Sarawat cannot stop glancing.
He knows he should probably stop. He‘s bound to get caught if he doesn’t. He’s on track to make it perfectly awkward for himself.
But he can’t.
He’s sitting next to Tine. Tine Teepakorn. The angel of Thai Composition 111, only available to Sarawat through snippets of academic conversation and beautiful side profiles.
Until today, until now.
His palms are sweaty. He flattens them out against the fabric of his pants, ending with a grip at his knees in order to ground himself.
If he leaned over just barely, just enough to make the excuse of grabbing a pencil or looking over their notes, their shoulders and forearms would touch. Sarawat thinks he would lose brain function should he actually do this, so he doesn’t.
“Okay, so should we get started?” Tine says, and Sarawat is yanked back into reality, his glancing halting in favor of actually looking at the man next to him, which is far worse. His voice is so pretty and gentle, he thinks. He’s heard it before but not so close. He swallows.
“Um. Yeah. Let me— let me uh—get my uh—“ Sarawat wants to smack himself with everything he’s got in him, the words he wants to say escaping him completely as he circles a hand around his backpack in place of them.
“Your laptop?” Tine tries, looking a bit concerned.
“Yes. Yeah, my laptop, thanks.” Sarawat confirms, and maybe it sounded stupid to thank him, he can’t be sure. He just leans over and unzips his bag, getting out his laptop so they could begin.
A quick glance into the history of the last 3 months of Sarawat Guntithanon’s life, up until the present:
Sarawat enrolled in his second semester of his first year of college. Like many other people like him, he registers for a Thai language class as is customary for the students to improve their writing skills. In said class is where he meets (or, for a more accurate description, encounters) Tine Teepakorn.
It is fair to say that Sarawat took an interest. Sarawat had chosen a seat further from the front, but not the complete back. He tried to stay away from the overall hoarding of people in either cluster. When Tine came in, he’d hardly been paying any attention until he’d heard his laugh.
It had made him look up from whatever he was doodling against the corners of their syllabus they’d grabbed as they walked it. He searched for the source of the sound, and his eyes landed on Tine, who wore his smile on his whole face and crinkled up his eyes with it.
Sarawat’s heart had fluttered. Sarawat’s heart never fluttered.
He examined him, as one does. The shiny flips and curves of his dark hair, the gentle but defined shape of his cheeks and jaw, his taut, nicely-shaped lips—
Sarawat’s engagement had been rudely put on hold by the professor demanding attention from the very front of the room. Sarawat was able to concentrate on the syllabus overview for the astounding grand total of two minutes before his eyes were back on Tine. Now seated, he couldn’t see his face too well, but it didn’t make much of a difference to him.
This continued. Sarawat would find ways to get his eyes to linger on Tine just a little longer than they needed to. He would watch the door if he was early to class and Tine hadn’t yet arrived. He would pay close attention to him if he’d asked a question during the lecture. He snuck glances that would sometimes turn into stares during particularly uninteresting durations of class.
All this but no fire under his ass to go up and introduce himself to him.
And so it was a longing from afar, one that of course Sarawat wished he could change, but was unwilling to with no interplay from fate.
Apparently, fate decided to mingle with him, just this once.
They got paired together for their most recent assignment. At least, to act as peer review and critique for the other person in an otherwise independent assignment. The topic: a detailed and justified essay description of their ideal partner.
That is why Sarawat is now sitting a staggering eight inches away from Tine, situated in their own little world at the front desks of the lecture hall.
“It’s—it’s Sarawat, right?” Tine starts from next to him.
“You know my name?” Sarawat asks immediately, flabbergasted, like there was no way Tine had paid enough attention to him to know such a thing.
And apparently, he hadn’t. “Well, um, that’s what the professor said when he made us partners, so...” Tine trails off awkwardly.
“Oh. Yeah. Right.” Sarawat wishes he could bury his head from embarrassment, but he remains composed. “Sarawat Guntithanon. And you’re Tine.” Tine, of course, did not have to know that Sarawat had taken note of Tine’s name long before the professor had paired them up. That was his little secret.
Tine nods, a goofy smile on his face. “Tine Teepakorn, the one and only.”
Sarawat isn’t sure what he’s even supposed to say to that, and suddenly he’s letting out a small laugh. This is painful.
“So, you like this class?” Tine changes their trajectory as he opens his laptop.
Sarawat wants to say to him, I am so indifferent to this class that it physically pains me and you’re one of the only things I look forward to walking in here. Also, you trying to make small talk with me makes me want to lose my mind.
All he says instead is, “It’s alright.”
“Not much of a writer?” Tine questions, clearly trying to keep this going.
“Not unless it’s songs.” Sarawat shrugs, opening his own laptop so he has something to do with his hands that are terribly close to shaking a little bit.
“Oooh, songs, huh?” Tine says with an interest. “You in a band or something?”
“I am, actually.” Sarawat confirms, despite having a feeling that Tine was halfway joking.
“Wait, really? That’s so cool!” Tine says, sounding like he means it.
Sarawat finally finds it within himself to look over at Tine, having avoided eye contact. Tine’s looking at him already, chin resting in his hand, elbow propped against the table. He’s so cute and Sarawat is so screwed.
“Yeah, it’s—“ Sarawat tears his eyes away again, feeling himself swallow. “It’s pretty fun I guess.”
“What’s it called?”
“The band?” Tine sounds a bit amused.
“Oh. Ctrl+S.” Sarawat winces at himself.
“I think I’ve heard of you guys, actually! I hear you’re good.”
Sarawat is scared he’s going to break a sweat. Tine had heard of his band. “Thanks.” Even though Tine wasn’t even really complimenting him directly. Idiot.
“Yeah, I think my friend Pear knows one of your band mates. I’ll ask her to drag me along sometime.” Tine says with a small smile.
“You definitely should.” Sarawat says back, sounding way too eager, so he clears his throat. “Um. So, the paper.”
“Yeah. The paper.” Tine echoes, then opens up the documents on this computer. “This assignment is kind of silly, isn’t it?”
Sarawat is surprised Tine said so before he did. Sarawat had wanted to roll his eyes the minute the prompt had left the professor’s mouth. His ideal partner. Yeah, right.
“Something like that.” Sarawat says, trying his best to sound bored. He probably just sounds like he needs some air.
“I guess it’s supposed to be introspective, like, what we want out of our relationships...” Tine provides distantly.
“Uh-huh.” Sarawat agrees lamely.
“Well, anyway,” Tine shakes his head a little. “Let’s get started.”
“Yeah.” Sarawat says, and his voice comes out kind of hushed, and he wants to disappear just a little.
Tine starts typing away at his laptop keyboard, seemingly intent on getting as much of a preliminary draft out before the class ends as possible. Sarawat, on the other hand, just stares at his open screen. The blank document and the blinking bar showing where he should be typing stare right back.
In all honest, Sarawat doesn’t think about this stuff much. His ideal person. He knows only a few things in his life when it comes to what he likes: he likes boys, and he apparently likes boys who look like Tine. He’s not sure that he likes Tine, because he hardly knows him. He wants to like him.
“Hey.” Sarawat pipes up, turning his body a little towards Tine and hopes the other boy doesn’t notice his still-blank screen.
Tine pauses and looks up at him, brown eyes gleaming. “Hm?”
“How about we email these to each other so we can go over them?” Sarawat suggests.
Tine smirks a little as his eyes cast fatally to Sarawat’s laptop. “You don’t look like you have much to email.”
Sarawat frowns at his screen, then to Tine. “Hey! I just... need inspiration is all.” I’m too nervous around you, is what doesn’t come out.
Tine laughs a little. The sound that made Sarawat look at him on the first day. A sound that demanded his attention. “Okay, yeah, we can do that. If you want, we can meet up outside of class to go over it together. If you’re free, of course. It’s fine if you aren’t.” Tine finishes his sentence quickly.
If Sarawat wasn’t a more careful man, he would think Tine was getting shy, the way he was rushing to get out his words. “I don’t have any afternoon classes on Thursday. And I don’t have band practice.”
“Thursday. Okay.” Tine nods. “We’ll... email? I guess?”
“Yeah.” Sarawat agrees. To be honest, he was only halfway listening because the blood pumping under his ears was preventing it. He prayed and prayed that that same blood wasn’t blooming under his cheeks and turning them red, but he could only hope to be spared like that. “It’s, um. Sarawat-underscore-Guntithanon-at-gmail-dot-com.”
Tine seemingly types this out somewhere on his laptop to remember it. “Cool. I’ll send it your way later when I finish the first draft.”
Before Sarawat knows it, class is being dismissed and Tine says some quick parting phrase to him before walking out with someone he seemingly knows, laughing that laugh that makes Sarawat’s chest all warm as he does.
Later, that night, Sarawat’s in his apartment. He’s trying his best to write out the entire second sentence of this stupid paper when he gets an email notification. He clicks it, and sees that it’s Tine.
email@example.com: Hey Sarawat, here’s the first draft so you can go over it. See you Thursday.
Sarawat raises his eyebrow and also smiles a little stupidly at Tine’s email address, then goes to open the document.
He reads it once, then he reads it again.
Then, he gets an idea.
“Sarawat, that’s a ridiculous idea.”
Earn is tuning her guitar absently as they get ready for practice, sparing Sarawat a glance that matches her words.
“What’s so ridiculous about it?” Sarawat says quietly, crossing his arms and pursing his lips.
“It just is. Like, doing things that match up to what he says in the paper in hope he’ll like you? What movie do you think you’re in?” Earn starts strumming out a few notes on her guitar.
“I thought maybe it could work,” Sarawat says, low and defeated. “I didn’t think it would hurt to try.”
“It seems like a lot of effort for a guy you barely know.” She points out, focusing intently on an E major flat.
“Well, do you have any better ideas? He said his friend Pear knew someone in the band, maybe she could-“
Earn strikes the chord so badly that Sarawat winces. Her eyes raise to him, widened. “Did you say Pear?”
“Uh, yeah, I think that’s the name he said.” Then, a lightbulb goes off in Sarawat’s head. “Oh, are you the band mate that knows her, then?”
Sarawat watches Earn swallow a little and returns to her guitar, moving her hand to go at trying her chords again. “Something like that.”
Sarawat slants his eyes at her. “You’re acting weird.”
“Am not.” She retorts, but her voice is squeakier, and she presses her lips together like she knows it. “But, uh, yeah, maybe you should go for that idea of yours.”
Sarawat knows something is up. Earn doesn’t talk much about her private life outside of the band, but recently they’d become pretty close friends, and he could say with some confidence that he could tell when she wasn’t being forthcoming. “What’s up with Pear?”
“Nothing’s up with Pear.” Earn rolls her eyes.
“You’re blushing.” Sarawat notes.
She hits his arm a little harder than he would’ve anticipated. “Shut up, Sarawat.”
Sarawat feels himself smile and lets out a small laugh. “Oh. I get it. You’ve got a crush on this girl.”
Earn grumbles, not looking up from her guitar.
“I see why you changed your tune,” Sarawat singsongs, leaning back in his seat. “If I get closer to Tine you might get closer to this Pear.”
“That could be the ideal situation.” Earn says, matter-of-fact. Then, “Wait, I mean—“
“Nope, you just admitted it.” Sarawat points a finger at her.
“So we’ll support each other then,” Sarawat says, extending a hand of promise to Earn, “in pursuing our respective crushes.”
Earn stares at him like he’s crazy for a moment, then her gaze softens, taking his hand and shaking on it.
Man and Boss, on the other end, were a bit too supportive.
“I say ditch the whole paper thing,” Man says as he leans toward on his knees, hands extending like he can see the blueprint of his mind in front of him. “And show up to your thing on Thursday with a sign like they do in those movies about prom.”
Boss snaps at Man with allegiance. “Perfect.”
“Not perfect. Terrible, actually. The last thing on Earth I would ever do.” Sarawat says, hands on his temples.
“What? Too over the top?” Man says with high shoulders.
“More over the top than your idea?” Boss adds, unhelpfully and unnecessarily.
Sarawat groans. “I’m trying to be subtle.”
“Since when are you subtle?” Man squints.
“Since now.” Sarawat glares. “Besides, all of this doesn’t make any difference until I get to know him better. I guess that’s kind of my point.”
“Well, we’re here for you, buddy.” Boss says with a weak pat to his shoulder.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ll do whatever you need us to do. If you decide to be less boring you know I have that cousin with the fireworks?” Man raises an eyebrow.
Sarawat shuts his eyes and sighs.
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: Feeling taken care of is something I value in my relationships with others. I suppose that my ideal person would do small things to remind me of this, like pay for a meal or bring me medicine when I’m sick.]
Sarawat is tapping his feet.
Tine and him had agreed over email to meet at a small café, a really good one with these dumb purple umbrellas outside. Sarawat kept shifting in his seat, which creaked a little under him. It was mostly empty. None of these facts were helping to calm his nerves.
Sarawat finally saw Tine approaching from between the windows next to him. He straightened up, smoothing through his hair and opening his laptop, attempting to look like he’d been working diligently before Tine’s arrival.
He thinks he almost breaks a sweat trying to focus intently on his computer screen without looking up to track Tine’s movements, even if he desperately wants to. Soon enough, a bag is thumped against the floor and a chair screeches as it’s pulled back.
Tine smiles and sits down. “Hey, Sarawat.”
Sarawat likes the way Tine’s mouth holds his name; he’s never paid attention to how anyone else has said it, he supposes.
He finally finds it within him to look at at Tine. He’s wearing something that Sarawat has found to be quite typical of him— a jumper with white collars poking out from underneath the neckline. Except, today, it’s bright pink and unbearably cute on him and Sarawat’s face might take on the same shade.
He doesn’t realize he’s been a little too focused on the shirt until Tine pinches it between his fingers, looking down to examine it, “What is it? Do I have a stain?”
Sarawat’s eyes snap back up to Tine’s face, or somewhere in its general vicinity. “Oh! No, uh, it’s just... that color.... looks... nice on you.” He finishes with noticeable struggle. His thoughts berate him: Are you out of your mind?!
Tine just grins, tugging at a strand of his hair absently. “Oh. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Sarawat answers, more under his breath than anything, wishing he could take one of those dumb purple umbrellas outside and catch the wind with it and fly far, far away.
“So, uh,” Tine clears his throat, “My essay. Any initial thoughts? Terrible, awful spelling errors?”
Sarawat finishes wrapping his head around the reality that that is in fact why they are together right now, then goes to open Tine’s essay. “I’m the master of spelling mistakes, I doubt I’d notice.”
Tine smiles, a little.
“Well. I only caught a few basic grammatical errors,” Sarawat starts, trying to enter helpful-peer-and-partner mode, “And you are bit repetitive with this one phrase, but the overall idea is very-“
Sarawat’s words pause when one of the café waitresses approaches. “Is there anything I can get you guys?”
Tine glances over to Sarawat, a pointed innocence in his face. “If you don’t mind, I’m a bit hungry...”
Sarawat motions with his hand for Tine to go ahead.
“I would like a noodle soup and a large Blue Hawaii please,” Tine says politely, and Sarawat’s ears run hot.
“And you?” The waitress turns to him, and Sarawat stalls, unprepared.
“Um.” He whirls a hand in the air. “Just an iced Americano.”
The waitress nods and walks back over to the other side of the café.
“Iced Americano?” Tine questions, making a face. “Blech. Way too bitter.”
“It suits me.” Sarawat says with a shrug of his shoulder.
Tine makes a strange huffing noise, almost like he wants to laugh but isn’t sure. Sarawat wants so badly to make Tine laugh (again and again and again).
“So you were saying?” Tine says instead.
“Oh, right, well...” Sarawat tries to focus again. “Yeah, the overall idea is really good and you analyze your reasons well. I think maybe you should, um. Add a bit more detail. Like really evaluate some of your reasons.”
“Okay, good to know,” Tine nods, “I mean, it’s just a first draft. I was just kind of making sure I got all my thoughts out at one time.”
Sarawat braces himself for moving on to his paper. The thing is: He knows. He’s aware. He sucks.
“Well, don’t take any offense, but there wasn’t much for me to go over for you.” Tine says, and he laughs a little.
Sarawat’s chest goes light with the sound. So what if Tine laughed at his expense, he laughed and his eyes crinkled and he’ll take what he can get.
Still, he flushes, scratching at the base of his neck awkwardly. “Yeah, sorry about that, I’ve just been feeling a tad bit...uninspired?”
Tine hums. “Don’t have an ideal person in your head, then?”
Sarawat’s mind swirls. He doesn’t know how to answer, he doesn’t know how to say to Tine in the middle of this café never in my life have I cared enough about getting the attention of another person until you and I’m so bad at all of this so if you could please just make this easy on me that would be stellar, he doesn’t know how and he knows that he can’t, so instead he breathes a laugh awkwardly. “Not really. I’m not so...good at romance.”
Tine looks, if Sarawat could be giving, surprised by this. “Why’s that?”
“Dunno. Never been on a date or anything. Just haven’t ever felt the need, I guess.” Untilyouuntilyouuntilyouuntil—
“But you’re—“ Tine stops as the waitress comes back with Tine’s food and their drinks.
Sarawat wants to swipe the table clean and reach across and ask what Tine was about to say, but it dissipates, Tine’s eyes going wide as he digs into his noodle soup. “Mmm! This is so good.”
Sarawat hums, sipping his americano. A bit too watery.
He feels a smile creep onto his face as he watches Tine eat, the way his cheeks puff out around a mouthful. When Tine catches him, he scuttles his eyes away.
“You wanna share?” Tine asks around his chewing, scooting the bowl a bit closer to Sarawat between his hands on the table.
Sarawat’s heart is thumping in his ears.
“Oh, no thanks, I just ate.” Sarawat says, truthful enough, and also simply not confident enough in his ability to share a noodle with Tine Teepakorn without falling over, in a coma.
“Suit yourself.” Tine says, swirling his chopsticks around another noodle.
Sarawat continues to sip, observing Tine, trying really, really hard not to think about how this could be a date, if it weren’t for the fact that it wasn’t (and tanking).
After a silence, Tine sips his abnormally bright blue beverage and regards Sarawat with curiosity. “You’re quiet.”
Sarawat coughs a little on his straw. “I’m sorry.”
Tine laughs (Sarawat’s heart jumps) and waves his hand around in clarification. “No, I mean, it’s just not what I was expecting given what I’ve heard-“ Tine pauses and closes his mouth slowly, as though he’s said more than he’d wanted to.
Sarawat feels himself raise an eyebrow and his stomach is in his shoes, wondering, “What you’ve heard?”
“N-Nothing bad!” Tine races to correct himself, “It just.. seems like I hear your name a lot and you seem pretty popular so... I wasn’t expecting... never mind,” Tine shakes his head, eyebrows drawn taut, “I mean, it’s fine that you’re quiet. Cool.”
Sarawat can’t tell if he wants to laugh or just wallow in his own befuddlement, so he does neither and offers a half smile. “It’s news to me that I’m talked about like that. I’ve got, like, five friends. No need to be intimidated.” He chuckles internally just at the mere thought of Tine being intimidated by him, though he’s sure people in general might be.
“I’m not intimidated- “ Tine begins, a finger in the air prepared to guide him through his defense.
“I get it, I don’t say anything during class, I’m in a band ...” Sarawat goes on, voice meandering, unsure of how exactly he’s even capable of talking to Tine right now, let alone teasing him.
“Hey, I-“ For the third time, the words are caught in the air as the waitress approaches their small table again.
“Splitting the bill?” She assumes, readying her notepad.
“Yeah, let me-“ Tine reaches around for his wallet, and Sarawat’s brain goes off like fire alarms.
“No! I’ll...I’ll take care of the bill. It’s on me.” Sarawat scrambles, wallet already braced in his hands as Tine’s go still.
Tine and the waitress stare at him, but neither say anything, the waitress probably just figuring that it makes her life easier as she sets one bill in front of Sarawat.
He gets together the total and hands it back to her, “Keep the change,” He adds, and she grins as she walks away.
“You didn’t have to pay for it...” Tine says, a little quieter than he’d been before.
“I wanted to. Don’t worry about it.” Sarawat dismisses, slurping the last of his coffee through the straw, a bit distraught at his loss of a makeshift mouth filter.
Tine isn’t looking at Sarawat’s eyes now. “Well, thanks.”
A blush? Impossible. Certainly out of the question.
“So, anyway,” Tine says, with a renewed energy like he’d gone through a system reboot, “I don’t think you ever said what your major was?”
Sarawat is taken aback by the shift in conversation, having prepared himself a few seconds ago for a well-mannered parting and not seeing Tine again until next week.
“Oh, uh,” Sarawat sputters, “It’s poli sci.”
“I’m law!” Tine says excitedly, and if Sarawat’s eyes go soft, he prays Tine doesn’t notice it.
Sarawat finds that Tine is surprisingly easy to talk to; unlike him, he seems to get antsy in silence rather than find solace in it like Sarawat does. He keeps finding things to say and keeps asking Sarawat what he thinks. It’s refreshing, even.
“No, exactly, and the worst part is he doesn’t even look at the students,” Tine is laughing as the conversation had circled to their weird, stoic professor. “He’s like a robot.”
“And that one time the-“ Sarawat begins, but suddenly the otherwise silent café is filled with the dingle of a phone alarm.
Tine looks at him apologetically as he gets out his phone and silences it. “That’s my queue... I have to get to cheerleading practice.”
Cheerleading practice? Sarawat stores this away in mind.
“Oh, yeah, of course, don’t be late.” Sarawat says quickly.
“Sorry,” Tine says anyway, getting up and getting his bag together. “But let’s get together again next week, yeah? We can both edit our papers more and then reconvene or something.”
“Yeah, okay.” Sarawat agrees, and watches as Tine waves at him with a small smile and walks out of the café.
He sighs and imagines one of the purple umbrellas jamming him in the heart.
“Tell me more about Pear,” Sarawat says, his head propped up on his guitar case folded in half underneath him, Earn on the floor making edits to one of their song arrangements. “I need solidarity in my hopeless gay yearning.”
Earn eyes him. “Maybe yours is hopeless.”
He raises his eyebrows at her expectantly. “Oh, really? Did something happen?”
“No. Just saying.” Earn shrugs.
“Hmph. Thanks.” Sarawat frowns. “Seriously. What’s she like? How do you even know her?”
Earn doesn’t look at him for a moment, before sighing and dropping the pencil. She leans back against the foot of the couch.
“We met at this one seminar and she mentioned she was looking for guitar lessons because she’s always wanted to learn,” Earn starts, “And I was like, ‘She’s so pretty and cute and adorable and I play guitar, I can’t pass up this opportunity’.”
“Of course not,” Sarawat adds reasonably, nodding along.
“So,” Earn continues, talking with her hands, “I told her I could give her lessons, and she was so happy and I almost cried a little—“
“You don’t cry, Earn.”
“I said almost,” She gazes at him icily, “Anyway, we’ve been meeting up after class for a couple of weeks now and she’s just... everything. I like the way her hair frames her face and I like the clothes she wears and how she laughs at my jokes even though I know they aren’t funny...” Earn sighs. “I almost asked her out on Monday but chickened out. And now with your whole Tine situation I’m even more nervous.”
Sarawat looks at her with feigned offense. “Hey! Don’t rope Tine into this. Shouldn’t that be helping you? We have, like, a plan or something.”
Earn shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s not that, I’m just trying to talk myself out of it any way possible, I think.”
“Why?” Sarawat asks, and immediately thinks maybe he could answer his own question.
Earn seems to know this too, and says so. “Well, Wat, whatever’s keeping you from straight up asking Tine out to his face, I have a feeling it’s the same thing.”
Sarawat sighs this time, playing with the zipper on his guitar case absently. “Yeah.”
A beat passes, Earn now positioned with her chin on her knees, looking gloomy.
“She smells like jasmine.” Earn says, grumbly, as if knowing this information has inconvenienced her.
Sarawat frowns. “Tine has the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.”
“Beg to differ,” Earn retorts, “You haven’t seen Pear’s.”
Sarawat feels a smile tugging at his lips, but shakes his head in obtuse opposition. “Sorry, it’s impossible. Tine Teepakorn has the best smile. Pear can have second.”
“I’m gonna choke you with that microphone cord.”
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: My ideal person is someone who appreciates music. They will be able to feel the different emotions that music elicits and believe in how it can inspire people.]
Easy, Sarawat thought upon reading this, score .
“Hey, Tine.” Sarawat says, hearing his own awkward octave raise and clearing his throat immediately.
Tine looks up from across from him at their study room table. They’d reserved one of the rooms at the library for this meeting about their papers. “Yeah?”
Sarawat tapped at his keyboard nervously, then realized Tine could probably tell and stopped. “Uh, well, it might be a strange thing to ask...”
Tine just smiles warmly at him. “I doubt you can ask me anything strange.”
Sarawat wants to laugh miserably, but doesn’t. He watches his Google search bar as he talks.
“Well, it’s just, I’m writing this new song for my band and I wanted your thoughts on it? You seem to like music, plus you write well...”
When Sarawat finally looks up, he’s unprepared for the look on Tine’s face. He looks incredulous, mouth parted a little and eyes rounded, like he thinks Sarawat is pulling his leg.
“Oh!” He squeaks out, after a moment, which sends an entire wave of Tine is cute! rippling through Sarawat’s body. “Um, yeah, okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m no songwriter though.”
Sarawat waves him off, opening up the drafted document. “Doesn’t matter. I just want your honest opinion.”
Tine nods and Sarawat twists the laptop around so they both can see it. Tine leans up a little, held up by his forearms, and they’re so close. Their shoulders are almost touching, Sarawat thinks with despair, and with irrecoverable devastation catches the scent of Tine next to him. Something akin to those colognes that are called ocean breeze or blue ice . He probably would look incredibly stupid, he thinks, if someone looked at him right now and saw him locked in a staring contest with the collar of Tine’s shirt.
He tears his eyes away with great effort when he hears Tine’s clear his throat a little, shaken out of his reverie at the base of Tine’s hair.
“This is really good,” Tine says, after a moment, “you wrote this?”
Sarawat nods meekly.
“If you want my opinion,” Tine starts, a strange whimsical look on his features, “I think you should write your essay about whoever this song is about.”
Sarawat nearly faints.
“Oh, well, I mean, it’s not like, about anyone in particular...” Sarawat stutters, lying.
Tine chuckles and hums. “Neither is the paper though. I was starting to wonder if you were capable of such heartfelt emotions, Sarawat.” He observes, with a smug playfulness in the way he says his name.
God, Tine, if only you fucking knew.
“It’s just... different writing songs,” Sarawat explains. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s so much easier to express myself through music and show my feelings that way. An essay feels so...bulky, if that makes sense. And inauthentic.”
When Sarawat looks over, Tine is already staring at him, nodding slowly. “No, I mean, I totally get it,” he breathes out, “Music can express things that other things just...can’t, sometimes. Or make you feel that, anyway.”
“Yeah,” Sarawat agrees, and he’s trying very hard not to acknowledge that they’ve barely moved back from each other during this conversation, their elbows still dangerously close to touching, their eyes locked into each other’s space. “I’ve always preferred writing songs to writing much of anything else. I figure I’m way more likely to feel heard or make someone else feel seen with the music anyway.”
“When’d you start writing music?” Tine asks, and Sarawat might be so far gone his mind has taken up hallucinations, or Tine’s voice truly drops a bit lower and his body leans a bit closer.
“A year or so after I started learning guitar,” Sarawat answers, and self-indulgently he pushes his elbow out a centimeter further. The bunched up fabric of their shirts touch. “When I was around 13 or so. Obviously my songs back then weren’t very good.” He laughs a little, remembering the attempts at tortured poet meets gay middle schooler that he would chicken scratch into his notebook, probably somewhere under his bed back at home by now.
“Someone broke your heart when you tried to confess?” Tine asks with a small smile.
“More like I knew I couldn’t confess to this one guy I found really cute in gym class. He got a solid 3 songs out of me,” Sarawat says, and tries to say it like it’s the most casual thing in the world, though he can feel his heartbeat against his throat.
Tine, though, doesn’t miss a beat. He winces goofily. “Ouch. A whole three songs.”
Sarawat lets out a laugh tinted with shaky relief. “I was all about the dramatics. But like I said, it’s always been the best way I’ve known how to get my emotions out.”
“It’s like you’re a different person,” Tine says, before quickly stammering, “N-not that it’s bad! Just, it seems more...you. Less stiff.”
“Mm.” Sarawat agrees, looking back at the draft of the song on the screen in front of them. “Think it’s worthy for my band to play at our gig next weekend?”
“Of course!” Tine says quickly, eyes frantic with agreeableness. “It’s good. I’m sure it will sound great.”
“Thanks,” Sarawat says, not realizing how quiet his voice had gone. “For your feedback. And for liking it. I guess.”
Tine laughs lightly. “No need to thank me.”
When Tine backs away, no longer leaning over onto the table and settling back into his seat, Sarawat feels like it pulls a string of magnetism with him, like Sarawat should be following his motions and getting closer and closer. But he can’t and he doesn’t, instead sitting back in his seat too as he minimizes the window with the song, back to working on the paper.
They go back and forth a bit more about the assignment until Tine checks his watch and says he has to go study for another class.
“I’ll see you in class on Tuesday.” Sarawat says, trying his best to sound more unreserved.
“Sure will.” Tine slings his back over his shoulder and opens the door, then pauses in the threshold, a hand against the hinge. “ ‘You’re all I think about no matter what I do, every face in every room starts to look like you’”, he recites, “That was my favorite part.”
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: I find that I hope to surround myself with people who want me to be a part of the things they love or want to share the outcomes of their hard work with me.]
Sarawat cared far more about the fact that Tine used one of those pens where you click down different sections to get different colors than he did about the majority of what was actually said during their lecture. He has no choice in the matter; monotone reminders of when to use a preposition, or Tine making his heart twinge? He would be morally wrong not to pick the latter.
When class finally does end, Sarawat almost misses Tine, catching the last of him slipping out the door as he fumbles with his things and chases after him.
“Tine!” He calls, watching the boy spin on his feet, wearing an adorable alertness until his gaze softens on Sarawat.
“Hey!” Tine smiles. Like the sun. No big deal. “Did you want to work on-“
“No!” Sarawat cuts him off, a bit too abruptly, watching Tine’s eyes go wide. God . Sarawat swallows, composing himself. “No, I mean, I just wanted to ask you something.”
Tine nods, clearly waiting for Sarawat to get on with it.
Asking something. Something will be asked. I will ask it. Asking. Something.
Sarawat adjusts his shoulders. “It’s just, if you were still interested or anything, my band’s still playing that gig on Saturday I told you about. I wanted to know if you wanted to come. But it’s cool if you don’t. Just—“
It's now Sarawat’s turn to be cut off, Tine smiling with a small shake of his head. “Of course I’ll come. Text me the details.”
Tine’s moving to walk away, and Sarawat is so dumbstruck in his spot that his brain lags and he’s barely calling out, “But I don’t have your number?” while Tine can still hear him.
Tine waves a hand in the air. “I’ll email it to you.”
Sarawat takes a breather on one of the hallway benches.
“Earn, we have to talk.”
“Sarawat, we have to talk.”
Sarawat and Earn stare at each other in mutual urgency, neither willing to speak after their words blend together.
“You go first.” Sarawat says.
“No, you.” Earn says with a fearsome pout.
“No, you.” Sarawat says back, eyebrows furrowing together.
“Okay, we’ll go together. On three. One.” Earn starts.
“Two.” Sarawat continues, their stare unwavering.
“Three.” Earn rushes out.
“Tine is coming to the concert Saturday.”
“Pear is coming to the concert Saturday.”
They freeze and stare at each other again. Earn’s cheeks start to puff out like she’s holding her breath.
“Oh.” Sarawat says, then starts giggling, almost uncontrollably.
“Sarawat!” Earn exclaims dejectedly.
“Sorry it’s just...This is who we are.” Sarawat says, talking to the floor with a hand on his head.
Earn crosses her arms, then her face falls apart, cracking apart into small laughter.
When it dies down, they collapse onto the bean bag chairs in the practice room. Earn twirls the bandana tying her hair back around her finger in thought.
“So how’d this happen?” Sarawat asks, sinking back. “With Pear?”
Earn sighs, dropping her hand into her lap and leaning her face against the side of the beanbag, smooshing it in zebra print. “I don’t know. It just kind of happened. It was like I looked into her eyes and I exited my body before I asked.”
Sarawat nodded; he could, somehow, empathize.
“ Wat ,” Earn says in distress, with a renewed pang of frustration. “She told me she liked my earring and then reached out and touched my earring. I almost died. Actually.”
“I think you’re winning at whatever we’re doing here.” Sarawat says with a grumble.
Earn ignores his interjection. “And while her hand was like basically right up against my neck I just blurted out that we were having a concert and asked if she wanted to come.” Earn squeezes her eyes shut. “She was so excited. I think I’m going to throw up on stage.”
“You will actually look very cool and Pear will fall in love with you,” Sarawat affirms, nodding, before a look of dread looms over him. “I, on the other hand, am going to throw up on stage.”
Earn gives him a concerned, questioning gaze.
“I may have showed him the new song we’re gonna play a few days ago and if I fuck it up he’s going to definitely think I’m a talentless fraud.” Sarawat explains, as if this is the only possible outcome.
“The new song as in the one that was painfully obviously about Tine but you never admitted was about Tine?” Earn asks with a raised eyebrow.
Sarawat nods mournfully.
“Okay, here’s what’s gonna happen,” Earn says, raising herself up and holding her chin higher. “We’re going to kick ass on Saturday and Tine is going to love your song and think we’re awesome. Just decided, nothing else is acceptable.”
Sarawat watches her wearily for a moment. Hope to god you’re right. Then, a small rush of optimism runs through him.
He nods, and they fist bump. Earn adds an explosion at the end.
When Sarawat starts tuning his guitar, the sounds of the people in the bar rustling around him, he wonders if he can keep his promise to Earn as his stomach churns.
His eyes bounce nervously from in between the strings of the guitar and surveying the crowd, until a hand taps viciously against his bicep.
“Ow-“ He’s saying, but Earn is unconcerned.
“Wat, Wat, Pear is here,” She says nodding her head over to the entrance, “Doesn’t she look pretty?” Earn sighs dreamily.
Sarawat’s eyes land on a girl with long brown hair adorning a pink sweater and is about to say something when a tall figure emerges behind her, dark hair sweeping over handsome shining eyes.
“Tine too,” Sarawat gulps. “I think he came in with Pear.”
Earn whistles lowly. “We have good taste.”
Sarawat nods in absent agreement, but his eyes and his mind are occupied in following Tine as he walks further into the bar. His collar is open against the base of his throat, he’s laughing crinkle-eyed at something Pear says, and Sarawat’s heart is spinning.
Eventually Pear and Tine get situated at a table near the bar by the stage. Tine’s gaze finally meets Sarawat’s, eyebrows lifting in recognition as he smiles and waves a little. Sarawat feels himself smiling back, lifting the neck of his guitar with a look of what he’s hoping is smug or cool or something quite opposite of how he actually feels. Tine glances down at the table, pressing his lips together, then looks back up.
Sarawat tears his eyes away out of fear that he’ll lose all of his nerve, watching Earn make her own gestures to Pear from her side of the stage. When she looks away and catches Sarawat’s eyes, she flashes him an “O-K” hand signal from behind her guitar by her hip. He nods, readjusting himself.
“Hey everyone, we’re Ctrl+S,” Sarawat says loudly now, lips to the mic, “We’re gonna be playing a few songs for you tonight. Hope you enjoy.”
And just like that, the band is off, going through the first few songs of their set with no problem, songs they’d played a hundred million times. Sarawat is in his element like this; him and the music, him and the up down forward backward of his fingers on the chords, moving his head in tandem with the beat. He catches sight of Tine, sparing glances to see his eyes affixed to the stage, neck bobbing and sipping slowly on a drink.
Sooner than his mind had let him perceive, it’s time to play the song he wrote. He knows it’s next on the set list when the last note of the current song rings out, a small enthusiastic applause following. He sees Earn watching him, who gives one stern nod and readies herself on her guitar.
“This next song,” Sarawat says once the last of the more lackluster claps has worn down, “is one that I wrote with the help of someone who I hope enjoys it as much performed as he did reading it.”
He locks his eyes with Tine now, who’s got this ridiculous grin blossoming on his face. Where Sarawat had expected a pit to form in his stomach when this moment came, he instead just feels fluttering there, an excited and also comfortable warmth, like there was nothing he had to be worried about.
They start the song, and Sarawat had foreseen it in his mind as him losing himself in the music again, thinking it would be the only way to find solace, but he finds that he wants his eyes to remain on Tine’s. The lyrics creep up into his throat.
Tine’s eyes are on his in return. He’s illuminated, bathed in the residual pinks and purples on the stage and bar. Sarawat knows he's singing, he knows there’s other patrons, but Tine may as well be the only one in the room.
He makes sure his gaze is met one on one when the words “‘You’re all I think about no matter what I do, every face in every room starts to look like you’” come out, true as ever, maybe even more so. He smiles for good measure, and Tine does too.
When the song is over, Tine joins in on the applause, still wearing a smile. Sarawat feels like something, maybe relief, maybe euphoria, has come over his body.
They finish up their set with one more song before Sarawat is huffing a final “Thank you,” into the mic, worming his way out of the sling of his guitar. The band gives each other pats on the back, Temp offers a free round of drinks that Sarawat kindly declines, and that Earn ponders on until Sarawat edges her away with a hand to her shoulder.
Earn wiggles away from him as they get off the stage to trot excitedly up to Pear, and Sarawat watches as Pear embraces her and can only imagine the fire alarms that go off in her head. He chuckles a little to himself.
“Hey.” Sarawat says, simple, trying not to fall apart as he finally faces Tine without the armor of guitar and microphone equipment.
“Hey,” Tine says back, “You guys were great! The song was awesome. Sounded even better than I pictured in my head.”
Sarawat wonders if he flushes. The lights in the bar at pink hued, so maybe he’s safe. “Thanks. I think you gave me the guts to perform it.” And the song is also sort of, kind of about you, which you will never know and I will take to my grave.
“You’re giving too much credit,” Tine says, looking at his shoes with a grin.
Sarawat hears a purposeful clearing of a throat behind him, turning to see Earn standing there with an expectant look in her eyes.
“Oh, Tine, this is my bandmate and friend, Earn,” Sarawat says, after an awkward pause, “Earn, this is Tine.”
“Pleasure to meet the guy who Sarawat never shuts u-“ Sarawat steps on her pinky toe, “I mean, good luck on your guys’ papers!”
Sarawat sees Tine’s face flash with a sort of confused amusement, shaking her hand with a wide smile anyway. Sarawat’s going to cut one of her guitar strings later.
“And Sarawat,” Earn spins on her heels, “This is Pear.”
Sarawat nods to Pear, offering a grin. “Earn’s told me a lot about you.”
He watches Pear’s eyes flicker over to Earn’s shyly as she clearly tries to hold back a grin. Sarawat gives Earn a look that she doesn’t even see along the lines of I am much more helpful than you.
Somewhere along the line Tine starts talking to Pear and Earn about something, but Sarawat isn’t really listening. He watches Tine through a tunneled vision, the sharp curves of his features, the gleam of light off of them and the way he sometimes bites his lip between words, which makes Sarawat wonder what it would be like to swipe them in between his own and pull Tine closer by his hair while he-
-while he feels how soft Tine’s lips are and traces the lines of his face and shoulders and hands with the tip of his finger, so close it could make him dizzy-
The spell breaks. Sarawat comes back to find Tine looking at him, awaiting his reply. “Huh?” He says unintelligently.
Tine is looking at him with concern, which is when Sarawat wonders how long he was actually standing there zoning out, because now Earn and Pear are no longer standing next to them.
“I think I just lost my ride,” Tine says, tone lighthearted as he motions to where Earn and Pear are putting their jackets on each other by the front door, leaving while huddled into one another. “And I drank a little. I guess I’ll need to-“
“You could crash at my place?” Sarawat suggests and holy shit how fucking lost in your head were you about making out with Tine that you thought this was a good idea right now-
“Oh!” Tine exclaims, a little surprised, and Sarawat’s going to die from embarrassment.
“I mean! Sorry, you don’t have to, it was just, you know, a suggestion, I can call-“
Tine stops him with a small laugh. “No, it’s probably the best option actually. If you don’t mind? I don’t want to intrude...”
“You’re never intruding.” Sarawat says, coming out a little too sincere for what the tone of the moment required, but Tine just smiles and shifts around awkwardly.
“Okay.” He hums.
Of course, if Sarawat had planned in advance for Tine Teepakorn to be in his bedroom, he would’ve done things quite differently.
He wouldn’t say he’s a messy person. He’s organized. But he’s organized in the Sarawat Way, which many may not understand if they are not Sarawat.
He also never has people over. It’s not really a conscious decision he makes, but in his mind there’s always a more interesting place to be if he’s going to be with others. Plus, it was his space, and if people were inside it felt like a spectacle.
Now Tine was here, and Sarawat is worried he’s going to turn into dust and leave Tine to wonder what ever became of him.
“Sorry, it’s um-“ Sarawat motions haphazardly around his room, “I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
Tine doesn’t say anything at first, just glancing around once Sarawat gets the light on. To be honest, it could’ve been worse, Sarawat reasoned. There was only one stray sock on the floor, and his guitar was actually up on its stand as opposed to somewhere on his bed or the floor or sometimes even the kitchenette countertop. His bed was unmade, but Sarawat had always been logistically against bed-making anyway.
“I’ve seen worse,” Tine teases. “You know, my friend Phuak doesn’t even know how to fold clothes right. He makes us all help him.”
Sarawat ‘pfts’ at that, casual, but is secretly reveling in the way Tine is telling him about his own life, relating it back to Sarawat in some way. It makes him feel fuzzy.
“Well, uh,” Sarawat starts again, “I’m gonna go take a shower? You can take one too, if you want?” Everything comes out with the hook of a question, uncertainly blanketing Sarawat as he tries to navigate the situation.
“Oh, alright,” Tine nods.
“So I’ll— I’ll go first. Promise I won’t use all the hot water.” Sarawat adds, “You can uh. Sit wherever or-yeah,” Then clambers into the bathroom after grabbing a loose towel of the drying rack.
Sarawat certainly does his best to pretend like nothing out of the ordinary is happening as he showers quickly, the nerves going alight throughout his body making it difficult. When he gets out, he barely dries his hair as he throws on more comfortable clothes, a tattered Gibson t-shirt and some sweatpants.
When he opens the door, he finds Tine still standing. He’s got his hands in his pockets, staring at Sarawat’s walls, his posters in particular. He turns around when he hears the door.
“You can go now,” Sarawat says, quiet. “I’ve got spare clothes over there if you want to change into something clean.”
Tine nods as he meanders over to the laundry, plucking a shirt and pajama pants and folding them over his arms.
“There’s also a towel in there al-already...” Sarawat chokes on his words when he catches the way Tine is looking at him, expression unreadable and hypnotizing, like he’s noticing something Sarawat can’t see.
Tine’s hand uncurls from underneath the clothes.
“Your hair curls a little when it’s wet,” Tine mutters absently, lightly twisting a small strand into his fingers.
“Uh huh...” Sarawat feels his throat constrict as he watches a droplet at the edge of his hair disappear between Tine’s fingers, swallowing hard. What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck ?
Sarawat can feel Tine’s hand almost against his forehead. His eyes are drawn in, strangely focused. Then, a flash image in Sarawat’s mind: of Tine, letting the clothes flop to the floor as he curls his hands into Sarawat’s still soaking wet hair and pulling him in until there’s not a breath of space between them–
Sarawat feels himself flinch back then, and it breaks whatever entrancement Tine had been in, because he drops his hand quickly and blinks and looks away. “Thank you for the clothes,” He mutters, veering left into the bathroom quickly.
Sarawat stands there long enough to hear Tine turn the shower on, caught in a staring contest with his carpet.
His heart is beating so hard in his chest he wonders if it could actually break the skin. The tremor is in his throat, behind his ears, his face has gone hot.
He doesn’t have time to filter through every thought going through his mind, not when Tine was still there and wouldn’t be going anywhere until the morning, should things go as planned.
Instead he lies back on his bed and plays some music, quieter than he would usually play it but enough to keep his racing mind at bay. Enough to not hear the running water, which would remind him that Tine’s in his bathroom, which would make him think about the almost-there touch of Tine’s finger to a strand of his hair, which would make him think about being kissed absolutely stupid by Tine. Yes, the music certainly is loud enough to drown out these thoughts, he doesn’t think a single one of them.
When he can no longer pretend that he is pretending that Tine is not there is when the boy himself emerges from the bathroom some three songs later.
This, Sarawat thinks, is an image not even his music or feigned willpower could subdue. He watches as Tine walks out, not meeting his eyes, instead toweling through his hair with one hand. The collar of Sarawat’s borrowed t-shirt has gone dark with water patches, like Tine hadn’t been quite dry enough when he put it on. To top it all off and to almost mock Sarawat, he is convinced, is the fact that this particular shirt, while not too small, is...snug. He tears his eyes away before he can be caught staring.
“I thought I heard music,” Tine comments now, floating awkwardly in the space between the bathroom door and the edge of Sarawat’s bed. “This the stuff you usually listen to?”
Sarawat hoists himself up into more of a sitting position. He crosses his arms, as if this will somehow will Tine to subconsciously do something with his arms in that godforsaken shirt. He has no such luck. “Yeah, it’s a CD I burned of my favorites.”
Tine laughs. “A CD? You’re like a grandpa. Just use Spotify like the rest of us.”
Sarawat feels his cheeks go hot as he grins, beside himself. “CD’s are still relevant.”
“You can tell yourself that.” Tine shrugs, but he’s still smiling a little.
Sarawat feels the silence between them like a low-hanging fog, like there is more to say but neither wants to say it.
Sarawat instead reaches over to turn down the music a bit more. “Are you tired? I can turn it off if you wanna get to sleep.”
Tine purses his lips to the side, considering. “I don’t know. I was tired but after the shower I sobered up a bit and now I’m not as tired.”
“Oh. Okay.” Sarawat says, wincing. He is not well-equipped for keeping a cute boy busy in his room at almost midnight on a Saturday. At least, not in ways that wouldn’t involve getting his own stupid shirt off of Tine. Therefore, he’s got nothing.
“So, uh,” Tine says, his toe making a pattern on Sarawat’s floor, “Have you and Earn been friends for a long time? Or did you meet through the band?”
Sarawat’s a little taken aback by the subject, but doesn’t wear it on his face. “Oh, Earn? We kinda knew each other before the band but we became good friends once Ctrl+S formed. We practice together all the time.”
“Ah.” Tine says.
“I guess she’s been giving guitar lessons to Pear,” Sarawat says, treading carefully. “I hadn’t realized they knew each other.”
“Oh, yeah! Pear’s been telling me about that.” Then, a look looms over Tine’s face, one akin to a kid who’s hiding the cookie jar from his parents. Suddenly, he’s sitting next to Sarawat’s legs on the bed, and Sarawat hardly has time to adjust before Tine’s speaking again. “Can I tell you something?”
Sarawat swallows. “Okay?”
“I have this feeling Pear likes Earn.” Tine is leaning closer to him now, eyebrows higher on his face.
Somehow, this isn’t anything even close to what Sarawat had expected him to say. His eyes go a little wide, as if this topic was foreign to him. “For real?”
Tine nods. “I mean, I would feel kind of pushy just asking her outright, you know? But she’s been talking about her all the time, or going to see her when she probably has other things to do. I don’t know. I just have a hunch about these kinds of things.”
Do you now? Sarawat thinks bitterly.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’d say she’s got a pretty good shot.” Sarawat says, trying not to reveal anything completely.
Tine ponders for a moment, wrapping his arms around his knees. “I hope they do like each other. Pear’s always been a really good friend, she deserves someone who cares about her.”
Sarawat feels his heart melt, just a little. He sends out a silent wish to wherever Earn and Pear had gone when they left the bar earlier. And reminds himself that he needs to talk to Earn in the very near future.
“Well, anyway,” Tine sighs suddenly. “I am kind of feeling sleepier now.”
“Oh, yeah, same,” Sarawat says, sort of lying, because he’s not sure how he could feel tired when Tine’s had all his nerve endings on alert since they’d got here. “I’ll take the futon, the bed’s more comfortable.”
Sarawat goes to move, but Tine nudges at his knee to keep him in place. The quick contact almost knocks him out. “No, I mean, you don’t have to! This is your place, I’m not gonna kick you out of your own bed...”
“So you want the futon?” Sarawat questions, a bit lost.
“You just said the bed is comfier than the futon! You want your guest to get a sore neck in the night?” Tine says with exaggerated accusation.
Sarawat just stares at him. His brain does loops and back handsprings to figure out how Sarawat not on futon and Tine not on futon could come to one real conclusion.
“Uh, well, no?” Sarawat is having serious trouble. “So you’re cool with sharing?”
Tine shrugs. “Yeah. It’s no problem.”
“O–Okay.” Sarawat leans back and tries to calm down his hamming heart, but it’s no use as Tine makes his way to the other side of the bed and settles in, grabbing one of Sarawat’s stray blankets to cover himself.
He reaches over and turns off the music completely, and a silence save for the crickets outside stretches through the room. Sarawat’s never felt this before; the presence of someone like Tine beside him in his own bed. He doesn’t think he’s shared a bed with anyone since he was a child. Nowadays his bed was a makeshift music practice stage, homework desk, somewhere he could sleep stretched out like a starfish and half the time nude. It didn’t know the press of two bodies.
He swallows. The light was still on, but he couldn’t get himself to look over at Tine. He couldn’t face it if he was caught in the act, a mere half a foot apart in his bed. It would be the end of him.
“Do you...” Tine’s voice breaks the silence a moment later. “Do you like the light off?”
Sarawat breathes out a gust of relief mentally. “Usually, yeah.”
He hears Tine shuffle, the click of his lamp as the room goes dark.
Sarawat can’t tell if this is better or worse. The dark and the quiet that would usually bring sleep is stunted by the acute, ginormous awareness that it’s not just him. Their bodies aren’t touching at any point but it’s as if some larger invisible outline is pressed right up into each other.
Sarawat finally rolls over onto his side, the one facing away from Tine. Then, he mutters “Uh, Tine? Thanks for coming to the concert tonight.”
It’s silent, and with a bit of disbelief he wonders if Tine’s already fallen asleep. But then he hears a faint, “Thanks for asking me.”
Sarawat swallows, curling his arms in. “Night.”
Barely audible, heavy with sleep, “Night.”
It’s enough to steady his heartbeat. He feels warm as he finally drifts to sleep.
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: Ideally I would be with someone who enjoys cooking. They could make me omelettes on rice in the morning and it would remind me of home.]
This is where Sarawat starts to think he’s not cut out for what he’s put himself up against.
When he wakes up in the morning, Tine is still asleep. At some point in the night he must’ve turned over because he’s facing Sarawat when he goes to check if he was still there at all. Sarawat pauses to look at him; eyes closed loosely, mouth half open in shallow breaths, cheeks red and half-imprinted with the creases of the pillow case. Sarawat wants to reach out and thoughtlessly brush an untamed lock of hair away from his face, but doesn’t. Instead, he tries to get up as peacefully as possible so he doesn’t wake him.
He stands in his kitchenette, hands on hips as he mulls over what he remembers reading in Tine’s essay. So, Tine wants a cook?
Here’s what Sarawat knew: if he had to cook for survival, he could. He wasn’t completely unaware of the basic mechanics of a kitchen. He isn’t quite sure what he always does wrong, but something either burns or tastes too bland or is too spicy.
Was this the end of the road for him? Could he never be the man of Tine’s dreams because he always overcooked noodles?
No, he thinks now, reasserting himself in front of his fridge. He could do this. Tine had mentioned omelettes over rice. He could do that. What would his already poor excuse for a kitchen have to say for itself without eggs and rice? If Sarawat was honest, those might’ve been the only things he did have. He sent a kiss to the sky that Tine’s comfort food wasn’t something more extravagant.
He sets to work.
He made do with the four eggs he had left, two for each of them, and the half bag of instant rice in his cupboard. This time he was extra careful to set the stovetop to a lower setting; one mystery about his lousy cooking he was solving during this journey was that he was a pretty impatient person and thought putting everything at the highest heat was just more convenient, when it did not always work like that.
He still can’t flip an omelette; the cooked egg comes out a little bit more abstractly shaped, and kind of looks like Thailand. Some of the rice also sticks to the bottom of the pot, but none of it goes brown, so he considers this a win overall.
By the time he’s sliding the omelette onto the bed of rice on one of the few plates he owns, he feels the urge to look over his shoulder, sensing a presence.
Tine is standing next to his small table, one arm still half wrapped in a blanket, one hair sticking straight up from his head, eyes a little puffy from sleep. He’s still wearing Sarawat’s old shirt and it still doesn’t fit him but in a good way. Sarawat clenches his spatula. He’s never seen someone look so cute and soft and kissable and it’s really, really unfair.
“G’morning.” Tine mumbles, running fingers through his bed head. Sarawat wants to say, let me do the honors.
“Morning.” He replies, turning back around to grab forks. “You can sit if you want, I made some breakfast.”
“Smells good,” He hears him mutter, then hears the sliding of one of his chairs.
“You sleep okay?” Sarawat asks.
He hears a long hum of affirmation. “I didn’t actually expect your bed to be so comfortable. It’s literally just a mattress.”
Sarawat snorts a bit at that. He’d always meant to get a bed frame at the very least, but never got around to it. He slept fine with his feet touching the floor. “Told you.”
He turns around with both plates in hand, setting one of them in front of Tine as he sits.
He watches a deep crease form as Tine draws in his eyebrows, looking down at the food with a subtle frown. Sarawat feels his heart sink. Is he offended??
“Omelettes on rice...?” Tine says under his breath, almost to himself.
“I’m, uh, not much of a chef,” Sarawat interjects, slightly panicked. “Sorry if it’s inedible.”
Tine doesn’t say anything. He shakes his head a little, unclenching his eyebrows and taking a forkful into his mouth. Then, he starts giggling like a crazy person.
Sarawat is stumped. “Uh-?”
Tine is waving his hand at him as he laughs against a closed mouth of food, as if trying to dispel Sarawat’s worry, but it only makes it worse. He keeps giggling until he finally manages to swallow. “Sorry, no, it’s-“ He laughs a little again, quick and breathy, “It just needs some salt.”
Sarawat feels his own eyebrows furrow now— what was so funny about the food being under salted? And even as he looks at Tine, uncertain, Tine looks like he’s trying his absolute hardest not to erupt in laughter again.
“Is it really bad?” Sarawat asks lowly.
Tine’s expression changes a little and he looks less pained from containing himself. “No! It’s good, I promise it’s- it’s not that. It just reminds me of what my mom used to make for me. That’s all.”
Sarawat feels like this isn’t the completeness of it, the way Tine adverts his gaze, but decides not to question it more. He goes over to where he keeps a small salt shaker by the stove and douses his and Tine’s plate with it.
Now, when Tine takes a bite, he gives a thumbs up. “Much better.”
Sarawat takes a bite for himself. Huh, not half bad. “This might be the most decent dish I’ve ever made for myself.”
Tine is giving him an incredulous side smile, something along the lines of ‘really? this?’ Either way, Tine eats the whole thing, which makes Sarawat’s chest feel warm.
When Sarawat is finished putting his dishes in the sink, he turns around to see Tine looking a bit beside himself.
“Something wrong?” Sarawat asks.
Tine’s eyes flicker up to meet his gaze. “Oh, no, it’s just... thanks for making breakfast,” Tine sighs, “And for the sleep clothes. I hope you don’t feel put out-“
Sarawat shushes him. “Of course not. Trust me, I don’t just do things I don’t want to do.”
Tine nods, eyes on his lap. “Well, about the clothes... I guess I’ll just put on my stuff from last night—“
“Just keep it,” Sarawat blurts, and watches Tine’s eyes meet his again in surprise. “Or, I mean, you can just give them back to me later. No sense in putting dirty clothes back on.”
Tine stares at him, then grins, nodding. “Thanks.”
“I should probably get going,” Tine says, colliding with Sarawat’s sentence and stopping him short. Once it’s registered what he says, Sarawat clamps his mouth shut. “I’ve got an assignment due Monday morning I’ve barely started on.”
Wherever Sarawat had planned to take the conversation dies on his tongue. “Yeah, I’ve got some stuff too.” It’s a half-truth, his most pressing assignment not due until the middle of the week, but it’s all he can really say.
Tine nods, rising and folding up the blanket he’d carried with him (Sarawat could die) and setting it on the edge of the bed. Gathering up his few belongings, he waits by the door.
“I’ll see you in class?” Tine says, then, “Or after class or- whenever. I’ll see you?”
Sarawat nods enthusiastically. “Yeah. Yes. For sure.”
Tine nods and smiles back, sliding the door open the closed, then gone with a small wave.
Sarawat lets out a long, deep sigh.
He collapses into his bed, hand inching into the twisted sheets where Tine had laid. In his bed. Next to him. He buries his face in his pillow and starts kicking his feet.
you. me. music practice room. NOW!!!!
Clearly, Sarawat feels the urgency of Earn’s text. It’s Monday, not even a typical practice day, and considering he hadn’t heard a word from her since Saturday night...
He slips on his jacket and hits the road.
Upon opening the music room door, he already feels the high tension in the air. Earn is standing, pacing the floor, whipping her head up when she hears him enter.
“Finally you’re here.” She exclaims, rushing up to him.
“It was only like fifteen min-“ Earn is grabbing him by both shoulders, pushing him to sit down in the bean bag chair. She thuds into the one beside him. “Since when are you so strong?”
Earn, as is her way, ignores the question. “I’m going to talk a lot right now and you’re going to listen. Cool?”
Sarawat doesn’t even answer with words, but rather a simple nod to demonstrate his compliance.
Earn’s eyes are big and wild as she adjusts herself in her seat.
“So Tine says it’s alright if Pear and I head out without him on Saturday night because Pear said she wanted to see the electric guitar at my place,” Earn starts, “So we left and went there, right? And she drove and she’s kind of bad at parking which is so cute but that’s not the point, and I get out my electric guitar so I can just show her a song or whatever. But then she asks if I can show her some new chords on it and I’m thinking to myself ‘I will literally do anything for you’. I’m showing her how to play a G major 7 and I’ve got my arms wrapped around her and my hand’s on her hand, then she looks over at me and our faces were so close Sarawat like I could not even breathe, we just looked at each other and I swear to you on everything we were going to kiss before her fucking phone rang- “
Sarawat is slightly concerned that Earn hasn’t paused to inhale, but thinks better of interrupting her.
“-so she pulled away and apologized and talked to whoever the fuck on the phone for a second, by the time she was done the moment was ruined and she said she was tired. But fucking get this. We cuddled together until we went to sleep and I’m not even lying to you right now. Her hand was on my waist, Wat. I can’t believe I even lived to tell the tale.”
Sarawat blinks twice when Earn now goes silent. “Can I speak now?”
Earn lets out a long exhale. “Yeah.”
“Are you okay?”
Earn gives him a far-away look. “I don’t even know anymore.”
A beat passes before Earn playfully punches his shoulder. “What about you? Did you and Tine talk after we left?”
“Oh, yeah, he kind of spent the night at my place too.”
Earn punches his shoulder harder. “ What? ”
“Yeah.” Sarawat rubs at where her fist made contact.
“Are you okay? What happened?” Earn readies herself, chin against interlaced fingers.
“Not...much.” Sarawat struggles out, the memory of the way Tine had touched his hair after he showered threatening to send a shiver down his spine and through his core. “We slept in my bed but there was no cuddling. Sadly.”
Earn frowns at him. “Oh, Wat.”
“But hey,” Sarawat says, recomposing himself. “Tine told me something I think you’ll wanna hear. He told me he’s got this feeling that Pear likes you. You should really go for it, Earn.”
Earn bites her lip back. “You wanna know something?”
“Pear said the exact same thing to me about Tine with you.”
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: I want to be with someone who shows interest in what I do and care about, who is there to have my back in whatever I want to achieve. More importantly, someone who is there for me when things don’t go quite right and reminds me everything’s going to be fine.]
Sarawat had been expecting, at the most, an email or text from Tine later in the day about finalizing their paper (which Sarawat was on paragraph two of; it was fine). What he hadn’t expected was to watch Tine bid some goodbyes to peers from their lecture, only to wait in the doorway for Sarawat.
He almost stops fully in his tracks when he realizes, yes, Tine is waiting for him with a shoulder to the door like he’s a blockbuster dreamboat, and yes, one bad move and he would just lose his footing completely. But he treks on.
“Hey,” Tine greets when Sarawat gets to him after maybe a thousand years of walking across the lecture hall.
“Hey,” Sarawat says, hearing his own airiness and subsequently clearing his throat. “Did we have something planned and I forgot or-?”
Tine shakes his head, walking out of the doorframe and urging Sarawat to follow. “No, just wanted to ask when it was good for you to go over the final versions of our paper?”
Sarawat gulps. Their final papers were due next Monday. “Maybe over the weekend? You can come back over to my place. If you want. Or we can go to yours. Whatever.”
“Sounds good.” Tine nods.
A silence falls over them, and Sarawat thinks now’s his chance. He hasn’t got much left from the paper to go off of. “Hey, Tine?”
“Mmhm?” Tine hums, looking up from where he’d been watching his shoes to look at Sarawat.
“You said...you said you were on the cheerleading team right?”
Tine’s face curls into a surprised smile, bright and enthused. “Yeah! Yeah, I am. It’s a lot of fun.”
Sarawat can’t help but smile. Tine was just so fucking cute.
“Do you by any chance have any events coming up? This week in particular?” Sarawat says, very nonchalantly and not indicative of any plan whatsoever.
“We actually have a pretty big Spring Semester showcase routine on Friday,” Tine says, “We won’t get much of an audience since it’s not an athletic game, but...we’ve been working really hard for it.” Tine sounds like he means what he’s saying, his voice filled with admiration. Sarawat feels his bones get all weightless; it’s one of those things he’d never felt around anyone but Tine.
“Would you mind if I came?” Sarawat asks, tentative. “I mean, you supported me by seeing my band, I figured it’s the least I could-“
Sarawat’s words cut out when he sees Tine slow and stop, looking at him with an expression Sarawat can’t put a name to. “I’d love that.”
The sincerity almost knocks Sarawat off balance. “Okay.”
Friday afternoon, Sarawat’s buzzing. At this point, that’s been his body’s funny little way of reminding him he’s going to do something involving seeing Tine. Or thinking of Tine. Or subconsciously envisioning uncharacteristically cheesy romantic scenarios with Tine.
Which wasn’t often or anything. It had just been known to happen.
By the time he’s making his way down the fifteen minute walk over to the field where Tine said the event would be, he’s even got a pep in his step about everything. Nothing could bring down this-
His pocket buzzes.
He pulls his phone out, seeing he’s gotten a text from Earn.
ur going to tine’s cheerleading thing today right ? r u there yet ??
Brows furrowing, he types out a reply.
yes gojng. no not there yet. y?
cuz pear’s there too and she just texted me saying tine’s not doing so hot. he twisted his ankle or something. might wanna get there quick
Sarawat shoves his phone back into his pocket, walking faster.
When he gets to the field, it’s fairly clear that something’s not right. The cheerleaders are huddled in a small circle, murmuring.
As Sarawat approaches, Pear emerges from the cluster and walks over to him.
“Hi Sarawat,” She says, voice small. “I know you came here to see Tine, but he probably won’t be in the routine today. He got dizzy and messed up his leg during drills.”
“Is he okay?” Sarawat asks, voice heightened with worry.
Pear shrugs, then sees the way Sarawat’s eyes widen, correcting herself with over exaggerated nods. “He’s fine! Just needs some rest.”
“Where is he?” Sarawat asks.
Pear motions over to where she’d come from. “Sitting over there by the bench.”
He follows her over, hears some scattered whisperings as he breaks through the people. Tine’s leaning against the back of a bench. He looks a bit pale, and his ankle looks red and on the verge of bruising. “Tine?”
Tine looks up, realizing the voice had come from Sarawat, and makes a pained expression. “Shit. Sarawat.”
“Hey, are you alright? What happened?” Sarawat leans down on one knee, getting closer to Tine’s eye level.
Tine huffs. “I don’t think I got enough sleep last night. I got dizzy on one of our spins and twisted up my ankle. But I’m fine! I can still do the routine.”
“No way, Tine,” P’Fang says, followed by a chorus of agreement.
“They’re right,” Sarawat says, “You need to let it rest so you can even walk by the end of the day.” He turns around towards the cheerleaders behind him. “You guys have gauze in the locker room?”
P’Fang nods, so Sarawat leans in closer to Tine, taking his arm into his hands. “Grab onto me, ‘k?” He practically coos, and Tine nods, slipping his arm around Sarawat’s shoulder and bunching up his fist into the fabric of his shirt as Sarawat lifts them.
“You guys keep preparing,” Tine tells Pear. “Don’t worry about me, Sarawat’s got me.”
Sarawat’s heart swells up so fast it almost bursts. Sarawat’s got me.
They all agree hesitantly, and Sarawat and Tine half-limp half-walk their way over to the locker rooms.
Once there, Sarawat tries to set Tine on a bench gently. He hisses when the ankle brushes the bar awkwardly. “Sorry,” Sarawat whispers out, though it wasn’t really his fault.
Sarawat goes searching for the gauze and finds it pretty seamlessly, walking back over to Tine a moment later and kneeling in front of him.
As he gently takes Tine’s ankle into his hands and starts wrapping, Tine says, “I’m sorry.”
Sarawat can’t help it, he chuckles a little. “Sorry for what? That your ankle’s got something against Tine Teepakorn?”
He hears Tine’s let out the breath of a laugh. “No, just. Sorry you came all the way out here for me and now you have to doctor me up.”
“Hey,” Sarawat says pointedly, pausing his wrapping. “I’m not doing this because I have to , Tine. If I didn’t want to make sure you got better I would’ve just tossed you into P’Fang’s arms and hopped for the best.”
Tine laughs a little more, but it’s still edged with something else. “I just hate when shit like this happens. When I work so hard for something just to feel like I’m letting everyone down.”
“You’re not letting anyone down, Tine,” Sarawat doesn’t look up this time, focusing on holding Tine’s ankle in place. “Your hard work doesn’t just go away because you miss one opportunity to show it. And even if it was the most irreversible super-mega important thing ever in a cheerleader’s career, it still wouldn’t matter because at least you tried. You know?”
Tine’s silent for long enough to probe Sarawat to look up, and he regrets it, because Tine is looking down at him with some kind of look in his eyes that’s he’s not a strong enough man to endure.
“How do you always say the right things?” Tine asks in a quiet voice. Sarawat can feel his own circling movements around Tine’s ankle slowing as he keeps their eyes locked. Tine’s hand is moving, Sarawat can tell, but he can’t look at it directly without it being obvious. “Sometimes sort of weird things. But the right ones.”
Sarawat inhales sharply. He realizes distantly he’s stopped wrapping. There’s something happening— he wishes he had the clarity of mind to figure out definitively what it was, but everything is the rush of blood to his ears and Tine staring down at him intensely. The hand, Tine’s, in his peripheral, is gaining attention. It would be easy, Sarawat thinks, for Tine to do something like hoist him upward by the front of his shirt, get him off his haunches and onto his knees and get him at just the right level of face to face, tugged into Tine’s space.
But it doesn’t happen, their moment of whatever shattered like glass when a voice echos into the entrance of the locker room. “Tine?”
Sarawat physically feels the way both of them jump, tensed up, like the moment was ripped off of them like a blanket in dead sleep. Their heads whip to the corridor that leads to the benches.
“Green.” Tine says, voice throaty. “What’s up?”
The boy, Green, walks in as his eyes swing back and forth between the two of them. Sarawat doesn’t say anything, just looks down awkwardly at Tine’s ankle and rips off the end of the gauze, sticking it in place and finishing.
“Just wanted to check on you,” Green says, taking a seat at the end of the bench. “How’s the ankle?”
Tine looks down at Sarawat’s decent excuse for medical handiwork. “Already feeling a little better.”
“Looks like Sarawat took good care of you,” Green singsongs. Sarawat’s eyes fall on Tine, who looks shy as he messes with the short hair at the base of his neck. It’s another moment in which Sarawat finds himself wishing he could gently replace Tine’s hand with his own with no second thought given.
“Yep,” Tine squeaks out, then changes his composure. “Anyway, what are you doing in here? Aren’t you guys about to start the routine?”
Green nods. “In about five minutes. Just wanted to make sure you were alright. The routine just won’t be the same without you, Tine!” The boy falls back into the wall dramatically, a pout on his face.
“Sorry,” Tine mumbles. “I should’ve gone to sleep earlier last night. You guys will still do great, though.”
Green leans up again with a sigh and a small nod. “We’ve still got our showcase at the end of the semester. Don’t worry too much,” He stands, patting Tine’s shoulder once. “I’m heading out. Get some rest. And Sarawat, thanks for your help.”
“No problem.” Sarawat mutters, and watches as Green takes his leave.
Once it’s just them, Sarawat breaks the silence. “I feel bad. I don’t know how that guy knows me.”
Tine laughs. “Told you you’re kinda popular.”
“Huh.” Sarawat frowns.
Sarawat once again finds himself doing something he’d been picturing doing, but under circumstances beyond his control.
The stairs had been a journey, Tine’s grip on Sarawat’s shoulder vice-like as they made their way up. Not that Sarawat minded.
Now they stand in front of Tine’s apartment, Tine propped against the wall as he fiddles with the key.
When they get inside, Sarawat doesn’t really have time to take in his surroundings as he presses Tine’s back while he basically hops across the hardwood towards his bed.
Tine goes to turn his body so he can lay on his back, but the maneuver doesn’t play out quite right with the lost range of motion in his ankle and the grip he’s got on Sarawat’s shirt, so when he takes a tumble, Sarawat follows.
Tine’s body’s half on the bed with his legs hanging off, and Sarawat’s has landed somewhere in between beside Tine and directly on top of him, his hand clasped into the bed above Tine’s head as a means of keeping him upright.
“Sorry.” Tine breathes out, and he’s looking up at Sarawat and that’s not good, I can’t handle that right now, I can’t look at Tine with his hair falling back onto his bed while he looks up at me does the universe think my life is just a big sick joke?
“Are you okay?” Sarawat asks, and for some reason, though his mind is yelling for him to pull away quickly like he’s just touched a hot stove, he remains in place.
“I’d be a little better if my legs were on the bed.” Tine says, matter-of-fact.
“Right.” This is what springs Sarawat into action, getting off of Tine quickly and backing away so he has the space to readjust himself.
In the meantime Sarawat finally looks around at Tine’s apartment. It’s different from his room in pretty much every way he can think of; tidy, studious, strings of lights along several different surfaces, polaroids of friends and used up calendar space on the wall. Sarawat can’t help the small smile that spreads across his face; everything Tine did seemed to be so lived.
He draws his attention back to Tine. “Do you need anything? Here, you should probably put your ankle under a pillow. Elevation’s good for it.”
Tine nods, and Sarawat reaches over to grab one of the pillows on Tine’s bed, fluffing it and sticking under Tine’s ankle gently.
When he looks back up, Tine’s watching him. He clears his throat. “Want me to order you some food?”
Tine is still looking at him, shaking his head microscopically, then he says, “You’re so nice to me.”
Sarawat can feel his own facial expression get perplexed as he meets Tine’s eyes.
“Are you this nice to everyone? Or am I just special?” Tine asks, and while there’s a lilt of teasing to his voice, a small smirk, his eyes don’t change.
“You’re just special.” Sarawat answers, and he tries to keep his tone light, but the truth of the statement bores through him; the fact that he, as a person, wasn’t not nice, but just reserved and standoffish and sometimes not quick to catch the joke. But it was different around Tine. It was easier.
Tine smiles at that, “I got the feeling.”
Sarawat wants to ask what that means, but Tine continues talking, mood shifting.
“You don’t have to worry about me, though. You probably have other things to worry about. I promise, I’m fine.”
Sarawat goes to protest, but Tine shakes his head, “Seriously, I’ll be healed by morning thanks to you. We can still meet at your place to finish up our papers tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, Sarawat agrees, smiling at one of Tine's polaroid photos (Tine, in a metallic New Year's hat, mouth stretched and tongue sticking out at the camera) on his way out.
[From: Tine Teepakorn Aekaranwong’s Thai Language and Composition Assignment Dated 3/13: A person who can tell me what they really feel, and who will love me unconditionally.]
It’s 7:30 and the sky has gone bruised-peach colors when Sarawat hears the unmistakable sound of knuckles against glass.
He looks up and motions for Tine to come in, sitting on the edge of his bed while playing his guitar absently.
Tine opens the door and sets his backpack on the floor at the foot of the bed. Sarawat realizes then that Tine is holding his clothes, folded and tucked under his arm. He bites back the smile that wants to bloom on his face.
“You can just sit the clothes on the chair.” He says quietly, motioning to where he means.
Tine nods and sets them there, gingerly, as if they’re somehow fragile.
“How’s the ankle?” Sarawat asks.
Tine shimmies his foot a little, demonstrating. “Like new. Thanks.”
Sarawat smiles, happy that he’s not in discomfort. “That’s good.”
Sarawat goes to put his guitar off to the side, but Tine’s voice appears. “You’re not gonna play anymore?”
Sarawat pauses, the guitar in limbo between his lap and the floor. “Oh, well, I figured you’d want to get started on work?”
Tine shrugs, sitting down on the bed next to Sarawat. Their legs brush. “We’ve got time. Play a song.”
Sarawat looks at Tine, who’s close to him. Close and half-lit with the dim bedside lamp. “Okay.” When he nods and then readjusts, back into a playing position, his elbow presses against Tine’s arm.
Sarawat can’t even think of anything else to play with the contact, the content quiet, so he strums out the chords to the song he’d written about Tine. He doesn’t sing along, not trusting his voice to stay stable as his stomach turns.
“That was the song.” Tine notes, once Sarawat’s stopped playing and actually does place the guitar on the floor.
“Yeah.” Sarawat confirms, surprised Tine even remembered.
“Whoever you wrote that for is pretty lucky.” Tine says, and Sarawat turns to face him. Every cell in his body wants to say You! You! If I tell you, will you still think you’re lucky?
Instead of words, there is something in the air between them now. Sarawat can feel it, but he can’t make himself do anything about it. Tine’s face is so close to his, closer than it had ever been. His heart is drumming, his mouth is dry, he wants nothing more than to lean in, to memorize Tine, to learn the lines of his face and what could make him sigh breathlessly. He wants to the point that he’s stagnant. He wants to the point that he might be inching in now, just a little, because Tine’s eyes are following him and he could convince himself this is something he can do.
He stops, reality caving in on him, every last ounce of valor sinking out of his body. He backs away slightly.
“You have a freckle there,” Is what he says, his excuse for why he had been so close and his eyes had been locked on Tine’s face. He points to it like this is evidence, and it’s a nice freckle, a cute freckle, one he’d taken note of a few times before. Tine could buy it.
He doesn’t seem to. He’s shaking his head, smile riddled with disbelief.
“Sarawat,” Tine hums quietly, and the way he says it almost gives him chills.
“Uh huh?” He tries for something more articulate, but it doesn’t work.
“Were you about to kiss me?”
The words ransack any shred of composure he has left within him. He just nods, the only thing he feels capable of.
“Why didn’t you?” Tine’s looking at him with something like amusement now.
The question feels like it echos. It feels like it hallows out his brain. “What?”
“I asked, why didn’t you kiss me?”
Sarawat swallows. He has to say something now, he can’t get away with simple gestures for the magnitude of the question. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to.”
“You could ask.” Tine suggests, shrugging casually, an almost undetectable smile curling his mouth.
I could ask? It seems illogical, then it settles in, and makes a lot more sense. I can ask. “Do you want me to kiss you?”
Tine’s eyes are all over his face and it makes Sarawat want to squirm, but he’s frozen still. “I do.”
And then Sarawat’s emotions are a tidal wave. One that’s carrying nothing but Tine wants me to kiss him I’m so close to Tine he’s so beautiful Tine Tine Tine Tine Tine to the shore.
Sarawat tries not to think as he moves forward, the short distance closing.
Sarawat doesn’t know how to kiss. Sarawat doesn’t know if this is, methodically, technically, a good kiss. What he does know is Tine is kissing back, sweet and unhurried, and he feels like his insides are going liquified and molten and warm.
Tine pulls away, and Sarawat feels a gasp escape him at the sudden loss, his brain so fuzzy that it takes him a moment to find Tine’s eyes on him again.
“Can I ask you something?” Tine is saying, only loud enough to be heard in the small perimeter they’re sharing.
“Okay.” Sarawat agrees, and he can’t tell now if his stomach dropping is still from the kiss or from uncertainty or both.
“Have you been doing this on purpose?” Tine starts, licking his lips slightly. “With my paper, I mean. Doing things sort of like how I wrote it?”
Sarawat stalls, a sort of panic looming over him now. Had Tine actually caught on? “I...well...sort of.” He admits, swallowing over a lump in his throat. “How did you— was it obvious?”
Tine lets out a small laugh. “I had my suspicions. I think you gave yourself away when you made the omelettes on rice...”
Sarawat ponders it, and yeah , that had been pretty straightforward, hadn’t it? But he doesn’t say anything yet.
“Then I thought about it, and it made a lot of sense. You paying for my lunch. Wanting me to watch you play. I thought there was no way.”
“I don’t... I’m sorry.” Sarawat says, straightening up. “I just. I’ve liked you for a while, I really wanted to get to know you and, I thought, maybe, you could like me back if-“
Sarawat is cut off by Tine’s lips pressing to his again. “You’re adorable, you know that?” Tine says in between, giving Sarawat no time to legitimately reply because he’s kissing him. “Who even does stuff like that? You’re really something else.” His hands are coming up to cup his face now, fingers grazing his hair.
“My song’s about you,” Sarawat says, in the gaps of breath that he has to spare before Tine’s mouth is back on his, “I thought I’d die before telling you that.”
“I wouldn’t want it to be about anyone else.” Tine’s saying, breathy and muffled, and Sarawat’s hands find themselves folded into Tine’s hair.
“I’m sorry if,” Sarawat pauses to catch a breath, then his top lip is trapped. “If I’m not like that ideal person you wrote about.”
Tine is shaking his head, eyes screwed shut, pressing for Sarawat to fall back onto his bed. “I don’t think you could be any more like that person no matter how hard you tried.”
If Tine hadn’t had a family thing, Sarawat thinks they wouldn’t have left his bed the whole day. They’d fallen asleep (after Sarawat had been kissed to the point of going numb, may he add) with legs intertwined, Sarawat’s nose pressed into Tine’s sweatshirt collar. The last thing he had wanted was to move, to even think about moving, but of course how the night went hadn’t exactly been the plan and Tine still had obligations.
Still, Tine moves Sarawat with all the gentleness and tenderness in the world, cradling his head as he moves it from sweatshirt to pillow, mumbling sweet words. Sarawat is half-asleep, but he reaches out to pull on Tine, unhappy with his new position, and Tine just laughs. Sarawat feels Tine’s thumb swipe at the corner of his mouth; he’d probably been drooling.
Tine mutters an apology for having to leave early, but says he’s promised his family he’d visit this weekend since the beginning of the semester. Sarawat understands, but still grumbles with discontent, clutching at Tine’s sleeve with halfhearted strength. Tine peppers his face in small kisses, which makes Sarawat smile, and he promises to see him later when he gets back. By the time he leaves, Sarawat’s already fallen back to sleep.
He wakes up again, some two hours later, stretching and checking his phone.
i don’t know when ur gonna see this but ya me and pear are kind of girlfriends now i think i don’t know my head is spinning i just needed to give this update pls come see me asap thanks v much kisses
Sarawat smiles at the message, typing out an excited reply and promising to see Earn on Tuesday. He had his own updates to share.
Then, he tosses his phone to the side and goes to open his laptop. He opens his paper, due in approximately 18 hours, and deletes everything he’d previously written, starting a new paragraph line. He had some inspiration now.
“Tine, where in the world did you put my face wash?” Sarawat asks urgently.
Tine appears in the doorway of his bathroom with a look of regret on his face. “I’m so sorry. I think I left it at my place.”
Sarawat huffs. “You’ve gotta stop doing that.” But on the contrary his heart was tense, he loved how things of his could just be at Tine’s place, no further explanation needed.
“Wat, I’m sorryyy.” Tine whines, coming to join Sarawat in front of the sink, “Here, don’t worry, I’ve got a good face wash,” Tine says with conviction, and then he grabs Sarawat’s face between two hands, kissing his nose, cheeks, chin and finally his lips, lingering there. “See? Perfect skin. You’re glowing.”
Sarawat rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling against his will, pulling Tine in to kiss him more.
Eventually, he backs away, pressing a finger to Tine’s expectant lips. “Okay, seriously though, we have to get ready or Earn and Pear are going to yell at us.”
Tine pouts. “It’s not our fault they always go places early. They’re getting a Couple Superiority Complex, you know.”
Sarawat shakes his head, shutting off the bathroom light as he goes to grab his shirt. “I think it’s a deserving mindset.”
Tine huffs. Then, he’s grabbing Sarawat’s arms, stopping him from hoisting his shirt over his head. “Hold on,” he murmurs, then leans forward, pressing a kiss to Sarawat’s neck, the space right below his ear. Sarawat hums happily, hand coming to thread Tine’s hair, but Tine retreats just a moment later.
“What was that for?” Sarawat asks, holding Tine to make sure he doesn’t go too far.
“No reason.” Tine shrugs, kissing his shoulder.
“You’re two seconds from me calling Earn to cancel.” He says when Tine finds the hollow of his throat.
This makes Tine reel back completely. “Well, we can’t have that! That will just fuel the Superiority Complex more!” He untangles himself from Sarawat’s arms, hurrying over to grab his jacket.
Sarawat shakes his head fondly, tugging the shirt on and grabbing his keys. He presses up next to Tine by the door, waiting for him to slide on his shoes ( his shoes, which had been flopped off by Sarawat’s door on the welcome mat for weeks, as much a part of the room as anything else, and Sarawat’s heart aches.)
“Ready?” Sarawat asks, softly.
“Yep,” Tine nods. They shut the door behind them, and Tine reaches to lace up their fingers. It was good, it was right, things working out like they had.
Plus, Sarawat had gotten an A- on his paper, and he could definitely live with that.