“Happy birthday, Gulf. I hope you have so much happiness, my friend. I hope you have good health and receive a lot of work for the year and get so famous. Let’s find a time to meet and play football together. See you, friend.”
Mew watched his Yai Nong continuously repeat that 10-second clip on the phone. They were currently eating their lunch in the dressing room of the studio where their upcoming live would be shot. Most of the staff had left them alone as per their managers’ instructions to “let them rest because lord knows they don’t get enough of that these days” (P’Best’s words. Nong Stu’s were less straightforward than that, but the thought was the same.)
“Happy birthday, Gulf. I hope you have so much happiness, my friend…”
Since Gulf’s birthday and, consequently, fan concert, Mew noticed how Gulf would sometimes space out or unconsciously hum the Suankularb Wittayalai school song. He wasn’t too concerned because the younger man did tend to sort of blank out whenever they weren’t on the job (as a way of resting), but recently, it was as if Gulf was only going through the motions of the day just to get through.
And that worried Mew, so he took the chance of them being alone for a talk.
“Yai Nong, can we talk?” Mew asked, gently placing a hand on Gulf’s arm. He had to pat it a few times before he got his attention. “Are you okay?”
Gulf just blinked then smiled a little. “I’m fine, Phi. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that, you’ve been distracted these days by…” Mew gestured to the screen of his phone which was paused on that person’s smiling face.
“Oh, I see. Jealous, P’Mew?” Gulf teased as he locked his phone.
Mew just chuckled and shook his head. “Not really. I’m more worried about you.” And that was the truth. Although he had said before that he could be possessive, for some reason, he didn’t feel that way now. “Can I be honest with you, Yai Nong?”
“You know that’s how we always are, Khun Phi.”
‘Here goes nothing.’ Mew let out a soft exhale then asked, “Do you miss Bright?”
He could see that Gulf was taken aback by his question, and for good reason. He never asked about Bright Vachirawit Chivaaree before, save for the first time he noticed that the two had “OSK 134” on their Instagram profiles. Gulf had only said that they were in the same batch back in Suankularb.
To his surprise, Gulf was then smiling sheepishly. “Is it that obvious, Phi?”
Mew couldn’t hold in the laugh that came out of him. “I’m sorry for suddenly laughing but Yai Nong, it’s very obvious to me.”
“Aow, P’Mew!” Gulf poked the older man at the side, making the latter giggle some more, before he sighed. “Yeah, I miss him. It’s been so long since I last saw him.”
“Are you two close?”
Gulf tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. Mew found it adorable. “Not super close like best friends close. He’s my friend, my bro. We both love football so much. It’s the first thing we bonded over, and also fought over.”
“Oh, you also had fights?” Mew couldn’t imagine teenage Gulf. In interviews, his Yai Nong would always say that he was quite…playful and a prankster. Now, he said he was calmer than before (though Mew suspected he could still be rowdy with his closest friends).
“We always had huge fights especially when Man U and Chelsea have a match.” Gulf laughed. “We would shout and insult the other just to get the upper hand. It was ridiculous, but then, we were kids. I remember I did the blood prank on him and he was so worried that it was real blood. When I told him it was just a prank, he smacked my head, and we threw the fake blood at each other. Our moms were really angry at us back then…”
Mew realized as Gulf rambled more about his memories with Bright that maybe, his Yai Nong didn’t grasp the fact that he might’ve missed his friend more than he thought. The older man didn’t want to assume much, however, he just has this feeling that there’s more to Gulf and Bright’s relationship than what they say.
Not to mention, Mew observed the glint of happiness in Gulf’s eyes as he talked about Bright. There was even a wide smile on the younger man’s face and Mew couldn’t help but smile back. He knew how busy they were, both on their individual and couple works, so they didn’t have much time to catch up even with their closest friends. But now with their works getting cancelled because of the COVID situation…
Mew blinked out of his thoughts when a sudden was waving in front of his face. “Yes?”
“The staff said that we have to get ready. The live is about to start.” Gulf smiled cheekily. “Now, who’s the one distracted?”
“Aow, what are you implying there, Yai Nong?”
Mew wrapped his arms around Gulf’s waist and squeezed his soft tummy, making the latter giggle and try to get away, but Mew just tightened his hold. In the end, they had to be separated by their managers so that the staff could start their makeup (although they were still flustered with their display of affection).
Throughout the event, Mew’s mind was formulating a plan for his Yai Nong’s…dilemma.
But then, as the next days passed, he didn’t expect that Bright’s birthday was also around the corner.
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, happy birthday! Happy birthday to you!”
Win carefully knelt down and presented the cake to Bright who was smiling that jib lek smile that made him look younger than his current 23 years. After blowing out the fire on the candles, Win handed the cake to Dew and hugged his Phi tightly.
“Happy birthday, P’Bright. I wish you lots of happiness…and love.” Win had to mumble the last part because lord knows the rest of their friends would be filming this.
But then, Bright just hugged him back as tightly and said, “Thank you, Win, for being the best bro.”
Sometimes, Win wanted to smack his Phi for being too dense (or ignorant, who knows really) because he just basically confessed his love, and he was still in the Phi-Nong status.
And if Dew had to get the brunt of his frustration when they played the VR, well, it wasn’t Win’s fault.
After they pigged out on the amazing steaks cooked by P’Eed and had a slice of cake, they were now chilling at the living room with Bright casually strumming the guitar and P’Kik sometimes singing out loud. Win would’ve loved to be beside his Phi at that moment, but he was still sulking over the “bro”, so he was with Dew, both of them nursing a bottle of beer.
“P’Win, do you know Gulf Kanawut?” Dew asked out of the blue.
Win blinked in confusion. “Well, he’s also a famous artist. Why are you asking?”
“Just saw this on P’Bright’s birthday tweet.” Dew showed his screen and Win understood what he meant.
bbright @bbrightvc: Happy birthday to me☀️ #23rdBrightDay
gulfkanawut @gulfkanawut replying to @bbrightvc: Hbd bro see you soon ja👏
bbright @bbrightvc replying to @gulfkanawut: thanks bro we haven’t played football yet 5555
“To be honest, I don’t know much about their friendship.” Win admitted and took a sip of beer. “They knew each other since they were in Suankularb.”
Dew whistled lowly. “That’s pretty far back. I can’t even imagine my high school friends becoming artists, let alone rising in popularity at the same time. Whoa, P’Gulf is quite handsome. And his on-screen partner is also hot…”
Win knew P’Gulf and P’Mew because of how popular they are, and mostly because of Twitter. Even though they’re in the same industry (the BL one that is), Win had only talked to them in passing in award shows. Most of the time, he would only be updated on them through Instagram and when fans would mention both of their fandoms.
And yes, he was also aware of the so-called fan wars, but he really didn’t understand them and just scrolled past them.
“Phi, did you know that P’Gulf actually auditioned to be Sarawat?”
Win shook out of his thoughts at the question. “What?”
“Here, I saw an interview of P’Gulf. He mentioned that he tried out to be Sarawat before the rights were given to Grammy, so they had to re-cast.” Dew hummed in consideration. “But didn’t P’Bright audition as Tine? Can you imagine if they were Sarawatine? That’s insane.”
It was insane indeed, Win had to admit. It was like a twist of fate that everything turned out differently. He and Bright became Sarawatine, and P’Mew and P’Gulf became Tharntype. And now, they were both rising popular imagined couples, almost competing to the top.
But Win knew it wasn’t a competition. They have their own fans, both solo and couple, and he knew they could coexist without problems. Of course, there were the problematic fans, and his Phi had warned him about them beforehand (and has even witnessed how they were with Bright, which was something he didn’t want to recall), so as much as he could, he would only look at the positive and just tend to ignore the negative.
All of a sudden, there was a muffled ringing sound echoing in the room. Win looked around to see where it came from and found out that it was from Bright. But then, he was surprised at the big smile on his Phi’s face. He had no idea who could make his Phi smile like that save for his family, who were all in the condo, so they have no reason to call him.
“Sorry, I have to take this.” Bright announced. He had to give his guitar to P’Kik and walked to the corridor that led to the bedroom.
“You know, you’re acting weird, P’Win.” Dew stated lightly as everyone continued on what they were doing. “It’s like you’re always thinking, which you shouldn’t be doing when we’re supposed to be drinking.”
Win’s curiosity needed to be sated. “Sorry, Dew, but I need to go to the toilet.” He handed his beer bottle to his Nong and followed after Bright.
Just as he was approaching the bedroom, he paused when he heard the conversation although it was almost inaudible.
“Why are you calling at this hour, friend? Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”
“I was playing games then I saw your IG stories. Just how long is your birthday supposed to be?”
“Please, your fans almost made the whole month your birthday.”
“And your special fan surprised you tonight.”
A short laugh. “Are you really making that pun with me?”
“It’s a favorite anyway.”
Win finally recognized the voice as Gulf’s. He didn’t expect that Gulf and Bright had constant communication considering how busy they were. But then, he wasn’t aware of just how close they were.
“Anyway, I already greeted you on Twitter and even on your live, friend. I don’t know if you saw it. You had a lot of fans watching.”
“I actually only saw the screenshot on Twitter. Thank you, friend, and sorry I didn’t acknowledge on the live itself.”
“It’s fine. You should do more lives. It’s a way for you to talk to your fans.”
There was a deep sigh after that statement. “You know how I feel about them.”
“And I know you’re way past that. You have more supporters than possible. Your haters are miniscule compared to them. Not to mention, the amount of song requests you got.”
“Actually, I wanted a talk for my live, but I guess when I showed them my guitar, I became a music player.”
“You could try asking on Twitter first then randomly pick one during the IG live. I’ve seen other artists do that.”
“I’ll think about it. That live really tired me out for any upcoming lives.”
Win frowned at that. He saw rumors about Bright’s past lives, how there were those anti-fans that discouraged him from singing and other disparaging comments. He had no idea how true they were, but it looked like there was some semblance of truth.
And that just saddened Win. ‘Was it really that difficult to be kind?’ Then suddenly, he heard soft singing.
“Happy birthday to us.”
“Happy birthday to us.”
“Happy birthday to us.”
There was a short silence before Bright broke it. “Gulf, I know I already said it all in the recording, but I want to add something. I’m really happy that we’re friends. You’re my bro and I’m your bro. We’ve been through a lot since our OSK days and we still have a long way to go now that we’re both pursuing our dreams of becoming artists. Just know that I’ll always be here for you. I’m gonna support you all the way.”
“Bright, I’m thankful for our friendship. Even though it’s been a long time since our last lunch or football match together, I’m just glad that we can still talk like this. I’m really proud of what you’ve achieved, friend. Keep fighting! I’m here for you!”
“I miss you, Gulf. Football soon, yeah?”
“Miss you, too. Yeah, I wanna play so bad. My jobs have been nonstop.”
Win carefully stepped back and went back to his seat beside Dew, who was now eating some chips. As if sensing that he wasn’t in the mood for talking, his Nong offered him some chips which he accepted with a small smile.
Even when Bright returned and began a jamming session, Win’s mind kept replaying the conversation he overheard. He wanted to help his Phis, especially P’Bright. He knew they didn’t have the easiest jobs, especially recently with their popularity and upcoming works, but he never knew just how much it was affecting Bright. The question was, ‘What can I do?’
The answer came in a direct message in his Instagram from someone that he didn’t expect.
mewsuppasit: Nong Win, I apologize for the sudden message, but can we talk?
Gulf twitched when he suddenly felt a large and very familiar hand cup his cheek. He first wanted to lash out because he was supposed to be sleeping until noon (and he could definitely feel that it wasn’t noon yet), however, there were only a select people that were allowed to wake him up…and the thumb ring rubbing against his cheek was a dead giveaway.
“Yai Nong Gulf, wake up.”
“Why are you here, P’Mew?” Gulf grumbled but nonetheless, opened his eyes and saw Mew staring back at him with a smile. “We don’t have work today, right?”
“Nope, don’t worry. I see you’re still not a morning person.”
“And I never will.” Gulf then got an idea which almost made him smirk, but he stopped himself and went with one of Mew’s weaknesses – his puppy eyes. “Phi, can we cuddle? I want to sleep some more.”
“Aow, Yai Nong. You know I’m weak for that.” Mew pouted.
Gulf chuckled and decided to sit up, letting Mew wrap around his waist. “So, why are you here so early in the morning?”
“I wanted to take you out for lunch. This is one of our rare day offs together.”
“But don’t you have to get ready for the countdown concert?” After saying that, Gulf had a realization. Sometimes, his Phi’s offhand comments of being 19 years old were true. “Ah, so that’s why you woke me up.”
“You know me so well, Yai Nong.” Mew grinned. “Please? Indulge your Khun Phi? I want to treat you.”
Gulf didn’t know why Mew was so adamant that they go out today. There was something more about this “lunch out” that he was not yet getting, but seeing the hopeful look on his Phi’s face, he knew that he would cave in anyway. “Okay, Phi, let me just get ready.”
“Yes!” Mew hugged him tightly before releasing him. “I’ll be in the living room with Nong Juu. Don’t keep me waiting, okay?”
Gulf rolled his eyes but smiled anyway. “Yes, Khun Phi. Should I take this as a date?” It was bold of him to ask that, but with how their relationship was going, he wanted to be sure that he knew what they were doing.
Mew just winked at him and said, “It’s up to you, Nong, so I’ll leave you to get ready.” And with that, he went out of the room.
Gulf could only shake his head and chuckle. There was definitely something suspicious about the so-called lunch, but he would give his Khun Phi the benefit of the doubt. Because one thing’s for sure, Mew would never make him do something that he wouldn’t like.
With that in mind, Gulf got out of the bed and started getting ready.
Meanwhile, Mew was rubbing Juu’s chin while typing one-handedly on his phone.
Part 1 successful on my part. Good luck, Nong Win.
Win sucked in a deep breath when he received the message from Mew. He didn’t want to be nervous, but he couldn’t help it. He had never done anything like this before. He wasn’t much of a person who did spontaneous things, and this was definitely spontaneous.
But he was already at his Phi’s door. Unlike P’Mew, Win had asked last night via Line if he and Bright could hang out today. Surprisingly, Bright agreed which meant that Part 1 was already a success. The problem was how Bright will react to it.
“How long are you gonna stand there?”
Win gawked at the sight of Bright leaning against the doorframe. His Phi was only wearing a windbreaker, sports shorts, and sneakers, but he looked too handsome for just a simple football match.
“Win? Win? Khun Metawin?”
“Yes?” Win huffed when his mind processed what just happened. “Aow, P’Bright, stop teasing me!”
“You’re so distracted these days. Are you sure you want to play football today?”
“Of course, Phi! I’m so excited for our game!” Win grinned widely, hoping that it didn’t look too awkward.
Bright only nodded although one of his eyebrows was raised. “Alright then. You haven’t told me where we’re playing though. I don’t think the fields are open today because of the holiday.”
Win was relieved for the subject change. “Don’t worry about that. I already planned it and I wanna keep it as a surprise. I have to ask you to wear a blindfold though.” At Bright’s incredulous face, he quickly added, “Please, Phi? For the surprise?”
Win had to stop himself from cheering when Bright just nodded in agreement mixed with befuddlement. “Okay then. Let’s go!”
As he let his Phi go first after locking the door of his condo, Win subtly messaged Mew.
Part 1 successful. He also agreed to wear the blindfold. On the way, P’Mew.
“Do I really have to wear this blindfold, P’Mew?” Gulf almost tripped on what he thinks was a crack on the concrete, but his Phi caught him immediately. “I thought we were only going out for lunch?”
“This is part of it. I just wanna surprise you, that’s all.” Mew stated lightly.
When they had both gotten in the car (chauffeured by Nong Stu not surprisingly), Mew had handed Gulf a panda blindfold that would’ve been funny if the former didn’t ask the latter to wear it. That had amplified Gulf’s suspicions about their lunch out.
He didn’t know what to expect now. Yes, Mew was the kind of guy who would do romantic surprises, but he has no idea if there’s even a slight speck of romance in this. He has a feeling that his Phi was more on a mission than just simply wanting to take him out for food.
Now, he was letting P’Mew lead him to lord-knows-where, his eyesight completely blocked by the panda blindfold. He could’ve refused to wear it, but he wanted to indulge his Phi on whatever he had planned (that, and he’s weak when Mew pouts at him despite being an almost-thirty-year-old grown man).
“Okay, you can sit here, Yai Nong.” Mew gently pushed him down, and he let his hands wander around the seat. It felt familiar to him, as if he sat on it in the past, but that shouldn’t be possible.
“P’Mew, can I remove the blindfold now?” Gulf even raised his hands towards it, but he was stopped by Mew’s own hands.
“Nope, the surprise is not yet ready. I need you to wear headphones though. What music would you like to listen to?”
Gulf was more confused than suspicious now. Just what was his Phi up to? “Um, any F.HERO song then.”
“I want you to remember this. When the music stops, you can take them off.” With that, Mew just put the wireless earbuds on his ears, which should’ve surprised Gulf but then, he trusted the older man. Once the starting instrumentals of จำเก่ง started, he felt Mew leave his side. And now, he was alone, sitting on who-knows-what in who-knows-where.
จะผ่านไปอีกนาน เนิ่นนานเท่าไร (However much time passes by)
ฉันก็จำได้อยู่ดี เพราะฉันจำเก่งอย่างนี้ (I still remember because I’m good at remembering like this)
จำเก่งจนไม่เคยลืมเธอ (I’m so good at remembering, I’ve never forgotten you)
The feeling still remains, Gulf noted as he cautiously leaned back and smiled when his back came in contact with something rough, much like a rough wooden step…as if he were sitting on the bleachers of his high school.
Which should be impossible, right?
Bright had no idea why he agreed on the blindfold (because he didn’t want to admit that he just couldn’t say no to Win), but here he was, letting his Nong drag him to somewhere. And did he mention that he was also wearing wireless earbuds which was currently blasting Sticker by Bodyslam? (Again, he had acquiesced to the younger man’s whims.)
He was confused why their supposedly normal football match has some sort of secrecy. It wasn’t as if it’s the first time they did this. Sure, this was one of the rare days they have the same day off where they wouldn’t worry about being the famous rising artists of the country. They were only young adults who are only gonna play football for fun.
Bright hoped that their fans don’t find out about this…outing (he honestly didn’t know what to call it). He could just imagine how this would blow up. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his fans (he will always be grateful for each one that continues to support him), but they could be quite overbearing, especially when it comes to his and Win’s relationship. Speaking of Win…
“Win, are we there yet?!” He had to shout since all he could hear was P’Toon’s singing.
The music abruptly stopped so he heard Win’s response. “Don’t worry, Phi, we’re almost there. I really hope you’ll like this surprise. Oh, before I play the music again, I need to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“When I stop the music, you can remove your blindfold and the earbuds so that you’ll see the surprise. But while it’s still playing, you just stay put and let me lead. Is that okay?”
Bright was definitely sure now that it wasn’t just a simple surprise of where they would be playing football on a public holiday. It could also be part of it, but there was something more to it. He didn’t know what, but he would give Win the benefit of the doubt. One thing he was sure though, was that Win wasn’t the type to have really bad intentions.
When the music started again and he was pulled by his Nong, he could only shake his head in amusement. There was no use in overthinking. He would only trust that Win knew what he was doing (and that they wouldn’t cause P’Eed to deal with damage control).
Bright almost bumped into Win as they paused mid step. He sensed Win’s large hands on his shoulders, gently pushing him down, which he took as a sign that he needed to sit down. Once he did so, the hands disappeared and he didn’t know if Win were still there, however, he could feel someone beside him.
กับรักที่เคยร้าว ใจยังร้าว ความปวดร้าว ใจยังเหน็บหนาว (With a love that was broken, a heart that’s still broken, hurting, a heart that’s still cold)
รักเป็นดั่งเชื้อไฟให้ชีวิต (Let love be like a source of life)
Bright had a feeling that the song was telling him something. It wasn’t romantic love, but more of that specific love that he was missing recently. He just couldn’t pinpoint which one.
But before he could think more of it, the music stopped playing. Carefully, he removed the earbuds first then the blindfold, and was shocked when his eyes locked on a very familiar face so close to him.
They became silent after the outburst and had to look away. It was then Bright noticed that they were actually sitting on the bleachers of the Suankularb Wittayalai football field. Not much had changed since he last came here. He had a lot of memories playing with his high school friends in the same grass field, and even attending some of the school events that were held on it.
However, the vivid memories that came into his mind were the ones with Gulf – the lunches they took together where they exchanged meals they brought from home; the 2012 Jaturamitr Samakkee football competition where they won first place (with Bangkok Christian College but that’s neither here nor there); and even the casual hangouts they did in each other’s houses.
Bright was hit with so much nostalgia just seeing Gulf right in front of him that he didn’t notice the tears flowing down his cheeks. He only sensed them when a pair of hands cupped his face and turned him gently.
“Oe oe oe. I’m really here, friend. I thought I was the more emotional between us, huh?” Gulf smiled, showing off his retainers, which comforted and made Bright more emotional because his friend, his bro, was really in front of him. Not at the other side of the venue of an awarding show or at the screen of his phone. He was right there within reach.
And he did reach out, snaking his arms on Gulf’s waist and resting his head on the readily offered shoulder. He didn’t sob or cried out loud. He just let out the occasional sniffle and wiped his face on Gulf’s shirt, all the while Gulf rubbed his back.
“The first time we meet again, we’re already in tears.” Gulf joked and Bright had to chuckle at that.
“So this was the surprise.” Bright finally said as he broke the hug and sat up although they were still close enough that their legs were pressed together. “Did you know any of this?”
Gulf shook his head. “Today was supposed to be my day off. Then P’Mew woke me up and asked me out for lunch.”
Bright grimaced at that. “Aow, this was supposed to be your date?”
“Oh please. And Nong Win didn’t ask you out?”
“Touché.” Bright conceded. “So we were actually conned by our on-screen partners.”
“Yup. And they’re probably snooping behind the bleachers.” The slight thudding sound and muffled laugh were evidence enough.
“Since when did you get so smart?” Bright laughed when Gulf hit his arm for the jab. “I already suspected this wouldn’t be a normal football match between me and Win. I was really curious about the surprise.”
“Were you surprised, P’Bright?” Suddenly, standing in front of them were Win, who was wearing a huge grin although he was shuffling around (a nervous tick that Bright had taken note of since they met), and P’Mew, who was also smiling and seemed to be in a staring contest with Gulf.
“Of course I was. Just how did you plan this? And since when did you and P’Mew talk?” Bright glanced at Gulf who was nodding in agreement with his questions.
“I was the first to message Win.” Mew stated. “I wanted you and Yai Nong to meet up even for just a short time, so I had to coordinate with the one closest to you, in and out of work.”
“I agreed to it because I heard your conversation with P’Gulf that night we celebrated your birthday at your condo.” Before Bright could say anything about that, Win cut him off. “And I apologize for listening in because I really shouldn’t have, but I’m just concerned, Phi.” And now, Win was giving him the puppy eyes and matching pout.
Bright sighed wearily but smiled anyway. “I don’t like that you planned all this behind our backs, not to mention your eavesdropping on a private conversation.”
“But I know you have good intentions.” Gulf interrupted and Bright let him. “I’m really happy that I got to see Bright today. It’s been what, 2 or 3 years?”
“Roughly. It was probably before your audition for 2gether. You’ve been going to multiple castings that time, right?”
“Right. I was trying to find work while you were being a psychopath as Day.”
“One of my hardest roles really. Good thing First was also part of the cast so that’s one person I knew. By the way, how is he? He’s in the second season of Tharntype, right?”
“Yes, and he still portrays his characters so well. Recently, I almost always wanted to punch him whenever I see him since he reminds me of his character.”
“Speaking of punches, remember back then…”
And just like that, Bright and Gulf fell into a familiar banter that only the two of them could keep up with. This quelled down the nagging concern in his mind that their friendship was not the same anymore since they haven’t seen each other for a long time.
‘And I have Win to thank for this.’
Mew was amazed at the drastic change of attitude from Gulf. Although drastic was an exaggeration, his Yai Nong’s exuberance and energy in talking with Bright was vastly different from when he was with Mew or at work basically. And that might be the difference.
“I’ve only seen P’Bright this animated when we’re not working.” Win commented, snapping Mew out of his thoughts. “Most of time, he has this aloof and deadpan façade, which can be funny when he makes jokes.”
“Gulf is more of the introvert type.” Mew stated with a small smile. “He wouldn’t talk to anyone first if he didn’t know them. When we first met, I was always the one who approached him, not the other way around. But now, with Bright, I can see how he could be playful and naughty when he was younger.”
“I guess you could say that they bring out another side of the other that we’ve never seen before.”
“That’s very insightful.” Mew just chuckled when Win perked up at the compliment. “By the way, I haven’t thanked you yet for helping me with this plan.”
Win shook his head. “It’s no problem, Phi. If you didn’t message me first about this, I would probably still be thinking what I’m gonna do with them. And it’s not easy for the four of us to have the same day offs.”
“Today is not even my day off.” Mew laughed at the shocked expression on Win’s face. “I have a countdown concert later for my fans.”
“Oh yeah, you have your own studio, right? I really admire that you can manage that plus being an artist and even a PhD student—”
“It’s not easy, of course, but I have my team to help me with managing my schedule. You also have your own business, right?”
Win nodded at that. “Yeah, I have Velence for my clothes and Souri for my macarons with my sister, but those are small compared to your studio.”
“Nong Win, you have to know that this isn’t a competition. Wait, let me rephrase.” Mew added when he saw that Win was about to rebut. “We have different businesses, thus, different markets. You can’t compare my studio and, say, your clothing brand because they cater to various customers. And also, we have to start somewhere.” He shrugged. “Who knows, my business might not even last, knock on wood.”
“P’Mew, don’t say that. To the gods above, please know that P’Mew didn’t mean any of that.” Win even put his hands together to ward off the curse. Mew just found it amusing. He didn’t know that the younger man could be quite a comedian. “But I’m just really curious why you decided on a studio. It requires a lot of capital and management. Not to mention, you have big competition since it’s part of the entertainment industry.”
It was there that Mew realized that Win was genuinely curious about his business, then remembered that the latter was studying Economics (something he randomly read on Twitter). This excited him because he always wanted to talk to someone that could understand the inner workings of a business (that and he only had some knowledge from his Industrial Engineering subjects that focused on the business part, and not the engineering part).
Before he could ask though, he was cut off by Bright suddenly appearing and placing an arm on Win’s shoulders. “Win, you have to defend my honor. My friend—" He side-eyed Gulf who had his arms crossed. “—thinks that he’s better in football than me.”
“Always have, always will.” Gulf announced, and the amount of smugness in his voice surprised Mew. It was almost as if this was a different Gulf – the shy and soft-spoken one nowhere to be seen. “P’Mew, don’t you think so?”
“Well…” Mew wasn’t actually that well-versed in football, or sports in general, so he had no idea what to say. But then, this did give him the chance to say what they were supposed to do. “Actually, the original plan was for you to play football here since me and Nong Win both know that you’ve always wanted to do that. We’re just lucky that Suankularb gave us permission to use their field for this.”
“Aow, but I didn’t bring my equipment.” Gulf pouted and Mew fought the urge to kiss his Yai Nong, because lord knows how difficult it was to hold back when Gulf was just so round and fluffy.
“I actually asked Mae Nuch to pack your sports bag. I placed it on the end of the bleachers.” Mew let out a short oof when his arms had to catch a 185-cm grown man.
“Thank you, Phi! You really thought this through, huh?” Gulf grinned widely.
Mew just smiled and squeezed him closer. “Only for you, Yai Nong.” And that was a fact. He’ll do his best to make Gulf happy. He knew he was feeling more than what a Phi should feel for his Nong, however, just seeing the sparkling eyes and big smile gave him that boost of confidence to be bold enough with his advances.
He could only hope that Gulf felt the same way, but he wouldn’t push it.
“I’m gonna get changed first so that I can kick Bright’s ass on the field.” Gulf stuck out his tongue at Bright who retaliated with the same gesture.
“Win and I can take you on easily.” Bright haughtily stated.
“We’ll see about that. P’Mew can be our scorer. Nong Stu can be the goalkeeper.”
“Aow, why not P’Mew join in the game, too?” Win asked in curiosity.
Mew could only shake his head fondly. “I don’t play sports much.” His Nongs were quite energetic and sporty, the opposite of him who preferred to sit by and read.
“And he’ll probably cheat my way to the goal by holding on to Bright or Nong Win.” Gulf huffed with a smile.
“Jealousy isn’t becoming of you, friend.” Bright joked and Gulf just hissed at him to shut up. Mew just found it adorable, like a cat who was fed up with too much petting.
Before Gulf left though, Mew was surprised when his Yai Nong went up to him, gave him a peck on the cheek, muttered a soft ‘thank you’ and ran away to what seemed to be the locker room. When he saw the huge teasing grins on Bright and Win’s faces, he gave them a serious stare. “Not a word.”
Even with that said, the two still had smiles on their faces, but Mew somehow trusted that they wouldn’t go too far with the teasing (and of course, nothing will be leaked for the public because if anyone knew just how invasive media is, it would be his and Gulf’s ‘other competition’ in the industry).
Win could only gawk when the black and white ball was expertly taken from him by Gulf, and just as quickly, the latter kicked it hard to the goal, only for Bright to block it with his body.
“Damn it, Ai’Bright! That was supposed to be my point!”
“But it wasn’t, Ai’Gulf! I’ll make sure you won’t win against me!”
And this continued on throughout the game. Whenever Win got the ball, Gulf was there to steal it from him, which would result to Bright getting close for defense and a shouting match would ensue. Win never expected that his two Phis were quite…passionate about playing football to the point that they would always trash-talk the other. And he guessed that P’Mew was the same as he only stood by the bleachers with wide eyes, the scoreboard still at 0-0.
And he didn’t even want to think more on the change of honorifics.
“You haven’t changed your footwork since high school. You think that would always be effective?” P’Gulf taunted with a smirk. He was in front of the goal, stance wide to prepare for Bright’s strike.
Win flinched at that. He also noticed that in the few times he and Bright played football. In his opinion, it wasn’t necessarily bad, but he knew that opposing teams tend to take note of mannerisms and common strategies before a game, thus, giving them an advantage if they knew how to exploit that. However, he never had the chance to say it to his Phi since he thought it was disrespectful.
P’Bright tsked then smirked back. “Oho, this is coming from the one who last played football on a sponsored live? I told you to make time to join me in matches with Monday Knights.” All of a sudden, he shot forward, kicking the ball in high speed.
Before Win could process that Bright was actually running straight towards Gulf, the latter also ran towards Bright until they tackled each other on the ground.
“Yai Nong!” P’Mew yelled out and promptly ran to the field.
“P’Bright!” Win called and also went to his Phis. He actually should’ve expected that a collision would happen sooner than later with how aggressive the two were playing. When he and P’Mew got to their on-screen partners, they could only pause and stare at the scene.
Bright was outright laughing out loud as he was tickled by Gulf who was teasing him about still not being as agile and prone to openings. Win knew about Bright’s ticklish spots, which he tend to bypass when they did some fanservice since Bright had asked him to during their first days in workshops, but it got ingrained in his mind that he couldn’t tickle his Phi as his way of respecting his boundaries.
However, seeing Gulf easily touching Bright and both of them not even minding them one bit…
Win was envious.
Not because of Gulf being so touchy-feely with his crush (a feat that he could only wish to achieve), but because of their friendship in general. Win didn’t have that kind of close kinship with anyone outside his family. He had his own group of close friends; however, they were the typical friend group that would hang out only whenever everyone’s free (which was always rare especially with his own busy schedule) and the occasional conversation in their group chat.
He didn’t have that friend that he could lean on for anything and everything without judgment and was still going strong through the years.
‘But then…’ Win watched as P’Gulf stopped his tickling to let P’Bright breathe and they were just staring at each, smiling so widely despite being covered in sweat, dirt, and grass. ‘I’m so happy that they have each other.’ He might only be Bright’s Nong and partner on camera, but he was still one of his Phi’s closest friends, and he would never begrudge Bright for having someone he was most comfortable with (and that person not being himself).
When Win felt a hand ruffling the back of his head, he didn’t mention how he and P’Mew were teary-eyed just because their significant others were now rolling around the grass like energetic puppies. They felt like kindred spirits at the moment – not fully understanding the bond between Bright and Gulf but letting them be because they could easily see just how glad they are just playing around with no worries for the future or any public backlash. Right then, they were just ordinary young adults hanging out on a football field.
“Do you regret this, Win?” P’Mew suddenly asked albeit in a quiet voice.
Win readily answered with a shake of his head and a smile. “Not one bit, Phi.”
Mew just nodded and he grinned so widely that his eyes squinted into crescents, and Win found them utterly adorable on the older man. He placed a hand on his Phi’s back for support as they continued on looking at Bright and Gulf’s antics.
Bright let out a sigh of relief and slouched on his seat in Win’s car. They were now driving back from Suankularb Wittayalai to his condo so that his Nong can drop him off for his family’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Mew and Gulf also couldn’t stay long since the former was holding a countdown concert via VLive and the latter an IG live with Mild Jinna Pichit-o-Pakun, much to his surprise.
“I want my fans to have fun with me and my family while we wait for the countdown.” Gulf had explained to him while they rested and ate the packed lunches courtesy of P’Mew’s Nong Stu. “You can join us if you want. P’Mild won’t care and we’ll be happy to have you.”
Bright had actually thought about it but decided against it. The pain from his haters was still fresh and even though he did have some fun at his birthday live, he didn’t think he could do it again anytime soon (even as only a guest in his friend’s live). He wasn’t that comfortable yet.
But he was glad that Gulf only nodded and bumped knees with him. He also felt Win give him a short squeeze on the shoulder and P’Mew an encouraging smile and he had smiled back because really, he never thought that the four of them would be playing football and eating lunch on his and Gulf’s high school field.
“P’Bright? Can I ask you a question?”
Bright shook his head out of his thoughts at Win’s question and let a small smirk don his face. “You just did.”
Bright chuckled at the whine. “I’m kidding. Go ahead.”
“Did you have fun today?”
Bright didn’t know what came over him with that question. He just said, “Pull over” in a commanding voice, which jolted Win to obeying almost immediately, pulling at the nearest available parking space. He then grabbed Win’s nape firmly but not enough to hurt and turned it towards him so that they were directly staring at each other’s eyes. They had done this multiple times in 2gether and Still2gether, but they weren’t Sarawat and Tine at the moment.
They were only Bright and Win in the latter’s Aston Martin, parked in lord-knows-where in the busy Bangkok streets.
“Win, listen to me.” Bright breathed deeply. He was a bit nervous honestly. He didn’t know what to say. The fact that Win planned all of it with P’Mew, just so that he and Gulf could meet again after so long, made him appreciate more that he had someone like Win in his life. He might’ve been in the entertainment industry for years, but he wasn’t close to anyone until he met and worked closely with Win.
His silence must be too long since Win smiled as if understanding his predicament. “Go on, Phi. I’m listening.”
Bright smiled back and let the words flow out. “I want to thank you for giving me and Gulf the chance to meet. We’ve always been close friends and that didn’t diminish through the years as we went our own paths academic and career-wise. If I were a believer of luck, I would say that fate and destiny had a hand on this day, but since I’m not, I’m just gonna say that it happened because it is what it is. That and you made it happen, and I’ll always be grateful for you for that.”
Win’s grin grew bigger and Bright understood just how their fans saw him as a fluffy white rabbit. “Anything for you, P’Bright. You deserve every happiness you get, and no amount of bashing can stop that. I know you know just how much love you get from your true fans, friends, and especially loved ones.”
Just as Win flushed at the last words, Bright blinked at the sudden realization that popped in his head. He suspected that his Nong liked him more than a friend or brother, but to have that evident in front of him… He could only smile, gently press their foreheads together, and murmured, “I know. I’m so happy, Win.”
Even though he only said a few words, Win nodded in assent, the pink in his cheeks darkening. “I’m happy, too, Phi.” With that, they slowly separated, and Win began driving once again.
Bright just closed his eyes and relaxed in his seat, letting the soft music from the radio lull him into a light sleep. This day definitely changed their relationship, and he was glad that Win didn’t push him into saying anything else which just made him appreciate his Nong more.
And if he and Win held hands over the center console while they were stuck in traffic, well, no one else needed to know.
Gulf let out a soft exhale and nuzzled on Mew’s shoulder, the exhaustion from the impromptu football match seeping in his body. It was definitely unexpected seeing Bright today. Although they have the sometimes video calls on Line, they haven’t physically seen each other for years already. They became so busy with their packed schedules that they never got the chance to just hang out. But now that they did meet up, he was ecstatic, as if a missing piece inside of him was finally complete.
“Yai Nong, did you have fun?”
Gulf glanced up at Mew without lifting his head away from the warm shoulder. He could see that Mew was staring ahead and his forehead was pinched as if he were nervous on what Gulf’s response will be. He decided to calm his Phi by snuggling closer until his face was literally squished under Mew’s jaw, reminiscent of a scene in Tharntype 2 where Tharn was comforting Type on their bed after a long day at work.
“P’Mew, I had so much fun today.” Gulf had to let out a small laugh. “I really wanted to play football, and I got to do that today, with Bright no less. I missed him actually.” He sighed gently. “I’ve been worried about him these past months. The amount of hate he had been getting online was constant. I only got to talk to him once in a while since we’re both so busy. I never understood why people have to be so rude to him when he has done nothing but good things.”
“Sometimes, we can’t stop them for thinking like that.” Mew said and ruffled Gulf’s hair. “It’s up to us if we want to believe them or not.”
Gulf nodded in agreement. “Yeah, but sometimes, Bright lets it get to him. That’s why I worry about him.” He then snorted when he remembered something. “Despite his nonchalant attitude, he can be quite sensitive.”
“Just like you, Yai Nong?”
“Phi…” Gulf whined and poked Mew on the sides, making the older man giggle. “You’ve taught me a lot since we met. You’ve also taken care of me even if I didn’t ask for it. And yes, I already learned to accept it.” He added immediately when he felt Mew open his mouth for a retort. “And today’s not that different, so thank you, P’Mew. I know this day was for me and Bright, and I saw the effort you and Nong Win did to keep up with us.”
“The amount of inside jokes you two have are endless.” Mew chuckled.
“That’s because we’ve known each other for a long time.” Gulf sat up straighter so that he could look directly at Mew’s eyes. “I also have to apologize if you ever felt out of place earlier. I know you’re not much for sports, but I still want you to be part of the game, so I made you a scorer and—”
“It’s okay, Yai Nong.” Mew interrupted and smiled. “I still had fun today. I got to know Nong Bright and Nong Win better and you were happy. That’s enough for me.”
Gulf shook his head fondly and rested his head once again on his Phi’s shoulder. That was the P’Mew he knew, always a caretaker. “Maybe next time we can do what you want.”
“Like watch anime?”
Gulf scrunched his nose at that. He wasn’t much of an avid fan of that like his Phi, but he guessed he could tolerate it. For his P’Mew. “If it’s Detective Conan, then let’s do it. I know Bright and I watched it back in high school.”
“I feel so old when you talk like that.” Mew bemoaned in jest.
“That’s because you are.” Gulf laughed when Mew poked his sides and didn’t affect him one bit since he was not ticklish at all. “By the way, good luck later on the countdown concert, Khun Phi. I’ll be watching with P’Mild later.”
“Thank you, Yai Nong. Good luck on your IG live later. Will you be picking lucky fans?”
“Yeah, I want to talk more with my international fans.”
“You’re doing great on your English. Keep it up.”
“Thank you, Phi.”
Then, they settled on a comfortable silence until they had to bid goodbye so that they’ll get ready for their respective events for New Year’s Eve.
And if Gulf let Mew kiss his cheek before he got out of the vehicle, well, only Nong Stu had a glimpse of that.
BONUS [January 8]
“P’Eed, I didn’t know that I have a shoot with KAZZ other than the Num Wai Sai.” Bright wondered as he and his manager walked in the quaint office of the magazine house.
“It’s actually a last-minute job. I decided to take it since I know you’ll like it.” P’Eed said with a mysterious wink.
“Now I’m just more curious. And how did you know that I’ll like—”
“I have a reliable source, luk.”
“And will I be working with someone—”
“—someone?” A very familiar voice echoed. “Bright?!”
As the two got over their surprise quickly and was immediately asking each other how they had been and what they had been doing (with intermittent inside jokes that most of the staff surrounding them didn’t bother to understand), P’Eed went over to P’Best and gave each other a high-five.
“Good thing KAZZ Magazine agreed to this, huh?” P’Best chuckled.
“And good thing Win and Mew consulted us.” P’Eed shook her head with a smile. “Do you think the fans will like this?”
“Who cares about those who won’t like it?” P’Best shrugged then pointed at their two charges who were now taking selfies together. “You’ll see. When they post those photos, they’ll have their own hashtag and will go trending in just a few hours.”
“Somehow, I can see that.”
Although we should say ‘Thank you, KAZZ Magazine’, maybe the correct one should be ‘Thank you, Mew and Win’, for letting Bright and Gulf meet again.