower face with the back of his hand, eyes looking everywhere but him. God, he was so adorable Kongpob’s fingers were curling, simply by watching him. “Never!”

His gaze darted to the size, and took even one more step back, letting a more sizable distance grow between them. Kongpob was about to ask why, when he saw the older scowl, hands going to his hips, the transition from P’Ai-Oon to head hazer so startling Kongpob felt a little disoriented, seeing it firsthand.

“And what are you guys looking at?!”

He instantly looked to the side. His friends were there, awkwardly standing around, clearly waiting for him to end his talk with the senior.

How long had they been there? Did they see what happened just moments before? How much did they hear?

Were their days of hiding their relationship suddenly over?

“If you’re finished, then leave.” Kongpob heard his boyfriend say to his friends, before turning that same scowl to him. The other was still lightly flushed, his embarrassment totally gone from his features.

But his voice was much gentler, almost something he could hear from his P’Ai-Oon, if it weren’t for the fact that Kongpob knew he was still looking at the head hazer right now.

“And you too. Go home already.”

And Kongpob watched as the older finally left, hating to see him go, but undeniably loving to watch him leave, biting his lower lip until the older had finally faded away from his sight.

“Kong,” he glanced back just as Aim approached him, pointing at the direction his boyfriend just left at, disbelieving, “did you just annoy him again?”

“I didn’t,” Kongpob answered, not even lying, still a little wary. How much did his friends suspect?

But his friends just snorted at him, still looking completely oblivious, and the sight loosened his shoulders a little.

“Look at him, still denying it,” Aim was saying to Oak and Tew, who were nodding in agreement, “because obviously he’s pissed at you.”

Kongpob didn’t think that ‘pissed’ was the most accurate emotion his boyfriend was experiencing right now. “I… might have touched a small nerve with him. But let’s get going.”

He should text his boyfriend to drink some cough drops, before going to bed.

“Why’d you have to do that?!” Aim asked after him in dismay, as Oak and Tew started laughing, following after them. “It’s frightening, man!”


It had been a few good days, when it all came crashing down again.

“Ai’Kong?”

His boyfriend calling him was a pleasant surprise. The older preferred to text, and whatever he needed to say that was important he could always say face-to-face, seeing as they saw each other everyday.

But Kongpob would never deny himself the pleasure of talking to the love of his life, a smile lifting on his lips as he checked the dorm room on the other side of his own, seeing if the older was there.

“Yes, P’?”

“... Can we meet? Now?”

“I have to study for a test, but—” Kongpob paused, straightening out immediately.

Something was wrong. He could hear it in the other’s voice.

“P’Arthit. P’, what happened?”

“... I’ve just finished talking to the teachers. About the whole hazing activity.” His boyfriend stopped, taking an audible inhale.

When he spoke again, there was a distinct wobble in his voice that had Kongpob instantly reaching for his wallet and room keys.

“I’m not the head hazer anymore.”

Kongpob’s heart instantly dropped to his feet, stopping in his tracks.

Oh. Oh no. The prediction came true, then. Kongpob knew that there was a possibility, since the older had warned him of it, but he didn’t think it would happen.

Not so abruptly like this. Not so soon.

His poor P’Ai-Oon. While he knew his boyfriend didn’t exactly like his position, that it was practically forced upon him by his mentor, he had still been committed to finishing the job with all the seriousness and dedication the past heads had given to their tasks. It was a thankless job, but he still did it anyway, wanting to give the first years an experience they would never forget in their lives.

But that choice was now taken from him, snatched from his hands in such a quick, cold, and bitter way.

P’Arthit must be devastated right now, even if he wasn’t showing it.

“P’, stay right where you are. Where are you?” He asked, voice calm, but his movements were filled with urgency, filling his bag quickly with important and necessary items. Whatever he missed he could just get outside.

“I… I’m outside the faculty building. The front steps.”

“And your friends? Where are they?”

“They’re planning on talking to the teachers again to see if they could convince them to reinstate me. I don’t… I don’t want to be with them right now.” Even through the earpiece, the older sounded so tiny, so sad, and Kongpob couldn’t bear to hear a note of it any longer.

“Then I’ll come and pick you up.” Kongpob said, decisively, throwing on whatever clothes he had that were clean and decent; he didn’t have to be presentable, not right now. “Do you want me to stay on the phone? What do you need, P’Ai-Oon?”

“I don’t… I don’t know,” his boyfriend answered, sounding utterly lost, and Kongpob had his bag in one hand, phone in the other, already running to the door.

“Then we’ll figure it out together.” He promised, putting his shoes on and running out of his dorm room in three seconds flat. “I’ll stay like this, all right? Do you want me to tell you about what I did today?”

“You... “ His boyfriend still sounded unsure, but he didn’t sound like he was going to cry anymore, so Kongpob took that as a win as he frantically waited for the elevator to bring him to the ground floor. “What did you do?”

“Well…” And so Kongpob told the other about his day, starting from the moment he woke up, trying to include as much detail as possible so he could distract his boyfriend thoroughly while buying some time, racing halfway across the university campus to get to the Engineering faculty building. It really wasn’t that far, just perhaps a 30 minute walk from his dorm room, but to him it now felt like hours as he dodged people on the sidewalk, trying his best not to run, keeping his voice even and engaging for the one listening to the other side.

Perhaps P’Arthit didn’t really care what he did today. Maybe he wasn’t even listening to the story.

But all that mattered was that he wanted to hear Kongpob’s voice, taking strength and comfort from it.

He would talk until he lost his voice, if it meant making the older feel the slightest bit better.

He was lucky it was the weekend and it was already late afternoon; there weren’t as many students wandering around, and from this distance he could already see the older standing where he said he was, standing out in his jeans, his black top, and red workshop shirt. He looked despondent, looking down on his shoes, even as he listened to the phone against his ear.

“—and I’m here.” Kongpob finished, slightly breathless, stopping just a few feet away, just far enough that he could see the other completely, from head to toe.

“What?”

“P’Arthit, I’m here. Turn around.”

Kongpob watched as the senior looked around, removing the phone from the side of his head, before finally turning his back to face him, his eyes wide, and his lips parted in slight surprise.

Kongpob offered a small smile, cutting the call with a press of his thumb, still trying to catch his breath.

And in the end, it was all instinct. The way Kongpob opened his arms, the way the older just rushed to meet him, uncaring of who might see them, the desperate relief on P’Arthit’s face making Kongpob’s chest squeeze so viciously he couldn’t catch his breath.

The bodies eventually collided, and to Kongpob it felt like the meeting of two stars, helplessly gravitating towards each other until they crashed and burned, before exploding in a way that belied the creation of a new galaxy.

Taking a few steps back to lessen the impact, Kongpob lifted his boyfriend’s body off the ground for a few precious seconds, holding tight, feeling hands and fingers claw against his arms, on his back, before placing the older down again, never taking his hands off him.

He was here. He was in Kongpob’s arms. He was safe now.

Kong-ah,” The older said, gasping his name in that small, broken way for the second time in such a short time, and he forced the other’s face into his neck further, deeper, mind fiercely driven to defend, to protect, with every single fibre of his being.

Nothing would hurt P’Arthit, not while he was here.

“I’m here, P’Arthit.” He said softly, in a volume only the two of them could hear, couldn’t bring himself to care that they were outside, in public, showing such blatant displays of affection. They would deal with it together when the time came.

Right here, right now, his boyfriend’s well-being was first priority. “Tell me what I can do.”

Hidden in the cage of his arms, P’Arthit was silent, clinging to him as much as Kongpob was holding on to him. They were pressed so closely Kongpob could feel the other’s frantic heartbeats against his own chest, and he ran his fingers through dark, gelled hair, soothing, calming. He could feel his boyfriend breathe against his collarbone, his skin heated and damp, and Kongpob waited, hoping, praying, resisting the feeling of powerlessness that threatened to take over him.

“... I want pink milk.” The other finally muttered, after a long stretch of silence, and Kongpob could have collapsed in relief.

His arms flexed slightly as he tucked the older against him more properly. “Okay.”

“Then I want to eat spicy noodles.”

“Okay.”

“And I want to go home and watch the entire Gundam series.”

“We can do that.” Kongpob assured, because his boyfriend knew that, even if it wasn’t Kongpob’s favorite genre to watch, preferring to collect the figurines than know the plots behind them, he would still willingly sit through all of the titles with the other until morning.

“And…” He felt P’Arthit’s petulant frown against his neck, as if not being able to think of more things to do was offensive to him, and it made Kongpob smile against his boyfriend’s cheek. “I don’t know anymore.”

“That’s fine. You can tell me along the way.” Kongpob allowed himself just one more second, and slowly pulled back a little, and hand reaching up to touch the other’s face, thumb gently rubbing away the tear tracks that had formed over smooth, full cheeks.

P’Arthit’s eyes were averted, biting at his lower lip, looking thoroughly ashamed of himself, but Kongpob would not stand for it.

He shook his head, coaxing the other’s chin up, persistently gentle, until, finally, the older finally relented, meeting his gaze with some apprehension.

“Kong, I…”

He offered a smile instead, running the pad of his thumb under a swollen eye, confident in his adoration, sincere in his heart’s certainty.

“Let’s get some food and go home, P’Ai-Oon.”


Home, in this case, was Kongpob’s dorm room.

They had bought a few things before heading back, such as dinner, their drinks, and a few snacks for the late night mecha marathon. They stopped at his boyfriend’s dorm since the older wanted to pick up a few personal items, and Kongpob pretended not to notice when the other shoved a few clothes in a bag, opting to just make the other’s bed and clean up anything that needed to be put away.

All throughout their trip, Kongpob took occasional glances at him, just to make sure his boyfriend was still all right. P’Arthit was subdued, more quiet than usual, and seemed to panic whenever Kongpob became more than an arm’s reach away from him.

It happened in the eatery where they usually got their food, with him asking the older to just sit down and wait for him while Kongpob bought what they needed. P’Arthit still seemed a little dazed still, but he had nodded, assuring Kongpob that he could leave the other for a few minutes while he did what he needed to do.

“Don’t—!”

But before he could take a step forward, his back already turned, the hem of his shirt was grasped in between pale, trembling fingers, and he looked back, surprised.

His boyfriend didn’t seem to realize what he had done, only coming back to himself and immediately releasing his hold like he had been electrocuted. His face was completely red, mouth opening and closing as if he couldn’t believe what he had just done.

“Ah, um, I—!”

“It’s okay.” Kongpob said, lips twitching up, thoroughly endeared. “You can come with me if you want, P’Arthit.”

And so the older had followed beside him until they got back, meek and embarrassed, while Kongpob got their food and drinks, sending assuring glances at him every so once in a while.

They didn’t hold hands, or touch again. But the hairsbreadth that separated them was more than enough for him.

Now, finally inside the room, they had both settled down quickly, eating an early dinner and the older taking a quick shower while Kongpob set up the TV, turning it on and looking through the streaming app for the series his boyfriend wanted to watch.

Armed with pink milk and a plastic bag full of snacks, Kongpob settled on top of his sheets, waiting for the older to finish his shower. His boyfriend, Kongpob knew, was the type to keep his troubles close to his heart, and often shut down when sufficiently pushed. Kongpob had learned to persuade the older into sharing his thoughts without being obviously pushy about it, knowing that sometimes giving him the time and space to think was enough of an incentive to talk.

Soon enough, the older eventually came out of the bathroom, looking soft and undone in the warm, incandescent lamps of Kongpob’s room. Kongpob couldn’t keep his eyes off him, his gaze following a stray drop of water as it slid down the side of a pale neck, curving around the lines of the visible collarbone underneath a loose tank top.

He swallowed thickly. God, P’Arthit was beautiful.

“Stop looking at me like that,” he heard the older mutter, and Kongpob quickly shook himself out of his trance, sending a beatific smile at the other.

“Like what?”

“Stop fishing for compliments,” the older replied, some of the snap returning to his tone, and Kongpob’s smile was now showing his teeth, hiding his relief that his boyfriend was slowly returning back to his normal self.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, P’Arthit.”

“Don’t think you can fool me with that innocent-looking face,” his boyfriend shot back, still looking a little flushed, and Kongpob chuckled, observing the other as he glanced at the bed, then at Kongpob, then immediately moved to hang the towel he was still using on the balcony, obviously stalling for time.

Still so shy. It was adorable. Kongpob didn’t move from his position, knowing that, if he bided his time, eventually his boyfriend would have no choice but to come back inside.

To him, and their large, warm, perfectly ready bed.

Good things always came to those who waited.

But the sound of something vibrating broke Kongpob off from his musings, and he automatically reached for the bedside table, where one of their phones was flashing with an incoming call or message.

“P’Arthit, P’Knot is calling you.” He called out, taking care not to touch the screen, lest the call connected. If it was one of their family members Kongpob wouldn’t mind answering it; his boyfriend had allowed him to and Kongpob always loved talking to Khun Mae and Khun Phorh. The older had also occasionally answered calls from Kongpob’s parents and sisters as well, especially when Kongpob was busy studying, and could take some time catching up with them if the mood and circumstances were right.

But this was his seniors, his boyfriend’s friends. He was sure, one day, that the time would come when he could answer his boyfriend’s phone whenever the other was busy, but for now, he could only do this.

The other hurried back inside, taking the phone from his open grip. “Thanks,” he said quickly, answering the call and placing it on speakerphone, to Kongpob’s mild shock. “Ai’Knot?”

“Arthit. Where are you? Are you okay? Do you wanna go out?” The senior’s voice filled the room, and Kongpob remained quiet, staring as P’Arthit finally sat down on the edge of the bed, placing the phone on the sheets, between them.

“I…” His boyfriend paused, and Kongpob found himself tensing up, wondering what the older would say. While he had been the one to suggest to keep their relationship on the general downlow, he still couldn’t help the small, ugly, disgraceful part of him that felt like he was P’Arthit’s dirty little secret, something to be hidden away, a continuing disgrace.

It was irrational, because of course his boyfriend didn’t think that, but Kongpob couldn’t stop his own, instinctive reactions, and he resented himself slightly because of it.

But if there was one thing that he was sure of, it was that P’Arthit should never know of it.

“I’m with someone right now. Don’t worry about me.”

“Oh? Someone?” The senior’s tone pitched up, sounding intrigued, as Kongpob shot up on the bed, eyes feeling like it was about to pop out of his skull as he stared at the back of the other’s head. Did he… Did he hear that correctly? “That’s a surprise. Is it a friend? Do we know who they are?”

“None of your business,” his boyfriend answered, succinct, and Kongpob felt like he was about to wake up from a dream. Or nightmare? Was he really awake right now? “But I’m all right. I’ll see you guys tomorrow, or whenever.”

On the other line, P’Knot started chuckling, and Kongpob could almost see the senior shaking his head. “Fine. Keep your secrets. I’ll find them out eventually. You sure?”

“Yeah.” The older turned to him then, with a little smile on his face, as he reached out to comb through Kongpob’s hair with his fingers. “I’m fine.” His tone gentled, and for a moment, Kongpob realized that those words weren’t for the person he was currently talking to.

“All right,” P’Knot sounded like he was laughing, but Kongpob couldn’t even think, much less discern what the senior was so thoroughly amused about. “See you, Ai’Oon. I want details soon.”

“Asshole.” But his boyfriend’s voice was fond as he disconnected the call, throwing his phone back onto the bedside table, before twisting his body to finally face him. “So? What snacks did you get, Kong?”

Kongpob couldn’t move. He couldn’t even speak, rewinding the past few minutes in his mind. Had that… just happened? He… didn’t imagine it, did he?

Because… if he just heard everything correctly… he just heard his boyfriend admit to his friend that he was with ‘someone’.

And they all knew how to read between the lines.

Sure, it wasn’t the complete truth, but the fact that his boyfriend was even willing to admit that much… was monumental.

After a moment, Kongpob turned his gaze up to the older, lost and completely confused.

“P’Arthit…”

“It’s fine.” Arthit said with finality, cutting him off, before exhaling. He ducked his head, and Kongpob followed his gaze, only to see the light tremble of his fingers.

“It’s fine.” He repeated, a little quieter this time, as if almost to himself, “I’m the one who said it. Besides, I know Knot won’t tell the others. Not yet. Not until I say it to them.” Kongpob could see the hesitance in his boyfriend’s form, the tinge of fear still lingering in his voice, but when he met Kongpob’s eyes again, they were filled with a familiar light and determination that always made him feel as if he was staring right at the sun.

“I… need to start somewhere, don’t I?”

And it was right then and there that Kongpob knew he could never go back to being in the darkness again.

“I’ll follow you wherever you go, P’.” He breathed, feeling the simple truth of it sink into his bones, right into his very core.

After all, this wasn’t the first time he realized that his world had irrevocably changed.

Now, it simply revolved around one sun.

There was a satisfied look in the other’s face. “Good. Because I need you to move to the middle of the bed, or I’ll fall off.”

Kongpob had never moved so fast in his life. He shifted back quickly, letting the older have as much space as he wanted. He wanted to believe that this was the end of the night’s surprises, but no, because P’Arthit just climbed onto the bed and proceeded to lay right on top of him, like a cat declaring its territory, pressing his cheek against Kongpob’s sternum while he settled himself comfortably against Kongpob’s side.

Kongpob was frozen, helplessly watching everything with a feeling of distance, as if he wasn’t physically a part of his body anymore, his heart working double time to keep himself from fainting right away.

Everything was almost too much for him to handle right now. P’Arthit wasn’t usually so… affectionate.

“Have you checked which titles are available with subtitles? Because I hate it when they dub over the characters speaking.” His boyfriend was speaking casually, reaching over to Kongpob’s side to grab at the plastic bag, pawing through the selection of snacks before finding one that he apparently liked. The sound of crinkling as the package was torn open, and soon enough there was crunching, soft little delighted noises escaping the other’s mouth as he started to eat.

“Mn. I think these have subtitles.” Kongpob answered, wonder in his voice, his body seemingly adjusting accordingly to the additional warmth and familiar weight by his side. His arm had moved, going around his boyfriend’s back, his hand resting against the curve of his waist, tucking the older’s body closer to his own. His head had tilted itself to the side, to rest his cheek against the other’s hair.

And his other hand had moved to his stomach to rest on top of the older’s forearm, with P’Arthit’s arm winding itself up and around his torso.

“Oh, I think I haven’t seen this one before. It’s a new release. Give me,” the older made grabbing motions for the remote, just beyond his reach, and Kongpob nudged it just enough for the other to grasp. With a sound of triumph, his boyfriend turned his head to the TV, starting the first episode, before settling down again to use Kongpob as his personal pillow.

Some part of Kongpob felt like he was daydreaming one of his deepest and most desired fantasies. He barely noticed what was showing on the screen, hyperaware of the sensations that were coursing through his entire body.

The way their chests moved as they breathed, not quite in synchrony, but still managing to find their own unique rhythm.

The weight of P’Arthit’s body on his side, warmth radiating just enough to keep the chill from the open air conditioning away.

The easy tangle of their legs together, with ankles hooking, shins scraping, and knees banging against one another, but never painful or annoying enough to be a complete distraction.

The bright flush on the tip of his boyfriend’s ear, the one visible to him, with dark red creeping up his exposed neck and shoulders, illuminated by the flashing lights on the TV screen.

His boyfriend was an active watcher, continuously muttering to himself, soft noises escaping him, ranging from delight to anger, depending on what was happening during the scene. He also occasionally fed Kongpob the snacks and let him take small sips of the pink milk he was working on throughout the episode. Kongpob was helpless but to accept, and the pleased look that appeared on the older’s face made him determined to eat whatever the other offered, no matter how bad it tasted, how sweet the drink was on his tongue, or how much he disliked the flavor.

But soon enough the stiffness in Kongpob’s body was beaten into submission, unable to resist the pull of easy affection and rare tenderness the other was freely offering. He knew the other could sense it, the way his body just started to sink deeply into the covers, the way Kongpob completely and unreservedly leaned back, fingers curling around P’Arthit’s waist, inhaling the scent of his own mint conditioner on his boyfriend’s hair.

And time passed just like this, with the both of them going through each episode in sequence, occasionally stopping for water or bathroom breaks, but always returning to the position they were in before.

It was during the early morning, halfway through the third season, when Kongpob was slowly and surely being lulled to sleep, the explosions on the TV starting to sound like white noise, when his boyfriend finally spoke.

“You know… I should feel relieved.”

Kongpob thought for a moment he was already asleep, and he really was dreaming this time. “Hm?”

“Thinking about it… I should feel glad that it’s over for me. I don’t have to worry about the hazing activity anymore, I don’t have to yell at you and the nongs. I can just return to studying, finishing the year… us. I can finally tell people about us and not worry about what would happen in the future.”

Kongpob was completely awake at this point, the sounds coming from the TV in front of them fading into the background as he focused on the other’s words.

“And I am. I’m so happy that I don’t have to stand there in front of the freshmen. That I don’t have to punish anyone anymore. But…”

His fingers curled into Kongpob’s shirt.

“I feel so angry and frustrated right now.” He laughed, humorless, self-deprecating. “What is wrong with me?”

“... Nothing is wrong with you, P’Arthit.” Kongpob said after a moment, when the volume of the TV was lowered down to the point that it became almost indistinguishable from static. “You wanted to finish something you started, and now you won’t be able to because someone stopped you. It’s understandable that you feel bad about it.” Because it implied failure on your part, that you weren’t able to handle it, that you didn’t have what it took.

“When I got asked to be head hazer, my friends promised me that they’ll go through it with me, no matter what, if I accepted.” P’Arthit’s voice was hushed, like he was confessing a secret. “And now I’ve left them behind to finish the mess I’ve left. I feel like a shitty friend.”

“Not of your own choice,” Kongpob reminded him gently. “They’re doing their best to bring you back, aren’t they? If you really want to become head hazer again, I’m sure they’ll find a way to help you. It might not happen immediately, but I’m sure you’ll be back soon, yelling at us to keep our backs straight.”

There was still uncertainty in the older’s voice. “... How can you be so sure? What if...”

“Because they sound like good people, P’Ai-Oon.” He said simply, because they were, if they were doing this much for his boyfriend. “And they love you. And even if you didn’t return as head hazer, they will do their best to honor your position, and finish the hazing activity in a way that would make you proud. I’m glad you have them by your side.”

And because he could, Kongpob leaned down and pressed a kiss to his boyfriend’s head.

“I know you have regrets, P’. You told me this before, but it’s also the same for me. At the end of the day, you can always return home to me. Whatever you do as head hazer will not make me like you any less. So don’t hesitate, and do what you need to do to finish the work you’ve started.”

P’Arthit raised his head to look at him then, heartbreakingly hopeful, and Kongpob leaned forward to press their foreheads together.

“And I’ll be here, supporting you all the way.”

In the semi-darkness, his boyfriend’s eyes were misty, throat thick with emotion as he whispered Kongpob’s name, letting out a shuddering exhale, hands coming up to curl against his jaw. Kongpob smiled back, holding the other’s elbows to steady him, taking the moment to inhale each other’s air, breathe the other in.

“Kong… You’re so good to me.” I don’t know what I did to deserve you.

“You deserve only the best of me, P’.” You already have me. All of me.

A beat, and the older pulled back, his eyes finally, blessedly clear. Kongpob’s smile widened when he saw the minute change, assured that the other had finally pulled himself out from his temporary slump.

“Listen to Knot, okay? He’s a good hazer. Much calmer and level headed than I am.” P’Arthit said after a moment. “Don’t give him a hard time like you do to me.”

“Yes, P’.” Kongpob said obediently. “But he will never compare to you, though.”

A blush. “Stop that. Come on, let’s brush our teeth and get some sleep. What time is it anyway?”

A quick check revealed that it was almost 3 in the morning, and they stumbled into the bathroom together, exhaustion quickly catching up to Kongpob now that he wasn’t resting his body on a relatively flat surface.

“P’Arthit… I accepted the nomination for the Moon and Star University Contest.” He said while his mouth was full of foam, but the older seemed to understand him, spitting into the sink quickly with one eyebrow raised at him.

“Really?” At Kongpob’s nod, the older shrugged. “As long as you’re sure. You’ll be doing a lot of work and practice for the competition, you know. Even if you don’t win as the Campus Moon, you’ll still be the representative of the Engineering faculty, and that comes with a lot of responsibilities.”

“I think it will be a good experience,” Kongpob said truthfully, which was part of the reason why he accepted it in the first place. He needed to be exposed to other people and the general public anyway; if he decided he would take over the company, that would be a necessary skill to learn. Kongpob smiled, raising his hand to wipe away the residue of foam that remained on his boyfriend’s lips.

“Besides, I’d eventually like people to know that P’Arthit is dating this year’s Campus Moon. I would like you to be proud of me in any way possible.”

Oi!” That got him a slap to the arm, but Kongpob wasn’t affected in the least, wiping his mouth and chin on the face towel nearby. “When will you stop? It’s already early morning, you brat.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, both teasing and sincere, and his boyfriend rolled his eyes back, bypassing him out of the bathroom.

When Kongpob returned to the bed, everything was quiet, with a warm body already underneath the covers. It was easy enough to slide behind the older, to wrap his arms around him, to bury his nose into the other’s nape, sniffing and sinking himself into the well-loved scent of sunshine that seemed to cling on the other’s skin.

“Good morning, P’Ai-Oon.”

A grumble. “You’re ridiculous.”

But a hand came up to pat his head, fingers running through his hair.

“… You don’t have to do any of that. I’m always proud of you, Kong.”

Kongpob’s lips curved up against his boyfriend’s neck, placated, content, chest completely warm and full.

“I know.”

And he knew they were going to be better and stronger than ever before.

Chapter Text

Because he was warned, Kongpob wasn’t surprised when it was P’Knot who led the third-year hazers on their next freshmen gathering.

He kept silent, waiting, even as his friends burst into whispers and hurried conversations around him, wondering where P’Arthit went. As he promised, he drew no attention to himself, merely listened as the senior told them their newest task, alongside the ones they were still doing: to select a student president amongst their class year. In less than a day.

He could see the differences instantly. P’Knot was calmer, more even-tempered, but no less intimidating. Unlike his boyfriend, the other senior made his conclusions silently, but still in a way that made you feel acutely judged for not meeting his standards at all. In some ways it was better, if you weren’t all that conscious of it, but in some ways it was worse, making you instantly aware of all of your current faults and mistakes.

Kongbob sighed silently, already missing his boyfriend standing in front of them instead. It didn’t feel the same, it wasn’t the same, but he much preferred the love of life telling them what to do, even if he was more volatile and hot-tempered.

He knew how much this task meant to the other, even if he didn’t do it out of his own volition at first. The elder deserved to finish his work with all the dignity and pride his position afforded him.

At the corner of his eye, he saw crimson enter his vision, and he turned his head, just to see P’Arthit leaning against the doorframe of the auditorium’s side doors, with his hands in his jeans pockets, watching the other hazers in front.

He looked… forlorn. A little regretful, still. But he left as quietly as he came, and Kongpob suppressed the immediate desire to stand up, to follow after the older, to see if he was all right, if there was anything he could do to make him feel better.

Perhaps he was being too overbearing, always following after his boyfriend like this, but Kongpob didn’t want to feel useless. Helpless. He had already failed his boyfriend once, and a repeat performance was completely unacceptable.

But P’Arthit was already gone when they were dismissed, and Kongpob hurried outside, looking around for any familiar sign of the other, but there was none. He checked his phone as well, but found no new messages or calls.

And he knew, more than ever, that he had to be beside his boyfriend now more than ever before.

His dorm room was quiet when he returned that night, and he let himself fall back onto his bed, exhaling. Should he call? Text? Was that being too much? Or should he keep quiet and let the older approach him first? With P’Arthit, it could always go one way or another, and Kongpob didn’t want to exacerbate the older’s already more fragile state as it was.

His throat itched. His fingers twitched. A few drags of mint and nicotine were so very tempting, right now. But instead Kongpob clenched his fingers and sat up, going to the window to see if he could catch a glimpse of his boyfriend, in an attempt to assuage his own worries.

And the sight before him made him smile.

His boyfriend was hanging up his laundry, wearing a loose shirt and a pair of shorts, hair an absolute mess. It wasn’t the older’s favorite household chore, the grumbling and shuffling evident with the way he was putting his now clean clothes on the drying rods. But it meant that he was doing something productive instead of getting too much into his own head, which Kongpob was worried what would happen, knowing the other.

But P’Arthit was okay. After a few seconds of just watching, waiting until the other finally went inside with his emptied basket, Kongpob also stood up, preparing to wind down for the day.

His boyfriend was going to be just fine.


The next day, Kongpob finally met his direct line senior, P’Ple, for the first time. She was pretty and kind, giving him all the notes and lectures she had been saving for his use, and he received them gratefully, knowing that it would be an immense help for his studies. It was a substantial amount, and he would have to shift through all of them to find the ones that would currently help him, but he made a note to save all of them for his junior next year.

But it was during the afternoon that trouble struck; the seniors moved the decision time two hours earlier, which left them with no time at all to choose who would be the representative of their year.

This is pretty mean of P’Knot, P’, Kongob couldn’t help but text his boyfriend as they all met outside near the benches, discussing rapidly with one another on what to do.

This is nothing, was the reply. During our time we were given until noon the next day. Then P’Tum told us in the morning that we needed to choose before classes started. It was a nightmare. I’ve never been woken up so badly.

Imagining his boyfriend stumbling out of his room to meet his friends and yearmates, still bleary-eyed and in his sleeping shirt, was enough to bring an affectionate smile on his lips. He wished he could have seen it.

“The person who is fit to be the student president of our class must be someone who could stand up against those seniors,” Aim was saying, and Kongpob was rudely pulled back into the conversation.

“That’s Kongpob, isn’t it?” Maprang commented, and the ensuing agreeing murmurs and nods had Kongpob shaking his head, even pushing away Oak’s hand when the other pointed at him.

“Kong, what do you think?” Tew asked, and he frowned.

“No. I don’t think I’d fit this role,” he said, and it was the truth. For one, there was a massive conflict of interest, not that his friends really knew; two, he was already quite busy, with the Moon and Star University Contest coming up; and three, perhaps the most important reason of all…

He already promised he wouldn’t be a hero.

As his friends started to convince him that he should accept, that he was the right choice, the universe had finally conspired with him the moment he decided to listen and be good to his significant other, because P’Minnie arrived just in time to pick him up. Kongpob couldn’t quite hide his relief as he slung his backpack around his shoulders and stood up, looking around him apologetically.

“Sorry, guys, but I have to go,” he said. “I have a photoshoot for the university contest. I’m really sorry. Just choose someone else.”

(Now he had an inkling of what his boyfriend felt, when the other was also asked to become head hazer by someone else.

He was definitely listening to everything P’Arthit said from now on. It only brought him good things in life.)

When they arrived at the room where the photoshoot was happening, everyone was already busy, a cameraman already taking pictures of someone else.

P’Minnie took the time to introduce him to the people inside, P’Poj, a second year engineering student who also took up photography as a side hobby, and his counterpart for the contest, Praepailin, the Engineering faculty Star. He knew her of course, she was friendly when they first met, but this was the first time they actually managed to talk to one another properly without their friends hanging around.

“Hey, Kongpob. How’s the student president search going?” She asked, smiling still, but with a pinch of exhaustion in her features. Kongpob wondered much time she had spent posing in front of the camera.

“I had to come here, so I don’t know. How long had you been here?”

“A while, actually,” she admitted, and Kongpob felt a pang of sympathy.

Still, he would take a few hours awkwardly standing and looking into a camera lens than being strongarmed into leading his class year. At least he knew the first option was the less painful one, and most importantly, the one that wouldn’t ruin his relationship, in the long-term.

“Now kids, if you want to finish this sooner, why don’t we go back to the shooting?” P’Minnie interrupted, getting in between them, and as Praepailin and the senior joked about the older getting Kongpob for herself, he put on his polite smile, being ushered away to a table behind P’Poj to sign the application forms.

As he worked on filling up the blank spaces, Kongpob had a nagging feeling that he had forgotten something.

Something important, that he should be acutely aware of, because it concerned… his boyfriend...

Kongpob’s pen stilled.

Praepailin… was the one who called P’Arthit super good-looking, didn’t she? When she was trying to get his signature?

Struck with that memory, Kongpob twisted his body in the chair, turning his gaze at the front, studying Praepailin more closely without trying to make it seem that he was. Just from a quick glance someone would instantly know she was beautiful. Kongpob had eyes, and he wasn’t about to deny an obvious fact.

But did she say it back then because she was forced to by someone else… or was it her telling the truth?

Did she find P’Arthit handsome?

Kongpob knew that his boyfriend was also attracted to women. He had seen the picture with P’Namtan and P’Jay, had heard a few sparse details about his boyfriend’s already-in-the-past-and-should-remain-there unrequited love, and the older’s high school friends were also reasonably attractive.

Would this be a problem in the future? Would his P’Ai-Oon be attracted to this pretty girl that thought he was good-looking, if she actually tried to get his attention? Kongpob wasn’t insecure about his looks, personality, or family; people have told him often that his face was nice, that he was a well-mannered person overall, and his family’s “pedigree” was nothing to snort at.

But in the end, he was still a man, and when it came to relationships, a woman would always have the advantage, the better edge. It was unfair, but that was the way their society worked.

If P’Arthit decided down the line that he would be better off settling down with a woman, no amount of Kongpob’s good looks, family standing, or riches would be able to convince the older otherwise.

Suddenly, a thick, nauseating feeling rose in Kongpob’s throat, and he gripped the edge of the table, trying not to sway in his seat as something dark and vicious swept through him, tinging his gaze with ivy, body shaking.

He held the wood almost hard enough to splinter, and thankfully it didn’t give, but the pain was enough to bring him back to himself, making him aware of his actions. He took a slow inhale of air, slowly returning back to the document, with a quick glance at the seniors to see if they had noticed.

But he couldn’t concentrate, the letters blurry and indistinct.

No. He was acting ridiculous. His boyfriend wasn’t that kind of person. P’Arthit wasn’t a player, he seriously loved just one other person in his life before Kongpob came around, for goodness’ sake. And besides, the older hadn’t shown any signs of his affection wavering towards Kongpob, and still remained as cute and as open to him as the older always had.

Praepailin was a friend, or at least, Kongpob would like her to be one. He shouldn’t be thinking of her as a threat when she wasn’t one, and probably had no idea of the rage and hostility he had towards her for one brief second.

He hated it; this ugly jealousy springing up and writhing at the pit of his gut. His boyfriend was a definite catch; handsome and attentive and caring, and he hated the idea of other people, strangers, also realizing how much the other was really worth and trying to take it away from him. P’Arthit wasn’t an object or pet, he wasn’t Kongpob’s to keep and cage into a box.

But the thought of a nameless, faceless someone… snatching him away, enticing the older from Kongpob’s protection and embrace... was enough to make him want to… hurt that person badly, like a dragon hoarding all of its gold and silver in its cave, curling around its riches and snarling at anyone who dared come close.

His P’Ai-Oon was his most delicate jewel, his most precious treasure. One of his greatest strengths, but also one of his largest weaknesses. Kongpob loved him with all his heart and soul; he was sure that there was no other person in the world for him. If the older decided that, in the future (please Buddha no), he didn’t love Kongpob anymore and wanted to leave him, then he would have no choice but to let the other go, hoping that the person P’Arthit would find next would treat him as good and as well as he should be. The older deserved no less.

But if it was someone who just wanted the older for something else? To not cherish the other as he needed to be, to use and discard him at the end? Well then. Kongpob would have no problem fighting back, to release his rage and use every single trick and connection he had in his sleeve to ruin that person’s life completely, because his boyfriend didn’t deserve them, and never would.

He would protect P’Arthit until his dying breath, no matter what their relationship would turn out to be down the road.

With another calming breath, Kongpob eventually returned to the task at hand, resuming his writing as if nothing happened in the first place.

But all the same, he resolved to keep an eye on Praepailin, the other first year pinged as a person of interest in his mind.

Just in case.

It wouldn’t hurt to be a little more careful.


Because his boyfriend suddenly had a lot more free time, not allowed to be concerned with the hazing activities anymore, Kongpob found himself spending a lot more time with the other, and he didn’t mind it in the least.

Sure, it meant a lot less time to rest during nights, of his mornings starting out with him needing to drink more coffee and energy drinks than usual because he was tired and sleep-deprived, but Kongpob would never exchange his time with P’Arthit for anything in the world. He carved out as much time in his schedule so he could just be with the older, even just an hour a day, and his efforts were slowly and steadily paying off since his boyfriend was looking to be much happier recently.

He had even started hanging out with his friends less than he used to, which caused some light teasing and raised eyebrows, but Aim knew that Engineering wasn’t Kongpob’s first choice to study in the first place, and he was, admittedly, struggling a little with the work. Legitimate excuses made, his friends eventually let it go, and Kongpob was left with a mixture of sweet relief and bitter guilt.

It wasn’t as if they were going on dates all the time. Most of the time it was them studying together, either in his dorm or the older’s, with his boyfriend unofficially assuming his previous job as Kongpob’s tutor once more and helping him out with his coursework. Kongpob tried his best not to bother the other during these times; he knew his boyfriend also had his studies to complete, and he couldn’t do that if the other doted on him all the time.

But P’Arthit had told him to just ask if Kongpob was stuck on something, or if he needed anything, and it was during these times when Kongpob realized how good and caring the older was, taking out the time from his own studying just for him.

(While working together on his bed one time, cheekily he asked if his boyfriend would let him lay down on the other’s lap while he read through his worksheets for the day, remarking that it would help him remember the formulas better.

P’Arthit had blushed, scolded him for not taking his homework seriously, and shifted his position, extending his legs forward.

“... Well? What are you waiting for?” He had demanded when Kongpob didn’t move immediately, staring, struck dumb by the older’s actions.

And Kongpob, still speechless, was left no choice but to lay his head down on the other’s thigh, eyes wide and cheeks straining with his wide grin as he looked up at the older.

“Shameless,” his boyfriend had muttered, pinching his nose in light reprimand, but otherwise, allowed Kongpob to remain where he was for the rest of their time together.

He kept his end of the deal though, and in the end, Kongpob wasn’t lying.

It really was better to study like this, surrounded by warmth and soft sunshine, with gentle fingers eventually carding through his hair.)

It was already evening when Kongpob looked up from his desk, neck joints popping audibly as he leaned back on his chair with a groan. He had been studying the moment he arrived from class, and the arrival of his boyfriend didn’t interrupt that in the slightest, the older automatically finding his own place to settle his papers and books without disturbing him.

While Kongpob preferred to use a table when he was busy with schoolwork, preferring to create clear divisions in locations when it came to doing things, his boyfriend had the innate ability to set up shop wherever there was a free space for him to do so. So it was the older that usually commandeered the bed, with all of his papers scattered around him, while Kongpob remained at his study desk, moving his head to the side every so once in a while to look around his laptop, observing the other quietly.

Checking the time, he slowly stood up, limbs creaking in the process, and took the time to stretch his muscles, stiff from being locked in the same position for hours. Kongpob eventually moved to the side of the bed, taking care to gather the loose worksheets and setting them aside as he sat down on the edge of the mattress.

He quietly looked down at his boyfriend, who had decided to take a small break from his own work, and ended up lightly snoozing on top of Kongpob’s sheets.

Kongpob couldn’t resist; he pulled out his phone, and took a quick picture, making sure that the flash was off and the sound was silent. It was an adorable sight, one that should be immortalized forever, and Kongpob moved the photo to the private album he had on his phone, which was filled with pictures he had taken secretly of his boyfriend doing simple, mundane things.

But Kongpob could remember every single detail that was happening when the picture was taken, of how specific, strong, and loud his emotions were when he saw the older during that time, and wanted to treasure those moments for as long as he could.

Photo finally hidden away and secured, it was now time to wake up the older.

“P’Ai-Oon, it’s about time for dinner. Would you like to come down and get something to eat with me?” He coaxed, voice soft as he brushed the loose hair away from the other’s face. “You shouldn’t skip dinner, and you might not be able to sleep later if you continue to nap.”

Soon enough, the older started to stir. “Mn. Sure. Are we—” A small, kittenish yawn, as P’Arthit attempted to roll onto his back, but was stopped by Kongpob’s hands, papers nearby at the danger of being wrinkled under his boyfriend's body, “—leaving now?”

“Not yet. Let me just take a shower. You can continue to nap, P’.” Kongpob answered, continuing to stare at the older, thoroughly endeared. “I’ll wake you up when we need to leave.”

“Mmkay.” His boyfriend hadn’t even let him finish speaking before starting to drift off again. Kongpob took a moment to move all of the older’s books to the side so he could wiggle around all he wanted, before going to the bathroom.

He took his time. His boyfriend looked like he needed the short rest, and Kongpob was willing to give the other the precious few minutes of sleep he required. When he eventually got out, hair and shirt still damp, rubbing a towel at his head, the older had migrated closer to the edge of the bed, and Kongpob positioned himself near to the other once more.

“P’Arthit, wake up now.” He murmured, thumbing the older’s cheek with more insistence, though still gentle. “We should go.”

“Ngh—” His boyfriend made a protesting noise, but pushed himself up with his arms, already half-awake, leaving Kongpob to watch his back with a slight smile as the other stumbled into his bathroom to freshen up.

On his desk, his phone rang, and Kongpob stood up to get it, hearing the sink run in the meantime.

“What’s up, Aim?” He asked when the call came through.

“Hey Kong, wanna hang out with us? Oak and I just updated our phones with the latest game patch. We can go 2 on 2 with Tew if you come with.”

“I don’t feel like going,” Kongpob answered truthfully, watching as his boyfriend finally exited the bathroom, now completely awake, water dripping from his face. He silently offered the towel in his hand, which the older took with a grateful look, using it to rub his face dry while Kongpob continued to talk. “Just play the game with Oak.”

“Oh. Too bad. Next time, then?”

“Okay,” he agreed easily.

“Your friends?” P’Arthit asked when Kongpob disconnected the call. “You should hang out with them, if you want.”

“It’s fine, P’. I do want to see them,” Kongpob said, not imagining the quietly disappointed look that crossed over the older’s face.

He smiled.

“But not right now. I will always choose to spend my time with you more.”

Because honestly, why would his boyfriend even think of him wanting to hang out with his friends now, when he was here, mere inches away from Kongpob, close enough to touch and hold?

Kongpob liked his friends, for sure, but also he knew where his priorities lie.

It got the reaction he wanted; the light flush on the older’s cheeks, the immediately bashful, pleased, satisfied look, but also the quick scowl in an attempt to hide it, once P’Arthit realized what face he was making right now.

His boyfriend was so easy to tease, the older unable to hide his expressions at all. It was one of the million things Kongpob found lovable about him, and he sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t change, even as they (hopefully) grew old together.

P’Arthit should really make it harder for him to take the openings the other presented, but at the same time, he hoped the other wouldn’t notice at all.

He liked knowing that he was still able to fluster his boyfriend and make his heart race.

“Comb your hair and let’s go, you brat,” the other snapped in the end, and Kongpob chuckled, following the words obediently.

One thing at a time.

There was always more time to flirt later.


The eatery was full when they arrived, during the peak of the dinner rush hour. They were lucky enough to snag the last free table, and sat down as the auntie came around, taking their orders.

They got their usual, Kongpob’s minced pork omelet with rice, his boyfriend’s chicken basil with a sunny side up egg with its extra dash of peppers, a cup of pink milk and iced coffee. The auntie soon left with a promise to have their food done soon, and they settled down, talking as they waited.

“Your taste in food is as kid-like as always,” the older observed with a snort as he leaned back on his seat, with one arm resting on the back of the chair. “Even babies could eat that. You’re a grown-up man now, Kong, and you still couldn’t take a little heat? Are your taste buds delicate or something?”

“You know I don’t like spicy food, P’.” Kongpob answered easily, and it wasn’t merely due to preference. His taste buds were sensitive, even as a child, and they couldn’t tolerate any intense flavors, spices added. It gave his parents grief when they were trying to feed him as he was growing up, since he refused to put anything in his mouth that tasted even the slightest bit off to him. “And what you eat doesn’t have a ‘little’ heat in them. You make me worried about your intestines, sometimes.”

“Hey, it’s a completely normal level of spice for a Thai person to consume.” P’Arthit defended himself. “You’re the one with the weird food choices.”

They paused for a moment as their drinks arrived, and Kongpob took a sip of his bitter iced coffee, glancing at the sweet drink in the older’s hands.

“If my taste in food is strange, then I wonder what people would say if they found out that the head hazer’s favorite drink is pink milk.” Kongpob said lightly, teasing, and the other gave him a small, adorable scowl.

“Oi! You shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you,” the other threatened with a narrowed look, but didn’t let go of his cup, and Kongpob chuckled, placing his own drink down. “And besides, I’m not head hazer anymore. They can talk about it behind my back all they want.”

“But you’re still the head hazer to me.” Kongpob said, shaking his head, firm in that belief. “And I’m sure that you’ll be back in your position before you know it.”

At those words, the older faltered, looking away from him with a sip of his pink milk, and Kongpob realized that he might have stepped on a landmine.

“I’m sorry. Did I make you uncomfortable?” He asked quickly.

A beat of silence. “... No. It’s just… your belief in me is almost too much, sometimes.” His boyfriend eventually said, ducking his head, but not fast enough to hide the red creeping up his neck and ears. “It’s embarrassing.”

Once he realized what the older really meant, Kongpob couldn’t stop himself from melting, chest turning into useless mush at the sight in front of his eyes.

Adorable. Utterly, undeniably adorable. His boyfriend was going to be the death of him, one of these days.

“Please don’t feel embarrassed, P’Arthit.” Kongpob said firmly, once he had gotten a hold of himself. “That is what significant others are for.”

It was probably not the best place to have this kind of conversation, with people continuously wandering and milling around them, but everyone was in their own little bubbles, not likely to listen into other people’s private lives.

And besides, they didn’t know these people. Their friends weren’t here, and those were the opinions they both cared for.

So Kongpob could be as open and loving towards his boyfriend as much as he wanted.

“Even at your worst moments, I’ll still continue to believe in you completely, so don’t be so reserved.” He continued, letting his sincerity speak for itself. “Not towards me.”

He wanted to reach out, to hold his boyfriend’s hand across his own, but even he had some decorum left. It was a crowded place, and his always shy P’Ai-Oon wouldn’t take to his affections well, right now.

So he simply let the older look at him, his emotions nakedly displayed on his face, and completely unashamed of it.

Let people see, if they looked at them, at how much he adored the man in front of him. How completely, totally gone he was, in his love for the other, and the lengths he would go to prove that simple fact in front of anyone who asked.

P’Arthit was everything to him.

His boyfriend was blinking at him, still a little stunned, and more than twice-shy, his gaze darting between his face and the ground.

“... You’re impossible, Kong. I give up.” The other exhaled after a moment, still lightly flushed, shaking his head. “I don’t even know what to say right now.”

“You don’t have to say anything, P’Arthit.” Kongpob said easily, accepting the silent gratitude as it came. “Just accept everything I say right now.”

Surrender. Give in to me, P’Ai-Oon.

Just let me love you.

Their plates arrived at just the right time, bringing the conversation to a natural close as they tucked into their respective dishes. The pork omelet rice was as delicious as always, and he eventually allowed his boyfriend to try a bite, despite the diss to his food choices that was inevitably going to happen, the older (cutely) wrinkling his nose and commenting on its ‘bland’ taste.

It wasn’t bland at all; just that all that heat and spice have destroyed his boyfriend’s taste buds. If they had the free time and his boyfriend let him, Kongpob was definitely taking the other to a more exclusive restaurant to show what real flavor tasted like. But he didn’t respond to the obvious provocation, forehead wrinkling at the sight of bright red and green on top of the other’s plate. And to his mild horror, the other started drizzling generous amounts of chili oil on top of his food.

Oh, god. His P’Arthit wasn’t planning on finishing that, was he?

But the elder seemed pleased as punch as he took a bite, humming in satisfaction, and if the noises came out, then it meant that his boyfriend did not find any problem with what he was currently putting into his mouth.

Kongpob was still worried, though.

It was in the middle of their meal that his boyfriend finally made some sort of decision, putting a portion of his chicken basil onto his spoon. “Come on, just try a bite, Ai’Kong.” He said, raising the spoon, trying to coax, seemingly having taken on a personal mission to broaden Kongpob’s culinary experience. “It’s not going to kill you. You’re a grown man now, and you should learn how to eat different kinds of food. What are other people going to say if you refuse their food because it’s too spicy for you?”

Kongpob glanced at the spoon with trepidation. He truly appreciated the other’s efforts, and he did want to try other kinds of dishes, but if their personal family chef, of all people, couldn’t do anything about his sensitive palate, Kongpob doubted if the love of his life could change it.

But that made up all the difference, didn’t it?

It was P’Arthit who was asking.

And he couldn’t find it in himself to refuse, rejections dying in his throat despite the certain torture his mouth was going to go through if he agreed.

“I really can’t,” he answered, plaintive, and the lower lip slowly started to come out, petulant.

Oh god, not the pout. Kongpob really couldn’t say no if the older started making that face, because P’Arthit didn’t know he was doing it and he looked so soft and cute and irresistible, causing bad things to happen to Kongpob’s heart in the process.

But then, as he started to think of ways to decline without having to hurt his boyfriend’s feelings, an idea came.

And it was one of the most brilliant ideas he had ever had.

So Kongpob put his utensils down, staring at the other evenly with a slight smirk on his lips.

“But if you feed me, P’, I might be willing to try a bite.”

Kongpob!” As expected, his boyfriend recoiled, hissing like an enraged cat as he glared darkly.

But the color riding high on his cheeks lessened the overall intimidating effect, and Kongpob blinked, all innocence and naive charm.

He stood his ground, amused and entertained, as indecision warred across the other’s features. Kongpob was reasonably sure that his boyfriend’s propriety would win out, considering where they were and what he was asking for. Sometimes it was good to have a really bashful significant other, and Kongpob used that fact to his complete advantage, picking up his spoon to continue eating when it was clear that the older wouldn’t make a move.

But this was his P’Arthit. His stubborn, lovely, beautiful boyfriend, who often managed to pull out the rug under his feet, whose bursts of sudden, wild impulses never failed to completely blindside him.

Like right now.

“Kong.”

“Hm?” Kongpob raised his head, only to completely still when his mind finally processed what his eyes were taking in right now.

His older boyfriend, who wouldn’t be caught dead giving him the time of the day in front of others, had his arm extended out, the tip of the metal spoon patiently hovering near his mouth. The other’s face was bright red, the blush managing to travel down his smooth, fairer skin, disappearing down his shirt.

But there was a determined twist on his mouth, and an adamant glint in his eye, as the older nudged the edge of the utensil against his bottom lip, scent of various spices wafting into Kongpob's nose.

“Eat. Say ‘ah’.”

Kongpob was dumbfounded. Amazed. In disbelief. Amazed disbelief.

There was no way. He was completely daydreaming right now.

Because if P’Arthit was actually attempting to feed him—

“Here.” The older was insistent, the embarrassment on his face clearly visible, but thoroughly intent on seeing his actions through. “Open your mouth, Kong.”

The shiver that raced down his back was immediate, suddenly remembering hearing those words in a much more different, more intimate context, the tone lower, huskier, the atmosphere darker and more heated.

And Kongpob, weak and dazed and overwhelmed at that moment, could only follow, could only part his lips, groaning as a talented tongue licked into his mouth—

His thoughts must have shown somewhere on his face, because his boyfriend’s face was crimson, throat bobbing as he swallowed, looking torn between berating him and desperately wanting to know what was on his mind, if Kongpob was thinking the same thing as the older was.

Like this, there was no possible way for Kongpob to deny the other’s wishes. He would cut off his own tongue first before it could even help form the words.

“Okay, P’Arthit.” He finally relented, keeping his gaze on the other intently as he slowly leaned forward, letting his lips part, closing them around the curve of the spoon, teeth making a soft clink against hard metal.

In front of him, he heard the older make a shaky exhale, his eyes completely trained on Kongpob’s mouth.

Still making sure he had the entirety of the other’s undivided attention, Kongpob started to draw back, deliberately slow, clearly cleaning out the portion of food that was resting on the spoon...

And promptly choked as the scorching heat exploded in his mouth, spreading out and down his throat, scalding as the food made its way to his stomach.

Well. That ruined the mood completely.

“Is it really that bad?” His boyfriend asked in slight shock, coming out of his daze, as Kongpob quickly swallowed the chicken basil without another word. He slurped down his iced coffee to the dredges and ordered another glass of pink milk, downing a significant amount of it as well. “Kong, you all right?”

“I’m fine, P’.” Kongpob managed to cough out, the burn in his eyes and tongue finally receding into something more manageable, but the combination of both drinks still wasn’t enough to make the sting go away. Urgh. That was horrible. He didn’t think he could actually taste real pain before.

His lips were still throbbing, shaking, and not in a good way. “When you asked me if I had delicate taste buds, that was the truth. My parents had a hard time feeding me, actually.”

“... Then why didn’t you tell me before you put it in your mouth?!” His boyfriend finally demanded after a moment of stunned, owlish silence, placing his own cup of pink milk in front of Kongpob, immediately asking a neatby auntie for a glass of iced water. He took a few tissues, leaning over the table to wipe the sweat gathering on his forehead. “Drink that if you need to. Do you need anything?” The other looked down on him, still visibly upset. “You idiot, you’re allowed to say ‘no’ to me!”

“But I didn’t want to,” Kongpob answered plainly, knowing he could make a joke on what the older had just said, but really not in the mood to. The ice cold water was a relief, numbing his mouth in a way the other drinks couldn’t, and he crushed the ice cubes between his teeth, sucking on a chip to help soothe and cool down the still lingering heat.

Still, the other had a chagrined expression on his face, and Kongpob knew he had some assuring and damage control to do. “I’m fine now. Please don’t worry about me.” He continued, completely earnest.

“P’Ai-Oon, as much as possible, I would never refuse you anything.”

The mixture of utter vexation, shyness, and fondness on his boyfriend’s face was almost enough to send him into peals of laughter, and Kongpob bit his cheek to stop the involuntary curve up of his mouth.

“I can’t even believe— even now you’re still a sweet talker,” he heard the other mutter, looking heavenwards for a moment in complete exasperation, and Kongpob would have been amused if his insides didn’t feel like it was still lit ablaze. “Keep quiet. Eat your ice. Tell me if you’re still hurting.”

“Yes, P’.” Kongpob answered dutifully, continuing to munch on his ice, the pain eventually fading away into something duller, easily ignorable.

But the older’s phone suddenly rang, and Kongpob looked up as his boyfriend answered after looking at the screen, his brows furrowed.

“What?” His boyfriend straightened out of his seat, suddenly alert, and Kongpob’s attention was caught. Something definitely happened. “You want me there? Now?” The other took a quick glance at him, biting his lower lip, looking indecisive. “But Prem, I…”

No, Kongpob quickly shook his head, tilting his face towards the doors of the eatery. Go, he mouthed, urging the older silently.

Because if his boyfriend’s friends were calling him right now, it might be something huge, a significant change, and Kongpob, in his idiocy, would not get in the way of that.

But instead, P’Arthit covered the phone’s microphone in one hand, turning to him to ask directly, a huge risk, considering there was still a person on the other end of the line.

“Kong, something came up, they need me to meet them right now. I don’t want to leave you alone, but will you be all right? You’re still…”

“Yes. I’ll be fine, P’.” Kongpob said immediately, almost back to normal at this point. “You should go see what your friends want. They won’t ask you to come so quickly unless it was important.”

There was still a moment of delay, but in the end, the older came to the decision to leave, telling P’Prem he would be there as soon as he could.

“Kong, I’m so sorry,” P’Arthit said, standing up. “I need to go. Are you sure you’ll be fine going back? I could always call them back and tell them I’m busy.”

“P’, this isn’t an emergency.” Kongpob assured the other with a small smile. “It’s just me not telling you the truth and paying the consequences for it. As you said, this won’t kill me.”

“It almost damn well did,” he heard the older mutter back, but whatever Kongpob had to reply to that was stopped when his boyfriend moved to his side of the table, hesitated for another short second, before leaning his head down.

And before Kongpob realized it, a pair of lips had briefly touched his cheek, both a ‘sorry’ and a ‘thank you’ all at once, moving back as quickly as it appeared.

“I’m leaving!” The older blustered as he stood up straight again, already starting to back up, his face reddening again. “Drink some more water and finish your food! Just throw away mine if you want! I’ll check on you once I’m done with my friends!”

Kongpob could only stare with wide eyes at his boyfriend’s back as he left the eatery in a hurry, his hand drifting up to lightly touch his face, where the sensation of warm, pillowy lips still lingered on his skin.

Today… was a day full of surprises.

He eventually returned to his meal, still slightly out of it, the crazed smile on his face probably scaring any person nearby who managed to glance at him.

But he was so happy he could barely think straight (ha). P’Arthit had fed him, had kissed him again in public (though the one on the Rama Bridge probably didn’t count, seeing as it was just the two of them during that time), and even made a risky move by talking to him while his friend was still listening in, a person who could potentially discover their relationship.

His boyfriend just took a lot of big steps for them both, and Kongpob was giddy with the possibilities now slowly opening to him.

Soon. He would finally be able to introduce P’Arthit to everyone soon.

As Kongpob tried to pick up the bill for their dinner, the auntie had informed him that the older had already paid for everything before he left, the sheer thoughtfulness of it making his heart flip in his chest.

P’, thank you for the dinner, it was delicious, he texted as he left the eatery alone, carrying a plastic bag that contained a new order of his boyfriend’s beloved chicken basil and sunny side up, hot and spicy, knowing that the other would probably want to eat when he returned to the dorms later.

Stop teasing me. Get some rest.

I’m sorry. I won’t force you to eat something like that again.

I promise.

Chapter Text

Arthit still couldn’t believe it, when he finally returned to his room later in the morning the next day.

He took a seat on his bed, just trying to breathe, to process everything that had just occurred. When Prem contacted him that night he didn’t dare hope for anything else. It was a dangerous thing to feel, and he would rather keep his expectations low and almost non-existent to avoid the almost-inevitable crushing disappointment that could only be expected at this point.

Besides, he had just fed his boyfriend an insane amount of chili peppers for dinner which the younger apparently couldn’t take for very legitimate reasons. And Arthit was torn between wanting to shake the other for encouraging his stupidity and making sure the younger was continuously fed ice and milk until the other forgot what he had even eaten in the first place.

But then the call happened. Arthit didn’t want to leave his boyfriend, who was still obviously reeling from the heat that exploded in his mouth. But instead of demanding that he took responsibility, Kongpob told him to go. To leave him and meet Arthit’s friends instead, because it was more important, because it might be the change Arthit did not want to hope for.

He truly didn’t deserve such consideration, such thoughtfulness, and Arthit swore to himself to do something nice for his younger boyfriend in the near future as he eventually chose to leave, the guilt in his heart remaining and reminding him of the precious person he had just turned his back on.

He will give Kongpob the security and happiness he deserved in their relationship. He will.

When Arthit finally met up with his friends, anxious and concerned, all of them started talking to him and each other at the same time, screaming in excitement, making Arthit realize what they had just done, the miracle that his friends had pulled through, just for him.

His position was granted back to him.

He was head hazer again.

Arthit looked down on his hands, and found that they were still lightly shaking. He honestly didn’t know what to feel. He had made it no secret that he didn’t enjoy some of the aspects of the job, especially the parts where he had to subjugate the younger students into some serious hardship and pressure. That was how they learned, it was how Arthit and his friends learned, and they had a duty to keep to tradition, as much as they could, while they occupied the positions they were in.

But this was something he and his friends had wholeheartedly committed themselves to. They made their promises, and they had kept all of them, ever since they met as first years until now. This was just one more piece of proof that his friends would never abandon him, that they cared, and that they knew Arthit as well as he knew himself.

Once they broke the news they had all clutched each other, screaming their heads off like a bunch of lunatics, but he honestly didn’t care.

(In fact, if Arthit seriously thought about it, he was sure his friends would just congratulate him, maybe even tease him a little, if he finally told them the truth, for finally finding a special someone. To them, it wouldn’t no matter who they were, as long as this person treated Arthit well.

And if that was the only requirement they needed, Kongpob easily checked off that list.)

He wasn’t going to waste the opportunity his friends gave him. Second chances were hard to come by, and the others have done too much, worked too hard, for Arthit to disregard it at all.

Somehow, someway, he was going to repay them, even if he knew they didn’t expect anything in return.

He may not like being a hazer too much, but with the support of the people who loved him, Arthit felt he could finish this job without any more problems.

Together, until the bitter fucking end. Arthit seriously couldn’t hope for a better group of people to be his companions.

Speaking of people who loved him…

Arthit’s head shot up, his hands fumbling as it searched for his phone.

Kongpob.

He had to tell him, had to let him know that his belief wasn’t misplaced, that it really happened. His boyfriend could be ridiculously optimistic sometimes, but this time, his confidence had seriously paid off. It just reminded Arthit that the younger was usually right about things, and that he could do with sharing a little of the other’s half-glass-full view about the world.

And Kongpob, like his friends, had stayed. Had assured him, had comforted him, had remained by his side, indulging his every request and whim. He wasn’t blind to how his own issues had affected his boyfriend’s well-being, with the dark circles appearing under the younger’s eyes, appearing more exhausted and fatigued than usual, juggling Arthit with his studies, the latter of which Kongpob still needed some assistance with.

It had filled Arthit with a terrible guilt, had insisted on the other focusing on himself and his studies first, but Kongpob, as usual, was stubborn and did whatever he pleased. It had almost culminated into an argument, because the younger was starting to get reckless with his own health, at least until they both remembered that they were adults and they needed to use their words to understand each other properly.

Thankfully, Kongpob finally listened to sense, to Arthit’s (justified) concerns, and finally left him alone long enough to get some proper rest and time for himself, because Arthit wasn’t some breakable glass figurine that would shatter at the barest hint of pressure. He was fine, and as much as he appreciated the other’s care, it should never come at the expense of the younger’s.

He really should do better as a boyfriend. As a person. If Kongpob felt that he had to care for him while Arthit was moping (and there was no other word for it, just remembering the way he ran into Kongpob’s arms in public like a heroine in some trashy romance drama was enough for him to die from mortification) then Arthit was clearly lacking as a partner and a human being.

So he was trying. It was slow, as in, a snail’s pace level of slow, but Arthit was slowly and surely pushing back against his natural shyness, allowing himself to be more transparent with his affections for his boyfriend. Sure, it made him want to escape for the hills immediately after, but the overjoyed and delighted faces the younger made was more than enough to make up for it.

But not too often, though. Arthit did have some sense of propriety left.

And as promised, Arthit checked up on the younger before he went to bed last night, and his boyfriend assured him that he was completely all right, if not a little flushed and sweaty still because of the chili. His mouth still looked a little swollen and tender, and he was filled with a sudden, unreasonable rage.

Because while Arthit knew that he was the reason for it, it wasn’t due to anything they physically did. For god’s sake, his boyfriend even brought him food to eat, placing it inside his dorm, because he skipped out on their dinner date.

It was sweet, thoughtful, and Arthit felt his heart was going to explode, seeing the small plastic bag placed on his small dinner table.

“P’Arthit, if you feel bad about it, you can always come here and kiss me better,” Kongpob had laughed when he called to both apologize and thank him, and Arthit promptly hung up afterwards, stuttering and blushing and scowling, because the nerve of the younger, seriously.

(It didn’t mean that he didn’t want to. He knew it, and his boyfriend knew it, and they both knew that was the reason why he was so flustered.)

But as Arthit finally managed to unlock his phone, scrolling through his LINE contacts, his thumb stopped just before he could press on the call button beside his boyfriend’s name.

Maybe… he should surprise him with the news instead?

It would be something good, right? Because Kongpob had always told him how… attractive he was in his hazer uniform, and the younger liked to catch him off guard all the damn time. Arthit would have succumbed to a nervous breakdown already if he hadn’t forced himself to get used to it. It wasn’t anything bad, per se, but the younger had the tendency to spring up something on him that was cheesy, romantic, flirtatious, or a bit of everything at the same time, and it caused him a significant amount of distress.

(And a whole lot of lovesick, giggly giddiness too, but he would never admit it until his last breath.)

This time, he was the one calling the shots. It would be a nice present for Kongpob, who had stayed with him every step of the way, who deserved to see the fruits of his labor.

And besides, he was meeting the freshmen students tomorrow, wasn’t he? Because SSU’s Freshy Week was starting, and while Arthit could be a harsh taskmaster, he wasn’t a monster. The nongs would need all the time they could get preparing for the upcoming competitions, and they didn’t need the third-years riding on their backs the entire time.

This was also a chance for the first years to show off their organization and planning skills. As hazers they had to see if the freshmen had what it took to not just to execute and participate in important events, but to excel in them as well. It showed how seriously they took the tasks given to them, and that no event was too small or insignificant for them to not give it their all.

It would be something good to carry in the future, even after university, in the real world.

Arthit’s days would be busy again and, as unbelievable as it sounded, he couldn’t wait for it to start.

And he definitely didn’t want to miss the expression on his boyfriend’s face when he realized that Arthit was back in his hazer blacks and reds once more.


He wasn’t going to admit it to anyone, but Arthit was nervous.

The student grapevine had done its job; rumors of his apparent expulsion from the hazing team had completely made the rounds, and he wasn’t surprised by it. He would be more surprised if it didn’t get out to be honest, because it meant that the faculty’s gossip mongers were losing their touch.

(He didn’t want them to be too sharp, however. He couldn’t think of a juicer story than one about the third-year head hazer being in a romantic relationship with the freshman student he was currently openly bullying.)

Still, it felt like he was going to wear a set of clothes that he hadn’t tried on in years, terrified that he wouldn’t fit into them anymore.

“Relax, you’ll get used to it in no time,” Bright had clapped him on the back with an encouraging grin, and Arthit nodded, taking deep breaths as he glanced at himself on the nearby classroom window. He made sure to keep his appearance as neat and as proper as possible for his (second) first day on the job, and while seeing himself as a hazer again was still a jolt to his senses, it wasn’t as jarring as it had been the first time.

Now, his reflection felt like he was meeting an old, almost-forgotten friend, instead of a complete stranger, and it was a surprisingly comforting thought.

Tutah had already gotten permission from the professor, and Arthit took one last grounding exhale, placing his hands on his back, letting his expression bleed out into something more distant, more inscrutable. It was actually easier to change his expressions than his mindset, since everything just boiled down to ‘look as scary and as intimidating as possible’.

Then the professor left the first year class, and Arthit offered a wai as they entered, the first years immediately starting to talk amongst each other as they saw him amongst the group.

These youngsters couldn’t even gossip quietly. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, bits and pieces of the ensuing conversations reaching his ears. A simple look had all of them shutting up and straightening out in their seats, and some part of him was actually giddy that he still commanded that level of terror and grudging respect among the freshmen.

“I have something to tell you,” he started off, authoritative, looking around and meeting each of their gazes evenly. “For the next week, the freshmen gathering will be cancelled temporarily, so you can all participate in the upcoming activities for the Freshy Games.” He didn’t dare slide his eyes towards the spot where he knew his boyfriend was sitting, lest he lost his nerve, speaking in front of the first years again.

“And I’m requiring you all to participate in every single activity, and to give it your all.” He continued firmly. “I hope this is not beyond your ability to do so.”

It was both a challenge and a threat, and from the way the nongs looked at each other, they realized that as well.

Arthit let the silence linger for a moment, letting the words sink in, before turning to leave.

But not before taking one last look behind his back, allowing his gaze to coolly travel to the other side of the room, meeting the stare of the one person whose reaction mattered to him the most.

And Kongpob did not disappoint.

His boyfriend… looked absolutely starstruck. His fingers were loose around his bag and his jaw was slack, his eyes darting up and down Arthit’s figure, as if making sure that he was seeing what he thought he was looking at correctly. It took a new nudges of his friend, Aim, to jolt the other back to himself, but as he turned his head to listen to what his fellow freshman was saying, his eyes seemed to wander back to Arthit like a magnet, a mixture of disbelief and elation on his face.

He was so blatantly obvious Arthit wanted to scold him, because how could he look so openly in front of his yearmates? But he had stayed inside the room long enough, and finally left, his friends following after him soon after.

“Good job,” Prem grunted once they were a significant distance away from the freshmen classrooms, squeezing his shoulder. “Welcome back, Ai’Oon.”

“Thanks, Ai’Prem,” Arthit said, his gratitude not even a front as he felt his shoulders lose their earlier tension. “It’s good to be back with you guys.”

“Well, we all did make a promise, didn’t we? You’re not getting out of your part, Ai’Arthit,” Tutah said, playfully stern, and they all shared a laugh as they went back to the third-year side of the faculty building.

All the while, Arthit kept a close eye on his phone, mildly surprised that it wasn’t blowing up with messages at this point; he was pretty sure that the news of his return would be circulating among the juniors already. Checking the school forums the story had gone out already, with hundreds of reactions and comments, but the one Arthit had been waiting for still hadn’t come.

Perhaps… a small push was necessary?

Liked my surprise, Kong? He couldn’t resist the urge to text first, sure that the younger would be able to sense the teasing tone in the message.

But to his shock, his phone started ringing instead, and Arthit quickly slid his finger across the screen to answer before any of his friends could see the name on the screen.

(Something completely different and new, again. Before he would have never taken the risk, would have excused himself and hid in some corner before texting the younger.

But being with Kongpob… made him feel it was okay. That he could take a step forward, and not be afraid of the consequences that might happen.

After all, he could simply take a step back, and find himself safe and secure in his boyfriend’s strong, loving arms.)

“P’Arthit, is it true? Did I just see it right?” The younger’s voice asked without preamble, sounding breathless. “Are you finally head hazer again?”

“Yeah, it is,” Arthit answered, couldn’t stop the soft huff of laughter that escaped him, making his friends look at him curiously. “You’re completely right.”

“P’, I’m so happy for you,” Kongpob said, all sincere and heartfelt happiness for him. “See, I knew you would be back soon enough.” There wasn’t even a hint of smugness in his tone, just genuine delight, and it made the upper left side of Arthit’s torso feel squishy and mushy, all of a sudden.

Damn it, the younger really was so good to him.

“Yeah yeah, I know I should have listened to you,” Arthit answered with a slight roll to his eyes that didn’t quite hide the fondness of his tone, and he knew the other could hear it clearly. “Are you happy now?”

“Very much, P’.” Kongpob answered seriously, earnestly. “Should we celebrate? It’s a really important event for you.”

“No way,” Arthit shook his head immediately, tone firm. “It’s not that important. You have other things to focus on,” like the Moon and Star University Contest and the Freshy Games, “so go back to what you’re doing, I know you’re busy right now.”

“I’ll see you later then, P’Ai-Oon. Text me when you’re free.” The warmth in the other’s voice was unmistakable. “Thank you for the surprise. I loved it.”

“Idiot, who said it was for you?” Arthit replied with a scoff, and dropped the call, but not before hearing the chuckles that made his chest feel as if it was inflated with light air, that made him feel like he could float to the sky.

“Hey, hey…” Knot commented mildly as Arthit placed his phone down, with a meaningful look in his eyes that cottoned Arthit to the fact that the other had already connected the dots. “That’s a rather big smile on your face, my friend. Dare I ask who you were just talking to?”

“I’ve never heard you sound so soft before, Ai’Oon,” Tutah goggled at him, peering at him through the edges of his glasses with raised eyebrows. “Just who was that? Namtan?”

“No one.” Arthit answered with a straight face, pocketing his phone. He didn’t even react when Bright snatched it out of his jeans pocket and attempted to unlock it, hearing the other groan when he saw the rather plain screensaver instead. Ha. As if Arthit was going to give away his secrets that easily. “Let’s go. We need to assign the second-years’ tasks for Freshy Week.”

“Oi, Ai’Arthit, you’re not being fair!” Bright called after him as he finally ducked inside a classroom, plucking his phone out of the other’s hands. The other’s tone was thoroughly offended, as the rest of his friends exchanged incredulous glances. “Are you seeing someone right now?! What the hell was that conversation all about, huh?!”


It seemed like the younger couldn’t wait until Arthit texted to see him for himself.

It was just the end of afternoon classes, and Arthit was just about to tell his boyfriend that he was finally free when he received a text from the other, asking him to meet near the gymnasium where the signups were happening for the different sports competitions for the Freshy Games.

A little curious as to the reason why, Arthit agreed, and made the long trek to the Sports Science faculty, since he was going there anyway with his friends to check the list of the freshmen who signed up to play for a sport.

He finally spied a familiar figure waiting on the path near the main entrance of the building, and approached the younger as casually as he could make it, raising an eyebrow at the other when their gazes managed to meet.

“Why here?” He asked, but instead of answering verbally, Kongpob reached out to grasp his wrist, with a strangely determined glint in his eye.

“Come with me, P’.”

“Hey, where—?!” Arthit nearly stumbled over his own feet as he was forced to follow the younger, the two of them going through the side pathways instead, one less traveled by students and teachers because it wrapped around the building.

But the other didn’t stop just there, dragging Arthit deeper and closer to the back of the Sports Science building, where the flat, windowless concrete walls have started to touch the cluster of trees that were always present around the entire university.

“Kong, what the hell are you doing?!” He yelped as he was finally released, but in less than a second, the younger had turned to him, with a certain look in his eye that quickly ensured Arthit’s silence, his pulse starting to flutter wildly.

Why… was his boyfriend looking at him like that?

“Kong…?”

But the other didn’t say a word, expression curiously intent, starting to move closer to him.

And closer. And closer.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and Arthit couldn’t quite help the way his foot took more than a few steps back in response. It felt… dangerous, to be around his boyfriend right now, and while he wasn’t scared, not exactly, there was… an unease filling him as he tried to keep the distance between them.

But he wasn’t aware of his surroundings enough, his shoulder finally colliding with concrete behind him, and his split-second of distraction had dearly cost him.

Like a predator finally cornering its prey, Kongpob pounced, slamming his hand on the wall beside Arthit’s head, using their meager height difference to press him against the building completely.

“Please don’t leave, P’.”

It wasn’t a request.

Despite having only an arm stopping him from escaping this strange situation, the younger’s tone still remained as polite and as formal as ever, but Arthit had the distinct feeling of being trapped. He resisted the urge to squirm as the younger looked him over from top to bottom, his dark gaze feeling like burning coals being raked on top of Arthit’s skin.

It still didn’t stop Arthit’s bewilderment. “Kong, what…?”

“It’s real,” He heard the other murmur to himself, in complete wonder. “You’re really wearing the hazer uniform, P’Ai-Oon.”

Normally Arthit would have had something to say about the statement of the obvious, but he suddenly couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, the lump in his throat steadily growing as he saw the younger’s hand trace the lapel of his workshop shirt, the action simple but undeniably deliberate.

It was as if Kongpob was in a trance, fingers trailing up the edge of the shirt, eyes taking in the dark maroon shade, the embroidered logo of the yellow engineering faculty on the right side, the initials of Arthit’s course, with an intensity that almost burned. Fingers dipped into the sewn-in pockets, before drifting up, fingertips feather-light as it skimmed the point of the collar, weaving down to pluck at the topmost button that would have closed the shirt around his neck, before drawing away.

To Arthit, every touch seemed to be amplified exponentially, the other leaving a trail of warmth on his skin, even through the clothes he was wearing. He could feel his breaths quickening, the blush on his face spreading, as Kongpob finally met his eyes, black swallowing his boyfriend’s irises completely as a bottom lip was caught in between pearly white teeth. He kept staring at Arthit…

… as if he was a meal to be devoured.

Arthit managed to swallow, felt his mouth turn dry, all protests gone and scattered to the winds as he felt fingers finally drift to his black undershirt, setting itself low on his torso. He couldn’t move, couldn’t look away either, as he felt his shirt slowly wrinkle as Kongpob’s hand closed into a fist, and no, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t lift it up, there was no way he was going to expose Arthit’s stomach like this, not here, please, no

Kongpob paused, and Arthit knew he could feel it, the sudden flex of his abdominal muscles against the other’s knuckles. The younger’s gaze instantly darted to his face, studying him intently, and whatever he saw made him ease his hold, as well as the tightness that was starting to coil inside Arthit’s gut.

His boyfriend’s gaze softened a fraction, and leaned in to press a quick kiss to the edge of Arthit’s jaw, a quiet assurance.

But whatever relief he would have felt was swiftly swept away when the younger did something else that’s worse, or better, depending on one’s opinion.

Arthit felt the other’s hand slowly trailing up instead, palm splayed out and fingers spread, sometimes curling into a caress, sending a current under his clothed flesh, making the hairs of his skin rise. Kongpob could feel every quiver, every shake of his ribs as he finally reached the planes of Arthit’s chest, feeling the shallow but firm indents of muscle under flesh.

Kong…” His voice was weak, pleading, because they needed to stop. They were still in school, they were out in the open, with anyone seeing them if they just thought to look around the back of the building, but his body wouldn’t listen, knees close to collapsing as his fingers scratched against the wall behind him, trying to find purchase, balance, as he struggled to take in air.

“Shh… it’s all right, P’. No one will look for us here.”

Arthit didn’t miss the mischievous sparkle that appeared in the other eyes, deepening his already dark gaze as his hand shifted slightly, changing directions as fingertips closed around the edges of his left pectoral and squeezed.

His boyfriend just groped his chest, and the small, wanton sound that escaped from Arthit’s lips was something he would never confess to, even under the pain of death.

“P’Arthit, you’re unbelievably sexy when you’re dressed like this.” The younger whispered, voice low and rough, a single point of contact between their bodies keeping Arthit’s entire back pressed against the wall. “I really want to take you apart right now.”

His palm moved back to place itself against Arthit’s sternum, simply resting, but still it jumped at him, craving the sensations the younger had given it a taste of as his breath choked out of him.

Arthit knew the other could feel his heart banging against his ribcage, chasing after the other like the sun going after the moon. And his chest stuttered, completely against his will, as Kongpob’s other hand left the wall to stroke the side of his head, expression still full of awe, but now mixed with heat as his palm brushed the edges of Arthit’s parted, gelled hair.

“Will you let me?” His boyfriend murmured, standing so close now Arthit could smell him, the mint of his shampoo, the masculine musk that uniquely belonged to the younger alone. Warm breath fanned against his face, the younger’s gaze darting between his eyes and his mouth, as his fingers traced the shell of Arthit’s probably scarlet-tinged ear. A thumb and forefinger eventually played with the hoop earring attached to his earlobe, the other three fingers curled at the joint between his jaw and neck.

The hand that was on his chest slid up to curl around Arthit’s shoulder, drawing him closer, and Arthit could feel his eyes lowering at half-mast, lips already parting in welcome as his hands clutched at the younger’s waist.

“P’Ai-Oon, please?” Kongpob breathed against his lips, the tension between them so thick Arthit felt like his legs were going to give at any moment.

He’s been stretched so thin, that at any moment he was going to shatter, because he wanted, wanted the other so badly he was ready to beg for it. Why was his boyfriend even asking? Was it because he liked seeing Arthit so desperate for him, that he enjoyed reducing him into this shameless, needy thing?

But no, there was no hint of mischief on the other’s face this time, just a quiet ache that reflected the yearning Arthit held in his own heart, as Kongpob inhaled in the same air he let out.

(Because Kongpob would never touch him without permission. Because he would never do anything without Arthit’s consent, and it was that thought, that truth, that made Arthit’s chest throb with something else altogether, something more and deeper and significant.

It was more than enough to steal the remaining breath in his lungs away.)

His fingers shook as it scrabbled for a hold, clawing up the younger’s uniform, until it finally managed to twist his own fingers around a scrap of cloth, winding it around his palm like a leash.

“Just kiss me if you want to do it, you bastard,” Arthit said breathlessly, yanking at his boyfriend’s tie and finally closing the barest gap between them, a groan releasing deep in his throat as he finally tasted moist heat, bitter coffee and unrestrained sweetness.

He couldn’t stop. Couldn’t help his head from tilting to the side, from suckling at the other’s lips, as their tongues twisted and tangled together. It wasn’t enough, he needed to feel Kongpob closer, deeper, a whimper escaping him as the soft, wet sound of their kisses rasped into his ears.

Distantly he heard an answering groan, a whisper of his name dissolving in the wind.

His body crashed against the wall as his boyfriend used his miniscule height advantage to cage him completely against the painted concrete. But he couldn’t care any less, the additional support a boon as he arched towards the other, fingers already digging into Kongpob’s back as their legs slotted together easily.

His mind had melted. There was no room for any rational thought, only the onslaught of sensation that threatened to drown him in its depths. There was a warm palm on Arthit’s nape that kept him grounded, that made him feel possessed, and the rush of pleasure the thought brought made him moan, only for the noise to be swallowed completely by the other, Kongpob’s talented lips and tongue making a thorough mess of him.

Desire slowly thickened like honey in his veins. The crush of Kongpob’s mouth over his own almost hurt, but it was a pain he relished in as his longing was steadily soothed, the intense desperation they both felt finally banked by the release of their passion.

Arthit didn’t know how long they stayed there, nibbling and sucking at each other’s lips, clutching and chasing after the other the moment one would pull back, until all he could feel was the swell and growing tenderness of his own mouth, the sensation of soft, large hands curled around his neck, his jaw.

Eventually, like the rain constantly spattering over an open flame, their touches softened, their holds loosened, and with one final, drawn out, lingering kiss, his boyfriend finally, finally withdrew. His eyes were completely dark, managing to retain just the last hints of restraint, shoulders heaving as he breathed hard.

Their foreheads pressed together as they both struggled to keep a lid on their desires. Kongpob leaned forward to bury his head on Arthit’s shoulder, arms wrapping around his back, and it was almost unbearable, to be torn away from each other like this, difficult to rein in what had already been spilled.

But with time and each other’s silent support, they would both manage it, if only just.

Arthit also took the reprieve to calm himself down, to let himself feel something else other than the rush of blood in his ears or hear the loud, staccato beats of his heart, trying his best not to focus on his boyfriend’s harsh breathing against his bare neck. His awareness came back just in time to realize his phone was vibrating against his thigh, and he pawed at the front pocket of his jeans, fingers still clumsy and uncooperative like the rest of his body. He shifted slightly, trying his best not to dislodge the younger from his shoulder, leaving enough space for the device to slide out.

It took a few tries for him to slide at the answer button on the screen, but Arthit managed it with a small sound of triumph. He felt, more than heard, the younger chuckle against him, and Arthit tugged at the other’s hair in light reprimand as he finally raised the phone to his ear.

“… Yeah?” He rasped, closing his eyes and sagging against the wall, fingers weakly patting his boyfriend’s head as Kongpob pressed a series of kisses on his neck, making him shudder as the other tried to calm himself down. “What’s up, Ai’Bright?”

“Arthit, where the fuck are you? We’ve been looking all over for you, man! Let’s go, we still have to check the list of the freshmen participating in the sports events!”

“Look at you, Bright, acting all responsible recently,” Arthit couldn’t help but mutter petulantly, and felt his boyfriend start to laugh silently against his collarbone, amusement rolling off the other in waves.

Oi, what was that?

“Nothing! Sorry, I got distracted and lost the track of time,” he mumbled back, trying his hardest to think properly again, trying to swat at the younger to let him up as he shook his head in an attempt to clear it. “I’ll meet you in front of the gym in a few minutes.”

“Yeah, yeah. And don’t think I didn’t hear that remark, Ai’Shit Arthit!” With a final swear, Bright ended the call, and Arthit dropped his arm, phone held loosely in his hand as he sighed.

He allowed himself a few seconds to savor this quiet moment of them, of just breathing and simply being, enjoying the sensation of being together with the person he loved.

But the world was waiting for them to return, and with great reluctance, he patted in between his boyfriend’s shoulder blades, placing his phone back in his jeans pocket.

“… Kong, I need to go.”

“P’, so do I.” Kongpob muttered, but he seemed disinclined to move from his position. To be honest, Arthit was too. “Aim just texted me, asking me where I was.” Arthit looked down just in time to see the other also looking through his phone with one hand, the other still splayed on Arthit’s lower back.

“You’re still signing up to play?” He asked, surprised. “Don’t you have to participate in the University Contest? Which sport?”

“I’ve already promised Aim that I’ll join the basketball team, but I’ll ask if I can play as a substitute. I’m too busy preparing for the University contest to fully commit. Aim will understand that.” His boyfriend pocketed his phone and returned to hanging onto Arthit like a limpet. The warmth and familiar weight was pleasant, but Arthit was also glad that the wall was supporting them both; Kongpob wasn’t light in the slightest. “Also, it would be unfair if I just back out on Aim and not with the group I’ve also promised my help in.”

“What?” Arthit was in disbelief. “Just how many activities are you planning to take a part in?”

If this was the younger trying to be a hero again—

But Kongpob was quickly shaking his head.

“Don’t worry, P’. I just have to help out one other group, the grandstand cheering team, apart from the basketball team. The cheering team’s work is relatively light, but I promise I won’t push myself too hard and to talk to them if I need a break.”

“You better,” Arthit huffed, somewhat mollified by the assurance. His boyfriend was an overachiever in some aspects, always trying to do too much all at the same time, and it often got on his nerves. Still, basketball was a good choice; Kongpob had experience with it and he played the game often, though he could never hope to beat Arthit’s killer three-pointers and free throw shots. There was a reason why they won their game against the sports science majors during their time. “Hm. I’m sure N’Tim will agree to you being a sub if you asked him. What about the contest? You have to prepare something in the talent portion, right?”

“I still have no idea what to do.” Kongpob shrugged. “But even if I did, I still won’t tell you, P’.”

Oh? Arthit was intrigued. “Keeping secrets from me, 0062?”

“Only because you kept this a secret from me first.” The other tugged at Arthit’s workshop shirt meaningfully. “And if I don’t tell you, P’ will have no choice but to come and watch my performance on stage to see it for himself.” He added cheerfully.

Arthit cuffed the other’s jaw lightly for his sheer cheek, and in response, he felt something warm and wet slide against his collarbone. A gasp escaped him, and his fist instantly smacked against the younger’s shoulder.

“If you leave any marks where people can see I’m killing you, Suthiluck.” His voice was a tad less threatening and more breathless than he would have preferred.

“I’m not. I promise. Just… you taste sweet, P’. I thought it would have a hint of the spice, but I was wrong.” Another gentle kiss to the column of his throat. Arthit shivered again, wondering what his boyfriend was even talking about, and this time, felt the other smile against his skin.

“Does that mean I can leave them in places where people couldn’t see?” Kongpob asked instead, both innocent and downright impertinent, and that’s it, time for them to leave this place before they got distracted and carried away again.

With a firm tug on the other’s hair, they managed to untangle themselves from one another, finally getting a good look at the other’s face. Arthit briefly shut his eyes as he felt the side of a hand rubbing at his cheek, removing the thin layer of heat and sweat that covered his skin.

“P’, you look like a mess.” The younger’s voice was fond, fingers combing back the strands of Arthit’s hair that now fell down his forehead.

“Yeah? Well, so do you,” Arthit retorted, critically looking his boyfriend over to see the overall damage. Kongpob looked like an absolute wreck, eyes bright and unfocused, white shirt rumpled and tie tugged loose around his neck. There was no way no one wouldn’t know what the other had just been up to, though his tanner skin actually helped him hide most of the evidence.

Arthit, with his fairer complexion, was not doing himself any favors.

The sheer ridiculousness of their situation finally caught up to him, and a helpless laugh bubbled out from Arthit’s throat while he also fixed the other’s messy hair, pushing the loosened tie knot back up against the younger’s throat.

“God, what are we doing, Kong?”

“I’m sorry. I just had to… see you for myself.” At least Kongpob had the grace to look chastised, despite the light humor also tingeing his home. He now smoothed down the crushed collar of Arthit’s workshop shirt, tugging at the lapels in an attempt to straighten it out again. How did that even happen? When did that happen? Arthit couldn’t even remember. “But P’…”

Kongpob’s thumb brushed under his lower lip, the younger’s mouth tilted up as the other glanced at him playfully.

“You were the one who kissed me.”

Arthit flushed. “Keep quiet.” He didn’t need that reminder.

After a few more minutes of primping and scrimping at each other’s appearances, they mutually decided that they had done the best they could do, the wide, pleased grin on the younger’s face making Arthit smile back at him helplessly.

He couldn’t help himself, and darted forward to press one last kiss on his boyfriend’s lips. Out of everything they had just done, this was the one that made shyness curl around his chest, quickly rubbing at his mouth as he looked away, face warming again.

(As if that would help remove the lingering sensation of his boyfriend’s touch that was already branded on him.)

“Let’s go before they suspect more than they already do.”

“Okay, P’.” The younger answered peaceably, still happily dazed and looking as if nothing could possibly bother him right now.

It was honestly starting to irk Arthit a little. Stupid, smug, handsome, thoughtful boyfriend.

They started to walk back, still unable to make themselves hurry up despite the clear urgency. Somewhere along the way their fingers found and tangled loosely with each other, and it was only when they caught sight of the main road that Arthit pulled at the younger’s wrist so Kongpob was in front instead of him.

“Go ahead,” he said, gesturing the other to leave with a nudge of his head. “Meet your friends first. I’ll follow.” They couldn’t be seen walking together, after all.

“P’, are you sure?” The younger, however, seemed like he didn’t want to leave Arthit’s side anytime soon, still looking so casually unkempt Arthit was sure would invite a lot of questions if anyone the younger knew saw him right now. Kongpob had never looked so… distracted before, and the blissful expression on his face was just a dead giveaway.

Seriously, was his boyfriend not even going to try?

“Get going already,” Arthit insisted, refusing to let the heat overtake his face again, as their fingers finally slipped from each other’s grasp. “Fix your shirt, and please, don’t look so obvious.”

Kongpob just nodded back, looking a little out of it still, stumbling as he rejoined the crowds on the main street. It left Arthit to stare after him with no small amounts of enamored despair and fond exasperation.

For goodness' sakes, what was he to do with his ridiculous boyfriend?

Once the other was finally gone from the immediate vicinity Arthit opened his camera app to really see how he looked. He wouldn’t put it past Kongpob to put a hickey on his neck where everyone else could see.

But a quick and thorough check revealed that the other kept to his words, revealing his overall disheveled appearance, the noticeable blush on his face and neck, the slight swell and dark rose color of his lips.

Fuck. His boyfriend wasn’t kidding when he said Arthit looked like a mess. Kongpob… didn’t know the first thing when it came to holding back, but this time, Arthit had no one to blame but himself.

Time for another Oscar-worthy performance it was, then.


Finally rejoining his friends at the entrance of the gymnasium was a heart attack and a half. Arthit had to force himself into looking more grumpy and irritated than he really didn’t feel. He hoped to Buddha they couldn’t see how flustered he was, how cold and clammy his hands were. He slapped his face a few times before arriving, just to have the look of someone who was just rudely woken up and was in a sincerely bad mood because of it.

“I fell asleep in the library and tripped on my face as I tried to get up on the desk, okay,” he scowled as his friends started to poke at his tardiness and general untidiness. “Give me a break, today is a lot for me.”

“Hmm…” Most of his group seemed to accept his explanation, but Knot had a considering look on his face as he glanced at Arthit, and Bright was squinting at him suspiciously, as if he knew something was off, but just not knowing what.

But even Arthit knew that prompting them to talk was inviting misfortune on his part, so keeping his face straight, he tucked his hands into his workshop shirt pockets (that long tanned fingers delicately traced the edges of, no, Arthit, don’t think about it—), kicking at them to get this task done and ever with.

When they entered the indoor basketball court, Kongpob was already there with his friends, a bit aways off from the registration booth. To Arthit’s relief, his boyfriend looked like he was back to his usual self, talking to another freshman, white shirt tucked in, tie knotted properly, the wrinkles made by Arthit’s fingers barely noticeable.

Tutah and Bright rifled through the sign-up sheets, and Arthit pursed his lips as they realized that the number of freshmen playing was smaller than usual. Not good. Not only that, but some of the students that were going to be a part of the teams weren’t that physically fit.

They were going to lose the engineering faculty’s winning streak, and Arthit, as this year’s head hazer, had to ensure that never came to pass.

“All right. Call the freshmen in,” he said, turning around and sitting on the desk as Tutah called for the assembly of the first years participating.

Arthit crossed his arms until everyone was accounted for, standing in front of him and waiting for his next words.

“I called you all here,” he started, carefully not looking at the direction where his boyfriend was standing, “not because I want to train you or give you advice. I’m here to let you know that our Faculty of Engineering has never been defeated ever since the start of the Freshy Games was held.”

His words sent a shockwave throughout the first years listening.

“We’ve always been number one. I hope that I don’t have to witness…” His eyes finally flickered to the younger, lingering for a short moment as their eyes met, before addressing the group once more.

“… everything that we accomplished ending here at your year.”

“But the Freshy Games are supposed to build unity among freshmen,” one of Kongpob’s friends said, with a mutinous look on his face that he aimed primarily at Prem.

As Prem sneered back, answering the freshman rather rudely, Arthit gave the other a warning look. They weren’t there to pick a fight with the nongs, for god’s sake.

But a fight was what both were obviously gearing for, as voices slowly raised and tempers flared between two people who were probably more similar than they thought.

“Stop it!” Arthit bellowed as he glared at the two, finally being held back by their respective sides as they attempted to punch each other’s faces. “Why are you two always picking fights?! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?! Prem, stand down! You, calm down!”

He pinched his fingers against the bridge of his nose, trying to be the calm, sensible one inside the room.

Buddha, why did things have to turn this badly so quickly? The earlier moment he had with his boyfriend at the back of the building seemed like a dream to him, at this point.

“You wanted to know the reason, right?” He snapped at the younger student, who was still being held back by his boyfriend. Kongpob looked weary, apologetic when his gaze turned to Arthit, but he understood. This problem was clearly between those two knuckleheads, and Arthit wanted nothing to do with their issue. Or unresolved sexual tension. Or whatever it was that made them act out like this to each other. “Fine. I’ll tell you.” He placed his hands on his waist.

“You’re new students here, so to you, the Freshy Games might be just ordinary competitions.” Arthit swept his gaze over the freshmen, making sure they understood his words. “But to me, this is a test to prove your capability, to see if you have what it takes to be in the Faculty of Engineering. The more serious you are about these competitions, the more you prove to me that you earnestly give importance to them.” In the real world, no job was too small, no task too insignificant.

“But if you take these things for granted, and give up before you even tried, then you’re not worthy to be students of the faculty.” Because everything needed hard work. And their parents worked hard to give these freshmen the opportunity to study here. Even if they didn’t succeed, at least they knew they had done their best, stopping any regrets that might happen in the future.

But still their mindset should always remain competitive. It was a harsh world, and only those with the drive and ambition to succeed made it to where they wanted to be.

“We will win for sure.”

Arthit closed his eyes briefly, letting his head drop before tilting it to the side to observe the younger with a squint.

There Kongpob went, speaking for his friends again. But there was confidence and self-assurance in his tone and expression that… wasn’t exactly unwarranted.

After all, his boyfriend was more stubborn than a mule if he honestly put his mind to something. Add his natural talents, and it was a dangerous combination.

If the younger said that something was going to happen, then it was going to happen, by hook or by crook.

At times, his boyfriend’s tenacity was genuinely admirable. At other times, it was just insufferable.

“Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the talk. Bear in mind that you’re the representative of the freshmen.” Arthit said, with a tilt of his head towards the other freshmen in the group. Sure, he had confidence in Kongpob’s abilities since he knew of them personally, but what about the others? “You carry the dreams and aspirations of your entire year class.”

It was a heavy responsibility, and he made sure the younger knew it as Kongpob briefly glanced towards his classmates.

“I know that fully well. That’s why I said we will win for sure.”

Still, Kongpob’s answer wouldn’t change.

“I’ll prove to you that us first years have what it takes to be engineering students here too.”

And Arthit didn’t expect it to.

His boyfriend actually looked delighted at the prospect, eyes glittering excitedly at the presented challenge, and Arthit resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The younger really was a glutton for punishment and body ache, wasn’t he?

(“P’Arthit, you seem to enjoy punishing me.”)

His fingers bit into his skin. Nope, no, wrong time to think about that, definitely not the time and place to place those words in a completely different context.

“Good.” He conceded with an incline of his head, barely managing to keep his voice even and collected. “We’ll look forward to it.”

With one last cold look, Arthit turned his back on the first years, only allowing himself to stretch his head and neck as he and his friends came through the double doors. Urgh. Another part of being head hazer that he didn’t miss.

“Hey,” Bright tapped him on the shoulder as they left. “You shouldn’t have stopped Prem. Been a while since I’ve seen him fight.”

Arthit ignored him, turning to the current troublemaker instead. “You should think thoroughly before you do anything,” Arthit told Prem, rebuking, stopping in his tracks to face the others completely. “Don’t lose yourself to your emotions easily. The teachers are closely monitoring us, you know?” And Arthit was not wasting the second chance that his idiot friends worked hard for in the first place. Seriously, did they want their efforts to be for nothing? “If you’re like that, those juniors will never respect us.”

“Yeah, but your 0062 boy…” Bright said thoughtfully, and Arthit instantly stiffened. “He likes to get into other people’s business, doesn’t he?”

And oh, how right Bright was. “It’s in his nature,” he grumbled, looking away, because his friends didn’t even know half of it, the stress Arthit usually went through because Kongpob was being a busybody again. “I’m sick of punishing him too.” Because he never wanted to in the first place, but it was what his position demanded him to do.

“He acts like he can do anything,” Knot was frowning, and it concerned Arthit for a second, because was it disapproval? Did his friend not like people like that? “Can he really do it?”

But if there was one thing he knew…

It was that when his boyfriend decided on something, he would do everything in his power to achieve it.

Because out of all people he could have in the world, Kongpob had to choose the most hard-headed, stubborn man to woo and pursue. To love, freely and openly, without any conditions or restrictions.

And in the end, he managed to capture Arthit’s heart.

“Don’t underestimate him.” He muttered under his breath, suddenly feeling like to defend his boyfriend’s honor.

Because Kongpob had already shown Arthit that he would, and had proved to him, in multiple ways, that he still could.

This time, it would be his faith that would be tested, but Arthit wasn’t worried at all.

Because he believed in Kongpob wholeheartedly. The younger would never let him down.

“Huh? Did you say something?”

“Ha? Nothing,” His eyebrows shot up in alarm as he shook his head, turning to leave the gymnasium. Damn it, he internally berated himself for accidentally blurting his thoughts out loud. “Let’s go.”

Once again his friends exchanged looks, but Arthit barely paid them any attention, a thumb absentmindedly drifting up to the corner of his lip as they passed by a familiar side path that Arthit was just on perhaps just an hour ago.

(A heated gaze, harsh gasps against his equally panting mouth, the taste of caffeine heavy on Arthit’s tongue as a hoarse voice murmured his name.

“P’Arthit…” )

“Hey, Arthit, what’s going on? Wait. Are you blushing?”

“N-No! It’s hot outside! Hurry up already!”

Chapter Text

Once again, time and circumstance had forced Kongpob away from his beloved P’Arthit.

… Well, he didn’t have to be completely dramatic about it, but it was the truth; the SSU Freshy Week had definitely taken up all of his free time. There was just so many things to do in so little time, and if Kongpob hadn’t learned a long time ago to manage his time (whipped into shape by his older boyfriend, actually, who emphasized the skill as the most important thing he should learn while in university), he would have been swamped with work almost instantly.

But as it was, it meant he couldn’t spend any more time with the older, which was… actually fine with P’Arthit, who needed to bring himself up to speed on his current hazing duties because of his suspension. Besides, the other insisted, Kongpob was being too clingy with him lately and he should spend more time with other people, particularly his friends.

Kongpob didn’t agree, he spent enough time with Aim, Oak, and Tew already, but… perhaps he could see the heart of the argument that his boyfriend probably couldn’t say out loud to his face.

I’m fine. You don’t have to look after me anymore. I’m not going to break.

There was no force in the world that would stop Kongpob from always looking after his boyfriend, but in respect of the older’s wishes, he didn’t push it further.

And, like P’Arthit all but commanded him to do, he immersed himself into getting ready for the Freshy Games and the Moon and Star University Content.

Once again, the older was right, because the amount of work Kongpob needed to do was staggering. Nightly gatherings for the contest participants to check their walks and their blocking on stage. Basketball games and drills in the morning for the upcoming faculty matches. And squeezing in what extra time he could for the cheering block, helping them make pompoms and paint banners.

He was so preoccupied he couldn’t even text his boyfriend, much less talk to him, because Kongpob just straight passed out on his bed the moment he arrived in his dorm room, usually late at night. And that was before maintaining his grades for his complete semester load (which he still needed to keep up with, extracurricular activities were no excuse) and his and Prae’s joint practices for the contest, having decided to do their talent portion as a duo.

It was getting to be a bit too much for him by this point, but Kongpob was nothing if not stubborn, remembering his declaration in front of the third-year hazers.

“I’ll prove to you that us first years have what it takes to be engineering students here too.”

(He suddenly remembered the promise he made to his P’Ai-Oon, to take it easy when it was starting to get overwhelming, and felt more than a little twinge of guilt in his chest.

He silently prayed in his heart for the older to forgive him for breaking that promise a little. Even if his boyfriend had no idea, Kongpob would always want to keep his word when it came to their relationship.

It was for his own good, after all. And he always got the best possible outcome when he listened to P’Arthit.

But this time the stakes were just a bit more higher, and in the end, it was him trying to prove to himself, first and foremost, that he could take anything the universe dared to throw at him.

All in the name of declaring himself as the most competent, most-suited man to stay by his P’Arthit’s side.)

His busy and completely filled schedule didn’t stop Kongpob from missing his boyfriend greatly. Especially when he was playing basketball. It was one of the few sports he and his boyfriend could play together, and he had experienced for himself how deadly the older’s lock on his three-point shots was. Kongpob would always lose to the other during a one-on-one, and that was already him genuinely trying his best to beat the other.

(One time, Kongpob, cocky and sure of himself, challenged his boyfriend to a free throw shootout, with a kiss as the reward if Kongpob managed to beat him.

Needless to say, P’Arthit absolutely wiped the floor with him, and Kongpob ended up doing more pushups than he ever conceived afterwards, while the other looked after him, thoroughly entertaining himself with Kongpob’s (well-deserved) misery.

At least Kongpob hoped his boyfriend enjoyed the view.)

But P’Arthit had never withheld his knowledge from Kongpob, always teaching him better ways on how to do things, shooting baskets added. And it really paid off, seeing his improvement while he was playing with Aim, Wad, and the rest of the team.

But even his increased talents and his honestly refreshing time with his friends in the cheering team didn’t stop the complete exhaustion Kongpob felt afterwards.

And tonight, it had all come to a head.

He staggered away from his friends, waving goodbye to them as he made the short (but to him, unbearably long) trip back to his room. It was supposed to be the basketball team’s rest day, because it was important to be at 100 percent for the matches tomorrow, but a sudden change in the match lineup had them reconsidering their strategy, and they had to do a few matches to get the dynamics between the players right.

Not only that, but Aim had decided to stop by the cheering group that night to see if there was anything they could still help with, and Kongpob was forced to come along to help the rest of his friends, since he did promise he’d lend a hand with anything they needed extra assistance with.

Damn it. His vision was starting to become blurry. Kongpob stifled a yawn with one hand, dragging his feet through the concrete sidewalk as he held the strap of his sports bag with the other. There were still people around, the sun had just set, and it was just the time when other students also living in the dorms started to go out to get something to eat.

Well, with how tired he was, dinner was definitely not going to be an option tonight.

Kongpob could almost collapse in relief when he finally saw the dorm blocks become visible at the distance. He couldn’t even muster the energy to hurry up, letting his legs continue their snail’s pace towards the familiar building.

This was bad. His mind was starting to fog up. Kongpob shook his head, finally stepping into the lobby, his body instinctively taking him to the elevators. He rested against the side of the elevator when it opened up for him, and not even the cool metal against his skin wasn’t enough to jolt some awareness into his senses.

If a crime happened right in front of him right there and then he wouldn’t be even able to realize it was going on in the first place. His entire being was just screaming go home right now, and Kongpob agreed with it wholeheartedly.

He tripped on his feet the moment the elevator doors opened, just barely managing to catch himself by using the nearest wall to keep himself upright, before his face met the tiled floor. Kongpob tried to stifle another yawn, but couldn’t quite manage it, squinting towards the long, bright hallway that would lead him to his final destination.

So close, and yet, so far.

The last few minutes to the room was absolute torture. He felt his limbs grow heavier the more time passed, his hands blindly and feebly fishing for his keys inside his large sports bag. Present-Kongpob was trying his best not to blame past-Kongpob for not having the insight to place his keys in a more easily accessible but still relatively hidden pocket, finally filching the metal ring out as he allowed his body to bring him back right where he belonged.

His mind felt so stuffed with cotton he couldn’t pay attention to the direction he was going even if he tried. He finally felt his shoulder collide (rather painfully) with the last doorway in the hallway, his own, and the relief he felt was palpable as Kongpob completely leaned against it.

Almost there. Just one last thing he needed to do, and he was home free.

The jingle of his metal keyring against his fingers sounded like a video game’s victory chime as Kongpob slid his key into the lock, could almost taste sweet, sweet relaxation as he turned the knob and…

And… nothing happened.

Kongpob stopped, gazing at the door knob in rising disbelief.

No way.

He tried again, this time double-checking that it was the right key to his front door, but the doorknob still wouldn’t budge.

Of all the— why wouldn’t the door open?! He was right there! He was so close! Why?!

Kongpob rattled the doorknob again, this time in complete frustration, as he pressed his head against the smoothened, painted grain, groaning loudly.

Why was this happening to him now? He just wanted to get to his bed and sleep. Was that too much to ask from the universe?

This was what happened when he didn’t listen to his boyfriend. Kongpob was reaping the fruits of his labor, and he only had himself to blame.

… He wished P’Arthit was there with him right now. The older would know what to do.

And just when Kongpob was deciding between shouldering the door open, just sleeping outside against his doorway like a homeless person, or calling the family driver to take him back to the house, no matter how long it would take him to get to the university the next day (the best sensible decision, though taking a nap on the corridor seemed to be more and more tempting the more seconds passed)—

The doorknob rattled, and unexpectedly swung open from the other side.

“Hey, whoever you are, if you’re trying to destroy my door I swear I’ll— Kongpob?”

There, right in front of him, appearing straight out of Kongpob’s wishful thinking, was his beloved P’Arthit.

The older’s hair was completely down today, wearing his favorite ratty band shirt and basketball shorts that Kongpob had immediately recognized as his lounge and sleepwear. He was also completely surprised, judging by the way the other was staring at Kongpob right now, eyes wide and lips slightly parted.

Why was P’Arthit here? Didn’t Kongpob go inside his own dorm building? Did his boyfriend tell him he was staying in Kongpob's room for the night and he just forgot?

But as he quickly took stock of their surroundings, he realized that the orientation of everything around him was the complete opposite of what he usually saw.

This wasn’t his dorm room building. This was P’Arthit’s dorm building. His feet, somehow, someway, led him straight here without his conscious knowledge.

What had possessed Kongpob to go inside the building across his own room and head straight to another person’s dorm without them knowing, even if that said person was the love of Kongpob’s life?

He just wanted to go home. And as he looked down at his shoes, utterly at a loss with himself, Kongpob just managed to have enough mental capacity to faintly realize why he was in front of his boyfriend right now, of all places.

Oh. So that was why.

Home, his body decided, was apparently with P’Arthit.

Kongpob felt the tug of a smile on his lips as he finally pitched forward, and felt himself caught by warm, always dependable arms.

“Hey— what happened?” His boyfriend sounded alarmed above his head, steadily holding him up as the older dragged him bodily through the doorstep, closing the door behind Kongpob’s back. “Kong, are you all right? Are you sick?”

He felt the familiar, soothing touch of his boyfriend’s hand, the back of it lightly pressed over his forehead. “You’re slightly warm…” There was a note of concern in P’Arthit’s voice, knuckles moving down to trace over his cheek. “Kong, what’s wrong?”

“I'm not sick, P’,” Kongpob murmured, happily tucking his nose into the curve of the other’s neck, inhaling the warmth, the citrus and lavender scent that still faintly clung onto the older’s skin. He could probably sleep like this, right here and now. He could already feel the pull, his mind starting to blank out, but he knew he had to explain himself, lest he made P’Arthit worry more for him.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb your night. I was just so tired after practice that… before I knew it… my feet have already brought me to you.”

He heard his boyfriend make a small, strangled, high-pitched noise that gave away his embarrassment, and Kongpob couldn’t quite stop his pleased smile in return. So cute.

“Even until now you’re still able to say such nonsense?” Kongpob’s bag was unceremoniously dropped to the floor, and Kongpob had somehow managed to take off his shoes and socks as he was led deeper into the space. “You’re practically dead on your feet. What has N’Tim been doing to you?”

“Not his fault. Our opponents… suddenly changed… for tomorrow…” Another yawn, and Kongpob automatically covered his mouth, eyelids so heavy he couldn’t muster the will to open them. “We had to… fix strategy…”

“I can’t even understand you right now. Okay,” his boyfriend huffed out in exasperation, tightening his arms around Kongpob’s torso, “new plan. Quick shower, then get on the bed. Have you eaten anything?”

A slow shake of the head. His boyfriend tsked disapprovingly, and felt the other pull back, only for Kongpob to feel a pair of lightly calloused hands running over his hair, cradling his head, as P’Arthit probably took a moment to observe him closely.

Kongpob leaned into his touch easily, a small, dopey smile lingering on his face. He always liked it when P’Arthit held him like this.

“I don’t like the idea of you going to sleep on an empty stomach, but you can’t even look at me right now. Can you manage to get into the bathroom, Kong?”

Kongpob gave it some serious thought, as much as he could anyway, and nodded. He could probably manage not to fall asleep under the shower, as long as he made it extra freezing.

He felt himself being led to the bathroom, where the touch of cold tile on his bare feet managed to jolt some awareness back into him. It was enough to make him open his eyes, and was greeted by the sight of the older frowning at him, one hand still resting on his lower back.

“Hello, P’,” Kongpob greeted, attempting to smile, but his boyfriend was not amused.

“Ten minutes,” P’Arthit warned, hand already closing in on the door handle. “Any more, and I’m coming in after you. I’ll get you a towel and something to wear in the meantime.”

“... Thank you, P’Arthit,” Kongpob murmured, grasping the hem of his shirt, too out of it to even make his usual half-teasing, half-serious ‘you can join me if you like’ quip.

And the clear realization of that made his boyfriend’s frown deepen a notch.

But his boyfriend soon left him alone, leaving Kongpob leaning against the sink, dazed and mind wandering as he stared at one corner of the repeating floor tiles.

He… should be doing something now, right? But he couldn’t… remember...

And soon he felt his head dropping to his chest, the quiet serenity of the small space lulling back into dreamland. But the click of the door opening again brought him back, and Kongpob startled as the door swung open, revealing his boyfriend with towels and a change of clothes at hand.

“Still haven’t started?” He watched as the other placed the things he had brought on the towel rack before turning to face him. “Kong, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine, P’.” But the answer came out heavier than he initially intended, an exhale of breath rather than the assurance as it was meant to be. Kongbob quietly watched as a hesitant expression crossed the other’s face, as if seriously weighing an important decision in his mind, seemingly coming to a decision as he sighed.

“Take off your shirt.”

When the words registered, Kongpob could only stare.

“... Excuse me?”

The older took a step forward, closing him against the bathroom counter, and even Kongpob’s fatigue-addled mind still had enough energy left to recognize the situation he was in right now.

“Take it off, Kong,” his boyfriend insisted, hands already curling around the hem of his shirt, pulling it up, and the spike of adrenaline that rushed through Kongpob at the sight instantly cleared his mind, heartbeat dramatically spiking.

“P’, I—” Did P’Arthit want to? Now? At any other time Kongpob would have had his clothes off in a blink, but now he was too tired and he really didn’t want to embarrass himself by passing out halfway and leaving them both unsatisfied—

“I don’t trust you to not bang your head against anything when you’re in this state.” The flush was rising on his boyfriend’s cheeks, but it still didn’t stop his determined fingers from pushing up the material further, fingertips brushing against Kongpob’s skin, leaving goosebumps after their wake.

“I’ll… I’ll help you shower, so don’t be so difficult.”

Red bloomed in his boyfriend’s face after the words left his mouth, looking completely scandalized afterwards, probably towards himself. But his hands didn’t stop, palms slowly sliding on and up Kongpob’s sides, slowly bunching up the material on the way.

Kongpob would have been in utter bliss were he in the right state of mind to wholly appreciate this moment. This was something out of his wildest daydreams, the thought of his usually bashful older boyfriend taking complete charge of their… activities, while he happily did everything the other commanded him to do.

But right now, he could only obediently follow orders, mind too muddled to think of protesting. Kongpob raised his arms when the other finally pulled his shirt off his body, watching as the other did the same thing, leaving them both topless in the cold bathroom air.

Then he felt the older’s hands span around his waist, just on top of the garter of his shorts, and Kongpob’s breath stuttered in his lungs.

Kongpob thought this was it, the time when P’Arthit would finally stop and tell him to do everything else himself, but no, feeling the other’s fingers hook into the waistband of Kongpob’s playing shorts, and started tugging down.

There was something incredibly intimate, almost unbearably so even, about undressing someone else that wasn’t merely a stepping stone for more enjoyable and fun times. Kongpob couldn’t help but flush, biting his lower lip and looking away as the rest of his clothes were removed from him in the quickest, most unsexy way possible.

But Kongpob couldn’t help but shiver, both from the cold and the face that he was completely bare in front of his boyfriend, while the other was still partly dressed. But the older quickly took care of that problem, also stepping out of his shorts and boxers, until he was as nude as Kongpob was.

They were unable to look at each other by this point, both bright red, Kongpob feeling bashful despite seeing his boyfriend like this, many, many times before.

(But not quite like this, restrained and uptight still. Usually, by the time they got to this point, his boyfriend would already be flushed and panting against his mouth, in-between several stages of consciousness, but still completely undone.)

By now, the flush had spread down to P’Arthit’s chest, and he slid the shower door open, keeping his back to Kongpob, though the other had grasped his hand. “Come on.”

The showerhead opening was a great distraction, and Kongpob sighed as the warm spray of water hit his head, legs actually wobbling as he stepped closer to the other, gripping his arm tightly. Once P’Arthit managed to turn around, Kongpob was instantly all over him, arms wrapping around the older’s waist, pressing their bodies against each other completely as the water cascaded between, over, and around them.

It was an attempt on his part to not lose to the temptation of looking at his boyfriend’s body, and to simply feel the other’s presence beside him, sorely missing the sensation of the other’s physical touch.

He felt like an addict at this point, always hungering for his next fix, but he thought he wouldn’t mind, if P’Arthit became his obsession for the rest of his life.

“Clingy,” he heard his boyfriend chide at him, but didn’t actually make a move to push him off, reaching for the plastic holder by the corner of the shower stall that had all of his (and some of Kongpob’s) toiletries on it.

Kongpob submitted himself fully into his boyfriend’s care, letting his mind slide into that state of floaty semi-consciousness as he leaned his cheek on the older’s shoulder. He felt fingers massage his scalp, heard the familiar crackling sound of bubbles popping as shampoo and, later on, conditioner, was gently and carefully lathered into his hair.

It was intimate. Sensual even. But without a hint of eroticism, as hands and fingers worked all over his skin after, the loofah mild and soothing as it rubbed around his back, his shoulders. It felt more than nice, the older’s fingers slippery and soft, and Kongpob was just about ready to drift off again, until he heard P’Arthit speak to him.

“Don’t fall asleep now, Kong. I can’t carry you alone. Give me room to move?” His boyfriend asked quietly, and Kongpob loosened his arms just enough, keeping his fingers linked and resting low on the other’s back, as the older managed to put some space between them and soaped his torso, his armpits, his sides.

P’Arthit started to move lower, and Kongpob let his fingers slip away from each other as the other paid attention to his hips, his thighs, between his legs, his feet. But even then his boyfriend was brisk and meticulous, giving each part the allotted time it deserved, no more, no less.

“I feel like I’m bathing a dog instead of a person,” his boyfriend commented lightly as he got up to his feet again, finally placing the loofah back on the holder.

“Woof,” Kongpob called sleepily at him, and heard P’Arthit chuckle, the other finally unhooking the handheld showerhead, and directing the water flow towards that instead.

And like everything else, the water pressure was light, gliding smoothly over his body as the suds and products were thoroughly washed off. Kongpob couldn’t help but tilt his face towards it, feeling the warmth slide over his face, clinging to his eyelashes as fingers scratched his head, shaking his hair to get rid of the conditioner that might still linger on a few strands.

Kongpob almost wished it would never stop.

But all banquets must come to an end. Soon enough, the water was turned off, and Kongpob was left standing there, still tired as hell, but now fresh and squeaky clean.

“Don’t move, I’ll get the towel,” P’Arthit murmured, brushing away the lock of hair that stuck itself on Kongpob’s forehead as the older moved past him, stepping past the shower door. Kongpob was happy to listen, leaning back against the wall, eyes tipping close as he felt droplets of water sliding off his body.

Dimly he could hear rustling and movement in front of him. But P’Arthit returned just as quickly as he left, already dressed, throwing one smaller towel on top of Kongpob’s head, and a larger one to drape around his body.

The drying process for his body was thorough and brief, simply getting rid of any moisture that had gathered and remained on his skin. His hair was a different case however, with his boyfriend’s hands rubbing at his head through the towel, careful and with intent as the towel tried its best to absorb the water still on his hair.

Getting out of the shower was easy enough. Slipping onto the clothes the older provided for him was more of a challenge, his fingers not quite cooperating with him as he slid the replacement boxers, shorts and shirt on. By this point, his boyfriend looked amused as he looked on, watching him struggle briefly with the simple act of dressing himself, before stepping in to help, making sure that everything was on the right side and that Kongpob had slid his arms through the right holes.

The change in temperature from a hot shower to a cool room felt glorious. Kongpob felt like he was floating on a cloud as he was led to the side of the bed, a pillow unceremoniously thrown to the ground right by his feet.

“Take a seat.” His boyfriend said briskly, a towel still on his hand as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“... P’?”

“You can’t sleep with your hair still wet,” the older reasoned, and without another word, Kongpob placed his butt down on the offered pillow, realizing what the other intended to do as pale calves settled themselves around him, hands once again covering his head as P’Arthit slowly and surely towel-dried his hair.

Kongpob had never felt so… pampered before. It was an experience he could definitely get used to, given the time, and a dangerous one at that, since it easily lulled him into a sense of comfort and security that he would be hard-pressed to stay away from.

No, he shouldn’t get used to this. It was too much of an indulgence, he was going to bother P’Arthit if he demanded for something like this all the time.

Still, it didn’t stop Kongpob from leaning his cheek against the other’s thigh, a pleased sigh escaping his lips as his boyfriend’s fingertips made swirls and indistinct shapes against his scalp. The material of the towel had just the right level of roughness, calming and soothing instead of jarring and distracting.

“You should really take care of yourself, you know.” He heard P’Arthit mutter over his head, and Kongpob quickly hid a smile against the other’s skin as his boyfriend’s fingertips came down his nape. “What did you even do today? I’ve never seen you this tired before.”

“Blocking practice for the contest this morning.” Kongpob tried to recall everything he did from the moment he woke up. “I was supposed to be resting this afternoon, but P’Tim called for an emergency match because we’re facing the Science faculty tomorrow instead of the Home Economics faculty. Helped the cheering block paint their banners afterwards, because they’re not finished yet and it’s close to the deadline.”

Even without looking at him Kongpob could practically see the eyebrow raise his boyfriend was giving him right now. “And how long has this been going on?”

Kongpob winced. Ah. He knew this was coming sooner or later. “... A few days?”

The way the older tugged sharply at his hair plainly told him that his boyfriend wasn’t impressed. “Give me a number, Kong.”

“... Three? … Maybe four. I don’t keep count anymore.”

“Four day—?! Kongpob!” P’Arthit spluttered, and the snap of the towel’s edge against his knee actually hurt. Kongpob rubbed against the stinging spot petulantly. “No wonder you’re practically dead, you’ve been pushing yourself too hard again!”

“I know how it looks like, P’, but I… I can still handle it,” Kongpob tried to insist, though he probably wasn’t very convincing at this point.

A ragged, frustrated sigh.

“If this is your way of handling things then I’m not too confident of anything you’re going to do in the future, Kong.” P’Arthit snarked back, even as he gently tilted Kongpob’s head to his other knee so the older could dry the other side of his hair. “Didn’t I tell you to take it easy? To stop and take a rest when your body needs you to? Not only did you almost give me a heart attack tonight, you practically sleepwalked your way into my dorm! Honestly, being so reckless with your body… what if you got sick? What if you got hurt because you’re so tired you didn’t even notice your surroundings?” Fingers massaged the line of Kongpob’s neck, making him groan a little in relief.

P’Arthit continued to scold him, even as his towel-covered fingers ran through Kongpob’s hair with the utmost care, drying it from root to tip. “You’ve got a game tomorrow! Even if you’re a substitute you still might need to play! What would your teammates think of you if you suddenly left them behind?! You’ve worked so hard to practice with your team and you’re going to throw it all away?! Take a bit more responsibility for your actions, you idiot!”

All the while, his hands were slowly turning Kongpob into putty, continuing to sound like a constantly nagging wife while fussing over her overworked husband, so much so it was making Kongpob smile wider, his heart softening in utter fondness.

(Like this, in private, away from the eyes of others, it was easy to see where the older’s priorities lied. P’Arthit didn’t care about their department’s pride, the so-called ‘winning streak’ of the Faculty of Engineering that Kongpob and his friends, as the first years, should continue at all costs.

All his boyfriend was concerned about was his health, his well-being, his reputation, his efforts. Worried about and for him, his biting words a result of well-meaning concern, his physical actions a complete contradiction of his tone.

Kongpob had no doubt that this would be the norm, a few years down the line.

He was looking forward to it so much.)

“Yes, P’Arthit.” Kongpob answered dutifully, tilting his head back to look at his boyfriend, still listening but letting him see the unreserved love he held for the older in his heart.

His boyfriend was so good to him.

P’Arthit’s head was bowed, meeting his gaze and squinting at him suspiciously.

“What? Why are you smiling like that.”

Kongpob smiled up at him adoringly. “P’Ai-Oon, thank you. I love you.”

“You—!” The other slowly ran his palm over his face, completely aggrieved, and Kongpob couldn’t help but laugh, buoyed by the light flush he could see appearing on the tip of the other’s ears.

“Oh my go— haven’t you just listened to a single word I said?!” The older looked and sounded completely irate, and the vicious pinch he gave to Kongpob’s cheek was more than deserved. “I’m lecturing you here, you brat!”

“And what I am hearing is that P’Arthit is very worried about me and he would like me to take care of myself better in the future.” Kongpob replied, calm and placating. He tilted his head to the side, closing his eyes and pressing his lips between the juncture where cloth met his boyfriend’s pale skin, sincerely repentant.

He really didn’t mean for the other to fuss over him so much.

“I apologize, P’. It wasn’t my intention for you to look after me like this.”

After a moment of silence, he heard the other sigh again, this time softer, more relenting. The towel was finally taken off Kongpob’s head, replaced by the more direct sensation of lightly calloused fingers carding through his fluffier, mostly-dry hair, pressing on the looser muscles of his nape.

“... If you knew that much, then stop doing these things to me.” You know how much I worry.

“... I know, P’.” I just wanted to show you I could do it.

A moment of shared silence, of relishing each other’s proximity and closeness, as Kongpob pressed light, apologetic kisses on the other’s thigh every once in a while.

This time, when P’Arthit tugged on his hair again, the touch was milder, forgiving. “This is enough for now. Your hair’s dry. Get on the bed.”

WIthout another word, Kongpob followed instructions, climbing on top of the sheets as the older moved to the side to give him room to move.

Slipping in the between the blankets of his boyfriend’s bed was a familiar habit to his body, and the moment his body hit the mattress exhaustion hit Kongpob like a wrecking ball, making him sink into the covers indiscriminately.

The smell of the outdoors, of warmth and sunshine and citrus and flowers, enveloped him completely, and Kongpob couldn’t help himself, sniffing into the nearest pillow, where the scent was concentrated the most.

Hovering over him, his boyfriend was moving around, fluffing up his pillows and placing them beside Kongpob. He reached for one immediately, snuggling into it as he turned to the side, watching the other indulgently.

“You’re not sleeping yet, P’?” He murmured, fighting against the sudden compulsion to let his eyes slide shut.

“Can’t. Need to finish some school work first.” P’Arthit answered, sounding distracted even as he draped the blanket more properly over Kongpob’s curled form, making sure to tuck it in securely. “It’s still pretty early, so I won’t go to bed until later. You get some rest first.”

“Will you… watch all of my games, P’?”

Kongpob watched the older pause, lips parting to answer immediately, but snapped it shut just as fast, an unsure look crossing his expression. “... I can’t make any promises, Kong. Sorry.”

“That’s okay.” P’Arthit wouldn’t refuse him so quickly unless there was an important reason, and besides, and it was something for the more rested, more mentally-capable Kongpob to ponder on, hours later. “I wish you could come, though.”

“Enough,” his boyfriend huffed, tweaking his hair in reprimand, but to Kongpob’s dulled senses, it felt more like a caress. “You’re exhausted. Close your eyes already. I’ll talk to you in the morning. If you try to get out of that bed I’ll sit on you.”

“... Please go ahead. My body is willing, P’.”

Go to sleep, Kongpob.

Kongpob kept silent, amusement curling in his chest as his boyfriend finally stood up, going back to his desk, where he had probably been working for a while before Kongpob decided to rudely interrupt him.

And he simply stayed like that, staring at his boyfriend as the older went back to his studies. The pin-lamps that lit the bedroom were soft, giving the space a faintly warm glow, and from his position on the bed, Kongpob could clearly see P’Arthit face, the focus and concentration on his features that, frankly, just made him look more attractive.

Kongpob didn’t know when his vision started to blur, when multiple shades of black and white warm yellow started to come and blend together as sleep finally claimed him for its own, when P’Arthit eventually disappeared from his sight.

But when he spoke, barely clinging on to the last vestiges of his consciousness, his words were barely more than an exhale, a quiet ripple that barely disturbed the serenity of the room.

“Good night, P’Ai-Oon.”

Perhaps it was already a dream, or he was probably still awake, but Kongpob definitely heard a voice reply.

It was fond, soft, and absolutely, unmistakably loving.

(“Sweet dreams, you cheeky, insufferable boy.”)


“Ai’Kong! Hey, Kong!” A hand slapped against his bicep, and Kongpob blinked, looking at his side, to Aim, as the sounds of squeaking shoes and bouncing basketballs eventually returned to his ears.

The Freshy Games had finally gone into full swing, and the Engineering Faculty basketball team was slowly and steadily climbing up the rankings, beating their matchups soundly. It was good progress for the team overall, their practices and strategies were paying off, and the players had solid teamwork.

It was another game day today, and they were all warming up for the match against their current opponents, the Faculty of Business Administration. Which should be fairly challenging, since the other faculty had also beaten their initial opponents and were a favorite to win this year.

“Hm?”

“I’ve been calling you for a while, didn’t you hear me?” His friend sounded a little put out, maybe even a little irritated, that Kongpob was currently spacing out. But Kongpob couldn’t even muster the energy to care about what Aim was saying, his eyes going to the bleachers, wandering up and down, left and right, again and again.

“What are you looking at?” Aim started looking towards the direction Kongpob was looking at, craning his head in an attempt to help him search for whatever—or whoever—he was looking for. “What’s over there?”

“No, it’s nothing.” With a dejected sigh, Kongpob turned back to the court. “Really.”

“Hey, focus man!” Aim called after him, as Kongpob took the ball that Wad passed on to him. “The game is about to begin! Go practice!”

As Kongpob started to aim his shot, he tried to concentrate on himself, on the game he had to win today, but unsurprisingly, he found his mind wandering back to the bleachers, to the people who were—and weren’t—on them.

P’Arthit wasn’t coming today too.

And Kongpob shouldn’t expect him to, since the older had distinctly made no promises to watch him play. Now that he was a bit more awake and aware and some time had passed, Kongpob had thought about and eventually understood the reasons why, without the other even telling him out loud.

It would be strange for the head hazer to watch only the basketball games, all by himself, when he had to be concerned about all the games the freshmen were participating in this week. Not only would the senior be out of place out of all the younger students there, he would most definitely be questioned by his friends on why he was watching a game that was, to them, completely insignificant in the larger scale of things.

(If the third years were to watch a game, it would only be during the finals, to see if Kongpob and his group would be able to prove them wrong.)

Kongpob understood, but it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.

He tried not to let it affect his game. His feelings should remain completely separate from what he was doing, and for the most part, he was succeeding. His teammates were none the wiser, they were still winning their games, their cheering teams were out in full force, and as far as everyone else was concerned, that was all that mattered.

Still, Kongpob couldn’t help the visceral feeling of disappointment welling up in him. His boyfriend had never forgotten a match so far, texting or calling him on the day to tell him good luck and have a good game. He even followed up post-match sometimes, watching a few clips from the videos other students were posting on the online school board, telling Kongpob the things he did right, the things he could have done better. But overall, his pride and satisfaction in Kongpob’s skills had never wavered.

P’Arthit did watch his games, in the end. Just not there, in the court, with the rest of them, in real time.

And it should be enough. Kongpob shouldn’t ask for more than that. They were trying to keep a low profile, and having your boyfriend be the only third year present in the crowd would be the exact opposite of that.

… But was it too much to ask, though? For his significant other to come and watch him play, so he could really see with his own eyes how much Kongpob had improved because of his help. So that the senior would know how much they had all worked hard, just to maintain the pride of their engineering faculty.

So Kongpob would be more motivated to actually go out there and win, because the only thing he wanted, more than anything else, was to make his P’Arthit proud of him.

“Guys, come here! It’s almost time to start!”

But it wasn’t going to happen, not yet at least, Kongpob thought as he jogged towards his team back to the side of the court. So the only thing he could do right now was to play at his best. With or without his boyfriend’s physical presence in the court, Kongpob knew P’Arthit would always be there, watching, hoping, cheering him on.

And he would never make the older see any reason to be disappointed in him.

He had a trophy to win, and a boyfriend to continuously woo.

With those two goals in mind, everything else could come after.


“P’Arthit, it’s unhealthy to drink pink milk all the time. You should stop once in a while, its sweetness would make your teeth rot.”

Don’t make me break up with you, Kongpob Suthiluck.

Kongpob chuckled, glancing at his boyfriend fondly as they went out for early dinner for once, going to their favorite eatery for some good, cheap food. The older was hankering for something grilled, so here they were, in front of a meat skewer stall, waiting for their orders to cook. Kongpob just came back after they mutually decided to divide and conquer after their arrival, the older getting their food while he took care of their drinks.

“I’m joking, P’.” He smiled in assurance, raising the cup of freshly bought pink milk, and grinning when the other quickly snatched it away from his hand, hovering over it protectively like Kongpob would take it back at any second. “I’m just saying. I hope your family doesn’t have a history of diabetes.”

“I don’t say anything about your bitter, bad-tasting iced coffee, so don’t badmouth my pink milk,” P’Arthit scowled at him, looking so soft and unthreatening with his hair down, wearing just a simple shirt and shorts for their impromptu date. He was even wearing slippers. “And my family is healthy, thank you very much. How about you? All the caffeine you’re drinking is going to fry your nerves one day. I keep telling you to stop drinking so much coffee, but you won’t listen.”

“But I’m not worried, though,” Kongpob answered easily, making his boyfriend glance at him questioningly, one eyebrow raised as he took a long sip of the pink beverage.

“I have P’Ai-Oon to take care of me if ever that happens.”

P’Arthit promptly choked.

“Oi! Stop that!” His shoulder checked Kongpob’s instantly, but the force wasn’t as hard as it seemed at first glance. His boyfriend was glaring, the slightest hint of red on his cheeks making his entire threatening expression completely nonexistent. His shyness was apparent, and Kongpob simply placed his hand between the older’s shoulder blades, rubbing soothingly as his boyfriend tried to clear his airways. “Watch your mouth, we’re outside!”

“Yes, P’.” Kongpob offered an innocent smile when the other narrowed his eyes, clearly not believing a single word he said. Here his boyfriend was, acting like Kongpob just swore at him when he was merely stating facts.

Childish, but that was part of who P’Arthit was. And Kongpob would never replace him with anyone else in the world.

“Just…” Kongpob started, taking their grilled pork and chicken skewers, “P’... you didn’t exactly say no.”

The subsequent realization and flush on the older’s face afterward sent Kongpob into genuine, delighted laughter, and the tiny, exasperated, mortified look the older gave him just made Kongpob want to kiss it away.

Cute. Adorable. Endearing. All the possible words that could inspire love and utter affection for the person in front of him.

But just like usual, Kongpob decided to stop, lest he actually send his boyfriend running with his non-stop teasing. It had already happened more than once, and Kongpob wasn’t in the mood to chase after him right now.

They settled into a nearby table, digging into their meats and sticky rice, Kongpob staying silent to let his boyfriend gather back his composure, hearing the other continuously mutter, quickly and low enough for him not to hear anything concrete. P’Arthit just made it so easy most of the time, and every reaction from his boyfriend was new, fresh, and never failing to make Kongpob’s heart squeeze a little bit tighter in his chest.

God, Kongpob loved him so much.

“... Huh. Confident, aren’t you?” He heard P’Arthit ask under his breath, at a significantly higher volume, and it alerted Kongpob that he was absolutely meant to hear that, this time.

So he straightened up in his seat, beaming at the older.

“Of course. After all, we’ve already reached the finals for the basketball game. The other sports teams in the faculty are also playing in their respective finals.”

And wasn’t that a surprise. Even Kongpob thought for a moment that the basketball team wouldn’t make it with Wad’s unexpected injury. It had been a bit dicey, especially during their match with the Sports Science faculty. Wad had fallen down and had almost gotten into a fight with a player of the opposing team.

But since they weren’t actually going against the basketball majors, they just barely managed to pull through by the skin of their teeth, securing that hard-earned victory and their placement for the upcoming championship game.

Afterwards, even Wad was pleased, threatening to poke the seniors’ eyes out with the trophy they were sure to win. Kongpob… wasn’t sure what to feel about that. Aim on the other hand had tried to console him, saying that the third years would eventually find out about their win somehow, once again noticing his longing, lingering look towards the bleachers.

(“And you, stop looking, okay?” Aim said, mock stern, at Kongpob, pointing a finger at his face.

“Okay,” Kongpob had nodded, distant, eyes still on the small cluster of empty chairs near the top of the bleachers.

It would just be enough seats for P’Arthit and his friends to sit in.

“And… you’re still looking. Come on, let’s go home!”)

“Being in the finals doesn’t immediately mean you’ll win the finals,” his boyfriend had snorted back, nibbling on his skewer. “And I told you, and the rest of the freshmen before. The engineering faculty never loses in any competition.”

He glanced at Kongpob then, with one eyebrow raised in challenge.

“That also includes the Moon and Star University Contest.”

And both of them knew who was also participating in that.

… Interesting.

“Then…” Kongpob took a moment to take a sip of his iced coffee, taking the time to formulate his next words as an idea formed in his mind. He placed his drink back where it was before, slightly to the side, before lacing his fingers together, placing them on top of the table with intent.

“Why don’t we have a small wager, P’Arthit? If I win all of the competitions I’m in… what will you give me in return?”

“... Are you seriously going to make a bet with me, Kongpob? Now? With this?” The older’s eyebrows had climbed so high up his hairline Kongpob couldn’t see them anymore. His boyfriend also placed down his pink milk, getting right into business, which Kongpob very much appreciated. There was clear disbelief in the other’s tone, as well as… the slightest hint of intrigue, which was what Kongpob was hoping for. “The chances of you winning every single contest you’ve taken part in are almost slim to none.”

“Then that just means I’m totally disadvantaged from the start, and most of the odds are against me right now,” Kongpob countered calmly, with a small smile.

“At this moment, everything is on me to fulfill my part of the deal. You have nothing to lose, at this point. One is a team sport, the other is an individual one. Even if we win in basketball there’s no guarantee I’ll win in the contest.”

“Why, though?” His boyfriend was obviously suspicious, with good reason. “Kong, even with all the bullshit I’ve said in front of you and the freshmen… you know I don’t care if you win or not. You’ll…” The older looked away at this point, showing the bright red of his ear, voice so quiet Kongpob could barely hear it over the noise around them.

“You’ll still be the same to me. You know that, right?” There was a hint of uncertainty and bashfulness in the older’s tone, as if he thought that Kongpob was doing all of this just to somehow get his attention, to… to impress him.

… Well, P’Arthit wasn’t wrong. But Kongpob’s reasons, both the real ones and the much more private ones... were much more than that.

“I know, P’,” he was quick to assure the other softly, warmly, twitching to take his boyfriend’s hands into his own for additional comfort. He clenched his hands tighter so he wouldn’t give into the urge. “Of course I do know that, and I appreciate it. But… you also know me, P’Ai-Oon. I... like a good challenge,” he stated delicately, meaning his statement in every single way that it counted, and from the way his boyfriend blushed darker, snapping his head back to look at Kongpob, the older also caught on to the double meaning as well.

“It gives me the incentive to do my very best. I like to take a risk, every once in a while. And besides…” Kongpob lifted his gaze, the mischievous twinkle in them unmistakable.

“The promise of a reward at the end of all your hard work makes everything you went through more… worth it, don’t you agree?” His tongue curled softly around the words as he kept his gaze on the other, eventually reaching out to use his thumb to wipe away the stray drops of pink milk that remained on the other’s lips.

In front of him, his boyfriend was frozen in his seat, eyes wide and face bright red as his warm breaths shakily puffed against Kongpob’s skin.

“And if it’s a reward from you, my beloved P’Ai-Oon…” He continued to murmur, sending the older a very, very small smirk, as Kongpob sat back, licking the sweet liquid off his finger.

“Then I will do whatever it takes to get that first place.”

He was completely serious, and both of them knew it.

Kongpob, at his core, was a stubborn person. He knew what he wanted, and did everything in his ability to get it, if it was something out of his reach. Because of the circumstances in which he was born, Kongpob never really had to try that much when it came to material things, unlike his classmates who were promised a new phone or new clothes or allowed to go somewhere with their friends if they did well in their studies.

But then P’Arthit came into his life, and Kongpob had never tried so hard in his entire life until then, just to get the older to notice him, to look at him. Things… just came easily to Kongpob, and it was the first time he realized that if he didn’t get off his butt and actually worked to get the relationship he wanted to have, he would never be able to stay by P’Arthit’s side the way he had always yearned for.

FInally having P’Arthit in his life as his other half was more than worth it. And Kongpob would go through all of it again, the insecurity, the doubt, the fear, if it meant being able to walk side by side with the other at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

And now, Kongpob was simply waiting for his boyfriend’s response, glancing at the older through his lashes, playfully patient.

“So? What do you say, P’?”

It took a moment for the older to regain awareness of his surroundings, and when P’Arthit finally did, it was to see his eyes dilate, his lips parting as his boyfriend considered the deal on the table.

“... Fine.” The older finally declared, leaning closer, never breaking eye contact with him. The color was high on his boyfriend’s cheeks, and there was a spark of anticipation in his gaze, just the slightest hint of provocation that never failed to heat up Kongpob’s blood.

“I accept your offer. If you win all of your contests, you can ask one thing from me.”

“Anything?” Kongpob immediately clarified, voice rather sharp, because that qualifier would be very important, down the line. It was even a necessity, because he would never ask anything P’Arthit wouldn’t want to do in the first place.

“Anything,” his boyfriend repeated immediately, with a firm look towards him, as if he believed Kongpob was questioning his sincerity. “I mean it, Kongpob.”

“And if I lose just one event, then everything’s off. We’re in agreement, P’.” Kongpob quickly and happily sealed the deal, trying his best not to show his utter glee in front of his boyfriend, who was slowly raising an eyebrow again, seeing his obvious happiness.

“Kong, you know you could just ask, right?” The older said after a while, returning to his meal. “Why go through… all of this?” He gestured vaguely between them.

Because the thing I really want from you is so monumentally huge I know you’ll refuse the moment I asked.

“Because it’s more fun to do things like this, sometimes.” Kongpob smiled back, tucking into his pork and rice with gusto, unable to calm down from the adrenaline that suddenly flooded his system.

“Are you going to watch the game now? Tomorrow’s game?” He asked, earnest.

A huff of amused breath. “I have to now, don’t I?” P’Arthit glanced up at him, a humorous twitch at the corner of his mouth. “To see if you’ll hold up the first part of our bet.”

(A mere side effect of the wager, but still an important one to Kongpob.)

And as they finished their meal, walking back to their dorms with Kongpob still beaming brightly at the older, a hand eventually reached out to tangle with his own, pale and calloused and lightly scarred, its hold light.

Encouraging.

There was still a hint of a smile on the other’s face.

“I’ll be watching you carefully, 0062.”

Kongpob sincerely smiled in return, squeezing the hand back.

“P’, there’s nothing I’d like for you to do more.”

Chapter Text

The photographs of the freshmen taking part in the Moon and Star University Contest were finally released on social media, and Arthit just barely stopped himself from pressing ‘like’ on his boyfriend’s pictures.

He let out an aggrieved exhale, tossing his phone further away from the table as his fingers twitched, already halfway giving in to the temptation.

It was infuriating sometimes, how good-looking Kongpob was. If Arthit wasn’t confident that the younger wasn’t the type to stray, he would have been constantly worried about being cheated on with someone else behind his back. It wasn’t entirely Kongpob’s fault, he obviously couldn’t help but look like his parents, who still looked like an A-list celebrity couple on their worst days.

(And believe him, Arthit had seen it.)

But Kongpob was also raised as a complete gentleman, and even through the device pixels it shone through, his smile crookedly charming, his poses casually inviting. The post was obviously blowing up in the university, and Arthit didn’t even have to look through the comments to know that it would probably be a mixture of ‘cute/handsome/whatever adjective that would express their admiration of Kongpob’s looks and/or physique’.

Was he jealous? Obviously. He didn’t like other people realizing how hot his boyfriend was, because the more they tried to get to know the younger the more they would see that Kongpob was also damned perfect when it came to everything else.

(And there was always the chance of someone, someone better and nicer and more worthy coming along and getting Kongpob’s attention, making him decide that Arthit wasn’t enough anymore.

He wouldn’t know what to do, if that really happened.)

But Arthit was mature enough (hopefully) to simply acknowledge his feelings and not do anything about it. This was inevitable, the moment Kongpob decided to join the contest, and it was a decision his boyfriend made for himself. Arthit had no right to stop him any more than anyone else did.

And besides, if there was one thing Arthit could be assured of, it was the younger’s feelings for him. Kongpob loved him. A brief spike of popularity wouldn’t suddenly make him aware of other people more good-looking or kinder or smarter or simply better than Arthit.

His boyfriend would continue to look at him and him alone, no matter what.

(It might be the height or arrogance to think that way. Presumptuous, haughty.

But what else could Arthit call it, when the younger had doggedly chased and wooed him across several weeks, never giving up, even after getting rejected once?

And even now the other still acted like he was still attempting to capture Arthit’s heart, despite perfectly knowing that Arthit had already given it to him, long before.

Kongpob had never been fickle. The amount of hardship he had put the younger through before they started dating was enough to turn anyone’s interest away.

But even after all of that, Kongpob had fought, had stayed, had proved to Arthit that he wanted him, wanted them, and what else could he do, in the face of such persistence?

More than his looks, his riches, his manners, it was probably Kongpob’s determination, his ambition, that made Arthit notice, and finally fall in love with him.)

His phone chirped; a message came through. Arthit reached for it, only to see it was from the devil himself.

P’Arthit, you haven’t liked my photo yet, his boyfriend sought to inform him, and Arthit could almost hear the cheerful and cheeky tone Kongpob would use to say those words to him. Am I that ugly that my own boyfriend wouldn’t even like my online picture?

In your dreams, Arthit quickly replied, locking his phone and tossing it away from his direct line of sight. Then, after a moment, he took it back again to fire off another text.

I’ll like your photo when it’s close to the end of the competition. Promise.

!!!

😃❤

“Trouble in paradise?”

Arthit looked up; Knot was looking at him from across the table they shared, one eyebrow raised in amusement.

Ah, right. He was in the middle of their weekly study session. Damn it, why did this always happen when he was in front of someone else?

Stupid Kong. Putting his heart through constant distress all the time, even when he physically wasn’t there.

No,” Arthit scowled back, sipping at his iced coffee, picking up his pen to return to his problem set. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Knot.”

His friend hummed in response and went back to his books. And for a brief, blessed moment, there was nothing but the sounds of pen scratching against paper, the rustle of pages as worksheets were looked over and moved to the end of the pile.

“… Nursing student.”

Arthit gave another, long-suffering sigh. “It’s not going to work, Ai’Knot.”

“… Maybe a law student? You do like girls who know what they want.”

“Not answering.”

“Come on, not even a hint? I’ve mentioned every faculty that’s available in our university. Unless they’re from another school?”

“You can try all you want, but I’m not giving you shit.”

“This girl must be really special if you’re not telling us about her yet,” Knot commented lightly, and even Arthit couldn’t stop the bright flush that covered his cheeks at the blatant truth of the statement.

(Because Kongpob was special. Right now, he was the most special person in Arthit’s life.

There was still a part of him that wanted to keep the younger to himself, to keep their relationship quiet and just theirs, because it was always a giddy, heart fluttering experience to share something secret and precious between you and the person you liked.

But more than anything else, Arthit wanted to show Kongpob off to his friends, to be proud that he had chosen a good, kind man to spend the rest of his life with. Arthit didn’t want both sides to worry about him, or think that he hadn’t chosen well enough, because he had.

Both for his lifetime companions, and the person he would build a home with, all of them growing old and grey together.

He would like nothing more than to see his friends and his boyfriend getting along, to have the people he treasured the most interacting in a place where they could be free to be just themselves.

It was one of his earnest wishes, deceptively simple, but difficult in execution.

But it would happen. One day. Definitely.)

Ever since he had confessed (well, not confessed, but insinuated) that he was (most definitely) seeing someone, Knot had taken it upon himself to try and pry more details about Arthit’s current love life.

It was a little game they started to play, with Knot trying to catch him off guard by asking him questions about Kongpob out of the blue, and Arthit trying his best not to give away more information about his boyfriend than he already had.

At times it was fun, refreshing even, because he finally had someone he could talk to about the younger, if only in a limited manner. But most of the time it was just nerve wracking, because Arthit was unsure of what Knot actually knew and believed was right.

At least Knot was still assuming that Arthit was dating a girl.

“Special, my foot. We’re just taking it slow.” Slow wouldn’t be the world Arthit would say if asked to describe his relationship with Kongpob. Hell, it barely took a month before Arthit was already falling in bed with the younger, because he… found it strangely easier to express his feelings through a rawer, more physical connection than through words and small, affectionate gestures. “I don’t need you guys overwhelming hi—them.”

“We’re not that bad, Ai’Oon.” Knot commented, tone still remaining light and easy, “we can be nice and formal if your newest ‘someone’ is shy.”

Arthit snorted. Shy his ass. Knot wouldn’t be saying that if he knew who Arthit was actually dating right now.

“You guys, ‘nice and formal’? I’ll believe it when I see it.” In fact, the moment they realized who it was, his friends would probably waste no time in putting Kongpob through the wringer. “Just… not right now, okay? I’m not sure, yet.”

“About what you feel for them?”

Arthit paused, because it wasn’t his feelings he was having trouble with. In fact, he had never been more sure of anything in his life.

It was the consequences of those feelings that he didn’t want to witness.

“… Yeah. Something like that.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out sooner or later.” Knot turned his face back to his book, turning to the next page.

“You know we’re here if you need us.”

The simple statement made Arthit look up, blinking with wide eyes, but Knot had already turned to his notes.

It was said casually, almost dismissive.

But it was also matter-of-fact, as if Arthit really shouldn’t have expected anything else.

There was no doubt that his (and in extension, his friends’) sincerity was honestly meant.

(Yeah. His friends were here.

And they would probably always be.)

“… Yeah, I know, Knot,” Arthit’s throat felt tight, and he swallowed thickly, trying his best to keep his voice even while showing his gratitude at the same time, “you jerks.”

But perhaps he hadn’t hidden it well enough, as Knot glanced up at him briefly with a smile, quickly looking back down to let Arthit gather his composure. “We love you too, Ai’Oon.”

Arthit snorted back, the tightness in his throat gradually loosening, taking the words as both the jest and heartfelt declaration it was meant to be.

“By the way, have you heard the news?” Knot eventually asked, after a solid hour of productive work. “The freshmen have taken their respective teams into the finals. Some of them have already won their sports. Not bad. Even your 0062 helped the basketball team get to their own championship game.”

“For the last goddamn time, he’s not my anything, Ai’Knot.” He’s my everything, a small, indignant voice piped up, and Arthit viciously squashed the thought down, never letting it see the light of day again.

Cheesy. Too cringey. Definitely too much.

… No matter that it was the complete truth.

“And as they should. After the way he talked big, the freshmen should be able to do that much, at least.” Arthit resisted rolling his eyes at the memory. “They have a long way to go before they’ll be ready for the flag capturing ceremony.”

To that, Knot only hummed in thought, and soon enough they focused back on their respective subjects.

But the sudden mention of the basketball championship game had Arthit thinking about his latest conversation with his boyfriend.

Specifically, the wager between them.

He didn’t know why Kongpob suddenly proposed a bet like that, and with such overwhelming odds in his favor. Arthit didn’t even need to do anything if he lost, only that he needed to do something for his boyfriend if he won.

What was Kongpob planning, exactly? What was so important that he would need that kind of security, resolving to do his best, even returning to him exhausted and dragging his limbs, just so he could extract a promise like that from Arthit?

Was… it because Arthit refused Kongpob something in the past? But as much as he wracked his head for any memory that might be related to that question, he couldn’t find an instance wherein he had done anything of that sort.

For all Arthit complained and groused about things, he… actually found it difficult to turn down anything his boyfriend wanted to do. Kongpob was used to a cushy, comfortable life, and no matter that he was willing to get his hands dirty, as much as possible, Arthit would want the other to remain that way. Still, Arthit wanted his boyfriend to still be practical and independent, because the younger and his family were the exceptions, not the rule.

So coddling Kongpob was out of the question, and the younger knew it. But Kongpob, in reality, really asked for so little, working earnestly, determined to know different things through his own efforts. Perhaps too much sometimes, causing Arthit’s heart to endure no small amount of stress, and in turn, making him try to help out the younger instead, to ease his burdens, at least a little.

So what was different, this time? His boyfriend wasn’t the type to make bets like this, when he knew that Arthit… would probably say yes to whatever he asked.

It was a mystery, one that Arthit was determined to get to the bottom of.

If this was his younger boyfriend thinking all sorts of nonsense again, like needing to prove that he’s worthy of staying by Arthit’s side, then he’ll just have to set the record straight.

(He didn’t need anyone’s approval of their relationship, except perhaps their families and friends.

And even if everything and everyone was against them, there was no force in the world that would stop Arthit from staying by Kongpob’s side, always.)

He was so deep in his own thoughts he almost didn’t hear Knot’s question.

“Hm?”

“Are you watching any finals games?” Knot was looking at him, patiently waiting for an answer.

“I don’t know. Maybe the basketball match.” Arthit answered as casually as he could make it, tapping his pen against his notes. He carefully didn’t look at his friend, lest his face betray any of his thoughts. “I have to see if 0062’s bite is as tough as his bark. You guys coming with?”

“Might as well.” Knot was already pulling out his phone to text the others. “It’ll be an exciting game, at any rate. They’re facing off against the Agriculture faculty, and I’ve heard one of their players belonged to the university team. So it’ll be interesting to see if they could actually pull this one off.”

What, Arthit wanted to yell, but a quick bite to his own tongue had him stalling, the flare of pain almost worth it, as his mind started to work furiously again.

Wasn’t that not allowed? Of course he wanted Kongpob to win his matches. He’d be a pretty shitty significant other if he didn’t wish for it. Not because of any bet, but because he wanted the younger’s efforts to pay off. He had worked so hard and so long, even refusing the occasional offers for them to meet up so Kongpob could take a short break, and Arthit knew that the other would never refuse to see him unless it was important.

And the Freshy Week was, by far, the most important event in Kongpob’s school life.

Arthit was certain the other would be fine. Kongpob and his basketball team wouldn’t reach this far if they weren’t good, and even against a team with someone who was leagues and miles better than him, they would definitely hold their own. His belief in the younger would always remain steadfast and unwavering.

It was just that… Arthit would be devastated for him if Kongpob did not get the results he so obviously deserved.

… Should he go to a temple? Make an offering, just in case? Would that help?

“I asked the others, they’re all down to watch the basketball game.” Knot finally said, placing down his phone. “You’re right. Let’s see if the freshmen’s mettle will stand firm.”

Arthit didn’t answer, eyes on his work, taking in the words and formulas on the page, and not understanding any of it.

To the nearest temple it was, then.

Even Buddha wouldn’t be so cruel to not grant his wish, if Arthit prayed not for himself, but for the love of his life.


Arthit didn’t tell his friends where he went to when he finally met up with them on the day of the basketball game.

“Just some errands I needed to run for my parents,” he replied, hoping that they wouldn’t smell the smoke of lit incense that stuck onto his shirt. Hopefully the workshop shirt would cover that up, as they entered the gymnasium, going up the steps that would lead them to the bleachers.

Arthit couldn’t stop himself, in the end. He had called his boyfriend this morning to wish him good luck, and the clear excitement in Kongpob’s voice, not because it was his final game, but because Arthit was going to watch him play, had him scrambling to go to the nearby monks’ temple the moment he had the free time to do so.

Honestly. His boyfriend had the worst priorities ever. He should be concentrating on winning his game, not making sure if Arthit was going to be there or not.

(But Kongpob’s voice was warm and animated as he told Arthit, “I can’t wait to finally see you, P’,” and his heart had instantly done multiple somersaults in his chest.

There was no way he wouldn’t be there for his boyfriend, after that.)

Arthit cut it pretty close, almost missing the meet-up time he discussed with his friends, but no suspicions or questions were raised in the end, making Arthit exhale a small breath in relief.

“You got a new perfume or something, Ai’Arthit?” Tutah asked, offhand, as they came closer to the basketball court, already starting to hear the chattering of the first years in front of them. “You smell different.”

“No,” he denied, rather quickly, making a show of sniffing at his shirt. Shit, he could still smell the incense from his shirt. That monk really showered him with it, and even he had to stop himself from tearing up at the smoke. “Must be something I passed by on the way. Do I smell bad?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Tutah assured as they finally started to climb the stairs. “But it smells familiar, though… like something I’d find on my family altar…”

“Hey, we’re almost there,” Prem interrupted as Arthit minutely choked on his own saliva, “if you want to look like a scary hazer, you better start acting like it now.”

“No worries cupcake, no one’s a scarier hazer than you. Except maybe Ai’Oon,” Bright cooed at Prem mockingly, and Prem swiped at him with a growl, making them burst into laughter.

But Bright was right, they were already near enough that Arthit could pick up individual and group conversations, and he schooled his face into something more stoic and hard, placing his hands on his lower back as they finally burst into the light.

Half of the gym was packed, Arthit could barely hear himself over the sounds of shouting and cheering. Each faculty was in full force today to support their respective teams, and the Engineering nongs, he was pleased to see, were also there filling up the seats with their cheering balloons at hands.

They headed up the stairs, near the back of the bleachers, finding no places to properly sit down. Arthit remained standing as his friends settled around him, getting comfortable as they looked at the court. They were just in time to see the players finishing up their warm-ups, and Arthit’s eyes instantly found who he was looking for.

It was easy enough to follow the sudden tug of his chest, to the person his heart led him to.

The Engineering team was wearing red jerseys today, and the yellow number 12 at the back of a red jersey was a beacon for Arthit’s searching gaze. Kongpob was talking to his friends, and Arthit’s hands curled inside where he had tucked them inside his workshop shirt pockets, trying his best to assess the other’s well-being without being too blatant about it.

Kongpob… looked all right. More than prepared even, as he nodded to something a fellow freshmen said. He didn’t look tired, or sleepy.

He was ready, and the sight finally settled something that had been prickling and itching under Arthit’s skin as of late, making it manageable, almost dismissible.

His boyfriend was okay. He was fine.

(But Arthit knew that sensation would always remain, steadily and quietly humming through his veins, whenever the other wasn’t in his immediate vicinity.)

And just in time as well, as Kongpob finally raised his eyes, his dark gaze sweeping across the bleachers, finally resting in front of Arthit and his group.

The way the younger’s face lit up was unmistakable, utterly ecstatic, smile widening and cheeks lifting as their eyes finally met.

P’Arthit, you really did come, was blatant from Kongpob’s joyous, exuberant expression, and Arthit found his cheeks growing warm, quickly glancing away.

For god’s sake, could Kongpob stop looking at him like that? The younger’s face was plain and clear for everyone else to see, and if someone with half a brain thought to glance at the direction where the younger was looking at, they would inevitably see Arthit in Kongpob’s line of sight. And by then, just with a quick look at the younger’s face, it would be all too easy to put two and two together.

It was a damned wonder how they were able to keep their relationship hidden this long. Arthit stubbornly refused to look back, keeping his eyes as far and away from the court for as long as he could, until he felt his boyfriend’s loud, beaming stare finally sliding away from him.

Acknowledging the younger right now was just asking for trouble, and while Arthit was much more willing to imply to his friends that he had someone special, there was a difference in showing small, discreet affectionate gestures to his significant other and figuratively throwing yourself in the line of fire and exposing the two of you in one go.

He was not going to tell them the truth during a basketball game, of all places.

(But there was no denying the rush of fondness and giddiness he felt at that instance, to realize that his mere presence was enough to make Kongpob feel happy and energized.

And while he may not show it as often as he would like, his boyfriend’s happiness was definitely at the top of Arthit’s priorities.)

“Shameless,” he found himself muttering under his breath, his lips curving upwards despite his best efforts.

Kongpob was truly shameless, in all the ways the word was meant to be used.

But what did that make Arthit, who was older and wiser, and couldn’t even find it in himself to scold his boyfriend every time this happened?

“Hm? Said something, Ai’Arthit?”

“Nothing,” Arthit scowled at Knot, finally able to look down at the court again, and it was the sound of the whistle that signalled the start of the game that ultimately saved him from another round of questioning.

As the players entered the court, his boyfriend noticeably not part of the first lineup, Arthit clenched his fingers tightly, fists hidden by his pockets.

The Engineering basketball team needed to win.

They had to.

The hour that proceeded was the most intense and nerve wracking moment Arthit had experienced in his third year school life. He knew he had to keep his face blank and unmoved, he was in front of the freshmen as their hazer still, but there was no denying the tension rushing through his muscles, keeping his stance stiff and rigid as he followed the progression of the game like a hawk, biting the inside of his cheek to stop himself from reacting outwardly.

Kongpob occasionally entered the game since one of his friends, the one that Prem particularly disliked, didn’t look to be in great shape today, which really lowered the team’s chances of winning. But so far, they were keeping up against the Agriculture faculty players, keeping their scores fairly close. Arthit couldn’t help but cross his arms over his chest, brows furrowing and resisting the urge to grasp at his biceps as the quarters started and finished, the freshmen shouting cheers and encouragement around him.

His boyfriend was playing brilliantly. His passes were well-timed, his shots thought out and calculated. He worked well with his teammates, and even without looking at them Arthit knew his friends were impressed. Tutah was clapping beside him, Bright was nodding, Knot was tilting his head back with a thoughtful hum, and Prem hadn’t taken his eyes off the court the moment the game started.

But so far, the basketball team hadn’t flipped the points in their favor, even as they finally played into the fourth quarter. Arthit had kept himself completely still, as much as he could, jaw tight and stare completely focused, even as he saw the younger being pushed and tripped by the opposing team.

That was part of the game, it was almost inevitable at this point, but it didn’t stop the outrage that bubbled in the pit of Arthit’s stomach, planting his feet firmly on the ground lest he did something impulsive like march down there and shake the referee stupid for not noticing the obviously noticable fouls.

(They were hurting his boyfriend on purpose, these dirty-playing brats, and if Arthit had been their senior he would give them the tongue-lashing they all completely deserved.)

If they needed a miracle, then that time was definitely now.

Please, Arthit found himself praying, raising a fist to his mouth, barely stopping himself from biting into his knuckle as the foul was called (fucking finally) and Kongpob lined himself up for a free throw shot.

The ball sank clean through the hoop, and Arthit briefly closed his eyes, turning away and unable to stop the shaking of his arms, managing to catch his boyfriend pump his fist, exhilarated by his success, and exchange hi-fives with his teammates.

The score was finally on Engineering’s side, and they only needed to keep the lead as the clock slowly ticked down to zero.

Oh, god. It felt like Arthit’s heart was going to give up at any moment as he watched the game go on. He definitely didn’t sign up for this level of excitement today, but he, like everyone else, was going to see it through to the bitter end.

He could feel Tutah’s hand on his shoulder, nails biting into his skin, as Agriculture held possession of the ball, going into a fastbreak, all in an attempt to flip the score back into their favor.

Please help him win. Kongpob has done so much for his team.

Please don’t take this away from him.

They all watched with bated breath, eyes watching the basketball as it sailed through the air, going for the Engineering side’s basket.

And the Engineering side of the gym exploded as the buzzer finally sounded, and the ball bounced off the rim, falling uselessly to the ground below.

Arthit exhaled a shaky breath, shutting his eyes and finally able to uncoil his limbs as he fought the urge to smile, relief flooding throughout his system.

He didn’t even notice how much his body trembled, how much his fingers clenched and unclenched, as claps and whistles ensued around him.

Thank you. Buddha, thank you.

As the teams returned to the benches, Arthit’s friends turned to each other, casually discussing the match they have just watched, but he was barely listening, glancing at the younger from the corner of his eye. Another one of Kongpob’s friends had approached the bench, seemingly delivering urgent news, and Kongbob jumped to his feet, following his bespectacled friend out of the court.

“Should we go?” Bright was asking, and his friends murmured in shared agreement, starting to move down the stairs as they discussed what to eat. But Arthit’s feet were slow, lingering as he descended the bleachers, hands in his shirt pockets, hoping that, at the very least, he would be able to cross paths with the other for a short moment.

And his timing was just right, landing on the last step before the hardwood floor just as Kongpob passed through this part of the seating block, and they both paused in their steps to stare at each other. Kongpob was still sweating from the game, red jersey sticking to his chest and back, and Arthit carefully did not look away from his boyfriend’s face, lest it wander somewhere else entirely.

There were so many things Arthit wanted to say, in that span of a few seconds that seemed to stretch to eternity.

Good job.

Congratulations.

I knew you could do it.

I’m so proud of you.

(If it was just the two of them, somewhere private and enclosed, Arthit probably wouldn’t have been able to resist, and given his boyfriend a ‘reward’, if he asked for it.

Kongpob more than deserved it.)

But it seemed that he didn’t have to say a single word, as the younger’s gaze visibly softened, sincere gratitude filling his eyes as he stared up at Arthit with clear and unmistakable affection.

“P’Arthit.”

So audacious. Arthit slid his gaze away for a second, feeling the tips of his ears flush, biting at the inside of his lower lip as he swallowed. He glanced back at his boyfriend, eyebrow raising in silent question.

The smile Kongpob gave Arthit in return was reminiscent of a puppy wagging its tail, begging for attention from its owner.

“Please don’t forget to watch me at the contest today.” He said softly, the smile turning into a beam, before jogging away, leaving Arthit staring after his back with a disbelieving gaze and an uneasy flip in his chest.

… Damn it, that was also today?!


Arthit was a total idiot. How could he have forgotten that the Moon and Star University Contest was also happening later on that evening?! He had scolded Kongpob for this already, for doing too many things at the same time, but apparently he was also as bad, if he couldn’t remember all the activities his boyfriend was participating in.

He sighed, taking the bottles of cola from the auntie as he eventually walked back to the bench where his friends were sitting, using the extra free time they had to finish off a group paper in one of their subjects.

While he could pass off the basketball game as an interest of his since it was his favorite sport, and technically it was Knot who invited everyone else to watch it, how he was going to ask his friends to come with him to see the contest this time was another thing altogether. Arthit had never watched the contest after his first year, when they all needed to participate, so it would definitely raise a few flags if he decided to come to one now.

Still, he made a promise to himself to support his boyfriend in everything he did, so Arthit squared his shoulders and marched towards his friends.

He could make this work without spilling anything important he wasn’t ready for. Probably.

Hopefully.

“I’m back, sirs,” he said in an overtly polite tone, making his friends look up at him, already engrossed in their schoolwork.

“Hey, Ai’Arthit, where the hell have you been?” Prem complained, even as he shifted in his seat to give Arthit some room. “You kept us waiting for this paper!” Beside him, Tutah and Knot were snacking on fish crackers, chewing as they watched him arrive.

“Here you are, sirs. I bought these drinks so you’ll be more refreshed,” he placed the ice-cold drinks on the table, in front of their respective owners.

Effectively bribed by free drinks, his friends murmured their thanks and took their bottles, while Arthit glanced down at Bright, who was slumped over the table, snoring away with his head pillowed in his arms.

“Hold on, Bright is sleeping again,” Arthit said, unimpressed. So much for teamwork.

So he felt no remorse as he pressed the cold drinks against the other’s bare arm, making him jump wide awake, yelping at Arthit as he rubbed at his damp arm.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?!”

“Ai’Bright, you jackass,” Arthit said, pointedly glaring as he loomed over the other, “are you not going to help us with this paper at all? You’re sleeping again.”

“Fucking hells, Ai’Oon, you sound like my Mae,” Bright muttered back, and made a shrieking noise again as Arthit swung the bottle at his head.

“Look, you’re missing all of the good stuff. You’re missing everything, so get up,” Arthit finally took a seat, taking a few gulps of his cola in an attempt to soothe his own nerves.

“What is he missing?” Prem asked, curious, and Arthit answered without thinking.

“The auditorium.”

That answer made all four heads swivel in his direction, and if Arthit could just sink into his seat without alerting his friends on just how much he screwed up right at that instance, that would be really great.

Well, there went his brilliant plan of not saying anything he shouldn’t. Him and his big damned mouth, always wandering off to think of people he wasn’t supposed to.

Yep. Definitely the fault of his faulty brain-to-mouth filter.

“That’s right. Hey Arthit, you’ve never asked us to go watch the university contest before,” Bright commented, carelessly waving his bottle-carrying hand, while the other was pointing at Arthit’s face. Bright was squinting at him suspiciously. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I… just wanted to watch the concert,” he explained quickly, abruptly, with an inhale of a breath and a quick glance away, hoping that would stave off most of the inquisition.

Besides, it was the truth, even if he just wanted to watch one part of the performance in particular.

Fuck, what he would give to have a beer on his hand right at this moment. It was always easier to handle these kinds of things when he wasn’t sober.

“Oooh, so you want to watch the concert,” Bright was starting to smirk at him, a knowing gleam in his eye, and Arthit’s heart seized inside his ribs, even as he nodded and answered calmly in the polite affirmative.

Damn it, had he given too much away? Was this it? Did his friends finally find out the secret he had been harboring for the last months?

“Or… are you going because you want to nail one of the Stars?” He asked with a sly grin, glancing around the table to also let their other friends in on the joke. Arthit felt air leave his lungs in a quick rush, even as he continued to avert his gaze, exchanging looks with Prem as he fought to keep the grimace out of his face.

He could always count on Bright to reach the wrong (if also technically right) conclusion.

(He wasn’t interested in the Stars. Why would he be?

He already had his own Moon, thank you very much.)

“Oh, that’s great! You guys can nail all those Stars,” Tutah added airily with a flick of his fingers, making them glance at him, “and you can leave the rest of the Moons to me.”

“I don’t know about that,” Arthit finally interrupted, making the others turn their attention to him again. He resisted the scowl that was threatening to show on his face, pointing at his friends with the tip of his pen.

(Tutah could have all the Moons he wanted, Arthit wasn’t going to stop him.

As long as it wasn’t his Moon.

That particular Moon was already revolving around one Sun, and one Sun only.)

“Anyway, you guys are gonna come with me. You drank all the drinks I’ve given you, so I’m taking it as a yes.” He declared.

“What, this isn’t your generosity, Ai’Oon?” Tutah asked, with a laugh, even as he affected a shocked tone.

“Hell no,” Arthit scoffed, “now, hurry up and finish your drinks so we could go.”

He didn’t want to be late and miss any moment of his boyfriend’s performance tonight.

Bright quickly came to the conclusion that he was more than okay with this change in events too, ending up kissing Arthit’s hand, which really made him make a face at the other this time around. His friends eventually stood up, being herded along at Arthit’s insistence, already promising to keep the papers in his dorm since he had to go there (or so he said) anyway.

(Maybe he could buy something, like another drink, to pass on to the second years working backstage, disguising it as a present from one of his yearmates to give to Kongpob before the show started.

Maybe it would help calm the younger’s nerves a bit.)


Arthit just had enough time to go back to his dorm as promised, place the papers on his desk, swing by the convenience store to grab a drink, paste a note on it, and give it to a passing second year at the back of the auditorium before meeting Bright at the entrance of the university auditorium, who was the only person enthusiastic enough to accompany him.

He was the only one, but better than nothing.

To his surprise though, Arthit found the rest of his friends also waiting alongside Bright, chatting amongst themselves when he finally came up to meet them at the designated spot. Arthit had been more than half serious when he said they were also coming with him, but he didn’t think they would take him at his word seriously. They entered the auditorium in a rush, with Arthit taking the stairs two steps at a time so he would get inside the hall as fast as he could.

“Oi, Ai’Arthit, wait for us!” He heard Tutah call after him, but he couldn’t hear a word, ears already straining as he heard MC go through her opening spiel.

The program had already started when he finally arrived at the top of the auditorium, using the railing to support him, panting slightly as he turned his gaze towards the stage.

He missed the entrance of the freshmen representatives, but not much else. Good. He should be able to see the thing in its entirety.

Then pain bloomed at the back of his head as a palm met it soundly.

“The hell—” He hissed at Bright, grasping at his head, who was also gasping for breath, looking none too happy as he stared at Arthit with a raised eyebrow.

“Take it easy, man. What’s the rush?” He gestured towards the program happening below them, before glancing at his watch. “You called me out at 6 p.m. You should have told me to meet up earlier if you didn’t want to be late.”

I didn’t want to look too eager, that’s why.

“Forget that, you want to watch it too!” Arthit exclaimed in a louder voice than usual, the freshmen’s cheers drowning out the sound of his voice as the rest of his friends appeared behind them. “I only asked Ai’Bright to come. Why are you all here?”

“I called them so we could put more pressure on that nong of yours,” Bright pointed down to the stage, where his boyfriend and his Star partner were standing, side by side. This far back, they couldn’t see the juniors clearly, the stage light also making it difficult for them to see the details of their faces without squinting. “If he wins this contest too, we’ll lose face, you know? What are you going to do?”

… Was it a failing on Arthit’s part as the head hazer that he completely forgot about that even happening in the first place?

Besides, if Kongpob really won, what could he do? Arthit certainly couldn’t tell his friends that he was hoping for the younger to win, and any embarrassment he would feel about being proven wrong would be superficial at best, since he knew the other’s capabilities very well.

Screw his pride as head hazer, his boyfriend’s achievements were much more important to Arthit right now.

“I don’t think he’d do it this time,” Arthit told Bright, realistic, but the complete opposite of what he was honestly feeling. “He’s already won the basketball game. It’s unlikely he’ll get to win another contest again. He’s not that lucky.”

(Not to say anything of his own personal bet with the younger, which was already halfway fulfilled. Arthit still didn’t know how to feel about it, that his boyfriend had to go through these convoluted efforts to just ask him for something.

He would see, very soon, what Kongpob wanted of him.)

Come on, Kong, Arthit couldn’t help but think as he gazed down at the stage, now putting all of his attention towards it.

Prove them wrong.

They were already going through the introductions of the faculty representatives, and Arthit choked on air when he saw the pair walked towards the microphone next.

Kongpob was dressed in a blue sweater with white accents, the sleeves slid up to the elbow, which wasn’t unlike his usual outside wear. As always, he looked drop-dead gorgeous with his hair parted to one side, bangs covering his forehead, smile brilliant and eyes twinkling bright as he practically oozed with almost thoughtless charm.

But…

… Was that Praepailin on Kongpob’s arm? 0774 Praepailin, the beautiful freshman, that now looked like an angel with her curled brown hair and white dress, the person who (was forced to) tell Arthit that he was super good-looking?

Why was she on his arm? Why was she using two hands to hold on to him? Was this something all the contestants did? Why would they allow something so inappropriate? Was it a part of the program?

It was, as Arthit soon found out, after Kongpob and Praepailin introduced themselves and their faculty, retreating to make way for the next pair, who were also arm-in-arm as they walked up to the middle of the raised platform to make their own introductions.

They… looked really good together, smiling at each other like that.

Calm down, Arthit, he sternly told himself, even as he felt his teeth grinding against each other, a sour feeling curdling in his gut. His jealousy was completely fucking misplaced, Kongpob and his partner had a job to do right now, and if it required them to touch each other, then so be it.

Still, it didn’t mean he had to be happy at the sight, and Arthit once again crossed his arms, lips downturned as he continued to observe the events as it unfolded.

Like all beauty and popularity contests, there was a set formula, and its order merely changed depending on the organizers. The talent portion was first on this current list, and Arthit had to stand through and suffer everyone else’s shows. As the reigning champions, the Faculty of Engineering would always be the last to answer or perform, and while Arthit meant no disrespect towards the other nongs, he could see that they had worked very well and prepared well for their own stages…

He wasn’t fucking interested in any of them. At all. Sure, he could appreciate the effort, but there was a lot of personal stake for this particular competition, and as much as Arthit wanted to give each faculty the focus and praise each of them probably needed, his attention was completely diverted to something else.

To be more specific, someone else.

And as the Faculty of Science finally finished their movie Western-inspired act, Arthit’s spine finally straightened out as the MC finally announced the last pair who would be showing off their talents for tonight.

Until the last moment, Arthit had no idea what his boyfriend was going to do for this part of the contest, merely telling him to come watch to see it for himself. Arthit had been half-tempted to cajole or threaten the younger into confessing, but knowing Kongpob and his proclivity towards brazenness, it would probably backfire on Arthit instantly, so he didn’t even make the attempt.

He watched as a pair of stools and microphones were prepared on the stage, and his eyebrows shot up in unexpected surprise.

Will Kongpob sing? In front of an audience? His boyfriend’s voice was admittedly decent, although, as Kongpob mentioned to him offhandedly, it was due to going through vocal lessons as a child, not out of any natural talent. Still, he could carry a tune, and on the rare times the other could be persuaded to sing in front of him, Kongpob’s singing always sounded pleasant to his ears.

Arthit also knew that it was one of the (few) things that actually made Kongpob shy, so to see him do it willingly was… a shock.

Then they finally came out onto the stage, and Arthit’s eyes almost fell out of his head as his breath suddenly stopped in the middle of his throat.

“Oi Arthit, you okay? That’s the second time you choked,” Prem asked with a firm thump to his back, making Arthit wince as he coughed, trying his best to stifle it so he wouldn’t disturb the other people watching. “Are you eating something right now?”

Arthit quickly waved him off, eyes stinging as he tried to gather his composure, but double checking his sight just proved it wasn’t going in any way or manner, zeroing in on the space between the younger and his partner.

Hands. They were holding hands. Why. Was this also a part of their show? In Kongpob’s other hand was an acoustic guitar, and as far as Arthit knew, his boyfriend didn’t know how to play that particular instrument.

(“Just the violin, piano, and cello, like what the rest of the rich kids were doing,” Kongpob had quipped with a wry smile, when Arthit had asked. “But I wasn’t very good at reading the notes and practicing daily, so Mae stopped me before I could get too far.”)

If this physical display of affection was a part of their act, then Arthit could accept it, if begrudgingly so.

If not, well…

He would be having words with his touchy boyfriend. Kongpob shouldn’t be holding another girl’s hand when his own goddamn boyfriend was watching his performance. That the younger specifically asked him to do. Arthit could feel his mouth twisting in a deep scowl, fingers tightening around his upper arms as his glare sharpened.

He was really paying attention now, more carefully than ever before.

The audience was quiet, with Kongpob handing the instrument over to Praepailin, adjusting the mics as they took their seats in the middle of the stage.

Then Kongpob started to chant an English children’s song, understandably throwing the entire auditorium into a confused loop.

Arthit resisted the urge to scream as he quickly turned his face away, squeezing his eyes shut as he felt secondhand embarrassment wash over him. He just barely managed to peek an eye out to continue watching, wincing through the entire thing.

Oh, god. What was his boyfriend doing? For all the pride he had in his significant other, even Arthit felt a part of his soul shrivel in shame as Kongpob and Praepailin eventually got the rest of the auditorium to follow after them, their faces not showing a lick of shame as they continued to smile at the crowd.

“Could this even be considered as them singing?” Knot asked with a quiet chuckle, the rest of his friends laughing along with him, “it’s like they’re trying to entertain children.”

And as much as Arthit dearly loved his boyfriend, even he couldn’t find the words to defend the younger, this time.

“Thank you for singing along with us,” Kongpob finally said into the microphone after everyone had clapped for the last time. “Now, we’ll be singing the songs we prepared for our show.” He grinned, all boyish magnetism, and only Kongpob would be bare-faced enough to start off his performance with a nursery rhyme, of all things. “If you know the lyrics, please sing along.”

Arthit felt himself loosen up a little as the accompaniment track started to play, finally beginning their show in earnest.

The first one they sang… was an adorable love song. Very fresh, engaging and easy, as the audience swayed and clapped along to the beat. Arthit resisted the impulse to drop his head into his palm, sighing as Tutah started to dance behind him, getting into it like the rest of the audience was.

Of course. He shouldn’t have expected anything else. Entertaining a crowd surprisingly took little work, and with a bright, pop song that was easily recognizable and easy to follow, getting the audience worked up wasn’t a difficult next step to do. It was also a duet, so Praepailin wasn’t just delegated to being a pretty face, actually getting into it with much enthusiasm as anyone else.

Arthit wondered how the younger could stand… doing such cringey, deliberately endearing actions, watching him spell out ‘love’ with his hands. He would have disintegrated the moment he knew how to perform this particular song, but perhaps it was also a part of the experience as a freshman, to put oneself out there, out of one’s comfort zone.

Thank Buddha Arthit was done with that part of his life.

And despite everything, he could feel his lips tugging up in a helpless smile, giving the first act a few slow claps as it ended.

Kongpob… really was cute, when he was doing something he obviously enjoyed.

“Now comes the last song from us,” Kongpob said, after all the applause died down. “Once again, if you’re not exhausted and you know the lyrics, please sing with us.”

This time, Praepailin started to strum the guitar, and the atmosphere became more solemn, more serious, as the sweet notes of a slow ballad came rushing through.

I’m searching for the feelings you’re hiding inside,” Kongpob started to sing, glancing at his partner, and all at once, Arthit stopped, arms dropping to the side as he continued to listen intently.

Every time you look at me, your eyes tell me you're hiding a secret in your heart.
This time around, I’ll try searching, no matter how difficult it seems
Please open the way for me and let me into your heart.

This… wasn’t just a romantic song. It spoke of yearning and fondness, of wishful dreams and longing fantasies. This song… was something that reflected their past all too accurately, before he had finally gathered the courage to finally be with the other in the way they both wanted to be.

His friends were whispering quietly behind him, but Arthit couldn’t summon the energy to care, keeping his gaze on the stage. He didn’t want to assume, because wouldn’t that be the most pathetic thing ever, to think that this was a… a tribute to him when it actually wasn’t. But as Kongpob’s eyes roamed across the room, finally glancing up to the part of the auditorium where he was standing it, Arthit felt the other’s stare stab cleanly through his heart, even if he knew, logically, that Kongpob wouldn’t be able to find him in this crowd.

But it still felt like he was completely seen through, and Arthit didn’t know what to do with the sudden surge of conflicting emotions in his chest.

Was this song… for him?

For them?

I’ll take my heart to search yours to find the thing you’re hiding
If you have those words in your heart, why don’t you say them?

Because it was so hard, Arthit thought, despair crawling into his heart, and he grabbed at his chest tightly, feeling it physically ache under his skin. Kongpob… had always been able to understand him, even without so many words passing between them. Arthit wasn’t the one to speak his emotions. He showed his care through actions, because what were words without anything else to back them up?

Arthit knew he wasn’t an easy person to get along with, let alone love, but the younger did it so easily, so freely, that he had knocked Arthit clean off his feet, had allowed him to see the passion and drive the other had.

His heart had been broken for the longest time, until someone else picked up the pieces and glued it back together again, and this time, returned it to Arthit stronger and better than ever before. Arthit had expected his secrets to be completely exposed the moment he started to fall for the other, but Kongpob had kept his heart safe, protecting and cherishing it as much as he could, even if he didn’t know all of the things it had under lock and key.

But if there was anyone Arthit would allow to search through his heart… it would only be him.

Kongpob continued to glance at their direction, still with that small smile, as he sang the next lines.

I know the same as you that love takes time.
I’m not worried how long it’ll be, I just ask for your heart that you’ve given me.

No… Arthit started to realize with wide eyes, an inkling of comprehension trickled through his mind.

This… this wasn’t just a song that told the beginning of their relationship.

This was a confession.

His boyfriend… was telling him his feelings, all over again, in front of everyone in the auditorium. Lyrics that both told everything and nothing, dedicated for the one person that would probably understand what the younger was saying more than anyone else present inside this hall.

Arthit’s breath hitched, his eyes starting to sting as warmth slowly and steadily gathered behind it. Damn it, he wasn’t going to cry, not now, but he couldn’t breathe, his chest feeling so heavy that it actually felt like he was weighed down, his knees already starting to give as he felt himself drawn forward, towards the stage.

You don’t have to ask, Kong, you already—!

But before he could do anything stupid like race down the steps to the front of the platform, or open his mouth to possibly blurt out a few words he would never be able to take back, the lights inside the auditorium suddenly switched off, leaving all of them in total darkness.

Whispers rose from the crowd, and Arthit quickly looked around, only just able to see when the dim emergency lights flared to life.

“What’s happening?” Tutah whispered, and beside him, he could feel Bright shrug.

But Arthit’s heart was in his throat, keeping his eyes trained on the stage.

Would this ruin his boyfriend’s performance completely? What was Kongpob going to do now?

But slowly, as if it was planned all along, the flash on the smartphones started to blink open, one after another, making the room feel as if they were floating along beside multiple bright stars.

And this time, these small, pinpricks of illumination were enough for people to see Kongpob again, who had already stood up, staring around him with a relieved smile.

I’ll take my heart to search yours to find the thing you’re hiding
If you have those words in your heart, why don’t you say them?

Kongpob’s voice was louder, clearer, almost echoing throughout the large, open air above him, with Praepailin’s sweeter, higher voice blending alongside his in perfect harmony.

It felt special, almost magical, and Arthit couldn’t take his eyes away from the younger, even as the lights finally returned and the auditorium was once again bathed with colorful lights.

Not bad, Bright mouthed at him when Arthit managed to catch his eye, and he couldn’t help but agree, the show continuing as if nothing had interrupted it in the first place.

And the special effects that happened afterwards almost seemed insignificant, in the end. Kongpob’s song was simple but heartfelt, genuine and earnest, able to pierce through and touch even the hardest and coldest of hearts.

His Kong, always able to defy the odds. Arthit couldn’t help but shake his head in disbelief, even as his lips quirked up at the edges, chest tightening.

I know same as you that love takes time
I’ll stay to hear those words, that’s the prize that I desire
It’s worth the search of your heart.

As the song faded away, Arthit realized he was smiling so widely that his cheeks were starting to hurt, and he immediately schooled his face into something more stoic and manageable, before any of his friends managed to notice.

But he clapped as hard and as much as he could, after the performance was done, and no matter how much his palms stung afterwards, he didn’t stop.

Couldn’t find it in himself to, because Kongpob deserved the applause, and more.

“That was the performance of the Faculty of Engineering, everyone!” The MC returned to the stage, waiting for the ovation to calm down before finally addressing the pair on stage.

“Can I ask why you’ve chosen to sing those 3 songs for your performance tonight?”

“Well… The reason we chose to perform these songs was because we felt like it would reflect the 3 stages of life well.” Kongpob answered after a meaningful pause. “The first song relates to our childhood when there are only good memories. We had fun, and had a good relationship with our friends. The second song is the part of our lives when we experience puppy love, and it’s beautiful. And the third song…” He paused.

“It represents the stage of life when we’re old enough to sincerely love someone else.”

Arthit might have just imagined it, but the younger’s eyes definitely flickered in their direction.

“And by that point, we try to use our hearts to search the heart of the person we hold the dearest to us.”

Arthit could feel the blush building under his cheeks, and he pressed his lips together, refusing on principle to be affected, even as clear understanding of the words settled into his skin.

“And now I’d like to use my whole heart to search the heart of the judges, to see whether we are qualified or not.”

He finished his statement with a wink, tone as smooth and as rich as butter as he segues into harmless flirting, and the squeals that ensued afterwards was almost deafening to the ears. One of the people nearby the front of the stage actually goddamn swooned.

(He would be utterly indignant by their reactions if he… hadn’t almost joined them.

Almost.

For Buddha’s sake Arthit, he had to severely scold himself, patting his chest in an attempt to calm his galloping heart underneath, stop being so affected by your boyfriend’s every action.)

“He’ll have girls falling and slobbering all over him soon,” Prem muttered, grudgingly admiring, and Arthit almost growled at him to keep his mouth shut.

He didn’t need that idea influencing the universe. As if he needed more competition for his boyfriend’s attention.

Kongpob and Praepailin were finally allowed to go backstage to rest and prepare for the next round as the judges tallied their scores before declaring the final four pairs that would make it to the final round.

Finally he was allowed some room to breathe, and Arthit took the short break to loosen up his muscles, which were completely stiff after that harrowing first part.

They weren’t even halfway through the contest, and Arthit was already exhausted.

Finally, the four pairs of contestants were announced, and Arthit was not surprised to see that his boyfriend made the cut. Considering his thoughtful answer to his performance, and the way he got through that temporary mishap and still delivered a magnificent stage, the judges would be biased if they didn’t at least consider him to be one of the finalists.

(Just a little bit more. Just the right question and answer, and Kongpob would get that sash of victory soon.)

“I actually think he has a high chance of winning,” Tutah said before the questions started, tapping at Arthit’s shoulder. He was looking through his phone, showing them the latest social media post on the screen. “Look at this. He has a lot of likes on his picture.” A teasing expression slowly appeared on his face.

“Hey, you’re in big trouble now, Ai’Arthit.”

Yes, I am, was what Arthit’s mind instantly blurted out, and it was definitely in a good way.

But thankfully, those weren’t the words that came out of his mouth.

“It’s just the first round, isn’t it? There’s still the interview to go,” he said with a bit more snap to his tone, because honestly, he didn’t care about upholding the pride of the hazing team as of the moment. If the freshmen actually managed to prove him wrong, then good for them, they would be one step closer to finishing the entire hazing activity without experiencing any more pain or distress.

But right now, he was Kongpob’s supportive older boyfriend, and Arthit turned his attention back to the stage, crossing his arms once more as the MC raised her microphone to speak. “Let’s see if he can survive this time around.”

The rules for this round were simple enough. All representatives will choose a random question, and they will be given the time to answer. There was actually no time limit, but it was encouraged to keep your responses brief and direct to the point.

And so it ensued. Once again, the Faculty of Engineering would be the last to answer their questions, and Arthit barely listened to the first three pairs, keeping his eyes on the other the entire time.

Kongpob didn’t look nervous. He was once again back in his school uniform, tie crisp and white shirt without visible wrinkles as he continued to smile, patiently waiting for his turn.

If Arthit had doubts when it came to the talent portion of the contest, in this, he had the utmost confidence in the younger. Kongpob could probably talk his way out of paying for something he bought if given the right incentive, ideas and thoughts coming easily from his lips.

But more than his charisma, his boyfriend also had the ability to motivate and inspire others with his words. His politeness, combined with his convictions and beliefs, was enough to move people, if not make them seriously consider the younger’s point of view. It was a latent talent Arthit didn’t think Kongpob actually noticed in himself, but it spoke of effortless charm and honest magnetism that very few people manage to cultivate.

If Kongpob seriously refined his speaking skills, Arthit had no doubt that his people would follow him everywhere. It was a quality that a future leader should have, and even now, Arthit could see how the other was already affecting the people watching in the auditorium.

(His boyfriend would be a great CEO for his family’s company, in the future.)

Finally, it was Kongpob’s turn, and Arthit stood up straighter, paying complete attention as he watched the other pick out his question.

“What is your view on the SOTUS System that is still being used today? Do you think it should be stopped? Why?”

And wasn’t that question the most relevant and timely of them all.

Arthit knew the younger had a lot to say about the SOTUS System. They ended up discussing the topic more often than not, with Arthit explaining the older, more traditional point of view of why and how the System worked, while Kongpob argued for the newer, younger generation of students.

Kongpob didn’t like the methods used by the people controlling the system, but he accepted its general purpose. There were always good and bad things in a System being used, such as inspiring unity faster and easier than usual, but it can also cause disagreements and discord. Ultimately, it boiled down to what the SOTUS System was for, and the decision to remove it or not depended on that purpose.

But Kongpob also believed that everything the seniors did had a reason, that they weren’t just sadists going on a power trip, asserting their dominance over the younger students.

“And… I believe that one of the reasons the seniors still use the SOTUS System on us… is because they want us to lead a more effective and productive university life. Thank you.”

All of this, explained by the younger clearly and eloquently, without a hint of hesitation. Arthit was nodding along as he clapped alongside the audience, not particularly surprised, because he had heard this line of thinking from his boyfriend multiple times before.

(Arthit honestly agreed with him, for multiple reasons. In the end, it really depended on a person’s intentions, and how they went about acting on them. It was a mature way of thinking, because, more often than not, the ends did not completely justify the means.

Kongpob and his friends were just lucky that Arthit really, sincerely, just wanted to toughen them up a little bit in preparation for the upcoming years, because it wasn’t going to be easy.)

Seriously, the younger was much too pure and idealistic for this world.

Getting his phone to check the time, Arthit remembered his promise, and immediately went online, going to his boyfriend’s photo, and pressing ‘love’ on it, just because he fucking could.

And right there and then, he knew, with complete certainty, that he didn’t have to listen to the results to know who would win.

“Hey, where are you going?” Prem asked, stopping Arthit briefly as he turned around and started to go down the stairs.

“I’ll be back,” he answered, already distracted, not seeing the exchange of looks between his friends as he exited the auditorium as quickly he could, opening his phone’s search engine in the meantime and tapping a few words in the search bar.

… Would there be any shops outside the campus with what he wanted that’s open this late?

But Arthit wasn’t worried about not getting back to see his boyfriend on time, as he flagged down a nearby taxi.

He was sure Kongpob was going to end up really busy immediately after the competition ended.


When Arthit finally managed to return to the auditorium, he immediately went backstage, and just as he predicted, the younger was swarmed with students, asking to take pictures with him, the twin sashes looped on his shoulder proving Arthit’s prophetic thoughts into reality. This was one of the times he was grateful for the other’s sudden burst of popularity, buying him the time he needed to go outside and buy a dozen red roses from a nearby flower shop that Arthit managed to get to in time before they finally closed for the day.

Quickly explaining his situation, the owners wasted no time in making up his request, and Arthit was more than grateful as he left the shop, armed with a beautiful flower arrangement, simple in its housing of paper crepe and colorful ribbons, making the dark red of the roses stand out in comparison.

And so now Arthit was here, skulking around the corners of the backstage like a lost puppy, waiting for the other to finish with his new legion of fans.

It was ridiculous. He didn’t have to do any of this, could very well just meet his boyfriend in the privacy of their rooms, but Kongpob just won all of the contests he was in, and if that didn’t merit a congratulatory bouquet, what did?

Of course, it also meant that Arthit now owed his boyfriend a favor, but that seemed to pale in comparison to all the work the younger had done to reach these achievements. It was the first time anyone had won both the popularity vote and the University Moon title, and to Arthit, it just showed how much of an overachiever the younger really was.

(Now that everything was done and over with, Kongpob was going back to his room and sleep. No, Arthit did not care for celebrations or surprise dinner dates, even if that was what the occasion called for. The other was already stretched thin as it was, and deserved more than a few hours of rest tonight.

They could always go out and celebrate another time. All day even, if Kongpob wanted it.)

He carefully stuck to the walls, careful to not ruin the bouquet in his hand, making sure it stayed well hidden as he tried to catch his boyfriend’s eye from a distance. And at long last, after a few minutes, the younger finally turned his head in Arthit’s direction and raised his head up, meeting his gaze.

Arthit offered a small smile, one hand tucked in his workshop shirt as he shifted from one leg to answer.

But Kongpob was just staring at him, with wide eyes and a hint of a blossoming smile on his face, that Arthit felt his face starting to heat up.

Seriously, what was he doing here?

It was probably better to give these flowers later, when he didn’t feel so self-conscious, so exposed. Besides, they were still around a lot of students wandering around, and if they recognized who he was, then their relationship would be good as public.

Arthit immediately turned away, walking back to the hallway that led outside from the backstage. But he should have known better than to leave the other without a word, because he could hear footsteps running towards his direction.

And he didn’t have to look back as a familiar touch finally grazed against his skin.

“P’Arthit,” his boyfriend sounded breathless, holding his elbow, long fingers squeezing lightly as he stopped Arthit in his tracks. “Please wait.”

He almost couldn’t bear to look at Kongpob, by this point. Wondered how the other looked at him right now, seeing how flustered and shy Arthit was.

And before Arthit completely lost his nerve, he turned around, almost shoving the roses against the other’s chest.

“Here,” Arthit muttered, studiously not meeting the younger’s slowly widening eyes as the heat flared hotter under his skin. “Congratulations, Kong.”

For a long time, the other was silent, mouth slightly open, completely stunned, expression one of complete and unadulterated astonishment.

Then a wide smile broke through Kongpob’s lips, now looking so unabashedly delighted it instantly deepened the color on Arthit’s cheeks.

“… Thank you.” Kongpob took the bouquet with both of his hands, cupping the back of Arthit’s fingers in the process, leaving a lingering warmth as the younger pressed his face against the blossoms. Arthit heard him breathe deeply, before tilting his head, eyes deep and twinkling as they peered at Arthit through long, thick eyelashes.

“You surprised me. This is the best thing I’ve ever received.”

“Don’t exaggerate.” Arthit still knew he was a bit pink in the face, but whatever initial embarrassment he felt was now replaced by bashful satisfaction, pleased that he had done the right thing. “I hardly think this is the first time you’ve gotten flowers from someone else.”

“It’s not, but this is the first time I’ve received a bouquet from someone special to me,” Kongpob said quietly, placing the bouquet down, only to step into Arthit’s space, one hand sliding up the side of Arthit’s neck.

And as silent as air, between one breath and the next, their lips met.

The kiss was brief, lingering. Without conscious thought, Arthit’s eyes had slipped shut, his hands coming up to cup the younger’s jaw, pressing back with as much care and softness as his boyfriend freely offered. He felt the gratitude in his touch, the love in his careful, delicate movements. His fingertips brushed against the edges of Kongpob’s lightly gelled hair, palms spread across the line of his boyfriend’s sharp jaw, splayed across tanned skin.

It was just so light, gentle, that Arthit’s mind blanked out, its edges more than fuzzy when the younger eventually moved back, chest stuttering as he inhaled the air his lungs forgot to breathe in.

But Kongpob’s hand never left, a soft, broad palm meeting his fevered cheek, a thumb stroking his skin as they looked at each other, breaking into helpless, bashful smiles afterwards.

“P’… I won our wager.” The giddy expression on his boyfriend’s face just made Arthit look at him fondly. Even he couldn’t begrudge the other something so simple as this. Like a child who had gotten his favorite toy. It was an endearing sight.

“I know.” He sighed in resignation, a small smile still tugging at his lips as his fingers found the edges of the younger’s winners sash. “You’ve worked hard, Kong. So? What do you want me to do?”

He wasn’t going to back down, whatever it was his boyfriend wanted of him. He did promise ‘anything’.

… Unless…

Kongpob wanted them to come out to their friends already?

His heart thumped uneasily.

Well. If that was the request, Arthit… would have no choice. He gave his word, after all.

But if he could ask for something…

He’d like to request to be given time. At least until after the gear-giving ceremony, just to make sure they kept their ties as strictly senior and junior throughout the entire hazing activity, even if just on a technicality.

Afterwards… Arthit would be ready. He would definitely fulfill his part of the bet, if that was what Kongpob wanted.

But his boyfriend didn’t look like he was thinking along the same lines, thoughtful as he considered all the options open to him right now.

“I think I’ll… reserve the favor for another time.” Kongpob smiled, dropping his hand to press a quick sniff-kiss on Arthit’s cheek. “When I think of something, I’ll let you know.”

Arthit couldn’t help but stare at him in disbelief, even as he rubbed at the side of his face, trying to will the blush on his face away. “What the hell?” He was going to hold this over Arthit’s head for a long time, wasn’t he? “Why can’t you decide something now?”

“It’s a secret.” Kongpob seemed unmoved, even as Arthit narrowed his eyes at the other suspiciously. “What did you think of the song, P’?”

“Yuck. Cheesy.” Arthit answered immediately, making a face as the younger laughed out loud, completely accepting his opinion. Maybe even agreed with it, to some level. “But… not bad. Why that song?”

“Because…” Kongpob was still chuckling, but his eyes were filled with overflowing warmth and complete devotion as he answered honestly.

“I’d like to know all the secrets you hold in your heart, P’Ai-Oon. So I can learn how to take care of them, and in extension you, to the best of my abilities. That’s all.”

And just as Arthit was able to finally remove the heat from his cheeks, blood immediately rushed back under his skin, heart hammering under his ribs as he was completely robbed of speech.

That was it. His boyfriend was definitely trying to kill him.

“Flirt,” he scowled after a moment of stunned silence, shoving the younger back slightly, though not pulling his hand back when Kongpob managed to catch it with his own. “And don’t think I’ve forgotten what you’ve done on stage today. We will have words, Kongpob Suthiluck. But go back for now, they’ll be wondering where you are.”

“What did I do? Do you want to celebrate later, P’?” Kongpob asked earnestly instead, refusing to let him go with a mischievous, knowing twinkle in his eyes. He looked so smugly pleased that, if the younger didn’t just do the almost impossible tonight, Arthit would have boxed his ear right there and then for his utter cheek. “We should go out once I’m done here.”

But Arthit shook his head as he gave the other a quick glare. “You know very well what you’ve done. But not tonight. You’ll be tired at the end of this and you need to go get some rest.”

“Then… please wait for me outside?” Kongpob asked instead, eyes wide and open and pleading. “I’ll try to be quick; we can walk back to the dorms together.”

There was nothing unreasonable about that request, and in fact it would be a nice way to end the day, so Arthit agreed.

Which turned out to be a bad idea as his boyfriend leaned closer, his smile slowing into a wicked smirk as he directly whispered into Arthit’s ear, his hand curling around Arthit’s that was still pressed against his sternum.

“Also… I’d like to get the rest of my reward later, P’Ai-Oon.”

Arthit instantly froze, heart skipping a beat in his chest.

“R-rest of your reward, my ass!” Arthit finally managed to hiss once he got his bearings, outraged and more than a little mortified. He smacked the younger’s chest in reprimand, pushing him as far away from his person as much as he physically could, especially when he could hear the sound of another set of footsteps coming up behind them. How his boyfriend could still find every way to make him flustered was a mystery Arthit had no patience to solve right now. “Go, Kong! I’ll wait for you outside.”

“Ah, excuse us! Khun Kongpob, is that you?” The sound of someone calling for his boyfriend was the opportunity Arthit needed to step back, leave as quickly as he could before they were spotted together by other people.

And just in time as well, as Arthit looked back, already halfway out the door, only to see the younger already surrounded by two students, with cameras and clipboards in their hands.

“We are from the Student Association! Would you have the time to have an interview with us?”

“Of course.”

“How do you feel about winning the Popular Vote and being crowned as this year’s University Moon?”

“Well…” His boyfriend shrugged, offering a polite smile. “It’s not bad.”

The interviewing pair looked at each other in surprise. “Not bad? Why is it just not bad? Now you’re the Moon that gets to be with all the Stars in the sky.” The girl interviewer continued, eager.

“Ah…” Kongpob’s tone turned sheepish, charmingly shy as he offered his response.

“But the Moon would never shine so bright, if not for the Sun that’s always sharing its light.”

Arthit almost tripped on his own feet when he heard the answer, steadying himself with the hand that was holding the door open still. What nonsense was his boyfriend saying now?!

“So I’d like to thank the Sun, for lending the Moon its continuing warmth and support.” Kongpob continued, tone more confident, unwavering in its conviction. He glanced towards the side, at Arthit, who continued to stand there, frozen, by the doorway.

And, once knowing that he had Arthit’s complete attention, spoke softly.

“The Moon is more than honored, and willing to follow the Sun in its eternal life.”

“Huh…” The students exchanged confused looks with one another, but Kongpob’s smile remained as guileless and as innocent as ever, returning to the conversation flawlessly.

And Arthit had to struggle to stop the small, shy, pleased smile that was threatening to break out on his face, pressing a hand against his mouth as his heart fluttered.

(If he giggled like a lovestruck girl right now in his boyfriend’s presence Arthit would never be able to forgive himself.)

He finally got out of the building, and Arthit leaned against the nearest patch of wall, beginning his vigil of waiting once more for his boyfriend to finish up with whatever he needed to do inside. He mostly used the time to scroll through social media, the Moon and Star University Contest already trending as he checked the reactions of the students online.

Arthit didn’t wait for very long though, as the door opened again some while after, revealing his boyfriend, who was saying his final goodbyes to the people who helped him backstage. He mostly looked like he was back to normal, the makeup wiped away from his face, his sashes hanging off one arm, his trophy in one hand, and his bouquets carried in the crook of his elbow.

But despite the exhaustion that now draped over his entire form, his eyes still lit up in joy when he saw that Arthit was still there, waiting for him, as promised.

Without a word, Arthit moved forward, and took the backpack off the younger’s shoulder, slinging it across his back. Kongpob grinned in return, presenting the white-flower bouquet that was given to him when he won on stage.

“For you, P’Arthit.”

“Don’t give out things that are meant for you,” Arthit sighed, even as he took the smaller bouquet without much fuss. He ran his fingers over the petals lightly, ducking his head to hide his slight warmth crawling up his cheeks.

(They were still pretty, and it would be a waste to just throw them away in the trash.)

“But these are the only flowers that I want,” Kongpob raised the red rose bouquet Arthit had given as if it was the trophy, and he could only glance at the other in familiar, fond exasperation.

Why did he like this brat so much, again?

But then the younger turned to him, with a smile on his lips, with his hand held out, his eyes sparkling like the stars that hovered above them both, and Arthit was suddenly reminded of the million and one reasons why.

And even then, words wouldn’t be enough, if Arthit had to explain the depth of emotions he felt for Kongpob.

“P’Ai-Oon, let’s go home.”

And Arthit, helpless, enamored, could only take his hand in turn, letting their entangled fingers swing between them as they started their trek back home, red and white continuing to bloom in their hands.

Because nothing else mattered right now. Just him, Kongpob, and night’s cool darkness enveloping them both.

“… Yeah. Let’s go home, Kong.”

Chapter Text

Kongpob was currently attending a party that celebrated his and his faculty’s consecutive win during Freshy Week, but there was nothing more he would like right now than to just return to his dorm and cuddle with his boyfriend until morning.

That wasn’t to say he wasn’t enjoying himself. He honestly was; he and his friends deserved to unwind after all the stress and trouble they had been through the past week, and it was nice to be with them again without any pressing or urgent reasons.

But being here it meant leaving his boyfriend alone and lonely on a large, warm, comfortable bed on such a long, quiet night, and if given the choice where to stay, Kongpob would easily choose the latter in less than a heartbeat.

He tucked himself in the corner, pulling out his phone, his other hand holding a cup of juice by the rim. Occasionally someone came around to ask for a picture or to congratulate him for the win, and Kongpob would have to indulge them, knowing that this was part of the package when he won the Campus Moon title. Most of the people who approached were nice, leaving immediately after they had gotten what they had wanted. But there were some that were more persistent, asking if he was single and if they could get his number, forcing him to work a little more to turn them down firmly while making it seem like he actually wasn’t.

It was tiring, to be so accommodating and polite all the time, and Kongpob released a small exhale of breath when he was finally left alone.

His fingers were opening his messaging app and typing on the keyboard before he was fully conscious of it.

Can I go home now, P’?

Stay, was the immediate response, and Kongpob had to bite the inside of his lower lip to stop himself from smiling so widely. So his boyfriend was waiting for him to text or call tonight. Don’t be clingy.

I’ll always want to spend time with you more than anyone else, P’, Kongpob answered immediately, and was rewarded with a nauseated face emoji, making a smile break out on his lips.

(He didn’t need to see to know that he had probably flustered his boyfriend again, and that knowledge was always going to bring a pleasant, heady feeling.)

Kongpob hadn’t wanted to come to the party at first, all too willing to lie to his friends that he was tired, he was sick, that he had lost one of his legs showering and he couldn’t go to the party location anymore. All he wanted after all the hardship was just to spend the night with his boyfriend, because simply being in the older’s presence was the best form of relaxation Kongpob could experience.

But his always-so-considerate-of-others P’Arthit had all but forced him to dress more properly and pushed him out of his own dorm room, closing the door right in front his face the moment he found out about the celebration. The older had lightly scolded him for his reluctance to spend time with his friends, all the while making sure his hair was laying flat on his head and the buttons on his shirt were done up properly.

(“I really will break up with you if you don’t go there right now. It’s a party to celebrate your win, so don’t be rude and show your face there, Kong. Just a few hours would do.”

A petulant frown.

“But P’...”

A sigh.

“It’s fine. I’ll… I’ll still be here if you want, so don’t keep your friends waiting anymore.”

A bright beam.

“Does that mean you’ll be waiting for me to come back home to you, P’Ai-Oon?”

A deep blush.

Get out of here, Kongpob.

“... It’s my room, though?”

“Out!”)

His boyfriend was right, as per the usual. Kongpob should take the time to appreciate the work his yearmates did the past few weeks, this was their moment, after all. It also meant that they had proved to the hazers that they really had what it took to remain in the Engineering Faculty, and could result in less hazing activities in the near future.

(Kongpob doubted if his boyfriend actually would lessen their work, knowing him, but it was a nice thought to hold on to, at least until they were back to the normal grind.)

At the corner of his eye, he saw someone approach, and quickly pocketed his phone. It was May, and Kongpob let himself relax a little more in her presence, deflecting her good-natured teasing with some sincere congratulations of his own. She was a friend, and she did win the grandstand cheering prize because of her designs.

They were soon joined by Oak and Aim, and Kongpob realized that he actually missed this, hanging out with his group of friends, casually joking around and talking to one another. They were all too busy the past few days to properly have the time to just socialize, and it was easier for Kongpob to be more himself around people his age who had no heavy expectations of him, except perhaps to hang out when the time called for it.

“Good. Can I join you too?” He added when Oak asked May if they could crash at her table with her friends. He was nothing if not an obedient significant other. P’Arthit would know what was best for him, and maybe Kongpob also needed a moment to just be a normal freshman college student enjoying the fruits of his labor alongside his friends.

And his boyfriend, bless him, was probably aware of it.

It made Kongpob appreciate his boyfriend all the more, finally settling down on a bench, laughing and listening as stories were shared and swapped within the group. Kongpob knew to himself that he could be rather sticky when it came to the people he cared for, P’Arthit specifically, to the point that it could be seriously disruptive. That was how his possessiveness usually manifested as, and if his boyfriend was any less of a good person, the older could have encouraged it, demanded it even, to make Kongpob completely dependent on him for all of his social and emotional needs.

But it was the assurance that P’Arthit would be there at the end of the day that allowed Kongpob to maintain his bonds with other people, continuously encouraged and supported by his other half.

They were still their own persons, despite being in a relationship with each other, and they needed to work to keep that sense of identity intact. Kongpob, even if it meant missing his boyfriend every single day of his life, was very grateful.

“Aim,” he called the other’s attention quietly in the middle of their current talk, noticing how his friend was absentmindedly chewing on his food. “Something wrong?”

“Nothing,” Aim muttered back after a moment, “just sleepy.”

Kongpob didn’t have the time to ask more as Maprang called for a toast, with Oak mentioning that there were already more than a few people posting about their straight victories in the school forums. It was amazing sometimes, how his friends could easily reflect Kongpob’s own thoughts, as Oak declared that the seniors definitely wouldn’t give them a hard time now.

He was enjoying himself so much that when his phone vibrated again, he almost didn’t look at it, still arguing with Maprang on what an ideal boyfriend should be like.

(He was describing his older boyfriend, sans his name and year, in perfect detail, and Kongpob couldn’t understand why she would still find weaknesses in his logic.

As far as Kongpob was concerned, his boyfriend was the pinnacle in which other men should strive to be. Women around the world would be in a better place if they had someone like P’Arthit as their significant other.)

But he knew that it might be important, so during a lull in the conversation, Kongpob took out his phone and read through the sent message quickly.

Three hours. Then go home if you want to. You haven’t gotten enough rest.

Kongpob grinned at his screen.

HIs boyfriend really was the best person in the world. He sent off a few replies in quick succession, before putting his phone back in his pocket, returning to his lighthearted but still relatively intense discussion with Maprang.

I’ll be home later than I thought. Will that be all right?

Don’t mind me. Enjoy your night, Kong.

Please sleep on my bed tonight, then. We can have breakfast together instead.

… Fine. But focus on your friends first.

I will! I’ll miss you every second I’m away, P’Ai-Oon.

Yuck. Sap.

A few minutes passed.

Try not to be home too late, okay?

And it was almost time for everyone else to know about it too.


But all good days needed to come to an end.

“45… 46… 47… 48…”

“Enough!” The head hazer’s shout stopped them in their actions, and they shuffled their feet, straightening up as much as they could while the hazing team observed with forbidding expressions.

Kongpob didn’t miss this. He missed his boyfriend being head hazer, for sure, but he could do without all the shouting and scowling, mostly because it would hurt the older’s vocal chords and created deep, stress-induced lines on his boyfriend’s handsome face. His P’Ai-Oon was more delicate than anybody would initially think, and Kongpob always worried for the other’s physical well-being after every activity.

As he adjusted his hold around Aim and Oak’s shoulders, he glanced at the front, where the head hazer and his team was staring them down with their usual disdain.

“You’ve practiced this activity too many times already, and you still can’t do it at the same time without us telling you repeatedly what to do?” P’Knot asked, rather stern compared to how Kongpob usually knew the senior.

“And I heard that you first years thought you did well for Freshy Week, so you’re not bothering to listen to us anymore, your seniors?!” P’Prem asked, outraged.

“Some people are already posting online,” P’Arthit continued from P’Prem’s rant, voice hard. “Even on the university’s messaging boards.You think we can’t see that you’re talking about us behind our backs?! That you insult and curse us?! Is that how intellectuals are supposed to act?! You’re nothing but trolls, by this point! You have no respect for your seniors at all!”

“Oak, didn’t you say the hazers wouldn’t give us a hard time anymore,” Aim muttered accusingly from Kongpob’s right, and Oak quickly shook his head as the head hazer roared at them again.

“Be silent! Who gave you permission to speak while I’m talking?! Why?! Are 50 squats too easy for you, is that it?!”

Kongpob winced, ducking his head in an attempt to spare his friends, but it was too late.

“Then sit and stand 100 times. Go!”

They started to do their squats once again, thighs burning and arms aching from the exertion, but Kongpob’s mind wasn’t really focused on the task at hand, letting his body move on autopilot as his thoughts wandered back to the head hazer’s words.

Kongpob has seen the comments on social media and the university forums of course, because he belonged in those groups as a first year. Naturally, he hated seeing them, since they said terrible, untrue things about the person he loved and his friends. He could understand having resentment, even accept it, because even he had days where he didn’t appreciate being talked to like he was a misbehaving brat, but attacking people for simply doing what they needed to do was no way to act anywhere, whether online or in real life.

But his boyfriend, despite his current words, didn’t seem to mind the comments too much. He understood that it was the nong’s way of lashing out at the (perceived) injustice of it all, since they were unable to complain to him face-to-face (or were too terrified to) for some reason.

(It got to the point where Kongpob was nearly ready to snap back at them, to defend the older from such vitriol, keeping their relationship quiet be damned. At least, until P’Arthit managed to take his phone away from him in time.

It was during the first days of the hazing activity, and even as early as then there were already a handful of people who had a few choice words towards his boyfriend.

“Just ignore them. It’s part of the entire hazing activity. It’s just people talking shit, and I already expected it to happen. It’s okay, Kong.”

The older even found some of the posts amusing, though he had learned not to show them to Kongpob, whose unhappiness just steadily worsened with every slanderous comment he read online.

“But… P’, why?”

“Well, we also cursed out P’Tum when we were first years.” The older had reasoned out. “It’s natural for people to lash out when they think they’re being wronged by someone else. We weren’t stupid enough to do it online, but I understand how they feel. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t let them say what they want to say.”

“But P’, this isn’t just criticism. This is straight up verbal abuse,” Kongpob had argued back, still upset, and his boyfriend had looked at him with a certain expression that often came out when he thought Kongpob was being adorable for some reason.

And because they were in Kongpob’s room, just the two of them with the curtains drawn, shutting them out from the rest of the world, P’Arthit didn’t hesitate this time, settling himself on his— their bed, before gesturing for Kongpob to sit beside him.

“Kong, come here.”

And Kongpob could only follow the older’s softly-spoken request, going over to his boyfriend’s side and letting himself sink into the now-familiar, but always comforting, embrace.

Kongpob tucked himself as closely and as deeply as he possibly could, burying his nose into the juncture between the other’s neck and shoulder, where P’Arthit scent was the strongest.

And just a simple inhale was enough to remove the tension that had built up in his shoulders, body sagging as he wrapped his arms around the other’s waist in turn. The scent of lavender and citrus gradually enveloped him, alongside a well-loved warmth that Kongpob would always long for, despite experiencing and savoring it every single day.

And here, like this, Kongpob finally felt he could breathe properly again. Under the older’s touch, he didn’t feel quite so unstable, so unbalanced, the urge to crawl out of his own skin not as persistent.

P’Arthit always knew best on how to settle him down, slowly and surely.

“There, there.” He had heard the older murmur into his forehead, had felt soothing fingers carefully run through his hair, on his back, down his spine. “Calm down, you silly thing.

Above him, his boyfriend’s voice was terribly light and teasing all at once, and Kongpob, were he in a better state of mind, would have seen the humor in the situation, of how their positions were now completely reversed. Another hand reached up to cradle his face, a thumb gently stroking his cheek.

Kongpob didn’t know how long they stayed like that, simply breathing, sinking himself into the other’s calming, grounding presence, but he was terribly glad for it, to stop himself from being too overwhelmed with his own emotions.

And it was when Kongpob felt he was composed enough that he finally decided to speak.

“P’Arthit. I’m all right now.”

A soft exhale.

“Don’t bother with them, Kong. I don’t need protecting from people I don’t even know. I agree that what they’re doing is shitty, but in the end, as long as they don’t come for you, or me, or any of my friends personally, then I don’t care what they say.”

Kongpob felt the other shrug against him. “I’m just doing my job, the professors and the hazing team know what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing. I just have to take the good and the bad with it. And excuse me, Khun Kongpob, but Facebook was also already a thing in our time, you know,” he had added with a tartness to his tone.

“We’re just two years apart. I’m not that old.”

“P’, it must hurt, though,” Kongpob had murmured back, head tilting upwards as he stared at the other sadly, heart still heavy with misery, “seeing how much they hate you.” And Kongpob… just couldn’t fathom anyone disliking his boyfriend, even if he knew, logically, that it was because he knew the other better than everyone else in his year.

“It’s an annoyance, at the most,” P’Arthit corrected him. “They can only see their own pain, and to a point, I can accept that. But they also have too much time on their hands, and in the end, they could never hurt me.” A light, reassuring scratch on Kongpob’s scalp.

“Not when…” His boyfriend paused, a curious light pink soon tingeing his cheeks as he quickly averted his gaze, before returning back to Kongpob, voice matter-of-fact.

“Not when I know there are people who know and love me for who I am.”

Kongpob would admit, to anyone who would ask, how much his heart fluttered at the words. “P’.”

“So don’t worry so much, you,” his boyfriend insisted, stopping Kongpob before he could say another word, fingers coming up to pinch his cheeks.

It was firm, and it definitely hurt.

But it left Kongpob smiling, cradling one aching cheek with a palm, chest infinitely lighter, as the older finally let go, cocking an assuring eyebrow at him.

“If I could accept a troublesome freshman telling me he’ll make me his wife in front of his classmates and friends, then what they’re saying about me online is nothing.”)

“Everyone, stop.”

The sound of an almost-unfamiliar voice broke through his thoughts. Kongpob, as well as the rest of his yearmates, followed instructions, heads following the direction it came from.

It was P’Deer, last year’s head hazer, with his own small team of same-year senior hazers surrounding him. Kongpob couldn’t help but warily watch the older student’s every move, who was now standing in between them and the third-year hazers.

Why was he here?

And all at once, a sense of foreboding lanced through Kongpob’s chest.

“These are your fourth-year seniors. Everyone, pay your respects!” P’Arthit barked, and they obeyed, putting their arms down and saying their wais.

“Everyone, sit down,” P’Deer’s voice was softer, kinder, as he addressed the first years, but Kongpob was instantly distrustful of his motives. The fact that the senior was here meant nothing good for his boyfriend and his friends, and Kongpob didn’t think he would be able to take it, if he was forced to stand and watch his boyfriend being hazed all over again.

In fact, it would be the worst thing, since P’Arthit would be in front of the entire first-year assembly.

(Internally, if Kongpob were to be honest with himself, P’Deer… was probably a decent person. He was the one of P’Arthit’s mentors, after all, and his boyfriend spoke highly and fondly of him whenever the man came up in the older’s stories.

But he was also the man who Kongpob saw was bellowing at his boyfriend during that one silent night, in an empty, orange-lit classroom, stripping him of all his dignity and pride as a fellow head hazer.

And anyone who dared to reduce his gentle P’Ai-Oon into almost tears was instantly tagged an enemy in Kongpob’s book.)

“First of all, I’d like to applaud all of the first years for your remarkable performance during the Freshy Week events. You’re all marvelous. You should be proud of yourself.”

The statement brought forth a flurry of murmurs and whispers, with more than a few faces looking particularly satisfied that their hard work was finally acknowledged, but it just made Kongpob’s fists clench from where they were resting on his knees.

“But for you, third years,” P’Deer said, after moving to the side, tone sharper, more pointed, and Kongpob could see the way his boyfriend’s body gradually stiffened, preparing himself for what was coming next. “I’m not too sure you’re as good as these first years. “Someone told me that the third year seniors had been punishing the freshmen inappropriately.”

The third year hazers were staring straight ahead, face completely blank. And none more so, perhaps, than their head hazer. Even Kongpob couldn’t tell what P’Arthit was thinking, when he could easily read his other half like a book, after all the time they had spent together.

The sight before him… was terrifying.

“You’ve been ordering these nongs to run to a line up, to do sit ups, push ups, squats… even making them run 54 laps around the field.” P’Deer listed all of the transgressions their juniors have done, tone still deceptively pleasant, an eyebrow raised with hands still in his workshop shirt pockets.

“Who is the head of the hazing crew?!” He suddenly demanded, making most of the freshman in the auditorium jump.

With a few steps, P’Arthit came forward, and Kongpob’s spine instantly became rigid, teeth biting down on his tongue to stop the reflexive no, don’t, stay back, that was threatening to spill from his lips.

“It’s me, khrap.” P’Arthit answered, voice firm and clear.

“Tell me your reasons for punishing these first-year students.”

“I punish them so they can learn discipline and personal responsibility.” That statement sent another fissure of shock throughout the freshmen class, and Kongpob had never wanted to shout so badly at his friends until now, because it only took them now to see what the hazing activity was really for? Did they really think that the third years were doing all of these things just for fun, because they had egos they wanted to inflate and stroke?

Didn’t you realize? Didn’t you know that this was what P’Arthit was trying to teach us all this time?

Now, because of all of them, because of their incompetence, his boyfriend and his friends were going to be humiliated in front of almost a third of the engineering faculty student block, and Kongpob…

Could do nothing but watch everything unfold right in front of his eyes.

“As the leader who is assigning these punishments, that means you can do them all as well, right?” P’Deer asked, voice cutting, demanding.

“Yes, sir!”

“Then show me a demonstration of those punishments in front of us and the first years. The head hazer should know how to lead from example! Go!”

“At once! All third-years hazers!” Behind P’Arthit, the rest of the hazing team stood at attention.

“Sit and stand 100 times! Push up 100 times! Squat jump 100 times! And I as the head of the hazing crew will run around the field 54 times! Everyone, start!”

And the entire freshmen batched watched with awe, with horror, with awed horror, as the third-years proceeded to do just that, doing their push ups and squats and sits and stands one after another, without breaks, without pauses. Some of the third years were already starting to stumble and stagger on their feet, but despite these small moments of weaknesses, they continued to persist, with someone nearby giving them the push forward or up they needed to finish their tasks.

But no one was as appalled as Kongpob, who was completely frozen, the shuffling and groaning of the third-years grating into his ears, his chest growing heavier and more painful as the time passed.

He almost couldn’t bear it, the sight of his boyfriend doing through such terrible physical strain, and yet unable to tear his eyes away from it either.

So he could only hope, he could only pray, could only believe in the older’s capabilities, that his boyfriend’s body was strong and fit enough to finish everything without serious consequences.

They didn’t even warm up for anything. They just went for it without hesitation, stretching their bodies to the absolute limit. Not even Kongpob and his friends went through so many physical activities in one sitting before. They were given breaks in between, and even then their ceiling was just a hundred reps of a specific action a day.

But here the other was, showing all of them how it was really meant to be.

So this was what it was like for P’Arthit and his friends, as first years, under a stricter, crueler SOTUS System.

When the third-year seniors were finally finished with their sets, panting, trying to catch their breaths, Kongpob was so wound up he barely noticed what was happening around him, all of his attention focused on the older and his hazing crew. His boyfriend didn’t look that much worse for wear than Kongpob dreaded, but even now he could see the start of weariness in the other’s features.

Please, Kongpob found himself thinking desperately, as the older once again took his original position in front of the third-year hazing team, let this be the end.

Don’t let him suffer anymore.

“All of us have completed the requested punishments, khrap!” P’Arthit called out, voice unwavering and carrying throughout the auditorium still. It was enough to make relief rush through his veins, because it was finally over.

P’Arthit would be fine. Ran a little ragged perhaps, but ultimately he would be all right.

But his next words made Kongpob’s blood run cold.

“Now I ask for permission to run 54 laps around the field!”

No, P’Arthit, what are you doing, Kongpob wanted to yell, legs already tensing as he made to stand up, only stopping himself in time when he saw Aim glance at him in alarm.

He was starting to get the attention of the others, who were starting to look in his direction. Eventually Kongpob forced himself to sit back down on the floor, even as he felt his teeth grinding, jaw clenching as he watched the older one drop his head for a brief moment, accepting his fate, before turning around and leaving the auditorium without another glance back.

In the end, they were all dismissed early for the day, but Kongpob stayed exactly where he was, perfectly still, eyes trained on the spot where his boyfriend last stood.

“Hey, Kong. Get up, we’re done.” He felt Aim slap at his shoulder, uncrossing his legs and getting to his feet, but Kongpob let the words go through one ear and slip out the other.

He could only hear the blood rushing through his ears. His heart wouldn’t stop pounding against his chest, threatening to burst out of him with every beat.

He felt strangely hot and tingly all over. Every inhale of breath felt like a burst of fuel that helped combust the continuously rising heat inside of him.

He couldn’t feel his hands and feet. His thoughts were slowly dissolving into whiteness, his vision gradually turning crimson as he felt the rush of molten magma fill every spare crevice of his body.

(Because, even after all this time, despite knowing the exact location where Kongpob was looking, was waiting for him…

P’Arthit hadn’t looked at him.

Not even once.)

“Ai’Kong. Hey, you okay, man? You’re shaking.”

And with the sound of Aim’s voice, Kongpob felt something in him snap.

With slow, deliberate movement, he tilted his head up to look at the other with a smile.

“Hm? What’s wrong, Ai’Aim?”

And whatever expression Aim saw on his face made him flinch and immediately take a step back.

“Um… nothing.” The other wouldn’t meet his eyes for some reason, which was perfectly acceptable to Kongpob right now. “You… alright? Did the fourth year head hazer scare you that much?”

“Not at all,” Kongpob answered, tone and face utterly serene, and if possible, Aim just looked more wary and perturbed. “P’Deer is safe from me right now. P’ wouldn’t like it if I did something to his senior. What’s up?”

Aim’s brows knitted together, as if he had no idea what Kongpob was saying right now. Well, that was fine as well. Kongpob wouldn’t like to get his friends involved, after all. “Um. Whatever you say. The rest are leaving already. Wanna… go too? We still have to finish that paper for class, you know.”

”Sure.” Kongpob got to his feet, more graceful than usual, and with a final glance at the stage, followed his friend out of the auditorium, Kongpob not even waiting for the rest of his group as he started to descend the front part of the staircase. “We still have a paper to finish? I forgot.”

It was completely at the bottom list of his current priorities, but P’Arthit wouldn’t be happy if Kongpob failed one of his classes.

“Come on, Ai’Aim. Let’s change and go to the library.”

“Um… Kong,” he heard Aim call out to him, careful, “what’s wrong—”

“Please don’t ask me that question right now, Ai’Aim.” He said, turning around to stare the other straight in the eye, making the other wince and falter.

Because if he continued to push, then Kongpob might just do something drastic, and Aim was the wrong outlet for Kongpob’s barely contained emotions. “You really wouldn’t like the answer.”

“O…. Okay.” Aim was starting to look concerned, confused, and terrified, all at the same time. If Kongpob were a bit more reasonable, he would have apologized for unnerving his friend this much.

But right here, right now?

He didn’t give flying fuck about anyone else but the love of his life.


The table the three of them were sitting on was filled with tension, but Kongpob couldn’t bring himself to care.

He stared at his books, darkness clouding his thoughts, reading the passages in front of him but not really comprehending any of its meaning. An elbow rested on the arm of his chair as his fist curled near his mouth, listening but not understanding as Oak shared the newest updates on the university forum.

The story was out, on how the fourth-year hazers visited them during the gathering activity. Apparently, most of the people were still on the fence on whether this really happened, and doubted if the current head hazer would be able to do what he said in the first place.

“Hey, what the hell is wrong with you two?” Kongpob came back to himself just in time to see Oak glance suspiciously between him and Aim, who also looked as if his mind was wandering somewhere far away at the moment.

“Nothing. Just wondering if P’Arthit would be able to finish all 54 laps.” His mouth spoke the words before he could even think of his response properly, but then again, it was to be expected.

After all, every single thought he had in his mind was now geared towards his significant other.

“He’d be crazy if he tried to finish all of them in one go,” Oak shook his head, disbelieving. “Nobody does that kind of thing for real. Even you only did seven laps, right?

“... Right.” Even then, that was only because P’Fang asked him to stop during his attempt, and some part of Kongpob still thought that part of it was due to his boyfriend intervening, though he had no proof to back up that idea. “That’s true.”

(But Kongpob also knew his boyfriend intimately, closer than the back of his hand. There was no way in hell P’Arthit would stop at a reasonable number of laps, even if it was for the sake of his own well-being.

The older was exasperatingly stubborn that way, and no amount of cajoling, convincing, or threatening would make P’Arthit give something up, especially if he had already given his word.

He would finish all 54 laps, or die trying in the attempt.

And it was that latter thought that terrified Kongpob to the core.)

“Seriously, the fuck is wrong with you guys?” Oak finally demanded after some time, making Kongpob realize that his mind had sunken too deep again. “Has someone broken your heart or what?”

Yes, Kongpob answered immediately, the sharp stab in between his ribs at the thought an almost physical pain that made him hiss an exhale through his teeth.

My boyfriend is now doing something other people would consider as inhumane. He would be hurt in the process, could possibly pass out from exhaustion any moment now, and I can’t do a damn thing to stop it.

Because I’m useless. Weak. Helpless.

And feeling like this is making my heart ache so much I could feel the shattered pieces of it slipping through my fingers.

I could scream from the pain of it all, but I can’t.

I don’t want to add to P’Arthit’s pain.

“Well, apologies for bringing it up,” Oak said teasingly after a prolonged moment of silence. “Can either of you help me find some books, then?”

“I’ll go,” Kongpob said, already standing up, legs already jittery from its stationary position under the table, going towards the necessary shelf without hearing Oak’s or Aim’s response.

(Because he had to do something, anything, that would help ease the other’s burden a little bit, and his boyfriend was always so concerned for Kongpob’s studies.

So Kongpob could do this much for the other.

He needed something to do, to occupy his time, while he waited. To stop himself from spiraling down a hole that would only lead to disaster for everyone involved.

Right now, every single drop of self-restraint he had was the only thing stopping him from pulling out his phone and making a few calls that would thoroughly ruin P’Deer’s life.

P’Arthit expected him to be a good person. He deserved only a good person to spend the rest of his life with.

And Kongpob, come hell or high damned water, would be that person, no matter what.)

“Oh, N’Kongpob!”

Kongpob turned around from where he was browsing through the bookshelves, and saw his line code senior, P’Ple, standing right behind him, looking as pretty and as gentle as always.

And despite the turbulent sensations currently swirling inside of him, Kongpob could feel himself softening towards her.

“P’, hello,” he quickly offered a wai, which she returned in kind.

(She had always been unfailingly kind to him, offering what advice she could, academic or otherwise, and the notes she saved had definitely saved him from failing a test or two. His boyfriend had nothing bad to say about her either, considering her to be an amicable, if somewhat distant, friend.

It was (indirectly) through her that Kongpob found out that he and P’Arthit belonged to the same ‘family’ of line codes, since they shared the same student numbers, with only its positions swapped around. Members of the 0062 and 0206 line codes apparently met up often, since through luck or coincidence, maybe even fate, Kongpob’s code senior a few generations up, P’Fon, was marrying P’Tum, who was not only his boyfriend’s head hazer during his time, but also the other’s great line code senior as well.

If Kongpob needed any more proof from the universe that he and P’Arthit were truly meant to be, then this serendipitous coincidence was more than an irrefutable piece of evidence.

History did tend to repeat itself.)

“How are you? I heard that the fourth-years visited the freshmen guring the gathering activity,” P’Ple asked sympathetically, and Kongpob nodded.

“Yes, but they didn’t do anything to us. Only the third-years were punished.” There was a hint of bitterness that seeped through, one that Kongpob couldn’t stop in time, but if the senior noticed anything amiss, she didn’t mention it.

“Oh, really?” She asked, surprised, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I think they were quite soft on your year, actually. In the past we had to run like a hundred laps, you know?”

Kongpob silently nodded, agreeing, the memory of P’Arthit doing his punishment alongside the rest of the third years a quick suckerpunch to the gut.

(The thought of his boyfriend still outside, running alone at the field, made the rage inside him flare again, so intense and encompassing his vision blacked out for one brief second.

But Kongpob took a slow, steady breath, and made sure his hands were deliberately still, even though he felt the already thin threads of his self-control starting to fray at the edges.)

“Why did they have to go so far?” Kongpob asked, or demanded actually, recognizing the vitriol in his tone.

This time, P’Ple had definitely noticed, and her stance softened, a hint of comprehension in her features.

But once again, she really didn’t understand. No one did. She would probably think that he was complaining about his current experience with the hazing team, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Nong… I’m sure everything that the seniors do has a reason behind it.” She explained softly, with a brief pat on his arm. “What about you? How are you holding up?”

“... Adjusting, P’.” To his schoolwork, to the changes in his relationships.

“Well, it’s all about getting used to your life as a first year.” She agreed. “Studying in this university is really hard, not to mention the many activities happening all at the same time. I even thought of transferring abroad.”

“What changed your mind, P’?” Despite his current preoccupation, Kongpob found himself listening to her intently. Apart from his boyfriend, P’Ple surprisingly gave amazing advice. She always seemed to know the right thing to say at the right time, even if she didn’t know the full context of the situation.

“Well, I just settled in bit by bit. I started with small things, you know? After a while, I found that it’s really not that bad. And the next thing I know, I’ve passed all my subjects. You know, now that I think about it, it was actually kind of fun.” She answered with a slight smile. P’Ple glanced behind him, and reached for a shelf above his head, her height just enough to pull a book from the available selection.

“Oh, this is the book you’re probably looking for, right?”

“... Yes. Thank you.” Kongpob took the book from her hands, and eventually exchanged goodbyes, since the senior mentioned that she needed to return to working on her paper.

“P’Ple,” Kongpob started when she started to leave, not knowing what came over him so suddenly. But something in him felt that she should know, since she had offered her own experience of hardships first.

(And suddenly, Kongpob… somehow wanted to share with P’Ple the entire truth. Of who the current head hazer really was to him, of how much he fretted and worried about what was happening and was already half-out of his own mind because of it.

After all, line code families, according to her, stuck together, and she was in that unique position of being Kongpob’s friend and knowing who his boyfriend was, but not that close that they saw each other all the time.

He had a strong feeling she wouldn’t judge him. Maybe she would even be happy for them both.

But not now. It was a discussion reserved for him and P’Arthit down the line, in the right place and right time.)

“I… originally wanted to study Economics.” He admitted instead, watching her expression carefully. But she didn’t seem to be surprised, patiently waiting instead for his next words.

“And back then, there was someon—something, that made me decide to study this course. But I… I’m not sure I’m doing enough to feel like I completely fit in. What… did you do so you’re sure that you actually belong here?”

I don’t feel like I’m doing enough for my boyfriend. What do I do so I feel like I truly am suited to be by his side?

“I think that’s something you should figure out on your own,” P’Ple answered him kindly after a pause. “Whatever I tell you is from my own viewpoints, and my experiences might be different from yours. Those answers are the kind that you find out for yourself. And I hope that you do find the answers you’re looking for, nong. Good luck!”

Kongpob watched the older as she left, glancing down at the hardcover on his hands.

She… was probably right. There was always a reason why P’Arthit would choose to do something like this. While Kongpob didn’t agree with his boyfriend’s current methods, and probably never would, the older would never go to such extremes unless he felt there was a need to.

Perhaps it was to save his fellow hazing crew members. Perhaps it was to chastise himself for his own perceived failures. Kongpob wouldn’t know unless he asked, but one thing was for certain.

Kongpob needed to believe in him. They had built a trust in each other, born from months of constant hard work and communication, even before they became a couple.

And if P’Arthit had faith in Kongpob that he would pass his university entrance exams as a high school student, believed in him enough to keep their relationship a secret, watched him go on a court and a stage in succession because he had full confidence in Kongpob’s capabilities…

Then he should be able to trust that the older could finish the task he had taken upon himself to do.

No one saw P’Arthit like Kongpob did. He was the only person who knew how the older was like everyday, when he woke up in the mornings and how he slept during nights, that the other liked to make small, cute, thoughtless noises when he was happy, that the older was the one who usually lavished attention on him first, whenever they were alone.

If he looked away now, if he didn’t stand witness to the other’s pain and suffering, then Kongpob would have forfeited the right to stay by P’Arthit side forever.

After all, the vow went ‘for better and for worse’. Not ‘when the days were just easy and bright’.

It was slowly turning out to be a complete repeat of that fateful night.

And once again, Kongpob found himself powerless, helpless, against something he couldn’t protect P’Arthit against.

But nevertheless, he should try harder. To be better, because this wasn’t how people treated those who they cared for.

If other people couldn’t take care of P’Arthit like he deserved, fine. Kongpob would do it for them. He would make sure his boyfriend would want for nothing, would ensure the older was cherished and treasured and protected. He didn’t care if he had to do it alone.

They all didn’t deserve P’Arthit to be in their lives, and it was time Kongpob set things right again.

Starting small, P’Ple said.

He could do that.

(Once the older was thoroughly pampered and resting in Kongpob’s bed, like he should be doing at the very start, Kongpob was torching the damn field afterwards.

No one would even know it was him.)


After finishing his schoolwork in the library, Kongpob had finally decided on a course of action.

He headed to their usual eatery the moment he had the time to, ordering his boyfriend’s favorite spicy chicken basil with sunny side egg and a cup of pink milk, making sure that the food was spicy enough for the older’s tastes. Purchases acquired, he headed to his boyfriend’s dorm room next, preparing the food so it could be immediately eaten, making sure to tidy up the room afterwards and to set up the bed so the older would just be able to collapse on top of it later on tonight. There was no doubt that his boyfriend would be dead on his feet once he was finished, and Kongpob wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.

His legs would be ruined after tonight, and Kongpob would be there as soon as the older’s friends had dropped him off. He would massage P’Arthit’s legs until his own hands cramped from the effort, as long as it meant that the other’s pain would be lessened just a bit more.

Once done with his preparations, the only thing he could do was return to his room, and keep himself busy until something major happened.

He had done all that he could. Now, all he needed to do was to wait.

And it was the hardest thing Kongpob had ever done.

He kept staring at his clock, at his phone, as he sat on his desk, books, papers, and worksheets spread around him. He still had assignments to finish; the university didn’t care about his current struggles that weren’t related to academics.

But he couldn’t concentrate. The unease and worry that was already weighing at his chest ever since this afternoon was just steadily growing as the minutes ticked by, leg bouncing as he trained his eyes on the notes and formulas below him, taking in the information, but not processing any of it.

An hour passed. Then two.

There was still no call. No text from anyone. Even the group chat he had with his friends remained strangely silent.

And the lights from the dorm room across his own was still off, shrouded in complete darkness.

The walls of his own room were steadily closing in, the air around him ever so slowly turning heavy and dark, until the only thing Kongpob could hear was the sound of his own harsh, laboured breaths, gut clenching and muscles drawn taut at the dread of the other shoe that was about to drop.

When his phone, finally, finally rang, the sound of it was like a gunshot going off, and Kongpob scrambled for it, fingers trembling so badly he had to make multiple attempts of sliding his fingertip on the screen before the call managed to connect properly.

“Hello?” He immediately asked, breathless, anticipating a familiar voice to talk over the line. It should be over now. It was already so late, and surely a fourth-year hazer would have realized that his boyfriend was still on the field and finally instructed him to take a break.

… Right?

Ai’Kong! Have you seen it yet?” Aim’s voice filled his ears instead, concerned and urgent, and the dismay that filled him was immense. “The post going viral on the forum?

“Not yet. What’s the matter?”

Someone posted a picture of P’Arthit on the field while they were going home. Apparently he’s still there, running laps!

And right there and then, Kongpob’s world fell out under his feet.

“... What?”

I can’t believe the fourth-year hazers are so harsh, making him finish it all,” Aim continued to speak, but Kongpob could only stare forward, suddenly numb, quiet devastation laying waste through every pore and cell of his body. “I feel sorry for him.”

“... Sorry, but I need to go.” Kongpob cut the call before the boy was even finished speaking, keys, wallet and phone in hand, already out of the door and running out into the corridor, multiple thoughts racing, jumbling inside his mind.

Why? Why make his boyfriend suffer so much? P’Arthit didn’t deserve this kind of treatment from anyone, from faceless people online, from Kongpob’s own friends, and certainly not from people the older considered his mentors, no matter that the older had asked for this punishment himself.

They knew P’Arthit even before Kongpob came into his life. And they didn’t know what he was like?! On how he gave himself fully and wholeheartedly into what he was doing?! They should have known he would do everything to finish the task he had set upon himself.

They should have stopped him. Any one of them. Should have suggested something else, something that would be less of a burden on him physically, because they should damn well know better.

(It was a painful, gut wrenching reminder that Kongpob really couldn’t save everyone, the person he loved most of all.

A distant part of him was almost afraid of himself at this point, shocked with the breadth and depth of the emotions he was feeling.

It felt foreign, it almost felt too much, so intense that he could easily lose himself in it, but this only proved how deep and sincere his devotion was to his other half.

And it was right there and then that Kongpob realized what it truly meant, to be in love with someone else.)

He was on his motorcycle and on his way to the university field before his mind could keep up with his movements. Rain had finally started to fall, but Kongpob harshly blinked the droplets from his vision away, riding as fast as possible, even breaking a few campus traffic laws along the way.

But it seemed he still couldn’t get there fast enough, almost tripping over himself as he got off his bike, grabbing the umbrella strapped to the side of his ride.

Kongpob was already drenched by this point, but he didn’t care as he opened the umbrella and placed it over his head. He ran to the field as fast as he could, eyes searching for the other, and rushed to meet him once he had finally seen his location, P’Arthit on the way to pass through the bleachers.

With a hand, he reached out, managing to grip the head hazer’s shoulder, stopping the other in his tracks.

“P’Arthit!”

“Who—?!” His boyfriend turned around, irritation flashing on his features for a brief second before realizing who it was.

“Kongpob? What are you doing here?” The older started to ask, momentarily stunned. But Kongpob quickly shook his head, making sure that the umbrella was completely protecting his boyfriend’s head as he held on to the older’s wrist with his other hand.

“P’Arthit, please stop. This isn’t right anymore,” he pleaded, begged, noticing how much the older’s arm trembled in his grip, in the fatigue, in the sudden, wet, freezing cold. The older was panting heavily, already so pale, cheeks and lips turning white from exertion. It tore at Kongpob to see his boyfriend like this, drained and weak, looking as if he would drop at any second now. “You’ll get sick at this rate. Isn’t this enough for P’Deer and the fourth year hazers? You’ve been running all day. Even just a break would be enough!”

In the light mist of the rain, hidden under the umbrella that now covered them both, Kongpob saw his boyfriend’s form soften significantly, realizing how upset he was.

“I have to see this through completely, Kong.” He explained quietly, in a soothing, comforting tone that only Kongpob could hear, in the harsh downpour. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. This isn’t something you could save me from.”

(Even now, despite the heavy strain on his body, the physical difficulties he was putting himself through, P’Arthit still thought of him first.

It was completely unacceptable.)

“I can damn well try!” Kongpob replied fiercely, squeezing the other’s wrist tightly, trying to pull him away from the asphalted path. “P’Ai-Oon, please. Come back with me. Or let me run alongside you! You don’t have to finish this alone!”

Stop this. This is too much. Seeing you in so much pain hurts me.

But his boyfriend was already shaking his head, water dripping from the tips of the older’s soaked, matted hair.

“This isn’t about them. This is what I need to do.”

With a resounding finality, Kongpob felt the other’s hand slipping away from his own. The rush of blind panic made him try to grab it back, to make his boyfriend stay, to let him rest a little bit more.

“P’, please—”

But P’Arthit was already moving back, away from him, putting up a wall and distance between them once more.

“Go back and wait with the rest of the students, 0062.” The voice of the head hazer filtered through his boyfriend’s words, no-nonsense and stern. “And get yourself dry. That’s an order. You’ll get a cold in this weather.”

“Ai’Arthit, what’s going on?” P’Knot had finally arrived, approaching them both with his own umbrella.

“Good, you’re here.” His boyfriend’s face was scrunched up, both from the ache of running and the splash of rain dripping on his eyes, hands on his hips as he continued to breathe through his mouth. “Ai’Knot, take this brat away. He’s being a nuisance and I need to finish running.”

“First year, what are you doing?” P’Knot turned to him, eyes narrowed. “You don’t have permission to be here.”

“But P’Arthit’s been doing this all day!” Kongpob bit back, glaring at his boyfriend’s supposed close friend, uncaring if he was being rude. How could P’Knot just stand there and let P’Arthit do this to himself? Shouldn’t they know his boyfriend’s physical limits? Why weren’t they taking care of him like they were supposed to?! “Why does he need to keep running?!”

“This is the punishment of the hazing team leader. You have no right to interfere. This is not any of your concern.” P’Knot told him sternly, and like hell it wasn’t.

“But—!”

“Enough of this!” His boyfriend interrupted, expression tired. P’Arthit tilted his head at the other senior wearily. “Knot, just go. Take him with you.”

Kongpob’s head shot towards his boyfriend’s direction, hurt and betrayed. “Wait, P’Arthit!”

But the older had already started his run on the track again, leaving Kongpob to stare helplessly after his back, as P’Knot’s firm hand on his elbow steered him away from the field.

No, Kongpob wanted to scream after him.

P’Ai-Oon, don’t.

Please don’t turn away from me.

But it was too late. P’Arthit had made his choice, despite perfectly knowing how terribly it would affect his body, and Kongpob had never felt like punching something, or someone, so badly until that moment.

He had underestimated how hard it was to see someone you love go through so much agony, so much it was almost physically painful, as his vision slowly blurred, the back of his eyes growing warm.

Something wet and hot silently slid down his cheek, unbidden, quietly joining the droplets of rainwater that remained on his face.

“N’Kong,” P’Fang was also there, to his mild surprise. She was standing at the front of the bleachers, looking at his drowned appearance with some pity. Then again, she was the head of the hazing medical team, so of course she would be on hand to help. “You should go up and sit by your friends. I’ll bring you something warm to drink, okay?”

Kongpob could only nod, couldn’t find the words to speak. But perhaps she understood, because the senior merely ushered him under the roof of the concrete structure, allowing him to close the umbrella as he forced his feet up the stairs.

The seats were already half-full, with students from various year levels in the engineering faculty sitting around and observing everything go down, probably finding out the situation from the forums. Kongpob almost growled at them to go away; his boyfriend wasn’t doing some circus trick, to be ogled and gawked at for their own sick entertainment.

But instead of the jeers and humor he expected, their faces were grave and serious, watching over the head hazer in a silent show of solidarity.

“Hey Kong, over here. Have a seat,” the girls were there too, and Maprang was already waving him over. Kongpob followed, for a lack of a reason to refuse, sitting beside May, jaw still working as he clasped his hands together over his knees, looking over the field with a hard stare.

But he still had half an ear on his friends as they explained their reasons for being there; that they were heading back from the library from finishing their papers, when they saw his boyfriend still going around the track. It was actually Maprang who posted the picture of P’Arthit online, drawing attention from the entire engineering faculty as a result, and Kongpob didn’t know whether to be grateful or be more upset at her for bringing the older into the spotlight.

He didn’t even feel jealous when Maprang commented that she couldn’t help but fall for the kind of guy P’Arthit was, for completing everything that the older was set to do. The head hazer only deserved the most sincere of admirers, and his attempt to fulfill his punishment had brought the juniors and seniors together in a way that was entirely unexpected.

But Kongpob couldn't bring himself to care about this amazing development. The anguish and heartbreak he felt for his love was quickly getting overshadowed by something else, something vicious and thick that writhed and seethed inside him, searing hot against flesh and bone.

Kongpob had never felt so… so angry before. It was the kind of rage that stemmed from powerlessness, of being confronted with the harsh reality that you were pitiful, that you were weak, that you were less than nothing in the grander scale of things.

It was the kind that left the mind strangely quiet but astonishingly clear, like a clear, dark lake in the middle of nowhere, a moment of untouchable serenity that could only be disturbed with silent ripples on its glass-like surface.

But it only served to deceptively hide the raging currents that swirled underneath its surprising depths, threatening to rip out anything and everything that dared come through its way.

Kongpob has had it.

He stood up, ignoring the girls’ puzzled calls for his name, and followed his boyfriend’s friends as they went down the bleachers, already deep in discussion with one another on how to help his boyfriend. Kongpob caught up to P’Knot quickly, tugging at the sleeve of his workshop shirt as they finally landed back on the ground.

“P’Knot, excuse me. Did you bring your car today?”

“Again, this doesn’t concern you, nong.” P’Knot started to say, not unkindly, but Kongpob’s hand shot out instead, stopping the senior with a tight, firm grip on his forearm.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree.” He replied evenly, and this time, something in his voice must have registered differently with the older student.

“Anything that concerns P’Ai-Oon is my business.”

“How did you—?!” P’Knot’s stare was completely fixed on him, half-rebuking, half-shocked, but Kongpob remained placid, meeting the other’s gaze evenly. His hold over the umbrella was tense as they considered each other, a silent battle of wills as the rain continued to fall on them, around them.

“... Who are you?” P’Knot eventually asked, gaze narrow, and Kongpob resisted the sudden impulse to curve his lips upwards.

No wonder his boyfriend preferred to study with P’Knot out of his friend group.

“That doesn’t matter. P’Knot, I’m sure you have a lot of questions,” Kongpob answered with a calmness he didn’t feel, tone hard and unbending as steel. His eyes perhaps even more so, unflinching and resolute as he continued to stare at the senior. “But please keep them to yourself right now. I am willing to answer anything you ask, as long as P’Arthit is all right with it. But for now, please help me take care of him. P’Arthit’s well-being is the most important thing we should all be focused on.”

Kongpob felt the stare on him become razor sharp, closely assessing, and Kongpob almost snapped at the senior to hurry up, jaw set tightly. They had no time, P’Arthit needed all of them right now, so the senior better do his best and reach his conclusions quickly, before Kongpob decided to take matters into his own hands.

But there was a reason why P’Knot was one of his boyfriend’s closest and trusted friends, because the senior finally nodded, decisive, a silent understanding passing between them.

“All right. Fine. What are you suggesting?”

“Please start your car and bring it closer to the field,” Kongpob said immediately. “P’Arthit is at 51 laps right now,” by his estimate, “and with any luck, P’ should be done at any moment. I’d like us to run him to the university clinic afterwards, to make sure there isn’t any permanent damage done to his legs or body.”

“Hm. Good idea. It might be better to bring him to the emergency room though, for a more thorough check-up.” Knot said, already pulling out his car keys, and Kongpob immediately acquiesced to the senior’s wisdom.

“The rest of the P’s would be here to watch over him. Me too, so P’Knot can just focus on what you need to do.” Kongpob continued, nodding. “The moment P’Arthit passes the finish line, the P’s will bring him over to your car, and you all can leave immediately for the hospital after. You could text one of the P’s once you’ve gotten your car here, so they know where you’re parked.”

At that, P’Knot glanced at him, the barest hint of amusement in his expression.

“What, you’re not coming along, nong? After you’ve ordered your senior around this much?”

Kongpob just gave him a faint smile in return.

“P’Knot, your car wouldn’t be able to fit us all. I’m all right with being left behind and waiting for P’Arthit to come back. Just…”

Kongpob looked away from him, focusing instead on the pull his chest had been making this entire time, towards the person that now had complete ownership of it.

His solemn, pain-filled eyes followed the movements on the other side of the track, observing as his heart followed the curve of the asphalted path.

“Please look after him for me.”

To his surprise, Kongpob felt a heavy hand land on his upper back, and he glanced at the other senior from the corner of his eye.

“N’Kongpob, you don’t even have to ask.” P’Knot nodded, also following P’Arthit trajectory with his gaze. “He’s our friend. He’ll be in good hands.” With a light, assuring squeeze on his shoulder, the senior left his side, turning to another one of his friends instead. “Ai’Prem, come here! I have a plan.”

Kongpob watched as the two seniors came together and fell into a quick discussion, with P’Prem nodding immediately in understanding. With the plan quickly spreading among P’Arthit’s friends, the pieces were slowly and surely falling into place.

All that was left was for his boyfriend to succeed in his endeavor.

They went out to the middle of the field, standing under the rain, as P’Knot left in a rush. Kongpob stayed back, letting his boyfriend’s friends crowd the finish line, keeping the umbrella open as he silently looked on with shaking hands and a tight jaw. It was finally the last lap, it was almost over, and the people in the bleachers were standing up, starting to clap, sounding out their encouragement and cheers. P’Arthit’s friends were also doing the same, cupping their palms around their mouths so their voices could fight against the roaring downpour.

Right now, all of them were united in one purpose. To support the head hazer during his trial.

They all watched with bated breath as the distance to the finish line gradually became smaller and smaller. P’Arthit was so close, passing around the curve, feet pounding as the older approached the final stretch of road.

But while the spirit was willing, the flesh would ultimately be weak.

And in the span of a heartbeat, Kongpob looked on in horror as his boyfriend's knees buckled, his feet stumbling, and before anyone could react, P’Arthit had fallen to his knees, crashing to the ground.

It was as if the world paused. Around him, people were screaming in alarm, but Kongpob was completely frozen, eyes wide.

Cold air seized in his lungs, limbs tingling as the blood pounded against his head. He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, his mind blank and covered in fuzzy whiteness.

His gaze slowly dropped down, and his heart finally stopped at the sight of his one and only sun, looking so small and defeated against the harsh white lights shining down on the open field.

The umbrella dropped to the ground before he noticed. His legs were rushing forward, the rain once again drenching his clothes and skin, hands pushing at the crowd in front to get to his heart.

He needed to take P’Arthit into his arms, to bring him up and away from this cursed place, to go somewhere safe and soft and warm where Kongpob could protect and hide him from everything else in the world.

“P’ARTHIT!”

“Hey, what are you doing?!” Kongpob heard someone shout beside his ear, suddenly held back by more than a few pairs of arms and hands, but his eyes were wild, unseeing, reserved only for the sight in front of him.

To hell with the rumors, the possible scandal.

His boyfriend needed him, more than ever before, and Kongpob would die before he let the other think that he wasn’t waiting for him too.

“P', COME BACK NOW! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!”

His voice was louder and clearer than anyone else’s around him. It caused everyone who heard him to stare like he was going insane, but Kongpob didn’t give a damn, fingers digging around the arms that were wrapped around his torso, body straining as his entire being roared to be by his boyfriend’s side.

“P’, WE’RE HERE!”

At the sound of his shout, his boyfriend threw his head back with a silent gasp of air, facing the rain with closed eyes, torso heaving as his fists curled over his thighs. Kongpob was breathing just as hard, letting his boyfriend’s friends hold him back, to stop him before he could rush over and enclose his boyfriend into his embrace.

But his confidence still remained, his belief obstinately resolute, despite his shaken heart at the older’s fall.

Because nothing else mattered but his own support of P’Arthit’s efforts.

Because Kongpob knew his boyfriend could do it. Because something so small and insignificant like tripping on his own feet wouldn’t be enough to keep the older down.

P’Arthit was strong. He was fierce. He was kind and gentle and loving and he could do anything he put his mind to.

Because he was the Sun. Kongpob’s bright, warm, affectionate Sun.

And he was but the lowly, besotted Moon, still chasing after the other under the same, constantly changing sky.

So Kongpob’s teeth clenched together, eyes fierce as he continued to stare at the older. And when P’Arthit’s head dropped again, to face forward, his eyes were clear, glittering with hard-headed determination, as they finally, finally met Kongpob's own.

The sight was breathtaking. P’Arthit was breathtaking.

And if Kongpob wasn't already head over heels before, this moment would have been more than enough, to make him fall in love with his boyfriend, all over again.

His boyfriend staggered to his feet with one last burst of hidden strength, swaying a little as he closed upon the final few meters.

But he did it. 54 full laps, as promised, accomplishing the last task P’Arthit had sought to do today.

But this time, Kongpob was prepared.

He was ready, already at the very front of the group, waiting to catch the other with open arms. Kongpob pulled away from his human restraints at the first opportunity he could, darting forward, his arms outstretched to welcome the one that owned his heart.

And at the same time, his boyfriend’s body had finally surrendered, collapsing once the soles of his feet crossed the white line.

“I got you,” Kongpob gasped, fingers clutching at a rain-soaked back, arms secure around the older’s torso as he eased them both onto the wet ground. His shoulders instinctively hunched in, body curling to cover the other protectively.

He finally managed to do something right, today.

“It’s okay. I have you, P’.”

“... Kong. You’re here.” The genuine happiness and relief in his boyfriend’s voice was unmistakable, despite his fatigued, raspy tone. His pale fingers shook as he tugged at Kongpob’s waterlogged shirt, body shuddering as he pressed his damp cheek against Kongpob’s shoulder. “Are you… angry at me?”

“Of course I'd be here,” Kongpob assured fervently, closing his eyes and nuzzling his face against the older's soft, wet hair. His lips brushed against his boyfriend’s scalp as he spoke. "I would never leave you. I'm so angry right now, P’. You have no idea. I've never been so furious in my life.”

“... That’s fine, then.” The older quietly sighed against his neck, soft and gently resigned, and Kongpob had never heard a more blessed sound in his life. “Be as angry as you want. I know… I've really messed myself up, this time.”

Despite the worry and ache that continued to churn inside Kongpob’s chest, now that P’Arthit was finally back to where he belonged, everything else was inconsequential. Kongpob managed to laugh, tone tender, and wholly affectionate still.

Honestly, what was he to do with his stubborn, willful, dazzlingly beautiful Sun?

“You really did." Kongpob's voice was warm, assuring. "Don't worry. I’ll be scolding you thoroughly for your recklessness afterwards. Prepare yourself, okay?”

A weak chuckle. “... Guess I have no choice. I probably deserve it.” He felt P’Arthit tuck his face deeper into his neck, still trying to catch his breath.

“Hey, Kong. I… did it, right? Can I… get some rest now?”

“Of course.” Kongpob answered softly, running his fingers through the other's hair soothingly. “You did it. You’ve done so well too. I’m so proud of you, P’Ai-Oon. You can sleep now. The P’s will keep you company.”

He felt his boyfriend’s lips quirk up minutely against his skin, quietly appreciative. And after one, two breaths, felt the other finally let go, his weight growing full and heavy against Kongpob’s chest.

“Ai’Arthit!” His boyfriend’s friends finally came around, surrounding them both, going down on their knees beside Kongpob, to check on their friend personally.

“He’s all right,” Kongpob said immediately, cradling his boyfriend’s body closer to his own, trying his best to shield the other from the rain. “He’s fine. He’s just resting now.”

“You can hand him over to us, nong. We can take it from here,” P’Bright said, unusually serious for once, and Kongpob nodded, gradually loosening his hold on his boyfriend. He was deeply loathe to do it, his fingers not fully cooperating even with the urging of his mind.

But at this point, with all of his actions tonight, Kongpob had probably blown whatever flimsy attempt he had of hiding their relationship with more than a handful of people as their current witnesses.

Might as well go for broke while he still had plausible deniability.

With great care, the older was still lifted from his arms, supported from either side by both P’Prem and P’Bright. P’Tutah held an umbrella over the three of them, making sure that his boyfriend was the one he was covering the most.

“This would be the last time, freshman.” P’Prem warned, briefly stopping in front of him. “Don’t meddle with the matters of the seniors. Otherwise, the other first years will be punished along with you.”

Kongpob merely inclined his head in response, standing up as well.

“That’s fine, P’. Punish me as you see fit.” He was even willing to do what the older had just gone through if they wanted him to, just so Kongpob could experience his boyfriend’s tribulation for himself. “Just please get P’Arthit to where he needs to be.” He tilted his head towards the edge of the field. “Please go. P’Knot is probably waiting.”

With a final, appraising stare, the seniors eventually exited the field, once again forcing Kongpob to stare at their backs as they left. P’Arthit was still out like a light, head lolling on P'Prem's shoulder, and the sight made Kongpob’s chest constrict in worry. Every part of him demanded to come with them to the hospital, to help lay his own fears and anxieties to rest.

But Kongpob forced himself to remain in place, knowing that everything was now out of his hands.

Besides, that was nothing compared to the sharp, cool sensation of relief that now swept through his body.

His boyfriend would definitely receive the best care possible, apart from his own.

“Kong!”

The girls finally came down from the bleachers, and Prae handed him his umbrella, still propped open. He should probably use it, the rain was still falling, but Kongpob closed and folded it instead. There wasn't any point, he was already soaked to the bone. Thank goodness for waterproofing on phones.

"What happened? How is P'Arthit? What's going to happen now?" Maprang was asking, curiously persistent, while May had a complicated look on her face that Kongpob didn't know how to interpret.

"I… don't know." He answered truthfully to all three questions, eyes still on the direction where the third years have disappeared to.

(He had so much to explain to P’Arthit after everything was done and over with.

But if pushed, Kongpob would maintain that this was entirely his boyfriend’s fault, for forcing his hand, because the other couldn’t be trusted to take care of himself in the first place.

Right now, Kongpob had no regrets. No amount of necessary secrecy would make him continue to stay silent and still, not when his boyfriend was suffering so much and for so long, completely alone.

If P'Arthit became angry at him after this, if his actions would lead to a serious fight between him and his significant other in the near future, then so be it.

The discovery of their real relationship was a price Kongpob would gladly pay, as long as it meant his boyfriend’s continuing good health.

He was prepared to take full responsibility for P’Arthit.

Even back then, until now, and the rest of the days to come.)

Chapter Text

When Arthit finally came to, it was to the faint scent of antiseptic and the familiar blank whiteness of a hospital emergency room. He squinted against the lights, body heavy, mind fogged up completely, and any attempts to try and move his arms was stopped by a hand gently but firmly holding his elbow.

“You shouldn’t move this too much,” the person beside him advised, voice soft, and Arthit managed to open his eyes just enough to see an IV line connected from the side of his wrist. “Wouldn’t want something sticking where it shouldn’t be. How are you feeling?”

“Blegh.” That was probably the reason why his legs weren’t screeching in protest at him right now, the IV pumping him full of drugs that were keeping him pleasantly floaty and numb. “Urgh.”

“Articulate, Ai’Oon,” the person beside him teased, patting his arm, and the tone was so reminiscent of his younger boyfriend that Arthit replied without thinking about it.

“I don’t need your teasing right now, Kong. I know I messed up,” he groaned back, this time turning his head to the side, and instantly froze when he saw who was really standing by the bed.

“… Knot.”

Well, shit.

“Hey.” His friend was giving him a small, terribly knowing smile, but didn’t mention anything else. Arthit was both intimidated and wary at the same time. “Nice to see you’re finally up. We were beginning to think you’ve decided to join our ancestors.”

Arthit managed to snort, despite his quickly accelerating heartbeat. If he was hooked into a machine, they would probably think he was having a heart attack, or something. “I just did a few laps. I think I saw my grandpa at the finish line, but that won’t be enough to kill me.”

But he couldn’t stop the growing dread writhing in his stomach, because he definitely didn’t say his friend’s name earlier.

Why wasn’t his boyfriend here? Knowing the other Arthit was positive that Kongpob would have followed his friends to the hospital, would have insisted to be the one to look after him, to talk to the doctor about his condition, to inform Arthit’s parents of what happened (because his boyfriend was a good future son-in-law(?!), and Arthit would have informed the younger’s parents too, if something similar happened).

In fact, Arthit had been half expecting to be teased the moment he woke up, his relationship with his younger boyfriend already revealed and exposed to his friend group without his intervention or action. A part of him quietly also wanted that to happen, to be honest, just to ease the burden of making that conscious decision himself.

But the fact that it was his friends, instead of the younger, that was here with him told Arthit how Kongpob still considered everything about him a priority above anything and anyone else. The other must be so anxious to know about how he was doing, but he allowed Arthit’s friends to care for him instead, somehow keeping their relationship still hidden and protected. It was an attempt to maintain and safeguard his position and reputation as head hazer, to further lessen the (very miniscule) possibility of losing some people he considered as friends and family.

It was a level of consideration Arthit wouldn’t have expected from the younger, not during a situation like that, when he was already half-delirious from the exhaustion and pain. Kongpob… could be frighteningly intense, especially when it concerned him. It could be overwhelming at times, to be the sole receiver of the younger’s complete and undivided attention, but Arthit had learned to accept and manage it as best he could.

(Besides, what Arthit really needed to focus on was his own reactions to Kongpob, not necessarily the younger’s actions.

Blushing darkly every single time the younger looked at Arthit when he got into that particular state of mind wasn’t healthy, probably.)

However, Knot continued to act like Arthit didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, helping with the adjustments on Arthit’s bed so he was able to sit up, the attending resident soon arriving a short time later. The doctor checked over Arthit again, asking him a few questions that quickly ascertained his current mental and physical condition.

It was determined that Arthit was suffering from over-exhaustion and dehydration, and had a line to address those issues. He was also on a light dose of painkillers so he would be more comfortable, the strain on his leg muscles bringing in a significant amount of pain. His lab work and tests came back fine overall, but they would like to keep him in the hospital overnight for observation. And if all was well still, he’d be able to leave in the morning.

They both thanked the doctor as the other finally left, relieved that Arthit hadn’t done any permanent damage to himself. Arthit most of all, since he quite liked having his legs working still.

(And there was someone waiting for him, probably angry and upset at his actions still, and Arthit wouldn’t want to inflict more hurt on his younger boyfriend than he already had.)

“Where’s—?”

“The rest of them? Took my car back to the dorms to change their clothes, we’re all dripping on the floor when we arrived, but they’ll be back soon. I stayed behind in case you woke up.” Once again, a knowledgeable, almost teasing smile appeared on Knot’s face, and the Arthit couldn’t help but stare back at his friend, apprehensive.

But instead of calling him out, drilling into him with multiple questions, Knot offered something completely different, instead.

“You should call them.”

Arthit’s brows furrow, momentarily confused. “… Who?”

Knot had the audacity to roll his eyes at him. “Your someone. I’m sure they’re worried sick for you right now.” He answered, holding Arthit’s phone, with some battery in it still. “Good thing you decided to leave your phone on the bleachers where it wouldn’t get wet. He let us take you here without too much trouble, so here. At least let him know you’re fine.”

Arthit took his phone without any more prompting, knowing that Knot was right; he should call his boyfriend and let him know what was going on. It was a little embarrassing, really, that his boyfriend was the first one on his speed dial instead of his parents, but this time around he couldn’t help but pat himself on the back for this moment of foresight.

The call barely managed to finish its first ring before the line connected, and the familiar, smooth tone of his boyfriend’s voice immediately filled Arthit’s chest with warmth and longing.

P’! How are you? Are you all right?

“I’m okay, don’t worry. The doctor said it’s not bad, and I’m recovering,” Arthit murmured quickly, soothingly, wanting to console the other as much as he could, working within the restrictions of distance and technology given to them both.

“Really? When are you coming home?” The sincere happiness in the other’s tone, without any hint of resentment, made guilt squirm at the pit of Arthit’s stomach. The younger was too good to him, honestly.

“They’re keeping me overnight, but I’ll be back there tomorrow morning. I’ll be on bedrest as much as possible.” Arthit couldn’t help but soften his tone, making all the effort he could to assure his other half of his general well-being. “I know this isn’t the time, but I’m so sorry—”

“P’. It’s okay. I’m just happy you’ll be back in good health soon. Everything else can come after.” Kongpob’s voice was a low, sweet tone against his ear. “Please don’t forget, I’m still going to scold you for being so reckless with your own body.”

“Are you still angry at me?” Arthit could remember asking this question already, through the fog of painful exhaustion. Could still recall the blazing heat of Kongpob’s body as the other cradled Arthit to his chest, of the tight hands and arms that made him feel safe and secure, despite the cold rain that continued to splatter on them both.

And it was Kongpob’s mere presence by his side, that knowledge that Arthit would eventually be fine, if his boyfriend was there, that allowed him to give in to the long-standing protests of his thighs and calves.

They also did it in front of a sizable crowd of engineering faculty students, but it was something Arthit didn’t want to think about yet, lest he worked himself up into a complete panic at the end.

(Some part of him vaguely thought that he should feel ashamed. Arthit was the older one between them, and he should be the one taking care of his younger boyfriend. He had (relatively) more life experience, despite having never dated anyone else before he met Kongpob.

But somehow, those particular emotions just wouldn’t come, even when he tried to summon them by force, and Arthit already knew the reason why.

He had never considered Kongpob as anything but his equal, despite his younger age. And Arthit had never put too much stock in seniority, since age wasn’t an indication of whether someone should be respected or not. Kongpob still spoke to him formally and politely, but that was habit and upbringing more than anything else, and Arthit didn’t doubt that his boyfriend would continue to address him as such, even after a few years, probably even after they got married.)

A bright blush. Arthit quickly looked away, suddenly aware of his friend’s presence in the room as he continued to talk to his boyfriend.

“A little,” the person on the other end admitted, “but for now I’m just relieved you’re safe, P’Ai-Oon. No forseeable complications in the future? I can pick you up in the morning.”

“None,” Arthit confirmed, this time confident, willing the heat on his face away. “And forget it. You have an 8 am class, don’t you? I don’t want you missing any lectures. I’ll manage to get back somehow.”

“P’, you’ll always be first in my list of priorities,” The way the younger said it, so definitive, so matter-of-fact, that Arthit couldn’t help but splutter a little, feeling his heart stutter in his chest. “So if P’Knot or your other friends couldn’t take you back in your dorm for some reason, please call me. I’ll take you home, P’Ai-Oon. I can always ask my friends for anything I missed.”

(It was a very good thing he wasn’t hooked on a machine right now. The hospital staff would probably think he was having chest problems or something.)

“F-Fine then.” Arthit replied, face warm for some reason, as he actively fought the sudden impulse to let his lips stretch upwards. “I’ll let you know soon.”

Goodbyes made, Arthit glanced at his phone as it faded back into his wallpaper, and the brief sight of their joined hands, immortalized on his home screen, made his mouth finally quirk up in a fond smile.

(A picture taken on one of their night dates in Rama Park, meeting each other after classes. Kongpob had been excited for some reason, dragging him somewhere to see something Arthit no longer remembered what.

But Arthit could still remember the beam on the younger’s face, the unreserved way he reached out and grasped Arthit’s hand as the younger led them to their destination.

It was the first time they held hands, and it was a heart-stopping event. It was the moment when Arthit discovered the softness of the younger’s palm, without any distinguishable callouses, still so unused to physical work. That their hands were almost the same size, the younger’s a bit bigger, his fingers slim and long, but Arthit’s fingers were thicker. That there was a visible contrast between their skin tones, light and dark, on the same spectrum of brown that was common among Thai people.

Some part of Arthit knew he had to do something so he would remember this moment forever. It felt important, a significant step in his subsequent realization and acceptance that he could also like men as well as women, and right now, Kongpob was the person he liked the most.

Because holding the younger’s hand… didn’t feel terrible. In fact, it felt the exact opposite.

And before he knew it, he had stopped in his tracks, causing the other to look at him in question as Arthit held his other hand out in front of his boyfriend.

“P’?”

“Give me your phone.”

Confused, Kongpob followed his words still, handing over his phone, and Arthit wasted no time in unlocking it, scrolling through the applications quickly.

“Are you checking my phone for other people?” The younger asked, a little curious, a little lost but still entertained by his actions, and Arthit quickly scowled back at him.

Really. His boyfriend thought too highly of himself sometimes. What, was he expecting that Arthit was scouring for potential competition? Hah. As if.

Because obviously he wouldn’t do it now, not when Arthit was in plain sight of the younger.

“What nonsense are you talking about,” Arthit found the camera app, and before the other could make another comment, quickly snapped a photo of their intertwined hands.

“P’, did you just take a picture?” Kongpob’s voice had been still amused, now surprised, and more than a little endeared, making Arthit’s cheeks turn cherry red, even as he pushed a few buttons to make the picture the younger’s phone wallpaper, all within sight of the younger.

“S-So what if I did?” Arthit asked, voice strangely high-pitched, finally giving the phone back to its owner. “Here.”

“This is…” Kongpob took a good, long look at the screen of his phone, lips slowly widening into a bright smile, before glancing up at Arthit with a beam.

“Now whenever you look at your phone, you’ll see the picture I took. Consider it a thank you for today, or whatever.” Arthit quickly shrugged, studiously looking away, feeling the tips of his ears still burning.

“Thank you, P’Arthit,” he heard his boyfriend say, voice softer, obviously touched. “You’re so lovely to me today. Is there anything you’d like to ask from me?”

“No,” Arthit groaned back, half-hearted, completely mortified by this point in time. He regretted giving into the impulse in the first place. “Let’s just go, okay?”

He was the one who dragged the younger away this time, but Arthit could still acutely feel his boyfriend’s gaze on his back, shimmering and bright and utterly fond still.

And not once had they let go of one another.

“I’ll send the picture to you as well, P’Arthit.”

“… Do as you like.”)

Then the sound of a person politely clearing their throat.

“So. Arthit.”

Arthit’s gaze instantly darted to his bedside, cautious, memories dispersing like mist as he gave his full attention to his friend. “… Knot.”

“No need to be so defensive,” his friend was definitely smirking at him this time, and Arthit scowled back, unamused.

Ai’Knot.

“Nope, this is the perfect time to ask.” Knot interrupted him, rather cheerful. “You’re bedridden, the doctor said you’ll make a full recovery, so you’re not running away this time.” He settled himself on the chair beside the bed, continuing to look at Arthit steadily.

Then, after a moment of them just staring at each other, Knot finally spoke.

“It’s 0062, isn’t it? Your someone.”

Arthit flushed so darkly it felt like he would spontaneously combust, air rushing out of his lungs at the simple, factual statement. He couldn’t stop his reaction even if he tried, confronted with the truth in such a sudden, blunt manner.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he answered, denial reflexive on his tongue, but the sheer unimpressed look Knot leveled at him in turn instantly made him cringe, the low-key guilt still lingering in his gut now stabbed harsh and sudden in his chest.

“You called his name in front of me, Ai’Arthit. I can look the other way sometimes, but I’m not deaf, you know.” Knot deadpanned, and the color rose higher on Arthit’s cheeks. “And besides, you were muttering his name in your sleep earlier, looking for him.”

Arthit blanched, looking down at his hands quickly. “I… I was?” He asked, fists clenching, voice cripplingly quiet and shy. He wasn’t a sleeptalker, as far as he knew, his boyfriend would have already told him if he was.

Was he that far gone for the younger that even his subconscious still actively sought the other out?

But perhaps extenuating circumstances had forced it out, Arthit’s desperation and longing for his other half, because his distressed body instinctively knew that Kongpob wasn’t there beside him.

(If it was true, if he really was yearning for his boyfriend in his sleep, he would never be able to tell this to the other for as long as he lived. Knowing the younger Kongpob would just be utterly thrilled at the discovery and Arthit needed to salvage what small amount of dignity he had left as the older one in their relationship.

Arthit was already aware of how deeply he had fallen in l-love with Kongpob, thank you very much. He didn’t have to make it so obvious to other people too.)

But as he glanced at his friend, Arthit saw that Knot’s lips were twitching, looking strangely triumphant, and any embarrassment he felt was immediately replaced by outrage. “You fucking asshole. You played me.”

“You wouldn’t admit it, otherwise.” Knot still looked like he was struggling not to laugh in front of his face. “Because imagine my surprise,” he continued, ignoring Arthit’s (rightful) indignance, “while watching you try and finish those laps, which you didn’t have to do Arthit, honestly, don’t act like you’re so cool, he actually approached me. He was trying to interfere with your punishment again, and I tried to warn him off, but you know what he said back to me?”

Knot shook his head, still looking incredulous, while Arthit hung on to his every word.

“‘Anything that concerns P’Ai-Oon is my business.’ I’m not going to lie, the expression he had while saying it… it gave me chills. Your 0062 can be really intense when the time calls for it, Ai’Oon.”

“He’s not my—!” The refuting words once again came on his tongue, but another pointed look from Knot had him quieting down, because he was already caught; what was even the use of lying?

So Arthit tore his gaze from Knot instead, trying his best to will the heat on his face away, distressed, fists curled so tightly on the blankets on top of him his knuckles were white. Talking about his feelings with someone else was worse than pulling teeth, this was absolute torture. “You… You knew already, so why are you still asking me?!”

“Because it’s different when it comes from you.” Knot replied simply, and Arthit gave a start, the words striking hard as if it was a physical blow. “Because you’re my friend, and I’ll believe anything you tell me. Even if I know it’s a lie.”

That had Arthit looking back at the other, eyes wide. “Knot…”

“But if you don’t want to give me an answer right now, that’s fine too.” Knot added with a kind smile, patting at his knee in assurance. “I was just teasing you. It’s your life, and we don’t have any right to know what goes on in it. But as your friend, I just want you to know that I— we, got your back, all right? About anything.”

The simple, heartfelt words twanged heavily at Arthit’s heartstrings. All this time, he had been so scared, so terrified.

But of what, exactly? Knot was right; Arthit had never known his friends to be bad people; they might have disagreements, they might have opposite opinions on different things, but when it came down to it, when it counted, they were there.

There to drink and listen to him if he needed company, there to tell him he was being an ass or he was doing great, that he had forgotten to do something again, that he had to wake up now or he would miss the first morning class.

They brought him to the emergency room, sopping wet from the heavy rain, not caring that they might get sick in turn, as long as Arthit got the help he needed.

Arthit wouldn’t lose his friends over something as simple as him having a younger boyfriend.

(Perhaps… in the end, what Arthit was most terrified of wasn’t losing his friends, not exactly, but losing the sense of identity he had with them. That their interactions would somehow become different, less, if they realized that Arthit wasn’t the person they knew him to be.

And if Kongpob was here, listening to how Arthit instantly and unhesitatingly denied their relationship, there would be no doubt that the younger would be hurt, would be terribly disappointed.

But he would continue to love Arthit still, would forgive him for running away again, would remain content being a secret if Arthit decided to never tell his friends of who Kongpob really was to him.

Arthit was sick of hurting his boyfriend with everything he was doing, with or without the other’s physical presence around.

No.

He wasn’t going to run away. Not this time.

It was time for him to make a stand too.)

“Boyfriend.”

Arthit felt he was going to die, as the words slipped out between his lips, as embarrassment and discomfort flooded through every part of his system.

But he had already gathered his resolve, meeting Knot’s gaze squarely with his own, his voice not faltering, this time.

(Not shame. Never shame.

Arthit wasn’t ashamed of being in love with Kongpob, and he would never be.)

“Knot… 0062… Kongpob is… he’s my boyfriend.”

A significant pause.

Then Knot eventually nodded, understanding, expression remaining open and patient. “Okay. Since when?”

Arthit winced at the question, even as the wholehearted, unmistakable acceptance brought the sensation of cool relief rushing through his veins.

“I started tutoring him for the university exams when he was in his last year of high school. And we got together a few months into it, so…”

Stunned silence, as Knot quickly and mentally calculated the time in between then and now.

“… Arthit Rojnapat, you’ve been in a steady, committed relationship with someone else for almost a year now and you didn’t bother to tell us?”

“I didn’t know how to tell you guys!” Arthit answered, defensive. “All this time, it’s always been Namtan, and you know that. It stayed the same, even when she was already with Jay. And then I met him, and suddenly everything just—” He faltered, suddenly losing the words he had to say, realizing the truth in his next statement.

Changed.

Everything changed.

Meeting Kongpob had irrevocably made a ripple in his ordinary life, a single flutter of butterfly wings that brought devastating effects to his heart, body and soul. It wasn’t that Arthit was unhappy before meeting the younger. Sure, he was suffering a terrible case of unrequited love, but that wasn’t all he had. He had family, he had friends, and even without a romantic partner, Arthit was pretty okay with the lot currently given to him in life.

But with Kongpob by his side, everything just felt… more, in a way that Arthit had never experienced before. All of those cliches about everything around you becoming brighter and more vivid was a gross understatement; it was more of an explosion of color and warmth, of being blindsided by numerous feelings and sensations that threatened to overwhelm his entire being.

It made Arthit feel that he could finally experience something that was worth living for.

(His boyfriend could call himself the Moon to Arthit’s Sun all he wanted; when they both knew who it was that brought the light into Arthit’s simple, unobtrusive existence.)

“Oh,” Knot breathed after a moment, and Arthit had completely forgotten that his friend was even there in the first place. “I see.”

“… What?”

“You’re completely gone for this nong, aren’t you?” Knot said, voice achingly gentle, almost pitying, and Arthit couldn’t understand where the comment came from, suddenly.

At least, until he realized that his cheeks were aching slightly as he felt the upward curve of his lips, face still warm as fingers softly stroked the side of his phone, his gaze lingering on the two hands displayed on the backlit screen.

He was acting like a lovesick maiden in front of his closest friend and he didn’t even notice.

“I am,” Arthit whispered in horror, full realization sinking in, burying his face into his hands with a groan. He couldn’t believe what he had just done, showing such a sappy, sentimental side to someone else, no matter that it was a close friend. “Oh Buddha, I am. I hate this so much, Knot. This is terrible. I caught serious feelings for a junior.”

(He couldn’t have a meltdown about his realizations. Not here. So for now, he pushed it as deep and as far away from his consciousness as much as he could, to be examined closer and processed when he was alone and not likely to be interrupted.

And he was not doing it without a bottle of alcohol to help things along.)

“Well, if it helps any, it seems like your nong is as gone for you as you are for him,” Knot commented with some sympathy, probably realizing how distressed Arthit was at the belated epiphany.

“If I ignored him again that night, I’m pretty sure he would have done something to me right there and then. He didn’t look too happy during your punishment, Ai’Arthit.”

“No, he really wasn’t,” Arthit said after a moment, leaning back, silently glad that there was someone he could freely talk about his relationship with now. It was just one person out of his entire friend group, but better than nothing. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him that upset. He… understands that it’s something I need to do, because it’s a part of my job, but… you know.”

“Well, the heart is irrational when it sees its owner in pain,” Knot said wisely, and the stink eye Arthit gave him in return was deadly, warning him to not make another word.

But the other just smirked back at him. “I mentioned before that you were bullying him because you liked him. I didn’t think for a second that I was actually right.”

Ai’Knot.

“What? It’s perfectly true.” Knot was nodding to himself, as if he had fully comprehended the situation at hand. “So that’s why he’s always arguing with you during the initiation activities, he’s trying to get your attention. Look, I’m not judging your relationship or anything, Ai’Oon, but if flirting in public is your thing, then—”

“It’s not,” Arthit almost shrieked, grabbing the pillow behind his head, not sure if he wanted to smash it at his friend’s head or smother himself with it. He knew coming clean to Knot was a bad idea. “It’s just— he has very firm opinions on the SOTUS System, okay? And since I’m head hazer it’s only right that he approaches me for any problems— stop laughing at me.

“Even now you still protect him. It’s cute.” Knot was grinning at him in an infuriating manner and Arthit scowled back, displeased. “The moment the others hear about this it’ll be a sight to see. I need to prepare for it.”

“Knot.” This time, Arthit’s voice came out differently. It was halting, strangled, and Knot paused, hearing it.

Because it was different, this time.

And Knot… probably recognized it.

“Arthit?”

“Don’t…” The words were threatening to spill out of him, and Arthit took a slow, deep breath, an additional attempt to stop his thoughts and heart from racing too much, to actually take the time to think of what he wanted to say before he spoke.

He shouldn’t let his rising anxiety get the best of him.

“I’ll tell them. Let me do it.”

Knot’s brows furrowed as his lips downturned in thought. “Why?”

“You said it, didn’t you? It’s different when it comes from the source directly.” Arthit gave the other a faint smile. “Also, I… I want to do it on my own terms. I want to try and be brave for once. Our friends deserve that much from me, at least. And my—” A lump suddenly formed in his throat, and Arthit swallowed, because no matter how much he had already put himself out there, admitting his feelings for another man, it was an entirely different thing altogether to claim that person as yours.

Even he couldn’t be so brave.

(Not without his boyfriend beside him to hear it as well.)

“Kongpob deserves that from me too.” Arthit finished, still feeling flustered, but confident enough to say the younger’s name out loud in front of someone else without any hesitation. “So keep this to yourself for now. I’ll tell them soon. Please.”

A beat of silence.

“I’m sure you’ll be ready when the time comes,” Knot eventually replied with a firm nod, tightening his hold on Arthit’s knee again, a reassuring touch.

“I might have forced you into telling me the truth, but still, thank you for trusting me with it. Don’t worry. Your secret's safe with me.”

It was true; Knot had practically dragged and cornered him into confessing about his relationship. But Arthit also knew himself; without some serious pushing, he would never had told him anything, wouldn’t have plucked the courage to admit how important Kongpob was to him.

“Thanks.” Arthit shot him a grateful smile, and together, they shared a warm, comfortable silence, content that he had passed one of the more difficult hurdles he currently had.

“… So when N’Kongpob said he’ll make you his wife—”

A bright blush, and an instant snarl.

“Knot, shut up.

“Honey, I’m home!” With impeccable timing, Bright came crashing through the separating curtains with a beam, making Arthit jump in shock. “Arthit, you awake?!”

“Shh, don’t be too loud!” Tutah admonished, voice equally around the same volume, following after the former. “There are patients here who are resting! Ai’Oon, are you feeling okay now? What did the doctor say?”

“We brought you pink milk,” Prem took up the rear, holding up a plastic bag of the said drink, “Ai’Knot, brought you some clothes too. You should change, or you might join Ai’Arthit on the hospital bed.”

“I’m not delicate like Ai’Oon,” Knot answered elegantly, taking the bag from Prem’s hand. “Doctor said he’s okay, he’ll be discharged in the morning. Keep him company, I’m sure he’s sick of talking to me.”

“Oi, fuck you,” Arthit snapped, even as he tried to shift upwards to make room for his friends to sit down around the bed, hoping that they weren’t disturbing the other people also inside the emergency room. “Delicate my ass, you try running 54 laps in one day.”

“Not a delicate flower, but you’re definitely a dumbass for even trying it,” Prem snorted by Arthit’s foot, making room so Knot could pass by them to go to the bathroom. “Have some food first. We’ll still need to draw lots to see who will stay with you tonight. Knot’s out because he took first shift.”

“Wait, what?” Arthit demanded, hearing the plan. He had been ready to spend the night alone in the emergency room, because surely his friends still had classes tomorrow. Arthit was willing to face the consequences of his actions on his lonesome; the others didn’t have to go this far. “It’s okay, you don’t have to—”

“Ai’Oon, just shut up,” Bright cheerfully placed a hand over his mouth, conveniently muffling Arthit’s further protests. “The patient has no right to say his opinion on what’s going on. His only job is to get out of here as fast as fucking possible.”

“He’s right,” Tutah was already snapping the straw into different lengths. “And besides, the people who won’t stay here will have to go to the professors tomorrow to talk about the post-hazing beach activity, so pick your poison well, gentlemen.”

“Alright! I’m feeling lucky tonight,” Bright made himself comfortable beside Arthit, leaning back on the bed with him. “Give me some of your fortune, Arthit. I really don’t wanna talk to the prof tomorrow.”

“Let go of me!” Arthit struggled as best he could, with Tutah’s hand stopping him from pulling at the IV still attached to his vein. “Ai’Bright, don’t make me lick your hand, you asshole!”

It was a miracle his friends weren’t kicked out of the emergency room, with all the noise they were making as they made a small party out of Arthit’s future recovery.

But there was probably no better place than Arthit than here, surrounded by the people who loved and cared for him.

(There were a few still missing. But that was okay.

Arthit would see the most important and precious of them tomorrow.

And it was something to look forward to.)


The next morning, Arthit was taken back to his dorm by Knot through car; the latter coming in early to pick both him and Prem up, the person who ended up winning the draw. Prem had offered to stay with Arthit the entire morning, since Knot had to be there to talk to the professor as Arthit’s temporary replacement, but the former, apparently, had other ideas.

“What are you doing?” Arthit asked as Knot dropped Prem off his rooms first, assuring the latter that Arthit would be well taken care of, before going ahead and driving towards his apartment block.

“You’ll see,” was the cryptic answer, which left Arthit to look at him in continued confusion. Knot remained silent on the way, though there was a strangely expectant air to him that Arthit couldn’t, for the love of him, sparse out completely.

It was when Knot finally pulled into his dorm’s driveway, stopping the car and unlocking the doors, that Arthit realized what his friend had actually done.

He had no time to react before the passenger door on his side was suddenly opened, and a familiar face appeared, head ducking and body bending as the other person gave Arthit a wide, stunning smile.

“P’Arthit, welcome back.”

“Kong?!” The sight of his boyfriend was beloved, and sorely well-missed, and it was more than enough to bring Arthit into a shocked stupor. “Why are you—?” But the answer came to him as quickly as the question did, and his head whipped towards his friend so fast his neck made an audible crick. “Knot!

“You owe me one now, Ai’Oon.” Knot was leaning back on the driver’s seat, watching them both indulgently. “Don’t worry, I take payments in the form of lunch for the next few days.”

Heat was crawling up Arthit’s cheeks again, glancing between his friend and his boyfriend, because he had always wanted something like this to happen, to see them get along and become friends of their own volition.

But to experience it firsthand made him feel terribly out of depth, and now he didn’t know how to act, torn between the two sides of himself that he showed to two different groups of people. “When did you—?!”

Knot raised his phone in reply. “N’Kongpob and I now keep in touch regularly. And I know that you’d rather see nong here than our faces all day. Full offense, N’Kong, because I still think you’re too handsome for our Ai’Arthit here.”

Hey!

“No offense taken, but I have to disagree, P’Knot.” Now, the younger was nothing but polite and respectful, eyes brimming with relief and light humor as he glanced at Arthit affectionately. “P’Arthit will always be the most handsome person to me.”

Arthit was going to rush himself back to the hospital at this rate, it was probably not normal to have blood rush towards your face on a regular basis. “Kong, stop it! Since when did you two get along?!”

“Since last night. And that’s good to know. You take care of him, all right?” Knot was telling Kongpob, stricter this time around, while Arthit was still right there. Why were they talking as if he wasn’t in the car?! Arthit could manage by himself, thank you. “Put his feet up and don’t let him get out of the bed. He’s off the painkillers and his legs are still not in the best shape right now.”

“I’ll do my best, P’Knot,” Kongpob answered solemnly, sharing an understanding, commiserating look with the other before offering a hand. “P’Arthit, let me help you out. Have you brought anything that I need to carry?”

Arthit was scowling at them both, most of it directed towards his boyfriend. “I feel fine. Don’t fuss so much.” He still felt off-balance, like everything was moved an inch to the left, and while his surroundings looked the same still, it stopped being familiar to his instincts, throwing his mind in complete disarray.

But his younger, infuriating, always caring boyfriend just beamed at him. “P’, if you can’t use your feet right now, I can always carry you out of the car if you prefer.”

Kongpob!

Knot burst into loud, uncontrollable laughter, and Arthit was once again reminded that they still had an audience, making his face burn so much hotter. Was this how it was going to be, once the rest of his friends met his boyfriend properly? “Oh, so that’s how the nong did it. Arthit, he actually managed to wear you down.”

“Yeah, and I’m still wondering why I continue to put up with him, with that kind of attitude,” he snapped back, but instead of being hurt, Kongpob just looked happy, grasping Arthit’s hand as he gingerly stepped out of the vehicle, handing over a small bag from the hospital first that contained Arthit’s medication. He didn’t quite manage to be as independent as he would have liked, his thigh muscles burning with the effort, but his boyfriend was there to offer his support, taking some of the weight as Arthit finally managed to stand properly after being on a hospital bed half a day.

There was still pain of course, but not so excruciating that Arthit would need to be carted off into his room like a spoiled princess.

(It would probably make his boyfriend’s day if he allowed it, but Knot would never let him live it down if it actually happened.)

“Isn’t it because you love me, P’?” Kongpob whispered into Arthit’s ear once he was close enough, squeezing his forearm as he helped Arthit stay upright. “Careful. Can you walk?”

“In your dreams,” Arthit retorted, not quite able to meet his boyfriend’s eyes, his tongue refusing to refute the words. But the timbre of his voice had already softened in turn, queueing into his boyfriend’s unspoken worries. “And like I said, I’m fine. The pain is manageable.”

A deep furrow appeared on the younger’s brows, a frown tugging at his lips. He stared at Arthit in turn, curiously intent, as if trying to assess Arthit’s well-being through his gaze alone. “You shouldn’t be hurting in the first place, P’Ai-Oon.” He refuted quietly, a hand curling around Arthit’s back, at the curve of his waist, tucking him closer and keeping him upright, on his feet. “Come, let’s get you upstairs. Have you eaten? I got your favorites. You don’t feel like you have a fever, but I don’t want to take any chances, P’.”

“Worrywart,” Arthit rolled his eyes, grasping his boyfriend’s arm and squeezing it in turn, not quite able to hide the fondness in his tone. “Besides the pain, there’s really nothing. I really feel better now, Kong.”

“Then I’m glad, P’.” Kongpob murmured, holding Arthit’s gaze, nothing but tenderness and warmth in his eyes, and Arthit found himself smiling back a little, suddenly lost and dazed but ultimately pleased that he had finally placated the younger.

But a polite cough interrupted their conversation, and they both turned their heads at the same time, only to see Knot staring at them, eyebrows raised in complete fascination and disbelief.

“Please have some consideration for the single people around you. And close the door already so I can leave,” he deadpanned, patient but pointed at the same time, making shame flare white hot under Arthit’s skin.

Goddamnit, not again!

Beside him, even Kongpob looked embarrassed, his tanned skin awashed with red, but his hold on Arthit never faltered or retreated.

And Arthit, for his part, was… also reluctant to move away.

“Thank you for driving P’Arthit back, P’Knot.” His boyfriend said after clearing his throat, a small laugh bubbling out of his throat as Arthit ducked his head, having just reached his quota of mortifying moments for the day. “Rest assured, P’ will be taken care of.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Knot.” Arthit muttered back, stepping back and letting Kongpob close the passenger door, leaning ever so slightly into his boyfriend’s embrace. “Let me know what the prof says, yeah?”

“Of course. Have a good day, you two.” There was nothing but politeness and goodwill in Arthit’s friend’s expression, but Arthit had seen the unholy glee in Knot’s eyes, and the promise of unrelenting teasing the next time they would meet, with or without the younger by Arthit’s side.

Knot’s car finally pulled away from the driveway, and Kongpob escorted them up to Arthit’s dorm room, going at a snail’s pace. Thank Buddha for elevators, because Arthit might burst into actual tears if he had to walk up a few flights of stairs, his legs and feet already starting to ache and strain from the short distance from the entrance to the elevators.

But he had brought this upon himself in this stubbornness, so he had no right to complain. In fact, Arthit was even fortunate that he had someone else by his side, accompanying him and carrying what little things he had, allowing him to put his whole attention on forcing his legs to move, one small step at a time.

“Easy,” his boyfriend murmured, fingers tightening around his middle as they finally reached the elevator doors, and Arthit glanced at him, unable to stop his grimace. He didn’t want to make things harder for the other, who was already carrying half of his weight, but Kongpob remained a steadfast, grounding presence beside him.

“I’m here now. Take your time, P’.” Kongpob said, quiet but assuring, and Arthit couldn’t stop the sudden swell of gratitude and affection towards the younger, throat suddenly thick, the back of his eyes becoming moist, warm.

He didn’t know what he did in his past life, but surely it was something good and grand, because fate had decided to give him something beautiful and treasured, in this one.

And he would work hard to cherish it, to never take it for granted, lest it was taken away from him.

Kongpob probably understood, simply smiling back as the elevator doors opened. Arthit was guided inside, and as the doors slid shut, enclosing them in a small, private space for the briefest moment, he felt the thin layer of propriety, the image of respectability and restraint he needed to maintain in public, instantly dissolve away.

This was good enough. Arthit… couldn’t wait, anymore.

Without hesitation he turned towards Kongpob, letting the other have his weight as he rested his head on the younger’s shoulder with a small, relieved exhale. A hand came up to curl itself on his boyfriend’s shoulder, both as a reminder of where he was, and to keep himself standing, to stop himself completely from falling into the other’s embrace.

He felt the other press a kiss onto his hair, still with a smile, tucking him closer against Kongpob’s side. Arthit closed his eyes, savoring the close contact for as long as he could.

“Yeah.” He breathed out, the scent of musk and mint surrounding him, amazed and thankful and emotional, all at once.

“You are, Kong.”

There was no better place in the world for Arthit to be in than here, in his boyfriend’s arms.


Arthit was warned. His boyfriend wasn’t pleased with his recent actions, and had promised that he would have firm words with Arthit over it. He was prepared for it, aware and accepting his faults over the situation.

But this… wasn’t what he expected. At all.

“P’, say ‘ah’.”

Arthit gave the other the driest and diriest look he could muster. But the younger wasn’t deterred in the least.

“Kongpob, it’s my legs that aren’t working properly, not my hands. Do you want me to spit in your face?” Arthit deadpanned with a raised eyebrow.

“Would you like me to lecture you instead on how dangerous your actions were yesterday?” Kongpob returned evenly, retaining his pleasant smile.

Between letting Kongpob do this or tell him off for his reckless actions last night… the choice was laughably easy to make.

If only it didn’t include the complete trampling of Arthit’s pride as the older one between them.

His glare sharpened, reprimanding, but his boyfriend’s expression was as calm and placid as always. Expectant even, as if simply waiting for the exact moment Arthit would finally give in.

(And damn it all, the younger was right.

It didn’t mean Arthit would make it any easier for him, though.)

Feeling the tips of his ears burning, they maintained eye contact for a moment longer, a silent battle of wills with neither side pushing nor retreating.

But in the end, Arthit’s eyes focused somewhere near the younger’s ear, and his lips eventually parted, allowing the spoonful to pass through his teeth and into his mouth. He chewed slowly, letting the warm, light taste of the congee fill his taste buds, before swallowing.

“There. It’s not that bad, isn’t it?” Kongpob asked, sounding delightfully pleased, and Arthit had never wanted to hit someone with a pillow so badly until that moment. “Eat more, P’. It will help you recover faster.”

“… ’m not an invalid,” Arthit muttered back, his face brightly aflame as his fingers curled on his lap. “You practically did all of my household chores. You don’t have to do this too.”

Somehow, somewhat, Arthit knew the younger had planned all of this. Arthit wasn’t in the right state to do anything strenuous right now, too tired to seriously fight back, too guilty to object to anything his boyfriend said.

And they both perfectly knew it, so Kongpob had taken complete advantage of the opportunity.

The moment they entered his dorm room, Arthit was gently deposited onto his bed, changed into a looser, more homey set of clothes, his legs and back propped up with a few pillows. He was handed the newest manga he recently bought, and was politely asked to make himself comfortable.

And then Kongpob proceeded to attack his dorm room, returning it back to its tip top shape while Arthit watched him work with wide eyes. His boyfriend cleaned up the papers he left lying around on his desk, vacuumed his floors, dusted the shelves of toys that Arthit had placed on his walls.

(The younger had paused for a moment, seeing the 1/16 scale robot figurine he gifted to Arthit for his birthday, meticulously built and placed in the middle and in the most prominent spot in the collection, with the other pieces moved slightly more at the back.

Arthit had no words to explain why he set it up that way, seeing that his boyfriend’s gift wasn’t bigger or rarer than the ones he already owned.

But as always, the younger didn’t question it, though there was a small, satisfied smile playing on his lips that just made Arthit feel inexplicably bashful.)

P’Deer had called around this time, both to check on and scold him at the same time. Arthit was certain he didn’t imagine the thin, flat line of Kongpob’s mouth, the flash of dislike and disapproval in his eyes as he listened into the conversation. It was a new emotion in the younger, who Arthit had never seen actively hating another person before.

It was an honest surprise, because Arthit didn’t think his boyfriend was capable of it. The younger had always tried to see the good in people, to reserve his judgements until he had gotten to know them better, but Arthit’s hazing senior was apparently an exception to that rule.

The talk was brief, with Arthit joking that he saw his late grandfather waving at him and almost joining the latter. And it was something that his boyfriend didn’t appreciate hearing, seeing the younger frown at the corner of his eye.

But P’Deer was now also being bashed by the first years for being a barbarian towards Arthit, since the incident had apparently made the rounds on social media. Arthit maintained that he was just doing his job, and he was right. Still, the senior wished him a full recovery, and Arthit ended the call with a slight cough, causing his boyfriend to rush to his side, offering a glass of warm water.

“Kong.” Arthit sighed, once the line was cut and he had drunk a few sips. “It’s not his fault. It’s also one of his duties.”

“I am aware of that, P’Arthit. But he was also the person who ordered you to do all those things.” Kongpob replied, voice level, not giving anything away, even as he gave Arthit a faint smile.

“Don’t worry, I won’t do anything. But please don’t ask me not to feel any differently towards him. He’s hurt you before, and I can’t forgive that, yet.”

And that was fair enough, Arthit supposed.

Kongpob collected Arthit’s laundry that hung on the balcony after he was done fixing everything inside the room, folding and ironing the pieces that needed to be crisp and wrinkle-free, despite Arthit’s weak protests that the younger should leave it, he didn’t need those clothes right now, Arthit could do that tomorrow, or the next few days, even.

“It will pile up if you don’t do it now, P’.” Kongpob looked up from where he was sitting cross-legged, the ironing board in front of him, the clothes hamper beside him, the clothing iron already heated up and ready in his hand. “And you know me, I can’t stand seeing wrinkles in clothes. Can you let me do this now I’m here? Please?”

(If Kongpob wasn’t set to become the CEO of a multi-million bhat manufacturing company, he would have made an excellent housewife, barring his cooking skills.

Then again, it was mostly due to Arthit’s influence, who had wanted to make sure that the younger would have the basic life skills to be able to take care of himself, in case he went to a different university instead and Arthit wasn’t able to check on him often.

Kongpob was nothing if not a romantic and a busybody, so it completely stood to reason that the younger had taken this chance to enact one of his more innocent, more domestic fantasies… or so Arthit thought.

He would have honestly preferred the lecture instead. Even if harsh and a blunt hit to his pride, because he would be scolded by someone younger, of all people, Arthit completely deserved it, and at least that could be done and over with quickly.

But this, this genuine care and constant pampering, was almost unbearable. Kongpob had been angry, had been very hurt by his actions, but he still chose to look after him, to caress and soothe his self-inflicted injuries without a hint of hesitation.

It was exactly what Arthit had come to expect from his other half.

And Arthit was reminded, again, of how much work he still needed to do, to ensure that he was worthy of his boyfriend’s love and attention.)

“But you’re injured, P’. As your boyfriend, it’s my privilege to take care of you.” Another spoonful of sticky rice and broth brought near to his lips, and Arthit automatically opened his mouth, the tip of the spoon cleaning up the lingering mess on the edge of his lips as he swallowed the mouthful. “And sick people need attending to, so please let me.”

It was the earnestness in the other’s words that made Arthit falter, genuine happiness and satisfaction lingering on the younger’s expression as he watched Arthit eat, as he took small sips of his pink milk.

And he couldn’t bear to take it away. Not this time.

So Arthit allowed the younger to do whatever he wanted, no matter how much it made him want to throw himself off his dorm room building. The mixture of shyness and giddiness makes his guts squirm, making the congee settle uncomfortably in his stomach.

“Besides, it… makes me feel better too.” Kongpob admitted after a moment, once Arthit had mostly finished everything in the bowl. “Since this is the only thing I can do for you.”

Arthit stared, lost for a moment, before it finally clicked.

Ah. Finally. “Hey…”

“I’m aware…” Kongpob took a sudden, sharp breath, stopping Arthit in his tracks, head dipping to his chest, “that there are battles that you can only do by yourself. That there will be times when I really can’t help you, no matter how hard I try.” A pause. “It’s… hard to accept, because I never want to see you hurt or in pain, P’Ai-Oon. If I could, I would take on everything that would make you suffer, because I want you to be happy.”

Kongpob took the moment to place the bowl on the desk, beside the mostly empty cup of pink milk, while Arthit tried to process what his boyfriend was saying right now.

Eventually, Kongpob turned to Arthit, gaze steady, resolute. “If I can’t be a man that can protect you, then at least I’d like to be a man that can support you through happiness or sadness. I’d like to be there with you, even if it’s just to hold your hand so you won’t be alone.” He exhaled, reaching forward to clasp Arthit’s hand into his own, moving forward just enough to rest his head on Arthit’s thighs.

“So please don’t push me away.” He continued to murmur, head lowering into Arthit’s curled fingers, torso curving into Arthit’s lap, as if pleading to a King to spare his family’s life.

“Let me stay beside you always, P’Arthit.”

Arthit… had always assumed that Kongpob was furious at him, and maybe that was still true. He had knowingly risked his body and its limits, all for the sake of momentary standing and respect that would probably be unimportant and forgotten in the future.

But perhaps he had underestimated his boyfriend, his selfless, kind, passionate personality, because Kongpob… wasn’t just angry because Arthit had done something dangerous.

No, he was upset because Arthit… rejected him when he needed Kongpob the most. Because… he made the other feel that there was nothing he could do, made him feel helpless, powerless, forced him to watch as Arthit went through prolonged agony and suffering.

That was still the fact. As a freshman, Kongpob had no right to be involved in the third year’s affairs. Sending him away was the best option; as head hazer he shouldn’t allow anyone to question the methods of the SOTUS System.

But as Arthit’s boyfriend… he could have asked the younger to do something for him. Something more, not as a junior to a senior, but as a significant other. It could be as simple as buying him pink milk afterwards, or as complicated as asking him to accompany Arthit’s friends to wherever they were planning to take him, no matter that it would have given them more complications down the line.

Now, Arthit understood the breadth and depth of the pain he had caused the younger, and his heart clenched so tightly he suddenly couldn’t breathe.

Didn’t he say that what was his was also Kongpob’s, not so long ago? Arthit, back then, had really meant it.

And it was about time he proved it too.

(In sickness and in health, till death do them part.)

After a moment of silence, Arthit spoke.

“… I’m sorry.” On his lap, the younger had tensed up, obviously not expecting an apology, turning his head to stare up at Arthit with wide eyes.

“P’, it’s not your—”

“But I also told you before. I don’t need protecting, Kong.” Arthit interrupted, not unkindly. “Not from anyone, especially you. What kind of person would I be, if I allowed someone I cared for to get hurt in my place?” He reasoned, voice gentling, his other hand coming up to run his fingers through short, dark hair, trying to soothe, to calm.

“As long as…” His voice hitched, but he had already voiced his thoughts out loud.

He wasn’t going to be a coward and let the confession dissolve into the air, not when he owed his boyfriend that much.

“As long as you’re by my side, it’s more than enough. I don’t need anything else.”

I feel like I could do anything, as long as you’re with me.

Kongpob didn’t answer immediately, continuing to stare unabashedly, pupils blown dark and wide, lips slightly parted as his jaw hung open in shock.

It got to the point where Arthit started to feel self-conscious, averting his gaze, tone defensive as warmth slowly flooded his cheeks. “W-What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Do you mean it, P’Ai-Oon?” He eventually asked, voice breathless, urgent. He sat up abruptly, only to switch places, sitting instead on the side of the bed as leaned into Arthit’s personal space. One of his hands had pressed down on the bed, just outside of Arthit’s hip, effectively boxing him into the other’s arms. “What you just said?”

“D-Do I say anything I don’t mean?” But his boyfriend was still looking at him with awed, wondering eyes, as if Arthit had just fetched the brightest star in the sky and had delivered it personally into the younger’s arms.

Arthit, confused, tried to replay the conversation they were just having, and stilled when his mind showed him saying a few more words than he originally remembered.

He… he only thought of that! How did he actually manage to say it out loud?! Had he no shame?! No restraint?!

Apparently not, with the way the younger was beaming brightly at him. Red bloomed on his face, and spluttering, Arthit bit his lower lip, mortified, unable to look up and accept the complete force of his boyfriend’s intense attention on himself.

However, what he said was still the truth, and it was too late to take it back.

“P’Arthit. P’, look at me.”

“No.” Could he disappear now? Just melt into his bed and never show his face to the younger again? “You’ve done enough, you can leave now.”

In front of him, Kongpob chuckled, deep and wonderfully delighted, and Arthit felt his blush deepen.

“I can’t, P’.” Kongpob sounded helpless, besotted, as his fingers tightened their grip on Arthit’s, never letting go the entire time. “Not when you’re this sweet to me.”

“W-Who is?” Arthit stuttered, but he couldn’t force himself to sincerely push the other away, toes and fingers curling as he tried his best to avoid staring directly at his boyfriend.

But Kongpob was humming under his breath, slotting his fingers in between the spaces that Arthit’s weren’t meant to fill. He brought their intertwined hands to his face, pressing Arthit’s palm to his cheek, nuzzling into it, his tanned skin a beautiful distinction against Arthit’s paler, lighter complexion.

Feeling heat still radiating from his face, Arthit hesitantly peeked at the younger’s, finding Kongpob’s eyes closed, lips brushing a kiss to the inside curve of his palm, warm breath fanning across his skin.

His breath hitched, heart banging a staccato rhythm against his chest as goosebumps rose on his flesh.

It was nothing but reverence, adoration, in its purest, most concentrated form.

Arthit’s voice was barely more than a whisper. “… Kong?”

“P’Arthit, it’s okay.” His boyfriend finally said, dark eyes flickering up to glance at him through long eyelashes. “I’ve already forgiven you.”

And Arthit felt his breath leave him in a rush, some of the built-up tension leaving his shoulders and back as his entire being was slowly put at ease.

“But please don’t do something like this again.” Another kiss under his thumb, to the side of his wrist, over his fleetingly rapid pulse. “I don’t think my heart will be able to take it the second time.”

“I… I’ll try,” Arthit finally said, when he could finally find the voice to speak, managing to keep his tone light despite the heavy lump in his throat. His fingers gradually splayed out to cradle the younger’s jaw of his own will, still within the confines of Kongpob’s touch. “I don’t think my body would survive it again either.”

The younger frowned at him again, visibly displeased at the thought. “I’m serious, P’.”

“And so am I,” Arthit replied, equally as serious. He lightly thumbed at the apple of Kongpob’s cheek, trying his best to comfort and assure. “I… I can’t promise that this would be a one-time thing.” Because his job as head hazer wasn’t finished yet, despite how close they were to the end of the initiation activities. There might still be things that P’Deer would order him to do, and it was a part of Arthit’s responsibility to see it through. “But I can promise to not push you away again, especially if I’m having a hard time. And don’t worry. Everything will be over soon.”

There was very little left to teach the first years. The flag capturing event would soon be upon them, and after that, Arthit’s duties as head hazer were as good as done.

The beach activity and gear giving ceremony was really just a formality.

(He didn’t realize how badly he wanted it, Kongpob’s understanding, his unequivocal acceptance of Arthit’s weaknesses and faults.)

“Just a little bit more. Okay, Kong? Can you give me a little more time?”

“Of course,” Kongpob answered immediately, relenting despite his visible unhappiness at the turn of events. “Take all the time you need, P’Arthit. You know I’ll always wait for you.”

Without thinking about it, Arthit moved forward and gave a quick kiss of gratitude on the other’s forehead. Heat instantly gathered on his cheeks once he realized what he had done, and he looked away, his next words more of a incomprehensible mumble than anything else.

“… Thanks. For everything.”

But a small smile was once again appearing on his boyfriend’s face, pleased and sweet and adoring, taking a brief moment to press their foreheads together.

“It’s my pleasure. And I’ll hold you to your promise, P’.”

And the last knot of tightness in Arthit’s stomach finally unfurled, leaving him lax, languid, and calm.

“By the way, have you taken your medicine?” Kongpob asked after a moment of shared, quiet contentment. He instatnly straightened up, dropping Arthit’s hand to go to his desk, rifling through the small plastic bag Arthit had brought with him from the hospital. “Is it the kind that you need to drink before you eat?”

“I…” don’t remember, Arthit wanted to say, because it had truly slipped his mind, watching as the other read the doctor’s prescription quickly but carefully.

“Oh, it’s the before meal pills.” Kongpob sounded disappointed in himself. “P’, you should have told me. Now you’ve skipped a dose. How will you recover faster now?”

“Kong, it won’t make a difference, I promise.” Arthit said patiently, because what did it matter, if Arthit took his pain relievers now or a few hours after? The ache wasn’t even that bad, anymore.

“Besides… won’t this give you more time to look after me?”

Arthit did not mean to say that. But as his boyfriend blinked at him, once again taken completely off-guard, Arthit once again silently cursed himself for his apparent lack of a brain-to-mouth filter around the other.

… But right now he was sick. Injured. This was a momentary lapse from his exhausted, addled brain. Arthit couldn’t be held accountable for what he was saying right now.

Yep. That was a totally reasonable, acceptable explanation for what just happened here.

After a moment, Kongpob’s lips lifted up, indulgent, affectionate, and amused at the same time. “I’ll be the best nurse you’ll ever have, P’Ai-Oon.” he eventually said, tone solemn, as if taking on a sacred vow. “But still, please don’t forget to drink your medicine on time. P’ can always ask me to spoil him anytime, sick or not.”

“Kongpob!” Arthit was sure he looked permanently sunburned now. But Kongpob was laughing out loud, maybe at his expense, but the sound had never failed to lift Arthit’s heart and spirits.

And the sight of his boyfriend’s clear happiness was a better remedy than any medicine Arthit could ever take.

It was this time when something vibrated on his bed.

It was his phone, which had been quiet this entire time, screen flashing brightly with an incoming call.

They both glanced at it, and Arthit was sure the younger had also seen the name blinking on the screen.

Namtan.

“Are you going to answer it?” Kongpob eventually asked, and Arthit was unable to place the tone of the other’s voice, the expression on his face as the other continued to stare at Arthit’s phone.

It immediately placed him on edge, for some reason he couldn’t explain.

“… No.” Arthit flipped his phone to hide the screen, deliberately looking away from it. “I don’t feel like talking to her right now.”

He always felt like he was on dangerous territory when it came to his boyfriend and his first love. Arthit didn’t share much details about his heartbreak with his childhood friend to Kongpob, because there was no point to rehashing the past, and he had already more than moved on by this point, his entirety already given to the younger. Kongpob, for his part, had never really asked for more, and Arthit had just assumed that his boyfriend was content with the information he already had.

But there were times when it felt like his non-existent romantic past was still putting a wedge in his present and future relationship with his boyfriend.

Like now.

“… I see.” Kongpob answered simply after a moment. “Let me wash the dishes for you, P’.”

There was still a smile on his lips, but this time, it didn’t reach his eyes. The younger excused himself quickly to use Arthit’s kitchenette, bringing the used dining utensils with him.

But like always, Arthit was speechless, staring at the other’s back with a familiar, weighted helplessness.

As familiar and intimate as he was with his boyfriend, Arthit wasn’t a mind reader. During these moments, Kongpob’s thoughts were completely closed off to him, and he had no idea what the other was thinking.

Because what could he say, if he didn’t know what was being asked in the first place?

The easy, intimate atmosphere they shared just moments before was now completely gone, replaced by something else, something heavier and oppressive.

And Arthit didn’t like it one bit.

Chapter Text

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.